Tysons, VA

McLean has had its fair share of contentious development debates, but to the relief of everyone involved, a planned senior living facility at 1638 and 1642 Chain Bridge Road didn’t go that way, instead getting a unanimous vote of support from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

Tension over the future of development in McLean has been brewing in recent weeks with the much-debated downtown revitalization plan headed for a delayed planning commission public hearing on May 26.

In this case, however, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust says the cooperation and willingness to compromise from both developer Tri-State Development Companies and the nearby residents resulted in a smooth process.

The plan is to build 35 independent living units, five of which are expected to be sold as affordable, and a central clubhouse area for residents to gather.

“This has been a really good experience, working with the community and this developer,” Foust said. “Sometimes you don’t come away with such a good taste in your mouth after you go through a difficult land use case, and this wasn’t simple, but everyone was so positive and cooperative and I want to thank everyone involved in the process.”

While speakers at the meeting generally expressed support for the project, neighboring property owner Bobbi Bowman, who said she’d lived there for 22 years, stated that she still had concerns about the noise level from the clubhouse on the site.

“I will look over my back yard and side-yard fences into the front yard of two-story townhouses and clubhouse with an joining outdoor area,” Bowman said. “I believe this application fails to meet county standard that says such development must be compatible…I am not asking the applicant to forego the clubhouse, I’m only asking to be protected from the noise.”

Tri-State has agreed that the clubhouse will not be rented out to anyone outside of the condominium owners association that will be formed to govern the facility, and no audible music will be allowed in the patio area, according to a list of approved development conditions attached to the project.

Other speakers said they were looking forward to the development in part because they see the need for senior housing for their parents or for themselves a few years down the road.

“I think it’s an excellent idea,” nearby resident Eric West said. “I don’t know of any place within the DMV that has something that would meet the needs of those who want to age in place.”

Winnie Pizzano, president of the nearby Stoneleigh Homeowners Association, said the project had great support from within her community.

Resident Scott Shawkey expressed hope that the project could help pave the way for a transformation of McLean’s downtown area, a goal of the county that has been several years in the making.

“I have a father in his 80s who’s worked his entire life for something nice,” Shawkey said. “This is something special, a celebration of life. I think it will be great…We have an incredible community, but our downtown is just a four-way intersection.”

Map via Fairfax County

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Morning Notes

FBI Agent Fired Weapon During CIA Security Incident — “Law enforcement sources tell ABC News that at least one FBI agent opened fire on a suspect outside CIA headquarters in McLean, Virginia Monday. The suspect has been transported to a local hospital. His condition is unknown.” [ABC7 News-WJLA]

Vienna Holds Town Council Election — Today is Election Day in the Town of Vienna. Residents can vote in person from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Vienna Community Center. Four candidates are on the ballot seeking to fill three town council seats. [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

Dranesville Supervisor Surprised by New Police Chief’s History — Supervisor John W. Foust says he was not aware of new Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis’s involvement in two past use-of-force incidents before they were reported by NBC4. He calls the alleged misconduct “very disturbing” and says it should’ve been disclosed to the board. [The Connection]

Region Urges COVID-19 Vaccinations with Media Campaign — Northern Virginia’s health districts, including the Fairfax Health District, launched a new media campaign on Friday “to encourage everyone in the region to get vaccinated. The campaign encourages broad vaccination across the region while also focusing on various audiences who remain vaccine hesitant.” [Fairfax County Health Department]

Local Residents Lobby for Leaf Blower Ban — A new citizens group called Quiet Clean NOVA is calling on Virginia lawmakers to prohibit the use of gas-powered leaf blowers, critiquing the noise and air pollution they produce. Del. Kaye Kory, whose district includes southern Falls Church into Annandale, says she will introduce legislation this fall that encourages the use of quieter electric and battery-powered blowers. [ABC7 News-WJLA]

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(Updated at 2:10 p.m.) Officially, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors endorsed the I-495 extension of the express lanes on Tuesday (April 13), but the discussion leading up to that vote showed that some officials closest to the project still have reservations.

Supervisor John Foust, representing the Dranesville District that would ostensibly stand the most to gain from the project called 495 NEXT, said the project only addresses half the problem and, without the other half, could only worsen an already miserable bottleneck.

“I’ve lived with the horrible congestion caused by backups at the American Legion Bridge and I’ve supported widening or replacement of the bridge,” Foust said. “But without the Maryland project, 495 NEXT worsens traffic in the general portion lanes…Until the American Legion Bridge is widened, these adverse impacts are far greater than any public benefit.”

The plan would add new express lanes from 495’s intersection with the Dulles Toll Road up to the American Legion Bridge, where the plan was to connect with similar lanes on the Maryland-owned bridge and onto the Maryland side of the beltway. Foust’s frustration comes from Maryland dragging its heels on the project despite an earlier pledged commitment to widening.

