Richmond Highway Changes on Hold

The Fairfax County Planning Commission deferred for further study a package of proposals which could have dramatically increased the permitted density along the northern end of Richmond Highway.

The proposals, submitted by the Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation would have changed the county’s Comprehensive Plan to allow office development on about 18 acres along the northern edge of Richmond Highway.

The proposal, however, did not specify a maximum density level. Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning staff think there should be no more than 744,000 square feet, while area citizens and The Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation would prefer 2.3 million.

The proposal for change, initiated by Rick Neel of the corporation came as part of Fairfax County’s review of its Comprehensive Plan. According to state law, every locality must review its plan every five years. Fairfax’s does this through the Area Plans Review process. Beginning last year, residents, developers and property owners in the Springfield, Mount Vernon, Mason, Lee and Braddock magisterial districts could submit proposals, more formally known as nominations, to change the plan. There are no restrictions on what might be suggested.

The proposals are then analyzed by the county’s Department of Planning and Zoning and a citizen task force. Often, proposals which are opposed by either county staff or the community are withdrawn. Those that are not go to the Planning Commission for a public hearing. Proposals rejected by the Planning Commission stop there. Proposals accepted by the commission go to the Board of Supervisors for an additional public hearing and final decision.

Neel’s proposal had generated concern among some members of the Planning Commission during the June 21 Public Hearing, who noted that the higher density level would result in land even more dense than Tysons Corner.

Department of Planning and Zoning staff said that the higher density level would generate too much traffic, and would overwhelm the area.

"Further analysis is needed before a recommendation can be made," said Commissioner John Byers during the Planning Commission’s July 26 meeting. The commission voted to defer the proposal to allow for further study.

Other proposals in the Mount Vernon district which were approved will now move to the Board of Supervisors for a public hearing and final decision on Sept. 25.