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Morning Notes

The sun sets on Vienna’s future Chase Bank, now under construction (photo by Amy Woolsey)

Board Chair Calls on Youngkin to Withdraw Trans Student Policies — “I am so proud of the FCPS students who today stood together in support of their transgender classmates who are under threat by the proposed Model Policies. I joined the ~20,000 others providing comments to the Youngkin Administration stating my strong opposition to these Policies” [Jeff McKay/Twitter]

Teachers’ Union Also Opposes Proposed Policies — “Our union firmly opposes the VDOE 2022 Model Policies which will create an unsafe school environment for trans and nonbinary students if implemented. We urge our members to submit public comments against these proposed policies here” [Fairfax County Federation of Teachers/Twitter]

Herndon Father and Son Charged with Rape — “On Sept. 11, police charged 45-year-old Alexander Alvarado Sanchez of Herndon with rape, sodomy, aggravated sexual battery, and indecent liberties with a child. Police also charged Sanchez’s son, 21-year-old David Isai Alvarado Requeno of Leesburg, with rape, sodomy, and indecent liberties, according to police.” [Patch]

Stratford University Students Protest Impending Closures — “Over 100 Stratford University students packed the school’s Alexandria campus Monday afternoon, looking for answers about their future after the for-profit college announced Friday that it would be closing all three of its local campuses by the end of the week…Falls Church-based Stratford has campuses in Woodbridge and Baltimore in addition to Alexandria.” [Inside NoVA]

County Gets 41 More Housing Vouchers — “U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia Fudge, visited Fairfax County to announce the most expansive allocation of flexible rental assistance in 20 years with the award of more than 19,000 new Housing Choice Vouchers to almost 2,000 public housing authorities across the country.” [Housing and Community Development]

Task Force Recommends Preserving Manufactured Homes — “On September 19, the Fairfax County Manufactured Housing Task Force delivered its recommendations to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for the preservation of the county’s approximately 1,750 manufactured homes as well as tools and strategies to address the unique needs and challenges facing the community owners and families who live there. [HCD]

Fairfax Fall Festival Returns Next Month — “The 46th Annual Fall Festival returns to the heart of Fairfax City Oct. 8. The festival runs 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a special performance by the high-energy Celtic band, Scythian, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Old Town Square. Admission is free!” [City of Fairfax]

Reston Comp Plan Info Session Tomorrow — “Reston Association is hosting a drop-in information session from 6:30-9:30 p.m., on Thursday, for residents to stop by and learn more about the Reston Comprehensive Plan Review. Members of the RA Board and other representatives will be available to share information an answer questions about the plan.” [Patch]

It’s Wednesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 67 and low of 50. Sunrise at 7:03 am and sunset at 6:57 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Across Fairfax County and Virginia, thousands of students walked out today (Tuesday) in protest of proposed state policies that would limit schools’ ability to support transgender and other gender-nonconforming students.

Students from more than 90 schools, including nearly 30 in Fairfax County, took a stand against policies introduced earlier this month by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin regulating everything from which bathroom a student can use to the definition of “the phrase ‘transgender student.'”

The walkout protests were organized by the Pride Liberation Project, a student-led organization that advocates for the LQBTQ+ community in schools. The group aims to persuade the governor to revoke the draft policies, which are now open for public comment through Oct. 26.

Since the policies were announced more than a week ago, local school districts, board members, and elected officials have questioned and overwhelmingly come out against policies that would severely curtail the rights of and support that school districts can give transgender students.

Fairfax County Public Schools said last week that it was “reviewing” the proposed policies and reiterated a commitment to supporting LGBTQ students.

Today, though, it was students’ turn to make their voices heard.

At West Potomac High School in Belle Haven, an estimated 1,000 students walked out at 10 a.m. in protest. They filed into bleachers on the football field, while speakers shared their experiences and why they personally would be affected by the new policies.

