Fairfax County is designing restoration plans for an eroded stretch of Little Pimmit Run from Franklin Park Road to just upstream of Kirby Road in McLean.
The $9.23 million project will address 7,100 feet of degraded stream channel in addition to about 1,250 feet of tributaries, which will be restored so that they tie into the main channel of Little Pimmit Run.
“The water has a lot of energy and it’s causing a lot of erosion,” project manager Fred Wilkins said during a recent meeting.
According to Wilkins, the project aims to slow the speed of the water, which will protect infrastructure and area vegetation. It will also restore the ecology of the stream and the surrounding area, while preventing sediment and pollutants from flowing from Little Pimmit Run into the Chesapeake Bay.
Identified in 2019, other problems caused by the ongoing erosion include undercut banks and compromised trees, the county’s project page says.
Wilkins says another goal of the project is to protect infrastructure.
“There are multiple locations where we have sanitary pipes that cross the stream bed, and in some cases, the water can move debris that can damage the sanitary crossings, as shown during the 2019 storm, which caused emergency repairs to be needed,” he said.
Last but not least, the project manager said the county aims “to give the community something to enjoy.”
The project will unfold in two phases, starting with a stretch of stream from Franklin Park Road to Chesterbrook Road that runs parallel to Solitaire Lane. The second phase picks up north of Chesterbrook Road and goes away the way to Kirby Road.
Right now, county officials are deliberating the future alignment of the channel. Once one is chosen, concept designs should be ready to be submitted this September 2021. A community meeting is slated for November.
There will not be a construction timeline until the designs are completed.
The project straddles private property and county property, and will require coordination between the county and property owners, Wilkins said.
People in the area can expect to see flagging and survey markers over the next several months, according to the county’s project website.
“Survey markers do not necessarily mean that the marked tree will be removed,” the website said.
This restoration work joins another stream restoration project along the channel between Forest Lane and North Albemarle Street, along with a sewer realignment project, emergency wastewater stabilization, and a Fairfax County Department of Transportation sidewalk project, Wilkins said.
The project is being funded through the county Stormwater Service District.
Images via Fairfax County
Following the county government’s lead, Fairfax County Public Schools will soon prohibit voluntary cooperation between staff and Immigration and Customs Enforcement after the school board voted unanimously on Tuesday (May 5) to create a “School Trust Policy.”
Fairfax County School Board members say the new policy will align with the Trust Policy that the county adopted in January, which prohibits employees from giving federal immigration authorities information about a person’s immigration or citizenship status unless required by law or court order.
With the vote, some board members will start working with FCPS staff to develop the policy for full adoption in the near future. According to the school board, the new policy will be designed to help build confidence with immigrant families.
“Even with our school system’s existing commitment to privacy protection, the need for a policy that rebuilds trust with immigrant families remains urgent,” Providence District School Board Representative Karl Frisch, who co-sponsored the measure, said. “Fairfax County took the necessary first step. Our school division will now join them by developing a policy that helps rebuild trust in our schools and keep families together — that is exactly what the School Trust Policy will do.”
Student information, including immigration status, is confidential under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, typically known by its acronym, FERPA. But advocates say ICE can easily access names, addresses, and birth dates to locate undocumented students and their parents.
“Because ICE takes advantage of privacy law deficiencies through data-mining of multiple public and quasi-public databases, the policies limit disclosure to other outside entities whose records could be accessed for immigration enforcement,” the immigrant rights group ACLU People Power Fairfax said. “Sensitive contact information may still be shared, but only when required to accomplish the agency’s mission.”
A recent survey from CASA, the largest immigrant advocacy group in the mid-Atlantic region, showed that Fairfax County has struggled to gain the immigrant community’s trust because members fear any contact with the police can lead to their deportation, Frisch says.
This fear keeps some families from accessing FCPS resources, such as meals, mental health services, parent workshops, and academic opportunities, according to School Board Chair and Mason District Representative Ricardy Anderson, who joined Frisch in proposing the Trust Policy.
“To regain their confidence, we must demonstrate in all that we do that we are in the business of education and nothing more,” she said.
But the magnitude of the problem in FCPS is not easy to measure, as the Virginia Department of Education does not track immigration status.
