Tysons Corner, VA

The Fairfax County Police Department wants to roll out a new, urban-style service model that police leaders believe will help scale back crime as Tysons continues to grow.

“We have a whole new idea for how to police Tysons,” Major Bob Blakely told the county’s Planning Commission at last night’s Capital Improvement Program presentations.

Blakely said that the police department is hoping to add a new police station close to Tysons’ “main arteries.” He said police expect to receive land for the facility and construction assistance from a local developer, in an arrangement commonly known as a “proffer,” exchanging approval of a development for a public facility.

Unlike a traditional police station, the one for Tysons would serve as a “walk-up type facility” with reduced hours of operation, Blakely said.

Police would also have unique options to get around Tysons. “We’re trying to remove the idea of these big cruisers trying to get through traffic,” he said.

Instead of police cars, police would rely on segways, scooters and smaller vehicles to move around without getting stuck in the congestion.

Planning Commissioner Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner called the new Tysons policing proposal a “relevant, urgent need.” In response to Niedzielski-Eichner’s question about timing, Blakely said he’d rather see it sooner rather than later.

“When we look at the statistics, it shows we need to get ahead of the curve instead of behind it,” Blakely said.

Ultimately, Blakely stressed that pairing new technologies and innovations with the urban environment will help police respond faster and provide better service to the community.

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The developers behind The Boro — a sprawling project scheduled for staggered openings throughout the year — have filed paperwork for a plan to work with the company WhyHotel to turn unleased rental units into temporary hotel rooms.

“Given the large number of units in the building, the applicant anticipates that the initial lease-up period for the Rise will be at least 18-24 months,” Elizabeth Baker, senior land use planner for the developers, said in a report on the project. “During this period not to exceed 24 months, the Applicant proposes to temporarily utilize up to 150 market rate units throughout the building for short-term residential or hotel stays.”

The report notes that the stays would be coordinated and managed by WhyHotel, and the guests would have access to the residential parking garage in the building and amenities like the fitness lounge, club room, yoga studio and rooftop swimming pool.

As a bonus, the report says the short term residents would be more likely to use transit or alternate modes of transportation, resulting in a temporarily reduced demand on parking and single occupancy vehicles trips around the site.

There are no architectural design changes resulting from the proposal and at the end of the 24-month period, the temporary use would be terminated.

“The request represents a modest and relatively short term change in use for the property that will be positive for the Boro project and the county,” Baker said in the report.

A staff report and Planning Commission hearing are both scheduled for May.

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A new, 86-bed assisted senior living facility could be on the way for 2347 Hunter Mill Road, adjacent to the United Methodist Church of the Good Shepherd in northern Vienna.

According to the application, the facility would primarily serve seniors living currently living within five miles of the property, or whose current caregivers live nearby. Senior living facilities around Northern Virginia can be scarce, though several are planned across the Tysons area.

The proposed facility would provide accommodations for people with dementia or memory loss, providing housing, meals, programming and supportive care services.

The applicant, Orr-BSL Hunter Mill, LLC, is proposing a two-story building with approximately 43,680 square feet of space. The application says the building will include outdoor courtyards and a garden accessible to residents of the facility.

The facility would operate 24/7 with a staff of 30 employees.

A Planning Commission hearing for the application is scheduled for June 12 at 7:30 p.m.

Photo via Google Maps

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A small fumble involving a seemingly dead committee is pushing the Tysons Galleria Macy’s redevelopment plan back a few months.

According to Russell Forno, a land use planner with a law firm representing Tysons Galleria, gaining permission from Fairfax County for new signage would be a significant step for the mall in its efforts to negotiate with new tenants.

Going into the Jan. 16 Planning Commission meeting, everything seemed set for approval. Staff had recommended approval of new signs and there was no vocal opposition. But Forno requested that the approval be pushed back to March.

The mall, we’re told, had failed to get the approval of the Tysons II Design Review Committee, a group so obscure the only other Google search result is a 2015 staff report requesting a sign change. The staff report includes an attached document called the Tysons II Sign Manual, which says:

All signs shall be approved by the Tysons II Design Review Committee before any required submission to Fairfax County for permits… This review will continue to help maintain oversight to ensure signage coordination within Tysons II and prevent impair the planned unit nature of the development.

The document includes some very specific requirements. All illuminated signs must be black in daytime and white at night and all ground floor signs must have individually fabricated letters and symbols only, not enclosed signs.

The application from Tysons Galleria indicated that the committee no longer exists, but a letter from the apparently deceased committee seemed to confuse the subject.

“I’ll be honest, there was a little mix-up,” said Forno. “Reviews with this committee are forthcoming. The applicant and committee have agreed to meet within the next 30 days. [We ask you] to defer action until March.”

Planning Commissioner Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner agreed and led the Planning Commission in a vote to push the decision back to March 13 to allow the Tysons Galleria time to consult with the Tysons II Design Review Committee.

Meanwhile, the Planning Commission also approved new signage for the Tysons-based Mitre Corporation and approved Reformed Theological Seminary’s move into an office building on the southern edge of Tysons.

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Fairfax County is currently mulling over changes to its sign ordinance that has schools, local realtors, and Tysons Corner Center concerned.

