County planner Bernie Suchicital (left) addresses the Seven Corners Task Force.
Twelve local residents and business people selected for the Seven Corners Land Use and Transportation Task Force met for the first time Sept. 11 to figure out how they will operate over the next few months as they develop recommendations on how the area should be redeveloped.
Mason Supervisor Penny Gross appointed the members and announced that there will be two co-chairs: Evelyn Haught, of Skyline Center, and Patrick Hoar, a resident of Ravenwood Park.
“I want this group to be deliberative. I want this group to be thoughtful in looking at all the possibilities and prioritizing them,” Gross said. She told the group to “try and help us figure out what to do with the Seven Corners/Willston area in the next 10 years, 20 years, and maybe the next 40 years.”
The Task Force, overseen by the Fairfax County Office of Community Revitalization (OCR), was formed to continue the discussions started at those visioning workshops. Two working groups were also formed to consider shorter-term issues and solutions—one on quality of life concerns, like litter and illegal signs, the other on pedestrian, bicycle, and transit connectivity.
Matt Flis, a planner with the OCR, told the task force members their role is to review the county’s Comprehensive Plan for Seven Corners, recommend changes if needed, and provide input on a forthcoming transportation study. He said the group can consider all physical aspects of the area, including retail use, land use, affordable housing, and the arts.
The staff “doesn’t have a preconceived notion,” Flis said. “We want to hear your ideas. You are driving this bus.”
At their first meeting, the task force mostly concentrated on procedural issues, but they also briefly discussed their perspectives on Seven Corners.
“I hope we can embrace the diversity in the Seven Corners community,” said Haught. That’s a strength that can be used to attract visitors, she said. “We should capitalize on that instead of seeing it as a problem to solve.”
Task Force member Jim Edmonson expressed the view that gentrification of the area should be avoided. If “we let the economy run its course,” rents would rise, forcing many shop owners to leave, he said.
The task force will meet on the second Tuesday of the month, at 7 p.m., in the Mason Government Center. The public can observe the meetings, and although the group discussed the need for public input, a decision hasn’t been made on how that will occur.
At the next meeting, Oct. 9, officials from the Department of Planning and Zoning will give a presentation on “Planning 101,” and representatives from the Transportation Department will discuss the Seven Corners transportation study, for which the county has recently approved funding. At the Nov. 13 meeting, OCR will present a report on existing conditions in Seven Corners.