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Fairfax Center Zoning Shifts to Residential

The Fairfax County Planning Commission on July 14 unanimously approved the development of more than 200 new homes. They're at Fairfax Center, a 7.85-acre site at the corner of Legato and West Ox roads originally zoned for office development. The proposal now goes to the Board of Supervisors, but a date has not yet been set.

That site had been approved for a variety of different office uses dating back to the mid 1980s. Most recently, in 1998, the Board of Supervisors approved the building of either two seven-story office buildings or one 14-story office building.

“During all this time, nothing has been built,” said Elizabeth Baker attorney for EYA Development at the July 13 Planning Commission meeting.

Instead of offices, the developer has proposed medium-density housing. The new plan will include a four-story multi-family (apartment or condo) building with 120 units in it, 17 of which will be affordable housing, and 90 townhouses.

The townhouses, Baker said, are to be four stories tall and will not look like a traditional, suburban development. “They’re really designed to be more of an urban rowhouse,” she said.

Planning staff had recommended denying the application. Fairfax Center is the area around the convergence of Route 50 and I-66, near the Fairfax County Government Center and Fair Oaks. It is planned to be developed at a fairly high density.

The proposed project is in the central part of the Fairfax Center area, said Kris Abrahamson of the Department of Planning and Zoning, and therefore should be more dense than the developer proposes. “Our issue is not with the residential component at all,” she said.

Members of the Board of Directors of the abutting Centerpointe Church agreed. According to the comprehensive plan, the church could, at some point in the future, construct a mid-rise office building on its land.

CHURCH BOARD members characterized this as a redevelopment option if the church wants to sell its property and move to a new location. The potential to build an office building makes the property more valuable.

The church is also in the process of applying for permission to expand its current facilities, and are not likely to try to move anytime soon, they said.

A residential building of a similar size to the future office building would be less likely to have residents who would object to that project, they said. “A mid-rise would be more conducive to what’s going on there,” said Roger Rohrbaugh of Vienna. “We do support a residential use, but in a mid-rise capacity.”

Springfield District Planning Commissioner Peter Murphy said that he thought the proposal was a good project and that he supported it even without the taller buildings. The residential component would add a different element to the area, Murphy said, and is desirable.

The Springfield District Land Use Committee also supported the project, he said. “They liked everything about it.”

The planning commissioners rejected that rationale, standing firm behind the rights of people to come and speak, in opposition or in favor, about any project. “The one thing we agree on is they have every right to be here,” said Murphy.