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Elected Officials Shape City's Future

City of Fairfax officials plan to continue redevelopment of major areas while preserving a small-town feel. The 1997 Comprehensive Plan, the document that guides economic and cultural development, is up for review every five years and in 2002 it looks to be altered significantly by new Mayor Robert Lederer and the City Council. Lederer, who came to office on the platform of scaling down new development, has plans to change parts in the current Comprehensive Plan that deal with new development. Others agencies such as the Central Fairfax Chamber of Commerce see the need for continued development along the lines of the 1997 Comprehensive Plan, and more fiscally responsible spending in areas like acquisition of parklands. The details of the plan that follow were compiled from information provided by Economic Director Earl Berner, Community Central Fairfax Chamber of Commerce Vice Chairman of Governmental Affairs Bruce Jennings, and Lederer.

THE DEVELOPMENT of the City of Fairfax divides residents who believe that new development will lead to the loss of a small-town appearance from those who would like to see more malls and shops to ease commute form their homes to buy necessities. In December 2000, the government of the City of Fairfax entered into a contract with developers to introduce restaurants, retail shops, office space, a multiplex theater, and residential units located in the downtown area of Old Town Fairfax.

Lederer believes that the citizens of Fairfax want to see redevelopment of areas of Old Town Fairfax with respect to size and scale but less new development. The mayor is looking to initiate a Citizens Advisory Task Force to advise him regarding redevelopment. "I think the message is that the City of Fairfax does not have to encourage development in every square inch. Redevelopment should be done in a way that complements the historic district and not in a way that competes against it," Lederer said.

On the issue of the development of the Lee Highway Quarter, Lederer believes that citizens have made it clear in the 2002 elections that there be no high-density, high-rise development. The Comprehensive Plan that is up for review this year is expected to reflect this.

In a speech at his swearing in on June 27, 2002, the mayor noted that, "I am committed to moving the city forward and hope to encourage an aggressive agenda in this area. For example, there is no higher priority to me than to provide the leadership for the redevelopment of our downtown historic district and Lee Highway Corridor. However, I understand the importance of size and scale that complements the historic and residential character."

Projects such as the development of the Northfax Gateway will most likely be scaled down under a new Comprehensive Plan. The mayor and City Council hope to see redevelopment and not more new development of the area. The Central Fairfax Chamber of Commerce though would like to see a continuation of the development of the Gateway and other areas. Vice Chairman of Governmental Affairs for the CFCC Bruce Jennings has stated that too much is being read into the election of Lederer in the fall. He believes that the citizens still want growth and would like to see "development that is commercially and economically feasible."

DURING THE 2000 ELECTIONS, voters in Fairfax passed a referendum approving the increase in the acquisition of park lands at a .05 cent increase in taxes. In December of that year, the Open Space Citizens Advisory Committee (OSCAC) was established to oversee the acquisition of new lands for park space.

After the elections in 2002, the City Council voted to purchase 42 acres of land. Some of the land is near Rebel Run and an area in front of Mosby Woods. The land was going to be used to build several town houses and a high-rise hotel.

So far objections to the project have been from the Central Fairfax Chamber of Commerce (CFCC), which, although it has not taken an official stance on the issue, has voiced sentiments that businesses should not be taxed for the acquisition of new properties, because the parklands will serve to benefit mainly residents of the area. Bruce Jennings, the CFCC representative on the OSCAC, in a written statement wrote, "The Chamber does not approve of the proposed tax increase on its members since the anticipated use and benefit of such funds is expected to be substantially residential."

Jennings believes that the city is making a mistake by continuing to condemn property and pay high rates to acquire that property. He said that the city does not have the necessary funds to continue with its expenditures. The tax increase, according to Jennings, will not support the amount of land the city is planning to buy. Jennings believes the solution to the city's problems would lie in negotiating with developers and working out some proffer agreements. This would be more fiscally responsible while allowing for the city's acquisition of parklands.

A VOTER REFERENDUM calling for the use of $20 million to renovate City Hall was approved in last November's elections. The measure was passed by a 2-1 vote and was recently signed off during a City Council work session. The two main components of the City Hall renovation will be the expansion of City Hall and the movement of the police department from Van Dyke Park to City Hall.

The Blenheim Estate, a historic site, is planned to be renovated at an estimated cost of $1-1.5 million. The city is planning to finance the project through private and public funds.

The Capital Campaign for the Preservation of Historic Resources, which was launched through a partnership between the City of Fairfax City Council and the Historic Fairfax Inc., is aiming to raise $500,000 in privately donated funds to help restore and preserve historic sites in the city, such as the Blenheim Estate and the Old Time Mall.

IN RECENT YEARS two of four Fairfax elementary schools have been shut down and replaced with two renovated elementary schools. Twenty million dollars were spent remodeling and updating Daniel’s Run Elementary School and Providence Elementary School. The Mayor and City Council are looking into improvements in Fairfax High School and Lanier Middle School. The cost of updating the two schools is set at around $70-75 million, and will be open to citizen's vote in an upcoming referendum.

CITY OFFICIALS CITE the maintenance of a small town atmosphere as one of their main goals for coming years. Among the proposed solutions for congestion are expansion of roads, timing of traffic signals, and looking at new street configurations. In addition, officials are looking into upgrading traffic management.

It is believed that any new funding for the improvement of traffic problems in the city will come from the approval of the sales tax referendum in November. Most, if any, expansion in Fairfax will be of the Metrorail and I-66 west of the city, but not at I-66 and Route 123. According to Lederer there will be many changes to the Comprehensive Plan in the areas dealing with traffic. The Comprehensive Plan, according to the mayor, currently supports the widening of roads at Route 50 into six lanes and encourages more density and congestion.

Some believe though that the mayor's thinking is short-sighted. Jenning, when speaking on the issue of Route-50 ,said, "The city already has a lot of traffic. If we don't widen the roads it will only cause more congestion."

Said Lederer of Comprehensive Plan of 1997: "More density and higher buildings with no solutions in the area of traffic and congestion is just a train wreck waiting to happen."

Lederer and the City Council feel it is important that citizens participate actively in government and are making it a priority to reach out to the community. In the summer the city will be hosting a series of afternoon socials called "Friends and Neighbors". Another change from past practices will include budget hearings set in many areas across the city instead of only at City Hall.