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Editorial: Candidates must address future of residential zoning

Efforts to jam excess housing in single-family neighborhoods is on the horizon; voters should pay heed

The days are ticking down and, with perhaps the exception of two of Fairfax’s nine magisterial districts, the Board of Supervisors’ races are in the bag for Democrats. Such is the way of the world in today’s politically polarized environment; many Fairfax voters are unlikely to even give a second glance to the ballot as they reflexively make their choices for those who will lead the community over the next four years.

Among the many issues on the table, we believe one has not been getting the attention it deserves. To wit: What, if anything, county supervisors over the next four years plan to do on the issue of retaining, amending or eliminating single-family zoning.

Do not kid yourselves, homeowners: Activists are indeed coming for your neighborhoods, desiring to replace longstanding, appropriate zoning with a free-for-all that could see four, six, even eight homes shoehorned into even modest lots.

It’s already happened in neighboring Arlington. Just a few years ago, county leaders in what we lovingly call the People’s Republic of A-town assured that public that there was no way they were going to tinker with zoning, and then – whammy blammo! – single-family lots were gone by government fiat. All in the name of “equity,” apparently, and with enough obfuscation that most in the county didn’t catch on until it was a done deal.

The good news for Fairfax County residents and leaders is they can learn from Arlington’s debacle. (As the old truism goes, when you get out on the cutting edge, you often end up bleeding.) And given comments this election cycle from Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay, it appears that Fairfax officials are eyeing the exhortations of housing activists with a lot more suspicion than did those on the Arlington County Board.

That is not to say that an evolution in zoning policies – in certain areas, under certain conditions and with the consent of the governed, all of which were ignored in Arlington – don’t have their place in the modern world. But we would hate to think Fairfax leaders will sashay their way though this year’s election with no comments at all on the subject, or a perfunctory “oh, we’d never do that in Fairfax” when it comes to imposing wholesale zoning chaos on a whim.

They’d never do that in Arlington, either.

Until they did.