Wednesday, March 1, 2023
Across Fairfax County, various people – especially developers – have made formal requests to change the Comprehensive Plan’s land-use recommendations for specific parcels. They did so via the county’s Site-Specific Plan Amendment process.
The Comprehensive Plan guides the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors in their land-use decisions. And each Site-Specific Plan Amendment proposal submitted contained a concept plan for the particular site, plus the property owner’s consent.
Each nomination was evaluated and whittled down to several finalists for each magisterial district. Then via virtual meetings on Jan. 25 and Jan. 30, the county’s Department of Planning and Development presented the 10 surviving SSPAs for the Sully District.
Five proposals in Sully’s southern portion were discussed during the first meeting, with five in the northern portion (north of Route 50) covered in the second one. In addition, members of the West Fairfax County Citizens Assn. and Sully District Council Joint Land-Use Committee received their own presentation for all 10 during its Feb. 20 meeting and weighed in on them.
Since each proposal was discussed at length, The Connection will cover a few in this issue of the paper, followed by more in future issues.
On Jan. 25, moderator Michael Burton said, “This is the initial screening process and an opportunity for residents to get involved, learn about and comment on each amendment.”
He said the county received some 75 nominations in October. Then in December, the Supervisors “pulled out some of them. Staff will [eventually] screen each nomination and see if it meets the county’s goals and objectives.” If a proposal isn’t accepted this time, it could be resubmitted at a later date.
* Wharton Lane – This Centreville parcel is about 5 acres of mostly wooded, vacant land zoned residential. The nominator, Eastwood Properties, wants it rezoned from 1-2 homes/acre to 2-3 homes/acre.
Currently, a higher density would require consolidation with properties under the redevelopment option for Centreville Farms Land Unit F, but Eastwood wants this requirement eliminated. The property is part of the Centreville Historic Overlay District and the proposal has the potential to connect Wharton Lane and Summit Drive.
Representing Eastwood, land-use attorney Lynne Strobel said, “Across Wharton Lane, the property is zoned R-8 [eight homes/acre]. We’re asking for development similar to the adjacent parcels. The Comprehensive Plan recommends consolidation to 3 homes/acre, but redevelopment has precluded that.
“We’re requesting 2-3 homes/acre without consolidation, to allow for compatible and complementary uses, plus preservation of Civil War artifacts [onsite].” Eastwood President Dick Labbe said an archaeological study would be done and that he planned to meet with nearby homeowners’ associations.
During comments, Linda Hagopian – on the Englewood Mews HOA board – said, “With the widening of I-66 and the increased noise, people already blow through the four-way stop at Pickwick Road and Wharton, going 40 mph in a 25-mph zone. So you’ll find some pushback from the neighboring community. This idea was denied once before, and I’m not real fond of it, myself.”
Agreeing that “traffic is already a problem there,” Alexander Dowsett said he opposes the plan and wonders “what will they do to replant trees and minimize environmental damage? We’re going to lose a lot of trees.”
Strobel said those things would be addressed later via an additional public process for the rezoning. She also noted Eastwood is “just asking for slightly higher density” and, should the rezoning be approved, “We’d consider open-space proffers then.”
Perry Rhodes, on nearby Walney Glen’s Board of Directors, said, “Our main concerns are the blasting and construction traffic. Our homes were already damaged from the construction of I-66. And it’s within a historical district.”
The Joint Land-Use Committee had no objections to this amendment but requested a 10-foot buffer along the property’s southeast boundary.
* 14600 Willard Road – This vacant, 6-acre site is northwest of the Willard/Lee roads intersection in Chantilly. Cub Run runs along the parcel’s northern portion. It’s now planned for industrial/flex uses but Thomas Somerville Co. proposes adding office, medical office, gas station and associated commercial uses, plus a drive-through or fast-casual restaurant there. Also proposed is a new traffic signal just west of the intersection for site access.
Representing Somerville, land-use planner Veronica Merril said this land is in a commercially developed area and is near Westfield High and the county’s Criminal Justice Academy. “We aim to provide services for the residents in the area,” she said. “We propose a small-scale, commercial-retail site. We believe it’s the highest and best use for this parcel. It’ll provide county tax revenue and not burden the schools and public safety.”
Furthermore, said Merril, “Our traffic consultant said its traffic impact could be mitigated because people will also be able to walk and bike there. For example, Criminal Justice Academy students could walk across the street and get a bite to eat.” And Somerville President Doug Riley noted that his company has owned this property since 1976 and would like to develop it now.
Meanwhile, a resident requested a “unique restaurant – not another McDonald’s” be built there. And the Joint Land-Use Committee called this parcel a “perfect location for commercial retail.”
* Dulles Suburban Center Land Unit J – This site is some 64 acres at Stonecroft Boulevard and Conference Center Drive in the Westfields Corporate Center. It’s currently approved for office, conference center/hotel, industrial/flex and industrial use. The nominator proposes constructing an additional office building and parking structure there. Representing that entity, land-use attorney Scott Adams presented the details.
“It’s an important opportunity for an existing employer,” he said. “A federal agency with a secure campus wants to expand its footprint in the community. The expansion will be in the site’s interior and is compatible with the surrounding area. And the site is already planned for full buildout under the current Comprehensive Plan.”
Adams said the parcel’s existing access points will be maintained, and the expansion will enable this agency to add employees and increase jobs here. “It’ll be a benefit to this area of the county,” he said. “And it’ll have high-quality architecture and landscaping because it has to conform to the Westfields Corporate Center standards.”
Jay Johnston said he was “worried about the amount of traffic at that intersection and how this could affect it.” But Burton said that, when considering this proposal, county transportation staff will assume the site’s traffic impact at maximum buildout. And the Joint Land-Use Committee supported this amendment and had no objections.
The other seven nominations will be covered in upcoming editions of The Connection.
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