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Fairfax weighs land use proposals along Silver Line

As work on the second phase of the Silver Line gets under way, Fairfax County is working through land use plans for its next set of new Metro stations, expected to open by 2019.

On Wednesday, the Fairfax County Planning Commission began reviewing a proposed amendment to the county’s comprehensive plan for the area south of the Innovation Center station, near Route 28 and the Dulles Toll Road.

Unlike Tysons Corner and Reston, this area still has large chunks of undeveloped land, along with a typically suburban mix of mid-rise office campuses, shopping centers, apartments, townhouses and single-family homes.

While the land use study considered a much wider area, as far south as Frying Pan Road, county staff are only recommending changes in the areas within a half mile of the Innovation Center Station, with the most intense development taking place within a quarter-mile of the station.

The revised plan also increases the amount of planned residential development, as compared to the current land use plan, to have a better balance between office and residential uses, said Clara Quintero Johnson, a county land use planner.

The plan also adopts many of the features that have become the standard in the county’s land use plans for transit station areas, such as requiring that new development helps create a new street grid, includes affordable housing units, and is built in an environmentally sensitive manner.

The comprehensive plan for this area was last updated about 12 years ago.

“Back 12 years ago, we knew that Metrorail might happen, but it wasn’t very tangible,” said Jeff Fairfield, a local attorney who served on both comprehensive plan review committees.

Following a public hearing, the Planning Commission deferred its decision on the proposed comprehensive plan update to allow time to tie up some loose ends.

One of the main items still up for discussion is the rate that developers have to contribute to the county’s affordable housing fund for commercial development. The current plan text requires $3 per square foot, the same rate as Tysons.

Fairfield said that doesn’t make sense, because the real estate market in western Fairfax County is and will be very different, even with the new rail line.

The Planning Commission is reviewing this issue as part of a countywide policy, not just in association with this application.

As he moved for deferral, Commissioner Jay Donahue (Dranesville) noted that “there is very little reason to delay this application” and he expected to be able to move it forward once the affordable housing contribution and some other minor points were resolved.

There are two pending rezoning cases in the future station area that will bring specific land use proposals up for consideration in the near future.

The proposed comprehensive plan amendment is available online at here.

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