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Preliminary plans call for a park at the site of the Lorton landfill (via Fairfax County)

The Fairfax County Planning Commission has given the green light to preliminary plans to convert the closed Lorton Landfill into a public park.

Dubbed Overlook Ridge Park, the park would house the highest point in Fairfax County, hiking trails, picnic areas, an amphitheater, bathrooms and bird sanctuaries.

But concerns about the safety of the site — particularly issues related to methane gas — dominated the discussion at a meeting on June 15. Braddock District Commissioner Mary Cortina led a line of questioning concerning whether the landfill was determined safe for park use and what parameters were used to come to that conclusion.

County officials and representatives from the Fairfax County Park Authority repeatedly stated that the site was deemed safe for use as a park, according to an analysis by a third-party consultant hired by applicant and property owner Waste Management.

David Kaasa, district manager of the Lorton Landfill, said the applicant would ensure that safety is a top priority.

“If it’s not safe for me to go up there, then we’re not sending anyone up there,” he said.

The applicant is working on a shared agreement to sort out unidentified issues related to the site. A similar plan was discussed in 2007 but stalled due to a number of issues.

County officials encouraged the applicant to determine if there’s a way to avoid potable water at one of the bathrooms at the park. Commissioners also wondered if access to drinking water could be provided at the top of the park — including installation of a water line or a well.

Waste Management’s plan includes two main access roads, a cultural garden and overlook, an amphitheater with benched seating, and 120 parking spaces.

If the planning process moves forward, the park would open to the public as early as 2025. The application has to clear several more steps before official approval, including a site plan. The landfill officially closed in 2021 after operations ceased in 2018.

Despite the possibility of hiccups, Kaasa said the applicant intends to move forward with the proposal.

“Waste Management is committed to this project and its obligations at the landfill both locally and at the state level,” he said.

Mount Vernon District Commissioner Walter Clarke said he is eager for the park to open to the public.

“It’s really amazing up there so once it’s built and if it does come to fruition, we should all please make an effort to enjoy that park,” Clarke said.

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Morning Notes

A “LOVE” sign at the Workhouse Arts Center, former site of the Lorton Prison (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Suspect in Annandale Burglaries Arrested — Fairfax County police have arrested and charged a 19-year-old man from Annandale in connection to nine commercial burglaries reported between May 26 and June 14. The suspect broke the front glass doors of each of the businesses, took cash and left on a bicycle, police say. [FCPD]

Covid Quarantine Guidelines Amended — The Virginia Department of Health no longer recommends quarantining for people exposed to COVID-19 who are up to date on their vaccinations or have recovered the disease in the last six months — double what the CDC advises. The state instead suggests isolating only if symptoms appear. [WTOP]

Roaming Rooster Opens in Chantilly — The Nashville-style hot chicken joint will open at 11 a.m. today (Friday) at 14394 Chantilly Crossing Lane, offering a free sandwich to the first 50 customers. Roaming Rooster also has locations in Tysons and Burke. [Roaming Rooster/Twitter]

Proposal Allowing More Housing Near Dulles Airport Advances — “The Fairfax County Planning Commission on June 8 backed a proposed comprehensive-plan amendment to allow residential uses in noisier areas near Washington Dulles International Airport, sending the measure to the Board of Supervisors.” [Sun Gazette]

Meeting Set on Blake Lane Safety — After a car crash killed two Oakton High School students last week, Fairfax County elected officials and transportation, police, and school leaders will hold a virtual meeting next Thursday (June 23) to discuss possible safety improvements. The meeting will take place from 7-8:30 p.m. on Zoom and be live-streamed on Facebook. [Supervisor Dalia Palchik/Twitter]

McLean Residents Criticize Maryland’s Role in 495 NEXT — “Maryland’s plans to undertake major construction work along the Capital Beltway in Fairfax County aren’t sitting well with some Northern Virginia residents and elected leaders, who are questioning why another state is involved in transportation projects outside its borders.” [Maryland Matters]

Boston Properties Sells Springfield Buildings — A Boston Properties affiliate has sold a cluster of 11 office and industrial properties in the Virginia 95 Business Park to the Bethesda-based firm Finmarc Management Inc., which closed the $127.5 million deal on Wednesday (June 15). Finmarc says it plans to lease the buildings, whose current tenants include the State Department and SAIC, but is also open to “longer-term possibilities.” [Washington Business Journal]

