The homepage for City of Fairfax Councilman Dan Drummond
Drummond for Council
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Responses to Your Questions: Downtown, Economic Development and Our Environment
The Patch.com has some more responses from us candidates to questions posed by the City of Fairfax Citizens for Smarter Growth. Check them out here.
And below are my direct responses to questions:
The redevelopment of Fairfax Boulevard is critical to the city’s future. Following are candidate responses to questions on the redevelopment of Fairfax Boulevard and the development review process.
In 2007 the Fairfax Boulevard Business Improvement District and the city organized broad public outreach resulting in the Fairfax Boulevard Master Plan, which calls for transforming the Boulevard from an auto-oriented road with strip shopping centers to a mixed-use pedestrian-friendly street with higher densities that are necessary to attract development and create a critical mass of activity.
The Master Plan Vision and Summary Document, adopted by the City as a consensus document in 2008, envisions pedestrian-friendly mixed-use environments for the three centers of Kamp Washington, Northfax and Fairfax Circle. The plan also calls for making transportation improvements on Fairfax Boulevard that would make the street easier and safer for pedestrians to cross and walk along, and easier and safer for bicycle travel.
The land use development process in the City lacks a basis in a strong guiding plan. Under these conditions, the City could easily lose opportunities for redevelopment to other jurisdictions, such as nearby community revitalization areas in Fairfax County, where approvals and financing for redevelopment are expedited.
Do you support the Master Plan Vision and Summary? Yes
Do you support modifying the city's zoning code to support the Fairfax Boulevard Master Plan? Yes
Please write below any comments you would like to make about the redevelopment of Fairfax Boulevard.
Fairfax Boulevard is the economic backbone of the City of Fairfax. Along with our downtown, Fairfax Boulevard and its business community are partners in the success of our City. One reason our taxes and fees are low in the City – and that we can provide high quality services – is that more than 54 percent of our real estate tax base is commercial. That creates more balance, keeps residents’ taxes low and supports a strong economy. To keep this going we need to redevelop Fairfax Boulevard in a smart, responsible and sustainable way. My principles for doing this include:
Protecting and preserving our existing residential neighborhoods, including finding ways to prevent cut through traffic and ensuring people can get out of their neighborhoods easily and safely;
Support responsible commercial development that attracts high-quality tenants for retail and dining, including mixed-use projects; and
Identifying solutions that provide housing choices for those looking to move to the City of Fairfax and those who have lived here for years but no longer need a single family home.
Would you support a more predictable and consistent process for reviewing development proposals? Yes
Please provide your ideas for how the land use development process in the City could be improved.
A lack of certainty – knowing what to expect and when to expect it – can deter any business from establishing in a locality. This certainly goes for developers who are looking to invest and build in the City. We have a great staff at City Hall who are experienced and have a great knowledge of land use. What we don’t have are policies in place that provide better guidance for staff and certainty for those who are looking to provide redevelopment solutions to the City. We need a wholesale review of our zoning ordinances, policies and procedures to ensure that they are up-to-date, reflect the desires of the community and provide a better level of certainty for developers and businesses so that they are more willing to come to the City of Fairfax, creating new opportunities to shop, dine, live and support new jobs in the process.
Old Town Fairfax has improved significantly, with the addition of a first-class library and new retail businesses thanks to the Old Town redevelopment projects. However, many new ventures in Old Town have closed and the area is still not a significant destination for residents in or around the City.
How would you work to make Old Town a more attractive destination during the next two years?
Our Old Town is the heart of our City. It’s what makes it distinctive from other jurisdictions in Northern Virginia and provides unique opportunities for shopping and dining. However, it is still a work in progress and more can and should be done to support our existing businesses and attract new ones. While the downtown area is 85 percent filled, there are certain amenities such as a movie theater for example, that residents have been clamoring for. To that end I propose that we work with the property owner of the Courthouse Plaza shopping center to create a new mixed use project that will include a movie theater, new grocery store and other amenities. While not in our downtown directly it could be part of our Old Town transition district given its proximity to the library and other shops. We should also look to holding more downtown events to attract people, participate in the regional bike share program and support a new marketing campaign that will promote the City to the region and around the Commonwealth.
