Tysons, VA

The McLean Citizen Association (MCA) will host a public safety forum on criminal justice reform on April 21 at 7 p.m. According to an MCA flier, the event will feature a panel to address issues such as “police use of force, oversight, accountability and reform.”

Panelists for this forum will include:

If time permits, there will be a question-and-answer session for the public to talk to the panelists.

The future of policing and public safety has become a top concern in Fairfax County in recent months as the county searches for a new police chief to succeed Edwin Roessler, who retired in February after eight years in the position. Deputy County Executive for Public Safety David Rohrer is currently serving as the county’s interim police chief.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay and Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk, who chairs the board’s public safety committee, held a public input session on Tuesday (April 6) where community members shared their thoughts on what the county should look for in its next police chief.

This will be the McLean Citizens Association’s second public safety forum in the past five months after the group hosted a discussion with Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano on Dec. 16.

MCA also passed a resolution in July 2020 condemning the actions of a white Fairfax County police officer who tased a Black man and knelt on his neck.

In that resolution, MCA urged county leaders and the Fairfax County Police Department “to provide additional and ongoing training to FCPD officers regarding racial neutrality and identify and take rigorous disciplinary action…of officers who have a history of…using unjustified force or abusive conduct towards African Americans and other minorities,” amongst other requests.

Registration is required to attend the upcoming forum. An email with the Zoom link will be sent to all registered guests. Guests may also view the live streamed event on the MCA Facebook page after the meeting is complete.

Photo via McLean Citizens Association/Facebook

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Construction work on an extensive renovation of Falls Plaza Shopping Center will begin in mid-April, property owner Federal Realty Investment Trust announced yesterday (Wednesday).

The 144,000 square-foot shopping center at 1200 W. Broad Street in Falls Church will get a new look with overhauled building façades, new signage and decorative lighting, enhanced landscaping, and expanded outdoor seating areas.

As part of the renovation project, Falls Plaza will be rebranded as Birch & Broad to reflect its location at the intersection of Birch and Broad streets and “align with the Modern Farmhouse aesthetics featured in the renovation,” according to Federal Realty’s press release.

“This transformation underscores Federal’s long-term commitment to our properties, merchants, and the communities in which we operate,” Federal Realty Vice President of Development Jay Brinson said.  “The new public gathering spaces and expanding café seating areas combined with the new architecture and placemaking upgrades will make Birch and Broad a place that truly captures the essence of community, a quality for which the City of Falls Church is recognized.”

The renovation will also occur concurrently with an interior remodel of the Giant Food that anchors the shopping center.

According to Giant Food Director of Strategic Planning and Execution Gary Budd, the remodel will enable the grocery store to “significantly upgrade” its fresh and prepared food departments. Added offerings will include a new gourmet cheese case and a fresh pizza program.

The store’s layout and decor will also be revamped to make navigation simpler for shoppers.

“The remodeled Giant is an exciting step in our mission to continue to offer improvements and unique selections across the areas we serve,” Budd said.

Other existing retailers at Falls Plaza include Conte’s Bike Shop, CVS Pharmacy, Plaka Grill, Starbucks, Jersey Mike’s and Road Runner Sports.

Federal Realty anticipates that the shopping center renovation will be finished later this year, prior to the winter holiday season.

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If the prospect of trillions of cicadas emerging from the earth fills you with excitement, Fairfax County’s official tourism organization has just the game for you.

Visit Fairfax has introduced a Cicada Stroll Bingo card where participants can mark off squares when they take photos of a cicada at certain locations for a chance to win insect-inspired prizes.

“While some may view the arrival of the Brood X cicadas as a nuisance, we here at Visit Fairfax choose to look at it as an exceptional opportunity for visitors and residents to witness one of Earth’s most remarkable natural occurrences – and have fun at the same time!” Visit Fairfax President and CEO Barry Biggar wrote in the press release.

Suggested sites to spot cicadas range from pieces of public art like the murals at the Mosaic District to the Sully Historic Site in Chantilly. Other boxes to check include county hiking trails, shopping centers, a brewery or winery, near water, and at a restaurant (hopefully, not on your food).

Anyone who fills out two squares in their bingo card, plus the traditional “free” square in the center, can upload the card and accompanying photos for a chance to get a Cicada Care package with items like a custom cicada facemask.

