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The annual Herndon Festival will return in full for 2023 (via Herndon Festival/Instagram)

The Herndon Festival will return this year in the summer, bringing back a tradition that was scaled back to a carnival last year.

The festival is set to take place from June 1-4 at the Northwest Federal Credit Union campus (200 Spring Street). The credit union is the title sponsor for the free event.

The town announced the coming of the festival yesterday (Thursday), unveiling a new logo and media package.

But a town spokesperson said it was too early to share details on the planned scope of the festival.

“We are finalizing the scope of the festival in the coming weeks and will be able to announce more information soon,” Reid Okoniewski, a spokesperson for the town’s parks and recreation department told FFXnow in a statement.

Last year, the town organized an alternative to the annual festival — a carnival — at the same venue. The format of event to help the town transition back to hosting large-scale events following the height of the pandemic, FFXnow previously reported.

Photo via Herndon Festival/Instagram

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A car on Sunrise Valley Drive passes the Innovation Metro station (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County is again asking the state for money to offset anticipated reductions in resident vehicle tax payments.

At a meeting on Tuesday (Jan. 24), the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a letter written by Chairman Jeff McKay for Gov. Glenn Youngkin, asking him to include money in his budget for localities to blunt the impact of a 15% decrease in car tax revenue.

“We all heard last year the complaints that came in. I don’t think people understand that we don’t set the value of cars. They are set by others,” Chairman Jeff McKay said. “So, the tool that we had in our toolbox was to automatically put a reduction in value on all those vehicles in the county. Even with that, most people’s…tax bills went up.”

Over the last several years, used car prices have increased dramatically, though they’ve started to come down in recent weeks. Because of that, many county taxpayers are paying significantly more in personal property tax — also known as the “car tax.”

Last year, the Board approved assessing vehicles at only 85% of market value in order to give some relief to county taxpayers. That came after Youngkin signed legislation giving localities express permission to do that, in accordance with the Dillon Rule.

However, the county relies on that money as part of its tax revenue to fund services. In 1998, Virginia passed the Personal Property Tax Relief Act, which dictates that the state should offer car tax relief and subsidize localities for lost revenue owed on the first $20,000 of a vehicle’s value.

But the amount of funding provided to localities hasn’t changed since 2007, and Virginia now provides 20% less relief. In other words, both taxpayers and the county government are getting significantly less money from the state than they did 16 years ago.

After cutting another 15% for fiscal year 2023, which began July 1, 2022, the Fairfax County board is asking to get more money back from the state — a request also made to the governor last year, McKay’s board matter notes.

Youngkin has suggested cutting the car tax entirely, but county officials have expressed some trepidation about the consequences unless the money is reimbursed. McKay said reimbursement might be possible now considering the state’s nearly $2 billion surplus.

“While either the state or county could eliminate car taxes all together, the state should honor its pledge of 1998 to eliminate the car tax while reimbursing local governments for lost revenue,” the letter to Youngkin says. “It is essential and possible, particularly as the state currently sits on a significant surplus, to allocate adequate funding to provide residents with effective personal property tax relief.”

Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw argued that the state can’t truly claim to have a surplus until “the Commonwealth pays its bills…and this is an example.”

“If it doesn’t happen this year with the surplus that exists, it ain’t going to happen next year or the year after that,” he said.

While the governor already released his budget last month, amendments — including one to offset lost vehicle tax revenue — could still happen at the direction of the General Assembly.

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COO Larry Butler will retire in the summer after more than 40 years with Reston Association (courtesy RA)

Reston Association‘s COO Larry Butler is officially retiring after more than 40 years with the organization.

His retirement comes after a lengthy career with RA that began when he took a position as a seasonal employee in the spring of 1982.

“Most memorable for me are the life-long friends I have made with the staff and many in the community with whom I have worked,” Butler said.  “For the next chapter of my life, I look forward to many adventures including hiking, biking, fishing and spending more time with my family and friends — preferably in the woods somewhere.”

In a press release, RA said Butler was instrumental in starting RA’s lakes and watershed management programs. He also spent several years on the North American Lake Management Society’s board of directors and served as the organization’s president.

Although he left Reston Association in the mid-1990s to work for the Ashburn Village Community Association, he returned to serve as RA’s director of parks and recreation.

He also helped with fundraising efforts for the Nature House, converted the Southgate Pool into a county-operated community center, and helped with the installation of the Browns Chapel Little League Field.

Butler’s colleagues lauded him for his contributions to the organization.

