Tysons, VA

The McLean Governmental Center and Providence Community Center are among the most popular sites for early voting in Fairfax County after the county expanded early voting to 13 satellite locations on Oct. 14.

While voters have shown up in droves throughout the county, turnout has been especially high at those two Tysons-area sites, Mount Vernon Government Center in Alexandria, and Reston’s North County Governmental Center, according to county officials.

The Fairfax County Government Center, which has been open for early voting since Sept. 18, also remains popular, but the addition of the satellite locations has eased some of the pressure there after weeks of unusually long lines and wait times.

The wait time for voting in-person now generally ranges from 20 to 40 minutes, though it varies depending on the time of day and day of the week, Fairfax County public information officer Brian Worthy says, noting that mornings tend to be busier.

Sen. Mark Warner (D), who visited the McLean Governmental Center and other early voting sites in Northern Virginia on Saturday (Oct. 17), called the strong turnout “a great sign.”

“This is the first year we’ve had early voting, so I think maybe in future years, [we could think about] opening up additional sites earlier,” Warner said. “But I also think it’s a great sign of how healthy our democracy is if this many people are coming out to vote.”

Saturday represented the biggest turnout yet for Fairfax County. The nearly 11,000 early votes cast on Oct. 17 exceeded the biggest day for early voting in 2016, which came on the final day for early voting in that election, according to the county elections office.

Election workers at the McLean Governmental Center on Saturday told Tysons Reporter that the number of people arriving to cast ballots grew throughout the week, starting around 500 people and peaking at 800 people that Friday (Oct. 16).

Turnout continued to be brisk on Saturday, but the lines were shorter and moved more quickly, because some people instead went to Great Falls Library, which opened on Oct. 17 and is only available for early voting on Saturdays. Read More

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Fairfax County police are investigating a homicide that occurred early this morning in the Falls Church area near Dunn Loring.

The Fairfax County Police Department reported at 2:40 a.m. today (Thursday) that detectives were responding to the 2300 block of Watters Glen Court for a homicide investigation. The scene is reportedly contained with one person in custody and “no apparent threat to public safety.”

The victim and suspect are both adult men, and it “appears to be a domestic related incident,” according to the FCPD.

Tysons Reporter has reached out to the Fairfax County police for comment and will update this article as needed if more information comes in.

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In a meeting about how to help build affordable housing in Falls Church, one potential solution proposed was increasing the meals tax by 1%.

Meals tax increases have been a go-to solution for finding more funding for affordable housing in neighboring jurisdictions like Arlington County. Meals tax increases are frequently contentious even in the best of times, but the Falls Church City Council noted that these are far from the best of times.

Representatives from the hired consultants National Housing Trust and Federal City Council offered 11 recommendations in what they described as a tool box in a City Council work session on Monday. A meals tax was only one of those suggestions, but one most likely to turn heads, as restaurants in the area face devastating losses in revenue.

The consultants argued that increasing the meals tax by 1%, from 4% to 5%, would bring Falls Church in line with the meals tax in other parts of the region and would generate $800,000 for the affordable housing fund annually.

According to the report:

A meals tax is levied on prepared food purchased for consumption at a restaurant or taken to-go. Falls Church already has a meals tax of 4%, which generated over $3 million in revenue annually from 2017-2019 . Currently, all the funds generated by the meals tax are directed into the City’s General Fund. To provide a dedicated and consistent revenue source for the Affordable Housing Fund, Falls Church should consider increasing the Meals Tax to 5%, dedicating the additional 1% in tax revenue to the Affordable Housing Fund. This would represent a much-needed consistent revenue source for the AHF and would generate approximately $800,000 annually for the Fund.

A 5% meals tax is in line with what is levied by other jurisdictions in the area. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, the median meals tax rate is 6%. While neighboring jurisdictions Arlington and Fairfax County currently levy a 4% meals tax, as of 2016, 108 localities in the Commonwealth have instituted a meals tax that is higher than 4%.

The report notes that Alexandria’s meals tax increase was aimed squarely at raising funding for affordable housing, though the report also acknowledged that recent factors could make the proposal untenable in the near term.

The consultants recognize that restaurants nationwide are struggling to survive on reduced revenue caused by COVID-19, and the subsequent limits and restrictions on service that have been imposed to stop the spread of the virus. An increase in the tax at this time could potentially discourage the purchase of food from restaurants at a time when restaurants are operating on extremely thin margins. The implementation of this recommendation should be considered in the long-term, once the restaurant and hospitality industry is under less financial pressure.

City Council member Letty Hardi struck down the idea as soon as the discussion was turned back over to the City Council.

“In regular times I’d be a fan of looking at things like the meals tax or carving funding out of the general fund,” Hardi said, “but I think neither of those would fly currently given how much suffering there is in the community.”

