Newsletter
The Ashby at McLean (via Google Maps)

After lying dormant for more than half a decade, a plan to convert retail space in a McLean apartment building into more residences has gained new life.

Located at 1350 Beverly Road, The Ashby at McLean sits in the heart of the Community Business Center (CBC), and like the downtown area as a whole, it has been struggling to attract viable commercial tenants, property owner WashREIT says in a statement of justification submitted to Fairfax County in June.

As a result, WashREIT is now looking to rezone the property so that it can convert the majority of its commercial space — 23,855 out of 28,067 square feet — into 18 new, multifamily residential units.

“These applications request a simple conversion of underperforming commercial space to usable residential units, revitalizing this property without any significant impacts to the area,” WashREIT said in the statement.

Constructed in 1982, The Ashby is 12 stories tall and has 256 residential units. It also has retail and office space on its first and second floors, including The UPS Store, a beauty salon, and two computer consulting stores.

Those tenants all appear to be located on the building’s first floor. The conversion will involve “significantly underperforming commercial space” on the second floor, the application says.

WashREIT, which acquired the apartment building in 1996, first proposed converting the office space to residences on Oct. 5, 2012, according to Fairfax County’s zoning records.

However, the rezoning request languished in the county’s zoning process, and on Aug. 29, 2019, the Department of Planning and Development notified McGuireWoods — the law firm representing WashREIT — that staff intended to dismiss the application because it had been inactive since Sept. 18, 2014.

McGuireWoods Senior Land Use Planner Lori Greenlief responded in October 2019 with a request that the county keep the application active, as the property owner was awaiting the outcome of the then-ongoing McLean CBC Study.

“Washington REIT has been following the study closely and, in fact, has two representatives on the task force,” Greenlief wrote.

Now that the county’s plan to revitalize downtown McLean has been approved, WashREIT has evidently decided that it’s time to revive its plan for The Ashby.

McGuireWoods requested that the rezoning application be reactivated and submitted revised materials on June 23 — one day after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted to adopt the comprehensive plan amendment that came out of the CBC study.

While no physical changes to the site are being proposed, the reduction in retail will shift all but 19 of the building’s 331 parking spaces to residential uses, which will go from 210 spaces for 256 units to 312 spaces for 274 units, improving existing conditions, according to WashREIT.

A parking reduction study by the consulting firm Gorove Slade found that the existing parking supply exceeds demand, and nearby Metro and Fairfax Connector bus stops justify continuing to provide fewer spaces than what the county’s zoning ordinance requires.

“A parking reduction would not adversely affect the surrounding areas,” the study said.

WashREIT’s proposal is scheduled to go before the Fairfax County Planning Commission on Jan. 26, followed by a Board of Supervisors public hearing on Feb. 8.

Photo via Google Maps

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Rendering of 6707 Old Dominion Drive (via Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning)

Construction could be on the horizon for a six-story condominium project that was approved for downtown McLean more than three years ago.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved an interim parking plan on Nov. 9 that lets the existing three-story office building at 6707 Old Dominion Drive maintain its parking obligations while a rear lot is replaced with the new residential development.

Located along Lowell and Emerson avenues, which will be widened from four to six feet and paved with brick, the multi-family residential building will include a partially underground parking garage with 179 spaces across three-and-a-half levels, along with 18 surface parking spaces.

The new parking will serve both the development and the office building, which was built in 1980.

The parking plan will provide shuttle service from three parking locations with a total of 140 spaces:

  • St. John’s Episcopal Church (6715 Georgetown Pike)
  • St. Luke Serbian Orthodox Church (6801 George Pike)
  • St. John the Beloved Roman Catholic Church (6420 Linway Terrace)

There will also be up to 32 spots available on site during the construction project.

As summarized by county staff, the plan also offers “incentives for tenants and patrons to utilize taxis, car-sharing services, Metrobus, and carpools and a program to ensure that construction workers park at an approved offsite location.”

