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Lusk takes part in a ceremony celebrating WISH (via Fairfax County government)

Supervisor Rodney Lusk will recommend renaming “Lee District” to “Franconia District” at the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ meeting tomorrow (Tuesday).

“The time has come to change the name of Lee District,” Lusk said on Twitter over the weekend.

In a statement and video posted to his social media channels, Lusk explained that more than two years of discussions with the community revealed to him that an “overwhelming majority” of participants supported the name change.

He believes that the name Franconia is the right choice to replace Lee.

“Franconia is a name that is synonymous with our community,” he wrote. “From Franconia Road, the Franconia Springfield Metro, the Franconia Museum, and the Franconia Governmental Center, the name Fraconia has always been central to our identity. It is also a name that memorializes a place and not a person.”

Lusk will introduce a board matter at Tuesday’s meeting asking his fellow supervisors to vote in favor of the name change.

Back in March, the county’s Redistricting Advisory Committee recommended renaming both the Lee and Sully Districts due to the names’ historical ties to the Confederacy and slavery.

However, the committee’s report noted that the historical record is “somewhat inconclusive” about if the Lee District is actually named after Confederate general Robert E. Lee or another member of his family. Despite that, the committee still believed the name needs to change due to the confusion it could cause if left in place.

The committee also recommended a name change for the Sully District. That is named after the Sully Historic Site, a plantation once owned by Richard Bland Lee.

“Lee named the land he inherited Sully in 1789 and for twenty years under his charge the Sully Plantation was the location of commercial activity and profit from the kidnapping, human trafficking, and abuse of over one hundred lives — men, women and children,” the report read.

Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith tells FFXnow they are still in the “process of gathering community feedback.” She says they held its first meeting to discuss a change earlier this month and “doesn’t want to rush” the process. There’s currently no timeline for when a name change recommendation might occur for the Sully District.

Lusk’s recommendation has already gotten at least one show of support so far, from state Sen. Scott Surovell (36).

At that moment, it’s unclear if a majority of the Board of Supervisors will vote along with Lusk to change the name from the Lee District to Franconia District, but Chairman Jeff McKay has signaled his support for such a move in the past.

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Supreme Court (via SCOTUS)

(Updated at 7:30 p.m.) The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade today (Friday) in a landmark decision that will effectively ban abortion in more than a dozen states.

Abortion remains legal in Virginia, which doesn’t have so-called “trigger laws” that would go into effect with the court’s ruling.

However, shortly after the news broke this morning, Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) told The Washington Post that he will seek to ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Youngkin put out a statement in response to the decision:

The Supreme Court of the United States has rightfully returned power to the people and their elected representatives in the states. I’m proud to be a pro-life Governor and plan to take every action I can to protect life. The truth is, Virginians want fewer abortions, not more abortions. We can build a bipartisan consensus on protecting the life of unborn children, especially when they begin to feel pain in the womb, and importantly supporting mothers and families who choose life. That’s why I’ve asked Senator Siobhan Dunnavant, Senator Steve Newman, Delegate Kathy Byron and Delegate Margaret Ransone to join us in an effort to bring together legislators and advocates from across the Commonwealth on this issue to find areas where we can agree and chart the most successful path forward. I’ve asked them to do the important work needed and be prepared to introduce legislation when the General Assembly returns in January.

The decision will also not immediately impact the legality of abortion in neighboring D.C. and Maryland.

Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano, the county’s top prosecutor, stated that he will never prosecute women for having an abortion, even if the state laws change, a sentiment he previously shared in a New York Times op-ed.

Most of Fairfax County’s representatives expressed outrage, describing the ruling as a rollback on human rights and a “dark moment.”

President Joe Biden, who previously said he’d look to shore up abortion rights, is expected to deliver remarks on the decision at 12:30 p.m.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement that he’s “deeply concerned about the future of women’s rights and healthcare in our nation” but noted that the Supreme Court ruling won’t immediately affect abortion access in Virginia. Read More

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Still waiting for Silver Line phase two… (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) Officials say it’s just a matter of weeks before the long-anticipated opening date of phase two of the Silver Line will be known.

At a Fairfax County transportation committee meeting yesterday (Tuesday), Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill said he expects to find out about a date for operational readiness within two weeks.

“If we don’t hear back as a board and as a region that operational readiness is not completed or available no more than two weeks from now, I would be very surprised,” Hill said at the meeting.

Still, it’s unclear exactly when that could be. Interim Metro Head Andy Off has previously stated that Metro expects to declare operational readiness within the “next several weeks.”

The 11.4-mile extension, which would bring six stations through Loudoun County, has been besieged with delays for years. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has remained tight-lipped about an expected opening date, which would be determined once operational readiness is formally declared.