Foust said that, as recently as December, the Board agreed that VDOT should only consider further action on widening once Maryland executed a comprehensive agreement with a developer to fulfill their half of the project.

“Of course that hasn’t happened, nothing significant has happened since December to justify us reversing our opinion,” Foust said. “I want to make it clear, I think it’s a mistake. Going forward without agreement from Maryland is exposing us to worsening impacts.”

But Fairfax County has faced mounting pressure to endorse 495 NEXT, most recently from Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay and others on the board described the endorsement as a good-faith move on Fairfax’s part.

“We don’t entirely control the schedule here,” McKay said. “There are some signfiicant benefits to this project. Everyone is familiar with the gridlock that Foust has explained…We’re close to a guarantee that Maryland is making significant progress.”

“This is a chance for Fairfax County to be a leader,” Supervisor Pat Herrity agreed, “and I think this encourages Maryland to move forward.”

The endorsement passed in a 8 to 2 vote, with Foust and Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn voting against it. The new lanes are scheduled to open to traffic in 2024.

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Updated 4:50 p.m. to correctly attribute a quote to Martin Smith.

The McLean Citizens Association wants to see significant changes to the downtown revitalization plan slated to go before the Fairfax County Planning Commission this month.

Members of this board focused their criticisms of Fairfax County’s most recent draft plan to update the McLean Community Business Center on parking, building height, overall density, stormwater management, and schools.

The MCA passed a resolution on April 7 opposing the document unless the county made a number of changes, including:

  • Reduce language encouraging underground and on-street parking in favor of language protecting surface parking
  • Guarantee that a developer’s proposed building height includes all above-roof features
  • Require a 10-year review midway through the plan’s proposed 20-year vision with regard to increasing density
  • Eliminate language that encourages “innovative solutions” to school overcrowding if, as density increases, schools need to expand

Multiple board members said the resolution contains emphatic language in the wake of the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance Modernization project. That initiative encountered vocal opposition from many homeowners’ groups, including MCA, but was ultimately approved 7-3 by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

“We took a softer, more positive approach on zMOD and I’m not sure it got us anywhere with zMOD,” MCA board member Jen Jones said. “I think this is just as important as that was, and I think taking a stronger stance makes a lot of sense.”

Martin Smith, who opposes the McLean CBC plan completely, likewise voiced support for the resolution but said he wished the language were even stronger.

“I support this because I think it’s clear that we don’t like the fact that they haven’t responded to our previous suggestions, and I just think we have to make a stronger statement,” he said.

But some members said the resolution contained language that was too strong.

“I think that this is a document which we agree with on very many points,” board member Ron Bleeker said. “There have been some very good points which have been raised and should be considered. Whether this requires us to say we oppose the entire document, I think may not be the best approach.”

Fairfax County staff recently revised its drafted plan to revitalize downtown McLean in response to a wave of public feedback.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust and Fairfax County staff say they plan to further engage with the MCA.

“The provisions of the proposed comprehensive plan are very good, but we have time to make them even better before the plan is presented to the Board of Supervisors for approval,” Foust said. “The MCA’s resolution is helpful, and each of their recommendations will be considered as the language of the draft plan is finalized.”

Leanna O’Donnell, planning division director of the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Development, said her department is reviewing the resolution and will be reaching out to discuss the MCA’s concerns.

The draft will go before the Planning Commission on April 28 and the Board of Supervisors on May 18.

Photo via Fairfax County

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Some big changes are coming to McLean, and Dranesville Supervisor John Foust says he supports many — but not all — of them.

During a “Good Morning, McLean” breakfast hosted by the Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce yesterday morning (Thursday), Foust highlighted ongoing redevelopment work to the downtown area and Chain Bridge Road, but expressed caution about proposed zoning changes.

He repeated his support for the McLean Commercial Business Center revitalization plan despite some vocal opposition, saying it encourages development while protecting those who do not want McLean to become the next Tysons. The Fairfax County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the plan on April 28, and it will go before the Board of Supervisors on May 18.

Foust also spoke favorably about Tri-State Development’s proposal to build a 35-unit senior living facility with townhouses on a Chain Bridge Road site that would otherwise fit nine single-family homes. Earlier this month, the planning commission deferred a decision on the plan until next Wednesday (March 17).

“It’s exactly what McLean residents are looking for who want to downsize but don’t want to leave McLean,” Foust said. “Fundamentally, it’s a good application, and I think it’ll probably get approved.”

The project has received some pushback from nearby residents who say the project extends the business district into their residential area and will cause transportation and parking problems.

Foust acknowledged these complaints, adding that a dedicated left turn lane at the Chain Bridge and Davidson Road intersection could be needed to account for car and foot traffic. Ultimately, though, he believes it is better than the alternative for developers.

“Building nine houses would’ve been miserable,” he said.

