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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Seven Corners residents concerned about proposed zoning changes

The Route 50/Patrick Henry intersection in Seven Corners.

Fairfax County zoning official Donna Pesto attempted to assure local residents at a meeting of the Bailey’s Crossroads/Seven Corners Revitalization Corporation (BC7RC) Sept 15 that proposed changes to the county’s Zoning Ordinance won’t override the density limits in the recently adopted Seven Corners amendment to the Comprehensive Plan.

The zoning changes were outlined in a draft memo issued Aug. 21. Pesto, the senior assistant to the county’s zoning administrator, said the zoning department is working on revisions to the Aug. 21 draft in response to comments from the public.

A revised draft should be available online Oct. 1. The Planning Commission is scheduled to have public hearing on the zoning changes Oct. 6. The Board of Supervisors’ hearing is set for Dec. 8.

Several Seven Corners residents at the BC7RC meeting complained that the Zoning Ordinance changes would allow for more density than the Seven Corners amendment, which was approved by the BoS in July after more than two years of meetings.  

“It doesn’t protect us,” one resident complained. Another said, “there’s an extraordinary level of mistrust here. We spent a lot of effort to cap density. Now we’re seeing this; we’re hearing we’re just as vulnerable now as we were before. We feel like we’re being railroaded.”

Several people were suspicious that the draft zoning changes were released during the last week of August when people are on vacation and there was a short deadline for public comments.

The Comprehensive Plan serves as the “blueprint for future development,” Pesto said at the BC7RC meeting. The amended plan for Seven Corners, which calls for higher-density mixed-use development, cannot be implemented under the current zoning designations in Seven Corners, she said.

The proposed zoning changes would allow the BoS to adopt a maximum floor area ratio (FAR) of up to 5.5 in commercial revitalization areas, such as Seven Corners, Bailey’s Crossroads, and the Dulles corridor. [FAR is the total square feet of a building divided by the total square feet of the lot the building is on.]

Increasing the maximum FAR from 4.5 to 5 “prevents us from having to amend the Zoning Ordinance every time the Comprehensive Plan is amended,” Pesto said.

But while 5.5 FAR would be the maximum density allowed, that doesn’t mean a developer would propose that much density, nor does it mean the BoS would approve a project with 5.5 FAR, she said, and that 5.5 FAR is designed for areas near Metro in Reston.

“We’ve not seen a zoning proposal grossly out of sync with the Comprehensive Plan,” Pesto said, noting that “most proposals come in well below the zoning density allowed.”


  1. "Trust us. Nothing to see here."

  2. Or "We're not paranoid if someone really is out to get us."

  3. Disgusting.

  4. If Supervisor Gross is re-elected we're going to have to go head to head with her on each individual building project to keep density down. This zoning amendment is an open door and builders are salivating to see it passed. Donna Pesto assures it's on the fast track for a BOS vote on Dec. 8.

    Time for a new supervisor who is in touch with the residents of Mason District. Vote for Mollie Loeffler on Nov. 3

    1. Thanks for the comments, Mollie!

    2. LOL! I'm not Mollie. Just a BIG fan.

      Enough of Penny and her undermining of her constituents openly voiced and well-stated concerns. Penny does what Penny wants.

      July 28 4 Supervisors refused to approve PENNY's 7 Corners plan unless she amended it in response to the 37 who testified that evening. Callous disregard for her "Subjects".

      Down with Queen Penny. Enough of Her Royal Highness. Vote for Mollie on Nov. 3

    3. Big fan of Mollie, you are out of your mind.

      Developers have been bypassing Mason District for decades.

      Electing Mollie so she can vote for even higher property taxes for the public schools to push hard-working lower and middle class Americans out of Fairfax County; and to fight any redevelopment of Mason District so the millionaires in Sleepy Hollow can enjoy their peace and quiet on their one acre lots is both Pathetic and Disgusting.

      The cheerleading for Mollie by those with the good fortune to already own expensive property in Fairfax County is off-putting to those still working hard to achieve the American Dream.

    4. people working hard for the american dream are not the ones voting for Penny.

