A 17-year veteran of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department has been arrested for allegedly stealing drugs stored at two stations for her personal use, police announced today (Friday).
Aleksandra Olegoyna Kazmar, 40, of Front Royal faces one felony charge of obtaining drugs by fraud after investigators determined that she had tampered with or stolen vials of morphine and fentanyl from the Frying Pan and North Point stations, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.
The FCPD launched a criminal investigation after it was notified of the incidents on Sept. 6 by the fire department, which had already conducted an internal investigation:
On August 1, during a monthly inspection of medication at Fire Station 36, a technician identified a vial of morphine that appeared to be tampered with. The technician observed the volume of the liquid contained within the vial was not consistent with similar vials and there appeared to be a hole in the plastic-controlled substance kit. The technician immediately reported the inconsistencies to his supervisor.
FCFRD began an internal investigation into the tampering of the controlled substance. During the investigation, three additional events were identified where vials of morphine and fentanyl were either tampered with or stolen during the months of August and September. The tampering occurred at Fire Station 36 and 39.
The FCFRD has been assisting with the police investigation, according to the news release.
Kazmar, a relief lieutenant in the fire department, has been placed on administrative leave, police said. She was released from custody on an unsecured bond and is scheduled to appear in court for an arraignment on Oct. 4, Fairfax County General District Court records show.
Fire Station 36 (Frying Pan) is located in Floris at 2660 West Ox Road, and Fire Station 39 (North Point) is at 1117 Reston Avenue in Reston.
Tysons Corner Center can move forward with new plans for its next phase of development.
After a public hearing on Tuesday (Sept. 26), the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved revisions requested by property owner Macerich that will build on the mall’s plaza, shift planned office space closer to Metro and pave the way for more street-level activity.
“A lot of work has gone into this, but we are seeing wonderful improvements and commitments, mainly the park and open spaces that would come with this, the ability to expand a very successful plaza [and] connecting that to the ground level,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said. “…Having more retail and restaurant uses, I think, [is] very much something we and the community are looking forward to.”
Macerich submitted its new development plan for Tysons Corner Center in December 2021 after acquiring the former Lord & Taylor store in 2020. When the master plan was originally adopted in 2007, the clothing retailer had declined to participate, according to DLA Piper land use planner Brian Clifford, the developer’s legal representative at the hearing.
“We had a little bit of a hole in our donut there right next to the Metro,” Clifford told the board. “With the applicant’s acquisition in 2020, we had a chance to fill that hole in the donut and really provide some exciting connective tissue between phase 1, approved phase 2 and the Metro connection.”
The Lord & Taylor building has now been designated “phase 2A” and will be replaced by either a 26-story office building or a 34-story, 292-unit office and residential building. Both options include about 36,000 square feet of retail and a pedestrian connection from the mall’s ground level to the elevated plaza.
Phase 2B consists of a 20-story office building and a 27-story, 320-unit residential building that would be constructed on top of an existing four-level parking garage at the 78-acre property’s northwestern corner. This phase also calls for its own elevated plaza and a street-level, 1.8-acre linear park, featuring a dog park, children’s play areas and a path from International Drive to the Tysons Metro station.
In a change from the plan that Macerich initially filed, One Tysons Place will be relocated to the south side of the block, allowing access to the linear park from the new buildings without the interruption of a street crossing.
Palchik thanked the developer and county staff for working together to address the pedestrian safety concerns raised by the original design.
“I think you really hit it on the nail, and phase 2B cannot come soon enough, at least in my book,” she said.
In a separate project, the county is also working with Macerich and the Virginia Department of Transportation to add a street-level crosswalk on Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road) at the Tysons Blvd intersection.
No phase 3 changes were proposed, but the fourth phase of development has been reduced to two residential buildings and a retail building after its office space got moved to phase 2. Another retail building is planned on Leesburg Pike for the fifth and final phase.
The revisions won’t alter the size or density of the proposed development, which will exceed 6 million square feet when completed.
Clifford and Sharon Williams, a planner for the county, agreed that the application “was a fun one to work on.”
“That’s due in large part to their technical expertise, but [also it was a] very solution-oriented, open, honest, transparent process and conversation we got to have with staff, and the application’s much better for it,” Clifford said.
