Supervisors Approve Higher Density Limits for County Transit Areas

Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins at Feb. 29, 2016 meetingThe Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a motion on Tuesday to allow up to 5.0 FAR — a mark of high density — in 22 areas of the county close to Metro stations.

The ordinance establishes 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).

The board also passed an amendment introduced by Supervisor John Foust (Dranesville), that says the McLean area can only build up to a 3.0 in its revitalization and community business district areas. Foust said allowing high density building in McLean would alter the area’s traditional smaller-town character.

While the vote for increased FAR (Floor-Area Ratio) sounds like skyscrapers are on the way, it isn’t, the supervisors reiterated.

Allowing maximum density, particularly in areas close to Metro or in need of revitalization, gives future developers flexibility, said Supervisor Chair Sharon Bulova.

Supervisor Kathy Smith (Sully) pointed out that development surrounding the Merrifield Metro is at a 2.25 FAR, and in the urbanized Mosiac District, it is 1.2. Those places could have been built at a 3.0 level, but development in Fairfax County also puts much credence into the limits of the comprehensive plan, she said.

“It just goes to show how very, very important the comprehensive plan is in this county,” said Smith. “That’s where citizens have input on density, design and traffic generation. Just because these numbers are in the zoning ordinance, it does not mean that developers came in at that level. They came in at the level of the comprehensive plan.”

Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins agrees the comprehensive plan is the real guideline for development.

“I am concerned the message that goes out of it is that we with a 5.0 FAR, everyone now will be going out there and developing at that level,” said Hudgins. “From our side, we should be helping the community understand that for the most part people are making investments here.”

“They won’t make an investment in 5.0 if it won’t work. This is not compelling anyone, anyplace to go to highest level. It allows those who are in the highest category to go to that area if appropriate.”

Reston, even in the midst of a transportation-related building boom, is protected by the limits of the comprehensive plan. In order to implement any new zoning ordinance, the Board of Supervisors would have to adopt an amendment to the comprehensive plan for the Reston TSAs after a public hearing before the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors.

In Reston, TSA’s are considered within one-quarter mile of a Metro station.

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