The McLean Citizens Association (MCA) wants Fairfax County to reconsider its embrace of synthetic turf for athletic fields, as a decision nears on whether to replace the grass baseball diamond at Linway Terrace Park (6246 Linway Terrace).
The organization, which represents residents of the greater McLean area, has called for a review of the county’s practices regarding synthetic turf, particularly the potential health and environmental risks posed by crumb rubber — bits of recycled tire commonly used for artificial fields.
Approved by the MCA board of directors at a meeting last Wednesday (Feb. 1), the resolution builds off a February 2018 request that the county test field drainage for possible water contamination and create a citizen task force to explore the issue.
“Looking at the issue anew this year, we learned that concerns about the environmental and health effects related to synthetic turf fields continue to be significant and in some ways have grown,” Barbara Ryan, who chairs MCA’s environmental committee, said.
The Fairfax County Park Authority announced in December that McLean Little League had offered to help fund a conversion of Linway Terrace Park’s baseball field.
Synthetic turf requires less upkeep than natural grass and can be used regardless of weather, McLean Little League board member Bryan Orme told FFXnow at the time, noting that the 10-acre park’s nearby soccer and lacrosse field has been converted.
The Fairfax County Park Authority uses a mix of sand and cryogenic crumb rubber for most of its synthetic turf fields in accordance with a countywide policy last reviewed in 2016, according to FCPA Public Information Officer Ben Boxer.
In response to community concerns about crumb rubber possibly contributing to cancer and other health issues, the county conducted “extensive review” of scientific studies in 2012 and 2015 and data from the Virginia Department of Health, then-county executive Edward Long Jr. said in a May 2016 memo.
The county determined it didn’t need to change the materials in its synthetic fields or reconvene a task force that had been created in 2012.
“No study exists that has shown an elevated health risk from playing on fields with crumb rubber,” Long wrote. “The general conclusion for all the studies reviewed is that health effects are unlikely from exposure to the levels of chemicals found in synthetic turf with crumb rubber infill and that these fields do not pose a serious public health concern.”
However, athletes and health advocates have argued that existing research is limited, prompting the Environmental Protection Agency, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies to launch a joint study in 2016.
Beyond the much-debated possible health risks, MCA said it’s also concerned about the heat generated by synthetic turf fields, their limited lifespans of eight to 10 years, and the impact on the county’s waterways.
“Given the concerns cited above regarding synthetic turf fields, MCA recommends that the Environmental Quality Advisory Council (EQAC) investigate how the county is reviewing the environmental and health risks associated with the county’s current practices related to synthetic turf fields to determine if the county should…revisit its…decision that crumb rubber is an acceptable infill material,” the resolution said.
MCA also urged the county to reconvene its Synthetic Turf Task Force, implement a system to track where and how fields are disposed of, and install enhanced stormwater management at Linway Terrace if the baseball diamond conversion is approved.
Boxer says the park authority’s turf fields are designed to “drain primarily downward and have extensive underground stormwater management practices,” per county code requirements.
As stated at a Jan. 12 community meeting, the FCPA will talk to the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services about potential enhancements, though the focus will be on meeting permitting requirements “and not directed at crumb rubber,” Boxer told FFXnow.
The FCPA is accepting public comments on the Linway Terrace proposal until Sunday (Feb. 12).
As for its overall use of synthetic fields, the county isn’t planning another reevaluation — at least not until that federal study is released.
“At such time as a new EPA or CDC study on crumb rubber use on synthetic turf fields is completed, then based on the results of such Federal level studies, the County as a whole may elect to revisit current synthetic turf practices,” Boxer said.
A proposed shared-use path on Haycock Road over I-66 is among several pedestrian and bicycle projects in the West Falls Church Metro station area that the McLean Citizens Association believes Fairfax County should prioritize for funding.
