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Morning Notes

Looking up at Tysons Tower outside Tysons Corner Center (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Route 7 Traffic Shift Starts Today — “During the daytime hours on Aug. 11 and the overnight hours on Aug. 15, lane closures and temporary detours will be in place along Route 7 while crews continue paving operations at Carpers Farm Way and Colvin Run Road (east) and shift westbound Route 7 traffic to the new Difficult Run bridge.” [VDOT]

Pro-Nazi Social Media Posts Excluded from Reston Murder Trial — “A Virginia judge has ruled that prosecutors cannot tell the jury in an upcoming double-murder trial about the defendant’s social media posts containing praise for Adolf Hitler and support for Nazi book burnings and the neo-Nazi Atomwaffen Division, according to newly unsealed court records.” [The Washington Post]

Foust on Upcoming Retirement — “Deciding to step down in 2023 was not easy, but Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville) is ready to try some new challenges…He plans to stay involved on issues he cares about – such as affordable housing, economic development and climate change — and seek part-time consulting opportunities that ‘take advantage of the expertise that I’ve developed over the years.'” [Sun Gazette]

Salt Water Levels Rising in Region — “Once algae-pocked emblems of water pollution during the early 1970s, the Potomac River and the Occoquan Reservoir — the two sources of drinking water used by Fairfax Water to serve more than 2 million customers in Northern Virginia — are now trending in the wrong direction on salt, while the other contaminants have largely been cleaned up.” [The Washington Post]

Lorton Plant Gets Tech to Reduce Emissions — “Covanta, the company that runs the facilities, announced the installation of the pollution-fighting technology in a news release earlier this week, saying it has helped cut nitrogen oxide emissions by nearly 50%…The Fairfax County facility is located at its I-95 waste management complex in Lorton, and is one of the largest waste-to-energy facilities in the nation, according to the county.” [WTOP]

Report Grades Stream From Lake Barcroft — “Holmes Run, which flows through the Annandale area, is not in great condition, according to a report released Aug. 10 by the Audubon Naturalist Society…The report gives Holmes Run a grade of ‘moderately poor’ for climate, a rating of ‘good’ for access to nature, and ‘fair’ ratings for water quality and for biodiversity and habitat.” [Annandale Today]

California Firm Buys Local Defense Office Buildings — “The properties include six buildings at five locations in Fairfax County, Fairfax City and Loudoun County. They’re 96% leased to the likes of Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT), General Dynamics Corp. (NYSE: GD), The Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) and Northrop Grumman Corp. (NYSE: NOC).” [Washington Business Journal]

Reston Turns Out for Trucks — “Thank you to all the families that came out for this year’s Totally Trucks event! For the past 22 years, Totally Trucks has delighted kids and adults alike, and this year was no different with more than 1000 people in attendance.” [Reston Association/Twitter]

Local Breweries Win Awards — “Vienna and Merrifield’s Caboose Brewing Company and Sweetwater Tavern scored several awards in the 2022 Virginia Craft Beer Cup, announced by the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild Monday. The Virginia Craft Beer Cup is the largest state competition of its kind in the U.S.” [Patch]

It’s Thursday — Possible drizzle in the morning. High of 85 and low of 73. Sunrise at 6:20 am and sunset at 8:10 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

John Foust will step down from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors after 2023, concluding a 16-year run representing the Dranesville District.

Foust announced at the board’s meeting this morning (Tuesday) that he will not seek a fifth term in office next year, when all 10 seats will be on the general election ballot that November.

“I will have much more to say about this as time goes by,” Foust said. “…For now, I just want to say it has been an absolute honor to serve on this board for the next 15 years. I just love it. I want to assure my constituents…that I and my staff will continue to work hard to represent you until my term ends on Dec. 31, 2023.”

First elected to the board in 2007, Foust has lived in McLean since 1987, according to his official bio. His district includes McLean, Herndon, Great Falls, and portions of the Vienna and Falls Church areas.

During his four terms so far, he has overseen the implementation of a much-debated new plan to revitalize downtown McLean and advocated for numerous road projects in the district, including the ongoing widening of Route 7 and a revamped intersection at Balls Hill Road and Georgetown Pike.

Foust’s tenure has also included the expansion of the Spring Hill Rec Center and the Lewinsville Senior Center’s renovation, which added 82 independent living units at the facility. Since he took office, the Dranesville District has gotten three new fire stations, two library renovations, and 16 synthetic turf fields, according to his bio.

“What you have accomplished on economic initiatives and affordable housing, particularly over the last two and a half years during some of the toughest times to govern that I think any of us have ever imagined, have been remarkable,” Chairman Jeff McKay said.

Foust didn’t share why he has decided not to seek reelection, and a request for comment from FFXnow was not immediately returned.

Most of the county’s supervisors have not indicated their intentions yet for the 2023 elections, which will also feature the full school board, the commonwealth’s attorney, and other local positions. Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk announced in June that he will run for a second term.

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Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center in Idylwood (via Google Maps)

A redevelopment of Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center (7054 Haycock Road) in Idylwood is back on the table.

