Tysons Corner-based Gannett is looking to cash in on some empty office space by leasing part of its headquarters to other tenants.
To that end, the company has applied for a special exception to its zoning conditions, which currently restrict use of the property to a single company. Gannett has also asked the county to allow a future tenant to use the helipad, currently located on top of a parking garage on the Gannett campus.
Gannett was granted use of a helipad by the county when it built the headquarters more than a decade ago, but the helipad has never been used and Gannett does not own an helicopter. Current zoning stipulates only Gannett is allowed to use the helipad. The company now wants to transfer that right to a potential tenant.
Transferring the helipad rights was a real sticking point for members of the McLean Citizens Association's Planning and Zoning committee, which convened on Tuesday evening to consider the Gannett application. Residents of McLean Hamlet, a neighborhood adjacent to the Gannett campus, also attended the meeting to object to this point.
"It is going to be a very, very difficult thing for – not only McLean Hamlet – but for the whole community to accept," said Sally Horn, president of the McLean Citizens Association. "Keeping open an option that is completely unpalatable to your neighbors doesn’t make a lot of sense."
Alan Holmer, president of the McLean Hamlet Citizens Association, said helicopter noise in the neighborhood has already reached a point that "keeps people from having normal conversations in their homes."
"The purpose originally was only for Gannett to operate a helicopter," Holmer said. "We believe the interests of the county are not promoted by changing the original deal."
The committee took no action on the application Tuesday. Gannett said it will consider removing the request to transfer the helipad rights from its application.