Fairfax County is continuing to see the number of locals experiencing homelessness over the last year increase — and a new report said inflation and housing costs are partially to blame.
This year’s point-in-time count — an annual count of individuals in shelters, transitional housing, and experiencing unsheltered homelessness — found 1,310 people experiencing homelessness in Fairfax County.
That’s a 10% increase (119 people) over the previous year, when a slight drop was reported. Around 30% of those were adults experiencing chronic homelessness.
The survey found that 87 households said they were fleeing domestic violence and 229 households reported a history of domestic violence, according to Fairfax County.
This year’s count follows a recent trend of homelessness increasing again after years of decline throughout the D.C. region.
“After a steady reduction of people experiencing homelessness on the night of the Point-in-Time Counts between the 2008 and 2017, a decrease of 47 percent (871 people),” the county said on the Point-in-Time report. “The number of people experiencing homelessness identified through the counts increased 27 percent (258 people) between 2017 and 2021 and then decreased 3 percent (31 people) in 2022.”
In particular, the report says there’s been a notable increase in families with children facing homelessness:
The number of people in families with children experiencing homelessness increased by 33 percent (188 people) between the 2022 and 2023 counts. This increase is primarily attributed to the multiple negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on families in terms of health, employment, and inflationary costs, especially for housing. Meanwhile, the number of single adults experiencing homelessness decreased by 11 percent (71 people) during the same time.
As with the previous year, the report noted that people who identify as Black or African American are disproportionately likely to experience homelessness in Fairfax County:
The most significant disparity in the demographics of those experiencing homelessness on the night of the 2023 Point-in-Time Count remains the disproportionate representation of people identifying as Black or African American. While 10.8 percent of the general population in Fairfax County is estimated to identify as Black or African American , 48 percent of people experiencing homelessness on the night of the count identified as Black or African American. The imbalance slightly improved from the 2022 count, when 50 percent of people identified as Black or African.
A developer that filed a plan for a new Reston Regional Library and affordable housing in the Reston Town Center North area is challenging Fairfax County’s handling of its procurement process in court.
The complaint, filed by Reston Civic Core LLC late last year, is being litigated even after developer Foulger-Pratt withdrew its offer of a public-private partnership for the same area — a move that leaves no immediate option for the redevelopment.
Foulger-Pratt offered an unsolicited proposal in October 2021 under the Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act to redevelop two properties with up to 350 affordable apartments and a new library on land owned by the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority.
The county and FCHRA declined to comment, given that the issue is under active litigation.
“As a matter of policy, we don’t comment on matters in litigation,” said Linda Hoffman, a county spokeswoman.
In addition to retaining 30 units at Bowman Towne Court, Norton Scott’s plan called for 324 affordable housing units and a new library on mostly county-owned property next to the Bowman Towne Center property. It also included a public plaza, homeless shelter, performing arts amenities, and above-ground parking for the Hunter Mill District Supervisor’s Office and the police department.
The complaint formally alleges that the county violated Dillon’s rule and urges the county to accept its application for consideration. It also calls on the court to cancel the interim agreement with Foulger-Pratt — which has since been canned.
The county issued a call for competing proposals — as required by law. Norton Scott’s competing plan was rejected.
The county moved to sign an interim agreement with Foulger-Pratt in July, but the agreement was voided in February. Foulger-Pratt cited “significantly higher construction costs and recent interest rate hikes” as the primary reasons for scrapping the proposal.
Norton Scott argues that the because the proposal publicly posted by the county had 74 of 188 pages fully redacted, it barred the developer from developing an understanding of its competition.
“As a result of the heavily-redacted proposal, it was impossible for potential offers to gain a clear understanding of what the county sought when it invited competing proposals of the project,” the complaint says. “The lack of transparency runs counter to the principles of open competition and access to information that are at the foundation of public procurements.”
The developer also alleges that the county did not not formally reject its proposal and instead “determined that the proposal will not be accepted for detailed review,” according to legal documents.
“Under the PPEA, after accepting the proposal or consideration, the county was without authority to reverse course and not accept the proposal for consideration,” the complaint states.
