As plans proceed for a newly approved pipeline in Pimmit Hills, a group of residents is continuing to push Washington Gas to reroute the project.
More than 100 Pimmit Hills residents gathered earlier this month to protest the installation of a new natural gas pipeline that Washington Gas plans to place in a neighborhood between Tysons and Falls Church.
The project, which was originally rejected twice by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), finally received the green light in late 2019.
The project includes roughly five miles of pipeline intended to support developmental growth in Tysons, according to documentation from the Pimmit Hills Citizens Association (PHCA).
Roughly five feet underground in the Virginia Department of Transit right of way, the pipeline will sit directly under the road, Washington Gas Spokesperson Brian Edwards said.
Lines will run under Cherri, Fisher and Peabody drives in Pimmit Hills, according to a map sent to Tysons Reporter by a member of the citizens association.
Major Concerns From Residents
PHCA Spokesperson Ashley Nellis told Tysons Reporter she worries that the 24-inch-thick and high-pressure pipeline will pose a risk to the safety of local families and cause “massive” disruptions to the area and the environment on several fronts.
The major concerns brought up by Nellis and other residents throughout Pimmit Hills include disturbances to the neighborhood during construction and long-term safety standards.
“This is a very dangerous proposition that has not gone well in other communities,” she said, citing an explosion that occurred in a town in Pennsylvania in 2018.
“We are the only residential neighborhood impacted by a high-pressure transmission pipeline that also happens to be routed along a known flood plain and next to the beginning of Pimmit Run Stream,” Robert Heilen, the president of the PHCA, said in a letter to VDOT.
Brian Edwards, the Washington Gas spokesperson, told Tysons Reporter that the pipeline will not negatively impact the regional flood plain.
After being pressed about community concerns, Washington Gas remains steadfast in its certainty that the pipeline meets, if not exceeds, safety standards according to Edwards, who added that the pipe is built with strong material so there is little possibility of a rupture.
“It is being designed at a very high standard so if someone were to even hit the line with a backhoe it would withstand the damage,” Edwards said.
Due to the nature of the project, VDOT does not require an environmental impact report for the project, according to Edwards.
The Community Fights Back
Politicians including Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust and State Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd) and Del. Marcus Simon (D-53rd) are also backing the opposition efforts.
Along with its normal monthly meetings, the citizens association began hosting weekly pipeline committee meetings to discuss changes and efforts to halt the project.
As of today (March 16), more than 570 people have signed a Change.org petition to reroute the pipeline.
Currently, a community member is in the midst of filing a petition of appeal against the VDOT approval, aiming to halt the pipeline progress.
Though independently organized, PHCA set up a GoFundMe page to fund the lawsuit. So far, people have donated over $9,500 in two months. “It shows how adamantly the community is against this issue,” Nellis, the PHCA spokesperson, said.
The private community member is now in search of new representation after the original law firm dropped the case, Heilen added.
Edwards said he was not in a position to give a statement from Washington Gas.
Project leaders within the community originally hoped that VDOT and Washington Gas would install the new pipeline along Route 7 — an option that Washington Gas said would be more intrusive and time-consuming.
As it stands, the line construction in the Pimmit Hills neighborhood would affect roughly 7,000 commuters daily over the course of three years, according to Edwards. But, if the pipeline would instead be installed along Route 7, he said it would take six years — double the amount of time — and affect roughly 41,000 commuters daily.
For community members though, perks of moving the line to Route 7 include an increased sense of security for their families and easement of construction noise.
Edwards said that Washington Gas plans to proceed with construction block-by-block in order to lessen the burden on homeowners.
As community members continue to fight pipeline installation, Washington Gas is proceeding with preparation for the project.
Edwards wouldn’t give an estimated project start time but told Tysons Reporter that Washington Gas hopes the project will be completed by 2023.
Heilen said he was told that construction was supposed to begin in early April, but said he hasn’t received any updated information.
“Most of the route is already marked,” Heilen said. “I expect that once they feel the weather is stable, they will start digging.”
