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Rendering of the new South County Police Station and Animal Shelter in Lorton (via Fairfax County)

When Fairfax County’s new animal shelter opens next year, some of its first residents will likely come from across jurisdictional lines.

Last week, the Board of Supervisors approved an agreement with the City of Fairfax to provide services and housing to animals under their care. The city cares for fewer than 100 animals a year. In 2021, it cared for 31 dogs, 20 cats, and 11 other small animals.

On track to open in the spring, the new South County Animal Shelter in Lorton is expected to provide plenty of space for these furry friends.

“[The Department of Animal Services] already has a long history of supporting the City with meeting their animal welfare needs,” a county staff report said. “With the opening of the second facility in Lorton in Spring 2023, DAS will have ample space and appropriate staffing to accommodate additional animals from the City.”

The 23,000-square-foot facility on Lorton Road will be the second county-operated shelter, joining the existing Michael R. Frey Animal Shelter on West Ox Road in Fairfax.

The South County Animal Shelter will likely begin operations in late spring when construction is completed, DAS Director Reasa Currier confirmed to FFXnow.

The board is expected to approve about $2 million to help provide services, staff and maintain the shelter as part of a fiscal year 2022 carryover package.

“This facility will allow us to substantially grow the geographic reach and impact of our work for the residents of Fairfax County,” Currier said by email. “Not only will we be able to create even more families through adoption, but the second shelter will provide a hub for essential services from behavior and training support, veterinary medical care, pet supplies, and other critical services that help keep pets together with their families.”

Currier says the Lorton shelter will be “similar in size and footprint” to the Fairfax one, with 88 dog kennels, 42 cat condos, 2 catios, and a “state-of-the-art” veterinary clinic. There will also be an 20,000-square-foot outdoor space for the animals.

Like other shelters nationwide, the county’s lone animal shelter has faced its share of capacity challenges. Even before recent influxes of rescued beagles as well as cats and rabbits, there was a clear need for more shelter space in the southern part of Fairfax County.

“For too long, the many services and resources provided by [DAS] have been inaccessible for the residents in South County,” Currier said. “We are very excited about the location and are looking forward to serving South County residents and their pets. We are already hearing from residents who live nearby the new shelter who are eager to begin volunteering and participating in our programs.”

The shelter will share a new $30 million building with the South County Police Station, which will be about 31,000 square feet and is expected to open at the same time.

The building will have a number of sustainability features, including electric vehicle charging stations and space for solar panels, and energy-efficient systems. Landscaping will be made up of native plants and be bird-friendly.

The facility is on Lorton Road between the intersections of Workhouse and Hooes roads. Called the “Triangle” by the county, the parcel was specifically acquired in 2001 for public safety use.

In 2015, voters approved a $151 million bond referendum that included money to fund the Lorton project, which broke ground last May.

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Solar Panels (via Flickr/Minoru Karamatsu)

After years of effort, solar panels are finally coming to the I-95 Landfill Complex in Lorton.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion on Sept. 13 to lease about 40 acres of the county-owned closed landfill within the complex to Sun Tribe Solar to install, operate, and maintain an array of ground-mounted solar panels.

Sun Tribe Solar, in turn, will let the county purchase renewable energy generated at the site with little upfront or operational costs, which staff say will help the county reduce its greenhouse emissions.

With the company quoting a rate of about 11 cents per kilowatt hour with no escalation over the life of the agreement, the county expects to save money immediately — about $51,000 in the first year of operation and over $1 million cumulatively by year eight.

Thought to be the first such project in the Commonwealth, the panels are expected to be installed and go online by the end of 2024, Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) Deputy Director Eric Forbes said at the meeting.

A map of where the solar panels will go at the I-95 Landfill Complex (via Fairfax County)

As a number of supervisors noted, though, it was a long time coming, with a number of challenges along the way.

Despite solid local support, the county needed approval from the Virginia General Assembly for solar panels to be installed on its land. The county was exploring the project at least as early as 2017, but every time it was taken to the state legislature, their request was denied.

The needed permission came at last from the 2020 Solar Freedom Act, which included a specific clause providing Fairfax County the go-ahead for the landfill project.

“I really wish this had happened a long time ago when I was chair of the environment committee because that’s when we first started having this discussion,” Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross said. “[A closed landfill] is perfect for solar. If it had not been for that pesky Virginia General Assembly not allowing it unless there was a change in the legislation, we would have done this a long time ago and would have been way ahead of the game.”

