Tysons Corner, VA

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors gave The Mile, a proposed mixed-use development in Tysons, their stamp of approval at their meeting Tuesday (July 16).

The massive development aims to transform 38 acres of offfices in the North Central neighborhood into 10 mixed-use buildings with residential, retail, office, hotel and storage locations. The project is unique with its six planned parks spanning more than 10 acres.

Providence District Supervisor Linda Smyth said that the development’s largest park — a roughly 5-acre park with a large open lawn area, a performance stage, gaming areas, picnic areas, a children’s play area and trails —  will fulfill the county’s plan to have a central park in Tysons.

More from the county about the project:

Five buildings are residential along with supporting retail, and another four buildings include options for either residential, office or hotel uses, plus retail. The 10th building is a 5,000-square-foot retail kiosk planned for The Mile’s Signature Park. The approved plans also allow for an option to include 300,000 square feet in mini-warehouse or storage in one of the residential buildings.

The board also approved final development plans for The Mile’s first building — a seven-story apartment building with ground-floor retail on Westbranch Drive near the intersection with Westpark Drive.

Smyth thanked the developers for “coming up with something I think will be a lasting achievement in Tysons.”

Image via Fairfax County Planning Commission

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The Tysons area might see fewer panhandlers in the future now that Fairfax County is looking to discourage them on medians and intersections.

On Tuesday (July 16), the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a board matter that would prohibit “curb to curb” interaction between drivers and pedestrians.

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity and Braddock District Supervisor John Cook, who jointly brought forward the board matter, argued that panhandling increased in the last two years county-wide mostly from rings attracted to Fairfax County’s wealthy residents.

“[Panhandling] has become massively greater,” Cook told the board, adding that it is dangerous for both the panhandlers and drivers. “It is a public safety issue.”

Several of fellow supervisors agreed, including Chairman Sharon Bulova.

Providence District Supervisor Linda Smyth pointed to examples in Tysons for how panhandling is becoming more frequent along more roads in the county.

“I see it daily at Nutley [Street] and Lee Hwy,” Smith said, adding that panhandlers along major roads undergoing work could pose safety hazards to drivers.

“And this is just another complication to have panhandlers there when people are trying to figure out [how to drive around construction on] Route 7 in Tysons,” she said. “People have complained about the fact that it isn’t safe for [panhandlers] to be out there.”

More from the board matter:

The board has sought to help those panhandlers in need by committing a significant portion of the county budget to providing services for those residents who are down on their luck. The board has encouraged residents to direct panhandlers to these county resources including shelters, food banks, health and job matching services, instead of giving small amounts of money. It is vitally important that we connect those in need with the right services and disincentivize panhandling.

Although homelessness in the county is shrinking, panhandling by roadways is becoming more and more prevalent. In 2017 alone, the Fairfax County Police department received over 2,100 calls related to panhandling and many more have been received by district offices. These calls detailed traffic issues, concerns about panhandler safety, and fears about a suspicious person at an intersection. As a county we devote significant resources to helping our residents in need and to keeping all our residents safe.

This isn’t the first time concerns about panhandling have popped up in Fairfax County. Commenters on a Reddit thread last year bemoaned a seemingly increasing number of panhandlers in Tysons.

Fairfax County Police Department has encouraged people to not give panhandlers money. “While we may get a good feeling by providing money to a panhandler, the reality is that panhandlers who are truly in need require more resources than small amounts of money,” according to the county’s website.

Cook and Herrity also pointed to other nearby jurisdictions, including the City of Winchester and Clarke and Frederick counties, for their “curb to curb” rules that restrict people on medians and intersections interacting with drivers.

The Board of Supervisors approved the board matter, which directs the county staff to create a proposed ordinance that would prohibit “any engagement of pedestrians with cars while on medians or intersections.” It notes that the ordinance would not restrict people’s free speech rights on sidewalks or affect kids’ advertising car washes.

The board will consider the proposal at the Public Safety Committee meeting on Sept. 17.

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(Updated at 11:45 a.m. 7/19/19) Fairfax County declared a local emergency as it seeks federal disaster aid to help with flash flooding damage.

