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Vienna’s lone drive-through COVID-19 testing site is officially no more, but the town is moving to make it easier to establish similar facilities in the future.

The Vienna Planning Commission unanimously approved an amendment to the zoning ordinance on Feb. 9 that would allow for temporary medical testing sites during public health emergencies. Such facilities are currently prohibited by the town.

The proposed amendment was brought up by Councilmember Chuck Anderson at the Vienna Town Council’s Jan. 24 meeting.

“This all sort of has evolved out of Covid and the like, where there were a lot of emergency provisions that had to be put in place,” Anderson said.

Vienna allowed the provider Personic Health Care to set up a drive-through testing site in the Emmaus United Church of Christ parking lot at 900 Maple Avenue in early 2021 under an emergency ordinance that waived zoning regulations for certain outdoor, commercial activities.

However, the ordinance could only stay in effect for up to six months after the end of Virginia’s statewide emergency declaration for the pandemic, which was allowed to expire on June 30, 2021.

The Personic site was scheduled to shutter at the end of last year, but with COVID-19 cases surging in Fairfax County at the time, Town Manager Mercury Payton authorized a “wind-down” period on Dec. 31 that kept the facility open through the end of January.

While cases have declined in recent weeks, community transmission of Covid remains high in Fairfax County. The proposed amendment would allow testing facilities in the town during any future surges in this pandemic or other health crises.

“A lot of this has to do with public confidence, because we’ve had a lot of criticisms about this,” Anderson said during the Jan. 24 meeting. “I want to provide the public with the confidence that we’re aware of this and we’re doing something about it.”

If approved by the Vienna Town Council, the amendment would give authority to the town manager to approve licensed temporary medical testing sites when a public health emergency has been declared by local, state, or federal government agencies.

An operator would have to file a conditional use permit application with the town and approved by the town manager before the site can go online. The town manager would also set operational conditions for these facilities, including dates, hours of operation, and how to set appointments.

Appointments came into consideration after issues arose at the Personic testing site this past winter. According to town planner Michael D’Orazio, demand for testing was so high that the lines blocked traffic on Maple Avenue.

Under the amendment, sites where temporary medical testing sites would be permitted include churches and other places of worship, along with public schools and colleges.

Private schools are not included, since Vienna would be required to get permission to use those sites for testing.

The amendment will now head to the Vienna Town Council for its approval. A public hearing is expected to be held on the matter when the council meets on Feb. 28.

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Redd Road is a spot of concern for some West Falls Church area residents (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) The Fairfax County Department of Transportation got an initial round of public input last week on its study to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety and infrastructure in the area around the West Falls Church Metro station.

The department held virtual meetings on Wednesday and Saturday (Feb. 9 and 12) on the study as the county hopes to address community concerns before developers begin to transform the 24-acre transit station area, attracting more foot and vehicle traffic to the area.

FCDOT planner Timothy Kutz Jr. explained that the study focuses on a 2-mile radius around the Metro station to find gaps in the bicycle network. The study’s scope also encompasses a 1-mile radius for possible pedestrian improvements.

After the presentation, attendees brought up a range of issues, from missing sidewalks to the need for safer crossing methods. Areas of concern included access to the Metro station and nearby Haycock Elementary School, among other destinations.

One example of the need for increased safety was Redd Road, where participants raised concerns about the lack of sidewalks and safe crossing points as well as potential traffic dangers.

According to the study description, improvements there could include a walkway and a bridge that would connect to Redd from both the Idylwood Road and Pimmit Drive sides of the street.

Attendees also questioned if the planned development will make local traffic denser and more hazardous.

“We will be looking at forecasted volumes on select streets in order to determine how a change in traffic given increased development may affect the recommendations we make for active transportation improvements,” Kutz said.

The county launched the study in December after the Board of Supervisors approved comprehensive plan changes in July to allow mixed-use development around the West Falls Church Metro station and the Virginia Tech campus.

The plan allows for a maximum of 1,340 residential units, 301,000 square feet of office space, 48,000 square feet for retail space, and 160,000 square feet for institutional needs.

According to the project’s draft scope of work, the first set of recommendations will be ready to present for community feedback sometime this spring. A final draft of the study is projected to go before the Board of Supervisors in the summer.

