Tysons, VA

The Vienna Town Council now has until the start of next summer to redesign the Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) zone.

The moratorium was put in place last September to allow the town staff time to redesign the town’s guidelines. The moratorium has been extended several times and most recently was scheduled to expire later this November.

While one female resident spoke in favor of the extension during the public hearing last night (Monday), resident C. John Pott told the Town Council that he wants to see an outside consultant share how other places are handling commercial and residential challenges.

“I think it’s very important we get a consultant with national experience and knowledge,” he said, adding that the Town Council also should have a financial analysis regarding the ordinance and affordable housing guidelines included.

Last night, the Vienna Town Council voted unanimously to extend the moratorium to June 30.

Councilmember Douglas Noble said he does not want the Town Council to miss another deadline for revamping the guidelines.

“If we were a business, we would not be doing very well,” Noble said, adding that he wants to see the town update its code and commercial zones by next spring.

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The McLean Citizens Association is looking to steer Fairfax County away from reducing parking requirements at Tysons Galleria and Tysons Corner Center.

The proposal would affect the four largest malls in Fairfax County — the two in Tysons, Fair Oaks and Springfield Town Center — and was based on a review of the parking rates and demand at large regional malls by consulting firm Nelson/Nygaard.

The firm found that less than 65% of the available spaces were occupied during peak times from a parking count for the Springfield mall and analyzing data from the Fair Oaks mall. The study did not evaluate the two malls in Tysons — alarming the McLean Citizens Association.

“Without a study specifically addressing parking at those two malls, the MCA believes it is inappropriate to reduce the parking requirements at those locations,” the MCA wrote in a letter dated Oct. 30 to the Planning Commission.

The letter goes on to state that “it seems that it is frequently difficult to find a vacant space at the two Tysons malls even during normal weekends throughout the year” and advises the county against approving the change without data about the two Tysons malls.

MCA urges the county to drop the two Tysons malls from the proposal and — going forward — only consider changes to the parking when there is a study done specifically for the affected mall(s).

Fairfax County planners support altering the requirement from four to 2.5 or three parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of gross floor area for the four malls — the recommended change from Nelson/Nygaard.

County staff suggested a rate of 2.8, saying it “is reasonable and will address the oversupply of parking currently experienced at our regional malls.”

The Fairfax County Planning Commission is set to hold a public hearing on the proposal next Wednesday (Nov. 13). Unless indefinitely deferred, the proposal would then head to the Board of Supervisors for a hearing on Dec. 3.

Image via Google Maps

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This week, two public hearings in the Town of Vienna aim to get public input on a proposed motorized scooter program and extending the moratorium on new development applications for Maple Avenue.

The Transportation Safety Commission is set to unveil the proposed shared mobility devices pilot program and solicit feedback from the community on Tuesday (Oct. 29).

People can also email comments to [email protected]

Then on Wednesday, Oct. 30, the town’s Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on extending the suspension of the Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) zone.

The proposal would extend the moratorium to June 30.

The Vienna Town Council first put the moratorium in place last September to allow the town staff time to redesign the town’s guidelines.

Both public hearings are set to start at 8 p.m. at Town Hall (127 S. Center Street).

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Appeals of zoning determinations for controversial proposed therapy facilities in McLean will head to Fairfax County’s Board of Zoning Appeals in January.

Newport Academy, a therapy program for teens with mental health or addiction problems, wanted to open two treatment facilities — one along Davidson Road and another at 1318 Kurtz Road in the Salona Village neighborhood.

While the planned treatment facilities have received widespread community backlash, Newport Academy has hinged its claim on the two locations being by-right uses — a use that won’t require approval by the Board of Supervisors.

Fairfax County Zoning Administrator Leslie Johnson issued a letter in May saying that Newport Academy’s three adjacent properties at 1620, 1622 and 1624 Davidson Road would be a congregate living facility.

