The more-than-three-year saga for amending the county’s Comprehensive Plan (Comp Plan) for the Seven Corners/Willston area took another step forward last week when the Fairfax County Planning Commission approved, unanimously, Planning Commissioner Julie Strandlie’s motions to recommend revised Plan Amendment language to the Board of Supervisors. The effort really began in November 2011, when I asked Planning and Zoning Director Fred Selden if a budget and staff could be assembled for a study of the area and a plan review. This first step was based on many requests from area residents to “do something about Seven Corners!”
A survey of existing conditions was prepared in the spring of 2012 and, that May, the first visioning exercise was held, attended by 140 people. A subsequent meeting was held in June; both meetings had interpretation for Spanish and Vietnamese speakers. Following the sessions, which documented many good ideas for future uses and amenities, I appointed a Task Force of residents and commercial property owners/managers, who spent two years working on recommendations for the long-term future of the area. At the same time, I asked interested residents to participate in two work groups, Connectivity and Quality of Life, and make recommendations for potential projects that could be accomplished in a shorter time frame. In all, more than 85 public meetings were conducted during the development of the plan language.
The Seven Corners/Willston Task Force offered recommendations for Opportunity Area A (Willston) and B (Seven Corners Shopping Center), but could not come to consensus on Opportunity Area C, also known as the Sears site. Last fall, I asked nearby citizen associations to appoint members to a Special Working Group (SWG) whose task was to review Opportunity Area C and try to agree on recommendations. The SWG held several public meetings and released their unanimous recommendations in February. Subsequently, another group of citizens asked to do their own independent review of Areas A and B. All of those meetings also were conducted in public.
In her prepared remarks last week, Commissioner Strandlie said that the Comp Plan amendments offer a solid plan for spurring redevelopment of the Seven Corners/Willston area, according to smart growth principles. The language reduces density in Area B by 20 percent and reduces the buffer zone in Area C as recommended by the independent group. The Planning Commission also recommended that the county undertake a review of affordable housing policies. A series of follow-on motions to address transportation was adopted, as well as a recommendation for citizen appointees from Fairfax County and the City of Falls Church to a future Implementation Committee.
Also announced at the Planning Commission meeting was a commitment between Fairfax County and Fairfax County Public Schools to work together on future development of the existing Willston Multicultural Center. The initial concept, created by School Board member Sandy Evans and me, includes an urban style elementary school, a second building that would house the Seven Corners Day Care Center, the Willston Multicultural Center, other services for the community, and a parking deck topped by a playing field.
The Board of Supervisors’ public hearing will be held on Tuesday, July 28, at 4:30 p.m., at the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway in Fairfax. The hearing will be televised live on cable Channel 16.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at email@example.com.