See Consultant's Final Hunter Mill Vision Report :

 

http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpz/huntermill/communityinput/

 

 

HMDL Proposed Revisions to the CirclePoint Draft #3 Vision Report

(See Tracked Changes In Text)

Introduction

This Vision Report is the result of an eight-week public engagement process initiated by the Hunter Mill Road Area Special Study Task Force and the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning. In September 2005, CirclePoint was hired to create a forum to elicit

comments from the public on the future of a Special Study Area, created by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, and to convey that information to the Task Force. The primary goal has been to establish the preferred future use of the Special Study Area.

This Vision Report accomplishes two things:

1. Communicates the comments, sentiments and any priorities of the Hunter Mill Road area residents and other stakeholders with regard to the Special Study Area.

2.            Outlines issues based on the public comments and suggests overarching issues that the Task Force might consider as it develops recommendations.

This Vision Report does not include recommendations from the consultant team on what the Task Force, Planning Commission or Board ultimately should do about the study area, although many public comments received during the process do.

This document is organized into eight sections, plus an Appendix with supporting documents and materials. The sections are:

Section 1:            Introduction outlines the report.

Section 2:           Executive Summary provides the highlights of the community visioning process.

Section 3:           Project Background describes the purpose, special study area, task force, community visioning process and key activities.

Section 4:           Public Comments include discussion of the comment gathering process,

comment overview, overarching issues, decision making, participation topic areas

and challenges.

Section 5:           Stakeholder Participation reporting for the community visioning process, community visioning workshop, focus groups and open house.

Section 6:           Community Visioning Workshop includes its purpose, implementation, facilitator

recruitment, selection and responsibilities, breakout groups, and workshop

assessment and implementation.

 

Section 7: Focus Groups section has a purpose statement, a summary of the Business Focus Group and focus group evaluation and assessment.

Section 8:           Open House section discussion includes the purpose, implementation and assessment.

Appendices include comment compilations, meeting evaluations and outreach materials.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Executive Summary

Fairfax County, Virginia is a rapidly growing area in the Washington, DC metropolitan region. For several years, residents, the development community and government leaders have been unable to reach an agreement about what to do with approximately 300 acres in the Hunter Mill Road area, which is currently designated by the Comprehensive Plan as an area for low-density

residential development. The Board of Supervisors is attempting to guide the broader community toward consensus about their vision for the area. [Alternative language:  “The Board of Supervisors is providing a forum and structure that stakeholders can utilize to determine if a consensus vision for future development exists.”]In September 2005, Hunter Mill Road Area Special Study Task and Department of Planning and Zoning in Fairfax County, Virginia, launched a public engagement process with a community visioning process as the focal point.

This is a report of the process. Over the past eight weeks, several hundred residents have

 

become passionately engaged around this issue and at October 1 Visioning Workshop forged a consensus statement that stated the community prefers no change in the low-density designation and other policies for their community in the current Comprehensive Plan. The Task Force will use the report as they develop a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission.

In the visioning exercise, focus groups, written comments and statements in public meetings

people consistently communicated a very strong near unanimous preference for no change in the current Comprehensive Plan. Therefore:

“Given the frequency of the sentiment and large degree of participation in the community visioning process by residents in the Hunter Mill Road corridor, a clear consensus has emerged that residents in the corridor prefer no change in the current Comprehensive Plan land use designations in the Hunter Mill

Road area.” (October 2005)

 

Project Background

In recent years, a number of Since 1985, during each plan review cycle, numerous proposals to amend the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan for the Hunter Mill Road area have been submitted to the Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ). The majorityAll of these nominations have been denied in favor of retaining the Comprehensive

Plan’s fundamental concept of a low-density residential buffer zone separating the economic development centers of Tysons Corner and Reston. During the 2004 North County Area Plans Review (APR) process, DPZ received four additional proposals for amending the Plan.  In scope and scale, these proposals mirrored previous attempts to change the Plan.    In this plan review cycle, and over the strenuous objections of the established residential community, the Board of Supervisors decided to depart from the established review process.  The extent of the area affected and character of the proposals raised concern among the DPZ staff that the normal process for considering proposed changes to the plan might not allow for broader identification and evaluation of issues in the Hunter Mill Road area.

Under normal circumstances, the Area Plan Review (APR) process provides the opportunity for

the public to submit nominations to the Planning Commission to consider amending specific recommendations for geographic areas identified in the Comprehensive Plan. Any member of the public may submit a nomination. During the APR process, nominations are reviewed by a task force appointed in each Supervisor district. This type of review is designed to evaluate nominations on an individual basis. Ultimately, action by the Board of Supervisors is required to amend the Comprehensive Plan.

The specific group of nominations for the Hunter Mill Road area involved a large area of approximately 250 acres, but did not include nearby areas of similarly located properties that would have been significantly impacted by any changes to the Comprehensive Plan. Staff also felt that it was necessary to consider the proposed Comprehensive Plan changes in the context of a more logical planning area than was represented by the nominations. The nominations also presented complex issues affecting land use options with regard to housing, schools, parks, transportation, public facilities, environmental and historical resources and other county systems and facilities. For these reasons, the DPZ planning staff recommended that the

nominations be considered as part of a special study of a larger area, defined and authorized by the Board of Supervisors. The study area was determined by the Board of Supervisors and was limited to 310 acres.  It did not include more than 300 additional acres of  similarly situated, intellectually indistinguishable, property to the north and east.   It is described below in detail.

The Board of Supervisors authorized a Special Study on March 21, 2005.   They appointed a joint Hunter Mill and Dranesville District Task Force with representatives from:

1.  the potentially impacted local residential community

2.  interest group advocates for county wide issues such as affordable housing, and

3.  development and related industries

 

A Task Force representing the Hunter Mill and Dranesville Districts was appointed by the Supervisors of each district.  

 

Special Study Area

What follows is the physical description of the study area boundaries as they were established by the Board of Supervisors, followed by a map. The study area comprises approximately 310 acres  located east and west of Hunter Mill Road near Sunset Hills Road and the Dulles Airport

 

Access Toll Road.

The portion west of Hunter Mill Road includes all of the parcels east of Lake Fairfax Business Park, south of Lake Fairfax Park and north of Sunset Hills Road, and the Virginia Department of Transportation maintenance yard located south of Sunset Hills Road.

Τhe portion east of Hunter Mill Road includes

the parcels located in the northeast quadrant of Sunset Hills Road and Hunter Mill Road, south of Crowell Road that are currently used as a golf park.

 


In the current Comprehensive Plan, the study area is designated for low-density residential uses. It is part of a fundamental element of the Plan, which separates the county’s economic development centers by low-density residential buffers.  The plan also recommendsexplicitly establishes a “line of demarcation” between  the use of a buffer to the separatethe low-density Equestrian Park subdivision from and higher-intensity industrial uses in at Lake Fairfax Business Park. The low-density residential area near Difficult Run is intended to preventpart of the buffer zone that prevents the higher intensitycommercial land uses in Tysons Corner and the town of Reston from merging. Over the past several yearstwenty-five years – since the Plan was first adopted, this policy has been supported byhad near-unanimous support of many residents in the Hunter Mill Road area and Reston, and has been reaffirmed by the Board of Supervisors, Planning Commission, DPZ staff and community leaders. Between 19971979 and 2001, nominations to amend the Comprehensive Plan that were



deemed incompatible with the existing land-use policy have been consistently denied. Most of those proposals sought to to abandon the low-density buffer concept by substantially increasing residentialincrease density and change the mix of land usesadding commercial and retail in the buffer zone.

