BLOG: Two Comprehensive Plans in Two Years?

The city has decided to focus on a quick update to the comprehensive plan over the next several months, followed by a major re-write over the next two to three years.

I was excited to announce that the city would be moving forward with a major rewrite of the comprehensive plan beginning this fall.  This should be an interesting and fun process, including opportunities for significant public input in the form of everything from internet surveys to in-person focus groups.  Unfortunately, it won't happen for a few more years.

At the last Planning Commission meeting
, Chairman Foster announced that they will instead produce a minor update to the existing plan by sometime early next year and then begin the process of a major rewrite, which should wrap up in 2014. 

Is it weird to create a plan in 2012 followed by another one two years later?  Yes.  But here is some justification.

1. Much of the plan for 2012 has already been completed.  Initially, the plan was to scrap the work that was put into the plan then rush through a major rewrite since it has been seven years since the last comprehensive plan update and we are supposed to do it every five.  Instead, the next several months will be spent tying loose ends for the 2012 plan (which was primarily produced in 2009), then taking a deep breath and getting ready for the more in-depth re-write.

2. One of the major goals of the 2012 is to get the summary of the Fairfax Boulevard Masterplan integrated into the city-wide Comprehensive Plan.  The way Chairman Foster described it, many of the members of the current City Council, including the Mayor, were instrumental in developing the plan so it should be (at least partially) implemented under their watch (the council elections will be in May 2012).  It has been four years now since the Fairfax Boulevard charettes took place and the city has done nothing with it.

3. Buying a little extra time will be extremely helpful in developing the 2014 major re-write.  This will allow proper community outreach without looming deadlines overhead.  The 2014 document will be critical for the future of the city and a compressed schedule could sacrifice quality.  A similar process for the 1997 comp plan update took four years to complete - but it has helped establish priorities and guide growth for almost fifteen years.

This schedule seemed to be developed based on a few quick conversations, as the rest of the planning commission wasn't involved, so I wouldn't be surprised if it changes again.  In fact, "buying time" might set up an excuse to push the major re-write back even further.  But, at least we will get SOMETHING accomplished by next year.

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Douglas Stewart July 16, 2011 at 02:47 AM
Thank you for this update. The Mayor has made no secret about his lack of support for the Fairfax Boulevard Master Plan. At a community meeting three years ago he said, "The master plan is not our vision." What has been developed near Kamp Washington in the last four years is the same auto-oriented parking-in-front development as before -- as if the master plan didn't exist. It's very disappointing, but perhaps the still-slow economy will buy some more time to push for incorporation of the master plan in the comp plan and then for the necessary rezonings to make Northfax and other parts of the Boulevard real destinations for residents.
Paul Nabti July 18, 2011 at 01:00 PM
This is why I like this schedule. It will force council members to be clear about their thoughts on the Masterplan within the next few months. Apparently, the council (including the mayor) has agreed upon the contents of the following summary brochure, which is what staff hopes to incorporate into the Masterplan for next year... http://www.fairfaxva.gov/Boulevard/VisionSummary.pdf Any changes they want to make to this will come up as this short-term comp plan update is developed over the next few months. After that, we will have something to refer to that is "our vision".
Douglas Stewart July 20, 2011 at 09:00 PM
Do you know how they plan to finance the interior street grid, stormwater management improvements and the streetscape improvements without more contributions and proffers from developers? It's hard to believe they will get the significant proffers they need from developers without more density in the mixed-use centers. Perhaps you can address this in a future blog.
Paul Nabti August 21, 2011 at 03:00 AM
Douglas, I must have missed this post. Sorry for not getting back to you sooner. I don't know how they plan to finance the interior street grid and other infrastructure improvements, but I do know that a consultant is currently working on preliminary engineering for the entire street network in the Kamp Washington and Northfax "Centers". I'm sure there will be some public discussion about financing when this is complete. Also, the two development projects that have come forward so far: the Ted Britt/AML Site and Fairfax Shopping Center (Hooters, etc.) - (both of which are now on hold) included portions of the internal street network that the respective developers both proposed funding in their entirety. On the other hand, the city is still planning on financing the storm improvement project at 123/Fairfax Boulevard. I guess the costs for this go beyond what can be expected from a developer.
Douglas Stewart August 21, 2011 at 08:24 PM
That is good to hear that the developers are financing the internal street improvements. The master plan for making the Boulevard a. . . well. . . boulevard will obviously take a lot of money and there doesn't seem to be a revenue source for that, but it's still early. And maybe the bigger thing to be concerned about is that they don't widen the Boulevard to make it uncrossable on foot and ignore the whole master plan vision in the first place.


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