Tysons Corner, VA

Work to repair one of two flood-damaged McLean roads is taking longer than originally expected.

The 1300 block of Kirby Road and Swinks Mill Road by Scott’s Run are still closed due to severe storm damage from July 8 flash flooding. The Virginia Department of Transporation (VDOT) has said that both roads will stay closed for several months.

In an update yesterday (Thursday), VDOT said that work on Kirby Road is slated to be finished in mid-December instead of late November.

“The road is expected to safely reopen to through traffic in mid-December, and final asphalt and lane striping will continue through May 2020,” VDOT said in an update yesterday (Thursday).

“Martins Construction Corporation has been awarded a $2.1 million emergency contract for repairs, and work is anticipated to begin the week of Sept. 23,” VDOT said.

Meanwhile, work on Swinks Mill Road is expected to be done by the end of this month, VDOT said, adding that crews are currently working on reconstructing the bridge deck and making sub-structure repairs.

VDOT also provided information on the progress this week for both roads:

Swinks Mill Road at Scotts Run

In the last month, crews have:

  • Excavated and poured concrete working surfaces on the downstream side on which the footers will be built
  • Installed rebar and poured two footers on the downstream side
  • Installed rebar and support for the stem wall on the downstream right-side abutment
  • Partially installed rebar for stem wall on the downstream left-side abutment

Kirby Road at Pimmit Run 

Martins Construction Corporation’s work includes:

  • Relocation of Little Pimmit Run to its previous stream alignment in compliance with federal/state permitting agencies
  • Rebuilding the washed-out section of Kirby Road with concrete and rip rap
  • Replacement of a more than 50-year-old, 24-inch sanitary sewer line
  • Reconstruction of the bridge over Pimmit Run with work on the abutments, wing walls, parapets, bridge deck and approaches

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust wrote in an email to constituents yesterday that he is working with other elected officials to set up a community meeting “to provide residents with an opportunity to learn more about these emergency repairs and ask questions.”

Photo courtesy VDOT

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After flooding in early July washed two dumpsters into Pimmit Run, the stream bed is now dumpster-free.

On Wednesday, Tysons Reporter found the two dumpsters — washed up on the bed of Pimmit Run near Old Chesterbrook Road.

Fairfax County officials said the bins that washed up on the stream bed roughly eight weeks ago and belonged to American Disposal Services and Republic Services.

The county alerted the companies about the dumpsters in July, Judy Pedersen, a spokesperson of the Fairfax County Park Authority, told Tysons Reporter.

“Over the past few weeks we have contacted these two companies six times in an effort to get them removed,” Pedersen said.

One Nextdoor user said they reached out weeks ago to Fairfax County Park Authority, DPWES, law enforcement and Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust about the dumpsters.

“Admittedly, removing the dumpsters is going to be difficult,” the user wrote. “There’s no easy access for heavy equipment to reach them.”

Both bins were removed today (Sept. 5), according to Nathan Geldner, a spokesperson for Republic Services.

Geldner did not answer Tysons Reporter question about why it took so long to respond to the requests from governmental officials.

American Disposal Services promised to have both bins removed after the county’s Department of Code Compliance pressured the garbage companies to make changes, Matthew Kaiser, the spokesperson for the county’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES), told Tysons Reporter.

Kaiser said a contractor removed the bins. Tysons Reporter has not been able to confirm which company hired the contractor.

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After months of waiting, pedestrians and drivers can expect two McLean roads severely damaged by flash flooding in July now to reopen this fall.

The 1300 block of Kirby Road and Swinks Mill Road by Scott’s Run have been closed since the July 8 storm. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has said that it will take months to repair the damage.

In a newsletter to residents, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said that VDOT plans to complete repairs to Swinks Mill Road by the end of this month and Kirby Road by late November.

“VDOT is working on both roads concurrently and has committed to aggressive schedules for completing the repairs on each road,” Foust wrote in the newsletter.

VDOT is looking to secure an emergency contract for bridge and road repair at Kirby Road.