Metro’s board will establish a service date after identified deficiencies are resolved to meet acceptance standards.

Martha Coello, who works with the Fairfax County Department of Transportation’s special projects division, said that the county’s portion of the punch list is 99% complete. The county just faces a small hang-up with a contractor that “won’t impact operational readiness or opening.”

Coello said discussions with stakeholders on opening days are ongoing. FCDOT is also seeking the board’s suggestions on how to best proceed with launch-day festivities. The project was substantially completed in November.

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A crash at Blake Lane and Five Oaks Road in Oakton injured five people, including two teens who died (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The community has had growing concerns about traffic safety in Oakton’s Blake Lane corridor, where two Oakton High School students were killed last week after police say a speeding car struck them on a sidewalk.

Following community meetings about the roadway last year, the state proposed several safety improvements on Blake Lane from Route 123 to Route 29, including vegetation trimming, pedestrian safety, and sign and marking improvements, as well as a speed study and a restricted crossing U-turn.

However, since then, the Virginia Department of Transportation has determined a proposed signal at the intersection with Hibbard Street was not warranted, and that the 35 mph speed limit was appropriate. The speed study indicated that about 85% of all vehicles in free-flowing traffic traveled at or below 43.5 mph, according to the state.

Last year, Fairfax County also implemented an additional $200 fine for speed limit violations on Blake Lane between Jermantown Road and Sutton Road, as part of the Residential Traffic Administration Program.

Citing Blake Lane safety as a priority, Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said in a newsletter on Friday (June 10) that she’s working with the Board of Supervisors’ chairman, state representatives and the Fairfax County School Board to schedule a community meeting around other short and long-term safety improvements.

“I was devastated when I heard the news of the terrible crash that happened on Tuesday, June 7th at the intersection of Blake Lane and Five Oaks Road, not far from Oakton High School,” she said. “As a new mother and your neighbor, I am heartbroken for the families affected by this tragedy.”

Following the crash, she said the Fairfax County Police Department increased police presence along the corridor and deployed a radar speed sign at the site.

Since 2017, there have been 11 crashes — not including the fatal crash last week — at the intersection of Blake Lane and Five Oaks Road, according to Fairfax County Police Department. Four of the crashes resulted in injuries.

A graphic shows the number of crashes at the intersection of Blake Lane and Five Oaks Road (courtesy Fairfax County Police Department)

When looking at a longer stretch of Blake Lane from Jermantown Road to Route 29, crashes climb to a total of 113, 31 of them resulting in injury.

In addition, 31 crashes along Blake Lane involved what the Department of Motor Vehicles deem a young driver — between the ages of 15 and 20. Five of those crashes resulted in injury, and 26 involved property damage. Read More

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Tysons water tower (file photo)

The Tysons Partnership isn’t sure what form it will take next, but Fairfax County has some cash on hand to help the nonprofit organization figure that out.

The Board of Supervisors will decide on June 28 whether to allocate $125,000 to establish an “anchor” organization that will assume the partnership’s work advocating for Tysons and overseeing the implementation of Fairfax County’s comprehensive plan.

The funds will come from a $1 million Economic Opportunity Reserve (EOR) grant that the board nominated the Tysons Partnership for in December 2020.

“This is still a work in progress, but we’re trying to make sure we’re able to keep moving forward,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said during the board’s meeting on Tuesday (June 7).

Approved by the board 8-0 with two members absent at the time, Palchik’s proposal directs staff to schedule a formal vote later this month and outlines how the funds will be used to create a new nonprofit corporation representing Tysons.

As shared at an economic initiatives committee meeting on May 17, Tysons Partnership has been searching for a more sustainable governance and funding model to support local events, placemaking, transportation advocacy efforts, marketing, and economic development research.

Partnership leaders and county staff suggested the new organization could be similar to a business improvement district, which taxes businesses to support projects in the district, but it will focus more on the overall community, not just commercial property owners.

Under the proposed work plan, the allocated EOR funds will be used to lay the groundwork for Tysons Partnership’s successor:

  • $50,000 to establish the new corporation
  • $25,000 for administrative, financial, and personnel needs, including executive leader recruitment efforts
  • $25,000 to develop an initial strategic plan and identify the organization’s priorities
  • $25,000 to develop a communications plan and enhance the group’s social media presence

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, one of several co-sponsors on Palchik’s board matter, said he appreciated the breakdown of how the requested funds will be spent.

“We’re getting into some unprecedented things, things we haven’t done before, and my comfort level…is much higher knowing this level of detail,” Foust said.

