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Parks Plan Amendment

Parks Plan Amendment (S11-CW-3CP), Policy Plan Updates

Land use planning in Fairfax County is guided by policies and recommendations contained in the County Comprehensive Plan.  The Comprehensive Plan is required by state law to be used as a guide in decision-making about the built and natural environment by the county's Board of Supervisors and county agencies. It also serves as a guide for County staff and the public to use in the planning process.  Periodic review of the Plan is mandated and ensures that it remains a current, relevant guide for land use.

Parks and recreation comprise a major County land use as well as a public facility.  As such, parks are addressed throughout the Comprehensive Plan – in its countywide guidance (Policy Plan) as well as the area-specific guidance (Area Plans).  The Parks and Recreation section of the Policy Plan was last reviewed and updated in 2005. The Parks and Recreation sections of the Area Plans have not been updated since the early 1990s.

Great Parks, Great Communities The Parks Comprehensive Plan, entitled Great Parks Great Communities , was developed with a public participation process from 2005-2011 and was approved by the Park Authority Board in 2011.  The Great Parks Plan is the Park Authority’s long-range plan for the place-based, physical aspects of the park system, its land, its natural and cultural resources, and its facilities. This plan supports the Comprehensive Plan and guides Park Authority decision making.  It is appropriate that the information and guidance obtained from the multi-year public process and reflected in the Great Parks Plan now be used to update the park and recreation information within the County Comprehensive Plan.

The Board of Supervisors authorized Comprehensive Plan Amendment S11-CW-3CP in December 2011 to update the Parks and Recreation text, tables, and maps in the Policy Plan and Area Plan volumes. The Park Authority, in consultation with the Department of Planning and Zoning, is pursuing the plan amendment in phases.  The first phase (Phase 1) will update the Parks and Recreation section of the Policy Plan with revised park classification descriptions and guidance that better reflects current conditions and park planning practice.  Updates to the Area Plan guidance will be the subject of later phases of the plan amendment.

Phase 1: The Policy Plan

Reston Town Center Future growth in Fairfax County will be concentrated in growth areas such as Tysons, Springfield-Franconia, Merrifield, Annandale, Richmond Highway and Baileys Crossroads.  Such areas must be planned to accommodate future growth in a way that better utilizes available land and assists in the revitalization, redevelopment and reinvestment of our older commercial areas and transit station areas as they transform into mixed use activity centers, placing greater emphasis on pedestrian accessibility and mobility.  The increasing urbanization requires that the existing suburban park system be supplemented by parks that are more suitable to the unique urban context.  Urban parks will provide appropriate elements to enhance the urban landscape and provide varied leisure opportunities.

In November 2008, the Park Authority Board endorsed the Urban Parks Framework, a document that is being used to plan for and develop urban parks in Fairfax County's urbanizing centers.  Key elements from the document, including an urban parkland standard and typology or classification of urban parks, have since been incorporated into the Comprehensive Plan for Tysons, Annandale, Baileys Crossroads and Franconia-Springfield.  These same tenets have been incorporated into the Great Parks Great Communities Park Comprehensive Plan.

Fairfax Corner Planning for and implementation of urban parks in the County’s designated growth areas has become standard practice and the wide variety of amenity and facility types that help meet park needs has expanded.  Urban parks need to be folded into the park classification system and referenced appropriately throughout the Parks and Recreation section of the Policy Plan.

Similarly, the County’s diverse community needs and broadening interests have increased the demand for parks that meet multiple needs, with multiple facilities and uses.  The vast majority of Park Authority parks are multi-purposes. As an example, certain existing parks classified as resource-based parks contain elements such as playgrounds, picnic areas, or sports fields (e.g, Ellanor C. Lawrence, Riverbend).  Proposed updates to the resource-based park classification more accurately describe that recreation elements may be present in these parks, as is compatible with resource management goals.  Proposed revisions to Objective 2 clarify that this resource management may include both wildlife and vegetative species and emphasize buffering of these natural areas and resources.

Modifications and additions proposed in this Phase 1 Plan Amendment bring Parks and Recreation Policy Plan language in line with current practice and adopted Plan guidance in the Area Plan volumes.

Proposed Changes

Four core revisions are proposed in this amendment:  (1) incorporation of urban parks guidance into policies, appendices, and glossary definitions; (2) addition of the Urban Parks Framework as a new appendix; (3) revisions to the Park Classification System appendix to better incorporate urban parks, reflect the diversification of park and recreation facilities provided within the County, and more accurately describe resource-based parks as parks within which recreation elements may be located, as is compatible with resource management goals; (4) updates to both Fairfax County Park Authority's and Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority's acquisition criteria to reflect current policies.  A full staff report with proposed revisions is available on the Department of Planning and Zoning Plan Amendment web site. 

Public Hearings

Public hearings for these Phase 1 Policy Plan revisions are scheduled at the Planning Commission on  April 18, 2013 at 8:15 p.m. and at the Board of Supervisors on May 14, 2013 at 4:00 p.m.  The Staff Report describing the proposed changes has been posted to the Department of Planning and Zoning’s Plan Amendment web site.

Interested persons are encouraged to obtain the Staff Report once it is posted and to attend the public hearings.  Copies of the Staff Report containing the proposed Plan Amendment can be obtained from the Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ), 7th floor, Herrity Building, 12055 Government Center Pkwy, Fairfax, Virginia or by accessing the County’s Web Site prior to the Planning Commission public hearing.  To be placed on the list of speakers for the public hearing(s), please call the following numbers: Planning Commission - (703) 324-2865 or Board of Supervisors - (703) 324-3151, or visit the websites at http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/planning/speaker.htm for the Planning Commission or https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/bosclerk/speaker_bos.htm for the Board of Supervisors.


Questions about the plan amendment can be directed to the Department of Planning and Zoning at 703-324-1380, or to the Park Authority via email to Parkmail@fairfaxcounty.gov or via phone, 703-324-8662.

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