Newsletter

More snow is on the way to Fairfax County, though Northern Virginia isn’t expected to see the worst of this storm.

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory for the D.C. area, starting at 4 p.m. today (Friday) and continuing until 4 a.m. tomorrow (Saturday).

The full alert is below:

…WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 4 PM THIS AFTERNOON TO 4 AM EST SATURDAY…

* WHAT…Snow. Total snow accumulations of 1 to 3 inches.

* WHERE…The District of Columbia, and portions of central Maryland and central and northern Virginia.

* WHEN…From 4 PM this afternoon to 4 AM EST Saturday.

* IMPACTS…Plan on slippery road conditions. The hazardous conditions could impact the evening commute.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

Slow down and use caution while traveling.

When venturing outside, watch your first few steps taken on steps, sidewalks, and driveways, which could be icy and slippery, increasing your risk of a fall and injury.

Fairfax County Public Schools has canceled extracurricular programs, athletic team practices, and all other activities scheduled to take place on school grounds this afternoon and evening, as well as tomorrow morning until noon.

Expected snowfall for D.C. area on Jan. 28, 2022 (via National Weather Service)

The Virginia Department of Transportation says its crews pretreated roads in Northern Virginia yesterday (Thursday), and approximately 2,400 trucks will start deploying around midday to treat roads as needed.

The snowstorm is expected to hit around this afternoon’s rush hour, so the department advises planning ahead to avoid non-essential travel at that time.

“Temperatures are expected to stay below freezing over the next several days, causing potential icy conditions,” VDOT said in a news release. “Treat anything that looks wet as if it could be icy, especially bridges, ramps, overpasses, and elevated surfaces. If there is snow or ice on roadways, travel is hazardous.”

In anticipation of the coming snow, Gov. Glenn Youngkin declared a state of emergency for Virginia yesterday, noting that areas along the state’s coastline are expected to see the biggest impact.

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Fairfax County is working on ways to ensure that consistent and fair wages are linked to public construction contracts.

At a board meeting on Tuesday (Jan. 25), the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to require all public construction contracts to abide by the prevailing wage — the hourly rate paid to most workers in specific niche coasts or in a labor market area.

The county was able to pass the measure after the Virginia General Assembly adopted enabling legislation in 2020 that went into effect in May of last year.

“Increasing protection of workers’ rights and ensuring that people are paid appropriately for their skills benefits not just those workers, but the community-at-large,” Board Chairman Jeff McKay told FFXnow. “Our county invests a lot of resources into our community to help struggling residents. Workers getting a fair wage helps families towards a path of self-sufficiency and into the middle class, which helps the entire community.”

Localities are allowed to adopt ordinances that require construction contracts to pay wages for their bidders, contractors, offers, and subcontractors at the prevailing wage rate.

The rate is determined by the Commonwealth’s Commissioner of Labor and Industry, which is guided by standards set by the U.S. Secretary of Labor.

County staff worked with stakeholders and professional cost estimators from the region in order to determine the impact of adopting the ordinance on construction costs. The workgroup helped the county formulate the ordinance that passed on Tuesday.

Such ordinances could have a disproportionate impact on small, women or minority-owned businesses. Other contractors and subcontractors may lack the administrative capacity to absorb the costs associated with the ordinance, a county memo noted.

However, the ordinance could level the playing field for all contractors by taking wages out of the equation, according to county staff. Minority businesses may be able to compete for county contracts, which may be underbid by low-road competition that is not from the area.

The county is working on ways to make sure that businesses have administrative support like software and resources in order to comply with the ordinance.

But it’s still unclear how adopting a prevailing wage affects construction project costs, according to county staff.

The Virginia Division of Engineering and Buildings, for example, accounts for a budget impact of 15% for construction costs. The cost impact can vary between 5 and 7.5% depending on the project type, according to the county.

Based on the county’s unique needs, the ordinance would increase costs by around 5%.

The ordinance goes into effect on July 1.

The state’s prevailing wage law — known as the Little Davis-Bacon Act — went into effect in May. The law requires contractors and subcontractors with contracts over $250,000 to pay the prevailing wage and benefits to all employees who are a part of that contract.

Contractors must verify the pay scale used for employees under the public contract. Itemization of the amount paid to workers is provided and payment records are verified.

If contractors fail to follow the law, the prevailing page must be paid, in addition to an annual interest rate of 8% that accrues when wages were first due.

The contractor is disqualified from bidding on all public contracts until workers are paid. Arlington County also has a prevailing wage ordinance.

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The national chain Kura Sushi is bringing a sushi bar to Tysons, its first Virginia location.

