Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

prenny-fcnpThe long-debated Seven Corners Comprehensive Plan Amendment was adopted by the Board of Supervisors last week, by a vote of 8 to 1. More than three hours of testimony, both for and against the proposal, was heard by the board, and there was another hour of debate among board members, before the final vote was taken about 12:05 a.m. on Wednesday. The vote followed more than three years of work, involving more than 85 public meetings (not counting the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors public hearings) by a task force, work groups, community members, and county staff. The public meetings even included charrettes and a bus tour.

At Tuesday’s meeting (it still was Tuesday when debate started), more specific language for building an elementary school was added, either at Willston or elsewhere in the area, unless the school system advises that a school is not necessary. The amended language, along with a letter submitted by County Executive Ed Long and School Superintendent Karen Garza committing the county and schools to work together on future development of a school and county services on a five-acre site in Willston, provides more clarity in the plan.

Clarifying language for a 1-to-1 replacement of existing affordable units at 60 percent of the area median income or lower within the overall development area also was added. Potential residential density was reduced by 20 percent for Area B (Seven Corners Shopping Center), as requested by an independent citizen group that reviewed the proposal. A series of follow-on motions addressed transportation analysis and future improvements for the nightmarish Seven Corners intersections. Funding timelines were requested in the motion, and preliminary information is expected sometime this fall.

Seven Corners/Willston was a brand new concept in retail in the 1940s and 50s, but housing stock has aged, and the commercial areas are little changed from when the shopping center opened in 1956 with Woodies and Garfinckels as anchor stores. The stable residential neighborhoods nearby are preserved and protected, but much of the mid-century model needs to change to attract residents and businesses – those moving here in the next 30 to 40 years. That is what is envisioned in the adopted Comprehensive Plan Amendment.

There were a number of common themes throughout the testimony, and most were addressed in the final language. Affordable housing units are not being displaced; in fact, the plan permits more affordable and workforce housing. The county also will undertake a review of its affordable housing policies. Transportation is addressed in detail, a stronger provision for school use is included, and density is reduced from the original language, both in Areas B and C.

Most any redevelopment depends on the commercial property owners and developers whose reinvestment in the community will require them to construct many of the transportation improvements. The increased value of their redeveloped properties also will provide revenue for other projects in the community. This part of the long and thoughtful public process that started more than three years ago is complete. Next steps are up to the property owners, and those will be subject to an equally thoughtful public process.


 Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov.