Beliefs and opinions about managing growth in Fairfax County are good, but facts and carefully drawn plans that work are better. That is where opponents of the transit-oriented, mixed-use redevelopment at Metro stations miss the mark. And that is where county decision makers have to concentrate despite the misinformation.
First, decisions about land use, transportation and the environment are not made in isolation in Fairfax County, even though individual projects are required to seek approval one at a time.
County policy plans, for example, include Land Use Objective 12(a), which says, "Concentrate the highest level of development intensity in areas of transportation advantage; i.e., the Tysons Corner Urban Center, cores of suburban centers, and transit station areas."
In addition, Transportation Objective 10 (1) says, "Encourage relatively high-density residential development in mixed-use centers to promote walking trips, enable more efficient transit service and to reduce single-occupant vehicle use." Planners work from those guidelines.
Second, careful studies and preparation are made to accommodate growth and impact that occur through redevelopment of properties, such as Metro West at the Vienna-Fairfax-GMU Metro station. Fairfax County schools have surveyed the higher-density Hunters Branch and Virginia Center communities near Vienna Metro and found they generate fewer students per unit than the county average.
Expansion of elementary and middle school capacity in the area already has been approved. A site for a new elementary school, if needed in the future, already is reserved in the space between the Stonehurst and Circle Towers developments.
Another example of planning is Metro capacity. The Metro board in October is scheduled to approve the purchase of 120 new rail cars. Fairfax voters will have the opportunity to approve transportation bonds Nov. 2 that include $110 million for the county's share of Metro's capital program, including purchasing new rail cars and buses.
Contrary to published reports, Metro West is prepared to accommodate all storm water on its own property. County planners did ask project designers to consider a regional storm water management pond on existing parkland earlier in the process, to stem erosion of the Hatmark Branch stream valley in the park from storm water runoff from acreage north of Interstate 66. But there are questions to be resolved outside the contours of the Metro West project area.
The facts on how to implement transit-oriented, mixed-use redevelopment in a walkable community are available at www.MetroWestVA.com and from reports of the Planning and Zoning Department staff and a citizens working group that weighed the trade-offs.
Discussion from this point forward really should proceed from these facts, not rhetoric. We are continuing to work with surrounding communities and county officials to make this a model project with great benefits for everyone.
A week ago, Fairfax Extra published a guest column by two opponents of a proposed development near the Vienna Metro station called Metro West. Today, the project's builder, Pulte Homes Inc., responds with this column by Stanley F. Settle Jr., vice president of land acquisitions.