The publicly traded company, whose closest site right now is in D.C., plans to open at 8461 Leesburg Pike by the end of this year, spokesperson Lauren Murakami confirmed.

Kura Sushi will replace the closed Roti Mediterranean Grill restaurant at the plaza, which is anchored by Best Buy and also has Chick-fil-A and Chipotle. The center will also soon house Vertical Rock, a bouldering gym expected to open this spring.

“We’ve been wanting to expand more on the east coast, as the majority of our restaurants are primarily on the west coast, specifically in Southern California,” Murakami wrote in an email. “Tysons Corner is reputable for its premier entertainment and shopping centers, and we offer a unique technology-driven dining experience that we feel will cater to this lively community.”

Kura Sushi’s D.C. restaurant features $3.15 sushi plates served on a conveyor belt that rolls food to customers’ tables, a setup that will be familiar to patrons of Wasabi in Tysons Corner Center.

Menu items generally range from spicy tuna and shrimp avocado rolls to softshell crab tempura, ramen and udon soups, and Japanese-style soy milk doughnuts and other desserts.

The company is an offshoot of a Japan-based brand of the same name that has over 480 restaurants. The American subsidiary, Kura Sushi USA, has dozens of locations, mostly in California and Texas.

A quarterly earnings report on Jan. 6 reaffirmed the company’s plan to open eight to 10 new restaurants this fiscal year, which started Sept. 1, 2021.

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Virginia Declares State of Emergency Ahead of Possible Snow — “The National Weather Service is calling for 2 to 3 inches of snow in the District of Columbia and the immediate suburbs in Northern Virginia, along with Fredericksburg. Western Fairfax and Prince William counties, along with Loudoun County, are in the zone where only 1 to 2 inches of snow is expected.” [Patch]

Regular Metrobus Service to Return — Metro will restore regular weekday bus service on Feb. 7, as COVID-19 case rates among employees start to decline. The transit system has been operating at only about 75% of its usual service since Jan. 10 due to a shortage of drivers, leading to reports of buses not showing up and students being stranded. [DCist]

Four Displaced by VITA Tysons Fire — An unattended candle started an apartment fire in the 7900 block of Tysons One Place at 4:02 p.m. on Wednesday (Jan. 26). The fire was extinguished by a sprinkler, but four residents were displaced, and there was $3,000 in property damages, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department says. [FCFRD/Twitter]

Vienna Seeks New Planning Director — “Vienna Planning and Zoning Director Cindy Petkac has stepped down, town officials said at the Vienna Town Council’s Jan. 24 meeting. Petkac departed in December last year because she ‘wanted to pursue other professional opportunities,’ said Town Manager Mercury Payton.” [Sun Gazette]

Founders Row Restaurants Confirmed — The new casual, American concept Ellie Bird will be joined at the upcoming Falls Church development by Arlington-based seafood restaurant Chasin’ Tails, the fast-casual Roll Play Vietnamese Grill, and Vietnamese restaurant-bar Nue. Founders Row is under construction now but reportedly nearing completion. [Falls Church News-Press]

McLean Central Park Meeting Postponed — “The virtual public meeting originally scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022 to present the revised McLean Central Park Development Concept Plan has been rescheduled. A new meeting date is now confirmed for Wednesday, March 2, 2022 at 7 p.m.” [FCPA]

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Developer Pulte Homes will build residential buildings with a community park at MetroWest (courtesy DLA Piper)

The retail, recreational facilities, and other amenities promised to MetroWest residents are finally on their way.

Developer Pulte Homes received the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ approval on Tuesday (Jan. 25) for its plan to construct five new residential buildings in the 56-acre community south of I-66 and the Vienna Metro station.

The 9-0 vote represented a milestone in the county’s efforts to fulfill a 15-year-old vision of MetroWest as a mixed-use development that would’ve predated the Mosaic District and the recent growth in Tysons, had it materialized when anticipated.

“We want to achieve the community’s objective to finish these last land bays,” DLA Piper attorney Antonio Calabrese said as Pulte’s representative at Tuesday’s public hearing.

Approved by the county in 2006, the original MetroWest plans sought to transform a neighborhood of single-family homes with 2,248 multi-family residences, 300,000 square feet of office space, and at least 100,000 square feet of retail and other commercial uses, including a day care center.

While some of the residences have come to fruition, including senior housing and an assisted living facility, the five buildings where Pulte concentrated its commercial space and a town center planned by developer CRC Companies stalled after the 2008 recession.

The five buildings left to build in Pulte’s portion of the MetroWest development (courtesy Pulte Homes)

With the rezoning application approved this week, Pulte tweaked its plans to raise the day care center’s enrollment cap from 100 to 150 children and requested that the facility be included in the 35,000 square feet of ground-floor, commercial space it has agreed to provide.

