Zoning Amendment Not Forgotten

Zoning Amendment Not Forgotten

Decision is postponed on zoning changes, but work will continue, board decides.

Inspired by the postponing of a vote on the controversial proposed zoning ordinance amendment (ZOA), the McLean Citizens Association discussed their skepticism of any future legislation, either on a county or state level, dealing with zoning codes and regulations.

“Many of the people at the work session Monday night were skeptical of the need to change the system,” said Adrienne Whyte, a member of the MCA and co-chair of its planning and zoning committee. “The county really does want to get it right,” she said of the zoning amendment, which has been criticized not only for the liberty it would give to allowing variances and special permits, but also what some consider a hastened speed at which the county’s Planning Commission tried to pass the ordinance.

“The County’s Planning Commission wanted to consider changes to the zoning regulations to get a better consensus about what’s appropriate,” Whyte said. “Jim Hart (a member of the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals) agreed to legislation that would make it more difficult to get a side-yard setback, for example.”

There is a proposed bill before the General Assembly, Bill 2152, that may make some changes to the zoning regulations that would possibly impact any local rules, she said.

“The MCA board was pleased that the zoning ordinance amendment has been tabled,” she said. “Now we have time to work on the ZOA.”

THE BOARD WILL discuss, before sending a resolution to the county, that “we are not thrilled with what’s before the General Assembly, and we do not want modifications to the zoning amendment to be routine,” she said. “From our perspective, the proposed ZOA would make it easier.”

A meeting was scheduled for Tuesday evening at the Government Center to discuss the amendment and also the bill in Richmond, which was slated to be presented to a committee on Friday, said James Robertson, a member of the planning and zoning committee in McLean.

“I’m not sure what’s going on with that bill, but we’re attempting to integrate what’s going on in Richmond with what’s happening in Fairfax County in some way and hope to come up with a resolution to present to the McLean board,” Robertson said.

The MCA board was pleased that the initial ZOA was postponed for the foreseeable future, he said, and that the following night Hart voted to delay voting on the measure until “everyone had a chance to research the amendment,” he said.

The special meeting of the planning and zoning commission, Robertson said, was scheduled “to form an opinion, both on the process this ZOA took and also the amendment itself. The ZOA, if approved, could change, depending on what happens in Richmond anyway.”

Another proposed resolution Wednesday night asked the board to support the authority of the local School Board to determine the best date to open schools for the academic year.

“WE’VE TALKED about this on and off,” said Ed Saperstein, co-chair of the Education and Youth Committee. “It seems much easier to give the local School Board that authority than forcing the schools to open after Labor Day.”

Saperstein added, “Why put our kids at a disadvantage in terms of standardized testing? There is a substantial number of kids who have to take the standardized tests, like the AP exams in addition to the SOL (Standards of Learning) tests before college.”

Many schools around the country have switched to starting school prior to Labor Day, but schools in Virginia have not followed this trend, regulated by the King’s Dominion Rule locally, named after the amusement park, which employs hundreds of high-school students every summer, Saperstein said.

“We have received several comments and thank-yous for this resolution,” he said. “When the Fairfax County Parent Teacher Association posted this on their Web site as a survey question, they received slightly less than 2,000 responses, and about 60 percent of those who responded were in favor” of allowing the local School Board to select the start date for school, he said.

The resolution, which states that the MCA Board “urge Virginia legislators to amend Code of Virginia 22.1-79.1 to grant local School Boards the authority to determine start dates for the school year,” was unanimously approved and e-mailed to members of the Senate from Fairfax County, Education and Health Committee, House of Delegates from Fairfax County, its Education Committee and to the Fairfax County Public School’s superintendent, Jack Dale, and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.