Tysons, VA

Foodies can once more celebrate the restaurant community in the greater Tysons area starting Monday (April 12).

From Monday through Sunday, April 18, about a dozen restaurants will be participating in the Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce Restaurant Week.

Eateries will offer fixed-price menus for lunch and dinner as well as a featured cocktail. All items will be available for dine-in or takeout.

This follows on the success of the chamber’s first restaurant week, which was held in October to support the local restaurant industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Foodies in Tysons may remember that some area restaurants also participated in the Metropolitan Washington Winter Restaurant Week earlier this year. That annual event is organized by Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington.

Some repeat participants include Seasons 52, Fogo de Chão, Urban Plates, La Sandia Mexican Kitchen & Bar and Flower Child. New additions include Cafe Nordstrom, Shotted Specialty Coffee, and Glory Days Grill.

Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman Andrew Clark says this spring restaurant week is part of a constant effort to create a community within Tysons by connecting people to restaurants, businesses, and places.

“I love when people get to discover Tysons, and this is a reason to do it,” Clark said. “We’re giving people a reason to move, and from that, life happens.”

Describing himself as a creature of habit, the chairman says Restaurant Week encourages people an opportunity to take risks and try something new.

“With enough little things over the span of the year, instead of the exception, [going out] becomes part of their routine — and that’s enough for me,” he said. “That makes a difference in our community.”

With COVID-19 vaccines getting distributed and the state opening up, Clark says that “the needle is moving.”

“The numbers aren’t where they ought to be, but they’re moving in the right direction,” he said. “Restaurant Week is a catalyst. People that are on the fence — they want a nudge. It’s an awakening.”

After the first restaurant week, patronage was up 50 to 70%, he said. In round two, he is looking for another bump in engagement that results in a sustained increase in patronage.

“That’s how we know we succeeded,” he said.

Photo via La Sandia/Facebook

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A second reported incident of racism at a football game involving Fairfax County Public Schools students has prompted the school system to schedule a meeting with athletic teams and coaches.

FCPS will be holding a “stand-down” meeting for all athletic teams and coaches “to begin this important conversation to support student-athletes in demonstrating appropriate behaviors required to play sports” in the school division, according to a new statement from the school system.

The statement “speaks to several incidents and we acknowledge that we have work to do as a school division,” FCPS spokesperson Lucy Caldwell told Tysons Reporter.

Of the “several incidents” Caldwell alluded to, two have been widely reported.

The more recent incident reportedly occurred at a junior varsity football game between T.C. Williams High School and James W Robinson, Jr. Secondary School on Monday night (April 5). During the game, a Robinson student allegedly spat on a T.C. Williams player and called him a racial slur. After this happened, the T.C. Williams team left the field in protest.

In the earlier incident, varsity Marshall High School football players were accused of using racial slurs against Wakefield High School in Arlington. One allegedly spat on a Wakefield player.

In the weeks since the game on March 5, the Wakefield students and parents have launched a campaign to demand accountability and change.

FCPS says in the statement that was released this morning that it “is aware of a number of allegations regarding the use of racially charged language and racial slurs in the past few weeks.”

“Our school division embraces diversity and strongly condemns hate speech and offensive, hateful language or racial intolerance of any kind on the sports fields, in school buildings or anywhere on or off school premises,” the statement says. “We will hold anyone found to have used such language while representing any of our schools accountable for their words and actions.”

FCPS says that players heard using such language will be ejected and suspended for future games, in accordance with Virginia High School League policies. Unsportsmanlike conduct will result in an immediate review of the game by officials and coaches.

The school division pledged to investigate “any incidents thoroughly” and to take “swift and appropriate action” if necessary. It has not, however, provided any update on the status of the investigation into the incident involving Marshall and Wakefield, despite multiple requests for comment from Tysons Reporter. Read More

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For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic started, most Falls Church City Public Schools students are attending school in person five days a week.

Yesterday (Tuesday), 99% of elementary and 92% of secondary students went back to school full-time, fulfilling plans FCCPS had made to return students to pre-pandemic schedules on April 6.

Only 125 of the school division’s 2,500 students remain entirely virtual, according to FCCPS spokesperson John Wesley Brett.

“They came on foot, by car, bike, scooter, and bus to fill classrooms for the first time this year,” FCCPS said this morning. “It was a successful launch of in-person learning. The students’ experience with hybrid learning familiarized them with spacing protocols and mask-wearing, so they stepped smoothly into the new routines.”

