Newsletter

The McLean Citizens Association is hosting an online forum Feb. 28 to give people a chance to ask questions to local government and school leaders.

The meeting will come less than a week after Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill is scheduled to present his proposed budget for fiscal year 2023 on Tuesday (Feb. 22).

Hill projected in November that the county will see “robust” revenue growth in the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1, due primarily to growth in the real estate tax base.

However, the forecast also anticipated a $40.7 million shortfall, noting that a tax relief expansion could reduce revenue by $12 million.

The MCA’s annual forum will occur from 7 to 9 p.m. with Hill, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, and chief financial officers for the county and Fairfax County Public Schools slated to attend.

Those seeking to ask questions must register, as attendance will be capped at 100 people. But the group will also livestream the event on its Facebook page.

Both the county Board of Supervisors and FCPS pass their own budgets. Superintendent Scott Brabrand presented his proposed budget for the school system on Jan. 13, and the school board discussed it at a work session on Feb. 8.

The school board is scheduled to adopt an advertised budget on Feb. 24.

In the past, MCA’s budget forum has provided insight into tax implications of the county budget and how limited funding sources, including federal COVID-19 relief measures, will affect revenues.

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Morning Notes

Herrity Criticizes Langley HS Book Display — Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity took issue with a display in Langley High School’s library featuring books “some adults don’t want you to read.” The supervisor later claimed that Fairfax County Public Schools “apologized for the sign on display” and “are now reviewing their policies and procedures.” [Pat Herrity/Twitter]

How to Detect COVID-19 Scams — “Martin Bailey, a member of the Northern Virginia AARP Fraud Watch Network, the Virginia Senior Medicare Patrol and Fairfax County’s Silver Shield Task Force, regularly produces a Scam Slam audio series. And the most recent Scam Slams cover these COVID scams — unsubstantiated COVID-19 treatment claims appearing on social media platforms, phony COVID testing sites and how to get your free COVID test kits.” [Fairfax County Health Department]

Tysons Ritz-Carlton Among Top Virginia Hotels — “We are delighted to share that The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner has been awarded the #9 Best Hotel in Virginia and #20 in Washington, D.C., and has earned a Gold Badge in the Best USA Category by U.S. News and World Report! Thank you to our guests for supporting us through the years and for the #RCMemories shared.” [The Ritz-Carlton Tysons/Facebook]

General Assembly Hits Midpoint — It’s crossover day for the Virginia General Assembly, when the House and Senate take up the other chamber’s bills. The Republican-controlled House has passed a slate of bills favored by Gov. Glenn Youngkin, including restrictions on voting, abortion, and school curriculums, while the Democratic Senate has mostly blocked the governor’s agenda. [The Washington Post]

McLean Budget Forum Scheduled — With the new proposed county government budget set to be unveiled next Tuesday (Feb. 22), the McLean Citizens Association will host a free, virtual public forum on the topic on Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. Participants will include Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, School Board Representative Elaine Tholen, and County Executive Bryan Hill. [MCA]

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A crosswalk on Dolley Madison Boulevard at Elm Street (via Google Maps)

The McLean Citizens Association (MCA) will weigh in tonight (Wednesday) on the bicycle and pedestrian safety projects that it believes Fairfax County should fast-track.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors set a goal on Oct. 5 of spending at least $100 million on bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure improvements through June 30, 2027, stating that federal relief funds have given the county some flexibility to make one-time investments.

In an email to members, MCA says Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust has asked for its help identifying priorities for McLean, as county leaders consider which projects to potentially fund and expedite.

MCA’s transportation committee has identified 14 projects in a draft resolution that its board of directors could vote on during a virtual meeting at 7:30 p.m. President Rob Jackson said changes to those plans could occur, but he suggested proposals should be done so before the meeting to build support.

“Even assuming the $100 million is split evenly among the nine Magisterial Districts, our priorities complete [sic] with projects in the Herndon and Great Falls areas,” Jackson noted in an email. “So, the Committee’s prioritizations and rationale for those priorities are critical.”

The projects would be in addition to the county’s ActiveFairfax Transportation Plan and other existing county efforts.

In its draft resolution, MCA’s transportation committee cites demand, safety concerns, and connectivity to public transit and schools as factors it considered when choosing projects to designate as priorities.

High Priority Projects

Most of the projects are near Haycock Elementary and Longfellow Middle schools, which the resolution says suffer from cracks and bulges on area sidewalks.

