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Votes

Looking Forward, Looking Back

<sh>MetroWest Madness

<bt>The MetroWest project passed a major milestone in 2005, but the real fight could happen in February of 2006.

MetroWest is a controversial proposal on 56 acres of land just south of the Vienna Metro station. In Dec. 2004, the Board of Supervisors voted to change the Comprehensive Plan for the area to allow about 2,250 homes, 300,000 square feet of office space and 100,000 square feet of retail.

A provision in the approval stated that the developer, Pulte Homes, must demonstrate that the project will not generate as much traffic as would normally be expected to. A consultant, UrbanTrans found that it would be possible to reduce the number of trips if a number of strategies are followed by the future residents. Some surrounding residents found fault with the study's methods and conclusions.

The proposal to rezone the property for the additional density was approved by the Planning Commission, and is scheduled to go before the Board of Supervisors for a public hearing in February 2006. The Board's decision is essentially the last public step necessary for construction of the project, which the developer has said could take 10 years to complete.

<sh>Mini-city in the Edge City

<bt>Now that the construction has finished on the new wing at the Tysons Corner Mall, the entire site may be redeveloped.

The mall's owner, Macerich Corp., has filed an application that would change the mall into a large mixed-use complex. The plan would tear down the building where Circuit City is and replace it with a high-rise condo building. In addition, up to seven other buildings including a total of 1,250 condos, 1.4 million square feet of office space, a 250,000 square foot hotel and about 125,000 square feet of retail (besides the existing mall) are proposed for the site.

The plan is scheduled for a public hearing before the Planning Commission on Feb. 23.

<sh>New Look for Tysons

<bt>During the 2004 review of the Comprehensive Plan, developers and landowners put in about 20 different proposals to alter the landscape in Tysons Corner.

With a Metro Line all but certain to make four stops in Tysons by 2011, these plans were all deferred for a comprehensive study, in the light of Metro.

In March, the Board of Supervisors created a task force to study the area. In May, the task force was reconstituted and former Board of Supervisors Chair Kate Hanley (D) was appointed to chair the task force.

The group began meeting in late summer and has met about twice a month since then. So far, they have reviewed what is already built, and what the Comprehensive Plan already allows. The two do not always match.

In 2006, the group will begin holding a series of meetings with citizens' and business groups, Hanley said.

They may have a preliminary draft in the late Spring, and a final set of recommendations by the fall.

For more information, including meeting summaries and schedules, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpz/tysonscorner.

<sh>Timberrrrr

<bt>A tree ended up costing a developer in Dunn Loring months in construction delays, and ultimately led to a county review of tree preservation policies.

The Board of Supervisors rezoned the Corbin property, also known as the Goat Farm, at the corner of Gallows and Idylwood roads to allow 14 houses. During the rezoning process the developer, John Batal, promised to save trees in two separate areas.

Some trees on the site were cut down. There is a dispute between Batal and county staff about how many of the trees were cut with permission, and if any of the tree removal represented a violation of the terms of the rezoning.

However, The Board of Supervisors required that Batal submit a revised plan, with new proffers to remedy the situation.

Batal complied, submitting a plan that will plant more, larger trees on the property than he had initially proposed.

Additionally, the county Department of Planning and Zoning is reviewing its procedures for how it administers tree save areas to avoid similar situations in the future.

<sh>Downtown Oakton Taking Shape

<bt>Oakton will soon get a new park and library along Hunter Mill Road. The Oakton Library, which was approved for funding in the 2004 bond referendum, could start construction in 2006.

The new library will go next to the Unity of Fairfax Church and is planned to relieve some pressure from Vienna's Patrick Henry library.

Just across the street, both the Park Authority Board and the Planning Commission approved the construction of Oakton Community Park. The roughly 10-acre park will be on the Corbalis Property on Hunter Mill Road.

The new park is planned to include a rectangular (soccer or lacrosse) field 50-space parking lot and trail system. Space has also been set aside for the Oakton Schoolhouse, which currently sits on the Appalachian Outfitters property. Chevy Chase Bank is in the process of purchasing the property, but the historic structures have held up progress.

Private funding may be available to build the new park, otherwise residents will have to wait for the next park bond cycle.

<sh>Headache on Hunter Mill

<bt>Every four or five years, property owners and developers have proposed increasing the density of about 226 acres around the intersection of Hunter Mill and Sunset Hills roads.

The land is planned for one house per two acres and is the edge of the low-density "green belt" around Reston designed to keep the higher densities from creeping toward Tysons.

In 2004, developers WCI/Renaissance and K. Hovnanian proposed an increase that would allow up to 16 houses per acre.

The Board of Supervisors voted in March to appoint a citizen task force to study the land and make a non-binding recommendation about what to do with it.

The 20-member task force began meeting in June, and held a two-part community input session. Hundreds of people came out to support sticking to the current large-lot plan of one home per two acres.

Some people came to speak in favor of increasing the density, but many of them were affiliated with the development team. The task force was bogged down with small things and really didn't much talk about the land use issues, although they did get extensive briefings about impacts of increasing the density on various services.

The task force was to have finished its work by the end of the year. It did not make its deadline, but the end is likely near.

The group might be ready to recommend no change to the density levels in the Comprehensive Plan. However some other changes, such as adding text to recognize the historic nature of Hunter Mill Road, may be on the agenda.

The Task Force should finish its work in early 2006. Their recommendations will then be forwarded on and any proposed change would require a public hearing before the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors before its adoption.

<sh>Really, There Never Were Midgets

<bt>The Board of Supervisors approved a controversial development on the Wedderburn property just outside of the Town of Vienna.

The area, commonly know as "Midgetville" after the urban legend that retired circus midgets lived in the small houses, was the subject of dueling proposals. Area citizens submitted a proposal to amend the Comprehensive Plan to reduce the allowable density on the 12-acre property at the intersection of Cedar Lane and the Washington and Old Dominion Trail.

At the same time, Elm Street Development submitted a proposal to increase the density on the land.

The citizen proposal was accepted, with major changes. Where the citizens had suggested incorporating requirements into the plan regarding a buffer from the trail and open space, the Board of Supervisors changed the requirements to guidelines.

The Board said that the plan is a guiding tool that should not include specific requirements. Neighbors pointed to other parts of the Comprehensive Plan with language similar to their proposals.

The developer's proposal, which went through several iterations, was finally approved. It calls for putting 24 houses on the land. Where residents had wanted the houses to be at least 75 feet from the trail, the closest houses will be about 60 feet.

The other sticking point was a stream that runs through the property. The stream had initially been classified as a perennial stream รณ meaning that the Chesapeake Bay preservation ordinance prevents development within 100 feet of either side of the stream.

The developers were able to reclassify the stream as intermittent. Several days a year, there water is not visibly flowing in the stream, which the developer and county say means the stream is intermittent, changing the standards about how close buildings can be to the stream.

Neighbors presented scientific data stating that the flora and fauna in the stream bed point to a subsurface flow of water and argue that the stream therefore should enjoy the 100 foot buffer. Residents also complained that the rigorous method for classifying a stream as perennial is undermined by an easier method for having it classified as intermittent.

In the end, the development will have a 50-foot buffer from the sides of the stream to the new houses. Construction on the houses could begin as early as this summer.