Developer Benchmark Associates will be required to submit periodic reports to the county documenting parking activities and any issues or needed modifications to the plan.

Approved by the Board of Supervisors in October 2018, the project calls for a 94,000 square-foot building with 44 condominium units, 12% of which the developer has committed to making workforce housing.

Proposed amenities include a 3,850 square-foot roof terrace for residents with an outdoor kitchen, fire pit, seating, and an area covered with artificial turf. An outdoor plaza and art for the public are also planned.

According to Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust’s office, no further votes are needed from the Fairfax County Planning Commission or Board of Supervisors for the project, just county staff approvals for the site and building plans.

Benchmark Associates didn’t return messages seeking comment about the timeline of the project by press time.

Construction is anticipated to occur over a 12 to 18‐month period, according to the parking plan.

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The Fairfax County Planning Commission has approved a townhouse project replacing the office building at 7700 Leesburg Pike (via Google Maps)

A townhome development planned for 7700 Leesburg Pike will include stormwater facilities intended to address flooding concerns in the nearby Pimmit Hills neighborhood.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission approved the more stringent plan for the site currently occupied by a circular office building on Nov. 10, determining that developer EYA met the county’s new standards to help prevent flood damage to nearby properties.

“We don’t want to have this development impact the downstream,” Commissioner Mary Cortina, who represents Braddock District, said during a Nov. 3 public hearing.

She noted that the property is not a big runoff producer today, but commissioners don’t want the proposed development to make flooding any worse.

The Board of Supervisors voted on Oct. 19 to adopt a comprehensive plan amendment allowing a residential project to proceed if it exceeded certain stormwater management standards to mitigate downstream flooding, among other factors.

Located on a hill, the four-story office was built in 1976 and includes professional and medical offices as well as a private college of nursing.

EYA is seeking to replace the office building with 104 townhomes, nine of which would be affordable dwelling units. The townhomes could be three stories high with optional fourth-story additions.

“Pimmit Hills has experienced a lot of problems with stormwater through the Pimmit Run watershed and through some of their sub watersheds,” said Dranesville District Commissioner John Ulfelder, who serves as the planning commission’s vice chair. “People have had flooded basements many times, and there’ve been lots of complaints.”

An engineer for the project conceded that the proposed development would make the site 12% more impervious, meaning it will have surfaces that produce runoff as opposed to vegetated areas that absorb water.

But the developer is pursuing several solutions to address stormwater issues, according to a county staff report.

That includes reducing possible discharges of phosphorous, which can be harmful to people and animals. EYA will provide two water treatment facilities to improve worst-case scenarios for different levels of flooding, including a 100-year-flood, which isn’t required.

According to the county report, the developer has committed in a proffer to meeting certain targets for stormwater runoff reduction:

The applicant proposes to reduce the 1-year site peak runoff rate to a minimum of 5% below the allowable release rate determined using the energy balance equation for sites draining to a natural stream. The site peak runoff rates for the 2-year event will be reduced below the peak runoff rates of the site as it exists prior to the current development by a minimum of 20%. The 10-year site peak runoff rate will be reduced to the peak runoff rate that would drain off the site if it has a forested condition. The 100- year site peak runoff rate will also be reduced a minimum of 10% below the peak runoff rate that would be released from the post-development site if it did not have any stormwater measures.

The Board of Supervisors will still have to give the final approval to the townhouse project, which Ulfelder said might not be scheduled this year.

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An illustration of the Toll Brothers’ proposed townhome development on Seneca Avenue in Tysons (via Fairfax County)

The luxury housing developer Toll Brothers is looking to demolish 12 single-family houses in order to build 52 townhomes with two public parks in Tysons East.

The publicly traded Fortune 500 company is looking to create a townhome development that it has dubbed Seneca Assemblage between Seneca and La Salle avenues by the Dulles Toll Road, alongside the existing McLean Ridge and The Westerlies neighborhoods.

