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Good Wednesday evening! Today we published 7 articles that were read a total of 7128 times on FFXnow alone, so far.

📈 Top stories

The following are the most-read articles for today (Feb 1, 2023)…

  1. JUST IN: Firefighter sustains ‘minor’ injury in Vienna house fire
  2. Flippin’ Pizza closes in South Lakes Village Center
  3. Development proposal that could’ve closed key road between Reston and Wolf Trap withdrawn

📅 Upcoming events

Here is what’s going on Thursday in Fairfax County, from our event calendar.

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🌥 Thursday’s forecast

Overcast throughout the day. High of 41 and low of 26. Sunrise at 7:16 am and sunset at 5:32 pm. See more from Weather.gov.

🌅 Tonight’s sunset

Thanks for reading! Feel free to discuss the day’s happenings in the comments.

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Part of the West End annexation map (via Fairfax County)

A newly awarded grant will help the Fairfax County Circuit Court preserve some historical records dating back to the 18th century, including one map that laid out the battlefield in a small legal war between the county and Alexandria City.

The 4-foot-long, 3-foot-tall Alexandria Annexation Map was impossible to fully photograph in its entirety because of its rough shape, but restoration work should help clear it up, said Heather Bollinger, the historic records manager at the Fairfax County Historic Records Center.

Billinger said the unique map shows many of the Black communities throughout the West End, some of which date back to the aftermath of the Civil War. Some were scattered by racist city policies, like the Ford Ward community, which was converted into a park in the 1960s with little regard for where bodies were buried on the site.

“It was a snapshot of the 1950s,” Billinger said. “You can see where there were smaller communities setting up new neighborhoods, a lot of African American communities.”

Billinger said the maps are a testament to the communities that are now lost to history.

“The map itself is fascinating,” Billinger said. “What’s most interesting about it is: it’s a snapshot in time. What we see on this map is several communities owned by African Americans, like Dowden Terrace.”

Billinger said the maps of that area look very different today.

“Now, that area of Fairfax and Alexandria is heavily developed,” Billinger said. “This is what it looked like before that westward expansion. We don’t have many maps that show that westward expansion. The post-World War II major population explosion was just starting to happen…If you were to do an overlay of the map now, it doesn’t look anything like it did.”

The map came to the forefront of a legal fight in 1951 when Alexandria filed a lawsuit to annex the West End from Fairfax County, citing a need for extra territory and being in a better position to offer utilities to West End residents.

Billinger said similar lawsuits were the common method of sorting out issues of annexation and ceding territory. There was a similar case when the City of Fairfax sought autonomy from Fairfax County. Most of it comes down to who is in a better position to provide utility coverage, Billinger said.

The Fairfax County Circuit Court was awarded a grant for $22,419.50 that will also be used to preserve records related to deeds and land taxes.

In addition to being physically housed at the Historic Fairfax Courthouse, the records will be made available digitally through the circuit court’s online Court Public Access Network, a subscriber-based database that has records dating back to 1742.

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An electric vehicle charger at the Sully Community Center (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Reston Association is charging up to potentially take part in Fairfax County pilot to get more homeowners’ associations (HOAs) on board with improving access to electric vehicle chargers.

The pilot program, Charge Up Fairfax, would facilitate EV charging by residents in multi-family housing, especially HOAs and condominium associations, by circumventing technical and financial challenges linked to installing stations.

“This program aims to assist HOAs with the installation of publicly available shared charging stations,” said Cameron Adams, RA’s director of covenants administration, in a recent Reston Today video.

The program would also provide support to multi-family communities to install charging stations in common areas. The county would work with HOAs and other groups to install stations in publicly accessible locations that they own.

In the first phase of the program, the county will work with HOAs to identify possible locations and survey the community. This exploration phase will be followed by reviewing by data gathering and community engagement, after which a contractor and equipment will be selected.

Grants would be structured to reimburse communities up to $5,000 for the installation and upkeep of the charging stations. Some communities may be eligible for up to $10,000.

RA expects to hear back from the county on how it can apply to take part in the pilot in the spring, according to Adams. Installation could begin in July — a move that is entirely dependent on funding.