After years of debating the issue of “panhandling” in board rooms, Fairfax County will now actually talk to the people asking for money, often from sidewalks and street medians.
“Understanding that asking for money is a protected act under the First Amendment, it is imperative that the County better understand the needs of the people who are panhandling and explore innovative approaches to responding to panhandling,” McKay wrote in his request that the item be added to the package, which allocated $203 million in leftover funds from fiscal year 2023.
Per the memo, the survey will be conducted by a contracted firm that should have experience surveying “marginalized populations” and “a proven track record of producing high-quality data.”
Collected data could include:
Demographics; reasons for panhandling; how long they have been panhandling; experiences with employment, poverty, and homelessness; panhandling income and spending patterns; possible coercion and collaboration among people panhandling; and opinions on what it would take to stop panhandling.
The memo notes that the surveys “must be conducted safely and confidentially.”
A start date hasn’t been determined yet, but the survey is expected to take six months. The results will be presented to the board at a future committee meeting.
The planned survey will be the county’s latest effort to address panhandling, following rejected attempts to prohibit the practice or install anti-panhandling signage. The county did launch a clean-up program in 2019 that gives temporary work to people experiencing homelessness.
While panhandling is protected as free speech, the county discourages community members from giving money to people on the streets who ask for it, arguing that it’s more effective to connect them with long-term assistance.
Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity, who has led the charge against panhandling, said earlier in Tuesday’s meeting that he’s reviewing “ordinances involving prohibiting the exchange of objects in the roadway that have been successful in other jurisdictions,” including Loudoun County. Read More
A raccoon struck by two different vehicles on Route 29 last weekend has tested positive for rabies, Falls Church City says.
The drivers hit the animal near the 500 block of S. Washington Street in the West Falls Church area on Saturday, Sept. 23, according to the city. The raccoon’s resulting injuries led Falls Church City police to euthanize it.
Before police arrived, however, at least two people came into contact with the animal.
“A witness stated that prior to officers arriving, both he and an unidentified driver came in direct contact with the injured raccoon while removing it from the roadway,” the city said in a news release.
The Fairfax County Health Department tested the raccoon for rabies and reported that it was positive on Tuesday (Sept. 26).
“The City of Falls Church Animal Control Officer and Fairfax County Health Department are seeking to identify the unknown driver (and any other individuals) who came in contact with the raccoon to clear them of rabies exposure,” Falls Church City said. “Please call the Fairfax County Health Department Rabies Program immediately at 703-246-2433 (TTY 711) if you believe that you were exposed.”
Falls Church says this is the first animal found within its city limits to test positive for rabies in 2023.
The Fairfax County Health Department typically identifies 40 to 60 rabies cases annually. Cases so far this year have included a raccoon that got attacked by a dog in Vienna and a skunk that chased, sprayed and bit hikers on the Bull Run Occoquan Trail in Clifton.
Rabies cases often increase in the spring, summer, and end of the fall, Fairfax County health officials previously told FFXnow.
“Rabies is a viral disease that people and pets can catch from infected animals through a bite, scratch, broken skin, and mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth.),” Falls Church City said. “It is fatal if medical care is not given promptly.”
The city advises anyone who encounters sick, injured or aggressive wildlife that appear injured, sick, lethargic, disoriented, or aggressive to avoid it and call its non-emergency line at 703-241-5053.
In Fairfax County, community members can report incidents to the Animal Protection Police at 703-691-2131.
Photo via Pete Nuij/Unsplash
Art will take over McLean Central Park this weekend with the return of MPAartfest.
Now in its 17th year, the annual festival from the McLean Project for the Arts (MPA) will be back on Sunday (Oct. 1), promising dozens of artists, food trucks and live entertainment from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
This will be a comeback for the festival after the prospect of Hurricane Ian canceled its 2022 iteration. Fortunately, a repeat appears unlikely, as the National Weather Service is forecasting clear and sunny skies for Sunday.
“Each fall MPAartfest celebrates our community and the arts in the beautiful setting of McLean Central Park,” MPA Executive Director Lori Carbonneau said. “We are so appreciative of our lead community sponsor, the McLean Community Center, and of all the generous community sponsors who help to make this event possible. We invite all the community to join us for a relaxing and inspiring day of art in the park!”