A conceptual design submitted to the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Development in September as part of a rezoning application shows four-story homes in a building of five units with a brick front or facade.

The county would have to rezone 20 parcels from residential to planned development housing for the project to proceed. Toll Brothers’ submitted development plan shows six seven-unit buildings, a four-unit building, and two three-unit buildings, with garages in the back of units.

Seven residences would be affordable units and one would be considered a workforce unit, priced at reduced rates for people who are under certain incomes.

A road would also be created to connect Seneca and La Salle near the middle of the development.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors already agreed on June 22 to allow one piece of the project, giving the developer right-of-way for a new, private street called Buena Vista Road that will be incorporated into a park developed by the company.

“A new publicly accessible park, Buena Vista Park, is proposed on the to-be-vacated Buena Vista right-of-way in the northern portion of the Subject Property,” Walsh Colucci senior land use planner Elizabeth Baker said in an Aug. 25 statement on the developer’s behalf.

One of three planned parks collectively totaling 0.68 acres, about half the size of a football field, Buena Vista Park will occupy approximately 0.31 acres and feature turf, trees for shade, and outdoor seating.

“The existing trail will remain in the center of the park space,” Baker wrote. “This park will provide pedestrian connectivity between Seneca and La Salle Avenues, offer a passive recreation open space, and create a buffer between the proposed development and the McLean Ridge townhome community to the north.”

The southern end of the development would have a publicly accessible 0.25-acre green space called Point Park with a recreational area for toddlers as well as an open lawn, sidewalks, and paths.

The application also calls for a 0.12-acre, private outdoor space next to The Westerlies residential community with walking paths, an open lawn area, landscaping, and outdoor seating.

According to the statement of justification, Buena Vista Road will have a 6 to 8-foot-wide landscape amenity panel and a 6-foot-wide sidewalk. Toll Brothers says it will provide 119 parking spaces for the development, along with 29 on-street spaces on Seneca and La Salle.

The developer’s planned proffers include a public schools contribution and a commitment to reducing vehicle trips in the area for residential uses by 25%.

Designs suggest two homes would remain: a two-story home at 1642 La Salle Avenue as well as a three-story home at 1652 La Salle Avenue. The latter will be considered Unit 53 in Seneca Assemblage, while the former property could be integrated later, the application says.

According to the application, Toll Brothers believes its proposal will support the county’s vision for Tysons by redeveloping single-family, detached dwellings with a townhome community that includes affordable and workforce housing.

“A connected street grid and improved pedestrian circulation will promote connectivity,” Baker wrote. “Improved streetscapes will invite pedestrians to explore this new community and the new public parks will enhance the recreational opportunities and natural beauty of the neighborhood.”

A Fairfax County Planning Commission public hearing is currently slated for Sept. 14, 2022.

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2017 Halloween Parade in Vienna (via Town of Vienna/Facebook)

(Updated at 1:20 p.m.) The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.

We’ve searched the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean, and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!

Tuesday (Oct. 26)

  • “Blankets to Bust Breast Cancer” — 6-7 p.m. at The Plaza at Tysons Corner Center (7901 Tysons One Place) — AR Workshop Alexandria and Barrel & Bushel present a Summerfest Crafty Hour fundraising event. No knitting experience is necessary. Participants will receive yarn and instruction. Cost is $10, and proceeds go to the Tigerlily Foundation, a national breast cancer foundation.

Wednesday (Oct. 27)

  • Halloween Parade — 7-8:30 p.m. on Maple Avenue in Vienna — Enjoy costumes and floats, marching bands, and performances. Families and children can join the parade, too.

Thursday (Oct. 28)

  • Fair Housing Public Forum — 6:30-8 p.m. online — Fairfax County is inviting people to attend a community forum to participate in the Regional Fair Housing Plan and provide input on local housing issues. The forum is free, but registration is required.

