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Entering Blake Lane Park (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The Fairfax County Park Authority has some new financial muscle behind its efforts to clear invasive plants from Blake Lane Park in Oakton.

A $20,000 grant from the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation will enable the agency to clear an additional 1.2 acres of land and replant it with native shrubs and trees, the FCPA announced last week.

The invasive plant removal efforts will specifically target Ailanthus altissima, also known as tree-of-heaven, a tree native to China and southeast Asia that got introduced to the U.S. in the 1700s.

In addition to being prolific and difficult to remove once it takes root, tree-of-heaven is a host for spotted lanternflies, according to the park authority. The winged pests secrete a honeydew substance that can attract other insects like wasps and ants and spur mold growth, ruining forests and crops.

Since a spotted lanternfly made its way to Fairfax County via a grocery store shipment in Annandale in 2021, the park authority has urged community members to kill the insects immediately.

According to the Jan. 4 news release, Blake Lane Park was chosen for the grant to the Fairfax County Park Foundation “due to the high density of Ailanthus altissima, and strong community volunteer support” for the FCPA’s Invasive Management Area program (IMA).

“Conservation and restoration of our parks and woodlands requires a communitywide effort and our Invasive Management Area program is a shining example of a community-forward approach to achieving those aims,” FCPA Resource Management Director Laura Grape said. “We are very grateful to Dominion Energy and to our community volunteers for their tremendous dedication to environmental stewardship and helping us make a lasting difference at Blake Lane Park.”

The grant went to the Fairfax County Park Foundation, which raises private funds and obtains grants for the park authority to supplement its public funding. The FCPA will match the grant to “provide long-term maintenance and community engagement” at Blake Lane Park, according to the release.

Located at 10033 Blake Lane, the 10-acre park features a forested trail, a dog park, two soccer fields and an open play area. It was targeted for development as a new elementary school, but resident opposition — and the realization that the Dunn Loring Center could be converted instead — nixed that plan.

The park is one of 65 sites in the IMA program, which recruits volunteers to help remove invasive plants and restore habitats. Program Manager Patricia Greenberg previously told FFXnow that 70 to 75% of the county’s parkland is covered by invasive species.

The park authority says the grant for Blake Lane Park will cover enough seedling purchases to plant 100 stems per acre.

“We know how important it is to care for our air, water, and land — including the wonderful parks in our communities,” Dominion Energy spokesperson Peggy Fox said. “We’re proud to support the Fairfax County Park Foundation with an education and stewardship grant to enhance our local parks.”

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(Updated at 2:10 p.m. on 11/13/2022 to correct zip code) It’s going to be a busy Saturday for Settle Down Easy Brewing. In addition to marking its fourth anniversary, the Merrifield area brewery will throw a grand opening party for its new Oakton restaurant and bar from noon to 8 p.m.

Replacing the shuttered Austins Big and Tall store in Hunter Mill Plaza at 2952E Chain Bridge Road, The Oakton Tasting Room is envisioned as not just a place to grab dinner and drinks, but as the kind of hangout spot that Settle Down Easy owner Frank Kuhns says is missing from Oakton — despite nearly 37,o00 people calling it home.

“In Oakton, there’s one zip code — 22124 — and we are going to promote that and the level of how proud you are to be a resident of Oakton,” Kuhns told FFXnow. “We’re going to create this family-friendly, energetic, exciting space for the residents of Oakton, but everyone is welcome of course. We want Oakton to have its own special place to call its own.”

A resident of Oakton himself, Kuhns started looking to expand Settle Down Easy at his wife’s suggestion. As COVID-19 pandemic restrictions eased, the couple was looking to go out for wine and appetizers but noticed a dearth of happy hour options in the area compared to nearby Vienna and Fairfax.

They hope The Oakton Tasting Room will fill that void, with a still-casual yet more refined ambiance than the industrial feel of Settle Down’s existing brewery at 2822 Fallfax Drive.

Opened in 2018, the Merrifield location serves food from a taco stand run by El Tio Tex-Mex Grill, but it primarily focuses on brewing, manufacturing five barrels of craft beer at a time to serve at a 40-seat bar.

The Oakton Tasting Room will be as much a restaurant as a brewery. Along with beer, it will offer wine, cider, and food for both lunch and dinner in a collaboration with local farmer’s market staple, The Fermented Pig, whose handcrafted meats and charcuterie boards made an impression at earlier events with Settle Down Easy.