“As a trans [person], I have been discriminated against for my gender identity and was told it was wrong. That I was wrong,” said a West Potomac High School senior. “These policies are just a new case of this happening.”

“I can’t be a student if I don’t know what name my teacher is going to call me,” said another student.

Mara Surovell, one of the lead organizers for the West Potomac High School walkout, hopes it will encourage Youngkin to not implement the policies or, at the very least, allow school districts the authority to continue to implement their own guidance.

“Most of my friends are transgender and my sister is also transgender. So it affects all people I love. And I don’t want any of my friends to feel like school is an unsafe place,” Surovell told FFXnow. “I don’t want to see…their mental health plummet because of these policies, and I really just want them to feel safe and loved, and I don’t think that’ll happen if these policies get approved.”

Students involved in walkouts at South Lakes High School in Reston and Marshall High School in Idylwood shared similar thoughts.

Rishi Chandra, a South Lakes junior, said that he has personally seen how well trans and nonbinary students can do in school when they feel safe, but if the new policies get approved, they will “harm queer students.” Read More

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The Fairfax County Government Center’s COVID-19 vaccination site in March 2021 (via FCHD/Twitter)

There were undeniably hiccups along the way, but Fairfax County’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic earned an overall positive assessment from community surveys conducted this summer.

A general community survey issued in June received 2,148 responses, representing just a fraction of the county’s over 1.1 million residents.

However, 90% of respondents reported experiencing little or no difficulty accessing county services during the pandemic, and 89% said the same specifically for services related to COVID-19, Fairfax County Emergency Management Coordinator Seamus Mooney told the Board of Supervisors on Sept. 13.

On average, 71% of 147 surveyed businesses said they would’ve had to stop operations or been otherwise negatively affected without access to county services. 91% of community organizations said they were satisfied with their collaborations with the county, per Mooney’s presentation.

“This was an international health emergency, the likes of which none of us had ever seen before,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “So, we were pivoting day in and day out, every minute to try to respond to our community, and this survey proves that our response was effective and that our agencies really stood up and did their job.”

The survey findings were shared as part of a COVID-19 After Action Report that the county is compiling to assess its response to the pandemic and how this experience could inform its response to future emergencies.

While the full report won’t be finalized until later this year, Mooney said the surveys and feedback from the supervisors’ offices and different county agencies suggest the government successfully adapted to the pandemic’s changing circumstances, from the park authority and library’s pivot to online programming to the “rapid rollout” of non-congregate options for sheltering people experiencing homelessness.

A Quarantine, Protection, Isolation/Decompression (QPID) emergency housing program provided temporary shelter in hotels for 2,188 people. Though the program ended in March, the board directed county staff to evaluate how it might inform the county’s approach to supportive housing going forward.

According to the presentation, the county also provided over $90 million in funding for rent assistance, food and other basic needs services. From May 2020 to July 2022, over 1.5 million meals were distributed at Fairfax County Public Schools and by trucks.

“Changes made during the pandemic have the potential to reset expectations for future operations and establish a new path forward that the county can utilize from here on out,” Mooney said.

One change here to stay is the option for community members to testify remotely at Board of Supervisors meetings, which was “a major success,” the presentation says.

When it comes to challenges, one date looms large in county officials’ memories: Jan. 18, 2021. That’s when the county launched its online COVID-19 vaccine registration system, which immediately ran into technical issues after demand overwhelmed the county’s call center a week earlier. Read More

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Morning Notes

Snakeden Branch at Lake Audubon in Reston (photo by Ray Copson)

Tolls on First Day of New I-66 Lanes Top $6 — “Washington-bound drivers paid an average of $6.10 during the Monday morning commute to use new Interstate 66 toll lanes from Gainesville to Centreville, according to the toll operator. The highest toll in the eastbound lanes was $6.50 at the peak of the commute, officials said.” [The Washington Post]

Monkeypox Vaccine Eligibility Expands — “The VDH announced eligibility expansion for JYNNEOS, the monkeypox vaccine to include people of any gender or sexual orientation living with HIV/AIDS or who were diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection in the past three months.” [Fairfax County Health Department/Twitter]

