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Single-family detached houses in McLean (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

In their quest to boost the region’s limited housing supply, Northern Virginia leaders have explored a variety of potential solutions.

Arlington and Alexandria in particular garnered plenty of headlines — and legal scrutiny, in the county’s case — when officials voted separately last year to allow more dense housing in areas previously reserved for single-family detached homes, among other zoning reforms.

Fairfax County, however, has no plans at the moment to follow in its neighbors’ footsteps by eliminating single-family-only zoning, according to Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay.

Instead, the county hopes to increase and diversify its housing stock with more targeted policies, such as looser rules for accessory living units (ALUs) and workforce housing requirements, that can accommodate the different character and needs of different neighborhoods.

“Every county and city is different, and so, I’m not in a position to critique what Arlington and Alexandria have done,” McKay told FFXnow. “But we’ve been careful in Fairfax County to make sure that we can grow our affordable housing base and, at the same time, protect the integrity of our single-family neighborhoods…They’re in a different place [in their development schedule], and so, they have reached the point where they believe the only way they can address the ‘Missing Middle’ is to eliminate single-family [only] development. We are nowhere close to that point in Fairfax County.”

Size matters

The D.C. metropolitan area ranks 10th in the U.S. for “pent-up housing demand” due to a lack of supply and elevated mortgage rates, according to the National Association of Realtors. The tight supply fuels high prices that are expected to keep rising in 2024, peaking in June at a median of $935,930 for a single-family house, per a Northern Virginia Association of Realtors and George Mason University forecast.

Faced with limited space for new development, proponents of Arlington’s “Missing Middle” zoning changes and Alexandria’s “Zoning for Housing” initiative argued that opening up single-family-exclusive lots to different types of housing, such as duplexes and townhouses, will allow more units to be built, easing market pressures that have sent median single-family sales prices soaring over $1 million in both localities.

Though those measures didn’t exactly pass with ease, eliminating single-family-only zones in a place of Fairfax County’s size would be “a little bit more challenging,” says Jill Norcross, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Northern Virginia Affordable ​Housing Alliance (NVAHA).

“There’s just a lot more people, a lot more housing units and communities,” she said.

Of the 426,412 housing units in the county as of 2022, 46.1% are single-family detached houses, while 29.6% are multi-family residences and 24.2% are single-family detached homes, per the county’s most recent demographic report. In comparison, Arlington and Alexandria, respectively, are about 70 to 75% multi-family housing.

Parts of Fairfax County are dominated by single-family houses, which range from the mansions of McLean and Great Falls — the kind that Arlington leaders have said they’re trying to avoid — to older, smaller ranch-style or split-level homes like those found in Annandale or Groveton. Then, there are areas like Reston, where more than 80% of homes are townhouses, apartments or condominiums, according to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn.

That variety means “a one-size-fits-all answer here is no good,” McKay says. Read More

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Vienna Police (file photo)

(Updated at 10 a.m.) An Arlington man faces criminal charges after Vienna police learned that a vehicle he reported as stolen had, in fact, been involved in a hit-and-run crash.

The Vienna Police Department got a report on July 30 from a supposed resident who said his vehicle had been stolen out of his garage on Battle Street SE sometime between midnight on July 29 and 9 a.m. on July 30.

“A resident left his vehicle unsecured in the garage with the keys inside overnight,” police said in a summary from its recap of the week of Aug. 4. “Due to a storm and power outage, the garage door was unable to close. The following day, the resident discovered the vehicle was stolen.”

The VPD noted at the time that the vehicle was later located in another jurisdiction.

A subsequent investigation, however, linked the vehicle to a crash in Arlington County where the driver fled the scene with two children, according to an update in the VPD’s latest recap, which covers the week of Sept. 8-14.

“Investigation revealed the driver was the owner of the vehicle who made the stolen vehicle report the following morning,” Vienna police said.

