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The Tysons Mobil gas station on Chain Bridge Road was damaged by a tornado in March (staff photo by David Taube)

The Mobil gas station by Tysons Corner Center was looking to make some changes before it got hit by a tornado this spring, but the damage resulting from that storm added a new sense of urgency to the project.

When it meets tomorrow (Wednesday), the Fairfax County Planning Commission is poised to approve a renovation of the station at 1953 Chain Bridge Road that would replace the existing vehicle service bays with a convenience store.

The car wash and repair bays haven’t operated since a tornado briefly touched down in Tysons on March 31, damaging the Mobil and adjacent Sunoco gas stations, Wire Gill LLP partner David Gill told the commission at a public hearing last week.

“We are very eager to move forward on this so we can begin repairs on the building,” said Gill, who is representing PMG in the land-use case.

The renovation of the eight-pump gas station, which has been running since 1973, would add a convenience store sales floor, a 350-square-foot cooler vault and a 240-square-foot employee work room. The 2,585-square-foot building’s façade would be replaced.

While no new exterior construction or additions to the building have been proposed, PMG has agreed to realign the existing sidewalk on Chain Bridge Road (Route 123) and widen it from 4 to 6 feet, including in front of the Sunoco station up to International Drive.

A private road that connects the two gas stations will be closed off “to reduce vehicle conflicts and the possibility of collisions,” leaving the site with two entrances off of Chain Bridge and a rear service road to International Drive, the staff report says.

Gill said the closure will also give the site some additional open space that will be filled with trees and other landscaping.

However, the landscaping along Chain Bridge will be located between the property and sidewalk, rather than by the street, a deviation from Tysons’ design guidelines that Gill said will allow more trees to be planted and prevent visibility issues for drivers.

“Overall, this is an incremental change that reflects larger trends with the fueling station industry, where convenience stores are replacing service stations,” Kevin McMahan with the Department of Planning and Development said. “In staff’s opinion, the upgrades to the building’s architecture and streetscape improvements along Chain Bridge Road will be positive improvements to the area.”

The planning commission stopped short of approving PMG’s special exception request last week, because a development condition that would require the property owner to install two electric vehicle charging stations was still being finalized.

Staff had initially pushed for Level 3 chargers to be required, but the condition has been revised to less-intensive Level 2 chargers. Gill said the site doesn’t have the space to accommodate the infrastructure needed for Level 3s.

Who will be responsible for installing and operating the chargers hasn’t been determined yet, but Gill said PMG has partnered with providers to install stations at other sites in the past.

“We’ve figured out, if worst comes to worst, we’re in that game ourselves now if we put in these chargers,” he said.

Providence District Commissioner Phil Niedzielski-Eichner observed that the growing acceptance and use of electric vehicles presents a potential opportunity for convenience stores and other businesses that could serve drivers waiting for their cars to charge up.

He said the commission will “need to look thoughtfully at what expectations we have for future developments,” suggesting that they push for Level 3 stations at sites along I-495, I-66 and other major highways.

“The matter of electric vehicle charging is going to continue to come before us, and I think we’re getting more and more insight into what that really means for the future of vehicle use in Fairfax County,” Niedzielski-Eichner said.

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

Fairfax County will waive fees for permitting and installing electric vehicle chargers for at least the next year and a half.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted on Tuesday (Oct. 11) to waive all county-imposed permit, installation and signage fees for electric vehicle chargers for a trial period of 18 months. The waiving of fees will go into effect alongside the release of the new Planning and Land Use System (PLUS) on Oct. 31.

“Exempting EVC installations from permit fees may help incentivize use of electric vehicles,” reads the staff report as the rationalization to waive fees.

Staff said it will report back to the board in a year on the “effectiveness of eliminating permit fees in incentivizing installation of EVC equipment.”

Coupled with the “Charge Up Fairfax” program aimed at supporting HOAs in installing electric vehicle chargers, the fee waivers indicate the supervisors have made it a clear priority to encourage more of the public to make the transition to electric vehicles.

