While members of a citizens task force are working with Fairfax County planners to decide what would be proper gateways to mark the entrances to the Tysons Corner area, the Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation apparently has solved part of the problem.
The solution has generated complaints, however.
The highway department this week installed large green and white signs, typical of those that dominate the Capital Beltway, across the eastbound lanes of Leesburg Pike at the Dulles toll road near the edge of the Tysons Corner area.
The signs don't tell approaching motorists they are entering Tysons Corner, the largest collection of office buildings in Virginia, and the signs block the view of the Tysons skyline.
The signs do indicate where to turn to get to Washington-Dulles International Airport or to Washington, D.C.
The signs are part of the highway department's program to provide proper signs guiding people onto the Dulles toll road, according to spokeswoman Linda South.
Installation of the signs on Monday caught county officials and residents of nearby affluent neighborhoods in McLean, Tysons Corner and Vienna completely by surprise.
"I haven't seen them, but I've heard about them," said Dranesville District Supervisor Nancy Falck, within whose district the signs hang. "If the residents of the area think the signs are inappropriate, then we will have to work with" the highway department, she said.
Although some residents say the signs are out of character with the area, South said they conform to long-standing highway department standards. The sign telling motorists how to get to the District is 18 feet wide and 8 feet high. The sign pointing to the turn for the Dulles toll toad and the airport is more than 10 feet wide and 7 feet tall.
"At least the sign is lower than the Sheraton," said Lilla Richards, referring to the 23-story Sheraton Hotel under construction at the Dulles toll road and Leesburg Pike interchange. Richards is chairman of the McLean Planning Committee and former chairman of the McLean Citizens' Association's transportation committee.
"With those signs as gateways, who needs tall buildings as gateways?" asked Stephen Hubbard, chairman of the McLean group's planning and zoning committee.
A citizens task force has been mulling over the question of gateways for the Tysons area as part of a study proposed by county planners of existing and potential height and building densities in the Tysons area. If the document is adopted, it would become the land-use plan to guide development in the Tysons area. Some Tysons, Vienna and McLean residents bitterly oppose the study's proposals that certain sites at Tysons Corner be set aside as "gateways" for possible construction of tall buildings.