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Solar panels (via Minoru Karamatsu/Flickr)

(Updated at 11:25 a.m. on 8/5/2022) Fairfax County is exploring being the first Virginia locality to create a “green bank” as a way to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

In a presentation to the Board of Supervisors’ environmental committee last week, county staff said a green bank can help spur investments in clean energy.

Essentially, a green bank is a publicly-funded financial institution that helps fund, develop, and support clean energy technologies for both residential and commercial entities.

“A green bank can act as a program sponsor, a trusted advisor, and a clearing house of information for residents and the private sector,” John Morrill, from the county’s office of environmental and energy coordination, said in his presentation to the committee.

The board asked staff to look into the idea of a green bank two years ago, ultimately authorizing $300,000 for a feasibility study. The General Assembly also passed legislation last year letting localities set up their own.

So far, the feasibility study found that a green bank could lead to $650 million of investments in just the first five years. Those investments would focus on residential energy efficiency measures, rooftop solar panels for both county homes and businesses, and shifting commercial car fleets to electric.

“The role of a green bank would be to encourage and facilitate those investments through targeted programs, direct incentives, and partnerships with private financial institutions and service providers,” Morrill said.

A few committee members questioned whether the county’s green bank would be “crowding out” private investment that would have happened regardless.

“That’s probably the crux of the issue and the most challenging operational,” Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw said. “It doesn’t do us any good to fund a project that would have happened otherwise.”

According to staff, a county-backed green bank could help homeowners better afford improvements like solar panels or help make decisions about what’s right for them. For example, the county could provide “cash incentives” for installing rooftop solar panels in exchange for the county getting the renewable energy credits.

Morrill also noted that a green bank could help make improvements for low and moderate-income households that could benefit from the potential savings.

Staff recommended the county create a green bank as a non-profit 501(c)(3) with a board that could include county officials.

While no Virginia locality has a green bank yet, it is becoming a trend nationwide that was actually kicked off by nearby Montgomery County, which is among the first localities in the country to set up a county-backed green bank. D.C. also has a green bank.

(Correction: This article previously stated that Montgomery County was the first U.S. locality to create a green bank. While the county has said that, it was preceded in 2010 by New York City, which also claims to have the nation’s first local green bank, and St. Lucie County in Florida, which formed the nonprofit Solar and Energy Loan Fund.)

Staff recommended that the board follow Montgomery County’s lead in committing “a mid-range investment” for a green bank with initial funding ranging from $3 million to $15 million.

Chairman Jeff McKay suggested the county could partner with other local jurisdictions, so that Fairfax County doesn’t have to bear the sole financial brunt for an initiative that would benefit the region.

Committee members expressed overall support for the green bank proposal and asked staff to complete the study.

Staff will complete a draft ordinance and provide an official funding recommendation in the fall. The matter could come before the environmental committee for a vote in October with a Board of Supervisors public hearing scheduled for late this year or early 2023.

“If we initiate this, we have a chance to start this up in a way that not only benefits Fairfax County residents but also other counties around us to hopefully move more quickly adoption of ways to save energy and optimize our reduction in greenhouse gases,” Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck.

Photo via Minoru Karamatsu/Flickr

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A crosswalk on Graham Road at Strathmore Street (via Google Maps)

A 2021 law gave hope to Fairfax County officials looking to lower speed limits in residential and business neighborhoods.

However, the Virginia Department of Transportation has said the law — which gave localities the authority to reduce speed limits from 25 to 15 mph — conflicts with other state rules, according to the Virginia Association of Counties.

“That bill was signed into law,” Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw said during a board meeting on Tuesday (May 10). “Lives are at stake here.”

Noting safety concerns, he asked the board’s county executive, attorney’s office, and Director of Transportation Tom Biesiadny whether the county should pursue a legal challenge to VDOT’s interpretation of the law.

“Following adoption of the bill, VDOT opined that it had determined that legislation does not apply on streets that are in the state highway system, which essentially includes all roads within Fairfax County and other counties that do not maintain their own roads,” the county said in a March legislative report.

VDOT was unable to immediately respond. The department does acknowledge that school divisions and local governments can jointly approve changes to reduce school speed limits from 25 to 15 mph.

Legislative efforts to address the conflict stemming from the 2021 law have stalled or been stricken, according to the county’s legislative report.

The comments came as the Board of Supervisors approved a Safe Streets for All program, which will establish an interdisciplinary task force, develop policy, and make recommendations for improving pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

So far this year, 49 pedestrians have been injured in Fairfax County crashes, according to VDOT data.

Photo via Google Maps

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Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Fox News discusses protests at Supreme Court justices’ homes (via Gov. Glenn Youngkin/Twitter)

(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has some thoughts on how Fairfax County should handle abortion-related protests outside Supreme Court justices’ homes.

In a letter sent to the Board of Supervisors and County Executive Bryan Hill yesterday (Wednesday), the governor suggested that the Fairfax County Police Department “establish an expanded security perimeter” and limit “unauthorized vehicle and pedestrian access” around the homes of Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Amy Coney Barrett, who all live in the county.

“This request is based on credible and specific information received about upcoming activities planned at or involving the homes of the Justices in Fairfax County,” Youngkin wrote in the letter, which was posted online by Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity. “…Establishing a perimeter will ensure both the safety of the Justices, their neighbors and the demonstrators.”

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay resoundly rejected Youngkin’s proposal, arguing that it would amount to “a checkpoint that federal courts have held violates the Fourth Amendment.”

He said it would also raise concerns related to the First Amendment’s protections for freedom of speech and assembly, stating that the county’s “well-trained, sophisticated” police department “stands ready as always to take necessary action, if needed, to protect public safety.”

“My focus is on public safety and protecting constitutional rights of our citizens,” McKay said in a tweet sharing his letter to Youngkin. “I know the well-trained FCPD professionals can ensure both.”

The exchange came two days after abortion-rights advocates organized by the group ShutDown DC marched to Alito’s house in Fort Hunt in protest of his leaked draft opinion indicating that the Supreme Court intends to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that has been used to protect access to abortion for nearly 50 years. Read More

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A memorial for the late 19-year-old Virginia Tech student Mary Read has been relocated and enhanced with greenery.

The Annandale resident was one of 32 people killed on April 16, 2007, in the shooting at the university.

A rededication event will take place in Canterbury Woods Park (5018 Wakefield Chapel Road) at 1 p.m. on Saturday (April 16) — 15 years after the attack.

“This was her park,” said Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw, who spoke with the family this week. “So it was important to them that the memorial stay in this park.”

The site near Braddock Road that the memorial had occupied for over a decade frequently flooded. County staff worked with Read’s family and local advocates to find a “more appropriate and accessible” spot in the park, according to a statement from Walkinshaw.

“Over time, the flooding down there has gotten worse and worse — to the point it’s submerged much of the time,” Walkinshaw said Tuesday (April 12) during a board meeting.

Earlier this week, a crew relocated the existing bench and plaque to their new spot, which is by the parking lot at a higher elevation.

“The Read family [is] really excited for this and appreciative of the community’s efforts to make this happen,” Walkinshaw said, adding that the community’s efforts will ensure Read’s memory is respected and treated with the dignity that it deserves.

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