Friday (Oct. 29)

  • “Waitress” — 8 p.m. at Capital One Hall (7750 Capital One Tower Road) — A Broadway musical comes to Tysons’ new performing arts venue. The story unfolds with a baking contest offering a wife escape from her small town. Tickets start at $44.50 plus fees. There are additional performances on Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday (Oct. 30)

  • Second Somewhat Annual Craft Fair — 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Vienna Community Center (120 Cherry St. SE) — Check out crafts, talents, and more, from hand-spun dyed yarns to alcohol ink art, involving artists connected with the nonprofit Wildlife Rescue League.
  • Halloween Carnival — 1-3 p.m. and 3:30-5:30 p.m. at Cherry Hill Park (312 Park Ave.) in Falls Church — The City of Falls Church offers games, inflatables, music, and snacks aimed at kids ages 2 to 11. Cost is $1 per person, cash only.
  • Halloween Best in Show — 1-3 p.m. at The Boro Park (8350 Broad Street) in Tysons — The Boro celebrates Halloween with its first-ever dog costume contest, which will also feature a live DJ, a photo booth, crafts, trick-or-treating, and lawn games. Competitors can register themselves and their pet online in advance, though walk-in registrations will be welcome.
  • Laura Benanti at Wolf Trap — 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. at The Barns (1635 Trap Road) — Join the Tony Award-winning Broadway performer for songs and stories from her career. Tickets start at $42 plus fees.
  • OFC’s House of Terror and Family Trunk or Treat — 5-10 p.m. at The Old Firehouse (1440 Chain Bridge Road) — Treat yourself to scares and non-scary alternatives with walk-through experiences and other activities. The House of Terror, which costs $5 for entry, will have no jumps, scares, or fears from 5-7 p.m., but that will switch starting at 7:30 p.m.

Sunday (Oct. 31)

  • Mosaic Halloween Spooktacular — Mosaic District in Merrifield — Enjoy Halloween activities such as face painting from noon to 6 p.m. in Strawberry Park, where “The Addams Family” will show at 6 p.m.
  • Pathways out of Poverty in Northern Virginia (Online) — 3:30-5 p.m. — Lewinsville Presbyterian Church and Lutheran Church of the Redeemer are holding a series about escaping poverty. The first event is focused on affordable housing.

Photo via Town of Vienna/Facebook

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A map of The Boro proposed extension in Tysons from the development plan. Silverstone Senior Living is planned for Building J (via Fairfax County)

The Fairfax County Planning Commission voted on Wednesday (Oct. 13) to advance the proposed Silverstone Senior Living facility at The Boro in Tysons.

Plans for the senior housing call for the construction of a 16-story building with 275,000 square feet of gross floor area and up to 210 beds with 198 rooms. Of those rooms, 118 will be designated for independent living, 56 for assisted living and 24 for memory care. The facility is not anticipated to have skilled nursing care.

The facility — which is expected to be finished in late 2023 — is one of four parcels planned as part of an expansion of The Boro by developer The Meridian Group.

The other parcels include two workforce and market-rate residential buildings with approximately 34,000 square feet of retail, with one block offering 122 residences and the other 421 residences. The two buildings could be complete in 2024.

The final block is planned for town homes or a health club to supplement a park at the corner of Clover and Broad streets.

The planning commission’s approval of the plans and rezoning application for the senior living facility comes on the heels of an Oct. 6 public hearing, where citizens shared comments about accessibility, stormwater management, the design of streetlights, and more.

In terms of stormwater management, county staff explained the inclusion of bioretention tree pits in the project to treat storm water from adjacent roadways.

“On this particular application, it’s treating more than 30% of the storm water generated on this site,” Katie Quinn, from the county’s department of planning and development, said.

“I think, more broadly, staff acknowledges and appreciates the concern of having these next to parking lanes, and we’ll be doing some more research internally to see if there’s something differently we can do going forward to address that concern.”

