Tysons Corner, VA

Commuters in Fairfax County may soon see new anti-panhandling signs at major intersections.

At a Fairfax County Public Safety Commission meeting today (Sept. 17), county officials discussed strategies to keep panhandling at bay while still helping community members in need.

Back in July, the board approved a board matter from Supervisors John Cook and Pat Herrity that would prohibit “curb to curb” interaction between drivers and pedestrians, and the board directed county staff to create a proposed ordinance for the board to consider at the meeting today.

The ordinance, though, wasn’t brought up. “I thought we were going to have a draft ordinance today,” Herrity said.

Popular ideas discussed included implementation of informational signs at intersections, conducting surveys among panhandlers to see what resources the county can provide them and the possibility of implementing future ordinances.

Representatives from the County Attorney’s Office and the Public Safety Office presented signage from other jurisdictions that addressed the issue by discouraging passers-by from giving panhandlers money. The signs included a hotline suggesting resources for those in need.

“I think we should go the signage route before we consider an ordinance,” Chairman Sharon Bulova said.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust agreed with Bulova’s statement. “We should try to avoid criminalizing behavior that is not having a serious impact,” he said.

Throughout the discussion, board members echoed concerns surrounding panhandling, saying that people hanging out near intersections are more likely to be hit by cars.

“I don’t care who it is or what they are trying to raise money for… [panhandling] is unsafe and I don’t like it,” Cook, who represents the Braddock District, said.

A few of the board members said they think putting up signs makes more sense than passing ordinances because if drivers stop handing out money, panhandlers won’t be making money anymore and will lose motivation.

“You’ve got to find out how to get these folks into a different environment and how to help them,” Cathy Hudgins, a board member representing Vienna and Reston said, adding that she thought the board is off to a good start toward a solution.  

As for where the signs would go, Providence District Supervisor  Linda Smyth said that the county will need to coordinate with the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Now, the motion to approve the suggestions will be voted on at the Board of Supervisors meeting next Tuesday (Sept. 24).

“Have at it — all of the above,” Smyth said about the anti-panhandling suggestions.

Images via Fairfax County

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More bus routes may come to Tysons in the future.

Fairfax County is currently conducting a study on bus rapid transit options along Route 7 in Tysons.

Sean Schweitzer and Nanditha Paradkar from the Fairfax County Department of Transportation gave the Board of Supervisors an update on the proposal at the Transportation Committee meeting today (Tuesday).

FCDOT Director Tom Biesiadny said that this project is a subset of a larger Northern Virginia Transportation Commission’s Envision Route 7 project. Fairfax County took over the part in Tysons because it overlaps with other projects in the area, Biesiadny said.

Schweitzer said that a study about the bus alternatives was initiated last October. Now, FCDOT has the proposed bus system divided into three segments:

  • segment 1: Spring Hill Metro station to International Drive
  • segment 2: International Drive to I-495
  • segment 3: I-495 to I-66

So far, FCDOT is considering several alternatives for each of those segments. Fairfax County has the funding to complete the study, Biesiadny said.

Schweitzer said that the alternatives will be put through simulations this fall before seeking feedback from civic associations.

Image via Fairfax County

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New speed humps are coming to the windy Bellview Road in McLean next month.

Known for its cut-through traffic use, the two-lane road runs from just north of Wolf Trap to Georgetown Pike, bisecting Old Dominion Drive along the way.

The upcoming traffic calming measures will add seven speed humps along the road.

“The speed humps on Bellview will be installed in coordination with planned repaving, which is expected to take place the third or fourth week of September,” Jennifer McCord, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation, told Tysons Reporter.

Another McLean road will also undergo traffic calming measures.

In July, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved two speed tables, longer, flat-topped version of speed humps, for Youngblood Street.

Youngblood Street connects a residential area in Chesterbrook Gardens to Westmoreland Street.

“[The Fairfax County Department of Transportation] is finalizing plans for installation, and will then send to the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services,” FCDOT spokesperson Robin Geiger told Tysons Reporter. “The timeline for completion could be fall 2019.”

Image 1 via Google Maps, image 2 via FCDOT, map via Google Maps

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Friends, family and colleagues will soon have the chance to commemorate Paul Bolon, who was in the race for the Board of Supervisors’ Providence District seat before he died.

