As it stands, Fair Lakes is more than 7 million square feet of development spread across more than 600 acres at the intersection of Routes 50 and 66 in the center of Fairfax County. On Feb. 28, a citizen task force recommended allowing another 1.4 million square feet of development in the area.
The change, proposed by the Peterson Companies, came as part of the Springfield District’s Area Plans Review process. [see sidebar]
Most of the proposed increase would come in land along the Fairfax County Parkway, north of Route 66. If ultimately approved, it would add about 700,000 square feet of residential space, and 736,000 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.
Frank McDermott, attorney for the Peterson Companies, argued that Fair Lakes is an ideal spot for development. It is served by several major roads, and there is land set aside for two metro stations, if metro is ever extended from Vienna to Centreville.
“There is truly no better place than right here, except possibly Tysons Corner,” he said.
The buildings would be compatible with existing buildings and Fair Lakes already has an extensive network of trails, he said.
Parking was a main concern for the task force. The new development is planned to go on top of existing parking lots. While the development would include building garages, Task Force Chair Mark Cummings wondered what would happen during construction, particularly in front of retailers during the Christmas shopping season. “If they don’t have parking, they’re going to come screaming at you,” he said.
The Peterson Companies would develop strategies to deal with parking issues, McDermott, said. If the project is ultimately approved, McDermott estimated that it would take 15 years to complete the new construction.
Fairfax Corner, another development owned by the Peterson Companies, is also hoping to grow. The 32-acre site located at the corner of Monument road and Government Center Parkway also has parking issues.
The center has sufficient parking, said Jeff Saxe of Peterson, but not in the right spot.
“We recognize we have a distribution problem,” Saxe said. While the center has 2,200 spaces, 300 of them are in a side lot, across Government Center Parkway and far from the stores. “Telling [customers] they just have to walk a little bit doesn’t work,” Saxe said.
The developer proposes building new office buildings with parking garages on what are currently surface parking lots on either side of the movie theater. The office building and movie theater can share parking well, Saxe said, since the office building will need the lot during the day, and the theater at night.
When the new buildings are complete, which Saxe estimated would take eight-10 years, there will be more parking, and more per 1,000 square feet of retail space.
Planning and Zoning staff agreed that the plan is a good idea, as long as text is added to address transportation and design issues, and to ensure that the new buildings are integrated into the existing development. The task force agreed, and approved the plan.
A proposal which would reshape a section of Lee Highway met with opposition from one task force member who live in an adjoining neighborhood. Landmark Property wants to redevelop the stretch of Lee Highway form Shirley Gate Road to Forest Hill Drive, more than tripling the number of homes allowed.
The current plan would allow for residential development at three houses per acre and some office space. If developed under the current plan, it would generate about 40 houses and 35,000 square feet of office space.
Landmark’s proposes to change the plan to allow five-to-eight houses per acre, just more than 130 units (townhouses and condos), and a little more than 31,000 square feet of retail space.
The area is changing, and being developed with higher density projects, said John Thillmann, a representative of Landmark and former Fairfax County Planning Commissioner.
The area is developing rapidly, and is slated for a major interchange. “The impacts are there on the horizon,” he said. “You’ve got to create something that is going to survive those impacts.”
Cummings, the task force chair, questioned if the area can withstand the extra development. He noted that although an interchange is planned, it is a long way from actually being built.
“It’s already an ‘F’ intersection,’ he said. “It’s as bad as it gets.”
Fred Bailey, a task force member who lives in the abutting Deerfield Forest neighborhood, said that his neighbors, who live in detached houses, are opposed to the new development.
“They specifically do not want townhouses bordering our community,” he said.
Sherry Fisher, another task force member, said the development could be an improvement. The area is now home to a self-storage facility and other commercial uses, she noted. “I think it might be prettier there to have houses,” Fisher said.
County staff recommended a compromise position of four houses per acre, and some task force members agreed. But ultimately, the task force deadlocked on what proposal might be best. They deferred their decision to March 7, when they voted to reject the proposal, and retain the current plan.
The task force also approved a request from Kim Jin Man to increase the density on a property at 6104 Union Mill Road in the Clifton area. The one-acre area is currently planned for up to one house per acre, and the task force agreed to allow Man to increase the density to up to three per acre, if certain conditions are met.
The task force also rejected two proposals from J. Peter Winfield. Both of these proposals would have taken low-density areas (one is planned for one house per five acres, and the other for up to two per acre) and converted them to high density (16-20 units per acre).
Both pieces of land lie outside of the Approved Sewer Service Area, which means that it would not have sufficient sewer service to accommodate such intense development.
All of the proposals now go to the Fairfax County Planning Commission and are scheduled for a public hearing on June. 22.