Fairfax County Board Adopts West Falls Church TOD Plan Amendment

At its July 13, 2021, public hearing, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors adopted the West Falls Church Transit Station Area Study Comprehensive Plan Amendment (Plan Amendment 2018-II-1M). The Plan amendment seeks to transform both the West Falls Church Metrorail station and Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center site, which together comprise approximately 31.5 acres, into a higher-density, pedestrian-oriented transit-oriented community in a way that is Metrorail-oriented and compatible with surrounding neighborhoods.

The impetus for the plan amendment came out of a 2018 Site-Specific Plan Amendment nomination proposed by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (“WMATA”) to link the approximately 24-acre West Falls Church Metrorail station with new development proceeding in the City of Falls Church. WMATA’s SSPA nomination was subsequently consolidated with a separate SSPA nomination submitted by Virginia Tech to redevelop its approximately 7.5-acre Northern Virginia Center site.

In January 2019, WMATA issued a Joint Development Solicitation for redevelopment of its Metrorail station and later selected Falls Church Gateway Partners – Metro LLC as its joint development partner. Falls Church Gateway Partners – Metro LLC is comprised of EYA Development LLC, Rushmark Properties, and Hoffman & Associates.

For more than two years, the development team, which included Walsh Colucci shareholder Andrew Painter land use planner Bernard Suchicital, coordinated with WMATA, Virginia Tech, the City of Falls Church, a community task force, and County staff in crafting the Plan amendment language. This community planning process involved 22 task force meetings, outreach to nearby neighborhood associations, discussions with local officials, and two public hearings.

As adopted, the Plan amendment permits the Metrorail station property to be redeveloped with mixed-use development up to an intensity of 0.96 FAR with a maximum of 900 dwelling units, up to 30,000 square feet of retail or active ground floor uses, and up to 120,000 square feet of office use. Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center property is now planned for mixed-use development up to an intensity of 2.5 FAR with a maximum 400 multifamily residential units, up to 160,000 square feet of institutional use, up to 181,000 square feet of office use, and up to 18,000 square feet of retail use.

The Plan amendment dovetails with replanning efforts occurring on the adjacent former George Mason High School site in the City of Falls Church, which was recently approved for a high-density mixed-use project. The Plan Amendment’s vision, if realized, will create an urban fabric that will increase the broader community’s overall vitality and sustainability. Residents and workers within the planning area will be encouraged to walk to the Metrorail station and other nearby businesses, and it will help sites in this area of the County and the City of Falls Church evolve into a larger 60-acre vibrant and economically successful mixed-use and interconnected neighborhood.



Stonebrook Rezoning Approved in Westfields

Image Source: Stanly Martin Companies


Originally set amidst a stream-laden landscape of rolling fields, and woodlands, creating an idyllic suburban environment, the 1,100-acre Westfields office park has largely built out in accordance with its original vision. Today, the heavily-landscaped corporate center is a job hub and a major economic driver for Fairfax County. Recent years, however, have witnessed the emergence of several challenges, including newer mixed-use office locations, and a lack of mix of uses, pedestrian connections, and community identity.

Sensing the need to diversify Westfields’ land uses and attract new investment to western Fairfax County, the Board of Supervisors in May 2019 adopted amendments to the comprehensive plan policies for Land Unit J of the Dulles Suburban Center. The amendments, which built upon an earlier 2016 Urban Land Institute study, permit retail and residential uses within Westfields to help keep it competitive as a jobs center relative to newer mixed-use centers and submarkets.

A major step in the furtherance of the new Land Unit J policies came on November 17, 2020, when the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved Stanley Martin Companies’ Stonebrook residential rezoning. The 12-acre Stonebrook site, located at the intersection of Westfields Boulevard and Newbrook Drive, is adjacent to the recently-completed retail offerings at Commonwealth Centre.

The rezoning approved 134 residential units, including 14 townhomes and 120 two-over-two (stacked townhomes). Though largely surrounded by single-use conventional suburban office and industrial buildings, Stonebrook will introduce an urban, pedestrian-friendly, walkability framework in proximity to retail and employment uses.

Housing affordability figured prominently into Stanley Martin’s overall approach. The project’s introduction of stacked townhomes to Westfields will provide a critical “missing middle” unit type that provides entry level homeownership choices. Stonebrook will also feature five affordable dwelling units and 11 workforce dwelling units (“WDUs”) that will be dispersed throughout the neighborhood and will be for-sale units—something Fairfax County has rarely seen since the 2007 inception of the WDU policy. Stanley Martin also agreed to lower its WDU income tiers, such that half of the WDUs will be provided at the 70 percent AMI tier, and half at the 80 percent AMI tier.