The proposed mid- and high-rise buildings will also have 480 residential units, including 52 affordable dwelling units, and a publicly accessible community park with a swimming pool limited to MetroWest residents, among other recreational amenities.

In addition, Pulte will contribute $500,000 for safety improvements at the Royal Victoria and Vaden Drive intersection, according to Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik, who represents MetroWest but was absent for the vote while on maternity leave.

In a statement to Tysons Reporter, Palchik’s office called the revisions “a refinement and improvement” over what was approved in 2006, noting that there were no changes to the density allowed at MetroWest.

“Supervisor Palchik greatly appreciates the cooperative effort by all stakeholders to improve the design of the courtyard, pool, paths and buildings,” the supervisor’s office said. “…[She] looks forward to continuing to work with all stakeholders to see that the MetroWest neighborhood is completed.”

Calabrese told Tysons Reporter that the developer will now begin working on detailed site plans and engineering for the approved buildings, though there’s no clear timeline yet for a possible start to construction.

“Pulte is grateful to Supervisor Palchik for her fortitude and leadership,” he added.

As for CRC’s portion of the project, the developer said this past fall that it had received administrative approvals for the 9.8-acre town center and could potentially break ground in mid-2022, pending the county’s approval of a submitted site plan.

Discussions to resolve reported conflicts between Pulte and CRC are still underway.

“There have been fruitful, ongoing discussions between these major landowners,” Calabrese said. “Everyone associated with MetroWest recognizes the tremendous potential and value of these strategically located sites, as well as the inherent benefits of completing this attractive, successful community.”

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Airplane in flight (via John McArthur/Unsplash)

Fairfax County is clearing the way for more residential development in land just east of Dulles International Airport.

A proposed airport noise policy would amend the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan to permit new housing in approximately 2,300 acres of the Sully District, primarily around Chantilly, that are exposed to higher levels of airplane noise than currently allowed.

The county will launch the public engagement portion of its effort with two virtual open houses — one at 7 p.m. today (Thursday) and another at 11 a.m. on Saturday (Jan. 29).

Initiated by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on July 28, 2020, the goal of the amendment is to “enhance the county’s economic development opportunities” and add housing in a part of the county still dominated by older office and industrial buildings, according to a white paper on the proposal.

While the airport noise policy focuses on the Dulles area, putting it in the comprehensive plan would establish general standards for developers to account for aircraft-related noise levels, county staff told the board at a land use committee meeting on July 21, 2020.

“We think it’s important that the board look at this as a countywide policy, get it in the comprehensive plan so that it’s there, it’s available, people understand it,” Department of Planning and Zoning Director Barbara Byron said.

The alternative would be to make noise mitigation a condition for getting individual projects approved through the county’s zoning process, an approach that would be more unpredictable and challenging, according to Byron.

“We can’t stop some of the revitalization and activity from occurring in that area, nor should we,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “We need economic development. We need housing. We know…how many units we are behind demand, which is a direct input into affordability.”

The comprehensive plan currently does not recommend residential development in areas with over 60 weighted decibels of day-night average sound levels (DNL), defined by the Federal Aviation Administration as a metric for a person’s cumulative exposure to sound over a 24-hour period.

The amendment proposes allowing residential uses in areas that experience 60 to 65 decibels. The only part of the county where that standard currently applies is around Dulles, based on airport noise contours developed by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority in 1993 and adopted by the county in 1997.

The proposed airport noise policy addresses areas in blue in the Dulles International Airport noise contours map (via Fairfax County)

The county hasn’t adopted noise contours for the Davison Army Airfield on Fort Belvoir, and it’s not within MWAA’s 60 to 65-decibel contour for Washington National Airport.

As Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith noted to FFXnow, the county already has some residential development within the 60-65 DNL contour.

Despite some vocal community opposition, the Board of Supervisors approved two new neighborhoods in November 2020 after amending the comprehensive plan a year earlier to permit residential development in Westfields, known as Land Unit J of the Dulles Suburban Center.

The approvals came with some noise mitigation requirements related to construction materials and notifying potential homeowners of the airport’s proximity, according to Smith.

The proposed airport noise policy will align the rest of the Dulles area with Land Unit J and create uniformity between the county’s comprehensive plan and its zoning ordinance, which was updated just last year, Smith says.

It would also bring the county in line with other jurisdictions across the country with international airports, including Loudoun County, which permits residential uses in the Dulles 60-65 DNL contours.

“This isn’t anything new or different,” Smith said. “The FAA says that residential is not compatible when you get over 65, but they don’t have any restrictions below that.”

