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The anticipated groundbreaking is officially on pause (via Comstock)

The redevelopment of downtown Herndon by Reston-based developer Comstock has been officially been put on pause.

But Fairfax County’s commitment to provide $6.2 million remains unchanged, according to the county.

The plan would redevelop nearly 5 acres of land into a mixed-use project with 273 apartments and roughly 17,000 square feet of retail. An arts center and a 726-space parking garage are also part of the project.

“The market pause has delayed when those payments are expected to be made between the County and the Town due to the construction delays pushing out the previously mentioned payment triggers. The overall obligation remains in place for the County to provide those payments to the Town when those phases are met,” said Scott Sizer, catalytic development division manager of the Fairfax County Department of Economic initiatives.

The county offered two pledges for the public-private partnership. The first agreement of $1.2 million — approved in 2018 — kicks in when Comstock and the Town of Herndon have contributed at least $1.2 million in value for the construction work.

Sizer says that’s expected to happen after building construction begins.

The second agreement states that the county’s contribution of $5 million will happen after the first residential structure gets its first occupant. The payment — which will likely take place at the end of site construction and the beginning of operations of the apartments — will include annual payments over five years, Sizer said.

A spokesperson for Comstock told FFXnow that no timeline is currently available for when the project might begin.

The project, which was expected to break ground nearly two years ago, could be on pause for up to two years, the town stated in July.

The cost of the $101 million project increased by $25 million due to issues related to materials, labor, and workforce restrictions caused by the pandemic, according to town officials.

In addition to support from the county, Comstock will receive $2.5 million in fee reductions and $1.9 million in real estate tax breaks through an ordinance that was established after the town approved the project.

The project has been marred by delays since its inception. Groundbreaking was originally planned for December 2019.

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Morning Notes

I-66 construction in the Oakton area (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Two Face Drug Charges After Seven Corners Police Shooting — “Two men have been charged after an officer-involved shooting that occurred last night at approximately 10:45 p.m. in the 6100 block of Arlington Boulevard in Seven Corners…The officer involved in the shooting has been identified as an 11-year veteran assigned to the Street Crimes Unit.” [FCPD]

Local LGBTQ+ Student Group Speaks Out — Fairfax County’s Pride Liberation Project released a statement backed by more than 600 students criticizing a proposal from the state Department of Education that they fear will classify any references to LGBTQIA+ people and events as sexually explicit. The guidelines address a new law that requires parents to be notified when school materials include sexually explicit content. [The Washington Post]

Meet Reston Association’s New CEO — “On Thursday, July 28, the Reston Association board of directors voted unanimously to confirm Mac Cummins, AICP* as the next chief executive officer of the non-profit organization…Cummins sat for a Q&A with the Connection Newspapers on Friday, July 29.” [Connection Newspapers]

Police Chief Addresses Staffing Emergency — The Fairfax County Police Department declared a personnel emergency last week, requiring officers to work mandatory overtime to compensate for staff shortages. Chief Kevin Davis says the department’s 189 operational vacancies are exceptionally high, though 51 recruits currently in the academy will eventually join the force. [ABC7]

Back in Nature, Snake Found in Fairfax Is Healing — “K2C Wildlife Encounters, LLC, received a call on June 5 from a Fairfax resident who had a snake in their backyard that they wanted removed…The female, eastern ratsnake had a torn jugular vein, a hole in her trachea, a protruding eye, numerous lacerations, and broken ribs.” [Patch]

New FCPS Teachers Prepare for School Year — “Minutello and Edinborough are among the newest teachers in Virginia’s largest school system, and are starting at a time when staffing challenges are making headlines. The county had hundreds of vacancies at the end of the last school year, but 97% of staffing positions have been filled as of last week, Superintendent Michelle Reid said.” [WTOP]

Centreville’s Ellanor C. Lawrence Park Lot to Temporarily Close — “The parking lot and entrance for Cabell’s Mill will be closed from Aug. 8 through Oct. 7, 2022, for construction. Work related to the new Stewardship Education Center will include a larger parking lot that will include features and a design that will better control and filter water from rain and runoff from the adjacent neighborhood.” [FCPA]

State Sales Tax Holiday Starts Tomorrow — “The 3-day sales tax holiday starts the first Friday in August at 12:01 am and ends the following Sunday at 11:59 pm…During the sales tax holiday, you can buy qualifying school supplies, clothing, footwear, hurricane and emergency preparedness items, and Energy Star™ and WaterSense™ products without paying sales tax.” [Virginia Department of Taxation]

It’s Thursday — Humid throughout the day. High of 95 and low of 76. Sunrise at 6:14 am and sunset at 8:18 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

