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Friday, January 10, 2020

Chick-fil-A is coming to Rt. 236, but what about the vision for Annandale?


Chick-fil-A's design for a proposed restaurant in Annandale.
During a Planning Commission discussion July 8 on the proposal for a Chik-fil-A restaurant, at-large commissioner James Hart raised concerns that a stand-alone fast-food restaurant on Little River Turnpike does not meet the vision spelled out in the Annandale Comprehensive Plan.

The commission easily endorsed the project and sent it on to the Board of Supervisors, which is scheduled to have a hearing on it Jan. 14.

The restaurant would replace two buildings that housed antique dealers at 7120 Little River Turnpike.


The proposal includes an “interparcel connection” that allows people to access the restaurant from the Speedway gas station next door. That provision had raised concerns among members of the Mason District Land Use Committee in November.

The Planning Commission tacked on several development conditions, including a requirement for trees along the street, instead of small shrubs, if VDOT approves.

While all the commissioners present at the meeting voted to support the project, Hart abstained.

He noted that the ambitious comprehensive plan for Annandale, which was approved in 2010 with community input, envisioned a transformation of Little River Turnpike into a “grand, elegant boulevard with shops and restaurants lining the street” and pedestrian-oriented development. “Citizens were hopeful that that is the vision we would see,” he said.

In contrast, the drive-through Chik-fil-A restaurant epitomizes the type of automobile development discouraged in the Annandale plan.


Pedestrian-oriented development is being successfully implemented in Reston and Tysons and is happening more slowly along Route 1, Hart says, but “in Annandale we missed the mark. Even though the real estate market is strong, that vision has not materialized.”

“It may be that we miscalculated,” he said. “It may be that transit has to be part of the equation in order to have mixed-use development.”

Hart
“What we have now is a very ambitious plan for this grand boulevard that doesn’t seem to be happening and may not be as viable or as realistic” as initially hoped, Hart said.

“That presents a dilemma for us,” he said. “What are we going to do in Annandale next time something comes along? Are we going to get another automobile-oriented free-standing fast-food drive-through which is exactly what we didn’t want and what I think the plan discourages?”

Approval of this project sets a precedent that the vision for Annandale in the Comprehensive Plan isn’t realistic and needn’t be followed, he warned. Once a single-story project like Chik-fil-A is approved in the middle of a block, that removes any possibility that a larger, pedestrian-oriented mixed-use project can happen in that space.

“It’s certainly better than what’s there,” Hart said. “We have a junky site with rickety dilapidated buildings that are an eyesore, and the community would like to get rid of them.” But what’s replacing those buildings is a one-story fast food restaurant. “We’re not getting a grand boulevard.”  

“Once we bust the plan here, what do we do in Annandale henceforth? Do we just keep busting the plan?” Hart said. Once this project is allowed to happen, it will make it hard to stick to the plan everywhere. “The citizens have an expectation. We put such effort into creating the plan text that we ought not take it lightly.” 

26 comments:

  1. Just want to say, this is fantastic local reporting. Thank you for not only this post but the entire blog.

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  2. Mr. Hart, just thank your lucky starts its not another homeless shelter. Baileys has been totally left to rot and not find its way through its comprehensive plan in this robust economy. Instead commercial real estate keeps shuttering their doors and rolling up their storefronts. Its a shame, so much potential and zero leadership to turn the pages in Mason.

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    1. Yet Penny Gross continues to get voted in... Mason District only has its residents to blame. Very sad indeed!

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  3. Hart is a hero. Well-stated and true. Applause!

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  4. What's the point of having a comprehensive plan if the commission just disregards it? The BOS will also likely follow the commission's recommendation. So much for improving Annandale.

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  5. The BOS will follow what Penny wants. That's how it works. We have a fuedel system here and the Supervisors are the Lords of the Manor. What they want happens. It is such a failure of vision that this is the best she can get done. Thank you Commissioner Hart for fighting for the Comprehensive Plan. VDOT is supposed to approve trees in revitalization areas, The question is do they consider this a revitalization project. It's just another fast food joint.

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  6. It would be nice if the Planning Commission had more members that are actually trained/experienced in Urban Planning. Many thanks to Mr. Hart for taking this sensible stand.

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  7. A complete overhaul of Annandale would be great, I'm all for it, but since it doesn't seem to be happening let's green light the Chick-fil-A. They'll be a heck of a lot better than what's there now.

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  8. The issue here isn't really Planning Commission experience, many of them have good experience and have the "get to yes" philosophy. It is really the lack of public engagement on these issues. The Supervisors don't want it generally and the staff hate it. So taxpayers, the people who actually pay staff salaries, are completely left out of the process until it's too late. Then they are just, well, too late to make much of a difference. It is designed to "streamline" the process but that unfortunately only serves the developers. Once the public finds out about this stuff it's already 2 years into the process and the Supervisor has already factored it in. So the only people getting represented are the developers. This is a great example. The Comprehensive Plan says one thing and we end up with quite another.

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  9. I'm glad that someone remembers that plan. Thank you for reminding the Comission, Mr. Hart!

    --kda

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  10. So everybody's acknowledged that this is not that they planned, but they tend to approve this anyway?

    Are these our elected reps?
    This is why we put them in office?

    thank god Mr. Hart has the courage to stand up against it, now need to see how they make the necessary changes to correct before its too late.