State Lawmakers Reconvene to Talk Budget Amendments — The Virginia General Assembly returns to the Capitol today (Friday) to take up 38 amendments proposed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin, facing a June 30 deadline to finalize a two-year spending plan. Items on the table include a three-month gas tax suspension and an elimination of state funding for abortions in rare cases where the fetus has “incapacitating” physical or mental issues. [The Washington Post]

Town of Vienna Collects Used Batteries — “Vienna is now collecting single-use & rechargeable lithium-ion batteries (11 lbs. or less; not damaged, bulging, or leaking) at the Vienna Community Center or Town Hall. Stop by during regular business hours and look for the recycling box.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

It’s Friday — Humid throughout the day. High of 85 and low of 74. Sunrise at 5:44 am and sunset at 8:38 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Staff raised several issues with the cohesion of the former Fannie Mae site in Reston (via Fairfax County)

The redevelopment of the former Fannie Mae campus in Reston is still waiting to clear the docket of the Fairfax County Planning Commission.

At a meeting last night (Wednesday), lack of agreement on whether or not part of the nearly 9-acre townhouse project should have security gates led the group to defer a vote to June 22.

Instead of the two additional office buildings currently approved for the site at 11600 American Dream Way, the applicant is seeking the county’s permission to build up to 74 townhouses and eight two-over-two units. The existing 396,074-square-foot office building will remain on the site.

The deferral was hung up by a discussion on whether or not it was appropriate for the applicant to retain a gate along American Dream Way around the existing office building. This is the second deferral for the project, which was delayed by six weeks to work through a litany of issues.

Developer Wheelock Street Capital said discussions are underway with a prospective tenant that has a strong need for security gates around the road.

As a compromise, the county attempted to draft a proffer that would let the owner put in and take out gates, depending on the needs of future tenants.

But county staff and planning commissioners called that approach confusing for the area, particularly for residents of the townhomes whose access could be cut off sporadically.

“It’s coming and going and coming and going…There’s no consistency there,” said Mary Cortina, planning commissioner for the Braddock District.

Mary Ann Tsai of the Department of Planning and Development’s zoning evaluation division also said allowing the removal and reinstallation of the gates was contrary to the county’s vision for a mixed-use project in a transit area.

“We felt it was a very confusing situation,” Tsai said, particularly regarding getting in and out of the facility.

Ultimately, Wheelock agreed to drop the proffer and instead apply for a final development plan that could retain the gates, prompting the deferral to give staff the time to draft language for the revision.

Although the gates issue held up a vote on the project, Hunter Mill District Commissioner John Carter said the developer agreed to a number of changes to the project.

“The project has come a long ways over the years and especially since the initial application,” he said.

According to Carter, the changes include ensuring that residential units are not built inside the site’s ponds, that the site isn’t completely gated off, and that appropriate setbacks are put into place.

He noted that the plan now ensures that adequate setbacks are provided, public access is provided for ponds and trails, and the ponds are preserved with a joint maintenance agreement is in effect. Between eight to 10 units were shaved off of the project to accommodate the changes.

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Plans to modernize an office building co-located with Hilton’s corporate headquarters in Tysons are a vote away from becoming a reality.

Tysons Park Place owner B.F. Saul Company garnered the Fairfax County Planning Commission’s support on Wednesday (June 8) for its proposal to allow a 175-foot-tall, “trophy-class” office building in place of the 135-foot-tall building that has stood at 7926 Jones Branch Drive since 1975.

Designed to more closely mirror its 147-foot-tall Park Place II counterpart, which was built in 2008 and houses the Hilton Worldwide headquarters, the new Park Place I will transform the corner of Jones Branch Drive approaching Scotts Crossing Road with more open space and landscaping, according to the special exception application.

“It will be just a tremendous addition to Jones Branch, so [I’m] a hundred percent excited about what you’re offering in this regard,” Providence District Commissioner Phil Niedzielski-Eichner said during last week’s public hearing.

Following up on a final development plan from 2018, the application requests a height increase “for an architectural feature to go a little higher to reflect our gateway location,” land-use lawyer Mark Viani told the planning commission as B.F. Saul’s representative.

In addition to producing a taller, more modern-looking building, the redevelopment will reorient Park Place I 90 degrees to face the Hilton headquarters building and make room for a publicly accessible urban park space and plaza along Jones Branch Drive.

