Tysons, VA

Monday Morning Notes

Falls Church Middle Eastern Restaurant Officers Discount for Guests Who Voted — “Sheesh Grill [in] Falls Church (8190 Strawberry Lane Ste 4) will offer diners who present their ‘I Voted’ sticker a discount off their meal from Oct. 26-Nov. 3.” [Sheesh]

Locals Help Science Teacher Clear Daniels Run Elementary Courtyard — “On #VolunteerFest weekend, students from Fairfax and Lake Braddock high schools help a science teacher clean up a courtyard at her school, Daniels Run Elementary.” [Twitter]

Tysons Chamber of Commerce Urges Greater Business Collaboration — “The chamber now is focusing on “business verticals” that encourage companies in complementary industries to purchase services from each other, said Andrew Clark, the chamber’s new board chairman.” [Inside Nova]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Update on 10/28/2020 — This article has been corrected to clarify that the approved leases are only for necessary roof space, not entire facilities, and to note that Fairfax County is working with three contractors on its solar PPA initiative, not just Sigora Solar. The article also previously stated that the county will not bear any costs for the solar panels, but a county spokesperson says it would be more accurate to say the county will not bear upfront costs to design, permit, and construct the panels. 

Fairfax County inched closer to transitioning to renewable energy yesterday (Tuesday) when the Board of Supervisors authorized staff to lease roof space at the Providence Community Center and seven other county government-owned facilities so they can be outfitted with solar panels.

Providence Community Center will have rooftop solar photovoltaic panels installed on its main building at 3001 Vaden Drive, which operates as a government center for Providence District as well as a community meeting facility.

The other facilities that the county board approved to be leased to Sigora Solar following a brief public hearing are:

  • The Herrity Building (12055 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax)
  • The Pennino Building (12011 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax)
  • The North County Government Center (1801 Cameron Glen Dr., Reston)
  • Reston Community Center (2310 Colts Neck Road, Reston)
  • Springfield Warehouse (6800 Industrial Road, Springfield)
  • Noman M. Cole Pollution Control Plant lab building (9399 Richmond Highway, Lorton)
  • I-66 Transfer Station, workers’ facility building, and truck wash building (4500 West Ox Road, Fairfax)

The eight facilities are among the first locations approved for solar panels as part of Fairfax County’s extensive solar power purchase agreement initiative, which was announced on Dec. 10 as the largest by a Virginia municipality at that point. Contracts were awarded to Sigora SolarSun Tribe Solar, and Ipsun Solar.

The three solar providers will design, permit, install, and operate rooftop solar panels at all facilities participating in the program, which also includes facilities owned by Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax County Park Authority, and Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

Under the PPA, Fairfax County will not bear any upfront costs for the design, permitting, or construction of the solar panels, Fairfax County Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination director Kambiz Agazi says.

Instead, the county will purchase on-site electricity from the solar providers.

The solar PPA is expected to help Fairfax County reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and its electricity costs, though county staff could not yet provide specific numbers for how much the installation of solar will reduce emissions or how much money the county is expected to save.

“We will have an approximation as soon as we have a permitted design,” Agazi said. “We hope to have that in the next three to four months.”

The eight facilities that were the subject of yesterday’s public hearing are among 113 possible projects in the first phase of Fairfax County’s PPA. A request for proposals issued by the county in 2019 listed a total of 247 facilities across the initiative’s two planned phases.

County staff say they will return to the Board of Supervisors in the future to get approval to lease the 18 other county government-owned facilities in the first phase of the PPA.

Image via Flickr/Minoru Karamatsu

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How often should a homeowner have to reassure the county that their granny flat is a granny flat?

That is one of many questions facing Fairfax County as it continues working toward the first major overhaul of its zoning ordinance in 40 years.

Providence District Planning Commissioner Phil Niedzielski-Eichner attempted to answer some of those questions in a discussion with the Providence District Council on Oct. 14 that also touched on development and housing.

The importance of the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance Modernization Project, or zMOD, has become increasingly apparent as housing affordability challenges persist and more people work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, Niedzielski-Eichner says.

“We want, on the one hand, to increase the opportunity for people to afford to live in the community,” Niedzielski-Eichner said. “We want to allow for the potential of people working out of their homes. We want to recognize that that’s an evolving reality. At the same time, we’re sensitive to protecting the neighborhood and don’t want it to cause parking problems and other neighborhood issues.”

Among the biggest proposed changes to the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance are new regulations for accessory living units, which generally known as accessory dwelling units but got a name change in Fairfax to avoid confusion with affordable dwelling units.

Defined as “subordinate living spaces with areas for eating, sleeping, living, and sanitation,” ALUs are currently only allowed in Fairfax County if an occupant of the unit or the principal dwelling is 55-plus years old or has a disability.

