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Turner Farm Park Observatory in Great Falls (via Fairfax County)

A project to reduce light pollution at Turner Farm Park Observatory will soon kick off.

The project, funded by the Mastenbrook Volunteer Matching Fund Grant Program, will provide $7,515 to retrofit 26 light bollards to replace current fixtures with LED lights.

“The retrofit project will position Turner Farm Park to apply for designation as one of seven Urban Night Sky places by the International Dark Sky Association,” the Fairfax County Park Authority said last week.

The Analemma Society, which conducts astronomy and science education programs for more than a decade at the observatory, will pitch in a little over $5,100 toward the retrofit.

When applying for the grant, representatives of the Analemma Society explained that the retrofit is the “last piece” needed to meet the criteria for an Urban Night Sky Place, a label awarded to parks, open space or observational sites near an urban environment that “actively promote an authentic nighttime experience in the midst of significant artificial light.”

The park began the application process to obtain the designation over two years ago.

“Light pollution is a major environmental problem,” the grant application said. “This project aims to reduce light pollution by creating demonstration lights showing proper dark sky lighting design to help educate the public on this. In doing so it also improves the lighting at the observatory to provide better views of the night sky for participants in our astronomy outreach programs.”

The park is located at 925 Springvale Road in Great Falls.

The grant was officially approved by the park authority’s board of directors on May 31.

The board also approved roughly $2,400 for improvements at Lewinsville Park in McLean. It will fund the installation of 230 linear feet of black privacy slats on the existing pickleball courts to create a windscreen for players.

The Mastenbrook grant program supports public-private ventures. Grant amounts range from a few hundred dollars up to $20,000.

The county is in the midst of changing light regulations around the observatory. The draft policy aims to amend zoning standards for outdoor lighting within a half-mile of the observatory.

A car crashed into a power switch box on Georgetown Pike, causing an outage from Great Falls to Tysons (courtesy anonymous)

About 1,400 people in the McLean and Great Falls area lost power Saturday night (May 20) due to a car crash on Georgetown Pike.

A photo sent to FFXnow shows a silver sedan that had smashed into a large green power box, coming to a rest against a streetlight.

The vehicle caused the outage when it crashed into the box, which had a power switch in it, according to Dominion Energy spokesperson Peggy Fox.

“Vehicle accidents are a common cause of power outages. There are transformers on poles and transformers on the ground and when vehicles hit them, they can and do cause outages,” Fox said, though she confirmed that this particular box wasn’t a transformer.

The outage mostly affected Great Falls and McLean, including Tysons. Georgetown Pike was closed between Kimberwicke Road and Potomac Knolls Drive for multiple hours, starting around 6:30 p.m., as crews worked to restore power, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.

The loss of electricity came just one day after a separate crash took down power lines on Old Courthouse Road.

That crash on Friday (May 19) involved a tractor-trailer that hit a pole near Lord Fairfax Road and got entangled in the power lines. The truck blocked Old Courthouse between Hull Road and Gallows Road, requiring a night-long closure for repairs.

The resulting power outage, though, was relatively limited, affecting fewer than 50 Dominion Energy customers, according to the utility’s outage map.

A trio of new restaurants will be up and running by the summer (courtesy Republic Land Development)

Several new shops at a new plaza in Great Falls will be up and running by the end of this summer.

Domino’s and Jersey Mike’s Subs are expected to open in May at Seneca Corner, which is located at 1020-1024 Seneca Road, a representative for Republic Land Development told FFXnow.

Five Guys, however, is expected to open some time in the summer. Exact opening dates for all three establishments were not available.

Domino’s is relocating from 9912B Georgetown Pike, a location that has already closed.

The center is anchored by CVS Pharmacy and was constructed in two phases. The first phase was competed in 2019.

Other tenants have not yet been announced.

Georgetown Pike has been closed due to downed wires after a vehicle crash (via Dominion Energy)

Updated at 5:50 p.m.Georgetown Pike has now reopened, Fairfax County police say.

Earlier: Georgetown Pike has been closed in both directions near Old Dominion Drive in Great Falls in the wake of a vehicle crash.

“Wires are in the roadway and Virginia Power Company is on the scene,” the Fairfax County Police Department said at 9:07 a.m. “Avoid the area if possible.”

The closure extends to the River Bend Road intersection, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation’s traffic camera site, which advises that drivers should expect delays

The impact of the downed wires appears to be relatively limited, causing a power outage for just 39 customers, according to Dominion Energy’s outage map.

“A truck hit a utility pole bringing wires down,” Dominion Energy spokesperson Peggy Fox said. “We were able to restore power to most customers with switching, but 21 customers will remain without power while repairs are done.”

The utility company’s estimated time of restoration for those remaining customers is 1 p.m., Fox said.