The organization, which routinely weighs in on issues affecting the greater McLean area, approved a resolution on Wednesday (Jan. 4) endorsing 19 projects recommended by an advisory group that the county convened to study the West Falls Church Transit Station Area’s (TSA) active transportation infrastructure.
“We believe these projects will improve access to the West Falls Church Metro station and area schools, and will likely be cost effective,” Glenn Harris, who chairs the association’s transportation committee, said.
Released in November, the advisory group’s final report backed community complaints that the area is congested and unsafe to travel for those not in cars, proposing 20 projects that could help address those issues in anticipation of future development.
In its resolution, the MCA board of directors highlighted seven pedestrian projects that it says deserve “rapid identification and allocation of funding for placement” on the county’s Transportation Priorities Plan:
- Pathway improvements along Haycock Road from Great Falls Street to the Metro Access Road
- A sidewalk along Redd Road to Idylwood Road and related improvements, including a crosswalk, to provide safe access to Lemon Road Elementary School
- A pedestrian refuge on Idylwood Road near Lemon Road Elementary
- High-visibility crosswalks at the Pimmit Drive and Leesburg Pike intersection
- A mid-block crossing on Haycock Road near Casemont Drive with flashing beacons
- Pedestrian improvements at the Westmoreland Street and Haycock Road intersection
- A crosswalk on Great Falls Street at Moly Drive
The Haycock pathway improvements would consist of a new shared-use path that’s at least 8 feet wide. To make room where it passes over I-66, the road could be reduced from two southwest travel lanes to one, according to MCA board member Bruce Jones.
“The pedestrian walkways along the bridge are woefully deficient and dangerous, in our opinion,” Harris said. “But as I understand it, there’s some consideration to narrow the lanes on the bridge to allow for a wider pedestrian infrastructure without the need to actually rebuild the bridge.”
Though estimated to be one of the more expensive proposals in the report, the project is one of two that MCA has advocated for in the past, along with the Redd Road sidewalk.
While the board gave its support to all four proposed bicycle projects, it didn’t endorse one pedestrian project that would add a pathway from Idylwood Road to the Metro station through or along the railyard.
According to Harris, county staff told the advisory group that the project could cost over $10 million, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority had “expressed considerable concern” about the path as a potential security risk for its railyard.
“Given the limited amount of funds that are currently allocated, we don’t think that it makes sense to be funding this particular project, particularly when WMATA has expressed concerns, if not outright opposition to the project,” Harris said. “The available funds should be used for the other projects.”
Launched in late 2021, the West Falls Church Active Transportation Study served as a follow-up to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ approval of a plan allowing more mixed-use development around the Metro station.
The West Falls development in Falls Church City is under construction. Plans for over 1.8 million square feet of development on the Metro station property and Virginia Tech’s nearby Northern Virginia Center are being reviewed by county staff.
The Board of Supervisors accepted the study report on Dec. 6 and directed staff to incorporate its recommendations into the county’s active transportation plan.
Image via Google Maps
(Updated at 6:25 p.m. on 11/6/2022) Fairfax County Public Schools might be underestimating future overcrowding in the Tysons area, a new report from the McLean Citizens Association (MCA) says.
FCPS typically forecasts enrollment over the next five years in its annual Capital Improvement Program (CIP). A breakdown of that report alongside analysis of the county’s proffers — developer contributions required to offset the impact of new projects on local infrastructure — suggests higher future population counts in the Tysons area than what FCPS is predicting.
Jim Beggs, chairman of MCA’s Education and Youth Committee, presented the findings at a meeting of the MCA on Wednesday (Nov. 2), starting at the 23:53 mark.
“FCPS staff does projections every year for five years,” Beggs said. “Their projections focused on trends in migration in and out of the county, transfers within our area, and birth rate trends in our area.”
FCPS develops its own density projections to estimate what is going to happen in the schools, but Beggs said the specifics of development around Tysons might get lost in the mix as staff analyzes density countywide.