While the county hopes to encourage more residential and mixed-use development in the Dulles area, Smith doesn’t anticipate a huge influx of new housing if the amendment is approved.

“With the exception of Land Unit J of the Dulles Suburban Center, most of the residential uses currently anticipated by the Plan within the Board adopted DNL 60-65 noise contours have been developed and are generally stable with limited opportunities for further residential development,” the county’s white paper says.

Photo via John McArthur/Unsplash

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Rendering of townhomes for EYA project in Pimmit Hills (via Fairfax County)

A developer has received the go-ahead to build townhomes on a Pimmit Hills property currently occupied by a circular C-shaped office building from the 1970s.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the project Tuesday (Jan. 25) after Bethesda-based developer EYA addressed concerns from officials and community members about potential flooding issues in the area.

The project at 7700 Leesburg Pike calls for 104 townhomes that could be three stories high with fourth-story additions.

“By converting an old, dated office building into residential, we’re significantly reducing the number of vehicle trips into and out of the site,” Cooley LLP attorney Mark Looney said, describing those changes as part of several benefits of the project.

Looney, who represented the developer, said parts of the property are below the ground due to grading, and trees next to the buildings show the development won’t overwhelm the neighborhood.

Before the Fairfax County Planning Commission approved the project on Nov. 10, officials worked with the developer to establish more demanding standards for stormwater management and flooding. Heavy rain has led to water issues in basements and yards near the community.

Supervisors approved a Comprehensive Plan amendment on Oct. 19, 2021, allowing the development to proceed as long as it met certain conditions to mitigate downstream flooding and reduce runoff, including stormwater management controls above the county’s minimum standards.

EYA noted it will provide an underground detention system for stormwater as well as a water filtering system with two treatment facilities to address phosphorous levels, which can be harmful to people and animals.

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The face behind Vienna’s newest Italian restaurant is a familiar one for D.C.-area foodies.

Currently taking shape at 144 Church Street NW, Roberto’s Italiano Ristorante comes from Nancy Sabbagh and her husband, chef Roberto Donna, who has earned both renown and infamy over his decades-long culinary career.

Sabbagh, who owns the restaurant and will run its business operations, says the concept for Roberto’s is something that she and her husband have been contemplating for a while based on their past travels in Italy.

“We knew we wanted to work together where I would be the front of the house and Roberto the creative culinary vision,” she said by email. “We both love the Italian hospitality and truly wanted to create a small place where our guests felt the love both in their service and food.”

Sabbagh told Tysons Reporter that all permits have been approved, and she tentatively hopes to be able to open in early February.

Fairfax County records show that a final occupancy permit for Roberto’s was processed and pre-issued on Jan. 20. Applications for alcohol licenses are pending, as of Dec. 13, according to the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority.

Drawn to Vienna for “the charm and feeling of community it exudes,” Sabbagh says she and Donna considered taking the space at 144 Church Street prior to the pandemic, but Covid’s arrival led them to pivot instead to providing weekly family meals and hosting virtual wine dinners.

Roberto’s took on new life late last year, when the Asian restaurant Red Galanga closed on Dec. 1 after five years at 144 Church Street, citing staffing shortages.

While Covid has presented obstacles to opening a new restaurant, Sabbagh says the Town of Vienna has been “so helpful” in providing assistance during the permitting process.

Though she didn’t provide details about specific dishes, she says Roberto’s will offer an aperitivo hour, tastings, wine dinners, private events, and catering as well as a la carte and to-go menus. Donna will also provide some tableside service.

“Roberto’s will provide diners with truly authentic Italian cuisine and a menu that will reflect the season and highlight local and truly excellent vendors,” Sabbagh said. “We are honored to be neighbors with such good restaurants like Bazin’s, Blend [111], Clarity, Bonaroti and Pazzo Pomodoro.”

A native of Italy’s Piedmont region, Donna launched his career in the U.S. with the popular Galileo, which opened in D.C. in 1984. He won a James Beard Award in 1996 and mentored many chefs who went on to open their own restaurants.

However, legal troubles started to overshadow his food in the late 2000s. He faced  a slew of lawsuits over unpaid rent and wages and pled guilty to felony embezzlement in 2010 for pocketing meals taxes from the shuttered Bebo Trattoria in Crystal City.

Donna made a comeback, though, in 2013 with a well-received chef’s counter at Al Dente D.C., and Roberto’s sounds like a more low-key, personal affair.

According to Sabbagh, the restaurant’s art and decor will pay tribute to her and her husband’s experiences in Italy over their 20 years of marriage.

