Uncontrolled growth leads to traffic problems, strains on the infrastructure and school overcrowding. For that reason, Mark Sickles, Democratic candidate for the 43rd state delegate district, wants to start at the source. His plan is to "time phase" growth better so that roads and schools grow at the same time as surrounding development.
"I think we need to have a policy that makes the developers pay for the impact of growth," Sickles said. Although he saw this as a policy adopted by incumbent Tom Bolvin (R-43rd) in earlier campaigns, Sickles claimed that Bolvin has not adhered to it.
"He was going to change that. It's not a new idea," Sickles said.
Sickles wants to incorporate "impact fees," similar to proffers, and was recently endorsed by the Virginia League of Conservation for his pursuit of smarter growth.
Working out things with developers is not new to Sickles, though. He helped engineer the existing Kingstowne Library that way with AJ Dwoskin, the company that developed the Landsdowne Center along Beulah Road, where the library's currently located.
"We have that space free for 20 years," he said.
Funding from Richmond needs some alterations, Sickles said. One area he's going to look at is the percentage of income taxes paid by county residents coming back to the county. Instead of taking a sizable chunk from the state budget, he'll start with 1 percent and increase at equal increments so the state budget can make adjustments.
"Then they [state government in Richmond] know what the future is, they can plan for it," he said.
Sickles would also like to bring needed attention to transportation issues in the district, including the completion of the Fairfax County Parkway around Fort Belvoir's Engineer Proving Grounds (EPG), and the opening of Woodlawn Road through Fort Belvoir. The parkway around the EPG is slow to get started. No ground has been broken, but discussions with the Army have taken place. The opening of Woodlawn Road would not take substantial construction. Sickles also envisions an overpass that would eliminate the intersection at Franconia Road and Van Dorn Street, which has been looked at but requires funding. He's spoken to VDOT about this.
"There's no plan to get the money," he said. "It's just going to take advocacy and money."
Sickles also wants to straighten the Van Dorn Street exit off I-495 so that it's a smooth transition for cars coming off the highway.
In addition, Sickles wants to make improvements to mass transit in the area. He admitted that addressing all of these transportation solutions would take a lot of work.
"All of us on all three levels of government are working for the taxpayer," Sickles said. "We need to work as a team, and that's not happening now."
"We're in pretty good shape, but we need to expedite it," he said, of the work so far on the parkway around the EPG.
As far as opening Woodlawn Road is concerned, Sickles wants to make it attractive for the Corps of Engineers at Fort Belvoir to embark on that.
"Put every incentive to the Corps of Engineers to open the road through Fort Belvoir," he said. "There's a federal appropriations bill directing the Corps to embark on this project," he said.
For the past 11 years, Sickles has tackled projects similar to these on the Fairfax County Library Board. Accomplishments include setting aside seven acres for the future Kingstowne Library, making all the county library operating hours the same, incorporating "iBistro," a new library information system, and expanding or possibly relocating the Richard Byrd Library consistent with the Springfield revitalization plan.
"We have architectural drawings to expand it, almost double the size," Sickles said.
Sickles worked in Gladys Keating's office when she was delegate of the 43rd District.
"He was a great help," Keating said of Sickles. "He's very meticulous."
Keating also served on the Library Board for four years before becoming delegate. "Mark has truly served [the people]," she said. "That is not an easy job. If there was something that pertains to the library, he was there."
Library Board member Susan Thorniley noted that Sickles has a good public-speaking presence and they let him represent the Library Board at times.
"He's always there speaking out on the library’s behalf," Thorniley said. "We never worry when Mark's going to speak someplace."
"Being part of our democracy at a grass-roots level has been a great experience," Sickles said.