    5. I'd consider myself lower middle class in this neighborhood (right around the 300% line), but we were able to move into this quiet neighborhood through intentional living and the generosity of people who sold us this home. We are not the only ones here.
      Change or progress isn't bad, but reckless and drastic changes usually only benefit those who cause them. I'd love to see revitalization, to invite new neighbors (even those "lower class" than me) to join our quiet community, and provide for people's needs. I don't know if Mollie will do these things (I'm sure she will tick a lot of people off, like she already is doing), but I'm tired of being called racist, class-ist, ignorant and bigoted for liking the way things are.

  5. What is the real intent of this proposal? Why are Seven Corners, Bailey's and Annandale specifically included in this proposal with revitalization areas on mass transit?
    From the Fairfax Department of Planning and Zoning cover letter accompanying the proposed amendment:
    "The proposed Zoning Ordinance Amendment establishes the implementation tools related to comprehensive plan changes and adopted design guidelines associated with revitalization and redevelopment areas, as well as areas near mass transit stations. Specifically, such areas include those associated with the Silver Line extension through the Dulles Corridor and the updates to the Annandale, Baileys Crossroads and Seven Corners planning documents."
    Seven Corners, Bailey's and Annandale are not walkable to Metro by county guidelines. They are all also outside guidelines for Transit Oriented Development. Are the Supervisors going to try to change these guidelines too?

    1. Comprehensive Plans and FFX County policy are guidelines. Zoning ordinances are law.
      So, yes, the zoning ordinance will allow developers to request and received high densities even though the Comp Plans and FFX Policy advise otherwise.

      Seven Corners, Bailey's Crossroads and Annandale are on the county list to develop as Activity Centers. Hold on to you hats as you see the density grow in these areas. Obviously the county doesn't give a fig about whether or not Mason District has access to a metro. The Seven Corners Comprehensive Plan includes an unprecedented floor area ratio of 2.5 with 5050 apartments with no metro access meeting national standards. Falls Church East metro is a mile. Standards are 1/2 mile.

      Under the proposed zoning ordinance, developers can request and receive 2x more least 11,000 potential units in Seven Corners. This can be achieved by honoring requests from developers or by the Supervisor instituting out of plan amendments.

      Supervisor Gross used out of turn amendments in Bailey's Crossroads to allow Avalon to build and displace the homeless shelter next to Radley Acura on Columbia Pike.

      She also used it to allow Folger-Pratt to convert an office building into residential on Columbia Pike. Folger-Pratt did not go forward with the project.

      Affected communities were not consulted prior to either out of turn amendment being adopted by the Board of Supervisors.

  6. TO: Anonymous 9/17/15, 4:29 PM

    Your hypothesis is bizarre and ill-considered. Here are some facts.

    In the past three years alone, Supervisor Gross wasted a minimum of $8 million dollars in poor land use decisions that ended up with putting children in a high-rise retrofitted office building (with no gym or playground) called Bailey's Upper. This is easily documented. Added to the $8 M down the drain is an annual expense of roughly $340,000 to bus children to their retrofitted office building. 70% of Bailey’s students walked to school prior to the purchase of the office building.

    Penny’s callous disregard for fiscal responsibility and her poor land use decisions are what help drive up our taxes. Supervisor Gross and cohorts do nothing to spare us from their excessive desire to spend our tax dollars foolishly. Her attempt to build a $125M government center on Willston School property instead of giving FCPS the property to build a school there is irresponsible governing. She spent $895,000 on designing it and abandoned it only because of pressure from her constituents. Mollie Loeffler, when Mason District Council chair, actively sounded the warning bell on this smooth move of Penny’s.

    Added to all that Penny STILL wants to spend money to build a human services building at the Willston School site. The office vacancy rate in Seven Corners is 22%. It is 38% in Bailey's Crossroads. Penny is on the FFX County environmental committee, yet she wants to pave over all our greenspace instead of utilizing vacant office space.

    Taxes in some neighborhoods have gone up 30% in the past 15 years. Supervisor Gross has been hard at work making that happen.

    Mollie is pragmatic and fiscally responsible. She will be a breath of fresh air and work to keep our tax dollars down. Mollie has my vote on Nov. 3.