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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Supervisors approve zoning amendment allowing more density

Seven Corners is poised for redevelopment.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a zoning amendment June 21 that would allow redevelopment with higher levels of density in certain areas identified for revitalization, including Annandale, Seven Corners, and Bailey’s Crossroads.

The amendment, which was approved by the Planning Commission June 15, would set a maximum floor-area ratio (FAR) of 5.0 in transit station areas (TSAs), community redevelopment districts (CRDs), and commercial business centers (CBCs).

A FAR of 5.0 would allow a developer to build structures with floor space that is five times greater than the area of the parcel of land on which it sits. Redevelopment areas currently have a maximum FAR of 2.5 or 3.

The BoS rejected an amendment proposed by Linda Smyth (Providence) to retain a maximum 5.0 FAR for TSAs, which are close to Metro stations, but limit the FAR in CRDs and CBCs to 4.0.  The Planning Commission had also considered but rejected a similar proposal.

Setting a maximum FAR of 4.0 for non-TSAs “puts older areas at a competitive disadvantage when trying to attract development,” said Jeff McKay (Lee), who voted against Smyth’s amendment.

The board then approved a motion by John Foust (Dranesville) to exempt the McLean commercial area from the 5.0 FAR requirement and instead limit its maximum FAR to 3.0. In the case of McLean, Foust said, “one size doesn’t fit all.”

The BoS did agree to some revisions of the original motion, including language in a provision allowing a reduction in the parking requirement to call for an assessment of the potential for overflow parking in residential areas.

Donna Pesto, senior assistant to the zoning administrator, told the BoS the zoning amendment is needed to ensure that zoning for new redevelopment projects conforms to what’s already in the county’s Comprehensive Plan. The 5.0 FAR is “a maximum, not a mandate,” she said.

The comprehensive plans for Annandale and Seven Corners use a “form-based” approach, which sets limits on building height, rather than FAR.

In Annandale, for example, there’s a 12-story limit for buildings closest to the main roads with fewer stories closer to residential, said Fred Selden, director of the Planning and Zoning Department. Buildings of less than 100 units on small lots could have a FAR of 4.0 if they have underground parking, he said. “We want to encourage that and eliminate surface parking.”

Consolidation of small parcels of land, as in Annandale, is “extremely difficult. It’s very different from Tysons, where you have large parcels,” Selden said. The form-based plan is aimed at “encouraging revitalization, based on flexibility within certain parameters. The objective is to encourage ground-floor retail in buildings oriented toward the street, with higher intensity along main roads.”

“That’s exactly what we’re trying to accomplish in Annandale,” said Penny Gross (Mason), who noted that the project in the works for the bowling alley site on Markham Street would have a 12-story apartment building with underground parking on a small space and would have a 2.5 FAR.

Most of the speakers at the public hearing portion of the meeting were from the Mason District.

Seven Corners resident Suzy Wells expressed frustration with the lack of transparency. While the community spent two years providing input on a comprehensive plan amendment for Seven Corners – which was approved by the BoS in July 2015 – the county at the same time was working on a zoning amendment to allow FAR 5.0, she said, which would allow “much higher density than was agreed to.” 
 
Clyde Miller, speaking on behalf of the Holmes Run Valley Citizens Association, said he opposes the amendment because it “indiscriminately allows unlimited high-density development,” which would result in cut-through traffic in nearby neighborhoods, overflow parking, tall buildings looming over homes, and loss of green space.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth supports the amendment, said Executive Director Stewart Schwartz, because “the best way to handle population growth is to focus on transit-oriented mixed-use centers.” The amendment would reduce traffic, allow for more affordable housing, create more green space, and generate higher tax revenues, he said.

Bill Lecos, president of the Lake Barcroft Association, said the amendment is needed to spur redevelopment in aging commercial areas like Seven Corners, Annandale, and Bailey’s Crossroads that have pockets of blight. “Comprehensive plans will still guide future development,” he said. “This does not undermine the vision” in those plans.

