Tysons, VA

A zoning ordinance amendment that would allow lower parking rates at Fairfax County’s largest malls received a thumbs up from the Planning Commission last night.

The proposal would affect the four malls — the two in Tysons, Fair Oaks Mall and Springfield Town Center — and was based on a review of the parking rates and demand at large regional malls by consulting firm Nelson/Nygaard.

While the county’s planners have stressed that the focus of the zoning change is directed at Fair Oaks Mall, the proposal has sparked concern about its impacts on the Tysons malls.

“Taking away parking — or even insinuating taking away parking from Tysons — I think is a bad way to go,” Dwight Fuller, a managing partner with Great American Restaurants, told the Planning Commission at the public hearing earlier this month.

McLean Citizens Association criticized the county’s consideration of a proposal without complete data.

Nelson/Nygaard study’s evaluated parking data for Fair Oaks Mall collected by the property owner in December for both 2017 and 2018, along with data about the Springfield Town Center that the firm collected in June. The study did not evaluate the two malls in Tysons.

“Without a study specifically addressing parking at those two malls, the MCA believes it is inappropriate to reduce the parking requirements at those locations,” the MCA wrote in a letter dated Oct. 30 to the Planning Commission.

At both the public hearing and before the votes last night, county staff and the commissioners stressed that the Tysons malls already have opportunities to lower their parking rates — and haven’t.

Tysons Corner Center is apart of the Planned Tysons Corner Urban District’s (PTC) parking rates, which allows for lower parking rates. Tysons Galleria is not apart of the PTC District, but could opt-in.

At-Large Commissioner Timothy Sargeant said that the Tysons malls are “bucking the trend” of large malls — like Fair Oaks — that are struggling with empty parking lots as more shoppers rely on online retail or delivery services.

To address citizens’ concerns, Sargeant brought forward several proposals after the Planning Commission recommended approval of the zoning amendment, including:

  • notification to the Planning Commission when a parking reduction request is submitted to the county
  • a study of how to include the PTC in the county’s update of the zoning ordinance
  • prioritize review of parking rates for the county’s update of the zoning ordinance
  • integration of environmental improvements with the proposal

Sargeant noted that more parking rate studies are necessary.

The proposal now heads to the Board of Supervisors for a public hearing on Dec. 3.

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Two Merrifield restaurants now have Fairfax County approval for a plan to address parking problems.

The Board of Supervisors approved an amended parking plan today (Tuesday) for 8100 Lee Hwy — the site of TRIO Grill and Open Road, which are both operated by Metropolitan Hospitality Group.

Back in 2013, the board OK’d a parking reduction from 123 to 100 spaces on the site, with 98 spaces for customers and two spaces — one for an employee and another for a shuttle for employees, according to county documents. The board made the decision because of the restaurants’ proximity to the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station.

Several conditions were put in place for the 2013 reduction to incentivize the employees to not drive, including a shuttle to and from the Metro station for employees and reduced-fare vouchers for public transit.

“However, soon after the restaurants opened, the operator discontinued the shuttle program and instead instituted valet parking on adjacent sites,” according to county documents.

To address concerns about the parking situation, the Zoning Administrator requested a parking study in July 2017. The study found that the site requires 123 parking spaces.

Roughly 50 employees are on the site during peak operating hours, according to county documents.

Now, the board approved changes that will have:

  • 100 spaces on the site of the restaurants
  • 23 spaces off-site for the restaurants
  • 74 spaces off-site “for additional parking demand”

The off-site spaces will be valet-parked at 2757 and 2843 Hartland Road.

“The total proposed parking supply of 197 spaces is adequate to meet the projected peak parking demand of 182 spaces, which is based on yearly sales data for the restaurants and potential parking demand associated with this data,” according to county documents.

Providence District Supervisor Linda Smyth likened the situation to the children’s tale “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” saying that it’s important to get the parking numbers right — “not too much, not too little.”

“Parking is vital to the success of any business,” Smyth told her fellow board members. “This has been a dilemma here.”

Image via Google Maps

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The Fairfax County Planning Commission is still tackling a proposal to reduce parking requirements for the county’s largest malls after a contentious public hearing last night (Wednesday).

