A developer has received the go-ahead to build townhomes on a Pimmit Hills property currently occupied by a circular C-shaped office building from the 1970s.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the project Tuesday (Jan. 25) after Bethesda-based developer EYA addressed concerns from officials and community members about potential flooding issues in the area.
“By converting an old, dated office building into residential, we’re significantly reducing the number of vehicle trips into and out of the site,” Cooley LLP attorney Mark Looney said, describing those changes as part of several benefits of the project.
Looney, who represented the developer, said parts of the property are below the ground due to grading, and trees next to the buildings show the development won’t overwhelm the neighborhood.
Before the Fairfax County Planning Commission approved the project on Nov. 10, officials worked with the developer to establish more demanding standards for stormwater management and flooding. Heavy rain has led to water issues in basements and yards near the community.
Supervisors approved a Comprehensive Plan amendment on Oct. 19, 2021, allowing the development to proceed as long as it met certain conditions to mitigate downstream flooding and reduce runoff, including stormwater management controls above the county’s minimum standards.
EYA noted it will provide an underground detention system for stormwater as well as a water filtering system with two treatment facilities to address phosphorous levels, which can be harmful to people and animals.
Opposition to a natural gas pipeline planned for Pimmit Hills resurfaced yesterday (Wednesday), as residents voiced concerns about safety and other issues at a Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals public hearing.
Washington Gas has sought to upgrade its infrastructure in the area since 2012, but citizen appeals have stalled the project, which will turn a 3-mile line along Route 7 into a 5-mile route circling around Tysons.
In video testimonies submitted to the zoning appeals board, Pimmit Hills residents expressed fears of gas ruptures and a potential explosion affecting homes where the new pipeline could be built.
The appeals board postponed a decision on the matter to Feb. 2 due to a lack of time. Video testimony is scheduled to be heard at that time along with additional questioning, staff comments and rebuttals.
Dubbed the Tysons Strip One Project, the proposed pipeline would replace a nearly 70-year-old, 14-inch-wide line with a new, higher pressure one that’s 2 feet in width.
While it will distribute gas to homes, the new pipeline won’t directly hook up to residences, according to a lawyer representing Washington Gas.
The case before the appeals board was initiated by four homeowners who objected to the county’s finding from July 23, 2021 that the project doesn’t need special exception approval. A staff report agreed with zoning administrator Leslie Johnson, saying the residents’ appeal lacked merit.
Residents Christina Chen Zinner, Kurt Iselt, Sarah Ellis, and Lillian Whitesell argue that there should be more oversight of the utility work.
“The [Fairfax County Board of Supervisors] is not even being allowed…to exercise its discretion and protect its…constituents,” Evan Johns, an attorney for the group, said.
Light or Heavy Utility Facility?
The case before the zoning appeals board hinges on a disagreement over whether the pipeline should be considered a light or heavy utility facility.
The residents’ attorneys argue that it’s a heavy utility facility, which isn’t permitted by Pimmit Hills’ residential district.
County staff see the pipeline as a light utility facility, which is exempt from zoning regulations when in a Virginia Department of Transportation right-of-way and intended for consumer distribution.
“A heavy utility use is a major component of an infrastructure system,” Johnson said. “I think it’s clear that it’s not a heavy utility facility.” Read More
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.
Update at 4 p.m. — Leesburg Pike appears to be clear to traffic again
Earlier: A car crash at the intersection of Leesburg Pike and Pimmit Drive has resulted in two injuries, though police said neither appear to be life-threatening.
The crash occurred around 3 p.m. One person was taken to the hospital. The road appeared partially closed as emergency personnel responded to the scene, though police said it was unlikely to remain blocked for long.
The busy intersection is near the Idylwood Plaza shopping center.
Image via VDOT, map via Google Maps
AMT Looking for Buyers or Partners for ‘City View Tysons’ Development — “On AMT’s behalf, Cushman & Wakefield recently began marketing 7901 Westpark Drive to interested buyers or equity partners. The ‘shovel ready’ development site is approved for a 215,547-square-foot building, per marketing material from the commercial real estate brokerage.” [Washington Business Journal]
Local Bluesy Stoner Rock — “On Friday, Virginia’s dark, bluesy stoner rock outfit Pimmit Hills — featuring former members of King Giant — will release their new EP, Heathens & Prophets.” [Treble]
ManTech CEO Becomes Chairman of Board of Directors — “”Kevin has done an outstanding job as CEO and he is clearly the right individual to lead the board going forward,” said Barry Campbell, a ManTech independent director.” [ExecutiveBiz]
Providence District Council Polls Local Residents — The Providence District Council, a group of local citizens’ associations, has put out a survey asking locals what issues are most important to them. [Providence District Council]
Fairfax County Police are searching for Navya Patury, a 16-year-old missing endangered juvenile.
