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One of the baseball diamonds at Patriot Park North, Fairfax County’s first official sports tourism development (via Fairfax County Park Authority/YouTube)

The Fairfax County Park Authority is still scouting for its next sports tourism project.

After opening Patriot Park North, a $28 million baseball and softball facility, near George Mason University last spring, the park authority put out a call in June for potential private partners on a new, multi-sport tournament complex that it hopes could benefit both residents and visitors.

However, the park authority announced on Feb. 15 that the four development pitches it received were all ruled out for further exploration at this time due to a lack of funding or the proposed site being deemed unsuitable.

“[The] Fairfax County Park Authority Board and stakeholders reviewed the submissions and found them not viable,” an FCPA spokesperson said. “…The [entities] submitting the proposal[s] did not have the funding for the project or the locations proposed were in established parks and would impact existing park amenities including golf courses, existing fields, garden plots or areas with historical significance.”

The submitted proposals haven’t been made public, but in its request for interest (RFI) issued in June, the county suggested Mountain Road and Halifax parks in Centreville, Rock Hill Park in Chantilly, and Patriot Park East near George Mason’s Fairfax campus as possible sites.

Those four sites are all undeveloped parcels owned by the park authority, which has identified them in approved master plans as potential future athletic fields. The RFI also gave respondents the option of identifying other locations that could host a multi-sport tournament complex.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors authorized a Sports Tourism Task Force in 2017 that was charged with studying how the county could “take advantage of this market in order to diversify its tax base” and how any resulting revenue could be used to support resident-focused facilities.

In a report released on Aug. 31, 2020, the task force cited outdoor field complexes as the county’s biggest need and the facility with the greatest economic potential. Other recommended priorities included an indoor hardcourt, an indoor track facility, an ice complex and a natatorium with a pool for swimming and diving competitions.

The study, which was conducted by a consulting firm and supported by the FCPA, identified 17 sites that could host at least one of the recommended facilities, though the vetting process drew criticism from some county supervisors for not considering equity or environmental impacts.

The task force estimated that an outdoor rectangular field complex at Mountain Road could generate over $61.7 million of economic output, including nearly $4.5 million in county tax revenue. An indoor court and track complex at Baron Cameron Park in Reston could bring in $72.6 million, though it would have higher construction costs.

Designed, built and operated by the park authority, Patriot Park North became the county’s first official sports tourism project, featuring four full-size baseball diamonds and two smaller diamonds.

Though none of the submissions for a follow-up gained traction so far, the park authority says it’s still open to new ideas. Unsolicited proposals can be submitted to the county through its Public-Private Educational Facilities and Infrastructures Act (PPEA) process.

“With Requests for Interest, if or when a project becomes viable, additional input will be sought through the Park Authority’s outreach processes,” the FCPA said.

Screenshot via Fairfax County Park Authority/YouTube

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Morning Notes

The Vita apartments loom behind an entrance to the Tysons Metro station (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Herndon Pub’s Cheesesteak Voted Best in Region — “A stalwart in pub food, Jimmy’s Old Town Tavern of Herndon claims the title of Best Cheesesteak in our NoVA Wars: Cheesesteak Edition reader poll. Readers chose Jimmy’s as the winner through four rounds of bracket-style voting. In the end, it topped Falls Church’s Celebrity Delly for the title.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Temporary Fix Proposed for Georgetown Pike Traffic — “VDOT is proposing to restrict left-turns from northbound Dead Run Drive to westbound Georgetown Pike” in McLean during rush hour in the hopes of easing congestion exacerbated by construction on I-495. “The meeting will take place Wednesday, from 7-9 p.m., Churchill Road Elementary School Cafeteria.” [Patch]

Apartment Complex in Bailey’s Crossroads Nears Finish — “Three Collective, the new three-building apartment complex at the Skyline Center in Bailey’s Crossroads, is nearing completion. The three buildings had been office buildings and were repurposed for residential uses. [They] have a total of 720 ‘flexidential’ apartments where tenants can live, work, or do both.” [Annandale Today]