The Park Place I redevelopment will include the addition of a plaza along Jones Branch Drive (via Fairfax County)

The 4,040-square-foot plaza will feature cafe-style tables, amphitheater seating, curved benches, and landscaping. It’s envisioned “as an outdoor room, which could be utilized for a variety of programming, including public gathering and community recreation,” a county staff report says.

The project will also widen Jones Branch Drive to accommodate on-street parking and a new, four-foot-wide bicycle lane. The developer will provide an eight-foot-wide sidewalk with rows of trees along both sides “to provide shade to the pedestrian space and the plaza area,” according to the staff report.

With no curb ramps, the sidewalk will be raised across all three entryways into the property to provide “a continuous experience,” Viani said, adding that B.F. Saul has agreed to include warning strips to alert people with visual impairments when they reach a driveway.

“That’s the focus: to make sure as much as you can within the bounds of safety and appropriateness, make that pedestrian experience continuous along the road front,” Viani said.

The developer has committed to introducing stormwater management features, since there currently isn’t a detention facility for the site. However, its proposal to retain at least 0.78 inches of rainfall on site falls short of the 1-inch minimum recommended by the Tysons Comprehensive Plan.

While the developer has agreed to look for possible ways to increase the amount of retention during the site plan process, Viani said it has “kind of reached the limit of what we can really do.” County planner Sharon Williams noted that there are “several” utility lines under Jones Branch that need to be taken into account.

“We are interested in looking at it, and I think there are ways we can probably reduce imperviousness, but even if we reduce imperviousness, it’s unlikely we’re going to get to 0.79, let alone 0.8 or 1 inch,” Viani said. “That’s just not going to happen in terms of where we are.”

The application is scheduled to go before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for a public hearing and final approval on June 28.

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(Updated at 3:55 p.m.) Inova is one step closer to getting the planned expansion of its Franconia-Springfield medical campus to 21 acres.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission voted unanimously last night (Wednesday) to endorse an amended plan for the multi-million dollar Inova HealthPlex on Walker Lane and bordering the Franconia-Springfield Parkway.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to hold a public hearing and, possibly, vote on approving the plan at the end of this month (June 28). A concurrent rezoning application for the project is scheduled to go before the planning commission on July 20.

The amended, consolidated plan calls for the five-story, 146,000-square-foot Inova medical building to remain with the addition of three new six-story medical buildings. All told, it would add 296,000 square feet of medical care, medical offices, and ancillary/support uses to create a “regional medical campus.”

As noted in last night’s meeting, the additions mean an updated emergency room, modernized inpatient and outpatient facilities, more centrally located offices, and better parking.

There’s also an option to add upward of 500,000 square feet of more medical space, hotels, residential, or, even, retail to the parcel of land next door.

This is all being done within just over half a mile from the Franconia-Springfield Metro station.

“The proposed Medical Campus Option for 1,000,000 square feet of medical care, medical office, and ancillary uses in Land Units S and U would help to address the healthcare needs of the region’s residents and creates an opportunity to promote Transit-Oriented Development at this location,” reads the staff report.

If the board approves the plan later this month, construction could start by late 2023 with a completion date of 2027.

The Franconia-Springfield project was first announced in May 2020. It’s part of a dramatic overhaul of the Inova system, including a whole new facility in Alexandria.

The planning commission’s discussion of the proposal touched on a new roundabout that will hopefully slow down traffic and allow emergency vehicles to exit and enter the facility more swiftly. There was talk about updated and repaved trails, but concerns remained regarding how protected pedestrians will be from “high speed traffic” on the Franconia-Springfield Parkway.

Commenters also raised noise concerns. During the public hearing portion, one neighbor who lives just behind the site for the new facilities on Ayers Meadow Lane expressed fear that the addition of potentially thousands of new employees could lead to more noise and traffic in the area — plus, the ambulances.

“When you are talking about ambulances going up and down the street, how many will have their sirens on in the middle of the night?” the neighbor said.

County staff and Inova representatives responded that they are commissioning a noise study, will work on noise abatement measures, and generally trust drivers to know when to use their sirens. They appreciate the “burden” neighbors will be taking on with the added noise but cautioned that ambulances not using their sirens isn’t an option.

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The Charlton at The Mile will bring 400 residential units, retail, and a self-storage facility to Tysons (via Fairfax County)

As work on one building in The Mile wraps up, another building planned for the Tysons development has gotten Fairfax County’s approval to proceed.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission gave its unanimous support on Wednesday (May 11) to the final development plan for The Charlton, a 400-unit, midrise residential building that will have retail on the ground floor and a self-storage facility at its core.