According to the Arlington County Police Department, its officers were dispatched to the 1500 block of North Bryan Street around 10:07 p.m. on July 29 for a single-vehicle crash “with unknown conditions.”

“The preliminary investigation indicated the driver of the vehicle struck a stop sign and utility pole at 16th Street N. and N. Bryan Street before exiting the vehicle with the two juvenile occupants and running from the scene prior to police arrival,” an ACPD spokesperson said.

Vienna police arrested the 42-year-old Arlington man on Sept. 7 after Detective Brad Reedy obtained a warrant charging him with making a false report to a law enforcement officer.

The man has also been charged by Arlington police with two counts each of child neglect and hit and run of unattended property.

“He was transported to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center where the warrants were served on him,” the VPD said.

In a separate, more recent incident, Vienna police responded at 7:14 p.m. last Tuesday (Sept. 12) to an assault in the Cedar Park Shopping Center parking lot, according to the weekly recap.

The officers located two men who advised they were getting into an Uber when three or four men approached the vehicle, pulled them out of the vehicle, and began assaulting them. The two men had visible signs of injury, but refused rescue. They reported they did not know the men who attacked them and advised they did not wish to pursue charges against them. Officers searched the area for the suspects but could not locate them.

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O’Donnell will begin her first day on Sept. 25 (Photo via Reston Association).

The former director of communications and media relations for Arlington Economic Development (AED) is set to take over the communication’s department at Reston Association.

Cara O’Donnell — who spent the last 11 year managing communications for the AED — will begin her first day on Sept. 25. She replaces Mike Leone, who left his position earlier this year.

“I have spent the majority of my career sharing the stories of communities, and I look forward to now bringing that expertise to Reston and engaging with the community,” wrote O’Donnell in a statement. “This is a wonderful opportunity to support and serve the area I call home, and I am excited and humbled to join the RA team.”

O’Donnell is a Reston resident. She led media campaigns related to Arlington’s recruitment of Amazon HQ2 and “secured national and international media placements focusing on Arlington both as a center for business attraction and as a tourism destination,” according to RA.

She previously worked in state government, destination marketing and higher education communications in Pennsylvania. She also worked as a local television news reporter.

She can also been seen “periodically” onstage with Reston Community Players, according to RA.

“Her background and experience in community building and reaching the membership will be felt as soon as she steps into her role in September. Her work with Arlington County in communications will greatly aid RA as we advance many strategic initiatives in the coming months,” RA’s CEO Mac Cummins said.

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Arlington Blvd at South Manchester Street near Seven Corners (via Google Maps)

A Fairfax County police officer is under investigation for allegedly driving while intoxicated, causing a crash on Route 50 (Arlington Blvd) near Seven Corners.

Justin Faison, an officer assigned to the Mount Vernon District station, was arrested Saturday night (Aug. 19) after crashing into another vehicle near South Manchester Street at 1:41 a.m., the Fairfax County Police Department reported yesterday (Sunday).

There were seven people in the other vehicle. They were all transported to a nearby hospital to get treatment for what police described as “minor injuries.”

“The officer was off-duty and driving his personal vehicle at the time of the arrest,” the FCPD said.

Faison has been charged with a DUI and is now on administrative leave while the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau conducts an investigation, police said. He was sworn in as an officer last year.

The FCPD handled the crash even though it occurred just east of the county border, according to an Arlington County Police Department spokesperson, who said ACPD wasn’t involved in the response.

Image via Google Maps

Katie Cristol, formerly the Arlington County Board chair, took over as the Tysons Community Alliance’s CEO on July 5 (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Katie Cristol wants to help Tysons become what the community imagines it could be.

Since taking over as the Tysons Community Alliance’s first permanent CEO on July 5, Cristol has been busy overseeing the creation of a Tysons strategic plan to identify priorities and needs for the 2,100-acre area envisioned by Fairfax County as an urban downtown where “people live, work and play.”