What the school division does know is that, during the 2019-20 school year, nearly 27% of all students last fall were English Learners, and Frisch says that in 2018, a former FCPS student who was undocumented told the board that he did not report incidents of bullying and assaults because he feared being reported to ICE.
The forthcoming School Trust Policy will be essential to immigrant students’ educational success and general well-being, ACLU People Power Fairfax Lead Advocate Diane Burkley Alejandro says.
“Although federal privacy law provides protection for student information, there are numerous exceptions that put immigrant families at risk,” she said. “We applaud the School Board for recognizing that more must be done.”
The school system will offer all students five days of in-person learning in the fall and a limited virtual program for students with documented health needs.
Roughly 109,000 students and staff have returned to school buildings this school year. According to the school division, nearly 85,400 students attend in-person instruction, and more than 80% of those go at least four days a week.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 transmission rates remain less than 1% — even after schools reduced social distancing to three feet.
“We are excited to welcome all students and staff back to our buildings for the in-person experiences that we all missed this fall,” FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand said. “We are encouraged and hopeful that learning in the fall will look as close to normal as possible.”
Families who intend to send their kids back for five days of in-person instruction this fall will not have to do anything. Those who want to use next year’s virtual option need to apply by May 21 and include a certification of need penned by a licensed medical professional.
The virtual option is an accommodation for the pandemic and will likely not be offered beyond the 2021-22 school year, according to FCPS.
“While we are busy planning for the fall, we do recognize that some students, in very limited circumstances, may have a documented health or medical need for virtual instruction,” Brabrand said. “Today’s announcement will help ensure that we are able to continue to serve all.”
A new law requires Virginia’s school divisions to provide five days of in-person learning to families who want it this fall. No school districts are not obligated to provide a virtual option.
FCPS joins several neighboring jurisdictions in offering an in-house virtual program to students, including Arlington Public Schools, Alexandria City Public Schools, and Loudoun County Public Schools.
Unlike FCPS, which sees virtual learning as a COVID-19 measure, APS intends to one day permanently incorporate this option into its offerings.
The FCPS Virtual Program will be primarily taught by county teachers and accommodate students with special education needs and those who require English language learning services, but not all specialized programs or courses will be available.
Some courses will instead be offered through the statewide Virtual Virginia platform. FCPS officials initially proposed supporting students who need to remain online by continuing to utilize concurrent learning, where teachers provide instruction to in-person and virtual students simultaneously, but the school board decisively rejected the idea, citing teachers’ frustration with the additional workload.
School officials will decide case-by-case whether virtual students can participate in activities or athletics.
“We will see you in August,” Brabrand said.
Image via FCPS/Twitter
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors adopted a balanced budget for fiscal year 2022 yesterday (Tuesday).
The newly adopted budget supports a 1% pay increase for county employees, a 2% raise for Fairfax County Public Schools employees, and 15% salary supplements for staff in the Office of the Public Defender and state probation and parole officers.
“While there were many constraints on this year’s budget, I am tremendously proud of what this Board was able to accomplish,” Board Chairman Jeff McKay said. “My goal was to look for balance in lowering the tax rate, with the understanding of skyrocketing property assessments, while also supporting our County employees and teachers and furthering our priorities in education, affordable housing, environmental protection, and community resources. I am pleased we were able to achieve that.”
The proposed budget from February did not include pay increases for employees, whose pay was frozen in this year’s budget. The new 1% pay increase comes after Fairfax County employees advocated for salary bumps last month.
“The 1% wage increase and one-time bonus come as a response to union members making it clear that two years of frozen pay for essential county workers was unacceptable,” SEIU Virginia 512 Fairfax Chapter President Tammie Wondong said. “We appreciate the approved change. That being said, the concessions fall short of the agreed-upon pay plan and workers are falling behind.”
The county employees’ union will now focus on its push for Fairfax County to adopt a collective bargaining ordinance. A new state law permitting localities to establish collective bargaining procedures took effect on May 1.
McKay told Tysons Reporter last week that county staff is currently drafting an ordinance that will be discussed at the board’s personnel committee meeting on May 25.
“Meaningful collective bargaining is the only way workers can ensure that the county keeps their promise on our pay plans so that we have the resources to provide the best services to the Fairfax community,” Wondong said.
