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Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity (via patherrity.org)

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity is running for a fifth term.

The lone Republican currently on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors officially declared this morning that he will run for reelection again, making the announcement at his alma mater West Springfield High School.

In the follow-up press release, he said that the county is a very different place compared to when he last ran in 2019.

Since I last ran for office, we have faced unfathomable challenges; from a global pandemic to historic unemployment, unprecedented obstacles for our business owners, interrupted education and record-setting inflation…We live in a different world than we did four years ago and I can’t think of a more critical time to need strong, experienced leadership on the Board of Supervisors. That’s why I’m announcing today my campaign to run for reelection for Springfield District Supervisor on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

First elected in 2007, Herrity is the son of Jack Herrity, a former Fairfax County Board chair in the 1970s and 1980s. As the board’s only Republican, he has clashed at times with the other supervisors.

A challenger has already launched a bid to turn the seat blue. Tech entrepreneur Albert Vega announced in September that he’ll seek the Democratic nomination. If Vega wins the June primary or no other Democrats enter the race, he’ll take on Herrity in the Nov. 7 general election.

“We need someone representing us who has the experience and track record to keep getting results for the County. I humbly consider myself the most qualified to serve our community,” Herrity said in a press release. “I proudly stood as a check on the excesses of the Board, and made sure that each decision made considered the impact it would have on every single one of our county’s residents.”

Herrity’s announcement brings the number of incumbent supervisors seeking reelection this year to six.

Chairman Jeff McKay, Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk, Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, and Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw have all said they’ll be running in 2023.

Longtime supervisors John Foust and Penny Gross are stepping down, leaving both races wide open for new candidates.

Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith and Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik have not made their intentions public yet.

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Fairfax County will evaluate the cost of removing hills on Lee Chapel Road after multiple fatal crashes (via Pat Herrity/Twitter)

With its lone survivor still hospitalized, this month’s crash that killed two teens on Lee Chapel Road has spurred Fairfax County to step up its efforts to address long-standing concerns about the safety of the key Fairfax Station th0roughfare.

During its meeting yesterday (Tuesday), the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors directed transportation staff to develop a cost estimate for a project that would widen the two-lane road to four lanes and eliminate hills that limit driver visibility along a roughly 1-mile segment between Ox Road (Route 123) and Fairfax County Parkway.

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity originally proposed the project in 2017 after a 19-year-old died in a crash at the same intersection with Fairfax County Parkway in 2015. However, no funding has been identified yet.

A petition calling for safety improvements on Lee Chapel Road now has over 13,500 signatures. Herrity met the two South County High School students behind the campaign on Monday (Jan. 23), he told the board.

“There’s a lot of community support for doing something,” he said. “Unfortunately it takes a tragedy.”

Unanimously approved, Herrity’s board matter also asks staff to look at more immediate ways to improve the roadway’s safety, such as adding streetlights and clearing shoulders on the adjacent parkland.

According to preliminary state data, there have been 245 crashes and 149 injuries on Lee Chapel Road since 2010, including the fatal crashes in 2015 and this past Jan. 10. Also the site of a 2005 crash that killed an 18-year-old who had just graduated from Hayfield Secondary School, the road has proven especially dangerous for young, inexperienced drivers.

The victims of the fatal crash on Jan. 10 were all South County High School students. Ariana Haftsavar and Ashlyn Brotemarkle, the two teens who were killed, were 16.

Detectives have determined that the 2019 Lexus IS350 was traveling at 100.7 mph when it veered off the road, becoming airborne for about 130 feet before landing on its roof, the Fairfax County Police Department reported last night.

“Fire and rescue personnel extricated one victim, who was taken to a nearby hospital; she remains hospitalized,” the FCPD said. “The driver and the rear passenger, of the Lexus were declared deceased at the scene. The passenger in the backseat was not wearing a seatbelt.”

In the wake of the crash, Del. Kathy Tran (D-42) will host a virtual town hall on road safety at 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 30. Read More

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Optical speed bars intended to slow down drivers have been installed on Lee Chapel Road in Fairfax Station (via Pat Herrity/Twitter)

Calls for safety improvements on Lee Chapel Road in Fairfax Station have resurfaced in the wake of last week’s car crash that killed two teens and put a third in the hospital.

