Planning 20 Parks: Inside Tysons or Out?

Planning 20 Parks: Inside Tysons or Out?

Vienna and McLean affected by 30-year vision for Tysons; more debate Feb. 23.

“If Tysons is to be a place where citizens live, work and play, then it must have adequate athletic fields within its borders.” — Town of Vienna Mayor Laurie A. DiRocco

When creating a new city, county planners target a precise number of parks. Vienna and McLean are the most affected by Tysons planning.

Tysons needs 20 playing fields, a vision articulated in the 2010 Tysons Comprehensive Plan based on projections through 2050 ranging from demographics, office and residential use, transportation and more.

“If Tysons is to be a place where citizens live, work and play, then it must have adequate athletic fields within its borders,” said Town of Vienna Mayor Laurie A. DiRocco.

The plan calls for one field for every 4.5 million square feet of mixed use development, according to Planning Commission documents.

“The availability of 20 athletic fields will most certainly make Tysons a more desirable location as against its competitors,” said Rob Jackson, co-chair of the Greater Tysons Citizens Coalition and a member of the McLean Citizens Association.

“We have extreme concern about any attempt to weaken the requirement for the landowners to provide 20 fullsize-athletic fields to allow its residents, children, adolescents and adults to live, work, study and play in Tysons,” Jackson said.

Residents and business owners of Tysons and surrounding jurisdictions testified before the county’s Planning Commission Wednesday, Feb. 8 to respond to current reorganizing of the voluminous Tysons Comprehensive Plan.

Speakers, planners, developers and commissioners debated specifically a new sentence on page 112 of the plan:

“Some of the active recreation facility needs may be accommodated by adding or upgrading facilities at existing or future public school sites or in nearby existing parks surrounding Tysons,” according to proposed edits to the Comprehensive Plan Amendment.

That “stands out significantly as it is more than a mere editorial change,” said Mark Zetts, longtime planning and zoning chair of the McLean Citizens Association, who was recognized by the Planning Commissioners on Feb. 8 for his continuous service to McLean, Tysons and Fairfax County.

“This inserted language is problematic on multiple levels,” said Zetts.

“The Town of Vienna, contiguous to Tysons, currently does not have adequate field space for its residents and youth. We don’t want Tysons population growth to add to the shortage and negatively impact our quality of life,” said DiRocco.

Sally Horn, McLean resident and co-chair of the MCA’s Tysons Liaison Committee, said the “added language would increase the pressure to place athletic fields designed to serve Tysons in the surrounding communities, including McLean, which lack useable, sufficient available land to meet both Tysons needs and the needs of their communities.”

“Forcing [Tysons residents] to get into cars and drive elsewhere for field access defeats the vision for Tysons.” — Rob Jackson, co-chair, Greater Tysons Citizens Coalition and member, McLean Citizens Association

VIENNA AND McLEAN don’t have enough fields for their own use, said Jackson.

“There simply is insufficient vacant land in Vienna and McLean that is suitable for athletic fields. If there were, existing volunteer sports groups would have laid claim to the vacant land years ago.”

“McLean’s athletic fields are already oversubscribed and ... we have our own separate needs for additional fields,” said Horn.

Forcing Tysons residents and employees to “get into cars and drive elsewhere for field access defeats the vision for Tysons,” said Jackson. “It also would add to traffic congestion, both inside and nearby Tysons.”

“While Tysons is off to a good start, transportation failure is still on the radar screen,” said Jackson.

But creating a grid of streets for Tysons makes planning for irregular shapes difficult, especially diamond-shaped fields needed for baseball and softball leagues, according to county planners.

Currently, they forecast need for approximately 11 diamond shaped fields and nine rectangular fields. But county planners reported last Wednesday that developers have been more willing to proffer for rectangular fields.

Sol Glasner, interim president and executive director of the Tysons Partnership, said they are not advocating for fewer fields but flexibility in how fields are planned while Tysons takes shape.

“Proposed changes to the Comprehensive Plan that limit flexibility will make it more challenging to meet the vision of Tysons that we all share,” said Glasner.

Dranesville Planning Commissioner John Ulfelder asked DiRocco, “What if somebody showed up in Vienna and said, ‘We’re prepared to install turf and put up lights and upgrade your existing diamond fields.’ How would you react?”

“If the county decided to do that, we’d be very happy for that to happen, yes,” said DiRocco. “We are always looking for improving our fields and the use is needed tremendously.”

COUNTY PLANNERS suggested that some developers could be willing to upgrade softball and baseball fields outside Tysons.

“I know that some have argued that since McLean and Vienna youth sports leagues currently are the predominant users of the fields in Tysons, it would make more sense for Tysons developers to upgrade those fields rather than to build the full complement of required fields in Tysons,” said Horn.

“This argument misses the point,” she said. “We are not planning for 2020 or even 2030; we are planning for the infrastructure required in 2050, when the demographics of Tysons — 200,000 employees and 100,000 residents — will require at least 20 urban fields in Tysons to meet the needs of youth and adults who live and or work in Tysons.”

Providence Planning Commission Phil Niedzielski-Eichner scheduled a decision-only meeting of the Planning Commission on Feb. 23.

Additional topics to be discussed include traffic demand management and transportation, initial development levels and forecasted growth, public facilities and environmental stewardship.

Get Involved:

Tysons Comprehensive Plan Amendment

Planning Commission decision only hearing:

Thursday, Feb. 23, 8:15 p.m.

Board of Supervisors public hearing:

Tuesday, March 14, 2017, 4 p.m.

Fairfax County Government Center Building, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, Va. 22035

The Tysons vision forecasts an urban center that include 200,000 jobs and 100,000 residents, 75 percent of development within a half-mile walk of four Metro stations, a sustained Tysons with restored streams, a network of public parks, open spaces and trails, and a redesigned transportation system with circular routes, community shuttles, feeder bus serve and improved pedestrian and bicycle routes and connections. The Tysons Comprehensive Plan Amendment proposes to update recommendations for the Tysons Urban Center to reconcile the text and maps with studies and planning activities that have been completed since 2010, such as grid and other transportation studies, urban design guidelines and a transportation funding plan.