Tysons, VA

Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors wants to address some confusion around exotic animals.

The board is looking to refresh its animal control code with several changes to resolve discrepancies with other policies and laws.

One change would allow people with valid permits from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) — like wildlife rehabilitators and exhibitors — to own wildlife.

Since the current code prohibits people from possessing wild or exotic animals, “DGIF has considered revoking permits issued to County residents because they do not comply with the local ordinance,” according to county documents. If approved, the proposal would clean up the conflicting rules.

The county documents note that DGIF oversees the county’s roughly 50 permit holders, ensuring that the housing and care conditions for the animals are appropriate.

Another clarification would alter the definition of “exotic or wild” animals and create a list of exceptions. The proposal comes more than a year after Fairfax County officials decided to legalize chinchillas, hedgehogs and hermit crabs as pets.

“[The current] definition has generated much confusion and required interpretation from staff about exactly what sorts of animals are classified as wild or exotic and thus prohibited in the County,” according to the county documents.

Under the proposed changes, the following animals would not be considered exotic animals as long as they are bred and haven’t been in the wilderness:

  • chinchillas
  • guinea pigs
  • hamsters
  • rats
  • mice
  • gerbils
  • rabbits
  • ferrets
  • hedgehogs
  • birds

Additionally, the list of exceptions would also include non-venomous reptiles and amphibians that are not crocodilians.

According to the county, the proposed changes would also:

  • add exemptions to the rabies vaccination requirement
  • add more details on confining animals suspected of being rabid
  • give animal control officers discretion to charge owners of unrestricted or unvaccinated dogs
  • require traveling animal exhibitors to have current certificates of health for each animal exhibited
  • remove the “impractical” requirement to inspect traveling animal exhibitions

The proposal would also clean up references to now-defunct programs and services, including the county’s oral rabies vaccination program and euthanasia of healthy wildlife brought to the shelter.

“The Department of Animal Sheltering believes such euthanasia runs counter to its mission and negatively affects the emotional and psychological well-being of shelter staff,” county documents say, adding that private companies offer the service to residents.

The board approved Tuesday to hold a public hearing on July 14 on the proposed code changes.

Photo by Javier Virues-Ortega on Unsplash

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Fairfax County officials representing Tysons, Reston and Vienna want a list of the places around the county linked to the Confederacy.

At the Board of Supervisors meeting later this afternoon, Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik and Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn plan to request a full inventory of Confederate names in public places in Fairfax County.

“Fairfax County residents stand together with fellow Americans in support of the recent movement for racial justice, brought on by the horrific deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others,” the board matter reads. “This powerful call for equity has brought attention to Confederate monuments and place names throughout the County, and the painful history they symbolize.”

The upcoming board matter follows a push by a local community advocacy group in Reston.

Reston Strong offered a direct message when residents covered a Confederate monument in front of the old Fairfax County courthouse with a tarp and white duck tape over the weekend, prompting the request for a complete report of Confederate street names, monuments and public places in the county.

Reston Strong issued the following response to today’s board matter:

We would like to Thank Supervisor Palchik for her response however we are saddened to note her motion while timely, fails to directly address our ask. We understand this topic is more polarizing than most and sincerely hope the below sentiments from our members will give our leaders the strength needed to take immediate action.

REMOVE — “It’s literally trauma!! The statue doesn’t erase the history! But the statue does remind my people each time they are disposed, mishandled in the judicial system where this statue resides that things will always be unjust and unfair, we’ve gotta take it, swallow it and keep hoping one day we will be free for real #free-ishsince1865″ – Candace Wiredu-Adams

RELOCATE — “Move it to a museum. We can’t just throw our past away. People wouldn’t believe the holocaust existed without seeing certain artifacts. We need to have these tangible items to provoke the emotion. We can’t just have pages in a textbook saying a statue was taken down.” – Rebecca Johnson

REPLACE — “I think markers at the places of important events is great. Nothing like standing right where it happened and reflecting. However, I don’t think we need monuments to people. So to me, two different things. I think the markers are a good reminder of history and where it happened (in some cases in our own backyard!). Glorifying people, not so much.”  – Colleen Montgomery

Located at 4000 Chain Bridge Road in Palchik’s district, the monument is dedicated to Marr, the first Confederate officer killed in the Civil War. “Union cavalry attached the city at 3:00 a.m. on June 1, 1861. The Warrenton rifles commanded by Marr defended the city,” according to information recently taken down by Fairfax County’s tourism board.