The increase will be funded using $20 million that County Executive Bryan Hill had recommended setting aside in an “Economic Recovery Reserve.” As the county looks to rebuild, it will instead lean on the $222 million in federal relief funds it expects to receive from the American Rescue Plan Act.
“The redirection of this reserve does not exacerbate budgetary challenges in FY 2023,” the final budget document reads. “With this reserve, funding just shy of $30 million is available to be utilized for employee pay in FY 2022.”
Here are some other highlights:
As proposed in February, the real estate tax rate will decrease from $1.15 per $100 of assessed value to $1.14 per $100 of assessed value. Personal property tax rates and stormwater fees will remain the same, at $4.57 per $100 of assessed value and $0.0325 per $100 of assessed value, respectively.
As considered during the budget markup last week, the refuse disposal fee will decrease from $68 to $66 per ton, but the refuse collection fee will increase from $370 to $400 per household. The rate was reduced from $385 last year because of a reduction in yard waste collection services during the pandemic.
Funding for county government operations and contributions to Metro and Fairfax County Public Schools, or general fund disbursements, totals $4.53 billion. That marks a slight increase from the advertised $4.48 million, and an increase of $55.40 million over the current fiscal year’s disbursements.
More than half of those disbursements (52.6%, or $2.38 billion) support Fairfax County Public Schools. This includes $2.17 billion for operations, $197.12 million for debt service and $13.10 million for school construction.
Fairfax County will create 109 additional positions in FY 2022 to staff new facilities, such as the South County Police Station, a new 61,000-square-foot police station and animal shelter, and the Scotts Run Fire Station. Positions are also being added for the county’s opioid task force and Diversion First initiative.
Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano says the budget marks an important first step toward solving Fairfax’s “longstanding justice crisis,” adding that the 15 new positions his office has been allocated will enable prosecutors to take on more cases.
“As the budget takes effect in July and we fill those, we will be able to expand our caseload to encompass all cases other than minor traffic infractions,” the Commonwealth Attorney’s office said. “We are already scaling up our caseload now and are prioritizing cases that contain an indication of violence between now and July.”
Descano says his office will complement its expanded case load with a “growing use of diversion and alternative sentencing to ensure we are keeping the community safe in a manner that accords with our values.”
Additional staffing alone won’t solve the problem, however. Descano says a multi-year investment is needed to address the “chronic shortcomings that plagued our system,” including a culture of producing as many convictions as quickly and cheaply as possible.
Charts via Fairfax County
Lucid Motors, an American luxury electric vehicle company, is looking to open a store and service center in Tysons Galleria.
The company has filed plans with Fairfax County for a store, vehicle service, and delivery center in the lower level of the former Macy’s building. The filing comes less than a year after Lucid announced it would open a studio in Tysons Corner Center.
Tesla’s major rival is eyeing 27,642 square feet in the northern portion of the vacated Macy’s site. It envisions a glassy, contemporary showroom with the delivery and service center tucked away so it would not be visible from public streets.
“This will be the first service and delivery center for Lucid in the metropolitan Washington D.C. area,” Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh P.C. attorney Elizabeth Baker said in the filing. “The proposed use will bring a new exciting business to the Tysons area and help diversify uses in Tysons Galleria.”
Lucid Motors’ Tysons Galleria location will include a “store” with a few display cars and a vehicle service area. Customers can configure their cars and “experience a new Lucid vehicle virtually as well as in person,” according to Baker.
Cars will come to the location wrapped in a protective film that will be removed onsite, where the vehicles can be detailed and configured to customers’ desires. The nearby parking garage will store up to 40 vehicles.
Last September, the company unveiled its flagship “post-luxury” vehicle, Lucid Air, advertising it as tailored to “progressive buyers” who value sustainability, design, and technical innovation as much as quality and craftsmanship.
— Lucid Motors (@LucidMotors) April 21, 2021
Baker said that servicing electric vehicles will be possible in the former Macy’s store because the process is “dramatically different from typical combustion-engine maintenance and service.”
“There is no vehicle exhaust and the amount of hazardous materials used in EVs and their service is substantially reduced by comparison,” she said.
Since Macy’s closed in 2018, the applicant has been renovating and re-tenanting the Macy’s building, Baker said.