Quinn also noted that landscaping amenity panels planned next to on-street parking will have an 18-inch step off between the curb and tree pits, but there will be breaks in the panels “so that someone can kind of cut through the landscape amenity panels to get to the sidewalk.”

Elizabeth Baker, a land-use lawyer with Walsh Colucci who represented The Meridian Group, gave the commission a commitment to provide the same kind of lighting on this new portion of The Boro as originally provided, while keeping with the Tysons Urban Design Guidelines.

In response to a query about providing an alternative to dog parks, Baker said the project will include multiple parks and proposed an additional proffer to provide pet waste stations in each park and on Clover Street.

Lynne Strobel, an attorney representing Silverstone, responded to concerns about emergency access for residents at the facility by saying that the drop-off area provided on Boro Place will allow easy access to the building for emergency responders, and that the garage will also have an area designed for non-emergency pickups.

Before Wednesday’s voting concluded, however, multiple members of the commission emphasized the need for conscious thought and planning for accessibility to be implemented in The Boro going forward.

“I think that we need — and I mean both applicants and the county staff — to think more carefully and creatively about accessibility issues throughout Tysons,” said John Ulfelder, who serves as the planning commission’s vice chairman and represents Dranesville District.

“The fact is, this is a new city, highly diverse, something for everyone, and we’re trying to make certain that everybody with accessibility issues are fully accounted for and included in the new urban community.”

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The office building at 1750 Old Meadow Road in Tysons, which could be replaced by a mixed-use development (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) A developer wants to bring hundreds of workforce housing units to Tysons East with a proposal that would replace an aging, vacant office building near the McLean Metro station with a residential complex.

Under the name Somos at Tysons LLC, SCG Development plans to build a mixed-use building at 1750 Old Meadow Road with 460 residential units and approximately 5,000 square feet of ground-level commercial space.

At least 300 of the residences would be made affordable to households that earn up to 60% of the area’s median income (AMI), according to a rezoning application submitted to Fairfax County on Oct. 1.

That commitment would easily exceed the workforce dwelling unit (WDU) requirements that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors adopted for the Tysons Urban Center on Feb. 23, giving developers the option to provide 10% WDUs at 60% AMI or 13% WDUs with a greater mix of income levels.

According to a statement of justification written by John McGranahan Jr., a land-use attorney representing the developer, SCG’s proposal comes in part to satisfy proffer requirements that the property must meet due to its proximity to the nearby Capital One Center and Scotts Run developments.

“The vision of Tysons as an urban center where people live, work and play must include a diversity of housing opportunities at price points across the income spectrum,” McGranahan wrote. “This application will deliver a greater number of affordable units at the 60% of AMI level much sooner than would be achieved with existing proffers and Tysons Plan policies, all within a convenient 1/3 mile walk to the McLean Metro Station.”

The proposed 1750 Meadow Road development site is in Tysons East, near the McLean Metro station and Scott’s Run Park (via Fairfax County)

To make way for the new development, SCG says it will raze the seven-story office building that currently occupies 1750 Old Meadow Road, but an existing three-level parking garage behind the building will be left intact.

Constructed in 1985 and occupied for more than 36 years, the 142,000 square-foot office building was sold by owner Matan Companies in 2018. It’s in the former West*Gate office park, a portion of which is being transformed into the Highland District.

SCG’s plans call for a mixed-use building with a maximum height of eight floors or 85 feet and 440,605 square feet of gross floor area, which would increase to 470,453 square feet with the bonus density granted by the workforce housing commitment. Read More

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As one major Falls Church development takes a step toward completion, another is just getting started.

Developer Atlantic Realty Companies, which owns George Mason Square and nearby buildings, hopes to transform the area with a mixed-use complex dubbed One City Center, which will include 246 residential units, office space, retail, and a grocery store.

“This is an area that has long been planned to evolve into a downtown vibrant hub,” Andrew Painter, an attorney representing the developer, said at a Sept. 27 Falls Church City Council meeting.