Newport Academy is trying to appeal the Davidson Road decision, saying that county staff overreached in its determination.

While Johnson later noted that Newport Academy is no longer planning to open a facility at the Davidson Road properties, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust told Tysons Reporter that the appeals process will continue for Davidson Road.

Foust said that Newport Academy plans to sell the properties, but doesn’t want the zoning determination to negatively impact future plans elsewhere.

In August, Johnson issued a letter saying that the Kurtz Road facility is a group residential facility — a win for Newport Academy.

Three appeals from McLean residents want the decision about 1318 Kurtz Road overturned.

The Board of Zoning Appeals will consider the four appeals at 9 a.m. on Jan 22.

First image via Google Maps

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(Updated at 11 a.m.) A moratorium on new development applications for Maple Avenue set to expire in November may get extended again.

The Vienna Town Council is set to request tonight (Sept. 16) that staff schedule a public hearing on Nov. 4 to discuss extending the suspension of the Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) Zone to June 2020. The matter would also go to the town’s Planning Commission.

The Town Council first put the moratorium in place last September to allow the town staff time to redesign the town’s guidelines. The moratorium was set to expire in June, but the Town Council voted to extend it to Nov. 15.

So far, the Vienna Town Council has approved four MAC projects:

  • a combination Chick-fil-A and Flagship Carwash Center at 540 W. Maple Avenue that has received public backlash
  • townhouse-style condominiums with retail at the northeast corner of W. Maple Avenue and Pleasant Street NW
  • a much-debated redevelopment that would add ground-floor retail and more than three dozen multi-family residential condominium units to 380 Maple Avenue
  • a controversial redevelopment of 430, 440 and 444 W. Maple Avenue into a four-story mixed-use development

The Town Council has also killed a MAC project — a proposed Sunrise Senior Living Facility at the corner of Maple Avenue and Center Street. Sunrise is suing the Town Council for allegedly discriminating against seniors and people with disabilities.

The Town Council meeting tonight will start at 8 p.m.

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The McLean Citizens Association would like a little more space between neighbors on corner lots.

Currently, homes built on corner lots fall under a special set of zoning parameters. While the zoning law says the home must be at least 25 feet from the front and side streets, homes can be built with as little as 12 feet between them and rear lots — though some in the MCA said there are lots with as little as 8 feet of distance.

The result are tiny back yards on homes built at an angle and very little space between the corner lot and their catty-corner neighbor.

In a resolution approved on Wednesday (Sept. 4), MCA calls for Fairfax County to change the regulations so the setback is at least 18 feet if at an angle or 25 feet if set squarely.

“In recent years redevelopers have increasingly been targeting corner lots in order to take advantage of Fairfax County’s unusual corner-lot rear setback requirement… by placing large houses with square footprints squarely onto corner lots, with only a rump ‘rear yard,'” the resolution said.

The resolution noted that the unique corner lot calculations mean homes on street corners can be 25 percent larger than interior lots within the same subdivision. The MCA said recent corner lot permits with inadequate setbacks have resulted in increased stormwater runoff, reduced natural light and reduced privacy.

It’s a problem county staff are aware of and have been making efforts to amend. As part of Fairfax County’s efforts to modernize its zoning regulations — called zMOD — the county has a section specifically about corner lot setbacks:

Corner lots need to provide the minimum front setback adjacent to both streets, but in the referenced districts, the rear setback can take the dimension of the side setback. For instance… a corner lot is required to provide a 35-foot front setback from the lot lines which abut each street, and a 15-foot setback from the lot lines which abut both adjoining lots, in lieu of providing a 25-foot setback from the rear lot line.

The zMOD document notes that in older residential areas experiencing redevelopment, older homes are being replaced with new homes that maximize the lot’s space, “leaving limited usable rear yard area.”

“Staff has received comments about this setback provision, noting that the additional lot width required for a corner lot as compared to an interior lot more than off-sets the additional front setback requirement,” staff said in the document. “The attached draft now requires that a 25-foot rear setback be provided.”

