Arrowbrook Centre, an anchoring mixed-use neighborhood near the Innovation Center Metro station, is moving one step forward to completion.
Several pieces of the 54-acre development, which is bounded by the Dulles Airport Access Road to the north and Centreville Road to the east, were approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors at a Tuesday (June 6) meeting.
Specifically, the proposal swaps a 435-unit residential building called Aura from the eastern corner of the property with an office building directly east to it. Aura will be constructed by Trinsic Residential Group.
The swap pushes a hotel planned at the site further east, leaving space for two office buildings at the corner of the site.
To maintain the terms of the charitable trust that governs the development, the developer is planning a partnership with the Virginia Tech Foundation and Virginia Cooperative Extension, a venture that focuses heavily on sustainable agriculture, culinary arts and urban farming programs.
So far, the development includes Ovation at Arrowbrook, a 274-unit development for lease to tenants earning between 30 and 60% of the area median income (AMI).
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay called Arrowbrook a “huge asset” for the county.
Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust applauded the applicant for installing Arrowbrook Park and the affordable housing component of the project.
“I think you’ve really created something special out there and you keep making it better,” Foust said.
Roughly 75% of 36,000 square feet of retail space is already leased to tenants like grocer Hello2India, Ornery Beer Company Public House and Paris Baguette. Chef Peter Chang has also leased 3,500 square feet at the development for a Mama Chang restaurant.
Overall, roughly 32% of the property is dedicated as open space.
The application is one of several in the county that was affected by the Virginia Supreme Court’s ruling that temporarily voided Fairfax County’s newly modernized zoning ordinance. The board re-adopted the zoning code on May 9.
Less than two years after overhauling its plan for the West Falls Church Metro station area in Idylwood to allow more development, Fairfax County needs to make a relatively limited but critical revision.
During its meeting last Tuesday (March 21), the Board of Supervisors authorized a study of an amendment to the comprehensive plan for the West Falls Church Transit Station Area (TSA) that would allow more office on Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center at 7054 Haycock Road.
The amendment would also reduce the amount of institutional space proposed for the 7.5-acre property, reflecting changes to developer Rushmark Properties and the construction company HITT Contracting’s plan to expand the campus.
“The rezoning application by HITT Contracting and Rushmark Properties proposes a decrease in the planned institutional use by 120,000 square feet and an increase in general office use by approximately 62,000 square feet,” Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said in his motion asking the board to authorize the study.
Plans to redevelop Virginia Tech’s Idylwood campus have been percolating since 2018, when the university received an unsolicited bid from Rushmark. HITT got involved a year later, seeking to relocate its headquarters to the site.
That original pitch also called for a new academic building and a design and construction research center, along with an additional 250,000 square feet of office space, 500 residential units and 50,000 square feet of retail.
However, Virginia Tech announced on Feb. 28, 2021 that it and HITT had agreed not to move forward with the project. Despite that termination, the proposed development was still incorporated into the new West Falls Church TSA plan approved by the Board of Supervisors on July 12, 2021.
The plan allows 1,720 dwelling units, 301,000 square feet of office use, 48,000 square feet of retail, and 160,000 square feet of institutional use across the TSA, including on the adjacent Metro station property.
Rushmark and HITT put forward a new redevelopment plan last fall that would replace the existing Northern Virginia Center with a 283,000-square-foot office building, up to 440 residential units, and a 2,000-square-foot retail pavilion.
The newly requested plan amendment will be considered at the same time as that rezoning application, which is scheduled for a public hearing before the Fairfax County Planning Commission on June 7.
According to Foust, the use changes won’t affect the 2.5 floor area ratio now allowed on the Virginia Tech site or the overall development limits for the TSA.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors isn’t holding a public hearing on its proposed salary increases until Tuesday (March 21), but some county workers have already made their opposition known.
A union representing over 2,000 county government employees criticized the proposal as a blow to workers, whose projected pay raises aren’t expected to be fully funded in the county’s next budget.
“Despite our calls for wage fairness for county employees, it appears the County has another priority — raises for politicians,” SEIU Virginia 512 Fairfax President Tammie Wondong said. “A meager 2% raise combined with the crushing weight of wage compression has left us feeling devalued. When employees have to work multiple jobs to get by or can’t afford to live in the county, it’s clear change is needed.”
With 33 years of work for the county under her belt, Wondong says the disparity between what the board is considering for itself compared to employees illustrates the need for “a union contract to achieve pay fairness.”