One proposed source of funding that sat better with the City Council was dipping into Amazon REACH Funds — a $75 million funding commitment to support affordable housing in the area and avoid the affordable housing loss associated with the tech giant elsewhere.

“The City of Falls Church should take the opportunity to engage with local housing development owners whose projects are eligible and are able to access the funds to increase housing affordability in the City,” the report said. “The final deadline for a project application is June 15, 2021.”

Maura Brophy, director of transportation and infrastructure for Federal City Council, also said that promoting accessory dwelling units can have a meaningful impact on housing affordability by increasing the supply, but without other interventions and requirements, there’s no guarantee that the accessory dwelling units would be affordable.

“If we can access all $3 million, that will allow us to buy down 60 units for about ten years, and that’s way more than we can produce in a year as-is,” Hardi said. “That feels like we should put pedal to the meddle and go after that free money.”

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Fairfax County inched closer to transitioning to renewable energy yesterday (Tuesday) when the Board of Supervisors authorized staff to lease Providence Community Center and seven other county government-owned facilities so they can be outfitted with solar panels.

Providence Community Center will have rooftop solar photovoltaic panels installed on its main building at 3001 Vaden Drive, which operates as a government center for Providence District as well as a community meeting facility.

The other facilities that the county board approved to be leased to Sigora Solar following a brief public hearing are:

  • The Herrity Building (12055 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax)
  • The Pennino Building (12011 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax)
  • The North County Government Center (1801 Cameron Glen Dr., Reston)
  • Reston Community Center (2310 Colts Neck Road, Reston)
  • Springfield Warehouse (6800 Industrial Road, Springfield)
  • Noman M. Cole Pollution Control Plant lab building (9399 Richmond Highway, Lorton)
  • I-66 Transfer Station, workers’ facility building, and truck wash building (4500 West Ox Road, Fairfax)

The eight facilities are among the first locations approved for solar panels as part of Fairfax County’s extensive contract with Sigora Solar, which was announced on Dec. 10 as the largest solar power purchase agreement initiative by a Virginia municipality at that point.

As the PPA service provider, Sigora Solar will design, permit, install, and operate rooftop solar panels at all facilities participating in the program, which also includes facilities owned by Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax County Park Authority, and Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

Under the PPA, Fairfax County will not bear any costs for the design, permitting, or construction of the solar panels, Fairfax County Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination director Kambiz Agazi says.

Instead, the county will purchase on-site electricity from Sigora.

The solar PPA is expected to help Fairfax County reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and its electricity costs, though county staff could not yet provide specific numbers for how much the installation of solar will reduce emissions or how much money the county is expected to save.

“We will have an approximation as soon as we have a permitted design,” Agazi said. “We hope to have that in the next three to four months.”

The eight facilities that were the subject of yesterday’s public hearing are among 113 possible projects in the first phase of Fairfax County’s PPA with Sigora, which could include a total of 247 facilities based on a request for proposals that the county issued in 2019.

County staff say they will return to the Board of Supervisors in the future to get approval to lease the 18 other county government-owned facilities in the first phase of the PPA.

Image via Flickr/Minoru Karamatsu

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An active investigation is ongoing into the death of an 11-year-old boy, but Fairfax Police say death appears to have been accidental.

The incident occurred in the 1700 block of Maxwell Court in McLean yesterday afternoon. The child was found critically injured and was taken to the hospital where the child died.

The Washington Post reported the incident occurred around 5:30 p.m. as the boy was playing with his friends.

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(Updated at 10:43 on 10/21/2020) Members of the public will get to ride “Relay,” Merrifield’s new autonomous, electric shuttle service, for the first time this Thursday (Oct. 22), the Fairfax County Department of Transportation announced on Monday.

The shuttle will transport its first public riders along its designated route between the Mosaic District and the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro Station at the conclusion of a celebration that will also feature comments by Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D), and other officials.

Face coverings and observance of social distancing protocols will be mandatory for attendees.

“We’re all really excited about it,” Fairfax County Economic Initiatives Coordinator Eta Nahapetian said. “It’s been so hard with the pandemic. It’s so many less people [at the Mosaic District]. All the retail businesses are suffering, and this is actually, hopefully a really good opportunity for some good news.”

The first state-funded, autonomous, electric vehicle designed for public transportation to be tested in Virginia, Relay will operate free of charge from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays.

While the shuttle can accommodate up to 12 passengers, ridership will generally be limited to four people – three passengers and a vehicle safety operator – when it launches to ensure compliance with COVID-19 social distancing protocols.

Nahapetian says the county is considering whether to have some flexibility with the ridership cap for families or other groups who have been staying together in the same household during the pandemic.

