Tysons, VA

After several months of delays, plans to redevelop the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church property in the Falls Church area may go before Fairfax County planners in the spring.

Developer Toll Mid-Atlantic LP Company is seeking permission to redevelop 10 acres of the property at the intersection of Leesburg Pike and Idylwood Road into a residential neighborhood.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission’s public hearing for the project has been postponed several times this year since the application was first submitted in April.

“The St. Paul’s Lutheran Church SPA public hearing and concurrent Toll Brothers rezoning public hearing were moved since the applicant has yet to resubmit plans to the County for review,” Senior Planner Kelly Posusney told Tysons Reporter.

The Planning Commission is now scheduled to consider the application is now set for the spring — if plans are resubmitted to the county, Planning Commission staff told Tysons Reporter.

Posusney said that the resubmitted plans are now tentatively expected in January.

“If they fail to resubmit in January, the public hearings would most likely need to be moved again,” Posusney said. “The project has only completed our pre-staffing review, which is the initial review by staff. They never submitted plans for a staffing review, and that is why they need to resubmit.”

Image via Google Maps

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Former Manager of Tysons Corner Center Dies — “The mall’s former general manager worked there for only seven years in two different stints. But during the first of those, he oversaw an expansion and renovation that made Tysons Corner Center one of the largest and most successful malls in the country. Charles R. Cope, a native of Indianapolis, died Nov. 20 from complications related to a liver transplant. He was 71.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Head of McLean Elementary School — “Cherith Pierson, who currently serves as assistant principal at Cooper Middle, has been selected as the new principal of Churchill Road Elementary, effective January 2, 2020.” [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Vienna Fire Chief Celebrated — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors recognized our very own Chief John Morrison for being named the International Association of Fire Chiefs’ 2019 Volunteer Fire Chief of the Year. [Vienna Volunteer Fire Department/Twitter]

History Behind Pleasant Grove Church — “For more than seven decades, the little white church on Lewinsville Road was a hub for the African-American community, hosting Sunday services, picnics, weddings–and funerals, like the one held for Joan Lewis’s father in 1949.” [Arlington Magazine]

Part of Tysons Highway May Become Park — The inside of the Chain Bridge Road (Route 123) and Leesburg Pike (Route 7) interchange could become a park. [Greater Greater Washington]

Future of Freddie Mac’s Tysons Space — “A joint-venture between Northridge Capital and KAMCO Investment Co. has acquired 1550 Westbranch Drive, a 151,949-square-foot office building in Tysons, Va., for $80.5 million… Freddie Mac signed a full-building lease in May, and is in the process of building out the space and moving in.” [Commercial Observer]

Layoffs Coming to Closing Clothing Store — “Lord & Taylor stores at Tysons Corner Center and Dulles Town Center will lay off 117 and 79 employees, respectively, according to Work Adjustment and Retraining Notifications filed with the Virginia Employment Commission.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Local Charging Station for Electric Cars — EVgo recently opened a new charging facility in Tysons. [NVRC/Twitter]

Polling Center Moved — “On Dec. 3, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved moving the polling place at the Lewinsville Presbyterian Church to the Lewinsville Senior Center at 1613 Great Falls Street, McLean.” [Fairfax County]

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The Pennywise Thrift Shop found a new home in Vienna — just around the corner from its previous location.

The shop originally resided nearf the corner of Church and Mill streets, but was forced to move after a fire ravaged the 100-year old building in January. The new location (214 Dominion Road NE) has been open for roughly a month and offers slightly more retail space, Mary Coulombe, a shop spokesperson said.

The shop sells a variety of everyday items including clothes, kitchen items, books, shoes, glassware and small furniture.

The shop is run by the Church of the Holy Comforter, and all of the proceeds go to charities, Coulombe said, adding, “We are here as a mission.”

This year marks the thrift shop’s 57th anniversary, Coulombe said. Another staff member told Tysons Reporter that the new location will be the thrift shop’s home for at least the next couple of years.

The shop plans to celebrate its new spot with a grand re-opening ceremony on Saturday (Nov. 23) from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Pennywise Thrift Shop is open from Tuesday-Friday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. The shop is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

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The Falls Church Anglican built a new church along Route 50 in the Falls Church area after losing its former sanctuary space.

The new location (6565 Arlington Blvd) is nearly complete and began holding services in September, Zach Kincaid, the church’s spokesperson, said. Now they are looking to finish certain cosmetic projects around the church, including landscaping and interior design. 