“He has truly been Mr. RA. The familiar face of the organization for decades bringing continuity and stability even during some rocky times,” RA President Sarah Selvaraj-D’Souza said. “The RA Board is forever grateful to Larry for his leadership, historical knowledge, and most of all his service and commitment to Reston and all Restonians. He will truly be missed.”

RA CEO Mike Cummins called Butler’s impact on the community “profound.”

“He has served in nearly every capacity in our organization and has led our operations and various services in leadership capacities throughout his career here,” Cummins said. “The community owes him much, and the staff is blessed to have had a chance to work with him.”

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Morning Notes

A woman walks her dog at Lake Anne Plaza (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The President Stops by Springfield — Joe Biden discussed his economic plans yesterday (Thursday) at the Springfield campus of Steamfitters Local 602, a labor union for D.C. area contract workers in the heating, cooling and air-conditioning piping industry. The presidential motorcade took over I-395 during rush hour after the event, which was attended by Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay and Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn. [Twitter]

Free Flu Vaccine Clinic Tomorrow — The Fairfax County Health Department will provide free flu vaccinations at its Mount Vernon District Office (8350 Richmond Highway, Suite 233) from 8 a.m. to noon tomorrow (Saturday). Shots usually cost $25 for uninsured adults, $21.24 for uninsured kids and $30 with private insurance. Call 703-246-7100 to make an appointment. [FCHD/Twitter]

Senate Tables Silver Line Casino Bill — “A last-minute bill submitted by State Sen. David Marsden (D-Burke) that would’ve paved the way for casinos to be built within a mile of Silver Line Metro Stations in Fairfax County was killed in committee on Wednesday afternoon…When news of the casino bill became more widely known, Fairfax County officials spoke out against it.” [Patch]

Metro Plans to Boost Frequency of Trains — “Metro will improve train arrival times in February, but only on certain lines during the busiest times and days. Starting Feb. 7, trains will pull into Blue and Orange Line stations every 12 minutes during the new peak rush hours — Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 6-9 a.m. and 3-6 p.m.” [DCist]

Funding Approved for Housing at Government Center — “At the January 19th meeting of the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority (FCRHA), Commissioners approved up to $14 million to finance Phase 1 of the Residences at Government Center II, a new 279-unit development of affordable housing in the Braddock District.” [Housing and Community Development]

Great Falls Resident Says Library Speaker Fees Too High — A Great Falls resident who objected to Dolley Madison Library hosting a “Drag StoryBook Hour” and the availability of LBGTQ-centered books in local schools is now taking issue with the fees that Fairfax County Public Library pays invited speakers. The system has spent $53,100 on four authors so far this fiscal year. [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Funding Sought for Bus Route From Skyline to HQ2 — Arlington County will seek up to $8 million in regional funding for a new Metrobus route that would link the Skyline neighborhood in Bailey’s Crossroads to Amazon’s second headquarters in Pentagon City via Columbia Pike. An increase in ridership is expected after the first phase of Amazon’s new campus opens later this year. [ARLnow]

Omnium Circus Returning to Tysons — “Omnium Circus offers a uniquely accessible and inclusive day of family-friendly fun this February. We talked with Lisa Lewis, the Executive Director and founder of Omnium Circus, about this year’s show at Capital One Hall.” [Capital One Hall]

It’s Friday — Clear throughout the day. High of 43 and low of 31. Sunrise at 7:20 am and sunset at 5:25 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Roer’s Zoofari, a popular zoo and safari in Reston, is under new ownership and will reopen as Nova Wild in early March. 

Nova Wild says it plans to revitalize the local treasure and create a non-profit, community-focused zoo for children of all ages. 

“Our intent is to revitalize a beloved Reston Gem,” Joshua Reid, the spokesperson for the company, said. “Nova Wild is proudly under new ownership, and everything is changing.”

A drive-through safari is expected to open in early February before the full zoo opens in early March.

The change in ownership took place on Dec. 30. Vanessa and Jacob Roer were the previous owners. Reid describes the new owner — Tara Campbell Lussieras a former Reston resident and longtime friend. Lussier is a real estate agent and serial entrepreneur. 

Next month, the new owners will launch a light show called “The Great Migration,” which will allow participants to explore 10 animal habitats and learn about wildlife from around the world, along with the trails that run through the property. It’ll feature more than 800,000 LED lights.

The show is slated to take place on Feb. 17 through April 9 from 4:30-8:30 p.m. 

Nova Wild plans a three-pronged approach to the zoo: animal welfare, education and conservation. It described itself as an accredited facility on its website. 

We have secured the highest levels of accreditation, above and beyond federal, state, and local requirements. We are proudly accredited by the Zoological Association of America and certified by American Humane,” the website says.

