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FairfaxZoning panel puts skating-rink proposal on ice (for now)

Zoning panel puts skating-rink proposal on ice (for now)

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Because of some public pushback, unresolved questions and a legal-advertising snafu, the Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) on July 13 deferred until September its decision on whether to allow temporary ice- and roller-skating rinks in Merrifield’s Mosaic District.

Rink Management Services Corp. operated an outdoor roller-skating rink from June 24 to July 14 in Mosaic, using an administrative permit issued March 30 by the county’s Zoning Administration Division.

The applicant now is seeking a special permit to continue operating the roller-skating rink through Sept. 30 this year and from April 1 to June 30 in 2023 and 2024. (Because the BZA has not approved the special permit, the rink may have to cease operations this summer until the board acts or zoning officials extend the administrative permit.)

Rink Management Services’ proposed 36-by-76-foot roller-skating rink would have a rubber-mat surface and be located in a closed section of Merrifield Towne Center Drive adjacent to 2985 District Ave.

Next to the rink would be two 49-square-foot sheds for skate rentals and ticket sales; 10-foot-tall poles around the rink would supply lighting and six speakers.

The applicant also would like the special permit to allow operation of a 50-by-100-foot ice-skating rink along a closed section of District Avenue adjacent to 2980 District Ave. The company wishes to operate the ice rink from Nov. 1 to March 15 during the upcoming three winters.

The ice rink would have ice-mat flooring surrounded by a 3.5-foot-tall enclosure and a 1,000-square-foot admission and skate-rental tent to the east. A portable air-cooled chiller would be located to the west and between it and the rink would be stored a Zamboni for resurfacing the ice.

Both rinks’ operating hours would be Mondays through Thursdays from 4 to 10 p.m., Fridays from 4 to 11:15 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 11:15 p.m. and Sundays from 9:45 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. The rinks would be limited to 50 skaters per session and between two and five on-site employees, depending on the day and season.

“Skateland offers a fun, affordable experience for all, bringing positive activation to an otherwise underutilized space,” said applicant representative Greg Dercach. “Skateland is a proven draw. It supports a vibrant neighborhood, thriving retail center and ultimately an attractive community gathering place for residents and visitors alike.”

The roller-skating rink would take up five parking spaces and the ice rink 18 – a minor impact for Mosaic District, which has 150 on-street parking spaces and about 2,500 more in its five parking garages, county transportation officials said.

The applicant from June to September 2021 operated an outdoor roller-skating rink along Strawberry Lane between District Avenue and Yates Way in the Mosaic District.

Hin-Kin “Ken” Lam, representing the Mosaic District Townhome Homeowners Association’s board of directors, objected to the rink proposal.

“We think the rink setup will adversely impact the daily life of our homeowners in the community,” he said. “In particular, the rink will create very serious traffic congestion and confusion in the nearby streets.”

Traffic diverted around the rinks will head toward parking spaces shared by Mosaic’s residents and retailers, Lam said, adding that there already was a shortage of guest parking on District Avenue and Penny Lane.

Amy Willis, who lives in the Avalon apartment complex in the Mosaic District, objected to the rinks’ amplified noise and potential traffic impacts.
County staff members have proposed a condition that would prohibit amplified music at the rinks after 10 p.m. each day.

Another neighbor worried about the ice rink’s scope and noise levels, and wondered why it couldn’t replace the roller-skating rink in winter months. The resident also expressed concern about access to nearby housing while the rinks were in operation.

Dercach responded that Mosaic District was designed with seasonal events in mind and incorporated alternate means for residents to access their homes during those periods. As for placing the ice rink on the same footprint as the roller-skating one, Dercach said the former was envisioned as a larger facility.

After delaying their decision until the end of the meeting, BZA members learned the application had a legal-advertising problem because streets in Mosaic have their own tax-identification numbers, which weren’t indicated on supporting documents.

“From a technical standpoint, the board can’t act today,” said Brent
Krasner, branch chief of the Department of Planning and Development.

The BZA’s August meeting has been canceled because of upcoming construction at the Fairfax County Government Center, so the board had to defer its decision until Sept. 14. The BZA’s vote was 5-0; members Rebeccah Ballo and Donté Tanner were absent.

BZA Vice Chairman James Hart moved to delay decision on the matter in order to give county planning staff and fire officials time to clarify 10 public-safety conditions for the application.

“If we’re going to do it, we ought to do it right,” Hart said. “But I don’t think we have the details of those 10 things.”

BZA members also wanted Fire and Rescue Department officials to list any emergency calls that have occurred at or near the roller-skating rink while it has been operating this summer.

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