The county’s Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination is seeking $830,000 in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Energy to move forward with the project. The grant application was approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors at a Jan. 24 meeting.

At a Nov. 9 meeting with the county last year, RA members provided feedback on their EV needs and discussed the program. RA’s participation in the program has been proposed since at least late September, when county staff discussed the pilot program with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

The program follows the passage of state legislation that establishes the right of electric vehicle owners to access charging stations. The bill, passed in 2020, bars home and condominium owners from prohibiting the installation of stations under certain conditions.

Still, many challenges remain, including the cost-inhibitive nature of installing and maintaining stations, as well as stringent local regulations on their installation and use.

RA was among the first HOAs in the country to establish design guidelines for electric vehicle charging stations, following a 10-month process in 2021, according to Adams.

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Fairfax County is no longer considering a proposal to allow more housing in Wolf Trap’s Crowells Corner neighborhood.

The Site-Specific Plan Amendment (SSPA) submission has been withdrawn by its nominator, county planner David Stinson said at a virtual meeting last night (Tuesday) to discuss requested land use changes in east Reston and along Hunter Mill Road.

The proposal had requested an increase in density for six parcels totaling 10 acres on Crowell Road to one to two dwellings per acre, up from under 0.5 dwellings per acre as currently designated in the county’s comprehensive plan.

Submitted by Panthea Mohtasham, a local real estate agent, the application suggested either closing off Crowell Road in front of the new development, or rerouting it around the north side of the houses.

“As the Community and Fairfax County have grown, traffic has increased, safety concerns have become more acute,” the application said. “The Nominator’s proposal would permit restructuring of the road to increase safety for current residents, provide access to existing and future residences, and encourage commuters to adhere to safe speeds along Crowell Road.”

The first option would’ve turned the road into a private street, adding a gated entry after the driveway to Oakcrest School and eliminating the current connection to Browns Mill Road in favor of a cul-de-sac.

The second option would restructure Crowell Road with multiple turns, encouraging slower traffic compared to the existing straight segment, according to the application.

However, the road is a key link to Vienna and Reston for existing residents as the only direct connection between Hunter Mill Road to the west and Beulah Road to the east other than Route 7, according to community members.

“This would be a horrible decision that would block access to schools, the metro, the Toll Road, grocery stores, doctors, the hospital and numerous other devastating impacts,” a Crowells Corner resident said on Nextdoor. “In addition — a large number of homes would be effectively blocked in any time a large rain fall floods Brown Mill and people must go to Hunter Mill to go around. This is a safety and environmental problem and it must be made clear this proposal cannot move forward in any way.”

While the withdrawn application wasn’t discussed at yesterday’s meeting, some attendees said in the chat that safety and vehicle speeds have indeed been a concern on Crowell Road.

“We have children on this road who play and cars honk at us for checking our mail, pulling in and out of our driveways, etc,” commenter James C said, stating that residents have contacted the county and state about reducing the speed limit. “This is not a Nascar race track. This is our family road. We’ve almost gotten Tboned coming out of our drive 1 too many times.”

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a plan amendment in 2018 that realigns Sunset Hills Road to create an intersection with Crowell at Hunter Mill Road in the hopes of easing traffic congestion in the area.

An SSPA nomination that would develop the south side of that intersection remains up for consideration, along with other Reston proposals. A virtual meeting on applications for Tysons will be held at 7 p.m. tonight (Wednesday).

Map via Google Maps

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Thomas Jefferson High School students Soham Jain, Rohan Kotla and Samvrit Rao (left to right) developed the app RoutineRemind to help kids with autism (courtesy Samvrit Rao)

An app created by a trio of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology students to help kids with autism may someday be deployed in Fairfax County’s special education classrooms.

Sophomores Soham Jain, Rohan Kotla and Samvrit Rao have already earned recognition from Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-10) for RoutineRemind, an app designed to help parents and kids keep track of their schedules.

RoutineRemind was the 10th District’s winner in the 2022 Congressional App Challenge, Wexton announced on Dec. 22. The annual competition aims to encourage science, technology, engineering and math education by inviting students from across the country to develop and submit their own apps.

The 2022 contest drew over 500 submissions, a new record, according to organizers.