According to the board matter, Fairfax County has officially given Tysons Partnership $250,000 in EOR funds. That means $750,000 out of the $1 million grant is still available.

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A taxicab in a parking lot (staff photo by David Taube)

As gas prices continue to rise, cab drivers in Fairfax County may be getting even more help at the pump.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is looking at implementing an emergency $2 fuel surcharge on every trip starting later this month. That would double the current surcharge, which was implemented in April, as gas prices have climbed even compared to two months ago.

“The current emergency taxicab fuel surcharge of $1.00 only covers an increase in fuel cost up to $4.30 per gallon,” the staff report notes.

The average gas price in Fairfax County is currently $5.02, according to the American Automobile Association.

“Taxicab drivers already operate on low margins, but they play an important role for many residents and visitors to Fairfax County,” Board Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement to FFXnow. “It is vital to keep them operational and, additionally, it is not fair for the taxicab drivers themselves to be impacted by devastating increases in fuel prices throughout the county. This is a temporary surcharge increase that we have the ability to rescind as gas prices hopefully fall in the future.”

The initial $1 surcharge ordinance expires this Saturday (June 11). If approved, the new one would begin June 29 and last six months — essentially to the end of 2022 — “unless rescinded.”

When it met yesterday (Tuesday), the county board approved a June 21 public hearing to discuss the increase. A vote on the measure is anticipated on June 28. If approved, it will be implemented the next day.

A number of neighboring jurisdictions have implemented similar fuel surcharges. Arlington’s $1 charge went into effect mid-May and will be on the books for six months. The City of Alexandria’s dollar surcharge began in March and could last up to a year.

Beyond those employed by the industry, keeping the taxi business afloat is important for a number of other county residents, according to the staff report.

“The on-demand availability of safe and reliable taxicab services…is important to the public well being, especially for those consumers unable to use public transportation and who rely on taxicab service for their basic transportation needs,” it reads.

The county government and Fairfax County Public Schools work with cab companies for special-needs transportation, including providing nearly 3,000 wheelchair accessible trips in 2020.

Cabs are also part of the TOPS program, which provides subsidized transportation to eligible residents. The report says TOPS participants take about 134 taxicab trips per month, so the fuel surcharge is estimated to cost the county about $1,600 extra per month.

Approximately 90 students with disabilities and special needs use cabs to go to and from school. FCPS estimates that an extra $15,000 will be needed for the surcharge, but it will be able to absorb the extra costs into its budgets.

The ordinance leaves room for the surcharge to be extended, increased or rescinded “if prices fall significantly.”

There’s hope that the surcharge may actually increase the number of cab drivers in the county.

“The $2.00 per-trip emergency taxicab fuel surcharge will continue to provide relief to the taxicab drivers who are suffering an economic hardship from increased fuel costs,” the report said. “This increase may also help retain current drivers and recruit new drivers.”

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The Barton Hill Recreation Area in Reston (via Google Maps)

Reston Association is appealing a Fairfax County decision requiring additional planning approvals for proposed upgrades at the Barton Hill tennis courts.

The county contends that, in addition to a site plan approval, RA needs to get an amendment to the existing Planned Residential Community (PRC) Plan approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors before installing lights at the tennis court facility.

RA argues that those additional steps are unnecessary.

“If upheld, the determination would unnecessarily improve additional costs on RA and extend the time required to implement the RA Board’s approved objectives,” acting CEO Larry Butler wrote in an April 6 appeal to the county.

RA says it only needs a sports illumination plan to move forward with 23 LED light poles, which would stand 26 feet tall. RA also says that the approved development plan for the area describes the courts as a recreational area and, as a result, allows for greater flexibility in planning.

The addition of lights would expand the facility’s hours.

“RA asserts that the zoning administrator erred in concluding that the proposed changes require approval of a PRC plan and an associated site plan,” Butler wrote.

But the county says that while repaving the courts and striping for pickleball is consistent with previous approvals, the addition of lights “expands the use of the recreation facility beyond that which was contemplated with the previous approvals,” according to a March 10 statement from Bill Maryland, the Department of Planning and Zoning’s deputy zoning administrator.

The proposal includes renovation of four courts, striping for tennis and pickleball, and the addition of lights. RA previously anticipated the project would be ready by the end of the year, but it’s unclear how the timeline will be impacted by the appeal.

The matter is expected to go before the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals, but a date has not yet been formalized.

Photo via Google Maps

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A sky terrace is planned at the proposed Fairfax Peak site in Lorton (via Fairfax County)

The climb continues for Fairfax Peak, a long-anticipated project to bring one of the largest indoor ski facilities in the world to Fairfax County.

The county is considering partnering with Alpine-X, a Tysons-based company, to lease land at the county-owned I-95 landfill (9850 Furnace Road) in Lorton for the public-private project.

