Traffic Still Issue as Saab Parcel Plan Heads For Vote

By Stephen Siegel
Falls Church Times Staff
May 9, 2013

A final vote has been scheduled for Monday on a proposal for a new mixed-use project at the International Motors site on South Washington Street, despite misgivings among the city’s staff about the project’s impact on traffic and pedestrian safety.

Called The Reserve at Tinner Hill, the project would have 224 one and two-bedroom apartments and first-floor retail, which is expected to include a Fresh Market grocery store if a few more details can be ironed out between the store and developer Lincoln Property Company.

With plans for a 20,000 square foot grocery, the apartments in the 85-foot tall building, and the underground parking, the project will add considerable density to what is already a burgeoning part of the city; the big Pearson Square apartment complex and the all-office and retail Tax Analysts building are across the street.

To handle the increased traffic, Lincoln agreed to pay for a new traffic signal at Tinner Hill Road and South Washington, adjacent to Elevation Burger, and the city will add a signal just to the west at Maple and South Washington, which long had been on their list of planned improvements for the area.

City staffers say that without the signals, traffic in the area would get a failing grade. Studies showed that it would be better, but still failing, during the afternoon rush hour with only the Tinner Hill signal, and it graded out as acceptable after the proposal for the Maple signal also was included in the studies.

But city planners remain concerned about traffic and pedestrian safety at the proposed entrances and exits that lie between the location of the two new signals, east of Maple and west of Tinner. They are so concerned, in fact, that they recommend prohibiting left turns into and out of the site on the South Washington Street side.

“From the staff perspective, allowing lefts in and out of the site could be problematic given the traffic volumes on South Washington Street, and constrained sight lines due to topography,” the staff report says. “In addition, there could be associated pedestrian safety issues. As turning vehicles are focused on finding breaks in traffic
flow in order to cut across travel lanes, drivers may be less mindful of pedestrians that may be crossing the sidewalk in front of the drive aisles.”

The city recently prohibited left turns into and out of the Giant Food plaza between the Citgo gas station and the new BB&T bank branch on West Broad Street for what is likely a similar reason. That prohibition forces traffic leaving the plaza to exit either via Birch or Haycock in order to head east on Broad, but reduces the amount of traffic crossing the sidewalk at that location.

Planners appear to want to have a similar setup at South Washington. That would require traffic coming east on Washington from Fairfax County to turn left only at one of the two new signals to access the project. Similarly, traffic leaving the site wanting to head north on Washington toward Broad would need to exit either at northbound Maple or at one of the new signals. But at this point, officials have chosen not to require that, and the developer says Fresh Market will not agree to that kind of restriction in any case.

The report also acknowledges that the developer’s own traffic engineer could build a case that justifies allowing left turns to and from Washington. But it suggests the City Council consider the issue before it opts to vote for approval of the entire project.

The vote scheduled for Monday would grant the developer special exceptions to the zoning code, including the right to build residential in a commercial district and to build 85 feet high, 30 feet higher than the code allows.

If approved, Lincoln will then submit a site plan for city approval. The company hopes to break ground before the end of the year.

May 8, 2013 


10 Responses to “Traffic Still Issue as Saab Parcel Plan Heads For Vote”

  1. Lou Mauro on May 8th, 2013 11:47 pm

    So a 20,000 square foot grocery with 234 apartments between Washington and Maple causes “misgivings among the city’s staff about the project’s impact on traffic and pedestrian safety” but a SIXTY THOUSAND square foot grocery with nearly 300 apartments between Broad and Annandale does not? What?!

  2. Lisa V Falls Church on May 10th, 2013 8:48 am

    I’m glad to see they are thinking about the impact on traffic, but no mention of the additional children that would be added to the already over-populated school system?

  3. I Wonder on May 10th, 2013 5:15 pm

    Are there really going to be two grocery stores right next to each other in mixed use developments in Falls Church? Is Harris Teeter locked in to the other site?

  4. Michael Baker on May 12th, 2013 10:41 am

    Once again our “forward thinking” City Council is deciding with its wallet and not its brain. Of course, except maybe for the Mayor who lives in the affected area, non of the Council is impacted by the plans for this site and the Post Office/Anthony’s site.
    Two large grocery stores with the daily influx of large 18 wheel trucks and retail traffic will turn Broad Street and South Washington into our own version of Vienna’s Maple St. What we experience every day after 4pm will be the normal for both streets and the overflow will turn our residential streets, many without sidewalks, into gridlock.
    As hard as it is to have 2 sides of parking and then 2 lanes of traffic on may of the side streets, imagine that with 4 or 5 times the number of cars. Will it even be possible to drive on a Saturday in Falls Church?

