Growing pains associated with increased development and more pressure on traffic and other public services characterized many of the changes to the Vienna area in 2004.
Fairlee and Wedderburn
The Vienna area is one step closer to getting a skyline. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in December approved a dramatic increase in the planned density for an area abutting the Vienna Metro station, just south of I-66.
The approved plan, called Fairlee/Metrowest, calls for a mixed-use community of 2,250 residential units, up to 300,000 square feet of office space and 100,000 square feet of retail stores. Some of the buildings in the plan will be as high at 14 stories.
The Board action simply amended the county's comprehensive plan, and the property must still be rezoned prior to the construction.
The Wedderburn Property was also up for a rezoning. The area is located in the southeast corner of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail and Cedar Lane. It is sometimes called “Midgetville,” because of the 12 small houses on the property. The owners, led by Jane Leppin, whose Wedderburn family has owned the land for generations, want the property rezoned to allow for more than 25 new houses.
Besides the rezoning, a group of neighbors proposed an amendment to the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan that would allow fewer houses. The two proposals would have opposite effects. The Board of Supervisors will have the final say on which of the competing plans will be accepted.
Complicating the issue is what may be a stream flowing through the property. Leppin has hired an outside firm to demonstrate that it is not a year-round stream, but many area residents dispute the finding. Year-round streams enjoy buffered areas that would decrease the amount of density even further.
In addition to those, Tysons Corner Center is undergoing a $100 million renovation, which will add movie theaters, 40 more retail stores and 20 restaurants.
Fairfax County's Comprehensive Plan is under its periodic review, known as the Area Plans Review or APR. This year, four magisterial districts — Providence, Hunter Mill, Dranesville and Sully — were considered.
Although Vienna is in the Hunter Mill District, the proposals most likely to have an impact on the town were those in the Providence District.
The Providence District Task Force reviewed 14 changes to the Comprehensive Plan. Among the most controversial were the Wedderburn Property (see above) and another known as Poplar Terrace. The Poplar Terrace proposal would put another high-density development near the Vienna Metro station.
In those two cases, and virtually every other, the task force, made up of members of homeowners and civic associations and business groups from across the district, recommended lower density. The Fairfax County Planning Commission will next review the proposals in April, and the Board of Supervisors will have the final decision.
Still pending are 20 proposals concerning Tysons Corner. These proposals were filed for the same review process and were determined by Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence) to be dependent on the proposed Metrorail line that is slated to place four stops in Tysons.
The proposals were broken off for a separate study, but the task force reviewing these proposals has yet to be seated.
Of Fairfax Bondage
Fairfax County voters in November passed four separate bond issues totaling $325 million. These bonds will result in some new projects in the Vienna area.
One bond that passed will generate funds for the new Oakton Library on Hunter Mill Road. The library will be located next to the Unitarian Church, near Hunter Mill's intersection with Chain Bridge Road.
The new library is expected to relieve some of the pressure on Patrick Henry Library on Maple Avenue in Vienna and is expected to open in 2007.
Of four major transportation proposals covered by the bond issues, one will include improvements to the intersection of Gallows Road and Route 29. The proposal will widen both roads and is hoped to allow motorists to go through the intersection more quickly.
Also passed was a bond for the parks system. Vienna is not slated to get any major new parks as a result of the bond but may see some renovations to Oak-Marr Rec Center.
The Town of Vienna's Transportation Safety Committee finished a study of the Church Street pedestrian area. The stretch of Church Street from Mill Street to Lawyers Road is supposed to be a pedestrian-friendly retail zone, but the committee identified some obstacles to this plan.
It also explored ways to make the road more pedestrian friendly, such as increased signage and increasing the visibility of the already existing stop signs. The committee also recommended more aggressively clearing vegetation from the sidewalks and making the crosswalks more visible.
The Town Council was generally receptive to the proposals and may begin implementing some of them soon.
Hunter Mill Road is increasingly becoming a major north-south artery. Fairfax County's Comprehensive Plan calls for widening the road to four lanes from Chain Bridge Road to Vale Road. However, that plan is not funded or currently being discussed. Some area residents oppose the widening.
During the Area Plan Review process (see above), a proposal was accepted that recognizes that the road has many cultural and historical sites along its length.
The Hunter Mill Defense League conducted a meeting in February to discuss alternate ways of traffic-calming along the 7.2-mile road.
A Town-operated leaf-mulching operation on Town-owned land on Beulah Road created a major controversy in 2004. The Town maintained that it was within its rights to mulch leaves at the site. Neighbors complained of noise and odor and maintained that the area is actually a park and should not be used as a public works facility — the leaves are delivered to residents free of charge.
The Town applied for a permit to continue to use the facility for leaf mulching. The permit was granted, but the Town is required to build a sound barrier around the grinding machine that mulches the leaves.
Additionally, the Town has found a new method to attempt to control the odor of the rotting leaves that are stored on the site. The permit allows the use of the facility for one more year.
Dominion Virginia Power angered many who live along and use the Washington & Old Dominion Trail, when it began what residents call an aggressive tree-trimming campaign.
The company said that the trimming is necessary to protect its power lines. It has an easement along the trail that allows it to cut the trees.
Residents feared that the loss of trees will degrade the aesthetics of the trail and turn it into what at least one person called a "parking lot."
Dominion met with residents on several occasions but refused to compromise on tree trimming. The company said that it has plans to replace the trimmed and removed trees with different species that will not grow to threaten the lines.