MCA Supports Proposal to Replace Office Building — “The McLean Citizens Association’s board of directors on July 7 passed a resolution generally supportive of a proposed townhouse development at 7700 Leesburg Pike, but sought changes to bolster pedestrian safety and discourage cut-through traffic.” [Sun Gazette]
Lack of Transparency Frustrates Justice Park Advocates — Documents obtained by the community group Justice for Justice Park, which opposes a proposal to convert part of the Falls Church park into a parking lot, show that county park and school officials had been negotiating a land transfer for two years without telling the public. The group argues a master plan amendment should be required before any moves are made. [The Annandale Blog]
New Jersey Driver Wanted for Assault on Police Officer — According to the Fairfax County Police Department’s weekly report, a police officer was treated at a hospital for minor injuries after attempting to arrest a man who was driving a vehicle without the owner’s permission. The incident occurred in the 2000 block of Peach Orchard Drive in Tysons on July 3, and the man has not been located yet. [FCPD]
Vienna Named Bicycle-Friendly Community — The Town of Vienna has been recognized by the League of American Bicyclists as a bronze-level Bicycle-Friendly Community, an award given to “communities that demonstrate a strong commitment to bicycling by creating transportation and recreational resources that benefit residents and improve the quality of life.” [Town of Vienna]
MCA Shares Concerns About McLean Central Park Proposal — The McLean Citizens Association unanimously approved a letter last week highlighting its reservations about the Fairfax County Park Authority’s McLean Central Park redesign. Top concerns include noise and traffic impacts from the proposed amphitheater and a need to coordinate with other county projects, such as the McLean downtown revitalization plan. [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]
Federal Relief Will Be Windfall for Falls Church City — The Falls Church City Council learned Monday (June 7) that the city will receive an estimated $18 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds over two years, including $15 million from the American Rescue Plan and about $2.9 million from the CARES Act. Councilmembers say it’s “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for a city with an annual operating budget of just over $100 million. [Falls Church News-Press]
McLean Student Will Compete on Reality TV Show — Max Feinberg, a rising senior at McLean High School, will appear on Season 13 of American Ninja Warrior, a reality TV series where athletes compete to navigate obstacle courses. This is the show’s first season with a lowered age limit of 15. Feinberg’s episode will air on NBC on June 23. [Dranesville District School Board Member Elaine Tholen]
Falls Church Arts Grant Program Opens for Applications — “The City of Falls Church welcomes applications for eligible non-profit organizations that support the arts, culture, theater, and history based within the City of Falls Church. The application deadline is July 21, 2021 and funds must be utilized before May 16, 2022.” [City of Falls Church]
It was the second deferral for the plan to guide development in downtown McLean, which has been developing over the last three years. The hotly debated plan was originally slated to go before the commission for a public hearing in April but was deferred to May. During that time, further revisions were made to the final draft.
Now, the planning commission will make a decision on June 9 ahead of a Board of Supervisors meeting set for June 22.
“A lot of hard work has been put into this,” Dranesville District Commissioner John Ulfelder said. “I think those revisions help with some of the issues that have arisen since the original staff report. But we’re going to hear from the community there are still differences of opinion about the proposed language.”
Nearly two dozen speakers voiced their opinions at the commission’s public hearing last week, and a majority had criticisms of certain aspects of the plan or the plan in its entirety. Among the demands were more stringent stormwater protections, more surface parking, and a lower cap on residential units.
Covering a 230-acre area between Dolley Madison Boulevard, Chain Bridge Road, and Old Dominion Road, the draft plan is meant to incentivize developers to come to McLean and build more residential density in exchange for public open space and other community amenities. The plan also no longer prescribes specific uses for specific properties.
The plan divides the downtown area into Center, General, and Edge zones, each with height requirements. It allows for up to 3,850 residential units in McLean, which currently has 1,280 units.
Robert Jackson, president of the McLean Citizens Association, said the organization opposes the newest draft plan on the grounds of parking and stormwater management.
“Some changes made, and we are pleased with some of them, but [those] two major issues remain unaddressed satisfactorily,” he said.
The MCA previously recommended removing the entire parking management section because “its intention is to make parking scarce, not plentiful,” he said. It also recommended restoring old language with more specific and protective stormwater requirements.
Barbara Ryan, a citizen and credentialed sustainable landscape designer, said each subsequent draft has diluted stormwater management requirements. She called for restoring a requirement that new development retains one inch of water and imposing a volume limit on runoff, rather than requiring a reduction.
“The focus needs to address flooding and streambed erosion concerns, particularly as we are seeing downstream erosion in Pimmit Run,” she said.
Responding to earlier input, county staff recently added a provision stating that the plan will be reviewed either in 2031 or when 1,660 units are built or in development, whichever comes first. That would result in 2,360 total units in McLean, which is a few hundred more than the current upper limit of 2,175.
But planning commissioners were skeptical of the 10-year timeframe.
“One of the issues in development years is that 10 years is in the blink of an eye,” Ulfelder said. “I think this is necessary and appropriate, but it’s not clear to me what we’ll know in this timeframe unless the developers are hanging outside the CBC waiting for this plan amendment to be passed — salivating, waiting to put together some blocks of land, particularly in the center zone.” Read More
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
Fairfax County’s government workers union urged the Board of Supervisors yesterday (Tuesday) to adopt a fiscal year 2022 budget that includes increased compensation for employees, whose year-long pay freeze would be prolonged if the county’s proposed budget takes effect.
The testimony came during the first of three public hearings on the advertised FY 2022 budget that have been scheduled for this week. There will also be hearings at 3 p.m. today and tomorrow (Thursday).
Service Employees International Union Virginia 512, which represents social workers, librarians, maintenance staff, and other general county government employees, says that its top priorities for the new budget are ending the pay freeze and establishing rules for collective bargaining.
“For over one year, we have worked tirelessly to keep the community running,” SEIU Virginia 512 President Tammie Wondong said. “We have done everything we can to keep Fairfax families healthy and safe, even when we have not been healthy and safe ourselves. Today, we are asking that you recognize and value county employees in this year’s budget.”
Wondong acknowledged that the county has made an effort to support employees during the COVID-19 pandemic by expanding leave options and providing hazard pay. The board is also considering offering one-time bonuses in the FY 2021 budget as part of its third-quarter review, which will be approved on April 27.
However, the union argues that that remains insufficient compensation for employees who are essential to maintaining county services but often struggle with the rising costs of housing, healthcare, and other needs.
Fairfax County Health Department employee Jenny Berkman-Parker said in a video that played during the public hearing that the most recent evidence of the ongoing pay freeze’s impact on her family came in the form of an email from her son’s university, which announced that it will raise tuition costs by 5% next year.
“I was trying to be understanding the first year. The second year is definitely more stressful,” she said. “…Now that we’re having pay freezes for two years in a row and we’ve had pay freezes in the past, my income is no longer keeping up with the cost of living.”
Fairfax County Public Schools employees would also have their pay frozen again under the advertised FY 2022 budget. The Fairfax County School Board requested a 3% pay raise for all employees, but that was not incorporated into the county’s proposal, which increases funding for the school system by just $14.1 million.
The Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, which represents all non-administrative FCPS staff, said in a press release issued on Monday (April 12) that 60% of respondents to a poll it conducted reported living paycheck to paycheck. Three out of four respondents said they have considered leaving for another school district due to the pay freeze.
“These statistics should not be the case in one of the wealthiest districts in the Commonwealth,” FCFT President Tina Williams said. “…Our district and county must do better.”
County Executive Bryan Hill’s proposed budget largely limits spending in response to the ongoing demands of the pandemic and uncertainty about the county’s future recovery.
When he presented his proposal on Feb. 23, Hill told the Board of Supervisors that it would cost more than $55 million to fund the county’s employee compensation program, including almost $30 million for a 2% market rate adjustment. Read More
A planned overhaul of The Madeira School won the uncontested endorsement of the McLean Citizens Association last week as it moves towards the Fairfax County Planning Commission for review.
The Madeira School is an all-girl’s private school at 8328 Georgetown Pike in McLean founded in 1906. While not looking to expand its student population, the school is hoping to expand and renovate some of the outdated buildings.
The centerpiece of the proposal is the removal of the site’s existing science building so it can be replaced with a new structure with upgraded classrooms. Other additions include a stables building, a new residential hall, and new faculty housing.
In an article on the school’s website, school administrators say the new classrooms will replace outdated 1970s facilities that don’t meet the school’s needs and are difficult to maintain.
“Replacing Madeira’s current science facility is a critical need — and not only because our curriculum has outgrown it,” the school said. “We are limited by our current building, constructed in the 1970s, which is extremely costly to maintain, has an insufficient number of classrooms, antiquated laboratories, structural flaws, and inflexible spaces. The new building will elevate the program for Madeira’s engaged students and signals a bold new standard.”
With very little discussion, the McLean Citizens Association voted to approve a resolution endorsing the school’s application to amend its existing special exception permit during a board of directors’ meeting on April 7.
The Madeira School’s application to the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning states that it is seeking the following modifications and improvements:
- Removal of the existing Biedler Science Center building, elimination of a previously approved but unbuilt addition to the building, and construction of a new STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) building. Construction of this building will be key to upgrading all of the School’s classrooms, because it will relocate several existing math classrooms out of the Schoolhouse I building, leaving a block of space that can be spread around both Schoolhouse buildings for reconfiguring and upgrading purposes.
- Removal of the existing Stables building, including elimination of a previously approved but unbuilt addition, and removal of the existing Gaines Hall Indoor Riding Ring building, and construction of a new Stables building, riding arena, and hot walker’.
- Removal of the existing two-story residence known as the “Farmhouse,” to be replaced by a new two-story, 5,000 square foot residence.
- Removal of the existing residence known as the “Laurels,” to be replaced with six units for faculty housing. The proposed faculty housing will be four-story two-over-two stacked townhouses. The density for such units has been reallocated from previously approved faculty housing units that were not constructed to their maximum approved square footage.
- Removal of the existing Health Center, to be replaced with eight units for faculty housing. The proposed units will be four-story two-over-two stacked townhouses. The density for such units has been reallocated from previously approved faculty housing units that were not constructed to their maximum approved square footage. The Health Center function will move into the current studio arts building.
The proposed improvements and uses are accessory to the existing primary use as a private school of general education with an enrollment of more than 100 students. None of these projects will encroach into the existing RPA. All previously approved structures that have not yet been constructed are deemed to be approved pursuant to the previous approvals and are depicted
The Planning Commission hearing for the project is scheduled for Wednesday, April 28.
Image via Madeira School
The McLean Citizen Association (MCA) will host a public safety forum on criminal justice reform on April 21 at 7 p.m. According to an MCA flier, the event will feature a panel to address issues such as “police use of force, oversight, accountability and reform.”
Panelists for this forum will include:
- Adrian Steel, former member of the Fairfax County Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission and the inaugural chair of the Fairfax County Police Civilian Review Panel
- Fairfax County Fraternal Order of Police President Brad Carruthers
- Fairfax County Coalition of Police, Local 5000, President Sean Corcoran
- Fairfax County NAACP President Karen Campblin
- Current Civilian Review Panel Vice Chair James Bierman
- Fairfax County Independent Police Auditor Richard Schott
If time permits, there will be a question-and-answer session for the public to talk to the panelists.
The future of policing and public safety has become a top concern in Fairfax County in recent months as the county searches for a new police chief to succeed Edwin Roessler, who retired in February after eight years in the position. Deputy County Executive for Public Safety David Rohrer is currently serving as the county’s interim police chief.
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay and Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk, who chairs the board’s public safety committee, held a public input session on Tuesday (April 6) where community members shared their thoughts on what the county should look for in its next police chief.
This will be the McLean Citizens Association’s second public safety forum in the past five months after the group hosted a discussion with Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano on Dec. 16.
MCA also passed a resolution in July 2020 condemning the actions of a white Fairfax County police officer who tased a Black man and knelt on his neck.
In that resolution, MCA urged county leaders and the Fairfax County Police Department “to provide additional and ongoing training to FCPD officers regarding racial neutrality and identify and take rigorous disciplinary action…of officers who have a history of…using unjustified force or abusive conduct towards African Americans and other minorities,” amongst other requests.
Registration is required to attend the upcoming forum. An email with the Zoom link will be sent to all registered guests. Guests may also view the live streamed event on the MCA Facebook page after the meeting is complete.
Photo via McLean Citizens Association/Facebook
The time for community members to weigh in on Fairfax County’s FY 2022 advertised budget has arrived.
The McLean Citizens Association hosted a public meeting on Monday (Mar. 1) so residents could discuss the proposed budget with Fairfax County Chief Financial Officer Joe Mondoro and Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust.
Mondoro kicked off the meeting by discussing highlights of the budget, including the county executive’s recommendation to decrease the real estate tax rate by one cent and building on the $200.2 million the county received through the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund.
During the question-and-answer portion of the meeting, attendees asked if the value of commercial properties could change as leases end and some businesses migrate to smaller workspaces.
“We’re on the edge of a pretty significant paradigm shift in terms of the ways people think about office space,” Mondoro said, adding that the office and retail component of the budget is going to need to be evaluated on an ongoing basis.
While anticipating that the value of the properties will continue to decline, he offered a bit of optimism that a balance of teleworking and in-person work will be found in coming years that could help improve the value of office space.
Mondoro also said that all markets in the area are down and “the negativity is pretty much across the board” in terms of decreases in non-residential revenue.
“There are still differences based on where the buildings are located,” Mondoro said. “Those that are more appealing in non-pandemic years are more appealing now.”
Foust argued that, while Fairfax County should focus on building up its commercial base, it also needs to reduce its reliance on real estate taxes as a source of revenue.
“We have a fundamental structural problem in that we rely so heavily on real estate taxes,” Foust said. “…Other revenue sources will need to be established in order to make the revenue more dependent on economic activity and economic success as opposed to owning a home for 20 years, which has appreciated significantly more than your income has increased.”
Audience questions also touched on the possible impact of existing and future federal financial aid.
Fairfax County received $200.2 million from the CARES Act after it was signed into law last March to cover expenses incurred due to COVID-19. The advertised budget does not assume additional stimulus funds, but county staff is monitoring another potential round of payments that could come from a new package currently being negotiated in Congress.
Mondoro tempered anticipation that more federal aid could be used to help lower the property tax rates or fund public services like affordable housing or schools, noting that the money is non-recurring and comes with stipulations regarding how it can be spent.
Foust reiterated Mondoro’s words of caution, though he said the county will take a look at all possibilities.
“There may be one-time charges in the budget we can pay through the federal funds,” Foust said. “Last time we were told, we were told that we cannot replace funds. Everything we spent had to be in addition to what we had previously planned to spend and could not be used to pay for things that we had previously planned to spend [on].”
Image via McLean Citizens Association
The McLean Citizens Association (MCA) board of directors passed a resolution last night (Wednesday) in support of an indepedent living community for seniors that has been proposed for Chain Bridge Road.
Under the name Tri-State Chain Bridge LLC, the McLean-based Tri-State Development Companies has applied for a special exception from Fairfax County to construct a facility with 35 attached condominium units and a 3,600 square-foot clubhouse on a 3.2-acre site at 1638 and 1642 Chain Bridge Road across from Davidson Road.
