|Seven Corners could be a magnet for developers.|
The Board of Supervisors has put off indefinitely consideration of a controversial Zoning Ordinance amendment that would facilitate new high-density projects in certain redevelopment areas – but that doesn’t mean it’s dead.
When asked why the matter is not being considered, Fairfax County zoning officials Donna Pesto wrote in an email, “I have no additional information regarding the scheduling of his amendment or why it was removed from the agenda.”
Tim Thompson, president of the board of the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations, predicts the zoning amendment will resurface in the first quarter of 2016. He speculates BoS chair Sharon Bulova delayed consideration of the amendment until after the Nov. 3 election and a new board is in place with a few meetings under its belt before its ready to tackle such a contentious issue.
Community associations and individual residents have complained to the BoS that the proposed amendment would give supervisors too much leeway to meet the demands of developers without enough citizen input.
The Fairfax Federation is hosting a workshop on the Zoning Ordinance amendment Oct. 30, 7 p.m., at the Providence Community Center. The meeting is open to the public. Panelists include Carol Turner of the Mason District Council, Clyde Miller of the Holmes Run Valley Citizens Association in Mason, Mark Zetts of the McLean Citizens Association, and Terry Maynard of the Reston Citizens Association.
The workshop is meant to educate people about the amendment, Thompson said, noting that some community groups might want it and others might oppose it. The Fairfax Federation hasn’t taken a position on it.
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, Tysons, Reston, and Springfield. FAR is the total square feet of a building divided by the total square feet of the lot the building is on.
Pesto told local residents at a meeting of the Bailey’s Crossroads Community Revitalization Corporation last month that the amendment is needed to implement redevelopment projects allowed in the county’s Comprehensive Plan without having to seek a zoning change every time something is proposed.
Several people complained at that meeting that the amendment would make it easier for developers to get high-density projects approved with less scrutiny by community residents. They were especially concerned that effort to reduce density in the Seven Corners plan, approved in July, would be overridden.
According to Miller, the current maximum FAR in redevelopment areas is 3, and the only places approaching a FAR 5 are near Metro in Tysons and Rosslyn.
Thompson says Zoning Administrator Leslie Johnson told him the proposed amendment had been put on a fast track for approval by the BoS because “there were five or six developments that had been in the hopper for the past few months that wanted to get approval for FAR 5.” Developers wanted to start construction as soon as possible, he says.
Prime sites for development include areas near Springfield Town Center, Route 7 northwest of Tysons, the Mosaic District in Merrifield, and the Dulles Metro corridor beyond Reston, as well as Seven Corners and Bailey’s Crossroads. Allowing FAR 5 would make these areas much more attractive to developers. Being allowed to build more units in a condominium or apartment complex multiplies a developer’s profit.
According to Thompson, developers want the Zoning Ordinance amendment “so they squeeze more stuff on a limited amount of land.”
“No one can fathom why this is needed other than to help developers,” he says, noting that most campaign contributions to supervisors come from developers. It won’t benefit the county and there isn’t a demand for more development, he says. “Once the horse gets out of the barn, it’s not going back in.”
Instead of a blanket zoning amendment allowing higher density across the county, he says, why not allow community review of one project at a time?