Jeffrey Longo, president of the Sleepy Hollow Manor Citizens Association, said residents of his community overwhelmingly opposed the zoning amendment. “Our neighborhood invested considerable human capital in the Seven Corners comprehensive plan,” he said. “We saw this amendment as not consistent” with that plan.

Longo and Suzy Wells met with Mason Planning Commissioner Julie Strandlie June 17, he said, and she “listened to our concerns and explained why this is needed. We understand the rationale now.”

Longo still doesn’t support the zoning amendment, but said “the breakthrough in communication is sufficient not to oppose it.” He urged county officials to improve communication with residents. “It needs to begin early and continue throughout the process.”

33 comments:

  1. Does the Lake Barcroft Community fully support this amendment as Mr. Lecos testified to the Board of Supervisors?

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    1. as a lake barcroft resident, I dont even remember being asked about this. im sure some support it, but when Bill is going to speak on our behalf it would be nice to have some sort of heads up or vote ahead of time.

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    2. Why did Commissioner Stradlie ask to meet with Jeff Longo but not with the Mason District Council? If you are serious about reaching out to the community wouldn't you want to meet with the district's citizens associations, especially when it is so hard to find intact neighborhood associations these days?

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    3. Why did she reach out after her damn vote? Pathetic.

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  2. Does the Holmes Run Valley Citizens Association fully support the statements made by Clyde Miller before the Board of Supervisors?

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    1. I like the smooth green talk from the Smarter Growth Coalition. So no one mentioned that they are funded by sell-out environmental groups who in turn are funded by large corporations who will be the real winners in Fairfax. The plan is to tear down and truck out millions of cubic yards of concrete, steel and asphalt already serving the people of Fairfax in a Mayberry way then truck in millions of other concrete, steel and assault because the banks want us to? Who thinks this stuff up? Environmentally sound? I don't think so. Reduce, reuse, and recycle. That is sound environmental practice. Raze, remove and replace is not. This Board of Supervisors knows no solution to any problem but higher density. We need new ideas and new leaders and we need them now.

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    2. This is what third world corruption looks and feels like.

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    3. Welcome to what we have been dealing with regarding the Bailey's homeless shelter relocation. Instead of placing the shelter on an already developed but vacated piece of land, the Board of Supervisors is putting it on the recreation field that is also the Lincolnia Senior Center's backyard. This is the only real greenspace within a mile for the seniors and surrounding community to use. But it's okay because the BoS promises the shelter is "temporary" and the field will be restored to its natural state in just five years. To be sure the BoS admits it can not guarantee this. (Look at FAQs on its website). And given they have ignored the community thus far, there is no reason to think that they will listen to the community in 5 years.

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  3. Great news, Annandale crumbling downtown needed economic incentives like these to thrive.

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    1. according to the county, this isnt an incentive for development - this is merely the tool to implement the comp plan that was passed a while back.

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    2. It is crumbling due to an acute lack of ordinary maintenance and an Office of Code Compliance that is totally out to lunch. This slow death in Mason District is not due to natural causes, it is induced by well known and some not so known domestic and international corporatist who are strip mining suburban Main Streets all over the country. Imagine a machine into which you throw our neighborhoods, schools, and commercial centers and out comes a stream of cash directly into the pockets of people who already have way too much of our wealth. That is what this is. What we get in return is a lot of promises that this is not what it looks like.

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    3. Great news? Did you read about the reduction in the requirement for parking to allow for an assessment of overflow parking in residential neighbors? After seeing the BoS treatment of the Bailey's homeless shelter relocation, one is very naive to trust anything they do is great news for the surrounding communities. With respect to green space, again if this was a priority what is the BoS taking away the only greenspace near the senior center and making it into a homeless shelter. Start fighting now, the BoS has demonstrated time and again that it does not care about its constituents.