“I was so impressed by not only their remarkable technical skills in designing this winning app, but also their ingenuity and care in developing a way to help kids with autism and their families,” Wexton said in a statement, congratulating the TJ students.

In joint comments to FFXnow, Soham, Rohan and Samvit said they have regularly worked together on school projects and share an interest in “the intersection between computer science and biology.”

Seeing the challenge as an opportunity to put their tech and teamwork skills to the test, the students turned to personal experience when brainstorming ideas for an app.

In a demonstration video, Rohan said he has a younger brother with autism and has always been interested in finding ways to improve the lives of people with autism and other cognitive disabilities.

His brother sometimes struggles to remember his schedule, leading him to frequently ask for reminders. Individuals with autism often find comfort in routine, but many also experience executive functioning challenges, affecting their ability to plan or focus.

“After surveying the special needs community in [our] area, we found that this is a mutual problem across children with autism, since many of them are schedule-oriented,” the students told FFXnow. “Given the prevalence of the problem, we wanted to develop a simple, adaptable, and user-friendly schedule and reminder app to help those with social and cognitive impairments.” Read More

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The Reston location appears to have closed (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Flippin’ Pizza, a pizza chain that serves New York-style pizza, appears to have closed its Reston location.

The business was located at 1110 South Lakes Drive in Suite 11130-F. It was closed when FFXnow passed by last Thursday afternoon (Jan. 26), despite posted operating hours of 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursdays.

The company did not return requests for comment. A listed phone number and email were not functional. 

Flippin’ Pizza has many other locations throughout the country, including locations in Fairfax and Falls Church. Items on the menu include pies, pizza, and calzones.

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Police blocked off southbound Route 29 at Centrewood Drive after a fatal pedestrian crash in November (via VDOT Northern Virginia/Twitter)

The Fairfax County Police Department is doubling down on traffic enforcement and awareness efforts after a rise in pedestrian fatalities last year.

At a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors safety and security committee meeting yesterday (Tuesday), Police Chief Kevin Davis stressed that the department is focusing on education and enforcement, with pedestrian safety as a primary mission.

The police department recorded 24 pedestrian fatalities last year, a five-year high — though there were fewer pedestrian-related crashes overall (153) than in 2018.

That count doesn’t include crashes on state highways, which are reported by Virginia State Police, or on the Dulles Toll Road, which is enforced by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police. Per state data, Fairfax County had a total of 192 crashes involving pedestrians, 32 of whom were killed — by far the most since at least 2010.

Deputy Chief of Police Bob Blakely said the rise in pedestrian fatalities is “very concerning.” The police department is also reminding officers about prevention and awareness by refreshing training, reminding officers and sharing information internally, he said.

“Our number one coal it to reduce crashes. If we reduce crashes, we reduce fatalities,” Blakely, adding that it’s not to write tickets.

Fairfax County police data for crashes involving pedestrians in recent years (via Fairfax County)

Each month, the police department hopes to focus on specific traffic safety initiatives with targeted public-facing campaigns and awareness months around the year.

The police department will resume Road Shark — in which officers are assigned to high-traffic areas for enforcement — on June 4 through June 18.

Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk asked the department to consider focusing on more pedestrian-safety campaigns throughout the year.

Davis noted that while overall crashes are lower now than in 2018 and 2019, the number of citations rose by 6,000 between 2022 and 2021. In line with national trends, the FCPD saw significant dips in the number of warnings, citations and crashes during the height of the pandemic.

The department issued roughly 115,000 citations in 2018 and 2019 compared to between 49,000 and 56,000 in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross encouraged the police to provide information about the consequences of speeding and disobeying traffic laws.

“People think it’s a black hole, that nothing happens,” Gross said.

Davis said that it can be easy to raise awareness about high-profile incidents and more challenging to provide information on how individuals were adjudicated.

Law enforcement and county officials hope the addition of speed cameras — a pilot program that will begin this year — will help reduce speeds in highly problematic areas.

“This is going to really effect behavior in those localized areas,” said Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn.

But Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw said that part of the solution may lie in pursuing societal change: limiting the speeds at which vehicles can operate.

