"Intelligent growth" issues for Fairfax city dominated local news coverage in 2002, with residents electing a new mayor and three new council members to usher in this trend for the city. The open space acquisition process also tested the city's plans for growth, as one controversial open space proposal had neighbors battling against each other.
o On Election Day in May, 31 percent of the city's registered voters voted against 12-year incumbent mayor John Mason, and supported council member Rob Lederer in his mayoral campaign. In what turned out to be the largest turnout in the city's history, over 60 percent of the vote for mayor went to Lederer, who advocated maintaining a small-town atmosphere and minimizing congestion and higher density.
"This was not a no-growth campaign. People who supported me felt comfortable with intelligent growth," Lederer said.
Citizens also voted in three women into council seats, another first in city history. Joan Cross, Gail Lyon and Patrice Winter were elected, among the five women on the ballot.
People said they came out to vote because it was a contested mayoral race, and several cited issues such as transportation, redevelopment, seniors and taxes, as reasons for voting.
Yet the issue of growth played a key role in determining the fate of the election, according to J. Chapman "Chap" Petersen (D-37th), a former council member. Within the past six years, there were 15 to 20 new developments around Fairfax, and plans for downtown redevelopment was a hot topic for citizens and businesses alike.
The election also re-elected School Board members Janice Miller, Allen C. Griffith, Penelope A. "Penny" Rod and Courtney R. Robinson to the board, and elected new school board member Jon A. Buttram.
o Gene Moore retired from the School Board after eight years of service. Moore, a Fairfax resident since 1965, was a former council member, as well as a former teacher and administrator. His expertise in special education helped the city as it created two new elementary schools, Providence and Daniels Run. He retired from Fairfax County Public Schools in 1988, after serving seven years in the classroom and 23 years as an administrator, specializing in special education.
Moore said he would spend his free time volunteering at the Lamb Center, which he had co-founded in 1992. The Lamb Center, located in Fairfax Circle, is a day shelter that serves area homeless.
o A new skate park opened at Van Dyke Park in late April. The final cost for the park was $55,000 to the city, with the attendant costs being absorbed by the park department. Attendant hours are 5 p.m. to dark Monday through Friday, and noon to dark on the weekends. In the summer, the park is open from noon to dark every day.
Area skateboarders were happy to skate for free after school and on the weekends.
"The word 'awesome' seemed to be the imperative word," said Michael Cadwallader, city of Fairfax parks and recreation director.
o Several area private schools undertook construction plans. In May, the Trinity Christian School broke ground for a new school building on a 26-acre lot on Braddock Road. Currently, the school leases space at three churches and the Centreville Shopping Center for its 400 students in grades 1-12. The school, which was founded in 1987 through Truro Episcopal Church, will start classes in the new building in September 2003.
Paul VI High School also expects a new school building to open in fall 2003. Students, parents, teachers and alumni are anticipating the creation of a new students activity center, which will feature a full-size gymnasium that can seat 1,200. The current gymnasium can only hold around 350, and prevents the student body of 1,150 from having all-school functions together. Costs for the new building are estimated at $5.4 million.
o The city council decided to rent space in the vacated Green Acres Elementary school building to the Main Street Child Development Center, which serves mostly lower-income families. The center, which had been located at Fairfax Baptist Church for 29 years, needed to move because the church was expanding. It provides child care to 72 children, and the move from the church to the former school had to be completed within 48 hours in order to keep child care running smoothly for working families. The center held its ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 18.
The Green Acres building also houses a senior center and a teen center. The council had decided on giving the space to the center, after it considered proposals from George Mason University, Volunteers of America and Gesher Jewish Day School.
o Two years since it won voter approval in Nov. 2000, the open space acquisition process encountered some bumps this year. The open space referendum, which passed by a two-thirds majority, currently has $1.65 million in its funds. The money is generated from the real estate tax, with three cents per $100 per assessed value going towards the fund. The council can approve up to five cents in real estate taxes to go into the fund.
But one property in the southern part of the city has faced some controversy. The city passed in late October a proposal to condemn the Grefe property, which is located off of Mosby Road. Residents surrounding the property want the city to buy the property in order to preserve its woods, but property owners, the Grefe family heirs, want to develop the property. A petition was circulated and 170 residents signed it, asking the council to purchase the property.
The proposal to condemn the property was passed four to two, with council members Patrice Winter and Joan Cross voting against the proposal. Council members supporting the city's move towards purchasing the property argued that the city would pay full market value for the property, while dissenters were concerned that the city wasn't spending its money wisely, due to the property's cost and location inside a neighborhood.
o Plans to move Fairfax's post office from Chain Bridge Road to Page Avenue kicked off in November. The new post office at 10660 Page Ave. is expected to open in January 2004, and it will offer customers more parking space, as well as more room to maneuver mail internally. Once the post office building is completed, the old post office will be torn down to make room for the city's redevelopment plan.