The Seven Corners Land Use and Transportation Task Force continues to gather information and refine recommendations for possible Comprehensive Plan amendments to be considered later this year. As noted in this column many times, the Task Force was created in 2012 after a series of well-attended public workshops that, essentially, performed a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis for the Seven Corners/Willston area. The Task Force is charged with creating long-term land use recommendations for the future of Seven Corners; its members include residents, commercial property representatives, and other community members to accurately represent the Seven Corners community. The Task Force has been meeting at least once a month, and conducted two very successful public charettes in 2013, addressing land use and transportation, as ideas and concepts are analyzed and narrowed down. Task Force meetings, on the second Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. at the Mason District Governmental Center, are open to the public, and a public comment period is scheduled once a quarter.
Recently, an idea for redevelopment of the Sears parcel was brought forward by the Sears property representative to the Task Force. The idea has prompted a great many comments which, quite frankly, are getting way ahead of the process set out for the Task Force, and the thoughtful and deliberate process used by Fairfax County to consider Comprehensive Plan changes and any subsequent rezonings. In Virginia, land use decisions are solely the responsibility of local government. Informed discussion is a good thing; sadly, that discussion can be hijacked by misinformation, whether deliberately spread or not.
The idea being discussed is a modification from the preliminary (draft) land use plans for the site being considered by the Task Force, which has not voted on the modification. There is no proposal to rezone or rebuild the Sears site at this time, and the idea is not a rezoning application. The Seven Corners Task Force discussions will continue as language for recommendations to amend the Comprehensive Plan is developed, now scheduled for September, according to the Task Force’s work plan. Planning Commission hearings are scheduled for October, with consideration by the Board of Supervisors in November. Clearly, the Task Force’s work is creating excitement amongst residents and members of the business community alike. Only after the Plan is amended can an application for rezoning of affected parcels be considered by Fairfax County, and any application must go through a stringent review by county planning staff. In Mason District, such an application also would be vetted through the Bailey’s Crossroads/Seven Corners Revitalization Corporation and the Mason District Land Use Committee, before moving to the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors for consideration. In Mason District, I also require applicants to meet with nearby civic and homeowner associations before going to the Land Use Committee. The overall process for a rezoning can take nine months to a year, much to the consternation of applicants, but that time frame allows for a lot of public discussion, and changes that make for a better application.
Like you, I look forward to seeing the Task Force recommendations this fall, but let’s not hijack the process. Let the Task Force continue their work.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.