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The Barton Hill Recreation Area in Reston is slated for upgrades (via Google Maps)

Reston Association is poised to share updated plans for the renovation of Barton Hill tennis courts earlier this year.

Staff are prepared to host an early spring meeting to share the update plans to upgrade the tennis courts following a legal disagreement with a county that prompted RA to remove lighting upgrades from the plan.

The proposal to host a meeting in early spring will go before RA’s Board of Directors at a meeting on Thursday (Jan. 26).

Last year, county zoning staff said that RA needed to develop a Planned Residential Community plan to install court lighting. Despite an appeal by RA, the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals reaffirmed that county’s zoning administrator’s decision.

Instead of pursuing additional legal action, RA chose to drop court lighting from the renovations.

“Reston Association staff ire pared to host a meeting in early spring to share the update conceptual plans of the project,” according to draft meeting materials.

The renovation includes the installation new pickle ball courts and the refurbishment of court surfaces.

The tennis courts were developed as a PRC zoning district in 1985. Four unlit tennis courts with a single water fountain and a nine-space parking area are located on the site. A neighboring parking lot has 19 parking spaces.

Photo via Google Maps

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Redevelopment of the Eastgate Shopping Centre in Annandale is planned (via Fairfax County)

(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) Annandale’s Eastgate Shopping Centre, home to The Block food hall, is slated for a partial redevelopment.

Insight Property Group is seeking Fairfax County’s permission to transform a part of the existing center on John Marr Drive into a mixed-use apartment building with retail and amenities in an effort to “transition the site into a more vibrant, mixed-use, and community-centered asset,” according to the application.

To move forward with the proposal, the county would have to rezone the shopping center from commercial uses to a use that allows residential and mixed-use projects.

“This diversified and more balanced mix of uses will ensure the Eastgate Shopping Center continues to contribute positively to and be a resource for the community,” the application says.

The proposal could transform the largely automobile-centric form of the center, which was built in 1973 and is anchored by K Market International. Although the center has seen new tenants — like The Block — the applicant says significant retail challenges remain.

Insight wants to rezone roughly three acres on the northern portion of the property for the residential component of the site. The building would be six stories tall and include up to 280 residential units. A little over 11,200 square feet of ground-level retail uses are planned.

The developer says the team is excited to put forward a plan that will “serve as an impetus for additional revitalization in the core of Annandale,” according to the application.

“The proposed development has also been designed to facilitate future redevelopment of the remainder of the shopping center,” the application says. “A new street grid, pedestrian corridors, and urban park spaces are being located for potential expansion in the future and to ultimately serve as a central open space amenity with the future build out of the remainder of the Eastgate Shopping Center.”

The proposal is in the early phases of the county’s multi-step approval process. It has not yet been accepted for review.

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Trees by the Glyndon Park pickleball courts (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The Vienna Town Council is in agreement that it must finish rewriting the town’s zoning code by the end of 2023, but that’s where any unanimity on priorities for the coming year ends.

At its first regular meeting of the year on Monday (Jan. 9), the council voted 4-3 to set four top priorities for 2023: complete Code Create Vienna, develop a parks master plan, review the town’s noise ordinance, and explore ways to improve the local tree canopy.

While everyone agreed those initiatives are important, the town’s first zoning overhaul in 50 years is the only one that all members felt should be at the top of their to-do list.

“I agree with this in concept, but when I look at this list, I do question whether this is representing what the people in town would want as their top four priorities,” Councilmember Nisha Patel said of the proposal from her colleague, Ray Brill.

She called prioritizing Code Create “a no-brainer” but wasn’t sold on tree preservation as a top issue compared to traffic or vehicle break-ins, which get more resident complaints.

A report presented in October found that Vienna has lost approximately 163 acres of tree coverage since 2011.

The council discussed potential priorities for the next year at an almost four-hour-long conference session on Dec. 12, but the need to finish the zoning overhaul after more than two years of work was the only suggestion to get unanimous support, according to Mayor Linda Colbert.

The parks master plan will include a decision on long-term uses for the former Faith Baptist Church property that the town bought in September 2020. The site is temporarily housing the police department, which hasn’t moved into its new station months after the ribbon-cutting.

