Tysons, VA

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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Modalia Capital, a Bethesda-based investment firm, is seeking a special exception permit from Fairfax County so it can purchase Powhatan Nursing Home in Falls Church.

If approved, the purchase would represent an expansion of the private, family-run firm’s senior living holdings, which currently includes Carriage Hill of Bethesda and some planned developments and redevelopments in North Carolina and Florida, according to its website. In the mid-Atlantic region, Modalia has leased Regency Care of Arlington and Regency Care of Silver Spring.

The 7.67-acre property at 2100 Powhatan Street will remain a nursing home serving McLean and Falls Church, according to county documents. Currently owned by Cynthia Butler, it has been family-owned and operated since it was built in 1965.

“Powhatan Nursing Home has been part of the community since its construction in 1965,” Kathryn Taylor, an attorney with the land-use firm Walsh Colucci, wrote in a letter to the Fairfax County Department of Planning & Zoning. “Upon the purchase of the Powhatan Nursing Home, the Applicant will continue the nursing home use, which offers valuable and beneficial services to the surrounding community.”

According to Walsh Colucci land use attorney Lynne Strobel, the property has already been put under contract, but Modalia needs its special exception request to be approved by Fairfax County in order to close the sale.

“I cannot speculate on what will happen if the special exception is not approved,” Strobel told Tysons Reporter.

Powhatan Nursing Home, which can house up to 160 residents, provides long-term and short-term care to individuals who require assistance with daily living, the letter said. This includes rehabilitation programs, physical therapy and occupational therapy.

Modalia plans minor exterior and interior repairs to refurbish and upgrade the aging building, the county documents say.

“The Applicant is an experienced operator of age-restricted housing,” the letter from Walsh said.

Modalia Capital is run by the Vucich family, which got its start in the nursing home business in Chicago after World War II, according to the website. The Vucich family operated more than a half-dozen assisted living and skilled nursing facilities in the Midwest that it has since sold.

The second and third-generation family members running Modalia are now building up a portfolio of senior living and multifamily properties in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida.

If the sale is finalized, Strobel says Powhatan will be rebranded as Vierra Falls Church and become part of “Vierra Communities,” Modalia Capital’s newly rebranded senior living venture.

“Vierra has specialized in the management and operations of senior living and skilled nursing facilities since 1952,” Modalia’s website said.

Last October, the investment group purchased a property in South Florida that it may develop into an intergenerational, mixed-use development with condos, an assisted living and memory care community and retail, South Florida Business Journal reports.

Photo via Google Maps

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Updated at 7:30 p.m. — The superintendents of Fairfax County and Arlington public schools say the Virginia High School League should mandate diversity and inclusion training for all high school athletes, coaches, and officials after allegations of racism at a football game between Marshall and Wakefield high schools led to escalating tensions.

Stating that their divisions “embrace diversity and strongly condemn hate speech and racial intolerance of any kind,” FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand and APS Superintendent Francisco Durán called the incident “an opportunity to take a step back and discuss how actions have consequences and that our words can deeply hurt others.”

“This situation has deeply affected both school divisions, our families, students, and our respective communities,” they said. “In recent days, it has provoked strong emotions in both communities, and has become divisive by pitting schools against one another. This is not about one team versus another; it is about our students and how we can come together to support them and take necessary actions to ensure this situation does not repeat itself. Our students deserve better.”

Brabrand and Durán added that FCPS and APS will both “provide training and education for our athletes, coaches, and staff so that, together, we are all working to support students.”

The full statement can be found on the Fairfax County Public Schools website.

Earlier: Members of Marshall High School’s football community, including the coach, players, and parents, are refuting previously reported accounts of racist taunts against the Wakefield High School football team.

On Wednesday (March 17), Wakefield students came forward detailing their experiences in which they allege being called the n-word and “boy” during a game against Marshall High School on March 5. One student said he was spat on.

Wakefield players and parents have started a campaign calling for accountability from school athletics officials, including a petition demanding “an immediate apology” from Marshall and its football program that has garnered almost 5,000 signatures.

Arlington Public Schools confirmed that an incident occurred, and Fairfax County Public Schools said it had investigated and is addressing the reports, but in the last 24 hours, Marshall community members have issued statements and written letters disputing the Wakefield players’ accounts.

“Our players, coaches, and parents refute these allegations whole-heartedly,” Coach Jason Strickland said in a letter to the school community. “I believe our players, coaches, and parents because I did not witness nor have I been shown actual proof of these accusations occurring.”

Following up on the letter, an FCPS spokesperson said Strickland’s response addresses a “highly charged situation.”

“Families, students, and community members are upset and emotions are high. Regretfully, harsh words and accusations on social media have also contributed,” she said in a statement. “It would not be unusual for a coach to want to communicate directly with his or her players and their families about an intense matter that been publicly escalated by multiple parties.”

