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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Residents want a do-over of Seven Corners plan

Fairfax County staff and members of the Mason District Land Use Committee discuss Seven Corners.
Residents of the Seven Corners community urged the Mason District Land Use Committee to defer a recommendation on the redevelopment plan approved by the Seven Corners Task Force. Their concerns about the plan were expressed at the MDLUC meeting March 25 following a presentation by Fairfax County staff.

Residents are concerned the plan would allow too much residential density, that there is no funding for the transportation improvements, and that there weren’t enough opportunities for community input.

Meanwhile, seven neighborhood leaders signed a letter to Mason Supervisor Penny Gross requesting an additional review of the Seven Corners plan with more community participation. [See the end of this post for the full text of that letter.]

Debbie Smith, vice chair of the Mason District Council of Community Associations, told the MDLUC the council has “huge concerns” about the Task Force recommendations for Areas A and B (compromising the Willston area and Seven Corners Shopping Center). Smith contends there are no comparable, large revitalization areas in Fairfax County that aren’t close to Metro.

Bernie Suchicital, of the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning, called that comparison “apples to oranges,” noting Seven Corners is at the nexus of major highways [Route 50, Route 7, and Wilson Boulevard].

Seven Corners resident Mark Hayes complained that county staff had been working on a new East County Office Building for the Willston site for the past few years but those plans weren’t shared with the task force or community. Meanwhile, the school board and community have been calling for a school on that site. 

“We’re looking at an educational use at Willston,” Suchicital said, but new alternatives can’t be addressed in the staff report on the Seven Corners plan amendment to the Comprehensive Plan. [According to Gross, the new county office building won’t be located at Willston.]

Clyde Miller, president of the Holmes Run Valley Citizens Association, listed a series of other concerns: “extreme high density” with 5,500 new apartments, resulting in an additional 13,000 to 15,000 residents; the demolition of 589 low-income housing units; an insufficient road network that would result in cut-through traffic on neighborhood streets;  and no money for transportation improvements. “This is unrealistic,” he said.

Suchicital said developers would be expected to pay for new proposed street grids within their property and would be required to contribute to improvements on Route 7. The details would be established during the proffer negotiation process.

Miller called it misleading for the county to say the low-income housing would be replaced on a one-to-one basis. The units that would be demolished are currently affordable for households with incomes as low 60 percent of the area median income. The replacement housing would be designed for households with a range of incomes – including some much higher – but would still be considered affordable.

Joanne Fiebe, a planner with the Fairfax County Office of Community Revitalization, said some rents for some of the existing housing in the Willston area low because the owner is receiving a tax credit. Other existing housing has market-rate rents that are low because of the age and condition of the apartments.  

Miller was also concerned that one of the new roads in the plan, connecting Route 50 with Wilson Boulevard, would go through an existing shopping center whose owner was not involved in the task force. The original plan for a “ring road” around the Seven Corners intersection is now a partial ring, he noted, because of opposition by the City of Falls Church.

Seven Corners resident Doug Smith said the proposal for the Seven Corners intersection is overly complicated, would cost more than $100 million to implement, and there is no money for the work. As a result, new apartments might be built, while the road improvements may or may not happen. “That is tremendously unsettling,” he said.

The plan is a guide for future development, Suchicital explained. Kris Morley-Nikfar of the  Fairfax County Department of Transportation, added there are options for phasing in the transportation improvements when the land become available.

According to Miller, the task force only allowed public comment at a few of its meetings, and the community didn’t become aware of the “magnitude of density” in the plan until the task force was nearly finished.

If the Seven Corners plan has a 40-year timetable, there is no rush to get it approved by the Board of Supervisors, said Carol Turner. So there is plenty of time for more community input.

“We’ve been working on this since 2011,” said Fiebe. “It’s truly innovative. It sets the stage for an incredible future for Seven Corners. We don’t know how it can be improved.” When a developer comes in with specific concept, the plan will be refined during the rezoning and site plan processes, she said.