Photo via Google Maps

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The affordable housing project planned for Dominion Square West in Tysons (via KGD Architecture/Fairfax County)

Dominion Square West in Tysons has been redesignated as a revitalization area to make way for an affordable housing project.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the designation to help facilitate an application for Low Income Housing Tax Credits.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn noted that the term “revitalization area” isn’t related to the county’s economic revitalization efforts in areas like McLean and Lake Anne in Reston.

“This is a very specific term used in the state code, separate from what we’d say revitalization is in our Comprehensive Plan,” he said.

The nonprofit Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing has a contract with the county to buy the 2-acre site on Spring Hill Road in the Tysons West neighborhood. The land was purchased by the county using $10.97 million from the American Rescue Plan Act and another $10 million from a Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority reserve fund.

APAH must submit its application for the credit to Virginia Housing before its March 2022 deadline. The property’s new status as a revitalization area was deemed necessary to help meet the criteria for the application process.

According to county documents, the tax credit would be used as a source of funding by APAH to construct a nine-story, 175-unit multifamily building for the first phase of the Dominion Square West development planned near the Spring Hill Metro station.

The units would be affordable to county residents with incomes between 30 to 60% of the area medium income, which is $129,000 for a family of four, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 60% of that would be $77,500 for a family of four.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay noted that this was the first-ever item taken up by the board to come with a formal equity impact statement explaining how the project will help address the county’s goal of creating an inclusive community.

“Staff will be strategically applying the equity impact statements on items coming to the board, non-land use items,” McKay said.

According to the statement, the first phase of Dominion Square West “will provide equitable access to reasonably priced housing” in the increasingly urban economic hub of Tysons.

Since 2010, over 44,000 new units have been approved for development in Tysons. As of August 2021, a total of 752 of the 4,081 residential units delivered serve low to moderate-income households though the county’s affordable and workforce dwelling unit programs.

The county hopes to increase the supply of affordable housing by adding at least 5,000 homes by 2034.

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Wade Hampton Drive in Vienna (via Google Maps)

Say goodbye to Wade Hampton Drive, because by July, the name will be a relic like Jefferson Davis Highway.

The Vienna Town Council voted unanimously after a public hearing last night (Monday) to rename the Maple Avenue side street Liberty Lane, removing the moniker of Confederate Lt. Gen. Wade Hampton III.

The council also decided to reimburse the residents living along the road for the issues the renaming will cause and set a date for when the changeover will be complete.

The consensus among the Wade Hampton residents who spoke at the public hearing was that while a name change would be disruptive, requiring them to file address changes with various governmental and business entities, they understood and supported the move.

“It was a wrong done many years ago, and the Town of Vienna has to take some blame for it, and it should be righted,” Wade Hampton resident Sharon Pott said of naming a street after Hampton.

Identifying herself as a resident of Wade Hampton for close to 42 years, Pott said she supports renaming the road but noted that “it’s going to require quite a lot of effort on everybody’s part.”

Several Wade Hampton residents advocated for changing the name to Roland Street, which would connect it to an existing road in the neighborhood, but others objected to that name as well.

DeArmond Carter, a member of the nonprofit Historic Vienna who initiated the push to rename Wade Hampton Drive, expressed opposition to the potential namesake of the road, J.B. Roland, saying he held racist views and sympathies to the Confederacy.

“Continuing Roland Street would be an insult to Vienna’s African American community,” she said, recommending that the road instead take her family’s name in recognition of their 160-year history in the community.

Other residents preferred Liberty Lane as the replacement, citing the Town of Vienna’s role in getting Virginia to ratify Liberty Amendments Month as an annual celebration.

With the unanimously approved motion, the town council agreed that residents living on that road should be reimbursed $500 for the inconvenience, and that the changeover should go into effect on July 4.

“I didn’t want to go too cheap and I didn’t want to make it look like we were paying the residents off to make the change,” Councilmember Chuck Anderson said when some council members questioned the amount of the reimbursement. “I wanted to have a number that would start a conversation. It’s going to take time to find out what needs to be done to make the transition of changing the name.”

City staff will work with residents over the next four months to help them with the change.

Photo via Google Maps

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