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A dog believed to be a Staffordshire terrier was found chained up and shot in Mount Vernon (via FCPD)

A dog was chained up and shot this morning in the residential neighborhood behind the Woodlawn Shopping Center in Mount Vernon, police say.

Officers responded to the area of Bedford Terrace and Beekman Place at 3:35 a.m. after getting a call that there was a dog chained to a fence, according to the Fairfax County Police Department. Upon arriving, they discovered the animal had a gunshot wound.

“The chain was immediately removed, and the dog was taken to a nearby veterinarian’s office. The dog remains with the veterinarian receiving further care,” the FCPD said in a news release published this afternoon.

Police later determined that a community member had called earlier in the evening “after hearing a dog barking and a single gunshot,” the department said, adding that officers had searched the area but “did not find anything suspicious.”

The FCPD is now on the lookout for the owner of the dog, which is believed to be an adult, male Staffordshire terrier.

Police are asking residents in the neighborhood to review any surveillance footage they might have from last night. The department’s Animal Protection Police can be contacted at fcpdanimalprotection@fairfaxcounty.gov.

The FCPD also accepts anonymous tips through Crime Solvers by phone (1-866-411-TIPS) and online.

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A car on Sunrise Valley Drive passes the Innovation Metro station (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County is again asking the state for money to offset anticipated reductions in resident vehicle tax payments.

At a meeting on Tuesday (Jan. 24), the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a letter written by Chairman Jeff McKay for Gov. Glenn Youngkin, asking him to include money in his budget for localities to blunt the impact of a 15% decrease in car tax revenue.

“We all heard last year the complaints that came in. I don’t think people understand that we don’t set the value of cars. They are set by others,” Chairman Jeff McKay said. “So, the tool that we had in our toolbox was to automatically put a reduction in value on all those vehicles in the county. Even with that, most people’s…tax bills went up.”

Over the last several years, used car prices have increased dramatically, though they’ve started to come down in recent weeks. Because of that, many county taxpayers are paying significantly more in personal property tax — also known as the “car tax.”

Last year, the Board approved assessing vehicles at only 85% of market value in order to give some relief to county taxpayers. That came after Youngkin signed legislation giving localities express permission to do that, in accordance with the Dillon Rule.

However, the county relies on that money as part of its tax revenue to fund services. In 1998, Virginia passed the Personal Property Tax Relief Act, which dictates that the state should offer car tax relief and subsidize localities for lost revenue owed on the first $20,000 of a vehicle’s value.

But the amount of funding provided to localities hasn’t changed since 2007, and Virginia now provides 20% less relief. In other words, both taxpayers and the county government are getting significantly less money from the state than they did 16 years ago.

After cutting another 15% for fiscal year 2023, which began July 1, 2022, the Fairfax County board is asking to get more money back from the state — a request also made to the governor last year, McKay’s board matter notes.

Youngkin has suggested cutting the car tax entirely, but county officials have expressed some trepidation about the consequences unless the money is reimbursed. McKay said reimbursement might be possible now considering the state’s nearly $2 billion surplus.

“While either the state or county could eliminate car taxes all together, the state should honor its pledge of 1998 to eliminate the car tax while reimbursing local governments for lost revenue,” the letter to Youngkin says. “It is essential and possible, particularly as the state currently sits on a significant surplus, to allocate adequate funding to provide residents with effective personal property tax relief.”

Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw argued that the state can’t truly claim to have a surplus until “the Commonwealth pays its bills…and this is an example.”

“If it doesn’t happen this year with the surplus that exists, it ain’t going to happen next year or the year after that,” he said.

While the governor already released his budget last month, amendments — including one to offset lost vehicle tax revenue — could still happen at the direction of the General Assembly.

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COO Larry Butler will retire in the summer after more than 40 years with Reston Association (courtesy RA)

Reston Association‘s COO Larry Butler is officially retiring after more than 40 years with the organization.

His retirement comes after a lengthy career with RA that began when he took a position as a seasonal employee in the spring of 1982.

“Most memorable for me are the life-long friends I have made with the staff and many in the community with whom I have worked,” Butler said.  “For the next chapter of my life, I look forward to many adventures including hiking, biking, fishing and spending more time with my family and friends — preferably in the woods somewhere.”

In a press release, RA said Butler was instrumental in starting RA’s lakes and watershed management programs. He also spent several years on the North American Lake Management Society’s board of directors and served as the organization’s president.

Although he left Reston Association in the mid-1990s to work for the Ashburn Village Community Association, he returned to serve as RA’s director of parks and recreation.

He also helped with fundraising efforts for the Nature House, converted the Southgate Pool into a county-operated community center, and helped with the installation of the Browns Chapel Little League Field.

Butler’s colleagues lauded him for his contributions to the organization.