The inclusion of the 150,000 square feet of self-storage space stems from a collaboration between developers KETTLER and PS Business Parks and the company Public Storage, an affiliate of PS Business.

Public Storage and PS Business Parks, which owns the 3.8-acre property on Westbranch Drive, believe there is “a large market” for self-storage in Tysons, Walsh Colucci land-use planner Elizabeth Baker said as the developers’ legal representative.

“[Residents] can go down and sit in that old chair that they can’t fit into their unit but that they still love, so that’s great,” Dranesville District Commissioner John Ulfelder said. “I think that’s a great idea.”

Totaling approximately 563,000 square feet in size, The Charlton will contain 400,000 square feet of residential space and 13,500 square feet of retail. It could range in height from five to eight stories, or 70 to 90 feet.

Mary Ann Tsai with the county’s planning staff noted that the approved plan includes a condition giving the developers “flexibility” to turn designated amenity space into additional retail.

A site layout for The Charlton, known as Building B in plan for The Mile (via Fairfax County)

The developer will construct three internal streets around the building, with Rowling Street to the north, Blyton Street to the east, and The Mile Avenue on the south side.

The project will also provide a 7,595-square-foot segment of the planned Tysons Community Circuit on The Mile Avenue, multiple courtyards and “parklets,” and a trail connection from Blyton to a 28,000-square-foot interim park that will eventually be replaced by the 5-acre, publicly accessible Signature Park at the center of The Mile.

The plan allows for up to 676 parking spaces, including a curbside drop-off space and two street spaces that PS Business Parks has committed to making compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The accessibility of the public storage, which won’t be limited to building residents, was a key focus for the developer, according to Baker.

“We worked hard with staff on how to address access to that, how to hide the look of it but still make it accessible for people, and I think we did a pretty good job on that,” she said.

The Charlton will be the third building in The Mile, joining the Highgate and The Brentford apartments. Baker told the planning commission that construction on The Brentford — started in 2020 — has been completed, though the building’s website indicates that it won’t open until this fall.

Approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in 2019, The Mile will deliver 13 buildings and 3 million square feet of development, transforming 38.8 acres of land northeast of Tysons Galleria that was once occupied by the Westpark Business Park.

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Upgrades are planned for a prominent gas station in Springfield (via Google Maps)

Fairfax County is considering a plan to make over part of the Ravensworth Shell Station, which has served the area for more than 50 years.

Applicant Capital Services, Inc. has filed plans with the county to convert its existing service station building into a convenience store at 5200 Port Royal Road in Springfield.

The station is part of the Ravensworth Shopping Center, which county records indicate was originally built in 1965. It was last remodeled in 1983 when the gas pumps were shifted and a canopy was added over the pumps. It currently includes four service bays, back offices and a vehicle lift.

An application before the Fairfax County Planning Commission notes that the changes would add roughly 200 square feet to the building. The existing gas pumps and canopy will not be affected.

“The conversion of the four service bays into the convenience store, and the continued operation of the six fuel pumps is expected to increase the overall daily trips for the site from the current 3,128 trips to 4,033 trips, or an additional 905 daily trips,” the application says.

The applicant plans to convert the existing northernmost curb cut on Port Royal Road into a right-turn only for southbound drivers in order to allow tanker trucks to access and service underground fuel tanks easily.

“This proposal is a unique opportunity to allow a long-standing business to adapt to changing market conditions in order to continue serving the surrounding community,” legal representative David Gill wrote in a statement to the county. “The proposal will provide a convenience store use that will serve the needs of motorists, while improving the traffic operations and safety of this portion of Ravensworth Shopping Center.”

The Fairfax County Planning Commission is expected to discuss the proposal on May 22 at 7:30 p.m. The owner did not return requests for comment from FFXnow.

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A planned development near Westfield High School includes 154 townhouses that are for sale (via Fairfax County)

A plan to build 154 townhouses on a property surrounded by industrial uses and bisected by transmission lines opposite Westfield High School in Chantilly is drawing scrutiny from the Fairfax County Planning Commission.

At a meeting last night (Wednesday), some commissioners called the proposal by K. Hovnanian Homes at Gallery Park inappropriate for the area.

Providence District Commissioner Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner said the applicant was attempting to putting a “square peg in a round hole” and struggled to understand why county staff recommended approval of the application, which requires the site at 15014 Northridge Drive to be rezoned from industrial use to residential.