The town’s noise ordinance was opened up for review in July after years of resident complaints about violations from business and construction activities.

Colbert and Councilmember Ed Somers joined Patel in her wariness of designating top priorities without seeking public input on what exactly they should be.

“I know probably a lot of us support each other’s [suggestions] certainly, even if we didn’t rank them in the top four,” Colbert said. “I don’t think it would be responsible for us to vote on four priorities when we didn’t have that discussion in an open meeting.”

Attempts to postpone a vote until after a public hearing or to only approve Code Create as the council’s top priority failed, as other members countered that setting clear priorities would make the town government more efficient.

Councilmember Steve Potter said that a lack of focus has been a recurring issue for the council since he was first elected in 2019.

“We have public hearings, we have the ability of people to send in their concerns, and that can’t be ignored,” he said. “If we continue down this path, we are going to have the same problem that we’ve had before. We start something and it gets interrupted, we lose it, we go back to it later, and that is no way to run a business or an organization of any kind.”

Brill’s approved motion stressed that the designated quartet of priorities won’t preclude the council from addressing other issues or interfere with time-sensitive business, such as the annual budget cycle.

“We become more efficient rather than sort of kicking the can down the road on some issues that we’ve been dealing with for years,” Brill said. “When we focus, we can get them done, and we open up opportunities to get more done. This is a benefit to the town, to the residents, and we can do things in some ways like we’ve never done before.”

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A central park is proposed at the Commerce Metro Center development in Reston (via Fairfax County)

Boasting the most proposals for redevelopment and zoning changes, Reston and the Hunter Mill District will get two open houses to discuss several major applications to change Fairfax County’s zoning guidelines.

The process — known as the Site Specific Plan Amendment (SSPA) — opens up the county’s comprehensive plan to land use changes. After receiving dozens of proposals, the county’s Board of Supervisors selected 75 nominations, 13 of which are in the Hunter Mill District.

Most developers argue that increased residential development is needed to account for aging and underutilized office space and fill a need for more housing.

The first virtual meeting is set for Tuesday, Jan. 17 at 7 p.m. It will cover three key proposals.

The owner of Commerce Metro Center wants to expand residential development as part of its mixed-use project at 11440 Commerce Park Drive.

Similarly, the owners of 1893-1897 Preston White Drive want to expand the residential component of their project by a floor area ratio of up to 2.0. A cluster of office buildings on Association Drive could also see expanded housing as part of its mixed-use project.

The second meeting is slated for Thursday, Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. and will cover four nominations.

RMC Owner LLC wants to pursue a 100% residential project at 12120 Sunrise Valley Drive. Reston Corner (12001, 12005, and 12007 Sunrise Valley Drive) could also see more residential uses, while RTC Partnership (1760 Reston Parkway) hopes to allow high-rise apartment use.

The owners of 1950 Roland Park Place want to add a public use component to their project to fill in for a requirement that the development have non-residential uses.

A third meeting is planned on Tuesday, Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. Applications to be discussed on that meeting include Michael Faraday Court, Samuel Morse Drive, Brookfield Properties, and Crowell Road.

This is not the last opportunity for public comment on the nominations.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission will determine which nominations will be reviewed for inclusion into the county’s Comprehensive Plan Amendment Work program. After the program is reviewed, the Board of Supervisors is expected to vote in the spring.

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A sign warns about parking tickets in a lower Springfield Plaza parking lot (staff photo by David Taube)

Parking requirements in Fairfax County — which are getting their first major overhaul since 1988 — are set for public hearings later this year.

The multi-year effort — coined Parking Reimagined — is the focus of an open house coming this week.

“Access to the internet, along with flexible telework options and convenient home delivery of goods, has decreased the need or desire to drive to shop or work,” the county says. “Growth of transit availability with the expansion of Metrorail and bus service and the movement toward compact walkable mixed-use communities has decreased the need for auto trips and parking demand.”

The county is now seeking feedback on draft recommendations related to off-street parking, loading and bicycle parking. A final draft is expected to be released later this year, with public hearings slated for the spring.

“County staff’s final recommendations will be presented at each of those public hearings,” the county says.