Parents of students at Marshall also penned a statement that refuted every claim made by the Wakefield community and criticized media reports for being one-sided.

“We at Marshall High School are defending the players of the Marshall Statesmen football team for remaining strong and resilient regarding the allegations of racism and other slanderous remarks by Wakefield High School players,” the statement said. “There is no culture of racism and bigotry at Marshall High School on the football team.”

They also said Wakefield students called Marshall students the n-word and other derogatory names. Further, they added, Marshall students had to wear masks, so they could not spit on students. Coach Strickland confirmed that Marshall was enforcing mask-wearing during the game. Read More

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Marshall High School players called members of the Wakefield High School football team in Arlington County racial slurs during a recent game, an Arlington Public Schools spokesman confirms.

Wakefield student-athletes Lukai Hatcher and Izaiah Lang took to social media last night (Wednesday) to post about the events they say transpired during an away game against Marshall High School on March 5.

“Me and my teammates were called racial slurs, taunted, and even spit on by Marshall players,” they said in a widely-shared joint statement posted on Facebook, Instagram, and elsewhere. “We also experienced unfair treatment by each of the refs and were harassed from the sidelines by coaches and Marshall parents.”

Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia confirmed a portion of the allegations.

“An incident did occur between Marshall and Wakefield high schools where Marshall players used racial slurs at the Wakefield football team,” Bellavia told ARLnow, an affiliate site of Tysons Reporter.

Wakefield Principal Dr. Christian Willmore says the racial slurs included the n-word and the word “boy.” He also confirmed that there was spitting.

A Fairfax County Public Schools spokesperson told Tysons Reporter in a statement that the school system has “expectations of behavior” for students and staff and that “allegations such as these are taken seriously.”

“We does not accept acts of intolerance,” the statement said. “When administration learned of the March 5 matter, we conducted a thorough investigation. The investigation was extensive and involved VHSL, officials, staff, players and families from both teams.”

FCPS personnel, including school leadership, regional office administrators, and the divison’s chief equity officer, are working with all the families involved and the coaches from both teams to develop a plan for restorative justice, the statement said.

“At FCPS, our primary responsibility is the safety and well-being of our students and staff. Every student must understand the value of appreciating each other’s differences, extending common courtesy, and treating each other with respect,” FCPS said. “We must all be committed to do better.”

Game footage shows a fight breaking out between the teams. APS confirmed that three Wakefield students were given three-game suspensions as a result of the fights, but the sanctions have since been knocked down to one-game suspensions, per Virginia High School League guidelines.

Marshall ended up winning the game, 19-18.

Hatcher and Lang alleged in their statement that what happened on March 5 has happened before.

“Marshall High School’s athletic teams have been known to demonstrate a culture of racism and unsportsmanlike behavior,” including foul play on the basketball court, they said. “We are shining the light on the continuing culture of tolerance for unjust and discriminatory practices in sports for minority athletes and seeking accountability in support of change.”

“We as a team complained to the refs all game about the way that we were being treated yet the flags were consistently thrown on us and even our coaches,” Hatcher and Lang added. “We should not be punished for defending ourselves and each other especially because during the entire game the refs, [whose] job it is to ensure each game is fair and who were supposed to protect and defend us, did not.”

The claims made against the referees, coaches and parents have not been confirmed.

Hatcher and Lang are pressing for change in the wake of the March 5 game.

“This isn’t new and enough is enough!” they wrote.

Photos via @JavellEdge/Twitter, @lukai_hatcher/Instagram

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A consultant is recommending a dozen ways Fairfax County can uplift people whose livelihoods have been harmed by the pandemic in the short-term and promote long-term economic resilience.

Specific short-term measures include launching “Buy Local” and “Made in Fairfax” campaigns, focusing on women- and minority-owned businesses, and finding ways to reduce rent or other costs for struggling small businesses.

Other recommendations target those hit hardest — including people without high school degrees, women with children, and people of color — with services like career centers, workforce training programs, and affordable childcare.

“A lot of these things have ongoing aspects, but tying them together and focusing on economic recovery is really going to be an effective approach,” Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said.

County staff presented plans for implementing the consultant’s recommendations and assisting small businesses during the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors economic initiatives committee meeting on Tuesday (March 16).

Fairfax County has up to $15 million in reserves to support economic recovery efforts and could also use some of the anticipated $222.56 million in federal funds coming from the American Rescue Plan, according to Foust, who chairs the committee.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn called the staff proposal “fantastic” but added that transportation — which did not figure into staff planning — should play a role in the county’s recovery efforts.

“Since we’re doing something new, I would just recommend putting more structure into collaboration across agencies,” Providence Supervisor Dalia Palchik said.

