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Morning Notes

Construction at Reston Station (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

“Beltway Accord” Still a Mystery — More than two years after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and then-Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced plans to rebuild the American Legion Bridge, an actual, documented agreement remains elusive. Conflict over Maryland’s Capital Beltway toll lanes project has been a source of anxiety in McLean, where officials broke ground on the I-495 widening last month. [Maryland Matters]

Advocacy Groups Meet Incoming FCPS Superintendent — “On Friday, April 15, representatives of several advocacy groups met with Dr. [Michelle] Reid, as well as Fairfax County School Board Chair Stella Pekarsky and Vice Chair Rachna Sizemore Heizer, to discuss their concerns about the superintendent selection process.” [FCPS]

Registration Opens for Kids’ Summer Program — “The Fairfax County Park Authority is accepting registrations for Rec-PAC this summer at 30 elementary school locations across Fairfax County. Rec-PAC is an affordable, structured, six-week summer program for children in grades one through six featuring a different theme each week.” [FCPA]

New Concourse Planned at Dulles Airport — “A new 14-gate concourse at Dulles International Airport could open as soon as 2026 under plans outlined Wednesday…The $674.7 million project…would be the most significant upgrade to the airport in more than a decade. The planned 400,000-square-foot building would replace the single-story structure that handles regional and commuter flights at Dulles.” [The Washington Post]

Reston Station Adds Wealth Management Firm — Comstock announced on Tuesday (April 19) that the office and private investment firm Cresset Manager has signed a lease agreement for 11,500 square feet on the ninth floor of 1900 Reston Metro Plaza. The company is expected to relocate its D.C. area office, currently in Reston Town Center, to the new space in the third quarter of 2022. [Comstock]

Annandale Baseball Diamonds Renamed — “On Saturday, April 16, 2022, the Fairfax County Park Authority joined the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the Annandale-North Springfield Little League (ANSLL) to rename the Pine Ridge Park baseball facilities to the Kehrer Baseball Complex…The change was made to honor two longtime ANSLL volunteers Darryl and Dawn Kehrer.” [FCPA]

Design Update Coming on Richmond Highway Bus Service — The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) will host three in-person meetings this spring on Richmond Highway BRT. The first one is scheduled for April 28 at Bryant High School and will provide updates on the design and intersection improvements at North Kings Highway and Shields Avenue. [FCDOT]

It’s Thursday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 66 and low of 44. Sunrise at 6:25 am and sunset at 7:53 pm. [Weather.gov]

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The proposed airport noise policy addresses areas in blue in the Dulles International Airport noise contours map (via Fairfax County)

Fairfax County planning officials are honing in on a proposal to allow new residential projects to move forward as part of its airport noise policy.

Changes to the airport noise policy would allow housing in roughly 2,300 acres of the Sully District — largely around Chantilly — to be exposed to higher levels of airplane noise than currently allowed.

The proposal, which was discussed at a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors land use committee meeting on Tuesday (March 15), allows new residential uses between the 60 and 65 Day-Night Average Sound Level (DNL) airport noise contours. DNL is the average sound level of one day adjusted to account for the more intrusive impact of noise during the night.

Staff emphasized that the proposal would impact a small portion of the county, which is developed with stable residential areas, parkland, and public facilities.

“It would impact a very limited area,” county planner Kelly Atkinson said.

Barbara Byron, director of the Department of Planning and Development, emphasized that anyone seeking to build a residential development in the area would still need the county’s approval for a site-specific comprehensive plan amendment.

Noise contours are graphical representations of projected noise exposure levels linked to airports. The contours referenced by the county are developed by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

The county plans to pursue other checks and balances as part of housing policy, staff said.

For example, studies documenting expected noise impacts will be conducted during the development review process. Noise levels should also be managed by selecting construction materials and standards that ensure noise levels within living spaces do not exceed 45 adjusted decibels.

Other steps include post-development noise studies and transparent notification of potential noise-related issues in purchasing agreements and marketing materials.