As part of the project, the company plans to demolish and replace a rear two-story parking garage with a building that’s nine or 10 stories tall, add a park on a vacant corner lot at South Maple Avenue and West Annandale Road, and create a pedestrian-friendly street — a Dutch-inspired woonerf — with a 30-foot by 40-foot exterior screen.

“The Digital Screen may be used to display art, landscapes, movies and theatrical presentations for ‘screen on the green’ events, coverage of live City events and performances (e.g., Watch Night performances, Memorial Day parade, etc.), promotion of the project’s retailers and City services, and related programming,” a voluntary concessions document from June 23 says.

Other buildings to be demolished include the former BB&T Bank and a tailor business building, where a temporary parking lot would be created during construction.

Atlantic Realty unveiled an initial proposal for the project on Feb. 11 and submitted a second version on June 23. The company is working with Falls Church officials as it seeks to get approval from the city council, possibly on Feb. 28 next year.

An agreement calls for designating 6% of the units — up to 15 units — as affordable. Painter said the developer is working with the city to determine what that would entail.

As part of the application, the developer is seeking special exceptions, one of which includes increasing a building height from a maximum of 75 feet to up to 115 feet.

City Looks at Proposed Concessions

The City of Falls Church has been working with the developer on concessions to make the project become a reality.

Among numerous concessions, a proposed agreement calls for:

  • A one-time payment of $1.7 million to schools to offset capital costs, provided all 246 units are built
  • 30 public parking spaces
  • A 3,000 square-foot conference center (about two-thirds the size of a basketball court) that would be available to commercial tenants in the new development and George Mason Square, nonprofits, and the city for meetings

Painter said the conference space could be used by the city and nonprofits at no cost.

The developer and project leads showcased the potential of the site on a walking tour on Wednesday (Sept. 29), making the case that a new bus shelter, bikeshare, pedestrian crossings, and other upgrades would improve transportation.

Read More

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Office complex at 7700 Leesburg Pike in Tysons (via Google Maps)

The Fairfax County Planning Commission will vote on the possibility of converting a Tysons office building into residential use when it meets this Wednesday (Oct. 6).

The decision for the building at 7700 Leesburg Pike follows the commission’s deferral of a decision on the potential plan amendment during a Sept. 29 public hearing.

EYA Development submitted a rezoning application and development plan for the 6.7-acre site to redevelop the property on Dec. 15 before it was accepted by the county’s Department of Planning and Zoning on March 5.

Under the developer’s proposal, the site would be converted to 80 to 107 single-family attached units or stacked townhomes. The site currently houses a 167,274-square foot office building that was constructed in 1976.

In a presentation to the planning commission during last week’s public hearing, county planner Stephen Waller stated that staff considered a range of factors related to the amendment, including:

  • Land use compatibility with surrounding neighborhoods
  • Quality of active and passive open space
  • Tree preservation and transitional buffers
  • Storm water management
  • Multimodal connectivity
  • Historic resources

Waller added that staff recommends approving the plan amendment “to allow for an option for the property to develop with residential use with single-family attached dwellings or stacked townhomes.”

The recommendation comes with several proposed conditions, including a maximum height of four stories with siding design elements and landscaping to make the property compatible with adjacent low-density residential neighborhoods, as well as high-quality, well-designed, attractive, and publicly accessible open space and site amenities.

Other staff recommendations include:

  • Preservation of existing healthy and mature trees along boundaries
  • Supplement buffers year-round for screening visual to adjacent residences
  • Stormwater management controls above the minimum standards
  • Safe and conveniently access to existing and planned multimodal options
  • Document existing office for significance prior to demolition

Mark Looney, a partner with the Cooley law firm, spoke on behalf of EYA at the public hearing. He said the developer is working to address requests from the Pimmit Hills Civic Association (PHCA) for pedestrian improvements and upgrades are being addressed, but the PHCA and McLean Citizen’s Association have both offered general support for the proposal.