The Board of Supervisors approved collective bargaining in October 2021, but the Fire and Rescue Department is the only unit to officially elect a union representative so far.
Put forward by Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust on March 7, the raises would push the salaries for board members up from $95,000 to $124,000-130,000 per year and from $100,000 to $140,000-145,000 a year for the board chair.
The high end of those ranges would amount to pay bumps of nearly 37% for supervisors and 45% for the chair. Both positions last got raises in 2015.
Foust, who’s retiring at the end of December, says higher compensation will encourage candidates to run for supervisor, a position that carries full-time commitments but is treated as a part-time job in Virginia.
As I leave, I know it is critically important that we continue to attract great candidates from all backgrounds and stages of life to serve on the Board. The opportunity to serve is itself very rewarding. However, I believe it is in the best interest of the County that Supervisor compensation be set at a level that will enable anyone to serve regardless of their personal circumstances, and not just those who are wealthy or have other sources of income. I believe that increasing Supervisor pay for the first time in 8 years will advance that goal. I recognize that others have raised concerns and I look forward to the public hearing that will be held on March 21.
“I hope that through my service I have demonstrated that I care very much about the residents and employees of Fairfax County,” he said in a statement to FFXnow.
However, the challenge of affording housing, child care and other living expenses that some supervisors mentioned during their March 7 meeting also poses an obstacle to other county workers, like teachers and police, Fairfax County Federation of Teachers President David Walrod said.
About 1 in 7 Fairfax County employees can’t afford to live where they work, according to a 2021 analysis by The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis (TCI), a Richmond-based think tank. Read More
Fairfax County officials have waited a decade now for public school buses to be outfitted with video cameras, and their patience is wearing thin.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion Tuesday (Feb. 7) asking Fairfax County Public Schools to explain why it has yet to implement a school bus stop-arm camera program that staff started exploring back in 2013.
The supervisors emphasized the program’s urgency after a year of surging pedestrian fatalities, including some crashes that killed students but didn’t directly involve school buses.
“It’s inconceivable to me that the school board or school administration has ignored this opportunity to make our children safe,” Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said. “…You don’t have to be on the roads very long around here to see people passing school buses. Something bad is going to happen if we don’t implement this program.”
FCPS “is working with a vendor and the contract is in review,” a spokesperson told FFXnow, but it had no further comment on the delays or a possible timeline going forward.
Failing to stop when a school bus is loading or unloading students is prohibited in Virginia, which imposes a civil fine of $250 for violations.
After the state gave localities the authority to let their schools install video-monitoring systems in 2011, Foust led the county board in directing staff on Oct. 29, 2013 to work with FCPS on adding cameras, according Chairman Jeff McKay’s board matter.
What followed, however, was a flurry of legal questions requiring more state legislation to clarify that police departments can mail summons to violators and permit vendors access to Department of Motor Vehicles data.
Once those concerns were resolved, FCPS staff notified Foust’s office in January 2020 that a vendor had been selected and contract negotiations were underway — only for COVID-19 to put those talks on hold.
FCPS procurement staff then learned in April 2021 that their contact for the vendor had left the company, leaving them unsure whether the existing offer was still viable.
In December 2021, McKay sent a letter to then-Fairfax County School Board chair Stella Pekarsky proposing that a camera program be in place by summer 2022, but neither the school board nor FCPS responded.
After getting an “informal” update this past December, McKay says he has “lost my patience with the excuses that seem to come up from the working group repeatedly,” which he reported range from the disruptions of the pandemic to questions about the availability of police resources. Read More
(Updated at 3:45 p.m. on 1/5/2023) The search is still on for a new site to host a cell tower in McLean that has to be removed to make room for the widening Capital Beltway.
The monopole, which is owned by American Cell Towers and supports AT&T and T-Mobile service, was officially decommissioned on Dec. 9, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.
“Cell providers are working to minimize any potential impacts to existing service, and VDOT is working with the project’s design-build contractor to facilitate a relocated cell tower as soon as possible,” the department told FFXnow.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors expressed concern at a Sept. 30 transportation committee meeting that losing the tower may cause wireless service disruptions, something that AT&T admitted was a possibility.
Fears of disruptions were particularly high after the removal of a cell facility at Lake Anne in Reston resulted in slow, spotty service for residents in that area over the summer, including for 911 calls.
Fortunately, those anticipated issues don’t seem to have come to fruition. Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust’s office, which represents McLean, says it hasn’t gotten any emails from constituents about the decommissioned cell tower, as of Dec. 20.
