Tysons, VA

McLean has had its fair share of contentious development debates, but to the relief of everyone involved, a planned senior living facility at 1638 and 1642 Chain Bridge Road didn’t go that way, instead getting a unanimous vote of support from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

Tension over the future of development in McLean has been brewing in recent weeks with the much-debated downtown revitalization plan headed for a delayed planning commission public hearing on May 26.

In this case, however, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust says the cooperation and willingness to compromise from both developer Tri-State Development Companies and the nearby residents resulted in a smooth process.

The plan is to build 35 independent living units, five of which are expected to be sold as affordable, and a central clubhouse area for residents to gather.

“This has been a really good experience, working with the community and this developer,” Foust said. “Sometimes you don’t come away with such a good taste in your mouth after you go through a difficult land use case, and this wasn’t simple, but everyone was so positive and cooperative and I want to thank everyone involved in the process.”

While speakers at the meeting generally expressed support for the project, neighboring property owner Bobbi Bowman, who said she’d lived there for 22 years, stated that she still had concerns about the noise level from the clubhouse on the site.

“I will look over my back yard and side-yard fences into the front yard of two-story townhouses and clubhouse with an joining outdoor area,” Bowman said. “I believe this application fails to meet county standard that says such development must be compatible…I am not asking the applicant to forego the clubhouse, I’m only asking to be protected from the noise.”

Tri-State has agreed that the clubhouse will not be rented out to anyone outside of the condominium owners association that will be formed to govern the facility, and no audible music will be allowed in the patio area, according to a list of approved development conditions attached to the project.

Other speakers said they were looking forward to the development in part because they see the need for senior housing for their parents or for themselves a few years down the road.

“I think it’s an excellent idea,” nearby resident Eric West said. “I don’t know of any place within the DMV that has something that would meet the needs of those who want to age in place.”

Winnie Pizzano, president of the nearby Stoneleigh Homeowners Association, said the project had great support from within her community.

Resident Scott Shawkey expressed hope that the project could help pave the way for a transformation of McLean’s downtown area, a goal of the county that has been several years in the making.

“I have a father in his 80s who’s worked his entire life for something nice,” Shawkey said. “This is something special, a celebration of life. I think it will be great…We have an incredible community, but our downtown is just a four-way intersection.”

Map via Fairfax County

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors adopted a balanced budget for fiscal year 2022 yesterday (Tuesday).

It includes some funding adjustments that the board incorporated into the proposed budget during the board’s markup session last week.

The newly adopted budget supports a 1% pay increase for county employees, a 2% raise for Fairfax County Public Schools employees, and 15% salary supplements for staff in the Office of the Public Defender and state probation and parole officers.

“While there were many constraints on this year’s budget, I am tremendously proud of what this Board was able to accomplish,” Board Chairman Jeff McKay said. “My goal was to look for balance in lowering the tax rate, with the understanding of skyrocketing property assessments, while also supporting our County employees and teachers and furthering our priorities in education, affordable housing, environmental protection, and community resources. I am pleased we were able to achieve that.”

The proposed budget from February did not include pay increases for employees, whose pay was frozen in this year’s budget. The new 1% pay increase comes after Fairfax County employees advocated for salary bumps last month.

“The 1% wage increase and one-time bonus come as a response to union members making it clear that two years of frozen pay for essential county workers was unacceptable,” SEIU Virginia 512 Fairfax Chapter President Tammie Wondong said. “We appreciate the approved change. That being said, the concessions fall short of the agreed-upon pay plan and workers are falling behind.”

The county employees’ union will now focus on its push for Fairfax County to adopt a collective bargaining ordinance. A new state law permitting localities to establish collective bargaining procedures took effect on May 1.

McKay told Tysons Reporter last week that county staff is currently drafting an ordinance that will be discussed at the board’s personnel committee meeting on May 25.

“Meaningful collective bargaining is the only way workers can ensure that the county keeps their promise on our pay plans so that we have the resources to provide the best services to the Fairfax community,” Wondong said.

The increase will be funded using $20 million that County Executive Bryan Hill had recommended setting aside in an “Economic Recovery Reserve.” As the county looks to rebuild, it will instead lean on the $222 million in federal relief funds it expects to receive from the American Rescue Plan Act.

“The redirection of this reserve does not exacerbate budgetary challenges in FY 2023,” the final budget document reads. “With this reserve, funding just shy of $30 million is available to be utilized for employee pay in FY 2022.”