Man Arrested for Reported Chantilly Robbery — “Fairfax County Police located a suspect in an assault and robbery that occurred midday on Monday in the Chantilly area, according to a post on the department’s official Twitter account. Officers were on the scene at 12:26 p.m., in the 13200 block of Leafcrest Lane in Fairfax” [Patch]

County Board to Consider Police Hiring Bonuses — “A newly proposed ordinance change would give the county executive the ability to give up to $15,000 in hiring bonuses to attract new police officers to the force. The Board of Supervisors is expected to approve the ordinance change on Oct. 11, 2022.” [ABC7]

Volunteer Fire Departments Face Staffing Challenges — “There are fewer volunteers in the ranks, as some departed during the pandemic and some departments saw lower recruitment…’Yet with the core group of volunteers we have today, we are maintaining and in some cases growing our capacity and level of activity, which is very encouraging,’ [Fairfax County Volunteer Fire Commission Chairman Shawn] Stokes said.” [Sun Gazette]

Colvin Run Road Intersection at Route 7 Reopens — “Starting the week of Sept. 26, the Colvin Run Road (west) intersection will open to all movements at Route 7. The following movements will be restored: Drivers on westbound Route 7 will be able to turn right onto Colvin Run Road (west). Drivers on Colvin Run Road (west) will be able to turn right onto westbound Route 7.” [VDOT]

FCPS Recruits Spanish Teachers From Puerto Rico — “When a friend told Lesliean Luna that Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia was recruiting native Spanish speakers in San Juan, she didn’t hesitate…Now years after Luna was hired in 2016, she and her daughter both work in Virginia’s largest school system.” [WTOP]

Fire Station Open Houses Planned — “In celebration of Fire Prevention Week (October 9-15, 2022), all Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Stations will be hosting an Open House on Saturday, October 15 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Stop by your local station that day to meet your firefighters and paramedics, join in the activities, learn about fire safety, see the fire trucks and ambulances.” [FCFRD]

Tysons 5K Fundraiser Sees Strong Turnout — “Thank you to everyone who joined us for @foodforothers’ 9th annual Tysons 5K and Fun Run! This year, 390 people participated in the event and a total of $92,585.40 was raised for Food for Others, an organization dedicated to distributing food to our neighbors in need.” [Tysons Partnership/Twitter]

It’s Tuesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 69 and low of 55. Sunrise at 7:02 am and sunset at 6:59 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Reston Regional Library (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A developer that filed a competing proposal for a new Reston library and affordable housing is calling into question Fairfax County’s handling of an unsolicited proposal it received for a new library near the same site.

Developer Norton Scott says the county mishandled the solicitation process after developer Foulger-Pratt filed a proposal to redevelop 4.5 acres of land at the intersection Bowman Towne Court and Town Center Parkway in October 2021.

Norton Scott is petitioning the county to incorporate more public opportunities to review other sites for the library that the company says would better serve Reston residents and are more in line with Reston’s comprehensive plan.

“They are sliding this through in a way that circumvents the public process that is so inherent to planning in Reston,” Chelsea Rao, vice president of Norton Scott, told FFXnow.

The Foulger-Pratt proposal — which was publicized with significant redactions — would redevelop the 4.5-acre property into an apartment building for working families and a new library, while demolishing 30 affordable rental townhomes on the site. What’s publicly known is that roughly 350 affordable housing units across two buildings with a garage and the library are planned.

The Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority (FCRHA) issued a call for competing proposals earlier this year — all governed under the provisions of the Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act of 2002, which lays different groundwork for public-private partnerships.

To date, the Norton Scott proposal is the only competing application received.

Located near Reston Regional Library’s current site and a neighboring lot owned by the developer’s subsidiaries across from the police station’s parking lot, the Norton Scott plan would have consolidated three county-owned parcels with a one-core parcel to the south.

