Newsletter

Bicyclist crosses Wiehle Avenue in Reston at site of future bridge (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The weekend is almost here. Before the remnants of Hurricane Ian arrive or you head to bed for some much-needed sleep, let’s revisit the past week of news in Fairfax County.

Here are the 10 most-read stories on FFXnow this week:

  1. Metro unveils new map with addition of Silver Line extension
  2. Alcorn shuts door on possibility of redeveloping Reston National Golf Course
  3. Uniqlo opens Fair Lakes store, its first in an open-air shopping center
  4. Students across Fairfax County protest proposed policies limiting transgender student rights
  5. Convenience store approved for longtime family-owned gas station in Springfield
  6. Police: Motorcyclist died after crash on I-495 near Inova Fairfax
  7. Remains found in Tysons identified as teen who disappeared 47 years ago
  8. Reston’s Halley Rise development to feature new urban farm, fall festival
  9. NEW: McKay believes ‘safe legal ground’ if FCPS defies state’s draft policies on transgender students
  10. For owner Amir Mostafavi, South Block coming to McLean brings life ‘full circle’

Ideas for potential stories can be sent to [email protected] or submitted as an anonymous tip. Photos of scenes from around the county are welcome too, with credit always given to the photographer.

Feel free to discuss these topics, your weekend plans, or anything else that’s happening locally in the comments below. Have a great weekend, Fairfax County!

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The West Falls Church Active Transportation Study area (via FCDOT)

The general public’s last chance to weigh in on Fairfax County’s ongoing study of the bicycle and pedestrian network in the West Falls Church Metro station area will come later than anticipated.

Two community meetings that had been scheduled for next week will instead be held on Oct. 26 and 27, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation announced yesterday (Thursday).

A virtual meeting has been set for 7:30-9 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 26, and county staff will also host an in-person meeting in Longfellow Middle School’s cafeteria at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 27.

“The team felt like we had not given the amount of notice we had planned that we would ensure the most participation by residents and stakeholders in the community,” FCDOT told FFXnow. “This is the final round of community input and attendees will hear about the survey results on active transportation alternatives.”

Launched last December, the West Falls Church Active Transportation Study is intended to identify needed safety improvements and gaps in the bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure within a 2-mile radius around the Metro station (7040 Haycock Road).

After paving the way for over 1 million square feet of new development, the county hopes the study will result in projects that can mitigate traffic and safety concerns raised by residents, some of whom have argued that the area can’t support the anticipated growth.

Replacing parking lots with housing, office, and retail construction, the proposed West Falls Church Metro redevelopment will include a new grid of streets that EYA — one of three developers involved in the project — has said should help alleviate pressure on the existing local streets.

However, that won’t address the missing sidewalks and lack of safe street crossings that community members highlighted during an initial round of public engagement on the transportation study in February.

The feedback will be used by county staff and a 13-person advisory group to develop recommendations for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on the future of non-motorized transportation in the area.

Adjacent to the Metro station redevelopment site, construction is underway on the West Falls project in neighboring Falls Church City, and plans were submitted last week for a major buildout of Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center campus.

Map via FCDOT

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Live Fairfax is a bi-weekly column exploring Fairfax County. This recurring column is sponsored and written by Sharmane Medaris of McEnearney Associates. Questions? Reach Sharmane at 813-504-4479.

It’s that time of the year to pull out your favorite pair of boots and adventure outdoors to make those fall memories. In this video, I will be showing you around one of our family’s favorites, Cox Farms.

If you have visited Cox Farms and are ready to add a few others to your list. Here are some of our additional favorites, and check out our recent post here for more details.

Pumpkin Patches with Fall Festival fun included:

Cox Farms — From famous hayrides to corny Corundum, giant slides and Field of Fear, there is something fun for all ages.

Great Country Farms — Pick your own pumpkins and apples or get lost in a corn maze while you savor their famous cider donuts. If you’re up for real excitement, shoot pumpkins from a cannon, feed P-Rex, the pumpkin munchin’ dinosaur, or pick the winning pig in the annual running of the swine at The ‘Oinkin’tucky Derby Pig Races.

Reston Farm Market — Loads of fun, games, activities, pumpkins and so much more.

Leesburg Animal Farm — Pumpkin Village Fall Fest is packed with fun family activities from giant hill slides, moon bounces wagon ride, petting zoo and so much more.

Maybe a Fall Festival isn’t your thing. There are also local pumpkin patches that will still guarantee some fall fun and yumminess on a smaller scale:

Whatever you decide, I hope you get out there and have some fall fun!