The MCA resolution also includes information about technical changes requested, like adjusting where the “front lot line” is located for the corner lots. But the resolution also encouraged Fairfax County to act more swiftly on the issue than the framework of the zMOD ordinance would indicate.

“County staff are aiming for public hearings in spring or summer of 2020 on the new Zoning Ordinance arising from zMOD, and effectiveness of the new ordinance is expected to follow enactment by an interval of some months,” the resolution said. “The MCA urges Fairfax County to enact and implement such reform by the end of the first quarter of 2020.”

Image via McLean Citizens Association

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controversial for-profit therapy program got a win in a Fairfax County zoning official’s letter.

Newport Academy, a therapy program for teens with mental health or addiction problems, wanted to open two treatment facilities — one along Davidson Road and another at 1318 Kurtz Road in the Salona Village neighborhood.

While the planned treatment facilities have received widespread community backlash, Newport Academy has hinged its claim on the two locations being by-right uses — a use that won’t require approval by the Board of Supervisors.

Fairfax County Zoning Administrator Leslie Johnson issued a letter yesterday (Wednesday), saying that the Kurtz Road facility is a group residential facility based on her review of Newport Academy’s revised license application.

Johnson’s letter notes that Newport Academy is no longer planning to open a facility at the Davidson Road properties.

“Newport Academy has instead filed a revised license application with the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to operate a single Mental Health Children’s Residential Service for up to 8 female residents ages 12-17 to be located at 1318 Kurtz Road,” the letter said.

More from Johnson’s letter to the legal counsel for Newport Academy:

Your August 5 letter did not fully respond to my questions, but you did indicate that at the time of admission a resident is expected to stay between 45 and 90 days, with the average stay between 45 and 60 days. You note that Newport Academy is not a drug rehabilitation facility and does not provide detoxification services; no individual who enters treatment with Newport Academy is currently using illicit substances.

Further, you state that no staff will live at the Kurtz Property, but you did not indicate how many non-resident staff will be on site at any one time. You stated that my request for such information is solely within the purview of VDBHDS. (We have requested and received this type of information from other providers of residential mental health and disability services as part of similar use determination requests.) Based on a review of the license application for the Kurtz Road property, it appears that at least 8 staff members will be on site from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm. You indicate that mornings will typically be set aside for academics and individual therapy, afternoons for group therapy (including music therapy, life skills counseling, yoga, meditation and other fitness activities) and evenings reserved for additional study and therapy as needed. Meals will be eaten in a family-style setting, and residents are engaged in programming and under staff supervision from the time they wake up until they go to sleep, with “awake” supervising staff on site 24 hours per day.

With regard to parking, you note that the Zoning Ordinance does not limit the amount of parking on a residential lot, but that the driveway can accommodate up to 8 vehicles, not including the 3-car garage… It appears that the property currently complies with these provisions. However, any future paving or expansion of the driveway within the front yard could conflict with this provision. Finally, you indicate that Newport Academy will take appropriate actions–through the use of a shuttle, off-site parking, and other means as necessary–to minimize the number of vehicles (whether staff or visitors) parked at the property at any given time.

The facility will need to be licensed by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.

Johnson noted that the determination is not a written order or notice of a zoning violation and that it can be appealed to the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals.

Image via Google Maps

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The Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals is set to determine this fall whether or not a contentious for-profit therapy program for teens can open in McLean.

Newport Academy’s plans to turn its three purchased homes (1620, 1622, and 1624 Davidson Road) into a treatment facility got derailed after the county’s zoning administrator said the facility is not a by-right use.

While the zoning administrator added that the facility would require approval from the Board of Supervisors, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust has previously said that he would oppose the facility if it was brought to the county board for a vote.

Newport Academy is looking to appeal the ruling, and now the zoning issue is set to go before the Board of Zoning Appeals on Oct. 30, BZA staff told Tysons Reporter, adding that people interested in the case should check a week or two before that date to confirm it will still take place.

