The Next Planning Horizon - 2012 Board Retreat

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors held a retreat on Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 6-7. The two-day meeting, at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, was an opportunity for the Board to consider its priorities and set a course of action for a sustainable future.

It was announced that no votes would be taken during the retreat, and some issues may be discussed again at future venues.

Supervisors Gross and Cook both requested additional time set aside for free form discussion, rather than topic-specific discussion. Chairman Bulova agreed that an open discussion would be beneficial and indicated she would keep the presentations moving along.

Day 2 - Session 2 of 3: The Next Planning Horizon

This joint presentation by Fred Selden, Director of the Department of Planning and Zoning; Barbara Byron, Director of the Office of Community Revitalization; and Marianne Gardner, Director of the Planning Division, Department of Planning and Zoning, addressed the past, present, and future of the land use planning process in Fairfax County.

Chairman Bulova noted that the trend in the county has shifted from greenfield development in the past to more focus presently on redevelopment. It requires different tools, and it requires engaging with the community. In the case of redevelopment, we need to be in discussion with the home and business owners early in the process.

Director of the Department of Planning and Zoning, Fred Selden

  • Presentation divided into three parts – yesterday (Fred), today (Barbara) and tomorrow (Marianne).
  • When asked, kids in our community say they like our quality of life and they focus on what is important to adults as well (i.e. good schools and parks).
    • The challenge is continue to keep building on what we’ve done in the past.
  • We’re building out.
    • Acres of vacant land have decreased from approximately 100,000 in 1975 to below 20,000 in 2010.
  • We have made dramatic strides in building more multi-family housing and townhouses.
    • Diverse housing stock provides choice and makes living more affordable.
  • We’ve changed our commercial mix.
    • In the 1970s it was mostly industrial and retail; now office development is the predominant use: significantly more than half of the nonresidential supply in the county.
  • We’ve done a good job of preserving single family neighborhoods and concentrating growth in centers.
    • It’s important to focus development where we want it to go.
  • Current planning process dates back to 1975.
    • Significant shift between 1970s and 1990s.
      • Housing supply nearly doubled.
      • One constant was focusing growth and protecting stable neighborhoods.
  • Planning Horizons (adopted in 1990s) resulted in Policy Plan and Concept for Future Development and updated Area Plans.
    • 1990s saw a lot of development in mixed use areas.
      • Plan encouraged residential development near employment. Example - Reston Town Center
  • Area Plan Reviews (APR).
    • Started in 1970s as Annual Plans review.
    • Most of the changes in land use and intensity in recent years has been in the designated activity centers.
  • APR Themes.
    • Desirability of mixed use.
    • Preserving the stable residential areas of the county.
    • Protecting our environmentally sensitive areas.
    • Protect parks, water, and sewer.
  • Beyond 2010.
    • Growth in commercial development is planned.
    • Significant residential development opportunities.
  • Planning studies.
    • Tysons is most significant.
    • Also completed planning studies for revitalization areas.
      • Examples – Annandale, Baileys and Lake Anne in Reston.
    • Experience shows that we need to be both flexible and creative.

Director of the Office of Community Revitalization, Barbara Byron

  • Current planning studies are anything but formulaic.
    • Not one size fits all.
    • Tailored to individual circumstances and needs.
  • Merrifield.
    • Traditional planning study that included engagement with residents.
    • Perhaps the last major study that followed traditional process.
  • Springfield.
    • Precipitated by BRAC.
    • Multi-modal transportation was the key problem; did not need to address land use.
    • Plan addressed transportation and pedestrian connectivity.
    • Major redevelopment of Springfield Mall.
      • Example of coordinating planning effort with actual development proposal.
  • Annandale.
    • Form-based plan.
      • Focuses on building orientation and uses and provides the flexibility needed to address market driven proposals.
    • Context sensitive design for Little River Turnpike was precursor to urban street standards in Tysons.
  • Bailey’s Crossroads.
    • Mixed use town center plan with transit line.
  • Lake Anne Village Center.
    • County is soliciting proposals from private sector to redevelop the Crescent apartments.
    • County purchased Crescent apartments to catalyze revitalization of Lake Anne and to provide affordable housing options.
  • McLean.
    • Private individual has bought up significant stock; redevelopment dependent largely upon single individual.
    • Conducted community visioning.
  • Richmond Highway.
    • Previous studies have not resulted in significant changes to corridor.
    • Public-private partnership developed for South County Government Center.
    • Penn Daw – example.
      • Task force has been working with the staff and development community for the past year and a half to identify plan changes. Hired consultant to evaluate market demand.
  • We have to develop more tools to reflect more urban development.
    • Developed design guidelines for certain areas.
    • We’re using visualization techniques, such as 3D models.
      • Taking advantage of technology to help stakeholders’ vision implications of decisions.
  • Cross -pollinations and collaboration of efforts.
    • Lessons learned are applied to subsequent efforts.
      • OCR has been reorganized to include both Tysons and other revitalization areas that will enhance transfer of knowledge and experience.

