Fairfax County officials and developers are trying to negotiate a compromise on proposed development densities and transportation issues for the 184 acres surrounding the Vienna Metro station in advance of next Wednesday's Fairfax County Planning Commission hearing on a plan for the station area.
"There is always room for compromise," Fairfax County Board Chairman John F. Herrity said this week.
Developer John T. (Til) Hazel, who with partner Milton V. Peterson, owns a 61-acre site north of the rail station, said Hazel-Peterson Cos. would be willing to contribute to a road fund similar to that established by county officials to improve transportation in the Fair Oaks/Rte. 50/I-66 area.
Developers and some county officials are talking about creating another fund to pay for the future widening of Lee Highway, one of the county's most heavily traveled roads and a major thoroughfare near the Vienna station, according to sources familiar with the discussions. The station is scheduled to open in June.
Efforts by developers and county leaders to negotiate a compromise before the public hearing are important, according to county sources, because a citizen's task force that worked for more than a year in an effort to reach an agreement on the scope of the development on the six major parcels of land adjacent to the station failed to devise a specific plan.
The Vienna station, at the end of the Orange line, is in the I-66 right-of-way near the Nutley Street interchange.
County planners recently told Fairfax elected officials that the task force could not reach a consensus. However, the task force voted to support construction of about 3.6 million square feet of commercial space in the area, but adamantly opposed construction of any moderate-income housing.
The lack of a task-force consensus for the entire area apparently hands the development decisions for the Vienna station to the Planning Commission and the county supervisors.
One planning commission member said, "Unless developers and residents and county officials can work out some last-minute plans, we are going to have to make decisions without the kind of input we would like to have."
One developer, who requested anonymity, said, "A lot of us have our fingers crossed that some politically acceptable compromise will come forth."
Both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors want to approve a development plan for the station area and incorporate it into the county's comprehensive land-use plan as quickly as possible.
The need for quick action is underscored by the fact that both the commission and the board are already scheduled to take action on a longstanding and controversial rezoning request by the Hazel-Peterson Cos. for its Virginia Center development on 61 acres north of the station. That rezoning calls for 1.9 million square feet of commercial space, a hotel and 400 residential units.
The task force has repeatedly said it does not support the proposal being supported by the county planning staff and a team of outside consultants for the entire station area. That plan calls for 3.8 million square feet of commercial space, 700 hotel rooms and 2,579 residential units. Task force members said they prefer to have more commercial and less residential development than the county has proposed.
The task force, according to a county briefing memo, "proposed reducing the housing component" and "eliminating all provisions for moderate-income housing."
Some county officials and Vienna-area residents say those involved in the controversial negotiations have virtually ignored the existing high-density zonings on both the Hazel-Peterson site and on the 60-acre site owned by the Evans Co. south of the station at the corner of Lee Highway and Nutley Street.
The Evans Co. site is already zoned for 1.2 million square feet of commercial space and 350 housing units. County officials cannot reduce what is already approved for that site, according to lawyers familiar with the negotiations.
Caught in the middle of the debate are residents of the Fairlee community, a pie-shaped neighborhood of single-family homes on the south side of the Metro station. Residents there have agreed to sell their homes to a developer, but the money they will receive is contingent on what county officials agree can be built on their land.