Capital One Hall Opens — Tysons’ new performing arts venue, which also serves as a corporate event space for Capital One, officially opens its doors to the public today (Friday), with singer Josh Groban putting on the first show at 8 p.m. The theater and classroom facilities will be available to local arts, nonprofit, and charitable community groups at specially negotiated rates by Fairfax County. [Fairfax County Government]
I-495 Lane Closures Start in Tysons Tonight — “The right lane of the southbound I-495 (Capital Beltway Outer Loop) general purpose lanes will be closed along the three bridges over the Dulles Toll Road (Route 267), weather permitting, from 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 1 to 5 a.m. Monday, Oct. 4 for bridge joint work…The two right lanes of the southbound I-495 general purpose lanes are scheduled to be closed overnight.” [VDOT]
Founders Row Part 2 Moves Forward — The Falls Church City Council voted 4-3 to let a second phase of Founders Row proceed, potentially bringing 2.07 acres of mixed-use development to the corner of S. West and West Broad streets. Supporters cited developer Mill Creek’s affordable housing commitment and other concessions, while opponents expressed concern about the project’s limited commercial component. [Falls Church News-Press]
Vienna Assisted Living Facility Cuts Ribbon — Silverstone Senior Living and Watermark Retirement Communities executives, public officials, and community members held a ribbon cutting ceremony and reception yesterday (Thursday) for The Providence, a 154-unit assisted living and memory care community that opened in MetroWest near the Vienna Metro station in March. [The Providence Fairfax]
McLean VFD Marks Anniversary With Coloring Contest — The McLean Volunteer Fire Department is holding a coloring contest for local elementary school students in honor of its 100th anniversary and to recognize October as Fire Prevention Month. Students can download an image of the fire station, color it, and mail it to the address on the webpage. Selected in a drawing at the end of the month, the winner will get a visit to their street by the department’s antique Pirsch fire truck. [McLean VFD]
Vienna and Herndon Compete in Caboose Challenge — “The Towns of Vienna and Herndon are facing off in a Caboose to Caboose challenge in October. Residents are encouraged to sign up and participate in the challenge: walk or ride along the Washington and Old Dominion Trail from the Vienna Caboose to the Herndon Caboose or vice versa.” [Patch]
Reminder: Heat Advisory Today — A Heat Advisory will be in effect from noon to 8 p.m. today (Wednesday) with heat index values ranging from 100 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The National Weather Service advices drinking water, staying inside as much as possible, and checking on neighbors with the extreme heat and humidity bringing the risk of heat-related illnesses. [NWS]
Falls Church Gateway Development Approved — “In a series of unanimous 7-0 votes Monday night, the Falls Church City Council gave final decisive approvals to special exceptions and the site plan for the biggest project in the City’s history, a 9.75-acre mixed use development at the site of the now-demolished old George Mason High School property. The project…now awaits a groundbreaking set for early next year.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Northrop Grumman Celebrates Space Launch — The Falls Church-based company launched its 16th mission to resupply the International Space Station at 6:01 p.m. yesterday (Tuesday) from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Named NG-16, this is the fifth mission under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract with Northrop Grumman. The contract was first awarded in 2008 and covers a minimum of of eight missions to the ISS through 2024. [Office of the Governor]
Meet the New Thoreau MS Principal — “Teresa Khuluki spent the last nine years as principal of Wolftrap Elementary School just north of the town of Vienna. On June 30, she traveled a few miles south to become principal at Thoreau Middle School. Serving as Thoreau Middle’s principal will let her get back to her enthusiasm for working with older, secondary-level students, Khuluki said.” [Sun Gazette]
Masks Now Required in County Facilities — “Beginning Monday, Aug. 9, all employees and visitors — regardless of vaccination status — will be required to wear a mask while inside all Fairfax County facilities to help stop the spread of COVID-19…The rise in COVID-19 cases has resulted in the Fairfax Health District moving from moderate to substantial community transmission. This is due to the on-going spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus.” [Fairfax County Health Department]
Suspect in Ritz Carlton Stabbing Identified — D.C. resident Igor Koob, 34, was treated for non-life-threatening injuries and arrested for aggravated malicious wounding after he allegedly stabbed a woman at The Ritz Carlton in Tysons on Wednesday (Aug. 4). The woman had stab wounds to her upper body, and as of Friday (Aug. 6), she was still in the hospital for life-threatening injuries, according the Fairfax County Police Department’s weekly crime report. [FCPD]
Falls Church Candidates Launch Campaigns — “This week marked the formal launch of two campaigns in what will be a busy fall season in Falls Church leading up to the November 2 election to fill three of seven seats on the City Council and School Board here. Vice Mayor Marybeth Connelly launched her campaign as one of six candidates seeking election to the City Council, and first time candidate David Ortiz announced the launch of his campaign as one of eight candidates all running for the first time for School Board.” [Falls Church News-Press]
When it comes to municipal spending, $18 million in two years seems like pocket change, but for a smaller locality like the City of Falls Church, it represents a rare opportunity to address critical needs outside the constraints of a limited budget.