In addition to proposing sidewalk repairs along Westmoreland Street between Gordon Avenue and Haycock Road, the draft resolution focuses on possible improvements north of Haycock Road:

  • Repairs to an asphalt trail between Westmoreland and Great Falls Street
  • Widening the concrete sidewalk by 1 foot on the bridge over I-66 to accommodate pedestrians walking side-by-side or going in opposite directions
  • An engineering study looking at options to make the walkway between the I-66 bridge and Great Falls Street consistently 5 feet in width, reduce sloping, and add a painted crosswalk across the Turner Avenue intersection

Other key projects included in the draft resolution address concerns to the north end of McLean:

  • Study a potential pedestrian bridge across Dolley Madison Boulevard and other safety upgrades, such as traffic beacons at the Ingleside Avenue or Elm Street crosswalks
  • Repair an asphalt trail along Balls Hill Road between Thrasher Road and Heather Hill Lane

The seventh high-priority project is to construct a sidewalk near Lemon Road Elementary School on Redd Road from Idylwood Road to Reddfield Drive in Pimmit Hills.

Secondary Projects Identified

The resolution also includes a list of secondary projects that MCA would like the county to pursue when possible:

  • Repair portions of an asphalt trail along Dolley Madison Boulevard between Old Dominion Drive and Lewinsville Road
  • Maintain and upgrade asphalt trail along Georgetown Pike just east of Dead Run Creek
  • Repair an asphalt trail along Douglass Drive from Georgetown Pike to Father John Court
  • Construct sidewalks along the north side of Birch Road from Birch Grove Court to Kirby Road and on Linway Terrace from the intersection of Old Dominion and Birch
  • Create a trail along Lewinsville Road between Swinks Mill Road and Bridle Path Lane
  • Conduct a study of a potential trail along the south side of Old Dominion between Balls Hill and a bridge over I-495

Photo via Google Maps

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A rendering of the McLean Crossing project, as approved in 2013 (via Fairfax County)

A mixed-use project approved nearly a decade ago near the McLean Metro station is making a comeback, expanding the amount of retail sought and potentially bringing a long-desired athletic field.

The Washington Business Journal reported Friday (Dec. 10) that developer LCOR is revising its 21-acre McLean Crossing project, increasing its retail component from the 50,000 square feet approved in 2013 to potentially three times that amount.

“LCOR anticipates that we will be able to advance our next phase of projects in late 2023,” LCOR senior vice president Josh White said in an email to Tysons Reporter, stating that the “renewed vision” includes a variety of uses to “establish a genuine neighborhood atmosphere in a submarket seeking an identity, of which retail is a major component.”

Located along Anderson Road at the Chain Bridge Road intersection, the project was envisioned in 2013 as a redevelopment of the Commons of McLean apartments, but only one of the seven planned buildings has been constructed so far: the Kingston luxury apartment high rise, which was completed in 2018.

The plan called for buildings ranging from six to 22 stories tall with 2,571 residential units, along with retail and two blocks devoted to parks.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the project on June 4, 2013, provided that the developer create a proposed athletic field by Dec. 31, 2035 near the McLean Metro station, which opened in 2014.

At that time, the field was a primary point of contention between LCOR and the county, with Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust calling the anticipated timing of its delivery bad.

The McLean Citizens Association gave its support to the proposed redevelopment, but with the condition that the athletic field be built by the end of 2025 and that more retail space be provided. Mark Zetts, then the MCA planning committee co-chair, was the only speaker at the public hearing.

“We were very reluctant to agree to the 2035 date,” G. Evan Pritchard, an attorney for the developer, told the board, citing market conditions and other factors, from building demolitions to street grid additions.

Now, the developer says it believes the previous plan should be revised. A new concept plan could end up before the county next year, according to the WBJ.

“As Kingston, LCOR’s first residential development at McLean Crossing, was delivering, LCOR reevaluated Tysons/McLean market conditions, examined other successful mixed-use projects within the region and ultimately concluded it was necessary to revise the 2013 master plan in order to create a sense of place,” White wrote.

LCOR is also bringing a new business partner onboard, “Monarch Communities, which will built a 210-unit senior housing tower in the development,” the Washington Business Journal reported.

Per the article:

About 120 of the senior units will be independent living apartments, about with another 60 assisted living and 30 memory care units, which all vary greatly in size from studios to one-bedroom and two-bedroom units.

“McLean Crossing will not only create a neighborhood center for Tysons East, but also a new downtown for McLean, given its proximity and accessibility,” White said. “The retail within McLean Crossing will be neighborhood serving and is envisioned to be a thoughtful mix of food and beverage, soft goods, etc.”

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A volunteer group that describes itself as the “unofficial town council” for the McLean community is getting an encore for its 100-plus years of service.

The McLean Citizens Association celebrated the milestone during a meeting yesterday (Wednesday), highlighting ways the organization has helped make the area what it is today, such as by contributing to the founding of the McLean Community Center.

The organization’s first meeting was on Nov. 2, 1914 as the School and Civic League of McLean, and the group celebrated a century of work in 2014.

But MCA was incorporated on June 25, 1921, giving it another chance to recognize its past.

“It’s been over a 100 years since we’ve been incorporated, and there aren’t a lot of corporations…that last 100 years,” MCA President Rob Jackson said, crediting the organization’s historians, Merrily Pierce and Paul Kohlenberger, for bringing the date to the group’s attention.

MCA has sought to give residents a local voice and minimize the effects of rapid urbanization on the community’s identity, according to a 100-year anniversary booklet, “The Voice of McLean: One Hundred Years of the McLean Citizens Association,” available in the Fairfax County Public Library’s Virginia Room.

The group was reincorporated in 1953 as the McLean Citizens Association with the tagline “the Voice of McLean.” Today, it continues to advocate for various civil, educational, and social interests, from hosting forums with public officials to weighing in on development in the greater McLean area.

According to Kohlenberger, MCA’s founding was driven by school needs.

When the Franklin Sherman School, which consolidated one-room schools in the area, opened in 1914, it lacked basic supplies. The League rallied to raise money to furnish a school auditorium, buy library books, help pave local roads, and further aid the community.

“The school was delivered, but there were no chalkboards, no books, nothing else for the students’ use,” Kohlenberger said. “That led to a tradition that we continue to this day: McLean Day.”

In 1922, the group’s civic leaders also helped launch the McLean Volunteer Fire Department and negotiated with Alexandria Power Co. to bring electricity to McLean, the booklet notes.

The power company brought a line from Falls Church and created a distribution center around a decade later. The station has undergone upgrades since then and can be seen at Chain Bridge Road and Westmoreland Street.

Other notable work by MCA, as detailed in the booklet, include:

  • Opposing a 1957 interim Fairfax County plan eyeing McLean for a 60-acre shopping mall and apartment development, instead calling for such proposals to be located in Tysons
  • Helping launch the McLean Community Center as the founding benefactor. It provided funding and part of its land to create it, notably in the ’60s and prior to a 1970 bond referendum.
  • Helping steer county funds to create McLean Central Park and a former space there called the McLean Green at the apex of Route 123 and Old Dominion Drive
  • Advocating for the county to focus on creating a park — instead of facilitating a 1969 residential development — that became the Scotts Run Nature Preserve
  • Creating a committee in 1970 to preserve trees that later turned into the nonprofit McLean Trees Foundation in 2004
  • Forming the nonprofit McLean Community Foundation in 1978 to provide philanthropic grants for community projects
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Morning Notes

County Proposes Expanding Tax Relief Program — “Today, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a public hearing on Dec. 7 to consider expanding the real estate tax relief program for seniors and people with disabilities…The expanded program would allow people with higher incomes and net worth to qualify, add a new 75% tax relief bracket and offer an option to defer tax payments.” [Fairfax County Government]

Man Sentenced in Falls Church Woman’s Drug-Related Death — “A former medical student from Ontario, Canada, was sentenced on Tuesday to one year in prison for distributing MDA — a psychedelic drug similar to MDMA, or “molly” — that resulted in the fatal overdose of a 21-year-old Falls Church woman in 2019, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.” [Patch]

MCA Takes Position on Tree Presevation Proposal — “McLean Citizens Association (MCA) board members on Nov. 3 commended the Fairfax County Tree Commission for crafting proposals to preserve the county’s tree canopy, but did not agree with all of the group’s recommendations…MCA’s resolution expressed concerns about the proposals regarding property setbacks and taller buildings.” [Sun Gazette]

Lewinsville Park Eyed for Pickleball Facilities — The Fairfax County Park Authority will present options to improve the park’s six existing tennis courts and introduce pickleball with a virtual public meeting at 7 p.m. on Dec. 1. The potential project aims to address growing demand for pickleball facilities in the greater McLean area. [FCPA]

Local Veterans’ Job Fair Is Big Draw — “One week before Veterans Day, representatives of 66 companies interviewed job-seekers at the first annual Veteran and Military Career Fair on Nov. 4, 2021…Geared toward assisting veterans, active-duty service members transitioning out of the military, and military spouses, the hybrid event was attended by 250 job-seekers at the museum, and 259 virtually attendees located around the world.” [Fairfax County Economic Development Authority]

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The Fairfax County Police Department’s newly appointed commander for the McLean District Station wants your help.

