Braddock District residents took on the role of transportation planners, voicing opinions and strategies as a group, to alleviate their transportation woes.
Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock) spearheaded the effort by hosting a series of 10 discussion groups titled "Community Dialogue on Transportation and Land Use." The meetings will address the issue over the spring and come up with some concrete steps to be addressed. Although Bulova hasn't provided the end mark on her agenda — who the recipient of the groups’ suggestions will be — she indicated it would be the Board of Supervisors, the legislators, Richmond and beyond.
"Whatever body is appropriate to receive the recommendations. I, as you know, was in favor of a sales tax referendum. Let's talk as a community on what we do next," Bulova said, at the first meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 22.
Bulova started the meeting by going around the meeting room at the Kings Park library with introductions and statements for or against the sales tax referendum.
"There was a similar tax in 1986 to solve our transportation dilemma," said one participant. "I still can't figure out where that money went."
Jim Williams took that a step further.
"I did not feel fully informed," he said. "What it really boiled down to was I don't trust VDOT."
OTHERS shared their feelings, but a majority admitted they did not vote in favor of the tax.
"All together we're going to hopefully find some recommendations on what we do next," Bulova said.
A week-by-week agenda was laid out, with guest speakers at a majority of the meetings. The speakers’ list includes representatives from VDOT, county executives, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Northern Virginia Transportation Committee and the Virginia House of Delegates.
When it came time to adopt a mission statement, there was mincing of verbiage, but those attending the meeting decided on a sweeping statement:
"The community dialogue on transportation and land use will provide participants an opportunity to learn about and discuss transportation planning and funding, land-use planning and law, Virginia tax structure, governmental structure in Virginia, political dynamics of Virginia and the Northern Virginia region. Participants in the dialogue will explore and recommend strategies for addressing transportation and land-use issues in Northern Virginia."
One member was worried that "recommended strategies" was too broad, and Bob G. was concerned that the verbiage addressed only land-use issues connected to traffic.
"We're not addressing all land-use issues," he said.
After adjustments and discussion, all voted in favor of the statement.
DISCUSSIONS of personally owned property and the right to build came up as a contributing factor to traffic. Bulova mentioned the Dillon Rule, a property owners’ rights law. Virginia adheres to this, as do some other states. Bulova noted a bill that was on the table in the General Assembly meeting addressing adequate facilities that must be in place before development. Linda Waller, a spokesperson from Supervisor Dana Kauffman's (D-Lee) office who was in the audience, got word earlier in the day that the bill was voted down. Bulova explained to everyone.
"What died, a bill introduced certain counties to have adequate public facilities ordinance," before development could occur, Bulova said.
She explained the loosely knit rules the group would have to adhere to over the coming weeks before adjourning for the evening. The meeting lasted just about two hours as Bulova promised.
"Hopefully, those that are here tonight will be sticking it out in the end," Bulova said.
The next meeting in the series is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 5, and is titled "The Parameters Which We Operate." Scheduled speakers are Kevin C. Greenlief, director, Fairfax County Department of Tax Administration, and Jan L. Brodie, senior assistant, Fairfax County attorney.