At a later point, the county then stated the proposal was “ineligible for review.”
A task force with various stakeholders is currently examining key issues in Reston Town Center North.
Chelsea Rao, a senior vice president with Norton Scott, said it seems that the development’s team solution is not being considered at all.
“It seems silly that there is a task force looking for a solution that is not considering the option we have proposed,” Rao said.
The case is currently in the discovery phase.
Fairfax County wants your food scraps and yard waste.
The county will officially launch its new compost outpost at the I-66 Transfer Station (4618 West Ox Road) with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11 a.m. tomorrow (Wednesday).
Part of a two-year-long pilot program, the facility consists of two 20-foot-long shipping containers modified so that visitors can drop off organic waste in the dirt-filled receptacles.
“It is designed to create optimal conditions for composting and is a test facility to demonstrate small-scale, decentralized, organics processing,” the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) said in a media advisory.
The pilot will expand the county’s efforts to promote composting, which makes soil healthier by returning nutrients to the earth, reducing erosion and improving its ability to hold water, according to the Virginia Cooperative Extension.
The county has also been accepting food scraps for composting at the I-95 Landfill Complex (9850 Furnace Road) in Lorton and at some farmers markets, though the 2023 season isn’t set to begin until later this month.
The I-66 outpost will process food scraps and yard waste from residents and county facilities, though residents must drop off their collections directly.
“We will not be picking them up for this program,” DPWES spokesperson Sharon North said.
The resulting compost is expected to be initially used at county parks, according to North.
The pilot will help the county determine the facility’s effectiveness and provide a visible demonstration of “the ability…to take a waste product and turn it into a locally sourced and readily available resource that can be used to enhance the community,” said Matt Adams, director of the Solid Waste Management Program in the DPWES Engineering and Environmental Compliance Division.
“The Compost Outpost pilot demonstrates this by utilizing sustainable materials, such as plant material and food scraps that are currently treated as a waste products to be removed from the community, and transforming them into compost that can be used locally,” Adams said in a statement to FFXnow. “This greatly benefits the environment and the county’s overall sustainability goals by lowering emissions through the reduction [of] transportation/processing practices and adds to the resources available within a community.”
Here’s more on the pilot from DPWES:
The two-year pilot was approved by the Department of Environmental Quality and aligns with the county’s Zero Waste Policy by diverting food waste and other organics from municipal waste streams.
Over the course, the operational impacts, as well as the production of the finished compost will be assessed to determine the project’s feasibility and efficacy.
The Compost Outpost pilot will cost approximately $100,000. It is funded by the county’s Zero Waste Team and hosted by the Solid Waste Management Program and its partner, Compost Crew.
More information on the materials accepted for composting can be found on the DPWES website.
A day after neighboring Arlington County made waves by ending single-family exclusive zoning, Fairfax County saw its own zoning reforms reversed two years after they were approved.
The Virginia Supreme Court declared the county’s Zoning Ordinance Modification Project (zMOD) void yesterday (Thursday) because the new code was adopted at a mostly virtual meeting — a ruling could have consequences for other actions taken during the first years of the pandemic, as noted by Inside NoVA, which first reported the decision.
The county is now operating under its previous zoning ordinance, which had been in place since 1978, according to the zoning administration division’s website.
“We are currently evaluating the Virginia Supreme Court decision and considering our options,” Tony Castrilli, the county’s director of public affairs, said. “In the meantime, the 1978 Zoning Ordinance is presently in effect and available for reference on the County website.”
In a 29-page opinion, Justice Wesley Russell sided with four residents who argued that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors violated the Virginia Freedom of Information Act’s open meeting requirements by not holding an in-person public hearing or vote.
The county contended that an ordinance adopted on April 14, 2020 gave it the flexibility to hold public meetings on the zoning update and other subjects electronically during the Covid state of emergency.
The Supreme Court disagreed that the ordinance allowed the county government to conduct all regular business electronically, finding that the zoning update doesn’t qualify as “necessary to ensure the continuation of essential functions and services.”