A flock of birds flies over Route 123 in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Real Estate Taxes Due Today — For Fairfax County property owners, it’s the final day to send in the first installment of your annual real estate taxes, which saw significant increases this year even with a 3-cent reduction in the county’s rate. Payments can be made to the Department of Tax Administration by phone, mail, drop box, mobile app and online. [DTA]

Springfield Man Convicted in 2020 Murder — A jury convicted Carlington Fitz Auther Campbell yesterday (Wednesday) for shooting and killing Anthony Sullivan outside a West Springfield apartment in November 2020, Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano announced. Campbell was found guilty of second-degree murder and a weapons charge, which carry possible prison sentences of five to 40 years and three years, respectively. [WUSA9]

Decision on Mosaic District Skating Rink Postponed — “Because of some public pushback, unresolved questions and a legal-advertising snafu, the Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) on July 13 deferred until September its decision on whether to allow temporary ice- and roller-skating rinks in Merrifield’s Mosaic District.” [Sun Gazette]

Fairfax City Veterinarian Helps Ukraine Animal Shelters — “Dr. Courtney Katsur chokes up when she describes what she saw while volunteering for two weeks in Ukraine. The veterinarian with Town & Country Animal Hospital in Fairfax tried for months to find a way to get to the war zone to help animals she was seeing in the news.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Clinics Available for Required Student Vaccinations — “Before students return to school in late August, families can check to ensure their students are up to date on immunizations required at Fairfax County Public Schools. The Fairfax County Health Department is offering appointments at upcoming immunization clinics.” [Patch]

Inova to Rebrand Urgent Care Centers With Partnership — Inova Health System will soon let patients make appointments, check wait times and more through the on-demand health care platform GoHealth Urgent Care. Announced yesterday (Wednesday), the joint venture will convert seven existing Inova Urgent Care locations in Northern Virginia into Inova-GoHealth Urgent Care centers later this year, with additional locations planned. [Inova]

Penn Daw Firefighters Help Mow Lawn — “Recently, Station 11, Penn Daw, B-Shift responded to a routine EMS incident for an elderly gentleman experiencing distress while mowing his lawn on one of the hottest days of the year. The #FCFRD crew assisted the gentlemen, and then completed mowing his lawn prior to leaving.” [FCFRD/Twitter]

Park Authority Fall Registration Begins Next Week — “Fairfax County Park Authority registration for fall classes and programs opens Aug. 2, 2022. Fall classes will be in full swing with programs at Rec Centers, nature centers, historic sites, lakefront parks, golf courses and schools. Virtual classes are available for those who prefer or cannot attend in person.” [FCPA]

McLean Lidl Hosts Kids’ Drawing Contest — “Lidl is holding a drawing competition for children at its new McLean store as part of a benefit for the SHARE of McLean food bank. Starting Wednesday, children can participate in the drawing competition, with a chance to win a $100 Lidl gift card…Once the competition closes on Wednesday, Aug. 3, Lidl will narrow down the entries and ask McLean community members to vote for their favorite piece of art.” [Patch]

It’s Thursday — Humid and mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 86 and low of 75. Sunrise at 6:08 am and sunset at 8:25 pm. [Weather.gov]

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A plastic grocery bag (via Christopher Vega/Unsplash)

Fairfax County is on track to bring in more than $1 million in revenue from the first year of its plastic bag tax.

In the first five months after the tax took effect on Jan. 1, the county government received over $500,000, the Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination said in a memo to the Board of Supervisors.

That’s even with retailers allowed to retain two out of every five cents collected on each disposable plastic bag they distribute in 2022, a provision intended to offset the costs of transitioning away from plastic for businesses.

The OEEC projects that the tax will generate $1.2 million for the county over its inaugural year.

“Revenue is likely to fluctuate in the first few years of implementation,” OEEC Director Kambiz Agazi wrote to the board, noting that the amount of the tax retained by retailers will drop to one cent on Jan. 1, 2023. “…As has been observed in other jurisdictions with a plastic bag tax, over the long term, tax revenue is likely to trend downward as consumers begin reducing their use of disposable plastic bags.”

The revenue that the county has “regrettably” collected so far suggests many community members haven’t gotten into the habit yet of bringing their own bags to grocery stores and other businesses, Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck observed yesterday (Tuesday) at the end of the board’s environmental committee meeting.

By a matter of days, Fairfax County became the first locality in Northern Virginia to adopt a plastic bag tax in September. The 5-cent levy was enabled by a 2020 state law and is supposed to encourage people to use more sustainable alternatives.