“The former Macy’s building has been thoughtfully redesigned to incorporate the new business within the existing building with minimal impact, and will complement other existing and future businesses,” she said.
Public hearings on Lucid Motors’ special exception request are tentatively set to take place before the Fairfax County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors this fall.
Photos courtesy Fairfax County
Starting July 1, adults 21 and older in Virginia can legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana.
Ahead of that date, local police departments say they are preparing their officers, while advocates say the bill needs serious retooling to keep kids out of the juvenile justice system and help reverse the harm done to Black and brown communities after decades of unequal enforcement.
“We still have time to fix many of these things,” Chelsea Higgs Wise, executive director of the racial justice and cannabis advocacy group Marijuana Justice, said. “Between now and then, we have elections. We have to talk to people about how they’re going to take this legalization forward while centering equity. This is not over.”
The Virginia General Assembly passed a law earlier this month accelerating the legalization of weed from July 2024 to this coming summer. The law will be reenacted in 2024, when recreational, commercial sales are legalized.
Through June 30, the possession of less than one ounce of cannabis will remain “decriminalized” — that is, it is penalized with a fine, but the incident does not show up on a person’s criminal record.
The new law legalizing cannibis essentially permits those 21 and older to use marijuana inside their homes, and possibly in their backyards; grow up to four plants; and possess up to one ounce of cannabis. The plant must be in a manufacturer’s container for someone to drive with it in the car legally.
Giving cannabis to someone underage is considered a felony, while students younger than 21 who are found in possession of the plant on school grounds would be charged with a misdemeanor. A clause requires court-ordered drug treatment services for individuals 20 and under found with the plant.
People in jail for marijuana-related crimes will remain there, Virginia Mercury reports.
Here are the top areas of interest and concern for police officers, people in the criminal justice system and advocates.
Although marijuana-related arrests have been trending down recently, Falls Church City Police Chief Mary Gavin says that one potential consequence of marijuana legalization is more people driving while stoned.
“There are going to be obviously growing pains,” Gavin said. “My biggest concern, in terms of public safety, is the possible increase of driving under the influence.”
According to data provided to Tysons Reporter by the police departments, cannabis arrests appear to be trending down slightly in both Fairfax County and Falls Church City. A chart supplied by Fairfax County Police Department shows arrest rates peaking in 2018 before dropping off dramatically in 2020.
The Falls Church City Police Department reported a similar pattern. It made 61 and 63 arrests in 2018 and 2019, respectively, followed by 17 arrests in 2020 and none so far this year.
Herndon Police Department spokesperson Lisa Herndon said the town had about 125 marijuana-related arrests from Jan. 1, 2018 to Dec. 13, 2020.
Gavin attributed the recent drop-off in arrests to a combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and a policy change introduced by Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano, who ceased prosecuting simple marijuana possession cases against adults when he took office on Jan. 2, 2020.
Descano told Tysons Reporter that he stopped prosecuting marijuana cases because it would be the right approach for community safety and racial equity. His office estimates that more than 1,000 cases have since been dismissed.
“While the opposition to this decision was intense at the time — so much so that we planned to create a bail fund in case our attorneys were held in contempt of court and jailed — I am pleased that other jurisdictions followed suit and marijuana has now been legalized across the Commonwealth,” Descano said. Read More
The Falls Church City School Board voted Tuesday night (April 27) to rename two of its schools, effective July.
Thomas Jefferson Elementary School will now be called Oak Street Elementary School — a name it bore before it took the third U.S. president’s — and George Mason High School will be Meridian High School.
The vote concluded a lengthy process that involved public comments, surveys, and work by two renaming committees to generate new monikers for the schools in place of the names of white Founding Fathers who enslaved Africans. The approval came despite recent opposition from a group of high-profile citizens, including a former mayor and two former vice mayors.
“This has been a long and, at times challenging, process, but I do think we’re moving onto a newer and brighter time in Falls Church,” Board Chair Shannon Litton said.
Choosing the elementary school’s new name came easily. Each board member had the same top two picks — Oak Street and Tripps Run, in reference to a nearby creek.