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  4. WTF? Why is McLean a special snowflake? Oh wait, I know why. $$$$$.

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    1. The community leadership in the McLean Citizens Association land use committee said that they did not want this ZOA anywhere near McLean, that it was completely unacceptable. The McLean Citizens Association broke away from the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations a few years ago because, like several other District Councils, they did not feel that the FCFCA represented their community's interests.
      McLean has a very independent strong and well informed District Council and when they said "No way", their Supervisor, John Foust, went to bat for his constituents. It is a case of the citizens being more powerful than the Supervisor and the special interests. Sharon Bulova, Board of Supervisors chair, and Penny Gross, vice chair, knew that that without the support of the Sully district supervisor, the deal would collapse and they in turn would lose a lot of developer/corporate dollars. A scramble for accommodation went on behind closed doors and the citizens of McLean won the day and will be able keep their business district the way they have want it, not the way some distant executive suite want it. We need to replicate the success of the MCA in Mason District by retaking control of our civic associations from the Board of Supervisors, by electing supervisors who represent our the community’s interests and by creating a large, strong and independent council in Mason District.
      The place to start is in your own neighborhood. Get active in your neighborhood association, or restart it if necessary, get on its board and begin the process of learning local government, get involved in the Mason District Council (MasonDistrict.org), which is an association of neighborhood associations under the umbrella of the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations.
      It does take some time out of your busy week that you don’t have but, as it took me a long time to find out, it is what adults do. It is way better to know what your government is doing than to not know. Not knowing is more expensive than any of us can afford. It is often hard, confusing and frustrating to get started, to meet new people and learn new things but the alternative is much worse. We were given freedoms that won’t be passed on to our children because of our inattention. Let’s reverse that trend, together.

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    2. I am plenty active in the neighborhood, thank you. It makes little to no difference when Ms. Penny Gross and the rest of the county leadership kowtow and cater to 1.) The destitute 2.) developers. That is it. Nothing in between. The rest of us have small victories here and there, which is why I will continue to be informed and engaged in community affairs, but by and large, I feel ignored.

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  5. And you keep reelecting penny gross!

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    1. Yeah, we do, and we keep electing her by wide margins because she is at least trying bring redevelopment and revitalization to Mason District. I am sick of certain individuals who keep complaining that they want revitalization, but oppose each and any proposal for development. How do they think revitalization works? Wishful thinking and magical pixey dust?

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    2. Penny is not doing anything for her constituents. She is doing everything she can for developers and those who have money. She is not doing it for money, she just doing it for the power she thinks she has. She loves having the developers to have to come to her for her approval. But she's never met a development she didn't like. To hell with the environmental concerns. With this FAR 5, it will be open season for developers in Mason District. The only good thing is that the amount of land is limited to the revitalization areas. Her vote for the FAR 5 for Annandale, Seven Corners, Bailey's Crossroads is a blatant display of her attitude of -- who cares what you want residents of Mason District.

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    3. Only 15% of voters voted for Penny after she outspent Mollie 6 to 1, with money paid in mostly by developers and other land use services companies and professionals. Penny has received about $1M in campaign contributions in her years in office.
      As a volunteer for Mollie, I ran into a number of supporters who didn't want to contribute financially to Mollie's campaign because they were afraid of retribution if they got on record as supporting Mollie. I'm talking about legal voters afraid to contribute to the candidate of their choice. Many others don't vote because they are sure the system is rigged, and they are right.
      Anybody-but-Penny advocates are not natural born whiners or soreheads. Circumstances motivate us. Penny has a reputation as a dirty-tricks campaigner. The political system of Mason District has been destroyed in a number of ways but no one is available to investigate and prosecute the corruption and quite simply, the Democrat party hasn’t been the Democrat party since Carter.
      That 15% of registered voters number represents mainly Penny’s knee jerk Democrats who haven’t noticed that their party has been taken over by Neocons. In those areas of Mason District where neighborhoods still had strong associations that had not been destroyed or taken over and nullified by Only-Penny supporters, Mollie was the clear winner even though she ran as a first-time, independent candidate/mom with an all-volunteer staff, assembled only a couple of months before the election. The fact that Penny received approval from about 15% of the registered voters is, under the circumstances, pitiful for an incumbent, and something of an embarrassment for the rest of us.