An official menu isn’t available online yet, since it will likely evolve as the restaurant figures out what works and what doesn’t. However, all ingredients will be sourced from farms within a 100-mile radius, according to Kuhns.

“We want to be hypersensitive to our carbon footprint, we want to respectful to the environment, and we want to provide something to support other local businesses within 75 to 100 miles of our Oakton Tasting Room,” he said.

At nearly 4,000 square feet in size, the tasting room has the capacity for 150 customers. While there’s no outdoor seating at the moment, Kuhns says they hope to work with their landlord to add that next summer.

Nods to Oakton will range from black-and-white photos in the bathrooms showing the area’s history to a beer exclusively available at the tasting room called 123, after Route 123. Settle Down already serves a 2 Cloud 9 beer in Merrifield, reflecting its location near Route 29.

Expected to draw a sizable crowd, The Oakton Tasting Room’s grand opening will include a ribbon-cutting, cake at 3 p.m., and surveys of food and drink offerings. Merrifield patrons can get in on the excitement too: the first 50 customers who get a beer at both locations that day will receive a free gift and a commemorative coaster.

After inflation, supply chain issues and increased personnel expenses doubled the cost of the Oakton buildout from what was planned, Settle Down has no immediate plans to expand further, but the team is considering ways to help its Merrifield location stand out.

“I think probably in early 2024, we will look for the next venture for Settle Down Easy,” Kuhns said. “…That could be us doing a manufacturing warehouse. That could be a collaborative partnership with The Fermented Pig. We don’t know yet, but I know we want to continue to grow, so our plan in the next two years is to have more growth for our business in Virginia.”

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Fairfax County police car (file photo)

(Updated at 6:05 p.m. on 11/13/2022) A man was shot and killed in Oakton last night following an apparent fight with a homeowner that led the latter to retrieve a gun, police say.

The Fairfax County Police Department is currently investigating the fatal shooting in the 11400 block of Waples Mill Road as a self-defense case, Second Lt. James Curry told media yesterday. Preliminarily, there’s no indication that the two men involved in the incident knew each other, he said.

Officers were called to a reported shooting in the relatively secluded residential neighborhood just after 6 p.m.

Based on an initial investigation, police believe the homeowner was outside on his property when a man approached, later identified as 24-year-old Eduardo Santos from Herndon. They got into an altercation that became physical, leading the resident to retreat into his house.

“He retrieved a firearm from inside the home, and at some point, the man made entry into the home with an object that appears to be a large landscaping rock,” Curry said. “The homeowner then fired and shot the man. He was pronounced deceased at the scene.”

The homeowner was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries that appear to have come from the assault. Detectives believe Santos assaulted the homeowner with a stick, and the homeowner sustained the injuries when Santos tackled him and he fell.

His wife and two children were in the house at the time of the shooting, along with another adult who’s unrelated but also a resident of that home, according to police. They were not injured.

The FCPD said in an update on Friday (Nov. 11) that its officers had received two calls for service about Santos earlier on Wednesday.

“After canvassing the area, detectives determined Santos was in the area Wednesday afternoon for several hours,” the department said. “…On one occasion, officers found him, but no crime was established. Santos refused to speak to police, and he walked away from the area. During the second incident, Santos was not found.”

Police are still working to determine what led Santos to the house.

“As we can interview more folks, review the surveillance footage, we can get a better understanding of what happened outside, but there was an assault that occurred outside on the property that led the homeowner to retreat back into the home that led to our fatal shooting here,” Curry said.

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The MetroWest town center will have three residential buildings, with interim open space before the final one is built, and two office buildings on currently undeveloped land (via Fairfax County)

A path has been cleared for construction to begin soon on the long-awaited MetroWest town center, promising retail and pedestrian safety enhancements near the Vienna Metro station in Oakton.

As recommended by the planning commission in late October, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted last week to remove a limit on the number of residences allowed at the mixed-use development before work also starts on planned office buildings.

Occupying approximately 9.8 acres directly south of the Metro station, the future town center will bring up to 900 residential units, 300,000 square feet of office, and at least 55,000 square feet of retail to the 56-acre MetroWest development.

Developer CRC Companies said at the public hearing on Nov. 1 that the county is on the verge of approving site plans for the first two residential buildings, which will combine for more than 500 units and 12,000 to 15,000 square feet of retail space.

“To say that’s a long time coming is probably the biggest understatement of the afternoon, if you know the history and legacy of MetroWest at all,” McGuireWoods attorney Greg Riegle said, representing CRC at the hearing.

