If you’ve traveled along Richmond Highway in the past couple of weeks you have probably noticed the fencing and heavy construction equipment at Kings Crossing. I have had numerous people ask me two important questions about this project: 1) “What are they doing at Kings Crossing?” and 2) “Are they going to build new turn lanes?”
1) The site’s developer, JBG/R, is proceeding with Phase II of the Kings Crossing development, which will include four retail pad sites totaling about 20,000 square feet; and
2) No, because it was a by-right development, so the county had no legal authority to require turn lanes as part of Phase II.
This particular project underscores one of the leading arguments in favor of commercial revitalization: it can help pay for community “goods” like intersection improvements, streetscaping, parks, sidewalks, and schools. If a developer wants to rezone a property for a more intensive use, Virginia law enables Fairfax County to use the rezoning process to negotiate with the developer to pay the county upfront for the construction of such community goods. This system of “proffers” ensures that new development can help enhance the community in which it occurs.
Conversely, if a developer chooses the path of least resistance—a by-right development—the county has no such leverage. If the zoning is already in place the county cannot demand payment from a developer to build what is already legally permissible. Only when a change occurs in the use and/or intensity of a site can the county request proffers from a developer.
Taking a look at the overall Penn Daw area there will be many opportunities for Fairfax County to leverage private investments into funding for public improvements in the coming years. The Comprehensive Plan amendment for Kings Crossing that was adopted in 2010 envisions more than 900 housing units in the area located between Quander Road and Fairview Drive. Two plan amendments currently under county review envision close to 1,000 more units as part of three separate developments on the west side of Richmond Highway: Penn Daw Plaza, the Spicer property, and the Fast Eddie’s site.
If all of these proposed developments move forward and Fairfax County is able to negotiate proffers of $10,000 per unit—not an atypical figure—the county would stand to obtain at least $19 million in private funding. Assuming additional proffers from the proposed commercial developments in the area, this number would climb even higher. These funds could be put to use for a variety of purposes: improving the already challenged intersections in the vicinity, providing public park space in the area, building sidewalks, installing high-quality streetscaping, and contributing towards school and transit improvements.
There is just one problem with this system: the county does not really know exactly what goods it hopes to obtain from large-scale revitalization, nor is there a clear understanding of what the total costs for desired public improvements.
SFDC is beginning the process of working with Fairfax County to put pen to paper to better understand the range of public improvements that are desired in our revitalization areas at North Gateway, Penn Daw, Beacon/Groveton, Hybla Valley/Gum Springs, South County, and Woodlawn. We plan to reach out to the community at large for input on this important issue in the months to come. In the meantime, we would love to hear from the community with ideas about the type and scale of public improvements that can be realized as a result of revitalization activities.