Under the law, revenue can be used to support educational programs, clean up pollution and litter, and provide reusable bags to people who receive federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Women, Infants and Children (WIC) food benefits.

In his memo, Agazi proposes allocating $511,000 already accrued from the tax to existing county programs, including:

The plan also designates funding for technology that collects litter in county waterways, gloves and other materials for volunteer stream cleanups, and reusable bags for SNAP and WIC recipients, food pantries, and farmers’ markets.

For future beneficiaries, staff proposed having a formal process where county agencies apply for funding. A project selection committee would prioritize the submitted projects, which would then be reviewed by the county’s chief financial officer and Department of Management and Budget.

In addition to meeting the state criteria for the plastic bag tax, the projects would have to be based in the county or part of a regional initiative that directly benefits the county and scheduled to start in the same year that money is requested. They also can’t require new, permanent staff positions, be part of the capital improvement program, or have other sources of funding.

“This is an opportunity for us to repurpose those funds, if you will, to hopefully make a difference in our environmental management,” Storck said.

Photo via Christopher Vega/Unsplash

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Morning Notes

The Vienna bookstore Bards Alley celebrated its fifth anniversary this past weekend (staff photo by Pia Kramer)

GW Parkway Rehab Breaks Ground in McLean — “Top federal and local officials participated in a groundbreaking ceremony Monday morning on a $161 [million] project to upgrade the northern section of the George Washington Memorial Parkway.” [Patch]

W&OD Trail Detour Starts in Reston — “In preparation for the future bridge there, underground utilities along the trail on the west side of Wiehle Ave in Reston are being relocated, necessitating a detour to the gravel trail to the north. This detour will be in effect from Tues, July 19 to Fri, July 22.” [W&OD Trail/Twitter]

Plastic Bag Tax Coming to Fairfax City — “Effective Jan. 1, 2023, disposable plastic bags provided at point of sale to consumers at grocery stores, convenience stores, and drugstores in Fairfax City will be subject to a 5 cent tax. To avoid the tax, consumers can provide their own reusable shopping bags, or opt out of bags altogether.” [City of Fairfax]

NoVA Leaders Advocate for More Express Lanes — “Northern Virginia has been transformed for the last decade by Express Lanes projects and regional leaders say more of the same is needed — including over the Potomac River and into Maryland — if the metropolitan area is to continue thriving.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Wegmans Plans Hiring Event for Reston Store — “Wegmans Food Markets will be hosting a virtual hiring event Thursday to fill 100 full-time positions at its new Reston grocery store, which is set to open in early 2023…The virtual hiring event will run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., on Thursday.” [Patch]

County Brings Public Safety Talks to Barbershops — “@fairfaxhealth along with @FairfaxCountyPD and @FairfaxCSB is hosting a series of conversations at barbershops around the county. The focus will be on community policing, substance abuse, and building trust in our community. No RSVP is required.” [Fairfax County Government/Twitter]

Vienna Student Wins State Tennis Title — “Unlike the previous season, Simone Bergeron was totally satisfied with her perfect campaign in girls tennis this past spring. The Madison Warhawks junior capped the 2022 season by winning the Virginia High School League’s Class 6 girls state-championship singles tournament.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Tuesday — Humid and mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 87 and low of 74. Sunrise at 6:00 am and sunset at 8:33 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Town of Vienna sign on Maple Avenue (file photo)

Vienna residents’ next property tax bills won’t be quite as high as anticipated, even as the town commits to raising employee salaries and other additional costs.

The Vienna Town Council voted unanimously last night (Monday) to adopt a $48.7 million budget for fiscal year 2022-2023 with a real estate tax rate of 20.5 cents per $100 of assessed value — a 1.75-cent cut from the current rate. The new budget will be in effect from July 1 through June 30, 2023.

This will be the 10th consecutive year that the town has reduced or maintained its real estate tax rate, according to a news release.

With the average residential tax bill expected to increase 3.7% from last year due to rising assessment values, the council had urged staff to lower the tax rate beyond the 1-cent reduction initially proposed by Town Manager Mercury Payton.

“I think we did a good thing to help all residents in Vienna, but also, we were fiscally responsible,” Mayor Linda Colbert said after the vote. “We still have the rainy day fund and so on.”

Even with the increased tax cut, the adopted budget is 12.7% larger than the current spending plan, thanks to an “unusually large” surplus from fiscal year 2020-2021 and revenues bouncing back after two years of declines during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to town staff.

Parks and recreation fees have returned to pre-pandemic levels, jumping from $991,000 in fiscal year 2021-2022 to $1.1 million in the newly adopted budget, Director of Finance Marion Serfass told the town council.