A small cohort of students have been in-person since last fall, and beginning in February, elementary and secondary students came back for a hybrid schedule, with two days in-person and two days of virtual learning each week.

“With that success, and with nearly all of our staff and faculty fully vaccinated since mid-February, we feel confident in moving forward toward opening fully,” Brett said. “Despite the CDC’s recent update to its social distancing guidelines — lowering the 6-foot distance recommendation to 3 feet — we will still be adhering to the 6-feet distancing when possible.”

Mount Daniel and Thomas Jefferson Elementary School students now attend school from 8:50 a.m. to 3:50 p.m., with early release at 1:15 p.m. on Wednesdays.

Meanwhile, middle and high school students are now attending in-person classes four days a week, with Wednesdays as a virtual day.

“That will continue through the end of the year,” Brett said, adding that there will be no more changes to the schedule.

“As a parent, the full return of our elementary age children and the vastly expanded four-day access to in-person learning for our middle and high school kids is celebrated this week,” said parent Courtney Mooney, who is the president of a return-to-school parent group, Falls Church City Parents For Schools. “Parents know how much hard work has gone into getting us to this point the past few months and we couldn’t be more thankful to each person who has helped make this return happen.”

Since FCCPS announced it would return to a full five days a week of in-person instruction, 21 students who left the system and opted for private school or homeschooling options have now returned, Brett said.

Parents were given a deadline of March 15 to tell FCCPS their students’ learning preferences, but since then, FCCPS has continued “accomodating all requests for changes through [Monday] and will continue to do so,” Brett said.

He said enrollment has increased with the move to in-person learning five days a week but did not have precise numbers on-hand.

FCCPS has outpaced the rest of Northern Virginia in returning students to in-person classes, which Superintendent Peter Noonan attributed to the school division’s independence and relatively small student population.

“Because we are small and we are independent, we do have some opportunities to do some things differently than other large school divisions,” he told WJLA.

Both Fairfax County Public Schools and Arlington Public Schools pledged in March to return to five-day, full-time instruction this fall.

FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand announced on Monday (April 5) that the district is expanding opportunities for in-person learning this week and next week to certain pre-K through 12th grade students who have been identified as experiencing the greatest learning challenges.

Starting April 20, depending on school capacity, students attending hybrid instruction with a preference for full-time instruction may be able to start four days of in-person learning per week.

FCPS said that the expansion is based on the CDC’s new guidance permitting three feet of social distancing in classrooms depending on community transmission rates. The availability of space and staff will also affect how many students can get additional in-person instruction at each school.

Virginia Department of Health data shows that, based on CDC metrics, Fairfax County and Falls Church City currently have “substantial” transmission as of the week of April 3. They both had “high” transmission during the week of March 27, but Falls Church City was “moderate” the week before that.

The CDC says middle and high school students should maintain at least six feet of social distancing in areas with high community transmission, but that could be reduced to three feet when transmission is low, moderate, or substantial, as long as mask use is universal.

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Editor’s Note — Tysons Reporter is running Q&As with the candidates who qualified for this year’s Vienna Town Council election on May 4. The interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

David Patariu is one of four candidates running for the three Vienna Town Council seats up for election this year. A practicing attorney and Vienna planning commissioner, Patariu is seeking his first term on the council after also running last year.

Interviews with fellow candidates Howard Springsteen, Nisha Patel, and Steve Potter — all incumbent councilmembers — are also available.

Why did you decide to run for election? 

Residents asked me to run this year because they felt their voices were not being heard by Vienna’s Town Council. The story of how I got on the ballot is a good example of the residents-first, can-do attitude we need on Town Council.

I figured that going to 125 to 150 homes to gather in-person ballot petition signatures during the pandemic would not be safe and would show a real lack of judgment regarding the safety of the residents.

Meanwhile, other Virginia office-seekers had filed cases to have the ballot signature requirement modified because of the pandemic. So, I filed a court case (Patariu v. Scott) and obtained a court-approved consent decree to make this process safer in the Town of Vienna, allowing candidates to use a form that does not require the circulator to personally witness the signature of each voter.

I saw other Virginia municipalities were being smarter about voting in a pandemic and put in the time and was the only candidate to use the modified ballot petition process. And I am running at the request of many residents to bring this kind of good judgment and concern for every resident to Vienna’s Town Council.