As an online petition urging Fairfax County to prioritize regular maintenance and new safety features surpassed 12,000 signatures, Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity — who represents the area — met with state and county transportation staff to discuss short, mid and long-term options for addressing long-standing safety concerns.

Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck and Del. Kathy Tran (D-42) also attended the meeting yesterday (Wednesday).

“Both VDOT and County staff came to the meeting with ideas for improving the safety of the road and will be working to address the feasibility and timing of these potential improvements including those recommended by residents,” Herrity tweeted, adding that another meeting will be held next week.

A key connection between Lorton via Route 123 and the Burke/Fairfax Station area, Lee Chapel Road has been the site of 243 vehicle crashes since 2011, resulting in 148 injuries and two deaths, according to state data.

That includes the fatal Jan. 10 crash, where a sedan veered off the road while going over a hill approaching the Fairfax County Parkway intersection, according to police. The crash killed 16-year-old South County High School students Ariana Haftsavar and Ashlyn Brotemarkle, who were identified publicly by family and friends.

Started by classmates of Ariana and Ashlyn, the petition says local residents have been questioning the road’s safety for years, noting that a 19-year-old died in a crash at the same intersection in 2015.

“The solution for this conflict is to keep the road maintained regularly by doing something big like putting in safety features to something small like filling in potholes,” the petition says. “Safety features include signs that blink when you are to slow down at turns, road lights, safety signs before the road starts, and guardrails.”

After the last week’s crash, the Virginia Department of Transportation added “optical speed bars” on the road last Friday (Jan. 13). The striped markings are thought to reduce speeds on curves with an optical illusion that makes drivers aware of how fast they’re going.

“We are saddened to hear of the loss of two of our community members,” VDOT said in a statement. “As is customary, we allow time for the police department to fully investigate the crash to determine the facts, circumstances, and cause. Once we receive the finalized police report, our Traffic Engineering group will perform a safety review of the location.” Read More

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

(Updated at 1:15 p.m. on 11/30/2022) Local officials are already preparing for “one of the most challenging” budget talks in years due to inflation, the changing real estate market, and staff retention challenges.

Right before the Thanksgiving holiday, Fairfax County staff offered supervisors and the school board an early look at projected revenues, expenditures, and points of potential discussion as the county and Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) prepare to release proposed budgets early next year.

The fiscal year 2024 budget forecast that staff presented on Nov. 22 didn’t paint a particularly rosy picture, however.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay called the forecast “a real mixed bag.” County staff said that generated revenue remained “healthy,” but others weren’t so sunny.

“This is probably going to be one of the most challenging budgets in my 11 years on the [school] board,” Braddock District School Board representative Megan McLaughlin said. “It’s going to be a tough one.”

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity concurred, saying there wasn’t “a lot of good news in here.”

As is the case across the country, the local real estate market has been slowing due to increasing interest rates and rising prices. While it increased from last year, growth is expected to flatten going forward for the rest of 2022 and into 2023.

Fairfax County staff forecast a dip in revenues available for fiscal year 2024 (via Fairfax County)

Non-residential tax revenue is in even worse shape, at least partially due to the change in work-from-home habits resulting from the pandemic. It’s expected to increase by only 0.6% compared to last year when the growth was about 2.3% compared to 2022.

While hotel, retail, and apartment revenues are all expected to increase next year, office revenue is expected to decline between 5% and 6%, raising concerns among some supervisors and school board members.

Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw said he has talked to companies in the county that have no intention of renewing office leases due to decreased need with more employees now teleworking.

He called it a “slow-moving crisis” that could create a “very significant hole” in terms of missing revenue.

“[This] is very troubling,” Walkinshaw said. “It’s a structural challenge now in our economy…I’m not confident we have our arms around what that challenge is going to look like over the next 5 to 10 years.”

New construction and transient occupancy (or lodging) tax revenue are also expected to grow, but at much lower rates than prior to the pandemic.

