The McLean Citizens Association is hosting an online forum Feb. 28 to give people a chance to ask questions to local government and school leaders.
The meeting will come less than a week after Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill is scheduled to present his proposed budget for fiscal year 2023 on Tuesday (Feb. 22).
Hill projected in November that the county will see “robust” revenue growth in the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1, due primarily to growth in the real estate tax base.
However, the forecast also anticipated a $40.7 million shortfall, noting that a tax relief expansion could reduce revenue by $12 million.
The MCA’s annual forum will occur from 7 to 9 p.m. with Hill, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, and chief financial officers for the county and Fairfax County Public Schools slated to attend.
Those seeking to ask questions must register, as attendance will be capped at 100 people. But the group will also livestream the event on its Facebook page.
Both the county Board of Supervisors and FCPS pass their own budgets. Superintendent Scott Brabrand presented his proposed budget for the school system on Jan. 13, and the school board discussed it at a work session on Feb. 8.
The school board is scheduled to adopt an advertised budget on Feb. 24.
In the past, MCA’s budget forum has provided insight into tax implications of the county budget and how limited funding sources, including federal COVID-19 relief measures, will affect revenues.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
“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.
Part of the planned Dominion Square West development, the nine-story, 175-unit project comes from the nonprofit Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH).
Units will have one to three bedrooms and be reserved for those at or below 30%, 50% and 60% of the area median income. Those thresholds are currently $31,000, $51,600, and $61,920 for a two-person household for the D.C. area.
With yesterday’s 9-0 vote, the Board of Supervisors agreed to buy two acres of land for the property with $10.97 million in American Rescue Plan Act money as well as $10 million from a Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority reserve fund.
Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said the project will provide “much-needed housing.”
“The 175-unit Dominion Square West building will be a significant and positive step forward in providing affordable housing for working families close to Metrorail,” he said, adding that he looks forward to the “life-changing impact” it will have on residents.
Located at 1592 Spring Hill Road, the property is currently a parking lot owned by Capital Automotive Real Estate Services, a real estate investment trust acquired by Brookfield Property Partners in 2014.
Fairfax County will pass the money for the land to APAH, but it will retain public ownership of the ground, which will be leased to the nonprofit for 85 years.
Housing authority spokesman Ben Boxer said in an email yesterday that financial terms of the leasing arrangement are still under negotiation.
“Negotiations on the terms are anticipated to be completed in the next month,” Boxer wrote.
In addition to the ARPA and housing authority reserve funds, the county’s $43 million contribution to the project includes $13.3 million in local tax money from a Housing Blueprint Fund, according to Boxer.
The housing blueprint funds and developer contributions from the county’s Tysons Housing Trust Fund will help pay for a $22 million subordinate loan to APAH to support the project’s construction.
The trust fund was established in 2010 by the Tysons Comprehensive Plan, which recommends that developers give $3 per square foot of non-residential development to fund affordable and workforce housing in the area.
The Dominion Square West project is the first one to use that money.
“Dominion Square is the kind of community we need more of — one that is completely integrated into the community in terms of design, function, and opportunity,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement. “I strongly believe quality affordable housing must be available throughout Fairfax County and this action helps move us closer to that reality.”
Local Elected Officials React to Mask Lawsuit — Rep. Gerry Connolly (D) and Delegates Eileen Filler-Corn (D-31st) and Marcus Simon (D-53rd) were among the Congressional and General Assembly representatives who expressed support for the Fairfax County School Board’s lawsuit seeking to stop Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order prohibiting mask requirements in schools. [Twitter]
Metro Seeks Public Comment on New Budget — “The public comment period for Metro’s Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) budget is officially open, and Metro’s Board of Directors wants the public’s input. Metro is encouraging the public to share feedback before the comment period ends at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, February 15.” [WMATA]
Redistricting Committee Meets to Talk Name Changes — “Lee, Mason, Mount Vernon, Springfield and Sully Board of Supervisors’ Districts could be getting new names. The Redistricting Advisory Committee is meeting virtually on Tuesday, Jan. 25, to begin discussing these possible name changes.” [Fairfax County Government/Twitter]
Students Sought for MCC Governing Board — “If you are a high school student who lives or attends school in the Langley or McLean high school boundary areas and you’d like to gain leadership skills and serve your community, consider running for a seat on the McLean Community Center’s Governing Board.” [Fairfax County Government/YouTube]
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has submitted plans for its Tysons Fire Station and Bus Transit Facility project.
As shared at a public meeting in November, the project will relocate Fire Station 29 from Spring Hill Road to the 8300 Jones Branch Drive site now occupied by Fairfax Connector’s West*Park Transit Station, which will be replaced with a smaller, one-story building with offices and a commuter waiting area.
The new two-story, 20,000 square-foot fire station will have a garage with five engine bays as well as storage and administrative space, including offices, a kitchen, an exercise room, and bunk rooms for workers.