Best,
Sharmane

Explore Fairfax with Sharmane Medaris of McEnearney.

Sharmane Medaris | Live Fairfax | www.soldbysharmane.com | [email protected] | @soldbysharmane | 813-504-4479 | 374 Maple Avenue Suite 202, Vienna, VA 22180

The preceding sponsored post was also published on FFXnow.com

Duplexes are proposed to replace the Vienna Courts office condos (via Town of Vienna)

The Vienna Planning Commission made clear Wednesday (Sept. 28) that in concept, it’s in favor of redeveloping the Vienna Courts offices as duplex housing, but the lack of open space remains a sticking point.

After getting unanimous support for its proposed rezoning, developer BFR Construction Company merely eked out a win from the commission when it came to requested site modifications that it argued are necessary to build the planned residences.

The commission voted 4-3 to recommend that the Vienna Town Council approve reduced front and back yard setbacks, a lot area of 72,167 square feet, and an allowance for the development to cover 68% of the lot — slightly below the 70% that BFR is seeking.

“I don’t know if it’s this trade-off between additional parking and green space, but that’s where I would say I have remained a bit concerned,” Commissioner Jessica Ramakis said. “But again overall, [I] really appreciate all of the care in the proposal and that it would meet a need for having more units of this nature in the town.”

Initially envisioned as 30 residential units in 15 buildings, the Vienna Courts development was already tweaked to instead fit 28 units in 14 two-story buildings at 127-133 Park Street NE. The units will be 1,200 to about 1,900 square feet in size.

Developer BFR Construction has proposed building 14 duplexes with two units of housing each (via Town of Vienna)

The developer heard a desire for multi-family units in a variety of sizes “loud and clear”  from potential residents, BFR President Steve Bukont said after a public hearing where three Vienna residents voiced support for the project.

“I live in a fairly large, single-family home by myself now, unfortunately, and I’ve been looking for a place like this,” said Linda Wayne, who’s lived in the town for five years. “I’d like to continue to be in Vienna within walking distance of shopping, just all the amenities that Vienna offers.”

Wayne said the one-floor duplexes are preferable to a multi-story townhouse.

A 48-year resident of the Vienna area who lives alone after the death of her husband said the project “would be a very, very nice addition to our lovely town,” especially with its proximity to the Town Green and restaurants on Church Street.

The only neighbor to the property who appeared at the meeting was Stephen Cook, who confirmed that he will rebuild and live in his grandfather’s historic house at 135 Park Street. The 122-year-old home of local photographer T.R. Cook burned down in April.

Per Fairfax County property records, T.R. Cook sold the house to his grandson for $900,500 in December.

“I’m just happy to see that there’s generational ownership in town,” Commission Vice Chair David Miller said after Stephen Cook shared his plan.

The commissioners agreed the project would fulfill the town’s goals of providing more housing options and allowing multi-family homes as a buffer between commercial and single-family residential neighborhoods.

However, the requested lot coverage still gave multiple commissioners “the willies,” as Miller put it. Chair Stephen Kenney suggested taking out the proposed Building 14 to turn landscaping along Church Street into a full green space.

“I know that doesn’t save a lot of lot coverage in and of itself, but that would be a contiguous green space all the way to the property line,” he said. “That’s my feeling. I just feel like additional green space there would be helpful.”

Under BFR’s site plan, buildings 12, 13 and 14 would be smaller but cheaper than the other units. Without building 14, they would need the same infrastructure, including an elevator and garage parking, to justify the building costs, Bukont said.

Miller raised the idea of eliminating some of the 19 parking spaces planned for guests, but said any overflow parking on already-busy Church Street would be “untenable.”

“Ideally, I would like to see more green space, but I think I’ve been convinced by the discussion here that the trade-offs make it either unfeasible from the development point of view, or undesirable from parking and other points of view,” Commissioner Matthew Glassman said.

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Fairfax County faces a marginal risk of flash flooding from Hurricane Ian (via NOAA)

(Updated at 5:10 p.m.) An October weekend once filled with fall events is starting to clear out, as Fairfax County braces for Hurricane Ian.

The storm that devastated Florida after making landfall on Wednesday (Sept. 28) is expected to weaken as it heads north, but its rain and winds could still prove dangerous, the Fairfax County Department of Emergency Management and Security (DEMS) warns.

