After months of long public debate between developers, attorneys and Fairfax County residents, the county planning commission last week proved itself to be a strong defender of Fairfax's existing land-use plan by approving only 57 of 230 proposed changes.
The commission as a whole went along with the individual desires of each of its members on all proposals within each member's magisterial district.
Denial of an application means that it will not be heard by the Board of Supervisors later this year. The 57 changes approved by the planning commission are now scheduled to come before supervisors June 10 and June 17. Only a few of those proposals were approved as originally introduced. Most were amended by the county planning staff.
Most of the major proposed commercial developments, including three separate proposals that would have generated approximately 4.5 million square feet of commercial space at the Dulles Toll Road/Hunter Mill Road interchange, failed to win commission approval.
A proposal by NV Cos. to change the land-use plan for 98 acres on the north side of Leesburg Pike (Route 7) northwest of the Dulles Toll Road from low-density residential to low-rise commercial also was rejected.
However, many proposals for possible construction of town-house developments on land now planned for detached homes won commission approval. Some of the approved proposals would allow construction at densities as high as 12 to 18 units per acre if strict development conditions were met, including consolidation of smaller parcels into large tracts, attention to environmental protections and extensive buffering between existing residential neighborhoods.
The commission deferred action on 24 proposals until June, July and September hearing dates to give proponents, commission members and planning staff members additional time to study them.
While some homeowners failed in their attempt to change the status of entire neighborhoods to commercial uses, others won partial victories. For example, residents of Moss Crest, an old neighborhood off Gosnell Road overlooking the Route 7/Tysons corridor, persuaded the planning commission to go along with a change that will allow construction of high-density town houses. Residents would have preferred a commercial town-house designation because their property would have become more valuable.
Commission member Rosemarie Annunziata was a leading spokesman for keeping commercial development out of single-family areas. She represents Vienna, Dunn Loring and areas near two Metro station sites. Over the past few years, the overflow of commercial sprawl from Tysons Corner has generated major calls in her area for increased commercial development in high-density residential construction.
To the surprise of many, several proposals for changes in the McLean area that seemed doomed months ago were approved. An application involving properties along Dolley Madison Boulevard north of Old Dominion Drive was approved in spite of staff recommendations that it be turned down. The proposal calls for increasing densities, and gives developers a chance to build taller buildings and structured or underground parking as an incentive for getting a focal point for the McLean central building district. "The engine to drive this effort for a focal point has not been forthcoming," planning commission chairman George Lilly said. "To get something, you have to give something."
Many items were deferred indefinitely because they might have some merit and planning commission members apparently were unwilling simply to kill them.
Proposals deferred by the planning staff before commission hearings fell into categories now being studied in depth by various county offices.
According to William Keese, chief of the comprehensive plan branch of the land use planning division, these include a review of the overall development plan for the Fairfax Center area, a study of a possible need for additional neighborhood shopping centers, and a study of land uses for areas around the Center for Innovative Technology planned along the Loudoun-Fairfax line near Dulles airport.
In addition, Fairfax is studying the need for possible land-use changes that would identify potential sites for apartment development. That study was sparked by the number of applications involving apartments in the plan amendment process.
Applications for housing for the elderly were not viewed favorably by the planning commission, primarily because they were part of other major land-use changes proposed. Fairfax supervisor Audrey Moore said several weeks ago she hopes to get Fairfax to study the need for elderly housing that would be affordable to all county residents.
More than 300 items were originally filed as part of this year's triennial review of the county's land-use plan. Seventy of those were withdrawn or deferred by the staff prior to planning commission hearings in April; the others were granted hearings by the planning commission.
Applications withdrawn before a planning commission vote are considered withdrawn without prejudice, according to Lilly. They may be submitted again next year but would have to meet strict requirements before meriting a hearing by the planning commission.
Because Fairfax operates on a triennial review that ensures planning commission consideration every third year, proposals filed for consideration during 1986 and 1987 will have to meet extremely stringent emergency criteria established by the county, developers said. Under that criteria, an emergency is defined as a land-use emergency rather than a personal emergency.
The strongest speech from a commission member was prompted by proposals filed by Robert Thoburn, William Chin Lee and Boston Properties. Those proposals would have allowed construction of 4.5 million square feet of office space at the Dulles Road/Hunter Mill interchange.
Commission member John Thillmann refused to allow Thoburn to withdraw one of his two applications involving the northeast and northwest corners of that interchange. Before moving to deny all applications at that interchange, Thillmann blasted the proposals for seeking commercial development in residential neighborhoods. He defended the county's long-range plan to contain commercial development at Reston and Tysons Corner while maintaining low-density residential development between the two development centers.
However, a portion of one of the Thoburn parcels proposed for commercial development already is planned for commercial use. A small portion of the site on the northwest corner of Hunter Mill and the Dulles lanes is planned for commercial development and abuts what will be a state highway department maintenance facility.
Lilly passed the gavel to someone else when he moved to deny the proposal, which would have permitted expansion of the commercial areas of Tysons Corner westward. A request for deferral by attorney Marshall Coleman, who represents the developer, was denied. "This proposal has been adequately publicly discussed. I'm not willing to defer," Lilly said.
Several applicants have criticized the county planning staff for its consolidation of individual proposals into large packages to be heard by the planning commission and acted on en masse rather than as individually. Several lawyers said they feared some small applications that might otherwise have survived the process died because they were connected to major proposals.
The planning commission itself will act on approximately 24 proposals in June and July. Many of those are in the Route 1 corridor of Fairfax and several were submitted by the Southeast Fairfax Development Corp., an organization working to revitalize the Route 1 corridor.