Here are some other highlights:

As proposed in February, the real estate tax rate will decrease from $1.15 per $100 of assessed value to $1.14 per $100 of assessed value. Personal property tax rates and stormwater fees will remain the same, at  $4.57 per $100 of assessed value and $0.0325 per $100 of assessed value, respectively.

As considered during the budget markup last week, the refuse disposal fee will decrease from $68 to $66 per ton, but the refuse collection fee will increase from $370 to $400 per household. The rate was reduced from $385 last year because of a reduction in yard waste collection services during the pandemic.

Funding for county government operations and contributions to Metro and Fairfax County Public Schools, or general fund disbursements, totals $4.53 billion. That marks a slight increase from the advertised $4.48 million, and an increase of $55.40 million over the current fiscal year’s disbursements.

More than half of those disbursements (52.6%, or $2.38 billion) support Fairfax County Public Schools. This includes $2.17 billion for operations, $197.12 million for debt service and $13.10 million for school construction.

Fairfax County will create 109 additional positions in FY 2022 to staff new facilities, such as the South County Police Station, a new 61,000-square-foot police station and animal shelter, and the Scotts Run Fire Station. Positions are also being added for the county’s opioid task force and Diversion First initiative.

Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano says the budget marks an important first step toward solving Fairfax’s “longstanding justice crisis,” adding that the 15 new positions his office has been allocated will enable prosecutors to take on more cases.

“As the budget takes effect in July and we fill those, we will be able to expand our caseload to encompass all cases other than minor traffic infractions,” the Commonwealth Attorney’s office said. “We are already scaling up our caseload now and are prioritizing cases that contain an indication of violence between now and July.”

Descano says his office will complement its expanded case load with a “growing use of diversion and alternative sentencing to ensure we are keeping the community safe in a manner that accords with our values.”

Additional staffing alone won’t solve the problem, however. Descano says a multi-year investment is needed to address the “chronic shortcomings that plagued our system,” including a culture of producing as many convictions as quickly and cheaply as possible.

Charts via Fairfax County

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The Fairfax County chapter of the NAACP is not impressed by the search process and resulting hire of Kevin Davis as the county’s new police chief, effective May 3, and is calling for a do-over.

“The Fairfax County NAACP does not have confidence in the process by which the new Police Chief was hired — or its results — and requests that the County, in collaboration with the community, conduct a transparent search for a new Police Chief together,” President Karen Campblin wrote in a statement released yesterday (April 29).

Campblin called the process “deeply troubling” and expressed disappointment in “the lack of transparency and accountability to the public.”

She notes that the hiring process stands in stark contrast to the county’s last police chief search in 2013, when residents were directly involved in candidate evaluations and interviews.

In 2013, a panel of 20 community members, including police union representatives and faith leaders, considered 40 to 50 candidates and recommended three finalists to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, according to The Washington Post.

Ultimately, Edwin C. Roessler Jr. was selected for the job. His retirement in February prompted the county’s search for a new Fairfax County Police Department leader.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay says that the county conducted “an extensive interview and outreach process” when looking for Roessler’s successor that involved over 275 community meetings and calls, over 450 emails to stakeholders, and a community survey that received over 3,000 responses.

“The entire Board was unanimous in their confidence in Kevin Davis’s ability to lead our Department and to further our already ongoing Board of Supervisor’s directed policing reforms,” McKay said in a statement.

However, the results of the survey have not been made public, and Campblin says the county board has provided little justification to the public regarding what distinguished Davis from other candidates.

“At a minimum, the results of a county-wide survey that was supposed to be used to help guide the search and interviews, should have been presented to the Board of Supervisors at a regularly scheduled meeting and made readily available for public review,” she wrote. “The Board also should have provided a better understanding of the reasons it believes Mr. Davis is the best candidate to run the FCPD.”

The civil rights organization also says it is concerned about the NBC4 Washington report on two lawsuits from earlier in Davis’s time as a police officer in Prince George’s County. One of the cases involved an inappropriate use of force and accusations of racist mistreatment, while the other was related to false imprisonment.

The victims won both civil lawsuits.

“These reports raised concerns for the life and safety of our youth, members with disabilities, LGBTQ, and BIPOC communities,” Campblin said.

In his statement, McKay reiterated his support for the new police chief and his belief that Davis will help the county implement “critical reforms” to address systemic inequities in policing, sentiments that he expressed to Tysons Reporter earlier this week.