According to the department, remnants of Hurricane Ian are projected to arrive tonight (Friday), bringing scattered flooding and strong winds:

  • Scattered localized flooding is possible from rain. Overall, we are not expecting significant flooding impacts from this event. The rainfall totals are expected to be between 1″-2″ with a high end of 3″ over the three day period of Friday through Sunday. A rumble of thunder may enter the area early Saturday morning, but no significant thunderstorm threat is expected.
  • Winds will be sustained at 15-20 mph with gusts between 20-30 mph throughout the weekend.
  • Tidal anomalies of 1-2 feet are possible, but no significant tidal flooding for Fairfax County is expected.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin declared a State of Emergency earlier this week, giving the state authority to mobilize resources in preparation for the storm.

Several events planned across the county for tomorrow (Saturday) have already been canceled or rescheduled, with organizers citing the impending inclement weather. Others are still monitoring conditions before making a determination.

The McLean Project for the Arts pulled the plug on its annual MPAartfest on Wednesday, though the 2022 McLean 5K is still on for now.

“This is a rain or shine event, we have no plans to cancel,” McLean Community Center General Programs Director Mike Fisher said. “If we do cancel, that decision will be made in the moment as a result of on the ground conditions at the event site.”

Reston Community Center’s first-ever Silent Dance Party at Reston Station has been postponed to 5 p.m. on Oct. 9, while Reston Association announced yesterday (Thursday) that its popular Reston Community Yard Sale has moved to next Saturday, Oct. 8.

This morning, the Town of Vienna officially canceled tomorrow’s Oktoberfest, which drew more than 35,000 visitors last year. The Fall Native Plant Sale has been bumped to Oct. 8.

In lieu of the town’s official Oktoberfest, the Vienna Moose Lodge (9616 Courthouse Road) has teamed up with Caboose Brewing Company to host indoor festivities with draft beer and pretzels from noon to 9 p.m.

Both Fairfax County Park Authority events set for tomorrow have been altered. Bug Fest at Lewinsville Park in McLean has been postponed to Oct. 22, but Buktertoberfest at Burke Lake Golf Course has been canceled.

In Fairfax City, the Out of Darkness Walk to raise awareness about suicide and mental health impacts is currently still a go, but the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says it will provide an update by 5 p.m. if that changes.

Map via NOAA

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Morning Notes

Clouds loom over the Tysons Metro station (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fare-Free Connector to Metrorail Transfers Start Tomorrow — “To continue to improve transit service in Fairfax County, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors recently approved service and fare changes on Fairfax Connector that will go into effect on October 1, 2022. Members of the public provided input on these proposed service changes in the Spring of 2022″ [Fairfax Connector]

County IT Worker Arrested for Embezzlement — A 43-year-old Maryland man allegedly embezzled more than 150 Wi-Fi routers from the Fairfax County Department of Information and Technology. DIT employees reported 178 missing Mist Wi-Fi Access point routers to police on Sept. 13. The county has placed the man on administrative leave during the investigation. [FCPD]

Hybla Valley Fire Displaced 35 People — An attic exhaust fan’s wiring sparked a fire on Saturday (Sept. 24) at a three-story apartment in the 7500 block of Republic Court that displaced 35 residents. Fairfax County and Alexandria firefighters were dispatched to the blaze at 10:59 p.m. No injuries were reported, but the fire resulted in approximately $321,250 in damages. [FCFRD]

Family of Rose Hill Man Charged with Killing Father Speaks — “Sherif and Tarik Hassanein are devastated they lost their brother and father on the same day. They’re also angry at the system because they said Samy is bipolar and a paranoid schizophrenic who was never given the proper treatment.” [FOX5]

GMU Approves Tuition Cost Relief — “George Mason University leaders agreed on Thursday to ease tuition costs this year, approving a credit for in-state undergraduate students that offsets the 3 percent increase that went into place this fall. The pivot came amid strong messages from Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) to public universities to hold college tuition steady this year to ease the impact of inflation on Virginia families.” [The Washington Post]

Police Shares Video of Recent West Springfield ATM Burglaries — “Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) detectives have been investigating several commercial ATM burglaries occurring in Fairfax County and surrounding jurisdictions. FCPD is asking community members to help identify these suspects.” [FCPD]

Rehab Proposal for Historic West Falls Church House Paused — “The resident curator application for the White Gardens is on hold, but cannot be considered dead, according to Park Authority officials…The only resident curator applicant, Meg Stout, proposed having her daughter’s family live there rather than herself,” though the site was given to Fairfax County on the condition be turned into a public garden. [Annandale Today]