Police said members of the Major Crimes Bureau and the Search and Rescue Team will be looking around the area of Leonard Drive in Pimmit Hills.
Patury is 5’5″ and around 100 lbs with brown eyes and black hair. Patury was last seen wearing a black jacket with a pink zipper and grey/pink sneakers. Patury is considered endangered due to a mental/physical health concern.
Anyone with information is asked to call 703-691-2131.
Detectives from our Major Crimes Bureau & members of our Search and Rescue Team will be in the area of Leonard Dr in Pimmit Hills looking for #Missing Endangered Juvenile 16-year-old Navya Patury- last seen wearing black jacket w/ pink zipper. Call 703-691-2131 with info. #FCPD pic.twitter.com/7TnBGueZZ0
— Fairfax County Police (@FairfaxCountyPD) September 20, 2020
Photo via Fairfax County Police/Twitter
As plans proceed for a newly approved pipeline in Pimmit Hills, a group of residents is continuing to push Washington Gas to reroute the project.
More than 100 Pimmit Hills residents gathered earlier this month to protest the installation of a new natural gas pipeline that Washington Gas plans to place in a neighborhood between Tysons and Falls Church.
The project, which was originally rejected twice by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), finally received the green light in late 2019.
The project includes roughly five miles of pipeline intended to support developmental growth in Tysons, according to documentation from the Pimmit Hills Citizens Association (PHCA).
Roughly five feet underground in the Virginia Department of Transit right of way, the pipeline will sit directly under the road, Washington Gas Spokesperson Brian Edwards said.
Lines will run under Cherri, Fisher and Peabody drives in Pimmit Hills, according to a map sent to Tysons Reporter by a member of the citizens association.
Major Concerns From Residents
PHCA Spokesperson Ashley Nellis told Tysons Reporter she worries that the 24-inch-thick and high-pressure pipeline will pose a risk to the safety of local families and cause “massive” disruptions to the area and the environment on several fronts.
The major concerns brought up by Nellis and other residents throughout Pimmit Hills include disturbances to the neighborhood during construction and long-term safety standards.
“This is a very dangerous proposition that has not gone well in other communities,” she said, citing an explosion that occurred in a town in Pennsylvania in 2018.
“We are the only residential neighborhood impacted by a high-pressure transmission pipeline that also happens to be routed along a known flood plain and next to the beginning of Pimmit Run Stream,” Robert Heilen, the president of the PHCA, said in a letter to VDOT.
Brian Edwards, the Washington Gas spokesperson, told Tysons Reporter that the pipeline will not negatively impact the regional flood plain.
After being pressed about community concerns, Washington Gas remains steadfast in its certainty that the pipeline meets, if not exceeds, safety standards according to Edwards, who added that the pipe is built with strong material so there is little possibility of a rupture.
“It is being designed at a very high standard so if someone were to even hit the line with a backhoe it would withstand the damage,” Edwards said.
Due to the nature of the project, VDOT does not require an environmental impact report for the project, according to Edwards.
The Community Fights Back
Politicians including Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust and State Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd) and Del. Marcus Simon (D-53rd) are also backing the opposition efforts.
Along with its normal monthly meetings, the citizens association began hosting weekly pipeline committee meetings to discuss changes and efforts to halt the project.
As of today (March 16), more than 570 people have signed a Change.org petition to reroute the pipeline.
Currently, a community member is in the midst of filing a petition of appeal against the VDOT approval, aiming to halt the pipeline progress.
Though independently organized, PHCA set up a GoFundMe page to fund the lawsuit. So far, people have donated over $9,500 in two months. “It shows how adamantly the community is against this issue,” Nellis, the PHCA spokesperson, said.
The private community member is now in search of new representation after the original law firm dropped the case, Heilen added.
Edwards said he was not in a position to give a statement from Washington Gas.
Project leaders within the community originally hoped that VDOT and Washington Gas would install the new pipeline along Route 7 — an option that Washington Gas said would be more intrusive and time-consuming.