“Through our interview process, Mr. Davis demonstrated a complete understanding and commitment to improving policing, promoting transparency, and building relationships in the community,” McKay said. “In addition, following conversations with leaders across the region as well as people who have directly worked with him, it is clear that they also have tremendous confidence in his abilities.”

Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk, who chairs the board’s public safety committee, reaffirmed the county’s decision while expressing some skepticism of the validity of NBC4’s report.

“Based on my conversations with Mr. Davis during the interview process, and since his selection, I am confident that he is the best choice to lead the Fairfax County Police Department,” Lusk said. “I am concerned that recent media reports regarding Mr. Davis’s record may not accurately reflect the events in question.”

Lusk says that he and McKay will host a public forum “in the coming days” where he hopes Davis will address the reported incidents.

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Former Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis will be the new Fairfax County chief of police, effective May 3.

After emerging from a closed session, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously this afternoon (Friday) to appoint Davis to lead the Fairfax County Police Department. He will succeed Deputy County Executive for Public Safety Dave Rohrer, who has been serving as interim chief since former Chief Edwin C. Roessler retired in February.

“This is a humbling moment for me,” Davis said on a video call with the supervisors. “I will take it very seriously and I promise not to let you down.”

The decision came after a firm hired by the county conducted a nationwide search that involved more than 275 community meetings and calls, more than 450 emails sent to stakeholders, and a survey that received more than 3,000 responses, according to the county.

The Board of Supervisors “strongly weighed” the survey results in the final hiring decision, the county said.

“We are delighted to have you on board,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McKay said. “We look forward to working with you on behalf of our community.”

Speaking to FCPD officers, Davis said, “You guys are a great agency. I want to say that loudly and clearly.”

“Is there room for improvement? Of course. Are you up to the task? Of course. Is change sometimes hard or difficult? Absolutely,” he said. “We have to seize this moment and continue to get better.”

Davis said earning trust starts with establishing legitimacy and paying attention to communities of color and people who are vulnerable and underserved.

“We have to meet you where you are, be better listeners, be less defensive and quite frankly, see you,” he said.

On accountability, Davis said he will “call balls and strikes.” And as for reform, he told police officers that the county has already embarked on a number of common-sense reforms and encouraged them to embrace this process.

“Reform is what we do for police officers, not to them,” he said. “It makes you better, it earns you better relationships with the community.”

In a statement released shortly after, McKay said Davis is recognized across the region as a leader in police reform, has a strong reputation, and is well-respected in the communities in which he has served.

“As this nation looks to transform policing to make the community safer for everyone, we have the opportunity for a fresh perspective to further our work on police reform in Fairfax County,” McKay said. “After thorough interviews, the entire Board is confident that Kevin Davis will continue Fairfax’s work on police reform, build on the deep community involvement and relationships with stakeholders, and improve morale within the police department.”

According to the county, Davis served as the City of Baltimore’s police commissioner from 2015 to 2018. He had previously served as chief of police of Anne Arundel County in Maryland from 2013 to 2014, and as assistant chief of the Prince George’s County Police Department from 1992 to 2013. Most recently, he has worked as director of consulting services for GardaWorld.

Davis will receive an annual salary of $215,000.

Photo via Fairfax County

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(Updated at 2:10 p.m.) Officially, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors endorsed the I-495 extension of the express lanes on Tuesday (April 13), but the discussion leading up to that vote showed that some officials closest to the project still have reservations.

Supervisor John Foust, representing the Dranesville District that would ostensibly stand the most to gain from the project called 495 NEXT, said the project only addresses half the problem and, without the other half, could only worsen an already miserable bottleneck.

“I’ve lived with the horrible congestion caused by backups at the American Legion Bridge and I’ve supported widening or replacement of the bridge,” Foust said. “But without the Maryland project, 495 NEXT worsens traffic in the general portion lanes…Until the American Legion Bridge is widened, these adverse impacts are far greater than any public benefit.”

The plan would add new express lanes from 495’s intersection with the Dulles Toll Road up to the American Legion Bridge, where the plan was to connect with similar lanes on the Maryland-owned bridge and onto the Maryland side of the beltway. Foust’s frustration comes from Maryland dragging its heels on the project despite an earlier pledged commitment to widening.

Foust said that, as recently as December, the Board agreed that VDOT should only consider further action on widening once Maryland executed a comprehensive agreement with a developer to fulfill their half of the project.