Gross wasn’t the only one to express frustration at the state holding up a project that the county says will increase its use of renewable energy while also saving money. Read More

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The dual W&OD Trail in Falls Church (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Within the next decade, Fairfax County could see pedestrians and bicyclists split up along its stretch of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail, among other potential changes at its regional parks.

In a new, five-year strategic plan released last Tuesday (Aug. 9), the Northern Virginia Regional Parks Authority (NOVA Parks) proposes expanding the “dual trail” design introduced last year in Falls Church to other segments of the 45-mile, cross-county park.

The agency is targeting more urban areas — specifically Vienna, Herndon and Reston, and Arlington — for the expansion, which would turn the one-track W&OD Trail into two separate paths for cyclists and users on foot.

“This kind of improvement expands the capacity of the trail so that cyclists and walkers can have a safer and more enjoyable experience,” NOVA Parks communications director Kelly Gilfillen said by email.

According to the 2023-2027 strategic plan, which lays out its near-future vision and priorities for the 12,000-plus acres of parkland it oversees, NOVA Parks will partner with the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to design and implement the dual trails.

While the plan calls for developing plans for Arlington County Dual Trails by 2024, it sets a goal of 2027 for designing the Vienna and Reston/Herndon sections.

“Most of Vienna, Reston, and Herndon are urban, so most of that area would probably be considered,” Gilfillen said. “We do not yet have those details planned. That will be part of our work over the next few years.”

The Fairfax County area is also home to four out of the five parks that the plan highlights for “signature” projects:

  • W&OD Trail Visitor Center: likely in Loudoun County, per ARLnow
  • Gateway Wetlands Park
  • Pohick Bay expanded camping and associated amenities
  • Occoquan indoor/outdoor Adventure Center
  • Hemlock Facility Update

NOVA Parks hopes to work with Fairfax City to restore the wetlands at Gateway Regional Park, a 1-acre rest stop at the corner of Pickett and Old Pickett roads, by 2024.

“This would be like a very small version of Huntley Meadows Park,” Gilfillen said. “NOVA Parks would restore the wetlands that were once a part of this park, which is adjacent to Accotink Creek. A raised boardwalk would feature interpretive displays for environmental education.” Read More

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A Fairfax County police SUV with lights on (file photo)

A 24-year-old man from Maryland died on Saturday (July 30) after getting injured in a one-vehicle crash on Richmond Highway more than two weeks ago.

The Fairfax County Police Department announced last night (Sunday) that Santos Casco Sierra had succumbed to injuries sustained after he drove off of Richmond Highway, also known as Route 1, near Woodside Lane in Lorton around 5:14 a.m. on July 16.

According to police, Casco Sierra was driving south on the roadway in a 2010 Ford Fusion “when the vehicle left the roadway, struck a tree and caught on fire.”

“Fire and Rescue personnel responded to extinguish the fire and extricate Casco Sierra,” the FCPD said. “He was taken to the hospital with injuries that were considered life threatening. Sadly, he succumbed to his injuries yesterday.”

Detectives with the department’s Crash Reconstruction Unit believe speed and alcohol were both factors in the crash, the FCPD says.

This is the eighth non-pedestrian fatality from a vehicle crash that the FCPD has reported this year, topping the six such deaths recorded by August in 2021. His death came on the heels of news that a motorcyclist had died weeks after veering off of Braddock Road near Fairfax County Parkway.

Casco Sierra was the third person to die after a crash on Richmond Highway this July.

A recent study of speed conducted by the Virginia Department of Transportation recommended lowering the speed limit in the northern section of the corridor from Belle Haven through Mount Vernon. The proposal doesn’t apply to Lorton, since the study’s scope ended at Fort Belvoir Road to the east.