Although the black tarp and tape that smothered the statue was removed within an hour after installation on Sunday, the group says that it is time for the county to remove the 1904 granite monument that honors Confederate Capt. John Quincy Marr, who died roughly 800 feet from this marker in 1861.

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On Tuesday, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors green-lighted a rezoning that will open parts of the Valo Park office complex up to the public.

Tamares, Valo Park’s owner, wants to add retailers and restaurants, renovate an existing rooftop terrace and open the complex’s current amenities, including a conference center, auditorium and fitness center, to the public. Tamares is considering attracting a rooftop craft brewery atop a parking garage.

“It is anticipated that these proposed changes will help to sustain the current Class A office use and energize this part of Tysons after business hours,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said.

A separate comprehensive sign plan for the project was approved by the Planning Commission in May. Some McLean residents raised concerns about light pollution from the signs.

Currently, the office park (7950 Jones Branch Drive) is home to the headquarters of newspaper giant Gannett and cloud computing company Appian.

The Valo Park changes will now join upcoming changes to urbanize Tysons’ North Central neighborhood, which currently has the Park Crest and Highgate residential buildings.

Last summer, the Board of Supervisors approved the massive, mixed-use development called The Mile, which will transform 38 acres into 10 buildings with residential, retail, office, hotel and storage space, along with six parks spanning more than 10 acres.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said that people can now walk to Valo Park thanks to the new Jones Branch Connector, which includes sidewalks and bike lanes.

“But for the sign issue… this is a really good application that is exactly moving Tysons in the direction that we all want to see it go — developing this kind of mixed-use, reuse,” Foust said. “This is a really important piece in the Tysons puzzle.”

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(Updated 5:30 p.m.) Fairfax County officials want to see the rollout of body-worn cameras for Fairfax County police happen as soon as possible to increase transparency with policing.

“The events in the last couple of weeks both across the country and in Fairfax made the importance of expanding the police body-worn camera program apparent both for improved public safety and transparency,” Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement.

Today, the Board of Supervisors approved asking county staff to look for potential revenue sources to implement the second phase of the program as quickly as possible. The county directed staff to report back by June 30 with the funding options and a potential timeline for the rest of the phases.

McKay said that the county wants to resume the implementation of the program’s second phase during the 2021 fiscal year.

Earlier this year, the county board delayed funding for the phased program due to budget challenges posed by COVID-19, but still kept an increase of $1.77 million for the first phase of the program.

Three county district stations already have the cameras, including the Reston District Station. The McLean District Station is slated to receive the cameras during the second phase.

The motion follows recent calls from several supervisors, including Walter Alcorn and John Foust, to continue the program in the other parts of the county.

County officials are looking for ways to move forward with the program in response to rising concerns about police transparency and use of force following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and a Fairfax County police officer allegedly assaulting a black man in the Mount Vernon area. The Fairfax County officer is facing three counts of misdemeanor assault and battery.

Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said that he was initially willing to delay the cameras before, but now said he sees an immediate need for them.

Storck noted that the body-worn camera footage of the Mount Vernon incident, which the police department released on Sunday (June 7), “dramatically changed” conversations between the police and the community.

Storck added that the police officers he’s spoken to support the cameras.

“I join my colleagues in deep disappointment in what we saw on that police camera this weekend,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said. “It shows that it works.”

McKay mentioned said that the action of a handful of officers “is not indicative” of the thousands of officers in the Fairfax County Police Department, calling the police department “committed” and “well trained.”

He thanked both the police chief and commonwealth’s attorney for their “quick response” to the incident.

Fairfax County Adding Equity Task Force

Work to speed up the police cameras is one of several steps the county is taking to address inequity.