The proposal would affect the four largest malls in Fairfax County — the two in Tysons, Fair Oaks Mall and Springfield Town Center — and was based on a review of the parking rates and demand at large regional malls by consulting firm Nelson/Nygaard.

County documents indicate that the proposal is meant to help Fair Oaks Mall.

“Fair Oaks Mall is also currently looking at redevelopment opportunities and an evaluation of the parking rates is viewed as critical to ensure the long-term vitality of the mall,” according to a county staff report.

Yet most of the discussion about the proposal last night focused on the inclusion of the two malls in Tysons — Tysons Galleria and Tysons Corner Center.

Dwight Fuller, a managing partner with Great American Restaurants, told the Planning Commission that parking is a problem for staff and diners in the Tysons area.

“Taking away parking — or even insinuating taking away parking from Tysons — I think is a bad way to go,” he said.

“It’s hard to do this one size fits all,” Vice-Chairman James Hart said, asking if there could be a way to eliminate the other malls from the proposal. “Is there a way to do this for the mall that seems to need this?”

Zoning Administrator Leslie Johnson told Hart that the staff could have tried to define the proposal in a way that would only make it applicable to Fair Oaks Mall.

Tysons Malls Have Flexibility With Parking

Despite concern about parking at the Tysons malls, county staff told the Planning Commission multiple times throughout the evening that the Tysons malls “have additional flexibility” already when it comes to parking.

During the discussion between the staff and commissioners, it was unclear how much of the conversation revolved around both Tysons malls or just Tysons Corner Center. Yet the feedback from staff suggested that both Tysons malls already have the opportunities to pursue reducing their parking limits if so desired.

“[The proposal] does not have a lot of relevance to the Tysons malls because they can go to zero [parking spaces,]” staff said. Yet, for economic business decisions, the malls are unlikely to drastically cut or eliminate parking, staff said.

Tysons Corner Center is apart of the Planned Tysons Corner Urban District’s (PTC) parking rates, according to the staff. Tysons Galleria is not apart of the PTC District, but could opt-in, staff said.

Tysons Corner Center also proffered to pursue parking reductions with the redevelopment of part of the site, staff said.

The staff presentation noted that declines in retail parking demand are expected to continue because of mall locations near other transit options and the prevalence of online shopping. The presentation noted that lower parking rates could lead to better utilization of surface parking.

When asked by the commissioners if the proposal would serve as a catalyst for the Tysons malls to cut their parking, the staff said, “No, it would not.”

A Call For More Data

The proposal is based on a Nelson/Nygaard study that evaluated parking data for Fair Oaks Mall collected by the property owner in December 2017 and December 2018, along with data about the Springfield Town Center that the firm collected in June.

The firm found that less than 65% of the available spaces were occupied during peak times from a parking count for the Springfield mall and analyzing data from the Fair Oaks Mall. The study did not evaluate the two malls in Tysons.

County staff insisted that the study looked at the peak shopping month — December.

Commissioner Ellen Hurley, who represents the Braddock District, criticized the limited range of the Nelson/Nygaard study and that there isn’t any data about the parking demand for the day after Thanksgiving.

“I think it’s disingenuous to say the ‘peak day of the peak month’ when most shoppers realize the peak day is the day after Thanksgiving,” she said.

Hurley called for a survey of mall shoppers to provide more data about the parking demand. She also noted that not everyone has access to the Metro.

“It’s kind of feeling like you’re saying that Tysons could eliminate all parking,” she said. “From the lens of equity that doesn’t seem like a really smart way to go.”

Commissioner John Carter, who represents the Hunter Mill District, also called for more data about malls’ parking rates.

Carter suggested a table with the parking rates for 10 or so malls in Fairfax County and surrounding jurisdictions.

“I don’t question that malls are evolving tremendously,” he said.

“Relatively Simple and Straightforward”

Tony Calabrese, a DLA Piper attorney representing Fair Oaks Mall, said that the proposal was “intended to be relatively simple and straightforward.”

Addressing Hart’s comments, Calabrese said that trying to make changes to the proposed amendment might lead to more confusion.

