The work of the Seven Corners Land Use and Transportation Task Force is nearing its close, and I was pleased to provide an update to the Falls Church City Council on Monday evening. Following are my remarks, abridged to fit the column.
For many years, my constituents – both residential and business – have voiced concerns about the Seven Corners/Willston area. Housing stock was aging, retail markets were changing, and transportation was a mess. Little reinvestment was being made in the multi-family housing areas, most of which were built in the late 1940s and ‘50s; the department stores that formed the foundation of the shopping areas departed from the Seven Corners area which, like many communities, became the victim of corporate business decisions made elsewhere. And transportation still was a mess.
At the same time, we know the area is still growing. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments data forecasts 1.6 million more residents in the region by 2040, and hundreds-of-thousands more jobs, both new and replacing retirees, in the same time frame. For Seven Corners/Willston to remain a vibrant and attractive area to live, work, and do business, and not be left behind in the coming decades, the county’s Comprehensive Plan needed new language to guide future redevelopment. In Fairfax County, the Comp Plan is a guide to future land use; it does not rezone properties. That is a separate process.
In May and June of 2012, I hosted two community Visioning Exercises that essentially performed a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of the area. The community meetings were very well-attended, and many strengths were identified – convenient location, accessible transportation, diversity, broad range of housing stock and retail options, history, and sense of community. Challenges and areas for improvement also were identified – aging buildings, poor traffic circulation, pedestrian and bicycle safety, need for more green space, and general appearance concerns.
A Task Force, of both residents and business owners/managers, has spent the past two years analyzing conditions, identifying opportunities, looking at best practices, and preparing recommendations for consideration by Fairfax County’s Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. It has been a very public process, with well-attended monthly meetings, robust discussions, and lots of public input. Falls Church City staff have been involved, and helpful, during these two years of work by the Task Force, and I appreciate that.
While none of the redevelopment recommendations will involve land in Falls Church City, we know that the transportation network under discussion can have implications for the city and its residents. As I discussed with Mayor Tarter and Vice Mayor Snyder earlier this month, more transit would benefit both our jurisdictions. The proposals under consideration would create a grid of streets for Seven Corners/Willston, diffusing trips and increasing local connectivity – for your constituents as well as mine. None of the proposals is final; the timeline was extended to allow for some extra meetings to consider public input. The Task Force is charged with bringing forward its recommendations for Comp Plan language amendments, and I want to thank the Task Force, both residential and business members, for volunteering more than two years of hard work to get to this point.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]