Winners will be announced in May, and some of the best photos will be featured on the county’s blog and social media.

Cicada Stroll Bingo Card (Photo courtesy of Visit Fairfax)

The Cicada Bingo Card was conceived as a way to showcase “road trip travel” and encourage folks to visit outdoor county attractions safely in a “quirky kind of way,” Visit Fairfax spokesperson Ali Morris says.

She adds that this is also another way to encourage residents to visit and support their favorite local business as they recover from an extremely rough last year.

The D.C. region is expected to be the epicenter for the emergence of Brood X, a brood of cicadas that emerge only every 17 years. They spend their larva years underground, which is anywhere from two to 17 years, chowing down on tree roots.

There could be millions of them buzzing around in the area in the early summer. They’re extremely loud, thanks to the sound that the males produce by rubbing their legs together to attract potential mating partners.

While they are also big as far as insects go, they’re completely harmless. In fact, their long life cycles and the fact that they are so numerous are really their only defense mechanisms from predators.

The Brood X cicadas are expected to hit peak emergence in Northern Virginia in late May through early June. While they’ll be visible and audible everywhere, parks and other natural settings will be the best place to see and hear them.

They are also edible, to an extent.

“A few are not likely to hurt pets but too many could cause digestive issues,” Fairfax County Park Authority naturalist Tammy Schwab told Tysons Reporter last month. “They are edible by people if you’re brave enough to try it.”

Photo courtesy Visit Fairfax

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Morning Notes

J.R. Stockyards Inn for Sale — The 1.18-acre property that currently houses one of the oldest restaurants in Tysons hit the market in early March, with a new owner expected to be chosen by the end of April. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a redevelopment of the site in October that would replace the Stockyards with a 26-story mixed-use building. [Washington Business Journal]

Connolly Urges Congress to Follow Virginia’s Lead in Legalizing Weed — “Another big progressive win here in Virginia,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D) said after the Virginia General Assembly voted yesterday to legalize marijuana starting July 1. “I hope my colleagues in the House and Senate will join me in supporting the MORE Act to legalize marijuana nationwide.”[Gerry Connolly/Twitter]

Falls Church Schedules Town Hall on Gateway Development — Falls Church City staff and the developer of the West Falls Church project will present updates and answer questions on April 14 at noon. The city will also hold a town hall meeting on April 15 to discuss its proposed FY 2022 budget and new capital improvements program. [City of Falls Church]

Clemyjontri Carousel and Train Among Facilities Reopening This Spring — Fairfax County Park Authority facilities have started to reopen for the spring, with hours expected to expand further into the summer. Visitors are encouraged to buy tickets in advance, because amusements will operate at reduced capacity, though drop-in tickets will be available on-site if they do not sell out online. [FCPA]

Proof of Job Searches Will Soon Be Required for Unemployment Benefits Again — “The Virginia Employment Commission says it will start notifying unemployment benefit recipients of the return of job-search requirements starting in May. To qualify, or continue to qualify, for unemployment benefits in Virginia, those filing claims must provide evidence…of at least two job applications each week for VEC review.” [WTOP]

Photo by Joanne Liebig

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A second reported incident of racism at a football game involving Fairfax County Public Schools students has prompted the school system to schedule a meeting with athletic teams and coaches.

FCPS will be holding a “stand-down” meeting for all athletic teams and coaches “to begin this important conversation to support student-athletes in demonstrating appropriate behaviors required to play sports” in the school division, according to a new statement from the school system.

The statement “speaks to several incidents and we acknowledge that we have work to do as a school division,” FCPS spokesperson Lucy Caldwell told Tysons Reporter.

Of the “several incidents” Caldwell alluded to, two have been widely reported.

The more recent incident reportedly occurred at a junior varsity football game between T.C. Williams High School and James W Robinson, Jr. Secondary School on Monday night (April 5). During the game, a Robinson student allegedly spat on a T.C. Williams player and called him a racial slur. After this happened, the T.C. Williams team left the field in protest.

In the earlier incident, varsity Marshall High School football players were accused of using racial slurs against Wakefield High School in Arlington. One allegedly spat on a Wakefield player.

In the weeks since the game on March 5, the Wakefield students and parents have launched a campaign to demand accountability and change.