Bolon, 69, died from a heart attack at the Inova Fairfax Hospital after meeting voters on Sunday (Aug. 11), the Washington Post reported. A retired economist and manager from the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Bolon was running as the Republican candidate against Democrat Dalia Palchik.

Palchik posted on Facebook:

I was extremely saddened to learn overnight about the passing of my opponent, Paul Bolon. Paul and I did not know each other well, but we were both looking forward to honestly debating important issues, at a time of such bickering and division. All of my thoughts are with his wife and children today, I’m so very sorry for your loss.

His colleagues took to Twitter to remember him as a “great man.”

“I was very saddened to learn of Paul’s untimely passing — he truly was a great man,” Srilekha Palle, the Republican candidate for the Sully District, tweeted.

Joe Galdo, the Republican candidate for the Board of Supervisors’ chair, tweeted, “We lost a good candidate and a great man.”

Tim Hannigan, the chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Committee, said Bolon was a “personable, unfailingly civil, generous and always kind” person.

“Paul Bolon was a great candidate. A professional economist, he brought a clear-eyed, analytical perspective to issues facing our county,” Hannigan said. “As our committee’s Providence District Chairman, he served with distinction as a very effective grassroots leader and a tireless advocate for Republican values and Republican candidates.”

The memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 24, at the Fellowship Baptist Church (11032 Oakton Road), followed by a reception at the Bolon residence.

Photo via Fairfax County Republican Committee

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Paul Bolon died over the weekend while campaigning for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ Providence District seat.

Bolon, 69, had a fatal heart attack after meeting voters in the Providence District on Sunday (Aug. 11) and died at the Inova Fairfax Hospital, the Washington Post reported. He was running as the Republican candidate against Democrat Dalia Palchik.

“Paul Bolon was a great candidate. A professional economist, he brought a clear-eyed, analytical perspective to issues facing our county,” Tim Hannigan, the chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Committee, said in a statement. “As our committee’s Providence District Chairman, he served with distinction as a very effective grassroots leader and a tireless advocate for Republican values and Republican candidates.”

Hannigan added that Bolon was a “personable, unfailingly civil, generous and always kind” person.

Bolon was a retired manager from the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and economist.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Aug. 24.

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Warehouse Fire in Tysons — A fire broke out in a warehouse in the 8400 block of Tyco Road in Tysons Sunday (Aug. 4) evening, which firefighters “quickly extinguished.” No injuries have been reported. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue/Twitter]

Behind the Scenes of Cirque du Soleil — Pawel Walczewski shared what it’s like being one of the aerial artists who plays Waz in Cirque du Soleil’s “VOLTA.” The show is currently in Tysons until Sept. 29 [DC Metro Theater Arts]

Woman Struck, Killed by Car in Falls Church — “Fairfax County police arrested a man who allegedly struck and killed a Falls Church woman who was walking with a child in the West Falls Church area Saturday afternoon.” [Tysons Reporter]

Visions for Vienna — The Washington Business Journal dove into the town’s “crippling clash between supporters of Vienna’s small-town history and businesses with an eye on the future.” [Washington Business Journal]

Out With the Old, In With the New (Lightbulbs) — Back in July, the Board of Supervisors voted to “require LEDs instead of less-efficient high-pressure sodium streetlights in new developments. This relatively simple change marks a significant step forward in the county’s pursuit of policies that benefit the environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” [Fort Hunt Herald]

Falls Church Holding Flash Flood Forum — “The City of Falls Church announced Tuesday that it has organized a public forum for Wednesday, Aug. 7, at 7 p.m. at the Council Chambers of City Hall for a “July 8 Flood, Impact, Recovery and Response” forum. Citizens are invited to attend as City staff and elected officials review the impact of the flash flood last month.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Falls Church Expands Senior Tax Program — “Measures to better enable older Falls Church residents to “age in place” rather than move out of their homes that were approved by the F.C. City Council last month will benefit all City taxpayers, F.C. Treasurer Jody Acosta [said].” [Falls Church News-Press]

Photo via Fairfax County Fire and Rescue/Twitter 

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Jim Koons Automotive is expanding its car dealership near the Spring Hill Metro station.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the expansion plans on Tuesday (July 30) on the north side of Leesburg Pike right below the Dulles Toll Road.

The two-phase development would convert a 73,000-square-foot warehouse into vehicle storage and offices for the dealership, reconfigure a parking lot and allow for a second dealership franchise.

