Tysons Corner, VA

Updated at 1:40 p.m. — Corrects description of MicroStrategy and lease renewal date.

MicroStrategy Inc. scored $1 million to expand in Tysons.

The Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors approved grant funding from the Commonwealth at its meeting on Tuesday (May 21).

The funds will help the company with its tenant build-out of its facility (1850 Towers Crescent Plaza) in Tysons, which could lead to 300 new jobs at the facility, according to county documents.

Last March, MicroStrategy, which provides a data analytics platform, renewed its lease for its Tysons headquarters for $150 million, keeping the company based in Northern Virginia for another 13 years, the Washington Business Journal reported.

As part of the grant, Fairfax County must provide a local match, which will be in the form of accelerating construction on the Magarity Walkway project, a roadway improvement that is already planned and funded in the county budget. The road improvement was identified by coordinating with the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

Fairfax County competed with another jurisdiction for the expansion of MicroStrategy’s headquarters, according to county documents.

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Virginia residents have until right before midnight tonight (May 20) to register to vote for the June 11 primaries.

A total of 49 Republican and 45 Democratic primaries spanning the Virginia House of Delegates, Virginia Senate and local offices will be held on June 11. For Tysons-area residents, upcoming retirements have several spots open on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

The Hunter Mill District, which covers Vienna and Reston, and the Providence District, which covers Tysons and Merrifield, both have five Democrats vying for the seats. The primary will also determine which of the four Democrats in the race for the Board of Supervisors chair will face Republican Joe Galdo in the November election.

People eligible to vote can register or update their voter information in person before 5 p.m. at a local registration office — the one for Fairfax County is at 12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 323 — or online until 11:59 p.m.

Flickr pool photo by Mrs. Gemstone

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Fairfax County is getting closer to developing a program for the police, fire and emergency response agencies to use unmanned aircraft.

The county’s Board of Supervisors is scheduled to consider tomorrow (Tuesday) approving the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) program, which proposes to incorporate drones into government operations with a particular focus on public safety.

“A UAS program would provide enhanced operational capability, safety, and situational awareness for first responders, other staff or volunteers, affiliated partners, and the community,” according to the draft agenda for the county board meeting.

The draft notes that unmanned aircraft are able to operate in possibly hazardous environments that could harm first responders.

Some examples of drone usage include:

  • search and rescue
  • damage assessment
  • fire incident/scene management and investigations
  • hazardous materials responses
  • geospatial data acquisition

Drones would not be used to conduct unathorized surveillance activities or to harass individuals, the draft says.

The proposal was first brought up last year and the Board of Supervisors directed staff to conduct community outreach on the proposal. After several task force meetings on the proposal and half of a dozen public meetings, the proposal is now seeking the Board of Supervisors’ approval.

If the program is approved, staff would apply for an FAA Certificate of Authority (COA) to comply with federal requirements and also create a steering committee for oversight of the program.

Fairfax County falls under the “No Drone Zone” that placed restrictions on flying unmanned aircraft after 9/11 and requires FAA authorization within a 15-mile radius from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

The fire and police departments and Office of Emergency Management would initially receive about six to eight unmanned aircraft — costing the agencies about $3,500 per drone, according to the draft.

Photo via Flickr/Joe Loong

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A task force meeting next week will tackle proposed retail, residential and public facilities near the University of Virginia Northern Virginia Center, as Fairfax County looks to revamp an area by the West Falls Church Metro station.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and Virginia Tech submitted proposals as part of the county’s 2017 Site-Specific Plan Amendment Process.

The county has initiated a planning study of the proposals, which would add public facilities and government mixed-use and possibly residential units, on the WMATA parcels and up to 130 dwelling units and 43,800 square feet of retail and office space on the Northern Virginia Center parcels.

“The proximity of the Northern Virginia Center property to the WMATA site presents an opportunity to plan the area in a more holistic manner,” the Fairfax County website says. “This approach would allow consideration of their joint land use, transportation, and public facility impacts. Therefore, the proposals will be evaluated concurrently as a special study separate from the Site-Specific Plan Amendment process timeline.”

A community meeting in January gave an overview of the county’s planning and review process.

After that meeting, a task force made up of residents in the area has been working with the county to evaluate the proposals to make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors. The task force is analyzing transportation, public facilities, schools and environmental impacts.