Fairfax County first announced that it had partnered with Dominion Energy to pilot a driverless, electric shuttle in the Merrifield area on June 19, 2019.

Other partners on the project include Mosaic District developer EDENS and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, which provided a $250,000 grant matched by $50,000 from Fairfax County. Dominion paid for the shuttle and related charging infrastructure, and Transdev is responsible for managing the operations and maintainance of the vehicle.

Since the Relay shuttle went on its first test run on July 28, Fairfax County and Dominion have tweaked the technology and enhanced the infrastructure along its route, adding more signs and engineering a traffic signal priority at the two intersections where it will cross traffic.

“We’ve been working through all those details during the past several months,” Nahapetian said.

The autonomous electric shuttle demonstration project is expected to last about a year.

In addition to using that time to gauge public opinion of its experiment with driverless vehicles, Fairfax County will gather data on the technology used in the pilot through an independent research study conducted by Virginia Transportation Research Council and Virginia Tech.

The county has also partnered with George Mason University’s School of Business for a separate study on “human factors” of the project, such as how the shuttle is being used and how it affects Merrifield’s economy.

Research on the Relay shuttle’s economic impact could be especially meaningful as it launches amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, which forced many restaurants and retail businesses in the Mosaic District and elsewhere to close earlier this year.

“Hopefully, there will be a lot of interesting technology findings and economic findings that come out of the project,” Nahapetian said. “Can we use this technology as a first-mile/last-mile [option]? We are so single-occupant-vehicle dependent. We need to change that.”

Correction: This article has been edited to state that the company responsible for managing the operations and maintenance of the Relay shuttle is Transdev, not Transurban as previously stated.

Photo courtesy Peggy Fox/Dominion Energy

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Be careful where you park in Tysons East, because some of those spots could soon become residents only.

New residential developments are coming in to Tysons East even as other developments, like the Capital One complex, are expanding or being added. To stem off future conflicts, the Board of Supervisors is set to review this afternoon whether to implement (public hearing item for 4:30 p.m.) a parking district for the Scotts Run District.

Residential parking districts can be a mixed bag, with residents secure in their parking but adding difficulty to finding parking for guests — back in a time when people could have friends over at their house. The Scotts Run Residential Permit Parking District document noted that guests could receive temporary passes for no more than two weeks.

The new district will be designated District 48 and would not be available to residents of new multi-family developments.

“One transferable visitor pass per address shall be issued in the name of a bona fide resident of said address,” the document said. “However, visitor passes shall not be issued to multifamily or townhouse addresses, which have off-street parking provided.”

Image via Fairfax County

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Over the past week, Fairfax County recorded its highest seven-day average for COVID-19 cases since mid-June, a potentially worrying development as the weather turns colder and forces more activities indoors.

Fairfax County’s weekly average for new COVID-19 cases hit 118 on Oct. 14, its highest since the county averaged 126 cases over seven days on June 13, according to the latest data from the Virginia Department of Health.

While the seven-day average has dipped back down in subsequent days to 85 cases on average as of Sunday (Oct. 18), Fairfax County joins the rest of Virginia in seeing an upward trend in cases in October, even if its numbers remain significantly lower than those seen in other parts of the state.

On top of reporting two new deaths, both of them on Oct. 17, Fairfax County added 598 COVID-19 cases during the week of Oct. 13-19. The Fairfax Health District has a cumulative total of 22,916 cases, 617 deaths, and 2,239 hospitalizations.

The zip code 22042, which contains West Falls Church south of Route 29, remains the most heavily affected part of the Tysons area, adding 28 cases over the past week for 1,173 cases overall and 3,497 cases per 100,000 persons in a population of 33,537 people.

Though COVID-19 cases in Fairfax County have ticked up in October compared to late September, the county has not yet seen another surge in transmissions like the one that hit this spring, which peaked with a weekly average of 303 cases on May 31.

Since that spring surge, Northern Virginia in general has been reporting lower case rates than the rest of the state, with a moving seven-day average of 238 cases as of Oct. 19 compared to 799 cases on average for all other regions.

As a whole, Virginia recorded a seven-day moving average of 1,037 on Oct. 19, and the state has added 7,258 COVID-19 cases over the past week for a statewide total of 166,828 cases. Virginia has reported 11,882 hospitalizations and 3,457 deaths.

With public health experts predicting that the COVID-19 pandemic will worsen this winter as the weather gets colder, Fairfax County officials are discouraging people from engaging in trick-or-treating, indoor costume parties, and other traditional celebrations for Halloween this year.

“In general, the more closely you interact with others and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread,” Fairfax Health Director Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu said. “For people who are more likely to experience severe illness from COVID-19, celebrating virtually or with members of your own household may be the safest way to enjoy the holiday.”

