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First Cut

APR Nominations Head to Planning Commission

<bt>In the next few weeks, Frank de la Fe, new Hunter Mill planning commissioner, will hear a broad range of proposals and objections in nominations to the 2001 Area Plans Review (APR).

"I’ve learned over the years, no matter how worthwhile the project is, it’s going to affect someone, and from their perspective it’s going to be negative," said the former Fairfax County Park Authority chairman.

In 2001, supervisors from the Hunter Mill, Dranesville, Providence and Sully districts and part of the Springfield District appointed citizen task forces to provide an initial review of nominations submitted by the public. Over the last few weeks, county staff has assembled the reports from the various task forces in preparation for a series of public hearings before the Planning Commission. Beginning Jan. 30, nominators will have a new chance to present their proposed amendments. The hearings will also provide an opportunity for members of the public to voice their support of or opposition to the proposals.

The Planning Commission is scheduled to review the 31 nominations forwarded by the Providence task force on Jan. 31 at 7:30 p.m. in the Government Center Board Auditorium. Review of the 17 Hunter Mill nominations is scheduled for Feb. 6.

<mh>First Look

<bt>“We had good, organized meetings,” said Edythe Frankel, Hunter Mill task force member. “The level of discourse was for the most part pretty high-level. It was very courteous, and there was a good understanding of land-use issues."

The one Hunter Mill nomination that garnered the greatest attention was landowner John Thoburn's proposal to amend the comprehensive plan. He sought to change the designation of his property on the west side of Hunter Mill Road from residential to mixed-use development. The task force voted unanimously to recommend that the Planning Commission retain the property's existing designation.

Hunter Mill Road also provided the task force's other big issue: a proposal to establish a Hunter Mill historic district and recognize the road as a Virginia Byway.

"That’s a very worthwhile effort," said de la Fe. "With the Hunter Mill Road issue, there are four different supervisor districts involved in that one. It would be nice if we all agreed.”

Supporters of the historic designation had to make four separate proposals to the four districts that Hunter Mill Road weaves through. Linda Byrne made a presentation to the Sully task force and attended the Hunter Mill task force meeting.

“Both experiences were extremely good,” Byrne said. “The people on the task forces are very dedicated to what they’re doing. In Sully, I presented a video of some of the historic sites that we identified along Hunter Mill Road. They were very patient and asked questions. I thought they were very fair, and the county employees helped us a lot also.”

<mh>Infill Development

<bt>In the Providence district, the most significant decision regarding the APR nominations occurred before the task force ever met. Supervisor Gerald Connolly (D-Providence) deferred any decisions on nominations for properties in the Tysons Corner area until after the Virginia Department of Transportation released the environmental impact study for the Rail to Dulles project.

“We had a wide range of sorts of nominations,” said Linda Q. Smyth, the Providence planning commissioner. "People are interested in land use, school impacts and all sorts of things.”

“We had number of folks who had become interested in land use as a result of the Merrifield task force,” said Renata Wade, who was a member of the Providence task force. “I thought it was great to see their interest continue into a broader view of the Providence District.”

Asked which of Providence's 31 nominations were the most significant, Wade and task force chairman Sally Ormsby pointed to several nominations that spotlighted infill development around the Vienna Metro station.

“In one instance, residents of a neighborhood within walking distance wanted to change the plan for more intensive density in their neighborhood,” said Ormsby, referring to the Briarwood neighborhood.

“In the Fairlee development, there was pressure from a developer that would like to buy up and redevelop that area,” said Ormsby. “Not all of the homeowners are willing to participate. So that’s not a complete consolidation.”

Once the Planning Commission makes its final decision on which nominations to approve, they will be sent on to the Board of Supervisors for another round of public hearings.

“We will be having the public hearing so that everyone will have the chance to not only have said something at the task force, they can get up and tell us again,” said Smyth. She anticipated that the public hearings would lead to some long nights for the Planning Commission.