Given the site’s highly-visible and prominent location, Stanley Martin placed great emphasis on the project’s overall design. In an attempt to ensure greater opportunities for visual connections to open space, for example, the layout seeks to celebrate the site’s natural and visual elements by enhancing the RPA, preserving mature canopy trees, and preserving bottomland forest species.

To foster a pedestrian-friendly environment, the project will feature new urbanist-inspired high-quality urban architecture with the rear-loaded garages that will not be visible from public streets. A series of sidewalks will be constructed to connect residents and visitors across the site and to all open space areas. Given Westfield’s historic emphasis on parks and open spaces, the new community will feature a series of multiuse amenities and open spaces for both residents and visitors. This includes a publicly-accessible terraced park adjacent to Westfields Boulevard, pocket parks, interior courtyards, a bicycle service station, a watering station for pedestrians and pets, upgrades to existing trails, and more.

Substantial vegetation and landscaping will be provided along the adjacent pond, and a series of landscaped visual corridors will be created to draw residents and visitors into the site. As a result, Stonebrook will provide more than double the amount of required urban recreational space, nearly double the amount of required open space, 48 percent more tree cover, and will exceed the County’s tree canopy and tree preservation requirements. The project will include more than 75,000 square feet of new plantings, including 50,000 square feet of RPA reforestation.

A key concern with the application was how Stanley Martin would address issues of noise associated with aircraft overflights approaching Dulles International Airport. The property is located within the Board-adopted mapped DNL 60 to 65 dBA noise contours, and Stanley Martin proffered several enforceable noise mitigation and construction commitments that exceed building code requirements, zoning regulations, and similar obligations made in other Westfields applications. This includes designing homes to address peak episodic noise associated with aircraft overflights, post-development interior noise testing, disclosure requirements to initial and subsequent purchasers, marketing materials depicting the noise contour lines, and avigation easements for all homes.

The result of these efforts is a unique project and layout that fulfills the established comprehensive plan vision for Westfields in terms of land use and density, economic development, and hosing attainability. Stonebrook will respond to the increased need for for-sale, urban style housing in the Westfields area and complement the ongoing retail and residential uses at Commonwealth Centre. It will also respond to the increasing preference for residential opportunities in the vicinity of nearby employment uses, and contribute to Westfields’ overall economic vitality.

Image Source: Land Design Consultants

Image Source: Land Design Consultants


Image Source: Stanly Martin Companies

Image Source: Stanly Martin Companies

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Approves Residential Tower at Scotts Run

InsideNOVA reported on the recently approved proposal by Cityline Partners LLC to build a residential tower on part of the Scotts Run Station South site in western McLean. Land use attorney and shareholder Lynne Strobel represented the applicant through the approval process.


A single residential tower, instead of the previously planned two, will be built on a section of the Scotts Run Station South redevelopment project in western McLean, following the Board of Supervisors’ unanimous approval July 28. Read more

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Approves Isaac Newton Square Redevelopment

Creating a dynamic new mixed-use neighborhood goes to the heart of quality land use planning and creating great communities.

On October 15, 2019, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the redevelopment of a 32-acre portion of Reston’s Isaac Newton Square. The complex, which is bounded on the south by the Washington & Old Dominion Trail, to the west by Hidden Creek Country Club, and to the east by Wiehle Avenue, was one of Reston’s first major office/industrial developments.

Isaac Newton Square today features several older buildings surrounding a substantial asphalt parking lot ringed with mature willow oak trees. With the arrival of Phase I of the Silver Line and the Wiehle Avenue Metrorail station, the site was included as part of the 2014 Reston Comprehensive Plan Amendment and targeted for substantial redevelopment.

Over the past three years, the park’s owner, Peter Lawrence Companies, alongside their development advisor, MRP Realty, began envisioning a new future for the site. They engaged a design team which included OCULUS Planning and Urban Ltd., and solicited input from citizen groups, Restonians, and Fairfax County staff.

Based upon substantial feedback, the project team set forth a series of design drivers to guide the redevelopment approach. These included fashioning a layout centered around open space corridors and the comprehensive plan’s grid network. There was also a recognition that the “front door” of the project should be focused on the W&OD Trail. The team also considered Reston’s seven “Founding Principles,” created by the late visionary, Robert E. Simon, which embraced concepts such as multi-generational livable communities and the creation of dynamic public realms.