Part of the county’s proffer analysis includes estimates of a development’s impact on public schools, and Beggs said those numbers don’t always line up with the school system’s projections.
“The Tysons Corner area, we think, is a different animal,” Beggs said. “There’s a tremendous amount of development going on, and we think this analysis should be supplemented by a look at what is going on and how is the development activity looking like it’s going to impact our schools. If we look at that projection, how does it compare to the FCPS staff CIP projection?”
Beggs said comparing the two reports showed seven schools where the impact in the proffers is significantly higher than what FCPS is predicting:
Spring Hill Elementary School
- FCPS projection: 101% capacity in five years
- Proffers data: 136-147% capacity
- Disparity between the two reports: 35-46%
Marshall High School
- FCPS projection: 92% capacity in five years, if the modular units at the school are included
- Proffers data: 109-115% capacity
- Disparity: 17-23%
Kilmer Middle School
- FCPS projection: 89% capacity in five years with modular units included
- Proffers data: 110-116% capacity
- Disparity: 21-27%
Westbriar Elementary School
- FCPS projection: 83% capacity in five years
- Proffers data: 109-134% capacity
- Disparity: 26-51%
Westgate Elementary School
- FCPS projection: 85% capacity in five years
- Proffers data: 134-148% capacity
- Disparity: 50-64%
McLean High School
- FCPS projection: 105% capacity in five years
- Proffers data: 123-124% capacity
- Disparity: 17-19%
Longfellow Middle School
- FCPS projection: 92% capacity in five years
- Proffers data: 108-111% capacity
- Disparity: 16-19%
Beggs said those figures from the proffers data backs up existing concerns in the community about overcrowding in McLean High School.
All of these schools are impacted by new residential development on going in the Tysons area, Beggs said, adding that he mostly wants FCPS to just double check the math on the student population projections for the area.
“I’m saying, ‘We’d like you to take a look at these four or five schools that are heading to trouble,” Beggs said. “You’re looking at 198 [schools]. We’re asking you to focus on four or five in our area. In general, capacity issues can be solved by border adjustments, capital renovation, or putting a modular in. At the end of the day, we’re recommending staff go back and take a second look.”
Elaine Tholen, who represents the Dranesville District, including McLean, on the Fairfax County School Board says she has seen MCA’s report and has scheduled a meeting with FCPS staff to review the data.
“As always, I appreciate the work of MCA,” she said.
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.
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.
The Fairfax County Park Authority will celebrate the importance of protecting the night sky on Saturday, Nov. 12.
The free event, which takes place in McLean at Lewinsville Park from 6:30-8:30 pm, will feature live demonstrations, hands-on activities, and opportunities for the public to learn how to fight light pollution.
Tammy Schwab, project manager, tells FFXnow that there will be stations for people to learn about artificial light’s effect on plants, animals, and people. If the weather permits, there will be telescopes and binoculars to view constellations.
“We will also have information about the small actions folks can take to help reverse light pollution in their neighborhood.”
Schwab said it’s essential to educate the public on light pollution because it causes harm to animals and plants that are adapted to dark nights.
“This artificial light at night, especially those with high color temperatures like bright white and blue, have been shown to cause harm in humans as well by interrupting our circadian rhythms. Additionally, light pollution is a waste of energy,” Schwab said, adding that unlike other forms of pollution, humans can easily reverse light pollution with a switch.
The park authority is partnering with the McLean Citizens Association, the Analemma Society, and Dark Sky Friends. Registration is encouraged but not required.
Photo via Mindaugas Vitkus/Unsplash
As Fairfax County explores ways to improve the flow of traffic on Dolley Madison Blvd., the McLean Citizens Association sees an opportunity to also address safety issues at the Ingleside Avenue intersection.
The residents’ group urged the Fairfax County Department of Transportation last week to consider installing a traffic signal there or at the adjacent Elm Street intersection as part of the county’s ongoing Dolley Madison Corridor Study.
