Northern Virginia developer John T. (Til) Hazel is used to getting his way.
But Hazel, for years a driving force in Fairfax County development with projects such as Fair Lakes and Burke Center, is meeting opposition from Fairfax County officials on his latest project -- a plan for an office building-commercial center on 61 acres next to the Vienna Metrorail station.
County officials say they want to preserve the residential character of the area around the Metro station, which is scheduled to open this summer at I-66 and Nutley Street near the Vienna town limits.
Hazel's plan would transform the predominantly residential community into a busy hub of high-rise office buildings and retail establishments to be called the Vienna Center. Most county officials have a starkly different vision -- one that includes more neighborhoods and more controllable traffic flow -- for the approximately 175-acre area at the end of Metro's Orange Line.
"It doesn't make sense to put hundreds of millions of dollars into something you can't get to" because of road congestion, contended Fairfax County Supervisor James M. Scott (D-Providence).
"The county has completely failed to realize the excitement and dynamic aspects of that site," countered Hazel, who said he was "disgusted by the approach the county staff has taken" during the Vienna station review, which has been under way for about 1 1/2 years. Mayor Charles A. Robinson of Vienna, the town that will bear the brunt of whatever development comes to the Vienna Metro area, said the road network in and around his town is ill-equipped to accommodate the congestion that would accompany either proposal.
"There's a feeling in Vienna that the county's land use policies mold Fairfax's life style to the needs of land developers" rather than to residents, Robinson said.
Either plan, he said, "would impose an enormous burden of very heavy traffic congestion, probably of the magnitude of that encountered at Tysons Corner."
The debate is occurring during an unusually contentious period in the relationship between developers and county officials, who are being lobbied hard by citizen groups to limit growth.
The county planning staff has proposed residential construction as the chief component of a mixed-use development adjacent to the Metro station. Scott, whose district encompasses the proposed development site, supports that plan.
For Hazel's property, that would mean about 1,000 residential units. Hazel has proposed between 350 and 400 units.
The county's proposal includes a 60 percent-to-40 percent mix of commercial-to-residential development at the site; under Hazel's plan, commercial and office development would make up 83 percent of the construction, with the remaining 17 percent devoted to housing.
"This is the [plan] we're going to pursue," declared Hazel when asked whether he was open to compromise with the county.
The county Board of Supervisors is scheduled to begin formal consideration of zoning in the Vienna Metro area at public hearings in April and May.
In Scott's view, the degree of commercial use proposed by Hazel creates the danger of monumental traffic congestion. Labeling Hazel's plan "ridiculous," Scott said he is "afraid that would clog the road network even worse than it is right now and make it impossible for people to get to the Metro, and that's not sound planning."
Supervisor Audrey Moore (D-Annandale) agreed. She said Metro will be unable to serve as an effective mass transit network for residents if the nearby highways are overly congested.
Fairfax Board of Supervisors Chairman John F. Herrity said he had reservations about the proposals of Hazel and the county staff. "Til Hazel is creating a greater amount of commercial [use] than I would like," Herrity said.
Also opposed to Hazel's plan is board Vice Chairman Martha V. Pennino (D-Centreville). "The Metro station was sold to the people of Fairfax on the basis that it would be a convenient way for getting into Washington," she said. "It wasn't sold as a way to bring about commercial and industrial development around transit stops."
Asked whether she believed that Hazel would win this round, Pennino said, "I frankly don't think the votes are there on the board for it."
Hazel has lost one round in another zoning battle being waged in rural Centreville in southwestern Fairfax County. On Feb. 10 the county board endorsed the report of a citizen task force that cautioned against excessive office and commercial development in Centreville.
Hazel had urged that the report be rejected and replaced with one from a group of developers, including himself, that recommended doubling the density suggested by the citizen group.