Calabrese said that Fair Oaks Mall does survey its shoppers and claimed that the day after Thanksgiving is not nearly as the holiday peak in December.

Calabrese noted that the amendment would not affect the Tysons malls from being able to reduce their parking if they wanted to — the Tysons Galleria, while not a part of the PTC currently, could opt-in with the zoning administrator’s approval, staff said.

“The parking requirements have to be dropped,” Calabrese said.

“Supportive But With Reluct-ness”

The Planning Commission voted to defer the decision to next Wednesday, Nov. 20.

At-Large Commissioner Timothy Sargeant said that deferral will give the commissioners time to consider the comments from the public hearing.

Commissioner Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner, who represents the Providence District, asked the staff if they could exclude the Tysons malls. Staff replied that the proposal would barely impact the malls, which already could find ways to reduce their parking requirements.

While Niedzielski-Eichner said he would prefer to see the Tysons malls kept out of the proposal, he said he is “supportive but with reluct-ness.”

Ultimately, he said that he wants to help Fair Oaks Mall and doesn’t want to risk having to over through the process again if this proposal is rejected.

The proposal is slated to head to the Board of Supervisors for a hearing on Dec. 3.

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The McLean Citizens Association is looking to steer Fairfax County away from reducing parking requirements at Tysons Galleria and Tysons Corner Center.

The proposal would affect the four largest malls in Fairfax County — the two in Tysons, Fair Oaks and Springfield Town Center — and was based on a review of the parking rates and demand at large regional malls by consulting firm Nelson/Nygaard.

The firm found that less than 65% of the available spaces were occupied during peak times from a parking count for the Springfield mall and analyzing data from the Fair Oaks mall. The study did not evaluate the two malls in Tysons — alarming the McLean Citizens Association.

“Without a study specifically addressing parking at those two malls, the MCA believes it is inappropriate to reduce the parking requirements at those locations,” the MCA wrote in a letter dated Oct. 30 to the Planning Commission.

The letter goes on to state that “it seems that it is frequently difficult to find a vacant space at the two Tysons malls even during normal weekends throughout the year” and advises the county against approving the change without data about the two Tysons malls.

MCA urges the county to drop the two Tysons malls from the proposal and — going forward — only consider changes to the parking when there is a study done specifically for the affected mall(s).

Fairfax County planners support altering the requirement from four to 2.5 or three parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of gross floor area for the four malls — the recommended change from Nelson/Nygaard.

County staff suggested a rate of 2.8, saying it “is reasonable and will address the oversupply of parking currently experienced at our regional malls.”

The Fairfax County Planning Commission is set to hold a public hearing on the proposal next Wednesday (Nov. 13). Unless indefinitely deferred, the proposal would then head to the Board of Supervisors for a hearing on Dec. 3.

Image via Google Maps

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The Town of Vienna is moving forward with its plan to add public parking with Patrick Henry Library’s upcoming renovation.

The town is partnering with Fairfax County so that the town can have public parking spots when the county rebuilds the library (101 E. Maple Avenue).

The town is looking to incorporate public parking into a three-story parking garage, according to the Capital Improvement Plan.

Director of Finance Marion Serfass told the Town Council that the town would have 188 spaces, while the library would have 125 — a total of 313 parking spaces.

The parking garage is expected to cost $6.3 million, and the town is seeking a grant from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.

The Vienna Town Council approved the 2020-2036 Capital Improvement Plan at their meeting on Monday (Oct. 21).

Image via Town of Vienna

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Next month, locals will get the chance to weigh in on a proposal to reduce the parking requirements at Tysons Corner Center and Tysons Galleria.

Fairfax County is considering a proposal that would affect the four largest malls in the county — the two in Tysons, Fair Oaks and Springfield Town Center — after a review earlier this year of the parking rates and demand at large regional malls.

Consulting firm Nelson/Nygaard conducted the study from June 5-8 by doing a parking count for the Springfield mall and analyzing data from the Fair Oaks mall. The study found that less than 65% of the available spaces were occupied during peak times, according to county documents.

The study did not evaluate the two malls in Tysons, county spokesperson Crystal Santos said.