Those who favored Oak Street argued, among other points, that naming the school after the creek is only one step removed naming it after a person, specifically the creek’s historical namesake, Silas Tripp, and that the name’s grammar and spelling could confuse students.
“If the run was not named after a person, I’d be in support of Tripps Run,” Vice Chair Laura Downs said. “I do have some concerns that, in the end, the body of water was named after a person, and we don’t want to find ourselves here years from now because of something someone found.”
For the high school, however, the board was split between Meridian and West Falls Church or West End before ultimately voting 5-2 for Meridian after many awkward pauses. A few members lamented the board-imposed rule of disqualifying the names of people dead fewer than 10 years, saying Ruth Bader Ginsburg would make a fine name.
Meridian’s proponents highlighted the fact that it had been proposed by a teacher, Meridian Street‘s history as a boundary for the original District of Columbia, and its global connotation, which they argued would be fitting for a school that offers the International Baccalaureate curriculum.
As a bonus, they added, “M” paraphernalia from the former Mason name will not be obsolete.
Opponents dismissed the bonus, criticized the name as generic, and worried that it would be unfamiliar to graduates, requiring frequent explanations of its ties to local history.
Elisabeth Snyder, the student representative to the board, said she could not find a clear frontrunner based on conversations with students and teachers. She shared that many had expressed support for Meridian because of “how it connects to IB and inclusiveness,” while acknowledging that the Falls Church association isn’t instantly apparent. Read More
The Vienna Town Council voted Monday night (April 26) to authorize sidewalk engineering studies for nine stretches of streets throughout town.
The studies — and construction costs down the road, if the council approves the projects for implementation — will be funded by the Maud Ferris Robinson Charitable Trust. Robinson, a former councilmember, left more than $7 million to the town after her death in 2019 to pay for sidewalks.
The vote raised the number of Robinson-funded projects in the design phase to 14. In addition, two projects were approved for construction, and the town will seek the thumbs-up for construction on another two projects in less than a month, according to Department of Public Works Director Michael Gallagher.
The approval comes as town officials and pedestrian advocates call for more action on sidewalk projects, pointing to the dwindling time the town has to spend the bequeathed funds. Vienna has until fall 2024 to use the bequest.
“Time is ticking,” Mayor Linda Colbert said.
As of early 2020, the town had roughly 85 miles of sidewalk. The Robinson trust focuses on filling in missing patches of sidewalks that weren’t already planned or likely to be funded through other grants.
Public opposition previously led the Vienna Town Council to defer six projects. This time, the council forged ahead despite a number of speakers who voiced concerns.
More than 30 people participated in the council’s public hearing on the Robinson trust initiative. The attendees were split on the issue, voicing broad concerns — losing lawn space or mature trees — as well as ones related to specific stretches of road.
With the exception of Councilmember Nisha Patel, who abstained, the full town council joined Colbert in voting to approve the following streets for sidewalk engineering studies:
- Alma Street SE: even side from Delano Drive SE to Follin Lane SE ($60,000)
- Birch Street SW: odd side from Battle Street SW to Plum Street SW ($70,000)
- Blackstone Terrace NW: even side from Lawyers Road NW to Holmes Drive NW ($40,000)
- Charles Street SE: odd side from Locust Street SE to Branch Road SE ($25,000)
- Cherry Circle SW: both sides from the cul-de-sac to Cottage Street SW ($30,000)
- Elmar Drive SE/SW: west side from Park Street SE to Desale Street SW ($60,000)
- Oak Street SW: odd side from Center Street S to Birch Street SW ($70,000)
- Symphony Circle SW: both sides from the cul-de-sac to Melody Lane SW ($65,000)
- Timber Lane SW: odd side from Tapawingo Road SW to Harmony Drive SW ($50,000)
The town also approved construction spending for sidewalks along Pleasant Street SW from Courthouse Road to Maple Avenue and on Cabin Road SE from Branch Road to Glyndon Street.
Colbert said the town will continue accepting written comments and will work with residents. She described sidewalk projects as part of the government’s obligation to support public safety, since they help many residents travel, from people with strollers to older individuals and people with limited mobility.
“A community with sidewalks is healthy. It’s friendly. And most importantly, it is safe,” Colbert said. Read More
The third phase of The Mile — a mixed-use complex replacing the former Westpark Business Park in Tysons — will combine apartments and a mini-warehouse.