Business Community Opposes Digital Sales Tax — “Trade associations representing hundreds of companies that do business in Virginia have come out swinging against a proposal to expand the state sales tax to cover digital goods, something Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin proposed and Democrats endorsed in their budget legislation.” Signatories of a letter sent to legislators include the Northern Virginia Technology Council. [Associated Press/WTOP]

Development Restricted on Great Falls Property — “Fairfax County supervisors on Feb. 20 unanimously approved creation of a new 29.81-acre agricultural-and-forestal (AF) district in Great Falls, which will protect the property from more intensive development in exchange for a tax break.” The land is mostly forested or undeveloped, but about 4.8 acres are being used for agricultural purposes, and there are three residential structures. [Gazette Leader]

Sorority Donates Books to Lorton School — “The Alpha Beta Alpha Omega Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. donated over 200 books featuring characters of color to Gunston Elementary School in honor of Black History Month.” The books were collected by the sorority chapter over the past month and “selected or approved by Gunston Elementary’s librarian.” [On the MoVe]

Oakton Student Wins State Diving Championship — “Flint Hill Huskies senior diver Michayla Eisenberg finished her high-school career by winning the girls private-school state championship with a 506.7 point total, the highest in her prep career. The state title was her second in a row, dominating and winning by 186 points this season and finishing second as a sophomore.” [Gazette Leader]

Free Prom Dress Shop Set for Reston Return — “Reston Community Center is gearing up to host its annual Diva Central event on Saturday, March 16. Now in its 22nd year, Diva Central is a single-day prom and formal dress shopping event that is open to middle- and high school-age students who need formal dresses and/or accessories.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

It’s Wednesday — Expect rain throughout the day, potentially turning into a thunderstorm after 4pm, with a high near 69°F. Winds will be breezy from the south at 21-24 mph, gusting up to 37 mph. Rain will continue into the night, with a possible thunderstorm before 10pm. Temperatures will drop to around 31°F, accompanied by windy conditions. [Weather.gov]

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U.S., Virginia and Fairfax County flags on a pole blow in wind on a rainy day (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Updated at 10:25 a.m. on 2/28/2024 — The National Weather Service has moved up the start time for its Wind Advisory to 3 p.m. today (Wednesday).

Earlier: A Wind Advisory has been issued for the D.C. area, including Fairfax County.

The alert is currently scheduled to start at 6 p.m. tomorrow (Wednesday) and continue until 4 a.m. Thursday (Feb. 29), according to the National Weather Service.

“Gusty winds could blow around unsecured objects. Tree limbs could be blown down and a few power outages may result,” the NWS said, warning that winds could reach 20 to 30 mph with gusts of up to 50 mph.

The strong winds will conclude what’s expected to be a rainy day in the county. The NWS is forecasting a 100% chance of rain tomorrow, but temperatures could still reach a high of 63 degrees, continuing an abnormally warm February for the East Coast.

A cold front is anticipated following tomorrow night’s high winds, bringing temperatures slightly down on Thursday, according to the Capital Weather Gang.

The full Wind Advisory is below.

…WIND ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 6 PM WEDNESDAY TO 4 AM EST THURSDAY…

* WHAT…West winds 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 50 mph expected.

* WHERE…Portions of central, north central, northeast and northern Maryland, The District of Columbia, central, northern, northwest and western Virginia and eastern and panhandle West Virginia.

* WHEN…From 6 PM Wednesday to 4 AM EST Thursday.

* IMPACTS…Gusty winds could blow around unsecured objects. Tree limbs could be blown down and a few power outages may result.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

Use extra caution when driving, especially if operating a high profile vehicle. Secure outdoor objects.

