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Fairfax Candidate Survey: Thoughts on Fairfax Boulevard

Council and mayoral candidate responses to survey questions on the redevelopment of Fairfax Boulevard and the development review process.

The redevelopment of Fairfax Boulevard is critical to the city’s future. Following are candidate responses to questions on the redevelopment of Fairfax Boulevard and the development review process.

In 2007 the Fairfax Boulevard Business Improvement District and the city organized broad public outreach resulting in the Fairfax Boulevard Master Plan, which calls for transforming the Boulevard from an auto-oriented road with strip shopping centers to a mixed-use pedestrian-friendly street with higher densities that are necessary to attract development and create a critical mass of activity.

The Master Plan Vision and Summary Document, adopted by the City as a consensus document in 2008, envisions pedestrian-friendly mixed-use environments for the three centers of Kamp Washington, Northfax and Fairfax Circle. The plan also calls for making transportation improvements on Fairfax Boulevard that would make the street easier and safer for pedestrians to cross and walk along, and easier and safer for bicycle travel.

The land use development process in the City lacks a basis in a strong guiding plan. Under these conditions, the City could easily lose opportunities for redevelopment to other jurisdictions, such as nearby community revitalization areas in Fairfax County, where approvals and financing for redevelopment are expedited.

Please note: Not all candidates responded.

 

  • Michael DeMarco

Do you support the Master Plan Vision and Summary? Yes

Do you support modifying the city's zoning code to support the Fairfax Boulevard Master Plan? Yes  

Please write below any comments you would like to make about the redevelopment of Fairfax Boulevard.

The city has a vision, a comprehensive plan and a master plan and all indicate that we have a good understanding of what we need to do to create value for all of us. However, we do not seem to have the political will power to act upon that vision and those plans. Plans are nice, but delivering or actually growing value is much more difficult but imperative. If we really want to keep our status as the place with low property taxes and great amenities, then we must work harder to compete with the surrounding county that is creating strong economic centers on our borders.

Designate select areas where different building standards apply, based on clear community intentions regarding the physical character of the area being developed. If these areas are Fairfax Circle, Northfax and Kamp Washington as indicated in the Master Plan than let's get after it. I would also add Fair City and targeted and appropriate portions of Old Town to the list. Interim uses like strip malls are not good enough. If the projected job growth in the city over the next 10 years is mostly strip mall oriented retail and restaurant, then we are not encouraging the higher paying jobs that create disposable income for spending in the city. Mixed-use developments in the areas identified above will attract those businesses that will create those jobs that will be filled by residents.

And if we are serious about this, then we need incentives for developers and land owners to develop these designated areas. That might include:

  • Rezoning these areas that could increase the value of the land
  • Stagger allowable higher density (so that it's higher within a certain distance of major public transportation and lower as you move further away)
  • Encourage mixed use developments
  • Make infrastructure improvements
  • Support parcel consolidation
  • Develop well written, agreed to and publicized design standards and requirements
  • Implement transit connections to metro

Would you support a more predictable and consistent process for reviewing development proposals? Yes

Please provide your ideas for how the land use development process in the City could be improved.

I think we need to seriously consider form-based code. Form-based code would become the city regulation and not just guidelines. It is an alternative to the conventional exception-based zoning that the city utilizes today which is ineffective and inefficient. And form-based code does not have to be all or nothing, it can be used selectively. In some jurisdictions they designate form-based districts (could be 2 blocks, could be a corridor). At a minimum, we should consider this for the designated areas I highlighted in question 1. This would provide complete transparency for developers. They will know exactly where they stand as they contemplate a development project. There is a value benefit as well. It is more efficient and effective for developers and the city. It generates increased cash flow/profit margin, and the developers will have an incentive with the increased revenue flow to re-invest back into projects and infrastructure in the city.

Another action we can take is something that the Economic Development Authority (EDA) discovered in a session with the City of Falls Church. Falls Church created a development committee with 2 members each from the City Council, Planning Commission and EDA. The committee is charged with working with staff, the impacted community and developers on each proposal to come up with a viable development plan that will meet city standards and code. They work out many of the problem areas before engaging the entire city council and the public. I think this at a minimum would be a welcomed change.



