Mason District is blessed with two county-designated revitalization areas – Annandale and Bailey’s Crossroads/Seven Corners. As with many older commercial areas in our region, demographic shifts, new business trends, and changing customer demands mean that the business community, including corporate offices elsewhere, constantly is seeking ways to improve and stabilize the tenant base, maximize profits, and keep up with the competition. This process is not new but, by virtue of its location inside the Beltway, Mason District is attracting a lot of attention, and the potential for significant private investment, in coming years.
Every parcel of land in Fairfax County, whether a quarter-acre or hundreds of acres, is classified by its zoning category – residential (R), commercial (C), or industrial (I) – which governs how it may be developed. Within each category are density calculations: R-2, for example, means that the property may be developed with two houses to the acre. The C and I classifications also include the kinds of office, retail, or industrial uses that are deemed appropriate for the zoning category. Sometimes, the uses are no longer compatible, or the parcels are in decline, and the opportunity for a Comprehensive Plan (Comp Plan) change manifests itself. The Comp Plan is a guide for future use and development; when the Comp Plan language is outdated, or precludes sound land use planning, a Comp Plan Amendment may be proposed to allow new or different uses on the parcels.
For many years, Fairfax County conducted reviews of the Comp Plan every five years, lumping portions of the county into North and South for purposes of the review. But that approach does not provide the agility needed for decision making by business owners today. The pace is faster, and the investment dollars threaten to disappear if there is too much delay. That is not to say that decisions must be made hastily. The process for a Comp Plan change can be lengthy, and involves significant staff work, many community meetings and discussions and, in Mason District depending on location of the property, considerations by the Annandale Business District Planning Committee, the Bailey’s Crossroads/Route 7 Revitalization Corporation, and the Mason District Land Use Committee. Only then does the amendment move to public hearings and consideration by the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. If a rezoning is required to implement the Comp Plan requirements, that public process must come later, also necessitating the schedule outlined above.
Currently, several properties in Mason District are going through the Comp Plan or rezoning process. Last week, the Board of Supervisors approved a Comp Plan amendment for the SE Quadrant along Columbia Pike which would add an option for a possible new elementary school. Another amendment is proposed to permit redevelopment of the office building at 5600 Columbia Pike into housing. The lengthy Seven Corners study is nearing completion, which will provide recommendations for new Comp Plan language this spring. Stay tuned…
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]