The Anglican Church built a new space because they lost their original sanctuary (115 E. Fairfax Street) in a legal battle when they split from the Episcopal Church due to political and religious differences. The Episcopal Church declined to comment.

The new church cost around $16 million, which came from contributions by the congregation and parishioners, Kincaid said.

Before deciding on the Falls Church spot along Route 50, they considered following other parishes that built churches in Loudoun County, where real estate is less expensive, Kincaid. 

“The glue that stuck us to something around here was to be part of this neighborhood still,” he said. “It was a fleeting thought.” 

In total, the new space consists of 16,000 square feet of space divided between two stories, Kincaid said. About 6,000 square feet will be used for a gathering space for children and family, while the remainder will be worship space.

The church has around 900 chairs but typically seats around 1,200 worshipers each Sunday, Kincaid said.

“Lots of people tend to turn their attention to church as Advent comes up,” he said, explaining that membership and attendance tend to increase around Christmas time. 

To engage with the surrounding community, the church invited surrounding neighborhoods to stop by for open houses.

The church shares an office space next door with other professions, such as doctors.

Renovations should be completed soon, Kincaid said, but they currently do not have an exact date. The church is finishing up the permit process with Fairfax County.

Photo courtesy Craig Thoburn

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Columbia Baptist Church is ironing out parking and height issues linked to its expansion plans in the City of Falls Church.

The church wants to add a one-story, 33,000 square-foot building addition, along with a new sanctuary space with 1,192 seats, expanded paved surface parking and relocation of the parking lot and driveway along N. Maple Avenue.

The church (103 W. Columbia Street) is also seeking a variance that would allow the steeple to go 55 feet above the maximum height of 70 height to help bolster’s the church’s presence as a gateway to the city. The church argued that other churches have steeples above the maximum 70 feet.

Most of the discussion at the city’s Planning Commission meeting last night (Tuesday) focused on concerns that the church would have problems updating one of its ramps to make it ADA-compliant.

“On W. Columbia, both curb ramps at the midblock crosswalk need to be replaced,” according to the staff report.

“Since there are offsite parking agreements, all infrastructure that is being utilized in the right of way is required to be brought into current ADA standards.”

Facing the possibility of the proposal getting deferred because of the ramp, the team behind the church’s expansion said that they will figure out a way to meet the requirements for ADA-accessible ramps.

To address previous concerns about parking, the applicant added an extra 10 feet between the planned area for the parking spaces and nearby homes. The parking lot at the church was also redesigned to move the landscaping buffer between the parking lot and historic structures.

The Planning Commission approved the site plans and variance recommended.

The Board of Zoning Appeals will take up the church plans — decide if the church’s claims for the higher steeple will be allowed — at their meeting on Thursday, Oct. 17.

“Overall, I think it’s improved,” Andrew Rankin, the vice-chair of the city’s Planning Commission, said.

Image via Google Maps

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The editor in chief of the Falls Church News-Press released a book earlier this month exploring a gay perspective on feminism.

Author Nick Benton released his book “Gay Men in the Feminist Revolution: Articles, Pamphlets and Reflections on My Gay Activist Days in San Francisco, 1969-1972” on Sept. 17 through Amazon. Benton told Tysons Reporter that he hopes it will educate people on the power of feminism in politics.

Though this isn’t his first book discussing perspectives from the LGBTQ+ community, Benton released his latest book for the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in 1969.

“This is my two cents in terms of what happened 50 years ago,” Benton said.

Benton began his career in the San Francisco Bay Area writing for different gay media outlets and spent several years as an LGBTQ activist before moving to D.C. to become a White House correspondent.

Later in his career, he decided to set up shop and start a newspaper in Falls Church to cover a local news gap.

Benton told Tysons Reporter that he thinks feminism will be important for switching up the political culture in 2020 and hopes his readers will walk away with a more comprehensive background through historical documentation.

Readers might be surprised about “the depth of the commitment to feminism by gay men,” he said, adding that people often think about the topic as “one-dimensional,” but in reality, the gay community is very thoughtful and supportive when it comes to feminism.

When asked how people in the City of Falls Church will react to the book, he referenced the former FCNP column “Anything But Straight” saying that LBGTQ perspectives were well received by readers and he expects the same for his book.

During the writing process, Benton said he struggled to find the time and energy to complete the book, adding that much of it is based on extensive research he did himself.

The “Stonewall 50” event, hosted at the Falls Church Episcopal Church back in June, inspired him to finally finish the book. The event attracted several dominant figures in the larger community who spoke about the importance of LGBTQ advocacy, Falls Church News-Press reported.