The letter to Gross seeking more community involvement was signed by George Fitchko, acting president of the Buffalo Hill Neighborhood Association; John Iekel, president of the Ravenwood Park Citizens Association; Jim Kilbourne, president of the Lake Barcroft Association; Catriona McCormack, president of the Ravenwood Neighborhood Association; Clyde Miller, president of the Holmes Run Valley Citizens Association; Caroline Morel, president of the Sleepy Hollow Manor Citizens Association; and Debbie Smith and Carol Turner of the Mason District Council of Civic Associations.

Here is the complete text of the letter:

“We are writing to you as representatives of Seven Corners neighborhoods that will be directly and disproportionately affected by the proposed Seven Corners redevelopment. We share your desire to see Seven Corners revitalized. We believe that the Special Working Group you created established an efficient, community-led process that resulted in significant improvements to the Task Force’s original recommendations for Opportunity Area C.

“Our communities have multiple, similar concerns about the Task Force’s recommendations for Opportunity Areas A and B, concerns which we have expressed over the past year. We urge you to establish a similar community process for improving the redevelopment plans for Opportunity Areas A and B before moving the proposal forward.

“The Task Force’s vision of a walkable, bikeable, “village” atmosphere with trees, bike lanes, community-serving retail and outdoor dining space is very attractive to us. We believe that the Special Working Group, made up entirely of community representatives, significantly improved the initial recommendations made by the Task Force for the Sears site.  Those improvements include:
•    increasing the amount of green space, including recommending placement of a park next to the urban school so that school children may have access to green space that is lacking on the school property
•    increasing the amount of community-serving retail and office space
•    increasing the amount of community-serving park and plaza space
•    recommending entertainment space
•    reducing overall residential density
•    recommending language to address concerns regarding traffic impact on established neighborhoods.

“The process undertaken by, and the results of, the Special Working Group strongly suggest to us that it is possible – indeed, imperative - to respond to community concerns, improve the recommendations of the Task Force, and maintain the economic viability of the redevelopment plans.

“We understand that you have been told that there was Task Force and community consensus regarding the redevelopment plans for all parts of the redevelopment area except the Sears site.  We respectfully, and strenuously, disagree. Throughout the Task Force process, and at the time that you established the community-led Special Working Group, our communities pointed out concerns regarding the Task Force recommendations for Opportunity Areas A, B and C:
•    appropriate density of redevelopment, including residential and commercial square footage
•    sufficiency of community-serving retail
•    adequacy and timing of transportation improvements to accommodate existing and projected traffic
•    green space, tree cover, and environmental amenities
•    infrastructure, including, but not limited to, schools, to support additional density and residents
•    affordable housing.

“We greatly appreciate your approach to Opportunity Area C, establishing the community-driven Special Working Group, which resulted in meaningful improvements and significant additional community support for the plans for the Sears site. We urge you to create a similar process to facilitate improvements to the Task Force recommendations for Opportunity Areas A and B prior to formal consideration and approval of the Task Force’s recommendations for amendments to the Comprehensive Plan.”

54 comments:

  1. This place will never be realized as something special because everyone just wants to complain. The name should be changed to 7 roads to nowhere. Without increasing the density it is doomed never to become anything other than what it is "Paradise 8 by the Lake."

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    1. Come on in, the water's fine. Everybody in the lake! +15,000

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  2. this is what happens when you have too many people involved in a process. if mason district had real leadership, things would be a lot more efficient.

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    1. bring in the leadership from Arlington

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    2. Mason District does have leadership and I think Supervisor Gross has done a good job by involving this community group to provide input into the development. This would be more efficient if you didn't have some of these disgruntled rabble rousers who are trying to politicize the process by nitpicking every single aspect. They are the ones who are causing this plan to fail.

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  3. While other areas around the MD are building and moving forward all we see here is delay after delay after delay leading to nothing being done at all. Not every proposal or plan is going to be perfect, Not everybody is going to be happy but we need to move forward. Do we wait until this "special group" is happy because I guarantee you there will be one in waiting in the wings who won't be happy...and then the petitions start to fly again or there is article on the blog. Anon 4:03 is right, change the name to 7 roads to nowhere. The plans for building on the vacant lot with the geico building just got shot down..oh sorry delayed. Toss this on the pile too. Wait until officials want to fill the lake to make room for affordable housing. On a side note, what is with all the Maryland plates in the Culmore area.

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    1. Its how the white vans avoid detection by VA officials. What a shell game. The code officials in VA must have gotten their credential from a matchbook.