Reid says the company plans to “expand on animals, offerings, ethics, and family-friendly adventure,” but declined to comment further.

“The architectural renderings planned improvements are still under production. A family-friendly atmosphere will always remain,” he said.

This isn’t the first time the zoo has changed hands. Vanessa and Jacob Roer took ownership of the facility in 2016, when it was called Reston Zoo. 

The zoo was shaken by tragedy in 2021 when a fire killed two giraffes: Waffles — a giraffe described as the heart of the zoo — and his new companion, Belgian. 

The fire originated from a heater that was being used in the area. A petition called for the zoo to be shut down for “inhumane treatment of animals,” though other than the fire, all of the incidents cited occurred under previous owners.

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The Tysons location you want. The luxurious features and finishes you desire. The thoughtful amenities you deserve. This is Monarch — Tysons’ only new high-rise condominium building — opening Spring 2023.

Monarch offers exceptional privacy, serene outdoor spaces, white glove services, stunning interiors, and incredible views. Complementing the surrounding natural beauty and energy of Tysons, Monarch provides the ultimate luxury escape from the urban hustle with spaces that maximize flow and function.

Each residence offers an abundance of natural light, expansive views, chef’s kitchen, and spacious private outdoor living areas, with some featuring direct-entry elevators. From the richly lacquered cabinetry to the inspiring floor-to-ceiling windows, Monarch is defined by the details you will rediscover daily.

Let our 24-hour Concierge assist with everything from selecting a fine dining restaurant to coordinating a private party. Monarch is the only new condominium community in Tysons offering this level of superior service, designed to indulge and pamper its residents each and every day.

Whether you’re admiring the grand lobby, working out in the state-of-the-art fitness center, lounging next to the sparkling blue waters of the pool, or enjoying sunset cocktails on the terrace, Monarch makes a statement at every turn.

Located on the sophisticated side of Tysons — and backing to the park-like oasis that is Arbor Row — world-class shopping, dining, and entertainment experiences are only a block away. The nearby Silver Line Metro connects residents with everything Washington, D.C., and Dulles International Airport, where the whole world awaits just beyond.

Monarch is the pinnacle of condominium living in Tysons, where even a “quiet evening at home” becomes something extraordinary.

The Atrium at Worldgate office building in Herndon (via Google Maps)

A new economic development hub is officially open in the Town of Herndon.

The George Mason Enterprise Center has opened in Office Evolution, a shared office space, at 205 Van Buren Street to support small and emerging businesses in an effort to support Herndon’s economic growth.

A ribbon cutting is slated for March 16, though the center has already begun providing services, a spokesperson for the center told FFXnow.

The town is the fifth locality to partner with the George Mason University center, which offers services like business advisory sessions, educational workshops, and training on other federal and state programs.

“We are thrilled to continue the success of the Mason Enterprise Centers with this expansion by bringing Mason assets directly into the Herndon business community,” said Paula Sorrell, Mason’s associate vice president of innovation and economic development.

The center will also grow its services, including providing access to health insurance, payroll support and other business-related services. Patrons will have access to Mason classroom and research projects, as well as capstone students and interns.

“We are delighted to partner with the Mason Enterprise Center and Office Evolution in creating this space for businesses to grow and prosper,” Herndon Mayor Sheila Olem said. “We look forward to welcoming many new enterprises to the town as a result of this collaboration.”

GMU’s other enterprise centers are in Leesburg, Fairfax, Warrenton, and Springfield.

Photo via Google Maps

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Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay (file photo)

Fairfax County’s top priorities for 2023 will be increasing mental health services, boosting police retention, addressing commercial office vacancies, and improving pedestrian safety, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay says.

Adequately addressing those needs, though, requires more financial help and local authority from Virginia’s General Assembly, he told FFXnow in an interview.

With the county increasingly reliant on real estate taxes, officials expect this budget cycle to be one of the most challenging in a decade.

As property values rise, the tax burden on property owners is already “significant” and hurting residents, McKay said. To not “exacerbate” the situation, the county likely needs to lower the real estate tax rate.

“I personally believe absolutely we have to reduce the tax rate as a part of this next budget,” McKay said.

Continued recovery from the pandemic is paramount, informing all the board’s priorities for the upcoming year, McKay said.

While economic recovery from the pandemic tends to get a lot of attention, there remains “a lot of work to do” on human services, according to the chairman.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is the ongoing growth of mental health challenges, especially with some of our young people,” McKay said. “I do think that a good chunk of that is a byproduct of what we’ve been through with Covid.”