More from the newsletter:

Kirby Road has been cleared of debris, and temporary repairs to the bridge and roadway have been completed to make travel safe for local residents until the permanent repairs can be completed. However, the road is not open to through traffic. Safety and structural assessments have been completed, as have boundary and topographic surveys, which are being used to plan the repairs. Identification of types and locations of utilities have been completed, and utility repairs are planned.

The design has been finalized for a contractor bid, with the contract expected to be awarded by mid-September. Completion of the roadway and bridge repairs is expected by late November, with the roadway being completed first in order to maintain access to homes, and the bridge repairs being completed after.

Swinks Mill Road has been cleared of debris and been made safe for travel for local residents and emergency responders, but the Swinks Mill bridge was and remains closed. Safety and structural assessments, as well as boundary and topographic surveys, are being used to develop plans for the repairs. The bridge design has been finalized. VDOT state crews began making the permanent repairs on August 9. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of September.

Kirby and Swinks Mill roads weren’t the only local ones damaged — VDOT has said that “extensive repairs” were made to 12 McLean-area roads right after the storm.

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Starting today, residents and business owners can head to the Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library to seek low-interest loans to help pay for flood damage repairs.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust shared in a newsletter to constituents Monday (Aug. 12) information about two loan centers — Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library (7584 Leesburg Pike) and the Arlington County Trades Center (2700 S. Taylor Street).

Gov. Ralph Northam announced last Thursday (Aug. 8) that the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will offer low-interest federal loans to people affected by the July 8 flooding in the City of Falls Church, along with Fairfax and Arlington counties and the City of Alexandria.

Businesses and private nonprofit organizations may borrow up to $2 million, while homeowners may borrow up to $200,000 for damaged or destroyed real estate and up to $40,000 for personal property.

“In addition, the County has waived any permit fees that might apply to reconstruction efforts,” Foust wrote.

More from the newsletter:

The SBA may increase loans by up to 20 percent if officials verify the extent of physical damages. Agency officials also may support efforts by applicants to build storm shelters or safe rooms to protect against damage from a similar natural disaster in the future.

SBA officials will set the loans’ terms and amounts based on applicants’ financial conditions. The agency will offer loans with terms of up to 30 years and interest rates as low as 1.938 percent for renters and homeowners, 2.75 percent for non-profits, and 4 percent for businesses.

The loan center at the Tysons-Pimmit library will be open:

  • Tuesday-Thursday, Aug. 13-15: 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
  • Friday, Aug. 16: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
  • Saturday, Aug. 17: 1-5 p.m.
  • Monday, Aug. 19: 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

The loan center in Arlington will be open the same days and times, except for different hours on Saturday, Aug. 17, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Both centers will be closed on Sunday, Aug. 18.

“SBA officials will be available to answer questions about the agency’s disaster-loan programs and help applicants fill out the necessary forms,” Foust wrote in the newsletter.

Residents have until Oct. 7 to request a loan to cover physical property damage, while businesses have until May 7, 2020, to request a loan for economic injury.

Photo via Fairfax County

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An upcoming meeting will provide the latest information on new sidewalks slated for a portion of Kirby Road in McLean.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust and the Fairfax County Department of Transportation are scheduled to hold a public meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) evening about the project, which stretches from Birch Road to Corliss Court along Kirby Road.

The project includes new 6-foot-wide sidewalk, curb, gutter, storm sewer and water utility infrastructure on the north side of Kirby Road. The improvements are funded by County Commercial and Industrial Property Tax funds, according to the county.

The meeting will take place in the cafeteria of Chesterbrook Elementary School (1753 Kirby Road) at 7 p.m.

Image via Fairfax County 

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A clerical error has left Sweet Leaf Cafe in McLean in a three-year legal fight to not be zoned as a residential property.

The restaurant is currently operating in violation of zoning code. A non-residential use permit had been issued for the site for retail sales, but not to operate what the zoning law refers to as a fast-food establishment.

At a July 17 meeting, the Board of Zoning Appeals deferred Sweet Leaf’s appeal to Oct. 23, making this the 12th time the issue has been appealed since early 2016.

County staff said Sweet Leaf is pursuing a parking reduction to fall in-line with the zoning ordinance but has hit a few snags.