“The MCA supports this Application because of the desirable and unique situation of the Property for this kind of housing and because it meets an expressed need of the senior residents of McLean,” the MCA resolution says.
However, MCA’s support of the project comes with some conditions.
The community group recommends that Tri-State commit to paying for the installation of a traffic light at the Chain Bridge and Davidson intersection if Virginia and Fairfax County transportation officials ever determine that one is needed.
Tri-State’s statement of justification to Fairfax County states that “a signal is not warranted” for that intersection. A traffic impact assessment found that the proposed facility would generate approximately seven trips during morning peak hours and nine trips during the evening peak, producing an estimated total of 85 daily trips.
MCA board member Winnie Pizzano, who lives near the proposed development site on Westmoreland Street, suggested setting a limit on how long the developer could be obligated to pay for a potential traffic light.
“I’d like to have a light there. It would make a big difference. But I’m not convinced that there’s enough traffic flowing up Davidson,” Pizzano said. “…In the long term, you’re asking this association to pay for a light, the need for which may be generated by other communities that could be built along there.”
The board discussed Pizzano’s proposal, but it was not incorporated into the final resolution.
Other conditions attached to MCA’s support of the project include requirements that Tri-State contract with a transportation service to facilitate outings for residents of the independent living community and a healthcare provider so residents have around-the-clock access.
“The applicant should be bound to stronger covenants to better assure that the contemplated services for seniors will in fact be provided and that the age limitations are enforced,” MCA Planning and Zoning Committee Chair Scott Spitzer said.
A Fairfax County planning staff report on the Tri-State project is scheduled to be released on Feb. 9 before the proposal goes before the county planning commission for a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 24.
Image via Google Maps
A proposal to build a wireless communications tower next to a fire station in Vienna is about get a vote of confidence from the McLean Citizens Association.
The unofficial town council of McLean will discuss a resolution supporting the project when its board of directors meets at 7:30 tonight (Wednesday).
“The Application is consistent with and furthers the goals and objectives of the [Fairfax County] Comprehensive Plan, and will provide improved communication services without undue impact on the surrounding community,” a draft of the proposed MCA resolution says.
The Reston-based cell tower developer Milestone Communications submitted plans to Fairfax County in October for a wireless tower on the Wolf Trap Fire Station site at the intersection of Leesburg Pike and Beulah Road.
According to Milestone’s plans, the tower will consist of a 114-foot-tall pole with antennas, topped by a two-foot lightning rod, and it will be surrounded by an eight-foot-tall chain link fence. The facility is expected to occupy 2,500 square feet within the 11.5-acre site, which is owned by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
Milestone says all existing structures and open space will be preserved, and the impact of the unmanned facility on neighboring properties will be minimal, noting that the structure will be screened by existing trees.
“There will be no noise or fumes emitted and only 1-2 maintenance vehicle visit sper month maximum,” the plan submitted to Fairfax County says.
The tower will be initially outfitted with Verizon wireless cables and antennas, though designs show that it will be able to accommodate at least four more wireless carriers in the future.
In order to pursue the project, Milestone has asked Fairfax County to grant a special exception and a proffer condition amendment to permit telecommunications facilities on the site, which is zoned for low-density residential use.
The project also has to be approved through the county’s 2232 review process, which determines whether proposals for public facilities are in accordance with the county’s comprehensive plan.
The MCA board of directors notes in its draft resolution that Milestone held a virtual town hall to present the project to the community and has agreed to provide additional buffering to further minimize the visual impact in response to community comments.
MCA says it supports the Milestone tower because it will “improve the cell phone capacity and coverage levels in the areas surrounding the property and would also work with existing neighboring Verizon sites to handoff signals for wireless transmission of voice and data.”
“This will improve customer service including Internet connectivity speed and voice connectivity, resolve customer complaints in the area, and help address increasing demand for quality wireless service so that the service does not further degrade,” the MCA resolution says.
The Fairfax County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the Milestone tower on May 12, and a hearing before the Board of Supervisors has been scheduled for June 8.