Fairfax County hired the consultant HR&A last summer to analyze how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected its economy and what the county government could do to expedite a more just recovery. More than 65 organizations and small businesses participated in the study, providing input on perceived barriers to and strategies for economic recovery.

According to the consultant’s report, before COVID-19, flourishing technology and government sectors contributed to a decade of strong economic growth for Fairfax County. The total number of jobs grew by 9% annually, and employment had reached its lowest level since the Great Recession.

In 2018, the county had the third-highest median household income in the D.C. area, but significant racial disparities lurked just below the surface: The median household income for white residents was about $140,000, exceeding that of Black households (~$86,000) and Hispanic households (~$81,000).

The pandemic reversed that job growth and exacerbated the existing disparities.

Through December 2020, Fairfax County lost an estimated 48,200 jobs, mainly in food service, hospitality, retail, and the arts. Small businesses in these three sectors will have a particularly long road to recovery, HR&A said.

The consultant also reported that job losses were most acutely felt by low-income people, people of color, and people with lower levels of formal education and training, which will make “the road to economic stability longer and more challenging.” Read More

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Falls Church City could be getting a second phase of the Founders Row development project on W. Broad and S. West streets.

Developer Mill Creek Residential Trust is proposing a mixed-use apartment building with 319 units, ground-floor retail, and underground parking with 80 retail and 351 residential spaces. It would replace the vacant Rite Aid and carpet store at 1001 and 1003 W. Broad Street across the street from the first phase of Founders Row.

“It’s meant to complement phase one in the evolving downtown of the City of Falls Church,” Mill Creek representative Joe Muffler said during a Falls Church City Council meeting on Monday (March 15).

Mill Creek submitted an application for Founders Row II to the city in November. The developer anticipates finishing the first phase by next March and hopes to start phase two around that time, Muffler said.

The developer is seeking special exceptions to allow a 30-foot height bonus, which would make the development to 85 feet tall, and to build residential units in a mixed-use area.

Aiming for LEED Gold status, Founders Row II will have electric vehicle charging stations in the parking lot and plan for future solar panel installations. The developer also plans to put utilities underground and has committed to making street and sidewalk repairs.

Mill Creek plans to re-time signals and add traffic calming measures at the intersection of S. West and W. Broad streets. The project is projected to produce a net 3-4% increase in cars at peak hours, Muffler said.

A Falls Church City staff analysis says nearly 40 units could be set aside as affordable, which is “in significant excess of the ‘typical’ 6% of all units at 60% AMI.” The proposed contribution includes 6% at 60% AMI and 6% at 80% AMI.

The affordable housing unit contribution compensates for a lack of cash contributions, but the developer is willing to be flexible, Muffler said.

The larger-scale contribution also compensates “for not providing net new commercial square feet,” Becky Witsman, the city’s economic development division chief, said in a letter.

58 units will be restricted to residents 55 and older, bringing the total number of proposed age-restricted units to 134 across both Founders Row developments, Muffler said.

“We wanted to bring a thoughtful, diverse mix that brings new renters into the city, that isn’t just kind of one size fits all,” he said.

On Monday, Councilmember Ross Litkenhous commended Mill Creek for adding green space to the proposed project in response to feedback two weeks ago. He said it will help with connectivity to the neighborhood and the Washington & Old Dominion Trail, which passes the site to the north.

In addition to housing, Founders Row II will have 15,000 square feet of retail, 5,000 square feet of medical or professional offices, and a 5,000 square-foot community co-working space. Muffler envisions less experiential, more necessary retail occupying this space.

“We all know Founders Row phase one has lifestyle- and entertainment-heavy retail,” he said. “One thing that is never going away and gets set aside for ‘sexier’ uses is retail such as convenience marts, pharmacies, and dry cleaners.”

The retail will be recessed to provide outdoor seating that will be appealing in light of the pandemic, Muffler said.

Councilmember Letty Hardi said there was “a lot to like” about Mill Creek’s proposal but cautioned that recessed retail with pavilions does not always work. She also suggested adding a turn lane onto S. West Street, as traffic can back up to Madison Lane.

“I know that this will be a consistent point of feedback, as users have trouble turning onto West right now,” Hardi said.

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The Town of Vienna is leading the way in Virginia with a newly conceived celebration of four amendments to the U.S. Constitution that enshrined the rights of people of color and women.

The town announced on Friday (March 12) that planning for the inaugural Liberty Amendments Month celebration is officially underway, and community organizations, businesses and individuals are encouraged to help shape the four weeks of festivities.

Liberty Amendments Month is the brainchild of Vienna Town Manager Mercury Payton, and the Vienna Town Council adopted a resolution on Dec. 7 to officially recognize the occasion. It has since been ratified by the Virginia General Assembly as well.

