|Del. Kory speaks at the Sept. 9 Seven Corners Task Force meeting.|
After two years of meetings, the task force is poised to complete a land use and transportation plan, which is scheduled to be presented to the Fairfax County Planning Commission this fall in the form of a proposed amendment to the Seven Corners section of the county’s Comprehensive Plan.
|It was standing room only at the Sept. 9 task force meeting.|
Several people expressed frustration that their concerns will be ignored. “The public doesn’t seem to have a voice,” said Debbie Ratliff. “We expect to have a voice and a seat at the table.” Only a few of the task force meetings allow public comment.
Lots of local residents are still unaware of the process to create a new development plan for Seven Corners, said Del. Kaye Kory, who joined several others in urging the task force to delay a final vote until the public has more time to review and comment on the plan.
Clyde Miller urged residents to “tell the Planning Commission that we reject the plan.” Otherwise, commissioners will think it’s supported by the community. The task force was supposed to develop a “community vision,” he said, but there is no requirement that residents’ views will be taken into account.
Following the public comment period, task force members voted to defer until Sept. 23 a decision on a mixed-use redevelopment plan proposed by Foulger-Pratt for the Sears site on Leesburg Pike.
Task force members did, however, agree to eliminate two of the four options under consideration. Of the remaining options, one calls for 165 multifamily units, 110 townhouses, 200,000 square feet of office space, and 134,000 square feet of retail. The other option would allow more flexibility, with 315 to 415 multifamily units, 110 townhouses, 34,000 to 134,000 square feet of retail, and 50,000 square feet of office space.
Many residents prefer less density and a more balanced mix of housing, offices, and neighborhood-serving retail. New offices aren’t economically feasible, however, as Fairfax County has 18 to 19 million square feet of vacant office space, said task force co-chair John Thillman.
Referring to the Sears site, Catriona McCormack, president of the Ravenwood Neighborhood Association, said well-planned buildings are preferable to haphazard development and it would nice to walk to community-serving businesses. However, she asked, “what is the compelling reason for so much density when other areas have a track record of economically successful mixed-use development at significantly lower density levels?”
Thillman and several task force members agreed with residents’ concern that the development on the Sears site should be accessible only from Route 7 and that there should be no cut-throughs allowing access from Juniper Lane or the cul de sac at the end of Shadeland Drive. The task force agreed to insert language on that in a separate document, but tabled a motion to include it in the Comprehensive Plan amendment.
Regarding the transportation plan approved earlier this summer by the task force, there has been some confusion over the proposed “ring road” around the Seven Corners intersection. Rather than a “ring road,” it’s now more like a “C,” as City of Falls Church officials objected to improvements to Roosevelt Boulevard and N. Roosevelt Street.
Kris Morley-Nikfar of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation said those roads were never really part of the ring road concept anyway and that improvements to those roads aren’t needed to reduce traffic congestion, even if Seven Corners is developed at higher density levels.
Several people questioned the logic behind that statement. As one resident put it: How could you add thousands of residents to the area and not increase traffic? If a key part of the ring road is eliminated, Seven Corners “will be more like 11 corners,” said local resident Don Smith.
Another potential conflict has surfaced with the Fall Church City Council about improving access from Seven Corners to the East Falls Church Metro station. Falls Church officials oppose the task force plan to extend a bus rapid transit line under consideration for Route 7 to the Metro station. That is likely to be a key issue at a Sept. 15 meeting of the task force and Falls Church City Council.