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Fairfax Continues to Face Growth

Major issues of 2003 will determine how city approaches growth and development.

As Fairfax heads into 2003, growth and development continues to play a dominant theme in some of the issues city officials will look into for the upcoming year. Downtown redevelopment, the renovation of Lanier Middle School and Fairfax High School, as well as open space acquisition will be several items that will be discussed by the city council, the mayor and members of the community.

Discussing downtown redevelopment will be a key issue for 2003. At the close of 2002, the council decided to solicit requests for proposals from other interested parties. The city has been under negotiation with another development firm to create a plan for downtown.

"That will be a high, high priority for us," said Fairfax Mayor Rob Lederer.

Council member Patrice Winter agreed, adding that she hoped that any plans for redevelopment would be done judiciously and respectfully.

"We need to keep the small-town feel while looking to the future," Winter said.

To keep the momentum going for downtown redevelopment, city officials are anticipating the move of the post office from its current home on Chain Bridge Road. Once the post office moves to its new location at Page Avenue and Judicial Drive, the property will become part of the city's redevelopment plan.

In addition to downtown redevelopment, the city is also looking into renovating and building several properties. At the last work session in December, the council decided to start publicizing a bond referendum for Nov. 2004 that would provide $60 million towards the renovation of Lanier Middle School and Fairfax High School. While the referendum won't be voted on for another two years, city officials say that informing the citizens in 2003 will strengthen its chances for passage.

"The two elementary schools were such a success," said Winter. "Because of their enlarged size and increased technological capabilities that the schools have, they've put our children in the forefront."

Another renovation project is the master plan for the Blenheim estate, which will be delivered to the city in January or February. The city purchased the property in early 1999, with hopes to preserve and develop it into a Civil War museum and park.

Such a renovation would cost half a million dollars over three years, according to Lederer.

One other building project is getting the City Hall additions and the police department built on City Hall grounds. The citizens had approved a $20 million bond to create the additions and move the police department from its current location at the Robert Wood Johnson facility on Old Lee Highway to the lot next to City Hall. In 2003, the city will accept construction bids and look at architectural and engineering drawings for the site.

"Hopefully, construction will start in 12 months," Lederer said.

WHILE THE CITY looks into these projects, city manager Bob Sisson said the greatest challenge would be financing it all. Over 2003, the council will discuss how to pay for everything, such as exploring debt issuance as an option.

"I think our biggest challenge is going to be sorting out the financial challenges that the city will encounter over the next 2-3 years," Sisson said. "How do we continue to provide the high level of service and accommodate increased demands for infrastructure to our schools" and other projects.

In addition to the projects already mentioned, Sisson said the city may also look at the long-term future of the city's water system.

The council "will address what the city's water supply system will be called to do for the next 20 to 30 years," Sisson said.

From the perspective of the community development office, director of community development David Hudson said that in addition to downtown redevelopment, a key issue for 2003 will be the ongoing five-year review of the city's comprehensive plan. The plan looks at the future of the city for the next 20 years, gets reviewed every five years, and outlines how the city approaches development. Zoning decisions and land-use policy are made based on the plan, Hudson said.

It's the "guide for fiscal development of the city," said Hudson.

The community development office will also continue its Neighborhood Revitalization Program, which started in 2001 and provides residents with no-interest loans to renovate their homes. That, in addition to efforts to revitalize Lee Highway, will cover some of the office's activity for 2003.