The town also has also seen strong sales and meals tax revenues. The latter rose 23% to $3.2 million, according to budget documents, which attribute the increase to “easing pandemic conditions, creative solutions to restaurant dining including outdoor dining opportunities, and several new restaurants opening.”

The adopted budget includes a 4% salary increase for all eligible employees, on top of a 3% increase that was approved with last year’s surplus funds but deferred to the coming fiscal year. It also establishes a new, separate pay plan for the Vienna Police Department to “address challenges with officer recruitment and retention,” the town says.

In his overview for the budget, Payton noted that most town employees will see a 11.7% increase in health insurance premiums.

“The salary increase will assist employees in recovering those increases and also address inflation, wage pressure and employee retention concerns,” he wrote.

On top of the budget and real estate tax rate, the town council approved increases to the water and sewer rates of 2.6% and 3.8%, respectively. Fixed service charges will also go up by 4.8%, from $31.30 to $32.80 per quarter for most residential customers.

The average residential customer will see an overall increase of $10 per quarter, or $40 annually, in their bill.

According to the town, the service charges increase is necessary to bring them “in line with industry standards.” Serfass said the town’s utilization of federal coronavirus relief funds for $5 million in infrastructure costs prevented rates from growing even faster.

Vienna was allocated a total of $17.1 million by the American Rescue Plan Act, about $13 million of which the town intends to spend on water, sewer, park, street, and sidewalk infrastructure projects. The second half of the funds are expected to come in June.

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Fairfax County Government Center (file photo)

While many Fairfax County homeowners are bracing for jumps in their real estate tax assessments, the overall property tax burden on commercial and industrial property owners is projected to drop.

With the market upended by the pandemic, telecommuting, and other factors, the county’s property tax revenue for commercial and industrial properties will decrease by $8 million for fiscal year 2023, which starts July 1.

Meanwhile, the residential property tax base will increase by $155 million after a surge in housing demand fueled rising assessments. Bills are expected to increase even with the Board of Supervisors planning to reduce the tax rate when it adopts a new budget on Tuesday (May 10).

Real estate taxes are the primary funding source for county services, including schools, fire, police, social services, libraries and parks.

The residential property tax base is projected to bring in $2.2 billion for the current fiscal year 2022, which concludes on June 30. With 240 new parcels and the tax rate change in the coming fiscal year, the properties will produce a 6.9% increase in revenue.

Commercial and industrial taxes should generate nearly $550 million for fiscal year 2022, but the base only added two more parcels, resulting in a 1.5% reduction in anticipated revenue.

“Commercial assessments were down almost across the board last year (FY 22) because of the pandemic,” a county spokesperson said in an email. “Some property types dropped in value more than others. For this year (FY23), the effects of the pandemic have started to subside, and commercial property values have, by and large, started to recover. As with the previous year’s assessments, not every commercial property type is recovering at the same rate.”

Offices and other commercial properties are assessed based on the income they produce for the property owner, according to the county. The value of some commercial property types — such as gas stations, fast food restaurants, and commercial condominium units — is determined “using a sales comparison approach,” the county says.

Delinquent taxes weren’t included in figures the county provided, and Public Service Corporations assessments, such as utility taxes, were excluded because they are assessed separately by the state.

County staff said that while the ratio changes from year to year, residential properties typically make up approximately 75% of the tax base.

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Morning Notes

Caliburger is among the retailers coming to The Boro in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Filler-Corn Ousted as House Minority Leader — Tasked with trying to retake a majority in 2023 — or this year, pending the outcome of a court case — the Virginia House Democratic Caucus removed former Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn as their leader in a secret ballot vote yesterday (Wednesday). Filler-Corn, who represents part of Fairfax County as the 41st District delegate, was the first woman and first Jewish person to serve as speaker in the chamber’s 400-year history. [Richmond Times-Dispatch]

Tysons Housing Project Lands Big Bucks — On Tuesday (May 3), officials from Fairfax County, the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, and more will announce a $55 million investment in the Dominion Square West project. The county says the funds will allow APAH to construct two planned buildings, instead of just the one that has been approved, accelerating the delivery of over 500 units of affordable housing. [Fairfax County HCD]

Herndon Police on Lookout for Missing Teen — “Town of Herndon Police are asking the public’s help in locating a runaway teenager, according to a post on the department’s office Twitter account. Bryan Escalante Gomez, 17, was last seen by his family at 7:45 p.m., on Sunday.” [Patch]

FCPS Updates Covid Isolation Policy — “In a message to families Wednesday, Fairfax County Public Schools said that starting May 1, students who test positive can return to in-person classes, activities and sporting events after at least five days of isolation. Previously, 10 days of isolation were required.” [WTOP]