VDOT had hoped to see the tower relocated by Dec. 31 — an extension from the original deadline of Sept. 30 — but a new location still hasn’t been identified. VDOT didn’t respond by press time when asked if the deadline got extended again.
“[There’s] no timeline yet,” Jane Edmondson, Foust’s chief of staff, said by email. “The County has not yet received an application for a new location.”
Located by the Old Dominion Drive bridge, the 135-foot-tall monopole needs to be moved to make room for the I-495 Northern Extension (495 NEXT) project, which is adding about three miles of toll lanes on the Beltway from the Dulles Toll Road in Tysons to the George Washington Memorial Parkway in McLean.
The project will also replace the Old Dominion bridge, which has one lane each for eastbound and westbound traffic. The new bridge will have two lanes and a 14-foot-wide shared-use path on the south side. (Correction: This article initially said two lanes would be added on the bridge in each direction.)
While touted as necessary to mitigate traffic congestion, 495 NEXT has been criticized by some McLean residents as harmful to their neighborhoods and the environment.
Construction began in mid-2022 and is expected to continue into 2026, with the new express lanes opening in 2025.
Photo via Google Maps
The project to extend the I-495 Express Lanes north toward the American Legion Bridge has been under construction for half a year now, but some McLean residents remain as determined as ever to fight the Beltway’s encroachment into their neighborhoods.
Residents along Live Oak Drive in particular have consistently argued that they will face the most disruptions from the I-495 Northern Extension (495 NEXT) without getting the congestion relief benefits touted by the Virginia Department of Transportation.
The latest blow came at the sight of workers cutting down trees that serve as a buffer between Live Oak and two existing I-495 (Capital Beltway) and George Washington Memorial Parkway ramps.
VDOT says the tree clearings were necessary to make room for the Beltway widening, a new retaining wall adjacent to I-495, and a planned noise wall adjacent to Live Oak Drive. But residents fear the redesigned interchange will be a new “Mixing Bowl,” the tangle of ramps and overpasses where I-495, I-395 and I-95 meet in Springfield.
“VDOT/Transurban are trying to shove through a new ‘Springfield Mixing Bowl’ right here in McLean,” Northern Virginia Citizens Association President Debra Butler said in a recent email to members. “Future demolition and construction will impact both sides of 495 at Georgetown Pike, Live Oak Drive, Langley Swim Club, Scotts Run Nature Preserve with a new ‘McLean Mixing Bowl’ with ramps as high as 271 feet [above sea level].”
Discussions of potential legislation underway
Organized in opposition to 495 NEXT, the association held a meeting at the Langley Swim & Tennis Club on Friday (Dec. 16) to discuss the tree removals and their issues with the project’s size.
Attendees at the meeting included Del. Kathleen Murphy (D-34) and state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31), who have started talking to Virginia Secretary of Transportation W. Sheppard Miller III about options for addressing resident concerns.
The association has suggested allowing commercial trucks in the I-495 Express Lanes, where they’re currently prohibited, and having them get on and off in Tysons instead of McLean, eliminating the need for some flyover ramps.
VDOT says a planned exchange ramp allowing vehicles to exit the toll lanes at the GW Parkway is intended for all vehicles, though one purpose is to give trucks from Maryland access to the general purpose lanes.
Legislators could also introduce a bill with new controls on public-private partnerships like the one between VDOT and express lanes operator Transurban, improving transparency and limiting their ability to substantially change a project’s design after a public hearing, Butler says.
Murphy confirmed she and Favola are having discussions about potential legislation, but no concrete proposals have formed yet, even with a Jan. 1 deadline to submit bills for the 2023 General Assembly session looming.
“Those are certainly things we are going to bring to the attention of the secretary of transportation to see what possibilities are available, and as soon as we finish those conversations, we’ll have a better idea,” she told FFXnow. Read More
The Dranesville District seat on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has its first candidate for next year’s election.
Jimmy Bierman, a Democratic McLean resident, announced his candidacy last night. Current Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust will not be running next year, FFXnow previously reported.
So far, five incumbent supervisors have confirmed they will seek reelection next year.
Bierman — who describes himself as a progressive activitist and local community leader — was the former chair of the Dranesville District Democratic Committee. He has served on the county’s Police Civilian Review Panel since April 2019.