The event’s centerpiece will be a juried fine arts show featuring more than 35 visual artists from across the Mid-Atlantic region. Their work will be available for sale and on display in mini galleries spread throughout the park at 1468 Dolley Madison Blvd.
The festival will also bring musical guests, food vendors, children’s activities and an outdoor gallery showcasing work by local students, according to a press release from MPA:
MPAartfest will again offer a full day of lively and varied musical performances. Sponsored by Mars and curated by Music Director Ken Avis, radio host of Antidote WERA 96.7 FM and a performing musician with the award-winning band Veronneau, this year’s performers include: Blues Alley Youth Jazz Orchestra (10am), Alison Crockett (11am), Bobby Thompson (12pm), Little Red and the Renegades (1pm), The Honey Larks (2pm), and Taisha Estrada (3pm).
Sponsored by BOWA, Deirdre Maull Orthodontics, McLean Community Foundation, and TTR Sotheby’s International Realty, the MPAartfest Children’s Activity Tents will feature a variety of art-based activities and learning stations. Other art highlights include the New Dominion Women’s Club Children’s Art Walk, a juried open-air gallery displaying artwork from local public and private elementary school students.
On the food front, MPAartfest will once again feature the much-loved Café Beret (sponsored by The Mather) where guests can enjoy wine and beer provided by The Wine Outlet. The event will also offer food from a variety of food trucks and eateries, including Rocklands BBQ, Pikoteo, Timber Pizza, Kona Ice, and MooThru.
Admission to MPAartfest is free. Parking will be available at the McLean Community Center (1234 Ingleside Avenue), along with overflow lots at Capital One Bank (6890 Elm Street) and FitzGerald Properties (1446 Dolley Madison Blvd).
MPA’s latest exhibition, “(Not) Strictly Painting,” remains on display inside the community center. Accompanied by an artist talk scheduled for Oct. 19, the biennial showcase of painters from around the region will stay open through Nov. 11.
Fairfax County Public Schools will receive money to support student wellness after settling its portion of a class action lawsuit against the vaping company Juul Labs.
The Fairfax County School Board reached a settlement on Aug. 31 with Altria Group, which owns several tobacco companies — including cigarette maker Philip Morris USA — and has a 35% ownership stake in Juul, FCPS announced on Sept. 19. The news was previously reported by DC News Now.
The school system had already agreed to settlements with the other defendants in the lawsuit, which was filed on July 26, 2022 in California and accused Juul of intentionally marketing its flavored, nicotine-based e-cigarettes to a younger audience, fueling a surge in vaping among teens.
Other D.C.-area school systems involved in litigation against Juul include Loudoun, Prince William, Anne Arundel and Prince George’s County, which is using a $2.3 million settlement to combat youth vaping and nicotine addiction, according to the Washington Post.
“We are pleased that there has been an acknowledgment of the potential for harm that these products can cause our students,” School Board chair and Dranesville District representative Elaine Tholen said in a statement. “The settlement will be carefully allocated to support our students’ health and wellbeing.”
According to an FCPS spokesperson, the school system can’t disclose how much money it’ll receive under terms of its settlement agreement, but it will publicly release a plan outlining how the funds will be spent “at a later date.”
FCPS says the funds will be allocated to “student wellness programs across the division.”
Juul didn’t return a request for comment by press time. When contacted by FFXnow, Altria said the FCPS lawsuit was among those addressed in a May announcement that it had agreed to resolve over 6,000 Juul-related cases.
“While we continue to believe the claims against us are meritless, we believe this settlement avoids the uncertainty and expense of a protracted legal process and is in the best interest of our shareholders,” Altria Executive Vice President and general counsel Murray Garnick said. “This settlement brings to a close the vast majority of our pending JUUL-related litigation.”
Launched in 2015, Juul quickly came to dominate the U.S. e-cigarette market by selling flavored pods that became popular among teens, though the company said its products were intended for adult smokers as an alternative to traditional cigarettes.