When originally approved in 2006, MetroWest was capped at 1,100 residential use permits (RUPs) until some construction is completed on one of the planned office buildings, but market changes have stalled the commercial portion of the project.

With 706 dwellings already built and 408 more units on the way from fellow developer Pulte Homes, CRC sought to have the condition removed so it can also deliver the town center’s third and final residential building — and the accompanying retail and open space that has failed to materialize.

“By continuing to develop the town center and round out the amenity package, that’s the best chance to make the office actually happen at MetroWest,” Riegle said.

As part of the updated development conditions, known as proffers, CRC will provide a 2-acre interim open space with an asphalt trail on Atlas Plaza “to create a walkway circuit,” according to a county staff report. The plaza will eventually be replaced by the third residential building.

The town center will have a permanent plaza between that residential building and the two office buildings, but CRC isn’t required to build it until the first RUP or occupancy permit is issued for the second of those buildings to be constructed.

The proposed improvements on Vaden and Royal Victoria drive (courtesy Providence District Supervisor’s Office)

The developer has also agreed to construct pedestrian safety improvements along Vaden Drive and at its intersection with Royal Victoria Drive, right in front of the Providence Community Center.

The proposed improvements will extend the existing concrete medians on Vaden Drive into the crosswalks, adding detectable warning strips and rapid flashing beacons, shown as yellow diamonds on the diagram above.

“There’s quite a bit of pedestrian, bike, family, dog activity, and improvement to that safety is definitely a priority for the community members, for the residents, and for my office,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said.

Though it’s unclear when construction on the town center will begin (CRC didn’t return an inquiry from FFXnow by press time), Palchik and other supervisors expressed hope that their vote will allow the county’s vision for a vibrant, mixed-use community at the Vienna Metro to finally come to fruition.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn and Franconia Supervisor Rodney Lusk recalled discussing the MetroWest plan when they served on the planning commission back in 2006. The meeting lasted until 3:45 a.m., according to Alcorn.

“I appreciate where it’s come and see this as a very vital and necessary step for this development,” Lusk said.

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Providence Community Center (file photo)

The Providence Community Center is set to be renamed after former Fairfax County Board Supervisor and House Delegate James M. Scott.

At last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Providence Supervisor Dalia Palchik introduced a board matter initiating the process of renaming the Providence Community Center in Oakton after Scott.

Scott was a longtime county supervisor before being elected to the House of Delegates by a single vote in 1991. He’s known locally as a supporter of human rights, affordable housing, and school-based daycare centers. Scott also founded the nonprofit Celebrate Fairfax, according to Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross.

In addition, he’s the namesake for two county awards: one that recognizes achievement in building design and planning and the other for “community spirit.”

As a state delegate, he pushed for letting people register to vote by mail, at DMVs, welfare offices, and employment centers. He also got a bill passed that required gubernatorial candidates to appear and personally endorse the content of their political ads as a means to reduce negative campaign advertising.

He was also an “early proponent of making the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a holiday,” per Palchik’s board matter. Scott died in 2017.

During the discussion, a number of supervisors chimed in about Scott’s impact and legacy in the county.

“I think about Jim a lot, I really do. He was definitely ahead of his time in a lot of ways…Above all, he cared about community,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said. “To put his name on a community center is such a wonderful thing.”

Chairman Jeff McKay noted that when he first met Scott, he was introduced to him as “Mr. Community.” Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity also applauded the renaming.

“He was from a different time — a better time, I would say, in terms of the Board of Supervisors,” Herrity said. “He was really about community and getting things done for the citizens of Fairfax County… I couldn’t think of anything more appropriate than naming the community center after him.”

While the approval of Palchik’s board matter starts the process of renaming the community center, it remains unclear officially when it will actually happen.

“We will be working with the Dept. of Neighborhood and Community Services on developing a timeline,” a spokesperson for Palchik’s office wrote FFXnow in an email.

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A sign warns drivers on Blake Lane to slow down (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The Fairfax County Police Department could begin using cameras to catch speeders in nine school crossing zones and one highway work zone as soon as early 2023.

The proposed photo speed enforcement pilot program was presented to the Board of Supervisors at a public safety committee meeting Tuesday (Oct. 4).

The work zone included in the pilot would be on Route 28, while the school placements have not been finalized, FCPD Capt. Alan L. Hanson, the police department’s traffic division commander, said.

