BZA has concerns about skating rink

The Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals has deferred until Oct. 19 its decision on whether to award Rink Management Services Corp. a special permit to install temporary ice- and roller-skating rinks in Merrifield's Mosaic District.

The Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals on Sept. 14 again deferred its decision on a proposal to allow temporary roller- and ice-skating rinks in Merrifield’s Mosaic District so the applicant could get more input from nearby businesses and residents.

The BZA on July 13 deferred decision on the application because of public opposition, unresolved questions and a legal-advertising mix-up. Still not satisfied, the board on Sept. 14 deferred the matter again to Oct. 19.

Rink Management Services Corp. is seeking a special permit to operate a roller-skating rink during a 90-day period between April 1 to June 30 in 2023 and 2024. The 36-by-76-foot rink would feature a rubber-mat surface and be located on a closed-off section of Merrifield Towne Center Drive next to 2985 District Ave.

The applicant also wishes to operate a 50-by-100-foot ice-skating rink along a closed part of District Avenue next to 2980 District Ave. The company would operate the ice rink in a 90-day window between Nov. 1 and March 15 during the upcoming three winters.

The rink’s ice-mat flooring would be surrounded by a 3.5-foot-tall enclosure and there would be a 1,000-square-foot tent for admissions and skate rentals just to the east.

Both rinks would operate Mondays through Thursdays from 4 to 10 p.m., Fridays from 4 to 11:15 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 11:15 p.m. and Sundays from 9:45 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. No more than 50 skaters would be allowed per session, and the rinks would have two to five on-site employees, depending on the day and season.

Original advertised notices for this item included incorrect lot numbers for the proposed uses, which would be located on private streets and a private park, said Brandon McCadden of the county’s Department of Planning and Development. Officials since the July hearing advertised the matter again with correct lot numbers, he said.

County staff anticipate the rinks would not cause traffic disruptions, as Merrifield’s street grid was designed to have temporary closures for events while maintaining vehicular flow.

The district also has sufficient parking to accommodate the rinks, officials said. Mosaic’s final development plan requires at least 6,003 parking spaces and the district now has 400 more than that, McCadden said.

The roller-skating rink temporarily would remove five parallel-parking spaces and the ice-skating rink would take away 37 angled- and parallel-parking spaces. Those figures resemble temporary parking losses associated with other Mosaic events requiring street closures, McCadden said.

The rinks’ closures would occur at different times of the year and not eliminate access to any of the adjacent parking garages, he added.

The BZA was not satisfied with the applicant’s public outreach since the July hearing. Member Rebeccah Ballo cited correspondence from neighbors who said the company had not been responsive to their concerns.

Applicant’s representative Greg Dercach said the company had reached out to a contact who represents Mosaic’s townhomes and distributed information to general managers of the district’s residential buildings, as well as retail tenants. Ballo said the applicant’s messages seemed to go through several layers of bureaucracy to reach residents.

The applicant formerly held annual meetings in conjunction with county police, but has not held large public meetings since the pandemic and instead relied on electronic communications, Dercach said. The company is willing to work with its primary contact to hold a public meeting in November, he said.

Ballo suggested a broader approach, similar to how homeowners’ groups communicate with members, to encourage greater public participation. “Instead of having one point person through an e-mail list-serve, [the company could post] things like fliers or boards up in the neighborhood so that the neighbors feel that they have more ways to get in contact with you,” Ballo said. “There is clearly a lot of concern that this is going to change the character of the neighborhood. People feel that they haven’t been heard, that they didn’t have a direct way to contact you and to have a dialogue.”

No one spoke in opposition to the application at Sept. 14 public hearing, but neighboring residents at the BZA’s July meeting expressed concern about noise, parking and housing access.

“I am fairly disappointed with the lack of community outreach that took place in connection with this,” said BZA member Daniel Aminoff, who moved to defer the matter.

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