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Morning Notes

An empty bench by Lake Audubon in Reston (photo by Marjorie Copson)

(Updated at 9:25 a.m.) Fire and Rescue Rejects Agreement in Sexual Harassment Complaint — The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that a former Fairfax County firefighter was sexually harassed by a captain in 2017 and demoted after she reported it. But the county fire department has refused an agreement requiring improved efforts to address sexual harassment, new training, and a $150,000 award to the woman, raising the possibility of a federal lawsuit. [The Washington Post]

Pedestrian Killed in Lorton Crash Identified — The Fairfax County Police Department says Keith Thomas, 24, was walking in the southbound lanes of Richmond Highway when he was hit by the driver of a 2005 GMC Sierra at 1:28 a.m. Friday (July 8) at the I-95 interchange. The driver called for help, but Thomas was struck by other vehicles and ultimately died at the scene. [FCPD]

McLean Man Sentenced for Covid Relief Fraud — “A McLean businessman who bilked nearly $1.6 million from federal coronavirus relief programs and spent much of the money on a mansion with its own movie theater and cigar room was sentenced Friday to two years and nine months in prison.” [The Washington Post]

West Springfield House Fire Reported Yesterday — “House fire on 7/10 in 8500 block of Grigsby Drive in West Springfield area. Heavy fire on arrival. No occupants were home at time of fire. Five occupants were displaced. There were no reported injuries. Fire is under investigation. Damages: $594,825.” [FCFRD/Twitter]

Burke & Herbert to Consolidate in Kingstowne — “The bank will remain headquartered at 100 S. Fairfax St. in Old Town Alexandria, but a ‘large portion’ of its local workforce, currently dispersed across the area, will shift to 5680 King Centre Drive in Kingstowne. Burke & Herbert paid $22 million for that 113,000-square-foot building July 1, according to Fairfax County records.” [Washington Business Journal]

Virginia Workers Leave Over Telework Policy — “More than 300 employees from five state agencies have resigned since Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced Virginia’s new telework policy in early May, according to records obtained by 8News. This includes 183 Virginia Department of Transportation employees, 28 of whom cited ‘telework options’ as the reason for leaving.” [ABC8]

Vienna Band Director Steps Away — “A long commute to and from Anne Arundel County, Md., has prompted Cornelius Young to give up his post as music director for the Vienna Community Band, but he leaves with good memories of the group and the town. Young, who has been with the band since October 2014, decided to try for the job after not being selected to lead Annandale High School’s band.” [Sun Gazette]

Reston Student on Performing “Newsies” — “Reston Community Players’ new apprentice program is designed to help students ages 13 to 18 interested in theater gain pre-professional performance and technical experience. That’s exactly what Anna Schoenborn, a rising junior at South Lakes High School in Reston is gaining this summer with RCP’s production of ‘Newsies.'” [Patch]

It’s Monday — Clear throughout the day. High of 82 and low of 66. Sunrise at 5:54 am and sunset at 8:37 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Richmond Highway facing south at Huntington Avenue (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) A pedestrian was killed in a crash on Route 1 in Lorton early this morning (Friday), just hours after Fairfax County police announced that a woman had died following a hit-and-run in the corridor.

With those two deaths, Fairfax County has now reported 12 pedestrian fatalities from vehicle crashes this year — nearly doubling the seven deaths recorded at this point in 2021.

The 2022 death toll doesn’t include a man killed on the Dulles Airport Access Highway in the Reston area on Tuesday (July 5), since that incident was handled by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police.

The Lorton crash occurred on Richmond Highway, also known as Route 1, over the northbound I-95 ramp at 1:28 a.m., the Fairfax County Police Department said in a news release this afternoon.

The pedestrian — now identified as 24-year-old Keith Thomas — was walking in the highway’s southbound lanes when he was struck by a 2005 GMC Sierra headed in the same direction.

“While the driver of the GMC called for help, Thomas was subsequently struck by other vehicles,” the FCPD said.

Thomas died at the scene. Police say alcohol and speed don’t appear to have been factors in the crash.

Charges possible in Huntington hit-and-run

Yesterday afternoon (Thursday), the FCPD announced that Doris Anita McPhail, 56, of Alexandria had succumbed to her injuries at a hospital that morning after being hit by a car while crossing Route 1 on Wednesday (July 6).

According to police, McPhail was near the Huntington Avenue intersection when a car traveling south on the highway hit her in the left lane.

Officers responded to the 5600 block of Richmond Highway around 10:20 p.m. The vehicle was originally described as a dark-colored, older SUV, but Crash Reconstruction Unit detectives later identified it as a 2007 dark-green Toyota Camry. Read More

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County leaders walk past building W13 on their way to break ground on the latest renovation at the Workhouse Arts Center (via Supervisor Dan Storck/Facebook)

Construction is underway on Fairfax County’s latest effort to remake the former Lorton Reformatory grounds into a destination for local residents and tourists.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay, Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck, and other local officials broke ground Friday (June 24) on a renovation of two buildings — designated W13 and W15 — that once housed prison inmates.