That’s how much money Falls Church has been allocated from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the COVID-19 relief package signed into law on March 11. The city received a first installment of $9 million in June and anticipates getting the other $9 million around this time next year.
Now, the Falls Church City Council must decide how to use the federal funding, which must be allotted by December 2024 and spent by December 2026, city staff told the council during a work session last Monday (July 19).
“Just in terms of engaging the public, this is a really important process for the city,” Falls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields said. “One of our goals is to act quickly on some immediate things that we need to put funding for, but also take a reasonable amount of time to think about the big picture and make sure we’ve considered all options before we start allocating big chunks of the dollars.”
The U.S. Treasury allows Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund dollars from ARPA to be spent in four ways:
- To address the COVID-19 public health emergency and related economic fallout
- To give eligible public workers additional pay
- To replace lost revenue needed to provide government services
- To support water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure
In preliminary discussions before the work session, Falls Church City staff identified sewer infrastructure projects and public space improvements as top priorities based on their anticipated long-term impact and social equity considerations, according to a memo to the council.
Financing existing stormwater and sanitary sewer projects was easily the highest-scored option on staff’s list of funding priorities, followed by increasing broadband access for underserved populations and rebuilding the city’s property yard to accommodate an emergency operations center.
The proposed improvements to public spaces include upgrades at Berman Park, which is on the Fiscal Year 2022-2027 Capital Improvements Program for new play equipment, and a permanent stage for the barn in Cherry Hill Park. The list also suggests creating large outdoor classrooms with roofs and supporting dog parks, citing their mental health benefits.
Councilmember Letty Hardi suggested that the city consider how to add more public space in addition to improving existing spaces.
“If nothing else, we’ve learned from the public health crisis that being outdoors is good for everybody’s health, so it’s not just improving it, but how do we add spaces?” she said. “How do we add more green space to the city, and how do we use ARPA dollars to do that?”
She also expressed support for using federal relief money to help schools open full-time this fall, provide more one-on-one COVID-19 vaccination outreach, enhance childcare services, and enable businesses to operate permanent outdoor spaces. Read More
McLean Drivers: Expect Delays on Georgetown Pike Starting Monday — “Georgetown Pike (Route 193) between Swinks Mill Road and I-495 (Capital Beltway) will have one lane of alternating traffic in each direction via flagging, weather permitting, Monday, July 26 through Wednesday, July 28 between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. each day to replace a stormwater pipe at the Saigon Road intersection, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.” [VDOT]
Founders Row II Proposal Modified — Developer Mill Creek presented revised plans for a second phase of its Founders Row project to the Falls Church City Council on Monday (July 19). Changes since it was first proposed in March include reductions of the height and number of rental residential units and the addition of “more street-level retail and amenities to please its neighbors.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Former Container Store to Host Tysons Block Party — The Celebrate Fairfax! Festival has been canceled for a second consecutive year, but the nonprofit that organizes it is returning next Friday (July 30) with a block party to kick off its 40th Anniversary Series. The event will go from 3-7 p.m. outside the former Container Store at 8508 Leesburg Pike with live entertainment, refreshments from Caboose Brewing Company, and more. [Celebrate Fairfax/Facebook]
Editor’s note — The candidate bios below come from their responses to requests for comment from Tysons Reporter. Any candidate who wishes to add to their entry can email [email protected]
The Falls Church City Council and School Board races will have crowded fields for limited openings this November.
After the filing deadline closed earlier this week, the city council has six candidates for four seats, and the school board has nine candidates for four seats. Terms for each are for four years.
One question hovering over the general election, which is set for Nov. 2, is whether early voting returns will be similar to the jump in 2020 or return to pre-pandemic levels, Falls Church City General Registrar and Director of Elections David Bjerke wrote in an email when contacted by Tysons Reporter.