Task Force

The Hunter Mill Road Area Special Study Task Force convened its first meeting on June 7, 2005.

 

According to the Task Force’s charter, its purpose is to consider the range of land use options for the study area and to develop consensus around a set of recommendations to present to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. The Task Force was asked to explore and analyze the short-and long-term impacts of the range of land use options, including but not limited to their potential effect on housing, schools, parks, transportation, public facilities, environmental and historical resources, and other county systems. The Task Force will then use this analysis to form recommendations. For making recommendations, the Task Force was directed to consider the geographic area designated by the Board of Supervisors. The charter does permit the Task Force to identify other affected areas or issues of concern, and may recommend follow-up by the Board of Supervisors or Planning Commission. If authorized by the Board, the Task Force may also study and make recommendations for a larger geographic area.

Community Visioning Process

An important stated goal of the Task Force is to hear from stakeholders. Stakeholders were defined by the Consultant to include residents and landowners from the Hunter Mill Road and surrounding area, commuters that use the roads, and employers and business owners in the area. A priority of the public engagement effort was to convene a series of public meetings during which stakeholders would establish reach consensus and propose a

 

preferred future use of the Special Study Area. The public meetings were completed by mid-October in order to fit within the established Task Force schedule.

To facilitate this process, the county issued an informal solicitation on July 25, 2005 for consulting services to develop and implement the public engagement process. The county specifically sought assistance in designing and implementing a community visioning process. The proposal deadline was August 8. CirclePoint, an environmental and communication


management consulting firm, submitted a response to the solicitation. County staff and representatives of the Task Force conducted candidate interviews during the week of August 15. CirclePoint was informed August 22 that is was selected as the contractor. The contract award was $29,990.

On September 7, CirclePoint presented a schedule and plan for the community visioning process and the delivery of the final report to the Task Force at a public meeting. At that meeting, the Task Force raised several questions and concerns about the plan and schedule. The public also

 

expressed a variety of questions and concerns. At the September 21 Task Force meeting, CirclePoint presented a revised final plan and timeline that responded to most of the questions and concerns. Key milestones in the plan included:

 

Date

Activity

October 1

Visioning Workshop

October 17

Follow-up Open House

November 4

Draft Vision Report available for Task Force and the public

November 9 D

Task Force discussion of the draft Vision Report #3

November 4-14

Public comment period on the Vision Report

November 23

Final Vision Report due to the Task Force

 

The community visioning process was designed to include a several opportunities for individuals and groups to share their ideas, concerns, and information. At the conclusion of the community visioning process, the Task Force is scheduled to continue to meet to consider what they have

learned from the community, and to develop recommendations to be presented to and the Board of Supervisors.


 

Key Activities

The public engagement process involved four key activities: 1) informal stakeholder meetings and interviews, 2) six stakeholder focus group discussions, 3) a visioning workshop, and 4) an open house. The following graphic illustrates how the public engagement process worked. The

 

graphic is followed by a detailed description of each key activity. The process was designed to convene diverse groups of stakeholders and provide as many people as possible the opportunity to learn from each other.

The informal stakeholder meetings and interviews were intended to outreach to the community and to begin informing people of the visioning process and for the consultant team to better understand the existing physical and political conditions in the community. The focus groups

 

were designed to engage small groups of stakeholders in conversations before the visioning workshop to provide the consultant team the opportunity to develop a clearer understanding of important issues of specific stakeholder groups. The focus groups were originally planned to include those groups or people who might not otherwise be expected to participate in the workshops, but were expanded to include other community entities, such as homeowners associations.

The visioning workshop was designed as the focal point of the engagement process. The event was organized in a format that included facilitated breakout groups so that it was possible in one afternoon to actively involve several hundred people in a discussion. The final event was an open house, which was designed to report to the public what had occurred at the workshop and to obtain feedback on the visioning process. The process is culminated in this Visioning Report, which documents the process for the larger public, Task Force and county leadership.

FOCUS GROUPS (6)

WRITTEN COMMENTS WEB-BASED COMMENTS

.                       Homeowner Assn •

.                                              Businesses

.                                              Faith Community

.                                              Schools

.                                              Land-use & Transportation

 



BREAKOUT SESSIONS WITH A MIX OF STAKEHOLDERS,
OCTOBER 17 ALL ADDRESSING THE SAME QUESTIONS

20-25 SEPARATE GROUPS, EACH WITH 10–15 MEMBERS

OPEN HOUSE

 

OPEN TO EVERYONE

TASK FORCE MEETING NOVEMBER 9

DRAFT FINAL

 

REPORT REPORT

Meetings and interviews PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD NOVEMBER 4–14

There were fewer than a dozen informal outreach meetings or interviews. Most conversations occurred on the telephone or as a side conversation during a Task Force meeting. They rarely exceeded 15 minutes in length.   The civic association in the Hunter Mill Corridor that has been the most active in land use issues for the past twenty-five years was neither invited nor permitted to participate in these meetings or interviews.

 

Focus Groups

Between September 28 and October 5, six stakeholder focus groups were convened. Each focus group met for one 90-minute facilitated telephone session. The focus group questions are included in Appendix A. The six focus groups held were:

1.                   1.            Homeowners

2.                  2.            Businesses and employers

3.                  3.            Pedestrian, bicyclists, and equestrians

4.                  4.            Faith communities

5.                  5.            School communities—selected elementary schools that are in the Madison school pyramid and that are closest to the subject area or are otherwise nearby

6.                  6.            County advisory boards and commissions

 

The civic association in the Hunter Mill Corridor that has been most active in land use issues for the past twenty-five years was neither invited nor permitted to participate in the focus groups.

 

Visioning Workshop

The October 1 Visioning Workshop was the focal point of the community visioning process. The workshop was structured and facilitated to manage the large number of participants and to ensure that everyone had an opportunity to contribute to the discussion. The meeting opened with a plenary session that included presentations on the current Comprehensive Plan, existing conditions, and potential impacts of land-use scenarios. Participants were then randomly assigned to breakout groups. The breakout sessions were led by volunteer facilitators from the community.

 

Open House

As a follow-up to the Visioning Workshop, a public Open House occurred on October 17. The purpose of the event was to provide the community with a preliminary summary of comments from the workshop and to provide an opportunity for the public to make comments on the visioning process. During most of the meeting, a microphone was available for participants to ask questions about the visioning process and make statements about the special study.

Public Comments

This report includes comments from the focus groups, visioning workshop and open house. It also includes as an appendix all written comments sent to CirclePoint and the Task Force that related to the community visioning process. The final version of this report will incorporate comments submitted between November 4 through 14 by the Task Force and the public that the Consultant deems useful in creating a final report that is an accurate reflection of the the visioning process as it was experienced by participants.  also Also, the final report shall include as an appendix any all comments submitted between November 4 through 14 by the Task Force and the public on the draft Vision Report.