The result is a new community which fulfills the comprehensive plan’s vision for high quality mixed-use redevelopment. The approved plan calls for approximately 2.8 million square feet of new construction, which includes 2,100 residential units, 300 hotel rooms, 260,000 square feet of office space, and nearly 69,000 square feet of retail uses. In accordance with the comprehensive plan’s recommendations, residential uses comprise approximately 88.4 percent of the neighborhood’s total square footage.

A key focus of the proposal was to create meaningful open spaces and provide a framework around the preservation of the site’s mature willow oak trees. The open space plan also provides opportunities for each block to have direct access to nature on what is today, a paved site. An intentional focus was placed on the quality of each open space and the types of activities that are likely to take place within the spaces. They also negotiated with NOVA Parks, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, and the Fairfax County Park Authority on issues related to pedestrian access to the W&OD Trail, water lines, and design of parks.

The team worked extensively with County staff to develop a variety of streetscape activation, placemaking elements, building architectural requirements, and landscaping enhancements to guide the ways in which individual buildings and blocks may take shape.

The final design includes substantial landscaping and open space which exceeds county requirements. It is anticipated that improvements to the site will mitigate stormwater runoff, enhance the site’s habitat and aesthetic opportunities, and ultimately aid in the reduction of the existing urban “heat island” effect. A unique central east-west environmental “pedestrian livability” spine, known as the “Rain Garden Meander,” will integrate the project’s stormwater management into its open space system and include hardscape pathways, flexible lawn spaces, landscaping with native plants for habitat, shade structures, and seating areas.

A critical element of the neighborhood is the provision of a full-size athletic field at the southern end of the project adjacent to the W&OD Trail. The field will be adjacent to an urban plaza and warm-up field that will be multimodal acceible, help drive local commerce to the project’s retail uses, and transform Isaac Newton Square into a signature location for users of the trail.

The result of the team’s efforts is the creation of reason’s next great neighborhood that complies with all of the planning principles set forth in the comprehensive plan in terms of land use and density, placemaking, open space, and mobility. Andrew Painter led Peter Lawrence Companies and MRP Realty through the approval process.

Fairfax City Council Approves Student Housing Development in Old Town Fairfax

On December 11, 2018, the Fairfax City Council approved an application submitted by Capstone Collegiate Communities, LLC (Capstone) to allow the development of a 275 unit multifamily building on a six-acre parcel located in Old Town Fairfax. A market leader in the student housing industry, Capstone specializes in the development, construction and management of high quality student housing communities in proximity to major colleges and universities throughout the country.

Land Use Attorneys Lynne Strobel and Robert Brant worked diligently with the development team, City officials and the community to obtain approval of a Comprehensive Plan Amendment, Rezoning, Special Exception and Certificate of Appropriateness. The approvals will allow the development of a purpose-built student housing community, the first of its kind in Northern Virginia, which will be marketed to graduate and undergraduate university students. The fully amenitized building will provide housing for up to 825 students in a secure, professionally managed setting. Due to the continued growth of nearby George Mason University (GMU), which has publicly acknowledged a need for additional off-campus housing options for its students, there is a growing demand for student housing in the region. The proposed development will help to meet that need.

The project provides a number of benefits to the City by adding residential density to support the business community in the City, strengthening the relationship between the City and GMU, and promoting further investment in Old Town Fairfax. This approval represents another step towards the revitalization of downtown Fairfax.

Fairfax Resumes Long-Awaited Dulles Area Planning Effort

Map of affected area
Source: Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning

After a brief hiatus, the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) is reviving its Dulles Suburban Center Study (PA 2013-III-DS1) to analyze the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan’s land use recommendations for the Dulles Suburban Center. Like a business plan, a jurisdiction’s comprehensive plan, which provides the framework for how a community will grow, must evolve over time to be effective.

The Dulles Suburban Center area, which comprises approximately 6,000 acres in the Chantilly, South Herndon, and Oak Hill areas, is generally located east and south of Dulles International Airport and includes the Route 28, Route 50, and Centreville Road corridors. An interactive map of the Dulles Suburban Center may be found here (note that Land Units “A” and “B” (located north of Frying Pan Road) are excluded from the study).

Street map of affected area
Source: Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning

The planning effort will review current land-use conditions within the Dulles Suburban Center and determine the viability of the existing Comprehensive Plan recommendations. Where appropriate, the study will suggest new land-use recommendations as well as alternative visions for future growth and development.