“The warehouse was once showroom space for an Ourisman dealership on the site, but Koons acquired the property in a $19.4 million land deal in 2016, according to county records,” the Washington Business Journal reported.

Koons is one of the D.C. area’s largest car dealers and has two other Tysons locations in addition to the Koons Tysons Toyota at the 8600 block of Leesburg Pike, WBJ noted.

According to the county’s staff report:

Auto sales and retail uses are the predominant land uses along Leesburg Pike, along with one high-rise office building. This area is developed and planned for auto sales and retail uses, as well as portions developed and planned for office use with support [from existing] retail and service uses.

“This proposal will improve the appearance and repurpose an aged building that is located along Leesburg Pike in Tysons with minimal site disturbance,” Lynne Strobel, an attorney representing Koons, told the board.

Image via Fairfax County

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Damage from flash flooding that hit Fairfax County earlier this month will require millions of dollars for necessary repairs.

Seamus Mooney, the director of the Office of Emergency Management, gave the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors today (Tuesday) an update on the damage assessment nearly a month after the region experienced about one month’s worth of rain during a couple of hours on the morning of July 8.

Fairfax County retroactively declared a local emergency about a week later to seek federal disaster aid. (The board voted to terminate the local emergency today.)

After giving an overview of the “catastrophic rain event,” Mooney broke down the estimates for how much repairing the damage will cost.

Kirby Road Facing $4 Million Repairs 

Mooney said that some people were landlocked when severe weather damage closed the 1300 block of Kirby Road. Another McLean road — Swinks Mill Road — suffered extreme damage.

The Virginia Department of Transportation told Tysons Reporter that both roads are facing months of repair work.

Mooney said that the Virginia Department of Transportation recorded about $4 million of the $6 million recorded road damage was just at Kirby Road. Because the roads are funded through state highway funds, Mooney said that they are not eligible for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust called for proactive measures to ensure that the road improvements speed up.

“As a county, we need to put pressure on VDOT,” Foust said. “They’re telling us it’s going to be months [for Kirby Road]. That’s not acceptable.”

Storm’s Impact on Residents and Businesses 

As for residents and businesses, Mooney said that the 277 entries in the county’s Disaster Damage Database as of yesterday (Monday) total about $6.8 million for a “significant amount of damage.”

Money said that state and federal programs can provide individual assistance — Fairfax County is currently waiting to hear back about

Mooney said Fairfax County has been working with surrounding jurisdictions including Arlington on damage assessments to determine eligibility for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which gives loans to disaster victims.

Since Arlington exceeded the 25 damaged properties requirement, Mooney said that Fairfax County should expect to hear from SBA by this week or next week. “[It’s] contiguous — if one gets it, we all get it,” Mooney said.

Fairfax County has chosen the Tysons Pimmit Regional Library as the location for a Disaster Loan Outreach Center and has the space reserved starting next week.

“As soon as we get the notice we can work with OPA and get it open for residents,” Mooney said, adding that residents will have up to six months to fill out the applications if they want a loan.

“Could Have Done More”

While the Board of Supervisors praised the quick response by emergency personnel, several board members — especially Foust — voiced frustration about preventing future damage of this magnitude.

Foust said that the county “could have done more” to prepare, including:

  • investing in infrastructure that protects people’s homes
  • pressuring VDOT to prioritize local road improvements
  • having packages prepared in advance for residents with information on emergency and disaster next steps
  • strengthening “grossly inadequate” stormwater management requirements
  • focusing on tree preservation

“It’s been difficult on a lot of people, and we have to step up,” Foust said.

The board also voted today to designate September of Emergency Preparedness Awareness Month.

“It doesn’t take much for someone to have a very bad day,” Mooney said, adding that the designation might “make sure people become more resilient to these types of events.”

Additionally, Mooney said that the county is utilizing social media, Fairfax Alerts and other avenues to share information with residents, adding that the county also added people who entered their information into the Disaster Damage Database to Fairfax Alerts.

“Of note, between July 8-12, we sent out 1o2 storm-related tweets and Facebook posts,” he said. “We’ve been using that to make sure anyone who has submitted information, that we’ve been sending them updates as it’s available as well,” he said.

First photo via @SteveML9022/Twitter

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A clerical error has left Sweet Leaf Cafe in McLean in a three-year legal fight to not be zoned as a residential property.

