Tysons Corner, VA

A moratorium on new development applications for Maple Avenue that was scheduled to expire in June has been pushed to November.

The Vienna Town Council voted on Monday (May 13) to extend the temporary suspension of the Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) zone to November 15.

The moratorium first went into effect last September to allow the town staff time to redesign the town’s guidelines.

Since then, the Planning Commission, the Board of Architectural Review and the Town Council have held individual and joint work sessions on draft design guidelines.

Additionally, the Town of Vienna also commissioned a Maple Avenue Corridor Multimodal Transportation and Land Use Study, which is expected to be received this summer and could be incorporated into the design guidelines.

Final design guidelines and amendments are anticipated to be done by September.

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Vienna Planning Commissioners may have found a solution last night (May 8) to parking and retail space concerns plaguing the proposed Sunrise Senior Living Facility.

Concerns raised about the proposed 83-unit facility at yesterday’s public hearing were similar to ones brought up at the last public hearing: parking, ground floor retail space and location.

Several residents and planning commissioners said they are worried that the 60 parking spaces might not accommodate all of the visitors, employees, shoppers and roughly 100 residents, adding to already problematic traffic congestion around Church Street.

Jerry Liang, the senior vice president of development for Sunrise, said that the removal of a compact parking space resolved an issue brought up at the last public hearing about easy access for ambulances. He also said that some of the facility’s employees will probably use public transit and carpools, freeing up more parking spaces.

In addition to the parking, residents said the ground floor retail at the senior living facility won’t appeal to shoppers. “Would you do your Christmas shopping at the hospital gift shop?” resident Christopher Hogan asked.

Toward the end of the meeting, Planning Commissioner Mary McCullough questioned whether the development was required to have the retail space, which then led to a possible solution: eliminate some or all of the retail space, which would free up the retailers’ 29 parking spaces.

The possible solution to the parking and retail space woes, however, does not address one other concern.

While residents said they support the idea of having a senior living facility come to the town, some took issue with the location at E. Maple Avenue and Center Street — the heart of downtown Vienna.

“I don’t want our centerpiece of town to be assisted living,” a man who said he runs a local business next to the proposed site told the Planning Commission.

Resident Nancy Logan urged the planning commissioners to consider other options for the space. “The location is something very important,” she said. “I’d love to see a hotel or something that could help Vienna.”

Vienna resident Chuck Anderson said during public comment that he doesn’t think a senior living facility will add synergy to the local bars and businesses.

Some residents said they wished the project could get moved to a different location, but the Planning Commission doesn’t have that authority.

“I really like Sunrise,” resident Shelley Ebert said during public comment. “I wish they would move to the west and come to my neighborhood.”

Ultimately, the Planning Commission decided to return to the development at their next meeting.

Rendering via Town of Vienna

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Bear Branch Tavern is eyeing a space that once belonged to a bank along Maple Avenue in the heart of downtown Vienna.

The restaurant wants to move into a roughly 6,700-square-foot ground floor space in an office building known as the Vienna Professional Center (133 Maple Avenue E.). The building was built in 1983 and has eight units, including the basement, according to a Town of Vienna staff report.

Bear Branch Tavern plans to occupy units 100 and 100A, which have been vacant since Cardinal Bank left about two years ago.

The restaurant would have 249 seats for indoor and outdoor areas in both the front and rear areas of the building, transforming the former bank teller drive-thru canopy into a rear patio, according to the staff report.

“Staff believes that a restaurant of this size with outdoor seating will help encourage a more vibrant Central Business District,” the staff report says.

In addition to offering food and drinks, the tavern also hopes to entertain patrons with live music. The plans show a location for acoustic performers on the back deck near the proposed fire pit.

The Planning Commission is scheduled to provide a recommendation on conditional use permits for outdoor dining and live entertainment at tonight’s meeting.

The meeting will also continue the public hearing on the Sunrise Senior Living Facility proposal — residents’ concerns about parking, safety and retail space dominated the last public hearing on April 24.

The meeting starts at 8 p.m. in the Town Hall Council Chambers (127 Center Street S.).

First image via Google Maps, second via Vienna Planning Commission

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Updated at 11:30 a.m. on May 9 — The Planning Commission decided to defer the decision to May 16. A description of The Monarch was corrected. 

A proposed senior living facility in Tysons is headed to the Fairfax County Planning Commission for a vote tonight (May 8) that may result in a recommended denial.

Fairfax County planners took issue with the height, design and open space planned for the two-tower senior living complex called The Mather and have recommended denial of the application, the Washington Business Journal reported in late April.

According to the staff report in WBJ’s story:

Staff does not object to the concept of a continuing care facility as a use, and in fact, recognizes the services provided by such a facility are both necessary and desirable within Tysons. However, the continuing care facility has been designed in a way that reflects the unique needs of the applicant’s specific business model, and does not reflect the urban design recommendations of both the Comprehensive Plan and the Tysons Urban Design Guidelines.

