Another Rezoning Asked in Fairfax County's 'Downtown'

Another Rezoning Asked in Fairfax County's 'Downtown'

As Fairfax County struggles with the budgetary limitations of its status as a county, its population is booming.

With 1,015,600 residents, the county is larger than seven states. And the density of Tysons Corner, the “downtown” of Fairfax County, appears destined to grow.

Just two months after a controversial rezoning for 1,354 new residences was approved for Tysons Corner, another proposal for eight new buildings that includes a 31-story residential building with 540 condominiums will go before the Fairfax County Planning Commission on Mar. 26.

The Tysons II Land Company, owned by Lerner Enterprises, originally proposed 250 residences, but the county’s planning staff recommended against approving its Sept. 26, 2002, proposal. Since then, proffers accompanying the proposal have been revised eight times.

Planners await the ninth, and few sources wanted to comment before they have been released.

The plan would “build out” Tysons II, a 106-acre tract that includes the trendiest of the commercial and office space in Tysons near the intersection at Route 123 and International Drive. The Ritz Carlton Hotel now dominates the tract, flanked by two gleaming office buildings. Three other quadrants of land, where Tysons Boulevard and International Drive intersect, stand empty.

A NETWORK OF ROADS IS PAVED, but the curb cuts seemingly lead nowhere and offer no quarter for the few pedestrians who occasionally venture forth from office buildings and the hotel. Eventually, that will change.

On Mar. 26, the Tysons II Land Company will go before Fairfax County’s Planning Commission for a public hearing on its proposal to rezone 57 acres of land to allow construction that includes a 31-story residential tower with 540 units and seven other buildings.

The Floor Area Ratio (FAR), the ratio of square feet to total acreage, would increase from 1.0 to 1.45 square feet.

Under the plan, a residential component could also be combined with other uses, such as commercial and office, within a single building.

As a proffer, Tysons II would widen Route 123 between the Beltway and International Drive, build a five-acre park with an amphitheater, contribute about $500,000 for a pedestrian bridge from the new building to the development at West Park that was approved Jan. 6, and donate the land for a rail station.

Three affordable dwelling units (ADUs) and a cash donation to the public schools would be included.

Construction of a Metro rail extension from West Falls Church to Tysons Corner is considered the “trigger” for the added density.

Without the extension of rail, the added density would not be supported under the comprehensive plan and the developer could proceed with office and commercial construction already approved for the site.

A commitment for funding from federal, state and local sources for the rail extension would have to be in place by 2005. In addition to funding, phasing of the buildout would also depend on plans for design and construction.

The complexity of the funding process for rail is so complex that few citizens understand it. When asked to comment, county staff did not return telephone calls. Staff in the office of Providence Supervisor Gerry Connolley withheld comment pending release of the most recently amended proffers, as did Providence Planning Commissioner Linda Smyth.

During the approval process, she will be the point person who shepherds the application through the Planning Commission’s review.

Funding for rail is one of the critical issues associated with the Tysons II application, according to Adrienne Whyte, planning and zoning chairman for the McLean Citizens Association.

Although the MCA usually addresses planning matters for Dranesville District, it has also addressed those in Tysons Corner, located in Providence District, because they impact Dranesville’s schools, traffic, and infrastructure.

Last week, Whyte’s committee discussed the Tysons II proposal, recommending that the MCA support it. “The proffers provide safeguards that the additional density will be tied to the funding and construction of rail through Tysons,” Whyte said. “If you believe the comprehensive plan should be the blueprint for Tysons, this proposal by Lerner meets and exceeds the elements of the plan for Tysons Corner.”

“This is an application with significant public benefits to the County,” she said. “It actually does meet the definition of smart growth.”

INEVITABLY, THE PROPOSAL will revive the argument over whether or not the infrastructure is in place to support the development.

When the Board of Supervisors approved West*Group’s proposal for 1,354 new residences in West Park nearby, a spokesman for the public schools Facilities and Planning Services division said any more new residences in the Tysons area would trigger the need for a new elementary school.

The Lerner proposal would contribute more students to Spring Hill Elementary, Longfellow Middle and McLean High Schools. They would likely be reassigned to Westbriar Elementary in Vienna and the Marshall High School pyramid, Whyte said. Westbriar has already been identified to receive an estimated 93 new students from West*Group’s development.

The new development at Tysons II is expected to generate a total of 55 new students: 34 in elementary school, six in intermediate, and 15 high school students.

Amended Proffers from Tysons II Land Company

Date: Feb. 13, 2003

1. Taxes at buildout

Real estate Taxes $19,322,711

Special taxing District 3,141,907

ANNUAL TOTAL $22,464,618

II. Proffers

Tysons transportation fund $5 million

Transportation improvements* $2 million

Park construction * $2 million

West Park pedestrian bridge* $500,000

Park maintenance $100,000

Schools $400,000

Affordable housing $450,000

Antennae leases* $1.05 million

Public art $ 60,000

Recreation* $515,700

TDM’s $100,000

TOTAL $12,175,700

III. Land

Metro dedication 4.5 Acres

Route 123 right of way dedication .5 Acres

Park dedication 5 Acres

TOTAL 10 Acres $23,958,000

Total Proffer/Land Contribution

III TDM Program

Annual cost of parking rate reduction

At buildout* $1,660,416