The restaurant is currently operating in violation of zoning code. A non-residential use permit had been issued for the site for retail sales, but not to operate what the zoning law refers to as a fast-food establishment.

At a July 17 meeting, the Board of Zoning Appeals deferred Sweet Leaf’s appeal to Oct. 23, making this the 12th time the issue has been appealed since early 2016.

County staff said Sweet Leaf is pursuing a parking reduction to fall in-line with the zoning ordinance but has hit a few snags.

According to Fairfax County spokesperson Brian Worthy:

Sweet Leaf needs a non-residential use permit for a restaurant, and this is the current issue involved in the zoning appeal. However, the restaurant cannot get this permit until it applies for a parking reduction that the Board of Supervisors must approve. Therefore, the July 17 Board of Zoning Appeals public hearing for this case was deferred because the applicant is working to apply for the reduction. The business requires at least 14 parking spaces based on zoning rules, but the site can only physically accommodate the existing 12 parking spaces. If this reduction is approved, the applicant can get its non-residential use permit. Previous public hearings were deferred at the applicant’s own request.

While Sweet Leaf works with the county government to find a solution, staff said the restaurant has been allowed to continue operating.

“Sweet Leaf has been allowed to stay open without the non-residential use permit for a restaurant because they are working to acquire the proper zoning permit,” said Fairfax County Public Information Officer Crystal Santos. “Unfortunately, a previous administrative error allowed the restaurant to operate as a retail establishment for zoning purposes. However, Sweat Leaf has been subject to all health regulations and licensing requirements related to owning and operating a restaurant in Fairfax County since they opened in 2009.”

Prior to Sweet Leaf, the space was operated under a similar food use for seven years, according to Sweet Leaf owner Andre Matini.

“Sweet Leaf completed all the proper paperwork and was issued a zoning permit… to operate as a food use,” Matini wrote in an email. “We are not exactly sure what has transpired since we opened over ten years ago but this issue seems to be an oversight by the issuer… Unfortunately, this has been an extremely costly process for us.”

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said it was an innocent error and staff has been working to make sure the restaurant can continue operating and obtain the proper zoning.

“Basically it’s come down to a parking issue,” Foust said. “[Staff] is continuing to search for a solution. They think they have one, and it’s a little creative, but they’re trying to work through it.”

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is working to create a scooter program before scooter companies are allowed to zoom around however they please starting next year.

Legislation passed during the General Assembly session in January allows localities to regulate scooters and motorized skateboards, however, the localities have until Jan. 1, 2020 to take action to implement any regulations. After that date, the scooter companies can operate locally as they see fit.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said there is a “sense of urgency” to create scooter rules on the county level.

“[The county has] to have an ordinance in by the end of this year or it becomes the wild, wild west,” Foust said.

Scooters, an increasingly popular alternative transportation option, are already in use in the county.

Staff from the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) and the Department of Cable and Consumer Services presented a scooter program proposal to the county board during the Transportation Committee at yesterday’s meeting (Tuesday).

Chris Wells, the bicycle and pedestrian program manager for FCDOT, said that companies see scooters as an attractive form of alternative transportation.

“Fortune 500 companies are requesting this,” Wells said.

County staff suggested that proposed scooter program limit each company to 250 scooters, set the speed limit at 15 miles per hour and not restrict the devices to specific geographical areas of the county, according to the presentation.

Foust raised concerns about the 15 mph speed limit — “To me, it’s too fast” — and requested a demonstration.

The program would be regulated by the Department of Cable and Consumer Services.

When creating the proposal, county staff reviewed ordinances and pilot programs in nearby jurisdictions like Arlington, the City of Fairfax, the City of Alexandria and D.C., partly to possibly provide consistency around the area.

“The research is showing these are a type of transportation device used by a more diverse population,” Wells said, adding that “Tysons and Reston would be a great place for scooters to fit into the infrastructure.”

Overall, the board voiced support for the proposal.

Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay said he supports the program as a traffic calming tactic, although he said that “scooters are probably floating around somewhere” after major flash flooding earlier this week.

“It does send a message that we are a county that is trying to promote transportation,” McKay said.

While the scooter program is tentatively scheduled to go before the board during the December meeting, Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith said she wants to see the board vote sooner on a scooter program proposal.

“I’m supportive of what’s on the table,” Chairman Sharon Bulova said, adding that the board can always amend an ordinance. “I think what staff is proposing sounds like a good way to get us started.”

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