“There is no one policy or program we can enact today that will solve every issue,” McKay said, pointing to previous efforts like adding the county’s Police Civilian Review Panel and independent police auditor.

The Board of Supervisors also announced today a new equity task force. “We know this is an issue that requires constant vigilance,” McKay said.

“The Chairman’s Taskforce on Equity and Opportunity will explore the range of situations and conditions that contribute to disproportionate trends, facilitate shared responsibility and collective action, build on the strengths of our community and lift up solutions to make all residents and neighborhoods more resilient,” according to county documents.

McKay said that the task force will be coordinated by Karla Bruce, the county’s chief equity officer, and her staff with his office. Costs will be absorbed within the existing budget, McKay said.

Each supervisor will provide recommendations for who should serve on the task force, McKay said. The goal is for a geographically and demographically balanced membership “to make sure this group is attempting to represent this county as a whole,” he said.

The task force is expected to present a preliminary report to McKay in December, followed by final recommendations by the end of June 2021.

Palchik noted that the county took the “first step forward as we battle through this crisis,” adding that she wants the county to address housing and pre-K programs to combat inequity.

“Racial injustice is finally at the forefront of the country’s dialogue,” Palchik said in a statement after the meeting.

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors wants to refresh the Tysons Corner Metro station name and move forward the rebranding of Tysons without the “Corner.”

The name debate over Tysons — including #dropthecorner on social media — has been around for several years. The U.S. Postal Service agreed to the name “Tysons” for the 22102 and 22182 zip codes in 2011, and the U.S. Census Bureau changed the designation of Tysons Corner to Tysons in 2015.

As high-rise developments sprout in the urbanizing area, Tysons is still grappling with its identity tied to suburbia and the Tysons Corner Center mall.

“Renaming the Metrorail station to Tysons would also help with local rebranding efforts,” county staff wrote.

The board is set to vote tomorrow (Tuesday) on recommending name changes for the West Falls Church and Tysons Corner stations to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (WMATA).

The West Falls Church-VT/UVA station would have “UVA” dropped because the University of Virginia (UVA) alerted the Department of Transportation staff this spring that it plans to relocate its campus, which is currently near the Metro station, according to county documents.

The Board of Supervisors wants the changes adopted in time for new signage timed with the opening of the second phase of the Silver Line, according to county documents.

Combining these two changes with the upcoming changes for adding Silver Line phase II stations reduces the estimated net cost to Fairfax County to approximately $670,000,” county staff said. “Funding held in trust at the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission for Fairfax County will be used to fund these name changes.”

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Small businesses and nonprofit organizations in Fairfax County can apply for grants through a new program approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

The Fairfax Relief Initiative to Support Employers (Fairfax RISE) uses $25 million in federal funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The program is intended to provide immediate relief for small businesses and nonprofits impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and “address gaps that may exist among complementary programs,” according to the county.

Our hope is that these grants will help small businesses and nonprofits be able to emerge from these difficult times by retaining employees and preparing to grow in the future,” Fairfax County Chairman Jeff McKay wrote in a statement.

Businesses and nonprofit organizations can begin applying in early June. Funding will be awarded based on the number of employees, with amounts varying from $10,000 to $20,000.

Funding can be used for compensation, capital, equipment, inventory, rent and other critical operating expenses. No grant funds can be used to pay debts to start or close a business.

Here’s more from a press release:

Fairfax RISE will offer grants to qualified businesses or nonprofits that will not have to be repaid. It also specifically establishes a minimum allocation of 30% of the program’s total dollars — or $7.5 million — towards awards for minority-, veteran-, and women- owned businesses.

Not only have these kinds of businesses historically faced difficulty obtaining financing, but they also make a major contribution to the county’s economy. Minority-owned companies with employees account for 32% percent of businesses in Fairfax County, and collectively, all minority, women and veteran-owned businesses employ 80,000 people in the county with total annual revenues of $14.4 billion.