The board kickstarted the study process in July 2020 when it approved considering an amendment to the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan to allow residential uses in the noise contour areas.

The proposal heads to the Fairfax County Planning Commission for a public hearing on May 18, followed by consideration by the board on June 28.

Staff concluded a public outreach period for the proposal, including discussions with local land use committees, the Airports Advisory Committee, and MWAA.

They noted that the change is consistent with land use policies across most jurisdictions with international airports across the country.

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Airplane in flight (via John McArthur/Unsplash)

Fairfax County is clearing the way for more residential development in land just east of Dulles International Airport.

A proposed airport noise policy would amend the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan to permit new housing in approximately 2,300 acres of the Sully District, primarily around Chantilly, that are exposed to higher levels of airplane noise than currently allowed.

The county will launch the public engagement portion of its effort with two virtual open houses — one at 7 p.m. today (Thursday) and another at 11 a.m. on Saturday (Jan. 29).

Initiated by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on July 28, 2020, the goal of the amendment is to “enhance the county’s economic development opportunities” and add housing in a part of the county still dominated by older office and industrial buildings, according to a white paper on the proposal.

While the airport noise policy focuses on the Dulles area, putting it in the comprehensive plan would establish general standards for developers to account for aircraft-related noise levels, county staff told the board at a land use committee meeting on July 21, 2020.

“We think it’s important that the board look at this as a countywide policy, get it in the comprehensive plan so that it’s there, it’s available, people understand it,” Department of Planning and Zoning Director Barbara Byron said.

The alternative would be to make noise mitigation a condition for getting individual projects approved through the county’s zoning process, an approach that would be more unpredictable and challenging, according to Byron.

“We can’t stop some of the revitalization and activity from occurring in that area, nor should we,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “We need economic development. We need housing. We know…how many units we are behind demand, which is a direct input into affordability.”

The comprehensive plan currently does not recommend residential development in areas with over 60 weighted decibels of day-night average sound levels (DNL), defined by the Federal Aviation Administration as a metric for a person’s cumulative exposure to sound over a 24-hour period.

The amendment proposes allowing residential uses in areas that experience 60 to 65 decibels. The only part of the county where that standard currently applies is around Dulles, based on airport noise contours developed by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority in 1993 and adopted by the county in 1997.

The proposed airport noise policy addresses areas in blue in the Dulles International Airport noise contours map (via Fairfax County)

The county hasn’t adopted noise contours for the Davison Army Airfield on Fort Belvoir, and it’s not within MWAA’s 60 to 65-decibel contour for Washington National Airport.

As Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith noted to FFXnow, the county already has some residential development within the 60-65 DNL contour.

Despite some vocal community opposition, the Board of Supervisors approved two new neighborhoods in November 2020 after amending the comprehensive plan a year earlier to permit residential development in Westfields, known as Land Unit J of the Dulles Suburban Center.

The approvals came with some noise mitigation requirements related to construction materials and notifying potential homeowners of the airport’s proximity, according to Smith.

The proposed airport noise policy will align the rest of the Dulles area with Land Unit J and create uniformity between the county’s comprehensive plan and its zoning ordinance, which was updated just last year, Smith says.

It would also bring the county in line with other jurisdictions across the country with international airports, including Loudoun County, which permits residential uses in the Dulles 60-65 DNL contours.

“This isn’t anything new or different,” Smith said. “The FAA says that residential is not compatible when you get over 65, but they don’t have any restrictions below that.”

While the county hopes to encourage more residential and mixed-use development in the Dulles area, Smith doesn’t anticipate a huge influx of new housing if the amendment is approved.

“With the exception of Land Unit J of the Dulles Suburban Center, most of the residential uses currently anticipated by the Plan within the Board adopted DNL 60-65 noise contours have been developed and are generally stable with limited opportunities for further residential development,” the county’s white paper says.

Photo via John McArthur/Unsplash

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