“The plan amendment contemplates a significant open space component,” he added.

Under the developer’s rezoning application, approximately 36% of the site has been reserved for either open space or urban park land that will be accessible to both residents of the development and residents of the surrounding communities. The public space plans include a fitness trail, small dog walk, and playground area.

EYA has also made provisions for a future expansion of Route 7, including the bus rapid transit proposal that will be brought to the commission later in the fall, according to Looney.

During the public hearing, Commissioners John Ulfelder and Mary Cortina sought further explanation of the stormwater management standards that have been proposed for the site.

According to Waller, staff’s condition that the stormwater management be above the county’s minimum standards was made in recognition of existing conditions of the Pimmit Run watershed and flooding in the area.

Looney said two quantity facilities have been proposed for the site — a vault along Route 7 and a set of chambers in the northeast portion of the property — that would capture water before releasing it at a slower rate than current conditions. A series of other filter devices across the property would also improve the quality of water that’s released.

However, he added that he would require engineers for the company to further explain the water management efforts in more specific detail following the hearing.

Photo via Google Maps

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The site where a 12-unit housing development is planned on Courthouse Road (via Town of Vienna)

The Vienna Town Council approved a project on Monday (Sept. 13) to develop a vacant property with cottage housing-style duplexes.

Developer JDA Custom Homes is looking to construct six two-family dwellings at a 1.38-acre site at 117-121 Courthouse Road SW, where each unit would have a two-car parking garage at the basement level and belong to a homeowners’ association.

JDA Vice President Jordan Rice described the outside of the homes by saying they will use low-cost materials aimed at people looking to downsize their living space.

Her father, Dennis Rice, the company’s founder, said each home will have approximately 1,200 square feet on the main level and about 600 square feet on the second floor.

He declined to say what the price of each home or range would be when asked by Councilmember Nisha Patel at the public hearing.

“Do you foresee each unit being at least under $1 million?” she said.

“At this time, I cannot make any…statement on that,” Dennis Rice said, citing rising building material costs and adding that he couldn’t make a guess at this point.

Patel said she likes the project, which will provide an alternative to the single-family, standalone houses that dominate the Town of Vienna, but she noted that the majority of homes in the town are under $1 million.

Councilmember Chuck Anderson asked if two units could be reduced in size to make them more affordable. Dennis Rice replied that the units “really don’t become sellable” if they’re any smaller.

The town council first voted 5-0 to approve rezoning the lots from a single-family residential district to a multi-family, low-density area. Patel and Councilmember Ray Brill abstained from the vote.

After the rezoning was approved, JDA proposed changes to several development requirements, including one aimed at reducing the footprint of constructed buildings and amenities. The zoning area there limits lot coverage to 25% at most for anything from buildings, parking spots, and athletic courts to patios and terraces.

The developer asked for an allowance up to 60% but believes it can achieve the development with 55.3% lot coverage, the town said. The gap leaves room for flexibility, according to the developer.

Changes to rear and front setbacks as well as other lot requirements were also requested.

As part of its application, JDA noted that 13 other developments in the town had lot coverages ranging from 33.9% (Park Terrace Condo section two at 212-218 Locust St. SE) to 66.6% (Vienna Villager at 200 Locust St. NE).

Brill expressed concern that the town council is getting ahead of itself in trying to change Vienna’s housing stock, giving developers more influence than individual homeowners. He added that the town might want to finish its ongoing zoning code rewrite first.

Councilmember Ed Somers said the opportunity could evaporate and the developer didn’t have to go this route.

Patel also raised a concern about the front yard setback, in which the applicant requested the town allow two homes 23 feet from a sidewalk and a one-story clubhouse 20 feet away from the pedestrian route. The required setback there is 35 feet.

However, the town council ultimately approved the site modifications 6-0 with Patel abstaining.

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