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Rev. Al Sharpton, attorneys and plaintiffs announce a racial discrimination lawsuit against Navy Federal Credit Union (via National Action Network/YouTube)

(Updated at 11 a.m. on 2/28/2024) Allegations of racist lending practices against Navy Federal Credit Union have solidified into a class action lawsuit.

Attorneys representing nine members of Navy Federal filed a complaint in federal court on Feb. 20 alleging that the Vienna-based financial institution “systematically discriminates” against people of color, particularly Black, Hispanic and Native American applicants, when determining whether to approve mortgage loans.

The lawsuit builds on a Dec. 14 story by CNN that found Navy Federal was more than twice as likely to reject Black mortgage applicants than their white counterparts, even when they have similar incomes, property values and neighborhood characteristics.

“Navy Federal claims that it champions community and that it is dedicated to embracing and celebrating diversity and inclusion in all the communities it serves. Of course, actions speak louder than words, and Navy Federal’s claims of community devotion ring hollow in the face of its systematic discrimination against non-white borrowers,” civil rights attorney Ben Crump said at a press conference in New York, where the lawsuit was publicly announced.

Consolidating four initially separate legal challenges, the lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria, since Navy Federal’s global headquarters are at 820 Follin Lane in Vienna.

Navy Federal, which serves current and former members of the military and their families, gave conventional home purchase mortgage loans to 77% of white applicants in 2022 but only 48% of Black applicants — a 29% disparity that’s the biggest of any major lender in the country, CNN reported, citing data that the credit union was required to report to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Hispanic applicants were approved 56% of the time, while Native Americans and Asians saw approval rates of 64% and 69%, respectively.

Brought by plaintiffs from across the country who say they were either denied a loan or, in one case, issued one at a higher-than-average interest rate by Navy Federal, the 65-page complaint argues that the credit union’s practices amounted to racial discrimination in violation of federal laws, including the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, and the Civil Rights Act of 1866.

The complaint also alleges violations of state laws in California and Florida, where some of the plaintiffs are located.

“Harming its members and engaging in unlawful behavior is nothing new to Navy Federal, a company that has shown it simply does not care about equal housing, non-discrimination, or its members’ well-being,” the complaint says, noting that the credit union was ordered by the CFPB in 2016 to pay $23 million to members for making misleading threats in order to collect debts. Read More

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The current Franconia Governmental Center at 6121 Franconia Road (via Google Maps)

A plan to redevelop the site of the Franconia Governmental Center has been delayed again.

At Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting on Feb. 20, Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk formally deferred a decision to convey a nearly 3-acre property at 6121 Franconia Road to the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority to May 21.

Following a three-hour public hearing on Jan. 23, Lusk said it was apparent that more community discussions were needed ahead of the decision.

“Given the interest in this property and the need to ensure that our entire community has an opportunity to voice their opinions on the property transfer, I believe more time is required before this matter returns to the Board,” Lusk said.

The deferral was approved with no discussion.

Lusk plans to begin several community conversations in April with the Department of Housing and Community Development and the Department of Neighborhood and Community Services.

“This dialogue will allow residents and stakeholders the opportunity to express their ideas and vision and in a subsequent meeting receive feedback on development processes and concepts,” he said. “These in-person community conversations, along with an online engagement platform option, are expected to increase public understanding of affordable housing and general public knowledge to inform decision-making.”

NFP Affordable Housing Corp., Good Shepherd Housing and SCG Development Partners hope to develop the site into up to 120 units of affordable housing, including 25 units for qualified police, fire, teachers and medical personnel.

The development would include one- to three-bedroom units targeting individuals and families with incomes between 30 to 80% of the area median income, according to a proposal submitted by the development team. At the time the proposal was submitted, the team aimed to begin construction in January 2027, fully leasing the units by September of that year.

The Franconia Governmental Center is in the process of being relocated. Construction on a new facility that will be combined with the Kingstowne Regional Library began in 2022, and it’s expected to be ready for occupancy in early 2025, according to the project page.