Stormwater management is becoming a very critical issue for our community as well as others. We will need to devise ways to pay for stormwater management and reduce stormwater runoff.
Water use and its treatment have many environmental and economic repercussions. According to the projections in the draft Northern Virginia Regional Water Supply Plan, the City's water supply may be insufficient to meet demand by 2038. Except during drought conditions, the City does not currently limit or even encourage reducing home lawn irrigation, car washing, etc, causing significant and harmful runoff into our streams.
The Connection Newspaper conducted a separate survey which addressed the potential to sell the city’s water supply services. Responses to the entire Connection survey can be found here.
Would you support amendments to the zoning ordinance to reduce stormwater runoff by promoting low impact development?
How do you plan to fund stormwater projects?
The City of Fairfax has a long history of being leader in environmental sustainability, including supporting initiatives that will lower the impact of development. I certainly would be supportive of additional policies to help reduce stormwater runoff and better protect our watershed and natural resources.
Would you support policies to encourage reduced water use?
Please provide below your ideas on this issue. What policies would you bring forward to encourage reduced water use?
Overall, water is a complex issue that we will be wrestling with over the next two years. I certainly would be supportive of policies that would encourage voluntary reductions in water use, including education campaigns. I also think we should look at revising our water pricing structure so that it could be tiered meaning that the more you use the more you pay, but conversely those who use less would pay less.
The City of Fairfax has an established recycling program and citizens are able to recycle many products at the Fairfax County facilities. There is an economic and environmental value in improving our rate of recycling and expanding our capability, and a parallel imperative to reduce the amount of garbage produced annually.
Plastic bags have become a very large pollution problem worldwide. Local creek cleanup groups can attest to the quantity of plastic bags in our streams alone, not to mention the downstream impact on the Potomac and Bay. Very few bags make it into recycling programs, and the reality is the type of plastic used is in low demand by manufacturers. Many jurisdictions have reduced the environmental impact of plastic bags by instituting programs that incentivize the use of reusable bags. The City of Fairfax could be a leader among Virginia municipalities by creating a reusable bag program.
How would you encourage the use of reusable bags?
Virginia limits localities in its ability to regulate such as things the use of plastic bags (i.e., imposing a fee/tax such as what Washington, D.C. does). However, I would certainly be supportive of any sort of public-private partnerships with local businesses to encourage the use of reusable bags.
How will you improve recycling in the City? In what ways can the City reduce its annual tonnage of waste?
We have seen recycling rates steadily increase since the Council in 2008 put an emphasis on increasing our recycling efforts among businesses and residents alike, with a stated goal of having the highest recycling rates in the Commonwealth. I was proud to support this initiative and will continue to support ongoing attempts at reducing the amount of garbage we produce while simultaneously increasing recyclables. One such way we can do this is by looking to provide residents and businesses larger capacity recycling bins, which may encourage people to put more items into recycling.
Although much of our land has been developed, the City of Fairfax still has some natural areas including riparian stream areas and forested land that are home to native flora and fauna. The City of Fairfax also has a mature tree canopy. These natural resources, both publicly and privately owned, are vulnerable to degradation and even destruction without active preservation efforts.
How will you protect these important resources?
Through the voter-approved open space initiative of the early 2000s, which dedicated 5 cents of the real estate tax rate to preserving open space, the City has bought and protected more than 44 acres of open space. Ten percent of our 6.3 square miles is also dedicated to parks and open space. And we remain a Tree City USA locality. I also supported the demolition of the Westmore school property, which expands existing open space and lays the groundwork for a park in a region of the City that is in need of more parks and open space. We have a duty to preserve and enhance these resources and I will continue to support efforts that do just that.