Affordable Housing Nonprofit Adds Hybla Valley Condos — “Today I was thrilled to attend the Shepherd Housing & Family Services ribbon cutting ceremony where we celebrated the acquisition of their 85th housing unit thanks to a $2 million gift from @amazon. Thank you @GoodHousingOrg for all that you do for our residents.” [Jeff McKay/Twitter]

County Businesses Make Noise — “Twenty Fairfax County-based companies and 14 companies based in additional Northern Virginia Economic Development Alliance jurisdictions out of 50 companies placed on the Washington Business Journal’s 2022 list of Fastest Growing Companies in Greater Washington, D.C.” [Fairfax County EDA]

It’s Friday — Rain in the evening and overnight. High of 62 and low of 54. Sunrise at 7:05 am and sunset at 6:54 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Students wear and wave Pride flags at Fairfax High School’s walkout (photo by Carys Owens)

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay believes the county will be on “safe legal ground” if it chooses to not follow Virginia’s recently-proposed model policies that would limit the rights of transgender and other gender-nonconforming students.

Based on conversations with the school board, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), and legal experts since the draft policies were unveiled earlier this month, McKay senses the school system will ultimately stick with its current policies, he told FFXnow yesterday (Wednesday).

The proposed policies would reverse regulations that FCPS adopted in 2020 affirming students’ right to access restrooms according to their gender identity and be called by their chosen names and pronouns. The regulation was updated last year based on state recommendations.

“If we do it and ignore [what] the governor is dictating here…my prediction based on everything I’m hearing is that the legal folks will say you’re on safe legal ground to continue the good practices that you have in place and not adhere to these new ones. That’s certainly what I’m being told preliminarily,” McKay told FFXnow.

McKay noted that, as has been reported elsewhere, legal experts have identified a myriad of legal problems” with the new proposed policies, including protections from discrimination based on gender identity in the Virginia Human Rights Act.

The cities of Falls Church and Alexandria have already indicated that they won’t adhere to the state policies. State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30), who represents parts of Fairfax County, Alexandria, and Arlington County, told FFXnow on Tuesday (Sept. 27) that there could be basis for a lawsuit.

“I think there’s existing law problems. I think there’s case law problems. I think there’s political problems,” McKay said. “And so, my suspicion is that we will likely be able to continue doing what we’re doing.”

The governor may be relying on the Dillon Rule as the rationale for arguing counties must adhere to the guidelines, if they’re adopted, McKay says.

Under that rule, localities only have legal authorities expressly granted to them by the state, but that doesn’t absolve the governor from the “obligation of being consistent with case law that’s already been established,” he said.

When asked whether the school system plans on taking legal action if the policies are adopted by the state, an FCPS spokesperson said they have no comment for now beyond a message that Superintendent Michelle Reid sent to families earlier this month, stating that FCPS was reviewing the draft policies.

“We will share more information when it is available,” the spokesperson said.

McKay noted that there’s precedent for not abiding by the new policies. Then-governor Ralph Northam issued his own policies on the treatment of transgender students in 2021, but most Virginia counties never adopted them.

“Most of the state never implemented the model policies that Governor Northam put in, as we know, and there have been no consequences for them at all,” McKay said. “We did implement them because we happen to think politically they were the right thing to do to protect our children.”

He then asked rhetorically, “If school districts across Virginia were allowed to ignore the last model policies, why shouldn’t school districts across Virginia be allowed to ignore the new ones?”

McKay expressed frustration that the state is attempting to dictate local school boards’ policies when the majority of FCPS’ budget is paid by county funds. He called it an “affront” to the locally elected school board, the Board of Supervisors, and constituents.

“When over 70% of our schools’ budget is being paid for by the Board of Supervisors, I don’t need a 20% shareholder in public education coming in and telling the school board what they have to do. When you start paying the bills for schools, then you can come in here and start telling us what to do,” he said.

McKay said it is good practice for the school board to “thoroughly review” the model policies, adding that there might be elements of the new guidelines that could be “worthwhile to adopt.”

Overwhelmingly, though, the policies getting the most attention will likely be rejected by the school board and constituents, he said.

The public can send comments on the proposed policies to Virginia’s regulatory town hall through Oct. 26.

McKay submitted a comment himself this week, saying the new model policies “serve no other purpose than to threaten some of our vulnerable children with discrimination and potentially violence.”

The chairman believes, in the end, FCPS students will be able to continue to count on the current inclusive policies staying in place.