“We look forward to truly having fun working together,” she wrote. “That is what life is all about and providing our guests with great food, service, wine and hospitality!”

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Morning Notes

Idylwood Shooting Was a Suicide — Fairfax County police confirmed community reports that they responded to a shooting in the 7600 block of Virginia Lane near the W&OD Trail over the weekend. A spokesperson told Tysons Reporter that an individual died by suicide in a backyard, explaining that the department generally doesn’t publicly report suicides. [FCPD]

Funding for New 911 Model Approved — A budget review approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday (Jan. 25) included Covid relief funds for 26 positions to support the first phase of a permanent program where police work with behavioral health specialists when responding to 911 calls. The county began piloting the co-responder model last year. [Jeff McKay]

“City View” Tysons Site Sold to Developer — An affiliate of D.C. developer Four Points LLC bought the former Association for Manufacturing Technology building site at 7901 Westpark Drive for about $10 million in late December. AMT was poised to build a 10-story office tower on the lot east of Tysons Galleria, but the site’s future under Four Points, which generally works on primarily residential mixed-use projects, is unclear. [Washington Business Journal]

McLean Gift Shop to CloseThe Artisans will close in February after 32 years of selling handmade clothing, home decor, and other items, starting in 1990 at Marketplace of McLean before moving to its current location in the Langley Shopping Center. The owners plan to retire and are selling everything for 20% off. [Patch]

County Retains AAA Bond Rating — “On Wednesday, Jan. 19, Fairfax County completed a successful bond sale, generating $300 million to fund various project areas, after once again affirming its AAA bond rating with all three major rating agencies.” [Fairfax County Government]

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The stakes are high for the first students at the Arizona College of Nursing’s new school in Fairview Park.

They started classes on Jan. 3, as a snowstorm disrupted travel across Fairfax County and the surging omicron variant of the coronavirus strained hospitals locally and nationwide.

Yet, reports of an overwhelmed healthcare system have not deterred the 22 students in the school’s inaugural class from pursuing a career in nursing. In fact, some of them made that choice because of the pandemic, according to Yolanda Turner, dean of nursing for Arizona College of Nursing-Falls Church.

“We have seen students come in with an interest in nursing, especially those who feel the need to help that was compelled by the images that they saw on national television, what was occurring in the hospitals and emergency departments and ICUs across the country,” Turner said. “So, we do have a group of students who came in because they felt a calling to come in and help.”

The pandemic was already underway when Eduvision Inc., the company that operates Arizona College, submitted plans to Fairfax County for a new nursing school in August 2020.

However, Turner says the workforce shortage that led the college system to establish its first Virginia campus predates COVID-19.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the D.C. metropolitan area ranks 10th in the country in terms of the number of registered nurses employed, but the concentration of nurses in the area is well below the national average, as of May 2020.

With school enrollment trailing demand among the factors behind the shortage, the Arizona College of Nursing hopes to improve the area’s workforce pipeline by offering an accelerated program where students can obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in three years or less.

“Our nursing program employs a mixture of classroom learning and hands-on training in our state-of-the-art simulation labs and through clinical rotations,” Arizona College of Nursing President Nick Mansour said in a statement. “Nursing is all we will teach at this location so students can be confident that our accredited, career-focused, BSN program will prepare them for a fulfilling nursing career.”

Located near Inova Fairfax Hospital, which could eventually be connected via pedestrian bridge over I-495, the new school opened at 3130 Fairview Park Drive on Nov. 17.

Turner says the initial cohort mostly comes from Northern Virginia and surpassed the college’s goal of 18 students. The campus has a capacity of 400 students and is expected to expand in three to five years.

“That interest that’s been generated, we’re excited, because it’s more than we predicted…and our team is growing to accommodate that interest,” she said.

Classes are being conducted both in-person and virtually, with the liberal arts and social sciences online and all nursing, natural science, and math courses in the school building.

In addition to following mask and social distancing protocols, students will need to get vaccinated against COVID-19 once they start clinical work, in accordance with the federal mandate for healthcare workers.

The pandemic has also filtered into the curriculum, putting an increased focus on topics like public health, disaster preparedness, infectious control, ventilation management, and mental health for both patients and staff.

Emphasizing these subjects will help prepare students for a future in health care, Turner says, as the field reckons with issues exacerbated by the pandemic, which has led nearly 1 in 5 workers to quit.

Aware that students can experience burnout too, the Arizona College of Nursing provides counseling services as well as tutoring and learning resources. The small student body also enables strong personal connections between staff and pupils.

“The feedback that we got [on the first month] from our students is very positive, from the students, the staff, and the faculty,” Turner said. “The level of excitement and motivation remains very high.”

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