A citizens task force studying possible development around the Vienna Metro station this week sent a strong message to Fairfax County officials: Reduce proposed residential development and increase the number of commercial projects on the 184 acres around the subway stop.
Task force members also said they wanted no part of plans, long supported by Fairfax County officials and part of original task force goals, that would mix low- and moderate-income housing with market-priced housing units in whatever residential developments are built.
More than 100 persons jammed the task force meeting to discuss plans, backed by the county planning staff and consultants, that call for a mix of commercial developments that would cover 60 percent of the land around the station, leaving 40 percent of it for residential projects. The Vienna station, at the intersection of Nutley Street and I-66 near the Vienna town limits, is scheduled to open in midsummer. It will be at the end of Metro's Orange Line.
Task force members representing homeowners, the town of Vienna and developers are now pushing a plan calling for 70 percent commercial development and 30 percent residential. Task force members said they want residential units to sell for prices based on current real estate market values, a criterion that virtually would eliminate housing there for low- and moderate-income buyers.
Unless the task force modifies its stand on such housing, the stage may be set for a substantial battle among Fairfax supervisors over the need for more affordable housing throughout Fairfax, one of the nation's wealthiest jurisdictions, when the Vienna Metro station plans are discussed.
Bennett Moss, a Vienna resident and task force member, said the 40 percent residential option backed by the county "does have certain disadvantages." He said the goal of bringing low- and moderate-income housing might be a "worthwhile objective" except that "it is not appropriate because it is at a Metro station."
Other residents agreed. They claimed that teachers, county staff workers and police personnel who have been singled out as the target market for so-called moderate-income housing would not be Metro riders because their workplaces do not lie along Metro lines.
During the four-hour session, task force members, planners, developers and landowners sparred over numerous details, while glossing over a comprehensive picture of the entire project, according to one task force member who asked not to be named.
Ed Rissee, a task force member representing the Hazel-Peterson Cos., made a pitch for support for his firm's 61-acre Virginia Center development. That proposal is pending as a rezoning before the county planning commission and board of supervisors. As proposed, the Virginia Center site, which is adjacent to the Metro station, calls for more than 80 percent commercial development.
"It's a fine line which we can't cross. It's not the job of this task force or their staff to evaluate the Virginia Center rezoning," warned Gary Molyneaux, the chief county planner in charge of Metro station planning. He said it was the job of the task force to look at the whole area and develop a plan.
However, task force Chairman Richard Hollin said he thought having the board of supervisors make a decision on the Virginia Center application might give the task force guidance as to what should be done with the rest of the study area.
But developers and residents both said such action would nullify the intended purpose of the task force's work, which they contended was to draft plans for the entire station area that would give supervisors and planning commission members guidelines on which to base zoning decisions.
The county staff and consultants' study calls for significant development on three sites north of the station. In addition to Hazel-Peterson's 61 acres, Fairfax Metro Associates owns 10 acres, and Metro has seven acres of air rights on top of parking that the staff has said could be a site for a hotel. The staff supports development on 17 acres south of the station owned by developer Paul Sweeny; on 30 acres in the Fairlee community, 80 percent of which is under contract to Lincoln Properties; and on 60 acres owned by The Evans Co. The Evans site already is zoned for residential and commercial high-density development.
In a related proposal, residents of the Briarwood community, located east of the primary Vienna station study area, have asked the planning commission to help maintain the stability of their neighborhood of detached homes by guaranteeing that any developments approved are built only after completion of necessary road improvements to keep traffic out of their neighborhood.
Gregory Vogel, president of the Briarwood Citizens Association, charged that traffic studies produced by the county and consultants are not valid and this week asked for additional studies by the county.