It would’ve created a 1.8-acre plaza, 39,000-square-foot library, a new homeless shelter, a performing arts center, a human services building, and 582 housing units — including 354 affordable units. The plan would also preserve existing affordable housing on the Bowman Town Center Court property.

But FCHRA spokesperson Benjamin Boxer told FFXnow that Norton Scott’s application was deemed non-responsive because it involves a completely different site.

“Norton Scott’s competing proposal was non-responsive to the solicitation because the site for their proposal was located on entirely different property owned by the Board of Supervisors, as well as a separate parcel owned by Norton Scott, not the FCRHA-owned property identified in the request for competing proposals issued by the FCRHA,” Boxer said. “Norton Scott may submit its own unsolicited proposal for the other location, and they were so advised over a month ago.” Read More

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The latest map includes phase two of the Silver Line (via Metro)

Metro has officially debuted changes to its 2019 map of the rail system.

This past Friday (Sept. 23), Metrorail began rolling out the new maps — which feature the Silver Line extension and stations with new name — to its stations, trains and transit centers.

As first reported by DCist, the new map includes stations on phase two of the Silver Line: Reston Town Center, Herndon, Innovation Center, Washington Dulles International Airport, Loudoun Gateway and Ashburn.

The map also lists Potomac Yard station in Alexandria as a future station.

But it will take some time before the whole system’s maps are upgraded. The overall system has more than 5,000 maps in stations and trains alone.

“Metro is getting a head start now for what will take more than a month to replace every map in the system in preparation for opening,” the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority said.

The map also includes new station names — which were approved by Metro’s Board of Directors — changing Largo Town Center to Downtown Largo, Prince George’s Plaza to Hyattsville Crossing, White Flint to North Bethesda, and Tysons Corner to Tysons. West Falls Church-VT is also the new name of the station that used to bear the University of Virginia’s name.

Here’s more from Metro on the changes:

The map’s original design was created more than 40 years ago by graphic designer Lance Wyman and was revised by Wyman for the opening of the first phase of the Silver Line and the extensions’ completion. Over the decades, millions of people have navigated Metrorail using the simple but classic map showing all six rail lines – Red, Blue, Orange, Silver, Green and Yellow – crossing the region with crisp, clean lines.

Printing has been underway for weeks, as Metro prepares for the opening of the Silver Line extension. Maps of various sizes, fare tables, and customer brochures are all being updated.

Metro has not yet decided when the Silver Line extension will officially open. But its Board of Directors took a key step last Thursday (Sept. 22) when they delegated to Metro General Manager and CEO Randy Clarke the authority to accept the project once certain conditions are met.

Right now, a fall opening is anticipated.

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Morning Notes

The Mosaic District is bustling during its fall festival on Sunday, Sept. 25 (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Rat Causes Tysons Power Outage — “Rats! Power Outage in Tysons area tonight was caused by a rat that infiltrated a piece of equipment. 1,588 customers lost power. All customers restored in 1 hour and 5 minutes.” [Peggy Fox/Twitter]

Reston Woman Arrested for Leaving Kids With Stranger — “Herndon Police arrested 24-year-old Paola Alejandra Salinas Padilla of Reston for child abuse after she left her two children at a stranger’s home on Thursday, according to a post on the department’s official Twitter account. Salinas Padilla left her two children around 3 p.m., on Thursday…telling the strangers that she would pick them up by 11 p.m., according to police.” [Patch]

County Task Force Activated for Potential Florida Hurricane — “Virginia Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue packing up and preparing to deploy as part of FEMA Federal Emergency Management Agency response for #TropicalStormIan, which may hit Florida as a #hurricane.” [FCFRD/Facebook]

“Students Will Die” if New Trans Policies Are Adopted, Former FCPS Student Says — “[Aaryan] Rawal said it wasn’t until his senior year of high school that he began to openly identify as queer at school. He said he only felt safe doing that because of the ‘model policies’ put in place by then-Gov. Ralph Northam (D) to protect transgender students…Rawal is not transgender, but he said the polices created an atmosphere where he felt free to be himself at school.” [The Washington Post]

