With 2002 drawing to a close, I find that I am grateful for many things and at the same time, more impatient than ever to find solutions to some of our most pressing local problems. Local elected officials in Virginia often have to juggle quality of life and economic development issues. One of the biggest juggling acts comes from the flip side of our desirable quality of life. With everyone wanting to live and work in Northern Virginia, traffic gridlock and development issues are daily fare. My focus this year has been to invest significant community and office time into doing what we can to take charge of our growth.
After three and a half years of meetings, discussions, and no-holds barred arguments, I was able to persuade my colleagues on the Board of Supervisors to enact the first comprehensive revision in 15 years to how we regulate residential development.
The changes in development patterns over the past decade are clear to anyone who looks out the window and sees "in-fill" development that shoehorns large new houses into established communities. I take pride in the new ordinance I initiated that recognizes this change and makes it possible to preserve more trees and incorporate more community wishes into a developer's plan.
To me, the most significant part of this new ordinance — and the one I fought hardest for — is the cash proffer formula that finally makes developers consider the impact of development on our neighborhood schools. While it won't solve our problems with "by right" development on land that is already zoned, it's a good step forward.
In another significant land use change, the Board approved my proposal to "down plan" the Telegraph Road corridor from Beulah Street to the Beltway. As a result, at least 150 new houses will not be built and will not add to our school trailers and roadway congestion. At the same time, a task force composed of community representatives voted to reject seven of nine proposed plan changes for development elsewhere in the district and scaled back the
remaining two. Over the course of 23 task force meetings, citizens reviewed each proposal and ultimately turned down developers' plans to build more than 900 homes.
SOMETIMES, new construction is good, especially if it has a smart growth component. I am pleased with my office's efforts this year on comprehensive plan changes designed to stimulate desired development in our older commercial corridors. In Central Springfield, area residents and small business owners devised plans to attract a town center development and a community arts center. Similarly on Route One, the South East Fairfax Development Corporation (SFDC) and its community leaders proposed many comprehensive plan changes to help attract jobs and quality retail to a steadily improving corridor. Regardless of how one chooses to define "smart growth," it clearly includes reinvesting in our established commercial areas, especially those adjacent to Metro.
We can't stop digging that hole and diminishing our quality of life by ourselves. The state will need to hand off some tools to us so that we can better control the pace of development. This year, I was able to gain my colleague's support to have us join the High Growth Coalition. By doing this, we join forces with 24 other Virginia jurisdictions lobbying the General Assembly to allow local governments to enact an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance. Such powers would basically allow us to say "No" to a development until adequate transportation, schools and other facilities are in place to support it. While we won't know the result until sometime after the 2003 General Assembly session, success would mean a perfect ending to a year when citizens and community leaders did everything they could to find a way to "stop digging."
I would like to end this year by again thanking the many citizen volunteers who make Lee District a good place to call home. Best wishes for peace and prosperity in 2003 to you and your families.