 

The first portion of this section describes the comment gathering process and synthesizes the values, themes and visions gleaned from public comments in the October 1 Visioning Workshop and focus groups. With the exception of the business focus group, which is discussed in a subsequent section, the messages from participants in the Visioning Workshop and focus groups are nearly identical. The comments from the October 17 Open House are summarized separately. The summary of written comments can be found in the appendices.

The second portion of this section presents a detailed analysis and summary of comments in several topic areas. The topic areas coincide with the questions that were asked in the visioning workshop breakout groups:

•Values

.                      Envisioning

.                      •Employment

.                      •Walking, riding and biking

.                      •Transportation

.                      •Education

.                      •Environment

.                      •Housing

 

.                      Faith communities and community services

.                      •Land use

.                      •Themes

.                      •Visions

.                      •Strategies

.                      •Other

 

Comment Gathering Process

At the October 1 Visioning Workshop, facilitators and scribes were assigned to each breakout group and recorded more than 2,000 comments on flip charts. The facilitators were asked to indicate how many people agreed with an idea or shared a similar sentiment (e.g., 8x, 8 or 8 check marks means that 8 people agreed with the comment).  Unfortunately, participants reported that this process step of weighting comments was missing in some, if not many, breakout groups.  Additionally, 114 comment cards

were submitted during or immediately following the workshop. Forty-four written comments were submitted at the October 17 Open House. The written comments from the Visioning Workshop are summarized and included in Appendix B. The summary of written comments from the October 17 Open House is in Appendix C.

County staff transcribed the flip charts into a single electronic document. With the exception of correcting obvious misspellings, there was no attempt by the transcription team to edit the



comments. The unedited compilation of comments organized by breakout group can be found in Appendix B.

The comments were then reviewed by a member of the consultant team and organized into topic areas, which coincide with the questions in the visioning exercise. The reviewer then identified issues and themes that emerged in each topic area. Another member of the consultant team then reviewed the topic area issues and themes to verify that they were a rational reflection of the


comments. Some comments in the topic area summaries also include minor edits that complete sentences or phrases, correct misspellings and spell out abbreviations. This complete compilation can also be found in Appendix B.

Comment Overview

 

There were 15 questions in the visioning exercise and in nearly all groups, regardless of which



question was asked, at least one person and at times several people communicated a very strong preference for no change in the current Comprehensive Plan. Focus groups were asked similar questions and the public could include whatever they wished in their written comments, yet the comments were consistent. Therefore:

Given the frequency of the sentiment and large degree of participation by residents in the Hunter Mill Road corridor, a clear



 consensus has emerged that residents in the corridor prefer no change in the current Comprehensive Plan land use designations in the Hunter Mill Road area.

 

While no change in the Comprehensive Plan was the prevalent message, residents made many other comments that elaborated on why the current Comprehensive Plan was important and what else needs to be addressed, or remain unchanged to maintain the quality of life and support the values of the residents in the Hunter Mill Road corridor. A small minority of attendees (approximately x%) expressed some interest in increasing residential density in the study area, or otherwise amending the Comprehensive Plan.

                    

Overarching Secondary Issues

Several secondary issues emerged from the consultant’s analysis of the topic areas. The issues fall into a number of categories that, taken together, suggest that there may be some priorities topics for citizens and local officials to think about in the context of the larger community:



 

Proactively addressing land use needs

.                              Changing and strengthening the public’s role in decision making

.                                    Strategically managing and leveraging growth in appropriate areas

.                                    Creating a range of housing options


 

Investing in public infrastructure

.                                    Creating new and upgrading existing recreational facilities

.                                    Focusing investment in public facilities

 

   Maintaining the quantity and quality of public services


 

Maintaining or enhancing the quality of life

.                                    Protecting neighborhood character

.                                    Preserving historic, community and cultural resources and institutions

.                                    Improving environmental resources and quality


 

Mitigating undesirable conditions

.                              Providing greater mobility and connectivity of the transportation system

.                                    Managing the consequences of business development and additional jobs

.                                    Addressing traffic congestion without needlessly expanding capacity

.                                    Making roads safer and accessible without exacerbating congestion

.                                    Preventing dense residential, commercial, industrial, and retail  development from encroaching on the adopted Plan’s long-standing residential buffer between Reston and Tysons Corner.low-density
neighborhoods
.

 



There are other notable observations. Some of the issues and answers focus specifically on the Hunter Mill Road area, such as traffic management at interchanges along Sunset Hills Road, traffic calming along Hunter Mill Road and providing better access and safety along the Washington and Old Dominion Trail. Other issues are focused on broader needs, such as the importance of regional recreational facilities, balancing housing withand adequate public facilities.  transportation needs and maintaining investments in schools.

Decision Making

There were many comments about the decision-making processes and public participation. Many of the comments suggest a high degree of fear and mistrust in the visioning process

specifically and in the decision-making processes generally. This sense of fear may be because if there is any negotiation to amend the density and allowable land uses in the Hunter Mill Road area, the potential outcomes are:

1.    Additional incremental changes that will ultimately require lead to further compromise and potentially undermine the community’s core values and create adverse affects on the quality of life in the

area.                                   

2.      A 2.        Nnegotiated agreement that   may not withstand changes in the elected leadership over time or when , renewed pressure is applied on elected leadership, for example,  to permit unplanned growth. accommodate growth.

This sense of fear may also exist because the elected officials who departed from the normal plan review process did so without prior meaningful collaboration with all of the key stakeholders – especially those whose homes and lives would be most affected.

 

Many comments make reference to: “the integrity of the plan,” “sought assurances that the plan would not change” because as one commenter stated: “that’s what we bought into.” In this case, the statement suggests that it is perceived that changes to the Plan could adversely affect property valuesquality of life in the established residential community.


More importantly, the concerns reflect frustration because many believe that the study is part of a recurring “visioning conversation” and that their concerns and positions have already been voiced but are not being heard or honored. Many participants felt that elected leadership has had not been visible enough or , attentive enough to their concerns, or representative of their interests.

Participation                                                      

The community visioning process was open to anyone. Over the course of a few weeks participation increased significantly. In comments during and after the workshop, as well as in written comments, many residents implied that the visioning workshop was the only opportunity they had to speak publicly about the special study. The public comments suggested that they needed more time to create a vision and encourage participation, and to make sure that more people knew about the process and were prepared to participate.



Steps were taken to create balanced representation in the process. The process was designed to get as much information as possible from participants. Workshop sign in sheets were analyzed to determine the addresses of all participants and demographic data was collected from participants in each breakout group. The residents accepted an open process but wanted some assurance that comments by Hunter Mill residents would carry more weight because they were directly impacted by the proposals.

Because of their mistrust of their elected officials ability to represent their clearly stated interests, There was also an impression with several residents thesome Hunter Mill Corridor residents had the impression that everything was a “done deal.” That explains why it may have been so difficult for people to participate in a visioning process that encourages people to look forward: in short, why bother? Under these circumstances, it is not



surprising that the Hunter Mill Road community, at least now, finds it is more important to articulate what is unacceptable and identify the things that they do not want. This dynamic, in turn, places the focus on the perceived points of contention and divergence of interests between the residents, elected officials and nominators. It is therefore much more difficult to find any common ground, which may exist among these groups.  

