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Huntington Metro area development plan passes planning commission with big height reduction

A conceptual rendering of the southern portion of the redeveloped Huntington Metro station (via Fairfax County)

The Huntington Metro area is one step closer to redevelopment with last week’s approval of a comprehensive plan, albeit with a few “modifications.”

The Fairfax County Planning Commission quickly and unanimously approved the comprehensive plan amendment for the Huntington Transit Station Area (TSA) on Nov. 16, following a lengthy public hearing in October and a site visit by the commissioners on Nov. 10.

The plan calls for a mixed-use development on the site including 382,00 square feet of office, retail, and community-use space, a civic plaza, more urban park space, a network of bike and pedestrian paths, a possible hotel, and 15,000 residential units with a minimum of 15% of those being affordable.

It was put together by county staff with input from commissioners, the Mount Vernon Site-Specific Plan Amendment (SSPA) Task Force, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), and the public.

However, “minor differences” did crop up, particularly at the public hearing, which focused on building heights and preserving wooded areas.

“At the public hearing, there were several substantive concerns raised about the proposed building heights, environmental issues, and placemaking, as well as a few clarification questions,” the approved motion said.

After nearby residents worried about a loss of privacy for their smaller homes, the plan is lowering the maximum building height from 200 feet to 85 feet in the area between the middle parking garage and the homes on Biscayne Drive. This provides a more “appropriate transition,” the motion says.

Another tweak addressed concerns that a southern path connecting to the Metro might negatively affect wooded areas. While the plan now notes that “the design of this connection would minimize disturbance,” the actual design will be more specifically determined when the development goes through the rezoning process.

The stormwater measures were also revised to be “substantially more extensive” than the minimum requirements, per the motion.

The other modifications address flexibility around who might be responsible for maintenance at the proposed civic plaza, the importance of public places, and the potential for increased light pollution. They also clarify that 15% of the residential units built should be affordable, in line with countywide rates.

Notably, the plan continues to preserve a tract of trees near the intersection of Huntington Avenue and Biscayne Drive. WMATA proposed selling the land to a developer to build more townhomes, but homeowners wanted to keep the trees as a buffer from the developed station and help with stormwater runoff.

Next, the comprehensive plan amendment for the Huntington TSA will head to the Board of Supervisors for a vote currently scheduled for Dec. 6.

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