Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church


Why was Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe smashing walnuts in his stately Richmond conference room this week? The answer is simple, yet intriguing. September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and the governor’s action came after he signed a proclamation and announced that the Governor’s Mansion would be bathed in gold light, the signature color of childhood cancer awareness. He also took the opportunity to discuss health care, and the need for Virginia to expand its participation in Medicaid, so that 200,000 more Virginia residents would have access to health care.

Attending the proclamation were parents and families of young cancer victims. Ellen Miller’s daughter, Gabriella, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, the size of a walnut. To help Gabriella and others understand and fight back, Ellen gathered walnuts on their Loudoun County deck, and Gabriella smashed them with a frying pan, symbolically destroying the tumor. Sadly, Gabriella died at the tender age of 10 after a year-long battle. But Smashing Walnuts, the foundation she and her parents started, to raise money for research and a cure, endures. Cancer kills more children than any other disease in the U.S. Children’s brain tumors are not the same as brain tumors in adults, and require specific research and different treatments. When the governor was asked by Ellen if he’d like to smash some walnuts, remembering Gabriella’s struggle, his was an enthusiastic reply. I suspect that Capitol staff were picking up walnut shells the rest of the day!

Draft language for a proposed Zoning Ordinance Amendment for the PDC/PRM (Planned Development Commercial and Planned Development Residential Mixed Use) Districts and Revitalization and Redevelopment Areas was circulated by county staff last month, with comments due tomorrow. The draft language applies to the county’s Zoning Ordinance (ZO), and would provide the implementation tools necessary to achieve the recommendations of the County’s Comprehensive Plan (Comp Plan). There have been a number of Comp Plan amendments, including Seven Corners, adopted in areas across the county, but many of those plan changes cannot be implemented without a change to the ZO language.

Changes to the Zoning Ordinance do not override the language of the Comprehensive Plan. Previously adopted Comp Plan recommendations are not being changed as part of the proposed draft language. Actual development of any specific location in the county is constrained by the local area’s Comp Plan language. For instance, the extension of the Silver Line in Reston is governed by the Comp Plan for that area, but that long-awaited development cannot be achieved without ZO language changes. However, a change to the Reston Comp Plan does not affect other area Comp Plans. No re-zoning in Seven Corners would be approved above the density levels called for in the Seven Corners Area Plan. Nor would the elements supported by the community and recently adopted in the Seven Corners Plan – green space, parks, buffer areas, transportation improvements, and provision for a school – be overridden by changes to the Zoning Ordinance. The Comp Plan governs redevelopment opportunities, the Zoning Ordinance provides the tools for those willing to invest in the Comp Plan vision. The rigorous public process for community review and input on any rezoning is unchanged. Making sure that all those elements work together, and are correctly acknowledged and implemented, is a responsibility I take seriously.


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


  • Penny Gross

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