“The modification of a 40-year-old zoning ordinance after a five-year revision process does not satisfy this standard,” Russell wrote. “It is not a time-sensitive matter, and its adoption is not and was not necessary to allow the County to continue operations.”
The residents behind the lawsuit — David Berry, Carol Hawn, Helen Webb and Adrienne Whyte — filed a complaint in Fairfax County Circuit Court on March 5, 2021 seeking to prevent the board from adopting zMOD at a public hearing on March 9, 2021.
The circuit court denied the request and ultimately dismissed the complaint on Sept. 9, 2021, stating that it had been rendered moot by the adoption of zMOD on March 23, 2021 and that the county board’s emergency powers gave it the authority to act at an electronic meeting. Read More
The Fairfax County Park Authority is going to need a bigger budget to handle its running bamboo.
The agency has requested an additional $500,000 and a new, full-time staff position for an ecologist to help manage bamboo removal projects now that the county requires property owners to contain the species.
The park authority has 185 bamboo patches on its property, covering 250 acres of land — exceeding an earlier estimate and any other county agency, according to a Feb. 28 memo to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ environmental committee.
“Due to the excessive cost, bamboo management on an estimated 250 acres of Park Authority land will be a long-term management issue,” FCPA Public Information Officer Benjamin Boxer said.
While no removals have been conducted yet this year, the park authority has developed a “protocol” for prioritizing projects based on:
- Site conditions, such as the bamboo patch’s size, accessibility and proximity to rare resources
- Cooperation from neighboring landowners
- The county’s vulnerability index in terms of the impact on resources, restoration areas, high-quality natural areas, and the community
However, the county’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2024 doesn’t include funding for either the bamboo removal projects or the ecologist, who would be dedicated specifically to this issue, Boxer confirmed.
The park authority instead hopes to get the funds as part of the county’s fiscal year 2023 third-quarter review, which was presented to the Board of Supervisors today (Tuesday).
The package proposes allocating $400,000 “as initial funding” for bamboo mitigation, falling short of the FCPA’s request. It also doesn’t add any new positions, though staff identified nearly $10.7 million that the board could devote to non-recurring priorities.
“The Park Authority has requested recurring and dedicated funds for contracted bamboo removal and suppression projects on FCPA property and will proceed following the prioritization protocol with available resources as they are identified,” Boxer said.
The county’s running bamboo ordinance took effect on Jan. 1, requiring property owners to prevent the invasive species from spreading to other properties or risk getting fined.
The Fairfax County Department of Code Compliance has received 44 complaints about running bamboo since the ordinance took effect, but no fines have been imposed yet.
“We are focused on working with property owners to gain voluntary compliance. At this point no fines or litigation have been sought,” DCC Director Gabriel Zakkak said.
When the ordinance was adopted last year, Zakkak’s predecessor suggested the county may not resort to fines until cases have continued for a year or longer.
In addition to the bamboo on park authority land, the county’s Facilities Management Department identified about 1.5 acres of bamboo on eight of its properties, led by 43,000 square feet at the Mason District Government Center, according to a staff presentation.
The department said it has removed that bamboo and is in the process of treating the sites, stating that it doesn’t anticipate needing more funding to manage bamboo.
While Fairfax County Public Schools found no issues on school properties, Rose Hill and Hunt Valley elementary schools have adjacent properties with bamboo, according to FCPS spokesperson Julie Moult.
“Grounds has met with both owners and are working collaboratively to ensure that, if a small amount is on FCPS property, it is properly removed and also ensure that it does not spread onto FCPS property in the future,” Moult said.
Public hearings on the FY 2023 third quarter review package will be held on April 11, 12 and 13 — along with the proposed FY 2024 budget — before it’s adopted on May 2.
Several locations linked to African American history in Fairfax County could be eligible to be designated as historic places.
Those buildings and neighborhoods include the Louise Archer School, the Tinner Hill neighborhood and Clifton Primitive Baptist Church. Along with other candidates, they appear in a draft African American Historic Resources Survey Report, which was released on Feb. 23.