The board directed staff in late September to look at the possibility of suspending the fees.

“This is but another step towards our journey of a carbon-free Fairfax,” Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said. “[It’s] an essential statement about our board’s further commitment to incentivizing, supporting, and encouraging…folks who want to make a difference with the vehicles they drive. That and buildings are the single highest emitters of carbon and if we can start addressing those two major ones…we can start making a difference.”

He noted that this might be “one piece…of a larger package” in reducing the county’s carbon footprint, but it’s one of the “most visible” pieces.

The board vote technically included a public hearing, but no one from the public commented. The discussion was also minimal among supervisors, only lasting a few minutes.

By waiving the fees, however, the county will be missing out on some money. Fees vary depending on the size and complexity of the charging stations, but the county is expected to lose between $10,000 to $15,000 in revenue during fiscal year 2023, which started July 1.

Still, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the entire Land Development Services budget.

“The lost revenue will not have a significant impact on the adopted LDS budget of approximately $46 million,” reads the staff report.

As a whole, the county’s budget is nearly $5 billion.

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Electric vehicle chargers in Oakton (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) Fairfax County is looking to charge up a new electric vehicle charging station program and pilot it in Reston.

At last week’s Transportation Committee meeting, the Board of Supervisors discussed a new “Charge Up Fairfax” program, where the county would provide support to homeowners’ associations (HOAs) and multi-family communities to install electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in common areas.

“Electric vehicles are coming and a large segment of the population won’t be able to participate simply because of the issue of at-home charging,” Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination Director Kambiz Agazi said Friday (Sept. 30).

The county hopes that, by 2030, 15% of all light-duty vehicle registrations in the county will be EVs, per the Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP) adopted last year. By 2050, the aim is to be at 42%. As of May 2022, though, under 1% of light-duty vehicle registrations are electric.

Under the proposed pilot program, the county would work with HOAs, large multi-family apartment buildings, and condo associations to install EV charging stations in publicly available locations, such as parking garages and designated parking spots owned by an HOA.

The county has proposed starting the pilot with Reston Association (RA), the largest HOA in the county and possibly the country(Correction: This article initially said Reston Association has been chosen for the pilot. RA says conversations are underway, but no final decision has been made.)

Agazi said the pilot program is funded, but a timeline wasn’t established at the meeting.

There are more than 1,500 home, apartment and condo associations in the county, according to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn.

“We are kind of at the forefront on this one and there not a lot of communities in the region, or even around the country, that are trying to tackle this,” Alcorn said. “We are really talking about roughly half of our population that live in communities like I do that don’t have a [private] garage or a private space that they could put a charger. So, this is a big deal.”

“Charge Up Fairfax” would assist HOAs in identifying locations for charging stations, provide technical support to set them up, and offer financial assistance. The grants would be structured to reimburse communities for a third of eligible expenses up to $5,000.

So-called “disadvantaged” communities would be able to apply for two grants, meaning they would have eligible expenses reimbursed for up to $10,000.

A big component will be a feasibility study, which the county will conduct for the HOAs. The study will consider power sources, the parking situation, community input, and other factors to determine where the best locations would be for charging stations. Read More

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A Fairfax County-owned electric vehicle charger at the Bulova Center for Community Health in Merrifield (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Fairfax County’s growing supply of electric vehicle charging stations is available for the public to use, but that service will now come at a cost.

Under a retail fee plan approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors last Tuesday (Aug. 3), members of the public and county employees using their personal vehicles will be charged 30 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) while electricity is being delivered.

A $2 per hour “dwell-time fee” will be imposed if the vehicle remains connected to the station more than 10 minutes after it’s fully charged.

Capped at $25 per session, the dwell-time fee is intended to discourage drivers from taking up a parking space when they don’t need the charging station, “freeing the space for other potential users,” according to a county staff report.

Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck, the board’s environmental committee chair, said the fees will make the stations available to the general community while prioritizing the county vehicles they’re primarily designed to serve.