The Great Falls location opens on April 12 (courtesy Virginia ABC)

Great Falls will officially have a Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) retail store.

The business will open on Wednesday, April 12 at 10:30 a.m. at 9843 Georgetown Pike in the Great Falls Center.

“This new store means Great Falls residents no longer have to drive to Reston or the Tysons area to purchase their spirits,” Virginia ABC Chief Executive Officer Travis Hill said. “We hope to continue to offer a high level of convenience to our customers, both here and elsewhere in the commonwealth.”

The public is invited to the grand opening ceremony for the roughly 2,000-square-foot store, which will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m on Mondays through Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

This is the authority’s 399th location in Virginia. Store inventory includes 232 different brands and sizes of American whiskeys, 132 cordials, 174 vodkas and 124 tequilas.

The nonprofit organization seeks to use existing barns on the site (via Google Maps)

A local nonprofit organization is hoping to expand its therapeutic riding services for people with disabilities in Great Falls.

Based at 9700 Georgetown Pike, Lift Me Up hopes to extend its services to a new horse barn with eight stables across six acres at 1051 Kelso Road near Difficult Run Stream Valley Park.

The expansion would allow the organization to offer “unmounted” wellness programs for groups such as first responders, veterans, seniors, and youth with mental challenges. The barn would serve as an equine-assisted wellness center for Lift Me Up.

“Wellness sessions are unmounted programs where participants interact with horses to learn lessons from equine behaviors. Riding lessons are not included in Wellness Sessions,” the special permit application says.

Received by Fairfax County on March 28, the application notes that the property could have been purchased by a developer and redeveloped with residential units. Instead, the current owners bought the house and barn to preserve the “serenity of fields with horses grazing.”

“Using the Kelso Road property as a horse barn INCREASES the harmony desired in the general purpose of the zoning district as it keeps the open and rural character of the district,” the application says.

The nonprofit organization was founded in 1975 by Colleen Zanin. It has 11 horses, according to its website.

Police line up on Route 7 during an armed robbery pursuit (via @notaveryh/Twitter)

Police took two people into custody yesterday (Thursday) after a reported armed robbery in Great Falls turned into a dizzying pursuit from Tysons to Herndon and back again.

Officers were called to the Safeway at 9881 Georgetown Pike at 12:05 p.m. for a report of a man and a woman stealing merchandise, the Fairfax County Police Department says. The suspects allegedly pointed a gun as they left the store.

According to the initial police dispatch, the individuals took Tide detergent from the store. The vehicle tag was traced to a man with an outstanding felony warrant for robbery in Prince William County.

“The two left in a car with a child in the backseat. Officers saw the car and attempted a traffic stop that resulted a pursuit,” FCPD spokesperson Sgt. Jacob Pearce said.

Per scanner traffic, the chase began on southbound I-495 (Capital Beltway) at Georgetown Pike before exiting to the westbound Dulles Toll Road toward the airport, as officers asked for a helicopter to assist.

After feinting an exit multiple times in the Reston area, the driver turned off at Centreville Road in Herndon and swung back around to the eastbound toll road. The screech of tires can be heard on the police radio.

“Do not PIT the vehicle,” a supervising officer said, referring to a maneuver used by law enforcement to stop moving vehicles. “At most, try to bring the car to a stop slowly. I do not want any reckless driving behavior to endanger the child’s life inside the car.”

The pursuit continued into the Dulles Toll Road’s airport lanes and exited onto Route 7 (Leesburg Pike), where the driver jumped a curb to cross from the eastbound to the westbound lanes.

After turning onto Trap Road, back onto the toll road, and off at Dolley Madison Blvd in McLean, the chase made its way onto the Beltway and finally ended in the northbound lanes near Lewinsville Road, where the driver was arrested.

The woman was also taken into custody, according to the FCPD.

“No injuries were sustained as a result of the incident,” Pearce said. “The child is safe and is currently with caregivers. No crashes were reported during the pursuit. Detectives are actively investigating. The names and charges will be released once charged.”

Close to 40 police vehicles were involved in the chase, including both local and state agencies, according to a tipster who said they followed part of the saga on Route 7 and the Dulles Access Road. At one point, an officer said on the radio that there were “too many vehicles” in the pursuit.

Photo via @notaveryh/Twitter. Hat tip to Alan Henney, Henry Bright and KKirkhart.

The centers will open locations in Great Falls and Reston (courtesy Serotonin Centers)

A new anti-aging treatment center called Serotonin is opening two locations in Fairfax County.

Seratonin Center, which describes itself as a human longevity treatment franchise, plans to open in Reston and Great Falls.

The company has also identified locations in Sterling and Ashburn. The franchises are operated by Brian Weinstein, a Marine Corps veteran who owns two senior home care franchises.