“Installation of a traffic signal at either location would heighten safety for pedestrians and bicyclists,” MCA President Scott Spitzer wrote in a letter approved by the board of directors on Wednesday (July 6). “A signal at the Dolley Madison/Ingleside intersection would also address concerns raised by residents who are unable to turn left from Dolley Madison Boulevard onto Ingleside Avenue during rush hour traffic.”
Though they’re the size of neighborhood streets, Ingleside and Elm connect downtown McLean to the residences north of Dolley Madison (also known as Route 123) as well as the Dolley Madison Library, McLean Central Park, and McLean Community Center.
Traffic backups on Route 123 routinely block Ingleside in particular, making it “almost impossible” for drivers to turn into or out of the street, one MCA board member said during last week’s meeting.
“I certainly have had experience trying to take a left on Ingleside and having to wait minutes because nobody will let you in,” Glenn Harris, who chairs MCA’s transportation committee, said.
If a traffic light isn’t possible, given the proximity of Old Dominion Drive, MCA says it would support a flashing pedestrian beacon and “enhanced crosswalks” at either the Ingleside or Elm intersection.
There are currently striped crosswalks across Dolley Madison on the east sides of both intersections, but Elm Street has no sidewalks, and Ingleside only has a sidewalk on the west side.
For drivers on Ingleside, even a right turn onto Dolley Madison can be tricky, thanks to trees that block their sightlines, an MCA board member noted.
The McLean Community Center wants to update its policies, and its counterpart in Reston has emerged as a possible model.
The MCC governing board has started exploring a possible revision of the memorandum of understanding that dictates its relationship with the Fairfax County government.
Many of the changes floated at the board’s March 23 meeting are straightforward tweaks, such as using gender-neutral pronouns, allowing more flexibility for virtual meetings, and updating the name of the tax district that funds the community center from “Small District 1” to “Small District 1A.”
However, suggestions that MCC replace its board elections with a preference poll — the process used by Reston Community Center — and review its public comments protocols are more concerning, McLean Citizens Association President Scott Spitzer says.
The association argued in a letter signed by Spitzer and approved by its governance committee that MCC would risk ceding authority to the county by revising the MOU, which delineates the governing board’s responsibilities for handling programming, finances, capital projects, public meetings and other duties.
“The MOU works. They ought not to open up a discussion with the [Fairfax County] Board of Supervisors to revise it at this time,” Spitzer told FFXnow last week, proposing that the community center instead make any necessary updates through its internal policies.
The MCC board raised the idea of revisiting the MOU in September but didn’t vote to look at it until Feb. 23. Aside from an addendum made in 2007, the agreement hasn’t changed since it was originally signed in 1984, according to Board Chair Barbara Zamora-Appel.
Board members Shivani Saboo, who serves as treasurer, and Suzanne LeMenestrel volunteered to lead the review.
Zamora-Appel did not return a request for comment from FFXnow, but according to a statement shared by MCC, she emphasized at the beginning of the March 23 meeting that the proposed draft was based on individual board members’ suggestions, not from the board as a whole.
