Town Weighs in on Tysons

Town Weighs in on Tysons

County officials present information, announce series of public workshops for next month.

In what will eventually be known as the first steps for the future of Tysons Corner for at least the next 30 years, Vienna's Town Council welcomed members of the Tysons Corner Land Use Task Force on Monday for an informational session focusing on development plans for the area following Metrorail expansion.

"We are charged to do public outreach programs and get as many people involved and giving input on the changes that will comes to Tysons in the coming years," said Clark Tyler, chairman of the Fairfax County-appointed task force. "I don't think anyone is counting on the fairy to show up and say here are your three wishes — so we're going to need as much input from the people who this will affect as we can get."

The presentation included participation from developer PB Placemaking, an organization currently working on proposals for the region.

With a Metrorail expansion due sometime in the next several years — either below ground or above — Fairfax County's Board of Supervisors created the task force to conduct a comprehensive study of the development of the area with the assistance of local residents, business owners, developers and county officials. The 36-member group, formed in March 2005 and slated to run until early 2008, has been tasked by the county to update the Tysons Corner Comprehensive Plan, originally drafted in 1994, to meet the requirements of a new Metro-oriented region. Specifically, the group is re-evaluating existing zoning in the region and contemplating reclassification if officials believe that a development would be suitable for the region.

The groups' main objectives are to use public input to "improve the functionality of Tysons," while promoting pedestrian and public transportation and infrastructure adjustments to help mitigate increasing traffic levels, said Tyler.

"It doesn't take a math genius to figure out that this [kind of development] causes a traffic problem," he said, pointing out the need for planning on alternatives to driving so that the developments don't "just put a whole new bunch of cars on the streets."

The total square footage of building space in Tysons Corner is projected to grow from approximately 46 million to as much as 75 million square feet following the establishment of the four proposed Metro stops in the region, Tyler added. The development will boost the total numbers from the 17,000 people who currently live in Tysons Corner and the 100,000 who work there, he said.

AS VIENNA'S INCORPORATED limits sit at the southwestern border of Tysons Corner, the Town Council and residents have been working with the task force and county officials to make suggestions about the massive development that is expected to take place in Vienna's back yard over the course of the next several years.

"We want to let people know what the process is and when their opportunities will be to provide us with their input and get involved," said Sterling Wheeler, chief of policy and plan development for Fairfax County's Department of Planning and Zoning. "They mayor asked us to come here and see if we can get some information out."

The task force already met with town residents and officials at the Vienna Community Center in a "community dialogue" last year to discuss some of the concerns and requests, according to Wheeler. The session was the most popular of any of the 20 held in several regions inside and bordering Tysons Corner, with about 90 residents, including the mayor and several elected officials participating, he added.

Now, the project has moved into a further stage where residents looking to participate further in the process will be offered the opportunity to attend workshops to discuss "three distinct futures" for Tysons Corner and "identify issues" important to residents next month, according to Wheeler.

FINDING A WAY to manage development so that it does not overwhelm pre-existing infrastructure and basic community resources was the key issue for council members following the presentation.

"Right now, it looks pretty tidy in terms of the development on paper," said council member George Lovelace, "but the concern I have, even though we're supposed to get all this transportation, what do we do in the meantime during this 10- to 15-year development period?"

Lovelace suggested that the task force work to find and develop alternate traffic routes so that Vienna traffic, particularly on Route 123, which runs directly into Tysons Corner, does not become even more congested.

Some of the ideas in the works for Tysons Corner include promoting a heavily pedestrian lifestyle through dense mixed-use properties and "urban grid" style streets as well as a large amount of public transportation, including shuttle buses, to circulate regularly through the area, according to Tyler.

"I think our main concern here from getting out and talking to the residents is in making sure that our boundary stays where it is," Mayor M. Jane Seeman said. "We can't build a wall around ourselves ... and the further development we have the greater need we'll have for things like infrastructure, [available] utilities and public safety."

Tyler responded to Seeman's concern by telling her that there is absolutely no desire to allow for any rezoning outside of the immediate area of Tysons, citing that his own house lies right on Tysons Corner's border with McLean.

Vienna resident Dorothy Pech, who attended the work session presentation, said that she felt satisfied with all the concerns and suggestions being voiced by council members.

"Thankfully I don't have to drive through that area everyday, so obviously some of this wouldn't affect me as much as others," Pech said, "but I thought the council brought up a lot of great points."

But Pech did add a word of caution.

"All these things look good on paper, but I guess you always have to wait and see," she said. "Luckily this project isn't due for quite some time … so I don't think we have to worry about it too much at the moment."