FCPS says in the statement that was released this morning that it “is aware of a number of allegations regarding the use of racially charged language and racial slurs in the past few weeks.”

“Our school division embraces diversity and strongly condemns hate speech and offensive, hateful language or racial intolerance of any kind on the sports fields, in school buildings or anywhere on or off school premises,” the statement says. “We will hold anyone found to have used such language while representing any of our schools accountable for their words and actions.”

FCPS says that players heard using such language will be ejected and suspended for future games, in accordance with Virginia High School League policies. Unsportsmanlike conduct will result in an immediate review of the game by officials and coaches.

The school division pledged to investigate “any incidents thoroughly” and to take “swift and appropriate action” if necessary. It has not, however, provided any update on the status of the investigation into the incident involving Marshall and Wakefield, despite multiple requests for comment from Tysons Reporter. Read More

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For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic started, most Falls Church City Public Schools students are attending school in person five days a week.

Yesterday (Tuesday), 99% of elementary and 92% of secondary students went back to school full-time, fulfilling plans FCCPS had made to return students to pre-pandemic schedules on April 6.

Only 125 of the school division’s 2,500 students remain entirely virtual, according to FCCPS spokesperson John Wesley Brett.

“They came on foot, by car, bike, scooter, and bus to fill classrooms for the first time this year,” FCCPS said this morning. “It was a successful launch of in-person learning. The students’ experience with hybrid learning familiarized them with spacing protocols and mask-wearing, so they stepped smoothly into the new routines.”

A small cohort of students have been in-person since last fall, and beginning in February, elementary and secondary students came back for a hybrid schedule, with two days in-person and two days of virtual learning each week.

“With that success, and with nearly all of our staff and faculty fully vaccinated since mid-February, we feel confident in moving forward toward opening fully,” Brett said. “Despite the CDC’s recent update to its social distancing guidelines — lowering the 6-foot distance recommendation to 3 feet — we will still be adhering to the 6-feet distancing when possible.”

Mount Daniel and Thomas Jefferson Elementary School students now attend school from 8:50 a.m. to 3:50 p.m., with early release at 1:15 p.m. on Wednesdays.

Meanwhile, middle and high school students are now attending in-person classes four days a week, with Wednesdays as a virtual day.

“That will continue through the end of the year,” Brett said, adding that there will be no more changes to the schedule.

“As a parent, the full return of our elementary age children and the vastly expanded four-day access to in-person learning for our middle and high school kids is celebrated this week,” said parent Courtney Mooney, who is the president of a return-to-school parent group, Falls Church City Parents For Schools. “Parents know how much hard work has gone into getting us to this point the past few months and we couldn’t be more thankful to each person who has helped make this return happen.”

Since FCCPS announced it would return to a full five days a week of in-person instruction, 21 students who left the system and opted for private school or homeschooling options have now returned, Brett said.

Parents were given a deadline of March 15 to tell FCCPS their students’ learning preferences, but since then, FCCPS has continued “accomodating all requests for changes through [Monday] and will continue to do so,” Brett said.

He said enrollment has increased with the move to in-person learning five days a week but did not have precise numbers on-hand.

FCCPS has outpaced the rest of Northern Virginia in returning students to in-person classes, which Superintendent Peter Noonan attributed to the school division’s independence and relatively small student population.

“Because we are small and we are independent, we do have some opportunities to do some things differently than other large school divisions,” he told WJLA.

Both Fairfax County Public Schools and Arlington Public Schools pledged in March to return to five-day, full-time instruction this fall.

FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand announced on Monday (April 5) that the district is expanding opportunities for in-person learning this week and next week to certain pre-K through 12th grade students who have been identified as experiencing the greatest learning challenges.

Starting April 20, depending on school capacity, students attending hybrid instruction with a preference for full-time instruction may be able to start four days of in-person learning per week.

FCPS said that the expansion is based on the CDC’s new guidance permitting three feet of social distancing in classrooms depending on community transmission rates. The availability of space and staff will also affect how many students can get additional in-person instruction at each school.

Virginia Department of Health data shows that, based on CDC metrics, Fairfax County and Falls Church City currently have “substantial” transmission as of the week of April 3. They both had “high” transmission during the week of March 27, but Falls Church City was “moderate” the week before that.