While a final report isn’t expected until November, the word “connected” keeps popping up in Cristol’s mind when she considers what it’ll take to turn Tysons into the vibrant, accessible and inclusive community that the TCA is tasked with manifesting and marketing.

“There are so many assets in Tysons, and I think one of our biggest opportunities is to create a sense of place,” Cristol told FFXnow in an interview last month. “It’s not just disconnected neighborhoods, but it is a downtown, and so, that absolutely requires physical connectivity…It also requires a sort of emotional connectivity, people really seeing themselves as being part of a broader community.”

From identifying gaps in the sidewalk network to promoting local events, building connections is essentially the core mission of the TCA, a community improvement organization that’s funded by but operates independently from the county.

Tysons booster by day, Arlingtonian by night

On a more personal level for Cristol, building connections also means networking, as she adjusts to a new working environment after serving as chair of the Arlington County Board for almost eight years.

She knows some Tysons residents may be wary of her ties to Arlington — and her continued residency there, which was acknowledged in a May 2 message saying she’ll “keep the title I’ve always valued most: Arlingtonian.”

However, after getting involved in the Tysons Partnership, the TCA’s predecessor, Cristol says she was drawn to the opportunity to continue working on issues like housing, transit and land use in an organization intended to bridge divides between the public and private sectors and the community.

“I believe in the region and I think that we are all interconnected,” Cristol said. “In many ways, I am going to look like a lot of people in Tysons, who spend their day there, working, contributing to the sort of overall return of employment…enjoying the coffee shops and the diners, and really thinking a lot about the space around me, even though I may sleep somewhere else in the region at night.”

Lessons from one of the defining initiatives of Cristol’s tenure in Arlington — the contentious Missing Middle zoning overhaul — could carry over to Tysons, even if the goal of eliminating single-family-only zoning isn’t applicable to an area where 82% of the housing is multifamily, per a market study released last week.

Like Arlington, though, Tysons is grappling with an insufficient supply of housing for its growing population and ever-rising real estate costs that could keep out low-income households and even the middle-class, white-collar workers sought by many employers, Cristol observed. Read More

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Fairfax County police car with lights flashing (file photo)

(Updated at 4:10 p.m.) The long-fought activism of one local resident has culminated in the Fairfax County Police Department changing its approach to publicly identifying where crimes occur.

Arlington-based blogger Dave Statter announced on Wednesday, July 12 that Police Chief Kevin Davis has committed to having FCPD public information officers and social media channels use community names, rather than postal addresses, in public safety announcements, clearing up decades of confusion.

A crash in the Fort Belvoir area, for instance, will no longer be described as happening in Alexandria, when the city’s limits are almost 10 miles away.

Known for his coverage of fire, EMS and police issues on Twitter and his blog, Statter argues that relying on postal addresses when informing the public of crime and safety incidents leads news outlets to share “imprecise” reports that associate murders or robberies in the wrong jurisdiction.

He says this issue is most relevant in Falls Church and Alexandria, two independent cities that share often unclear boundaries with Fairfax County.

The frequent conflation of the two cities with Fairfax County stems from the U.S. Postal Service providing a large swath of Fairfax County residents with Falls Church and Alexandria addresses, Statter claims. These addresses are provided to news outlets by PIOs when pinpointing the location of a crime, giving “people the impression that more crime was occurring in Alexandria [and Falls Church] than what was actually occurring,” Statter told FFXnow.

“The postal service created these artificial boundaries that don’t align with the real political boundaries that are on the map,” Statter said. “And you will often find a national story that says something that occurred in a town somewhere, but it really didn’t occur in that town — it was outside that town in a different jurisdiction. So it’s a problem that people have ignored for many years. I’m trying not to let them ignore it.”

The “general confusion” around city and county limits has also left many residents scratching their heads over where they really live and generated constant citizen inquiries to local governing bodies, Falls Church Communication Director Susan Finarelli says.