“The hope is that Fairfax County Public Schools, along with other Northern Virginia public school systems, can stick with the policies they’ve created themselves or the ones from previous from 2021,” McKay said. “And there will be no penalty and no issue from the Commonwealth if the county decides to stick with the policies they’ve created for their school system.”

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Chesterbrook United Methodist Church and Montessori School of McLean share a building at 1711 Kirby Road in McLean (via Google Maps)

The Montessori School of McLean could soon have the property at 1711 Kirby Road all to itself.

The private elementary school has occupied the nearly 4-acre parcel since the early 1970s, but the site has been shared with the Chesterbrook United Methodist Church, which constructed its longtime home there in 1920.

Now in its 110th year, the church plans to relocate and has proposed selling the property to the Montessori school, a legal representative for the school said on its behalf in a special exception application to Fairfax County.

Received by the county on Sept. 13, the application requests that the school be permitted to stay on the property, even though it will no longer be used for any religious purposes as currently zoned.

“[Montessori School of McLean], as tenant and contract purchaser, seeks to continue its long standing tradition of serving McLean families with quality education and child care on the Property,” Holland & Knight land use attorney David Schneider said in a statement of justification.

The school says no physical changes to the site are planned, and it has proposed leaving the existing enrollment cap of 265 kids in place.

Opened in 1973 with one primary and one elementary class, the school now serves kids aged 2 to 12 with pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and first through sixth grade classes, along with a child care center.

According to the application, the school doesn’t anticipate any significant traffic impacts, but it is seeking to expand weekday operating hours from 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. to 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

The change will “allow additional child care coverage and help spread out the trips from this existing use away from the peak hours” of 7:45-8:45 a.m. and 5:15-6:15 p.m. at the Kirby Road and Old Dominion Drive intersection, Schneider wrote.

According to its website, Chesterbrook UMC started at one of its members’ homes in 1906 before constructing the church building that it has now occupied for over a century. The church didn’t respond to FFXnow’s inquiry regarding the planned sale and where it will be relocating by press time.

According to county property records, 1711 Kirby Road was valued at $3.6 million for the 2022 tax year, including over $1.5 million for the land and $2 million for the current church building. Virginia exempts real estate used for religious purposes from paying state and local taxes.

As a private school, the Montessori school won’t receive the same exemption once the church transfers ownership of the property.

Photo via Google Maps

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The preceding sponsored post was also published on FFXnow.com

Construction continues to chug along on Sunrise Senior Living’s upcoming facility in McLean.

Sunrise of McLean Village broke ground at 1515 Chain Bridge Road on June 18, 2021 and is projected to move in its first residents in spring 2023, according to spokesperson John Chibnall.

“Sunrise of McLean Village is in the heart of McLean, which appeals to the growing number of older adults living in the community looking forward to their next step in life and want to remain in McLean proper,” Sunrise Senior Vice President of Design and Construction Andy Coelho told FFXnow.

Replacing the defunct McLean Medical Building, whose original owners included the first doctor to administer a polio vaccine, the senior care facility will have 100 residential units for 122 people, including 61 assisted living residences and 39 memory care residences.

Amenities for residents will include outdoor terraces, a multi-purpose bistro, lounges, a library, a formal dining room, an activity room and a theater room. A “heritage garden” will have a private section for residents and a public section open to the surrounding neighborhood — a unique feature of the McLean location, according to Coelho.

“The latest and safest building codes were taken into account when designing and building this community,” he said.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the redevelopment in October 2019 after an earlier attempt to build a 73-unit facility on Kirby Road got voted down in May 2017.

After the Kirby Road plan faced opposition over its potential impact on nearby residential neighborhoods, the approved Chain Bridge location puts Sunrise closer to downtown McLean, which is in the midst of a gradual revitalization effort.

The building will be three stories tall and have 89,983 square feet of space, with 88 parking spots, Chibnall told FFXnow.

A sales gallery and model unit are scheduled to be installed this fall. Sunrise did the interior design, while Rust Orling Architecture served as the architect. The building is being constructed by The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company.

“We selected this location because it complements our surrounding communities in the area, filling in the gap where Sunrise hasn’t been able to serve yet,” Coelho said. “We have already seen a great response from the community and have several future residents preparing to call the community home.”

Started in 1981, Sunrise has over 280 senior living communities in the U.S., including an existing Sunrise of McLean just north of the Dulles Toll Road near Tysons.

The company is also working on a facility in Vienna that’s expected to open next year. Coelho says Sunrise will share interior renderings of the building “in the coming weeks,” with a sales gallery opening to potential residents and their families in December.

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