Image via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

A deer crosses an asphalt trail through Vienna’s Wildwood Park (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Local Man Dies in Alexandria Jail — “Ahntais Lucas, 39, from Fairfax County, was found unresponsive and alone in his cell experiencing a medical emergency. The release said the jail’s medical staff tried to treat Lucas but he was pronounced deceased at 4:42 a.m.” Lucas’s death is under investigation by Alexandria’s sheriff’s office and police department. [ALXnow]

McLean Man Forced to Drive at Gunpoint — “A McLean man was kidnapped at gunpoint early Sunday morning and forced to drive to his home and another location in Maryland, according to the Metropolitan Police Department. Investigators determined that around 12:30 a.m…the victim had arranged to meet with the suspect” in D.C., but upon arriving, he was confronted by two people with handguns. [Patch]

Update Coming on Fairfax County Parkway Construction — “The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will hold a hybrid ‘pardon our dust’ meeting Wednesday night, Feb. 28 at the VDOT Northern Virginia District Building, 4975 Alliance Drive…on the work underway at Fairfax County Parkway (Route 286) and Popes Head Road (Route 654) to replace the traffic signal with an interchange.” [VDOT]

Potential Beltway Crash Averted by Helping Drivers — “Michel Cochran, 82 was driving between the Little River Turnpike and Braddock Road exits in Annandale around 10 a.m. on Feb. 16 when she had a major heart attack and died.” A state trooper says other drivers helped move Cochran’s car out of the path of oncoming vehicles, called 911 and delivered CPR. [Annandale Today]

Virginia Tornado Drill Delayed Due to Primaries — “The Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) announced Feb. 20 it was rescheduling the Virginia statewide tornado drill, which has been slated for 9:45 a.m. on March 5, to the same time on Thursday, March 7. VDEM officials moved the drill to ensure it would not have any impacts on the primary elections.” [Gazette Leader]

Milk Tea Shop Now Open in Lorton — “Kokee Tea, a specialty drink and dessert café, opened Feb. 15 at Liberty Market in Lorton. The store, which specializes in milk tea and other types of teas, cold clouds and ice-blended drinks, will hold a grand opening event Saturday, March 2 at 2 p.m. with giveaways for the first 100 customers.” [On the MoVe]

Park Authority Rolls Out Virtual Golf Notifications — “Tired of searching through tee time cancellations to see whether your desired spot has opened up? Get ‘No-Tee-Fied’ with Golf Fairfax’s new virtual tee time waitlist and assistant, powered by Noteefy. This new system allows golfers to receive real-time notifications when their desired tee time becomes available.” [Fairfax County Park Authority]

Reston Restauranteur Makes Pricey Home Purchase — “Warren Thompson, president and chairman of Reston-based Thompson Hospitality Corp., the nation’s largest minority-owned food and facilities management company, acquired Wildersmoor House in Great Falls for $14.75 million earlier this month, according to public records. The estate was first listed in May 2023 for $17.995 million. It is the region’s most expensive sale of 2024.” [Washington Business Journal]

It’s Tuesday — Expect showers after 1 p.m. with a 50% chance of precipitation, partly sunny skies, and a high near 64. Showers are likely after 4 a.m., with a 70% chance of precipitation, cloudy conditions, and a low around 57. New precipitation amounts may be less than a tenth of an inch. [Weather.gov]

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Fairfax County Public Schools bus on the road (file photo)

The Fairfax County School Board is moving ahead with its plan to change middle school start times.

According to Fairfax County Public Schools, research has shown that later start times could positively influence student academic performance and mental and emotional well-being.

Last September, the school system awarded consulting firm Prismatic Services a contract to develop a plan for changing middle school start times to 8 a.m. or later. The goal is to make these changes without changing high school start times or impacting the FCPS budget.

Currently, all middle schools start at 7:30 a.m. FCPS moved high school start times to around 8 a.m. in fall 2015 through its Blueprint for Change adoption. At the time, the then-superintendent said revisions to middle school start times would be considered at a later date.