The county is looking for residents to share their thoughts on the report ahead of its final version, anticipated late this spring.
“We’re looking for feedback on the historical context and properties as written in the report,” Leanna O’Donnell, planning division director at the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Development, wrote in a statement to FFXnow.
Residents who want to weigh in on the report can do so through Friday, March 24. There will also be a virtual community meeting on the report’s findings at 6:30 p.m. on Monday (March 6).
“Any feedback will be taken into consideration as we finalize the report and help identify properties that could be nominated for inclusion in Fairfax County’s Inventory of Historic Sites, the Virginia Landmarks Register or the National Register of Historic Places,” O’Donnell wrote.
The survey report furthers the work of the African American History Inventory, a database of resources related to the county’s African American culture and history. That inventory came to be following an October 2020 motion from a commissioner on the Fairfax County History Commission.
In 2021, the county received funding through the Virginia Department of Historic Resources’ Cost Share Grant Program to support the current study.
The report includes historical information about African Americans in present-day Fairfax County, starting in the 1600s. It also features photos and descriptions of buildings and communities surveyed, as well as preliminary recommendations.
For example, the entry on Louise Archer Elementary School includes a description of the building’s location, its exterior and the surrounding area of Vienna, along with pictures of the building and some historical context.
“The evolved building is the third purpose-built school for African Americans in Vienna,” the report says. “Once Fairfax County schools began to integrate, Louise Archer School was the only formerly Black elementary school to integrate and remain open.”
The report calls the school “a strong candidate for NRHP listing.”
Of the sites not already listed, Lane’s Mill in Centreville and Luther Jackson Middle School in Merrifield were deemed eligible for the national register. Other potential candidates include McLean’s Chesterbrook Baptist Church, Clifton Primitive Baptist Church, Quander Road School in Belle Haven, and the Tinner Hill neighborhood in Falls Church.
The Gum Springs area was the only part of the county excluded from the survey. That area is “part of a more intensive survey effort focusing specifically on this prominent African American community,” according to a county press release.
The county has also moved to honor Black and African American history with new historical markers, selected late last year.
Each election cycle requires some tweaks to Fairfax County’s polling precincts, and 2023 will be no exception.
This year’s proposed revisions aren’t quite as intensive as 2022’s, which affected over half of the county’s precincts to account for redistricting changes. However, they’ll still have an impact on hundreds of voters in a year when nearly all key state and local offices will be on the ballot.
According to a staff memo, Tysons has grown enough to need two polling places. With the Tysons precinct now exceeding 5,000 registered voters, the county recommends splitting it up to create a new “Jones Branch” precinct.
The Jones Branch precinct will take over the existing polling place in the Providence Committee meeting room (7921 Jones Branch Road). Staff have proposed relocating the Tysons polling place to The PARC at Tysons (8508 Leesburg Pike), the county-owned events venue that replaced the Container Store.
“This building is well-situated in the Tysons precinct…and will accommodate the continued growth in this area,” staff said in the agenda for last week’s Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting.
It costs the county $23,865 to add a precinct, a price tag that covers voting equipment, election supplies and notices to affected voters. There’s also an annual cost of $4,800 per year to staff the new precinct with the election officers for at least two elections.
Also in the Providence District, the county suggests renaming the Oak Marr precinct to “Oaktree Crossing,” since the polling site is no longer in the Oak Marr Rec Center.
The polling place was relocated to the Oakton Library in March 2021 “to provide the 4,000 voters a more accessible voting location,” according to staff. The Oak Marr Rec Center now hosts a different, small precinct called Island Pond that was created after redistricting.
Nearby, the Difficult Run precinct in Oakton is permanently moving to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax (2709 Hunter Mill Road) after getting relocated there temporarily last year when its previous site became unavailable.
The church already has a polling place for the Oakton precinct, but it will have “separate voting rooms” for each precinct, per the staff memo.
The county is also considering moving the precinct Spindle #2 out of the Centreville Regional Library, where it’s currently co-located with Spindle #1. The polling place would be relocated to Bull Run Elementary School and renamed “Robinson Mill.”