 

The residents who participated in the visioning process eagerly looked to the future and clearly articulated that they saw build-out in the Hunter Mill Corridor according to the adopted Comprehensive Plan.  Their vision appeared to frustrate  some facilitators in breakout groups, who were encouraging participants to envision land use changes in the area’s adopted Plan. 

 

 

Comment Topic Areas

A large percentage of the 2,000 comments from the Visioning Workshop related to issues affecting land use options with regard to housing, schools, parks, transportation, public facilities, environmental and historical resources and other county systems and facilities. However, the majority of comments communicate one primary message clearly: no change to the Comprehensive Plan. Still, comments suggested that there were certain aspects in the

 community that were important to improve.

 

It is important for the Task Force as they develop recommendations for the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors and to explore the broader set of topics that focus on the complex relationship of the issues and the context in which they are nested.

The 2,000 comments were reviewed and organized into categories corresponding to the 15 questions from the visioning exercise. Once they were organized, similar comments were then



grouped into topic areas. Finally, the various groups of the topics typically reflected a recurring thought or idea, so the consultant team created themes to succinctly summarize the topics. All topics were weighted equally, disregarding the fact that some were strongly supported and some were not supported by anyone except the person who offered it.  To facilitate a quick review, the section below includes only the topics and themes. The entire compilation of comments, topics and themes can be found in Appendix B.

 

Values

What are three things you value in the community that should not be changed?


 

Topic Areas:

.                      •Open space, parks and green space are important neighborhood amenities.

.                      •Maintain the rural character of Hunter Mill Road and surrounding area.

.                      •Maintain the buffer that separates low-and high-density land uses.

.•The existing Comprehensive Plan adequately addresses issues other than low-densities.

. 

Section 4 Public Comments

.                                 The integrity of the Comprehensive Plan should be protected.

.                                    There is no need to change the existing Comprehensive Plan policy.

.                                    Protect the high quality of the schools.

.                                    School district boundaries and pyramids should remain intact.

.                                    Manage school population to prevent overcrowding and increased classroom size.

.                                    Additional growth will exacerbate an existing problem with traffic congestion.

 

                      

.                              Traffic calming is important to slow traffic and to improve safety.

.                                    The neighborhood provides good access.

.                                    There is an awareness of the need for attention to transportation options.

.                                    Low-density residential development is an important reason why people come to and stay in the area.

.                                    There is a degree of satisfaction with housing options and mix.

.                                    Several physical characteristics contribute to the overall livability of the area.

 

.                              The natural environment and environmental quality adds to the richness of the area.

.                                    The community is stable and it offers the opportunity for people to build strong
communal relationships.

.                                    The area offers a degree of personal safety that must be maintained.

.                                    The character of the neighborhood had economic impacts and benefits.

.                                    Hunter Mill Road has historic value as a scenic byway.

 

Employment

What is it about employment and business-related issues that people in this area should consider as they look to the future?


 

Key Theme:

      The community does not want any new employment/business related growth.

Topic Areas:

.                                    Business growth would impact roads and cause congestion.

.                                    Business areas should be kept separate from residential areas.

.                                    Should consider telecommuting as an option for employment growth.

.                                    Business growth should be linked to public transit and the Metrorail stations.

.                                    Metrorail and public transit are not the answer to accommodating business growth.

.                                    Consider jobs/housing balance.

 

.                              Consider the accuracy of job growth forecasts.

.                                    Consider safety and security effects with increased business development.

.                                    Consider the needed infrastructure to support business growth.

.                                    Should consider regional perspective.

.                                    Consider education link to employment needs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Walking, riding and biking

What issues related to walking, horseback riding, bicycling and recreation are important to consider as people in this area look to the future?


 

Key Theme:

  

        Parks, recreational facilities and trails are valued by the community. Improvements in trails and facilities are needed and would benefit pedestrians, runners, equestrians, bicyclists and other recreational users.


 

Topic Areas:

.                                    Horse trails and facilities should be preserved and improved.

.                                    Need more and improved parks and recreational facilities.

 

.                              Need trail improvements for bikes, pedestrians, runners and other users.

.                                    Need easier access and greater connectivity to trails.

.                                    Need improvements to the Washington and Old Dominion Trail.

.                                    Preserve the rural character of area.

.                                    Consider funding options for trail and recreation improvements.

.                                    Need improved access to Lake Fairfax Park.

.                                    The current Hunter Mill Corridor population is underserved by existing recreational facilities are currently underserved.

 

.                              Adhere to the improvements specified in the existing Comprehensive Plan.

.                                    Should look at the park needs from a regional perspective.

.                                    The Hunter Mill Road area is not a pedestrian community.


 

Transportation

What is it about transportation that is important for people in the area to consider as they look to the future?

 

Key Themes:

.                                    Although there is congestion and various areas where the roads should be improved, road widening and roadway alternations are not the preferred solutions.

.                                    Traffic safety, improved bus service, innovative funding, and controlled growth are important considerations for transportation issues.

 


 

Topic Areas:

.                                    The area roads should be improved in various locations.

.                                    Should not widen or alter the roads to solve transportation challenges.

.                                    Transportation funding is not adequate and there is a need for creative funding sources.

.                                    Traffic safety is important for all transportation modes.

.                                    Metrorail is not the answer to the transportation problems.

 

Section 4 Public Comments

.                                 Should control growth so that road congestion does not increase.

.                                    Area bus service should be improved.

.                                    Consider innovative transportation solutions.

.                                    Should consider density around the Metrorail stations and transit areas.

.                                    Connectivity is important in the transportation network.

.                                    Need to have accurate traffic counts. #3

 

.                              Should restrict HAZMAT vehicles and trucks on the roads.

.                                    Use of proffers in the rezoning process should be considered for area improvements.

.                                    Consider bikes, pedestrians and others in transportation improvements.

.                                    Transportation funding is adequate.

.                                    Should coordinate construction of transportation projects.

.                                    Consider regional approach to transportation.

 

 

Education

What about education is important to consider as people in this area look to the future?


 

Key Theme:

•The high quality of the schools should be maintained, and the school district boundaries



should not be altered. The community values small class sizes, optimum
teacher/student ratios, short travel to schools and safe travel routes.



 

Topic Areas:

.                                    Should maintain quality of school system (small class sizes, optimum teacher/student ratio).

.                                    Should not change the school district: maintain existing boundaries.

.                                    The schools are already overcrowded, should not add new students.

 

.                              Should maintain appropriate distance/travel lengths to school.

.                                    Maintain existing school pyramid.

.                                    Should consider options to improve the schools.

.                                    Should keep density low because it affects the quality of schools.

.                                    Need more data on overcrowding in schools and should address the problem regionally.

.                                    Should not have classrooms in trailers.

.                                    Need affordable housing for teachers.

 

.                              Should consider safe pedestrian and travel routes to schools.

.                                    Trailers can be used to accommodate more students.

