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Students wear and wave Pride flags at Fairfax High School’s walkout (photo by Carys Owens)

(Updated, 3:20 p.m.) Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay believes the county will be on “safe legal ground” if it chooses to not follow Virginia’s recently-proposed model policies that would limit the rights of transgender and other gender-nonconforming students.

Based on conversations with the school board, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), and legal experts since the draft policies were unveiled earlier this month, McKay senses the school system will ultimately stick with its current policies, he told FFXnow yesterday (Wednesday).

The proposed policies would reverse regulations that FCPS adopted in 2020 affirming students’ right to access restrooms according to their gender identity and be called by their chosen names and pronouns. The regulation was updated last year based on state recommendations.

“If we do it and ignore [what] the governor is dictating here…my prediction based on everything I’m hearing is that the legal folks will say you’re on safe legal ground to continue the good practices that you have in place and not adhere to these new ones. That’s certainly what I’m being told preliminarily,” McKay told FFXnow.

McKay noted that, as has been reported elsewhere, legal experts have identified a myriad of legal problems” with the new proposed policies, including protections from discrimination based on gender identity in the Virginia Human Rights Act.

The cities of Falls Church and Alexandria have already indicated that they won’t adhere to the state policies. State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30), who represents parts of Fairfax County, Alexandria, and Arlington County, told FFXnow on Tuesday (Sept. 27) that there could be basis for a lawsuit.

“I think there’s existing law problems. I think there’s case law problems. I think there’s political problems,” McKay said. “And so, my suspicion is that we will likely be able to continue doing what we’re doing.”

The governor may be relying on the Dillon Rule as the rationale for arguing counties must adhere to the guidelines, if they’re adopted, McKay says.

Under that rule, localities only have legal authorities expressly granted to them by the state, but that doesn’t absolve the governor from the “obligation of being consistent with case law that’s already been established,” he said.

When asked whether the school system plans on taking legal action if the policies are adopted by the state, an FCPS spokesperson said they have no comment for now beyond a message that Superintendent Michelle Reid sent to families earlier this month, stating that FCPS was reviewing the draft policies.

“We will share more information when it is available,” the spokesperson said. Read More

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Chesterbrook United Methodist Church and Montessori School of McLean share a building at 1711 Kirby Road in McLean (via Google Maps)

The Montessori School of McLean could soon have the property at 1711 Kirby Road all to itself.

The private elementary school has occupied the nearly 4-acre parcel since the early 1970s, but the site has been shared with the Chesterbrook United Methodist Church, which constructed its longtime home there in 1920.

Now in its 110th year, the church plans to relocate and has proposed selling the property to the Montessori school, a legal representative for the school said on its behalf in a special exception application to Fairfax County.

Received by the county on Sept. 13, the application requests that the school be permitted to stay on the property, even though it will no longer be used for any religious purposes as currently zoned.

“[Montessori School of McLean], as tenant and contract purchaser, seeks to continue its long standing tradition of serving McLean families with quality education and child care on the Property,” Holland & Knight land use attorney David Schneider said in a statement of justification.

The school says no physical changes to the site are planned, and it has proposed leaving the existing enrollment cap of 265 kids in place.

Opened in 1973 with one primary and one elementary class, the school now serves kids aged 2 to 12 with pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and first through sixth grade classes, along with a child care center.

According to the application, the school doesn’t anticipate any significant traffic impacts, but it is seeking to expand weekday operating hours from 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. to 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

The change will “allow additional child care coverage and help spread out the trips from this existing use away from the peak hours” of 7:45-8:45 a.m. and 5:15-6:15 p.m. at the Kirby Road and Old Dominion Drive intersection, Schneider wrote.

According to its website, Chesterbrook UMC started at one of its members’ homes in 1906 before constructing the church building that it has now occupied for over a century. The church didn’t respond to FFXnow’s inquiry regarding the planned sale and where it will be relocating by press time.

According to county property records, 1711 Kirby Road was valued at $3.6 million for the 2022 tax year, including over $1.5 million for the land and $2 million for the current church building. Virginia exempts real estate used for religious purposes from paying state and local taxes.

As a private school, the Montessori school won’t receive the same exemption once the church transfers ownership of the property.

Photo via Google Maps

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The anticipated groundbreaking is officially on pause (via Comstock)

The redevelopment of downtown Herndon by Reston-based developer Comstock has been officially been put on pause.

But Fairfax County’s commitment to provide $6.2 million remains unchanged, according to the county.