As of 2022, nearly 85% of underage e-cigarette users reported using flavored products, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
After the Food and Drug Administration launched an investigation in 2018, Juul halted sales of most of its flavored vapes, and it has since settled thousands of lawsuits from individuals, schools, local and state governments, and Native American tribes.
Virginia is receiving $16.1 million over a decade as part of a settlement agreement from last year that involved more than 30 states. Juul also agreed to pay $462 million in April to six states and D.C. that filed a separate lawsuit.
Vaping is banned in FCPS, which reported in 2020 that an uptick in vaping reversed progress in students being drug-free. The school system recently tested vape detection sensors in some school bathrooms, but Superintendent Michelle Reid told the school board in May that the pilot had “mixed results so far.”
In recent months, Tysons Corner Center visitors have likely encountered a “coming soon” sign for a store that promises a hodgepodge of toys, games, gifts, slides, “schmutz” and “farts.”
Details about the incoming retailer have at last emerged, though flatulence doesn’t appear to be a planned offering.
Instead, the family-oriented company CAMP will open an interactive, “Encanto”-themed toy and entertainment store next to H&M during the first week of December — just in time for the upcoming winter holidays.
Described as “part toy store, part party venue, part immersive theater space,” the 10,730-square-foot store will feature 5,000 square feet of attractions inspired by the 2021 animated movie from Disney, which collaborated with Camp to create the experience.
“Families will climb up and around Antonio’s rainforest, spin through Isabela’s flower-filled room, slide down into the Courtyard and more,” a press release said. “Live Counselor-led singalongs to the film’s favorite tunes like ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ and ‘Surface Pressure’ happen throughout the show.”
In a replica of the film’s town square, vendors will sell custom-made “Encanto” merchandise that isn’t available anywhere else, according to the website, where tickets are now available for purchase.
Unlike other “experiences” that have visited Tysons Corner Center, Camp will have a permanent presence in the form of a 5,000-square-foot “Canteen” selling toys, clothing and accessories. Also included are a “Schmutz Bar” where visitors can create slime, a “CAMPitheater” for live events and two party rooms available for birthdays.
“I can’t wait to see the smiles on faces when stepping into our newest CAMP location at the preeminent Tysons Corner,” Camp co-CEO Jenica Myszkowski said in a statement. “Our CAMP Canteen will be the ultimate holiday gifting destination this holiday season with the best selection of toys and books and so many playable moments for kids to enjoy while grown ups shop!”
Co-founded by entrepreneur and former Buzzfeed marketing chief Ben Kaufman, Camp opened its flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City in December 2018. The company will expand to nine stores with its Tysons location, which represents its first foray into the D.C. area.
The stores rotate through different themes, from the popular kids’ TV shows “Bluey” and “Paw Patrol” to “The Little Mermaid” — another Disney partnership. The “Encanto” show is currently at the New York City shop, where it’s scheduled to stay until Oct. 14.
Disney Encanto x CAMP will then stay in Tysons “for a limited time before moving” on to another location, the company says, though an end date hasn’t been announced.
“We love the Camp experience, and we know that our guests who come from all over the country and the world to spend time at Tysons Corner Center will adore this singular retail + theater + entertainment concept,” Doug Healey, senior executive vice president of leasing for mall owner Macerich, said in the press release. “Macerich focuses on bringing exciting, fresh experiences to our top-performing regional town centers, including Tysons Corner Center, and we know that Camp will be huge hit with families here.”
Fairfax County has officially updated its parking standards for the age of telework and transit-oriented development.
After a public hearing on Tuesday (Sept. 26) that drew dozens of speakers, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a slate of off-street parking regulations intended to steer away from the car-centric impulses that governed the suburb as it grew post-World War II.
At that time, the Berlin Wall was still standing, the Fairfax County Government Center hadn’t been built, and the county was designed to avoid the possibility that “somebody could show up and have to circle a few minutes to find a parking spot,” Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw observed.
“The county’s changed. We all know that. A diverse and urbanized county needs a variety of approaches to parking,” said Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith, who oversaw the effort as chair of the board’s land use policy committee. “…Providing dedicated parking is still necessary in Fairfax County, but the dedicated parking must be right-sized to address current and future land use development.”
Set to take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2024, the approved amendment establishes a tiered framework that imposes different minimum parking requirements based on a development’s density and proximity to transit.