McLean District Station Commander Captain Wilson Lee and Assistant Commander Lieutenant Scott Cowell joined the McLean Citizens Association’s Board of Directors meeting on Wednesday (Nov. 3) to discuss their priorities for the station.

Lee cited taking care of the wellbeing and health of the station’s officers as his primary priority, followed by providing proper education and being proactive in preventing crime.

“If we don’t take care of our officers, we can’t really carry forward with the mission,” Lee said.

The station’s goals also include maintaining a strong relationship with the community in its purview and ensuring a high level of public engagement, he added.

“The police can’t do it by ourselves,” Lee said. “…As much as I love having our police officers everywhere we go, it’s not viable and just not possible. You guys are really our eyes and ears, and can help us tremendously in continuing to make Fairfax County safe.”

The MCA board also asked Lee about the impact of COVID-19 and the police department’s reported staffing shortages.

Starting tomorrow (Saturday), district stations will move some officers from specialty groups, such as the selective enforcement team or neighborhood patrol bike teams, to help fill patrol staffing needs, according to Lee.

He described the FCPD’s current vacancy levels of around 140 officers as “not usual” and “rather high.” However, Lee stated the McLean District Station has enough staff members to move around and “not really” take away from its specialized teams.

Most officers are vaccinated against COVID-19, and those that aren’t are getting tested regularly, according to Lee. He surmised the greatest impact of the pandemic was felt in early 2020 when the department was trying to minimize contact to avoid infections among officers.

When asked about priorities for the county’s upcoming fiscal year 2023 budget, Lee said the FCPD would like to see an increase in compensation to become more competitive in recruiting and retaining employees, echoing what officials told the Board of Supervisors last week.

Police and Fire Chief to Speak at Upcoming Forum

MCA will get a more countywide perspective on local public safety activities later this month with a forum featuring Fire and Rescue Chief John Butler and Police Chief Kevin Davis, who is speaking to the community group for the first time since taking office in May.

According to a notice from MCA, Butler and Davis will discuss their priorities, challenges, new initiatives, employee morale, fire and crime prevention, and how their departments have been affected by the growth of the Tysons area.

Davis will also talk about the FCPD’s School Resource Officer program. Neighboring Arlington County and the City of Alexandria removed SROs from schools earlier this year, though the latter reinstated the program after seeing several violent incidents to start the school year.

Some racial justice advocates have called on Fairfax County to end the use of SROs, but their efforts haven’t gained the same momentum so far.

The public safety forum will be held at 7 p.m. on Nov. 17. Advance registration is required to obtain the Zoom link, though the event will also stream live on MCA’s Facebook page.

Questions for Davis and Butler can be sent to [email protected]

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Morning Notes

Drop in Domestic Violence Cases Could Be Misleading — “Fairfax County Police data obtained by WTOP showed domestic violence decreased by roughly 190 cases each year since 2019. However, Saly Fayez, who oversees its victim services division, said it’s likely because the crime is underreported…Fayez said the pandemic kept victims from reporting, skewed the data, and gave abusers another tool of control.” [WTOP]

Fish Die-Off Reported in Chantilly Area — “We have received reports of a fish die-off in Rocky Run in the Greenbriar area. Fairfax County Stormwater Management the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, which investigates such incidents, have been notified. Our thanks to those who have reported the issue to us.” [Fairfax County Park Authority/Twitter]

MCA Wants to Keep McLean Together With Redistricting — “The Greater McLean area should be kept intact when new Fairfax County magisterial districts are redrawn, according to a Sept. 18 letter from the McLean Citizens Association to the 2021 Fairfax County Redistricting Advisory Committee…MCA’s membership area includes not only McLean, but also portions of Tysons, Falls Church and Great Falls.” [Sun Gazette]

Health Department Launches Literacy Initiative — “The Fairfax County Health Department has begun a new initiative to improve health literacy among local African-American, African and Hispanic communities. Named ‘Stronger Partnership, Stronger Community: Using Health Literacy to Increase Resilience (Stronger2),’ the program seeks to improve health outcomes by cultivating an individual’s ability to find, understand and use health information and services in a manner that is culturally and linguistically appropriate.” [FCHD]

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A new website called McLean Today launched last week with the ambitious aim of being a one-stop shop for all things related to events, activities, and shopping around McLean.

The website is a Voltron-like collaboration of several local groups: the McLean Citizens Association, the McLean Chamber of Commerce, the McLean Community Center, the McLean Revitalization Corporation, the McLean Planning Committee, and the McLean Project for the Arts.