Vienna Lowers Tax Rate — “The Vienna Town Council voted [on Monday, April 25] to reduce the Town’s property tax rate by 1.75 cents to 20.5 cents per $100 of assessed value. The new rate is .75 cents lower than the one cent reduction in the proposed FY2023 budget presented by the Town Manager in March.” [Town of Vienna]

Huntington Gets New Latino Supermarket — “There’s a new grocery store in the area. Juana Supermarket officially opened its doors on Saturday (April 23). The new store replaced the La Latina Market at 5838 N. King’s Highway in the Huntington Station Shopping Center.” [ALXnow]

Summer Music Series Schedule Announced — “Fairfax County Park Authority’s Summer Entertainment Series is back! This year the Summer Entertainment Series features more shows at 18 locations, a new global dance and music series Wednesday evenings in Falls Church, Starlight drive-in movies in Centreville Saturday evenings in August, plus 180 live performances to choose from.” [FCPA]

Peloton Instructor Plans Tysons Book Talk — “Beloved Peloton instructor Tunde Oyeneyin is launching a debut book titled Speak, and on May 3 — the day the book comes out — she’ll be hosting the first stop on her book tour at Tysons Galleria…Seats for the event are already sold out, but the event remains open to the public, and additional guests are welcome to join for standing room.” [Washingtonian]

It’s Thursday — Clear throughout the day. High of 56 and low of 33. Sunrise at 6:16 am and sunset at 8:00 pm. [Weather.gov]

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The Fairfax County government logo (staff photo by David Taube)

On average, Fairfax County residential property owners will see a bigger hike in their tax bills this year than at any other point in the 21st century.

Based on a real estate tax rate three cents lower than what was originally advertised, the average increase of $465 will come once the Board of Supervisors officially adopts a budget on May 10 for fiscal year 2023, which starts July 1.

The spending plan calls for numerous compensation increases, as the county government struggles to fill worker vacancies, along with funding for other initiatives, such as affordable housing and county parks.

At a meeting yesterday (Tuesday), the board agreed 9-1 on a set of adjustments to the proposed budget that County Executive Bryan Hill presented in February. Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity, the lone Republican, dissented, saying that he supports the planned employee raises but feels costs could’ve been cut elsewhere.

Fairfax County real estate tax rates per $100 of assessed value (numbers calculated via Fairfax County budget documents)

“This is not a budget I can support given the very realistic options to bring down the rate much further,” Herrity said. “We need…to get back to reviewing programs for effectiveness and some for elimination.”

He said the upcoming budget includes the most significant increase in real estate taxes since 2006, when the board dropped the tax rate 11 cents and kept it flat at 89 cents in 2007 as the county sought to move past the housing bubble and financial crisis.

As consideration items for the budget mark-up, Herrity proposed eliminating $81.3 million from the county’s funds for Fairfax County Public Schools and a “$96.4 million surplus…to reduce the taxpayer burden,” among other cuts.

Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw, responding to Herrity’s comments, said the average tax bill is increasing less than inflation. That consumer rate was 8.5%, as of March, over the last 12 months, whereas the average residential property tax rate increase would be 6.7%.

In other budget years, the average bill has increased anywhere from $19 to $360 in today’s dollars. Among those increases, property owners typically face $170 upticks on average, adjusted for inflation. Read More

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The Fairfax County Government Center on a spring day (staff photo by David Taube)

Property tax bills are poised to go up — but somewhat less than initially expected.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ budget policy committee discussed a plan on Friday (April 22) to set the property tax rate at $1.11 per $100 of assessed property value, a 3-cent decrease from the current rate.

However, due to increased assessments, property tax bills will still increase by $465 on average, or 6.7%, according to a county projection.

The board is also planning to provide relief for personal property taxes on vehicles, following a staff recommendation. Those bills would only be taxed at 85% of an automobile’s assessment, meaning the average bill would be $307. That’s a $78 increase from the current year.

The proposed budget for fiscal year 2023, which begins July 1, also increases sewer service and base charges.

The board kept the record open for comments following three days of budget hearings April 12-14. Many people called for more funding to parks and other initiatives, while others called for property tax relief.

The board is also moving to provide higher compensation increases than what County Executive Bryan Hill included in the advertised budget released in February. It hopes to improve employee recruitment and retention amid a 15% vacancy rate as of mid-March.

Other planned changes from the advertised budget include more funding for parks, nonprofits, and the arts.

The board will mark up the budget at 10 a.m. tomorrow (Tuesday) and is slated to adopt it May 10.

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