Tysons, VA

After an earlier deferral and walking tour, a planned mixed use development dubbed the Broad & Washington Project is headed back to the Planning Commission tomorrow for a work session.

“Planning Commission is requested to hold a work session to discuss the Broad and Washington mixed-use development proposed at the intersection of East Broad and North Washington Streets on approximately 3.16 acres of land including the City Lot on Park Place,” staff said in a report.

The Planning Commission work session is scheduled for tomorrow (Wednesday).

The proposed seven-story development would include 339 multifamily apartment units above a Whole Foods, theater, and other retail options.

The meeting is not planned to include a recommendation to the City Council, but will instead focus on discussion. The project has already stirred considerable controversy in the community, with a public comment page times longer than the staff report.

The public comment submitted in advance of the work session was almost unanimous opposition to the project. Much of the opposition was concern about the loss of parking for nearby local businesses, like the State Theater, during construction and concerns that the replacement spots in the new underground parking garage won’t be equivalent to what is lost.

According to Fred Bonner, a local resident:

I would like to urge you to not agree to sell the municipal parking lot as part of the Broad and Washington Streets project. I have been following the development of the project over the past few years and my impression is that most of the changes have been detrimental from the city’s perspective, primarily making it mostly residential. While there are still reasons to accept the overall project, I do not believe losing the municipal lot is necessary or good for the city. The developers offer to ‘replace’ the spots in their underground garage cannot be considered equivalent, and the loss of those spots during the construction and after will be devastating to Thompson’s, Clare and Dons and the State Theater.

Several other local residents argued that eliminating the lot would harm local establishments like Clare and Don’s.

The plan has already been through several updates that increased the shared public parking and dedicated residential parking at the site. A staff report noted that while there have been changes, concerns from local businesses remain for how changes to interim parking could affect customers during construction.

“65 offsite parking spaces are provided at 107 and 111 Park Place, within 800 Feet of City Lot, while public parking is unavailable onsite during construction,” the staff report said. “The previously proposed 6 to 8 months period of offsite parking was reduced to 3 to 6 months; in terms of adjacent business support, the latest comments received from Thompson Italian and Clare & Don’s detail concerns they have about how the project, particularly the construction period, will adversely impact their business.”

Image via City of Falls Church

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How often should a homeowner have to reassure the county that their granny flat is a granny flat?

That is one of many questions facing Fairfax County as it continues working toward the first major overhaul of its zoning ordinance in 40 years.

Providence District Planning Commissioner Phil Niedzielski-Eichner attempted to answer some of those questions in a discussion with the Providence District Council on Oct. 14 that also touched on development and housing.

The importance of the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance Modernization Project, or zMOD, has become increasingly apparent as housing affordability challenges persist and more people work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, Niedzielski-Eichner says.

“We want, on the one hand, to increase the opportunity for people to afford to live in the community,” Niedzielski-Eichner said. “We want to allow for the potential of people working out of their homes. We want to recognize that that’s an evolving reality. At the same time, we’re sensitive to protecting the neighborhood and don’t want it to cause parking problems and other neighborhood issues.”

Among the biggest proposed changes to the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance are new regulations for accessory living units, which generally known as accessory dwelling units but got a name change in Fairfax to avoid confusion with affordable dwelling units.

Defined as “subordinate living spaces with areas for eating, sleeping, living, and sanitation,” ALUs are currently only allowed in Fairfax County if an occupant of the unit or the principal dwelling is 55-plus years old or has a disability.

Under Fairfax County’s most recent draft zoning ordinance, which has been available for public comment since June 30, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors would have the option of eliminating the age and disability requirements for an accessory living unit.

The draft ordinance also outlines a new process for homeowners to get approval for an ALU.

Currently, homeowners currently have to attend a public hearing if they want to add an ALU, but the proposed zoning ordinance allows property owners to instead apply for an administrative or special permit that would need to be renewed every five years.