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    2. What's up with all the Maryland plates everywhere in Mason District?

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    3. My neighbor who has two renters with Maryland License plates said they did that to avoid paying property taxes or some fees in VA. I dont know if that is true but does make sense. I've noticed a ton of Maryland tags lately as well.

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    4. No, it doesn't make sense, you dimwit. These tax evaders are using our roads, schools, and other public services, all while paying their taxes and fees to Maryland. They need to be physically residing in Maryland.

      I have happily reported several tax evaders.

      http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dta/taxevaders/AddRecord.aspx

      I, for one, am tired of seeing all of the flagrant tax evaders, and am further sickened that the county doesn't seem to care about it at all. I don't care why they are garaging their car in Maryland and using it in Virginia. It needs to stop.

      There are only a few exceptions to this - being Military is one. But I seriously doubt all the fleets of low-riders that I see with Maryland tags belong to military members.

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    5. No you idiot, I wasn't saying it make sense because I think it's okay. I was saying my neighbors assertion makes sense, that that is what they might be doing. Stop jumping to conclusions and being an asshat.

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  4. "If the Seven Corners plan has a 40-year timetable, there is no rush to get it approved by the Board of Supervisors, said Carol Turner. So there is plenty of time for more community input" LMAO, At that timetable we might as well put our children at the table to discuss this issue. And that 40 year timetable probably did not account for delay after delay after delay and petition after petition after petition. What a mess.

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    1. Carol Turner's quote is hysterical. Yes Carol, let's drag this out for another 40 years. This is a tough project that requires touch decisions - stop delaying it and revitalize 7 Corners NOW.

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  5. “All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.” – Ellen Glasgow

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    1. "Change You Can Believe In." - Barack Obama

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    2. "Let a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend." - Mao Zedong

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    3. "All the dude ever wanted was his rug back" B. Lebowksi

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    4. "Is that...hair gel?" There's Something About Mary

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    5. I think NIMBY is a new hair gel product that has been taken off the market because it affects the brain.

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    6. With this Penny we deserve change.

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  6. These NIMBY's must be independently wealthy or very retired for they seem to have nothing else to do but play urban planners.

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    1. Democracy out of control, if you ask me.

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    2. The NIMBY's are simple. We have ours, and nobody can develop any plot of land unless we are satisfied. Where do they expect the money to come from for new transit improvements and new schools unless there is new development?

      Oh, this idea the richer and growing portions of Fairfax County are going to pay for new schools and transit in Mason is beyond ridiculous. It's not going to happen. How do we know? The residents of McLean are already protesting because their schools' class sizes are close to double the class sizes in Mason District. But sure they will pay higher taxes for new schools and transit in Mason, because "they didn't build that" and other Liberal babble.

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    3. Excuse me 6:54? We paid, a small part anyway, for a metro line to be added to McLean and Tyson's. Do we in Mason District see any benefit from the silver line? Heck no. Only tangentially. We all pay for each other's stuff, and Mason District BY FAR IN MANY WAYS gets the short end of the stick. Unbelievable that McLean residents have deluded themselves, and out of district idiots like you, into believing that McLean residents are disenfranchised in any manner.

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  7. Oh here we go again like a carousel or more like a lazy susan......we just keep going round and round.

    Seven Corners/Baileys Crossroads needs to become an activity center, with direct metro access either via busways, street cars maybe a zip fly for the millenniums. It needs to be dense enough to support that infrastructure investment that needs to be made. It needs to be multi-use: housing, business/offices, retail, restaurants, cultural, recreation and services. It needs to be a destination not a "that use to be a successful mall." It needs to be the landmark of Mason District. It needs to be a place where people can work so they do not have to commute. Without sufficient density it will be just another watered-down/lifeless row of townhouses with low rise buildings. If we build another generic uninspired collections of low density housing it will be another Culmore and it will turn into Paradise 8 by the lake. Beware Lake Barcrofters; you may be setting the stage for failure.

    Seven Corners needs to be exciting, it needs to be a place where people want to be, and from what I can see shown in the plans it is not. There is no "there-there", there is no heart or soul. Build something exciting, they will come, build something bland they will run!

