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Bards Alley bookstore in Vienna (file photo)

The next few months will be busy ones for Vienna’s local, independent bookshop.

First, there are Independent Bookstore Day celebrations to prepare for on April 30. Then, in July, Bards Alley will mark its fifth anniversary since opening its doors at 110 Church Street NW in 2017.

After nearly five years, owner Jen Morrow still gets a kick out of seeing how the community has embraced Bards by lining up for new releases, forming book clubs that meet at the store, or just hearing a parent read to their child.

Bards Alley becoming not just a store, but a place where the local community would come and talk about books is a dream come true for Morrow.

“I missed having a place to browse books, talk about books, and foster my love of reading. My hometown has an indie bookstore and when I moved to Northern Virginia, I would frequent Olsson’s Books & Records,” Morrow told FFXnow, referring to the D.C. chain that folded in 2008.

“When I started a family of my own, I realized there really wasn’t a place where I could give them the same experience,” she said. “So, I decided to pursue the path of opening Bards Alley.”

Before Bards Alley opened, the closest thing Vienna had to a bookstore was the Used Book Cellar in the basement of the Freeman Store & Museum.

Knowing the challenges facing brick-and-mortar stores in the age of Amazon and online retail, Morrow incorporated a hybrid cafe and wine bar into Bards Alley to serve as another source of revenue and encourage communal gathering.

As it turns out, the books side of the business has done just fine even without the cafe as a supplement. Bards Alley still sells some snacks and drinks, including wine, but the food service operations have ceased, a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like all other businesses, Bards has had to adapt to the realities of the pandemic to stay afloat. Morrow and her employees managed to come up with ways to bring books to their customers. It didn’t hurt that, when people retreated to their homes in the spring of 2020, they had more time to read books. Read More

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Person weighs medical marijuana (via Add Weed/Unsplash)

(Updated at 8:50 a.m. on 4/20/2022) A provider of medical marijuana will open two dispensary locations in the Fairfax County area this summer.

Beyond/Hello plans to open new dispensaries in Fairfax (10521 Fairfax Blvd.) and Huntington (5902 Richmond Highway) that will provide medical-grade cannabis to local patients.

Beyond Hello is owned by Jushi, a Florida-based cannabusiness that provides legal cannabis for both medical and recreational use.

According to Sarah Proctor, Beyond/Hello’s public outreach and education specialist, the new locations will offer patient consultations, express pickup, over 20 point of sale registers, and free on-site parking for their customers.

The supply for the dispensaries will come from Beyond/Hello’s grow house, a two-story, 45,000-square-foot building based in Manassas. Opened in December 2020, the Manassas location was the company’s first dispensary in Virginia and will act as a hub for all of its satellite stores.

“Products that are dispensed will come from our vertically integrated facility in Manassas, which is a full seed-to-sale facility where we cultivate, manufacture and process products for registered patients,” Proctor said.

The new dispensaries will not be able to offer recreational cannabis. While adults 21 and older can now legally possess up to an ounce of pot in Virginia, recreational sales remain illegal, though that hasn’t stopped some products from hitting the market.

Regulations for the substance are being hammered out by the Virginia General Assembly and the newly created Cannabis Control Authority, which could operate similarly to the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority if sales are allowed to begin as scheduled in 2024.

An effort to move up the timeline for legalizing retail sales died in the House of Delegates in February.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin recently signed a bill that eliminated the requirement that patients register with the Virginia Board of Pharmacy to be eligible for medical cannabis after receiving a written certification from a licensed practitioner. The new law will go into effect on July 1.

Photo via Add Weed/Unsplash

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Lake Anne Plaza during the 2021 Reston Multicultural Festival (Staff photo by David Taube)

Reston Museum is putting a spotlight on the community’s oldest village center with the release of its latest book.

Authors Cheryl Terio-Simon with Eric MacDicken introduced the book, “Community is what it is all about: an ode to lake anne,” at Reston Community Center’s Jo Anne Rose Gallery during Founder’s Day on Saturday (April 9).