Originally authorized by the Board of Supervisors in 2013 as part of DPZ’s Comprehensive Plan Amendment Work Program, the study was placed on hold until the commencement of the Board’s 2016 term. Acknowledging the need for flexibility to respond to market demands and changing conditions, the study represents the first area-wide editorial update to the Dulles Suburban Center’s policies since they were first crafted in March 1993. The study’s timing seems particularly appropriate, given that four out-of-turn, project-specific plan amendments were approved within the Dulles Suburban Center area in 2015.

Throughout the study process, DPZ staff will work directly with community residents, local businesses, and area landowners to solicit input and ideas for textual changes. Property owners and citizens interested in submitting suggested revisions may do so between March 20 and May 31, 2016. Following this submission period, suggestions will be analyzed by staff before being forwarded to the Planning Commission for review. Ultimately, the Planning Commission’s recommended text will be sent to the Board of Supervisors for action, likely in mid 2017.

An informational kick-off meeting will be held March 29 at 7:00 p.m. at the Sully District Community Room, 4900 Stonecroft Boulevard, Chantilly, Virginia 20151. Additional information may be found on DPZ’s Dulles Suburban Center study website.

The Boro – Work, Live, Play Community Will Transform 18+ Acres in Tysons

Illustrative Representation of The Boro
Source: The Meridian Group and LandDesign, Inc.

On January 12, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a large rezoning and redevelopment application for The Meridian Group next to the Greensboro Metro Station in Tysons. Known as “The Boro,” the 18+-acre site was rezoned from the High Intensity Office (C-4) District to the Planned Tysons Corner (PTC) District to permit a mixed-use, transit-oriented development of 4.25 million square feet.

In addition, two final development plans for The Boro were approved by the Planning Commission. Together, the FDPs permit approximately 2.5 million square feet of development. Shareholder Art Walsh and Land Use Planner Elizabeth Baker represented Meridian throughout the process.

The vision behind The Boro is to transform this suburban-style office park into a vibrant mixed-use environment where people can work, live, and play. A central urban park, called Magnetic Park, is the organizing element of the development plan. Meridian will be constructing a new grid of streets to divide the property into five urban blocks. Three existing offices buildings on the site will be retained and 11 new buildings, ranging in height from 75 to 400 feet, will be constructed. Overall, the development is permitted up to 1.9 million square feet of office uses, 2,010 residential units, and 430,000 square feet of retail/service uses.

Graphic representation of project
Source: The Meridian Group and LandDesign, Inc.

A new private street called Boro Place is viewed as the retail focal point of the development. This two-sided retail environment will include an urban-format Whole Foods grocery store along with other retail shops and restaurants at the street level of new residential buildings, creating a lively and pedestrian-friendly street. A 15-screen luxury theater by ShowPlace Icon will anchor Magnetic Park and will be flanked by an office tower and hotel in the future.

As part of its proffer package, Meridian will construct a 19,000-square-foot community library in a future office tower and an athletic field on another property it owns in Tysons.

Employee Spotlight – Michael Romeo

Photograph of Michael Romeo
Source: WCL&W

From an early age, middle school to be exact, Mike was a man with a plan … and more than a few schematics and diagrams. Most of them—cities and stadiums—were scribbled on the back and inside covers of his notebooks.  “I know my teachers and parents didn’t always appreciate me drawing during class, but I certainly enjoyed it.”

Even before he graduated from Appalachian State, Mike knew he wanted to pursue a master’s degree in land use planning. During his junior and senior years at Appalachian, he served as the student representative on the Town of Boone Planning Commission and participated in a volunteer internship with the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning. Those two experiences taught Mike the value and magnitude of a graduate degree in the planning field. He chose Clemson University to pursue a Master of City and Regional Planning degree because of the small class sizes and one-on-one interaction with his professors. “I couldn’t have asked for better learning environments and opportunities than those provided by both schools.”

In 2007, Mike moved back to Reston and lived there for seven years. For more than three years, he served on the Reston Planning and Zoning Committee, including two years as Vice Chairman and Chairman. Last year, Mike and his wife, Paula, moved to Herndon where he now serves as a member of the Town of Herndon Planning Commission. “I thoroughly enjoy my interaction with the members of these bodies and the ability to serve the locality in which I live. There are always opportunities to implement good planning practices and I hope to be able to continue to provide a positive influence on planning processes in the future.”

Mike has been with Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh since 2004. His knowledge of planning, involvement in the community and local government, and innate interest in land use and planning benefits the firm, our clients, and the areas we serve. Like most good planners, Mike had a back-up plan.

The Land Lawyers: What would you be doing if you weren’t at Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh?
Mike Romeo: If I weren’t a land use planner, I’d be serving as a National Park Service Ranger.