“Of course that hasn’t happened, nothing significant has happened since December to justify us reversing our opinion,” Foust said. “I want to make it clear, I think it’s a mistake. Going forward without agreement from Maryland is exposing us to worsening impacts.”

But Fairfax County has faced mounting pressure to endorse 495 NEXT, most recently from Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay and others on the board described the endorsement as a good-faith move on Fairfax’s part.

“We don’t entirely control the schedule here,” McKay said. “There are some signfiicant benefits to this project. Everyone is familiar with the gridlock that Foust has explained…We’re close to a guarantee that Maryland is making significant progress.”

“This is a chance for Fairfax County to be a leader,” Supervisor Pat Herrity agreed, “and I think this encourages Maryland to move forward.”

The endorsement passed in a 8 to 2 vote, with Foust and Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn voting against it. The new lanes are scheduled to open to traffic in 2024.

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Fairfax County’s government workers union urged the Board of Supervisors yesterday (Tuesday) to adopt a fiscal year 2022 budget that includes increased compensation for employees, whose year-long pay freeze would be prolonged if the county’s proposed budget takes effect.

The testimony came during the first of three public hearings on the advertised FY 2022 budget that have been scheduled for this week. There will also be hearings at 3 p.m. today and tomorrow (Thursday).

Service Employees International Union Virginia 512, which represents social workers, librarians, maintenance staff, and other general county government employees, says that its top priorities for the new budget are ending the pay freeze and establishing rules for collective bargaining.

“For over one year, we have worked tirelessly to keep the community running,” SEIU Virginia 512 President Tammie Wondong said. “We have done everything we can to keep Fairfax families healthy and safe, even when we have not been healthy and safe ourselves. Today, we are asking that you recognize and value county employees in this year’s budget.”

Wondong acknowledged that the county has made an effort to support employees during the COVID-19 pandemic by expanding leave options and providing hazard pay. The board is also considering offering one-time bonuses in the FY 2021 budget as part of its third-quarter review, which will be approved on April 27.

However, the union argues that that remains insufficient compensation for employees who are essential to maintaining county services but often struggle with the rising costs of housing, healthcare, and other needs.

Fairfax County Health Department employee Jenny Berkman-Parker said in a video that played during the public hearing that the most recent evidence of the ongoing pay freeze’s impact on her family came in the form of an email from her son’s university, which announced that it will raise tuition costs by 5% next year.

“I was trying to be understanding the first year. The second year is definitely more stressful,” she said. “…Now that we’re having pay freezes for two years in a row and we’ve had pay freezes in the past, my income is no longer keeping up with the cost of living.”

Fairfax County Public Schools employees would also have their pay frozen again under the advertised FY 2022 budget. The Fairfax County School Board requested a 3% pay raise for all employees, but that was not incorporated into the county’s proposal, which increases funding for the school system by just $14.1 million.

The Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, which represents all non-administrative FCPS staff, said in a press release issued on Monday (April 12) that 60% of respondents to a poll it conducted reported living paycheck to paycheck. Three out of four respondents said they have considered leaving for another school district due to the pay freeze.

“These statistics should not be the case in one of the wealthiest districts in the Commonwealth,” FCFT President Tina Williams said. “…Our district and county must do better.”

County Executive Bryan Hill’s proposed budget largely limits spending in response to the ongoing demands of the pandemic and uncertainty about the county’s future recovery.

When he presented his proposal on Feb. 23, Hill told the Board of Supervisors that it would cost more than $55 million to fund the county’s employee compensation program, including almost $30 million for a 2% market rate adjustment. Read More

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Morning Notes

Transportation Group Urges Support for 495 NEXT — The Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance reiterated its support for extending toll lanes on the Capital Beltway in a letter to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors ahead of its vote today. The organization argues that the project “will unequivocally improve the quality of life in Northern Virginia, spur further economic development, and meet the transportation needs of future generations.” [NVTA]

McLean Resident Urges Board to Delay 495 NEXT — A McLean resident argues in a letter to the editor that there has been insufficient community outreach about the project, which she says will result in increased congestion on the highway and in local neighborhoods. [Patch]

Madison High School Sets Graduation Ceremony Date — “IN PERSON GRADUATION! June 1 at Jiffy Lube Live. We have many details and logistics to figure out, but we are just excited to announce our graduates will be walking across an actual stage! Be sure to keep up with JMHS emails for details.” [James Madison High School/Twitter]