“We don’t have more industrial uses than we need in the county and here we are taking an industrial use and creating a residential island in the middle of industrial use,” Niedzielski-Eichner said.

Other commissioners expressed concern about the transmission lines that cross over the entire property.

The applicant’s attorney, Kenneth Wire, noted the presence of the high school contributes to the sense of community, suggesting that the development would not be on an island.

He also said the developer worked closely with the community, Dominion Energy, and Washington Gas to design the development so that the road network aligned with most of the transmission lines.

“The center of a community is often a school,” Wire said, adding that some buyers may not be perturbed by the presence of transmission lines above.

Staff said the development was appropriate for an area — known in planning jargon as Land Unit J — that could have up to 4,000 additional residential units.

“It’s really just the beginning of the evolution of Westfields,” Bill O’Donald of the county’s zoning department said.

The proposed townhouses are “strategically organized” around the power lines to include open spaces like grilling pavilions, fitness stations, play costs, and a playground, according to the application.

By county standards, 12% of the units are considered affordable, and roughly 3.5 acres of open space is planned. Trails will also be provided along Stonecroft Boulevard and Northridge Drive.

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A conceptual rendering for The Block at Scotts Run, which will occupy a currently vacant lot in Tysons (via Fairfax County/VIKA Virginia)

Will it be a hub for food trucks? How about an indoor spa, or a trampoline park with pop-up retail stalls? Why not all of the above?

Cityline Partners, the developer behind the Scotts Run neighborhood in Tysons, can let its imagination run wild — to a point — after the Fairfax County Planning Commission approved its proposal on Wednesday (April 27) to “activate” the 1600 block of Anderson Road.

Right now, the empty 3.5-acre lot is serving as a construction staging area while work continues on Heming, a 28-story apartment complex with retail set to open at Scotts Run next year.

Under the approved development plan, Cityline can add recreational, entertainment, and pop-up retail and restaurant activities to the site on an interim basis for the next 20 years.

“We think this is an exciting opportunity to bring life to this gateway at Tysons East,” said Holland & Knight land use attorney David Schneider, who represented the developer at the planning commission’s public hearing.

Located across the street from The Kingston and Haden apartment buildings and within a mile of the McLean Metro station, The Block at Scotts Run can host activations that fall under five categories:

  • Quasi-public park
  • Outdoor commercial recreation
  • Indoor commercial recreation
  • Retail
  • Restaurant

Those are broad categories, as defined by the county’s recently updated zoning code. Outdoor commercial recreation, for example, encompasses everything from mini golf to drive-in movie theaters and amusement park rides.

There will be a 90-foot height limit and a maximum of 30,000 square feet of gross floor area, but the plan is intended to be flexibile, allowing the site to change with the seasons and the community’s needs. Read More

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(Updated at 9:15 a.m. to replace references to Reston Next with Reston Town Center expansion)

A rotating car station is a key element of Boston Properties’ massive Reston Town Center development.

Anchored by Fannie Mae and also home to Volkswagen Group of America, the $715 million expansion of Reston Town Center will include a jewel box — a 1,500-square-foot box that will let the vehicle manufacturer display vehicles on platforms attached to the eighth story of a planned parking garage.

Mark Looney, Boston Properties’ legal representative, said the jewel box is a “marketing tool” for Volkswagen. RTC Next is a planned four-million-square-foot extension of RTC. Volkswagen signed a lease at the development in 2020.

“The jewel box is a pretty significant element of Volkswagen’s willingness to come to this location and to come to this project,” Looney told the Fairfax County Planning Commission at a meeting on April 20.

While Volkswagen does not plan to sell cars directly from its Reston offices, the company hopes to use the jewel box to display cars on a rotating basis. A 225-square-foot digital display is also part of the design.

The Virginia Department of Transportation approved the design of the jewel box, including the level of lighting proposed.

Development conditions also restrict flashing light and video streaming from the digital display. Only static images are permitted — specifically one per day — and no sound is allowed, according to Mary Ann Tsai of the county’s Zoning Evaluation Division.

“The jewel box functions a sign itself,” Tsai noted.

Looney said the developer also plans to reduce the visibility of the sign at night, noting that the height of the jewel box targets Metro-goers directly.

The commission voted unanimously to approved the overall sign and way-finding plan for RTC expansion at the meeting.

The internal planning name of the project is Reston Next, but the project is formally characterized as Reston Town Center’s expansion, a company representative clarified.

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