Call him "Commissioner." Virginia Run's Jim Hart is now an at-large member of the Fairfax County Planning Commission.
Hart, 45, was nominated for the post by new county Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerry Connolly and officially approved, Monday morning, at the Board's first meeting of 2004. He replaces Ilryong Moon, who's now an at-large School Board member.
"I CAN'T THINK of anyone more deserving," said Sully District Planning Commissioner Ron Koch. "Jim's a very hard worker and has proven he's very dedicated to the community."
Familiar to local residents for his past and present work on the West Fairfax County Citizens Association (WFCCA) Land-Use Committee and the county Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA), Hart has long been a community activist. He served on the county's Board of Equalization of Real Estate Assessments from 1999-2000, hearing tax-assessment appeals.
And he's half the law firm of Hart & Horan in Fairfax. He does construction and real property litigation, and partner Robert F. Horan III practices criminal law. An attorney for nearly 21 years, Hart received a bachelor's in architecture from UVA in 1980 and a law degree from the university in 1983.
"I've known Jim a long time, and he's one of the most thoughtful members of the BZA," said Connolly. "His civic and legal background and his experience on the Board of Equalization and the BZA make him a natural for the Planning Commission."
HART'S SERVED four years on the BZA and his term expires next month, so he'll remain on it for now. The Virginia Code allows one person to hold two posts, anyway.
As for WFCCA, he was president from 1996-98 and chaired its Land-Use Committee from 1998-2000. He's served 10 years on that committee, but retired from it Monday since he'll now be voting on WFCCA cases at Planning Commission level.
"But I'll still attend [WFCCA] meetings, like Ron," he said. "They'll see my face, but I won't be there in the same role. I never really expected, going in, that I would have been involved in so many things. We've seen so many changes in that 10-year period in this area."
Connolly asked Hart, two months ago, if he'd join the Planning Commission, and he agreed. "I'll miss the interaction with the people on the WFCCA," he said. "But I'm also looking forward to this new role."
He said his biggest objectives on the WFCCA were to promote public awareness of the process, to be consistent and fair, and to inform the community as much as possible about pending development applications. Said Hart: "We're not always going to agree on everything, but the results are going to be better if we have more people participating in the discussions."
He'll be sworn in Jan. 14 and says he'll focus on keeping up with the Planning Commission workload. "I've seen the process as a citizen, a BZA member and a WFCCA member, and I think I bring those experiences and perspectives to the table," he said. "I'll do my best."
KOCH SAID he feels strongly that Hart's done a terrific job on the WFCCA and BZA. "He's impressed everybody with his knowledge of land use, and he's not only very fair, but open-minded," said Koch. "And we really do need a liaison with the BZA, so it would be productive to have him [stay on it]."
Overall, said Koch, "I've always enjoyed working with him — he's a great guy. It's a tremendous appointment — not just for Sully District, but for Fairfax County as a whole."
WFCCA Chairman Jim Katcham agrees. "I don't think they could have picked a better person," he said. "That's the problem with having someone top-notch — they move up and out. We will miss him, but I know — even though he'll be sitting on the side [at WFCCA meetings] — he'll provide advice and assistance when asked."
He said WFCCA hasn't yet decided whether to appoint a replacement for Hart or wait until its April, land-use elections. Meanwhile, Connolly is delighted to have Hart on the Planning Commission.
"He seeks out others' points of view and he listens, and those are important qualities to have as a planning commissioner because we want to make sure that citizen input is solicited and respected," said Connolly. "We also want geographic balance on the Planning Commission so the western end of the county has a strong voice."
"A lot of the remaining growth and development is going to be [there], and the citizens need ample representation, both locally and at-large," he continued. "I'm very confident Jim will be an outstanding planning commissioner."