Turnout for the election could also be affected going forward by the introduction of a permanent absentee ballot by-mail request form, a new option that will be available in Virginia starting July 1, according to Bjerke.
“So if you want your ballots mailed to you for all elections, you fill out that form and we’ll mail the ballot to you,” he wrote. “As voters opt into that program, they will be informed of the election earlier and may well vote earlier. If they choose to vote in-person, that request gets canceled and they have to opt in again for future elections.”
In addition to the city council and school board candidates below, the general election ballot will include races for commissioner of the revenue, treasurer, and sheriff, according to the City of Falls Church.
The top four vote-getters will earn seats.
Mayor David Tarter’s term runs to the end of 2023. After the November election, the newly elected council will vote for vice mayor and mayor, whose positions are in place for two years. Other council members whose terms also run until then are Phil Duncan and Letty Hardi.
Names are ordered as they will appear on ballots.
- David F. Snyder is seeking another term. Snyder, a former mayor and vice mayor, was first elected to council in 1994.
- Debora “Debbie” Schantz-Hiscott is seeking her first full term after winning a special election last November after Councilmember Dan Sze died of cancer.
- Marybeth D. Connelly is seeking another term. She’s been the vice mayor since 2016 and was first elected in 2014.
- Stuart M. Whitaker
- Caroline S. Lian
- Scott C. Diaz
The top four vote-getters will land seats.
The openings come from the seats of board members Shannon Litton (the chair), Greg Anderson, and appointees Sonia Ruiz-Bolaños and Edwin Henderson II, who filled partial terms this year due to vacancies.
Terms for board members Laura Downs, Susan Dimock and Phil Reitinger last until 2023.
Names are ordered as they will appear on ballots.
The City of Falls Church government is grappling with whether to let restrictions eased on businesses over the last year stay permanent, be reverted entirely, or somewhere in between.
At a work session yesterday (Monday), Planning Director Paul Stoddard walked the city council through the options that are currently being considered.
“[The recommendation] is to keep temporary allowances in place until the business community at large has more time to understand how business is going to resume as the economy comes out of the pandemic and things get back to the new usual,” Stoddard said. “Is it going to look like things were before the pandemic? During the pandemic? Some blend of the two?”
Three of the biggest temporary changes that went into effect last year are:
- Allowing for additional signs and banners to support carry-out operations
- Permitting carry-out orders where not otherwise allowed
- Repurposing surface parking spaces to be used as outdoor dining areas
According to Stoddard, there are three longer-term solutions being considered.
The first is a “No Build” option where the city would revert back to pre-pandemic restrictions, though Stoddard said he thought it unlikely that city leadership would see that as the right approach.
The other extreme is by-right allowance, which would allow businesses taking advantage of the loosened restrictions to continue to do so in perpetuity.
Stoddard says this could bring its own problems, though, potentially complicating the city’s parking minimums and raising questions about how the by-right allowances would exist alongside new and proposed uses.
The third option — and the one Stoddard said staff is likely to recommend — is utilizing special use permits (SUPs). Stoddard said SUPs are already used for a variety of unconventional uses, and the application process gives the city the right to approve them on a case-by-case basis, with potential for staff to implement site-specific measures.
For now, city staff recommends that the current lax provisions be extended through January 2022, allowing businesses to take full advantage of outdoor seating through the fall and without any legislative change getting lost in the muddled holiday schedules in November and December.
Stoddard said the extra time will also help the city figure out what the long-term economic situation will look like for local businesses as more people get vaccinated.
Councilmember Debbie Hiscott agreed, saying that the city’s economic recovery is not up to a healthy level just yet.
“Business revenue is going in the right direction, but it’s not there yet,” Hiscott said.
