|A bank is planned for the vacant lot on the right of the Palace.|
The Annandale Central Business District Planning Committee (ACBDPC) is exploring ways to discourage by-right development, which committee members see as a major obstacle to redevelopment.
Rather than piecemeal development in Annandale, the ACBDP would like to see larger, mixed-use projects in accordance with the Annandale revitalization plan approved in 2010, but that would require landowners to consolidate small properties – and that isn’t happening.
The latest example of a by-right project is a one-story bank planned for the vacant space next to the Palace restaurant at 7131 Little River Turnpike. The owner, Steve Lee, a member of the ACBDPC, says he can’t disclose the name of the bank until the deal is finalized.
Other examples of by-right projects in central Annandale include Walgreens on Little River Turnpike, the Middle Eastern restaurant under construction on Columbia Pike where the Sunset Grille used to be, and Hanna Plaza, the office building renovation planned for 7409 Little River Turnpike.
“By right development is killing Annandale,” said ACBDPC chair Greg McGillicuddy. Every time a property owner proceeds with a by-right project, that property is taken off the table as a site for a larger, more cohesive project that would better fit in with the Annandale revitalization plan.
McGillicuddy plans to bring up the problems with by-right development with the county’s Office of Community Revitalization, which oversees redevelopment in Annandale and the other revitalization areas.
“What’s the point of having a revitalization plan if you can’t restrict by-right development? Nothing will be changed for 20 years,” he said.
Virginia law protects the rights of property owners, so it isn’t clear what, if anything, the county government or ACBDPC can do to limit by-right projects. McGillicuddy suggests that, at the least, there could be stricter building code restrictions on facades.
Dan McKinnon, the former chair of the ACBDPC, said the committee had tried to make the design guidelines approved for Annandale enforceable but was told by county officials that it couldn’t be done.
“The community has developed a vision for revitalization that is intended to increase the economic prospects for the area,” McKinnon said. “Design guidelines were established to promote that vision, and what’s needed now is a way to bring by-right development into line with that vision.”