December 6, 2022
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors
12000 Government Center Parkway
Fairfax, VA 22035
RE: CSG Comments in Support of Huntington Metro Site-Specific Plan Amendment (SSPA 2021-IV-3MV)
Chairman McKay and Board Supervisors:
Please accept these comments on behalf of the Coalition for Smarter Growth (CSG), the leading organization in the DC region advocating for walkable, bikeable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities as the most sustainable and equitable way for the Washington, DC region to grow and provide opportunities for all.
CSG writes to convey our support for the Huntington Metro Station plan amendment, which lays the groundwork to transform the Huntington Metro station area into an inclusive, walkable, bike-friendly, transit-oriented community. One important recommendation we have for the plan is to include language that the County will work with WMATA to provide needed public funding for the transit center to ensure the redevelopment can move forward.
Fairfax County and the region have committed to focusing 75% of new housing and jobs in locations with high-capacity transit. As our region grows, it is transit-oriented development (TOD) like what is being proposed in Huntington that will support new and relocating residents, as well as current residents in the area, in driving less, while improving health, increasing access to opportunity, lowering combined housing and transportation costs, and reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
Mix of Uses
The proposed plan provides a good mix-of-uses, including 1,500 residential units, retail, office, and a public plaza. Fifteen percent (15%) of the residential units will be much needed workforce and affordable dwelling units. The plan sets a maximum of 382,000 sq ft. for non-residential uses, which would be ideal for realizing the full benefits of this TOD.
The Huntington metro site presents considerable challenges that limit the buildable portions of the property. WMATA and the developer have worked with the task force and the community to alleviate concerns and it is my understanding they are no longer seeking to build townhomes along the eastern boundary of the property and are agreeable to the planning commission proposal to reduce building heights in one corner of that eastern boundary as well. While I can appreciate the intention to maintain the forested buffer and provide a step-down in the building heights behind the homes on Biscayne, it does further limit the potential to provide more homes in this community.
CSG urges the county to consider a reduction of metro parking in the future to make room for additional development within the station area. Too much of the land is dedicated to parking and limits the amount of buildable space that should be used to fully develop this transit-oriented community.
The plan amendment calls for important transit, bike, walk and safety improvements to support this transit-oriented community that will enhance access to the Metro station and future Route 1 bus rapid transit (BRT), and provide greater connectivity for people walking and biking.
Bus Rapid Transit Station
CSG supports building the BRT station underground at the south entrance of Metro. This makes room for the planned civic plaza that will be an important community feature, providing an active and inviting public space. The transit station will be very close to the Metro station entrance, allowing for short, fast connections between BRT, local buses, and Metrorail.
This is an essential feature of the plan, and an important transfer station for the County’s bus rapid transit line. To ensure that the redevelopment can be financed and move forward, the BRT station transportation investment should not be the sole responsibility of WMATA or the developer. CSG asks the County to work with WMATA to find the gap funding necessary to move this redevelopment forward.
Funding for the bus transit station and bike and pedestrian improvements is exactly the type of priority transit-oriented community investment the county and the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority should be making. Because helping more people live and work within walk and bike distance of Metro, and enhancing transit connectivity, reduces driving demand on the roads (in contrast to road expansion), and better achieves the goals of Fairfax and the region.
CSG appreciates that the county undertook a Huntington Active Transportation Study and has incorporated its recommendations in the proposed plan amendment, as should be done for all TOD projects in the county. The plan includes recommendations for much needed pedestrian
and bicycle safety and connectivity improvements along Huntington Avenue and North Kings Highway.
The significant grade change between the north and south ends of the property is a major challenge to creating a truly connected community. CSG supports including in the plan the needed connections between the Metro property and the adjacent Huntington Club property to the west for both the northern and southern ends of the station area. We recognize that concerns were raised about the southern connection and ask that the concept be further explored to find a workable solution. This connection not only helps knit together the surrounding community to the station area development but would provide access to forested outdoor space in this urban area.
CSG appreciates that the plan includes language encouraging innovative solutions to provide a needed connection between the north and south ends of the metro property to make it accessible for people of all ages and abilities without going through the metro station. The redevelopment offers an opportunity to fix the current barrier that exists and provide this needed connection.
Parks, Open Space and Stormwater
We are glad that the proposed plan includes open space, publicly accessible urban parks, street trees, and the preservation of trees on the sloped western side of the property. Maintaining the forested buffer on the east side adds even more. Access to open space, natural areas and parks are an essential part of healthy, livable communities and a key health determinant for residents. These forested areas also serve as important natural stormwater management.
We appreciate the Planning Commission’s recommended text to strengthen the stormwater language calling for control measures that are substantially more extensive than minimum requirements with the ultimate goal to reduce overall runoff. This is an addition to the proposed plan already calling for innovative techniques, use of best practices and the recommendation to use LEED standards for stormwater management and reducing runoff.
CSG supports the plan amendment, which lays the groundwork for developing the Huntington Metro station area into an inclusive, vibrant, and livable neighborhood with great access to Metro and the future Route 1 bus rapid transit. We ask that you vote in favor of the plan amendment.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Northern Virginia Advocacy Manager