Morning Notes

Tropical Storm Elsa Heads to Virginia — After leaving Florida behind, Tropical Storm Elsa is expected to bring heavy rain and strong winds along the East Coast from Georgia to New England through Friday. Forecasts show the storm passing to the east, but the D.C. area on I-95 could get some rain and breezy conditions tonight. [Capital Weather Gang]

Falls Church Developer Proposes More Senior Housing — “The Falls Church Gateway developer partnership getting underway with work on the 9-acre site of the former George Mason High School came to the F.C. City Council Monday with a request, granted a preliminary vote by a 7-0 margin, to expand the senior living building set for the site from 225,000 square feet to 260,000, including a height increase to 15 stories to accommodate up to 215 units.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Cause of Bird Deaths Still Unknown — The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources received more than 1,400 reports of sick or dying birds in Northern Virginia, including Fairfax County, between May 23 and June 30. No cause has been identified yet, but symptoms of the illness include eye swelling and neurological issues. [Vienna Police/Twitter]

Travel Ban Puts Falls Church Couple’s Wedding Plans at Risk — “The pandemic has prevented a couple from Falls Church, Virginia, from walking down the aisle, and now they say they’ll lose $30,000 if the U.S. travel ban on citizens from Britain and other European nations isn’t lifted soon.” [WTOP]

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Lewinsville Center (via Fairfax County Government)

A majority of Fairfax County’s senior centers have reopened, allowing residents to come in to workout, play games, and use the computers.

Eight of the county’s 14 senior centers opened their doors on June 29 for the first time since March 2020 for “self-directed activities,” meaning those that are not led by staff like card games, ping-pong, billiards, working out in the fitness room, and using the computer labs.

The centers that are now open are:

  • Herndon Senior Center (873 Grace Street, Herndon)
  • Kingstowne Center for Active Adults (6488 Landsdowne Center, Alexandria)
  • Lewinsville Senior Center (1613 Great Falls Street, McLean)
  • Lincolnia Senior Center (4710 North Chambliss Street, Alexandria)
  • Little River Glen Senior Center (4001 Barker Court, Fairfax)
  • Lorton Senior Center (7722 Gunston Plaza, Lorton)
  • Sully Senior Center (14426 Albemarle Point Place, Chantilly)
  • Wakefield Senior Center at Audrey Moore RECenter (8100 Braddock Road, Annandale)

Residents can use any of the centers, even if it’s not their usual one. Lunch and bus service can also be provided by calling the individual center.

However, the centers currently have limited hours, operating from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday.

Residents also have to sign a liability waiver prior to visiting. Masks are still required for those who are not fully vaccinated, but are optional for those who are.

The remaining six centers will reopen on Sept. 7, with the exception of Hollin Hall in Alexandria, which is undergoing renovations.

At that time, all of the centers will revert to “full capacity,” including bringing back instructor and staff-led activities, a spokesperson for the county’s Neighborhood & Community Services says.

The senior centers cater to residents 50 years and older.

Three quarters of the Fairfax Health District’s population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, and those rates are even higher for those residents over the age of 55. About 93% of residents 65 to 84 years old have received at least one dose.

Vaccination efforts have allowed more and more county services and facilities to open back up.

“The county’s senior centers are a lifeline for our older residents, providing them with opportunities to exercise, play games, take classes and most importantly socialize with each other,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said by email. “The pandemic was especially isolating for older adults, taking a toll on both mental and physical health. It is a very welcome step forward to open up several of the senior centers now and have the full reopening in September.”

Virtual activities, classes, and programs will continue to be offered throughout the summer for those who prefer to remain at home or want to participate in a staff-led activity. These include Tai Chi, crossword puzzling, and crafts.

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(Updated at 2:45 p.m.) When residents at McLean’s Vinson Hall Retirement Community wanted outdoor recreation during the pandemic, retired Marine Col. Mike Cluff grabbed a pickax and sledgehammer and built the sought-after amenity himself.

Decades before he became a resident at Vinson Hall (6251 Old Dominion Dr.), Cluff oversaw the building of an encampment in Vietnam and was present during the Tet Offensive in 1968.

More recently, he put his “keep moving” mentality to use to construct horseshoe and bocce ball pits for the McLean retirement community, an approximately 400-room facility that focuses on caring for military veterans and their families as well as high-ranking former federal government employees.

“The genesis of this was…everyone wanted to play outside,” Michelle Crone, director of philanthropy and engagement for the Navy Marine Coast Guard Residence Foundation, said.

As Vinson Hall’s philanthropic arm, the foundation supports facility renovations and provides financial assistance to residents in need.

