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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Korean community center task force has challenging agenda



Plans to establish a Korean community center in Fairfax County are proceeding despite conflicts over leadership within the task force set up to organize the project.  

The task force members include representatives of several Korean social service and business organizations. William Hwang, former president of the Korean American Association of Virginia, is serving as coordinator of the task force.

Several committees have been formed, on governance, membership, finance/fundraising, and finding a home. At its most recent meeting in May, the task force agreed to also let people join the effort as individuals, rather than as a representative of an organization.

Some of the organizations involved have had a long history of disagreement with one another, so working together, even on a project they all support, is challenging. While the task force agreed on a vision for a Korean community center—“to provide services and cultural opportunities that allow Koreans and non-Koreans to develop as healthy, self-sufficient, and engaged community members”—as well as a mission statement and set of principles, they haven’t yet created a formal organizational structure.

The group needs to work on several key administrative issues, including a memorandum of understanding on the role of the participants, bylaws, a board of directors, a process for selecting leaders, and a financial plan. Another challenge is figuring out how the participating organizations with different levels of resources can contribute to the project on an equitable basis.

Fairfax County Chair Sharon Bulova’s office is facilitating the working group’s meetings but will take a back seat once task force gets farther along. The county isn’t providing any funding to the group.

County officials who spoke at the meeting said the county doesn’t own any suitable land or properties it could sell or lease, so the task force will either have to buy land and build a facility or buy or lease an existing building that could be renovated and repurposed.

According to several sources close to the task force, the group is leaning toward looking for a site along the Route 29 corridor between the two centers of the county’s Korean population—Annandale and Centreville. In general, real estate in Annandale would be more expensive so that could be an obstacle for an Annandale location.

Developing the center in a location zoned commercial would be easier. A community center could be built in a residential area under the “public benefit association” classification but that would require the Board of Supervisors to approve a special exception. That process could take up to a year and there would be a $16,000 application fee. The Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia on Little River Turnpike, which the task force is looking at as a model, was designated as a public benefit when it was developed in a residential area between Annandale and Fairfax.

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