Photos courtesy Devin Buries
Plans for a new speed hump aim to slow down drivers near a high school and senior center in Pimmit Hills.
Last Tuesday (Dec. 3), the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors backed adding a speed hump to Griffith Road between Magarity Road and Lisle Ave.
The speed hump will be located in front of the building (7510 Lisle Avenue) that houses the Pimmit Hills Senior Center, the Pimmit Hills Alternative High School and the Pimmit Alternative Learning Center.
The county board voted to urge the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) to install the speed hump as soon as possible after residents in the area called for measures to reduce the speed of traffic on the road, according to county documents.
Back in October, FCDOT received support from the nearby community for the traffic calming plan for the road after FCDOT had an engineering study done on the road, the county said.
Now, the Virginia Department of Transportation will review the plan, which is a part of FCDOT’s Residential Traffic Administration Program.
The new speed hump is expected to cost $8,000, according to county documents.
Map via Google Maps
Families may have noticed that the playground at Tysons Pimmit Park isn’t open.
“Work on the installation of a picnic shelter with new metal roofing is scheduled to begin Nov. 7 and continue through Feb. 28, 2020,” according to the county.
The project costs $120,000 and is being funded by the 2019 Park Bond, according to the county.
The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.
We’ve scoured the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!
Tuesday (Sept. 24)
- Ribbon Cutting: Zenola — 6-7 p.m. at Zenola (132 Branch Road SE) — Newly opened Zenola is hosting their grand opening in partnership with the Vienna Business Associaton and the Town of Vienna.
- Laughs In The Lobby Bar — 8 p.m. at Jammin Java (227 E. Maple Avenue) — This free event lets people gather for an evening of comedy featuring a variety of experience levels. All ages are welcome. Those wishing to get on stage should show up at 7 p.m.
- Happy Hour Mixer in Falls Church — 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Hilton Garden Inn (706 W. Broad Street) — The Greater Merrifield Business Association and the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce are hosting a joint event with food, drinks and networking.
Wednesday (Sept. 25)
- Community Conversation: Shaping the Future of Fairfax County Together — 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Marshall High School (7731 Leesburg Pike) — Fairfax County wants feedback from citizens about what they want their community to look like in 10-20 years. This is an opportunity for people to gather and give input at an open forum.
Thursday (Sept. 26)
- Alya Salon Grand Opening Party — 5:30-8:30 p.m. at Ayla Salon (139 Park Street SE) — This new hair salon will celebrate its grand opening with food, drinks, music, various product samples and a mini-fashion show.
Friday (Sept. 27)
- Friday Night Live — 8-11 p.m. at Falls Church Distillers (442 S. Washington Street) — Each week, this free event invites community members to gather for live music.
Saturday (Sept. 28)
- Merrifield Fall Festival — 11 a.m.-6 p.m. at the Mosaic District (2910 District Avenue) — This festival gives attendees the opportunity to enjoy some fall weather while listening to live music, enjoying brews from Caboose Brewing in Strawberry Park and shop at the local farmers market and on-site craft fair. This event is free to attend.
Sunday (Sept. 29)
- Plant Swap — 11 a.m.-noon at Botanologica (817 W. Broad Street) –– This free event gives community members the chance to trade plants or clippings. Organizers ask that participants bring only healthy plants, label the species and provide written care instructions for the next owner.
- Pimmit Hills Day — 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at Olney Park (1840 Olney Road) — This festival invites community members to check out live music and various vendors offering live music, food and drinks. All ages are welcome to this free event. There will also be activities for kids.
Photo via Facebook
After flooding in early July washed two dumpsters into Pimmit Run, the stream bed is now dumpster-free.
On Wednesday, Tysons Reporter found the two dumpsters — washed up on the bed of Pimmit Run near Old Chesterbrook Road.
The county alerted the companies about the dumpsters in July, Judy Pedersen, a spokesperson of the Fairfax County Park Authority, told Tysons Reporter.
“Over the past few weeks we have contacted these two companies six times in an effort to get them removed,” Pedersen said.
