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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Planning Commission endorses higher density for redevelopment areas, Annandale Blog, June 16, 2016

The following is a re-post of an article by Allie Ashford posted on the Annandale blog.  Please note that the Board of Supervisors' hearing on this proposal is next week--June 21, 2016.  This train is rolling!

Planning Commission endorses higher density for redevelopment areas

This mixed-use (residential and retail) building planned for a 2.6-acre site at 301 W. Broad St., Falls Church, has a FAR of 3.33, states a report by Fairfax County Planning and Zoning staff on the zoning ordinance amendment. The FAR would increase if the building had more stories. [DPZ]
The Fairfax County Planning Commission voted to endorse unanimously a zoning ordinance amendment Oct. 15 that would pave the way for higher density in revitalization areas like Annandale, Bailey’s Crossroads, and Seven Corners.

The Board of Supervisors has scheduled a public hearing on the amendment for June 21.

The measure would set a maximum floor-area ratio (FAR) of up to 5.0 in all 20 of the county’s transit station areas (TSAs), community redevelopment districts (CRDs), and commercial business centers (CBCs). 

A FAR of 5.0 would allow a developer to build structures with floor space that is five times greater than the area of the parcel of land on which it sits. That’s significantly greater density than currently allowed in older commercial areas – or anywhere else in the county. The current plan for the area at Reston’s Town Center Metro station, for example, calls for a FAR of 4.0 (with a bonus of 0.5).

Several activists from Mason District spoke out against the amendment at a Planning Commission hearing  last month. They argued a 5.0 FAR would encourage inappropriately high density next to residential areas that are not within walking distance of Metro.

During the Planning Commission discussion June 15, Commissioner James Hart (at large) proposed an amendment to allow a FAR of 5.0 in TSAs but lower the maximum FAR to 4.0 in CRDs and CBCs. That amendment was defeated 4-7.

Commissioner Julie Strandlie (Mason) said she opposed Hart’s amendment because limiting the FAR to 4.0 could prevent redevelopment in Seven Corners and Annandale as envisioned in the comprehensive plans already adopted for those areas.

Raising the FAR to 5.0 doesn’t mean all redevelopment areas will end up with that much density; it just provides for more flexibility, said Commissioner Frank de la Fe (Hunter Mill), who supports the original amendment.

Commissioner Timothy Sargeant (at large) said raising the allowable FAR to 5.0 would not exempt a developer from compliance with any state or county regulation and would not eliminate the need for a traffic management analysis or any other existing requirements.

Every application will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, said Hart, who joined the commissioners in supporting the original amendment. “If  it’s ridiculous or inappropriate, we’re  capable of making that decision.”

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