The project includes 18- and 27-story tall towers with a podium connecting the towers on the lower levels and 300 independent living units, 78 assisted living units and 18,000 square feet of retail and restaurants on the lower floors.

The project is a part of Cityline Partners LLC’s Arbor Row project near Tysons Galleria, which includes the completed Nouvelle residential building and The Monarch, which is under construction. The development aims to transform the back end of Tysons Galleria along Westpark Drive into a suite of mixed-use buildings.

The proposal is scheduled for a decision at the Planning Commission’s meeting tonight.

Image via Fairfax County Planning Commission 

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More concerns about the proposed Sunrise Senior Living Facility cropped up at the Town of Vienna’s Planning Commission meeting last night (April 24).

The Sunrise development and Vienna Town Council are already at odds over the project exceeding the town’s height requirements — a topic that also resurfaced during the public comment period last night.

“My real concern this is essentially a five-story building that is being sold as a four-story building,” Vienna resident Chuck Anderson said during public comment. “MAC was sold as a four-story and now we’re allowing five stories. I think there are a lot of people who are upset about this.”

While the public hearing focused on the development’s proposed reduction for its loading space width, fewer bike spaces, new fencing, extended awnings and desire to move the bus stop, concerns about parking and retail space dominated the discussion.

Planning Commissioner Sarah Couchman stressed an emphasis on maximizing opportunities for the assisted living facility’s ground floor retail space. Jerry Liang, senior vice president of development for Sunrise, said the current plans could support one larger tenant or two smaller ones.

“I think it would be great for Vienna to have another retail bay in that area,” Couchman said, questioning whether the lobby with the grand staircase could get reconfigured to add more retail space. “I don’t really see many people using the stairs given your population.”

Questions around parking erupted after Liang told the Planning Commission that the 83-unit facility proposed might have up to 35 employees during peak times on weekdays and would also want to offer valet parking on site for holidays and weekend events.

Some of the planning commissioners expressed skepticism that 60 parking spaces could fit the residents, visitors, retail customers and employees. Liang responded by saying that some of the employees will probably use public transit and carpools and that residents are expected to use about 33 spaces, with the retailers having 29 spots.

Planning Commissioner Mary McCullough said she is concerned about how the parking will affect the already-congested Church and Center streets.

“It’s a problem right now without your facility,” she said, questioning how the senior living facility could also valet park with only 60 parking spaces.

Chair Michael Gelb said he also shares McCullough’s concerns about the parking. “It’s a little bit of a hope and a prayer that this will work out,” he said.

The Planning Commission voted to keep the public hearing on the Sunrise proposal open and will return to the development on May 8.

Image via Town of Vienna

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A small parcel of forest along Prosperity Avenue leading into the Dunn Loring Metro parking garage is likely going to be replaced by a new substation to power the Metro.

The green space is a casualty of plans to expand I-66, which would displace an existing substation along the route.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is currently seeking permission to relocate the substation.

“The relocation will affect the existing open space for the entire 15.383 acres of the WMATA Property and will diminish it approximately 5,778 square feet,” WMATA said in the application.

But the substation isn’t the only thing that could be relocated. Last fall, the Virginia Department of Transportation announced plans that some residents along I-66 could be relocated to make way for the construction.

A Fairfax County Planning Commission hearing scheduled for June 26 will consider the plan.

Photo via Google Maps

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(Updated 4 p.m.) Fairfax County wants to make it easier for locals to garden and for farmers markets to operate.

As the county gets denser, residents are finding new ways to get in touch with their green thumb. A series of zoning changes planned for discussion at tomorrow’s (Wednesday) Planning Commission meeting would loosen restrictions around gardening and farmers markets.

The proposals would create a new “community garden” use in the zoning code. These gardens could be located on either the ground floor or rooftop and could be considered common open space by right, meaning no additional zoning requirements would be required for approval.

According to the staff report on the amendment:

By expanding the definition of open space to include community gardens, homeowners or condominium associations will be able to establish community gardens subject to the proposed use standards… Similarly, the proposed amendment permits non-residential developments, such as places of worship, office, and other commercial and industrial developments, schools, et cetera to establish community gardens by right as accessory uses in open space, subject to the proposed use standards.

Analysis of community gardens by Fairfax County showed that most occupy less than two acres of land, but gardens proposed above two acres could still be approved with a special permit from the Board of Zoning Appeals.

The changes also remove a restriction that only allows gardens on side or rear yards of single-family residential lots. Gardens could be allowed in front yards, provided they are no closer than 15 feet to the front of the lot and limited to 10 feet squared in area.

The zoning changes would also loosen up restrictions on farmers markets. Currently, farmers markets are a temporary special permit with what the report calls “significant restrictions.” They are currently only permitted to sell seasonal or perishable produce between April and November and only on lots that front arterial streets.

But the report recognizes that farmers markets have evolved substantially since those regulations were written and have expanded the to food beyond just produce.

The new regulations would permit farmers markets for two-year periods and allow year-round operation. The markets would also be allowed to operate away from major roads, a rule that the staff report said half of the existing markets ignore anyway.