In a board matter approved at the Board of Supervisors meeting today (Tuesday), Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said, “The McLean-Falls Church area was particularly hard hit. Today, more than a week later, there are roads in the county that remain closed with no estimated date for reopening.”

The flooding caused extensive disruption to the area from water rescues to road closures last week.

The region experienced about one month’s worth of rain, making it the heaviest one-hour total rainfall since at least 1936, according to the Washington Post. The City of Falls Church and Arlington County both declared a state of emergency just days after the storm.

More from a copy of the board matter that Tysons Reporter received:

Fortunately, despite the intensity of the storm, no one was severely injured or worse. The Office of Emergency Management and the county’s public safety and public works staffs were great! I commend them for reacting promptly and very professionally to emergencies that occurred throughout the county.

Since the storm, my office has received dozens of emails and phone calls from residents who experienced devastating damage to their property. Many residents had several feet of water and mud in their basements. Others experienced even worse damage. Some residents have estimated the cost to repair the damage will be as high as six figures.

The Office of Emergency Management has asked residents and businesses to file damage reports so that the county can evaluate whether we will pursue federal disaster aid… [Residents] are anxiously inquiring whether Fairfax County will do the same. They also need to know what federal aid might be available to them if a federal disaster is declared.

Residents are also learning that their property insurance may not cover their damages. Some residents believe that a lack of adequate infrastructure to convey some or all the stormwater contributed to the damage they suffered. Some have inquired about filing potential claims against the county and/or the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Now, County Executive Brian Hill will need to let the board know about the status and timing for determining whether or not the county will receive federal disaster aid after the county retroactively declared a local emergency.

“Many asked why we didn’t do a declaration the day after the storm like Arlington,” Hill said.

Hill said that he had several conversations with Foust about the process and that meetings are scheduled with the county’s stormwater management crew. “We will probably need to change how we do our engineering going forward,” Hill said.

The county’s Emergency Management Coordinator Seamus Mooney is set to update the county in the last week of July, Hill said.

Additionally, Foust’s board matter directed the county to create an informational flyer or brochure about how residents can submit damage claims to the county and the Virginia Department of Transportation, along with a list of county services and resources that could assist residents experiencing storm damage.

Chairman Sharon Bulova said that it’s also important to push information on social media on what people should report and why.

“We will likely have additional storm and water events in the future,” Bulova said, adding, “We’ve gotten really good at snow and not so much with water.”

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A massive development proposed for Tysons and the Defense Health Agency’s expansion plans in Falls Church are set to go before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors later today (Tuesday).

According to the agenda, the board will hold public hearings on the two proposals. If approved, both of the projects would come to areas of the county facing urbanization.

Proposed for Tysons’ North Central neighborhood, The Mile would transform 38 acres of office park into 10 mixed-use buildings with residential, retail, office, hotel and storage locations.

Unlike some developments recently proposed and built in Tysons, The Mile aims to add six new parks totaling more than 10 acres.

Signature Park, the largest park in the development, would encompass an entire block in the development — about 5 acres — and include retail, a performance stage, areas for games, trails and more. A dog park, linear park, recreation park and two urban parks are also planned for the development.

Over by Pine Spring Elementary School, the Defense Health Agency wants to add an L-shaped office building to its Falls Church headquarters.

The government agency oversees health care to active duty and retired U.S. military personnel and their families.

In addition to the roughly 195,000-square-foot building, the plans also include an 815-space parking garage. The new space would allow for about 600 more employees, according to county documents.

Images via Fairfax County

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The Mile, a proposed mixed-use development in Tysons, received approval from the Fairfax County Planning Commission last night (Wednesday).

The massive development aims to transform 38 acres of office park east of Tysons Galleria into 10 mixed-use buildings with residential, retail, office, hotel and storage locations.