At a meeting last Thursday (Feb. 22), the school board received an update on the plan from Prismatic Services President Dr. Tatia Prieto, who said the goal is to recommend start times to the board in January 2025 with the intent to implement changes by 2026, if the board adopts them.

“To get there, we have a number of milestone activities,” Prieto said. “The background report, which we’re currently engaged in, [covers] the history of efforts in Fairfax around this issue. We’re also developing a number of case studies with a few large school districts to look at lessons learned from their implementation.”

The firm will also conduct on-site observations at selected middle schools.

“This is going to include observing bus observations at selected middle schools in order to get a good feel for things,” Prieto said.

The plan also includes a total of eight public information sessions for the community — four in the spring and four in the fall.

“The spring ones are going to be more informational in nature,” Prieto said. “We’ll communicate about sleep research, and let participants discuss how later school start times could be beneficial and could be implemented. And then the fall ones will present two to four alternatives for input.”

Additionally, the firm will conduct online surveys and forums. One major concern in changing school start times is transportation constraints, which Prieto said would be covered in the information sessions.

“Analyzing the potential impact of moving middle school start times on both the number of drivers needed, and on all the special programs will be part of our work on this project,” Prieto added.

Mount Vernon District School Board Representative Mateo Dunne questioned how a possible time change would affect extracurricular activities like sports, particularly in the fall and winter when the sun goes down earlier.

Prieto pointed to Anne Arundel County Public Schools, which also hired Prismatic Services to help change its school start times.

“All of their middle schools start at 9:15. They shifted their sports program — which is much more extensive than what you currently have — to the after hours, and are not experiencing any problems,” she said.

Dunne also asked how a change in the start time would affect staff and teachers working at middle schools. Prieto said they propose surveying teachers to find out if they foresee any potential issues.

“I will add that we did develop, as one of the initial documents for this, a list of the key stakeholders we need to talk to,” she said.

Springfield District Representative Sandy Anderson requested more information on how later start times has affected attendance at other schools.

“I have an eighth grader. I can’t imagine having him have to get to school on his own at 9:40, so that is terrifying to me,” Anderson said.

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A future elementary school for Herndon is planned on a 5.55-acre as part of an overall development plan (courtesy Pomeroy Clark I)

Plans for a future elementary school in the Herndon area are materializing after the Fairfax County School Board approved a land transfer.

At a Feb. 22 meeting, the board unanimously approved the conveyance of a nearly 5.6-acre site from developer Pomeroy Clark I.

“FCPS legal counsel negotiated an agreement for the conveyance of the school site and other corresponding conveyance documents, including a special warranty deed,” staff said in meeting materials.

Pomeroy Clark I plans to build 519 townhomes and stacked flats on a 44-acre site called “One Sunrise Valley.” Once completed, the neighborhood will feature up to 1.5 million square feet of residential and retail development near the Dulles Airport.

The school site is located at the intersection of Frying Pan Road and Sunrise Valley Drive. According to drawings, it will include a building of roughly 135,000 square feet with up to five stories. Preliminary plans show that it would be located opposite a 296-unit multifamily unit building.

Greg Riegle, a partner for the law firm McGuireWoods representing the developer, emphasized how multiple stakeholders worked together to execute a plan.

“One Sunrise Valley joins a comprehensive list of approved land use applications that will transform western Fairfax County for the better,” Riegle wrote in a statement. “Frankly, the property owners stepped up to the plate to solve a critical school capacity issue while working in tandem with County officials and planning staff to maximize the development potential for the site.”

To the north, Coates Elementary School is operating at 131% capacity, according to Fairfax County Public Schools’ latest capital improvements plan. The school board voted earlier this month to prioritize the school at 2480 River Birch Road for a boundary adjustment.

The board approved the land transfer with no discussion.