The book charts the development of the Lake Anne Village Center since it was built in the early 1960s. It contains over 100 photos of modern and historic sites in the village as well as artwork by local painter Pat MacIntyre.

Proceeds from the sale of the books will go toward the repair and maintenance of Uruguayan artist Gonzalo Fonseca’s sculptures at Lake Anne Plaza and the Fonseca Underpass sculptures.

Terio-Smith is the widow of Reston founder Robert T. Simon Jr., who started the community on nearly 7,000 acres of land he purchased in 1961 after selling the performing arts venue Carnegie Hall to the New York City government for $5 million.

“People have been drawn to Lake Anne for various reasons…its strong modernist style paired with its romantic feeling, the beauty of the lake,” Terio-Simon said in a news release. “A community was created with this shared appreciation, a common bond enriching all.”

The book is currently on sale exclusively at Reston Museum, including online, for $40.

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Ukraine flags tied to a bridge in Germany ask for help (via Benjamin Marder/Unsplash)

A Tysons-based security firm has spent the past two months working to help people escape from war-torn Ukraine.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Global Guardian has assisted in the evacuation of more than 7,500 people out of the country.

The firm began advising its clients to leave Ukraine as far back as December, according to Global Guardian Vice President of Marketing Shannon Scully.

“We’ve been supporting clients in preparing their emergency response plans as well as evacuating employees and their families from over 15 cities throughout Ukraine,” she said.

Scully attributes the company’s ability to evacuate people to its global presence, with teams of employees who are local and in Ukraine allowing for a faster response time.

Founded in 2012 and headquartered in The Boro (8280 Greensboro Drive), Global Guardian provides cybersecurity, personnel tracking, emergency responses, and other services, with the capacity to respond to incidents in as many as 130 countries.

The firm’s CEO Dale Buckner recently told Forbes that Global Guardian has participated in evacuations in crises ranging from the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks and 2016 attempted coup in Turkey to recent hurricanes in Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands.

Scully says those past crises have helped condition and give valuable experience to the firm’s teams.

“While different, all crises, natural disasters, bombings, war-zones, follow a very similar pattern,” Scully said. “Commercial airways are the first to shut down, then ground public transportation starts to diminish and/or becomes challenging — all while everyone is fighting over limited assets. Preparation is key.”

The Ukrainian refugees evacuated by Global Guardian have resettled in neighboring European countries or joined family in the U.S.

As the war between Russia and the Ukraine continues, millions of people have sought refuge in nearby countries like Poland and Romania. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, over 4.6 million people have fled Ukraine since the invasion began.

Fairfax County and other Northern Virginia localities have been collecting coats and other winter clothes as donations for Ukrainian refugees. The drive will conclude on Friday (April 15).

Photo via Benjamin Marder/Unsplash

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Fairfax County police badge (via FCPD/Facebook)

(Updated at 5:20 p.m.) A new bill that would let Virginia law enforcement use facial recognition technology is headed to the governor’s desk.

Senate Bill 741, which was proposed by Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36), would let local law enforcement agencies use the technology to investigate specific criminal incidents related to certain acts of violence and to identify deceased individuals and victims of online child sexual abuse material.

“The bill would put regulations and restrictions in place along with regular transparency for the use of facial recognition — not just with law enforcement, but also with identifying persons,” Surovell said.

Passed by the Virginia General Assembly earlier this month, the bill was communicated to Gov. Glenn Youngkin last Tuesday (March 22). If signed, the bill would create a model for local law enforcement agencies, which could create their own policies but must meet standards set by the Virginia State Police.

For now at least, the legislative shift doesn’t seem to have inspired any particular interest from Fairfax County’s law enforcement agencies.

“Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office does not possess facial recognition technology and has no plans to acquire or implement such technology,” Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Andrea Ceisler told FFXnow.

County Director of Public Affairs Tony Castrilli said that the Fairfax County Police Department also does not currently use facial recognition technology.

“The legislative process regarding this bill is pending,” he said. “As a result we will not be providing any response at this time.”