The development is unique with its multitude of parks — six in total spanning more than 10 acres. The largest one — Signature Park — would encompass an entire block in the development, the Fairfax County Planning Commission’s staff report said, adding:

The Signature Park includes 216,200 square feet (approximately 5 acres) and encompasses the entire land area of Block E. The Signature Park is intended as a regional facility intended by the Plan to serve the greater Tysons area and will include a large open lawn area, a performance stage, gaming areas, picnic areas, a children’s play area, walking/jogging trails, and a water feature. The proffers provide for the possible dedication of this Signature Park to the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA).

Before the vote, Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner, the commissioner for the Providence District, said that he worked with the applicant to resolve seven issues in the staff report.

“This is a complicated project of very high significance for the future of Tysons, so it’s taken some time to work itself through,” he said.

Of those issues, Niedzielski-Eichner commented on three — architectural diversity, payment to the county’s Housing Trust Fund and sidewalks.

He said that the developers will ensure variety with the 10 buildings, which will be constructed over 10-20 years.

“It feels important this level of commitment to diversity of architecture, particularly the skyline, so that the future Planning Commission has a clear narrative on how each building proposed will be different from other buildings on the property,” he said.

As for the fund, Niedzielski-Eichner said that the developers increased their contribution to $1.50 per square foot. Meanwhile, he said that he expects Signature Park and the retail to be a “magnet for future activity.”

Niedzielski-Eichner praised the project for how its urbanization of Tysons.

The development is scheduled to go before the Board of Supervisors next Tuesday (July 16).

Images via Fairfax County Planning Commission

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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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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors mostly expressed support for implementing body worn cameras for the county’s police department following presentations about the results from a six-month-long pilot program.

Chief of Police Edwin Roessler Jr., Richard Bennett from American University and Deputy County Executive David Rohrer presented the results of the study to the county board during yesterday’s Public Safety Committee meeting.

The results of the study arrived almost a year after the pilot program, which was rolled out in the Mason, Mount Vernon and Reston district stations from March-September 2018, ended.

Bennett summarized the 119-page report by researchers at American University, which yielded mixed — yet generally positive — results.

Funded by the Koch Foundation and American University, the study randomly assigned half of the police officers in the three districts to body worn cameras and collected data from surveys, focus groups and ridealongs from both officers with and without the cameras. The researchers also talked to community members

While officers who wore the cameras during the pilot slightly increased their level of interest in the cameras by the end of the pilot, Bennett said that most officers said in focus groups and surveys that the cameras would not change how they work or how civilians’ react.

However, Bennett noted that people had slightly fewer complaints against the officers who wore the cameras, than ones who did not.

During the presentations, the police chief made a pitch for the county to implement the program. “I’m confident that [the county] should approve the program,” Roessler told the committee. “The IT infrastructure can be built up at the other facilities.”

The nearly $30 million proposed program would issue 1,210 body-worn cameras that would be phased in over three years with a five-year contract for equipment, licensing and storage. Body worn cameras would come to the McLean District during the second year of the program, according to the timeframe in the presentation.

About $10 million would be needed for contract costs, while $20 million would go toward staffing, with new positions needed at the police department, Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney and the Department of Information Technology.

While some of the supervisors raised concerns about if the high cost outweighed the proposed program’s benefits, most of the supervisors expressed support for implementation.

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(Updated at 3:35 p.m.) Independence Day is Thursday, and Fairfax County has some safety tips for people ahead of the festivities.

For fans of fireworks, Fairfax County is explicit on what is allowed:

Unless expressly approved by the County Fire Marshal in the form of a Fire Prevention Code Permit (FPCP), the exploding, igniting, and use of fireworks is strictly prohibited in Fairfax County and the towns of Clifton, Herndon, and Vienna. However, the supervised use of permissible fireworks on private property with the consent of the owner of such property is allowed, and a permit is not required

Permissible fireworks — consumer fireworks legally allowed for sale and use in the county — include sparklers, fountains, Pharaoh’s serpents, caps for pistols or pinwheels — whirligigs or spinning jennies. You’ll need a permit if you want fireworks or pyrotechnic displays.

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue has some tips for pet and human safety around fireworks.

