Fairfax Forward - Future Public Participation Opportunities

Fairfax Forward
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Community OutreachCommunity input is essential to successful outcomes of future planning studies and future review and update of the work program.  In the new approach community members are encouraged to participate in all parts of planning activities, from inception to action.  

A Public Outreach, Participation, and Education Toolkit has been created to outline different approaches to public engagement in planning activities.  The toolkit is intended to inform public participation plans during planning studies and other planning activities.

The following list of questions and answers provide information about opportunities for involvement in the new approach to Plan review: 

Can anyone, including community members, submit a proposed Comprehensive Plan change?

It is anticipated that there will be an opportunity for anyone, including the community, to submit a proposed change during the initial stages of a land use study while the scope is being finalized.  This opportunity is envisioned to occur most likely as part of visioning session, as described on pages 9-10 of the February 20, 2013 staff report and diagrammed below. For those who cannot attend the visioning meeting, other opportunities will be available online via an online submission form a study-specific website for a defined time period.

Generalized Land Use Study Process

STUDY BEGINS - Preliminary scope of work adopted on work program

    •  Gather Information

Staff drafts Existing Conditions Report and establishes web presence
Staff works with Supervisors office(s) to outline plan for public participation (expected to begin with public meeting, then to focus participation using task force, working group, or other advisory group)

    •   Finalize Scope

Staff hosts public meeting:

* Introduce study: geographic area: preliminary issues to be addressed
* Present existing conditions
* Conduct visioning exercise to solicit additional ideas for amendments (also via hard copy and online forms)

    •   Review and Synthesis

Supervisors' office(s) identity task force for study area to:

* Develop alternatives from visioning
* Review alternatives, analyze impacts, including impacts to county systems
* Draft recommendations
(Additional public comment means established through website or social media)

    •   Finalize and Present Recommendations

Task force and staff present draft recommendations to full district task force and land use committee(s), if available.

Task force and staff review feedback, finalize recommendations, and publish report.

Recommendations presented at:

* Planning Commission (PC) public hearing that leads to PC recommendation
* Board of Supervisors (BOS) public hearing that leads to BOS action

STUDY ENDS - Board of Supervisors Action

How frequently will proposed changes to the work program be accepted?

This would occur during the public comment period of the work program review anticipated to occur every two years.  Staff will publish a draft work program for public comment.  Any idea should be accompanied by a justification that explains how the idea meets the criteria for addition to the work program.  It is recommended that stakeholder outreach be conducted, including meeting with staff, to receive preliminary feedback on the idea before an idea is formally submitted.  All ideas received during the comment period will be assessed against the criteria by staff for addition to the work program, and a staff recommendation will be made about the issue.  All comments will be recorded in the staff report and provided to the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors.  

When is the public comment period for the work program scheduled?

The first work program is designated as a "pilot" work program to allow fine tuning after the first two year period.  The public comment period for the current "pilot" work program extended from mid-December 2012 through mid-January 2013 and is now closed.  At this point, comments on the work program can be offered to the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors during the public hearings.  In the future, the public comment period will formally be scheduled approximately every two years when the work program is reviewed and updated.

How can the public participate in developing the work program?

Community members can meet with their communities and staff to discuss ideas for the next work program at any time.  Every two years, the work program will be formally reviewed and updated.  The formal process will begin with staff publishing a draft update to the work program online for public comment.  The document will list studies that are ongoing, remove studies that have been completed, and draft recommendations for new studies to begin in the next three-year period.  During this time, communities can provide feedback on the draft and suggest changes to the order of studies, based on the criteria for amendment to the Plan, prior to the public hearing before the Planning Commission.  Staff will forward all comments to the Planning Commission and evaluate whether the comment will affect the staff recommendation.  The pilot work program was published online and comments were received mid-December 2012 through mid-January 2013. 

Presently, community members can sign up to speak at the Board of Supervisors public hearings for the pilot work program. 

Can proposals for planning changes and their status be posted prominently online to prevent proposals from being discarded?  Can submissions which fail to gain staff recommendation for their addition to the work program have some means of being raised to a district land use community or community task force, so that residents’ perspective can be gauged?

Staff does not plan to discard any ideas, although may recommend that an idea is inconsistent with the criteria and not be pursued.  This question highlights the importance of documentation, as shown in Attachment IV of the Fairfax Forward staff report, which numerically lists, describes and maps all submissions received during the public comment period of the work program, as well as staff’s responses to these submissions.  A website that duplicates the Attachment IV table has been created to increase the accessibility of these submissions

Can a community outreach working group that invites the district councils and other interested community players be created to devise specific ways to engage the public on an ongoing basis and to ensure that all web material on Comprehensive Plan proposals be maximally transparent?

Staff is organizing discussion groups to elicit suggestions to enhance community outreach, including inviting larger civic associations to join the Comprehensive Plan listserv and to post study-related information on their own websites or through email lists.  Taking advantage of existing neighborhood connections to broadcast information is an exciting way to grow public outreach.

Can community organizations choose their own representatives to task forces and land use study groups to enhance and broaden community representation and bolster broad public trust in final decisions?

In the APR process, Task Force representation and composition was at the discretion of each Supervisor. Fairfax Forward recommends retaining this and collaborating between districts when an area extends over multiple districts, as described on page 9 of the February 20, 2013 staff report.  New ways to gather feedback, for example website and comment forms, can be explored to solicit ideas for updates, corrections or changes. 

Can a late-stage community review meeting by a broadly representative citizen body, similar to  a  previous Area Plans Review (APR) task force or a district land use committee, be part of the planning process to provide “back-end” review of all proposed Comprehensive Plan changes?

Presenting draft recommendations and seeking feedback from a larger task force, District council, or other standing committee identified by the respective Supervisor will be encouraged during planning studies.  The recommendations for Fairfax Forward do not preclude this body from being involved earlier in the review, if that is part of the public participation plan, as described on pages 9-10 of the February 20, 2013 staff report. This approach can help assure that the study recommendations are fairly disseminated and discussed. 

Can a broad notification process for proposals that affect multiple magisterial districts be instated, so that all potentially affected stakeholders will learn in a timely manner of proposed replannings, even if they fall on the other side of a district line?  

Yes. It is anticipated that some studies will affect multiple magisterial districts.  Announcements in district newsletters, e-mails to Home Owners Associations and websites could be utilized as a major means of communication in all affected districts, as described in the Public Outreach, Participation, and Education Toolkit, Attachment VI of the February 20, 2013 staff report. Staff supports partnering with larger groups such as the Fairfax Federation of Civic Associations and district councils to convey notifications to their respective member groups as the distribution may be greater. 

How does public education fit into the process?

General education opportunities will be available, in addition to planning education opportunities in the context of a specific study.  The general education opportunities will most likely take the form of a land use college with multiple sessions addressing the purpose of planning, why is it important, how it fits into the larger land use process, and specific planning topics of interest. It is envisioned that these sessions be scheduled 2-3 times per year on a rotating basis throughout the county.  An alternative to in person sessions may be to publish these sessions online to be available at the convenience of the user.  


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