“We are very early in any discussion of potential changes, and we will not move forward any proposed changes unless and until we have had sufficient input, discussion, Board decisions, pros and cons, and discussions with Fairfax County officials,” Zamora-Appel said. Read More
Fairfax Station Doctor Sentenced for Fraud — Physician Leonard Rosen was sentenced on Friday (March 18) to two years of probation, with six months of at-home confinement for his involvement in an $8 million fraud scheme where doctors prescribed expensive drugs to patients in exchange for bribes from pharmacists. [The Washington Post]
Connolly Announces Reelection Bid — “On Thursday, March 17, during his 28th annual St. Patrick’s Day Fete, held online, [Rep. Gerry] Connolly announced he would seek reelection to represent Virginia’s 11th Congressional District…The newly-drawn 11th District lies within the boundaries of Fairfax County…and includes Tysons, Fairfax City, Chantilly, and Reston.” [Potomac Local News]
Georgetown Pike Lane Closure Starts Today — “Great Falls: On Mon 3/21-Fri 3/25 for several hours beginning at 9AM daily, Georgetown Pike (Rt 193) will be down to one lane on the Difficult Run bridge for ongoing pedestrian crossing work. Crews will continue to stage in the @fairfaxparks lot.” [VDOT Northern Virginia/Twitter]
McLean Neighborhood Installs License Plate Readers — “Due to the fact that some high-profile people live in the area, FOX 5 is not disclosing the location to respect their privacy. Residents like Phil Horvitz, who is also an HOA board member, have been rattled after seeing an increase in crime, so they installed three high-tech license plate reader cameras.” [FOX5]
Person Assaulted with Pipe in Lincolnia — A person waiting for a rideshare vehicle in the 6200 block of Little River Turnpike on March 14 was assaulted with a metal pipe by a man who got out of an unknown vehicle. The victim was transported to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, and police say it doesn’t appear to have been a random act. [FCPD]
Fairfax County Firefighter Develops Behavioral Health Program — “A daily routine immersed in life-or-death situations can take a mental toll on first responders, and ‘The Mental Mayday’ program teaches members of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department in Virginia how to ask for help. It was developed by 10-year veteran of the department Lt. Adam Bartman.” [WTOP]
Fairfax Station Park to Get New Playground — “The Fairfax County Park Authority will soon begin the Popes Head Park playground replacement project, which will require closure of the playground during the construction period. Contractors will be mobilizing on site shortly, with active construction activities beginning at the end of March 2022.” [FCPA]
McLean Citizens Association Changes Presidents — “Scott Spitzer, who has served as MCA First Vice President, was elected President to replace Rob Jackson. He said, ‘Rob Jackson’s deep knowledge of community issues, his wisdom and guidance, and his repeatedly answering the call to serve MCA and our community will be missed by all of us. We thank him for his exceptional public service.'” [MCA]
It’s Monday — Clear throughout the day. High of 65 and low of 40. Sunrise at 7:12 am and sunset at 7:23 pm. [Weather.gov]
Fairfax County Public Schools is moving forward with plans to convert the Dunn Loring Administration Center into an elementary school, despite questions from some school board and community members about the project’s urgency.
The Fairfax County School Board voted 10-0 with two abstentions on March 10 to let staff re-negotiate an existing architecture and engineering contract with the firm Samaha Associates, initiating a planning process that typically takes about two years, according to FCPS Executive Director for Facilities and Transportation Services Jessica Gillis.
The vote also authorized staff to use $2 million from a 2019 schools bond that had been designated for an Oakton-area elementary school until the community objected to the use of Blake Lane Park as a site.
Led by Providence District Representative Karl Frisch, the school board agreed in January 2021 to reallocate the $36.8 million for that project to repurpose the Dunn Loring Center, which currently hosts special education services and programs for parents.
While Dunn Loring Elementary School will serve a different area than the Blake Lane site would have, FCPS staff say it will provide needed capacity relief as the system braces for an expected influx of students from new development in Tysons and Merrifield.
“This is the long game for us, to ensure that we have enough space within this region as we anticipate enrollment growth in this particular Tysons area,” FCPS Chief Operating Officer Marty Smith said.
Though the school board supported the repurposing again on Feb. 10 by including it in a new capital improvement program, some members expressed reservations at last week’s meeting after receiving a letter from the McLean Citizens Association that questioned its prioritization over other projects in areas that face more immediate crowding challenges.
Citing enrollment forecasts in the new CIP, the MCA Board of Directors noted that the five elementary schools in the Marshall High School pyramid, where the Dunn Loring school will be located, are all currently between 72 and 99% capacity, and their student populations are projected to decline over the next five years. Read More