Seven Corners Task Force

Minutes of the Seven Corners Transportation and Land Use Task Force Meeting
February 11, 2014

Meeting called to order at 7:05 PM
Mason District Government Center

Task Force: Mary Ellen Ward, Evelyn Haught, Steve Tillman, Iqbal Khaiy, Martin Faga, Blake Smith, Patrick Hoar, Mark Silverwood, Nathan Bath, Jim Edmonson.

Staff: JoAnne Fiebe (OCR), Kimberly Rybold (DPZ), Bernard Suchicital (DPZ), Michael Garcia (FCDOT), Marianne Gardner (DPZ), and Aaron Frank from Supervisor Gross’s Office.

Minutes and Administrative Items

The Task Force reviewed the Minutes of the January meeting.  A motion to approve them was made by Martin Faga and seconded by Mark Silverwood.  Mark Silverwood requested that the Minutes be edited to reflect his attendance at the January meeting.  The Minutes were approved unanimously.  JoAnne Fiebe reminded the Task Force to please make sure they sign in at each meeting.

Discussion and Presentation of the “other areas” in the Seven Corners Study Area

Marianne Gardner, Kimberly Rybold, and Bernard (Bernie) Suchicital introduced themselves as DPZ planning staff.  Bernie led the discussion and began by defining the “Transitional Areas” in the study area as all land outside the “Opportunity Sites.”  He described where these areas are on the map which was provided to each of the Task Force members.  Bernie read the proposed Plan text for the “Transitional Areas” and explained that there will be area-wide guidance which will apply to the entire study area and detailed, specific text applicable to individual land units and sub-units.

Nathan Bath asked how one of the criteria in the proposed area-wide text on “Tapering of Building Height and Buffering” might affect Regency’s ability to implement something similar to the proposed master plan concept for their properties in the future.  Bernie and other Task Force members stated that some type of tapering will be required adjacent to lower-density residential uses.

Pat Hoar stated he assumed that the Task Force would be developing a form-based plan for the entire Seven Corners Study Area and not simply the Opportunity Areas.  Kim explained that these sites were previously chosen by the Task Force based on their near-term redevelopment potential along the impact the site could have to transform the area.  Mary Ellen Ward concurred with this statement.  JoAnne Fiebe added that guidance on form-based planning objectives can be included in the area-wide text as well as in other parts of the plan such as urban design and streetscape guidelines but specific proposals to change density or uses in the Plan are limited to the “Opportunity Areas.”

Mark Silverwood noted that the Columbia Pike Form Based Zoning Code in Arlington is too prescriptive so in this case he appreciates the more generalized language proposed in the hand-out.  The Task Force should use common sense with the amount of detail proposed in the Plan.

Blake Smith asked who typically initiates the ideas and content related to area-wide guidance in the Plan.  Blake also doesn’t want to be too specific in Plan language which could bog down new development.  Bernie responded by stating that in this case it is a dialog between the Task Force and staff to create Plan language that is acceptable to the majority.

Jim Edmonson referred to one of the criteria proposed in the area-wide text on “High quality architecture and landscape design” and asked who is responsible for reviewing these particular criteria.  Bernie stated that it is Planning and Zoning staff along with the district Supervisor’s office.  Jim also asked what implication a form-based plan could have on the proposed Residential Studio Units (RSU) ordinance.  Marianne explained that the Task Force has established a character for each land unit and then will layer on a form-based approach.  Jim stated that the RSU ordinance should be considered as Plan language is developed.

Evelyn Haught asked staff to consider including a bullet on public space to the area-wide guidance: “Wherever feasible, public spaces such as plazas and parks should be considered.”

Jim Edmonson asked staff to consider adding language about a transit circulator which could be implemented after a threshold amount of new development is reached.  DOT staff explained that this type of recommendation would best be suited for the Transportation portion of the Plan text and that it is being considered.

Overview of Plan Amendment process and initial agency responses from Pre-Staffing

(Refer to the attached Pre-Staffing comment summaries provided to the Task Force)

Bernie distributed summaries of the Pre-Staffing comments from a number of county agencies and reviewed the findings with the Task Force.  The Task Force had a number of questions on the agencies’ comments:

-          Heritage Resources

Jim Edmonson was concerned that some type of preservation requirement would be imposed on the Seven Corners apartments.  He was specifically concerned with the text that stated, “Any redevelopment should occur within the existing apartment buildings to preserve the current configuration.  He believes this is contrary and detrimental to the work the Task Force is undertaking.  Marianne Gardner explained that these are suggestions by this particular agency but that they cannot prevent the Task Force’s recommendations from being implemented.  Mark Silverwood suggested an approach that he took on Columbia Pike to preserve a small stock of architecturally significant buildings while redeveloping the remaining site.

-          Fairfax Water

Jim Edmonson commented that the Falls Church Water Authority had plans to enlarge the water tower on their site but that has been delayed due to the merger with Fairfax Water.  He believes that the tower will eventually be enlarged.

-          Fairfax County Public Schools

Several Task Force members questioned the accuracy of the number of existing students who currently reside in the Study Area.  They believe it is higher than stated.  Staff agreed to review the number with FCPS.  Bernie explained in detail a comment from Public Schools which states that older multi-family communities yield a higher number of students than county-wide student yield ratios currently being used.  The Task Force believes that new multi-family housing will not yield the same ratio of students/housing unit as is currently seen in Seven Corners.

-          Fairfax County Park Authority

Pat Hoar asked about the high number of urban parkland acres required based on the number of projected residents and workers at full build-out of the plan.  Bernie explained that in the county’s urban areas where the urban park framework is applied, creativity on the types of park uses and spaces will be integrated into the Plan to maximize park space and meet recommendations.

-          Environment – Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning

Iqbal Khaiy asked staff to bring a copy of the current Bicycle Master Plan to the next Task Force meeting so that members can better understand the network and how that might affect streetscapes.

The next Task Force meeting will be on Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 7:00 PM at the Mason District Government Center. 

The Task Force adjourned at 8:40 pm.


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