Cluff, 82, was motivated to construct the horseshoe and bocce pits by fellow Vinson Hall resident Midge Holmes, who is active with getting people involved and wanted residents to be able to play horseshoes.

After looking up plans for horseshoe pits online, Cluff worked with the retirement community to get the materials he needed and spent a few weeks during the spring of 2020 finishing the project, which is located on the site of a former house that was demolished years ago and is now becoming an outdoor recreation area.

Vinson Hall later added artificial turf to the horseshoe and bocce ball pits to help with maintenance. A multi-surface area next to them is under construction and could facilitate more outdoor activities, such as pickleball, which was played inside at the facility until the pandemic halted it.

The new outdoor recreational area is one of several capital projects that Vinson Hall has undertaken during the pandemic after getting a financial boost, thanks to a Fairfax County Economic Development Authority measure that let the retirement community refinance bonds that had been previously issued to fund campus improvements.

Vinson Hall Chief Financial Officer Rick Bova says the move will bring savings and help improve the lives of residents and staff by supporting property upgrades and salary increases for staff.

The retirement community is refinancing around $70 million in debt to get a savings of some $10 million to $12 million over a 12-year period with the economic development assistance, he says. The FCEDA approved the measure on June 14, and the money is being facilitated by Truist Bank.

“In our business, every dollar counts,” Bova said.

Among the ongoing improvements is a renovation of The Sylvestery (1728 Kirby Rd.), a memory care unit that assists residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Other proposed changes include enhanced lighting and other additions to the memory care unit’s sensory room, which offers an array of items for residents to touch and interact with, from stuffed animals to tropical colored bowling pins.

Called a sensory oasis, the room helps patients with dementia calm down, says Antionette Doublin, senior director and administrator of the skilled nursing facility Arleigh Burke Pavilion and The Sylvestery. Research shows that multisensory sessions can help verbal agitation and provide other benefits.

“So, we bring them in here, and it calms them down,” Doublin said.

The Sylvestry is also getting a central kitchen area that can host cooking demonstrations. The project is currently under construction and could be finished in two to three weeks.

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A rendering of The Mather (Courtesy of Mather)

(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) After a successful first phase pre-sale, The Mather announced today (Tuesday) that it is launching a pre-sales for a second phase of apartments.

Located at 7929 Westpark Drive near Tysons Galleria, The Mather is a Life Plan Community complex of two residential towers with a total of 300 apartments for seniors. It is part of the 19.4-acre Arbor Row mixed-use development that will also include a high-rise condominium tower called The Monarch.

Prices for the units at The Mather start at $646,700, and they range in size up to 3,300 square feet. Residents will have access to a fitness center, spa, indoor pool, restaurants, and other amenities.

The Mather also offers long-term care for senior citizens, meaning they have health services on-site for those who need them as time progresses.

80% of the 186 apartment homes in The Mather’s Phase One have already been pre-sold, according to a press release.

“We’re very pleased that demand is so high,” Mather CEO and President Mary Leary said. “Future residents recognize that we’re extremely unique in our design, wellness-focused operational model, and quality experiences we provide residents – all coupled with our excellent urban, walkable location.”

Priority reservations for Phase Two, which will add 114 apartment homes, are now being accepted through June 30. Priority members can put down a $1,000 fully-refundable deposit in exchange for the first choice of apartments at pre-construction prices and the ability to customize and upgrade home finishes.

“Tysons is quickly becoming the place to be for a broad demographic of people who want an active, green, urban lifestyle with a neighborhood feel,” Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Julie Coons said. “We’re thrilled to have The Mather as part of the mix and look forward to a long, valued partnership with one of the industry’s leading providers in senior living.”

The Mather is set to open its first residential tower in 2023, with the second tower projected to follow in 2024.

More information on the complex can be found on its website or by contacting [email protected] or 703-348-8522.

Correction: This article’s headline previously stated that construction on The Mather was underway. The existing building on the site was demolished, and work on some site improvements has begun, but construction has not technically started yet.

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McLean has had its fair share of contentious development debates, but to the relief of everyone involved, a planned senior living facility at 1638 and 1642 Chain Bridge Road didn’t go that way, instead getting a unanimous vote of support from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

Tension over the future of development in McLean has been brewing in recent weeks with the much-debated downtown revitalization plan headed for a delayed planning commission public hearing on May 26.

In this case, however, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust says the cooperation and willingness to compromise from both developer Tri-State Development Companies and the nearby residents resulted in a smooth process.

The plan is to build 35 independent living units, five of which are expected to be sold as affordable, and a central clubhouse area for residents to gather.

“This has been a really good experience, working with the community and this developer,” Foust said. “Sometimes you don’t come away with such a good taste in your mouth after you go through a difficult land use case, and this wasn’t simple, but everyone was so positive and cooperative and I want to thank everyone involved in the process.”