  • Daniel Drummond

Do you support the Master Plan Vision and Summary? Yes   

Do you support modifying the city's zoning code to support the Fairfax Boulevard Master Plan? Yes  

Please write below any comments you would like to make about the redevelopment of Fairfax Boulevard.

Fairfax Boulevard is the economic backbone of the City of Fairfax. Along with our downtown, Fairfax Boulevard and its business community are partners in the success of our City. One reason our taxes and fees are low in the City – and that we can provide high quality services – is that more than 54 percent of our real estate tax base is commercial. That creates more balance, keeps residents’ taxes low and supports a strong economy. To keep this going we need to redevelop Fairfax Boulevard in a smart, responsible and sustainable way. My principles for doing this include:

  • Protecting and preserving our existing residential neighborhoods, including finding ways to prevent cut through traffic and ensuring people can get out of their neighborhoods easily and safely;
  • Support responsible commercial development that attracts high-quality tenants for retail and dining, including mixed-use projects; and
  • Identifying solutions that provide housing choices for those looking to move to the City of Fairfax and those who have lived here for years but no longer need a single family home.

Would you support a more predictable and consistent process for reviewing development proposals? Yes

Please provide your ideas for how the land use development process in the City could be improved.

A lack of certainty – knowing what to expect and when to expect it – can deter any business from establishing in a locality. This certainly goes for developers who are looking to invest and build in the City. We have a great staff at City Hall who are experienced and have a great knowledge of land use. What we don’t have are policies in place that provide better guidance for staff and certainty for those who are looking to provide redevelopment solutions to the City. We need a wholesale review of our zoning ordinances, policies and procedures to ensure that they are up-to-date, reflect the desires of the community and provide a better level of certainty for developers and businesses so that they are more willing to come to the City of Fairfax, creating new opportunities to shop, dine, live and support new jobs in the process.



  • Jeffrey Greenfield

Do you support the Master Plan Vision and Summary? Yes

Do you support modifying the city's zoning code to support the Fairfax Boulevard Master Plan? Yes

Please write below any comments you would like to make about the redevelopment of Fairfax Boulevard.

Formally incorporating the Master Plan into the City’s Comprehensive Plan is a step in the right direction.  The Council needs to take action and begin implementing portions of the plan where there is consensus.  Economic development is key to ensuring the City can continue to maintain the lowest tax rate consistent with sustaining our outstanding services.

Would you support a more predictable and consistent process for reviewing development proposals? Yes

Please provide your ideas for how the land use development process in the City could be improved.

Providing for more clarity in the zoning regulations to deal with day-to-day situations and cut down on the number of interpretations required, and allowing some redevelopment activity to occur on a nonconforming property without requiring a special exception (especially as it relates to relatively minor exceptions to signs, parking, landscape, etc.), and finally, develop standards that can replace making someone go to the Board of Architectural Review (BAR) - use the BAR for new buildings, historic district applications and appeals of administrative decisions.



  • Catherine Read

Do you support the Master Plan Vision and Summary? Yes

Do you support modifying the city's zoning code to support the Fairfax Boulevard Master Plan? Yes 

Please write below any comments you would like to make about the redevelopment of Fairfax Boulevard.

While I think great work has been done on these plans, people need to keep an open mind.  These plans were done 4 and 5 years ago.  Fairfax County is doing a great deal of redevelopment all over the county (all around Fairfax City) and they are doing some very innovative things. We need to be open to newer and possibly better solutions and designs.

Would you support a more predictable and consistent process for reviewing development proposals? Yes 

Please provide your ideas for how the land use development process in the City could be improved.

We need to streamline the process for both application and approvals.  We need to spend less time as a city council micro-managing every aspect of every request – as if we don’t trust the competency of the city staff.  We should also use technology more effectively. Less paper and less arduous processes means more “business friendly” all the way around.  Overall, an overhaul of systems and process seems to be in order.