Drivers caught going at least 10 mph over the speed limit would receive civil penalties, according to the presentation. A maximum penalty of $100 could be incurred for exceeding the limit by at least 20 mph.

A working group including several county departments recommended a six-month pilot program, Hanson said. Their work came after a 2020 state law passed permitting jurisdictions to use speed cameras in school and construction zones.

The draft ordinance authorizes FCPD use of the devices and outlines the fine structure. Photo speed enforcement would aim to reduce the number of people speeding and bring down the number of crashes in and around school areas, Hanson said.

“We’re not trying to entrap people, what we’re trying to do is maintain or gain voluntary compliance,” he said.

Multiple supervisors emphasized that the initiative is not designed to bring in revenue. Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said he doesn’t believe residents will see the program as a money grab, but the board could also avoid this perception by making a plan for what to do with any excess revenue.

“I say plow them back into pedestrian and bicycle safety in and around our schools,” he said.

The state law only enables cameras in designated school crossing and highway work zones. This limits the county’s ability to use them around Blake Lane, where safety concerns have been particularly urgent after an allegedly speeding driver struck and killed two Oakton High School students in June.

The county has already increased fines for speeding and routed school buses off of Blake Lane in the wake of the fatal crash. Read More

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Fairfax County school bus (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Fairfax County Public Schools has made several bus stop changes in the Oakton area after conducting a safety review of the Blake Lane corridor.

Announced today (Friday), the school system has moved 22 stops away from Blake Lane in response to safety concerns after a driver hit three Oakton High School students at the Five Oaks Road intersection on June 7 — one of the last days of the 2021-2022 school year.

Two of the students died, while the third was hospitalized with significant injuries.

The changes will be in effect when the 2022-2023 school year launches on Monday (Aug. 22).

“Our community cares deeply about student safety, and we are grateful for their continued advocacy for increased precautions along the Blake Lane corridor,” said Karl Frisch, who represents Providence District on the Fairfax County School Board. “Moving these bus stops will enhance student safety while local and state partners continue working together to mitigate speeding and other traffic concerns in the area.”

Frisch says the stops have been relocated so that no students will have to wait on Blake Lane, but six stops will still be on the roadway, where side streets lack the capacity for the bus to turn around:

In the past, these students have waited on Blake Lane until the bus stops 50 feet from the intersection. Beginning the first day of school, August 22, students will assemble and wait for the bus on the side street and at least 50 feet away from Blake Lane, not on Blake Lane itself. When the bus arrives, the driver will ensure all traffic is stopped and motion the students to approach the stopped bus to board. In addition, the Office of Safety and Security (OSS) will recommend the installation of marked crosswalks on the intersecting side streets of Blake Lane as part of a VDOT safety review.

Fairfax resident Usman Shahid, the alleged driver in the June crash, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter. A new graduate of Oakton High School, he was driving 81 mph in the 35 mph zone when he hit the students, who were on a sidewalk, police said.

With residents pointing out longstanding safety issues on Blake Lane, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted earlier this month to expand the area where drivers face an additional $200 fine for speeding. The county is also looking at acquiring more “Know Your Speed” devices and introducing speed cameras near schools.

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik plans to assemble a Blake Lane Safety Community Advisory Group, Frisch says.

A list of the bus stop changes for this year can be found below. Read More

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(Updated at 5 p.m.) Fairfax County is expanding an increased fine zone and installing more road signs along Blake Lane in an effort to discourage speeding and make the road safer after a fatal crash in June.

The Board of Supervisors approved a plan yesterday (Aug. 2) to put up several safety-oriented road signs in the Blake Lane corridor, including five “Watch for Children” signs and “$200 Additional Fine for Speeding” signs.

One “Watch for Children” sign will be placed on Steve Martin Drive, between Five Oaks Road and Blake Lane, while another will go near the Lidenbrook Street and Blake Lane intersection. Three more will be installed on Kingsbridge Drive near Blake Lane.

The county will pay the combined $1,100 needed for the creation and installation of these signs, which should be in place in about two to four weeks, Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik’s office says.

Drivers who break Blake Lane’s 35 mph speed limit will now face an additional $200 fine between Sutton Road and Route 29. The county already approved an enhanced fine on a 0.8-mile stretch of the corridor from Jermantown Road to Sutton last year.

The $500 needed for the new signs to Route 29 will be paid by the Virginia Department of Transportation.

A “prompt installation” of all the signage is expected, but a county spokesperson was unable to provide a more exact timeframe for when all the signs will be up.