Fortune Names McLean Companies Among Top 10 Best Places to Work — “Fortune’s annual 100 Best Companies to Work For…puts two large companies with headquarters in the D.C. region in the top 10. Hilton Worldwide ranks No. 3, while Capital One Financial ranks ninth. Both are headquartered in McLean, Virginia.” [WTOP]

Falls Church City Highlights Reopened ParkBig Chimneys Park on Gibson Street reopened in January after undergoing an extensive renovation that included updating the playground equipment, addressing stormwater issues, and adding a new accessible trail to the Winter Hill neighborhood to the west. [City of Falls Church/Twitter]

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(Updated at 10:10 a.m. on 4/13/2021) The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will take an official position on the Virginia Department of Transportation’s much-debated Interstate 495 Express Lanes Northern Extension (495 NEXT) project when it meets on Tuesday (April 13).

A prepared letter to Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine suggests the board plans to endorse the project, which will extend the I-495 Express Lanes about three miles from the Dulles Toll Road interchange in Tysons to the American Legion Memorial Bridge.

However, whether the board will actually approve the letter as it currently stands remains to be seen.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust told Tysons Reporter on Friday (April 9) that he hopes to revise the letter with firmer language calling for closer coordination with Maryland’s plans to widen the American Legion Bridge and I-270 and objecting to the design of the Capital Beltway/Dulles Toll Road interchange.

“If I can’t get those revisions made, I won’t be able to support it,” Foust said.

The letter says the 495 NEXT “will improve mobility” in the D.C. region by connecting the existing 495 Express Lanes to toll lanes that Maryland is considering constructing on its side of the Potomac River.

It indicates that Fairfax County and VDOT have made progress on addressing transit, pedestrian and bicycle facilities, and stormwater management concerns that have been raised throughout the project’s development.

According to the letter, VDOT will fund the capital and operating costs of one of the Tysons-Montgomery County bus routes proposed by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation’s transit demand management study.

The state has also now committed to continuing its planned regional trail toward Tysons instead of stopping it at Lewinsville Road, and the county is working with VDOT to secure an agreement that would require the 495 NEXT builder to contribute funds to Scotts Run stream restoration efforts.

At the same time, county officials say they “remain concerned” about the possibility that Maryland will further delay its express lanes project. Without a widened American Legion Bridge, the 495 NEXT project would simply move the congestion that currently plagues drivers on the Beltway further north.

“The continuation of an express lanes system into Maryland over the ALMB remains a critical priority to realize the maximum benefit of the I-495 NEXT project,” the Board of Supervisors letter says. “The Board continues to strongly encourage VDOT to coordinate with Maryland to minimize the time between the opening of the I-495 NEXT express lanes and Maryland’s managed lanes.”

Foust says he hopes to revise the letter to tell the Commonwealth Transportation Board “to wait until we are certain that Maryland is going to move forward with their project before we authorize [express lanes operator] Transurban to begin construction of 495 NEXT.”

He also wants to make clear his opposition to the proposed design of the Dulles Toll Road interchange.

“I suspect that it is designed to move cars very effectively, but it is just outrageously huge and visually unacceptable for that location adjacent to Tysons,” he said.

Virginia and Maryland’s Beltway plans have also drawn criticism from environmental advocates.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth, Audubon Society, National Parks Conservation Association, and Sierra Club chapters from both states released a “Best Smart Growth Plan” on Friday, urging officials to pause the projects and conduct a comprehensive analysis to find “a less destructive and more sustainable and equitable solution.”

Foust says he is “sensitive” to the groups’ environmental concerns, noting that some impact on parks, trees, streams, and open space is unavoidable with an infrastructure project of this size.

However, he believes Virginia and Maryland have already waited too long to address the traffic issues at the American Legion Bridge, and postponing action for another 15 years, when the bridge is expected to need a replacement, would be “absolutely unacceptable.”

“We’ll have to mitigate those impacts, but there’s no reason to incur them if Maryland doesn’t move forward with their project to connect to 495,” Foust said.

