A report on redevelopment of land around the East Falls Church Metro station concludes that current zoning regulations are sufficient to accommodate future development.
At the same time, the report urges the retention of neighborhood retail operations and recommends that traffic studies be conducted in an effort to find ways to prevent commuters from whisking through residential neighborhoods.
A joint committee of Arlington and Falls Church citizens has submitted the report to the Arlington County Board and Falls Church City Council.
It outlines criteria for future redevelopment around the Metro station, an area that straddles both jurisdictions.
The committee was established last August by both jurisdictions. The area of consideration is the roughly quarter-mile stretch of Lee Highway that runs from I-66 in Arlington on the east to Columbia Street in Falls Church on the west. The 31-acre commercial strip contains about 100 businesses and is closely surrounded by residential neighborhoods in both jurisdictions.
"Both communities want to maintain the residential character of that area," said Paul Terrence O'Grady, a Falls Church representative on the committee. "That's not simply bowing to neighborhood pressure. That's part of a broader vision that both governments have for that area."
"It's too small an area to support large-scale commercial development," said Michael Volpe, also a Falls Church member of the group. "It would overwhelm the surrounding communities."
Currently, the commercial area is sprinkled with neighborhood-oriented businesses such as restaurants, automobile service centers, an animal hospital and a hardware store. There are also several industrial operations on the stretch, including a warehouse and a lumberyard.
"The committee felt that existing zoning regulations would allow for reasonable redevelopment," said Paul Quinn, a member of the Falls Church Planning Commission, who was a chairman of the group.
Falls Church zoning laws limit buildings in the area to 45 feet high or about four stories, while Arlington regulations allow buildings of 75 feet high or about seven stories.
"Nobody would go for greater height," O'Grady said.
At the same time, the committee's report stressed the importance of neighborhood retail operations: "While much of the discussion seemed to focus on relatively low-density office development as the most likely scenario for the future, there is strong support on the part of both the committee and the public for incorporating neighborhood-serving businesses into new development, including, to the maximum extent possible, those already there."
The committee also urged both jurisdictions to work together in developing a streetscape plan for Lee Highway, the main road that runs through the East Falls Church commercial area. At the Falls Church Fire Station, county turns to city and the road becomes known as Washington Street.
In its report, the committee also stated that traffic and parking are issues that need to be studied in the event of future redevelopment. Residents have complained of increased traffic cutting through neighborhood streets since the Metro station opened last June.
Committee members further agreed that the fire station should be retained.
The committee's report will be forwarded to planners in both jurisdictions, who will begin working on ways to implement the plan.