Niedzielski-Eichner says county staff is considering requiring renewal every two years instead of five, as they try to acknowledge concerns about the potential impact of accessory living units on neighborhoods without overly burdening property owners.

“We already know that people are doing accessory living units outside of the context of permitting or any regulation,” the Providence District planning commissioner said. “If we make it so difficult that people don’t want to enter into the process, then we lose the ability to influence the quality of that process and how it’s implemented.”

The Fairfax County Planning Commission’s land use process review committee is scheduled to have a discussion on zMOD this Thursday (Oct. 22) at 7:30 p.m.

Other land use and zoning challenges facing Fairfax County, especially a district like Providence that spans urbanizing centers like Tysons and older neighborhoods like Mantua, include expanding the availability of affordable and workforce housing, and ensuring that county services and infrastructure keep pace with development.

Niedzielski-Eichner says he has advocated for the county to become more data-driven when making decisions, such as altering policies around ALUs, that could potentially change the character of a neighborhood.

“It’s all about community confidence,” Niedzielski-Eichner said. “I feel that we have to do those things so that the community will come along with the policy and have confidence that it follows their best interests.”

Image via Providence District Council

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Construction on a new facility for the Vienna Police Department appears on track to start this December, Vienna Police Chief Jim Morris told the Town of Vienna Planning Commission on Wednesday (Oct. 14).

With the bidding process for a contractor to construct the new station at 215 Center Street S. now complete, the Vienna Town Council will select a winning bidder during its regular meeting on Oct. 26.

Given that timeline, Morris says he anticipates that police department staff will start transitioning out of the existing station and into a temporary facility in the former Faith Baptist Church at 301 Center Street S. within the next 60 days.

“Between now and December, we’re going to slowly be migrating over into the facility,” Morris said, citing information technology needs as the primary challenge for preparing the temporary space.

The Town of Vienna purchased the three-acre Faith Baptist Church property for $5.5 million on Sept. 18 with the goal of converting it into a public facility. Initially, the building will serve as temporary office space for the police department, but the town has not yet settled on a long-term plan for the site.

As part of the 2232 Review process required for proposed public facilities, the Vienna Planning Commission voted on Wednesday to affirm that the proposed use of 301 Center Street S. is in accordance with the town’s comprehensive plan, which the town council amended on Oct. 5 to designate the property for governmental use instead of institutional use.

The planning commission also recommended that the Board of Zoning Appeals approve a conditional use permit for the site so that the police department can utilize it as a temporary facility.

The zoning appeals board’s next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 21.

According to Michael D’Orazio, Vienna’s deputy director of planning and zoning, the police department is planning to primarily use the former church property as office space with a maximum of 15 employees working there at any given time.

The facility will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to police staff, with members of the public permitted on Mondays through Fridays by appointment. About 35 parking spaces in the existing church lot will be sectioned off for the police department, both for police vehicles and the staff’s personal vehicles.

Morris says the building at 301 Center Street has definite advantages over the Beulah Road property that Vienna had originally envisioned serving as a temporary facility while the new police station is under construction.

In addition to having more space, the Faith Baptist Church building has two floors so that the police department can set up administrative offices and other rooms accessible to the public on the ground level, while reserving the second floor for functions just for police officers and staff, such as changing rooms, a rest area, and space for roll call, meals, and report writing.

The church also has a gymnasium that can hold fitness equipment for police officers.

“We were very relieved when this space became available,” Morris said.

Image via Town of Vienna

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The Pulte Home Company is looking for special exception to transform a section of land near Odricks Corner, just north of Tysons, into a cluster of independent living homes.

“The Applicant has consolidated four (4) residentially zoned and developed parcels that may be transformed into a community that will be limited to persons 60 years of age and older,” a law firm representing Plute said. “As shown on the special exception plat submitted with this application, the Applicant proposes a total of 59 dwelling units consisting of 36 multi-family dwelling units in a single building; 14 single-family attached dwelling units; and 9 affordable dwelling units. The affordable dwelling units comprise 15% of the total number of units.”