Virginia currently has a partial ban on local law enforcement agencies using facial recognition technology. That measure took effect in July 2021.

The partial ban does not extend to the Virginia State Police, and local law enforcement agencies can apply to the state police to use the technology in their cases.

“The only system that has been and is currently in use is the Centralized Criminal Image System, which was procured through DataWorks Plus,” VSP Public Relations Director Corinne Geller said. “CCIS allows criminal justice users to access images for identification purposes as well as perform lineups, witness sessions and facial recognition searches.”

The system lets the VSP compare an unknown image to a database of mugshots of previous arrestees. The software returns a list of candidates, rather than making a one-to-one match. CCIS is contained within the VSP’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division.

Surovell says he developed S.B. 741 to replace the partial ban, arguing that facial recognition technology could help police solve cases more quickly. He specifically cited last year’s so-called “shopping cart killer” investigations as an example when talking to FFXnow.

Other lawmakers fear the bill may contribute to civil rights issues and over-policing.

“When we consider the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement, the stakes are high because a mistake could mean that you deny justice for a victim and you take away an innocent person’s freedom,” Del. Kathy Tran (D-42) said. “The research is clear — women and people of color, particularly Black and Asian people, have greatly elevated risks of being falsely identified by this technology.”

Youngkin has until 11:59 p.m. on April 11 to sign SB 741 into law. If he does, the Virginia State Police would be required to develop a policy for the technology’s use by Jan. 1, 2023.

Photo via FCPD/Facebook

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Herndon native Almira Zaky represents Virginia on NBC’s new reality show “American Song Contest” (courtesy Almira Zaky/NBC)

Almira Zaky has always been, in her own words, a little girl with a big voice.

A native of Herndon who is of Indonesian descent, Zaky has been singing since she was a young girl. She now represents Virginia on “American Song Contest,” NBC’s take on the yearly Eurovision music competition that has been around since 1956.

An R&B artist who released her first independent album “Learn to Love” this month, Zaky takes influence from many artists in that genre that were popular in the 1990s and early 2000s, including Aaliyah, JoJo, and Destiny’s Child.

“My influence comes from women in R&B who were able to express themselves so freely and unapologetically,” Zaky told FFXnow. “I feel that women from that era are bold and not afraid to tell it like it is with their emotions.”

When she was a student at Virginia Commonwealth University, Zaky learned the ins and outs not just of performance, but the business side of music as well.

She originally enrolled as a health science major but soon switched to business. She also began to help with campus events, booking artists and performers like Travis Scott and Torey Lanez.

“Being able to bring people together through music brought me back into music and on the music industry side,” Zaky said. “That experience, throwing these concerts and events in that genre turned into networking opportunities that I have now.”

Nicknamed “Boss Lady,” which reflects her personal philosophy of inspiring people to be their own boss no matter where they’re from, Zaky advanced her music career while still in college by recording in Los Angeles and hosting events while her fellow students went on spring break.

“I’ve taken advantage of all the opportunities that have been presented and I want to inspire people to do that as well,” she said. “To take control of their lives, it doesn’t matter where you come from or what you may know, go after your dreams as long as you work hard, stay passionate, and maintain a good heart.”

Zaky’s dedication goes back to her childhood in Herndon, when her mother would take her to music lessons. In addition to her R&B diet, she absorbed the music of the D.C. area though local station WKYS 93.9.

“I’d go to lessons every weekend so I’d listen to go-go bands playing on WKYS 93.9, it definitely added to my music as well,” Zaky said. “Like the Jump or the Bounce with its own groove and style, artists like Wale who was a trailblazer. Being a part of the next generation and taking the torch is just inspiring.”

A reality competition where the public votes for their favorite contestants, “American Song Contest” is hosted by hip-hop legend Snoop Dogg and original “American Idol” winner/talk show host Kelly Clarkson. The show debuted on March 21 and airs at 8 p.m. on Mondays.

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Mixed-media artist Ronald Lord used debris from the now-demolished Meadow View Swimming Club in Rose Hill to make art (courtesy of Ronald Lord)

An artist from Fairfax County pays tribute to his childhood memories growing up in Rose Hill by using its remains to create art.