Real estate taxes are the largest source of revenue for the county, providing more than two-thirds of generated money. Last year, home values soared, while commercial tax revenue dropped, resulting in a 3-cent decrease in the real estate tax rate.

All told, revenue is predicted to rise by about $266 million, a 3.8% increase from last year, per the presented forecast.

However, revenue isn’t keeping pace with expenditures, due mostly to anticipated staff salary increases.

Between recruitment and retention challenges and inflation, an additional $159 million will be needed for salaries and benefits compared to the current budget — plus another $113.5 million for school staff. Adding in other costs, the county and FCPS are looking at a combined shortfall of about $125 million for fiscal year 2024, which begins July 1, 2023, staff said.

Since this is a baseline forecast, a number of county and school priorities were not taken into account, including infrastructure upgrades, increased investments in affordable housing, and an expansion of early childhood education programs.

As county staff and McKay both reiterated, the forecast is only an estimation subject to change.

“As the economic outlook is uncertain, staff is approaching FY 2024 revenue forecasting very conservatively,” the presentation said.

Adoption of the fiscal year 2024 budget remains six months away. Advertised budget plans for the county and schools will be released in February with final votes coming in May 2023.

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Kids play soccer on a synthetic turf (via Fairfax County Park Authority)

Concerns over equity and the recommendation of specific sites have delayed Fairfax County’s push into sports tourism.

At last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity proposed that the county start advertising that it’s seeking proposals from private entities to develop sports tourism facilities.

However, he pulled the motion when it became clear that there wasn’t enough support from other supervisors to move forward. When he made the request in May, the board voted instead to have staff reassess a consultant’s report to ensure equity is considered when evaluating future projects.

“We’ve been sitting on the sidelines far too long. It’s time for us to get in the game or not,” Herrity said. “This is something the board has clearly expressed that it would benefit both our sports community, our taxpayers, our hotelers, our restaurants, our hospitality industry. We need to move forward and stop trying to find ways not to do it.”

Board Chairman Jeff McKay argued that Herrity, in fact, had “delayed the process.”

“I want to make it crystal clear that this board supports sports tourism…What we are doing is trying clean up the fact that it wasn’t done right,” he said. “Equity was left behind.”

A consultant hired by the county released a report in August 2020 recommending how the county could “more effectively compete within the sports tourism marketplace,” including specific sites where a large facility could go in the county.

The Park Authority-backed study identified nine different sites that it said could support facilities like a rectangle field complex with 16 fields or an ice complex, comparable to the one in Ballston.

However, as several supervisors brought up, none of the sites were vetted for equity, environmental impacts, or even the land’s current ownership.

Many of the preferred sites are in the north and northwest part of the county, while none are located in the south. Several sit in protected watershed areas, while a few others are privately owned, like George Mason University property, as opposed to county-owned.

The equity review requested in May was finished over the summer. Last month, the Sports Tourism Task Force recommended proceeding with an advertisement and “to consider the equity impact review as it reviews potential public-private partnerships” instead of at this stage in the process.

This didn’t sit well with several supervisors, including McKay, who wanted to make sure that the advertisement made clear that the recommended sites in the study were not county-approved.

“Frankly, I wish the consultant report didn’t exist. I think it was created under false pretense…It had no look at equity,” said McKay. “I don’t necessarily support any sites in there…They are in no way in any shape or form an endorsed list of locations by this board.”

Herrity accepted an amendment that the ad include language urging developers to be “creative” and recommend a site not on the consultant’s list.

Additionally, McKay asked that the entire board look at the advertisement to vet the language prior to it being released.

The plan now is to have staff update the report before Herrity resubmits the motion. While he hoped to have it by the board meeting on Tuesday (Oct. 25), Herrity told FFXnow that November now looks more likely, though he “was ready six months ago.”

He said this is the first program, in his recollection, “forced” to have an equity review as well as the first time that he remembers where the board will review the language for a request for proposals.

Nonetheless, he’s ready for Fairfax County to get in the game and build facilities that could help bring more revenue to the county, particularly with increased hotel occupancy.

