Frequently Asked Questions



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Public Participation Questions  (top)

1.    How can existing community groups or standing land use committees participate?
2.    When and how will the review schedule be communicated to the public?
3.
    How can the public follow the status of (track) nominations?

Education Questions

4.    Will there be any training to explain planning jargon and help citizens comprehend conceptual ideas?

Task Force Questions

5.    Who will comprise the task force? Will community groups and standing land use committees be a part of the task forces?

Procedures Questions

6.    What will happen to nominations that are not added to the work program? Do they have to wait to resubmit?
7.
    How will community members find information about the process and how to submit a nomination?
8.    Who will decide whether a nomination should be reviewed through the expedited or standard track?
9.  
  Can nominations change during the screening process?
10.
    What would happen to nominations that miss the nomination period deadline?
11.
    Will nominations be allowed to withdraw for the process?
12.
    Why are there no restrictions on who could submit a nomination?
13.    Can a parcel be nominated by an organization as well as an individual?

Eligibility Questions

14.    Would nominations that result in additional areas being exempt from the proffer reform bill be eligible for the nomination process, e.g., expand an exempt area?
15.    How would someone who wants a change to a non-exempt area be able to participate?
16.    How can staff guarantee that nominations are realistic and are not submitted with a wide range of options?

17.    Will nominators be required to provide more detail in their justifications? For example, how does this nomination solve or address existing problems or implement existing policies or recommendations, for example, lack of pedestrian connectivity?
18.
    How can staff be responsive to items that could advance the county's Plan for Economic Success?
19.    Can Policy nominations be considered? 

Timing Questions

20.    Why is the length of time to public hearing so long?

Ongoing Studies Questions

21.    How will studies that are underway be affected by this process?
22.
    Will new staff be added to work on this process?

Miscellaneous Questions

23.    Should a fee be imposed on nominations the new process?
24.
    The Area Plans Review process was problematic because it focused on spot planning. Will this issue repeat in this process?
25.
    Why reintroduce an APR-like process if the problem was lack of understanding and education about the process?
26.
    Would Board authorizations still be an option if results are needed quickly?
27.
    What is the future of the deferred nominations for Plan changes received in January 2016?
28.    Can a process be developed for automatic authorization of a Plan amendment with a concurrent rezoning application?

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1.    How can existing community groups or standing land use committees participate?

There are a number of opportunities for community groups to participate. Groups can submit a nomination or speak to a Supervisor about appointment to a task forces. Task forces may allow public comment from groups, if not already part of the task forces, on a nomination at their meeting, if desired. Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors' public hearings also will be a mechanism for public comment on nominations.
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2.    When and how will the review schedule be communicated to the public ?

The Planning Commission will establish the review schedule at the beginning of each cycle. The schedule will be available online and within a printed Guide to the Site-Specific Plan Amendment Process. The Comprehensive Plan listserv and social media also could be used to announce the schedule.
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3.    How can the public follow the status of (track) nominations?

Similar to the Area Plans Review process, a website for the process and individual websites for each nomination will be established. Community members can sign up for the Comprehensive Plan amendment listserv or follow the Facebook Land Use Planning page to receive notifications about the process.
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4.    Will there be any training to explain planning jargon and help citizens comprehend conceptual ideas?

A Planning 101 is planned at the beginning of the task force process to explain the planning process and the planning terms. Coordination efforts with the Office of Public Affairs to distribute information about amendments and studies and to eliminate jargon will continue.
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5.    Who will comprise the task force? Will community groups and standing land use committees be a part of the task forces?

The task forces will be established at a district-level by the Board member.
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6.    What will happen to nominations that are not added to the work program? Do they have to wait to resubmit?

Yes, the review of any nomination that is not added to the work program would end after the Planning Commission decision not to add an item to the work program. The nomination would be eligible to resubmit in the following cycle.
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7.    How will community members find information about the process and how to submit a nomination?

A Guide to the Site-Specific Process will be published that outlines these details. As with the Area Plans Review process, staff will be available to answer questions about the nomination process.
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8.    Who will decide whether a nomination should be reviewed through the expedited or standard track?

The Planning Commission will decide whether nominations will be reviewed through an expedited or standard track, when the work program is adopted.
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9.    Can nominations change during the screening process?