The proposal includes both multi-family buildings and single-family attached dwelling units. The project is located just across Spring Hill Road from Sunrise of McLean.

“The proposed multi-family building will be four (4) stories of residential units served by elevators,” the report said. “The building will be constructed on top of a parking podium, which will include resident parking and trash collection… The multi-family building will be comprised of 32 two-bedroom units and 4 one-bedroom units. The one-bedroom units will be approximately 950 square feet and the two-bedroom unit will range in size from approximately 1,300 to 1,700 square feet. The single-family attached dwelling units are designed as villas with a first floor master bedroom that allows one floor living. Each unit will have approximately 2,600 square feet of living area and a two-car garage.

The project also includes affordable dwelling units that are stacked, multi-family units with designated parking and designed to allow residents to age in place.

The proposed development is scheduled to go to the Planning Commission on Wednesday, Oct. 14.

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Clothing Retailer Closing in Tysons Corner Center — “Five Justice stores are set to close in the D.C. area, along with two Lane Bryant locations, two Catherines locations, one Loft Outlet and the Lou & Grey store at Tysons Corner Center.” [Washington Business Journal]

Signed, Sealed, Delivered — “Fairfax County Planning Commission members on July 29 unanimously approved a comprehensive sign plan for the new Archer Hotel in western McLean on the edge of Tysons, after the applicant reduced the size of several proposed signs.” [Inside NoVa]

Local Man Drowned — “A 21-year-old Vienna man drowned in Lake Anna on Saturday, the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office reported Sunday.” [Inside NoVa]

Special Election in Falls Church — A special election to fill the late Daniel Sze’s council seat will be held as part of the general election on Nov. 3. [Falls Church News Press]

Photo by Michelle Goldchain

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The Fairfax County Planning Commission postponed its decision on a rezoning application for a proposed residential building near the Tysons Corner Metro station.

The owners of J.R.’s Stockyards Inn want to replace the restaurant with a 26-story residential mixed-use building.

The restaurant opened in 1978, and the owners have been in the Tysons area for a long time, John McGranahan, Jr., the lawyer representing the applicant, told the Planning Commission. J.R.’s Stockyards Inn closed its daily restaurant operations in 2011, Tysons Reporter previously reported.

The proposal wants the 270-foot-tall building to offer up to 244 units and a small retail space on the property at International Place and Watson Street, according to county documents. The project also includes a public park and an underground parking structure.

“We designed this parcel to be the first piece of the puzzle… We think it will be a catalyst to redevelopment in this part of Tysons Corner,” McGranahan said.

Following a public hearing last night, the Planning Commission decided to delay voting on whether or not to support the rezoning application. The postponement will give county staff time to work with the applicant on several issues and to review the revised proffers submitted on Wednesday afternoon.

The main issues for county staff and the applicant involve the proposal’s elevated deck over an access road, what Capital One will do with its nearby property and how much of a financial contribution the applicant should make to further Tysons’ grid of streets.

The Planning Commission will reconsider the rezoning application on Sept. 16.

Rendering via KGD Architecture

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proposed late-night cafe along Leesburg Pike will head to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

Last night, the Fairfax County Planning Commission OK’d rezoning plans for the proposed sit-down restaurant on the first floor of the commercial building at 7787 Leesburg Pike.

According to county documents, the restaurant would be open from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. every day, employing four people and serving up to 72 customers. The second story of the building would continue to be used for office space, county staff said.

“We believe there is a void in this area in terms of cafes and restaurants,” the applicant told the Planning Commission last night, noting that the nearby dining options are not open late at night.

The applicant said that the restaurant, which would be located in Tysons’ East Side neighborhood, aims to complement the area’s continued urbanization.

“We want to establish ourselves there as a to-go location for food in the area,” the applicant said.

Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner, the commissioner for the Providence District, said in brief comments that he agrees with county staff’s recommended approval of the proposal, saying that it will support surrounding offices and contribute to the transformation of Tysons.

As for concerns about traffic, the applicant and county staff said that the restaurant’s focus on evening dining is not expected to impact traffic along Leesburg Pike.

“We do anticipate to generate any more traffic than is usual [for that area],” the applicant told the commissioners.

Image via Google Maps 

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The Fairfax County Planning Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on a proposed late-night cafe along Leesburg Pike ahead of its August break.

The sit-down restaurant would be open until 1:30 a.m. every day at the now-closed United Bank branch (7787 Leesburg Pike), according to county documents. Located within Tysons’ East Side neighborhood, the cafe would add to the area’s growing food scene.

County staff recommends approval of the proposed cafe, according to the staff report released earlier this month.

If approved, the restaurant plans to have four employees to serve up to 72 customers, according to county documents.

“Since most of the use of the restaurant will be during the evening hours, then the main operation hours will be outside the peak (rush) traffic flow for the area,” the applicant said. “It is not anticipated to change the overall traffic level for the existing Leesburg Pike.”

The county’s Planning Commission was originally set to consider the proposed restaurant in late June. Now, the commission plans to hold its public hearing on the plans on Wednesday (July 29) — the last meeting date in July, according to the agenda.

Image via Google Maps 

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The expansion plans for the Capital One Campus in Tysons may turn out differently than originally expected after the developer approached the Fairfax County Planning Commission last night with new ideas.

Major proposed changes to the plan include the elimination of the planned hotel and the addition of new office space and real estate, which Gregory Riegle, the lawyer representing Capital One, said was requested because of changes to the market.

“Candidly, the hotel industry in Tysons and the Northern Virginia area had a number of challenges in terms of oversupply even before the pandemic. The intervening circumstances have only exacerbated those realities,” Riegle said.

“The overall master plan of the campus remains the same,” Stephen Gardner, a senior planner with Fairfax County, said, adding that the amount of office space will jump to 67%.

Two buildings would slightly decrease in height if this adjustment is approved, while another building would increase its height to 305 feet, which is equivalent to roughly 28 stories, Gardner said. Open space on the campus would remain the same.

The building with the increased height would include 328,974 square feet of extra floor area.

After a brief discussion, the Planning Commission unanimously voted to favorably recommend the changes to the Board of Supervisors. The county board is set to consider the proposal on July 14.

It is unclear which businesses might take over the additional retail spaces provided by the proposed changes.

“Progress is continuing irrespective of situations with the pandemic and associated issues,” Riegle said, adding that the Wegmans is expected to be completed later in 2020, while the performing arts center will likely be done in 2021.

Image courtesy Fairfax County Planning Commission

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As the Louise Archer Elementary School gears up for a renovation, the Vienna Planning Commission supports keeping temporary facilities at the school for a few more years.

Currently, there are two trailers and one 66-foot by 180-foot modular at the public school (324 Nutley Street NW).

The permits for the facilities are expected to expire later this year unless town officials grant an extension. Last night’s votes were a step in the direction for the temporary facilities to stay in place for the short-term.

The school used to have eight trailers before the modular replaced five of them.

“[The modular] provides additional capacity to alleviate the overcrowding at the school,” according to town documents, adding that the modular houses 10 classrooms, restrooms and storage and maintenance space.

The school is now poised for a renovation that will get rid of the two trailers and modular entirely.

John McGranahan, a lawyer representing Fairfax County Public Schools, told the Planning Commission last night that the planning and design for the renovation are in progress.

Permitting is slated to begin in 2021, followed by three years of construction from 2022-2025, McGranahan said, noting that the school will remain open while the work is underway and that most of the construction will happen during the summers.

The renovation is expected to be completed by August 2025. The trailers and modular would get removed once the work is finished, McGranahan said.

The Planning Commission voted in support of permits continuing the use of the modular for five years and the trailers for two years.

Image via Town of Vienna

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