Fairfax County Updates COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard — The Fairfax County Health Department launched an updated version of its vaccine dashboard yesterday (Tuesday) with data on administered doses, how many people have gotten vaccinated, demographic breakdowns, and other information. [FCHD]
Fairfax County Indoor Ski Facility Could Be First of Many — Alpine-X, developers of the planned Fairfax Peak indoor ski and snowboarding facility in Lorton, hopes to expand the concept to more than 20 other locations around the U.S. and Canada. The Fairfax County facility will be the flagship with a luxury hotel, a gravity-powered mountain coaster, zip lines, and food and beverage outlets planned for the area. [Patch]
Bike Lanes Proposed on Chain Bridge Road — The Fairfax County Department of Transportation will hold a virtual meeting at 6:30 p.m. on June 8 to discuss striping changes that would create bicycle lanes on several roads. Among the proposals is the addition of bicycle lanes “where space allows” on Chain Bridge Road from Colonial Lane to Great Falls Street in McLean. [FCDOT]
Falls Church Councilmember Won’t Seek Reelection — Ross Litkenhous, who is serving his first term on the Falls Church City Council, announced on Monday (May 24) that he will not run for a second term when four seats are on the ballot in November. He cited a need to focus on a new company that he recently launched, but he plans to stay involved by applying for the city’s economic development authority or planning commission after his term ends. [Falls Church News-Press]
Del. Simon Addresses Greater Merrifield Business Association — Del. Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church) highlighted the Virginia General Assembly’s work to address the COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated $500 million budget surplus, and bills that dealt with eviction prevention, stormwater management funding, and electric vehicle rebates in a recent presentation to the GMBA. [Sun Gazette]
Falls Church Hires New Public Works Superintendent — “The City of Falls Church welcomes Herb Holmes as the new Superintendent of Public Works. Throughout April, Holmes shadowed the incumbent, Robert Goff, who will retire on July 1 after 40 years of service…Holmes most recently served as the Superintendent of Streets for the City of Alexandria, Virginia.” [City of Falls Church]
Falls Church is looking to set up a new governing authority to handle some of the finances for its ambitious West Falls Church Economic Development Project — a new mixed-use development the city hopes can rival the nearby Mosaic District in Merrifield.
The new Community Development Authority (CDA) will be financially-focused, aimed at administering the bonds and debt service for local projects, as well as imposing special taxes on businesses within its zone.
The West Falls CDA will be the first of its kind created in Falls Church, though similar CDAs are in place in Ballston Quarter in Arlington and for the Mosaic District in Fairfax.
“A CDA can finance such projects by issuing bonds and then requesting that the locality impose special taxes or a special assessment on properties in the district to pay the debt service on such bonds,” city staff said in a report. “This ordinance is before City Council for creation of the CDA only, and bond issuance will require further Council approval down the road.”
Staff presented an overview of the proposal to the Falls Church City Council during its work session on Monday (May 17).
City Manager Wyatt Shields explained that community development authorities result from property owners petitioning their local government to create the organization, generally so that they can “gain public improvements” within the specific district where they are located.
In the case of the potential West Falls CDA, the petitioners are the future leaseholders of the site, which is currently owned by the City of Falls Church. That includes Falls Church Gateway Partners, the developer group comprised of EYA and Hoffman & Associates.
“There would be a special assessment paid only by those who live in that special district to pay for those public improvements,” Shields said. “There is no tax impact for taxpayers who live outside the district.”
The plan for the West Falls Church Economic Development Project is to create a sprawling mixed-use area with a residential component as well as 123,000 square feet of retail anchored by a grocery store, office space, and a hotel.
The report says the intent is for the CDA to issue $12 to $15 million in bonds that would kickstart some of the planned infrastructure improvements and fund under-grounding utilities.
The CDA will be managed by a five-member board appointed by the city.
The proposal is scheduled to go to a public hearing on Monday (May 24) before returning to the city council for final approval on June 28. If approved, the CDA would start meeting in July, with bond sales beginning February 2022.
Image via City of Falls Church
The City of Falls Church is keeping some of the relaxed restrictions on noise levels for businesses put into effect during the pandemic, but it isn’t going as far as some on the city council have wanted.
The Falls Church City Council voted 6-1 on Monday (May 10) to accept city staff’s recommendation to adopt a new noise ordinance that codifies the extension of what is considered “daytime hours” for noise levels up to 10 p.m.
The change was implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic to help local businesses. However, a suggestion to extend the definition of daytime hours to 10:30 p.m. was not approved.
A proposal to increase the maximum decibel levels was also struck down after staff gathered city council members in a field to hear what different decibels sounded like. The current level for commercial districts of 65 decibels will stay intact.
Some councilmembers worried this could set up problems for some businesses down the road. In particular, Councilmember Ross Litkenhous said he was concerned about entertainment venues struggling to come back, like the State Theater.
“I’m not convinced that, for a weekend night, for a venue that wants to play music, that 65 decibels is the appropriate level,” Litkenhous said. “Is it 75? I don’t know, but keeping it at 65 decibels is setting those businesses up for controversy.”
Litkenhous was the sole vote against the approval of staff’s recommendation for the ordinance.
Photo via Google Maps