The signs come after two Oakton High School students were killed on June 7 while walking on a sidewalk near the intersection of Five Oaks Road and Blake Lane. The driver who hit them was allegedly going around 81 mph and has been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

The signs are part of the county’s Residential Traffic Administration Program (RTAP) that “works directly with communities to decrease the impacts of traffic and enhance safety in area neighborhoods.”

For signs of this nature, particular criteria need to be met. For the $200 fine, it must be a road with a local or minor road with a speed limit of 35 miles per hour or less and have at least 600 cars per day, with 85% of them driving at least 10 mph over the speed limit.

“Watch for Children” signs can be installed at neighborhood entrances or locations with “an extremely high concentration of children.” This includes playgrounds, daycare centers, and community centers.

Besides signs, the program can also install traffic calming measures, cut-thru mitigation, and through-truck restrictions.

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Morning Notes

Insomnia Cookies has a line for its grand opening at University Mall in Fairfax (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Judge Orders Records Release in Reston Homicide Case — Fairfax County Circuit Judge Brett A. Kassabian denied a motion to seal records related to a double homicide that occurred in Reston in 2017. In a case that may not see trial until mid-2023, Nicholas Giampa has been indicted on murder charges in the shooting and killing of his girlfriend’s mother and stepfather. [The Washington Post]

Driver Charged in Route 1 Hit-and-Run — “Detectives from our Crash Reconstruction Unit have charged the driver of the 2007 Toyota Camry from the July 6 fatal pedestrian crash. The driver, Diego Juarez Gomez, 19, of Maryland was traveling south on Richmond Highway, struck McPhail in the roadway and did not stop at the scene.” [FCPD]

Former West Potomac HS Soccer Coach Cleared of Hazing Allegation — A Fairfax County Child Protective Services investigation recently cleared Ahmad Sasso of wrongdoing during his 8-year tenure as head coach of West Potomac High School’s soccer team. A parent accused him in April of “hazing a player to the point of injury,” prompting his resignation. [ABC7]

Tree Falls Through Oakton House — “A house in Fairfax County is damaged after a massive tree fell on it Saturday night. Officials say that the house impacted is on the 11600 block of Ayreshire Rd. in Oakton, Virginia and that damages are extensive. No one was at the home when the tree hit the colonial-style house because officials say that the owners were out of town for vacation.” [WUSA9]

Man Threatens Sports Bar in Centreville — A 31-year-old man faces multiple charges after allegedly threatening to burn down The Revolution (14114 Lee Highway) on July 16. The man was trespassed and then arrested when he returned later, displaying a handgun. No injuries were reported in connection to the incident. [FCPD]

Sidewalk Replacement Today in Vienna — “A sidewalk replacement project is scheduled to take place this upcoming Monday, July 25 (weather permitting) along Courthouse Road between 423 Courthouse Road and 429 Courthouse Road. Traffic patterns may be affected along this route. Please use caution.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

CIA Marks 75th Anniversary Tomorrow — “The Central Intelligence Agency in Langley is turning 75-years-young on Tuesday, July 26…Not everyone was happy McLean was chosen as the location for the headquarters. Northern Virginians pushed back at the powers that be to the point that they considered building it where the Kennedy Center is now.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Retired Nationals Star Buys McLean Mansion — “Following his retirement from the Washington Nationals, Ryan Zimmerman is making real estate moves. Property records show that the former slugger paid $11 million for a brand-new build in McLean, VA. The purchase comes after the All-Star listed his longtime home in Great Falls, VA, in April for $8.5 million.” [Realtor]

It’s Monday — Rain in the afternoon and evening. High of 87 and low of 76. Sunrise at 6:05 am and sunset at 8:28 pm. [Weather.gov]

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The Oakton location is similar to another restaurant in Georgia (via WNB Factory)

WNB Factory, a restaurant that specializes in wings and burgers, is expected to open two Fairfax County locations next month.

The business plans to open at Hunter Mill Plaza (2952 Chain Bridge Road) between Aug. 15 and 30, depending on final permit approvals, according to a company representative.

Joon Kim, a franchisee with the company, says the new location in Oakton fills what he says is a lack of good wing and burger spots in the area.

Our burgers are all never frozen Certified Angus Beef. Our chickens, chicken tenders, and chicken wings (23 flavors) are all natural, hormone free, cage free,” Kim told FFXnow.

The business also plans to open a location in Huntington sometime in the middle of next month. That spot will be located at 5952 Richmond Highway.

WNB has locations across the country.

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