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-- How We Got Here --
Developing quality communities requires meaningful input from residents and a willingness from Fairfax County to incorporate this input into the decision-making process.
We all want thriving communities and sustainable development. We recognize the need for change. But residents most affected by decisions that Fairfax County makes should have a seat at the table in order to ensure that the perspective of residents is given the priority it deserves in the decision-making process.
We live here and understand the challenges Fairfax County faced recovering from the Great Recession and the impact the subsequent Sequestration had on our local economy. In 2012, to address declining tax revenues and a slowdown of development, county officials led efforts to increase revenue by "streamlining" the land use process for the purpose of increasing development -- and the fees associated with it -- that had all but come to a stop. In 2015 Fairfax County commissioned The Gartner Report. Resident input was completely inadequate given the scope of the proposed changes that resulted in total restructuring of the governing process that was implemented as a result of The Gartner Report. As result of the findings from this report -- which only sought input from developers -- the county hired more land use staff, significantly raised application fees capitalizing on the increased funds developers would pay for this "streamlining" process and restructured the entire county to accommodate the developers desire for unfettered development. On-going meetings between NVBIA & NAIOP continue today where staff are indoctrinated to issues like "Silent Supporters" (reference pages 4, 6& 11) where relatives, friends and staff of developers are encouraged to testify at public meetings to give the "impression" that not everyone in the community disagrees with a proposal, thereby minimizing the voice of residents. And this practice of minimizing public input has the full support of our Board of Supervisors against the interest of their constituents.
While the intent of this "vision" was admirable and driven by economic concern, the outcome resulted in minimizing public input and encouraging the land use staff to quickly approve applications. This has led to unsatisfactory decisions that should never have been approved or risen to the level of Planning Commission let alone the Board of Supervisors. The decision-making focus for Land Use and Environmental issues shifted from strategically planning communities with a focus on quality of life to streamlining development and cashing the checks.
Furthermore, this process has left residents with little recourse, since many developers have already been dealing with the relevant District Supervisor, sometimes years before news of the Land Use issues have reached the impacted community. HOA's/CAs and concerned residents are then left scurrying around, trying to get up to speed on the issues in an extremely short period of time, while still being responsible for their own individual lives and careers. The Land Use issues come in all shapes and sizes and could include a house with massive square footage not reflecting the character of the entire community, a shared lot line where existing residents are concerned about preserving mature trees on their own land, or an entirely new development impacting an RPA or a floodplain. All of these types or issues take significant time to understand and discuss. Due to Fairfax County "streamlining" the decision-making process residents no longer have the time necessary to give knowledgeable input on these issues which greatly affect their communities.
The members of ACT4Fairfax believe that we should be working with elected officials and county staff on issues such as those mentioned above. We think that residents of a community have the greatest insight into the needs of their community. Many of our members already serve on HOA's/CA's, District Councils, Land Use Committees, Environmental Groups or are active in our community in other ways and recognize the need for change but we believe we should be working with staff rather than relying on them to make those decisions for us.
We want development that respects our environment, enhances our communities, encourages diversity, and engages all stakeholders for better decision-making.
We need your voice at the table!
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