People Displaced by Hybla Valley House Fire — “Last night at 11 PM, units responded to a two alarm apartment fire in 7500 block of Republic Court. Fire on top floor w/ extension into attic and through roof. No reported injuries. Multiple residents displaced, and being assisted.” [FCFRD/Twitter]

CIA Renovates Langley Museum — A model of the late al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s compound in Kabul that was used to plan the U.S. drone strike that killed him is part of the spy agency’s headquarters’ newly renovated museum. The CIA Museum “isn’t open to the public. But it’s not exactly top secret either, welcoming CIA employees, official guests, foreign partners, potential recruits” [The Washington Post]

Vienna Acting Planning Director Gets Permanent Job — “Vienna officials recently announced that they had hired Kelly O’Brien, who had been serving as acting deputy director of planning and zoning for most of the past nine months, to continue in that role on a permanent basis.” [Sun Gazette]

Police Offer Commercial Robbery Tips — “Our Crime Prevention Officers recently conducted numerous site assessments at stores to enhance Crime Prevention through Environmental Design. There are several steps that you can take to enhance security at your business to deter and prevent robberies from occurring.” [FCPD]

It’s Monday — Clear throughout the day. High of 73 and low of 58. Sunrise at 7:01 am and sunset at 7:01 pm. [Weather.gov]

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A duck takes a bath in Royal Lake near Burke (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The weekend is almost here. Before you double check your Congressional district or head to bed for some much-needed sleep, let’s revisit the past week of news in Fairfax County.

Here are the 10 most-read stories on FFXnow this week:

  1. Upcoming gastropub restaurant in Reston reignites family legacy, pays ode to Lake Anne
  2. Nothing Bundt Cakes bakery arrives in Herndon, will offer free ‘bundtlets’ at grand opening
  3. JUST IN: Truck hits McLean power line, killing man and prompting outage
  4. BREAKING: Assistant arrested for allegedly assaulting special needs student at Dogwood ES
  5. Developer seeks to convert Tysons office building into ‘live/work’ units
  6. DEVELOPING: Pedestrian in hospital after crash in Pike 7 Plaza parking lot
  7. FCPS ‘reviewing’ Virginia’s proposed policies on treatment of transgender students
  8. Metro board takes key step to setting opening date of Silver Line Phase II
  9. Proposed ‘home share’ program could help house older county residents
  10. Reston planning committee approves Vantage Hill redevelopment

Ideas for potential stories can be sent to news@ffxnow.com or submitted as an anonymous tip. Photos of scenes from around the county are welcome too, with credit always given to the photographer.

Feel free to discuss these topics, your weekend plans, or anything else that’s happening locally in the comments below. Have a great weekend, Fairfax County!

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Morning Notes

Lake Audubon from bridge in Reston (photo by Ray Copson)

Reminder: Early Voting Begins — “[It’s] the first day to #voteearly in the congressional #midterms! The 8th, 10th & 11th U.S. House seats are up for election and there are three sites open for #earlyvoting on weekdays” [Office of Elections/Twitter]

Sexual Battery Trial Against Former Teacher Cut Short — “A Fairfax County, Virginia, circuit court judge has dismissed an indictment alleging aggravated sexual battery against a former music teacher who gave lessons to students out of his house. The dismissal came Monday, Sept. 12, in the midst of the jury trial of Roger McKay, according to court records obtained by WTOP.” [WTOP]

Reston Station Developer Talks Silver Line Phase II — “With the remaining Silver Line stations expected to open in the next few months and the Reston Comprehensive Plan Review in the public comment phase, this seemed like a good time to check in with the developer. Comstock’s Chief Operating Officer Tim Steffan agreed to answer a few questions…about the company’s recent acquisition and what it envisions for Reston Station’s future.” [Patch]

