The Fairfax County government is nearly finished drafting comprehensive-plan language that would allow for the downtown McLean’s redevelopment, but the McLean Citizens Association still has concerns regarding parking, stormwater management and the number of new residential units.
The Board of Supervisors in 2018 authorized a study for the possible creation of a comprehensive-plan amendment for McLean’s Community Business Center (CBC). Many meetings later, a task force in December 2020 unveiled a vision plan with three potential development zones:
• A pedestrian-oriented center zone at Beverly and Elm streets with buildings up to 92 feet tall, plus a civic plaza, street trees, wide sidewalks and other amenities.
• A general zone around the central area with buildings up to 68 feet tall and suburban-style development resembling what exists there today.
• An edge zone around the general area that would retain currently planned uses, serve as a buffer between the more-developed areas and existing neighborhoods, and provide automobile-friendly conveniences.
Downtown McLean now has 1,280 residential units and is planned for up to 2,175 residential units and nearly 3.37 million square feet of non-residential development. The county’s draft plan would permit up to 3,850 residential units and 3.15 million square feet of non-residential uses.
MCA’s board of directors on April 7 passed a resolution stating that a revised comprehensive plan could let McLean attract redevelopment while addressing community interests and meeting local needs. But the resolution also expressed qualms about the March 8 iteration of the county’s plan, and indicated MCA would not support the proposal unless county officials:
• Removed language from the plan that explicitly or implicitly discourages surface parking for redevelopment projects in the general zone.
• Re-insert language calling for tougher stormwater-management requirements.
• Accept county staff’s recommendation to require at least a two-thirds-of-an-acre civic space in the center zone in exchange for a consolidated development of at least 6 acres, which would be eligible for taller buildings.
• Cap the total number of residences at 2,240 during the first decade of redevelopment, including workforce and affordable-dwelling units. This would be a reduction of 895 from what currently is on the table.
• Conduct an assessment after 10 years and not allow further residential dwellings unless the study shows that it would be sustainable in respect to public-facilities infrastructure. Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville) has indicated through staff that he supports a review of the CBC’s growth and infrastructure after the plan’s first decade of implementation, said MCA president Robert Jackson.
• Omit language allowing for procurement of non-traditional, additional school space, such as by repurposing buildings.
• Include explicit statements about limiting urbanization in downtown McLean and maintaining its suburban character.
MCA members debated having the resolution’s language support the plan, provided the suggested changes were adopted, but kept the more negative phrasing.
“I think taking a stronger approach makes a lot of sense,” said board member Jen Jones.
The Fairfax County Planning Commission will hold an April 28 public hearing on the proposed comprehensive-plan amendment, and the Board of Supervisors later will have the final say.
This is not the first time MCA has followed a planning process doggedly to ensure agreed-upon goals were not left out at the last minute.
MCA did the same during the crafting of the new Tysons Comprehensive Plan, which the Board of Supervisors approved in 2010, and still monitors the plan’s implementation to ensure developers provide for sufficient public infrastructure with their projects.