Going forward, he hopes new generations will learn from and engage with his book.

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Columbia Baptist Church wants to expand in the City of Falls Church — but residents and Planning Commissioners have concerns about parking in the area.

At a Falls Church Planning Commission meeting on last Tuesday, Sept. 3, residents and commissioners discussed how parking expansion might affect not only the already-strained street parking situation but also how it might encroach on neighboring historic buildings.

In a zoning proposal application, the church requested two waivers concerning parking. They proposed to expand into a required 10-foot easement of a historic property near the back of the church, which would circumvent the city ordinances for shared parking. The church claims they have agreements with local property owners and that their services often take place during off-hours.

Along with growing membership, Brett Flanders, the executive director of the church, said the plan for extra parking would benefit its child development center. The on-site parking expansion would make it safer for parents to pick up their children and allow staff members to avoid street parking, he added.

Reducing the easement by 25% would provide the church with room for 15-25 more on-site parking spots, Planning Commission Chair Russell Wodiska said.

During the discussion, several commissioners including Melissa Teates were not convinced by the statements.

“I think the integrity of the historic houses are more important than the parking,” she said.

Teates said that she is familiar with the church and took the time to observe daycare pick up one day, finding that many parents like to park on the street anyway — saving them time in the long run.

“I just think regardless of the use, putting the parking lot so close to the historic house seems to go against the spirit and the letter of the ordinance put in place to protect historic properties,” Planning Commission Vice-Chair Andrew Rankin said, adding that he doesn’t see parking as a high priority.

Community member Keith Thurston also spoke up at during public comment and addressed the Planning Commission about his concerns, agreeing that the integrity of the historical protection ordinance is more important than expansion of church parking.

Besides parking, commissioners also discussed issues with the height ordinance, including whether or not the cross on top of the chapel would violate city code.

Though the commissioners did not settle on a decision, they prepared a list of suggestions for Columbia Baptist to consider and allowed them to revise the proposed plans.

If the church stays on schedule with their adjustments, the Planning Commission will vote on the proposition in October.

Map via the City of Falls Church Planning Commission 

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Police have identified the body found in Great Falls Park on Saturday as a 77-year-old retired pastor of a McLean church.

Around 9:45 a.m. on Saturday (Aug. 24), U.S. Park Police responded to a report from a kayaker about a dead body found at Great Falls Park (9200 Old Dominion Drive), police said.

U.S. Park Police said that the “investigation revealed that the man fell onto rocks.”

Police identified the man as Russell Larkin. He was pronounced dead on scene.

Pete Piringer, a spokesperson for the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services, tweeted that a search and body recovery took place on the Potomac River between Sandy Landing and Rocky Island.

Fairfax County Police Department said that Larkin had been reported missing around 10:30 p.m. on Friday, The Washington Post reported.

“The current pastor of Chesterbrook United Methodist Church told FOX5 Larkin was the pastor of that church from 2011 to 2016 where he was loved, respected and was a big part of keeping that church open when it faced some hard times,” FOX5 reported.

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Belong! — a new nonprofit dedicated to helping Vienna’s underserved populations — officially launched yesterday (Wednesday).

The ribbon-cutting for the group was held in the Vienna Presbyterian Church (124 Park Street NE), which was part of the founding of the organization but a press release noted that Belong! will operate as a separate entity.

The organization is dedicated to promoting “spiritual, physical, and economic well-being, efforts will initially be focused on the Vienna Park/Cunningham Park neighborhoods,” according to the press release for the opening.

The group was founded out of discussions among Vienna residents in late 2017. The press release noted that one of the first aims of the project will be securing new partnerships with Cunningham Park Elementary School and other local churches and nonprofits.

“We are excited to welcome Belong! to Vienna and applaud its vision of empowering our residents” Mayor Laurie DiRocco said in the press release. “Their plans for local outreach mirror our town’s core values, and we’re grateful for their partnership.”

Photo courtesy Jeff Cruz/Belong!

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(Updated at 12:10 p.m. on June 4) President Donald Trump made a quick, speechless-stop at the McLean Bible Church after a round of golf on Sunday (June 2).

Trump bowed his head in prayer with pastor David Platt — reportedly in remembrance of the victims of the mass shooting in Virginia Beach, though no mention of the shooting was made while Trump was there.

Trump was only on the stage for a few minutes and made no remarks to the audience.

Photo via Google Maps

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