“My priorities include promoting trust and accountability in our local government, ensuring that Fairfax County remains the safest jurisdiction of its size in the country, developing a workforce equipped for a dynamic and evolving economy, fully funding our public schools, and investing in smart and sustainable development,” Bierman wrote in a statement.
In a statement to FFXnow, his campaign manager further identified the following top priorities:
Ensuring that County government acts with speed, consistency, and predictability to support the diversification of our local economy and expand our 21st-Century knowledge-based workforce.
Mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change through investments in infrastructure to support and promote green jobs and a green economy.
Fight for the most vulnerable in our community and connect those in need with much-needed food, housing, rent, reproductive health, and mental health resources.
Create viable transportation options to relieve gridlock through enhanced transit, bicycle, and pedestrian amenities.
Bierman graduated from Williams College and Stanford Law School. He previously worked as an attorney advisor to the Department of Homeland Security.
“I want to thank Supervisor Foust for his many years of service to our District,” Bierman said. “John has served our community with distinction since 2007, and I’m running to build upon his success addressing issues concerning County residents. Few people work as hard as John, but I’m going to try.”
He commended Foust as “a noted leader” in the county’s “economic development, affordable housing, and LGBTQ+ inclusion efforts.”
The Dranesville District covers McLean, Herndon and Great Falls. The general election is slated for Nov. 7, 2023 following a June primary.
If the proliferation of major developments planned around the West Falls Church Metro station is making your head spin, an upcoming community meeting may provide some clarity.
The developers seeking to redevelop the Metro station property and expand Virginia Tech’s nearby Northern Virginia Center campus will present their proposals and answer questions at an informational meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 15.
Sponsored by Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust’s office and the McLean Citizens Association, the event will take place at Longfellow Middle School in McLean. It will start at 7 p.m. with an open house, where attendees can look at informational boards and talk directly to the developers.
The main meeting will last from 7:30-9 p.m. and include presentations on both projects, an overview of Fairfax County’s zoning review process, and a Q&A period.
“Participants will have the opportunity to provide feedback and ask questions and remote participants will be able to submit written questions or comments during the meeting,” Foust’s office said in a community notice, noting that a Zoom link for those who want to follow virtually will be provided a week before the meeting.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors opened the door for mixed-use development in the West Falls Church Transit Station Area (TSA) with an amendment to the county’s comprehensive plan in July 2021.
Applications for the Metro station redevelopment and Virginia Tech expansion were submitted for county review in March and September, respectively:
The FCGP-Metro Development (RZ-2022-DR-00006) application by EYA, Hoffman and Associates, and Rushmark Properties proposes to rezone the 24-acre West Falls Church Metrorail Station (7040 Haycock Rd, Falls Church) to the Planned Residential Mixed Use zoning district. The proposed development would include up to 810 multifamily units, 90 townhomes, and a 110,000 square feet office building with up to 10,000 square feet of ground floor retail.
The Converge West Falls (RZ-2022-DR-00018) application by HITT Contracting and Rushmark Properties proposes to rezone the 7.5-acre Northern Virginia Center (7054 Haycock Rd, Falls Church) to the Planned Residential Mixed-Use zoning district. The two-block mixed-use project consists of three buildings totaling 820,000 square feet of development and includes a six-floor office building that would serve as HITT Contracting’s corporate headquarters, a 440-unit residential building, and a 2,000 square foot one-story retail kiosk. The office building would include the approximately 40,000-square foot National Center for Smart Construction laboratory space to support Virginia Tech university’s mission as an academic and research institution.
The prospect of approximately 1.8 million square feet of new development — plus the separate West Falls project that’s already under construction in Falls Church City — has some in the community worrying that navigating the area by car and foot or bicycle could become untenable.
In the hopes of finding solutions, the county has been studying the TSA’s pedestrian and bicycle network. The most recent community meetings on the study were held Oct. 26 and 27, and an advisory group met for a seventh time on Wednesday (Nov. 2).
Metro is also accepting public comments until next Thursday (Nov. 10) on its proposal to overhaul the West Falls Church station’s parking lots, which will be partly replaced by the FCGP-Metro development.
A cell tower by the Capital Beltway in McLean must be removed before the end of this year to make way for the road’s widening, leaving Fairfax County and state transportation leaders scrambling to prevent future service disruptions.
The 135-foot-tall monopole stands right next to I-495 at the Old Dominion Drive bridge, which will be replaced by a new two-lane bridge with a shared-use path as part of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s I-495 Northern Extension (495 NEXT) project.
