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Q&A: Former Tysons task force member discusses changes to land-use plan

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By Jonathan O'Connell
Monday, June 21, 2010

Stuart Mendelsohn, a partner and land-use attorney at Holland & Knight, is nearing the end of his term as chairman of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce. Mendelsohn is a former Republican member of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and served on the task force that created a land-use plan for Tysons Corner. Changes to the plan are slated for a vote on June 22.

What do you think of the draft amendment to the Tysons plan as it stands?

The Tysons plan has evolved from something that was going to be incentive-based to transform Tysons into something now that's a very cautious plan that's probably got more impediments to growth than it probably does transforming Tysons.

What are some of the impediments that developers are concerned about?

You've got housing requirements that are much higher than anywhere else in the county, you've got transportation requirements that are higher than anywhere else in the county, you've got green requirements that are higher than anywhere else in the county.

What will the effects be then?

My thinking is -- and this is where I disagree with the county staff -- is that people are either going to develop by right or not develop at all, because there is no incentive there to meet all the requirements that are being asked for, for development. You know we got a few pieces that are right at the Metro stations. You're not going to get grid streets, which the staff even says is the most critical piece in order for Tysons to be successful. But if you're only going to allow density at the core stations and not elsewhere, you're not going to get grid streets. So you're not going to improve transportation, we're just going to have a little bit more development than we have today, with a lot worse traffic.

So we will have development that is spread out and not highly dense at the stations?

Well no, I think you're going to have significant development at each station because that's what's encouraged in the plan, but you're not going to have all the residential development that we hoped for, to have a true 24-7 walkable community. It's not going to happen. You're just going to have more of what you've got today and, you know, hope for the best.

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