    Fresh Market not agreed to that restriction – maybe if the citizens of Falls Church told Fresh Market (are you listening Harris Teeter?) that if Fresh Market doesn’t allow restrictions to help traffic they’ll face a boycott and protests at the market – picket lines on the sidewalks – the companies might see they depend on us and not the other way around.
    Our Council is so greedy, and so desperate to find some way to lower the property tax (so they’ll get re-elected) that they would compromise everything to get this development and the HarrisTeeter development done.
    It appears that for both projects the Council has decided money is more important than the many concerns over traffic and safety raised by the City’s own staff.
    Of course, these are the same Council members who believe that one bedroom apartments won’t have more than one car (there won’t be overflow parking problems), that there won’t be more school children ( we don’t need to fund the schools – we need to keep all that money in the bank for ???), that the large grocery retailers will obey all of the City ordinances – that is the ones we don’t cave into on and change for them. Who cares about the 10 or 15 families who will have to live with the trucks, and the noise, etc. Everyone else gets something – like impassible traffic, crowded classrooms, loss of pedestrian safety. Is this a great country.

    Maybe we should tell Harris Teeter to take a hike and offer the Broad St. site to Fresh Market and their much more realistic sized store.

  5. Lou Mauro on May 12th, 2013 11:16 am

    Well said, Michael. Unfortunately, the decision-makers are deaf to your words. As always, the members of the City Council will put the interest of the developers ahead of the public interest. After more than a decade of this nonsense, I am now persuaded that, when it comes to development at least, the members of the City Council (all of them, no exceptions) do not know what the public interest is and wouldn’t care if they did know. I will do everything I can to prevent the re-election of any Council-member that votes for Harris Teeter.

  6. Dan Lehman, Falls Church on May 12th, 2013 1:36 pm

    Why is it that the only *vision* that planners have is of increased size/density?

    > To handle the increased traffic, Lincoln agreed to pay for
    > a new traffic signal at Tinner Hill Road and South Washington,
    > adjacent to Elevation Burger, and the city will add a signal just
    > to the west at Maple and South Washington, which long had been
    > on their list of planned improvements for the area.

    Terrific : more *&^%$@# lights to gum up the works.

    It seems that extant, small stores are completely ignored in these discussions.
    There is a Vietnamese grocer near this site, and a Lebanese one easy walking
    distance nearby, among others towards our resident (and quite friendly) Giant
    to the west, just beyond which lie Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, with SuperA
    and a Safeway just out Lee Hwy a little. (And Shoppers out Rt.7. WTF is it with
    some supposed *need* of having such big stores replicated IN the city?

  7. Gordon Theisz, Falls Church on May 13th, 2013 12:04 am

    I support both developments. When more City residents spend in the City, more tax revenues are kept here. When non-City residents are given a reason to come in and spend money here, more tax revenue that is raised. This is major commercial devlopment in commercial areas. We can argue about the residential components if we want, but these same residents will spend more income here simply by living nearest to the commercial areas. This will spur better commercial development of our downtown. Win, win, win, win, win.

    If the City was concerned about the residential growth rate impact on City services, it should focus on those areas that are actually causing the drain – single family homes. The government thus far has been disinterested in any action here and the result is increased costs, taxes and fees as we have seen most recently with schools and storm water management.

    Gary LaPorta put an excellent summary of the impact of mixed use and single family homes on another thread. With one exception, mixed use and commercial developments are revenue positive.

  8. Lou Mauro on May 13th, 2013 7:17 pm


    If it were just a question of money, you might be right. Might. But it’s not just about money. It’s about traffic and parking congestion, air pollution and water quality, delivery of emergency and other city services, and insane continuation of school overcrowding. It’s about cumulative effects, quality of life and sustainability.

  9. Gordon Theisz, Falls Church on May 13th, 2013 10:28 pm

    Lou, with respect, these new projects will:
    1. Reduce the amount of water runoff by holding it onsite (improving lots that are running off now)
    2. Improve parking by actually providing adequate parking onsite (something lacking in other developments across town)
    3. Be built to current fire codes, having adequate egress and fire suppression, an improvement over current facilities
    4. Bring more money per student than single family houses, in a sense paying for the pupils they bring (and aside from Pearson, other mixed use developments in town brought less school children than expected).
    5. Improve the qualitiy of life and sustainability of our downtown by making it vibrant and busy, which will benefit local Falls Church businesses.

  10. Lou Mauro on May 14th, 2013 12:10 am

    Gordon, with respect,

    1) The project increases the amount of impervious surface on the site.

    2) No other project has ever provided “adequate” parking, so why do you think this behemoth would?

    3) Meeting current fire codes and having “adequate” egress and fire protection does not even begin to address the additional fire, police and emergency services that will be required by thousands of people on site that were not there before.

    4) The net cost per student formulas and calculations are debatable at best. Even if they net out positively, more is not better for a school system. Adding more students to already exploding enrollments diminishes the quality of education.

    5) “Vibrant,” like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, but it sure will make downtown more “busy.” Yes, indeed, more cars and trucks to increase air pollution, clog city streets, increase safety concerns, and gridlock parking! Businesses will probably benefit but I am more concerned about the quality of life for those of us that live here.

    This is all moot anyway, because the kool-aid drinkers on the City Council are making developers happy (that’s why we elect them, isn’t it?) by approving both projects as I write this. What a joke this City has become.

Feel free to leave a comment. Please increase the credibility of your post by including your FULL NAME and CITY. All comments are subject to editing for courtesy and content.