 

Environment

What environmental issues are important to consider as people in this area look to the future?


 

Key Theme:

      Future growth in the area should consider the impact on the environmentally sensitive Difficult Run watershed (This is the largest watershed in Fairfax County and it is located in the Hunter Mill Corridor.), water quality and water facilities, asbestos issues, wildlife and wildlife habitat, trees and green space, air

     

quality, noise quality and light pollution. The environment should be preserved and protected.


 

Topic Areas:

.                                    Consider the environmentally sensitive Difficult Run watershed, water quality and water facility issues that are impacted by growth.

.                                    Community is concerned about asbestos issues and it should be monitored.

.                                    Preserve current density and character of the area to protect the environment.

 

 

.                              Preserve habitat and wildlife in the area.

.                                    Preserve trees and green space in the area.

.                                    Consider new park facilities and land before development options.

.                                    Consider and protect air quality.

.                                    Consider noise impacts related to growth.

.                                    Enforce environmental protection regulations.

.             Regulate HAZMAT vehicle travel through the area.

 

.                     

   Consider the light pollution related to growth.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Housing

What housing issues are important for people in the area to consider as they look to the future?


 

Key Theme:



   Although the need for affordable and workforce housing is generally supported, housing density should not be increased in the study area and the character of Hunter Mill Road should remain the same.


 

Topic Areas:

.                                    Should consider options for adding affordable and workforce housing.

.                                    Maintain the existing character of Hunter Mill Road area.

 

 

.                              Should maintain low-density housing.

.                                    Maintain housing the established low density residential buffer as an essential element of the adoptedas it is in the current  Comprehensive Plan.

.                                    Housing should be located near employment centers.

.                                    Should have a variety of housing types.

.                                    Consider quality of life issues with housing.

.                                    Consider the impact on infrastructure and services with housing changes.

.                                    Preserve the value of the existing residential properties.

.                                    Consider housing options for aging population.

.                                    Housing should be located near transportation.

 


 

Faith and community services

           

What role is there for the faith communities and social services as people in this area look to the future?


 

Key Theme:

      The faith communities are important providers of social and community services in the Hunter Mill Corridor (There are five places of worship in the corridor.) , make important contributions to the sense of community, and have a stake in the physical planning for the area.  


 

Topic Areas:

.                                    The physical presence of churches has potentially important implications for land use.

.                                    The faith community is contributor to strong community relationships.

.                                    The faith community serves as an important community resource.

.                                    The faith community fulfills an important role in the provision of social services.

.                                    There is a greater role for the faith community in providing services for the elderly.

 




 

Land use

What is it about land-use that is important for people in the area to consider as they look to the future?


 

Key Theme:

•Land use and density should be consistent with the existing Comprehensive Plan to maintain the critical planning element that separates the county’s economic development centers of tysons corner and reston by a low density residential buffer..



Residents will experience the greatest impact and should have the most influence in land use decisions.


 

Topic Areas:

.                                    Land use and density should be consistent with the existing Comprehensive Plan to maintain the critical planning element that separates the county’s economic development centers  of tysons corner and reston by a low density residential buffer..

.                              Residents will experience the greatest impact and should have the most influence in land use decisions.  

.                              Do not make changes to Hunter Mill Road a four-lane road.

.                                    Land use should provide appropriate open space and recreation.

.                                    Land use should be carefully considered.

.                                    Land use decisions create precedents and should be made in consideration of the impact on all should consider the impact to all of Fairfax County.

.                                    Should consider infrastructure impacts related to land use changes.

.                                    Development does not have to result in increased density.

 

Section 4 Public Comments  

.                      Land use changes can be positive.

.                      •Comprehensive Plan should not be revised continuously.

.                      •Land use decisions effect affect taxes.

.                      •The Comprehensive Plan should consider change.

.                      •Should have better coordination between land use and transportation.

.•Need to make the land use decision process transparent to the public.

 

.                       

.                      Separate residential and business land uses.

.                      •Land use should be done by professional planners not elected officials.

.                      •Development should be clustered.

 

 

 

 

 

Challenges

The previous section described the comment gathering and review process: The 2,000 comments were reviewed by a member of the consultant team and organized into topic areas, which coincide with the questions in the visioning exercise conducted at the October 1 Visioning Workshop. The reviewer then identified topics and themes.

                    

The discussion in this section is based on a deeper review of all of the topic areas. The deeper level of review suggests that even should if there be is no amendment to the Hunter Mill Road area Comprehensive Plan and zoning designation, there are broad, almost philosophic,  public policy questions implied in the visioning exercise.  These are the seminal questions about the balance of growth and quality of life that face many municipalities today and for which there are no simple answers.  The consulting team is not suggestingparticipants are concerned about a number of other issues that area specific to the Hunter Mill Road area and others that transcend the boundaries of the study area. Raising these issues is not a suggestion that the decision makers and or Hunter Mill Road residents ever need to ever  discuss these issuesquestions. The consulting team is only surfacing these mega-questions as a service to policy-makers.  Raising them is intended to



ask: If the questions below, or others, are important, when would it be helpful to initiate a discussion, who needs to get it started, who needs to be involved, what would a process look like and how would success be measured.  

The questions below  are organized by category. and T they are not in priority order.


 

Proactively addressing land use needs

 

   How to address the premise that solutions to regional and countywide problems often yield regional and countywide benefits but create specific local impacts? Decisions made in areas surrounding the Hunter Mill Road study area may eventually impact those who live in elsewhere, and vice versa.


 

Investing in public infrastructure

      What is the best way to address the current backlog of infrastructure and public facility needs and improvements with the current population? Is limiting density a viable

 

approach to reducing future infrastructure demands?

.                                    What are ways to manage the trade offs between limited land and the need for more recreation areas and other public uses, such as schools?

.                                    What level of investment in transportation makes sense? Where and for which modes?

 

Maintaining or enhancing the quality of life

      Is there a way to incorporate design standards to preserve and complement the character



of what needs to happen so that natural resources and amenities are not overused or exhausted?

      What are the ways to maintain the quality of education and ease and prevent future overcrowding?

Mitigating undesirable conditions

.                                    There is not an unlimited reserve of vacant land for new housing to meet projected needs; what is the best use of what is available to create the necessary range of housing options within the county?

.                                    How are housing options created and improved—where, what kind, and what portion should reflect market rates?

.                                    What are the priorities for transportation investments to address current problems?

 

                      


 

Decision Making

.                                    What types of processes would allow the community, business and elected leadership to more effectively anticipate and manage the conflict associated with negotiating the trade offs in public policy decisions?

.                                    How can the civic infrastructure be strengthened so that more people in the community have the capacity and information to participate meaningfully in the decision-making

 

 

processes?

      What steps can be taken to integrate planning, development and decision making?

Clearly, the Hunter Mill Special Study Task Force is not tasked with these weighty questions.  As decision makers, the challenge to the Task Force,The challenge to the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission is to decide ultimately when these fundamental,  countywide questions should be discussed, who should participate in the discussion, and what success would look like.  if it is important in this process to address these questions. If they are, then: When should these issues be discussed? Who, if invited, could help? What would success look like?  