For multifamily residential developments, most of the county will fall under the base rate of 1.45 spaces per unit, as recommended by the Fairfax County Planning Commission. That’s lower than the existing rate of 1.6 spaces but higher than the 1.3 spaces that staff proposed.
Projects in more urbanized areas, including suburban centers, revitalization areas, transit station areas, transit-oriented districts, and the Planned Tysons Urban Center (PTC) District, face lower requirements.
“Reducing the influence of parking in high-density areas creates opportunities to build compact developments with quality pedestrian infrastructure that allows people to travel by non-vehicular modes to access goods, services, and employment, resulting in reduced overall vehicle emissions,” county staff said.
No changes were proposed for single-family detached housing, but single-family attached and stacked townhouses will now be required to provide visitor parking in common areas, rather than confining those spaces to the driveways or garages of individual units. Read More
Reston Association is approaching a crossroads in its project to convert tennis courts at Barton Hill into pickleball courts.
The organization is now considering two potential designs for the facility at 1901 Barton Hill Road. One would replace two of the four existing tennis courts with 10 pickleball courts, including six dedicated courts and four with “blended lines” that could be shared with tennis players. The other would have four pickleball courts, all of them dedicated to the trendy sport.
Presented at a community meeting on Sept. 6, the second option was developed in response to noise concerns raised by community members in March, RA staff said.
However, Barton Hill residents remain skeptical of even the scaled-down proposal, according to a memo sent last week to RA and the Virginia Department of Transportation.
In addition to calling for advanced sound testing, residents say the courts lack “sufficient parking to accommodate the expected high demand” for pickleball. There are currently nine parking spaces for the tennis courts, including one ADA space, falling short of Fairfax County’s new two-spaces-per-court minimum requirement.
There are an additional 19 spaces on site to support the nearby soccer field, according to Bill Rountree, who wrote the letter as the self-identified “Barton Hill community spokesman.”
“It is our position that these are dedicated to soccer and may not be used to comply with County regulations,” Rountree wrote. “RA has no authority to declare such in the absence of a County determination.”
According to the letter, residents estimate that the proposed courts could draw as many as 40 players at a time, based on the reported usage of the four pickleball courts at Autumnwood, which currently has the only dedicated pickleball facilities in Reston.
“In light of this, we strongly urge RA to consider implementing an appointment reservation system to manage the parking situation effectively,” Rountree said.
A requested crosswalk on Barton Hill Road at Sunrise Valley Drive could further aggravate the situation, the letter said, citing a county prohibition on parking within 20 feet of a crosswalk.
On behalf of the community, Rountree expressed overall support for adding a crosswalk, which residents hope will address safety issues at that intersection. RA staff have submitted a request to VDOT asking it to review the proposed crosswalk. Read More
Drivers will now have to pay more if they exceed the speed limit on Linway Terrace in McLean.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors gave its support yesterday (Tuesday) to an additional $200 fine for speeding on the residential street between Birch Road and Kirby Road, a half-mile stretch that includes the entrance to Linway Terrace Park (6246 Linway Terrace).
“The Fairfax County Department of Transportation has verified that a bona-fide speeding problem exists on Linway Terrace from Kirby Road to Birch Road,” states the resolution, which was endorsed by the board without discussion.
With the board’s approval, county staff will now work with the Virginia Department of Transportation to install signage notifying drivers of the added penalty.
Virginia authorizes localities to impose an additional $200 fine for speeding on residential streets with an official speed limit of 35 mph or less and “an existing speeding problem,” according to county staff.
The speed limit on Linway Terrace is 25 mph, according to VDOT. However, it’s classified as a “major collector road,” per the resolution, providing an alternative route between Kirby Road and Old Dominion Drive.
According to county staff, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust’s office confirmed to FCDOT on July 14 that the additional fine has community support. The new road signs will cost $500 total, an expense that will come out of VDOT’s secondary road construction budget.
The 10-acre Linway Terrace Park features soccer and lacrosse fields, tennis and basketball courts and a playground. The Fairfax County Park Authority approved a $20,000 grant contribution in July to support a project by the McLean Little League to convert the park’s baseball field into artificial turf.
Image via Google Maps