Tysons Corner, VA

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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Ten acres of vacant St. Paul’s Lutheran Church property at the intersection of Leesburg Pike and Idylwood Road could soon be redeveloped into a residential neighborhood.

A zoning application to the Fairfax County Board from developer Toll Mid-Atlantic LP Company requests permission to build 67 residential units — a mix of 39 single-family and 28 multi-family units.

St. Paul’s facilities at the site were built between 1954 and 1967, but have been vacant since Lutheran Social Services moved to the primary St. Paul’s building.

The church property sits at one corner of a busy intersection, requiring transportation improvements in the project application. Approval of the homes would require frontage improvements to Idylwood Road, a dedicated right-of-way along Leesburg Pike for a future right turn lane and a few other local road connections.

“Collectively, these road improvements will mitigate the impact of the vehicle trips generated by St. Paul’s and the Proposed Development, and will provide greater benefit than the previous commitments,” the developer said in the application. “The applicant proposes an eight-foot asphalt trail along Leesburg Pike, an eight-foot concrete sidewalk along Idylwood Road, and a bus shelter at the corner of Idylwood Road and Leesburg Pike.

The deal would allow St. Paul’s to finance a long-planned family life center. The facility would increase the overall size of the church from 17,196 square feet to 27,928 square feet.

According to the application:

The purpose of the approved expansion is to create a new family life center for use by the congregation and the community. Since the approval of the family life center… in 2005, however, St. Paul’s has been unable to construct the building due to financial constraints and the significant cost of the project. As a result, St. Paul’s has entered into an agreement with the Applicant to sell a portion of the property… which will provide the funding necessary for St. Paul’s to achieve its long-term goal of developing the family life center.

The project is tentatively planned for a Planning Commission hearing on Sept. 25, with a Board of Supervisors hearing to be determined.

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It’s not exactly the university regional experts say Tysons needs to thrive, but a local seminary could be moving into a new office across town this year.

Reformed Theological Seminary is currently seeking a permit for a college/university use in an existing office building at 8227 Old Courthouse Road. The new location would be double the size of the school’s current facility at 1651 Old Meadow Road, near the McLean Metro station.

The staff report says administrative staff would be on the site during the day with classes held Monday through Saturday. The site is anticipated to have 45 total full-time students, with up to 30 present at any given time.

The report notes that properties near the site are primarily being developed with office uses. The building is part of the South Old Courthouse subdistrict along the southern edge of Tysons, which acts as sort of a buffer between Tysons and residential neighborhoods on the outskirts of Vienna.

“The vision for this edge is to retain the existing low-rise and low-intensity character, which provides a transition in scale and intensity from mid-rise and high-rise commercial development along Leesburg Pike to adjacent single-family neighborhoods,” staff wrote.

The meeting is tentatively scheduled to be brought to the Planning Commission next Wednesday, Jan. 16, with a review at the Board of Supervisors on Jan. 22.

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(Updated at 11 a.m.) A Vienna man has been arrested and charged with a bias crime at a Korean-American church in Dunn Loring.

Fairfax County Police say the man entered the Church For All Nations at 8526 Amanda Place around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday and “destroyed a glass altar.”

“Our officers found Laith Faisal, 26, of Vienna, inside and arrested him for destruction of property and entering property with the intent to damage,” said FCPD.

In its crime report, FCPD described the incident as a bias crime but did not elaborate further. Police spokesman 2nd Lt. John Lieb told Tysons Reporter that “the case remains active and information regarding the offender’s suspected motivation cannot be released.”

The damage is estimated at more than $1,000, according to police. As a result of the size of the loss and the circumstances, Faisal is facing two felony charges.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Fight to Keep Claude Moore Farm Open — “The National Park Service has said Claude Moore will close Dec. 21, but the Farm is fighting to stay open… The Park Service presented the Friends of Claude Moore Colonial Farm with its standard agreement, but the Friends felt they could not operate under its terms.” [McLean Connection]

County Highlights Opioid Danger — Via a new video, Fairfax County is highlighting the “danger in your medicine cabinet.” Per the county: “An epidemic of addiction to heroin and other opioids has gripped the nation, including here in Fairfax. Protect your community… dispose of your unused prescription drugs safely.” [YouTube]

Church Holding Event on Pornography — Vienna Presbyterian Church is holding an event next month for parents and teens entitled “Pornography, A Public Health Crisis.” The event will include “a workshop to help attendees confidently discuss the real risks or pornography use and an action plan to more effectively block pornography exposure online.” [Patch]

Vienna Town Hall Parking Changes — “The Vienna town government plans to shift some parking spaces in the lot behind Town Hall and install a stormwater-management facility there. The Vienna Town Council on Sept. 17 unanimously approved an up-to-$130,000 contract with LCS Site Services LLC to perform the work.” [InsideNova]

Contribute to Our Flickr Pool — Are you an amateur photographer who wants to share your work with the local community? A professional photog who wants to boost your name recognition via some off-duty snaps? No matter your skill level or background, we would love to show off your photos in our daily Morning Notes post. Want to contribute? Email us or add your shots to our Flickr pool. [Flickr]

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