Staff recommends the change after the county’s election team “reported that the library cannot logistically support colocated precincts” based on last November’s election.
Finally, the county intends to rename the Franconia #1 and #2 precincts as Edison #1 and #2, since they’re both located in Edison High School.
“This name change will avoid voter confusion resulting from the renaming of the magisterial district from Lee to Franconia,” staff said.
As authorized by the Board of Supervisors on Feb. 21, a public hearing on the proposed changes will be held at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, March 7.
Registrations for Fairfax County’s School Age Child Care (SACC) summer program will reopen tomorrow (Thursday) after technical issues disrupted its scheduled launch yesterday.
Camp Fairfax started allowing families to register at 8 a.m. on Tuesday (Feb. 21), but the Fairfax County Office for Children, which oversees the program, reported at 9:13 a.m. that “technical difficulties” had taken the system down.
“The registration system…experienced a system failure following the opening of SACC summer program registration,” the Department of Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS) said in a news release. “Staff responded by immediately pausing all summer registrations. Staff continues to work diligently to resolve issues and ensure the system can adequately respond to demand.”
NCS said it anticipates the issues will all be fixed today, enabling it to restart registrations at 8 a.m. tomorrow.
However, enrollment will now be “staggered” based on the name of the 35 locations where the camps will be held:
- Beginning Thursday, Feb. 23: Sites beginning with letters A-J (Aldrin Elementary School to James Lee Community Center)
- Beginning Friday, Feb. 24: Sites beginning with letters K-P (Kent Gardens Elementary School to Providence Community Center)
- Beginning Monday, Feb. 27: Sites beginning with letters S-W (Springfield Estates Elementary School to Wolftrap Elementary School)
Open to rising first to seventh graders who live in Fairfax County or Fairfax City, Camp Fairfax operates in week-long sessions from late June through early or late August, depending on the location. Each camp session has three “cabins” with activities aimed at artists, performers or athletes.
Camps located at the county’s community centers will run from June 20 to Aug. 18, while school sites will run from June 26 to Aug. 4.
The fees for this year’s camps will be determined by the county’s upcoming budget, a draft of which was presented to the Board of Supervisors yesterday. The cost can be adjusted based on a family’s income, with last year’s fees ranging from $10 for a family earning under $53,000 to $281 for a family earning $132,500 or more.
Registration will be available online and by phone (703-449-8989), though NCS advises not logging into the system before 8 a.m.
“Neighborhood & Community Services is committed to providing all Fairfax County and City of Fairfax residents equal access to high-quality camp and childcare opportunities,” NCS said. “We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience as we work to meet the demand for these services in our community.”
Fairfax County is adding speed cameras to monitor drivers around schools for the first time.
The photo speed-monitoring devices will be installed near eight schools across the county tomorrow (Friday) as part of a pilot program approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in December, the county announced today.
Here is where the cameras will be located:
- Kirby Road near Chesterbrook Elementary School in McLean
- Old Keene Mill Road near Irving Middle School in West Springfield
- Franconia Road near Key Middle School in Springfield
- Stone Road near London Towne Elementary School in Centreville
- Sleepy Hollow Road near Sleepy Hollow Elementary School in Lake Barcroft
- Silver Brook Road near South County Middle School in Lorton
- Soapstone Drive near Terraset Elementary School in Reston
- Rolling Road near West Springfield High School in West Springfield
Oakton High School isn’t in the initial lineup, but a camera will be added on Blake Lane near Sutton Road in the future, the county says.
A crash that killed two of the school’s students and left a third seriously injured last June was a major factor in convincing county leaders to adopt speed cameras. Police said the driver — an 18-year-old who had just graduated from the school — was going 81 mph when he hit the students on Blake Lane at the Five Oaks Road intersection.
The pilot will also bring a speed camera to the construction work zone on Route 28 near Old Mill Road at the edge of Centreville. Crews are currently working to widen the road.
“The goal of the Speed Camera Pilot program is to improve the safety of our roads, protect pedestrians and motorists and prevent accidents,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “This program, in coordination with the Police Department and Fairfax County Public Schools, is a critical tool to deter dangerous behavior and ultimately save lives. As you drive in our neighborhoods and school zones — the message is clear, please take a moment to slow down.”