VDOT acknowledged that there have been persistent concerns about 495 NEXT in a statement to Tysons Reporter:

VDOT continues to collaborate with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and staff to listen to and address their concerns on VDOT’s I-495 Northern Extension Express Lanes Project. The issues identified by Fairfax County remain important to VDOT and to our efforts to develop and deliver the best possible multimodal transportation solution for the I-495 corridor, and make a positive impact on our Commonwealth.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

(Updated at 5:05 p.m. on 4/2/2021) Vienna Urges Locals to ‘Bee’ Aware of Honeybee Swarms — “A swarm of honeybees is a sight to see this spring, but don’t panic. A swarm isn’t dangerous unless provoked. But if you feel a colony or swarm is in a place it shouldn’t be, contact the Northern Virginia Beekeepers Association at novabees.org.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

Virginia Bans Police from Using Facial Recognition Software — “The legislation, which won unusually broad bipartisan support, prohibits all local law enforcement agencies and campus police departments from purchasing or using facial recognition technology unless it is expressly authorized by the state legislature.” [AP]

McLean High School PTSA Hosting Silver Diner Fundraiser — “Enjoy Spring break with our “first Thursday of each month” fundraiser at Tysons @Silver_Diner, Thursday, April 1st from 5-8 pm. Enjoy new menu items while supporting our school!” [McLean PTSA/Twitter]

Board of Supervisors Looking for Input for Police Chief Search — “Next Tuesday, April 6, @SupervisorLusk and I are holding a public input session on the selection of our new Police Chief. Provide your comments on what you hope to see in our next police chief ahead of time or live.” [Jeff McKay/Twitter]

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted yesterday (Tuesday) to approve changes to the county’s zoning ordinance intended to make the codes easier to navigate and understand.

The 7-3 vote — with Supervisors Walter Alcorn, Daniel Storck, and Pat Herrity dissenting — serves as the culmination of a four-year Zoning Ordinance Modernization Project, or zMOD, that began in 2017 to update zoning laws codified in 1978.

Although the updates to the document were sweeping in scope, three proposed changes drew a great deal of public attention and comment. These included proposals to loosen restrictions on accessory living units and home-based businesses and revise size and height regulations for flags and flag poles.

“There are…very few issues receiving much attention,” Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said. “I believe that demonstrates that, given everything that we’ve done, it was a fair and transparent process.”

Storck, who represents the Mount Vernon District, said he supports many aspects of the 614-page draft, but a few areas surrounding the accessory living units and the home-based businesses, including the permit process and enforcement, give him pause.

He worries that some of the proposed changes to require only administrative permits could lead to a lack of engagement and that enforcement, which he calls “the bread and butter of public confidence,” is not going to be swift or strong enough to stop zoning violations.

Approved changes to the regulations for accessory living units include allowing interior units with an administrative permit and removing the requirement that only those 55 and older or disabled people can live in them. However, the owner must live in the main home, can only operate one ALU in which up to two people can reside, and must provide a parking spot.

To operate a home-based business, people will need to get special exception permits to have customers visit between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., unless they provide instruction to fewer than eight students a day and up to four at a time.

Acceptable businesses include retail — as long as sales and delivery occur online or offsite — as well as exercise classes, repair services for small household items, hair salons, and clothing tailors. People can also operate an office or as a music, photography, or art studio out of their home.

Residents can have up to three flags, and flag poles can be up to 25 feet tall when in front of a single-family home or up to 60 feet tall on other lots. Property owners can apply for a special permit to extend the height of a pole.

The board opted not to adopt any regulations limiting the size of flags.

In voting for the final draft of the plan, Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said the document represents a compromise that goes “further than some would like to go, but not as far as others would like.”

The supervisors highlighted the Herculean effort that went into overhauling codes for a county as large as Fairfax and taking into account community input. Foust said that the most recent draft, which was subject to a public hearing on March 9, “includes revisions that significantly improve the initial package that we considered.”

Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Penelope Gross said that home-based businesses and accessory living units are both “already here,” so the changes help clarify what is allowed and set guardrails to preserve neighborhoods and allow people to work from home.

“I know there’s a lot of speculation about what will happen. Speculation is usually just that: speculation,” she said. “It sometimes is fear.”

Palchik said she does not discount the people who expressed legitimate concerns, but she argued that many of those have been addressed during the zMOD process. She aargued that many of the changes are similar to, if not “much more modest” than policies that are already in place elsewhere in the D.C. area, including in Montgomery County, D.C., Arlington, Loudoun County, and the City of Alexandria.

“While there are many changes to the zoning ordinance, I do believe it’s critical in seeing that our housing market is under pressure and costs of living continue to rise, especially for those who struggle to live here,” she said. “While accessory living units do not fix all of these problems, the added flexibility for our most vulnerable residents and additional options for those who want to remain in their homes can be part of the solution.”

Photo via Fairfax County

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