McLean is also bracing for the potential impact of Fairfax County’s Zoning Ordinance Modernization project. Most of the changes proposed by county staff are “non-controversial” and will simplify frustrating ordinances, Foust said.

But he opposes a few elements that have also consternated the public, including proposed regulations on flags and changes to the permits required to operate a business from home.

Foust says loosening customer and signage rules for home-based businesses could lead to more businesses in residential areas.

“Staff prepared, I think, a very liberalized version,” he said. “I’m not excited about the direction staff is trying to take this.”

Outside of development and zoning issues, Foust says that, as chair of the Board of Supervisors’ economic initiatives committee, he has been focused on how Fairfax County will recover from the COVID-19 pandemic once it’s over.

The committee will receive a presentation on Tuesday from a consultant that the county hired last year to develop recommendations for its road to recovery. Right now, about $15 million are earmarked for implementing recovery programs, but Foust predicts “that number will increase dramatically” when Fairfax County receives federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act.

According to Fairfax County, that sum could be $222.56 million, although the exact amount has not yet been confirmed by the federal government.

In the meantime, the vaccine process is picking up, even with more than 103,000 people currently on Fairfax County’s waitlist.

“We’re getting through it,” Foust said. “…I get so frustrated sometimes with the failures we’ve encountered, the bumps in the road, but when I step back and look at what staff and others are accomplishing, it’s just amazing.”

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Friday Morning Notes

McLean Project for the Arts Proposes New Single-Building Art Center — “The McLean Project for the Arts (MPA) is advancing a revised, single-building concept for its proposed art center at McLean’s Clemyjontri Park that would be more efficient, accessible and secure than the initial multiple-building design.” [Inside Nova] 

Falls Church High School Student Recognized by Governor for Black History Awareness Efforts — “A group of 52 students from Laurel Ridge Elementary School and one student from Falls Church High School have been recognized by Governor Ralph Northam for nominating Black Virginians to be recognized on highway markers throughout the state.” [FCPS]

Upcoming Virtual Open House for Plan to Revitalize Downtown McLean — “Curious about a draft plan to revitalize downtown McLean over the next 20 years? We want your feedback at the Nov. 7 virtual open house!” [Twitter]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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The announcement of more delays for the Silver Line have led to concerns from Supervisors Dalia Palchik and John Foust that Metro isn’t giving the communities around the Tysons area a fair shake.

Metro was one of several topics the supervisors spoke to the McLean Citizens Association about earlier this week.

“They are currently talking about reducing Metrorail service across the system to 80%,” Foust said. “Except that they’re saying they don’t have the funds to commence service on Phase II of the Silver Line.”

While Foust said the second phase of the Silver Line expansion isn’t quite ready for opening, it will be soon, and Foust said it deserved to be treated like any other wing of the Silver Line. Foust was particularly vexed by arguments from WMATA that Metro lines that had been operational before the shutdowns will be prioritized for service.

“If they get 80%, we should get 80%,” Foust said. “We’ve invested $6 billion into the Silver Line… I’m advocating for opening Phase 2 of the Silver Line as soon as possible.”

Palchik said these issues have been exacerbated by lack of communication between WMATA and Fairfax County.

“We found out, maybe hours before the public, that the Orange and Silver lines were being shut down,” Palchik said. “The lack of communication between our boards and the WMATA boards is frustrating beyond compare. [We] need to ensure we’re not seen as the wicked stepchild of the metro system.”

Staff photo by Michelle Goldchain

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As the Tysons plan reaches its 10-year anniversary, Supervisors John Foust and Dalia Palchik spoke candidly to the McLean Citizens Association last night (Wednesday) about some of the challenges facing the Tysons plan today.

While many of the issues were Tysons-specific, they are also challenges the entire region faces as Northern Virginia becomes more urbanized:

  • Walkability
  • Schools
  • Affordable Housing

For some of these, the recent pandemic has both brought the issues into focus and helped present new opportunities.

“One of my favorite topics is walkability,” Palchik said. “[We’re] looking now at how we make Tysons more walkable.”

Palchik pointed to a recent success in temporarily closing a section of Tysons Blvd to allow for more cycling and walking. Palchik pointed to it as a step in the right direction, but said it also took a lot of work to make it happen.

“It took a month to get Fairfax and the Department of Transportation to agree on a location,” Palchik said. “I hope to see more flexibility to create a sense of place.”

Palchik pointed to the planned pedestrian and bike bridge going over the beltway as another upcoming walkability success. Tysons is also slated for more investments to connect the blooming city’s street grid.

“Sometimes, new streets can feel in conflict with existing conditions, but [we’re] trying to make it more walkable,” Palchik said. “Change can be hard, but we’re looking at the upsides and really listening.”

Palchik and Foust both repeatedly praised the foundation of the Tysons plan, but said there are things that need tweaking.