“Every county has had to wrestle with, ‘How do we provide this kind of infrastructure for county vehicles, but also, how do we provide this for the public at large?'” Storck said. “I know many of us have been getting calls and questions and emails and people desiring more ability to charge their vehicles at county facilities. This clearly will move us in that direction.”

According to staff, the county has over 20 electric vehicle chargers covering 40 spaces at six sites, including the Fairfax County Government Center, the Pennino Building, the Herrity Building, the Public Safety Headquarters and the Bulova Center for Community Health.

Charging infrastructure was added at the Sully Community Center in July, and stations at the Herndon-Monroe and Innovation Center Metro station garages are also in the works, Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination (EEOC) Deputy Director Susan Hafeli told the board last week.

A total of 49 stations with over 80 spaces will be in place by the end of 2022, she said.

According to the staff report, the adopted charging fee is comparable to commercial providers. As of June, Electrify America was charging 43 cents per kWh for non-members and 31 cents per kWh, plus a monthly $4 fee for members in Fairfax County. Read More

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Electrify America’s electric vehicle charging station at Tysons Corner Center (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

More electric vehicle charging stations are on their way to Tysons Corner Center, though exactly when they’ll arrive and how many there will be remains to be determined.

Right now, locating a station at the mall requires some hunting or the assistance of a mobile app. Of the approximately 11,000 parking spaces, just seven are outfitted with electric vehicle chargers.

“We currently have seven on-site and are making plans for additional charging stations, but the quantity amount is not finalized at this time,” a Tysons Corner Center spokesperson told FFXnow last week.

Mall owner and developer Macerich announced in early June that it will expand the availability of EV charging stations at 12 of its properties in the U.S., including Tysons Corner Center.

The new stations will come as part of Macerich’s ongoing partnership with the Reston-based company Electrify America, which says it hopes to install more than 1,800 total charging stations with over 10,000 chargers across the U.S. and Canada by 2026.

Tysons Corner Center currently has an Electrify America charging station in its Parking Garage C next to Nordstrom. The garage also has a Tesla charging station.

Drivers who use the Electrify America stations can pay by credit or debit card, or by using the company’s mobile app.

According to its news release, Macerich started installing EV chargers at its properties in 2016 and now has over 330 stations. The expansion plan will involve 12 properties in six states.

“Macerich’s collaboration with Electrify America helps us amplify our commitment to reduce climate impacts in our communities as part of our goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030,” Macerich Vice President of Sustainability Jeff Bedell said in the release. “It’s our hope that these publicly available stations will elevate awareness of sustainable transportation and energize more drivers to make the switch.”

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Morning Notes

Boats docked at Lake Anne Plaza in Reston (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 11:20 a.m.) Kitten Rescued in Groveton — Fairfax County firefighters from the Woodlawn station were dispatched to the 7000 block of Richmond Highway on Monday (June 27) after bystanders reported a stray kitten that got stuck in the engine compartment of their coworker’s SUV. First responders were able to “extriCATe the kitten without injury or damage to vehicle,” and a coworker of the original caller agreed to adopt the kitten. [FCFRD/Facebook]

(Correction: This article initially said the kitten was adopted by a firefighter, based on the department’s tweet about the incident.)

Vienna Proposes Tighter Regulation of Massage Parlors — “Council member Ray Brill Jr. requested that Town Attorney Steven Briglia provide possible town-code amendments to address the proliferation of massage establishments in Vienna and its surroundings, as well as possible illegal activity at unlicensed businesses.” [Sun Gazette]

Hidden Oaks Nature Center Reopens — “The newly expanded and renovated Hidden Oaks Nature Center reopened to the public on June  25. The nature center, at 7701 Royce St. in Annandale, had been closed for the past two years, first because of the Covid pandemic, then due to construction.” [Annandale Today]

Two Sent to Hospital by I-495 Crash — “Monday, 11:21 AM, units responded to I495 NB after Route 7 for 3 vehicle crash impacting main & express lanes. 1 van overturned. Crews worked efficiently to treat/transport 2 patients to hospital w/minor injuries. All lanes initially shutdown but reopened w/in 20 minutes.” [FCFRD/Twitter]