“The existing station is 3-bay only, outdated and having limited room on site for expansion,” a statement of justification said. “This project provides the opportunity to serve the Tysons area with a 5-bay fire station, replacement transit station and a new access to the [Dulles Toll Road].”
To build the facilities, the county board wants to remove the 4.2-acre parcel from a proffer agreement with a developer that limited its use to a bus station, kiss-and-ride lot, or mass transit facility, according to the application submitted on Jan. 4.
In response to traffic circulation concerns raised by some county staff, project manager Jun Li said that maintaining a clear separation between vehicles and pedestrians has been a design priority.
The overhauled site is expected to produce fewer trips during peak hours than it does now, because the number of bus bays for passenger loading will be reduced from seven to five, and shift changes for fire station personnel will occur outside of peak hours.
A traffic study approved by the county and state transportation departments estimated that the fire station will see a total of four trips per hour, based on projections of how many calls the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department will receive in the area.
The proposed plan allocates 46 parking spaces to the fire station and eight spaces for the bus facility, including two spaces each designated for people with disabilities. The transit station currently has 40 parking spaces total.
According to Li, the new bus facility is envisioned more as a transfer station, rather than a park-and-ride lot, so the county doesn’t anticipate a lot of cars or bicycles at the site.
However, the county is considering adding a shared bicycle and pedestrian lane along Jones Branch Drive and has committed to providing 8-foot-wide sidewalks on Jones Branch and Spring Hill Road.
The facility will feature electric charging stations for both buses and cars. The county hopes to reduce energy and carbon emissions by at least 30%.
“We are also in process of studying net zero,” Li wrote.
The application notes, though, that the project as proposed would eliminate all existing tree cover.
“As the project moves along, more effort will be investigated for preserving the tree canopies as much as possible when getting into design details,” the statement of justification says. “Given the lack of tree preservation, the balance of the tree canopy cover requirement would need to be met with new on-site tree planting.”
Opposition to a natural gas pipeline planned for Pimmit Hills resurfaced yesterday (Wednesday), as residents voiced concerns about safety and other issues at a Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals public hearing.
Washington Gas has sought to upgrade its infrastructure in the area since 2012, but citizen appeals have stalled the project, which will turn a 3-mile line along Route 7 into a 5-mile route circling around Tysons.
In video testimonies submitted to the zoning appeals board, Pimmit Hills residents expressed fears of gas ruptures and a potential explosion affecting homes where the new pipeline could be built.
The appeals board postponed a decision on the matter to Feb. 2 due to a lack of time. Video testimony is scheduled to be heard at that time along with additional questioning, staff comments and rebuttals.
Dubbed the Tysons Strip One Project, the proposed pipeline would replace a nearly 70-year-old, 14-inch-wide line with a new, higher pressure one that’s 2 feet in width.
While it will distribute gas to homes, the new pipeline won’t directly hook up to residences, according to a lawyer representing Washington Gas.
The case before the appeals board was initiated by four homeowners who objected to the county’s finding from July 23, 2021 that the project doesn’t need special exception approval. A staff report agreed with zoning administrator Leslie Johnson, saying the residents’ appeal lacked merit.
Residents Christina Chen Zinner, Kurt Iselt, Sarah Ellis, and Lillian Whitesell argue that there should be more oversight of the utility work.
“The [Fairfax County Board of Supervisors] is not even being allowed…to exercise its discretion and protect its…constituents,” Evan Johns, an attorney for the group, said.
Light or Heavy Utility Facility?
The case before the zoning appeals board hinges on a disagreement over whether the pipeline should be considered a light or heavy utility facility.
The residents’ attorneys argue that it’s a heavy utility facility, which isn’t permitted by Pimmit Hills’ residential district.
County staff see the pipeline as a light utility facility, which is exempt from zoning regulations when in a Virginia Department of Transportation right-of-way and intended for consumer distribution.
“A heavy utility use is a major component of an infrastructure system,” Johnson said. “I think it’s clear that it’s not a heavy utility facility.” Read More
The McLean Citizens Association (MCA) will weigh in tonight (Wednesday) on the bicycle and pedestrian safety projects that it believes Fairfax County should fast-track.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors set a goal on Oct. 5 of spending at least $100 million on bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure improvements through June 30, 2027, stating that federal relief funds have given the county some flexibility to make one-time investments.
In an email to members, MCA says Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust has asked for its help identifying priorities for McLean, as county leaders consider which projects to potentially fund and expedite.
MCA’s transportation committee has identified 14 projects in a draft resolution that its board of directors could vote on during a virtual meeting at 7:30 p.m. President Rob Jackson said changes to those plans could occur, but he suggested proposals should be done so before the meeting to build support.
“Even assuming the $100 million is split evenly among the nine Magisterial Districts, our priorities complete [sic] with projects in the Herndon and Great Falls areas,” Jackson noted in an email. “So, the Committee’s prioritizations and rationale for those priorities are critical.”
