For more than a year, county staff and the Board’s Economic Advisory Commission (EAC) have been working on a strategic plan to facilitate the economic success of Fairfax County. The EAC was created several years ago to provide an opportunity for Board members and appointed business leaders from all sectors to identify common ground, opportunities, and gaps on long-term issues crucial to the county’s economic success. Working together, the Board and the business community can have sometimes difficult discussions about shared goals, identify challenges, and immediately assign the right people – from county staff and the business community – to seek resolution.
Generally, most discussions end in agreement to move forward. The business community and county goals have more fully aligned over the years as we all seek to further diversify our economy, create a place where people want to be, and increase economic success through education and social equity. On the county side, the business community would like the speed, consistency, and predictability of the development review process to be improved. Ben Franklin’s warning that “time is money” certainly is true here. The longer it takes for a site or building plan to be reviewed and approved by county staff, the longer before that project will start generating revenue for the county tax base. In this effort, it will be necessary to increase the agility of county government to be responsive to industry needs.
This is not to say that approval should be cursory or hasty. Oversight must be rigorous, but not delayed unreasonably. While the approval process for Rezonings and Special Exceptions by the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors may take months or years, many plans and projects require only technical review by county planners and engineers. If a proposal is well-staffed on both sides – the business entity and the county – completion of the technical approval process and issuance of permits should be timely; this is one of the goals of the draft strategic plan considered by the EAC on Tuesday.
The draft plan also recommends improvements to the Zoning Ordinance and the Public Facilities Manual. Of some interest is a suggestion that the process for amending the county’s Comprehensive Plan should be streamlined. The old 1980s approaches are outdated; development opportunities move at a much faster pace now, and need to be captured more quickly if improvements are to be implemented.
Of specific interest to Mason District residents might be the idea of 20 Minute Neighborhoods, a concept outlined in the draft plan that would bring housing options and jobs together with high capacity transit. You could get from home to work in 20 minutes or less, dining and shopping in the same time frame, etc. The draft plan also noted that neighborhoods could be highlighted for their existing charms – Annandale as a “foodie” hub; Mosaic and Reston as arts hubs, for example.
The draft plan will be presented to the Board on Jan. 27, with a vote scheduled for March 3. To review the draft plan, log on to
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]