John T. (Til) Hazel Jr., 55, is the senior partner in the law firm of Hazel, Beckhorn and Hanes, and is a principal of the Hazel/Peterson real estate development companies. As a zoning lawyer and developer, he may very well have done more to shape Fairfax County than any public official. The interview was conducted by Albert B. Crenshaw.
Q: How long have you lived in Fairfax and what did it used to be like?
A: I had been here as a kid and I'd been here as a farmer since 1940 . . . .When I came back to Fairfax in 1957 after college, law school and military service it was an area still with substantial dairy farms and truck farms. Development was essentially isolated in the eastern edge around Annandale and down in the U.S. 1 corridor. And there was no Beltway, although it was in the planning process. And there was no Interstate 66, although it was in a little more remote planning process . . .
There was very little major zoning of the sophisticated type we know today. And teh big arguments were whether quarter-acre lots were going to be allowed on areas that were then zoned one acre.
There was an awareness and there were some master plans, but they were not coordinated on a county-wide basis. The county was so undeveloped that you could have a Bailey's Crossroads plan and a McLean plan or an Annandale plan and . . . there was enough undeveloped open land between those centers that they didn't have to be together.
Q: You didn't come to Fairfax with a view of -- or did you? -- it's being a coming area?
A: Oh yeah. I came because it looked like an area that at the end of 25 years I would be interested in . . . Most of the growth . . . in Northern Virginia then was basically residential. The only growth other than residential was whatever little neighborhood support services you needed -- a shopping center, a few things like that.
Q: But there were objections to growth and the idea of no-growth . . .
A: No-growth didn't really come until the late '60s. The '50s decade was "build a schoolroom a day, solve the sewer problem, solve the water problem, put more police on, expand things along the way." One thing that didn't get expanded or even planned for out here was roads. And roads began, even then, to choke . . .
So it was in the late '60s that not only in Fairfax but nationally people began to hear words like ecology and environment and all that stuff. And I can almost sense the days and the months in which those things happened. And I would say that by '70 and '71, the no-growth movement was suring. And it was kind of a no-nothingism . . . The election in '71 was really a flip, becaus a board of puplist types that were sort of around trying to do things in a disjointed way was supplanted by a board that said "Stop. No growth."
And then from '72 to '76 was the real flat-out uproar. "No growth" against "keep things open, build some sewer plants, get rid of the sewer moratorium, do some planning and let's move."
In '76 the board flipped again . . . And within a year, the sewer moratoriums had gone, the county was saying that we've got a 92 percent residential tax base, we've got to do something about development . . . They spent most of '77 to '80 planning things. And it's only been in the last three years that this has come together and the place has really taken off.
Q: Obviously there were other forces that propelled this development. A big change in the tax law . . .
A: the change in tax law. But I think the principal forces were of a regional nature.
Q: I'd like to return to a point you made earlier, comparing Montgomery and Fairfax a little bit. Montgomery has something of a reputation of having a strong planning office and sometimes invidious comparisons are drawn with Fairfax, yet they seem to have plenty traffic jams.
A: Well I think Montgomery County has had a far less cohesive plan. I think that it has had much more spastic growth. I think Montgomery County has had periods where they shut growth down. I think Montgomery County, if I had some way to gauge it, and you were talking about what I consdier disruptive citizen involvement -- and it can be very disruptive just like developers can be disruptive -- I think that Montgomery County has been far more disrupted by volatile citizen involvement than Fairfax has.
The Virginia courts are often criticized for being developer-oriented courts. I don't beliee that for a minute. But I htink the Virginia courts have provided a forum that's helped stabilize things.
In Montgomery County the courts basically didn't get involved in anything in the development business . . . The swings of the pendulum there were more erratic and when they swung sometimes they created some instability . . . They'd swing in the favor of growth and they'd go to Germantown with NIH, but then they wouldn't flesh out the structure . . . as a result, although Montgomery County is alwas talking about how many planners they've got and how much control they've got, I don't think that it was the same constructive progress.