The only restriction on merchandise at farmers markets would be that items for sale must be farm products or products derived from a farm, like salsa using ingredients from a farm.

The changes are planned to go to the Board of Supervisors on June 25, and if approved, could take effect by 12:01 a.m. the day after adoption.

“Staff believes that this amendment provides a balanced approach to providing easier access to fresh, healthy food to residents in all areas of the County,” staff said in the report, “while ensuring that the uses of community gardens, farmers markets, and residential gardening are established to be good neighbors.”

Photo via Facebook

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With the Nouvelle residential building open and The Monarch under construction, Cityline Partners LLC is hoping for Fairfax County’s permission to move forward with the next step of the Arbor Row project near Tysons Galleria.

The overarching plan is to transform the back end of Tysons Galleria along Westpark Drive into a suite of mixed-use buildings. Block E is the Nouvelle, and Block D is the under-construction Monarch hotel.

On April 24, Block C of the project will go to the Planning Commission to try and amend the change the two approved office buildings planned at the site into a two-tower senior living complex called The Mather.

The towers are proposed to be 18 and 27 stories tall with a podium connecting the towers on the lower levels. The site would contain 300 independent living units, 78 assisted living units, and 18,000 square feet of retail and restaurants on the lower floors.

“The quasi-public use of the Mather community will complement the mix of residential, office and retail uses within and surrounding Arbor Row,” the project developers said in the application. “In addition, this Mather community will bring an attractive senior living use to Tysons, addressing a need that currently is not being met.”

Following the Planning Commission hearing, the project is scheduled to go to the Board of Supervisors on May 7. If approved, tentative opening for The Mather is planned for 2022.

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Developers of a distinctive curved-glass tower called One Tysons East have promised to make peace with the local bird population and improve nearby roads.

With an endorsement from both the McLean Citizens Association and the Planning Commission at last night’s (Wednesday) meeting, approval of rezoning for the project at a Board of Supervisors meeting next Tuesday (April 9) seems likely.

But while the project seems to have had a relatively smooth development track so far, Providence District Planning Commissioner Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner noted that it raises issues in the air and on the ground that will need to be addressed as more of Tysons East is developed.

There are 27 pages of proffers — accommodations on the part of the developers offered to Fairfax County to get a development approved — associated with the project. Among them are a series of transportation improvements for Old Meadow Road, including new street lanes and a potential bike lane.

But Niedzielski-Eichner noted that new developments planned throughout Tysons East are going to put a considerable strain on the four-lane street.

“There are existing traffic issues on Old Meadow Road today, and will be as future already entitled developments are constructed that are significant and beyond the scope of this single zoning application,” said Niedzielski-Eichner. “Solutions will require all stakeholders on Old Meadow Road to resolve. I recommend staff identify concrete steps to help mitigate traffic and queuing on Old Meadow Road.”

Niedzielski-Eichner also said problems with how the glass building might impact birds came up during the development process. The proffers included an obligation on the developer to make changes to the building design to deter bird-strikes.

According to the proffers:

In an effort to reduce bird injury and death due to in- flight collisions with buildings, the Applicant will include one or more bird friendly design elements, as determined by the Applicant, in the design plans of the building. The bird friendly design elements may include, but not be limited to, the use of color, texture, opacity, fritting, frosting, patterns, louvers, screens, interior window treatments, or ultraviolet materials that are visible to birds, the angling of outside lights, curbing of excessive or unnecessary night-time illumination in commercial buildings, reduction of bird attracting vegetation, the use of decoys, and breaking of glass swaths.

It’s estimated that between 365 million and 988 million birds are killed in the United States each year from crashing into windows, with an average 24 expected to die annually at a single skyscraper.

“There was a request for clarification of how we intended to meet bird-friendly design guidelines in the proffer commitment,” said Scott Adams, representing the developers. “We’re happy to commit to work with staff to ensure the goals of bird-friendly design are met with the design of this building.”

Image via Akridge

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The Fiore Montessori School in northern Vienna is seeking Fairfax County approval to increase the school enrollment and expand into a nearby vacant building.

The property is spread across 4.5 acres across from the Meadowlark Gardens Regional Park on Beulah Road. The site has been used as a private school since 1985 and in 2010 won approval to operate a childcare center and nursery school. In 2013, the school was accredited as a Montessori facility.

The vacant building was once part of the school, but has been unused since 2000.

According to the application, the increase is necessitated by demand from new Tysons residents. The school primarily serves families in Vienna and Tysons.

“Since 2010, significant growth has been occurring around the school, particularly in [Tysons],” the applicant said. “New families moving into the area especially value the quiet neighborhood, educational methodology and green and natural surroundings that the school offers for childcare, nursery school and elementary school.”

The vacant building would be remodeled without increasing the size of the building but would increase the school’s enrollment capacity. The application notes that the school is also considering expanding the school’s age range to care for students younger than 3 years old.

A Planning Commission hearing for the project is scheduled for June 12.

Photo via Facebook

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