A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

February 20, 2014 9:39 AM1 comment

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Mason District is blessed with two – Annandale and Bailey’s Crossroads/Seven Corners – of Fairfax County’s seven designated revitalization districts. All seven were the subject of discussion last week when the Board of Supervisors’ Revitalization Committee met to review the proposed FY 2015 Revitalization Work Plan.

Collaboration worked well in developing the Tysons Plan and can be scaled to share the lessons learned and best practice solutions that worked. Additionally, some Zoning Ordinance (ZO) provisions are not synchronized fully with current Comprehensive Plan (Comp Plan) recommendations. Often, (ZO) parking requirements, open space, and urban design issues are in conflict with the Comp Plan. Interestingly, both the Comp Plan and the ZO have had extensive community input, but disconnects come to light when a new application is presented for staff review. Any proposed changes will be the subject of advertised public hearings before the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors.

A more efficient review process for applications in revitalization areas will be aided by assignment of site plan reviewers for specific revitalization areas. A “Revitalization Coordinator” in the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) will be a liaison for policies, codes, ordinances, and DPWES operational issues and decisions that impact revitalization areas. This new initiative will assist both applicants and our community revitalization stakeholders in moving projects forward.

A large part of the committee discussion centered on the need to enhance maintenance of infrastructure. Brick walkways, street amenities, planted medians and verges, often part of bonded projects approved by voter referendum, must have regular maintenance. Revitalization and DPWES staff will complete an inventory of maintenance needs in the fall, with specific recommendations to follow. Most revitalization projects include street and roadway improvements, so coordination with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), the state agency that controls and maintains roadways in Fairfax County, is imperative. Discussions between VDOT staff and Fairfax County staff resulted in a draft review process; moving toward finalization is expected later this year.

Other areas of discussion included on and off-street parking management, code compliance, and signage. I raised the issue, once again, about the difficulty of regulating commercial vehicles parking in our downtown areas. We have been successful in banning dump trucks, 18-wheelers, and other large vehicles from parking along some service drives or roadways where they create sight distance issues, but the effort has been piecemeal. Banned from one area, the hated vehicles migrate to nearby streets, creating problems for a new group of neighbors. Illegal signage on commercial property creates a visual and economic impact to adjoining businesses and residents. The program authorizing the Community Labor Force to remove illegal signage from the VDOT rights-of-way has been very successful, but signage on buildings, on parked cars and trucks (essentially another illegal sign), and those “rooster tail” pop-up signs continue to vex. Department of Code Compliance staff will meet with business groups this spring to promote compliance with the county’s sign ordinance. Log on to www.fcrevite.org for more information.

 


 Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov.

  • Jon Clark

    Interesting comments from Supervisor Gross considering that she and Planning Commissioner Hall have held their respective offices for about 20 years, during which time code compliance and police enforcement has been pulled back to near non-existent levels by the Board of Supervisors, of which Supervisor Gross is vice chair. She speaks of problems with “off-street parking management, code compliance, and signage” as if they have nothing to do with her, as if her supervision and approved lack of funding of the police departments and the Department of Code Compliance just happen in a vacuum. As if the near total failure to impose any fines or other meaningful disincentives on violators results from decisions made on Mars.

    To talk of long term revitalization in Mason District is to talk of a plan to rearrange the Titanic’s deck chairs sometime in the distant future. The disastrous McMansions approvals and other Planning and Department of Code Compliance misadventures is the problem here, now, in Mason District. In multiple occupancies and other overcrowding issues Mason District is over two and half times worse that the rest of Fairfax County, which is two and a half times worse than something pretty bad. That is on Supervisor Gross and Commissioner Hall, not the Martians.

    We don’t need more planning; we need a much expanded budget for our police departments, a functioning Department of Code Compliance, a County Attorney’s office that doesn’t hate us and a political system that works. Oh, and of course more time to keep an eye on our political systems but as it is now, all of these things are going in the wrong direction. When police and code inspectors are grossly underfunded and overworked, the inevitable result is that they and the citizens will be at odds with one another and overlook the real problem – perverse leadership.

    That so powerful a supervisors as Mason District’s should publicly wring her hands and claim no responsibility for the 20 year decline of this mangnificantly placed Northern Virginia district is of course shameful per se but more importantly, it is so revealing of her chronic veracity and opacity challenges.

    The decisions made by the supervisor and commissioner of Mason District over the last 20 years more closely resemble plans to blight Mason District, its businesses and its neighborhoods than any plan for revitalization. That is, unless the plan is to first destroy our homes, our once excellent neighborhoods, our business districts, our schools our communities and then rebuild from the smoking ruins some ambitious, nonresident urban planner’s vision of what Mason District should be.

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