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Monday, May 20, 2013

More public involvement urged for Fairfax Forward

The shopping center on Annandale Road being developed by Bill Page Honda.
Fairfax County Planning and Zoning Department (DPZ) staff have agreed to strengthen provisions on community involvement and public outreach in Fairfax Forward, the proposed plan for overhauling the way changes are made in the county’s land use policy.

The county, however, is not expected to go along with recommendations calling for community groups with a stake in land use changes to appoint members to the committees that advise the county supervisors.

Fairfax Forward would replace the Area Plans Review (APR) process for updating the county’s Comprehensive Plan with a more holistic system. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has scheduled a public hearing, followed by a vote, on Fairfax Forward July 9.

At a meeting of the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations May 16, Meghan Van Dam of the DPZ told the group the planning staff is willing to consider recommendations by the Providence District Council to ensure that local residents will have meaningful opportunities to review and comment on proposed land use changes. She also said the staff would improve community outreach to ensure local residents know about upcoming plan reviews.

Members of the Fairfax Federation also want to a uniform rule in Fairfax Forward spelling out how the county’s supervisors deal with the task force or committee on land use in their districts. Charlie Hall of the Providence District Council said land use committees should be representative of the broad community, including PTAs, business groups, citizens’ association, and homeowners associations, and those groups should be able to appoint representatives to the committee. If the supervisor appoints the members, the committee is more likely to go along with the supervisor’s agenda.

Some supervisors have land use committees that operate that way, and some don’t. In the Mason District, the supervisor appoints the members of the Mason District Land Use Committee (MDLUC). That committee meets once a month to review development proposals before they are presented to the Planning Commission. The MDLUC hears comments from the public and votes to recommend whether the Planning Commission should approve or reject a land use proposal, but it’s recommendations aren’t binding.

The Mason District Council agreed to endorse the Providence District Council’s comments on Fairfax Forward and added an amendment to require supervisors’ land use committees to have members appointed by the community.

Marianne Gardner, director of the planning division in the DPZ, said the supervisors would likely oppose a “one-size-fits-all” requirement on how members of these advisory committees are selected.

Van Dam said Fairfax Forward would focus on four types of planning studies:

  • activity centers, such as Annandale, Bailey’s Crossroads, and Seven Corners, as well as areas around transit stations and the Tysons urban center.
  • neighborhood studies, including low-density residential areas.
  • communitywide planning studies, and
  • amendments to the Comprehensive Plan authorized by the Board of Supervisors.
Fairfax Forward outlines a series of proposed amendment to the Comprehensive Plan that could be undertaken within the next two years. The only one in the Mason District is a proposal to redesignate the Lincolnia area from a “suburban neighborhood” to a “community business center.” That effort has not begun yet.

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