Nominations can change to a certain extent during the screening and review process.  Density and intensity can be reduced, and land uses can be altered without significant changes to the character of the proposal.
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10.    What would happen to nominations that miss the nomination period deadline?

Nominations that miss the deadline would need wait until the next cycle to submit. The Board retains the ability to authorize an amendment and direct it to be reviewed in the task force process.
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11.    Will nominations be allowed to withdraw for the process?

Yes, nominations will be allowed to withdraw prior to public hearings.
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12.     Why are there no restrictions on who could submit a nomination?

The process is designed to encourage community members and groups to participate in planning the future of their community. Restricting nominators to property owners would work against this goal. Adding restrictions may unnecessarily complicate the process.
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13.    Can a parcel be nominated by an organization as well as an individual?

Yes, organizations can nominate plan changes. The organization would need to identify on the nomination form an individual to act as a point of contact for staff. (Same as APR).
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14.    Would nominations that result in additional areas being exempt from the proffer reform bill be eligible for the nomination process, e.g., expand an exempt area?

Any nomination that proposes residential use or mixed-use with a residential component and is located in non-exempt areas is ineligible for the site-specific amendment process; however, the Board of Supervisors could authorize the review of an amendment which would result in a modification to a boundary of an exempt area.
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15.    How would someone who wants a change to a non-exempt area be able to participate?

The Proffer Bill eligibility criteria among others seem too restrictive. A nomination for a non-residential use would be accepted in a non-exempt area. Further, the eligibility criteria are based on the eligibility criteria that evolved through the previous Area Plans Review Process.
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16.    How can staff guarantee that nominations are realistic and are not submitted with a wide range of options?

One of the eligibility criteria states that any nominator can submit only one nomination per property.
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17. Will nominators be expected to provide more detail in their justifications? For example, how does this nomination solve or address existing problems or implement existing policies or recommendations, for example, lack of pedestrian connectivity?

As part of the nomination form, a nominator would need to provide a justification based on one or more of the following criteria:

    • Addresses an emerging community concern(s);
    • Better implements the Concept for Future Development, and is not contrary to long-standing policies established in the Concept for Future Development;
    • Advances major policy objectives, such as promoting environmental protection, fostering revitalization of designated areas, supporting economic development, preserving open space, providing affordable housing, or balancing transportation infrastructure and public facilities with growth and development.
    • Responds to actions by others, such as Federal, State, or adjacent jurisdictions;
    • Reflects implementation of Comprehensive Plan guidance through zoning approvals; and/or
    • Responds to or incorporates research derived from technical planning or transportation studies;

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18.    How can staff be responsive to items that could advance the county's Plan for Economic Success?

The proposed site-specific planning process would augment a number of efforts that are already underway related to Goal 3 (Improve the Speed, Consistency, and Predictability of the Development Review Process) and Goal 2 of the Strategic Plan to Facilitate Economic Success of Fairfax County (Create Places Where People Want to Be). The relevant recommendation in Goal 3 suggests streamlining the process for amending the Plan. The proposed site-specific process would address this recommendation by creating a regular and predictable process for nominating and reviewing amendments, including community engagement. Moreover, the continued emphasis on areawide and countywide policy amendments as part of the larger planning process is intended to reduce the need to amend the Plan on a site-specific basis. Goal 2 recommends such efforts as supporting higher density mixed-use development in revitalization areas, enlivening public spaces, repurposing vacant commercial spaces, and preserving industrial areas. These goals complement the adopted objectives within the Comprehensive Plan and the justification criteria for the nomination process, and it is anticipated the site-specific nominations that demonstrate the greatest alignment with the goals of the Economic Success Strategy and the Comprehensive Plan would be prioritized when considering changes to the work program.
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19.    Can Policy Plan nominations be considered?

Policy Plan and other countywide amendments will not be eligible for the SSPA; however, if a larger issue is identified that could have broader implications to multiple areas or countywide, it could translate into a countywide policy amendment. The PC could consider adding the PP amendment to the work program during the annual review of the work program, or a Board motion to authorize an amendment outside of the SSPA could be made to address the issue.
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20.    Why is the length of time to public hearing so long?