“We all can celebrate these amendments that ensure rights and liberties for each of us,” Payton said.

Patrons of the now-passed bill included Del. Mark Keam (D-Vienna) and state Sen. Mamie Locke (D-Hampton), who was one of Payton’s professors at Hampton University, Inside NOVA reports.

“I’m so proud that the Town of Vienna is leading the way in initiating this holiday and month-long commemoration of these fundamental rights that we all cherish,” Mayor Linda Colbert said. “I’m especially proud that Town Manager Mercury Payton came up with the idea and has worked hard to see it become a reality.”

In the wake of last summer’s racial justice protests, Payton conceived of Liberty Amendments Month as a celebration of the 13th, 14th, 15th, and 19th Constitutional amendments, which abolished slavery, granted citizenship to anyone born or naturalized in the U.S., and extended voting rights to all citizens regardless of race and gender.

Liberty Amendments Month will begin on June 19 — also known as Juneteenth — with an educational event that will “offer a thoughtful reflection on the liberties assured by these four amendments to the U.S. Constitution,” according to the town.

Each of the next four weeks will be dedicated to one of the four liberty amendments with contests, lectures, classes, themed restaurant specials, walks, art exhibits, films, and performances.

The celebration will culminate on July 19 with a multicultural festival featuring food, drinks, crafts, and entertainment from around the world. The Vienna Town Council has designated that day as Liberty Amendments Day, replacing Columbus Day on its list of official holidays.

“There’s lots to celebrate here,” Councilmember Chuck Anderson said. “This is going to be a people’s event just as the Constitution is the people’s document.”

Groups interested in sponsoring, participating in, or hosting events can apply online by April 1.

The town is advising planners to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions and social-distancing guidelines, which could still be in place this summer.

Planning meetings will be held at 5 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month. Interested organizations can contact [email protected] for a Zoom link to the meetings or more details.

Photo via Town of Vienna

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Some big changes are coming to McLean, and Dranesville Supervisor John Foust says he supports many — but not all — of them.

During a “Good Morning, McLean” breakfast hosted by the Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce yesterday morning (Thursday), Foust highlighted ongoing redevelopment work to the downtown area and Chain Bridge Road, but expressed caution about proposed zoning changes.

He repeated his support for the McLean Commercial Business Center revitalization plan despite some vocal opposition, saying it encourages development while protecting those who do not want McLean to become the next Tysons. The Fairfax County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the plan on April 28, and it will go before the Board of Supervisors on May 18.

Foust also spoke favorably about Tri-State Development’s proposal to build a 35-unit senior living facility with townhouses on a Chain Bridge Road site that would otherwise fit nine single-family homes. Earlier this month, the planning commission deferred a decision on the plan until next Wednesday (March 17).

“It’s exactly what McLean residents are looking for who want to downsize but don’t want to leave McLean,” Foust said. “Fundamentally, it’s a good application, and I think it’ll probably get approved.”

The project has received some pushback from nearby residents who say the project extends the business district into their residential area and will cause transportation and parking problems.

Foust acknowledged these complaints, adding that a dedicated left turn lane at the Chain Bridge and Davidson Road intersection could be needed to account for car and foot traffic. Ultimately, though, he believes it is better than the alternative for developers.

“Building nine houses would’ve been miserable,” he said.

McLean is also bracing for the potential impact of Fairfax County’s Zoning Ordinance Modernization project. Most of the changes proposed by county staff are “non-controversial” and will simplify frustrating ordinances, Foust said.

But he opposes a few elements that have also consternated the public, including proposed regulations on flags and changes to the permits required to operate a business from home.

Foust says loosening customer and signage rules for home-based businesses could lead to more businesses in residential areas.

“Staff prepared, I think, a very liberalized version,” he said. “I’m not excited about the direction staff is trying to take this.”

Outside of development and zoning issues, Foust says that, as chair of the Board of Supervisors’ economic initiatives committee, he has been focused on how Fairfax County will recover from the COVID-19 pandemic once it’s over.

The committee will receive a presentation on Tuesday from a consultant that the county hired last year to develop recommendations for its road to recovery. Right now, about $15 million are earmarked for implementing recovery programs, but Foust predicts “that number will increase dramatically” when Fairfax County receives federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act.

According to Fairfax County, that sum could be $222.56 million, although the exact amount has not yet been confirmed by the federal government.

In the meantime, the vaccine process is picking up, even with more than 103,000 people currently on Fairfax County’s waitlist.

“We’re getting through it,” Foust said. “…I get so frustrated sometimes with the failures we’ve encountered, the bumps in the road, but when I step back and look at what staff and others are accomplishing, it’s just amazing.”

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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