FCPS Sued Over Special Education Appeal Hearings — “Fairfax County Public Schools and the Virginia Department of Education have been hit with a federal class-action lawsuit claiming families of disabled children who challenge schools’ decisions about specialized education plans don’t get a fair shake.” [WTOP]

Free Student Bus Pass Program Adds Metrobus — “Fairfax County, City of Fairfax and Fairfax County Public Schools officials celebrated the Metrobus expansion of the free bus program Thursday at George C. Marshall High School…The recent expansion adds free Metrobus access to students at certain high schools.” [Patch]

Metro Safety and Budget Issues Collide — “Financial problems sparked by the pandemic, a prolonged train shortage and questions about the stability of Metro’s tracks converged Thursday as transit leaders said they will look outside the agency to help solve a growing budget gap while assuring the public the rail system is safe.” [The Washington Post]

Hilton Plans Voyage to Space — “[The] McLean hotel giant…said this week it will design astronaut facilities for a private space station called Starlab currently being developed by Denver’s Voyager Space Holdings Inc. and Bethesda’s Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT). Starlab will eventually be one of the replacements of the International Space Station” [Washington Business Journal]

Tysons Library Takes Kids to Spy School 101 — “Join us for a hybrid workshop presented by the International Spy Museum on how to be a spy! The workshop will take place in the library meeting rooms and start with an interactive group activity followed by the virtual presentation.” [Fairfax County Public Library]

It’s Friday — Clear throughout the day. High of 65 and low of 51. Sunrise at 6:59 am and sunset at 7:06 pm. [Weather.gov]

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A Fairfax County Office of Elections ballot drop box from 2021 (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 9:10 p.m.) In Fairfax County, the battle for control of Congress starts tomorrow (Friday).

The county will open three early voting sites and start mailing out absentee ballots for the Nov. 8 general election, which will decide three seats in the House of Representatives as well as the Town of Herndon’s leadership.

Turnout is tough to predict, but early voting and voting by mail “seem to be growing in popularity” after Virginia made both options available to all in 2020, Fairfax County Office of Elections spokesperson Brian Worthy says.

Nearly 70% of registered voters participated in the last midterm elections in 2018, but no individual House race saw a turnout over 37%, according to Worthy. Last November’s election, which anointed Glenn Youngkin as Virginia’s governor, drew a 60.2% turnout.

“Because the Office of Elections always prepare for high turnout, they will be ready to manage turnout greater than the recent gubernatorial election,” Worthy said.

He says the county has filled all of the 2,300 election officer positions needed for Nov. 8, but there is always a demand for bilingual poll workers, especially people who speak both Korean and English.

What’s New This Year

Voters may see different candidates than they anticipate on their ballot, thanks to last year’s redistricting process, which altered federal and state electoral boundaries in Virginia.

Polling sites will stay the same for 96% of voters in the county, but everyone should double check their district through the Virginia Department of Elections before voting in person, Worthy says. There have also been a few precinct changes unrelated to redistricting.

To limit confusion, the county elections office sent every voter a mailer with information about their legislative districts and polling place earlier this year.

“The office will be mailing voters a sample ballot with this same information, and the state is also sending a redistricting mailing to voters,” Worthy said.

In addition, Virginia will now let new voters register and cast a ballot up to and on Election Day. The General Assembly approved the change in 2020, but the law won’t take effect until Oct. 1.

While the new flexibility will be welcome for anyone who misses the Oct. 17 deadline, election officials don’t recommend waiting until the last minute to register. Voters who register Oct. 18 or later will get provisional ballots to allow “additional time to verify” their paperwork, according to WTOP.

Provisional ballots aren’t reviewed until after Election Day, and the state electoral board determines whether each of them can be counted.

“Because same day registration is a new law, the Office of Elections is uncertain of the impact, but they are prepared to manage a large number of same day registrants at early voting sites and polling places on Election Day, as well as to process these registrations,” Worthy said. Read More

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