The plan would redevelop nearly 5 acres of land into a mixed-use project with 273 apartments and roughly 17,000 square feet of retail. An arts center and a 726-space parking garage are also part of the project.

“The market pause has delayed when those payments are expected to be made between the County and the Town due to the construction delays pushing out the previously mentioned payment triggers. The overall obligation remains in place for the County to provide those payments to the Town when those phases are met,” said Scott Sizer, catalytic development division manager of the Fairfax County Department of Economic initiatives.

The county offered two pledges for the public-private partnership. The first agreement of $1.2 million — approved in 2018 — kicks in when Comstock and the Town of Herndon have contributed at least $1.2 million in value for the construction work.

Sizer says that’s expected to happen after building construction begins.

The second agreement states that the county’s contribution of $5 million will happen after the first residential structure gets its first occupant. The payment — which will likely take place at the end of site construction and the beginning of operations of the apartments — will include annual payments over five years, Sizer said.

A spokesperson for Comstock told FFXnow that no timeline is currently available for when the project might begin.

The project, which was expected to break ground nearly two years ago, could be on pause for up to two years, the town stated in July.

The cost of the $101 million project increased by $25 million due to issues related to materials, labor, and workforce restrictions caused by the pandemic, according to town officials.

In addition to support from the county, Comstock will receive $2.5 million in fee reductions and $1.9 million in real estate tax breaks through an ordinance that was established after the town approved the project.

The project has been marred by delays since its inception. Groundbreaking was originally planned for December 2019.

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Rehab 2 Perform

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Learn more at Rehab2Perform.com, or Schedule a FREE Injury Consult Here. And check out their Free Guides & Resources to help you Perform Now!

Southbound I-495 approaching the exit to Gallows Road (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) Virginia State Police are investigating a fatal motorcycle crash that occurred on I-495 South in the Annandale area last Friday (Sept. 23), the agency announced today (Thursday).

According to police, 25-year-old Carlos Javier Velez Mantalvo from Orlando, Florida, was riding a 2006 Honda CBR600 motorcycle, going south on I-495 early that morning.

Near the Gallows Road exit, which leads to the Inova Fairfax Hospital campus, Velez Montalvo “rapidly” reduced his speed, “lost control and laid the motorcycle down in the roadway,” state police said.

“The operator then slid across the pavement away from the motorcycle,” VSP said in a news release.

Police responded to the crash at 2:02 a.m. Velez Montalvo was transported to the nearby hospital, but he succumbed to his injuries.

Police say he was wearing a helmet when the motorcycle crashed.

Photo via Google Maps

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Construction continues to chug along on Sunrise Senior Living’s upcoming facility in McLean.

Sunrise of McLean Village broke ground at 1515 Chain Bridge Road on June 18, 2021 and is projected to move in its first residents in spring 2023, according to spokesperson John Chibnall.

“Sunrise of McLean Village is in the heart of McLean, which appeals to the growing number of older adults living in the community looking forward to their next step in life and want to remain in McLean proper,” Sunrise Senior Vice President of Design and Construction Andy Coelho told FFXnow.

Replacing the defunct McLean Medical Building, whose original owners included the first doctor to administer a polio vaccine, the senior care facility will have 100 residential units for 122 people, including 61 assisted living residences and 39 memory care residences.

Amenities for residents will include outdoor terraces, a multi-purpose bistro, lounges, a library, a formal dining room, an activity room and a theater room. A “heritage garden” will have a private section for residents and a public section open to the surrounding neighborhood — a unique feature of the McLean location, according to Coelho.

“The latest and safest building codes were taken into account when designing and building this community,” he said.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the redevelopment in October 2019 after an earlier attempt to build a 73-unit facility on Kirby Road got voted down in May 2017.

After the Kirby Road plan faced opposition over its potential impact on nearby residential neighborhoods, the approved Chain Bridge location puts Sunrise closer to downtown McLean, which is in the midst of a gradual revitalization effort.

The building will be three stories tall and have 89,983 square feet of space, with 88 parking spots, Chibnall told FFXnow.

A sales gallery and model unit are scheduled to be installed this fall. Sunrise did the interior design, while Rust Orling Architecture served as the architect. The building is being constructed by The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company.

“We selected this location because it complements our surrounding communities in the area, filling in the gap where Sunrise hasn’t been able to serve yet,” Coelho said. “We have already seen a great response from the community and have several future residents preparing to call the community home.”