The grant application process is expected to begin in early June 2020. To be eligible, applicants must be established and have one or more location(s) in Fairfax County, including the principal place of business. Fairfax County includes businesses and nonprofit organizations located in the Towns of Herndon, Vienna, and Clifton. Additionally, awardees must have less than 50 total employees across all locations, have been in operation over 1 year; and, with the exception of nonprofits, have a valid Business, Professional and Occupational Licenses (BPOL).

The county also created a microloan fund for small businesses using county dollars.

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors plans to tackle traffic problems along Old Meadow Road as the Tysons One East project advances.

Yesterday, the board approved a rezoning request to increase the floor area ratio for a planned office tower near the McLean Metro station.

Akridge and the Ronald D. Paul Companies are plan to develop 1690 Old Meadow Road, a triangular spot between Dolley Madison Blvd and the Old Meadow Road, into a 15-story tower with Class A offices, restaurant, retail space, parking podium and outdoor terrace.

The development was held up by the acquisition of a public right-of-way.

“This application was filed on land area inclusive of VDOT right-of-way which was in the process of being acquired by the applicant,” according to county documents. “While VDOT on behalf of the Commonwealth concurred in the filing of the application, they generally will not sign the proffers, and would not in this case.”

Now that the right-of-way woes have been resolved, the county, developers and residents are trying to find ways to change the Old Meadow Road.

Scott Adams, the attorney with McGuireWoods who is representing the developer, said that the project includes a proffer for a traffic signal improvement at Colshire Meadow Drive and funds to build and improve roads in Tysons.

Amy Tozzi with the Old Meadow Coalition told the county officials during the public hearing yesterday that nearby residents have traffic and safety concerns that they worry won’t get addressed by the project.

“We understand all development is messy, but it shouldn’t imperil existing communities,” she said.

In response to Tozzi, Adams said that issues with the grid of streets in Tysons and accessing Old Meadow Road from Route 123 are too large for the project to address.

“Some of the concerns that they have are broader in scope than the smaller application we have,” he said.

As part of the board’s approval, county staff will work to create a plan to speed up transportation improvements to calm traffic along Old Meadow Road.

The changes could include:

  • realigning the Old Meadow Road and Route 123 intersection
  • constructing Lincoln and Roosevelt streets from Old Meadow Road to Magarity Road
  • advance previously approved proffered transportation commitments like the traffic signal at the intersection of Old Meadow Road and Colshire Meadow Road and the Tysons East grid of streets

“In identifying improvements and solutions, staff should coordinate with stakeholders on Old Meadow Road, including residents and business owners and property owners,” according to county documents.

Image via One Tysons East

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Fairfax County officials have created a fund to support small businesses struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Board of Supervisors approved creating the “Fairfax County Small Business COVID-19 Recovery Microloan Fund” during their meeting today (Tuesday). The board expects the loan program to be ready by May 1, according to county documents.

The program allows the Community Business Partnership (CBP) to distribute roughly $1.2 million to eligible small businesses in the county. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees make up about 94 percent of businesses in the county, according to the documents.

Businesses who undergo a pre-submission counseling session will be able to apply for loans up to $20,000 and will be able to use the money for things like rent, equipment and critical cash operating expenses. The loans will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis, the documents say.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said the county’s program complements federal aid, including financial assistance from the Small Business Administration.

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity said he was concerned about the administrative costs of operating the county’s program. He also proposed an amendment requiring the CBP to direct small business owners to seek federal aid prior to seeking local assistance.

McKay said Herrity’s amendment, which did not pass, was not necessary because the CBP already encourages individuals to seek federal avenues for help. He also noted that many businesses are falling through the cracks due to the limits of federal assistance, including delays in the rollout of funds.

Other county officials encouraged the county to reach as many affected businesses as possible.

Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said he hopes the program champions “administrative flexibility” in order to help out businesses with between two and 10 employees.

The funding for the program is coming from $2.5 million in the Economic Opportunity Reserve to support economic relief efforts.

Staff in the Department of Economic Initiatives will monitor the distribution of the funds to figure out how to use the remaining $1.28 million, according to county documents. After 45 days, staff will let the board know if they recommend additional funds for the program.