One Nextdoor user said they reached out weeks ago to Fairfax County Park Authority, DPWES, law enforcement and Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust about the dumpsters.
“Admittedly, removing the dumpsters is going to be difficult,” the user wrote. “There’s no easy access for heavy equipment to reach them.”
Both bins were removed today (Sept. 5), according to Nathan Geldner, a spokesperson for Republic Services.
Geldner did not answer Tysons Reporter question about why it took so long to respond to the requests from governmental officials.
American Disposal Services promised to have both bins removed after the county’s Department of Code Compliance pressured the garbage companies to make changes, Matthew Kaiser, the spokesperson for the county’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES), told Tysons Reporter.
Kaiser said a contractor removed the bins. Tysons Reporter has not been able to confirm which company hired the contractor.
A new restaurant is coming to a spot in a shopping center in the Pimmit Hills area.
Bing Bao is looking to open at 7505 Leesburg Pike, Suite D, according to a permit.
The spot currently appears vacant and a sign has fainting lettering indicating it used to be the home for Pella Windows and Doors.
No word yet on when Bing Bao will open or what’s on the menu.
Emily’s Kitchen, a regional restaurant chain, has plans to open a new spot in Pimmit Hills.
The fast-casual restaurant is coming to 7600B Leesburg Pike, Suite 130, according to a building permit.
Founded in 2000, Emily’s Kitchen serves up sandwiches, deli meats, egg dishes, salads and soups.
Currently, the chain has two spots in Rockville, Md. and one in Herndon, Va.
Photo via Instagram
A pop-up art store in Tysons is set to showcase art from international artists at a show on Saturday (April 27).
The Dara Global Arts Gallery is planning a reception from 2-6 p.m. in their pop-up store at 7501 Leesburg Pike, which opened in February. The artwork on display ranges from oils and acrylics to ceramic artwork, and the event on Saturday will feature an opera performance.
The gallery is typically open by appointment only, but the event will throw open the doors to the public.
Dara Global Arts Gallery is part of a budding art scene in Tysons. The gallery’s stated objective is “bringing harmony and peace through art,” reflected in the gallery’s emphasis on diversity both in artists and in the type of art displayed.
The artwork will be on display from April 27 through May 13.
The gallery is also planning an event for Mother’s Day on May 5 with special artwork and a jewelry gallery.
Fairfax County officials are hoping a new lane restriping on Pimmit Hills streets can trick speeders into slowing down.
At a meeting at Westgate Elementary last night (Monday), Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) staff said that Lisle Avenue — a main traffic route through Pimmit Hills — and Pimmit Drive are not wide enough to add bike lanes while maintaining street parking.
But staff said adding clear designators of the parking spots could give the street a “narrowing effect” that has been shown to reduce excessive speeding.
The actual size of the lanes doesn’t change, but the narrowing can have a psychological impact on drivers and reduce the feeling of wide-open roads that lulls drivers into the idea that it’s safe to speed.
“We see reductions in outlying speeds of 10-20 miles above the speed limit on traditionally wide roads,” said Chris Wells, bicycle and pedestrian program manager for FCDOT. “These narrower streets benefit in eliminating the fastest speeders.”
Normally, Wells said he would like to see bicycle lanes added, which would also have the narrowing effect, but that the only way to introduce bike lanes would have been to take away street parking.
The lane changes are being planned as part of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s planned repaving of the entire Pimmit Hills Neighborhood.
Allison Richter, liaison for Fairfax and Arlington counties for VDOT, said that Pimmit Hills had been on the schedule for a while, but water line work in the area meant VDOT held off because they didn’t want to put down asphalt only for it to be torn up again.
The timeline of when the repaving and restriping will take place is vague, occurring sometime between April and November. Richter said VDOT lets contractors select their own schedule as a cost-saving measure, but more exact dates will be known closer to when work starts.
