Newsletter

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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Morning Notes

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]

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Morning Notes

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]

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The Fairfax County Planning Commission deferred a decision on the McLean Community Business Center comprehensive plan until June during a meeting last Wednesday (May 26).

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

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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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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

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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

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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:

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

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