McLean Bible Church Lawsuit Dismissed — “The year-long legal fight between McLean Bible Church and a faction who accused leaders including David Platt of a ‘theological takeover’ has come to an end. On Friday, a Fairfax, Virginia, court dismissed a lawsuit from a group of current and former members of the Washington DC-area megachurch, who contested a June 2021 elder election for allegedly violating church bylaws.” [Christianity Today]

Reston Elementary School Gets Funds for Garden — “Lake Anne Elementary was recently awarded a $1,200 grant from EcoRise to create a community food garden. ‘It is our goal to produce food we can share with a food bank or members from our school community,’ said Consuelo Bachelet, a second-grade teacher at the school.” [Patch]

Fairfax County Eager to Draw FBI to Springfield — “No matter where it lands, federal officials suggest the FBI headquarters could host at least 7,500 personnel — about 3,500 fewer than what was pitched the last time around. Time, though, has only strengthened Springfield’s hand, [Board Chair Jeff] McKay said.” [Washington Business Journal]

County Board Approves $1M to Create Fund for Startups — “Fairfax Founders Fund will provide early capital to startup companies in Fairfax County.   The fund will target early-stage technology companies with technical assistance grants of up to $50,000 to help them prepare for later stage investments.” [Department of Economic Initiatives]

Reston Electric Vehicle Company Announces New Investors — “Reston, Virginia-based Electrify America…counts German industrial giant Siemens AG among its big backers…Volkswagen has also increased its investment in the company. Siemens is the first outside investor. The new funding totals $450 million and values Electrify America at $2.45 billion, the company said.” [WTOP]

It’s Wednesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 84 and low of 66. Sunrise at 5:48 am and sunset at 8:40 pm. [Weather.gov]

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A Fairfax Connector bus leaves the Dunn Loring Metro station (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Fairfax Connector is set to start its electric bus pilot program by the end of the year.

The county-run bus service plans to introduce eight electric buses by December, according to a presentation to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ transportation committee last week.

Phase one of the pilot program will run out of the West Ox bus division, which serves routes in the western and central portion of the county. Initially, electric buses will be tested on four routes. Phase two is expected to begin in 2023 and will include four additional buses on routes in the southern portion of the county.

No exact timetable was given for how long the pilot program is anticipated to last, but it will likely follow other neighboring localities and run about two years.

Planned routes for the Fairfax Connector electric bus pilot (via Fairfax County)

The hope is to transition the entire Fairfax Connector fleet to 100% zero emission buses by 2035. This deadline is based on the county’s established goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2040.

Staff identified several challenges that they will closely monitor, including ensuring there’s no reduction in service as a result of the transition. Several supervisors noted during the meeting that slower service, a reduction of routes, or constant maintenance taking buses offline could lead to fewer riders.

There are also technology limits to consider and whether the electrical grid will meet the energy requirements needed for large bus fleets.

According to the county’s Chief of Transit Dwayne Pelfrey, two thirds of current Fairfax Connector routes exceed the battery capability of electric buses. Coupled with potential issues with cold weather and hills, like Alexandria experienced late last year, electric buses may not completely meet the needs of the Fairfax Connector just yet.

That, in turn, could push potential riders back to single-occupancy vehicles, negating the emission reductions that many hope electric buses will provide.

Pelfrey also noted that obtaining buses has been increasingly difficult between supply chain issues and manufacturers not being ready to “pivot” to producing electric vehicles.

The used bus market is difficult to navigate as well, though the county did purchase 10 used buses out of North Carolina that will be transitioning to electric and 12 hybrid buses from WMATA.

A rendering of what a Fairfax Connector electric bus might look like (via Fairfax County)

Considering the county’s goals and the current price of gasoline, though, staff and board members believe the issues are worth navigating. While capital and infrastructure costs may be higher for electric buses, fuel and maintenance costs would be significantly lower over a 12-year period, according to a graph presented by staff.

The county is also exploring using hydrogen as fuel, but that technology remains expensive and more costly than electricity.