Mental health-related challenges affect everything from police calls to unemployment and schools, he said. The county’s current budget gave close to $186 million to the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board, which provides support services.

McKay believes the state’s $37 million contribution isn’t enough, arguing that mental health funding should be “primarily a state responsibility.”

“This is something the state has to get really serious about addressing,” he said. “Frankly, if they provided the level of support that the county did, we probably wouldn’t have near the mental health challenges in Virginia that we have now.”

Increasing mental health services could mean more educational programs, staffing, and supportive programs.

It also ties into public safety, as the Fairfax County Police Department struggles with understaffing and retention. McKay says officers are being asked to take on responsibilities that they shouldn’t have to handle.

“Increasingly our police are almost being asked to be mental health clinicians [when then are] mental health service calls,” he said. “It’s stressing them out and getting people not interested in joining police departments.”

In 2021, the county instituted a co-responder program where a crisis intervention specialist joins police officers on certain mental health-related calls. Alongside the county’s Diversion First program, launched in 2016, it provides treatment to individuals instead of incarceration. McKay says the programs need to “grow dramatically.” Read More

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Morning Notes

Construction on the Reston Town Center fountain seen from an 11th-story office (photo by Jeff Fielding)

Woman Killed in Mantua House Fire Identified — “86-year-old Crista Mensh was identified on Wednesday as the fatality from a house fire that fire crews believe originated from a natural Christmas tree…Total damages of the home cost over $615,000, Fairfax County fire confirmed.” [ABC7]

Suspects in Gaming Machine Thefts Arrested — “Two Maryland men were taken into custody [Tuesday], roughly two hours after the latest in a series of gaming machines thefts from area convenience stores. At 8:55 p.m. on Jan. 24, Fairfax County police officers were dispatched to the 7-Eleven at 8434 Frye Road…A store employee called saying two men just stole a gaming machine, loading the machine into a silver truck before leaving west on Frye Road.” [FCPD]

FCPS Recruiting Efforts Underway — Fairfax County Public Schools “has started hiring teachers for the 2023-24 school year, with a focus on filling vacancies at schools with large shares of students from low-income families. During a school board work session this week, Chief Operating Officer Marty Smith said Fairfax County Public Schools hired 51 teachers last week and has a pool with ’40 qualified candidates.'” [WTOP]

Fairfax Street Name Change Causes Confusion — The Joseph Willard Health Center has a new address of 3750 Blenheim Blvd. after Fairfax City renamed 14 of its streets, effective Jan. 1. Because “some websites, maps, and direction services are not yet updated,” the change “has caused some people to miss their appointments.” [Fairfax County Health Department]

Police Seek Suspect in Fairfax Vehicle Shootings — “City of Fairfax Police are asking the public’s help in identifying a man they say may have information about a shooting incident on Fairfax Boulevard in early December, according to a release. Two vehicles traveling on Fairfax Boulevard around 1:50 a.m., on Dec. 8, were struck by gunfire, according to police.” [Patch]

Feedback Sought on School Year Calendars — “Your feedback is important! FCPS is seeking community input on the draft calendar options for the 2023-24, 2024-25, and 2025-26 school years. Please share your thoughts with us by filling out this form before Tuesday, January 31, 1 p.m. The form will be available in other languages soon.” [FCPS]

Belle Haven Apartment Complex Opens — “The Belhaven Apartments, a multifamily residential building located at Kings Crossing in Alexandria, has completed several units for tenant move-in and actively begun leasing them. Managed by Fairfield, The Belhaven offers studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments and has a limited number of units available under Fairfax County’s Workforce Dwelling Unit affordable housing program.” [On the MoVe]

Virginia Considers Markers for “Green Book” Sites — “Virginia may soon have road signs marking significant spots from the Jim Crow era, when Black Americans often had to be careful about where they went and which businesses they walked into. Under a bill passed by the House of Delegates Tuesday, Virginia would add historical markers showing ‘Green Book’ sites across the state.” [WTOP]

It’s Thursday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 51 and low of 37. Sunrise at 7:21 am and sunset at 5:24 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Town of Herndon police (courtesy Herndon Police Department)

A pedestrian has been taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries after being hit by a vehicle, the Herndon Police Department says.

The crash has prompted a full closure of Van Buren Street between Spring Street and Aspen Drive “for accident reconstruction,” according to police.

This is the first crash involving a pedestrian reported in the Fairfax County area this year. Northern Virginia saw a sharp uptick in pedestrian fatalities in 2022, led by 32 in Fairfax County — the most recorded in the county since at least 2010.

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