According to Fairfax County spokesperson Brian Worthy:

Sweet Leaf needs a non-residential use permit for a restaurant, and this is the current issue involved in the zoning appeal. However, the restaurant cannot get this permit until it applies for a parking reduction that the Board of Supervisors must approve. Therefore, the July 17 Board of Zoning Appeals public hearing for this case was deferred because the applicant is working to apply for the reduction. The business requires at least 14 parking spaces based on zoning rules, but the site can only physically accommodate the existing 12 parking spaces. If this reduction is approved, the applicant can get its non-residential use permit. Previous public hearings were deferred at the applicant’s own request.

While Sweet Leaf works with the county government to find a solution, staff said the restaurant has been allowed to continue operating.

“Sweet Leaf has been allowed to stay open without the non-residential use permit for a restaurant because they are working to acquire the proper zoning permit,” said Fairfax County Public Information Officer Crystal Santos. “Unfortunately, a previous administrative error allowed the restaurant to operate as a retail establishment for zoning purposes. However, Sweat Leaf has been subject to all health regulations and licensing requirements related to owning and operating a restaurant in Fairfax County since they opened in 2009.”

Prior to Sweet Leaf, the space was operated under a similar food use for seven years, according to Sweet Leaf owner Andre Matini.

“Sweet Leaf completed all the proper paperwork and was issued a zoning permit… to operate as a food use,” Matini wrote in an email. “We are not exactly sure what has transpired since we opened over ten years ago but this issue seems to be an oversight by the issuer… Unfortunately, this has been an extremely costly process for us.”

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said it was an innocent error and staff has been working to make sure the restaurant can continue operating and obtain the proper zoning.

“Basically it’s come down to a parking issue,” Foust said. “[Staff] is continuing to search for a solution. They think they have one, and it’s a little creative, but they’re trying to work through it.”

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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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After major flash flooding caused widespread damage on Monday (July 8), Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust shared how the county can better prepare for future storms and what steps are currently underway.

“It was horrific in certain areas,” Foust said. “It came by and went so fast.”

Foust said that while he wasn’t surprised by the damage from the flash flooding on Monday, it was the worst he has ever seen in Fairfax County.

Tysons Reporter talked to Foust about how work after the storm has been going around the Tysons area and what infrastructure improvements are needed to help the county weather the next big storm.

When the flooding started, Foust said he was inside his home during the brunt of the storm, waiting to get to his car parked outside. Eventually, Foust said he was able to get outside and drive to his office, which is nearby — “Pretty easy compared to what many had to go through,” he said.

Assessing the Damage

From a multitude of road closures to flooded backyards, from more than 55 water rescues to three missing chickens swept away, clean-up and assessment are still underway across the county.

In an email to residents last night (Wednesday), Foust urged people affected by the storm to submit information online to a disaster damage database to help the county with its damage assessment. People can submit reports until Wednesday, July 24.

“While owners are responsible for repairs on their property, the county could use this data to pursue disaster aid through the federal government to the extent such aid is available,” Foust wrote.

The Town of Vienna also tweeted about the database, writing, “Damage reports may impact what — if any– federal disaster assistance may be made available.”

As for the cleanup efforts this week, Foust said, “The county staff performed extremely well.”

Foust also praised the county’s work on stream restoration, which recently included Bull Neck Run and Dead Run Stream.

Road Work Underway 

Foust said that several improvement projects are slated to help roads weather serious flooding in the future, including Tucker Avenue and Chesterbrook Road in McLean.

The Tucker Avenue project will address flooding along the avenue from Birch Street to where it deadends at the Pimmit Run stream. Project design is set to start this summer, he said.

“It’s almost scary what happens on that road when it rains hard,” he said because of the road’s incline may make it the worst road for flooding in the McLean District. “Not a meandering stream but a roaring river.”

The Chesterbrook project at the intersection of Chesterbrook Road and N. Albemarle Street is set to add a larger pipe for more water. While the Virginia Department of Transportation had said that the project may start in the fall, plans have not been finalized, he said.

In addition to the work on those local roads, Fouse said that the Route 7 widening project includes elevating the road where Dead Run Stream regularly floods Route 7.

