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Pile It On at the ‘Fair’s’

Plans to expand Fair Lakes and Fair Oaks are heard by the Planning Commission.

Two major developments operated by the Peterson Companies would add almost 2 million square feet of development to the center of Fairfax County, if the plans are approved.

The proposals 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 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 Often, proposals which are opposed by either county staff or the community are withdrawn.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.

The first of these proposals is in the Fairfax Corner development, a mixed use area with some office space, a movie theater, restaurants and other retail shops and residential space.

The development has been very successful, said Frank McDermott, attorney for the Peterson Companies. Peterson is hoping to add more of each of these components, 290 condos and about 375,000 square feet of non-residential uses. The plan will also change to better reflect the current conditions.

One problem with the area, acknowledged by Peterson, is the lack of convenient parking. While there are spaces in outlying lots, the parking near restaurants and shops is scarce. Peterson Companies hopes to rectify this. “We will end up creating parking structures within the core,” McDermott said.

FAIR LAKES COULD also grow dramatically under a proposal from Peterson. The total Fair Lakes development comprises about 660 acres. Peterson would like to expand development on about 128 of those acres by adding more than 1.4 million square feet including 560-600 condos and about 736,000 square feet of non-residential space.

County staff recommended rejecting a portion of the request and altering other parts, citing what they said would be issues with compatibility of uses and pedestrian connectivity. However, the citizen task force which studied the plan approved it.

The task force rejected two proposals by landowner J. Peter Winfield. Winfield submitted two separate proposals for land he owns, each of which would have increased the density by about 10 times what is currently permitted. Additionally, both of these parcels of land are in areas which are not served by sewer service.

In an unusual move, Planning Commission chair Peter Murphy (Springfield) commented on both proposals prior to the start of the public hearings. Both of these properties, Murphy noted, are within the Occoquan watershed and were part of the area which had been downzoned to protect water quality.

These proposals, Murphy said, directly contradict the point of the downzoning. “It is density that would not be acceptable in the Occoquan,” he said. “This commission will not break the Occoquan.”

Murphy said he had been contacted by Winfield who wished to withdraw his proposals, but the deadline had already passed.

As is standard in Area Plans Review cases, the Planning Commission deferred its decision to allow for additional time to study the nominations and to hear from the community. The commission will hold a “mark-up” session where it will discuss and decide on this, and all of the other nominations in all of the districts, on July 26.