Tysons, VA

As Fairfax County’s new, permanent ‘LOVE’ sign nears the end of its county-wide tour, the tourist attraction recently arrived at Wolf Trap.

The sign popped up at the national park (1551 Trap Road) on Friday (July 12) and will be there until next Wednesday (July 24).

The sign and its tour are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the “Virginia is for Lovers” slogan. Since the tour launched in Tysons Corner Center in May, the sign made another Tysons-area stop: Caboose Commons in Merrifield.

After an upcoming stop at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, the sign will head to its permanent display at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton where artists will bedazzle the letters.

Photo courtesy Visit Fairfax 

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Fairfax County’s new, permanent ‘LOVE’ sign kicked off its 11-stop tour today (May 9) with a ribbon-cutting in the Plaza at Tysons Corner Center.

The new sign celebrates the 50th anniversary of the “Virginia is for Lovers” slogan and National Travel and Tourism Week.

The sign will be on display until May 19 at the Plaza at Tysons Corner Center. It is also scheduled to be displayed at Caboose Commons in Merrifield from June 26 to July 1 during the “Summer of LOVE” tour.

In August, the sign will head to its permanent home at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton where artists will bedazzle the letters.

Fairfax County received a $10,000 grant from the Virginia Tourism Corporation for the tour.

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This summer, you can find love touring around Fairfax County — a tour that will start next month in Tysons.

As part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the “Virginia is for Lovers” slogan, Fairfax County received a $10,000 grant from the Virginia Tourism Corporation to send series of letters spelling out “LOVE” around the county.

According to the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority:

Fairfax County will receive its first permanent ‘LOVEwork’ sign, which will embark on a Summer of LOVE tour to county attractions. The LOVE tour will kick off on the Plaza at Tysons Corner Center from May 9 to May 19, coinciding with National Travel & Tourism Week.

The sign is also scheduled to be displayed at Caboose Commons in Merrifield from June 26 to July 1.

It will make an appearance in the Tysons area at Wolf Trap, where it will be displayed from July 12 to July 24, before eventually being sent to the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton as part of a permanent display.

Photo via Virginia Tourism Corporation

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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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