Fairfax County seeks more feedback on community-wide strategic plan

Fairfax County strategic plan meetings are in a fourth phase before being introduced to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. (via Fairfax County)

The Countywide Strategic Plan meant to establish a community-driven vision for Fairfax County for the next 10 to 20 years is edging closer to an expected adoption by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

The county hosted a community update and feedback session on Wednesday (July 21) to gather feedback about potential indicators for success among nine priority areas listed in the proposed 56-page strategic plan.

It was part of the fourth phase of engagement initiated by the county. Two rounds were held in 2019 before the process was paused in 2020 to evaluate COVID-19 impacts. Two additional phases were added for 2021, with the third survey phase wrapping up in April.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to take action in October, according to countywide strategic plan coordinator Aimee Brobst, who led the meeting.

While there are no outreach plans to solicit direct public comments on the final text before it is presented to the board, Brobst said community engagement will continue after the plan is adopted. At that point, the county’s approach will “likely shift” to a more targeted focus on each priority area in addition to seeking feedback on the plan as a whole.

“We definitely want to use the feedback that we’re collecting here for the purpose of informing the strategic plan,” Brobst said. “But as we look forward, beyond even when the plan is adopted by the Board of Supervisors, we want to make sure that this isn’t something that stops once the plan is adopted, and we are being very thoughtful and very intentional about hearing from as many people as possible as we move forward.”

The nine priority areas of the plan include:

A poll to gauge attendees’ preferred focus areas within those categories found particular interest in access to cultural and recreational opportunities; economic stability and mobility for all people; financial sustainability and trustworthiness; and access and utilization of services.

Other top indicators were air, water and land quality; housing affordability and quality; career-based training and early childhood education; accessibility, affordability and equity for mobility and transportation; and reliability and security of critical infrastructure.

County staff noted that the plan is meant to be flexible with the ability to adapt over time, serving as a template to help the board determine its priorities and understand what community members think is important.

Acknowledging the rather sparse attendance at the meeting, Brobst said that the shift to virtual meetings over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the county to rethink and expand the tools it uses to engage the public.

“In addition to everything we’re doing that we think makes sense — using every channel that we have available to us as the county — we are very open to adapting,” Brobst said. “…One of the things we definitely wanted to do as part of this process is not necessarily do things just the same way as they’ve always been done in terms of doing only in-person meetings or doing just surveys or long-form surveys.”

A form for general questions or feedback for the plan is available at the bottom of the strategic plan page on the county’s website.

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