ABC's of the APR

ABC's of the APR

Braddock task force meets to unlock mysteries of Comprehensive Plan.

The Braddock District is getting a head-start on the lengthy Area Plans Review process, which is scheduled to begin this fall.

Members of a citizen task force began meeting in June to start their education regarding the basics of land use and Fairfax County's Comprehensive Plan.

"(It was a) 'tutorial' on the law on zoning and planning and an introduction to the plan in Braddock District, to get everybody up to speed on past and what's involved in planning process," said Florence Naeve, chief of staff for Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock), and the district's land-use chief.

Beginning June 7, the 15-member task force got a month-long, intensive training in the Area Plans Review (APR) process, which takes place once every four years in Fairfax County. The group includes representatives from homeowners associations, private citizens and others who serve in a volunteer capacity for the Braddock District.

"It's a great thing because you have people with a fresh perspective," said Naeve.

Some of the members bring years of experience with land-use issues. Others, like Janyce Hedetniemi, are experienced with Braddock's issues, but newcomers to the APR process.

"There are people who love this kind of thing. To them, it's exciting, it's absorbing. For those of us who aren't really into it, it's like going to an algebra class. You have to really put your mind to it to figure out what's going on," said Hedetniemi, who chairs the Braddock District Council, and serves as the Braddock District's representative to the Tysons Corner Transportation and Urban Design Study Coordinating Committee.

"For a first-timer, it's one of those things, you have to … cross-reference so you know what you're talking about," she said. "It's not something you take lightly."

ONCE THEIR training was completed, the task force began examining possible sites around the district that could be identified for nomination this fall.

"This task force has been tasked with looking at our district to see if there is anything in our district that needs to be committed to a change," said Planning Commissioner Suzanne Harsel (Braddock). The task force will conclude its early meetings on Aug. 2. at 7:30 p.m., to vote on which nominations it will be making in the fall.

The APR process provides an opportunity for citizens in Fairfax County to submit proposals to amend the county's Comprehensive Plan, which guides land-use decisions in the county. The northern portion of the county will be completed this year, and the process for the Mason, Braddock, Lee, Mount Vernon and Springfield districts begins this fall. The period for citizen nominations runs from July 1-Sept. 21. Once the nomination period closes, a lengthy vetting process begins to determine the viability of the areas nominated for change. Task forces in each district must meet from November 2005 to March 2006, then make their recommendations to the Fairfax County staff. In June 2006, the Planning Commission will conduct public hearings on nominations and then vote on them in July 2006, before the nominations pass to the Board of Supervisors in the fall of 2006.

"I feel that with the education, meeting with county staff, this task force is thoroughly well-educated. We're not going to have things come off the wall," said Harsel.

In Braddock District, Naeve said the two primary focuses of the task force will be changing language to allow for more pedestrian and bike trails around the Burke Centre Virginia Railway Express (VRE) station, and to clean up existing plan language regarding office space on Rolling Road, initially identified as a spot where the current Rolling Road VRE station is located. Currently, the language technically allows a train station to be built there.

"When you review the Comprehensive Plan, it's not always a matter of adding language, it's a matter of cleaning up language that has become obsolete," said Naeve.

The APR process in Braddock District figures to be a less contentious one than in other hot spots in Fairfax County. Naeve said four years ago, only one change resulted from the APR process, the consolidation of land parcels on Rust Road to allow for a 23-home residential community called Chandler's Grove.

"We're fairly well built-out," said Harsel, who said the public hearing portion of the APR process is key in areas such as Braddock where nominations could affect more directly the built-out communities.

"That's why next spring, it's very important for the surrounding citizens to make their feelings known," she said.