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    1. Import the brains from Arlington, they seem to know what they are doing. Perhaps they can mediate a solution. Although I think the NIMBYs' emotions would sabotage anything that may be logical.

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    2. Arlington streetcar brains maybe?

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    3. Fortunately Mason does not have a monopoly on NIMBYs, they have them in Arlington too, making bad choices for the entire metro area!

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    4. Just another PennyPusher trying to justify poor leadership. Move it on over.

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  8. Bravo to the HOAs. This is democracy in action. If Supervisor Gross had LISTENED to adjacent communitites in the first place this project would have been done by now. Instead, in her high handed way, she loaded the Task Force with her buddy developers and ignored input from residents. 7 Corners needs to be everything the said above with reasonable density AND due attention given to the low income families who live there. Penny's plan is devoid of both.

    The SWG completed its work of reviewing the Sears site in 6 months. At that speed we could have community supported plans for A & B completed in a year. AND, likely it could be a plan that would not take 40 years to begin implementing.

    Penny has had 20 years to return 7 Corners to its former glory as a destination. Why has she been dragging her feet? Enough. Let the communities take a crack at planning again and have an opportunity to do what's right for 7 Corners and its people.

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    1. " Let the communities take a crack at planning again and have an opportunity to do what's right for 7 Corners and its people".....Until another group doesn't like what that group proposed. This is a never ending cycyle leading to nowhere. Penny is part of the problem but so is the whole process. Call it democracy or whatever, but there will always be someone or some group that has heartburn on what is proposed. Do we continue to delay and delay to appease this group, Then what do you if someone doesn't like what this new group proposes. I guess start another group and put an article on the blog. Decisions need to made it is time for leadership to stand up.

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    2. If Penny had listened to the communities in the first place and not loaded her Task Force with her developer buddies and not changed the wording to the plan after adoption the controversy there might not be a controversy.

      She started spending money on her East County Government Center in April 2013. The 7 Corners Task Force started its process in 2012 and didn't vote until Sept. 2014. The TF never voted on a ECGC. The language was added after the fact because Penny was already spending millions!

      The citizens have every right to call foul and expose the shenanigans that forced about 6000 more housing units on 7 Corners with no citizen input.

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    3. I totally agree. It's about time Ms. Gross listened to the concerns of the people who live in Mason District.

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    4. "Penny has had 20 years to return 7 Corners to its former glory as a destination." Ridiculous. It's been much more lucrative for developers to invest outside the Beltway where most of the growth in population has occurred. It's much easier to build on a previously undeveloped parcel of land than to infill a small space within a congested area. I'm no fan of Penny's, but she's not responsible for every problem in Mason.

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  9. What about the people who liked the project... they don't count I guess.

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    1. Not one person ever spoke in favor of the plans for Seven Corners at any of the public comment sessions. ALL of the communities abutting the redevelopment area are united in their concern over the plans.

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  10. Still have not seen a single economic or planning report by a professional that has evaluated these master plans for a return on investment (ROI) and feasibiltiy.

    All I read about are these NIMBYs' master planning areas as if they were coloring by numbers. Master planning is a science and an art, it takes into account local needs while evaluating the bigger picture in terms of growth patterns, integration with other communities, regional planning, economics, social/business and demographic trending, transportation, schools and the environment.

    The only thing we keep talking about is density. A low density plan can be more suicidal than too much density for 7 corners and the NIMBYs. Do the NIMBYs have quantifiable analysis to determine density or is it just bias preference. Preference should be factored into the solution and not be the driver.

    Where are the experts?

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    1. I agree with you that we need a master plan for Mason District. These patchwork jobs contribute to the mish mash all around us.

      We need continuity and a heavy dose of common sense, practicality and responsible planning that returns economic health to our communities.

      Fairfax County has a strange system for land use planning. It wasn't always done this way. There are MD plans going back to the mid-1990s that were done by professional planners. They were well done. For some reason Penny did not implement them. Now 20 years have gone by and we have nothing to show for the money spent on those plans. All we are left with is controversy, continued deterioration, an ill-conceived plan and promises from Penny that implementaion is up to 40 years out.

      Will you be alive then? I won't. Neither will she.