“He has truly been Mr. RA. The familiar face of the organization for decades bringing continuity and stability even during some rocky times,” RA President Sarah Selvaraj-D’Souza said. “The RA Board is forever grateful to Larry for his leadership, historical knowledge, and most of all his service and commitment to Reston and all Restonians. He will truly be missed.”

RA CEO Mike Cummins called Butler’s impact on the community “profound.”

“He has served in nearly every capacity in our organization and has led our operations and various services in leadership capacities throughout his career here,” Cummins said. “The community owes him much, and the staff is blessed to have had a chance to work with him.”

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Morning Notes

A woman walks her dog at Lake Anne Plaza (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The President Stops by Springfield — Joe Biden discussed his economic plans yesterday (Thursday) at the Springfield campus of Steamfitters Local 602, a labor union for D.C. area contract workers in the heating, cooling and air-conditioning piping industry. The presidential motorcade took over I-395 during rush hour after the event, which was attended by Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay and Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn. [Twitter]

Free Flu Vaccine Clinic Tomorrow — The Fairfax County Health Department will provide free flu vaccinations at its Mount Vernon District Office (8350 Richmond Highway, Suite 233) from 8 a.m. to noon tomorrow (Saturday). Shots usually cost $25 for uninsured adults, $21.24 for uninsured kids and $30 with private insurance. Call 703-246-7100 to make an appointment. [FCHD/Twitter]

Senate Tables Silver Line Casino Bill — “A last-minute bill submitted by State Sen. David Marsden (D-Burke) that would’ve paved the way for casinos to be built within a mile of Silver Line Metro Stations in Fairfax County was killed in committee on Wednesday afternoon…When news of the casino bill became more widely known, Fairfax County officials spoke out against it.” [Patch]

Metro Plans to Boost Frequency of Trains — “Metro will improve train arrival times in February, but only on certain lines during the busiest times and days. Starting Feb. 7, trains will pull into Blue and Orange Line stations every 12 minutes during the new peak rush hours — Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 6-9 a.m. and 3-6 p.m.” [DCist]

Funding Approved for Housing at Government Center — “At the January 19th meeting of the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority (FCRHA), Commissioners approved up to $14 million to finance Phase 1 of the Residences at Government Center II, a new 279-unit development of affordable housing in the Braddock District.” [Housing and Community Development]

Great Falls Resident Says Library Speaker Fees Too High — A Great Falls resident who objected to Dolley Madison Library hosting a “Drag StoryBook Hour” and the availability of LBGTQ-centered books in local schools is now taking issue with the fees that Fairfax County Public Library pays invited speakers. The system has spent $53,100 on four authors so far this fiscal year. [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Funding Sought for Bus Route From Skyline to HQ2 — Arlington County will seek up to $8 million in regional funding for a new Metrobus route that would link the Skyline neighborhood in Bailey’s Crossroads to Amazon’s second headquarters in Pentagon City via Columbia Pike. An increase in ridership is expected after the first phase of Amazon’s new campus opens later this year. [ARLnow]

Omnium Circus Returning to Tysons — “Omnium Circus offers a uniquely accessible and inclusive day of family-friendly fun this February. We talked with Lisa Lewis, the Executive Director and founder of Omnium Circus, about this year’s show at Capital One Hall.” [Capital One Hall]

It’s Friday — Clear throughout the day. High of 43 and low of 31. Sunrise at 7:20 am and sunset at 5:25 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Roer’s Zoofari, a popular zoo and safari in Reston, is under new ownership and will reopen as Nova Wild in early March. 

Nova Wild says it plans to revitalize the local treasure and create a non-profit, community-focused zoo for children of all ages. 

“Our intent is to revitalize a beloved Reston Gem,” Joshua Reid, the spokesperson for the company, said. “Nova Wild is proudly under new ownership, and everything is changing.”

A drive-through safari is expected to open in early February before the full zoo opens in early March.

The change in ownership took place on Dec. 30. Vanessa and Jacob Roer were the previous owners. Reid describes the new owner — Tara Campbell Lussieras a former Reston resident and longtime friend. Lussier is a real estate agent and serial entrepreneur. 

Next month, the new owners will launch a light show called “The Great Migration,” which will allow participants to explore 10 animal habitats and learn about wildlife from around the world, along with the trails that run through the property. It’ll feature more than 800,000 LED lights.

The show is slated to take place on Feb. 17 through April 9 from 4:30-8:30 p.m. 

Nova Wild plans a three-pronged approach to the zoo: animal welfare, education and conservation. It described itself as an accredited facility on its website. 

We have secured the highest levels of accreditation, above and beyond federal, state, and local requirements. We are proudly accredited by the Zoological Association of America and certified by American Humane,” the website says.