 



 

Stakeholder Participation

Community Visioning Process

The community visioning process hit a nerve in the community and sparked organizing and



activity. Between 100 and 150 people attended the September 7 and 20 Task Force meetings. Less than two weeks later on October 1, nearly 300 people participated in the Visioning Workshop. At the October 17 Open House the number of participants grew to more than 400. In a show of hands, a clear majority of the participants at the Open House did not participate in the Visioning Workshop. The number of written comments also increased over the same six-week period. A growing number of Internet blogs, Web sites and listservs now link networks of citizens concerned about Hunter Mill Road and Fairfax County. Articles on the issue continue to

 

appear regularly in local and regional newspapers.

This is not an exhaustive description of who was involved in the visioning process but it offers a summary of the range of stakeholders.

 

There were a large number of stakeholders, many of whom belonged to homeowner and civic associations that have been such as some of those belonging to homeowner associations who have been actively engaged in many all of the area’s land use and transportation issues , some f for more than 205 years. They have participated in other visioning and public processes that have raised the same questions and prompted the same


answers with regard to proposals that seek to change the density and land uses in the Hunter Mill Road area.area. They  envision the Hunter Mill Road area’s being enhanced by traffic-calming and recognition of its scenic and historic resources and remaining a part of the low-density residential buffer zone separating Reston and Tysons Corner.  They value the county’s planning process which has   reviewed and confirmed the area’s planning and pattern of development for more than a quarter century.

 

There has also been participation by other stakeholders, such as landowners who submit that the Comprehensive Plan is dynamic and subject to periodic review and change, particularly in an area such as Fairfax County that is experiencing tremendous job growth and housing demand currently and will continue to do so in the coming years. Another group of stakeholders are people who are rarely active in transportation and land use or community issues , and may not have access to relevant information or understanding of how to affect the decision-making process.  These people but want to learn and to become more engaged. A final group of participants are persons who are not from the local community, who have a  position on countywide issues.  They have a defined set  



stakeholders are those who have a defined set of interests that relate, for example, to specific issues such as housing mix and affordability, mass transportation and intensity of development, and recreation opportunities.

 

 

 

Community Visioning Workshop

 

According to sign-in sheets, 277 people participated in the October 1 Visioning Workshop. Of those, 273 were legible names and addresses. Sixty-seven percent of those attending the workshop identified themselves as residents who lived in the 22181 and 22182 zip codes. Both are the Vienna zip codes closest to Hunter Mill Road. Approximately 12 percent of participants claimed residency in Reston--Zip codes 20190 and 20191--and six percent from Oakton, which includes the 22124 Zip code. Of the remaining 40 participants, 39 are from other parts of Virginia.

October 1 Visioning Workshop Participants

Zip Code

Participants

Percentage

Zip Code

Participants

Percentage

22182 -Vienna

168

62%

22032 – Braddock

2 2 2

>1%

20190 -Reston

26

9%

20170 – Herndon

 

>1%

22181 -Vienna

18

6%

20165 -Sterling

 

>1%

22124 -Oakton

18

6%

20120 -Centreville

2 1 1

>1%

20191 -Reston

7

2%

22314 -Alexandria

 

>1%

22180 – Vienna

3

1%

22201 -Arlington

 

>1%

22101 – McLean

3 R

1%

22194 – Woodbridge

1 1 1

>1%

22066 – Great Falls

3

1%

22043 – Falls Church

 

>1%

22030 – Fairfax City

3

1%

22031 -Fairfax

 

>1%

20171 – Herndon

3

1%

20774 – Upper

1

>1%

 

 

 

Marlboro, MD

 

20121 – Centreville

3

1%

20168 – Haymarket

1 1

>1%

22102 -McLean

2

>1%

20111 -Manassas

 

>1%

 

 

Focus Groups

Between September 28 and October 5, six stakeholder focus groups were convened. What follows is the summary of participation.

1.                   1.         Homeowner Associations – 6 participants

2.1.2.      Pedestrians, Bicyclists & Equestrians – 3 participants

 

2.                   

1.                   3.         School Communities – 4 participants

2.                  4.         Businesses and Employers – 8 participants

3.                  5.         County Advis0ry Boards & Commissions – 2 participants

4.                  6.         Faith Communities – 3 participants


 

Focus Group Member Selection

     Task Force members made recommendations for focus group participants.



.  Some citizens suggested people or contacts from various groups or nominated
themselves. In most cases, these requests were accommodated
. However, the civic association that has been most active in land use issues for the past 25 years asked to participate in a focus group and was denied participation by Fairfax County personnel..

.                                 In addition, other county employees were asked to suggest people they work with on county boards and commissions.

.                                    County staff also suggested potential focus group members from among individuals and groups active in the community.

 


 

VISION REPORT

Hunter Mill Road Area Special Study

Section 5 Stakeholder Participation

Additional information on focus groups appears in Section 7.

Open House

 

The sign-in sheets indicate that approximately 350 people attended the October 17 Open House. Twelve members of the Task Force attended the meeting. Thirty-five people asked questions or made statements at the microphone.

October 17 Open House Participants

Zip Code

Participants

Percentage

Zip Code

Participants

Percentage

22182 -Vienna

220

62%

22030 – Fairfax

2

>1%

20190 -Reston

29

8%

20120 –

1

>1%

 

 

 

Centreville

 

 

22181 -Vienna

28

8%

20165 -Sterling

1

>1%

22180 – Vienna

18

5%

20171 –

1

>1%

 

 

 

Herndon

 

 

22124 -Oakton

15

4%

20194 -Reston

1

>1%

20170 – Herndon

5

A1.5%

22031 -Fairfax

1

>1%

22102 -McLean

5

1.5%

22032 – Fairfax

1

>1%

20190 -Reston

2

>1%

22033 – Fairfax

1

>1%

22183 – Great Falls

2

>1%

22101 – McLean

1

>1%

22030 – Fairfax City

2

>1%

20009 -DC

1

>1%

22032 – Braddock

2

>1%

20016 – DC

1

>1%

22187 – Vienna

2

>1%

F20774 – Upper

1

>1%

 

 

 

Marlboro, MD

 

 

 

 

Community Visioning Workshop

Purpose

The goal of the Community Visioning Workshop was to elicit opinions from the Hunter Mill



Road area residents and other stakeholders with regard their vision for the future of the community. The process was designed as a way for people to look forward to the future. The creation of a commonly shared vision would provide direction to elected leaders. There are many paths toward a shared vision but a good test to determine if it is on the right track is:

.                      The vision should be community driven.

.                      Community leaders or those responsible for taking actions in the public’s interest should

 

 

work to build support for and convene the process.

.                      The process must be inclusive and transparent.

.                      The process should result in a document that is made available to the entire public.

.                      A vision should be designed to lead directly to implementation of concrete actions.

 

The Community Visioning Workshop was highly participatory and moved participants toward a consensus. In large, community-wide processes people typically work collaboratively in a highly


participatory process, however given the large number of viewpoints, unanimous agreement is often not possible or realistic. This large group identified some important points of common ground.

