The local real estate market is starting to rebound, and that means a quickly growing workload for the county’s land use and development staff and a slower approval process for the building industry.
For the first time in years, the county is expecting to receive more plan submissions this fiscal year than it handled in fiscal 2009, around the start of the national recession, and it is processing the plans with 34 fewer staff positions than existed at that time.
“It’s a good problem to have, but it is a challenge,” Deputy County Executive Rob Stalzer said.
In addition to adding staff positions to account for the larger workload, county leadership is proposing restructuring and adjustments to the land development system to make the development process more efficient and predictable, thereby supporting the county’s economic development and revitalization goals in areas such as Reston, Seven Corners and Fort Belvoir.
Another component of this effort involves replicating the interdepartmental team approach that has been used in Tysons Corner — having staff from planning and zoning, public works, transportation and other relevant agencies work together to evaluate and refine development proposals from a certain area.
“We want to create more capacity and flexibility within our organization,” Stalzer said.
While the Board of Supervisors will still review and approve the staffing proposal as part of the budget process, the cost of the new staff positions is anticipated to be largely covered by the fees charged to developers, said Susan Datta, the county’s chief financial officer.
The proposal encompasses 13 positions in five departments in fiscal 2014, at a cost of about $1.7 million, and an additional seven positions in fiscal 2015, at a cost of about $930,000.
Some supervisors have been saying for some time that the focus on redevelopment in Tysons is keeping county staff from focusing on other areas of the county.
Supervisor Michael Frey (R-Sully) said he is concerned that bringing on new staff focused on other redevelopment areas will not resolve that issue.
“I see economic development everywhere,” Frey said, adding that more recent building permits have been issued in the Westfields and the Route 28 corridor than in other parts of the county.