The Falls Church City Council authorized agreements on Monday night (July 25) that will terminate the university’s 40-year lease for the 2-acre parcel and allow the city to sell the land to Converge West Falls LLC, an entity of developer Rushmark Properties.

Advanced by Virginia Tech’s board in April, the exchange will revive a plan to build a new design school, a headquarters for the construction company HITT Contracting and more on the Northern Virginia Center campus that abruptly collapsed in early 2021.

“Virginia Tech has a long history in the City of Falls Church and we are excited about this new chapter,” Virginia Tech Media Relations Director Michael Stowe said. “This vote moves us a step closer to creating a world-class smart construction research center in collaboration with HITT Contracting, and it means the community will benefit from a vibrant, mixed-use district that will transform the neighborhood.”

According to a city staff report, the Northern Virginia Center is a 101,000-square-foot office building on a larger, 7.4-acre site located in Fairfax County but owned by Falls Church, which has leased a portion of the land to Virginia Tech since 1995.

Under Falls Church’s new agreements with Virginia Tech and Rushmark, the city could sell the full site to the developer for $25 million, including $16.57 million that it would then pay to the university. The resulting development must feature:

  • A 240,000-square-foot office building for HITT’s corporate headquarters, including at least 40,000 square feet for a Virginia Tech National Center for Smart Construction
  • 440 residential units with ground-floor retail
  • Construction of a West Falls Station Blvd through the site, among other road improvements

The project still has to go through a number of steps to come to fruition. First, Virginia Tech has to get the governor’s approval for its planned land transfer to the city, and then, Rushmark must submit its plans to Fairfax County.

“Virginia Tech will continue to occupy the site, with no rent payments to the City, until the final closing date, which is no later than March 31, 2025,” the staff report said. The agreements are expected to be closed sooner than that, coming within 30 days of zoning and site plan approvals from the county. Read More

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The nonprofit Reston Strong set up tents outside the Hunter Mill District office to call for action on homelessness (via Reston Strong)

Fairfax County is looking for more ways to bring more people into supportive and permanent housing beyond what some consider the band-aid approach to tackling homelessness — temporary shelters.

At a meeting yesterday (Tuesday), the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously moved a board matter directing staff to complete a comprehensive evaluation of ways to boost supportive housing, the evaluation of current options, and protocol for emergency shelter in commercial and industrial districts.

The matter was jointly collaborated on by Chairman Jeff McKay and supervisors John Foust, Walter Alcorn, Rodney Lusk, and Dalia Palchik. Foust led the motion.

Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross cautioned the board to consider that policy changes can only go so far in implementing goals.

“We really need to make sure we recognize that policies can only be so good as the people who are actually trying to implement them too,” Gross said. 

Foust acknowledged that the county’s work relies heavily on support for external partners and nonprofit organizations. He also noted that the policy directive encourages county staff to examine resources overall.

“So much of what we do in that arena is through the nonprofits and we need to look at that specifically,” Foust said.

There are currently 1,191 people experiencing homelessness in Fairfax County, per a Point in Time count calculated by the county. 282 adults are experiencing chronic homelessness, and 50% of those counted identified as Black or African American, even though that demographic makes up just 10% of the county’s general population.

The board matter specifically delves into the county’s Quarantine, Protection, Isolation/Decompression (QPID) hotels program, which was created to provide emergency shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program was run in addition to the county’s hypothermia program, which operates every winter.

This year, the end of both programs raised red flags about the chronic issues of lack of emergency shelter and permanent housing. QPID ended in March.

While supportive options are available in the county, many find themselves unsheltered until a shelter bed or housing becomes available, the board matter said:

Given the shortage of shelter beds and housing, individuals may be unsheltered and unhoused between hypothermia prevention seasons. These individuals can wind up sleeping in cars, at bus shelters, in tents in the woods, and in other outdoor places. They often sleep near the County’s homeless shelters so they can access services such as meals, bathrooms and showering, laundry, and outreach/case worker assistance.

The nonprofit group Reston Strong brought awareness about lack of housing for people experiencing homelessness and the need for emergency shelters through a tents campaign called Neighbors in Tents.

The county has been working on the issue for years. In April, Alcorn directed the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness to review the county’s current operational performance in its effort to prevent and end homelessness.

The latest board matter directs staff to do the following:

Evaluate the successes and challenges experienced with QPID, including costs, operations, and results, and including how QPID compares with the success of the County’s established use of hotel rooms as temporary shelter for qualifying unhoused families.

Identify site-specific options for the development of more permanent supportive housing, with a focus on creative solutions for the long-term housing and service needs of the homeless population.

Review current zoning requirements and allowances for emergency shelter in commercial and
industrial districts where vacant and underutilized properties might be used by private entities to provide sheltering and transitional services to the homeless population and include this issue as a possible addition to the Zoning Ordinance work program for the Board’s consideration.

Provide an analysis of other available options that are not currently being used to address
homelessness in the County, including costs and benefits of each, and provide recommendations for the Board’s consideration. This analysis should include a review of successful efforts that have been implemented in other jurisdictions.

Ensure that the county’s partners in addressing homelessness have an opportunity to provide input to staff regarding matters addressed herein, including the operational review requested in the April 12 board matter.

