Providence District Begins Plan Review Process
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Providence District Begins Plan Review Process

Area Plan Review will start on Sept. 21.

<bt>"This is where it all begins," said Renata Wade. The Area Plan Review, an opportunity to amend the Comprehensive Plan for the northern half of Fairfax County, is set to start this fall. Wade is co-chair of the task force that will be studying the Providence District.

The Area Plan Review (APR) started in the spring, when individuals, groups and corporations entered nominations for a change to the plan for pieces of property in the northern half of the county — the Providence, Hunter Mill, Sully and Dranesville magisterial districts.

The planing process is different from the zoning process, explained Joe Annunziata, the other co-chair of the task force. "Planning is more important than zoning," he said.

The Comprehensive determines the overriding land-use goal for a parcel, while the zoning specifies exactly what might be built on it. "The plan authorizes certain types of development to take place," Annunziata said.

According to the county Web site, more than 80 nominations were received countywide. "To me, this is the most important part of the land-use process," Wade said. It is at this point, Wade said, when residents can speak out in favor of more or less density on a piece of property. "By the time you see the construction equipment, it's too late."

THE NOMINATIONS have been split into the various magisterial districts, each of which will form its own task force to study the proposals. In the case of the Providence District, 21 nominations which are in the Tysons Corner area were separated out into a separate group. These nominations were determined to be "rail-related" and will be studied at a later date.

Once Tysons' nominations were broken out, 17 projects remained. These proposals will be studied this fall, beginning with an organizational meeting on Sept. 21. "There will be an orientation to the APR process," said Margaret Tulloch, who works on the staff of Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence).

"The first meeting is really to introduce people to the process," Wade said. "We'll conduct what we affectionately call 'Land Use 101.'"

Approximately 75 people are on the task force, about half of whom are non-voting alternates, Tulloch said. "Each homeowner's association or civic association will have one vote," Tulloch said.

While members of the general public are welcome to attend the meetings, they will not be permitted to speak, Wade said. In past task force meetings, the nominator and adjacent property owners have been permitted to speak. "This is not a public hearing," she said.

Residents are permitted to submit written comments up to one business day prior to the meeting at which a particular property will be discussed.

Residents will have an opportunity to speak at a public hearing before the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors, Wade said.

AFTER THE first meeting, the task force will study three or four of the proposals per meeting.

While it studies each proposal individually, the task force tries to take a larger look at the impact a proposal will have on the area. "It is part of our responsibility to ensure that we're not looking at it in a vacuum," Wade said.

Ideally, the task force members will make a decision on a proposal the same night they study it. "We take it on a case-by-case basis," Wade said. "Some will be more straightforward; others we may defer until we get additional information."

"It's not final," Annunziata said. "The task force does not have authority to make a final decision."

Annunziata has participated in the past four or five task forces. While the recommendations might be adjusted slightly with more or less density at the Board of Supervisors, Annunziata said it is rare that he has seen the recommendation overturned completely. "Generally, [the Board of Supervisors] has a lot of respect for how the citizens feel," he said.