The task force meeting, which is open to the public, is set for Tuesday, May 21, from 7-9 p.m., at The Northern Virginia Center (7054 Haycock Road) in Falls Church.

In addition to the task force, the county plans to hold meetings to get the community’s input.

First image via Google Maps and second image via Fairfax County 

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A free forum tonight (May 15) will question the Hunter Mill District Supervisor candidates just on the Town of Vienna.

Vienna Votes, a new voter outreach initiative in the Town of Vienna, will host the forum at the Vienna Community Center (120 Cherry Street SE) from 6-9 p.m.

Five Democrats have jumped into the race for the seat, which oversees Reston and Vienna. Cathy Hudgins, who currently holds the seat, announced her decision in January to retire after her current term ends.

Vienna Votes posted on Facebook that all five candidates have said they will participate in the forum. They are:

Vienna Votes was launched in March to help citizens have easy access to voting resources and information.

From Vienna Votes’ Facebook:

The Vienna Votes Project has organized this casual forum to hear what all five candidates on the ballot have to say about Vienna. Please join us this Wednesday, May 15th and, more importantly, remember to vote in June. High voter turnout signals to our elected officials that Vienna is an active and engaged population that will be paying attention!

The forum will consist of questions entirely about the Town of Vienna. That discussion will be held from 6:30-8:30 PM although some candidates will be available before and after for one-on-one conversations. Have other obligations that evening? This is a casual event and you are welcome to come in/out anytime between 6 PM and 9 PM.

The Democratic primary is June 11.

Second photo via Facebook

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If you’re looking for a place to house your servants, watchman and tenant farmers, there’s good news — Fairfax is in the middle of a process to simplify its complex and humorously outdated zoning code.

At a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Development Process Committee meeting yesterday (May 14), the committee reviewed a series of proposed changes to modernize the zoning code — a process dubbed zMOD.

During the meeting, a consultant working on the modernization said Fairfax County’s zoning wasn’t the most labyrinthine he’d seen, but it was close.

Much of the process involves consolidating a wide array of residential classifications — like dormitories, fraternity/sorority houses, rooming/boarding houses, etc. — into a single use, like “residence hall.” Servants quarters and housing for tenant farmers in Fairfax are now grouped together as “caretaker quarters.”

But the regulations also add new zoning uses to the code as well, like electric vehicle charging or solar collection systems.

At the meeting, staff said part of the new zoning would include extensive modifications to accessory dwelling unit (ADU) zoning. These are dwelling units designed as separate from the primary residence.

Currently, all ADUs require a special use permit, but under the new regulations, an administrative approval could be obtained if the unit is located entirely within the main residence — like a basement separate from the main house.

The zMOD process is scheduled to be presented as a consolidated draft to the Board of Supervisors in July. Work is expected to continue on the zMOD process throughout 2019 with public hearings on the final draft in spring and summer 2020.

Photo via Fairfax County Government

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The candidates running to become the next chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will debate each other on climate change, affordable housing, transportation and land use tonight (May 13).

Four Democrats and one Republican are vying for Sharon Bulova’s seat.

Republican Joe Galdo, a former Defense Department technology intelligence analyst who ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate, is the most recent addition. The Democratic candidates include Reston developer Timothy Chapman, Fairfax County School Board Member At-Large Ryan McElveen, Lee District Supervisor Jeffrey McKay and Georgetown Law Professor Alicia Edith Plerhoples.

Sharon Bulova announced her retirement decision back in December, adding to a growing list of supervisors who also decided not to seek re-election. In addition to the chairman, the seats for the Hunter Mill, Providence, Braddock and Lee districts are open to newcomers.

The Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions partnered with the Fairfax Healthy Communities Coalition for the debate ahead of the June 11 primaries. The upcoming election for the county’s Board of Supervisors will take place on Nov. 5.

The debate will be televised at 8 p.m. on Fairfax Public Access Channel 10’s Inside Scoop.

Photo via Facebook

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Fairfax County is investigating reports of missed trash pick-ups by a solid waste and recycling collection company in preparation to take legal action.

During the county’s Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday (May 7), John Cook and Kathy Smith, the district supervisors for Braddock and Sully, respectively, presented a board matter prompting the investigation into whether American Disposal Services has violated any consumer protection laws.