Image via CDC on Unsplash, Virginia Department of Health

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Barry Biggar, President and CEO of Visit Fairfax, has a somewhat frank assessment of the state of the hospitality industry in Fairfax: not great.

“There’s one particular industry that’s been devastated, and that’s travel and tourism,” Biggar said, “and when people aren’t travelling, there are many elements that are affected.”

Biggar isn’t alone in that assessment. In an Economic Advisory Commission meeting, local hospitality industry leaders spoke with Biggar and members of the Board of Supervisors about the impact the pandemic has had on hotels and other hospitality services.

“This has perhaps been the most heart-rending experience of my entire career,” said Mark Carrier, representing DoubleTree Hotel in Tysons. “Many hotels are paying to stay open. In Fairfax, all hotels combined had an occupancy of just 32 percent over last three months, less than half a year ago. Same period in 2019 was 76 percent. Revenue has declined by 73 percent across the entire county. Cash flow has evaporated basically, operators fighting to sustain their business. Frankly, the sustained nature of the crisis has been a source of stress.”

Biggar told Tysons Reporter that the D.C. area, including Fairfax, is one of four regions in the country seeing occupancy below 50%.

“From middle of March to end of August, hotel revenue (generated here in our county) has seen a loss of $278,987,000, just between mid-March and August,” Biggar said. “May is generally a good month. In May of 2018, the hotel revenue in Fairfax County was $70 million. This May, that figure was $9.1 million.”

Biggar noted that those figures are just based on revenue from occupancy and don’t include the total loss from related services, like food and beverage or catering.

“When you add those up, it’s significant,” Biggar said.

Read More

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The Fairfax County Health Department and Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS) have joined forces to offer a series of free flu vaccination clinics at senior centers across the county.

The clinics were originally intended to exclusively serve people 50 and older, because older people tend to be more at risk for flu-related complications. However, the county has decided to expand the criteria to allow all adults 18 and older to utilize the service.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full force and flu season starting, it is more important than ever that older adults get vaccinated for influenza,” NCS communications director Amanda Rogers said. “…While the initial scope of the partnership was to provide older adults a safe environment to get their annual flu vaccine, we have expanded the criteria to include all adults 18 and older for the remaining events.”

After launching on Oct. 6 at the Herndon Senior Center, four additional clinics are scheduled to take place from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m., three days per week, for the next four weeks:

  • Oct. 19, 21 and 22: Lincolnia Senior Center (4710 N. Chambliss Street, Alexandria)
  • Oct. 26, 28 and 29: Original Mount Vernon High School (8333 Richmond Highway, Alexandria)
  • Nov. 2, 4 and 5: Little River Glen Senior Center (4001 Barker Court, Fairfax)
  • Nov. 9, 10 and 12: Lewinsville Senior Center (1613 Great Falls Street, McLean)

Fairfax County is also holding flu vaccine clinics for adults and children 6 months or older at the Herndon Reston District Health Office on Oct. 24 and the Mount Vernon District Health Office on Nov. 7.

While health officials recommend that everyone 6 months or older get vaccinated for influenza annually, the need for people to get flu shots is especially urgent this year, as flu season arrives while the U.S. continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Flu season typically starts in late fall and lasts throughout the winter in the U.S., hospitalizing more than 200,000 people and killing about 36,000 people every year, according to the Fairfax County Health Department.

Caused by viruses that infect the respiratory system, influenza produces symptoms similar to the ones now associated with the novel coronavirus, including fever, coughing, a sore throat, body aches, fatigue, and headaches.

“It’s very important that we take advantage of the flu vaccine to protect ourselves against the flu so we don’t overburden the healthcare system with individuals who have serious complications of the flu, because they’re already taxed right now responding to COVID-19,” Fairfax County Health Department director of health services Shauna Severo said in a video about the senior center flu vaccine clinics.

In accordance with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for reducing the potential transmission of COVID-19, Fairfax County is requiring all clinic visitors to wear face masks, undergo temperature checks, and adhere to social distancing protocols.

Visits are by appointment only, and all individuals are screened for COVID-19 symptoms both before their appointment and on the day they arrive.

All healthcare providers and other workers staffing the clinics are also wearing masks and other personal protective equipment.

“We are taking every precaution at our clinics to create a safe environment for individuals to come get their vaccine,” Severo said.

Community members can schedule an appointment at one of Fairfax County’s flu vaccine clinics by calling 703-246-6010.

Other locations for getting a flu shot can be found through the website vaccinefinder.org. Tysons Reporter also compiled a list of medical providers and pharmacies in the Tysons area that were offering vaccinations as of Sept. 1.

Photo via Channel 16 Around Fairfax

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