NEW: Fairfax County planning error puts Reston Deli Italiano’s future in question

Lake Anne resident Alec Berry was excited when he learned a new pizza restaurant planned to move in underneath his condominium in Reston.

But that excitement and goodwill dissipated once construction started, and Berry discovered that Fairfax County planning staff had mistakenly approved plans for an exterior ventilation shaft to be installed along the side of the building — right outside his window.

“They put the shaft in and bolted it to the sidewall,” he told FFXnow. “I was given no notification of this and at roughly 7:30 in the morning, they have an impact drill into the side of my bedroom wall… So, that has soured my opinion of this whole thing.”

According to the county’s Department of Planning and Development, the application for a new Deli Italiano at 1631 Washington Plaza was processed through the county’s old planning and land use system, FIDO.

However, the system bypassed what should’ve been a required review by the Architectural Review Board (ARB) for exterior modifications because it was labeled as a “new tenant layout,” which typically implies no external changes.

“Fairfax County takes the preservation of its historic districts very seriously, requiring that any exterior modifications to buildings within these areas receive approval from the Architectural Review Board,” a county spokesperson said in a statement. “Unfortunately, in this case that did not occur due to an oversight in the approval process that did not flag the exterior changes.”

The county’s new system, PLUS, which launched with some hiccups in 2022, uses GIS technology to flag all applications in Historic Overlay Districts for review.

Nevertheless, the ARB can’t retroactively rescind its approval of Deli Italiano’s application, according to the spokesperson.

“We are dedicated to enhancing our processes and leveraging technology to uphold the integrity of our historic districts and ensure that such oversights do not occur in the future,” they said.

The central question now is whether Deli Italiano owner Yasser Baslios can continue construction after Berry appealed to the Lake Anne of Reston Condominiums Unit Owners Association (LARCA) and the Reston Association Design Review Board (DRB) — separate entities from the ARB — to stop the project.

Both the DRB and LARCA approved Baslios’s initial application for exterior modifications, including a mechanical duct with a rooftop exhaust fan, records show. But the DRB voted last month to defer a vote on Berry’s appeal to give staff more time to review the case.

Cara O’Donnell, RA’s director of communications and community engagement, told FFXnow there is no firm date yet for a decision on the appeal, but she anticipates it will come within the next few months.

“The DRB will determine if the project is permitted to remain as submitted and move forward with completion,” she said in an email.

In the meantime, Baslios is moving forward with construction as planned.

“We will follow the rules and regulations set by Fairfax County,” he told FFXnow.

Baslios disputes Berry’s recounting of events, including his description of constant construction noise in the early morning and on the weekends. He also noted the ventilation shaft is “not even close to being done.”

“We’re gonna come in as good neighbors,” he said. “We love the community very much and that’s why I keep…trying to do my best just to be in this community. I do appreciate this community, and then hope they understand that I’m doing all this just because I wanted to be at this community to make a big difference.”

Deli Italiano originally hoped to open at Lake Anne Plaza by early December 2021. The pizza chain has since opened a location in Herndon, and it can also be found in Great Falls.

Read more on FFXnow…

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