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    2. I would like to see the metrics......period. Without those quantifialbe reports, this discussion is as useless as the master planning that is going on. It might as well be OZ,

      Really Fairfax, if you want to keep your triple A bond rating, perhaps you should start acting like a mature municipality.

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  11. The county has quantifiable analysis regarding Seven Corners redevelopment. Jones Lang is under contract to provide the information. Unfortunately these source documents have not been shared by OCR with the public. The question to ask is why is the county afraid to release the information?

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    1. I would like to see the metrics......period. Without those quantifialbe reports, this discussion is as useless as the master planning that is going on. It might as well be OZ,

      Really Fairfax, if you want to keep your triple A bond rating, perhaps you should start acting like a mature municipality.

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  12. PennyPushers get a ten acre park in her neighborhood. We get condo canyon.

    Favoritism?

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  13. Can anyone believe that adding 6,000 rental units(conservatively 15,000 tenants) to the 7 Corners area, while reducing the retail space which would supposedly attract them in the first place,as a prime example of redevelopment?

    The residential density in this proposal exceeds that of Reston Town Center, Mosaic and Shirlington while lacking their retail and recreational components. It is also the only one bisected by one of the busiest thoroughfares in Northern Virginia.

    Cost is another issue. Who will pay to fix the current problems, e.g. traffic gridlock, overcrowded schools, lack of recreational space and facilities, etc, much less the impact of thousands of additional cars and residents on an aging and overloaded infrastructure

    It is difficult to believe that one time developer contributions and the "purchasing power" of these new residents will cover the cost of necessary improvements and their on going demand for services.

    But wait, we are also told that the County, State and Federal Government, all of whom are in financial straits, will step up to the plate. When pressed to identify the source of funding and details, there are none.

    Bottom line, the tax payers will be on the hook for this one.

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  14. Has any of our BOS or NIMBYs read this article. This is where we are going, Mason continues to lag behind and missing the opportunities to grow our economy and tax base:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/yearning-for-car-averse-millennials-suburbs-turn-to-transit/2015/03/29/cb916cd8-d259-11e4-8fce-3941fc548f1c_story.html

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    1. No one here is speaking out against public transportation. We want more accessible fixed rail public transportation. But all I see feasibly happening is that the Silver and Orange lines will just keep being extended beyond civilization, catering to the people who chose to live in the great outer corners of the area.

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    2. And that is why we should demand those services here!

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  15. It was Arlington, held as the paragon of perfect planning, who discontinued the trolley project and built the East Fall Church Station in a residential neighborhood with little likelihood of expanded parking.

    7 Corners revitalization can succeed if there is recognition and correction of existing problems and true mixed use, not 70 to 80% residential density, as proposed..

    As the Post article noted, accessible amenities, currently missing from the plan, as well as access to the metro are essential recipes for success.

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    1. Bottom line the problem is not solved and needs to be. Tired of the County blaming and the NIMBYs blaming others. If the County is going to survive, it must make some hard decisions and major investments to get us on track economically and as a modern day community. And right now it is neither, its rotting from the core out.

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  16. Bottom line is the current leadership lacks the vision to lead the Mason District into the future. The blame belongs squarely with the queen and her minions. Build the palace, pretend to build new roads, continue to ignore the voters. Its time for change not more obfuscation and rhetoric. No more royals.

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    1. "Queen" is one description, but supervisor-for-life is a better one. Penny still has no serious opposition and the GOP lacks the political clout to change the direction the county's headed. So, get used to being ignored.

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    2. No need to be so fatalistic regardless of the comprehensive plan predeterminations. Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!
      People are changing, ain’t it beautiful, ooh, ooh?

      Happy April Fools’ Day.

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  17. Then please, I will be the first to sign your petition if you think you can do a better job of reigning in the NIMBYs, deal w the concentration of poverty in Culmore, make Mason attractive to millenniums, develop new and attractive transit options that get me to work equally or faster to the office than my car, turn Mason's economy around, reduce white flight (and with that comes money leaving the district), get our roads clean and improve pedestrian and cyclists' safety, and enforce our current zoning laws wout defaulting to FFX attorneys. Seriously develop a mixed use corridor in the 7Corners/Baileys Corridor and re-build our economy so that people want to be here that can contribute and build a great place to live instead leaving it because of the dump it is.

    If you can do that I will help you run your campaign.

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