TLL: What do you enjoy most about your job?
Mike Romeo: The most enjoyable aspect of my job is helping clients achieve their goals. Whether it’s a large corporation or a small business, there’s little that can replace the feeling of joy and satisfaction expressed by a client who has just received their necessary legislative approvals. Helping clients achieve their goals is our business and I take exceptional pride in providing the best client service possible.

TLL: You knew from a very early age this would be a rewarding career.
MR: Yes. One of the most rewarding aspects of this job is the ever-changing environment of land use planning and real estate development in Loudoun and Fairfax Counties. No matter which project I’m working on, there’s always something that distinguishes it from other projects. The pace of growth in Northern Virginia is astounding. When I was growing up in Reston, we had to drive to the City of Fairfax or Tysons Corner for the majority of our retail and entertainment needs. Now, I don’t need to venture more than two miles to find anything I could possibly need.

TLL: What are you working on these days?
MR: I’m working on a number of residential, commercial, and mixed-use projects in Loudoun and Fairfax Counties. The applications run the gamut from multi-generational residential projects to commercial rezonings and concept plan amendments to special exceptions for adaptive reuse projects.

In Loudoun County, the current Board of Supervisors has implemented a number of zoning ordinance amendments to encourage business development. Beginning in January 2016, five new members will join the Board. Current Board members have publicly indicated that amendments to the Revised General Plan could be forthcoming during the Board’s next term. Loudoun County is at a crossroads. Based on current zoning, there is less than a decade’s worth of single-family lot supply in the County to meet the estimated demand. According to the Metropolitan Council of Governments, the County’s population is projected to grow from 367,957 in 2015 to 484,498 by 2040. There is simply not enough land that is properly planned or zoned in the eastern portion of the County to accommodate this level of growth. It remains to be seen how the next Board will approach land development, but there could be some significant Revised General Plan amendments proposed to address the new land development realities facing the County.

TLL: Back in middle school, when you were drafting stadium plans, did you have a sports team in mind?
MR: I’m a long suffering D.C. sports fan. Having grown up in this area, I’ve developed an affinity for all of the local professional sports teams. I was a Caps season ticket holder for nine years and I regularly attend Nats games. I have a passion for college football, in particular, Appalachian State, Clemson, and Navy. There’s nothing quite like tailgating on a beautiful fall Saturday in anticipation of a matchup on the gridiron.

TLL: What do you like to do in your spare time?
MR: I play a range of sports throughout the year to stay active. The ones I most enjoy are flag football, floor hockey, basketball, and softball. When I’m at home, I enjoy spending time with my wife and two dogs, reading, in particular historical novels and biographies, and working outdoors in the yard. When I’m outside of the area, I enjoy backpacking, skiing, and visiting various cities and sites throughout the United States and abroad.

TLL: What part of the world, or universe, would you most like to visit?
MR: I have no interest in leaving this planet, so I would say a trip to New Zealand is high on my list of places to visit.

Comprehensive Plan Adopted for Timber Ridge at Discovery Square

Source: Lincoln/EPH Property, Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc., The EPH Group
Source: Lincoln/EPH Property, Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc., The EPH Group

On October 20, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a partial proffered condition amendment to allow for the completion of a residential community known as Timber Ridge at Discovery Square west of Centreville Road and south of McLearen Road in the Sully Magisterial District.  

In 2007, the 67-acre property was approved for approximately 1,200 multifamily dwelling units, 640,600 square feet of office space, and 107,350 square feet of retail. Due to the decline in the residential real estate market, however, the residential portion of the property was not marketable as originally approved. Between 2011 and 2012, a 37-acre portion of the property was purchased at auction and the original approval was modified to reduce the number of residential units to 805 and include a townhouse component. As part of that original phase of development, PHD Associates, LLC, constructed Sully Highlands Park, an approximately 17-acre field complex comprised of five lighted fields that has since been dedicated to the Fairfax County Park Authority. PHD Associates further completed a number of significant transportation improvements, including a north-south connector identified as Air and Space Museum Parkway.

Building on the success of the initial phase, PHD Associates pursued adoption of a Comprehensive Plan amendment to allow for the construction of 150 townhouses in lieu of the originally planned 600,000 square feet of office space on the 19-acre western portion of the site. The October 20 approval will allow for the implementation of this Comprehensive Plan amendment. As part of the approval, PHD Associates will dedicate approximately five acres to Fairfax County to allow for a future community facility and construct 16 three-bedroom townhouses as for-sale affordable housing to fulfill a vital need for family-sized affordable housing units.