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The City of Falls Church is keeping some of the relaxed restrictions on noise levels for businesses put into effect during the pandemic, but it isn’t going as far as some on the city council have wanted.

The Falls Church City Council voted 6-1 on Monday (May 10) to accept city staff’s recommendation to adopt a new noise ordinance that codifies the extension of what is considered “daytime hours” for noise levels up to 10 p.m.

The change was implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic to help local businesses. However, a suggestion to extend the definition of daytime hours to 10:30 p.m. was not approved.

A proposal to increase the maximum decibel levels was also struck down after staff gathered city council members in a field to hear what different decibels sounded like. The current level for commercial districts of 65 decibels will stay intact.

Some councilmembers worried this could set up problems for some businesses down the road. In particular, Councilmember Ross Litkenhous said he was concerned about entertainment venues struggling to come back, like the State Theater.

“I’m not convinced that, for a weekend night, for a venue that wants to play music, that 65 decibels is the appropriate level,” Litkenhous said. “Is it 75? I don’t know, but keeping it at 65 decibels is setting those businesses up for controversy.”

Litkenhous was the sole vote against the approval of staff’s recommendation for the ordinance.

Photo via Google Maps

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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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Morning Notes

Cases over Bijan Ghaisar’s Death Stall in Court — A federal judge assigned to oversee a criminal case and civil lawsuit against U.S. Park Police officers for the 2017 fatal shooting of McLean resident Bijan Ghaisar “has made no moves to hold any hearings on the cases or provide a pretrial briefing and discovery schedule.” The officers were indicted by a Fairfax County grand jury in October but are seeking to have the cases moved to federal court. [The Washington Post]

Statewide Tornado Drill Scheduled for Today — Virginia will conduct a tornado drill at 9:45 a.m. today (Tuesday) as part of its first-ever Virginia Severe Weather Awareness Week, which started yesterday and will last through March 19. The alert will be issued through NOAA Weather Radio stations as well as local radio, TV, and cable outlets. [Fairfax County Emergency Information]

Falls Church City Council Gives Initial Approval to New Noise Ordinance — The city council voted 7-0 to give a preliminary “OK” to a measure that would permit up to 75 decibels of sound up to 10:30 p.m. in business and industrial areas on Friday and Saturday nights. Dates for a public hearing and final approval have not yet been scheduled. [Falls Church News-Press]

Fairfax County Chairman Criticizes Proposed Metro Cuts — Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay says that Metro’s proposed fiscal year 2022 budget would be “frustrating and could be harmful in both the short- and long-term to Metro and our Northern Virginia economy,” especially in Tysons. Federal relief funds are expected to stave off the cuts, but they have not been officially taken off the table yet. The public comment period ends today at 5 p.m. [Inside NoVA]

James Madison High School Kicks off Renovation — “We have officially kicked off renovation season! Fencing was installed in our main parking lot today. Changed traffic patterns and relocated parking spaces are just the start of what spring will bring us!” [@JamesMadisonHS/Twitter]

McLean Private School Rallies Support for Food Drive — Students, parents, faculty, and staff at The Langley School all chipped in for a three-week food drive to support the D.C. nonprofit So Others Might Eat. The effort produced more than $5,000 in monetary contributions and more than 2,000 donated non-perishable food items. [Sun Gazette]

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Despite — or maybe because of — the coronavirus, the Virginia Department of Transportation is on track to open new express lanes on I-66 in December 2022.

“There have been some project benefits in terms of reduced traffic volumes in the corridor,” VDOT megaprojects director Susan Shaw said during a virtual presentation and Q&A last Thursday (Oct. 29).

Longer-term lane closures were possible this year that would have resulted in gridlock pre-pandemic, she said.

Construction on I-66 continues during daytime and overnight hours, as weather allows. VDOT, I-66 Express Mobility Partners, and FAM Construction — the design-builder for the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway Project — updated commuters and residents through two online meetings last week.

Although the express lanes are predicted to open in December 2022, some construction on the project will continue into 2023.

Many lane closures will extend through end of the year, but in areas where congestion has started to snarl during peak hours, officials are looking to add back some lanes and abate traffic.

And with the pandemic showing no signs of ending, it is “really hard to say how the overall project will be impacted,” Shaw says.

All the late-night construction means there will be noisy nights, but VDOT is working with Fairfax and local supervisors’ offices to communicate construction plans to residents, she said.

“There are some activities that have to be done at night and do have to be noisy,” Shaw said.

The ramp from I-66 East to Route 28 North was closed from 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday to 4 a.m. on Wednesday to allow for a traffic shift onto a temporary left exit ramp from Route 28 North to I-66 East, VDOT said in an email.

Officials expect the temporary ramp to be in use for four weeks, while crews finish constructing a permanent ramp from Route 28 North to I-66 East.

Drivers traveling from Lee Highway South to Route 28 North will not be able to access the temporary ramp. These drivers will need to take detours farther south on Route 29 to the I-66/Route 29 interchange in Centreville until the permanent right-side ramp from Route 28 North to I-66 East is opened.

Tysons area residents and commuters can expect a number of other construction activities to affect travel starting in mid-November, including:

  • Closure of the I-66 East and Nutley Street North loop ramp, redirecting travelers exiting I-66 for Nutley onto temporary ramps
  • Continued construction of a new Gallows Road bridge over I-66 in Dunn Loring, which is occurring in two phases to maintain traffic flow during construction, according to Smith
  • Temporary realignment of the W&OD Trail at Idylwood Park, starting in late November and continuing for four to six months as crews build a new, permanent alignment

A new ramp at the I-495 interchange was completed recently, and deck work for a new bridge is starting soon, FAM Construction spokesperson Nancy Smith said. The I-495 interchange will have eight ramps to connect the express I-66 East/West lanes to I-495 North/South general purpose lanes.