“McLean residents and visitors looking for dinner, a local activity, a special gift or a hard-to-find item will find their search simplified by using the recently released McLean Today website,” a press release from the site said. “McLean Today, the collaborative effort of several local community organizations, is a new one-stop site to find many of the activities, events, goods and services that are close to home.”

The site’s lead organizer is local resident Kim Dorgan, who is also on the board of directors for the McLean Revitalization Corporation.

“McLean Today is your go-to source for the latest information on the activities and events, goods and services offered here in our hometown,” Dorgan said in the press release. “There is so much great information out there about what McLean has to offer, but there has been no central source to find what is offered day-in and day-out. With McLean Today, you can find what you need close to home in one place with a single search.”

The site has a selection of local dining options categorized by type. According to the press release, there are over 40 food and drink outlets listed on the site, as well as 100 businesses within walking distance or a “short drive” from McLean.

The McLean Today website launches even as Fairfax County works to do more on a planning and policy level to revitalize McLean’s downtown. The press release also notes that the impact of COVID-19 on local businesses played a role in inspiring the website’s creation.

“The aim of McLean Today is to provide a list of activities and events in one place that have community-wide impact and are of interest to the general public,” Dorgan said. “While its primary focus is the economic center of McLean in the downtown corridor, it will include activities and events throughout all of greater McLean.”

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Demolition work is underway at the former NADA headquarters at Westpark Drive in Tysons (staff photo by David Taube)

The McLean Citizens Association has thrown its support behind a planned expansion of The Boro after working with the developer to make adjustments to the project, which will replace the former NADA headquarters site in Tysons.

The volunteer group’s board of directors passed a resolution during a virtual meeting on Wednesday (Sept. 1), noting that developer The Meridian Group made changes to its plans that would appease the association as well as neighbors at The Rotonda Condominiums.

“Meridian has been very forthcoming with working with us,” Rotonda Condominium Unit Owners Association President Doug Doolittle told Tysons Reporter. “We’re pleased with our relationship with Meridian.”

The project calls for demolishing the former National Automobile Dealers Association building at 8400 Westpark Drive and introducing mixed-use development at the complex, including a residential and assisted living building for older adults, extensive retail space, new streets, park space, and more.

Doolittle said his association has been impressed with Meridian making adjustments to concerns they’ve shared.

The Rotonda Condo association hired a traffic consultant and land-use attorney and has met with the developer some eight or 10 times over the last year to address issues ranging from construction to visual impacts.

For example, a building slated to become a pharmacy won’t have windows in a rear area, so the developer arranged to have vegetation and a mural on the wall, Doolittle said.

When crews began tearing down the NADA building last week, the association sent an email to Meridian Vice President Tom Boylan, and the next day, the company had water sprayers on the site to address dust issues.

MCA board member Bob Perito reported that the citizens’ group, which bills itself as the “unofficial town hall” of the greater McLean area, had a similar experience with the developer regarding interactions with its Planning and Zoning Committee.

“The applicants…responded to detailed, written questions from the P&Z, and they modified the projects in response to some of the committee’s suggestions,” said Perito, who represents The Hamptons of McLean Townhome Association.

Meridian is scheduled to deliver a presentation to The Rotunda residents on Sept. 9. While the condo association has given regular progress updates, the meeting will give residents a chance to learn about the project firsthand. It will also be available to Rotunda residents via Zoom.

“This would be the residents’ first chance to really talk with Meridian,” Doolittle said.

Doolittle said he thinks making these requests during the planning process is a more effective way to push for meaningful change than waiting for a Fairfax County Planning Commission or Board of Supervisors public hearing.

The project builds off The Boro, which debuted in 2019 with luxury high rises, an office-and-retail building called Boro Tower, restaurants, and a 70,000-square-foot Whole Foods. The grocery store alone is the size of just over 1.2 football fields.

MCA’s resolution highlights the money for schools and a recreational field in Tysons that are included in the project’s proffers, though at-large board member Martin Smith noted that a developer contribution rate for multifamily residential units assumes there’s one kindergarten through 12th grade student per nine households.

According to the resolution, Meridian’s school contribution would amount to “$12,262 per expected student” based on varying ratios for the different kinds of residential units in the new buildings.

“That really seems low,” Smith said of the proposed rate of 0.112 students per unit for multifamily residences, wondering more about how the methodology of such contributions work.

The project will head before the Planning Commission on Oct. 6 and before the Board of Supervisors on Oct. 19.

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