“People try to pay taxes to the city of Falls Church when, in fact, they live in Fairfax County,” Finarelli said. “…It is something that City of Falls Church government employees deal with all the time. I even copy and paste a statement of, ‘Oh, thank you so much for your email. Your address is actually in the Fairfax County part of Falls Church. Here’s how you can contact Fairfax County for that service.'”

To remedy this issue, which he says is not only endemic to Northern Virginia but the entire country, Statter has spent 41 long years advocating for PIOs and news outlets to instead use community and neighborhood names, such as Bailey’s Crossroads or Mount Vernon. Read More

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Peter Lusk, Reston Association’s new COO, has worked with Arlington County for more than six years (via RA)

Reston Association has a new chief operating officer to fill shoes long held by Larry Butler, who retired this year after more than 40 years with the association.

Peter Lusk took Butler’s place effective today (Monday), RA announced in a newsletter on Friday (July 7).

RA said Lusk brings more than 14 years of experience in facility operations, assessments, repair and replacement.

For one year, Lusk served as the first COO of national family law firm Whitbeck Bennett. Prior to that, he worked with Arlington County as the division chief for athletic and facilities services and a facility operations manager, according to his LinkedIn page.

RA said Lusk’s experience with “the fast-paced and very engaged Arlington community” helped prepare him to make “a smooth transition to the Reston community.”

“I am humbled and excited to begin serving as the new Chief Operating Officer for the Reston Association,” Lusk wrote in a statement. “I look forward to meeting the community, learning Reston, and building new relationships.”

Lusk has a master’s degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University and is a project management professional through the Project Management Institute.

RA CEO Mac Cummins said he looks forward to working with Lusk.

“His background is an excellent fit for us as the community interest around facility planning and renovation becomes more front and center,” Cummins wrote in a statement.

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McLean’s Neutral Ground Bar + Kitchen will serve American cuisine, such as a wood-fired double cut pork chop (photo by Johnny Autry)

(Updated at 2:30 p.m. on 7/18/2023) A restaurant with a name inspired by New Orleans street medians is coming to McLean.

Neutral Ground Bar + Kitchen from Arlington chef David Guas is set to open early next year at 6641 Old Dominion Drive, moving into the former Assaggi Osteria & Pizzeria space.

In business for more than a decade, that upscale Italian restaurant closed in December 2021 after lease negotiations with McLean Square Shopping Center’s landlord failed.

A native of New Orleans, Guas has lived in Northern Virginia for over 20 years and owned Bayou Bakery in Arlington for almost 13 years. He says he has been “waiting for the right space” for a restaurant in McLean.

“I’ve been listening to McLean friends and family for a long time, who ask me why won’t you open a restaurant here?” Guas said. “Their increased desire for a place to fill a void in downtown McLean, catapulted me to take a vested interest this year and move forward.”

Neutral Ground will be the first full-service restaurant by Arlington chef David Guas (photo by Scott Suchman)

As first reported by Arlington Magazine, Neutral Ground will serve American cuisine intended to celebrate “small farmers, heritage growers, and fisherman” from the mid-Atlantic region and Gulf Coast.

Planned dishes include a wood-fired, double-cut pork chop; fire-roasted, half-shell oysters with garlic butter, parmesan and bread; and a burger featuring a smashed double patty, American cheese, shaved sweet onions, ketchup, mustard and crispy fries.

In a nod to Guas’s Big Easy ties, the restaurant takes its name from “neutral grounds,” the New Orleans term for green street medians where community residents can gather for parades and other events.

The phrase can be traced back to an 1806 military agreement between the U.S. and Spanish colonials in Mexico that turned a disputed territory into officially neutral space, according to the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ 64 Parishes project.

Neutral grounds later became associated with the sometimes uneasy relationship between Creole municipalities within New Orleans, evolving to refer specifically to street medians after a newspaper article griped about rains soaking the one on Canal Street.