The rest of the board appears to agree with the idea of exploring sports tourism, but it has to be “done right.”

“We have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get this done right that will permanently…affect the long-term sustainability of sports and sports tourism in this county,” McKay said.

Photo via Fairfax County Park Authority

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A median on Route 123 at International Drive in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County is once again discussing how to discourage “panhandling” while also declining — at least for the moment — to make it illegal to engage with anyone in a county-owned road or median.

The subject was revived at last week’s board meeting by Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity after cropping up a number of times over the last several years.

Herrity’s board matter argued that people in the road or median asking for money not only “generates considerable public complaint,” but is a safety risk for both those individuals and motorists.

“Anyone who stands in the median of our busy intersections trying to engage with motorists puts themselves in danger and presents a dangerous distraction to motorists,” Herrity’s board matter said. “This applies to panhandlers, fundraisers, marketers, and anyone else in the medians.”

However, a recent study by the county somewhat disputes this assertion. At Herrity’s urging, the board directed staff in May to conduct a study into if there are “public safety risks” in relation to people being in roads asking for money.

Sent to the board in July, the study results concluded that staff was “unable to find a significant public safety risk related to or stemming from panhandling,” mostly because that data wasn’t being collected at that level of specificity.

“While panhandling appears dangerous and generates considerable public complaint, available FCPD data does not support a determination that panhandlers are more likely to be injured or killed than other pedestrians, or that locations where panhandlers are present have an increased risk of traffic accidents,” the study said.

Nonetheless, Herrity disagreed with the assessment by saying a study shouldn’t replace “commonsense.”

“With as many tragic pedestrian fatalities as we have had in this County, including one panhandler, I am frankly appalled that we have not done more to protect our residents on this issue. We should not need a study to determine what is commonsense,” Herrity wrote in the board matter.

At the board’s Oct. 11 meeting, Herrity proposed directing staff to “draft a curb-to-curb safety ordinance that would restrict anyone from engaging with motorists between the curbs of a road with the exception of recognized public safety entities,” including for the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department’s annual “Fill the Boot” campaign. Read More

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Albert Vega, Democrat running for the Springfield District Supervisor seat (photo courtesy of Albert Vega’s campaign)

(Updated, 4:10 pm) Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity has gotten his first challenger in next year’s Board of Supervisors race.

Albert Vega, the co-founder of the local tech business Building Momentum, announced earlier this week in a press release and video that he’s set to run in the Democratic Primary in June 2023 for the Springfield seat on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

He’s the first Democrat to submit a statement of organization for that seat, the Fairfax County Board of Elections confirmed to FFXnow.

The primary winner will likely take on the incumbent and Republican Pat Herrity in the general election in November 2023.

Vega is the chief technology officer for Alexandria-based Building Momentum who also spent time in Afghanistan working with the United States Army. He’s using his tech experience as one of the main driving points for his candidacy.

“There are few counties as large or as sophisticated as Fairfax County. With all of the benefits that affords our residents, there comes a set of challenges that are equally as large and sophisticated,” Vega said in a press release. “As our county increasingly relies on new and emerging technologies to solve those challenges, our Board needs a voice that understands those technologies first hand and has spent an entire career solving problems from the battlefield to the classroom.”

Vega told FFXnow that he decided to enter the race now, a full 9 months before the primary and 14 months before the general, because he learned the value of “starting early” from his time training Marines.

“During my time supporting our troops in Afghanistan and years training Marines locally and abroad, I learned first-hand the importance of starting early, having a plan, and adapting often to changing circumstances,” he wrote FFXnow in an email. “That’s exactly how I’m approaching this campaign. Also, following redistricting we have many new residents who call Springfield home. I want to be the first candidate to knock on their door and welcome them to our District.”

He noted that his campaign’s priorities are affordable housing, public safety, local jobs, and protecting the environment.

In Vega’s comments to FFXnow, though not mentioning the incumbent by name, he criticized Herrity for his values not being in sync with the rest of the county or Springfield.