Under Fairfax County’s most recent draft zoning ordinance, which has been available for public comment since June 30, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors would have the option of eliminating the age and disability requirements for an accessory living unit.

The draft ordinance also outlines a new process for homeowners to get approval for an ALU.

Currently, homeowners currently have to attend a public hearing if they want to add an ALU, but the proposed zoning ordinance allows property owners to instead apply for an administrative or special permit that would need to be renewed every five years.

Niedzielski-Eichner says county staff is considering requiring renewal every two years instead of five, as they try to acknowledge concerns about the potential impact of accessory living units on neighborhoods without overly burdening property owners.

“We already know that people are doing accessory living units outside of the context of permitting or any regulation,” the Providence District planning commissioner said. “If we make it so difficult that people don’t want to enter into the process, then we lose the ability to influence the quality of that process and how it’s implemented.”

The Fairfax County Planning Commission’s land use process review committee is scheduled to have a discussion on zMOD this Thursday (Oct. 22) at 7:30 p.m.

Other land use and zoning challenges facing Fairfax County, especially a district like Providence that spans urbanizing centers like Tysons and older neighborhoods like Mantua, include expanding the availability of affordable and workforce housing, and ensuring that county services and infrastructure keep pace with development.

Niedzielski-Eichner says he has advocated for the county to become more data-driven when making decisions, such as altering policies around ALUs, that could potentially change the character of a neighborhood.

“It’s all about community confidence,” Niedzielski-Eichner said. “I feel that we have to do those things so that the community will come along with the policy and have confidence that it follows their best interests.”

Image via Providence District Council

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When the novel coronavirus pandemic upended Americans’ daily lives in March, Great Falls resident James Ye turned to a 110-year-old organization for guidance: the Boy Scouts.

Now a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Ye joined Boy Scouts of America Troop 55 when he was in fifth grade and has since accumulated about 1,000 hours of community service.

Ye says the values espoused by the Scout Oath and Law, which include volunteering, were on his mind when he saw a Facebook advertisement seeking volunteers for the Volunteer Fairfax Donations Collection Warehouse.

“During national historic crises, Scouting organizations have always jumped into action, sort of helped out in emergency response,” Ye said. “…I think the coronavirus is another example of a historic national disaster, and being a Scout, just doing your duty to your country, I wanted to be a part of that.”

Led by the nonprofit Volunteer Fairfax, the warehouse is Fairfax County’s hub for organizing masks, food, and other resources for community organizations as part of its COVID-19 emergency response.

At first, Ye mostly helped Volunteer Fairfax emergency response manager Tejas Patel maintain an inventory of the donations passing through the warehouse, but his duties later expanded to include greeting and contacting donors, doing research, and sharing content on social media.

Ye, who amassed 190 service hours at the warehouse, is one of thousands of local community members who have contributed to Fairfax County’s pandemic emergency response as volunteers.

Fairfax County reported on Oct. 6 that close to 3,000 volunteers have collectively spent 96,006 hours since Mar. 17 helping various county services, including the police and fire departments, public libraries, and Domestic and Sexual Violence Services.

In addition, more than 1,000 individuals have signed up for the Fairfax Medical Reserve Corps, which assists the Fairfax County Health Department in emergencies. With 521 volunteers now onboarded, 233 people have contributed 4,392 volunteer hours since Mar. 1, doing everything from managing medical supply donations to assisting at community testing sites and back-to-school immunization clinics. Read More

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Fairfax County is in the process of overhauling the outdated sections of its zoning ordinance, and Supervisor Dalia Palchik will be on hand tonight to address any questions locals might have about some of the upcoming zoning changes.

The Zoom meeting is scheduled tonight (Wednesday) at 7 p.m. and is open to all residents of the Providence District.

“Join the Providence District Council in attending this virtual community outreach meeting hosted by District Supervisor Dalia Palchik to learn from Planning and Development staff, ask questions and provide feedback on the zMOD Consolidated Draft,” the Providence District Council said in an email.

A 711 page draft document contains all of the planned changes. Many are modernizations that bring Fairfax’s zoning language in line with state and federal regulations to reduce confusion, such as renaming “home childcare facility” to “home daycare facility” and adding new classifications of residential uses, like accessory living units.

Questions can be submitted in advance via email to [email protected]

Image via Fairfax County

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Wednesday Morning Notes

AMT Looking for Buyers or Partners for ‘City View Tysons’ Development — “On AMT’s behalf, Cushman & Wakefield recently began marketing 7901 Westpark Drive to interested buyers or equity partners. The ‘shovel ready’ development site is approved for a 215,547-square-foot building, per marketing material from the commercial real estate brokerage.” [Washington Business Journal]

Local Bluesy Stoner Rock — “On Friday, Virginia’s dark, bluesy stoner rock outfit Pimmit Hills — featuring former members of King Giant — will release their new EP, Heathens & Prophets.” [Treble]

ManTech CEO Becomes Chairman of Board of Directors — “”Kevin has done an outstanding job as CEO and he is clearly the right individual to lead the board going forward,” said Barry Campbell, a ManTech independent director.” [ExecutiveBiz]

Providence District Council Polls Local Residents — The Providence District Council, a group of local citizens’ associations, has put out a survey asking locals what issues are most important to them. [Providence District Council]

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A new $112 million bond referendum on the ballot this November could help finance a series of improvements to parks and recreational facilities around Tysons and McLean.