Located along Ox Road on the west side of the 52-acre site, now known as the Workhouse Arts Center, the 4,500-square-foot buildings will get their brick exteriors restored, while their interiors are overhauled for future commercial tenants. The county has its fingers crossed for a restaurant or brewery.

“We hope that it provides food and beverage opportunities and places for people to come here and spend more time, not just to stop off, but spend the better part of the day exploring the Workhouse,” McKay said. “These buildings will go a long way to doing that.”

Funded by a $6.3 million county investment, the project will also transform the open space between the buildings into a plaza with a boardwalk, raised walkways, seating areas, trees, and new paved paths along Ox Road.

It’s part of a larger plan to redevelop the former prison complex that has been in place since July 2004.

Opened to the public in September 2008, the Workhouse Arts Center now consists of 11 restored buildings that feature art galleries, studios, classrooms, facilities for ceramics and other crafts, and the Lucy Burns Museum, which delves into the Lorton prison’s history.

Additional amenities envisioned for the campus include housing for resident artists and performers, an amphitheater or music hall, a 450-seat theater, a 300-seat performing arts center, a 600-seat events center, and an outdoor garden with a greenhouse.

A map of the planned Workhouse Campus in Lorton, with buildings W13 and W15 in red (via DPWES)

The W13 and W15 buildings have been approved for eating establishments with a total of 400 seats. Read More

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Morning Notes

A trail bridge at Hidden Oaks Nature Center in Annandale (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Virginia Reports Second Case of Monkeypox — “The patient is an adult male resident of the Northern region of Virginia who was exposed out of state. The Virginia patient did not require hospitalization and is isolating at home. To protect patient privacy, no further information will be provided.” [VDH]

Discrimination Lawsuit Details Issues at Annandale Apartments — “The Fairfax County Circuit Court heard a case [Friday] that shined a light on the filthy and inhumane conditions at Fairmont Gardens in Annandale. Dean Sanchez, a former leasing agent, is suing the Donaldson Group, the company that owns the apartment complex…Sanchez reports the apartments are infested with mice, bedbugs, roaches, and mold.” [Annandale Today]

Man Arrested in McLean Charged in Capitol Storming — “A U.S. Naval reservist who was assigned to an agency that operates spy satellites told an undercover FBI agent that he stormed the U.S. Capitol with members of the far-right Proud Boys extremist group and has espoused anti-government and antisemitic ideologies, federal authorities said in court records unsealed on Thursday.” [NBC4]

Lawsuit Alleges FCPS Mishandled Sexual Assault Complaint — “Lawyers for a former Fairfax County student recently filed an amended complaint against the Fairfax County School Board outlining allegations of an unsafe environment that led to repeated sexual harassment and sexual assaults of the student.” [Inside NoVA/WTOP]

Metro Introduces $2 Weeknight Fares — “Lower-priced unlimited Metrorail and Metrobus monthly passes are now on sale for travel beginning July 1, providing more flexibility and value to customers who may no longer be commuting five days a week. And beginning Monday, June 27, all customers traveling on Metrorail after 9:30 p.m. on weekdays will benefit from a flat fare of $2 per one-way trip.” [WMATA]

Police Investigate Fairfax City Shooting — “The founder of a non-profit that builds schools for girls in Africa was found shot to death inside his Fairfax city home Friday morning.” [NBC4]

Falls Church Abortion Clinic Plans Expansion — “Falls Church Healthcare Center is working to expand capacity because they suspect they’ll soon get more out-of-state patients. They are looking to add more appointments, considering adding an extra day for scheduling and hiring nurse practitioners to deliver care.” [DCist]

New Lorton Fire Station Gets Grand Opening — “The new $14 million fire station is significantly larger, has energy efficient and environmentally sustainable features, and was outfitted to comfortably accommodate both male and female members of Fairfax County Fire and Rescue and the volunteer fire company.” [On the MoVe]

It’s Monday — Rain in the morning and afternoon. High of 80 and low of 68. Sunrise at 5:47 am and sunset at 8:40 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Preliminary plans call for a park at the site of the Lorton landfill (via Fairfax County)

The Fairfax County Planning Commission has given the green light to preliminary plans to convert the closed Lorton Landfill into a public park.