The county has already started creating infrastructure in preparation for the pilot to begin in about six months. Electric chargers arrived in April and are currently being installed, a process expected to be completed within the month.

“We are just doing simply plug-in chargers,” Pelfrey said. “When we transition full garages…we will have to do something much, much more complicated from a construction and power standpoint.”

The county’s electric buses are expected to start being manufactured late next month, received by October, and put on the road by December.

Fairfax Connector is the largest bus system in Virginia with a fleet of more than 300 buses providing nearly 18,000 rides a day.

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An electric vehicle charging station at the Herrity Building in Fair Oaks (staff photo by David Taube)

Fairfax County hopes to rely entirely on electric and non-carbon-emitting vehicles by 2035, but projected costs could become an obstacle.

While the county government already has electric vehicle charging stations across several parking garages, future installations could require double or triple the current estimated cost of $75,000 per site, Kambiz Agazi, the director of the county’s Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination, reported on Tuesday (May 17).

“Cost estimates have been upended by the pandemic-related market disruptions” to construction, he told the Board of Supervisors during its environmental committee meeting, adding that staff are tracking Bipartisan Infrastructure Law grant possibilities.

According to the staff presentation, county sites slated to get electric vehicles or new charging stations within the next year include the Public Safety Headquarters, a maintenance facility on Jermantown Road, and the Herndon-Monroe parking garage.

County staff are also evaluating police stations for a pilot project that could start at two stations.

Fairfax County’s planned electric vehicle projects for 2022 (via Fairfax County)

Meanwhile, the county is finally starting to see some progress on the dozens of solar energy projects it has in the works.

Solar panels could be added to the Sully Community Center this summer. A third party could also install panels on the Lorton Community Center, but a lease wasn’t finalized at the time of the presentation.

In addition, the county is spending nearly $3.9 million on projects to improve energy efficiency at the Cub Run and South Run RECenters as well as the Fairfax City Library. Upgrades include lighting, electricity, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

Construction is currently underway on those three projects and is expected to finish this year. The changes will reduce the facilities’ annual costs by $153,000 per year and reduce their carbon dioxide equivalent by approximately 1,245 tons, according to the county.

That translates to removing nearly 271 vehicles from the road per year.

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Morning Notes

The crowds returned for the first Taste of Vienna since the COVID-19 pandemic started (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Reminder: FFXnow Wants Your Input — FFXnow is conducting a survey to learn more about our readers and help shape future coverage. What kinds of stories interest you? Have strong feelings about the Tysons Reporter and Reston Now merger, or the length of our stories? Let us know before the survey closes after Sunday, May 15.

Former Falls Church Bicycle Shop Owner’s Mythology Unravels — “We’re not just talking about one man’s fabrications, but the ripples from those fabrications: a team of riders that allege abuse at [Nick] Clark’s hands, a series of embellished life events stretching back to the 1990s, ties with the political and military elite, alleged misrepresentations across multiple industries, and possible stolen military valour.” [Cycling Tips]

Police Thanked for Catching Victoria’s Secret Thieves — “The Fairfax County Police Department’s Tysons Urban Team (TUT) was recognized by executives from Victoria’s Secret on Friday for breaking up a retail theft ring. The thieves are believed to be responsible for the loss of more than $250,000 of merchandise from stores throughout the southern U.S.” [FCPD/Facebook]

Woman Who Sold Mantua Home With Squatter Speaks — “After days of speculation about the identity of the person living in the basement of a viral Zillow listing, the woman has come forward to tell her side of the unusual story. Last week, her Fairfax, Va., home…sold for more than $800,000 with the condition that it came with a person living in the basement who did not have a lease.” [WUSA9]

FCPD Seeks Person Behind Clifton Starbucks Vandalism — “Officers responded to the Starbucks at 5748 Union Mill Road in Clifton for a burglary report on April 27, when someone broke the front window and stole a Progress Pride flag from inside and left. The following morning, officers responded to the same Starbucks for a similar incident.” [ABC7]