One of the most significant changes is the introduction of a tiered system for off-street parking requirements in the county’s specialized planning districts. The effort is intended to accommodate and encourage more modes of transportation in walkable and high-density areas.

Most of the county would be designated as tier 1, which covers low-density areas that would only see modest parking rate reductions. Tier three — the highest tier — would see the most significant changes.

The tiered system sets rates based on the development’s gross square footage instead of the number of people served:

Proposed parking requirements (via Fairfax County)

The proposal reduces the parking rate for shopping centers by excluding interior open areas of centers under 1 million square feet from parking calculations.

For residential uses, apartment unit spaces would be reduced from 1.6 to 1.3 spaces per unit.

For townhouses, 2.7 spaces per unit are required, with 0.2 set aside for visitor or shared parking. That’s lower than a previous proposal of 0.7 in response to concerns about increases in impervious surfaces. A similar change is under consideration for stacked townhouses.

With regards to off-street parking, the county would round down instead of up when calculating the parking requirement. For example, if the tabulated parking is 3.7, only three spaces would be required instead of four.

Also, the number of required accessible spaces will be calculated using the overall baseline minimum for a particular building or use before taking into account any adjustments allowed for suburban centers and revitalization areas.

After holding a meeting last week, the county is set to hold another open house on Thursday (Jan. 12) at 7 p.m., followed by a discussion before the Board of Supervisors’ land use policy committee on Feb. 14 at 1:30 p.m.

Comments should be submitted by next Monday (Jan. 16) to be reviewed by staff for inclusion in the final draft.

“It continues to be important to strike a balance between the importance of parking and the environment while maintaining shared parking opportunities,” the county says.

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The Barton Hill Recreation Area in Reston is slated for upgrades (via Google Maps)

Upgraded lighting is no longer a component of upgrades to the Barton Hill tennis courts in Reston.

Reston Association will not challenge the Oct. 26 vote by the Fairfax County Board of Appeals upholding an earlier decision to require additional approvals before lights can be installed at the facility.

Board of Appeals member Daniel Aminoff emphasized that the county’s current ordinance does not specifically indicate that lighting-related upgrades are considered exceptions to a requirement for an amendment to Reston’s existing Planned Residential Community (PRC) plan.

“Had the Board of Supervisors intended to include lights, they would have specifically delineated in that case,” said Aminoff.

The board agreed with a county zoning administrator that a PRC plan amendment is required for the proposed upgrades in addition to a site plan.

RA had argued that it only needs a sports illumination plan to move forward with 23 LED light poles, which would stand 26 feet tall. RA also said the approved development plan for the area describes the courts as a recreational area and, as a result, allows for greater flexibility in planning.

The project will still include refurbishment and replacement of the existing tennis courts. RA’s board removed roughly $381,000 from its budget after the lighting component was dropped, according to RA spokesperson Mike Leone.

Leone declined to provide a response on the association opting not to appeal the county’s decision.

The proposal includes renovation of four courts and striping for tennis and pickle ball. RA previously anticipated the project would be ready by the end of the year, but the new timeline has not currently been finalized.

Photo via Google Maps

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Closed sign (via Tim Mossholder/Unsplash)

With a high office and commercial vacancy rate and over 1,000 locals experiencing homelessness, Fairfax County is considering a zoning change that could use one problem to help solve the other.

The proposal would allow unused commercial spaces, including office and hotel space, to be used as emergency shelters for those experiencing homelessness.

The new zoning would let private entities — namely nonprofits that work with those experiencing homelessness — operate emergency shelters in vacant or underutilized commercial or industrial properties.

“Special exception use would permit repurposing of a commercial building in a commercial, Industrial, or in some Planned Districts with approval by the Board,” a staff report on the change said. “Commercial building includes buildings designed or used for office, hotel, retail, institutional, or industrial purposes.”

In a presentation to the Board of Supervisors housing committee on Nov. 22, staff said there is currently no “emergency shelter” use in the county zoning code.

In addition to creating an emergency shelter use, the zoning change would add a “permanent supportive housing” use for housing that provides assistance and supportive services, like transportation and training, to residents. Supportive housing is reserved in the zoning ordinance for those making below 60% of the area median income.

