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Locals Push for More Environmental Protection in County’s Strategic Plan

Locals want more eco-friendly guidelines as Fairfax County looks ahead to the next 10 to 20 years.

Roughly four dozen attendees showed up to the meeting at Marshall High School last night (Wednesday) to provide feedback on the county’s preliminary strategies.

After brief presentations by County Executive Bryan Hill and James Patterson, the manager of the countywide strategic planning process, attendees were able to choose three out of the nine areas they wanted to learn more about by talking to team members.

Attendees were given copies of the preliminary strategies — 166 in total — and asked to provide feedback to the teams.

The county is especially interested in these nine areas:

  • cultural and recreational opportunities
  • economic opportunity
  • education and lifelong learning
  • effective and efficient government
  • health and environment
  • housing and neighborhood livability
  • mobility and transportation
  • safety and security
  • self-sufficiency for people with vulnerabilities

The nine areas have five shared themes: affordability, equity, sustainability, innovation and collaboration, Patterson said.

Many of the people told the various teams that they support environmentally-friendly strategies, urging the staffers to strengthen or add language that would reduce pollution and waste. “I feel like the environment is critical,” one attendee said.

Locals talking to the “Health and Environment” team pushed for replanting of older instead of younger trees and stronger recycling rules.

People also suggested mandating that businesses recycle, adding urban gardens to schools and reducing food waste. Several attendees expressed frustration about unclear recycling rules and suggested that Fairfax County use stickers and more communication to clarify its glass recycling rules.

“We’re a wealthy county,” one person said. “Give us a glass recycling bin.”

While attendees seemed to come to a consensus that they want stronger protections in place to protect the environment, not everyone agreed on the specifics. In response to a suggested plastic ban, an attendee pointed out that plastic bans can hurt low-income families.

Over at the “Mobility and Transportation” station, people pushed for more frequent bus transit, suggesting different size buses — like double-deckers and buses of various lengths — to accommodate more riders.

Brent Riddle, a transportation planner for Fairfax County, said that the staffers are exploring different ways to add more cross-county transportation, like adding buses between Annadale and the Mosaic District and creating bus-only lanes.

“Public transit is more oriented as a feeder system into D.C,” Riddle said about current transit options.

Overall, attendees said that it’s better to incentivize group travel than disadvantage single-occupancy vehicles — possibly hurting lower-income communities in the process.

Some of the strategies that attendees showed strong support for include:

  • Increase the walkable access (within half-mile or 10-mile walk countywide) to parks, facilty entrances or trailheads to connect people to nature and receational experiences, prioritizing implementation in areas with disparate health outcomes and other equity measures.
  • Prioritize and incentivize the use of high-occupany vs. single-occupant vehicles; this includes transit buses, vanpools and carpools.
  • Shift the design of selected roadways away from a sole focus on automobile traffic to a multi-modal focus by incorporating sidewalks, bike lanes and high-occupancy vehicle and bus lanes and rail lines.

The meeting last night was the last of six recent meetings to seek community input. Currently, county staffers are working to develop and refine strategies before finalizing the draft by the end of the year, Patterson said. Early next year, the draft will get publicized and adopted by the Board of Supervisors.

The county plans to use the input to identify priority areas and success metrics for the county-wide strategic plan.

People can still submit feedback on the preliminary strategies through an online survey that is available in English, Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Urdu and Vietnamese.

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