Dubbed Overlook Ridge Park, the park would house the highest point in Fairfax County, hiking trails, picnic areas, an amphitheater, bathrooms and bird sanctuaries.

But concerns about the safety of the site — particularly issues related to methane gas — dominated the discussion at a meeting on June 15. Braddock District Commissioner Mary Cortina led a line of questioning concerning whether the landfill was determined safe for park use and what parameters were used to come to that conclusion.

County officials and representatives from the Fairfax County Park Authority repeatedly stated that the site was deemed safe for use as a park, according to an analysis by a third-party consultant hired by applicant and property owner Waste Management.

David Kaasa, district manager of the Lorton Landfill, said the applicant would ensure that safety is a top priority.

“If it’s not safe for me to go up there, then we’re not sending anyone up there,” he said.

The applicant is working on a shared agreement to sort out unidentified issues related to the site. A similar plan was discussed in 2007 but stalled due to a number of issues.

County officials encouraged the applicant to determine if there’s a way to avoid potable water at one of the bathrooms at the park. Commissioners also wondered if access to drinking water could be provided at the top of the park — including installation of a water line or a well.

Waste Management’s plan includes two main access roads, a cultural garden and overlook, an amphitheater with benched seating, and 120 parking spaces.

If the planning process moves forward, the park would open to the public as early as 2025. The application has to clear several more steps before official approval, including a site plan. The landfill officially closed in 2021 after operations ceased in 2018.

Despite the possibility of hiccups, Kaasa said the applicant intends to move forward with the proposal.

“Waste Management is committed to this project and its obligations at the landfill both locally and at the state level,” he said.

Mount Vernon District Commissioner Walter Clarke said he is eager for the park to open to the public.

“It’s really amazing up there so once it’s built and if it does come to fruition, we should all please make an effort to enjoy that park,” Clarke said.

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Morning Notes

A heron flying above Lake Audubon in Reston (photo by Marjorie Copson)

County Seeks Feedback on Covid Response — While the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over, Fairfax County is starting to evaluate how it handled the crisis. The county government is conducting two surveys — one for the community and one for businesses — to gather feedback on people’s experiences. The surveys are available online and at county libraries until July 5. [Fairfax County Government]

Fairfax City Community to Weigh in on Street Renamings — “Fairfax City Council is hosting a public hearing at its regular meeting Tuesday night to solicit feedback on a proposal to rename 14 streets in the city whose current names are associated with the confederacy, slavery or the ‘Lost Cause.'” [Patch]

Trash Pile Fire Extinguished in Lorton — “Units are on scene of a large outside trash pile fire in the 9800 block of Furnace Road, Lorton. The fire is contained but crews are working to fully extinguish it.” [FCFRD/Twitter]

Learn the History of Juneteenth — Author and University of Maryland history professor Dr. Richard Bell will discuss the history and significance of Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the abolition of slavery in the U.S. As of last night (Monday), there are still openings for the hour-long, virtual presentation, which will start at 6:30 p.m. and requires advance registration. [FCPL]

Lincolnia Fire Started by Unattended Cooking — A townhouse fire in the 4500 block of Southland Avenue on Friday (June 10) displaced five people and caused approximately $77,747 in damages. Investigators determined that the fire was started accidentally by “unattended food cooking on the stove” in the kitchen. [FCFRD]

Vienna Eases Rules for Roofs Over Decks — “The Vienna Town Council voted tonight to amend the zoning ordinance to enable homeowners to upgrade their outdoor living space by putting a roof over up to 400 square feet of a deck under certain conditions. For more details, visit http://viennava.gov/zoning.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

County Urges Vigilance for Signs of Child Abuse — “Fairfax County is asking community members to be on the lookout for possible signs of abuse and neglect, now that kids are out of class…Twana Johnson, assistant program manager, child abuse & neglect prevention services at the Department of Family Services, says as child supervision declines during summer months, so do calls to the hotline.” [WDVM]

FCPS Program Teaches Kids How to Ride Bicycles — “33 schools participate in the program, including both elementary schools — which typically have 30 bikes and 40 helmets on hand at a given time. [Safe Routes to Schools coordinator Sally] Smallwood estimates 10% to 20% of FCPS students in grades three to eight do not know how to ride a bike.” [ABC7]

It’s Tuesday — Rain in the morning. High of 83 and low of 72. Sunrise at 5:44 am and sunset at 8:37 pm. [Weather.gov]

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