The presentation didn’t include information on incentives to get private property owners to open their space up for use used as emergency shelter, but board members still expressed enthusiasm for the idea.

“We’ve had similar conversations to this before, but I think we’re in a different situation right now,” said County Board Chair Jeff McKay, “not only with what we know about homelessness but that we also, unfortunately, have a higher number of vacancies because of Covid. I think it’s time to have a conversation about adaptive reuse.”

The proposed changes are part of a general push by the county to reevaluate how it tackles homelessness, particularly by increasing the availability of permanent and supportive housing instead of relying on temporary shelters.

The last point-in-time count, conducted on Jan. 26, found 1,191 people experiencing homelessness in the county, a decrease from 2021 but higher than the numbers reported in the most recent years preceding the pandemic. About 50% of the individuals counted were Black, even though only 10% of the county’s population falls in that demographic.

During the initial months of the pandemic, the county enlisted hotels as temporary shelter for individuals who were experiencing homelessness or otherwise lacked space needed for isolating or quarantining due to Covid.

Photo via Tim Mossholder/Unsplash

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A few skaters use the Mosaic District’s roller rink in July 2022 (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

There will be no ice skating at the Mosaic District this winter.

The Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals agreed on Wednesday (Oct. 19) to postpone a decision on Rink Management Services Corporation’s special permit request for a rink in the Merrifield neighborhood that would have roller skating in the spring and ice skating in the winter.

This is the third time that the board has deferred or continued the case after previously chiding the applicant for its public outreach efforts. Residents voiced concerns about the rink’s potential impact on noise, traffic and access to their homes during a public hearing on July 13, the Sun Gazette reported.

“Essentially, what the applicant has decided to do at this point is not pursue an ice skating rink for this winter season,” Department of Planning and Development staff coordinator Brandon McCadden told the board this week. “So, they’re looking for a deferral to Feb. 1, which would give them time to again reevaluate their plans for the roller rink and the ice rink for future seasons.”

Mosaic District owner and developer EDENS introduced its temporary roller rink in 2021. Mosaic Skateland returned this summer but got moved from Strawberry Lane, where it required a closure of one of the district’s main thoroughfares, to Merrifield Center Town Drive near Barnes & Noble.

The rink has now been dismantled after the season wrapped up on Sept. 25.

In a proposal submitted for county review this past spring, EDENS and Rink Management Services, which operates the facility, are seeking to have the roller rink annually from April 1 to June 30 and add ice skating from Nov. 1 to March 15.

They had hoped to start the ice rink this year, but the delays in the permitting process have nixed that.

“[They’re] really looking to target spring and summer 2023 for roller skating and then ice skating the following winter,” McCadden said.

Mosaic District owner EDENS hopes to put an ice skating rink on District Avenue (via Fairfax County)

The planned roller rink would be 76 feet long and 36 feet wide with 10-foot-tall poles for lighting and six speakers to play music. The ice rink would be 100 feet long by 50 feet wide with a 3.5-foot-tall enclosure, a 1,000-square-foot admission and rental tent, and space for a portable aircooled chiller and a zamboni.

Both rinks would accommodate up to 50 skaters per session with two to five employees on site, according to the application.

If approved, the roller rink would stay on Merrifield Towne Center Drive, where it takes up two travel lanes and five parallel parking spaces. The ice rink would be on District Avenue next to Penny Lane Park, requiring the closure of that section of the street and 18 parking spaces.

In a staff report dated July 6, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation said that it “has no concerns” related to traffic circulation and parking, noting that the Mosaic District has about 2,500 garage parking spaces and 150 on-street spots.

“The proposed street closures will not impact deliveries to the adjacent mixed-use buildings since the loading spaces are located at the rear of the buildings along Merrifield Cinema Drive,” the report said.

The Office of the Fire Marshal requested some changes to the plan, including requiring that the street closures be marked with signage with caution lights and/or moveable barriers, but staff felt the modifications addressed their concerns about access for fire department personnel, according to the report.

However, some additional revisions to the plan are evidently in the works. McCadden told the zoning appeals board that, when the case returns on Feb. 1, it will “essentially” require a new public hearing “because it’s going to substantially be a new application.”