“Building B,” dubbed The Charlton in a rendering, will be up to 90 feet tall with up to 400 units, 150,000 square feet of storage use, and 10,000 square feet of retail use. It will sit on a 3.81-acre property on the east side of Westbranch Drive, according to the filings.
This phase is just part of KETTLER and PS Business Parks’ plans to develop an underutilized 45-acre area with office buildings and parking into a complex with 13 buildings mixing high-rise and mid-rise residential and commercial buildings with ground-floor retail uses, parking, and public park space.
“Building B is designed with a parking and storage structure as the core and the residential units wrapped around the structure parking,” the developer’s legal representative Elizabeth D. Baker said in a letter to the county. “Building B includes two courtyards which open onto the adjacent Signature Park providing extensive views of this future amenity.”
The Charlton sits west of the future Signature Park, which is part of the public open space amenity package that KETTLER and PS Business Parks are proposing for The Mile.
About five acres in size, Signature Park will have a “large flexible lawn with a stage for community events, a children’s playground, a terraced lawn, a recreational loop, lawn games, and a variety of outdoor seating options,” Baker said.
In the interim, before the park is built, the lot will be turned into a small plaza with seating and bike racks on the east side of Blyton Street, as well as a trail connection to the parcel to the east, she said. The graphic above illustrates where those amenities will be placed.
Blyton Street is one of the new streets being created as part of the development, along with Rowling Street, from which users will be able to access the retail space and the mini-warehouse self-storage facility. Residents will access parking from Westbranch Drive.
Construction work on the development’s second phase started in November. The Brentford apartment buildings, and the first units are expected to be complete in spring 2022. The first phase, Highgate at The Mile, was completed in 2017.
Images via Fairfax County
Former Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis will be the new Fairfax County chief of police, effective May 3.
After emerging from a closed session, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously this afternoon (Friday) to appoint Davis to lead the Fairfax County Police Department. He will succeed Deputy County Executive for Public Safety Dave Rohrer, who has been serving as interim chief since former Chief Edwin C. Roessler retired in February.
“This is a humbling moment for me,” Davis said on a video call with the supervisors. “I will take it very seriously and I promise not to let you down.”
The decision came after a firm hired by the county conducted a nationwide search that involved more than 275 community meetings and calls, more than 450 emails sent to stakeholders, and a survey that received more than 3,000 responses, according to the county.
The Board of Supervisors “strongly weighed” the survey results in the final hiring decision, the county said.
“We are delighted to have you on board,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McKay said. “We look forward to working with you on behalf of our community.”
Speaking to FCPD officers, Davis said, “You guys are a great agency. I want to say that loudly and clearly.”
“Is there room for improvement? Of course. Are you up to the task? Of course. Is change sometimes hard or difficult? Absolutely,” he said. “We have to seize this moment and continue to get better.”
Davis said earning trust starts with establishing legitimacy and paying attention to communities of color and people who are vulnerable and underserved.
“We have to meet you where you are, be better listeners, be less defensive and quite frankly, see you,” he said.
On accountability, Davis said he will “call balls and strikes.” And as for reform, he told police officers that the county has already embarked on a number of common-sense reforms and encouraged them to embrace this process.
“Reform is what we do for police officers, not to them,” he said. “It makes you better, it earns you better relationships with the community.”
In a statement released shortly after, McKay said Davis is recognized across the region as a leader in police reform, has a strong reputation, and is well-respected in the communities in which he has served.
“As this nation looks to transform policing to make the community safer for everyone, we have the opportunity for a fresh perspective to further our work on police reform in Fairfax County,” McKay said. “After thorough interviews, the entire Board is confident that Kevin Davis will continue Fairfax’s work on police reform, build on the deep community involvement and relationships with stakeholders, and improve morale within the police department.”
According to the county, Davis served as the City of Baltimore’s police commissioner from 2015 to 2018. He had previously served as chief of police of Anne Arundel County in Maryland from 2013 to 2014, and as assistant chief of the Prince George’s County Police Department from 1992 to 2013. Most recently, he has worked as director of consulting services for GardaWorld.
Davis will receive an annual salary of $215,000.
Photo via Fairfax County