As a child, Ronald Lord would join his friends and family at the swimming pool at the Meadow View Swimming Club.

Starting at 6 years old until his teenage years, Lord would get up at 7 a.m. so he and his brothers could go to swim team practice. He also has fond memories of playing in the woods and rundown homes that surrounded the club throughout the 1960s.

Now, those memories no longer have a physical anchor. The swimming club was closed in the 1980s, converted into a private school and day care center, and finally demolished in 2017 to make way for more houses, according to the Rose Hill Civic Association.

But while others would see the wreckage as nothing more than refuse, Lord saw an opportunity to create art that would preserve those childhood memories.

As Lord got older, he turned to the artistic world, living near Washington D.C. where he could go to the National Portrait Gallery. Folk art and other self-taught pieces inspired him to find his medium of expression.

Lord also worked in trades such as home improvement that taught him the process of building and gave him access to materials.

“I’ve played around with all sorts of materials,” Lord told FFXnow. “Wax, bead weaving, clay, wood carving, paper, stained glass and of course wood and metal salvage that I find a very satisfying medium and is what I’m concentrating on mainly now. I took to creating as a youngster with wax and beads and have been on a creative journey ever since.”

Now a resident of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Lord creates pieces made from various pieces of salvage. He created two “Regina Bay” pieces, for instance, using wood, metal boring bits, glass, handmade nails, and other detritus found in and around a gold mine in Northwestern Ontario, Canada near cabins owned by his wife’s family.

Lord’s “Meadow View” piece is made from similar components and brings back the memory of those childhood days.

“For those who knew Meadow View, I hope it brings back all the memories associated with the fun we had growing up with all the activities there,” he said, recalling Fourth of July and Memorial Day festivities with pool contests involving greased watermelons and “hundreds of coins thrown in for all of us to collect once the whistle sounded.”

There were also the “swim team meets and the daily 7:00 a.m. practice sessions, eyes burning from chlorinated water, the snack bar and chit books but most of all the innocence and joy of growing up then,” he says.

Lord is currently working on an outdoor installation at a hacienda in Alamos, Mexico, his theme will incorporate local salvage such as bones, metal, paint and stone.

“It is going to focus on the immeasurable number of back [breaking] hours and manpower it took to create this heavenly place out of the tough Sonoran desert,” Lord said of his project.

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Fairfax County appears to be making progress on its goal to increase the supply of affordable housing.

Approximately 2,000 units of affordable housing have been either completed or are in development, according to Ben Boxer, Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s public affairs manager.

Since fiscal year 2018, the Board of Supervisors has approved $42.89 million in Housing Blueprint/ Affordable Housing Development Investment Fund loans. That funding has supported nine projects totaling 1,760 units, a combination of new development and the preservation of older developments.

Some of the developments currently under construction include the 150-unit Oakwood Senior Residences on South Van Dorn Street, 240 units in One University near George Mason University, and the 279 units at the Residences at North Hill in Groveton.

Development of and investment in affordable housing in the county accounts for about $25 million in the housing authority’s proposed fiscal year 2023 budget so it can continue working toward the goal of increasing the number of affordable units. The FY 2023 budget, which will take effect on July 1, totals $155 million in funding for housing.

New developments planned for FY 2023 include the 175-unit Dominion Square West project in Tysons, which was recently designated as a revitalization area. It’s being done in partnership with the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing.

Other projects in the pipeline include a rehabilitation and expansion of Little River Glen in the Braddock District and the Fair Ridge at West Ox site near Fair Oaks Mall.

In 2019, the county set a goal of creating a minimum of 5,000 new affordable housing units by 2034, the units would be affordable to households earning 60% or below of the county’s Area Median Income, which was $119,320 per year as of 2017 Census data. 60% would be $71,592 per year.

A public hearing on the proposed budget is scheduled to be held Tuesday, March 31, in Conference Room 11 at the Fairfax County Government Center at 12000 Government Center Parkway in Fairfax at 7 p.m.

