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What's the Plan for Braddock?

APR process underway for Braddock District.

At the center of the majority of Area Plans Review (APR) proposals examined by a citizen task force Monday, Dec. 12, was the Burke Centre Virginia Railway Express station on Roberts Parkway.

The task force proposed a total of 12 changes to the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan as part of the APR process in the Braddock District. At a previous meeting, county planning staff and task force members tackled about half of these nominations, or proposals, which focused on maintaining neighborhood density.

First, the task force went back to look at one of the proposals after a resident of an affected office building voiced his concerns. The proposal created the option for two parcels between the Kings Park Shopping Center and Braddock Road to develop with offices and a commuter parking lot. According to the Braddock District Supervisor's staff, Dr. James Woodward of the Kings Park Veterinary Clinic, whose land is included in the proposal, said he did not want the veterinary hospital to be affected.

Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock) said that the clinic was not going to be affected by the proposal.

The reason the task force included that parcel in the nomination was because a conservation easement existed between it and one of the main parcels, said task force member Terry Wanbaugh. However, the surest way to prevent the veterinary hospital from being redeveloped would be to take the parcel out of the proposal altogether, said Bulova. The task force deleted the parcel from the proposal.

Monday’s proposals focused less on neighborhood density and more on transportation issues and environmental concerns.

The "numero uno" proposal, according to task force member Steve Schrobo, was one that would open the way for a Kiss & Ride and a footpath connecting to a bridge over the VRE tracks.

Citizens have been concerned about pedestrian access to the Burke Centre VRE station, especially now that plans for a new parking garage at the station are underway.

THE POINT of the proposal, said Schrobo, was to secure a footpath that would run parallel to the north side of the tracks and connect to the pedestrian overpass. Another proposal modified the Public Facilities and Trails sections of the Middle Run Community Planning Sector to include plan text about connecting trails to the VRE station.

"It's extremely important to the community, and we want to put this language into the Comprehensive Plan," said Schrobo.

Wheeler and Sistla worried that not enough room would be available for a Kiss & Ride on the unused end of Guinea Road. Adding language to the Comprehensive Plan would not guarantee the Kiss & Ride would be built, said Bulova.

"There are a lot of technological reasons why this can't happen, but this is a Comprehensive Plan process and it is important to reserve the ability to do that," she said of the proposal.

Another proposal sought to change the planned use of a state-owned lot south of Guinea Road and north of the VRE tracks from industrial use to wetlands mitigation. But a plan map, said county planner Sterling Wheeler, shows "wetlands mitigation." On the plan map, the designation should read "public open space" or "public parks," he said, so that it could be shown in green rather than the industrial gray color.

Two other proposals added language on the Comprehensive Plan to enforce environmental codes. The current plan denotes industrial uses for the parcels, one southwest of the VRE tracks and Roberts Road and the other northeast of Clara Barton Drive and the Fairfax County Parkway. The proposal did not seek to change that plan at all except for clarifying some wording, and county planner Indrani Sistla wondered what the point of that was.

"We're asking the task force to provide more clarification of what they are trying to achieve," said Sistla.

Both of the businesses on the parcels have had problems in the past conforming to water and noise regulations, said Schrobo.

"When the task force sat down, we wanted to re-emphasize the environmental impacts of this, to strengthen them for those two areas," he said.

"If the problem is noise or light spillage, then that's an enforcement issue," said Wheeler. Enforcement is not the realm of the Comprehensive Plan, he said.

The businesses do conform to the plan for industrial uses, said Bulova, but the industrial-use parcels are surrounded by residential areas.

"All around this industrial site is residential, so can't you find some kind of language that would provide some kind of reduction in noise?" she asked. Staff said they would try and come back with options to do this.

County staff opposed the final proposal, which suggested constructing a trail north of the VRE tracks and west of Sideburn Road, in an area planned for an extension of Guinea Road. The current plan for the location is public parks, and while the proposal did not seek to change that, it sought a trail and baseball fields in the parcels, at least until the road is built.

But the road extension would come with a trail, said Wheeler, and building a path there in the meantime would only tear up the trees prematurely.

"We're not supportive of building a trail because it's planned for a road, and with the road, we will build a trail," he said. The task force did not withdraw the proposal but will take staff's reservations into account, they said.