The Fairfax County Planning Commission early today recommended a plan for development around the Vienna Metro station that would allow heavy residential and commercial building on land widely considered to be some of the most valuable in Northern Virginia.
The commission's 1:15 a.m. vote came amid considerable confusion occasioned by the last-minute introduction of the compromise plan that was approved. The recommendation for shaping development around the end-of-the-Orange-Line Vienna station, which opens next month, now goes to the county Board of Supervisors for a final decision.
The recommendation calls for 1,750 town houses and apartments, two 300-room hotels and 2.4 million square feet of office and retail space.
If adopted by the supervisors, who are scheduled to take it up on Monday, the plan could transform nearly 200 acres of wooded land surrounding existing neighborhoods into a center of employment marked by 19-story towers, parking space for 2,000 cars and served by a network of widened and improved roads.
The proposal approved early today generated considerable confusion when it was presented after midnight by Rosemarie Annunziata, the planning commissioner from the Providence District. That district includes the Vienna Metro station, which is just south of the Vienna town limits in the median strip of Interstate Rte. 66 a dozen miles west of the District of Columbia.
Annunziata's proposal, which would set lower building limits than three other plans that were before the commission, was included in a sheaf of about 25 typewritten and scrawled pages.
"Whoever said you should not see sausages and laws be made probably had this evening in mind," said Robert P. Sparks Jr., the Mason District planning commissioner, who abstained from the final vote. "I don't want to be a part of it," he said, complaining that the proposal was arbitrary and its ramifications unknown.
Martha V. Pennino, vice chairman of the county supervisors, who watched the Planning Commission meeting from the audience, also said the proposal baffled her. "Maybe Annunziata understands it, but it's not understandable to the general public. I'm not sure the intent is clear."
Annunziata, however, portrayed her proposal as attempting to reconcile the competing interests of a half-dozen developers, area residents and county officials.
"I certainly believe that ultimately all of us are going to have to do some balancing," she said.
Her proposal would permit less retail and office space and fewer apartments and condominiums than the other plans considered by the board. Annunziata described her plan as "on the side of being conservative -- lesser density instead of greater."
Members of the county planning staff voiced skepticism about Annuziata's proposal after the meeting. They said that the levels of development permitted under the plan might be too low to offer builders incentives to make adequate road improvements for the area.
They also said that they were not certain that the levels of development permitted under the plan would allow builders enought profit to undertake development projects.
The recommendation of the Planning Commission is to change the county master plan, which governs zoning patterns. If the supervisors adopt the recommendation, developers would then submit rezoning requests based on specific projects.
The most prominent of the developers planning projects at the site is John T. (Til) Hazel, whose firm, Hazel-Peterson Companies, owns 61 acres north of the station.
Hazel's proposal calls for 1.9 million square feet of office and retail space, but the commission's recommendation would allow him only 860,000 square feet.