In its draft resolution, MCA’s transportation committee cites demand, safety concerns, and connectivity to public transit and schools as factors it considered when choosing projects to designate as priorities.
High Priority Projects
Most of the projects are near Haycock Elementary and Longfellow Middle schools, which the resolution says suffer from cracks and bulges on area sidewalks.
In addition to proposing sidewalk repairs along Westmoreland Street between Gordon Avenue and Haycock Road, the draft resolution focuses on possible improvements north of Haycock Road:
- Repairs to an asphalt trail between Westmoreland and Great Falls Street
- Widening the concrete sidewalk by 1 foot on the bridge over I-66 to accommodate pedestrians walking side-by-side or going in opposite directions
- An engineering study looking at options to make the walkway between the I-66 bridge and Great Falls Street consistently 5 feet in width, reduce sloping, and add a painted crosswalk across the Turner Avenue intersection
Other key projects included in the draft resolution address concerns to the north end of McLean:
- Study a potential pedestrian bridge across Dolley Madison Boulevard and other safety upgrades, such as traffic beacons at the Ingleside Avenue or Elm Street crosswalks
- Repair an asphalt trail along Balls Hill Road between Thrasher Road and Heather Hill Lane
The seventh high-priority project is to construct a sidewalk near Lemon Road Elementary School on Redd Road from Idylwood Road to Reddfield Drive in Pimmit Hills.
Secondary Projects Identified
The resolution also includes a list of secondary projects that MCA would like the county to pursue when possible:
- Repair portions of an asphalt trail along Dolley Madison Boulevard between Old Dominion Drive and Lewinsville Road
- Maintain and upgrade asphalt trail along Georgetown Pike just east of Dead Run Creek
- Repair an asphalt trail along Douglass Drive from Georgetown Pike to Father John Court
- Construct sidewalks along the north side of Birch Road from Birch Grove Court to Kirby Road and on Linway Terrace from the intersection of Old Dominion and Birch
- Create a trail along Lewinsville Road between Swinks Mill Road and Bridle Path Lane
- Conduct a study of a potential trail along the south side of Old Dominion between Balls Hill and a bridge over I-495
Photo via Google Maps
Parking meters are coming to Tysons streets.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors expressed support yesterday (Tuesday) for staff’s recommendation that the county introduce managed on-street parking to the Tysons core, potentially paving the way for the practice to expand to other areas later.
“I definitely support this,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said at the transportation committee meeting. “I think this is an important step towards managed public parking, which I think will have a role in the future in Tysons and other places, I’m sure, around the county.”
Currently, the county doesn’t charge for on-street parking, allowing drivers to leave vehicles for unlimited amounts of time.
That has become a particular problem in Tysons, according to a two-year review that the Fairfax County Department of Transportation concluded in December 2020. The study found that commercial vehicles often take up spots for days, even weeks at a time, in addition to low parking turnover near Metro stops and other issues.
The review also examined Reston, but staff said they aren’t recommending any changes there at this time, citing the limited amount of public, curbside parking available in the area. FCDOT did not return Tysons Reporter’s request for further clarification by press time.
Paid parking isn’t new to the Tysons area, but it exists mostly on private streets and property, such as Avenir Place near the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority also has a metered surface parking lot at that station.
The Mosaic District in Merrifield has limits on how long people can park on the street and in some garage spaces, but parking remains free.
FCDOT senior transportation planner Henri McCartney said that, after examining jurisdictions that have parking programs in place, county staff found an average rate of $1.50 per hour.
The county could secure a third party to install and manage parking meters, conduct enforcement, process citation fines and schedule appeals.
“We do need to move forward with this,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said, adding that it would make sense to work with a third party that drivers might already use when parking elsewhere in the D.C. region.
The vendor would be responsible for implementing the plan, overseeing day-to-day operations, and collecting revenue from the meters and parking citations that will go to the county, according to FCDOT staff.
Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust noted that the Tysons area also runs into problems with the limited amount of parking around its four Metro stops, none of which have dedicated, public garages. McCartney said the county is looking at ways to have longer term parking available so Metro riders could park nearby.
As part of the possible changes, McCartney suggested that the parking program include payment kiosks, signage limiting how long a vehicle could park in a spot, and a variety of ways for people to pay, from an app to text messaging or calling a number.
To develop the program, FCDOT will request one-time funding of $100,000 in the county’s next budget to hire a traffic design consultant, who would help determine what streets will be affected, possible hours of operations, and other factors.
“Since this is the very first implementation of managed parking in the county, we believe that we need the expertise of a consultant to…help us get it right,” McCartney said.
Anticipated recurring costs include $120,000 annually for a new transportation planner, with additional positions potentially needed if the program expands, and $250,000 annually for the parking services vendor. Staff hope that the parking revenue will eventually cover the program’s costs.
Any changes are still years away. The county’s tentative timeline for implementation has staff bringing a full managed parking plan, including meter rates, to the Board of Supervisors for its endorsement in the fall of 2023.
Photo via Google Maps