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Fairfax County is looking to boost its tourism marketing efforts, which include destinations like Mount Vernon (courtesy Visit Fairfax/April Greer)

Fairfax County will apply for grant funding from the Virginia Tourism Corporation to help boost tourism in the area.

The Board of Supervisors approved a request yesterday (Tuesday) from the Department of Economic Initiatives for $4.17 million that will be used in conjunction with Visit Fairfax, the county’s travel marketing agency.

Virginia has allocated $50 million of its American Recovery Plan Act funds to the Tourism Recovery Program. The Virginia Tourism Corporation will award grants to all localities based on how much they contributed to total state tourism revenues in 2019.

Visit Fairfax President and CEO Barry Biggar told FFXnow that the organization is “tremendously grateful” for the ARPA grant’s approval.

“This allocation will assist us greatly and go a long way in our recovery efforts of rebuilding and revitalizing the tourism industry of Fairfax County, indeed helping it return to pre-pandemic levels and beyond,” Biggar said in a statement. “It also clearly underscores how significant Fairfax County is to the overall tourism economy of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

The county must submit a plan outlining how it will use the grant, which must go to marketing and promotional efforts. The funds must be spent by June 30, 2024.

According to a draft tourism recovery plan, Fairfax County lost $420 million in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on tourism. Tourism-related jobs accounted for at least 32% of all job losses in the Commonwealth, with 34% of hospitality job losses coming in Northern Virginia.

Job losses among hotel and restaurant workers were nearly twice as high as any other profession, according to data sourced from the Virginia Employment Commission. The document also notes that 63% of all job losses took place in industries with higher than average representation of people of color.

“The [grant] funds will be utilized to introduce new programs and projects of work that provide incremental economic impact to the county through avenues that Visit Fairfax hasn’t had the ability to previously explore,” Biggar said.

Strategic objectives listed in the county’s recovery plan include:

  • Increasing hotel occupancy and sales tax revenues by putting more group events and business travelers into Fairfax County hotels
  • Attracting and maximizing lucrative sporting tournaments for young and adult athletes
  • Increasing awareness of Fairfax County as a preferred destination for local and international tourist groups

Angela Woolsey contributed to this report.

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Fairfax County is developing a program to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety (staff photo by Scott Fields)

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation intends to pursue funding next year to expand a budding program to improve street safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, and other forms of active, or non-motorized, transportation.

The money would be used to hire a program manager and implement priorities, such as speed reduction measures and improved road design standards, FCDOT Active Transportation Engineer Lauren Delmare told the county Board of Supervisors at its transportation committee meeting on Tuesday (March 1).

If funding is approved in the fiscal year 2024 budget, which would take effect on July 1, 2023, it would formally establish the Safe Streets for All Program that the board directed staff to develop in January 2020.

“Some of these priorities will require additional funding for studies, maintenance, or capital improvements beyond the Safe Streets for All program funding,” Delmare said. “…Others may require additional funding or staffing if the board wants to increase the speed of implementation.”

Among those priorities are the creation of a complete street policy and design guide as well as efforts to reduce vehicle speeds that could include speed limit changes, street design updates and public education.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, who chairs the committee, asked if the county could address vehicle speeds using a state law adopted in March 2021 that authorized local governments to reduce speed limits in residential and business districts to between 15 and 25 miles per hour.

However, the Virginia Department of Transportation determined that under the current law, localities can only reduce speed limits on highways if they fall in residential and business districts.

A bill seeking to let localities lower speed limits by up to 10 miles per hour on all highways in their jurisdictions failed in the House in February, FCDOT Director Tom Biesiadny told the board.

“So, we might be decreasing the speed of implementation of that particular item, unfortunately,” Alcorn said.

More immediately, the transportation department could develop a policy for the program, prioritize active transportation capital projects in high-traffic corridors, and create a dashboard to collect and monitor community members’ safety concerns.

Current ongoing strategies for the program include safety campaigns, reducing conflicts and prioritizing active safety through design such as repaving roads.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to make its decision on these recommendations in May.

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