Connolly Promotes Dense Development Near Transit Hubs

By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 22, 2005

As high-density redevelopment roils homeowner politics in Fairfax County, Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly told local business leaders recently that it is the county's best hope for stalling traffic congestion.

The buzzword among planners is "transit-oriented development," which generally means a mix of apartment or condominium towers, townhouses, offices and stores near subway stations.

Instead of single-family homes on suburban lots ranging in size from a quarter-acre to five acres, this building pattern is dense and designed to get people out of their cars.

But many of the people who were there first don't like it.

"Sometimes you hear people say, 'I moved to the suburbs to preserve the suburbs,' " Connolly (D) told about 20 business leaders at a Dec. 14 breakfast address to the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce. "We're not just single-family, detached subdivisions anymore. We're not in the same place we were 30 years ago."

High-density, mixed-use projects are planned or underway at the county's five Metro stations, and county officials envision similar growth around stations planned for Tysons Corner and along the Dulles Toll Road as Metrorail is extended to Dulles International Airport.

The most controversial of these is MetroWest, a redevelopment project at the Vienna Metro station that calls for 2,250 townhouses and condominiums plus offices and stores. Homeowners groups are fighting the project, calling for a lower density and predicting that the neighborhood will be engulfed by traffic even if some residents use trains.

But Connolly called the previous land use on the property -- about 60 homes on one-acre lots -- a "poster child" for "bad planning" at a train station.

"You cannot buy a cup of coffee at the Vienna Metro," he said. So people drive to a nearby coffee shop, adding cars to the roads.

Other concerns have focused on the Orange Line, which is already over capacity. Connolly noted that eight-car trains are planned to carry more passengers on the line.

He also said that the Board of Supervisors, which is scheduled to hear Pulte Homes' rezoning application for MetroWest early next year, is likely to require more retail space and age-restricted housing for retirees, who are less likely to commute.

"This is sort of a fight about the soul of the county and future of the county," Connolly said.

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