Fairfax County Seeks Higher Density Limits in Reston

Reston Town Center

On the docket at tonight’s Reston Planning and Zoning Committee: The idea to allow Reston’s high-density areas — and some residential areas — to become more populous.

Fairfax County has proposed an ordinance to establish a maximum FAR of 5.0 for Transit Station Areas and a maximum FAR of 4.0 for Commercial Revitalization Districts, (CRD), Commercial Revitalization Areas (CRA), and Community Business Centers (CBC).

It also wants to see residential areas increase from 1.5 FAR to 2.5 FAR if provisions for open space and affordable housing are put in place.

FAR stands for Floor-Area Ratio, a mark of density.

Representatives from Fairfax County’s Department of Planning and Zoning will attend tonight’s meeting at 7:30 p.m., at the North County Governmental Center, 1801 Cameron Glen Drive, Reston.

The Reston P & Z Committee does not have any real power in the approval process — that ultimately falls to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, which will hold a public hearing on the issue on June 21. But the Reston meeting is a good chance for those with Reston interests to hear more and ask questions.

Says the county:  “The proposal to increase the maximum FAR in both of these districts is a direct response to the Board’s adoption of amendments to the comprehensive plan that provide for increased density/intensity recommendations for specific areas located within certain geographic areas of the County.

Some of the density/intensity recommendations for these
Selective Areas would allow for FAR levels greater than those which are currently permitted by the Zoning Ordinance. The proposed increase in the maximum FAR in the Selective Areas will enable a developer to propose a project that will implement the plan recommendations.

For example, certain areas of the Reston TSAs would permit up to 4.5 FAR under the adopted comprehensive plan and, at this time, there is no zoning district that can be utilized at this geographic location to achieve a 4.5 FAR.”

In laymen’s terms, this could mean taller buildings or more units packed into a smaller footprint. It would be in effect for future projects — and it could mean previously approved projects could go back to the county for amended density.

More from the county:

Currently, in the PDC District (most of the residential areas of Reston), provisions allow for a maximum FAR of 1.5, which may be increased by the Board up to 2.5 FAR subject to specific increases tied to the provision of additional open space, incorporation of unique design features/amenities, and/or the provision of below surface parking or structured parking within an enclosed building.

The maximum FAR may also be increased in association with the provision of affordable housing.

Staff is proposing to eliminate the current 1.5 FAR maximum and the specific criteria for obtaining increases up to maximum 2.5 FAR and replace it with a baseline maximum FAR of 2.5, retaining the provision for increases associated with the provisions of affordable housing and
subject to additional increases in Selective Areas, as discussed below.

Staff notes that the PDC District was established in the Zoning Ordinance in the early 1970s and the provisions regarding increases from the maximum 1.5 FAR to up to 2.5 FAR were adopted in the late 1970s.

Read more on the Fairfax County website.

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