While speakers at the meeting generally expressed support for the project, neighboring property owner Bobbi Bowman, who said she’d lived there for 22 years, stated that she still had concerns about the noise level from the clubhouse on the site.

“I will look over my back yard and side-yard fences into the front yard of two-story townhouses and clubhouse with an joining outdoor area,” Bowman said. “I believe this application fails to meet county standard that says such development must be compatible…I am not asking the applicant to forego the clubhouse, I’m only asking to be protected from the noise.”

Tri-State has agreed that the clubhouse will not be rented out to anyone outside of the condominium owners association that will be formed to govern the facility, and no audible music will be allowed in the patio area, according to a list of approved development conditions attached to the project.

Other speakers said they were looking forward to the development in part because they see the need for senior housing for their parents or for themselves a few years down the road.

“I think it’s an excellent idea,” nearby resident Eric West said. “I don’t know of any place within the DMV that has something that would meet the needs of those who want to age in place.”

Winnie Pizzano, president of the nearby Stoneleigh Homeowners Association, said the project had great support from within her community.

Resident Scott Shawkey expressed hope that the project could help pave the way for a transformation of McLean’s downtown area, a goal of the county that has been several years in the making.

“I have a father in his 80s who’s worked his entire life for something nice,” Shawkey said. “This is something special, a celebration of life. I think it will be great…We have an incredible community, but our downtown is just a four-way intersection.”

Map via Fairfax County

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Modalia Capital, a Bethesda-based investment firm, is seeking a special exception permit from Fairfax County so it can purchase Powhatan Nursing Home in Falls Church.

If approved, the purchase would represent an expansion of the private, family-run firm’s senior living holdings, which currently includes Carriage Hill of Bethesda and some planned developments and redevelopments in North Carolina and Florida, according to its website. In the mid-Atlantic region, Modalia has leased Regency Care of Arlington and Regency Care of Silver Spring.

The 7.67-acre property at 2100 Powhatan Street will remain a nursing home serving McLean and Falls Church, according to county documents. Currently owned by Cynthia Butler, it has been family-owned and operated since it was built in 1965.

“Powhatan Nursing Home has been part of the community since its construction in 1965,” Kathryn Taylor, an attorney with the land-use firm Walsh Colucci, wrote in a letter to the Fairfax County Department of Planning & Zoning. “Upon the purchase of the Powhatan Nursing Home, the Applicant will continue the nursing home use, which offers valuable and beneficial services to the surrounding community.”

According to Walsh Colucci land use attorney Lynne Strobel, the property has already been put under contract, but Modalia needs its special exception request to be approved by Fairfax County in order to close the sale.

“I cannot speculate on what will happen if the special exception is not approved,” Strobel told Tysons Reporter.

Powhatan Nursing Home, which can house up to 160 residents, provides long-term and short-term care to individuals who require assistance with daily living, the letter said. This includes rehabilitation programs, physical therapy and occupational therapy.

Modalia plans minor exterior and interior repairs to refurbish and upgrade the aging building, the county documents say.

“The Applicant is an experienced operator of age-restricted housing,” the letter from Walsh said.

Modalia Capital is run by the Vucich family, which got its start in the nursing home business in Chicago after World War II, according to the website. The Vucich family operated more than a half-dozen assisted living and skilled nursing facilities in the Midwest that it has since sold.

The second and third-generation family members running Modalia are now building up a portfolio of senior living and multifamily properties in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida.

If the sale is finalized, Strobel says Powhatan will be rebranded as Vierra Falls Church and become part of “Vierra Communities,” Modalia Capital’s newly rebranded senior living venture.

“Vierra has specialized in the management and operations of senior living and skilled nursing facilities since 1952,” Modalia’s website said.

Last October, the investment group purchased a property in South Florida that it may develop into an intergenerational, mixed-use development with condos, an assisted living and memory care community and retail, South Florida Business Journal reports.

Photo via Google Maps

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After a two-week delay, the Fairfax County Planning Commission voted on March 17 to support a proposed senior living facility in McLean.

Tri-State Development Companies secured a recommendation from Fairfax County planners in February to build on the 3.23-acre site at 1638 and 1642 Chain Bridge Road. The project would replace the existing single-family dwellings with 35 independent living units, five of which are expected to be sold as affordable.

The commission previously deferred making a decision on the project after a public hearing on March 3. Speakers voiced concerns about the heights of the units, potential traffic congestion, stormwater runoff, and the impact of a proposed clubhouse and patio on an immediate neighbor of the site.

Dranesville District Commissioner John Ulfelder recommended that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors grant Tri-State’s special exception request after addressing several of the issues raised at the public hearing.