Started in 1981, Sunrise has over 280 senior living communities in the U.S., including an existing Sunrise of McLean just north of the Dulles Toll Road near Tysons.

The company is also working on a facility in Vienna that’s expected to open next year. Coelho says Sunrise will share interior renderings of the building “in the coming weeks,” with a sales gallery opening to potential residents and their families in December.

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The first major renovations to Reston Town Center’s in 30 years are well underway, with the pavilion set to reopen later this year.

A spokesperson for Boston Properties says the opening of the pavilion is anticipated “sometime in November with the return the ice rink for the winter season.”

“The Fountain Plaza and Pavilion rehabilitation and renovation work at Reston Town Center has made significant progress since commencing in March 2022,” Sapna Yathiraj, Boston Properties’ marketing director, wrote in a statement to FFXnow.

The Fountain Plaza is also slated to open later this year, although an exact timeline was not immediately available.

The upgrades are led by Alan Ward, a principal at Sasaki Associates. As previously reported the enhancements include:

The Pavilion

Two fire pits in front of the Pavilion adjacent to Market Street will add to the holiday and cooler months’ experience

Large fans will help cool the space during warmer months for both formal and informal gatherings

An expansion through the service street adjacent to the Hyatt will create more flexibility and space for programming, events, and daily activations
A wooden deck that will serve as a seating area and a stage for smaller events and performances

Additional seating areas in the artificial turf area during warm months

Other

The fountain: Renovation of the lower base area, with new tiling, expanded seating, and tiered landscaping, and replacement of the entire outdated mechanical system. The original design of the upper base and Mercury statue will remain unchanged.

New trees and plantings to replace aged greenery and damaged root systems

Expansion of outdoor seating, including stadium-style structures and traditional tables and chairs

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The Fairfax County Department of Transportation advertises the coming opening of Metro’s Silver Line extension at the Mosaic District Fall Festival (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

(Updated at 9:40 a.m. on 9/30/2022) Metro’s extension of the Silver Line through Herndon into Loudoun County is finally starting to look like a reality, instead of a hypothetical, albeit expensive, project.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority unveiled new maps for its rail system last Friday (Sept. 23) that featured the six new stations, among other changes. A day earlier, its general manager got the go-ahead to set an opening date, though one has yet to be announced.

Coming six years after its initial projected opening of 2016, Silver Line Phase 2 will bring the D.C. region’s subway system into Loudoun for the first time, with stops at Dulles International Airport and Ashburn. Along the way, trains will pass through Reston Town Center, Herndon, and Innovation Center in the Dulles area.

Despite frustrations with the project’s many delays, Fairfax County officials remain hopeful that the rail line’s arrival will be a boon for residents and businesses in Reston and Herndon, fueling growth akin to what Tysons has seen since the Silver Line’s first phase opened there in 2014.

Are you excited to enter the shiny new Silver Line stations, potentially as soon as next month? Or have Metro’s ongoing safety and reliability issues turned you off of the transit system for now?

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Morning Notes

The office building at 1600 Tysons Blvd reflects the sky (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

State of Emergency in Virginia for Hurricane — “Governor Glenn Youngkin today declared a State of Emergency in advance of Hurricane Ian, which is expected to impact portions of Virginia starting on Friday, September 30, 2022…Virginians should be prepared for the potential of severe rainfall, flooding, wind damage, tornadoes, and other storm-related impacts.” [Governor of Virginia]

Burke VRE Station Gets Longer Platform — Fairfax County officials cut a ribbon yesterday (Wednesday) to celebrate the completion of a platform expansion project at the Virginia Railway Express Rolling Road Station. With an added 290 feet, the platform can now fit eight-car trains, reducing passenger loading times. [Jeff McKay, James Walkinshaw, Pat Herrity/Twitter]

Kingstowne Man Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement — “A Fairfax County, Virginia, man has pleaded guilty to embezzling $4 million in what authorities described as one of the largest white-collar fraud cases in the county’s history. Carlos Camacho, 59, pleaded guilty Tuesday to one felony count each of embezzlement and forgery, according to Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano.” [WTOP]

McLean Arts Festival Canceled by Hurricane Ian — “We have made the difficult decision to cancel our 2022 MPAartfest, scheduled for Sun, Oct 2 in McLean Central Park. The decision was made in anticipation of the 2-3 inches of rain projected to inundate the area this weekend.” [McLean Project for the Arts/Twitter]

