Coming up on the 10th anniversary of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ approval of the Tysons comprehensive plan, the Greater Tysons Citizens Coalition (GTCC) on Jan. 29 e-mailed a letter asking supervisors and members of the county’s Planning Commission and School Board not to back off from the plan’s requirements.
“All of the issues listed in our attachment – mitigating traffic congestion, ensuring adequate athletic fields in Tysons, providing for schools, and ensuring a robust review process before approving significant reinterpretations of Tysons land-use rules in the context of individual rezoning requests – have a clear impact not just within Tysons, but also in the surrounding communities,” GTCC chairman Sally Horn wrote in the letter’s introduction.
The letter from the coalition – whose members include representatives from the Vienna Town Council and McLean Citizens Association, plus residents and groups in and around Tysons – focuses on these points:
• Traffic Congestion: Citing increased cut-through traffic and vehicle congestion in surrounding communities, despite mitigation efforts implemented under the Tysons plan, GTCC members asked county supervisors and Planning Commission members to consider additional short- and long-term solutions to address the issue.
• Athletic Fields: The Tysons plan calls for 20 athletic fields eventually to be built in the urban center, which is one-third as many as would be expected under standard suburban zoning, GTCC’s letter read.
While county officials in previous years have allowed developers to make monetary contributions in lieu of constructing fields if their projects would generate the need for one-third of a field or less, the Board of Supervisors late last year permitted developers of The View to contribute money instead of providing for two-thirds of a field.
Supervisors in a follow-on motion agreed that the developer instead could put that field money toward construction of a community center on county-owned land.
GTCC’s letter urged supervisors to revisit that motion, reallocate the money for Tysons athletic fields, and investigate and pursue other options for funding construction of a Tysons community center. The Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission also should revert to the previous practice of requiring in-kind contributions from developers if their projects will generate a need for more than the equivalent of one-third of an athletic field, the letter read.
GTCC leaders also urged county officials to revamp their formulas to increase accuracy of projected near- and long-term school populations in urban areas such as Tysons; increase staffing and resources at the school system’s facilities branch so it better may undertake planning and infrastructure reviews; and implement new options to obtain land and finance construction of new schools and school capital projects in Tysons.
• Policy Interpretations: GTCC’s letter questioned supervisors’ decision last year to allow The View’s tallest building to be 600 feet high, half again the height limit in the Tysons comprehensive plan, and justify that because the top 200 feet would be an architectural feature and not occupiable space. (Supervisors earlier approved Capital One’s new 470-foot-tall headquarters building in Tysons, which also does not have occupiable space above 400 feet.)
GTCC members asked county officials to conduct an in-depth review of potential ramifications of taller buildings and the use of above-grade parking structures (such as “podium” designs beneath tall buildings), which is at odds with the Tysons comprehensive plan’s preference for underground parking.
GTCC’s main concern is that Tysons provide adequate infrastructure, including recreation facilities and schools, as the urban center develops, said Vienna Town Council member Linda Colbert, who has served as the town’s representative on the coalition since taking office in 2014.
“A negative impact of that not happening is increased traffic in Vienna due to people driving to and from Tysons to Vienna on Maple Avenue to use Vienna athletic fields and schools,” she said. “Vienna athletic fields and schools are already close to or at capacity. The GTCC continues to push for proffers that actually go towards recreational fields and land for schools for the Tysons community so there is not spillover into Vienna.”
Vienna residents also are concerned about how traffic and development in Tysons will affect Vienna, Colbert said.
“The GTCC wants to be ensured that traffic mitigation efforts and road improvements are a priority to help ease congestion for McLean and Vienna,” Colbert said.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay (D) said he appreciated GTCC’s “well-though-out observations” and added that citizen engagement is a key ingredient in successful land use.
“As we move forward, we must be cognizant of their concerns and also recognize Tysons is an evolving, successful place meant to be implemented over a long-range timeline,” he told the Sun Gazette. “During that longer horizon, we must maintain flexibility to implement the plan and constantly seek community input throughout the process.”