Community Visioning Workshop Implementation

Approximately 275 people representing close to 20 Virginia communities attended the four-and-



a-half-hour Visioning Workshop on Saturday, October 1, 2005, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Madison High School, 2500 James Madison Drive in Vienna, Virginia. The October 1 workshop was open to anyone who chose to attend. The purpose of the Visioning Workshop was to provide a forum for community members and interest groups to address the issues surrounding the future of the Hunter Mill Road area.

The workshop was structured and facilitated to manage the large number of participants and too



ensure that everyone had an opportunity to contribute to the discussion. The meeting opened with a plenary session that included presentations on the current Comprehensive Plan, existing conditions, and potential impacts of various land-use scenarios.

The breakout sessions at the Visioning Workshop were led by volunteer facilitators recruited from the communityfollowing sources:.

1.       the Hunter Mill residential Community

2.      Fairfax county government employees

3.      other


 

Facilitator Recruitment and Selection

The visioning workshop required facilitators to lead breakout group participants through a series of visioning exercises. The Task Force and public at the September 7 Task Force meeting were asked to nominate potential facilitators who could meet the following qualifications and expectations:

                    

.                              Willingness to serve as a neutral third-party whose responsibility is to allow the voices of those small-group participants to be heard;

.                                 Experience as a facilitator was helpful but not absolutely necessary because training was offered;

.                                 Experience in a similar public process as a participant, observer, or facilitator was also helpful but, again, not absolutely necessary;

 

 

   Ability to attend a mandatory training session.

All facilitators were unpaid volunteers. Many of the facilitators live in the Hunter Mill Road and surrounding communities. Some are employed by Fairfax County or surrounding jurisdictions. Others were experienced facilitators who had worked in similar processes. Prior to the workshop, all facilitators participated in 2-hour training session specifically designed for the Visioning Workshop.

 

Facilitator Responsibilities

During the workshop, facilitators were randomly assigned to breakout groups. Facilitators were asked to: 1) keep the group on schedule, 2) ensure that there is active participation from the entire group, 3) establish and enforce ground rules, and 4) record the comments on flip charts, using the participants’ words. Facilitators were asked not to offer their own opinions on issues and to adhere to the agenda provided.

 

Breakout Groups

The workshop was organized around group breakout sessions that included between 7 and 17 people each. Participants were assigned to one of 21 separate small breakout groups. The assignments were random. At the registration table, each participant was provided with a nametag that included a number. The number indicated the group number to which that individual was assigned.



When participants arrived in their assigned groups, each participant was asked to complete a participant data form and submit it to the group facilitator. The form was an attempt to address a concern expressed by several members of public that some groups may be over-represented with people who did not live in the Hunter Mill Road corridor. Underlying the concern was a fear that the weight of comments of nearby residents might be diminished and that representatives of developers proposing drastic changes to Hunter Mill land use might participate without identifying their affiliation.

Community Visioning Workshop Evaluation

The compilation of evaluation comments was taken directly from the meeting evaluation form distributed and collected at the October 1 Visioning Workshop. At the conclusion of the workshop, 52 participants submitted evaluation forms that included answers to one or more



questions. The consultant team organized the comments into categories. The completed evaluation forms and evaluation summary are included in Appendix BF.

Community Visioning Workshop Assessment

The large number of participants was expected and the consultant team devised a method to

 

make meaningful and full participation possible. The small breakout groups were specifically designed to provide people a chance to engage with each other in ways a session with nearly 300 people would not. Participants generally found the small groups effective and useful.

At the outset of the meeting, however it was clear that many participants had an expectation that the workshop would devote a significant amount of time to a question and answer exchange with county staff and elected officials. Supervisor Cathy Hudgins made comments to begin the


workshop but the agenda did not allot significant time for interaction with the audience. The participants expressed dismay and frustration that there was not more time set aside.

There are several comments about the lack of opportunity for participants to ask and have answered questions about data and assumptions, before participants were convened in breakout groups. Some did voice concerns with the representation of people from outside of the Hunter Mill Road corridor. Finally, the groups were focused on the accurate reporting of any points of consensus.



The facilitators and scribes made a conscientious effort to accurately record the discussion on flip charts. They were also asked to indicate how many people agreed with an idea or shared similar sentiment (e.g., 8x, 8 or 8 check marks means that 8 people agreed with the comment). All facilitation teams indicated they were successful in this. Some breakout group participants, however, did not feel that the facilitators achieved this goal. Other than restating these points of view there is no fair and efficient way to reconcile the different perspectives after the fact. It did



not affect the outcome. Given the number of participants who participated in the workshop and after reviewing the comments from different breakout groups, including those groups where the participants had not taken issue with the meeting notes, it is reasonable to conclude that the points of common ground would not have changed if the facilitation had been done differently.

Comment cards were provided to everyone who participated. One hundred and fourteen comment cards were submitted, though some of them were identifiably from people who had also participated in the workshop. For example, a number of participants from a breakout group at the visioning workshop submitted comment cards in which they responded a second time to the visioning questions. Many of the comment cards were submitted without names and addresses so it is impossible to know how many of the comments came from the same people.

                    

Unless respondents provided the necessary information, it was also not possible to distinguish comments from residents, non-residents and representatives of the nominators.

Regardless of how people might have self-affiliated or have been categorized by an outside observer, many shared frustration and dissatisfaction with the Hunter Mill Road nominations and special study process. The normal process, they believe, should have the flexibility to address special study needs. A good portion of the discussion in the Hunter Mill Road study



among Task Force members and with the public became heavily focused on the visioning process itself and less so on other issues that needed attention. Among the public there has been a difference of opinion as to whether the study was justified and secondly what was the best way to organize it.

Community Visioning Workshop Recommendations

The following recommendations might help future visioning and participatory efforts yield even greater success.

.                                 Allow as much time as possible to build interest and support for the process. Inadequate time can create a false sense of urgency.

.                                 Do not convene collaborative processes in a crisis—it can take too much time and
exacerbate the crisis.

.                                 Success is more likely if all the participants were in on the development of the process

 

 

from the beginning.

.                                 Don’t avoid the conflict—it is necessary in public policy. Anticipate and manage it.

.                                 Provide enough resources for extensive outreach and education materials, such as fact sheets and mailings.

.                                 Allocate resources to hire paid facilitators for large processes.

.                                 Allow stakeholders a greater role is determining how the process should move forward.

.                                 Involve the elected leadership early and often.

 



.                              Start the process with the visioning exercise. Discuss specific proposals later. Create a future first and then figure out what it will take to get there.

.                                 Meet people where they are. Provide multiple venues for participation.

.                                 Be clear about the process—who is involved, who is making the decisions, what is the public role and what will success look like.

.                                    Educate, educate, educate.

 

Section 7 Focus Groups

Focus Groups

Purpose

Focus groups are useful in public engagement processes, such as a visioning process, because they allow the facilitator to test questions for the visioning workshop to ensure that they are

                    

framed appropriately and are inclusive enough to elicit rich, useful information from visioning process participants. Focus groups are intentionally designed to receive input from a limited number of people.

Between September 28 and October 5, six stakeholder focus groups were convened. Each focus group met for one facilitated 90-minute telephone session. The focus group questions are included in Appendix E A and were provided to participants before the focus group session.