At the meeting, a half dozen local residents also urged officials to look at the intersection of Pimmit Drive and Route 7, which they said is terrible for pedestrians and faces frequent backups into the Trader Joe’s parking lot. Wells said staff would look into what could be done to improve the location, but they’re restrained at the moment to the project’s scope.
Photo via Google Maps
(Updated at 8 a.m.) To the casual viewer, Pimmit Hills is a sleepy subdivision just southeast of Tysons quickly being overshadowed by its neighbor. But Pimmit Hills is a neighborhood with a surprising depth of history and one that played a central role in much of the region’s development.
In her new book, “Participation, Community and Public Policy in a Virginia Suburb“, Patricia Donahue, a policy fellow at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government, follows the neighborhood across sixty years of history.
On Nov. 10, the book was awarded the Ross Netherton Prize, a $1000 prize awarded for a work covering local history.
Donahue said the book started almost ten years ago when she was researching public policy impacts on small neighborhoods.
“I looked for a community in Northern Virginia that I thought was typical of a middle-income community in the post-war era,” said Donahue. “I thought it would be a simple case study, but it just kept unfolding into one fascinating story after another. It really told the story of suburbia in one community.”
Pimmit Hills was built as a subdivision in the 1950s for veterans of World War II and the Korean War. Though today it is dwarfed by nearby development, when it was first built it was the largest subdivision in Fairfax County by far; four or five times larger than any of the others.
When it was first built, the neighborhood was surrounded by farms and fields, but today it’s completely surrounded by highways and development. Donahue compared it to real estate holdouts in major cities.
Donahue said it was fascinating to follow the same community, and often same families, through the turbulent latter half of the 20th century through today.
“So much happened there,” said Donahue. “They dealt with desegregation, [growing] infrastructure, the baby boom… they were part of Fairfax transforming from a rural community into an urban one.”
Donahue said she stumbled on various extreme viewpoints from people who were essentially neighbors. The topic of segregation was one that had bitterly divided the community.
“There were people who supported massive resistance to desegregation, with residents who were very comfortable using language we find tough,” said Donahue. “But at the same time, in the same community, there were three ministers who made a public statement six months after the Montgomery bus boycott saying they totally rejected segregation and they wouldn’t let their churches support it. In one community, it’s a whole range of views. People risking their careers and people who were like ‘there’s no way we’re going to let this happen.'”
Beyond just segregation, Donahue said there were some horrific crimes throughout the neighborhood’s history as well. During the 1960s, Pimmit Hills was a pseudo-headquarters for The Pagans, a notorious motorcycle gang. In 1970, members of The Pagans kidnapped rival gang members, tortured them in Arlington, then murdered them in the forest near Pimmit Hills.
Pimmit Hills also played a surprising role in regional and national history. Donahue said Charles Lewis, one of the early presidents of the Pimmit Hills Citizens Association, was a researcher on the first American exploration of Antarctica. Frances Lanahan, a journalist and daughter of novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, once wrote a profile of the neighborhood.
But one of the most notable moments for Pimmit Hills was in the early 1950s when Fairfax County signed up to be one of the first large-scale tests for Jonas Salk’s new polio vaccine. After gossip columnist Walter Winchell alleged that the polio vaccine would end up killing children, Donahue said many other communities yielded to concerns and pulled out of the tests. But given the high mortality rate of polio in Fairfax, Donahue said the county was the only community to stay in the program.
“Imagine the courage of those families who agreed when no one else would to have their children immunized,” said Donahue. “Second graders in Pimmit Hills were among the first in the nation to get the vaccine.”
Whether the neighborhood can survive with new development pressures all around it remains in question. Donahue says she believes the neighborhood will continue to adapt and continue to survive.
“Like a lot of communities, they struggled with ‘hey, do we want development on our doorstep?'” said Donahue. “That’s still a struggle. Will they survive? I think they’re part of the change. If you drive through Pimmit Hills, every fourth or fifth house is a rebuild. They are changing it. I think they are not going to be bystanders in this change. They are going to be active agents in shaping that change.”
The book, which is intended for an academic audience, is currently listed at $89.98 on Amazon.