“One issue that continues to bother me is the fact that we don’t have a plan for delivering school facilities in Tysons yet,” Foust said. “We have gotten a proffer of land for an elementary school. That’s an issue that’s going to head up, going forward.”

Palchik said the county needs to be more flexible on how schools are built, for example, building smaller schools with less grade levels than traditional elementary, middle, and high school models.

“We’ve been working on proffers, because the county can’t buy land,” Palchik said. “We’re looking at being more flexible, knowing this area is urbanizing. Can we get five acres? Can portions of development be dedicated to classrooms?”

Foust said another issue that’s really been prevalent during the pandemic is the lack of affordable housing in the area.

“Our challenge is delivering housing for 80% below and 60% below [Area Median Income],” Foust said. “We’re working on that challenge to increase the amount of housing that is truly affordable.”

COVID-19, Foust said, has hopefully helped to highlight the role essential workers play.

“COVID, if nothing else, has opened up our eyes to who is truly our essential workers, and they’re not the people making the income that can put you in a luxury apartment in Tysons,” Foust said. “They’re the kind of people working in the department stores and grocery stores, the service providers, and they deserve to live in the community where they work.”

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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In 2010, a plan was approved to help turn Tysons into a fully fledged city. Now, the McLean Citizens Association is planing to talk to County leadership and learn about how those plans have progressed.

The MCA is hosting a conversation tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7:30 p.m. with Fairfax County Supervisors John Foust and Dalia Palchik on how Tysons has changed over the last ten years since the new Comprehensive Plan was adopted.

“The session, moderated by MCA President Rob Jackson, will be in person at the McLean Community Center and live-streamed on our Facebook Page,” the MCA said in a press release. “Prior reservations are required for admission to the in-person session, and all county COVID-19 guidelines, including the wearing of masks at all times, and social distancing will be enforced.”

Each supervisor is scheduled to share their thoughts on how Tysons has changed, followed by a question and answer session and some closing remarks.

Attendance of the in-person event is for MCA members only, though anyone can view the Facebook livestream. No more than 50 people will be allowed in-person, including speakers and support personnel. Registration for the in-person portion can be made online.

Questions should be sent in advance of the session to [email protected]

Image via Fairfax County Board of Supervisors

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A controversy at the library level led to a heated exchanged at Fairfax County Board of Supervisors today (Tuesday) as the Board’s lone Republican pushed back against a motion to ensure the various boards and commissions consider the county’s standards of diversity.

Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay started the meeting with a motion for staff to circulate the One Fairfax policy and training to all boards and commissions and that members sign acknowledgement to confirm they have received and reviewed the policy. The One Fairfax policy adopted in 2017 creates a standard of social and racial equity that the Board of Supervisors committed to considering when making decisions or developing programs and services.

The fight centered around what Supervisor Pat Herrity lambasted as an attack on Phillip Rosenthal, a Fairfax County Library Board of Trustees member who faces calls for resignation from Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay and others.

At a July 29 meeting, Rosenthal decried highlighting material about Black Lives Matter and by Muslim authors, Patch first reported.

Backlash to Rosenthal’s comments was swift, but Herrity has vocally defended Rosenthal, who he appointed to the Library Board of Trustees in 2018. At the Board of Supervisors meeting, Herrity defended Rosenthal again and said the motion was a move towards silencing dissent.

“When we try to silence the other side we enter a slippery slope,” Herrity said. “To take someone out because they don’t agree with our political agenda… I think that’s a slippery slope.”

While McKay protested that the board matter wasn’t about an individual person, the text of the item did say “comments made at a recent Library Board of Trustees meeting highlight that we still have a long was to go before we truly become One Fairfax.”

“Things appointee said were hurtful,” McKay said. “I called for his resignation for a lot of reasons.”

Herrity found little support from the other members of the Board of Supervisors, receiving particular rebuke from Dranesville Supervisor John Foust.

“[Herrity] totally misstakes and mischaracterizes the statements Mr. Rosenthal has made,” Foust said. “Everything I hear about Rosenthal is that he’s a decent man who makes many contributions to our community, but his comments at the library board need to be read to understand why so many people were so hurt and why we’re being so misled by Supervisor’s Herrity comments about this.”

Foust ran through a list of Rosenthal’s controversial statements at the library board, which included calling Black Lives Matter activists Marxists and expressing frustration about a reading program aimed at supporting LGBTQ youth.

“To characterize them as Herrity does about the statement for the need for more diverse views in the catalog of books is ridiculous, outrageous, and totally misleading,” Foust said.

Supervisor Dalia Palchik, representing the Providence district, argued that while Herrity had appointed Rosenthal, what Rosenthal said and did reflects on the Board of Supervisors as a whole.

McKay’s motion was passed, with only Herrity voting against it.

Image via Fairfax County

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