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‘Green Development’ Summit Highlights Environmental Benefits

The Southeast Fairfax Development Corp. hosted an information session Saturday.

More than 50 people gathered Saturday in Fort Hunt to learn about how development, when done right, can beneficially impact the environment and create green spaces for public use.

The hosted the morning event at Carl Sandburg Middle School in Fort Hunt. The session included four panelists who stressed how “new trends in green development” are providing smarter development that benefits both people and the environment.

The county is promoting smart growth with mixes of transportation and transit use and reduced vehicle miles traveled per person, explained speaker Noel Kaplan, a senior environmental planner with the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning. The county Department of Transportation has established trip reduction goals ranging from 15 to 45 percent, with higher reduction goals in Tysons Corner.

The county is also promoting smart stormwater management, water quality and green building practices that make efficient use of natural resources, improved indoor air quality and support for certification under established green building rating systems such as LEED.

One of the county’s most pressing challenges in terms of development is population growth, Kaplan said.

“Where are all these people going to go?” he asked. “In Fairfax County, we don't have a lot of vacant land left.”

Hence, redevelopment will likely become more popular, he said.

The county is focusing on making Tysons Corner more residential and walkable, with a vision of a 24-hour urban center where people can work and play, said Bruce McGranahan with the county Department of Public Works and Environmental Services.

Rain gardens, stormwater planters, tree trenches, rainwater harvesting, permeable pavement, vegetated green roofs, planters that allow rain to flow through, recreational water features, fountains, swales, rain gardens and vegetated living walls are all possibilities for Tysons Corner, McGranahan said. “Now we realize that these are all opportunities,” he noted.

The current pattern of sprawling development in Northern Virginia is not sustainable, said Trini Rodriguez, with the urban design, planning and architecture firm Parker Rodriguez Inc.

“There's no question we are going to grow,” she said. “We have to grow, but growth does not have to be bad.”

That growth includes incorporating elements for pedestrians, cyclists and public transit users, she said.

Matt Hopkins, an architect and planner with the development group Streetsense, said he envisioned active streetscapes, pedestrian amenities and animated spaces where people would enjoy taking out-of-town guests.

“We are looking to the past, to the pre-World War II design models,” he said. 

David Versel, executive director of the SFDC, said he hoped the summit would help people better understand that not all development is created equal when it comes to air and water quality issues.

“We see a lot of comments … that all development must be bad for the environment, and the point we're trying to make here is there's a coordinated effort going on including government and the private sector, that we, as a quasi-public, quasi-private entity, try to bridge the gap between turning old models of environmentally irresponsible development into newer models of environmentally responsible development,” he said.

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