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Citizens Asked to Get Involved in Land use

Town Meeting emphasizes land use planning.

Land use and transportation. Which is the cart and which is the horse? That was the primary question at Lee District Supervisor Dana Kauffman's 2004 Town Meeting last Saturday.

"Every meeting I attend, questions are raised on land use and transportation," Kauffman told the audience assembled at Lane Elementary School on Beulah Street for his sixth annual constituent information forum.

Officially titled, "Land Use in Lee District: An Explanation of the Process and How You Can Get Involved," the two-hour session brought together Fairfax County's and Lee District's top players in the two subject areas.

Noting the ever-changing landscape, Kauffman said, "For years progress was westward in the county. Now people are backing up and real estate prices in Lee District reflect that fact."

Paul Gagnon, chairman, of the 28-year-old Lee District Land Use Committee urged those present to attend the meetings and get involved in the process.

"I make it a point to hear the points of view of all citizens attending. And we usually have two meeting per application," he said.

Rodney Lusk, a former staff member to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, now a Lee District planning commissioner, outlined the role of the commission. "Planning is the way we change what happens on the ground," he said.

Driving home the importance of good land use planning was Jim Zook, director, Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning. "The question is not whether we will grow or not, it's how will we grow," he said.

He stressed, the county now has a population of one million with 500,000 jobs. "It is predicted that by 2022 there will be 1,250,000 people and 750,000 jobs. The question is where are we going as a community?" Zook said.

THE CRITICAL AND UNDERLYING factor to growth is transportation, according to Kauffman. "How can we bring land use planning and transportation planning together?" Kauffman asked. He noted that many past decisions regarding highway construction or non-construction as well as mass transit have been counterproductive.

Discussing the challenges of transportation planning and development in the years ahead was Ho Chang, director, Fairfax County Department of Transportation. "In Virginia, land use is controlled by local government while highway planning and construction is controlled by the state," he said.

"A common misconception is to try to control growth through transportation development. This is a very desirable place to live and work. People will come here with or without transportation facilities," Ho Chang said.

"Some level of congestion is a natural by-product of economic development and prosperity," he said. "Those areas without congestion are also those areas with the highest unemployment."

HE MADE AN URGENT plea for those present to support the Transportation Referendum on the November ballot. "We have not had a significant increase in transportation funding since 1986. Since then there has been a 53 percent increase in vehicle registrations and a 60 percent increase in transit ridership," Ho Chang said.

"Over the next 20 years there will only be $480 million for new construction of highways and transit facilities in the entire state. We are in a death spiral," he said. Individual commuter costs per year now averages $2,100, according to Ho Chang.

Wrapping up the panel presentation was Marianne Gardner, chief, Policy and Plan Development Branch, Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning, who explained how the APR (Area Plans Review) planning process works. She also encouraged citizens to become involved in the process.

The 2005 South County Area Plans Review process includes the Braddock, Lee, Mason, Mount Vernon and Springfield supervisor districts. The APR process, which commences in September 2005 with the Nomination Submission period, includes the following timetable:

* Task Force appointments November to January 2006

* Nominations to Task Forces February 2006

* Task Force Meetings February to June 2006

* Nomination Withdrawal Deadline June 2006

* Finalizing and publishing staff reports July and August 2006

* Task Force/Staff recommendations to the Planning Commission August 2006

* Planning Commission public hearings September and October 2006

* Board of Supervisors public hearings and mark up November and December 2006

DURING THE AUDIENCE participation session, questions were raised pertaining to the recent break downs on the Metro system, the opening of Mill Road to replace the closed Woodlawn Road, enforcement of multiple occupancy restrictions in residences, and the completion date for the proposed pedestrian path along Richmond Highway.

Both the Metro maintenance problems and building the pedestrian walkway along Richmond Highway are directly tied to the upcoming transportation bond question on the November ballot, according to Kauffman.

"Metro is now 28 years old and it carries more passengers than any other system in the nation except New York City," Kauffman said. "It was built on the cheap at the time because people were not convinced it would be successful. The strain of use is showing as it did this past week with rails breaking."

As for Route 1 sidewalk construction, "When the transportation money issue comes up again in the General Assembly we are just going to have to keep pushing," Kauffman said.

Ho Chang was more blunt. "There is no money to do any of the improvements we need. There's no hope of doing any significant improvements along Route 1 at this time," he said.

AN HOUR PRIOR to the panel presentations, attendees were able to garner information on a host of area services, activities, and projects. Exhibitors included Lorton Arts Center, Woodrow Wilson Bridge and Springfield Interchange construction projects, Mount Vernon Area Dog Opportunity Group, Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce, Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation, and representatives of Fairfax County Fire and Rescue and Police departments.

Following the Town Meeting attendees were treated to a "Taste of Lee District" with complimentary food samples from Roy Rogers and Baja Fresh Mexican Grill. A larger variety of restaurants was anticipated but participants were thwarted by a county Health Department requirement imposing a $40 license fee on the restaurateurs.

"The fee is required for anyone doing temporary public events such as fairs, festivals or even something like this," Janet Neuhaus, Fairfax County environmental health specialist, said. "It is based on the type of food and the length of the event."

The licenses are good for a year and do not apply to regular catering services, according to Neuhaus. "They have regular catering permits which covers them. It also does not apply to private events. Only those that are open to the public," she said.

"Due to the flu situation this year we are particularly concerned that this requirement be enforced," Neuhaus said. Kauffman's office was made aware of the requirement only a few days before the Town Meeting, thereby reducing the number of participating eateries.