When Tysons Reporter asked how the Tysons malls’ parking needs might differ from the two malls analyzed, Santos said:

The county envisions that Tysons will become a walkable, sustainable urban center as it redevelops leading to less car usage in the area and therefore less demand for parking. While Springfield is more urban than Fair Oaks because of bus service and Metrorail, it’s not as urban or accessible through public transportation as the two Tysons malls. We wanted to examine similar, more suburban malls to measure demand on parking for this study.

Santos added that there was a parking study in 2014 in Tysons before the Silver Line stations opened.

“The malls are also included in the Tysons Comprehensive Plan to transform the area into an urban center, as a result, the malls are able to reduce their effective parking rate to less than 2.5 per 1000 square feet of gross floor area through a county review and approval process,” Santos said.

A spokesperson for Tysons Corner Center did not respond to Tysons Reporter’s request for comment on the proposal.

The proposal would alter the requirement from four to 2.5 or three parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of gross floor area — the recommended change from Nelson/Nygaard. County staff is recommending the rate be 2.8 parking spaces.

“This is a more realistic parking requirement and, if implemented, would continue to provide an oversupply of parking at peak demand on weekdays and weekends during all times of the year,” according to county documents. “Overall, the changes will provide Fairfax County’s largest commercial retail centers additional flexibility to react to a changing retail marketplace.”

The Planning Commission plans to hold a public hearing on Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m. before the Board of Supervisors has one on Dec. 3 at 4 p.m.

Image via Google Maps

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Fairfax County may reduce its parking requirements for its largest malls — including Tysons Corner Center and Tysons Galleria.

The proposal would affect four malls in the county — the two in Tysons, Fair Oaks and Springfield Town Center.

A review of the parking rates and demand at large regional malls by consulting firm Nelson/Nygaard found that less than 65% of the available spaces were occupied during peak times, according to county documents.

The proposal would alter the requirement from four to 2.5 or three parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of gross floor area — the recommended change from Nelson/Nygaard.

“This is a more realistic parking requirement and, if implemented, would continue to provide an oversupply of parking at peak demand on weekdays and weekends during all times of the year,” according to county documents.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is set to vote on Tuesday (Oct. 15) on authorizing public hearings — a Planning Commission one on Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m. and one before the board on Dec. 3 at 4 p.m.

“Overall, the changes will provide Fairfax County’s largest commercial retail centers additional flexibility to react to a changing retail marketplace,” according to county documents.

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Local Schools Receive “Common Sense Recognition” — Chesterbrook Elementary School in McLean and Cunningham Park Elementary School in Vienna are two of the 23 Fairfax County Public Schools recognized for their digital citizenship. [FCPS]

Ramen Chain Coming to The Boro — “A Japanese ramen chain that has 61 shops in 10 countries will make its D.C. area debut this fall, when it’s expected to open a branch in Tysons Corner… [Santouka] is expected open inside a modern, brick-lined space in the new Boro mixed-use development (1636 Boro Place, McLean) by early November.” [DC Eater]

Parking May Arrive Along Maple Avenue — “A consulting firm aiming to squeeze some additional parking in Vienna’s commercial core has come up with a unique option: Turn parts of Maple Avenue into parking strips.” [Inside NoVa]

Capital One Hosting Code Fest — “Girls Computing League, a nonprofit working to empower underrepresented groups in technology, will host its first national code fest InnovateGCL later this month. The Sept. 14 event at the new Capital One headquarters in Tysons Corner, Virginia, will have over 150 students showcase and develop new ideas on the topics of artificial intelligence, health, finance, education and many more.” [WashingtonExec]

Man Pleads Guilty to Robbing Falls Church Pawn Shops — “An Arlington man previously convicted of a pair of bank robberies in Alexandria is facing more jail time. Budder Khan, now 29, pleaded guilty today to robbing two pawn shops in Falls Church, federal prosecutors announced. [ARLnow]

USAID Deploys Fairfax County Rescue Team to the Bahamas — “Members of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team [were] deployed to the Bahamas as part of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) responding to Hurricane Dorian.” [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue]

Blue, Yellow Line Metro Stations Reopen — “The six Blue and Yellow line stations south of Reagan National Airpor — Braddock Rd, King St-Old Town, Eisenhower Ave, Huntington, Van Dorn Street and Franconia-Springfield — will reopen as scheduled Monday, September 9, with completely rebuilt platforms and several customer improvements.” [Metro]

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As the Town of Vienna awaits Fairfax County’s renovation of the Patrick Henry Library, the Town Council continues to drive forward a proposed public parking garage.