As it stands, the line construction in the Pimmit Hills neighborhood would affect roughly 7,000 commuters daily over the course of three years, according to Edwards. But, if the pipeline would instead be installed along Route 7, he said it would take six years — double the amount of time — and affect roughly 41,000 commuters daily.
For community members though, perks of moving the line to Route 7 include an increased sense of security for their families and easement of construction noise.
Edwards said that Washington Gas plans to proceed with construction block-by-block in order to lessen the burden on homeowners.
As community members continue to fight pipeline installation, Washington Gas is proceeding with preparation for the project.
Edwards wouldn’t give an estimated project start time but told Tysons Reporter that Washington Gas hopes the project will be completed by 2023.
Heilen said he was told that construction was supposed to begin in early April, but said he hasn’t received any updated information.
“Most of the route is already marked,” Heilen said. “I expect that once they feel the weather is stable, they will start digging.”
Photos courtesy Devin Buries
Plans for a new speed hump aim to slow down drivers near a high school and senior center in Pimmit Hills.
Last Tuesday (Dec. 3), the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors backed adding a speed hump to Griffith Road between Magarity Road and Lisle Ave.
The speed hump will be located in front of the building (7510 Lisle Avenue) that houses the Pimmit Hills Senior Center, the Pimmit Hills Alternative High School and the Pimmit Alternative Learning Center.
The county board voted to urge the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) to install the speed hump as soon as possible after residents in the area called for measures to reduce the speed of traffic on the road, according to county documents.
Back in October, FCDOT received support from the nearby community for the traffic calming plan for the road after FCDOT had an engineering study done on the road, the county said.
Now, the Virginia Department of Transportation will review the plan, which is a part of FCDOT’s Residential Traffic Administration Program.
The new speed hump is expected to cost $8,000, according to county documents.
Map via Google Maps
Families may have noticed that the playground at Tysons Pimmit Park isn’t open.
“Work on the installation of a picnic shelter with new metal roofing is scheduled to begin Nov. 7 and continue through Feb. 28, 2020,” according to the county.
The project costs $120,000 and is being funded by the 2019 Park Bond, according to the county.
The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.
We’ve scoured the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!
Tuesday (Sept. 24)
- Ribbon Cutting: Zenola — 6-7 p.m. at Zenola (132 Branch Road SE) — Newly opened Zenola is hosting their grand opening in partnership with the Vienna Business Associaton and the Town of Vienna.
- Laughs In The Lobby Bar — 8 p.m. at Jammin Java (227 E. Maple Avenue) — This free event lets people gather for an evening of comedy featuring a variety of experience levels. All ages are welcome. Those wishing to get on stage should show up at 7 p.m.
- Happy Hour Mixer in Falls Church — 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Hilton Garden Inn (706 W. Broad Street) — The Greater Merrifield Business Association and the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce are hosting a joint event with food, drinks and networking.
Wednesday (Sept. 25)
- Community Conversation: Shaping the Future of Fairfax County Together — 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Marshall High School (7731 Leesburg Pike) — Fairfax County wants feedback from citizens about what they want their community to look like in 10-20 years. This is an opportunity for people to gather and give input at an open forum.
Thursday (Sept. 26)
- Alya Salon Grand Opening Party — 5:30-8:30 p.m. at Ayla Salon (139 Park Street SE) — This new hair salon will celebrate its grand opening with food, drinks, music, various product samples and a mini-fashion show.
Friday (Sept. 27)
- Friday Night Live — 8-11 p.m. at Falls Church Distillers (442 S. Washington Street) — Each week, this free event invites community members to gather for live music.
Saturday (Sept. 28)
- Merrifield Fall Festival — 11 a.m.-6 p.m. at the Mosaic District (2910 District Avenue) — This festival gives attendees the opportunity to enjoy some fall weather while listening to live music, enjoying brews from Caboose Brewing in Strawberry Park and shop at the local farmers market and on-site craft fair. This event is free to attend.
Sunday (Sept. 29)
- Plant Swap — 11 a.m.-noon at Botanologica (817 W. Broad Street) –– This free event gives community members the chance to trade plants or clippings. Organizers ask that participants bring only healthy plants, label the species and provide written care instructions for the next owner.
- Pimmit Hills Day — 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at Olney Park (1840 Olney Road) — This festival invites community members to check out live music and various vendors offering live music, food and drinks. All ages are welcome to this free event. There will also be activities for kids.
Photo via Facebook