“More times than I can count, I’ve seen the Springfield Board seat used to spout partisan talking points and cast votes in opposition to board items that are consistent with our County’s values and harmful to Springfield,” Vega said. “For example, the recent lone vote was cast against a plan to reduce single use plastics, which frequently wind up in our watersheds such as the Occoquan. Often the supervisor takes no vote at all and leaves the room. Springfield needs a voice on the Board that is actually at the table.”

Herrity first became Springfield District Supervisor in 2007, having won three other elections since. In his latest election in 2019, Herrity narrowly defeated his Democratic opponent by only 441 votes.

In the latest campaign finance report filed in July, Vega has raised about $16,000. Meanwhile, Herrity raised nearly $60,000 during the same time frame.

Vega isn’t the only candidate announcing their intentions to run in 2023 now. In June, Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk announced he’d be seeking reelection next year.

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A road sign for Lee Highway, also known as Route 29, in Merrifield (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Lee and Lee-Jackson highways may officially no more.

In a 9-1 decision, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted to change names of Lee and Lee-Jackson highways to Route 29 and Route 50 respectively.

“This is a necessary and important change for Fairfax County. We will continue to strive to realize our vision of a more equitable One Fairfax,” wrote Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay in a statement.

The move comes after a yearlong review by the county’s Confederate Names Task Force, which called on renaming the highways. The task force submitted recommendations in December.

Overall, updates to signage is expected to cost roughly $1.4 million, according to a county memo. An additional $1.5 million is estimated for a financial assistance program that would affect businesses and residential units that may be impacted by the name change.

That financial assistance program will be developed in the fall through a formal proposal.

Supervisor Pat Herrity — the board’s lone Republican — voted against the proposal. Officially changing the names will require the approval of the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

The vote comes at the heels of a June decision to change the Lee District’s magisterial name to the Franconia District.

Evoking Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, the highways were among 150 sites in the county with names whose Confederate origins were confirmed by a 2020 report from the Fairfax County History Commission. Combined, they represent over 20 miles of roadway from Chantilly on the county’s western end to the Falls Church border in the east.

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Kids play soccer on a synthetic turf (via Fairfax County Park Authority)

Fairfax County is exploring how private partnerships could bring more sports facilities to the area, but the five-year journey has now been slightly prolonged by an additional step.

The Board of Supervisors passed a measure on Tuesday (May 24) directing Fairfax County Park Authority and Neighborhood and Community Services staff to address racial and social equity issues when evaluating potential projects with input from Chief Equity Officer Karla Bruce and her team.

The additional review follows a consultant report released in August 2020 that identified possible Park Authority sites where private businesses could create sports facilities, such as a complex for 16 “rectangular fields” illustrated as soccer fields, another area for 10 baseball fields, an indoor track facility, a natatorium, and more.

The consultants’ report came through the Sports Tourism Task Force that the county created in 2017. One of the group’s several subcommittees involved Alpine-X representatives seeking to build the Fairfax Peak indoor winter slope facility at a landfill in Lorton.

On Tuesday, Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity, who chaired the task force, asked the board to direct the county executive to call for developers to submit public-private partnership proposals as identified in the report.

“Sports tourism facilities are rapidly developing around the East Coast and throughout Virginia,” he said during the meeting. “Vying to meet the demand of this incredibly recession-proof industry, we need to take advantage of our desirable location and extensive sports community by developing the identified sports tourism facilities.”

However, Chairman Jeff McKay modified that motion, clashing with Herrity on how to move forward. McKay said that some areas of the county largely lack these sports sites.

“We have teams, youth leagues throughout this county, that can’t find space today,” McKay said. “Before we…move forward with advancing larger complexes that might be out of reach for some of them, let’s make sure we understand where…inadequacies exist.”

McKay requested that the county create an equity impact assessment on the sports tourism report by the end of 2022.

The board approved consideration of that alternative 9-1, with Herrity dissenting. With Herrity’s original motion dislodged, the board approved the amended board matter 9-0 for a final vote in which Herrity abstained.

Photo via Fairfax County Park Authority

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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