How well do you think the town has handled its pandemic response? 

Because of the pandemic, households and businesses across the country are conserving resources, spending less money, and deferring large projects. The Town Council, however, has spent hundreds of thousands of tax dollars on arguably unnecessary consultants, started construction on a $14.5-plus million police station to replace a roughly 25-year-old police station, and opened up all residential and commercial zoning to a rewrite when residents cannot meet in person.

The town needs to hit “pause” on many of these non-essential projects and re-focus on pandemic recovery efforts directed toward residents and small businesses who have suffered the most.

What are your thoughts on how the zoning code rewrite has gone so far? 

Residents cannot use the traditional channels of meeting in person and standing up at Town Council meetings to express their opinions. Surveys are drafted and interpreted by pro-development town staff, distributed in a non-random way, and presented as if they show what all Vienna residents want.

The town must wait until in-person meetings are once again possible, and hire an independent company to do a true random-sample survey of residents on any proposed zoning code changes that will affect their property values.

Before we move ahead with the residential and commercial zoning code rewrite, we need a Maple Avenue traffic study signed by a professional engineer — who did not have a possible conflict of interest for simultaneous work on behalf of Maple Avenue developers — to inform our decisions related to traffic impact and the zoning code rewrite. Read More

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The Falls Church City Council will get a staff briefing and presentation during its work session tonight (Monday) on a proposed One City Center mixed-use development just across the street from the still-pending Broad and Washington project.

The discussion is slated for 9:30 p.m., according to the meeting agenda.

Atlantic Realty Companies is proposing an extensive mixed-use apartment building with space for a grocery store and other retail space, as well as commercial and office spaces. The plan includes creating a new traffic circle at the intersection of S. Maple Avenue and W. Annandale Road and designing a Dutch-style “living street” called a “woonerf.”

According to a Falls Church City staff report, Atlantic is proposing to build a development over 4.6 acres at the intersection of W. Broad and S. Washington Streets that features:

  • About 17,500 square feet of ground-floor retail
  • A 26,500-square foot grocery store at the corner of Maple Avenue and Broad Street
  • 13,365 square feet of retail and commercial space on the mezzanine level
  • 43,000 square feet of office space
  • 246 apartment units across six stories, 15 of which will be set aside for affordable housing
  • 9-10 levels of structured parking with 969 spaces

About 75% of the complex will be dedicated to apartment living, leaving 10% for office space and 15% for retail. Atlantic is seeking a special exception from the council to have apartment units in the complex and allow for a 40-foot height bonus, which would bring the building to a maximum of 115 feet.

Atlantic currently owns and manages all the affected properties: the George Mason Square office complex and two-story parking garage, a BB&T Bank, Matt’s Tailor & Bridal Boutique on W. Broad Street, a vacant parcel at the corner of W. Broad Street and S. Maple Ave., and a five-story office building with a surface parking lot.

Atlantic’s commercial program is based on the need for flexibility to help drive foot traffic to the property, Andrew Painter, the developer’s legal representation, said in a letter to the city.

“Traditional format retail has been challenged in recent years by the rise in e-commerce, and COVID-19 has greatly accelerated this trend,” he wrote. “Similarly, the recent increase in virtual meeting services and the escalated pace of technology adoption is having deleterious repercussions on office demand.”

The existing George Mason Square arcade will be removed and replaced with a pedestrian plaza lined with new fast-casual eateries, retailers, and a pedestrian-oriented “woonerf” between the existing and proposed new buildings that may be periodically closed for special events and fairs, according to Painter’s letter.

This “woonerf” will have “high-quality pavers, overhead accent lighting, landscaping, hardscape treatments, and parallel parking for adjacent retailers,” he said.

Painter wrote that these changes will “anchor the project’s eastern entry, activate George Mason Square’s ground floor area, and provide an updated, modern signature asset to the City’s rapidly evolving downtown.”

He noted that Atlantic is proposing a 30 by 40-foot exterior visual screen, which can be used for “screen on the green” events or coverage of live city events.

Painter added that it “will also keep the George Mason Square development competitive from an aesthetic perspective which, in turn, will energize the Applicant’s leasing program and drive tenant demand.”

The grocery store, he said, will be “a new entrant to the City’s grocery store market.”

As for transportation, the project will include a proposed mid-block crossing and a high-intensity activated crosswalk signal on W. Broad Street.