The Town Council is set to hear a presentation tonight (Monday) from Grimm and Parker about several ideas that could incorporate public parking in the project.

Opened in 1971, Patrick Henry Library (101 E. Maple Avenue) is set to be rebuilt as part of a $91 million bond referendum to upgrade the county’s aging libraries. Mayor Laurie DiRocco previously said that the library got moved up in the county’s renovation schedule from 2026 to 2022.

Ultimately, the town wants cost-effective public parking that will create a synergy between the library and the surrounding commercial area, according to a report from Grimm and Parker.

“Parking is critical to the success of the Patrick Henry Library. The current parking supply often does not meet the demand,” the report said. “Additionally, the Town of Vienna is experiencing a parking shortfall for the Maple Avenue Corridor.”

According to the report, the three designs concepts for the library and parking are:

  • a stand-alone, two-story building with surface parking for 90 cars;
  • a single-level library with an integrated parking garage with 125 spots for the library and 84 for the town;
  • or a single-level library with an integrated parking garage with 125 spaces for the library and 188 for the town

Prior to the meeting, the Town Council will hold a work session about the final phase of the scope of work for the multimodal transportation study of the Maple Avenue Corridor that is being done by Kimley-Horn.

“Based on the future land use scenario results, Kimley-Horn will present potential multimodal transportation improvements for discussion with Town citizens in a workshop format,” according to the town’s website.

The final community workshop for the study will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 4, at 7 p.m.

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A clerical error has left Sweet Leaf Cafe in McLean in a three-year legal fight to not be zoned as a residential property.

The restaurant is currently operating in violation of zoning code. A non-residential use permit had been issued for the site for retail sales, but not to operate what the zoning law refers to as a fast-food establishment.

At a July 17 meeting, the Board of Zoning Appeals deferred Sweet Leaf’s appeal to Oct. 23, making this the 12th time the issue has been appealed since early 2016.

County staff said Sweet Leaf is pursuing a parking reduction to fall in-line with the zoning ordinance but has hit a few snags.

According to Fairfax County spokesperson Brian Worthy:

Sweet Leaf needs a non-residential use permit for a restaurant, and this is the current issue involved in the zoning appeal. However, the restaurant cannot get this permit until it applies for a parking reduction that the Board of Supervisors must approve. Therefore, the July 17 Board of Zoning Appeals public hearing for this case was deferred because the applicant is working to apply for the reduction. The business requires at least 14 parking spaces based on zoning rules, but the site can only physically accommodate the existing 12 parking spaces. If this reduction is approved, the applicant can get its non-residential use permit. Previous public hearings were deferred at the applicant’s own request.

While Sweet Leaf works with the county government to find a solution, staff said the restaurant has been allowed to continue operating.

“Sweet Leaf has been allowed to stay open without the non-residential use permit for a restaurant because they are working to acquire the proper zoning permit,” said Fairfax County Public Information Officer Crystal Santos. “Unfortunately, a previous administrative error allowed the restaurant to operate as a retail establishment for zoning purposes. However, Sweat Leaf has been subject to all health regulations and licensing requirements related to owning and operating a restaurant in Fairfax County since they opened in 2009.”

Prior to Sweet Leaf, the space was operated under a similar food use for seven years, according to Sweet Leaf owner Andre Matini.

“Sweet Leaf completed all the proper paperwork and was issued a zoning permit… to operate as a food use,” Matini wrote in an email. “We are not exactly sure what has transpired since we opened over ten years ago but this issue seems to be an oversight by the issuer… Unfortunately, this has been an extremely costly process for us.”

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said it was an innocent error and staff has been working to make sure the restaurant can continue operating and obtain the proper zoning.

“Basically it’s come down to a parking issue,” Foust said. “[Staff] is continuing to search for a solution. They think they have one, and it’s a little creative, but they’re trying to work through it.”

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