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    4. Anon at 10:33, are you giving Penny an "A" for effort? If so, look at how she is handling the Bailey's homeless shelter relocation. She has all but admitted that the BoS is relocating the shelter to the senior center's backyard (literally) because it is the easy thing to do (already county-owned, properly zoned, have right of way, no private contract or entity to negotiate with), not because it is the best thing for the community. This is a senior residence, on what planet does it make any sense to put a homeless shelter in its backyard/only outdoor recreational space? But Penny "is at least trying." I didn't realize our expectations of public officials were so very low,

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  6. McLean does not need higher FARs to encourage development. Most of the other community revitalization districts probably do.

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    1. I think you missed the point. McLean does not want hair-on-fire development. I'm pretty sure most of the rest of us are as smart as McLean and don't want it either.

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    2. Penny often has a problem with the quality of her information, or is it her misinformation.

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  7. And their supervisor went to bat for them. Penny supported the McLean exemption stating that the Mclean CBC is "small" and then was told by county staff that Annandale was equally small. She didn't ask for Annandale to be exempted. By the way, BOTH the Annandale and Seven Corners CBCs are smaller than Mclean's.

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  9. “That’s exactly what we’re trying to accomplish in Annandale,” said Penny Gross (Mason), who noted that the project in the works for the bowling alley site on Markham Street would have a 12-story apartment building with underground parking on a small space and would have a 2.5 FAR.

    Really? Traffic on this stretch of Little River Turnpike is terrible enough without a twelve story building added where the Bowling alley is. Why can't Penny direct her developers to renovations instead? Is there actually a need for this housing or is Penny Gross's hand being greased? Has a traffic study been done or is that a question Penny doesn't want to address? A sad state of affairs.

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    1. "Is there actually a need for this housing" it doesn't seem far fetched to say there is a high need for residential development right now. Housing prices are one indicator - the cost to own or rent is ridiculous in this area, and I believe that is due in large part due to the relative lack of options. Mind you, we are also very close to DC and many jobs, which also is a very big factor which I'm not dismissing, but if there was more housing you'd see some moderation in price because people would have more options.

      Of course, as we add residential we also need to be adding/improving requisite infrastructure such as roads, mass transit, and schools.

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  10. I think you should all be happy that some developer wants to invest in this place.........you people are unbelievable.

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    1. Anon at 11:22, so we should be happy that some developer wants to invest, regardless of the consequences of such development. Is your position that any development is good development? I think residents would be happy with sound development. But the BoS repeatedly has demonstrated they can not be trusted to do what is prudent or best for their communities. Again, people if you have faith in the BoS then you gave not been following the Bailey's homeless shelter relocation closely enough. If the BoS can do something as egregious as putting a homeless shelter on the only greenspace in an overbuilt area that also happens to be the backyard of a senior residence, you are very foolish to trust their judgment on anything else, especially redevelopment.

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  11. To Anonymous6/23/16, 2:09 PM

    Bill Lecos did not present the zoning amendment to the Lake Barcroft community. A significant number of residents opposed the 5000+ increased density for Seven Corners. Lake Barcroft is not in full support of FAR

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    1. Lake Barcroft did not support Penny in the recent Supervisor election. I seriously doubt that they support her irresponsible land use policies now.

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  12. To Anonymous6/24/16, 12:24 AM

    A tool to implement the comp plan. Thanks to this zoning amendment it is now the law that the comp plan can be changed to increase density everywhere except McLean. McLean's supervisor used common sense to exempt them as there is no metro there. Mason District doesn't have metro either.

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