Several recreation centers around the County are slated for improvements and renovations as part of the bond, including extensive renovations at the Providence RECenter.

A report on RECenters from 2018 found that the Providence one, which was built in 1982, is not equipped to handle the growing need nearby. The facility is only 48,655 square feet, one of the smallest in the system despite having the second largest number of nearby residents served by the facility. The report recommended that Providence and three other RECenters be expanded to suit the climbing need.

The report notes that the Providence RECenter’s market is predominately older adults with a modest household income.

The bond could also finance upgrades to Ruckstuhl Park in Idylwood and McLean Central Park in McLean. The bond could also help advance design work at the long-awaited recreational additions to Salona Park in McLean.

Photo via Fairfax County

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This op-ed was submitted by Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik on May 19. It does not reflect the opinions of Tysons Reporter. We publish op-eds and letters to the editor of specific interest to the Tysons community. Contributions may be edited for length or content. 

The people of Fairfax County are strong and resilient, more than ever during this time of COVID-19. When I speak with community members, one common question comes up: “How can I help?” Wash your hands. Social distance. Then, help feed your neighbor.

Food insecurity is on the rise. During a recent two-week period, the Capital Area Food Bank reported a demand increase of 300% compared to the same period last year. There are 70,000 families living in poverty in Fairfax County. We need to address this problem, for access to food is a human right.

I’m calling on the Providence District to reach into your pantry or grocery cart to buy a can, give a can, and donate to Food for Others. We can tackle food insecurity in our area together at home and online.

Food for Others, located in Merrifield, is a hub that supplies food to more than 2,000 families every week. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, three times more families have relied on Food for Others to feed their households. This is why I have partnered with Food for Others and neighborhoods in our district to start local food drives. You can help.

Start organizing! You can take action by reaching out to your homeowners’ association or community organization to help set up a neighborhood food drive. Establish a drop off location and spread the word to your neighbors. Organize volunteers to pick up the canned goods and produce to deliver to Food for Others.

We can help! Contact our team at [email protected] and we can work with you to organize a safe and engaging food drive that fits your community.

Canned chili, canned chicken, canned fruit, rice, spaghetti sauce, cardboard boxes and fresh produce are some of the items most in demand. If you are fortunate to have a home vegetable or herb garden, plant an additional row and donate your fresh produce to Food for Others. Your neighbors in need will thank you!

The Providence District has made so much progress already. The Falls Hill and Miller Heights organizations have each collected 800 pounds of food, and many other communities in our district have donated hundreds of pounds of food.  I can’t wait to see how big this effort can grow.

Let’s join forces and fight this battle against hunger together. I am so proud of the work the Providence District has already done to help one another. There is more work to be done to bring food security to our neighbors in need. I thank you for your help.

Photo via Providence Supervisor Dalia Palchik/Facebook

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Locals will soon have the chance to join a virtual town hall and ask questions to Fairfax County representatives for the Providence District.

Dalia Palchik with the Board of Supervisors and Karl Frisch with the Fairfax County School Board announced that they will host the meeting at 2:30 p.m. this Saturday (May 9).

The meeting will be held on Facebook Live, according to the event page.

Palchik and Frisch are expected to lead a discussion surrounding topics brought up by community members in attendance.

Though there doesn’t seem to be a pre-set agenda, people can email to inquire about the meeting.

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An upcoming digital town hall will give Tysons-area residents the chance to ask questions to Del. Marcus Simon (D-53rd District) and Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik.

The event, which was previously set to be held at the Providence Community Center, will now be held as a Facebook Live event from 2-3:30 p.m. next Saturday (March 21).

Efforts to combat the coronavirus prompted the switch from an in-person meeting to an online event.

“We want to do our part to decrease the spread of COVID-19,” the event description said.

Online attendees will have the chance to ask about issues or topics around the area from the location of their choosing, according to the event page.

Topics of discussion are not pre-set, a spokesperson from Simon’s office told Tysons Reporter, adding that both Simon and Palchik will begin the meeting by giving a short address of what they think are important updates around the area.

All are welcome to attend the digital meeting, and the link will be accessible through the event’s Facebook page roughly a week before the meeting, the spokesperson said.

People unfamiliar with Facebook Live events can ask questions in real-time. Palchik and Simon will receive notifications when people submit a comment and will then be able to address questions.

For troubleshooting tips, people can check out Facebook’s website.

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