The county says thousands of drivers were seen exceeding the speed limit by over 10 mph during a survey of five school zones last year, suggesting that speeding “is prevalent” in those areas.
During the first 30 days of the pilot program, drivers caught speeding will receive a warning. After that, fines of up to $100 will start to kick in for any drivers who exceed the speed limit by 10 mph.
Traffic safety, particularly for pedestrians, has emerged as a top priority for both the county’s elected officials and the police department this year after fatalities surged in 2022. The Board of Supervisors is also pushing for Fairfax County Public Schools to install cameras on its school buses, asking earlier this week why a program hasn’t already been implemented.
“We continue to see motorists traveling at speeds well above the posted speed limit and too many crashes are occurring in our county as a result,” Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis said. “This program provides a great tool to help reduce speed, deter pedestrian crashes, and keep our communities safe.”
Local drivers got an introduction to speed cameras in Fairfax City, which launched them in school zones last year. Programs are also in the works in Alexandria, Arlington and Falls Church.
(Updated at 11:20 a.m. on 2/8/2023) When March arrives, the COVID-19 pandemic will no longer be an officially declared emergency in Fairfax County.
After honoring individuals and organizations in the community who helped the county respond to the pandemic this weekend, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously today (Tuesday) to terminate the local state of emergency declaration that has been in place since March 17, 2020.
The declaration, which activated the county’s Emergency Operations Plan and allowed increased flexibility and resources to address the public health crisis, will end on March 1.
“This is a milestone,” Chairman Jeff McKay said. “We would not be here without the work of so many people in our county. We recognized our nonprofits, our county staff, really the vigilance of our community during some really difficult times, and so, it’s great that we’re able to do this.”
Fairfax County is possibly the last locality in Northern Virginia to end its emergency declaration. Loudoun County, Prince William, Alexandria, and Arlington all took that step last year.
Keeping the declaration in place gave the county “a lot of flexibility in collecting federal funds and other strategic advantages,” McKay said.
As fears of a surge in Covid cases akin to last winter’s omicron wave have dissipated, the county says that the time is right to end the declaration.
“The Declaration of Local Emergency has been an extremely valuable tool for us throughout the pandemic,” County Executive Bryan Hill said in a statement. “It gave us greater flexibility and authority to purchase supplies, find resources, move to virtual operations and meetings, support the business community, and protect the health and safety of our community. I commend our employees who have done an impressive job of reinventing how we deliver services to Fairfax County residents.”
At this point, the move won’t affect the daily lives of most community members. Since the county’s mass vaccine clinics shut down in December, there will be “no direct impact” on the health department’s approach to Covid.
The Health Department will continue to share important updates and resources concerning COVID-19 on its webpage and social media channels…Vaccines continue to be widely available throughout our community and at Health Department District Offices by appointment. Residents who are unable to access vaccines or boosters may call the Health Department Call Center at 703-267-3511 for assistance.
The end of the declaration is most notable for starting the clock on the county’s relaxed regulations for outdoor dining and other activities, such as the use of speakers during outdoor religious services, to use an example cited by Department of Planning and Development Director Tracy Strunk.
Any businesses with an emergency waiver will be allowed to continue using it until March 1, 2024 — 12 months after the declaration ends.
Strunk said county staff will present options for allowing outdoor dining in parking lots to continue on a universal basis this spring, as requested by the board at a land use policy committee meeting in October.
“I know there are a number of locations in my district where we see more outdoor dining that didn’t have it before — not necessarily right now, but certainly when the weather’s just a little bit warmer,” Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross said. “We need to make sure they all understand what happens and how some of those things will go forward.”
The county’s Covid community level is low, as of Thursday (Feb. 2). The Fairfax Health District, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, is currently averaging 119 cases and 4.6 deaths per day for the past week, according to county health department data.
There have been 265,428 Covid cases, 5,307 hospitalizations and 1,775 deaths in the district.