Fairfax County Cuts Red Tape

State and local governments are realizing that regulations need to be changed

Conducting business in Fairfax County, Va., may now be a little easier. In an effort to cut bureaucratic red tape, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has approved the Regulatory Review Plan, submitted by the Economic Advisory Commission.

One year ago, a regulatory subcommittee formed the Science & Technology Subcommittee under the Economic Advisory Commission of Fairfax County. It was established to reform the county's business and residential regulations. The committee is made up of six members from the business and residential community and six representatives from Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. Representatives come from chairman Kate Hanley's office, Supervisor Gerald Connolly's office and Supervisor Dana Kauffman's office. The committee submitted a proposal June 17 for a five-year plan to assess and change regulations in Fairfax County. On July 25, the proposal was approved by the board.

The bipartisan commitment will assess regulations and policies on residents and businesses, which includes county ordinances, policies, procedures, practices or rules that impose "a burden of time or money on anyone who needs a governmental approval or government services or seeks access to county facilities or services," according to the proposal.

For example, high-tech companies experience regulatory red tape when they want to expand their facilities. Building permits can take several months to obtain in Fairfax County.

"You can't do business in this county without dealing with regulations," said Lorraine Lavet, president of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce and a member of the regulatory subcommittee. "It's simply the cost of doing business."

The program, which targets the business and residential community of Fairfax County, calls for three agendas. The first is a prospective review of new regulations. The subcommittee will take a cost benefit analysis to "understand if there is a real need for new proposed regulations," said Lavet. The second is a retrospective review of existing regulations. The review will take five years to tackle two Fairfax County government agencies at a time. The first two will be taxation and animal control. According to Lavet, the two agencies were chosen to target both the residential needs and the business needs simultaneously.

The third objective will look to Dade County, Fla., the federal government and Indianapolis city government for recommendations on an effective regulatory process. The benchmarking initiative also calls for each agency to evaluate and present to the Board of Supervisors the top 10 regulations that can be changed or eliminated from its procedures.

"If we don't do this, we'll lose our businesses," said Lavet. "We have to work with the companies we have and not worry about the ones we want to attract."

The motivation behind the proposal is time and money. It is also part of the economic development game of state and local government. Lavet says companies can be located anywhere in the country but when they are choosing a location, their main priorities are regulations and taxation. Lavet thinks the program will make the state more competitive.

The initiative was first discussed a year ago when the Board of Supervisors heard concerns from citizens and businesses located in Fairfax County. The board assigned the problem to the Economic Advisory Commission to find a solution.

According to David Lucien, president of Interpro Corp. in Reston, Va., and a member of the regulatory subcommittee, the program will accommodate business in Fairfax County by measuring every regulation against time and money.

"You can't wait to be reviewed for a building permit when a demand for business is required," said Lucien, who says that starting a new business means sometimes going to five different government offices. "Regulation review will expedite the process."

According to the proposal submitted to the Board of Supervisors, the regulation reform in Fairfax County will be complete in five years.

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