At a Planning Commission meeting last week, the commission deferred a decision on the new sign regulations until Jan. 16 to allow for more discussion on the impact of the ordinance.

Currently, county staff are reviewing changes to the zoning ordinance to make the language “content neutral.” The change is in response to the United States Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Reed vs. Town of Gilbert, which ruled that localities that define sign categories based on the message expressed, or content-based, is unconstitutional unless it furthers a compelling governmental interest.

Rather than allow free reign for Fairfax residents of businesses to erect signs regardless of content, a proposed amendment would tighten sign regulations across the board.

The proposed changes to the sign ordinance are wide-ranging but often minor corrections. One of the biggest changes is that one freestanding building identification sign is permitted for each detached building and such signs must be limited to identifying the name of the building or the individual enterprises located therein, the address, trademark or identifying symbol of the building occupant.

For instance, a real estate sign pointing to a nearby open house, but placed at the entrance to a subdivision, would be prohibited.

One of the proposed changes alters the definition of a sign from something “visible from the public right-of-way or adjoining property” to “visible from any street.” It’s a relatively small change, but any tampering with language in county ordinances could have a ripple effect. According to the staff documents, for instance, a representative of Tysons Corner Center expressed concerns about the impact of the change.

Tysons Corner Center currently has sign exemptions, allowing exceptions to current county rules, but these exemptions are based on the existing definitions of visibility from the public right-of-way or adjoining properties. As a result of these concerns, staff said new language was written into the proposed ordinance to allow greater flexibility.

According to county staff, minor signs — formerly referred to as temporary signs — were the largest challenge in the zoning ordinance rewrite.

“While staff acknowledges that the proposed language could negatively affect some developments that are currently exempt from regulation, we continue to recommend the language found in the draft text as it provides the closest level of regulation as the current provision.”

A representative from real estate investment company Macerich, which owns Tysons Corner Center, said at the meeting that the company had a laundry list of concerns but has been working with county staff to whittle those issues down. Another local realtor at the meeting said the new ordinance could push open house signs and corner signs off of local lawns and into already-crowded street medians.

The sign ordinance changes also sparked concern with the inclusion of language that would remove government exemptions from sign ordinances.

“Staff has received comments from both Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) and the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA), neither of which is in favor of eliminating the current exemption status. Of particular concern to the Park Authority is the limitation on the size, number and location of minor signs permitted for non-residential uses in a residential district. These signs are used to announce summer concert series, camps and other activities at the parks. The schools have raised concerns with the proposed height of permitted freestanding signs for non-residential uses in residential districts which is proposed to be limited to 8 feet in height.”

As a result, staff said at the Planning Commission meeting that there would be modifications to the ordinance allowing some exceptions for schools and parks.

Planning Commissioner Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner said at the meeting he was generally in favor of holding Fairfax County government to many of the same sign regulations as the public.

“There’s something to be said with us being able to model our behavior consistent with what we expect from the private sector,” said Niedzielski-Eichner. “There is a different benefit to be realized to the public with the park authority and public school [having] latitude with signs, but frankly I’m comfortable with them doing it within a regulatory context… not unfettered.”

Photo via Flickr/Alan Levine

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Morning Notes

Fairfax ICE Arrests Higher Than Some States — “More than 12,000 Fairfax County residents are facing deportation proceedings, surpassing the number of cases in other major localities, including Manhattan, N.Y., and Philadelphia, Pa., and even states like North Carolina and Louisiana, a new report says.” [Fairfax Times]

Officials: Avoid Va. Travel Today — If you had been planning on driving to parts of central, western or southern Virginia today, VDOT and Virginia State Police want you to consider delaying your travel due to snowy conditions. [VDOT, InsideNova]

Hedgehogs May Be Legalized in Fairfax — “Chinchillas, hedgehogs and hermit crabs are one step closer to legalized pet status in Fairfax County. The Fairfax County Planning Commission [on Thursday] approved changing the definition of commonly accepted pets to include all three.” [Reston Now]

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Morning Notes

Toys for Tots Campaign Begins Today — “The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department is accepting donations for the Toys for Tots campaign from Nov. 19 to Dec. 12. Individuals can drop off new, unwrapped toys at any county fire station during the period. Last year, the initiative resulted in the collection of more than 14,000 toys.” [InsideNova, Fairfax County Fire & Rescue]

Dancing Stars Gala Raises >$250K — “On Nov. 10, the fifth annual DC’s Dancing Stars Gala netted more than $250,000 for local charities, bringing the event’s 5-year total to $1.3 million. The event was hosted by co-founders and co-chairs Maria Coakley David and Jim David at The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner and featured seven local Celebrities, four Corporate Challenge Dancers and one Alumni Dancer who have spent the past several months training for Saturday night’s performance.” [Fairfax Times]

Vienna Planners Urge Developer to Save Cabin — “It’s not technically a certified historic structure, but the log cabin at 307 Cabin Road, S.E., in Vienna gave the street its name and was built by an African-American. The Vienna Planning Commission on Nov. 14 unanimously recommended the Vienna Town Council approve plans by Signature Properties to build a two-house subdivision on the 0.52-acre property, but urged the developer to work with local history advocates to save the cabin, if possible.” [InsideNova]

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