When the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meets Monday to vote on 76 proposed changes to the county's comprehensive land-use plan, it will be making decisions on two of the most controversial proposed road improvements ever to surface in the county.
Proposals for making West Ox Road four lanes between Rte. 50 and Franklin Farms Road, and a plan to delete the long-planned Lawyers Road Extended between Reston Avenue and the planned Springfield bypass have incensed local residents.
Debate over the two transportation issues has dominated recent discussions and public hearings on proposed changes to the land-use plan, which is the basis for land use and transportation decisions made by Fairfax officials.
Fairfax board Chairman John F. Herrity met this week with residents of Fox Mill Estates, Reston, Franklin Farms and the Folkstone and Navy Vale communities. Herrity put together a set of criteria late this week that he said could be used to determine when and if Lawyers Road Extended would be built and when West Ox Road would be widened.
The county planning staff is opposed to deleting Lawyers Road Extended from the county's master plan and supports putting language into the master plan that would allow West Ox Road to be made into four lanes in the future.
The county planning commission supports improving West Ox Road "to four lanes without a median." The commission voted to support deletion of Lawyers Road Extended from the long-range plan but supports a realignment of the segment to follow West Ox Road.
Herrity said he is committed to establishing "a principle that this county is going to have a sound transportation system. We truly have to focus on the needs of the entire county and be environmentally sensitive to the needs" of the people who live near where roads will go, Herrity said.
While some observers are convinced that the deletion of Lawyers Road from the county's long-range plan will lose Monday, Fox Mill Estates residents said they have the votes to carry the motion as a result of a countywide campaign during which Fox Mill residents contacted members of approximately 600 other citizens associations seeking support.
Residents of the Navy Vale community, an area of older, more diverse homes, have adamantly opposed widening West Ox Road to four lanes but have supported improving the existing road to include shoulders.
Herrity said neither road will be built until it is "needed. If built, it will be sensitive to the needs of the neighborhood."
Some of the more controversial land-use changes were rejected by the planning commission and will not be acted on by supervisors.
Action on many "major items" has been put off until fall, according to Sidney R. Steele, head of the county's office of comprehensive planning.
Although many proposals based on the changing character of various neighborhoods in the Tysons Corner area already have been vetoed, supervisors will decide the future of residents of an old neighborhood known as Moss Crest. The area is high on a hill at the top of Gosnell Road immediately across Old Courthouse Road from the Tycon Courthouse building, currently the largest office building in the Tysons Corner area.
Older homes dominate Moss Crest, and residents have asked the county to allow redevelopment of the area for commercial town houses.
However, the planning commission recommended the site be used for residential town houses. Supervisor Martha Pennino has said the area might be considered for development at eight to 10 units per acre if sufficient consolidation of adjacent parcels could be achieved.
Meanwhile, several McLean civic groups this week restated strong opposition to a proposal backed by the planning commission that would allow taller buildings to be built in McLean's business district along Dolley Madison Boulevard.
Planning commission Chairman George Lilly said the proposal might give developers an incentive to bring high-quality development to the center of McLean. The proposed change would allow increased densities only if structured or underground parking and other amenities were offered by developers.
More than 350 proposed changes to the land plan were filed, swamping county officials, staff members and citizens groups.
The planning staff deferred 75 items for future action pending several special studies, including a review of existing neighborhood shopping centers and the finalization of development plans for land surrounding Metrorail stations.
"In the end, many of the deferred items will be some of the most controversial," predicted William J. Keefe, chief of the comprehensive plan branch.
Keefe and Steele said the number of applications filed involving housing for the elderly helped focus staff attention on that issue.
"Two countywide studies on the need for multifamily housing and elderly housing" are now under way, Steele said.
More than 25 challenges to the land plan filed involving areas around Fairfax center in the Rte. 50/I-66 area have been deferred until the county planning staff completes a review of the existing "50/66 study" that guides development in that area.
Several proposals in the Springfield and Centreville areas were deferred pending action by the board of supervisors on a controversial Centreville area study released several months ago.
Steele said the proposed deletion of Lawyers Road Extended "is probably the most controversial of all the proposals" set for a Monday vote. Lawyers Road Extended has been in the comprehensive plan since the plan went into effect. As planned, the road would cut through the middle of Fox Mill Estates, a single-family neighborhood where house prices hover between $115,000 and $150,000. The Springfield bypass, as planned, also cuts through Fox Mill Estates. Residents complained that the two roads would cut their neighborhood into four pieces and put a four-lane road built to accommodate industrial traffic within a few blocks of Fox Mill Elementary School.
County planners say the road is needed not only to serve Fox Mill residents but also east-west commuter traffic. A professional traffic planner who voluntarily evaluated future road needs in western Fairfax said Lawyers Road Extended is not needed because other roads in the area can handle the traffic.
This week, Fox Mill residents complained that a so-called "compromise" that would leave the controversial Lawyers Road Extended in the master plan did not recognize the impact the road would have on their community. That proposal said that Lawyers Road Extended would not be built until traffic on nearby roads hits sufficient levels to trigger the need for the road.
According to a revised proposal produced by the county planning staff, Lawyers Road Extended is needed. That proposal said "without this facility, these trips will be forced onto Fox Mill, West Ox and Centreville roads" as traffic moves from the South Reston area to industrial areas near Dulles airport.
Suzanne Rhodes, a Fox Mill association official and one of the main workers behind the countywide effort to win support for their cause, said sufficient east-west connections now exist along those same roads and along the Dulles Toll Road. She said future traffic projections indicate that additional cars will be traveling north and south rather than east and west.
"We are not anti-roads," she said. Her neighbors in Fox Mill Estates support construction of the Springfield bypass through their neighborhood, but Rhodes and other Fox Mill residents said the combination of the two highways "is too much" for one community.
Rhodes said construction of Lawyers Road Extended goes against the county's policy of "preservation of established neighborhoods." That same argument has been used by those who oppose widening West Ox Road.