|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.
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.”