Metro Shares Plan to Electrify Bus Fleet — “Metro expects to purchase 12 electric buses and associated charging equipment this year as part of the Battery-Electric Bus Test and Evaluation Program. The buses will begin arriving late this year and go into service in 2023 out of the Shepherd Parkway Bus Division.” [WMATA]

Man Convicted of Killing Fairfax Couple Denied Parole — “The Maryland Parole Commission denied parole to Sifrit, in his first parole hearing, since being sentenced to 38 years in prison, after he and his then-wife Erika killed and dismembered Martha Crutchley and Joshua Ford, of Fairfax City, over Memorial Day weekend almost 20 years ago.” [WTOP]

Capital One Center Named “Best New Development” — The Washington Business Journal has given its “Best New Development” award to Capital One Center, which is bringing 1.47 million square feet of construction to the financial company’s Tysons headquarters. The Reston Gateway office high-rises in Boston Properties’ Reston Town Center expansion was named a finalist. [WBJ]

It’s Monday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 76 and low of 60. Sunrise at 6:11 am and sunset at 8:03 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Flint Hill Elementary School students let their green flag fly during a visit yesterday (Monday) from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan.

Invited by the environmental advocacy groups Mothers Out Front and Moms Clean Air Force, Regan stopped by the Vienna school to discuss the federal government’s plans to expand the use of electric school buses over diesel ones, a transition that he said Fairfax County Public Schools is helping lead.

“Fairfax County Public Schools is demonstrating exceptional leadership in being an early participant in what we hope will be a widespread, nationwide movement,” Regan said at a press conference, which followed a bus ride and a student roundtable. “Zero-emission school buses can and one day will be the American standard.”

FCPS received its first electricity-powered school bus in January 2021 and now has eight total in its fleet of 1,625 buses. The district was awarded a $2.7 million state grant in August to add another 10 electric buses.

At the time of the announcement, the new buses were expected to arrive this March, but FCPS says they are now scheduled to come off the assembly line around June 25 in time for delivery in July.

“The supplier has some additional upfitting to do before delivery to align with our specifications,” FCPS said by email. “They will not be placed into full operation (with students aboard) until Fall of 2022.”

Superintendent Scott Brabrand reaffirmed yesterday that the school system aims to achieve carbon neutrality with its bus fleet by 2035.

The EPA announced $17 million in rebates on March 7 to help schools across the country transition to electric buses. That includes $7 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds intended for underserved communities that might not be able to afford electric vehicles and charging equipment on their own.

Congress committed an additional $5 billion over the next five years to replacing diesel buses with vehicles that emit lower or no greenhouse gas emissions with its passage of a $1 trillion infrastructure law in November. The EPA anticipates announcing a first round of funding next month, according to Regan.

“This investment will transform how millions of students get to school each and every day. It will help clean the air we breathe, protect public health, and tackle the climate crisis,” Regan said, stating that the recent surge in gas prices stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine further highlights the need to transition from fossil fuels to clean, more sustainable energy sources.

While the event focused on electric school buses, FCPS officials and students used the occasion to also put a spotlight on the district’s Get2Green program, which promotes environmental stewardship and education.

Flint Hill Elementary has embraced the program enthusiastically, obtaining its first Green Flag award from the National Wildlife Federation in May 2014 and becoming a permanent Green Flag school in 2019.

Students on the school’s Green Team have helped implement projects from a composting program to flower seed collections and distributions. They partnered with Bryn Awel Primary School in Wales to learn about plastic pollution in oceans and gather data for NASA’s Globe program.

Fifth-grade student Eddie Felber attributed his appreciation for the natural world to Flint Hill’s courtyard, which features a chicken coop, a monarch waystation, and native plant and vegetable gardens. Tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, and other produce from the gardens are used in the school’s cafeteria salad bar.

“We will not stop, because we cannot afford to stop,” sixth-grade student Lena Mudrick said. “We’re the kids now, but we have to make sure to improve the environment for future generations. Our school is incredible in helping student-led projects make change, and we hope more schools will have these opportunities.”

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