Tax Credit Journal Recognizes County’s Affordable Housing Work — “The Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority (FCRHA) and Fairfax County were recently featured in the August edition of The Novogradac Journal of Tax Credits, highlighting their collective and unprecedented work in developing public-private partnerships to more effectively deliver affordable housing.” [Housing and Community Development]

Public Input Sought on New Parks Strategy — “The Fairfax County Park Authority is developing a Parks, Recreation, Open Space, and Access Strategy (PROSA)…The PROSA Strategy is anticipated to be completed in 2023 and will provide a pathway toward improved park access and a balance of recreational experiences.” [FCPA]

Vienna Honors Local Workers — Vienna bestowed its first-ever Outstanding Service Awards on Monday (Sept. 26) to opthamologist Ann Dunning, who has worked at Mitchell Eye Institute for 50 years, and Foster’s Grille Assistant General Manager Nancy Nichols, who has worked at the restaurant for over 20 years. The award was created to “recognize local business employees who have provided significant customer service to the Vienna community.” [Town of Vienna]

Learn About Medicare at Thomas Jefferson Library — “Medicare 101 training is for individuals and their care partners who will soon be eligible for Medicare or have Medicare and would like to learn more about it…This free class is taught by Fairfax County staff who are non-biased, state certified and SHIP (State Health Insurance and Assistance Program) Counselors.” [FCPL]

It’s Thursday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 68 and low of 51. Sunrise at 7:04 am and sunset at 6:56 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Amir Mostafavi always knew he would eventually open a South Block juice bar in his home of McLean.

The McLean High School graduate worked at the now-defunct Box Office Video chain that was owned by his parents for about two decades. Those days of stocking shelves, having an encyclopedic knowledge of actors, and ordering hard-to-find movies for customers were his first lessons in entrepreneurship.

“We were a local, family-run business that competed with Blockbuster, but what set us apart was our connection to the community,” Mostafavi told FFXnow. “People coming in, they knew me or my mom or my dad. We knew what our customers wanted…If someone came in and asked me about where a movie is, I could tell them it’s three rows over, three shelves down, and three videos over.”

In the years since, he has taken that experience and has applied it to create his own business. Mostafavi first opened his first juice bar on the campus of George Washington University in 2006 called “Campus Fresh.”

If working at Box Office Video was the entrepreneurial equivalent of an undergraduate education, Campus Fresh was like graduate school.

“I always joke with people that’s where I got my Ph.D. in business,” he said.

Five years later, in 2011, Mostafavi opened South Block was in Arlington’s Clarendon neighborhood. While it wasn’t an immediate success, as the company’s website notes, they kept building the company “one block at a time” and eventually opened a second location in 2015 in East Falls Church.

There are now 13 South Block locations across the D.C. region, including one in Vienna.

Soon, the juice bar’s 14th location is set to open in McLean’s Chesterbrook Shopping Center in early 2023.

Bringing his company home has Mostafavi reminiscing about working at his parents’ video store.

“It’s come full circle. I feel a sense of accomplishment,” he said on working in McLean. “I think about my dad.”

Amir Mostafavi with his dad, sister, and mom at Box Office Video (courtesy Amir Mostafavi)

Mostafavi is now 47, the same age as his dad when he opened Box Office Video in Langley Shopping Center — only 2 miles from the site of the new South Block.

“Me having that same experience at the same time in my life and opening in the same place where he opened it, it’s just kinda…” he said, trailing off and clearly emotional about the thought. “My dad lives in Vienna now and owns a Persian restaurant there. That’s kind of his retirement.”

When noted that owning a restaurant doesn’t sound like much of a retirement, Mostafavi laughed, “He works more than I do.”

Beyond the personal connection, he believes McLean is a perfect place for a South Block. He says the community is “underserved” in terms of food choices and is always “so supportive” of local businesses.

“Even though it isn’t [techincally] a small town, it still has that small-town, community vibe in that people want to support small businesses,” he said.

South Block is moving into Chesterbrook Shopping Center, which was first built more than 50 years ago. It’s now undergoing an $8.5 million facelift. Mostafavi said the renovation is “much needed for the community” and one of the big reasons why they choose to move in.

Just like Box Office Video, South Block is a family affair with his brother serving as vice president of the company. For Mostafavi, that was the only way to go, considering how much he learned from his parents about what it takes to run a small, local business.

“It’s from [them] that I learned work ethic, being resourceful, persistent, and not giving up,” he said. “That’s all huge in being a successful business.”

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