Painter said the proposed traffic circle will “provide a safer intersection for pedestrians and will, in conjunction with the new public park on the Triangle Parking Lot, transform the intersection into a more attractive urban gateway.”

Photos via Falls Church City 

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With tax season in full swing and Fairfax County plugging away at its latest budget proposal, you may wonder where exactly your tax dollars go.

Fairfax County is hammering out the details of its spending for the 2022 fiscal year, which is expected to gross more than $8.5 billion. But your tax dollars go to a smaller piece of the pie that encompasses funding for county government operations and contributions to Metro and Fairfax County Public Schools.

Totaling $4.48 billion, the general fund disbursements money comes from taxes — primarily real estate and personal property taxes, but also taxes on hotels and retail sales — as well as fees for licenses and permits. About $1.6 billion of this bucket sustains the operations of all county departments.

Real estate taxes paid by individuals and businesses contribute about $3 billion (or 68%) of the money needed to support county departments, schools, Metro, and debt services. In fact, residents’ property taxes make up about 74% of the county’s real estate tax income. The rest comes from commercial properties, such as apartments, offices, retail spaces, and hotels.

While homeowners could see their real estate tax rate lowered by one cent to $1.14 per $100 of assessed value in the upcoming budget, they will likely still see their bill increase due to rising property values. The one-cent reduction, however, will bring in $27 million less than if the current rate remained in place.

The county, meanwhile, is contending with falling commercial property values for its income from non-residential real estate taxes, a nationwide phenomenon.

But where does this tax revenue go?

After schools, which receive slightly more than half of the general fund disbursements, the county’s next two largest allocations go to public safety, including police and fire, and health and welfare, including family and neighborhood services.

Within those areas, much of the recurring spending is tied to personnel, both existing staff and requests for additional hires. The county government says an additional 109 positions are needed to staff new facilities and continue initiatives previously funded by grants and stimulus funding.

County Executive Bryan Hill’s proposed FY 2022 budget devotes $11.91 million to fund 46 positions to continue implementing the police department’s body-worn camera program and to staff the South County Police Station, a new 61,000-square-foot police station and animal shelter, and the Scotts Run Fire Station.

There is also additional funding to support the Fairfax County Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, which Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano said last year is in a state of crisis and needs more staff, especially to handle the body-worn camera program.

The proposed budget adds seven positions to the county’s opioid task force and five positions for the Diversion First initiative.

Police and fire are the biggest drivers of the public safety budget, each accounting for around 41% of expenses, or $219 and $218 million, respectively. Overall, public safety accounts for 33% of the total general fund direct expenditures of $1.6 billion. Fairfax County lands in the middle of Virginia localities for how much it spends per person on public safety ($671 per person). Read More

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Town of Vienna residents might soon be able to drop their compost off in the town instead of having to drive up to 10 miles to the nearest Fairfax County facility.

However, the town is still searching for a location and a vendor to pick up the compost, according to Christine Horner, a water quality engineer for Vienna who is spearheading the project.

The idea of a stand-alone composting drop-off site has been long mulled-over.

The Vienna Town Council approved funding for such a program on May 13, 2019 as part of the 2020 fiscal year budget, Horner says. Since then, the town has been looking for a place to set up a compost site.

“The project is in motion,” she said. “We are actively searching for an appropriate location.”

Once a location is set, Vienna will be ready “to get the facility installed and contract with a vendor for pick-up services,” Horner said.

Finding a location is top-of-mind for Councilmember Nisha Patel, who is campaigning to get reelected for a second term this May.

“We don’t have an area that is free of residents to compost,” Patel told Tysons Reporter. “It’s something we need to look out and see where we can encourage more composting.”

While Vienna staff look for an appropriate location in town, Patel encourages residents to use Fairfax County’s composting drop-off at the I-66 Transfer Station (4618 West Ox Road) in Fairfax and the I-95 Landfill Complex (9850 Furnace Road) in Lorton. Those locations are open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

“These programs provide a similar service but are separate initiatives,” Horner said in an email. “The Fairfax Composting Drop Off location is currently available for Vienna residents.”

The county sites accept a wide range of goods for composting, including food — meat, dairy, eggs, vegetables, fruits and grains — along with flowers, uncoated paper bags, towels and plates, compostable flatware, flowers, coffee grounds and tea bags. Scraps and paper goods can be collected in kitchen pails, secured in compostable bags, and tossed into the green bins.

