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Votes

New Zoning Concept Takes Shape

Project to lead way for infill development.

The Planning Commission Tuesday night gave its support to the "first form based code provision development proposal" dealing with an infill project. Such projects are predicted to become more the norm in a city where very few large open land masses remain.

To be named "The Lofts at Del Ray Village," the mixed-use-development is significant "because it proposes the redevelopment of one of the large vacant sites on Mount Vernon Avenue" and the first to use the new land use formula "so integral to the Mount Vernon Avenue Plan," according to Planning and Zoning Department staff.

Development applications following the newly instituted "form based" code provisions "allow landowners and developers to know beforehand the city and the community's goals" as well as providing "a foundation on which to judge urban infill projects," staff said.

Described by the applicant Gaver Nichols as "a home-grown plan," he told the commissioners, "This will be the first new building on Mount Vernon Avenue in years." It will be located at 2707-2711 Mount Vernon Avenue, at the intersection with East Raymond Avenue.

As the initial project of the new Mount Vernon Avenue Business Area Plan and Urban Overlay Zone, the three-story mixed use building will include approximately 4,500 square feet of ground floor commercial use with four residential units on the upper two levels. A 16-space surface parking lot will be located at the rear of the structure.

Previously the site of a single family home that was demolished in the mid-1970s, the 13,619-square-foot parcel has been vacant. It will now be subdivided into four lots to accommodate four vertical units. Each individual unit will range in size from 2,053 to 2,949 square feet.

Residential units will contain from 1,057 to 1,464 square feet each with two bedrooms, and a roof top deck to the front and rear. Commercial units on the ground floor will be designed to serve office and/or personal service uses, according to the application.

STAFF'S DISCUSSED the two potential uses of the ground floor space. "First, retail uses, while not prohibited by the zoning at this location, have not been included as an option because there is insufficient parking to support them. A parking reduction would be necessary if a restaurant or other retail use is to occupy" that space, they said. This would require the approval of a special use permit.

Secondly, there is no requirement that the ground floor units be used for commercial purposes. "Given the market, staff sees the potential for future purchasers ... using the ground floor and basement areas for residential uses. The zoning permits an all residential building," they said. However, they also noted, such use "would not have a significantly negative impact on the neighborhood."

This proposal "presents an opportunity to redevelop a long vacant site ... with a mixed-use building that has the potential to contribute to the activity and character of the Avenue in the way envisioned by the Mount Vernon Avenue Plan," staff stated in their report.

In addition to the commission, the proposal received enthusiastic support from Del Ray Citizens Association. It was discussed at four of its meetings, including the latest on May 19.

The only caution expressed at Tuesday night's meeting pertained to the potential runoff of storm water due to increasing the impervious surface area. Emily Baker, city engineer, Department of Transportation and Environmental Services, told the commissioners, "We are aware of this situation and we will monitor it as the project progresses." It was approved unanimously by the commission.

IN OTHER ACTIONS, the commission:

* Approved the extension of a development special use permit for Alexandria Toyota, 3750 Jefferson Davis Highway, to construct a parking structure. As explained by attorney Harry Hart, representing the applicant, this was previously approved and the applicant is seeking a 24-month extension "so they can retire debt before commencing the new construction." If not used within a specified time, SUPs expire. As explained by Commission Chairman Eric Wagner, "We are only being asked to extend this application." The previously approved SUP allows for the construction of 12 additional service bays at the rear of the present building and a five and one half level 723 parking space structure for vehicle storage.

* Approved a request to vacate an area of the public right-of- way at the northwest corner of South Fairfax and South Franklin streets. The controversial aspect of the request pertains to a petition pending before the Board of Architectural Review, Old and Historic District, to demolish the present building on the site which houses a neighborhood delicatessen and dry cleaners. Julie Crenshaw argued the vacation should be deferred until action by BAR. Attorney Duncan Blair, representing the applicant, Steven Switch, LLC, said his client wishes to consolidate that property with existing property he owns at 211 Franklin St. and 632 S. Fairfax St. Approving the vacation brings the total lot size to 5,612 square feet, adding 10 feet of frontage on South Fairfax Street. Blair said, "The owner will not be building on the lot but intends to maintain it as a side yard."

* Approved a request by the city departments of Transportation and Environmental Services; Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities, and Planning and Zoning to acquire the property at 2600 Business Center Drive for use as outdoor recreational fields. The 13.7 acre site is located north of the CSX/Norfolk Southern Railroad right-of-way, south of Witter Drive and east of a city-owned industrial building. Commissioners found it was consistent with the Open Space Chapter of the City Master Plan. Aimee Vosper, landscape architectural supervisor, Recreation and Parks Department, said, "We will be holding several public hearing on this proposal in June and July. The SUP will not be filed until the fall."