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  11. Every plan they come up with involves bikes or walking. That only works if there is some sort of mass transit (Metro) that lets you get there and to other places. Their attitude towards autos, which are necessary to get around Northern Virginia and particularly in the Annandale area, is curious. I hope that we are never going to be New York City here in Annandale. An establishment like Chick-fil-A which removes two really ugly buildings and will put a nice restaurant with wonderful service and a pleasing outside venue will improve Little River Turnpike a lot. If the Supervisors have a master plan for Little River, where is one example of a plan implementing it? They could surely start with the K-Mart site.

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  12. It's already difficult to access 236 from businesses along this stretch given the three traffic lights being so close together. A drive through fast food restaurant which would supply another constant flow of of traffic trying to access the stopped traffic on 236 dosen't seem viable!

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  13. I'm torn here. Chik-fil-A is better than a pair of abandoned buildings, and the company treats its employees well compared to its competitors. However, this really is a missed opportunity. If the comp plan means anything, then, as Mr. Hart noted, this was (is?) the place to start. A mixed use or other community-oriented development in the middle of A-Dale would be a catalyst for further and much-needed revitalization.

    I suspect the BoS will rubberstamp the Planning Commission's decision. And, really, what's the alternative? An abandoned site does nothing for the community. It’s all a bit dejecting for those of us who care about the area. The K-Mart site shows no sign of redevelopment except for a proliferation of parked 18-wheelers. The entire strip from the Beltway to K-Mart is bleak and rife with incoherent development that does not further a vision of any sort. It’s all gas stations, dated apartment complexes, fast food, and partially constructed bldgs. But, so much potential. I struggle to understand why the area is getting left behind (yes, no metro or BRT is a factor but plenty of places seem to be moving forward without).

    I hope the community steps up and demands better of its elected reps and unelected bureaucrats (although kudos to Mr. Hart for speaking up). It's clear that many people care about the future A-Dale, including some of the frequent commenters on this board. Let’s cross our fingers that some of these people consider running for BoE or BoS rep in the next cycle and get involved in the land use process, Chamber of Commerce, civic associations, etc. Maybe, over time, we can begin to turn this thing around.

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  14. So
    Much ignorance and bigotry in one post. ⬆️

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    1. I'm pretty sure it's just a troll. Everyone knows Muslims poop in toilets like the rest of us.

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  15. Annandale does not need another fast food joint to fill us with greasy, unhealthy food, especially not one with the theocratic leanings of Chik-Fil-A! Let's try to stick to the master plan, which might leave us more like Mosaic and less like a suburban wasteland. More trees and walkable mixed use! And while that gets fought over, what's wrong with razing the vacant eyesores and just planting grass and start on the trees?

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  16. Where’s the part in the master plan about crumbling buildings, empty storefronts, businesses closing or relocating every month... I must have missed that part of the plan?????

    If some poor soul believes they can inject some life into our area with a CFA, let them come. I’d love to see it be the establishment to set up, draw folks to the area and this some positive businesses into the dilapidated storefronts surrounding it.

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  17. D. C. Homeboy1/11/20, 7:39 PM

    Just what Annandale needs. Another greasy chicken joint. We already have Popeyes across the street. How about more gas stations, hookah bars, or check cashing stores, Penny. Jeez .ed

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  18. Chickfila will bring economic growth to the area and welcome other fast casual restaurants, coffee chains, which leads to premier grocery stores, etc. Take for example the Boro, it is an excellent example of perfectly executed.

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  19. No, stick to the master plan to transform the area with more walkable, mixed use developments.

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    1. Agreed, we should aspire for way more than just Chik Fil A. We are not some small town in the middle of nowhere, Chik Fil A is not going to raise our profile or generate revenue/traffic that will make that much of a difference. Lets aspire for a walkable, mixed use development but also maintain and keep the character of Annandale of what makes it great (boutique shops, locally owned places mostly).

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  20. Tyson’s and Reston have metro stops. Annandale does not. The ‘comprehensive plan’ from 10 years ago is missing the most important component of a walkable city (metro stops) and is clearly not comprehensive. Chik fil a is a positive development compared to what we have in Annandale today. It will bring in revenue to the city. It will give commuters a reason to stop in Annandale who drive through it anyway. If after 10 years there are no plans for mixed use development and/or public transportation, it’s time to move on and rethink the vision for Annandale.

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  21. The plan is merely a guide/wish list. Individual properties would likely need to be consolidated in order to achieve anything resembling the plan.
    Owners of the properties cannot be forced to consolidate their land or abide by the plan. Be patient, it appears you are going to see some mixed use coming:
    An Asian shopping center with restaurants, a spa and grocery is being planned for the old KMART store in Annandale. Another part of the site is being planned for 350 residences with 20,000 sq ft of additional retail. Later plans for the site include another mulitfamily development.
    https://sjmpartners.com/coming-soon/kmart/

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    1. Oh, wonderful. Someone finally decides to do something with that dead zone and it's just packing more people and more businesses onto a small parcel of land with no room for wider roads and schools are already packed to the point of overflowing. Annandale is not large enough!

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  22. Mixed use is inevitable, albeit not overnight. As evidence by our escalating property values, any land/property inside the Virginia Beltway is valuable and on the radar for purchase and redevelopment. Metro has recently signaled it is considering extending Metro south to Bailey’s Crossroad, Seven Corners, Columbia Pike. We all should be rallying to help that vision into reality.

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