MetroWest Development Is Approved In Fairfax

By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Fairfax County agreed last night to let a developer replace a neighborhood of 65 single-family homes at the Vienna Metro station with a massive complex of mid- and high-rise towers that could transform the way people live, commute and work in Washington's largest suburb.

The Board of Supervisors' approval of Pulte Homes' MetroWest project, after three hours of public comment, ended a contentious three-year debate over how the county should find homes for its ever-growing population.

Instead of sprawling cul-de-sacs, MetroWest will cluster offices, stores and 2,250 townhouses, condominiums and apartments south of the Vienna Station, making the project the centerpiece of an effort to concentrate development in dense, urban settings.

It's a vision that's sweeping land-use decisions from Largo to Tysons Corner, where planners and politicians -- to the chagrin of many neighbors -- are accommodating the region's demand for housing with densely packed homes on slivers of land near public transit with the goal of coaxing people from their cars.

MetroWest's many critics have argued that the mini-city will bring too many cars to the congested roads off Interstate 66 and too many riders to the crowded Orange Line. But county leaders said the cluster of 13 buildings on 56 acres will concentrate growth in the only space left in Fairfax, the Metro station's back yard.

The buildings closest to the station will feature retail stores on the ground level, with condominiums, apartments and offices above, tapering to townhouses farther from the station. The complex will be linked by narrow streets designed for pedestrians.

"We've seen people who think this [project] represents runaway growth," said Linda Q. Smyth (D-Providence), whose district includes the site. "In fact, it is just the opposite. This is growth that has been constrained. There is not density creep here."

Smyth criticized what she called a "politicization of the land-use process" during the debate on the project.

The vote late last night was 8 to 1, with Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) opposing. Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) was absent.

Frey said he could not support the project because too many MetroWest residents will compete with his constituents for space on the county's roads.

"We seem to act as if the people who don't use transit will disappear when they get off the site," he said. "They won't. The people I represent today can't find a parking space at the Metro."

The planning commission backed the project, which will be one of the county's densest developments, earlier this month.

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