Staff will present findings and recommendations at the board’s housing committee meeting on Nov. 22.

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The Fairfax County Government Center (staff photo by David Taube)

In an aggressive move, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted yesterday (Tuesday) to amp up its affordable housing goals.

Through a motion introduced by Chairman Jeff McKay and Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, the board set a new goal of 10,000 affordable housing units by 2034. The previous target, set in 2019, was 5,000 new units in 15 years.

McKay said the county’s previous goal was set in place as a floor, rather than a ceiling, and with the “intent to blow it out of the water.”

“It’s amazing that we’re in a position today just two years after adopting that goal, that we’re able to move the floor to 10,000 units moving forward,” McKay said. “That’s 10,000 individuals and families whose lives will be immeasurably improved, and that’s 10,000 units that we know will be occupied by many, many families over many years.”

Currently, there are 2,200 new affordable units under development in the county.

The county has also renewed efforts to make affordable housing a central planning tenet. For instance, the board approved $33 million in federal loans to fund a 175-unit residential project at Dominion Square West in Tysons.

Despite a renewed effort to boost the county’s affordable housing stock, the move still falls short of providing the 15,000 units that the county’s Affordable Housing Resources Panel predicted the county would need.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said he has set a goal of securing 1,000 additional units in the Hunter Mill District specifically by the end of 2027.

“I would welcome any of my colleagues who want to get a little friendly competition, as long as we’re not taking any projects from anyone else’s district,” he said. “This is something that’s going to benefit everyone in the county, but it is up to us to work through these issues, to make sure that the projects get funded, that they get support from the community, and work through the process as they are.”

Springfield District Supervisor Herrity voted against the board matter, expressing discomfort with pursuing a goal without having a a clear financial plan.

“I’m sorry I can’t commit to literally taxing many of our residents out of their houses, which we are doing and have done, by committing to spend untold tens of millions of dollars in rent-controlled housing with undetermined fiscal impacts,” Herrity said, noting that the county is in the middle of a budget cycle. “I’ve been supportive of creative affordable housing solutions, but we don’t have any of those on the table right now.’

McKay called Herrity’s comments an “affront” to the development community, the nonprofit community, county staff, and the community at large.

“This is an economic issue,” McKay countered. “Not doing anything will cost us far more as a community, not to mention all the moral responsibility issues and all the things we talked about here, but not aspiring to this goal will cost the county enormously from an economic standpoint.”

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Morning Notes

Angelika Film Center and Cafe in the Mosaic District (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

FCPS Will Start COVID-19 Rollback Plan Tomorrow — Masks will be optional for both students and adults, including staff and parents, in Fairfax County Public Schools after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its health metrics so that the county is now considered to have low transmission. FCPS said on Friday (Feb. 25) that masks would be optional for students, as ordered by a state law, but still mandatory for adults. [FCPS]

Judge Calls TJ Admissions Discriminatory — The Coalition for TJ on Friday (Feb. 25) won its lawsuit against the Fairfax County School Board over changes to admissions process for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. The judge found that the shift from a standardized test to “experience” factors was done in a way discriminatory to Asian applicants. The school system intends to appeal. [The Washington Post]

Daycare Operator Arrested for Child Abuse — “A 67-year-old woman was arrested Thursday evening and charged with abuse and neglect of a child. Detectives from our Child Abuse Squad were notified on Jan. 20 after an 8-month-old infant was treated at a local hospital with significant bruising to the upper body. Detectives discovered the infant attended an in-home daycare on Jan. 19 at 10858 Santa Clara Dr. in Fairfax.” [FCPD]

Multiple Shootings Reported in County — Fairfax County police responded to three different shootings between Feb. 18 and 24. People suffered non-life-threatening injuries in incidents at the 6000 block of Bellview Drive in Bailey’s Crossroads on Feb. 22 and at the Paper Moon (6315 Amherst Avenue) in Springfield on Feb. 23, while one in the 8500 block of Leesburg Pike in Tysons did not result in any injuries. [FCPD]

Person Dies in Lorton House Fire — “Units are on scene of a 2-alarm townhouse fire in the 9100 block of Aspenpark Ct in Lorton. 2 occupants were transferred to a local hospital- 1 w/ minor injuries. The other occupant was in life-threatening condition & succumbed at the hospital. Fire investigators remain on scene.” [FCFRD/Twitter]

Cat Dies in Reston Apartment Fire — “Apartment fire in the 1400 block of Northgate Square in Reston. Fire is out. Crews rescued unconscious cat and attempted to revive. Sadly, despite best effort, cat did succumb. No other reported injuries at this time.” [FCFRD/Twitter]

New Historic Placard on W&OD Trail Dedicated — “NOVA Parks unveiled the new sign in front of the historic site in Herndon, which is visited by more than two million people every year. The new marker remembers Virginia’s segregation laws that discriminated against thousands of Blacks traveling on the railroad.” [WTOP]

Foust Gives “State of McLean” Address — “Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville) in his annual “State of McLean” speech Feb. 24 praised the county’s handling of the pandemic, but said supervisors likely will need to make budgetary adjustments this spring to lessen impacts on taxpayers.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

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