Planning commission approves Embark Richmond Highway amendment

Graphic of Groveton CBC plaza

A civic plaza envisioned for Groveton Community Business Center in the Embark Richmond Highway amendment. (Fairfax County image)

The Fairfax County Planning Commission voted Thursday evening to approve the Embark Richmond Highway amendment to the county’s comprehensive plan.

The vote — which actually included a total of 12 different motions approving the main amendment and related measures — was unanimous with one abstention. 

The drama-free approval came after a lengthy January 25 public hearing that stretched well past midnight. That hearing, plus public comments submitted afterward and recommendations from county staff and the commission, resulted in more than 100 recommended changes to the nearly 300-page staff report for the amendment. 

In the end, 83 changes were adopted into the report, according to Mount Vernon Planning Commissioner Earl Flanagan. 

In remarks prior to the vote, Lee District Planning Commissioner James Migliaccio commended county staff for their work on the amendment, which is one of the biggest changes to the county’s comprehensive plan in years. 

“This motion is the culmination of two years plus of planning,”  Migliaccio said. “I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many people sitting in the audience here, mostly county planning staff, who helped put pen to paper and crafted this plan amendment, the largest county plan amendment since Tysons [Corner].”

The Embark amendment outlines a drastic new vision for the future of the corridor. It calls for bus rapid transit (BRT) from the Huntington Metro station to Fort Belvoir, primarily in a dedicated lane down the middle of Route 1. The highway itself will be widened to three lanes on each side from the Beltway to Belvoir, with space for bike lanes and continuous sidewalks in both directions.

Embark also envisions six community business centers (CBCs) featuring high-density, mixed-use development surrounding BRT stations. The CBCs — North Gateway, Penn Daw, Beacon/Groveton, Hybla Valley/Gum Springs, South County, and Woodlawn — would feature taller buildings, grids of streets and green spaces. An extension of the Yellow Line from Huntington to the Beacon/Groveton CBC and Gum Springs/Hybla Valley CBC is also planned. 

The next step in the approval process for Embark will be a public hearing at the March 20 Board of Supervisors meeting.

 More information about Embark can be found on the county’s website