Preparing for the Next Big Flood

Going forward, “a lot of things need to be done,” Foust said to minimize damage from another major storm.

McLean and the general area around Tysons were built before stormwater management requirements, which the county is now trying to superimpose with a new system, he said.

Foust said that as changing weather patterns could see severity increase for future storms, he wants the county to prioritize funding stormwater management projects and work with developers of infill projects, which develops vacant or under-used areas within existing urban areas, to better manage stormwater sites.

“The funding is never adequate,” Foust said Capital Improvement Program funding for stormwater management projects. “You do the best you can with the resources you have. For available resources, we need to prioritize stormwater management projects more than in the past.”

Whenever the next big flash flooding hits, Foust said that he hopes for more notice from forecasters.

“It’s one thing when you see it coming,” he said.

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After a seeming defeat, Newport Academy is fighting back against a zoning ruling that would keep it out of a McLean neighborhood.

Newport Academy, a for-profit therapy program for teens with mental health or addiction problems, wanted to turn its three purchased homes (1620, 1622, and 1624 Davidson Road) into a treatment facility.

Newport Academy’s plans to open the McLean facility hinged on it being a by-right use, which wouldn’t require approval by the Board of Supervisors. Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust has previously said that he would oppose the facility if it was brought to the county board for a vote.

In May, Fairfax County Zoning Administrator Leslie Johnson determined that the facility at Davidson Road would not be permitted as a by-right use and would require approval from the Board of Supervisors.

On Friday (June 14), Newport Academy filed an appeal to that ruling, staff at the Board of Zoning Appeals told Tysons Reporter. Zoning policy stipulates that the case will be scheduled within 90 days of the appeal being accepted unless staff and the appellant agree to something outside of that timeframe.

Brian Worthy, a Fairfax County spokesman, said that county staff are currently going through the application before the county officially accepts it — a standard procedure for every application.

While the zoning official’s ruling seemed to be a win for neighbors opposing the controversial treatment facility, Newport Academy’s push to appeal the zoning determination signals a possibly longer fight ahead for both sides.

Currently, Newport Academy has three jobs listed for McLean: a part-time fully licensed adolescent therapist, an LPN licensed practical nurse and a housekeeper.

Newport Academy also has plans for another project at 1318 Kurtz Road — a standalone property that was not considered in Johnson’s review. What will happen to the Kurtz property remains unclear.

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Amid a roar of traffic, a dozen Fairfax County officials gathered to break ground on an extensive Leesburg Pike (Route 7) widening project.

The ceremony was today (Thursday) at Capital Church on the border of the Hunter Mill and Dranesville districts, with their respective Board of Supervisors representatives Cathy Hudgins and John Foust present.

The project will involve adding a third lane to Leesburg Pike in each direction from Reston to Tysons. At the groundbreaking, officials highlighted the new shared-use paths and other improvements planned along the corridor to increase capacity, improve safety and traffic flow, and make life a little easier for cyclists and pedestrians.

“This project will enhance nobility…” said Sharon Bulova, chair of the Fairfax County Board, then laughed and corrected herself, “mobility, but [nobility] too, for cycling and pedestrians.”

The shared-use paths are planned to run along both sides of the road, with bridges and underpasses planned along the way and several other intersection improvements.

“It’s an important milestone many years in the making,” said Bill Cutler, the Virginia Department of Transportation’s district construction engineer. “It’s a 7-mile corridor and an important multimodal project, with 14 miles of multipurpose trail and access to the Spring Hill Metro station.”

During construction, off-peak lane closures are expected as the project works in segments. Final completion of the project is expected for summer 2024.

“If you’re sitting here wondering why we’re doing this, traffic seems to be going pretty well… it’s too late now,” said Foust. “In 2010, it was said that if Tysons was going to work, we needed to ensure that vehicles could get out of Tysons… This improvement will, I hope, make it much more attractive for drivers to stay on Route 7. Right now, we have a lot of cut-through traffic taking Georgetown Pike or Lewinsville Road trying to avoid traffic on Route 7. I think this will go a long way to addressing challenges with cut-through traffic.”

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