“For the last several weeks, American has failed to make many trash pick-ups in the county,” the board matter says. “Trash is left on street corners, or in overflowing HOA dumpsters. This open trash attracts rats and other vermin, it smells, and is ugly.”

Cook and Smith said that the trash collection’s failures are creating a “significant” health, safety and community enjoyment problems.

Inside NoVa recently reported that a spokesman for the Solid Waste Management Program of the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) received 143 missed-pickup complaints this year as of May 1.

While DPWES serves about 45,000 homes in the county, 22 private companies pick up trash for the remaining 400,000 homes, the article notes.

Based in Manassas, American Disposal Services is the primary private trash service company for county residents, according to the board matter.

Kevin Edwards, the general manager of American Disposal Services, told Tysons Reporter that a nationwide problem recruiting truck drivers started causing delays in trash pick-ups for Fairfax County residents about six to eight months ago.

“This shortage we’ve been experiencing for the last few years, but we’ve been able to keep ahead of it,” Edwards said. “The majority of what we have been doing has been delays instead of failed pick-ups.”

To address the shortage, Edwards said that the two-day trash service pick-up has been temporarily shifted to now once a week and on a different day, affecting about 10,000 of American Disposal Services’ roughly 100,000 Fairfax County customers.

While American Disposal Services tracks the number of failed pick-ups that get reported by customers, Edwards did not have information available to share on how many failed pick-ups have been reported in Fairfax County for the last six months or last few weeks.

Edwards said in response to the board matter “the level that is being described is not entirely accurate” and that public health shouldn’t be an issue because the company has been alerting residents via phone calls, texts and website updates between one week to 24 hours in advance about changed schedules.

For a long-term solution, Edwards said the company has been “aggressively hiring and recruiting” for several months and trying to convert some customers over to a once-a-week schedule.

Trash schedules have been “back on track” this week and American Disposal Services is talking to the county, Edwards said.

Fairfax County decided on Tuesday to request the county attorney to prepare a briefing for the board for the closed session of the May 12 meeting. The board matter says:

This briefing should include an analysis of all applicable consumer protection statutes, potential claims of fraud, or other legal issues potentially arising out of American’s failure to meet its commitments to our residents, and any options for the county to seek legal remedies. Fairfax County should continue to assist American in providing its promised services, but must also make clear that this is American’s problem, and we expect the company to solve it in the next two weeks, or else the County will be prepared to take whatever legal action may be available.

Staff from DPWES, Consumer Affairs and the Health Department have been working with American Disposal Services for the last few weeks on the issues and the county executive updated the Board of Supervisors on the county’s efforts on Monday, May 6, according to the board matter.

The American Trucking Association said in a 2015 report that the shortage in 2014 totaled 38,000 truck drivers and that the shortage could spike to nearly 175,000 by 2024.

“All trash haulers in the country are facing challenges, but here in Fairfax, after the acquisition by Waste Connections, American’s problems are more acute,” the board matter says.

Image via Facebook

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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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Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors wants more analysis of data that points to the disproportionate use-of-force against black individuals by county police.

Two years ago, the Fairfax County Police Department released a study that found that 40 percent of use-of-force cases in 2015 involved black individuals.

In response to the study’s release, the board directed Police Auditor Richard Schott “to review the statistical disparity between the level of African-American use-of-force incidents and the African American population in Fairfax County,” according to the county.

Completed last year, Schott’s study on the police department data didn’t satisfy the supervisors’ questions.

“The report did not yield any clear causes based upon race, but noted additional evaluation of use-of force data would be needed for the following years,” Chairman Sharon Bulova said yesterday reading from the motion. She added FCPD has new procedures and trainings that might provide more useful data on use-of-force interactions.

Following the 2017 study, Police Chief Edwin Roessler has been trying to find an academic partner to help with data analysis for further use-of-force studies, but hasn’t found a “suitable” partner yet, Bulova said.

In a joint effort, Bulova and Braddock District Supervisor John Cook presented a motion yesterday (May 7) to direct the police auditor to coordinate the search for an academic or researcher to review the disparity and then report findings and any recommendations to the board.

“As the Police Auditor has experience with compiling similar types of reports, I am in favor of the Police Auditor’s office overseeing the search for an academic partner and completion of the use-of-force study,” Bulova said.

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