Image via Fairfax County

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People who live and work in Tysons are one step closer to getting a bus rapid transit route through the area.

Fairfax County began studying options for bus rapid transit in Tysons two-and-a-half years ago as part of the larger Envision Route 7 BRT project from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, which would establish bus service between Tysons and the Mark Center in Alexandria.

Now, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation has settled on a preferred route within Tysons, which it will recommend to the NVTC as the organization embarks on the fourth phase of study for the Envision project.

The county’s preferred route goes up Route 7 and takes International Drive up to Spring Hill Road, where it loops onto Tyco Road to rejoin International Drive. It will make six stops, FCDOT BRT Route 7 Project Manager Sean Schweitzer said during an informational meeting Wednesday night (March 24).

FCDOT chose the route out of three proposed alternatives because it would serve the most households, the greatest population — about 6,700 people — and the largest employment area in Tysons, according to Schweitzer.

Staff had narrowed nine options down to three after considering cost, sustainability, and accessibility, among other factors, he said. The second option, which is much shorter, branches off Route 7 to loop past Tysons Corner Center and the Tysons Metro station.

Schweitzer said the third alternative most closely resembles the NVTC’s vision for a route through Tysons, circling around Tyco and Spring Hill roads but remaining aligned with Route 7 by passing through the Greensboro Metro station.

FCDOT staff will accept comments on the proposed paths through April 14 via the Route 7 BRT Survey. The NVTC will incorporate the selected route into the final phase of its Envision Route 7 BRT study this summer and fall, Schweitzer said.

“BRT is a more efficient form of local bus, which typically operates in zone-exclusive lanes,” he said. “BRT usually has enhanced stations with raised platforms for level boarding, smart digital fare, and real-time passenger information and bus times. Stops are more limited than local bus and are more distanced.”

BRT is comparable to light rail but at a lower capital cost, he said.

Like the BRT service operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority in Alexandria, pictured above, a service in Tysons could run along the median for part of the route. To further reduce conflicts with cars and bicycles, buses would get transit signal priority, and bicycle lanes would run behind the stations.

The buses would drive in mixed traffic, turning left onto Spring Hill and transitioning into a bus-and-turn lane before returning to the median lane, according to Schweitzer.

The service would run from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. on weekdays and 6 a.m. to 12 a.m. on weekends, seating 110 passengers, he said.

After the meeting, FCDOT planner Mike Garcia told Tysons Reporter that the county obtained input from residential and commercial management groups, homeowners and civic associations, faith communities, libraries, recreational centers, schools, and other stakeholders, including the Tysons Partnership, in coordination with district supervisor offices.

“The pandemic did limit our outreach efforts to physically reach out to communities,” he said.

Map via FCDOT, photo via Google Maps

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Editor’s Note — Tysons Reporter is running Q&As with the candidates who qualified for this year’s Vienna Town Council election on May 4. The interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Nisha Patel is one of four candidates running for the three Vienna Town Council seats that are up for election this year. A working mother with two medical practices, Patel has served on the council since 2019 and is now seeking her second term.

Why did you decide to run for reelection?

I first ran because I felt like we needed a new, fresh perspective on how we handle the development in the town. We did make significant changes over the past two years, but these changes are not permanent yet. I want to complete the job that I set out to do: Maintain smart growth to strengthen the commercial district in town while still maintaining our hometown character.

Vienna has this very unique character. It’s the kind of place where we want to see growth and development, but we don’t want it to change that character. It’s like a “mom and pop” town. It’s a safe place to have your family; there are so many family and community events. The people care about the town and each other. I want to make sure that’s not diluted or changed in any way, shape, or form.  

What has it been like dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic? How well do you think the town has handled its pandemic response?

The people in town really rallied behind our local businesses, especially our restaurants. We anticipated a significant decrease in meal tax income, but the numbers were surprisingly on the favorable side, which we really appreciate. Without the residents, we would’ve suffered so much more. 

Our new Economic Development Manager [Natalie Monkou] has tried hard to figure out ways to get people out and enjoying the community and supporting businesses. She’s been a huge resource for businesses needing information about CARES Act funding.

As a council, we adjusted the budget very conservatively to ensure essential services were maintained. We got CARES funds. But we do need to keep the pandemic in mind, and budget conservatively. We’ve attempted to attack that in the 2021 budget, but I’m only one voice of seven, and I’m occasionally outvoted.