Construction on VDOT’s I-66 Outside the Beltway project has been ongoing since 2017, starting after new express lanes opened on I-66 inside the Beltway on Dec. 4 of that year.

Watch an animated video of changes planned for I-66 here:

Photos via VDOT/Youtube 

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Despite having a cameo on next Wednesday’s (July 31) Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) agenda, County staff say the American Legion noise issue in McLean is settled.

The American Legion Post 270 at 1355 Balls Hill Road had some trouble over noise complaints from residential neighbors. But in February, the Post received a favorable ruling from the BZA allowing them to continue to host events.

The docket for the BZA says the Board will consider an appeal an original ruling against the American Legion post. Crystal Santos, public information officer for Fairfax County Government, said the County won’t challenge the BZA’s February decision.

“In February the Board of Zoning Appeals ruled that the American Legion could have private parties hosted by non-members,” said Santos in an email. “Following that decision, the American Legion submitted a second appeal to have the Zoning Administrator’s original determination that these parties are not allowed, overturned. Since the County will not appeal the February BZA decision, the second appeal is moot and the county is requesting for it to be dismissed.”

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said there are still some upset residents, but he hopes the American Legion can continue working with them to resolve the sound complaints in a neighborly fashion.

“From a procedural standpoint, nothing to fight about,” Foust said. “They have new leadership at the American Legion… everyone is still hoping for a kumbaya moment to solve the issue.”

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After a slew of noise violations, Bey Lounge agreed with the Town of Vienna to no longer offer live music.

Rami El-Hasrouni, one of the co-owners of Bey Lounge, told the town’s Board of Zoning Appeals last night (Wednesday) that the lounge (303 Mill Street) would no longer need its live entertainment permit, which the board was considering revoking.

“We’re going to be a straight restaurant from now on,” El-Hasrouni told the board.

The issues for the lounge started several months ago when it received a number of noise complaints and then was found guilty of three noise violation cases in a General District Court.

El-Hasrouni told Tysons Reporter that the cost of paying for lawyers and the permit renewal “were way too much” for the lounge, which is known for its Lebanese cuisine and live music.

“Right now, we are in the process of changing the lounge in general just because once we don’t have live entertainment we are going to lose all our customers, so we are very in risk of losing our business right now,” he said.

The “new concept” under consideration could possibly add more seating and “putting more grocery inside the lounge,” he said, adding that a timeframe hasn’t been set yet.

“Hopefully, it works,” he said.

Photo via Google Maps

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Bey Lounge is at risk of losing its live-entertainment permit after a slew of noise complaints got the restaurant and bar in trouble with the Town of Vienna.

The town’s Board of Zoning Appeals is set to hold a public hearing next Wednesday, July 17, on potentially revoking the Bey Lounge’s live entertainment permit.

Located at 303 Mill Street, Bey Lounge offers Lebanese cuisine, hookahs and live music. Over the last several months, the lounge received a number of noise complaints.

Town Attorney Steve Briglia told the Town Council on Monday, July 1, that a General District Court had found Bey Lounge guilty of three noise violation cases, ordering the hookah bar to pay $1,500. Briglia said that the cases won’t be appealed to the Circuit Court.

Zoning Administrator Frank Simeck filed an application to revoke the hookah bar’s live entertainment permit, prompting the public hearing next week, which starts at 8 p.m.

Photo via Google Maps

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After a series of noise complaints, Bey Lounge’s live-entertainment permits could once again be on the chopping block.

Bey Lounge, a bar and restaurant at 303 Mill Street with Lebanese cuisine, hookahs, and live music, currently has four pending noise violation charges for incidents across the last several months. Town Attorney Steve Briglia said the most recent violation was this past Saturday (Jan. 5) night.

Briglia said the first case is scheduled to go to court this Monday (Jan. 14), with more court appearances planned for early February.

If the lounge is found guilty of the noise violations, Briglia said his office is planning to present a motion to revoke the site’s conditional use permit to the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA).

“It’s clearly audible,” said Briglia. “Officers are able to hear it on [nearby] streets and across residential lines.”

This isn’t the first time the lounge has gotten into trouble over noise levels. In 2017, the BZA voted unanimously to renew Bey Lounge’s conditional-use permit for live entertainment but required that between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, the noise cannot exceed 51 decibels at the property line.

“We did that once before and there had been some better behavior by Bey Lounge,” said Briglia. “But I think things have changed.”

Discussion at the Vienna Town Council meeting on Monday (Jan. 7) showed that many in the city’s leadership are fed up with the noise violations.

“I fully support revoking the permit,” said Councilmember Pasha Majdi. “It’s not strike three, it’s strike fifteen.”

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Tysons Car Dealership Properties for Sale —  “Perhaps the largest concentration of vehicle dealerships in Tysons is on the market. McLean-based Capital Automotive has retained Newmark Knight Frank Capital Markets to sell a large portion of Dominion Square, its long-planned redevelopment of a collection of dealerships adjacent to the Spring Hill Metro station.” [Washington Business Journal]

Unusual Bike Theft Near Vienna Metro — Fairfax County Police investigated a burglary at a townhouse development not far from the Vienna Metro station last week. Police say someone rummaged through an unlocked car and used a garage door opener to break into a house and steal a bike. [Fairfax County Police Department]

Overeager Trash Collector Cited in Vienna — From the Town of Vienna Police Department’s crime blotter: “While on routine patrol Sgt. Ruddy observed a trash truck emptying dumpsters prior to 7:00 a.m. Sgt. Ruddy made contact with the driver and issued him a summons to the 49-year-old man from Dartford Place in Bristow, Virginia charging Noise Violation. The man was released on his signature.” [Town of Vienna]

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