Director of the Planning Division, Department of Planning and Zoning, Marianne Gardner

  • APR is the core approach to the planning process.
  • County has changed over the past 30 years and new tools are available.
  • Why now?
    • At the 2009 Board retreat, discussion was on new trends and a desire for greater public outreach.
    • Impact of these expectations on APR is a prolonged review process.
    • Good time to begin retrospective; last round of APRs are complete.
    • Updating Comprehensive Plan Map.
      • Will be digital and online for the first time.
    • Updating Concept for Future Development.
  • Process.
    • Conducted community surveys and outreach.
      • People’s views of APR are mixed.
      • Some like that anybody can be engaged by nominating changes.
      • Some appreciated being able to access plans and maps online.
      • Some said the process is very complicated.
    • Nominations tend to be geared towards site specific locations, but consideration and analysis often needs to be broader.
    • APR is a great way to involve the community, but we need to be sure to reach out to a younger generation as well.
    • Planning is normally focused on mixed-use centers; APRs nominations are focused on a specific property.
    • Looked at other planning models – Portland, Tampa, etc.
      • They focus their efforts on areas of change, which would correlate to our mixed use centers.
      • Ideas to borrow.
        • Existing conditions report.
        • Formal work program.
        • Special area and neighborhood planning.
  • Conclusions.
    • Focus on activity centers, but budget for other types of updates as well.
      • Would be done in conjunction with the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission.
      • Could devise a schedule to look at each center on a rotating basis.
      • Provide existing condition reports.
      • Could ensure we are providing consistent review in terms of what goals are being met.
      • Example – Van Dorn transit area hasn’t been looked at in a very long time.
        • This would be an opportunity to look at that area with a new perspective.
    • Need to expand public outreach and community participation.
      • Cornerstone of the process.
      • Need to tailor participation and outreach.
      • Review existing conditions and planning policies.
      • Develop community collaboration.
    • Create a process that can be tailored to the needs of the community.
      • If we were going to replace or improve APR, then we need to retain the best aspects
      • We have to be proactive rather than reactive in our planning.
      • Need to base it around activity centers that are reviewed on a regular basis.
      • Formulized work program – review every 2-3 years to refresh plans and schedule.
    • Achieve sustainable Comprehensive Plan review.
      • Promote the plan.
      • Educate the community.
      • Engage the community.
      • Produce the plan.
    • Next Steps.
      • We have promised the community we would come back with specific ideas.
      • Get feedback from Planning Commission.
      • Present recommendations to Board of Supervisors in spring or summer of 2012.
      • Implement new plan in 2013.

Board Discussion on Out-of-Turn Amendments

Supervisor McKay asked how smaller projects would be handled under a new model. Ms. Gardner explained that the county would hopefully achieve more flexibility with a new model. She suggested that there would continue to be a need for out-of-turn amendments, but that they should be renamed to something that better represents the process. Ms. Gardner noted that the Board and the community should still be able to make adjustments outside of the normal process when needed.

Board Discussion on Engagement in the Planning Process

Chairman Bulova noted that supervisors hear from most people when they are reacting negatively to something. We want to engage people ahead of time and engage them in the planning process. The Reston Land Use College is a good example of this.

Supervisor Gross said when you try to engage people ahead of time, they often feel like you are being insincere. They believe the issue has already been decided and they can’t influence anything.

Supervisor Cook suggested that you have to show some positive benefits to encourage people to come out.

Supervisor Hudgins agreed that the community matters. The purpose of the Reston Land Use College was to get people more involved and educate them on the process. Residents often want to pick a side, but we want to engage them before a side has been established.

Supervisor Smyth noted that outreach is different in each of the districts. The APR process allowed us to invite everybody from an association to participate and we got a great turnout. People started learning from one cycle to the next because they have been participating for decades.

Supervisor Hyland agreed that each Board member uses different styles and processes in the districts. He is interested in examining what each supervisor is doing now and comparing that to best practices.

Chairman Bulova suggested a future workshop would be beneficial on that topic. We sometimes don’t know what others are doing when land use cases come before the board.
Supervisor Gross wants to get a new generation involved. It seems like the 60-somethings are making decisions for the 20-somethings and their future.

Supervisor Hudgins said we should be reaching out to the high school students as well.

County Executive Griffin suggested that it should be part of the local education, but our schools don’t teach local government – they teach federal government.

Chairman Bulova noted that there is a joint retreat between the Board of Supervisors and the School Board, and that is could be a potential topic to address.


Chairman Bulova summarized the session by acknowledging that plan reviews have been predictable and systematic, but it set expectations on when things were reviewed. The county was smaller 30 years ago and we have grown since then. The current process has become exhaustive for staff. When proposals didn’t fit in the APR cycle, we started out-of-turn amendments, which raised questions – it is not the best way to proceed when talking redevelopment. If we shift to a new process, we don’t want to lose the community engagement piece that is thriving with the current process. The time is right for the staff to come back with a proposal to change the model so that is more reflective of our times and needs.

Mr. Selden concluded by explaining that they are leaning towards looking at areas that haven’t been looked at in a while. When APR started we didn’t have to do in-depth analysis, but now we do because the issues are more complicated and it’s not a one-size fits all process. We realize there is a lot of work to be done upfront, but there is the potential to tailor the work to the circumstances instead of trying to force the process on an area that doesn’t work. We will also focus on educating the community and engaging them early.

Board of Supervisors Retreat 2012

  Day 1

  Day 2

  Presentations & Related Media

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