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Casino chips (photo via Chris Liverani on Unsplash)

A McLean resident has pleaded guilty to spending federal COVID-19 relief funds intended for his home business on personal expenses, including gambling and real estate payments.

Mehdi Pazouki, 65, pleaded guilty in federal court on Friday (Feb. 23) to defrauding the Small Business Administration of approximately $455,000 in loans created to help businesses survive during the pandemic, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Eastern District of Virginia.

The office says Pazouki applied for funds from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program between August 2020 and August 2021 that he claimed would be spent on Systems Integration Services Inc., the IT consulting company he ran out of his McLean home.

“He actually intended to, and did, use [the money] to fund his gambling at area casinos, pay down personal debt, and purchase real estate,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release.

More from the Department of Justice:

Within days of receiving his first EIDL disbursement, Pazouki spent over $27,000 in EIDL money at Hollywood Casino in Charles Town, West Virginia. Pazouki also used the PPP and EIDL money for down payments on two different real estate properties, to pay off his personal credit card debt, and to fund his personal investment account. Pazouki also falsely represented to the SBA in loan forgiveness applications that the PPP money had been used for legitimate business expenses, which resulted in the complete discharge of the loans.

Pazouki could face up to 20 years in prison when he’s sentenced on May 24, though the press release notes that “actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced last August that the Justice Department had recovered over $1.4 billion in COVID-19 relief funds that were allegedly obtained through fraud by over 3,000 defendants.

The PPP and EIDL programs were both created by the CARES Act in 2020 to assist small business owners during the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders implemented early in the pandemic. Up to $659 billion was available for PPP loans, and $224 billion in EIDL grants and loans were approved through February 2021, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which found that at least 3,000 loans totaling about $156 million went to ineligible applicants.

The PPP program ended on May 31, 2021, while the Small Business Administration shut down its application portal for EIDL funds in May 2022.

Photo via Chris Liverani on Unsplash

Fairfax County police arrested Manassas resident Rickey Lowe for allegedly stealing a medical transport vehicle from Inova Fairfax Hospital (courtesy FCPD)

A man who allegedly stole a medical transport vehicle from Inova Fairfax Hospital last week has been located and arrested, Fairfax County police announced over the weekend.

Rickey Lowe, 32, of Manassas was arrested on Friday (Feb. 23) by Fugitive Tracking and Apprehension Unit detectives who found him “near a hotel in Manassas,” the Fairfax County Police Department said in a news release on Saturday (Feb. 24).

According to police, Lowe was a passenger in a 2015 Toyota Corolla that was reported stolen from Prince William County on Feb. 14. When officers spotted the sedan near Fair Oaks Mall at around 12:30 p.m. on Feb. 19, the driver took off, reportedly speeding out of the mall parking lot and onto eastbound Route 50.

“The driver quickly changed directions and drove towards the westbound I-66 ramp,” the FCPD said in an earlier news release. “The driver lost control of the Corolla, entered the embankment, and struck a small hill sending it airborne. The vehicle landed against a concrete wall on the exit ramp of westbound I-66 toward Route 50 eastbound.”

All five occupants of the Corolla were hospitalized with injuries, but while receiving treatment, Lowe allegedly left the emergency room at Inova Fairfax Hospital “in his medical gown with an IV still in his arm and then stole an ‘MMT’ Medical Transport vehicle,” police said.

The vehicle was later found in the 4200 block of Annandale Road in Annandale, but officers didn’t locate Lowe.

Upon his arrest on Friday, Lowe was transported to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center, where he was held on a $2,000 bond. He has been charged with grand larceny.

The driver of the Corolla — identified by police as Xxeavius Romoance Marlow, 29, of Manassas — has also been charged with grand larceny. After getting treated for injuries from the crash, he was taken to the county jail, where he’s currently in custody without bond.

Fairfax County General District Court records indicate that Lowe remains in custody after an arraignment this morning. He faces a preliminary hearing scheduled for May 29, while Marlow’s preliminary hearing will be held on June 12.

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