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FairfaxPlanning body largely positive on Vienna housing proposal

Planning body largely positive on Vienna housing proposal

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While disagreeing over how many residential units and how much green space are desirable at a proposed multi-family project at 127-133 Park St., N.E., the Vienna Planning Commission on Sept. 28 recommended that the Vienna Town Council approve the applicant’s rezoning request.

BFR Construction is seeking to construct 28 dwelling units in 14 buildings on the narrow 72,167-square-foot (1.66-acre) lot. The single-floor dwellings would be stacked one over the other and have separate entrances for both units in each building.

The units would come in a variety of sizes and prices to appeal to a range of buyers, said Steve Bukont, president of BFR Construction. (Bukont Homes also is listed on some of the planning materials.) While the town’s building-height limit is 35 feet, these two-story units would be only 25 feet tall, he said.

“Each building will have its own personality and architectural style,” Bukont said.

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The three residential buildings along Park Street, N.E., would have 12 tandem-parking spaces under one of the structures; the remaining 11 buildings would have two-car garages for each unit beneath them.

A shared private alleyway would run the length of the property’s south side. There would be 19 parking spaces for guests, including two handicapped-accessible spaces and one that would be van-accessible.

Planning Commission members said they were pleased with the abundance of parking provided, adding that it was a non-starter to ask guests to park along heavily crowded Church Street.

The property, which now is home to four three-story buildings constructed in 1973, would need to be rezoned from the T-transitional zone (which only allows commercial offices) to the RM-2 multi-family, low-density residential zone.

Bukont cited several amenities the company would like to implement at the site, including undergrounded utilities along Park Street, brick-lined sidewalks, solar roofs and geothermal heating.

“We’re trying as close as possible to have a zero-carbon footprint,” he said.
The development would necessitate waivers from the Town Council regarding yard setbacks and lot coverage, which frequently has been the case among the relatively few multi-family developments in town.

Planning Commission members were fine with the proposed setbacks, but had reservations about the development’s 68-percent lot coverage, which is far higher than the usual 25-percent maximum and more than all the other multi-family developments approved in the last 14 years.

Planning Commission Chairman Stephen Kenney sought more open space on the site.

“My gut feeling tells me you need a little place to go out and have a picnic,” he said.

“Ideally, I’d like to see more green space,” agreed Commission member Matthew Glassman, “but the trade-offs make it undesirable.”

Bukont said the company could have proposed three-story buildings to reduce lot coverage, but wanted the structures to appear more residential and less imposing. The applicant also reduced the development’s size somewhat from the initial proposal of 15 buildings with a total of 30 units.

The company would keep an existing brick retaining wall that runs between single-family homes on Church Street, N.E., and the development’s collection of smaller buildings. The developer also will install a heavily landscaped garden as a further buffer, Bukont said.

Houses on Church Street are located on higher terrain and their ground floors are about at the roof level of most of the proposed new units, so the visual impact would be negligible, Bukont said.

Commission members voted separately on different elements of the proposal. Setback requests passed unanimously, but the lot coverage waiver passed on a 4-3 vote, with members Glassman, David Miller, Jessica Plowgian and Keith Aimone voting in the affirmative.

While being concerned about the lot-coverage variance, Commission member Jessica Ramakis was positive about the proposed development’s range of housing options.

“This is a very thoughtful and creative way to meet a need in the community,” she said.

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