  • Eleanor Schmidt
  • Do you support the Master Plan Vision and Summary? Yes

    Do you support modifying the city's zoning code to support the Fairfax Boulevard Master Plan? Yes

    Please write below any comments you would like to make about the redevelopment of Fairfax Boulevard.

    We are currently working with the Planning Commission on an update to the Comprehensive Development Plan.  The plan will include the incorporation of the Fairfax Boulevard Master Plan Vision and Summary.  That is the first step.  Once the Comprehensive Development Plan has been adopted, we must review and make appropriate updates to the zoning ordinance.  Fairfax Boulevard is the commercial backbone for the City of Fairfax.  It is important to not only establish and communicate a plan but to streamline processes in order to attract the type of development we want.  

    Would you support a more predictable and consistent process for reviewing development proposals? Yes

    Please provide your ideas for how the land use development process in the City could be improved.

    Again, we are working on an update to The Comprehensive Development Plan which serves as the City’s official guide to future development.  City staff should be available to citizens and applicants with information and utilize the plan to provide guidance.  Processes should be streamlined in order to increase the speed with which requests are handled.  If requests are properly reviewed by all appropriate departments simultaneously, approvals and movement to the BAR, Planning Commission and City Council should be a reasonable process. 

     

    • Steven Stombres

    Do you support the Master Plan Vision and Summary? Yes 

    Do you support modifying the city's zoning code to support the Fairfax Boulevard Master Plan? Yes

    Please write below any comments you would like to make about the redevelopment of Fairfax Boulevard.

    The City Council and Planning Commission are currently reviewing the city’s Comprehensive Plan and the Master Plan for Fairfax Boulevard.  These planning documents represent our collective vision for the future of the city as a whole and Fairfax Boulevard respectively.  They must strike the proper balance between smart growth and commercial revitalization while protecting the residential nature of our community.

    Fairfax Boulevard has historically been the economic engine of the city and provides the greatest potential for redevelopment with the appropriate mix of retail, office, and residential use.  The Master plan will serve as a general guide for redevelopment along Fairfax Boulevard and will require continued community input so that we can meet the needs of the city and update our zoning code to facilitate the implementation of our vision.

    Would you support a more predictable and consistent process for reviewing development proposals? Yes  

    Please provide your ideas for how the land use development process in the City could be improved.

    I support the implementation of a streamlined approval process that would be more predictable and timely. 

    The City Council and Planning Commission are currently reviewing the city’s Comprehensive Plan and the Master Plan for Fairfax Boulevard.  As stated in a previous question, these planning documents represent our collective vision for the future of the city.  The ultimate goal of the review process is to receive input from residents and stakeholders and produce an updated plan that has broad support within the community. 

    This will make it easier for businesses to invest in the City of Fairfax because they will have confidence that if they design a proposal consistent with our plan, they will be able to efficiently navigate our approval process.

    Mayoral Candidate

    • Scott Silverthorne

    Do you support the Master Plan Vision and Summary? Yes

    Do you support modifying the city's zoning code to support the Fairfax Boulevard Master Plan? Yes

    Please write below any comments you would like to make about the redevelopment of Fairfax Boulevard.

    The time to consider the Fairfax Boulevard Master Plan is now.   The City is currently reviewing its Comprehensive Plan and the Route 50 corridor is an integral part of the future land use discussion in the City.   For well over a decade, there has been agreement that certain areas or ‘nodes’ should be the focus of redevelopment.  These business areas of Kamp Washington, Chain Bridge Road and Fairfax Circle are critical to the long-term economic vitality of the City.     The mayor’s role will be to engage the community – residential and business – to ensure we focus on our shared goals and vision and then find the will to move forward with a bold approach for the future of our community. 

    Would you support a more predictable and consistent process for reviewing development proposals? Yes

    Please provide your ideas for how the land use development process in the City could be improved.

    A thorough review of our regulatory process, for development and for starting or expanding a business, will be a top priority.     Sending positive and consistent signals to the business community is critical if new businesses are to locate in the City of Fairfax.    Stronger cooperation and collaboration with the Planning Commission will also be a priority should I be elected mayor.  

    Next Post: Old Town

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