 

Six focus groups were convened:

1.                   1.            Homeowners

2.                  2.            Businesses and employers

3.                  3.            Pedestrian, bicyclists, and equestrians

4.                  4.            Faith communities

 

 

1.                   5.            School communities—selected elementary schools that are in the Madison school
pyramid and that are closest to the subject area or are otherwise nearby

2.                  6.            County advisory boards and commissions

 

Each focus group was designed to include only stakeholders from one of the six categories. Some individuals might fit in several categories but participated in only one focus group. By design, members of individual focus groups should have common interests but may offer different perspectives on the issues.



Focus group comments are included in the previous Public Comments section. All of the discussions raised the same issues as participants in the visioning workshop, as well as those who submitted written comments.

Comments from five of the six focus group were nearly identical to comments from participants the October 1 Visioning Workshop. Most of the focus group participants, in fact, did also attend



the workshop. Most of the seven members of named to the business focus group did not participate.  They lived in the North County area, in the  Oakton, Equestrian Park, Dranesville, McLean, or Reston, and worked in Tysons Corner or Reston. [I thought the business focus group comments would not be included.]

Section 7 Focus Groups

Business Focus Group Comments


 

Values

.                                    Economic opportunity prosperity – great jobs

.                                    Great schools

.                                    Dynamic community – we accommodate change…have processes for change that should be open and fair

 

                      

.                              Toll Road provides excellent access within the county

.                                    Abundance of office space

.                                    Access to transportation

.                                    Great place to live

.                                    Saw Reston grew…40 years ago you wouldn’t have gone that far out

.                                    Quality of life

.                                    Mobility with out frustration

 

 

.                              Economic prosperity

.                                    Infrastructure needs are met through excellent planning by the county, particularly in Reston

.                                    Reston used density to achieve environmental outcomes

.                                    Lake Fairfax Park is an asset and should not be affected


 

Looking forward

 

.                              Reality Check 2005, developed by the Urban Land Institute, suggests that there is a lot to do to prepare for future growth. If it doesn’t happen, we will choke the transportation system and economic growth potential. There is a potential housing shortage and the study recommends that new housing be developed between the inner-and outer-ring suburbs.

.                                    Make land use decisions in different ways. Up front, there needs more engagement to define outcomes. Fairfax County is not suburban bedroom community it was in 1965. The publics needs to better trade offs. Something like the Reston model must occur on a

 

 

larger level.

.                                    Making environmental protection a priority is not negotiable.

.                                    People won’t engage around growth until we fix all of our problems. Outcome-based density is a smart way to address problems. It is not useful to just talk about high or low density. That’s where the conversation gets hung up.

�.             The recent defeat of the transportation finance ballot measure happened for a couple of reasons:  

a.                   o     No one trusted the elected officials, especially Richmond. The community thought the legislature or governor would hold back state funds if there was a larger local share.

b.                  o     There were also some strange coalitions. The anti-tax group joined forces with the smart growth groups and Sierra Club because a 40% commitment to mass transit was not enough.

 

Section 7 Focus Groups

a.                   o     The rarely work enough up front with the public. The county tends to be reactive…once an idea is proposed it starts a process that feeds the suspicion that it was a done deal.

b.                  o     There is a dearth of solid information available so that people can really participate. They get frustrated.

 

      In the Hunter Mill Road are do not trust the elected leadership or the process. There is a belief that if we negotiate a density agreement it will just change later.

                    

.                              Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission needs a lot of history. For some residents, the current discussion about Hunter Mill Road APR is the sixth time it has occurred…people are tired.

.                                    Polarized folks are involved not the silent majority. People have a lot of bad information.

.                                    Actually, homeowners are pretty informed and organized

.                                    The should be some focus on framing the question but doing it a consultative way
BEFORE the decision-making process moves too far along.

 

 

Focus Group Evaluation

Several focus group participants indicated that while the telephone format was convenient they would have preferred a face-to-face meeting. Many also indicated that more lead time would have helped with them finding time to participate. There was a perception that several of the


focus groups had been cancelled and rescheduled. In fact, only one focus group was cancelled and rescheduled because only two participants had confirmed. When a third participant indicated an interest in taking part, the call was conducted as it was originally scheduled.   The president of the Hunter Mill Defense League, the civic association most active in land use issues for the past 25 years asked to participate in the focus group and was denied participation by Fairfax County personnel.

Focus Group Assessment

The purpose of the focus groups was to engage a small number of stakeholders in conversations



on a limited set of issues. The focus group discussions were a rich presage of the workshop. The information was useful in preparing the facilitators about which questions were likely to prompt the most discussion and in adjusting the agenda time frames. The Task Force and public had an expectation that the focus groups were an abbreviated version of the visioning process. The stakes grew tremendously in who was selected and why they were selected to participate. To many, the importance of the focus groups exceeded the importance of the Visioning Workshop. Given the level of mistrust and lack of public support for and frustration with the overall



process, using focus groups made the process more challenging. As shown in the supporting charts, the ratio of invitations to participation was low. It is difficult to speculate why.

Section 7 Focus Groups

Focus Group Recommendations

.                                 Negotiate to include focus groups in the original process design.

.                                 Determine the purpose of the focus group and explore whether that is the best or only way to gather the necessary information.

.                                 Develop with the community and elected leadership some clear purpose and criteria about who will participate in the focus groups.

 

                      

   Provide the resources and time to conduct focus groups face-to-face.

 

 

 

 

Section 8 Open House

Open House

Purpose

The purpose of the October 17 Open House was to provide the public an opportunity to review the preliminary results of the October 1 Visioning Workshop and also provide the public with a

 

forum for questions and statements about the Community Visioning

Open House Implementation

Approximately 400 people representing, most of who was, most of whom were from residents of the Hunter Mill Road corridor ,attended a three-hour Open House on Monday, October 17, 2005, from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. at



Madison High School, 2500 James Madison Drive in Vienna, Virginia. The October 17 Open House was open to anyone who chose to attend. Approximately 40 people took turns at the microphone.

Outreach efforts relied on the Internet. Two electronic flyers were sent to approximately 700 interested people in the community. They were asked to distribute to people in his or network. The County Office of Public Affairs prepared and delivered a press release to media outlets.

 

Open House Assessment

The participants came to the meeting ready to ask questions or make statements. The group was upset because neither of the Supervisors participated in the meeting. The Board of Supervisors had a regularly scheduled meeting that extended into the evening. Several other elected official did attend the meeting. There was very good media coverage.

 

Open House Recommendations

.                                 Ideally, a second open house would involve discussion of the Task Force
recommendation. It will help bring some process closure to the study.

.                                    Much of the anger and tension can be managed if there is a way earlier in the study

 



process to create a Town Hall format each week so that public has a chance to ask questions and make statements.

.                                    The issue of which data and assumptions were accurate enough to predict impacts was never resolved. That should be a negotiation early in the process.

.                                    When there is adequate lead time and resources, there should be a regular stream of education materials going to the pubic.

 

Section 8 Open House

     There should always be an elected official or other decision maker in the room. It is a demonstration that the participation matters.