This coming year, I would like us to lower our real estate tax just a slight fraction because I feel like, with the pandemic, it’d be nice to give something back to the people, however insignificant.  

What are your thoughts on how the zoning code rewrite has gone so far?

For commercial zoning, we had a big issue with our previous laws. We eliminated the Maple Avenue Commercial zone because the buildings were too large and too dense. Going forward for new commercial zoning, I would push for more open space, reasonable building height, reasonable lot coverage, and adequate parking.

The residential zoning is just fine, but there are certain people who are in special circumstances and cannot have a front porch or handicap ramp.

What issues do you see as a priority in terms of what you want the zoning code update to address?

I’ve been the proponent of increased outdoor living space with patios, decks, and screened-in porches. We have to figure out how to do that in a reasonable manner so that everyone’s happy — I know there are concerns about houses getting bigger.

We need to look at how we can help residents build ramps and porches and make it easier for residents to navigate the code. The permitting process needs to be simplified, and the zoning codes need to be a people’s document. It needs to be so that the average person can find the information they need and act accordingly.  Read More

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted yesterday (Tuesday) to approve changes to the county’s zoning ordinance intended to make the codes easier to navigate and understand.

The 7-3 vote — with Supervisors Walter Alcorn, Daniel Storck, and Pat Herrity dissenting — serves as the culmination of a four-year Zoning Ordinance Modernization Project, or zMOD, that began in 2017 to update zoning laws codified in 1978.

Although the updates to the document were sweeping in scope, three proposed changes drew a great deal of public attention and comment. These included proposals to loosen restrictions on accessory living units and home-based businesses and revise size and height regulations for flags and flag poles.

“There are…very few issues receiving much attention,” Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said. “I believe that demonstrates that, given everything that we’ve done, it was a fair and transparent process.”

Storck, who represents the Mount Vernon District, said he supports many aspects of the 614-page draft, but a few areas surrounding the accessory living units and the home-based businesses, including the permit process and enforcement, give him pause.

He worries that some of the proposed changes to require only administrative permits could lead to a lack of engagement and that enforcement, which he calls “the bread and butter of public confidence,” is not going to be swift or strong enough to stop zoning violations.

Approved changes to the regulations for accessory living units include allowing interior units with an administrative permit and removing the requirement that only those 55 and older or disabled people can live in them. However, the owner must live in the main home, can only operate one ALU in which up to two people can reside, and must provide a parking spot.

To operate a home-based business, people will need to get special exception permits to have customers visit between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., unless they provide instruction to fewer than eight students a day and up to four at a time.

Acceptable businesses include retail — as long as sales and delivery occur online or offsite — as well as exercise classes, repair services for small household items, hair salons, and clothing tailors. People can also operate an office or as a music, photography, or art studio out of their home.

Residents can have up to three flags, and flag poles can be up to 25 feet tall when in front of a single-family home or up to 60 feet tall on other lots. Property owners can apply for a special permit to extend the height of a pole.

The board opted not to adopt any regulations limiting the size of flags.

In voting for the final draft of the plan, Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said the document represents a compromise that goes “further than some would like to go, but not as far as others would like.”

The supervisors highlighted the Herculean effort that went into overhauling codes for a county as large as Fairfax and taking into account community input. Foust said that the most recent draft, which was subject to a public hearing on March 9, “includes revisions that significantly improve the initial package that we considered.”

Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Penelope Gross said that home-based businesses and accessory living units are both “already here,” so the changes help clarify what is allowed and set guardrails to preserve neighborhoods and allow people to work from home.

“I know there’s a lot of speculation about what will happen. Speculation is usually just that: speculation,” she said. “It sometimes is fear.”

Palchik said she does not discount the people who expressed legitimate concerns, but she argued that many of those have been addressed during the zMOD process. She aargued that many of the changes are similar to, if not “much more modest” than policies that are already in place elsewhere in the D.C. area, including in Montgomery County, D.C., Arlington, Loudoun County, and the City of Alexandria.

“While there are many changes to the zoning ordinance, I do believe it’s critical in seeing that our housing market is under pressure and costs of living continue to rise, especially for those who struggle to live here,” she said. “While accessory living units do not fix all of these problems, the added flexibility for our most vulnerable residents and additional options for those who want to remain in their homes can be part of the solution.”

Photo via Fairfax County

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