FFXnow reached out to EDENS and Rink Management Services for comment but didn’t hear back by press time.

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The Burger 7 at Avenir Place has a tent extension and movable tables and chairs for outdoor dining (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The end of Fairfax County’s state of emergency declaration for the COVID-19 pandemic won’t mean the end of expanded outdoor dining.

At a land use policy committee meeting last week, the Board of Supervisors indicated strong support for permanently relaxing the county’s permitting rules to let restaurants and other food and drink service establishments set up temporary outdoor dining areas.

Under the proposal put forward by county staff on Oct. 6, restaurants would only need an adminstrative permit to provide outdoor dining in parking spaces and other hard-surface areas, such as an existing patio or sidewalk, for a six-month period.

“The administrative permit would place limits on the size of the outdoor dining area, the hours of operation, and the duration of the permit,” said Jennifer Josiah with the Fairfax County Department of Land Development Services. “No site-related plans would be required, as long as there’s no land disturbance.”

She noted that regular health department inspections would continue, and businesses would still have to get approved by the fire marshal “to ensure all safety standards are met regarding tents, heaters and seating areas.”

The new process would be similar to the looser regulations in place since May 2020, when the board approved an emergency ordinance letting some businesses operate in outdoor tents to encourage social distancing and limit the spread of COVID-19.

The Board of Supervisors declared a local state of emergency for the pandemic on March 17, 2020, giving the county more flexibility to respond. In addition to enabling more outdoor dining and fitness activities, the board reduced fees for hospitality-related development and streamlined the process for establishing temporary medical facilities.

All of those provisions must end one year after the state of emergency concludes. The county told FFXnow this summer that the board could end its declaration in September, but the vote was evidently postponed, as staff were still reviewing the implications.

Staff have recommended that all of the emergency measures be allowed to lapse except the one for outdoor dining.

According to the county, 91 businesses have taken advantage of the ordinance since it took effect, though as of Sept. 1, the Department of Code Compliance only found five sites still using parking spaces for outdoor dining. When board members expressed surprise at that number, Josiah allowed that there may be more businesses that weren’t counted.

“We were working off a list that the health department gave us of all the eating establishments and food establishments that they licensed,” she said. Read More

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The county is considering ways to preserve dark skies around the observatory (via Fairfax County Government)

An effort is underway to preserve the dark skies around the Turner Farm Park Observatory in Great Falls.

To reduce light pollution in the area, Fairfax County is considering amending zoning standards for outdoor lighting within one-half mile of the observatory, which is located at the intersection of Georgetown Pike and Springvale Road.

The observatory has several telescopes and a former National Defense Mapping Agency observation tower. Since the spring of 2018, the facility has served more than 3,700 people with educational programming.

Changes would largely impact residential development — roughly 500 properties — surrounding the observatory.

So far, county staff indicate that residents appear split about possible changes to the zoning rule. An official proposal expected in the winter of this year.

“Comments received in support of additional regulations expressed that the amendment would be an important and valuable step in protecting dark skies and the use of the observatory,” staff said in a memo. “Comments in opposition indicated that additional regulations are not needed, and concerns were expressed about several issues, including safety and security, and whether additional regulations within ½ mile of the observatory would be meaningful, given the overall light pollution of the area.”

The county held a public meeting on the issue on Monday (Sept. 19). Residents and community organizations offered feedback on the existing conditions near the observatory and possible changes that could affect properties within a one-half-mile radius of the observatory.

Representatives for the Fairfax County Police Department noted that proper lighting is a deterrent for criminal activity, but overnighting and uplighting are not required to facilitate a safe environment.

The Great Falls Citizen Association held the first official public meeting on the issue on March 24. The association has historically supported efforts to preserve the area’s dark skies.

“Because this proposed amendment involves a unique set of circumstances, GFCA is in the process of evaluating the County’s preliminary concepts on the amendment and considering its impact on the community, following two Town Hall sessions GFCA hosted,” Peter Falcone, a spokesperson for the association, wrote in a statement.

The observatory is also working toward becoming an official urban night sky place from the International Dark Sky Association.

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