Two of the most controversial proposals to change the county’s land-use guidelines were stopped by the Planning Commission, while a third passed, albeit in a modified form.
Beginning last year, citizens across the county submitted proposals, called nominations, for changes to the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan, in the Providence, Sully, Hunter Mill and Dranesville magisterial districts. These nominations were reviewed by a citizen task force in each of the districts.
In the Providence District, 21 nominations in the Tysons Corner area were deferred, pending a Transportation and Urban Design study, which is currently under way. Of the remaining nominations, only seven came to the Planning Commission for review. Those denied by the commission go no further. The others will go on to the Board of Supervisors, which has a public hearing scheduled for the Providence District on Monday, July 11.
The proposal for the Wedderburn Property generated the most discussion of the night. The area is located south of the Washington & Old Dominion trail and west of Cedar Lane, and is popularly known as "Midgetville."
The Wedderburn family, which has owned the land for over a century, is selling it to be developed. The land is currently planned for two-three houses per acre. It is zoned for a lower number. The property is simultaneously the subject of a proposed plan amendment that will reduce the planned density and a rezoning application which will increase the zoned density. The rezoning application has taken several forms, and the most recent application calls for a density of just under two houses per acre, within the limit set by the proposed plan amendment.
The area also has a stream which runs through it. The stream had been classified as perennial, meaning that parts of the land would have been subject to development restrictions. The classification was changed to intermittent, which removes those strictures. Area neighbors were upset at the way the stream was declassified. Once the stream leaves the property, it is again perennial; but once it enters the Town of Vienna, it again becomes intermittent.
DURING THE task force deliberations on the nomination, it added language calling for specific restrictions, such as a 50-foot buffer from the W&OD Trail and respecting the stream buffer, even though the county has determined that the stream is not perennial.
Commissioner Ken Lawrence (Providence) did not agree with these specifics. "The Plan is to be a general guide to land use," he said, adding that the plan is to be used only as a broad guide and should not include the level of detail suggested in the task force recommendation. "The specificity sought by the nominator is too restrictive," he said.
Lawrence agreed that the plot should be down-planned to one-two houses per acre. He agreed that a buffer from the trail is needed as well as respect for the stream and recognition of some of the specimen trees on the property; he did not include the specifics.
A contingent of area neighbors came to the meeting carrying signs saying "Don’t Gut the Language," among other things. Commissioner Janet Hall (Mason) defended Lawrence’s actions. "The language is not gutted, in my opinion," she said.
"It’s gutted," shouted David Levy, one of the neighbors, from his seat in the auditorium.
"It is in conformance with the Comprehensive Plan, which is what it needs to be," Hall said. "I think Commissioner Lawrence did the right thing."
The Planning Commission voted to deny the application known as Poplar Terrace. This area is located west of the MetroWest development and the Vienna/Fairfax Metrostation, but does not fall within the 1/2-mile radius necessary to be considered a transit-oriented development. "The subject property is naturally outside the transit station area," said Lawrence.
The proposal which would have demolished roughly 70 single-family homes and replaced them with more than 1,400 townhouses and condos was deemed too dense. While the development may be appropriate within a 1/4-mile radius of the Metrostation, it is not appropriate in a suburban neighborhood, Lawrence said.
On the opposite side of the station, a proposal to intensify a section of Swanee Lane, just off Nutley Street, was also defeated. The land is in the Briarwood area, and abuts a more dense area. The neighborhood, however, has a varied set of densities, so two different areas abutting each other is in character with the rest of the development. "In point of fact, the Briarwood neighborhood has developed over time with different residential densities abutting each other," Lawrence said.