Reflecting on how seat belt usage factors into crash injuries and deaths, Walkinshaw said state and local officials should monitor some federal efforts and technologies that control the speed of cars.

“There is not reason that cars need to be traveling more than 100 miles per hour,” Walkinshaw said, adding that electric vehicles can be even more problematic with high speeds and performance.

He conceded that he may not be very popular amongst the car hobbyist crowd.

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said high speeds in low-speed areas continue to be problematic.

“That’s the area where I have so much concern,” Palchik said.

FCPD says it also hopes to work with Fairfax County Public Schools to provide educational resources to new and future drivers in classrooms.

Photo via VDOT Northern Virginia/Twitter

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Fairfax County firefighters respond to a fire in the 1000 block of Westwood Drive (photo by M. Clark via FCFRD/Twitter)

A firefighter was injured while responding to a house fire in Vienna just before midnight.

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department units were dispatched to the 1000 block of Westwood Drive NE at 11:58 p.m. yesterday (Tuesday), according to a tweet.

“Crews arrived [with] fire visible from 2nd floor of a house under construction,” the department said.

The firefighter’s injury was described as “minor.” An investigation into the fire is now underway, and the department says more information will be shared as it becomes available.

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Morning Notes

A dusting of snow on trees (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Redevelopment Proposed in Bailey’s Crossroads — “Several community members who attended a Fairfax County Planning Department presentation on a proposal for a major mixed-use project on the Food Star site in Bailey’s Crossroads said the county should address the immediate problems in that area first. Those problems include crime, litter, traffic, weeds in the median, safety and trash issues at Skyline Park, and the lack of safety for pedestrians.” [Annandale Today]

Lorton Man Charged With DWI in Alexandria — “A 23-year-old Lorton man was charged with driving while intoxicated after allegedly crashing into four cars in Old Town. The crash occurred near the intersection of S. Patrick Street and Gibbon Street at around 5:30 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 21. Three people suffered minor injuries and went to the hospital, and the driver was released later that day.” [ALXnow]

No Safety Threat After Alleged Sexual Assault — Frost Middle School Principal Anthony Harris said in a letter to families on Monday (Jan. 30) that “there is no reason for concern about students’ safety” after one student reported that she had been sexually assaulted in a bathroom on Jan. 12. Fairfax County police are still investigating, but said there is “no apparent threat” to students or the general community. [WTOP]

County Prosecutors Share More Bond Data — “Fairfax County’s top prosecutor says his office is now recommending fewer people sit in jail for minor and nonviolent crimes — and he has the data to prove it. The data, released Monday morning by the office of Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano, is a follow-up from data released in October.” [DCist]

GSA Seeks to Offload Groveton Property — “The General Services Administration is holding an online auction for a 10.5-acre site in Alexandria that features an empty, 110K SF office building surrounded by parking lots and green space. The bidding process began in late December, and the agency expects to close the auction in late February.” [Bisnow]

Tysons Tech Company Explores Sale — Cvent, a Tysons-based company that provides software to support in-person and virtual events, “is exploring a sale that could value the cloud-based event-software provider at upwards of $4 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.” After going public in 2021, the $3.3 billion company has seen its shares lose nearly half their value from an early 2021 high. [Wall Street Journal]

Vienna Opens Parking Survey — Vienna’s public works and economic development departments have launched an online survey to gather information about the town’s current and future parking needs. Open through Feb. 28, the survey is part of a supply-and-demand study that will help inform the town’s ongoing zoning code update. [Vienna Voice]

Construction Concludes on Fort Belvoir Water Project — Construction is mostly finished on a main water line replacement along Richmond Highway that serves Fort Belvoir, according to American Water Military Services Group General Manager Wes Casa. In the works since July 2021, the project “involved replacing a 3,100-foot-long section of 24-inch potable water pipeline that had reached the end of its useful life.” [On the MoVe]

GMU Delivery Robots Celebrates Fourth Anniversary — “It was January 2019 when George Mason University became the first college campus in the United States to offer autonomous food delivery through Starship Technologies. Now Mason and Starship are celebrating four years of autonomous robot deliveries.” [GMU]

It’s Wednesday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 42 and low of 32. Sunrise at 7:16 am and sunset at 5:31 pm. [Weather.gov]

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