They include:

  • adults should supervisor minors around permissible fireworks
  • when using permissible fireworks, place the device on a flat surface at least 50 feet away from any combustible materials and buildings
  • never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have malfunctioned
  • keep a bucket of water or hose handy in case of a fire
  • light fireworks one at a time after reading the directions
  • leave pets at home during a fireworks display
  • never shoot, point or throw fireworks in the direction of a human or pet

Last Friday (June 28), the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department’s Fire Marshal’s Office highlighted the harm and damage fireworks can cause with a video from a press conference that shows a fire starting after several explosions.

Photo by Stephanie McCabe on Unsplash
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(Updated at 1 p.m.) Independence Day is coming up on Thursday (July 4). Check this list in case you are planning to visit government facilities around Fairfax County later this week — they might be closed.

County-wide

All county government offices, circuit courts and Fairfax County libraries will be closed on Thursday and Friday.

The I-66 Transfer Station (4618 West Ox Road) and the I-95 Landfill Complex (9850 Furnace Road) will be closed on Thursday. Residents with private collection will need to contact their haulers.

Vienna

Town of Vienna offices will be closed on Thursday, and refuse collection will take place on Friday.

The Vienna Community Center (120 Cherry Street SE) will have reduced hours on Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The gym will not be open.

Falls Church

The Mary Riley Styles Public Library will be closed on Thursday and Friday.

The Community Center (223 Little Falls Street) will be closed on Thursday but open regular hours on Friday.

City Hall will be closed on Thursday and Friday.

McLean

The McLean Community Center will be closed on Thursday and Friday.

Other Closures

Metro trains and buses and the Fairfax Connector will be operating on a Saturday schedule on July 4. Large coolers and bicycles will not be allowed on the Metro trains after 2 p.m. Metro stations will be open from 7 a.m.-11:30 p.m.

The Department of Motor Vehicles will be closed on Thursday and Friday.

Speaking of closed offices, Tysons Reporter will be on a break as well on Thursday and Friday.

Photo by Warren Tobias on Unsplash

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The fairly routine annual approval of taxicab certificates at yesterday’s (June 25) Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting instead marked the end of an era as the county approved no certificates.

Every odd-numbered year, Fairfax County government reviews taxicab applications and gives out new permits based on assessed need. But this year, staff found that there was a decline in demand by nearly 25 percent, meaning no new certificates would be needed.

“I was not at all surprised by the number of taxicab certificates,” said Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross. “This is so different than years ago.”

“There was always competition,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova agreed.

Staff noted in a memo last April that the taxicab market was experiencing a sudden decline.

According to staff:

The County’s taxicab market was experiencing a period of unprecedented contraction due to widespread customer acceptance of transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Uber and Lyft… The memorandum noted that as of April 2018, the County’s fleet size had dropped from 654 to 453 taxicabs due to operators’ relinquishment of 201 taxicab certificates. Since that April 2018 memorandum, operators have relinquished an additional 85 certificates, bringing the current Fairfax County taxicab fleet to 368 vehicles.

While taxi cab numbers fell, the memo noted that TNC registrations skyrocketed with 16,000 active registrations in Fairfax in 2016 compared to 654 taxicabs. But in 2017, the requirement for Uber and Lyft drivers to register with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles was repealed, so the current number of TNCs active in Fairfax County is unknown.

Observing the taxicab industry’s decline, the Board of Supervisors also expressed concerns over the impact on accessible rides for persons with disabilities. By code, wheelchair accessible vehicles must number 4 percent of the overall taxicab fleet, but declining numbers of taxis meant a declining requirement for accessible cabs.

“What is the effect on accessible cabs available?” Gross asked. “This board spent a lot of time years ago to ensure that the holders of certificates had a percentage of accessible taxis available. This seems like it throws it all into a cocked hat.”

Staff said that the current requirement was for 15 total wheelchair-accessible cabs, but there are currently 28 in service in Fairfax. Staff noted that Uber and Lyft both have accessible cab options, but that there was no authority to regulate their requirement in the transportation network. Bulova directed staff to work with consumer protection to examine how to mitigate the impact of the decline of taxis on transportation accessibility.

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