Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn has experienced some unexpected challenges during his first year on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. But he says he has striven to meet each challenge by abiding by the chief principles he ran his election campaign on: community engagement and transparency.
In a recent interview with Reston Now, Alcorn said he knows it’s “going to be a tough early 2021” as the area deals with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but he remains hopeful of a productive future.
Among his agenda items is the progression of the community task force analyzing potential changes to the Reston Comprehensive Plan, which guides planning and land use decisions for the area. Alcorn’s agenda includes looking forward to the task force advancing and “wrapping up in 2021.”
“I know saying ‘wrapping up’ is kind of funny right now because we’re really just getting into some of the meatier issues,” Alcorn said Monday. “But I think we will get there and see that happen some point next year. Moving forward with that is definitely a priority.”
Alcorn said the task force represents an opportunity to continue an open dialogue with the public moving forward. Alcorn believes that the task force and county have structured the public meetings as close to having “real face-to-face meetings” to allow opportunities for questions or comments.
His plan for 2021 also includes revisiting efforts of revitalization at Lake Anne and looking at what needs to happen to maintain progress in the area. He is also planning to continue community engagement for the Wiehle Avenue crossing and the construction of a pedestrian and bicycle bridge over the avenue that is planned to begin in the summer of 2022.
He is also looking to move forward with public facilities in Reston Town Center North, including the rebuild of the Reston Regional Library, the Embry Rucker Shelter, plans for a civic space for all of Reston, and additional public facilities in Reston.
Through 2020, the pandemic has created various issues including face-to-face public engagement opportunities and budget issues. A portion of those issues has been the county’s inability to proceed with some of the affordable housing financings that were initially expected this year.
“That’s been a disappointment to me. We’ve had to put off some of the financing, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t putting off moving forward with plans where we can,” Alcorn said.
Alcorn was able to host a couple of town halls early in the year before the COVID-19 outbreak, and he has been able to host more on virtual platforms. Those virtual town halls have included a meeting with Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler, as well as a recent meeting to discuss proposed updates to zMOD, the county’s zoning modernization process.
Alcorn listed the size of the change included in zMOD as one of the primary challenges that is being faced. However, through the Hunter Mill district town hall, Alcorn heard a number of comments and suggestions that he says he’s following up on with the county staff.
Proposed changes Alcorn says he’s reviewing include potential changes to the zoning ordinances for accessory living units and concerns that a potential increase could destabilize neighborhoods by exacerbating “localized issues” like parking and other concerns.
“That’s something I’m going to be focusing on more through January, and basically working with different stakeholders, some of the folks who showed up and testified at the town hall, and others,” Alcorn said of the zMOD proposals. “We’ll have another opportunity, one more for sure, over the next few months to try and parse that out a little bit more.”
With an eye on the future, Alcorn can look back on successful enterprises during 2020.
He has seen an encouraging re-engagement with the comprehensive plan in Reston and participation with it. He also touts an increase in transparency and accessibility with the public.
“I think it’s important to bring people together to think about some of these issues a little more broadly and consider them from different perspectives. I think in doing that, it opens up new doors and possibilities for action to move forward.”
Another success for Alcorn is getting design approval for the replacement of the Hunter Mill Bridge, including designs for anticipated future pedestrian improvements in the area.
Alcorn also points to a strengthened relationship with the town of Vienna as a success. As part of the relationship, Alcorn received approval from the county Board of Supervisors for a waiver of all county building and inspection fees applicable to the Vienna Police Facility Construction Project, which saved the town more than $400,000.
Another notable moment for Alcorn came in October, as he did not offer support for the comprehensive plan for the redevelopment of Hidden Creek Country Club based on feedback.
Through a reflection of 2020, Alcorn gives credit for aiding progress in the county and the district to the involvement of the community and its feedback. He particularly expressed his pride in the community stepping up to help others in the area as issues have mounted during the pandemic.
“Some of our needs continue to be very high. We have food insecurity. We have a lot of people that are facing eviction,” Alcorn said. “We’ve really seen a lot of folks step up and be very generous with their time, with their money and their energy to help address some of these real community problems.”
Photo via Walter Alcorn/Facebook