The CDC says middle and high school students should maintain at least six feet of social distancing in areas with high community transmission, but that could be reduced to three feet when transmission is low, moderate, or substantial, as long as mask use is universal.

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(Updated at 12:20 p.m.) The Fairfax County Health Department has expanded eligibility for COVID-19 vaccine appointments to all Phase 1c workers, bringing the county one step closer to opening registration up to the general adult population.

Starting today (Wednesday), people who live or work in the Fairfax Health District and are employed in the following industries can sign up for a vaccine appointment through the health department:

  • Barbers, stylists, and hairdressers
  • Finance
  • Information technology and communication
  • Media
  • Legal services
  • Public safety engineers, including emergency communication centers and heavy and civil engineering construction
  • Other public health workers, such as public health program administrators and researchers in physical, engineering, and life sciences

The Fairfax Health District encompasses Fairfax County, the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, and the towns of Clifton, Herndon and Vienna.

Individuals who are eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccination can register through the Fairfax County Health Department’s website or by contacting the department’s call center at 703-324-7404.

This latest expansion of eligibility comes just two days after Fairfax County opened vaccine registrations up to an initial group of Phase 1c workers, including food service workers, cleaning and janitorial staff, and faculty and staff at higher education institutions.

“We expect to move into Phase 2 by April 18 in accordance with federal and state goals for the COVID-19 vaccination rollout,” the health department says.

President Joe Biden declared yesterday (Tuesday) that everyone 16 and older will be eligible to register for a COVID-19 vaccine by April 19, ahead of his previous target date of May 1.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced on April 1 that all of Virginia will reach Phase 2 — the general adult population — by April 18, though some jurisdictions could advance to that point sooner than others. Fairfax County has said it can meet that deadline as long as it receives a sufficient supply of doses.

According to its vaccine dashboard, the county received 40,950 first and second vaccine doses from the Virginia Department of Health during the week of March 29 to April 4, a step down from the roughly 55,000 doses that came in the previous week.

The Fairfax County Health Department says that it ordered 18,000 fewer doses last week, because some of its partners had unused vaccine that got carried over from the previous week, which can happen on occasion when there is a delay in a partner coming onboard or fewer people come through a particular site than projected.

“The number of vaccinations performed in the health district was not impacted,” the department told Tysons Reporter. “This week, vaccine orders are at normal levels.”

The county health department is currently making appointments for individuals who registered on March 30. There are more than 36,000 people on the waitlist right now, 9% of the 395,096 people who have registered since December.

According to VDH data, 368,665 Fairfax County residents have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 196,304 residents have been fully vaccinated. More than 1.6 million Virginians have now been fully vaccinated — 18.8% of the state’s population.

Photo by Karen Bolt/Fairfax County Public Schools

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Plans to overhaul the area around the West Falls Church Metro station are slowly coming together, but some deep divisions over what shape that future will take remain, even as Fairfax County’s three-year effort to update its vision for the area nears a conclusion.

Appointed by Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust in 2019, the West Falls Church Transit Station Area Task Force is a small group with a big task: help determine what the approximately 24 acres of transit-accessible land should look like.

In the group’s penultimate meeting last night, one of the primary points of contention was how Virginia Tech’s 7.5-acre campus on Haycock Road should be separated from residences.

Dwyn Taylor, representing Virginia Tech, was left to address the fallout of the university’s decision not to move forward with plans to expand its Northern Virginia Center with a design school and other facilities.

What will or won’t be built at the site is still up in the air, and Taylor was pressed by task force member Paul Rothstein about how any future construction will divide the campus from nearby residential properties like The Villages.

Taylor answered that he couldn’t provide too many specifics on what the alignment of the campus will look like, because it was still being determined what the curriculum of the school will be.

“What does your curriculum have to do with buffering?” Rothstein said. “So it’s acceptable to you to be fronting right next to our community? Virginia Tech was not a very good neighbor to us. We asked specific questions and never got very good answers…I [hope Taylor] will take back to project executives that it’s important for Virginia Tech to consider being good neighbors to the community they say they’re proud to be part of.”

Task force chair David Wuehrmann noted that buffers are included in the proposed draft amendment to Fairfax County’s comprehensive plan, which was last updated on April 1, but Rothstein said his concern is that what constitutes a barrier is left vague.