Reid says the company plans to “expand on animals, offerings, ethics, and family-friendly adventure,” but declined to comment further.

“The architectural renderings planned improvements are still under production. A family-friendly atmosphere will always remain,” he said.

This isn’t the first time the zoo has changed hands. Vanessa and Jacob Roer took ownership of the facility in 2016, when it was called Reston Zoo. 

The zoo was shaken by tragedy in 2021 when a fire killed two giraffes: Waffles — a giraffe described as the heart of the zoo — and his new companion, Belgian. 

The fire originated from a heater that was being used in the area. A petition called for the zoo to be shut down for “inhumane treatment of animals,” though other than the fire, all of the incidents cited occurred under previous owners.

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Pickleball players celebrate the opening of the courts at Glyndon Park (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The nationwide face-off between pickleball enthusiasts and homeowners has arrived in the Town of Vienna.

In the hopes of quieting resident noise complaints, the town council is set to vote on Monday (Jan. 30) to reduce pickleball play to three days per week at the courts in Glyndon Park (300 Glyndon Street NE).

Currently available seven days a week, the four pickleball courts would open Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays under the proposal from the Vienna Parks and Recreation Department. The hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays would remain the same, but on Saturdays, they would end at 5 p.m.

Town staff recommended an 8 a.m. start time for Saturday, but at a conference session on Jan. 23 that saw some tense back-and-forth exchanges on both the dais and from the audience, a few council members suggested considering 9 a.m. instead, since kids might want to sleep in on the weekend.

“I don’t know that anybody is a hundred percent thrilled with this, but it is in my mind a compromise, and it’s something we can do right now,” Mayor Linda Colbert said.

Glyndon Park’s pickleball courts were welcomed with gusto by local players — including the mayor, who also partakes in tennis — when they opened in October 2020. With aid from the Vienna Pickleball Club, which paid for some of the equipment, the town added pickleball markings to the two existing tennis courts as part of a planned refurbishment.

However, players have run afoul of some nearby residents, who describe the sound of paddles hitting the plastic balls as “unbearable, loud and constant,” according to one comment in an October survey conducted by the parks department.

“The noise is unbearable,” wrote a resident of Jean Place NE, which is across the street from the courts. “The constant popping 12 hours a day 7 days a week is borderline torture. We cannot use our outdoor space anymore due to pickleball and cannot open our windows.”

The survey went to 34 households and received 17 responses, including seven from people who reported having no issues with pickleball. Parking and traffic complaints also came up, but Parks Director Leslie Herman said those “have been taken care of” with signage directing players to an overflow parking lot by the baseball diamonds.

Vienna isn’t alone in seeing clashes between homeowners and pickleball players. As the sport has grown in popularity over the past decade, so have the noise complaints, leading some communities to close courts and others to be taken to court — including in nearby Arlington County.

The sound level for pickleball is anywhere from 57 to 79 decibels, depending on proximity and the type of equipment used. That’s 25 decibels higher than a tennis racket hitting a ball, according to the Los Angeles Times.

People talking can also contribute to the noise levels, Councilmember Ray Brill said, recalling a visit to Glyndon Park where he saw dozens of people at the courts who weren’t playing.

“I love exercising, and I love playing sports outdoors, but we have neighbors we have to be considerate of,” Brill said. “There’s no shortcuts, so we have to compromise. We have to allow people to play, but they have to take steps to reduce the noise.” Read More

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Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity (via patherrity.org)

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity is running for a fifth term.

The lone Republican currently on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors officially declared this morning that he will run for reelection again, making the announcement at his alma mater West Springfield High School.

In the follow-up press release, he said that the county is a very different place compared to when he last ran in 2019.

Since I last ran for office, we have faced unfathomable challenges; from a global pandemic to historic unemployment, unprecedented obstacles for our business owners, interrupted education and record-setting inflation…We live in a different world than we did four years ago and I can’t think of a more critical time to need strong, experienced leadership on the Board of Supervisors. That’s why I’m announcing today my campaign to run for reelection for Springfield District Supervisor on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

First elected in 2007, Herrity is the son of Jack Herrity, a former Fairfax County Board chair in the 1970s and 1980s. As the board’s only Republican, he has clashed at times with the other supervisors.

A challenger has already launched a bid to turn the seat blue. Tech entrepreneur Albert Vega announced in September that he’ll seek the Democratic nomination. If Vega wins the June primary or no other Democrats enter the race, he’ll take on Herrity in the Nov. 7 general election.

“We need someone representing us who has the experience and track record to keep getting results for the County. I humbly consider myself the most qualified to serve our community,” Herrity said in a press release. “I proudly stood as a check on the excesses of the Board, and made sure that each decision made considered the impact it would have on every single one of our county’s residents.”