VDOT determined that the tower needs to be relocated “well over a year ago,” but no progress has been made to identify a temporary or permanent new site, Megaprojects Director Susan Shaw told the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Friday (Sept. 30).
“The providers to date have said that there is no temporary location that’s acceptable to them,” she said. “…We’re all working very hard to try to resolve it, and I think we’ve tried to provide a lot of ideas for where they might find acceptable locations on VDOT right of way, but again, we’re not experts. It’s very specific technically in terms of what would work for them and maintaining the kind of service that they have.”
Construction on 495 NEXT is underway, but work hasn’t started yet on the Old Dominion bridge.
American Cell Towers, which owns the monopole, initially faced a Sept. 30 deadline for the removal, but that has been extended to Dec. 31. The tower has to be decommissioned in November so that the utilities can be taken off and the structure dismantled, according to Shaw.
In conversations with AT&T and T-Mobile, the providers that use the pole, VDOT was told that service along the Beltway won’t be affected, but service for the surrounding communities “would be degraded,” particularly during periods of peak demand, Shaw said.
AT&T confirmed that some of its customers “may experience intermittent wireless service disruptions near Old Dominion Drive and the Capital Beltway.”
“We, like other carriers, are being forced to remove our antennas so that they can widen the Beltway,” an AT&T spokesperson said. “We apologize for the inconvenience, and we are working with state and Fairfax County officials to identify an alternative site for our equipment. In the meantime, we have optimized other nearby sites to try and extend coverage until this is resolved.”
The provider added that people who experience disruptions can utilize its Wi-Fi Calling service instead.
While the availability of other cell carriers in the area suggests 911 calls won’t be affected, Shaw said the providers told VDOT they “couldn’t guarantee” that there would be no impact. American Towers didn’t immediately respond to FFXnow’s requests for comment. Read More
With the Silver Line Phase II opening still in flux, Fairfax County is being asked to pay another $40 million.
At its transportation committee meeting on Friday (Sept. 30), the Board of Supervisors got an update on the ramifications of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) agreeing in July to increase the budget for the Silver Line extension by $250 million.
The original project agreement calls for Fairfax County to pay about 16% of the asked-for overage, so with the quarter of a billion dollar budget increase, the county owes an additional $40.25 million.
All told, the county will have spent nearly a billion dollars — $960 million — on the second phase of the Silver Line, which will add six stations from Reston to Ashburn in Loudoun County.
In total, the project has cost just over $3 billion. The board is set to vote on the payment later this month.
While likely to approve the additional payment, several supervisors expressed frustration and annoyance with the need to throw even more dollars at a project that has been besieged by constant delays.
“I don’t think it’s a shock and it’s a tiny portion of the overall project,” Chairman Jeff McKay said. “But [the extra $40 million] has rightly angered a lot of folks given all the delays.”
Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust also made clear he was not happy that the county is being asked to pay more.
“Have we asked ourselves if this is a good deal and the Airports Authority is not just…spending a lot of money to make a problem go away? And it’s our money that they are spending,” Foust asked staff.
He also asked if $960 million will be the final amount. However, county staff couldn’t guarantee that there won’t be any further costs, considering Phase 1 is still undergoing repairs after opening in 2014.
“We still have to reconcile Phase 1 and Phase 2…All parties have to be reconciled at the end of the project,” said Martha Elena Coello, head of special projects for the Fairfax County Department of Transporation. “We are still doing some work on Phase 1 and that needs to be completed. At the end, there will be a reconciliation of both those phases.”
McKay asked, seemingly rhetorically, what would happen if the county didn’t pay the extra money. Staff responded that it might become a “legal matter” since the payment is required by the signed project agreement.
“According to the funding agreement, this is not a ‘might be’ or ‘may be,'” he said. “It’s a requirement for the county. We don’t have the flexibility…without significant negative consequences.”
Still relatively new Metro General Manager Randy Clarke was given authority by the Board of Directors last month to set an opening date for the Silver Line extension. While no exact date has been announced, Clarke said safety certifications are expected this October, and Metro has updated its maps to feature the new stations.
At the same time, Clarke warned that opening the Silver Line could force service reductions due to a deficit in trains when currently shuttered Blue and Yellow Line stations south of Washington National Airport reopen.
That headache will be put off a little longer by an entirely different Metro problem. Last week, the transit agency announced that its new Potomac Yard station won’t open until 2023. As a result, the Yellow and Blue stations will be closed for another two weeks, until Nov. 5.