One of the few examples of landscape buffering included in the plan is a “linear park,” which Rothstein says could constitute much less than what anyone on the task force is imagining unless specified otherwise.

“If it’s a linear trail, like W&OD trail, that’s not really a buffer,” Rothstein said. “It’s nice language, but nothing says [the] buffer will be at least X. It sounds nice, but there are no teeth in it.”

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Vienna Police Announce Drug Take Back Day — The Vienna Police Department will host a collection site for old, expired, unused, and unwanted medications at its temporary facility (301 Center Street) on April 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The one-day event is part of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Prescription Drug Take Back initiative. [Vienna Police Department]

Capital One Hall Season Two Applications Due May 1 — Tysons’ new performing arts venue won’t open until October, but the deadline is already approaching for community arts groups to apply for space in the second season, which will begin on Sept. 1, 2022. The nonprofit ArtsFairfax is managing the application process on Fairfax County’s behalf. [Fairfax County Government]

Tysons Media Company Launches Lifestyle TV Network — “Tysons, Virginia-based Tegna Inc., owner of 64 television stations including WUSA9 in D.C., has launched a 24-hour, women-oriented lifestyle and reality TV network called Twist — and watching it comes with a twist as well.” [WTOP]

Vienna to Bring Back In-Person “Walk on the Hill” Event — The Town of Vienna’s annual spring Walk on the Hill program will return on April 25 with self-guided garden tours and live entertainment. COVID-19 protocols mean that the event will be limited to 500 total attendees, and participants must sign up in advance for one of two shifts.” [Town of Vienna]

Fairfax County Police Coming to Mosaic District — “Join Fairfax County Police Department at Mom and Pop on April 13 from 10am-12pm. Please adhere to all social distancing guidelines: maintain a 6-foot distance and please wear a face covering.” [Mosaic District/Twitter]

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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.

David Patariu is one of four candidates running for the three Vienna Town Council seats up for election this year. A practicing attorney and Vienna planning commissioner, Patariu is seeking his first term on the council after also running last year.

Interviews with fellow candidates Howard Springsteen, Nisha Patel, and Steve Potter — all incumbent councilmembers — are also available.

Why did you decide to run for election? 

Residents asked me to run this year because they felt their voices were not being heard by Vienna’s Town Council. The story of how I got on the ballot is a good example of the residents-first, can-do attitude we need on Town Council.

I figured that going to 125 to 150 homes to gather in-person ballot petition signatures during the pandemic would not be safe and would show a real lack of judgment regarding the safety of the residents.

Meanwhile, other Virginia office-seekers had filed cases to have the ballot signature requirement modified because of the pandemic. So, I filed a court case (Patariu v. Scott) and obtained a court-approved consent decree to make this process safer in the Town of Vienna, allowing candidates to use a form that does not require the circulator to personally witness the signature of each voter.

I saw other Virginia municipalities were being smarter about voting in a pandemic and put in the time and was the only candidate to use the modified ballot petition process. And I am running at the request of many residents to bring this kind of good judgment and concern for every resident to Vienna’s Town Council.

How well do you think the town has handled its pandemic response? 

Because of the pandemic, households and businesses across the country are conserving resources, spending less money, and deferring large projects. The Town Council, however, has spent hundreds of thousands of tax dollars on arguably unnecessary consultants, started construction on a $14.5-plus million police station to replace a roughly 25-year-old police station, and opened up all residential and commercial zoning to a rewrite when residents cannot meet in person.

The town needs to hit “pause” on many of these non-essential projects and re-focus on pandemic recovery efforts directed toward residents and small businesses who have suffered the most.

What are your thoughts on how the zoning code rewrite has gone so far? 

Residents cannot use the traditional channels of meeting in person and standing up at Town Council meetings to express their opinions. Surveys are drafted and interpreted by pro-development town staff, distributed in a non-random way, and presented as if they show what all Vienna residents want.

The town must wait until in-person meetings are once again possible, and hire an independent company to do a true random-sample survey of residents on any proposed zoning code changes that will affect their property values.

Before we move ahead with the residential and commercial zoning code rewrite, we need a Maple Avenue traffic study signed by a professional engineer — who did not have a possible conflict of interest for simultaneous work on behalf of Maple Avenue developers — to inform our decisions related to traffic impact and the zoning code rewrite. Read More

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