After a seven-hour marathon public hearing, the Fairfax County Planning Commission this week decided to postpone making recommendations on controversial plans for development on the 184 acres surrounding the Vienna Metro station until April 30.
The commissioners told county planning staff members to respond during the next two weeks to a long list of issues raised by residents, developers and commissioners about development around the station.
After listening to more than 50 speakers from the standing-room-only crowd, commissioner Rosemarie Annunziata said that although opponents of intense development had concentrated heavily on transportation problems, "there is more to this than traffic. If I have my way, it transportation won't be the only issue we will consider."
The Vienna station, scheduled to open in June, is at the end of Metro's Orange Line. It is in the I-66 right-of-way at the Nutley Street interchange just outside the town limits of Vienna in the magisterial district Annunziata represents.
Annunziata asked the staff for information on air pollution and water supply problems, discrepancies in traffic studies done by staff, consultants and residents, the impact of possible deferral of any land-use changes for a year and the impact of reducing parking allowed at development sites.
She also asked for studies about traffic that will be generated from the nearby Dunn Loring Metro station to the east that is headed west past the Vienna station to the Fairfax Circle community.
The delay by the planning commissioners means the scheduled April 28 hearing by the county Board of Supervisors on the controversial station site will have to be delayed.
That pushes county officials close to the scheduled May 14 hearings for the rezoning request by Hazel-Peterson Cos. for its proposed 2.65 million-square-foot mixed-use Virginia Center project, which is planned for 61 acres north of the station.
County officials have said they want to have whatever changes may be made in the comprehensive land-use plan for the station area in place before supervisors tackle the Hazel-Peterson rezoning.
Some residents of town houses near the station pleaded with the commissioners not to change existing land-use plans, which call for low-density development. Others said changes should be delayed until the station opens and its impact on streets and nearby neighborhoods can be evaluated.
Residents living near the station consistently opposed staff and consultants' recommendations for development of more than 7 million square feet of residential and commercial space on the six tracts identified as part of the station study area.
That amount of development hinges on whether developers provide additional access to I-66, planning staff members said. According to a staff report, I-66 is expected to be expanded to eight lanes between the Capital Beltway and Rte. 50 near the Fair Oaks Shopping Mall by the end of the century.
The Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation is expected to recommend future improvements for I-66 soon, according to Robert L. Moore, Fairfax's chief transportation planner.
Gary Molyneaux, chief Metro station planner for the county, said the Vienna station area plan supported by the staff would not be completed before the year 2005.
Concern about the future of the area led to creation of the Vienna Metro Area Citizens Coalition. Coalition members said existing roads cannot handle traffic generated at the development level supported by the planning staff.
One resident, Carl Parsons, said the staff plans would create "a small city sitting in the suburbs."
A citizens task force has been working with staff members and private consultants to reach a consensus, but failed. The citizens agreed to oppose development at the 7 million-square-foot level and supported a combination of more intense commercial and less residential development than the staff supported.
Phil Servidea, a member of the task force, this week gave commissioners what he called "the citizens' alternative" plan. It called for development of only 4.6 million square feet of space with a heavier concentration of commercial than residential.
Tom Hyland, a resident of Moorefield Creek Road, said, "I've become exceedingly pessimistic about Fairfax being able to coordinate transportation and land use." If major development is permitted, Hyland said he "will sell his house and move to Loudoun County."
In contrast to complaints about increasing development, several residents of Fairlee, a 36-acre residential community south of the station, asked the commission to grant them the right to redevelop their properties. Lincoln Properties already has contracted to buy more than 60 percent of the Fairlee community.
Sixteen property owners in Fairlee have not signed contracts with the developer and have formed the Fairlee II Citizens Association. Those homeowners said during an interview that the price their neighbors are getting from Lincoln is far below what the land is worth.