Located in between jurisdictions, neutral grounds offered “pastoral” spaces where people from different neighborhoods and cultures mixed — an ideal that will be reflected in the new restaurant’s philosophy and design, which is being developed by //3877 and Guas’s wife, Simone Rathlé, according to a press release. Read More

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Fairfax County police car lights (file photo)

The Fairfax County Police Department recovered a vehicle it was searching for last night (Wednesday) with the help of the Virginia State Police, which arrested the driver after an intense pursuit on I-395.

The 2006 Cadillac sedan landed on the FCPD’s radar on Jan. 29, when one of its officers pulled the vehicle over for a traffic violation around 8:25 p.m.

“The officer approached the car and during the encounter, the driver fled at a high rate of speed,” the police department told FFXnow.

The officer opted not to pursue the car after identifying the driver and owner as Nelson Bowman, a 31-year-old D.C. resident, the FCPD says. Instead, the officer got a felony warrant for speeding to elude law enforcement, which was entered into the national and state criminal information databases.

That information led a Virginia State Police trooper to flag the car at 8:55 p.m. yesterday on northbound I-395. An automated license plate reader notified the trooper that the vehicle was wanted by Fairfax County police.

“The trooper activated his emergency lights and sirens to initiate a traffic stop, but the Cadillac refused to pull over and sped away northbound on I-395,” VSP said. “A pursuit was initiated.”

During the chase, the Cadillac “rammed” one of the pursuing trooper’s vehicles, pushing it off the interstate and into a jersey wall, according to a state police news release. The trooper was taken to a hospital for an evaluation and treatment of “minor injuries.”

The chase concluded when the sedan stopped on the George Washington Parkway near Route 50 in Arlington County, per state police:

The pursuit ended when the Cadillac stopped on the George Washington Parkway near Route 50. The driver fled on foot. The driver was apprehended a short time later and taken into custody. A passenger was also taken into custody and later released. A handgun was recovered from inside the Cadillac.

State police charged the driver of the Cadillac, Nelson Bowman, 31, of Washington, D.C., with one felony malicious wounding on law enforcement, one felony assault of a law enforcement officer, one felony count of eluding police, one felony count of illegal possession of a concealed firearm, one felony count of hit and run, one felony count of destruction of property and one misdemeanor count of obstruction of justice.

A Fairfax County police cruiser positioned outside the Tysons Corner Center Macy’s (staff photo by James Cullum)

One of the two individuals arrested at Tysons Corner Center on Sunday (Dec. 18) will face several charges, mostly related to possession of a gun that police say was reported stolen in Prince William County.

The Fairfax County Police Department said Monday that a 16-year-old from Centreville has been charged with possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon, possession of a firearm by a person underage, possession of a concealed weapon, possession of a stolen firearm and obstruction of justice.

The teen is one of three people sought by police in connection to a robbery in Arlington County. A second person taken into custody on Sunday — a man — has been released, according to the FCPD.

“Officers continue to work with Arlington County Police to positively identify the third suspect and determine if additional charges will be sought,” the department said.

According to the FCPD, an off-duty Arlington County police officer notified its Tysons Urban Team (TUT) at 7:54 p.m. on Sunday that they saw three people “believed to possibly be involved” in a robbery in that neighboring county.

“TUT officers waited for the three men to exit the mall and attempted to take them into custody,” the FCPD said. “The men ran back into the mall. Two of the men were taken into custody.”

No shots were fired, but social media reports of people running in the mall led to unfounded rumors of an active shooter. Police later said there were no gunshots or evacuation, though a gun was recovered in the arrest.

An Arlington County Police Department spokesperson said last night that a person had been robbed, but no further details about the robbery investigation could be shared due to a need “to ensure the integrity of the ongoing investigation.”

“The investigation into the Arlington County robbery is ongoing and no charges have been sought at this time,” APD spokesperson Ashley Savage said.

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