Herrity’s announcement brings the number of incumbent supervisors seeking reelection this year to six.

Chairman Jeff McKay, Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk, Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, and Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw have all said they’ll be running in 2023.

Longtime supervisors John Foust and Penny Gross are stepping down, leaving both races wide open for new candidates.

Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith and Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik have not made their intentions public yet.

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The Atrium at Worldgate office building in Herndon (via Google Maps)

A new economic development hub is officially open in the Town of Herndon.

The George Mason Enterprise Center has opened in Office Evolution, a shared office space, at 205 Van Buren Street to support small and emerging businesses in an effort to support Herndon’s economic growth.

A ribbon cutting is slated for March 16, though the center has already begun providing services, a spokesperson for the center told FFXnow.

The town is the fifth locality to partner with the George Mason University center, which offers services like business advisory sessions, educational workshops, and training on other federal and state programs.

“We are thrilled to continue the success of the Mason Enterprise Centers with this expansion by bringing Mason assets directly into the Herndon business community,” said Paula Sorrell, Mason’s associate vice president of innovation and economic development.

The center will also grow its services, including providing access to health insurance, payroll support and other business-related services. Patrons will have access to Mason classroom and research projects, as well as capstone students and interns.

“We are delighted to partner with the Mason Enterprise Center and Office Evolution in creating this space for businesses to grow and prosper,” Herndon Mayor Sheila Olem said. “We look forward to welcoming many new enterprises to the town as a result of this collaboration.”

GMU’s other enterprise centers are in Leesburg, Fairfax, Warrenton, and Springfield.

Photo via Google Maps

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A tractor-trailer overturned on a I-395 South ramp in Springfield, spilling sewage (via VDOT)

A tractor-trailer carrying sewage flipped over on I-395 in Springfield earlier today (Thursday), resulting in a tough morning commute for drivers headed away from D.C.

The Virginia Department of Transportation reported at 7:35 a.m. that the vehicle had overturned and spilled its contents on the southbound I-395 ramp to southbound I-95. All lanes were blocked.

Drivers already on the highway were directed to detour to the Capital Beltway (I-495) or Old Keene Mill Road, while VDOT advised those not yet caught up in the jam to seek alternate routes.

By 8 a.m., vehicles were able to get by on the left shoulder, and VDOT said that there had been no injuries. However, the department revealed that the truck’s contents turned out to be sewage.

“Pls check 511Virginia before you go bc things can get backed up,” the department tweeted.

Per 511Virginia, VDOT’s live traffic camera site, the southbound right shoulder remains closed, and traffic backups extend approximately 1.5 miles, as of 9:38 a.m.

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Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay (file photo)

Fairfax County’s top priorities for 2023 will be increasing mental health services, boosting police retention, addressing commercial office vacancies, and improving pedestrian safety, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay says.

Adequately addressing those needs, though, requires more financial help and local authority from Virginia’s General Assembly, he told FFXnow in an interview.

With the county increasingly reliant on real estate taxes, officials expect this budget cycle to be one of the most challenging in a decade.

As property values rise, the tax burden on property owners is already “significant” and hurting residents, McKay said. To not “exacerbate” the situation, the county likely needs to lower the real estate tax rate.

“I personally believe absolutely we have to reduce the tax rate as a part of this next budget,” McKay said.

Continued recovery from the pandemic is paramount, informing all the board’s priorities for the upcoming year, McKay said.

While economic recovery from the pandemic tends to get a lot of attention, there remains “a lot of work to do” on human services, according to the chairman.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is the ongoing growth of mental health challenges, especially with some of our young people,” McKay said. “I do think that a good chunk of that is a byproduct of what we’ve been through with Covid.”

Mental health-related challenges affect everything from police calls to unemployment and schools, he said. The county’s current budget gave close to $186 million to the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board, which provides support services.

McKay believes the state’s $37 million contribution isn’t enough, arguing that mental health funding should be “primarily a state responsibility.”

“This is something the state has to get really serious about addressing,” he said. “Frankly, if they provided the level of support that the county did, we probably wouldn’t have near the mental health challenges in Virginia that we have now.”

Increasing mental health services could mean more educational programs, staffing, and supportive programs.

It also ties into public safety, as the Fairfax County Police Department struggles with understaffing and retention. McKay says officers are being asked to take on responsibilities that they shouldn’t have to handle.

“Increasingly our police are almost being asked to be mental health clinicians [when then are] mental health service calls,” he said. “It’s stressing them out and getting people not interested in joining police departments.”

In 2021, the county instituted a co-responder program where a crisis intervention specialist joins police officers on certain mental health-related calls. Alongside the county’s Diversion First program, launched in 2016, it provides treatment to individuals instead of incarceration. McKay says the programs need to “grow dramatically.” Read More

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