Alpine-X CEO John Emery said work on the project is ongoing, and the company plans to file an application to rezone the site this year.

“At this time, we continue to make progress on the design of the facility and are coordinating with the county on the timing for filing,” Emery told FFXnow in a statement.

In 2018, Alpine-X submitted the proposal to build a 450,000-square-foot snow sports facility with a planned 1,700-foot ski slope. The facility could include:

  • Multiple ski slopes at a 20-degree angle
  • An area for skiing and snowboarding with ramps, jumps, and rails
  • A bunny slope for beginners
  • A luxury hotel
  • A gravity-powered, mountain coaster that will slide from the summit to Occoquan Regional Park
  • A gondola to ferry riders from the park to the facility’s base

Other features could include a water park, a gravity ropes course, and recreation areas. SnowWorld, a partner of Alpine-X, has signed an agreement with the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority to possibly operate or own some of the planned facilities.

The county would lease the land to Alpine-X, allowing the company to build, own and operate its own facility.

A spokesperson for the county said negotiations with the company are ongoing.

The project is contingent on several factors, including land use entitlements, state regulatory requirements, and other considerations. In October of last year, the county’s Board of Supervisors voted to extend the negotiation period on the project until December 2023.

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Reston Town Center Metro station, still awaiting opening (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Another logistical piece to formally open phase two of the Silver Line has been completed, but the opening date remains entirely unclear.

At meeting on Tuesday (May 24), the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion to formally accept maintenance responsibilities of county-owned transit facilities related to the 11.4-mile Metrorail extension in Loudoun County.

“This is an important step as we move forward with phase two opening,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said.

But the vote didn’t bring any updates on an opening date for the long-anticipated project, which has already faced significant delays.

At the meeting, county transportation staff noted they hope to receive a schedule from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority soon.

Just as it did for the first phase of the Silver Line, the county formally adopted a maintenance and operations agreement.

The agreement includes property conveyances between different stakeholders, along with with maps covering ownership and maintenance responsibilities.

The county will own and maintain the Reston Town Center North and South Kiss and Ride lots and bus bays, the Herndon Station South stair tower and pedestrian bridge between the parking garage and the pavilion, and the Innovation North Kiss and Ride lot.

The county’s transportation department is working with MWAA to resolve several items related to this aspect of the project.

After brief hopes of a potential May opening, county officials acknowledged on the record in March that the extension had been delayed until the summer. MWAA has declined to provide a specific date or estimate.

“Metro has not set an opening date and will not do so until after operational readiness is declared,” said Metro spokesperson Ian Janetta in a May 11 statement to FFXnow.

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Kids play soccer on a synthetic turf (via Fairfax County Park Authority)

Fairfax County is exploring how private partnerships could bring more sports facilities to the area, but the five-year journey has now been slightly prolonged by an additional step.

The Board of Supervisors passed a measure on Tuesday (May 24) directing Fairfax County Park Authority and Neighborhood and Community Services staff to address racial and social equity issues when evaluating potential projects with input from Chief Equity Officer Karla Bruce and her team.

The additional review follows a consultant report released in August 2020 that identified possible Park Authority sites where private businesses could create sports facilities, such as a complex for 16 “rectangular fields” illustrated as soccer fields, another area for 10 baseball fields, an indoor track facility, a natatorium, and more.

The consultants’ report came through the Sports Tourism Task Force that the county created in 2017. One of the group’s several subcommittees involved Alpine-X representatives seeking to build the Fairfax Peak indoor winter slope facility at a landfill in Lorton.

On Tuesday, Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity, who chaired the task force, asked the board to direct the county executive to call for developers to submit public-private partnership proposals as identified in the report.

“Sports tourism facilities are rapidly developing around the East Coast and throughout Virginia,” he said during the meeting. “Vying to meet the demand of this incredibly recession-proof industry, we need to take advantage of our desirable location and extensive sports community by developing the identified sports tourism facilities.”

However, Chairman Jeff McKay modified that motion, clashing with Herrity on how to move forward. McKay said that some areas of the county largely lack these sports sites.

“We have teams, youth leagues throughout this county, that can’t find space today,” McKay said. “Before we…move forward with advancing larger complexes that might be out of reach for some of them, let’s make sure we understand where…inadequacies exist.”

McKay requested that the county create an equity impact assessment on the sports tourism report by the end of 2022.

The board approved consideration of that alternative 9-1, with Herrity dissenting. With Herrity’s original motion dislodged, the board approved the amended board matter 9-0 for a final vote in which Herrity abstained.

Photo via Fairfax County Park Authority

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