McKay also directed county staff to explore additional relief options for businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Catherine Douglas Moran and Fatimah Waseem contributed to this story.

Image via Fairfax County 

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Delays are expected for the rollout of the Fairfax County Police Department’s body-worn camera program.

In late 2019, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved $4 million to begin implementation of the program.

But now in Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill’s revised budget for fiscal year 2021, the county plans to push back funding for 338 cameras for the Sully, McLean and West Springfield Stations in the second year of the program.

The county is also revisiting funding plans for 456 cameras for the third year of the program at the Fair Oaks, Franconia and South County district stations.

The proposed budget — which was scaled back considerably in response to the COVID-19 pandemic — maintains an increase of $1.77 million to support the first full year of the program.

Funding is expected to remain for 416 cameras that will be issued to the Reston, Mason and Mt. Vernon police stations, according to county budget documents.

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Updated 4/1/2020 — Corrects information about a proposed $1 million fund to help small businesses.

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to take a major hit on the economy, Fairfax County leaders are bracing for the impact of the outbreak on the upcoming county budget.

At a budget meeting today (Tuesday), county leaders said they plan to revisit the proposed fiscal year 2021 budget, which was developed before the coronavirus pandemic impacted the area. A revised proposal is expected to go before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors by April 7.

The county is expected to take a hit from losses in the following categories: sales tax, transit occupancy tax, business permits, and licensing tax, personal property tax, and state revenue, among other categories. Over three months, a 25 percent dip in the local sales tax results in roughly $12.7 million in losses.

All agencies are tightening their belts and limited spending for critical needs only.

This year, county officials hope to set aside $11.3 million to offer help to nonprofit organizations, local businesses, manage the COVID-19 crisis, and fund licensing for the shift to teleworking.

As of today, there are 245 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Fairfax Health District, which includes Fairfax County, the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church and towns in the county — leading all other jurisdictions in the state.

Support for Businesses and Nonprofits

In addition to federal assistance, a proposed $1 million fund to be administered through the Community Business Partnership could help small businesses struggling financially and at-risk of closing.

The microloan program, if approved, would allow small businesses to apply for a maximum of $30,000 with an interest rate of 3.75 percent. To qualify for funds, businesses must have fewer than 50 employees, demonstrate financial hardship linked to COVID-19 and be based in the county.

Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk said that he wants to see the county diversify its commercial tax base.

“It’s imperative today as we look at the impact on small businesses,” he said at the meeting today.

Local nonprofit organizations are struggling to raise money and need help with services and support, according to Chris Leonard, the director of the county’s Department of Neighborhood and Community Services.

More individuals are calling the department for help with unemployment, low income and financial strife.

A recent survey of local nonprofit organizations found that most organizations are seeing more requests for food, health, hygiene and financial assistance, Leonard said. Youth programming and transportation are most likely to see major reductions.

He hopes to create a program to offer financial assistance and food for individuals most in need, targeted especially for local residents making 200 percent of the area median income. Support would be provided through the county’s existing network of community-based organizations.

County officials noted that the initiatives, programs and funding will shift as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to unfold.

“We’re going to have to evolve this as we go,” Lennard said.

Next Steps For the Budget 

Once the revised budget is ready by April 7, residents can expect opportunities to testify April 14-16.

Joseph Mondoro, the county’s chief financial officer, said that the meeting today that people will be able to testify via video, phone, online forms and even in-person. Although Chairman Jeff McKay said that he would like people to only come in-person as a last resort.

McKay added that quarterly reviews, which the county already does, will will be “much more robust” for the FY 2021 budget.

Much of the discussion between the supervisors today involved ideas they had for where to cut or boost up the new budget, including suggestions from Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross to “keep first responders in mind” and Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity to delay funding the body camera program for the police department.

At the end of the meeting, McKay said there will be “shared pain” in the new budget, noting that cuts should not focus on one area.

McKay said that one of his top priorities is to keep on the county’s employees.

“We want to protect our employees,” he said.

Catherine Douglas Moran contributed to this report

Photo via Fairfax County Government

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