Once the nomination period closes, the staff and task force screening process, leading to Planning Commission public hearing on the work program, is anticipated to take approximately 6 months. The review process may take an additional 6-9 months depending on the level of complexity and public outreach needs.
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21.    How will studies that are underway be affected by this process?

It is not anticipated that the schedule for ongoing studies will be affected by the site-specific process assuming that a low number of site-specific plan amendments are added to the work program.
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22.    Will new staff be added to work on this process?

No new staff positions will be created for this process; however, it is expected that the review can be managed through existing staff positions assuming that a low number of site-specific plan amendments are added to the work program.
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23.    Should a fee be imposed on nominations the new process?

A fee may discourage community member or civic associations from participating in the process and submitting a nomination.
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24.    The Area Plans Review process was problematic because it focused on spot planning. Will this issue repeat in this process?

Area-wide studies will continue in addition to the site-specific planning process, and the needs of areawide studies will be considered with any changes to the work program. If nominations are concentrated in an area, they may be grouped into a special study of the area.  A process should be developed for automatic authorization of a Plan amendment with a concurrent rezoning application. This approach would eliminate much of the Board's ability to decide whether or not to institute review of the Comprehensive Plan. The current policy provides Board oversight and screening for conformance with overarching Plan polices as well as acknowledgement of local viewpoints. The experience has been that Board-authorized PAs have been a successful mechanism to move these certain proposed amendments forward when needed. Even in the case of properties within revitalization districts, where authorization of concurrent Plan amendments and rezoning application is specifically encouraged, the Board still retains this oversight authority. Understanding the expectations about community notification and involvement with the regular processing of amendments through APR or this new site-specific processing and the demands on staff resources, staff continues to believe that an authorization from the Board for concurrent processing is the most effective way to formally begin the public processing of the amendment and balance staff resource.
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25.    Why reintroduce an APR-like process if the problem was lack of understanding and education about the process?

While the evaluation of the process found a lack of understanding of the Fairfax Forward the process, the evaluation also revealed a need for a more predictable means to evaluate site-specific amendments, due to the increased number of site-specific authorizations from the Board.
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26.    Would Board of Supervisors authorizations still be an option if results are needed quickly?

The Board will retain the ability to authorize amendments outside of the regular process, based on current policy.
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27.    What is the future of the deferred nominations for Plan changes received in January 2016?

The status of the 22 items are summarized as follows:
- Two were folded into existing planning studies;
- Two were superseded by other amendments;
- Two are no longer needed. The Board authorized a Plan amendment for one, and the development concept changed for the other;
- One may be added to the work program as a Policy amendment when ready;
- Six would be eligible under the proposed Site
- Specific Plan Amendment (SSPA) process; and,
- Nine would not meet the proposed eligibility requirements for the SSPA process. However, these may be authorized as amendments at the discretion of the Board of Supervisors.

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28.     Can a process be developed for automatic authorization of a Plan amendment with a concurrent rezoning application? Adding a fee may offset the cost of the nominations.

This approach would eliminate much of the Board's ability to decide whether or not to institute review of the Comprehensive Plan, while the current policy provides Board oversight and screening for conformance with overarching Plan policies as well as acknowledgement of local viewpoints. The experience has been that Board-authorized Plan amendments are a successful mechanism to move these certain proposed amendments forward when needed, even in the case of properties within revitalization districts where authorization of concurrent Plan amendments and rezoning application is specifically encouraged. Understanding the expectations about community notification and involvement with the regular processing of amendments through APR or this new site-specific processing and the demands on staff resources, staff continues to believe that an authorization from the Board for concurrent processing is the most effective way to formally begin the public processing of the amendment and balance staff resources. The suggestion mentions that the cost to staff for the concurrent processing could be offset by an additional filing fee. Staff believes that the comprehensive planning process should be an equitable process for anyone to participate and generally should not favor one component of the work program over another. It would not be advisable to establish a concurrent filing process that may create a perception that those who can afford to pay a fee would be prioritized over a nomination moving through the regular, task force review process. If there is interest on the part of the Planning Commission to pursue this idea, DPZ staff will consult the County Attorney to ascertain whether instituting a filing fee for Comprehensive Plan amendments is permissible under state law.     
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