“These dates do sometimes change, although I do not believe that will be the case for this hearing,” staff wrote.

It is unclear what will happen to Newport Academy’s proposed group home at 1318 Kurtz Road, which was not addressed in the zoning administrator’s ruling.

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A clerical error has left Sweet Leaf Cafe in McLean in a three-year legal fight to not be zoned as a residential property.

The restaurant is currently operating in violation of zoning code. A non-residential use permit had been issued for the site for retail sales, but not to operate what the zoning law refers to as a fast-food establishment.

At a July 17 meeting, the Board of Zoning Appeals deferred Sweet Leaf’s appeal to Oct. 23, making this the 12th time the issue has been appealed since early 2016.

County staff said Sweet Leaf is pursuing a parking reduction to fall in-line with the zoning ordinance but has hit a few snags.

According to Fairfax County spokesperson Brian Worthy:

Sweet Leaf needs a non-residential use permit for a restaurant, and this is the current issue involved in the zoning appeal. However, the restaurant cannot get this permit until it applies for a parking reduction that the Board of Supervisors must approve. Therefore, the July 17 Board of Zoning Appeals public hearing for this case was deferred because the applicant is working to apply for the reduction. The business requires at least 14 parking spaces based on zoning rules, but the site can only physically accommodate the existing 12 parking spaces. If this reduction is approved, the applicant can get its non-residential use permit. Previous public hearings were deferred at the applicant’s own request.

While Sweet Leaf works with the county government to find a solution, staff said the restaurant has been allowed to continue operating.

“Sweet Leaf has been allowed to stay open without the non-residential use permit for a restaurant because they are working to acquire the proper zoning permit,” said Fairfax County Public Information Officer Crystal Santos. “Unfortunately, a previous administrative error allowed the restaurant to operate as a retail establishment for zoning purposes. However, Sweat Leaf has been subject to all health regulations and licensing requirements related to owning and operating a restaurant in Fairfax County since they opened in 2009.”

Prior to Sweet Leaf, the space was operated under a similar food use for seven years, according to Sweet Leaf owner Andre Matini.

“Sweet Leaf completed all the proper paperwork and was issued a zoning permit… to operate as a food use,” Matini wrote in an email. “We are not exactly sure what has transpired since we opened over ten years ago but this issue seems to be an oversight by the issuer… Unfortunately, this has been an extremely costly process for us.”

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said it was an innocent error and staff has been working to make sure the restaurant can continue operating and obtain the proper zoning.

“Basically it’s come down to a parking issue,” Foust said. “[Staff] is continuing to search for a solution. They think they have one, and it’s a little creative, but they’re trying to work through it.”

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Despite having a cameo on next Wednesday’s (July 31) Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) agenda, County staff say the American Legion noise issue in McLean is settled.

The American Legion Post 270 at 1355 Balls Hill Road had some trouble over noise complaints from residential neighbors. But in February, the Post received a favorable ruling from the BZA allowing them to continue to host events.

The docket for the BZA says the Board will consider an appeal an original ruling against the American Legion post. Crystal Santos, public information officer for Fairfax County Government, said the County won’t challenge the BZA’s February decision.

“In February the Board of Zoning Appeals ruled that the American Legion could have private parties hosted by non-members,” said Santos in an email. “Following that decision, the American Legion submitted a second appeal to have the Zoning Administrator’s original determination that these parties are not allowed, overturned. Since the County will not appeal the February BZA decision, the second appeal is moot and the county is requesting for it to be dismissed.”

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said there are still some upset residents, but he hopes the American Legion can continue working with them to resolve the sound complaints in a neighborly fashion.

“From a procedural standpoint, nothing to fight about,” Foust said. “They have new leadership at the American Legion… everyone is still hoping for a kumbaya moment to solve the issue.”

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