“Much in the same way that my senior-care businesses exist to improve quality of life, owning multiple Serotonin Centers franchises gives me an opportunity to extend that mission in a different way to a wider demographic of people,” Weinstein said.

While the exact locations have not yet been made public, a company spokesperson tells FFXnow that the site selection process is currently underway in Reston.

The centers offer a tiered-membership model include hormone restoration, aesthetic enhancements, weight management and immunity recovery treatments.

The company kicked in Florida and began franchising in 2021. There are currently 43 new franchise agreements in the works, according to the company.

High winds are causing power outages in Fairfax County, including in Great Falls and Oakton (via Dominion Energy)

(Updated at 2:35 p.m.) Hundreds of people in Fairfax County have lost electricity today (Tuesday) as winds buffet the D.C. region, taking out power lines and contributing to at least one fire.

Georgetown Pike is currently closed in both directions at Miller Avenue in Great Falls due to a tree that fell on power lines and “a resulting fire,” the Virginia Department of Transportation said shortly after 1 p.m.

The closure extends between Stephanie Circle and Ellsworth Avenue, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.

“Expect delays for several hours as emergency and utility crews clear the scene,” VDOT tweeted.

That one outage has affected 277 Dominion Energy customers, according to the utility company’s outage map. Power isn’t expected to be restored there until 4-9 p.m.

Further south in the Vienna and Oakton area, Dominion crews are assessing the damage caused by the wind storm in the Lake Vale neighborhood. Power is now being restored to over 800 customers.

Vale Road has been closed between Hunter Mill Road and Stryker Avenue due to fallen power lines, according to Fairfax County police.

“The closure is expected to last several hours. Please use an alternate route,” the FCPD said.

While those are the largest outages reported so far, power losses and road closures due to fallen wires have been seen across the county today. As of 1:50 p.m., about 1,268 Dominion Energy customers in the county were without power.

The National Weather Service issued a Wind Advisory that took effect at 9 a.m. today and will remain in place until 2 a.m. tomorrow (Wednesday).

Winds have been consistently exceeding 40 mph, with some gusts topping 50 mph, according to the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang.

The county is considering ways to preserve dark skies around the observatory (Photo via Fairfax County Government).

A new and expanded version of a policy to preserve dark skies around the Turner Farm Park Observatory in Great Falls is now on the table.

Fairfax County staff have presented an additional round of amendments to the draft policy, which would amend zoning standards for outdoor lighting within a half-mile of the observatory, which is located at the intersection of Georgetown Pike and Springvale Road.

The proposed changes add flexibility for outdoor lighting while still reducing exemptions from dark sky-compliant lighting, according to the county.

The changes were proposed in response to mixed community input.

“Community input on the proposed amendment has been mixed, with some in favor of additional regulations and some against,” the county said.

Great Falls Citizens Association (GFCA) Vice President Chris Rich told FFXnow he was pleased to see the changes in response to concerns raised by the association and residents.

“Reaching common ground on how to protect the dark skies in the area, especially around the County observatory, is a goal of the state law that authorizes this local legislative action,” Rich wrote in a statement. “It’s also consistent with one of GFCA’s goals to recognize the importance of promoting public awareness and benefits of guarding against excessive and misdirected artificial light at night.”

Compared to the August version of the changes, the latest amendment allows legally existing lights to remain until replaced and removes a previous requirement that stated existing lights must comply within five years of the policy’s adoption and implementation.

Rules for motion-activated lights on single-family houses remain the same, reducing permitted lumens to 1,500. For other lights on single-family homes, the latest change states that lights need to be fully cut-off and comply with setback requirements, unless they’re 20 lumens or less or located on a door or garage.

The August version created exceptions for lighting in a driveway or walkway of 10 lumens or less and one light at each exterior door or garage. Both proposals capped the light limit to 1,500 lumens per fixture.

For uprights and spotlights, the proposal allows any number of fixtures with a maximum of 300 lumens per fixture. The previous plan limited lights to 15 light fixtures per lot.

Jennifer Falcone, a member of GFCA’s land use and zoning and environment and parks committees, said that an official position on the new draft language is still up in the air.

“The process continues and won’t be concluded until formal public hearings are conducted following a decision by the Board of Supervisors to advertise the proposed amendment,” she said. “Because of that, GFCA’s Board will await publication of the final draft language of the proposed amendment before it submits its position.”

Discussions have been underway for more than a year on the proposed ordinance. The observatory is working towards becoming an official urban night sky place through the International Dark Sky Association.

The issue has sparked a wide spectrum of opinions, from concerns about built-in protections to deter criminal activity to the need to limit light pollution and efforts to balance the observatory’s needs.

GFCA held the first official public meeting on the issue last March. The association has historically supported efforts to preserve the area’s dark skies.

The county will hold a virtual meeting on the proposed changes today at 7 p.m.


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