Ulfelder said the building heights would range between 36 and 40 feet, exceeding the 35 feet permitted in a R-3 zone, to allow for certain roof structures of the units to fit the surrounding neighborhoods.

“In addition, due to the typography of the site, the homes are set at a lower grade level than the surrounding homes,” Ulfelder said. “As a result, the roof heights are actually roughly comparable to the neighboring properties.”

In response to suggestions that a traffic signal be installed at the intersection of Chain Bridge and Davidson Road, Ulfelder noted that a traffic analysis predicts the facility would generate only 85 vehicle trips per day — fewer than what would be generated by a by-right development. The analysis also projected fewer than 10 trips in either the morning or evening peak hour.

He added that Virginia Department of Transportation traffic analysis done as part of the ongoing McLean Community Business Center Comprehensive Plan study concluded that a signal at the Chain Bridge/Davidson intersection might not be warranted for 20 years.

Ulfelder said the applicant has nonetheless “agreed to reserve space near its entrance for the installation of a future traffic signal if it is warranted.”

He said that the stormwater runoff concerns were addressed by Tri-State’s commitment to install a new stormwater system on the site that would exceed what is required by the county and state.

“This will result in the detention of storm water on site and should result in an improvement for the downstream neighbors with less storm water being released from the site during rain events,” Ulfelder said.

Ulfelder also addressed the construction of the proposed clubhouse and patio, which was a concern for Bobbi Bowman, who lives in a property that abuts the site.

According to Ulfelder, Tri-State has flipped the clubhouse’s layout, moving the patio to the west side of the building, where it will be blocked from Bowman’s property. He also said hours of use for the patio would be restricted, with no music allowed outdoors and no happy hour or cocktail parties.

“I believe these changes adequately address the neighbor’s concerns about the possible impact of the patio on her peaceful and quiet enjoyment of her property,” Ulfelder said.

Mary Cortina, who represents Braddock District, was the only commissioner to oppose permitting the project.

While she expressed an appreciation for its design, stormwater retention plan, and amenities, Cortina argued that the site is not large enough for the number of proposed units and would create too much density without “adequate buffering to the surrounding neighborhood.” She also worried that the high density would result in insufficient tree preservation.

“It’s not neighborly to remove all the trees and max out the site, even if it is beautifully designed and serves a priority segment,” Cortina said. “Fairfax County has a wave of senior developments to accommodate, but if we want them to incorporate into existing neighborhoods, they need to meet the setbacks and the other standards in the zoning ordinance to fit into the neighborhood.”

Tri-State’s proposal will go before the Board of Supervisors for a public hearing on May 4 at 3:30 p.m.

Map via Fairfax County

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The fate of a potential senior living facility in McLean has been put on hold.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission deferred a decision to permit an independent living facility for adults 60 and older on Chain Bridge Road on March 3. The decision on the project is now scheduled for March 17 during the commission’s meeting, which will start at 7:30 p.m.

Dranesville District Commissioner John Ulfedler proposed deferring the decision in order to address issues presented during the March 3 public hearing.

Tri-State Development Companies secured a recommendation from Fairfax County’s planning staff in February for the development of the 3.23-acre site. The company has proposed replacing existing single-family dwellings at 1638 and 1642 Chain Bridge Road with 35 independent living units.

When presenting the staff report, Fairfax County senior planner Kelly Posusney noted that 15% of the dwellings will be provided as affordable, 55% of the site will be open space, and 90 total parking spaces would be provided via private garages attached to the individual dwellings and surface parking in the development.

McGuireWoods managing partner Greg Riegle, who represents Tri-State on the project, said the development would feature on-site management to assist residents with day-to-day living and amenities like fitness programs and entertainment.

“A commitment to provide the services, amenities and access to care appropriate to an aging population drives almost everything about this application,” Riegle said.

While there was some support from the public during the March 3 public hearing, many also raised questions and concerns about the potential for the project to increase traffic in the community, the development’s height, proposed setbacks, noise and light pollution, and storm water management.

Riegle said the project team is working on storm water management concerns by making downstream improvements. The plans also include on-site storm water management facilities to control an increase in runoff, addressing inadequate pipe capacity and flooding of properties downstream.

He added the proposed height of the residential units would not exceed 50 feet. The project overview lists the height of the units as between 36 and 40 feet, “depending on the style of roof.”

Multiple community members called for further evaluation of the development’s possible impact on traffic. Resident Elizabeth Yu requested that a traffic signal be installed at the intersection of Chain Bridge Road and Davidson Road, which runs perpendicular to the project site.

However, Riegle said an analysis performed by the project applicant and VDOT guidelines showed the project does not warrant installation of a signal.

Tri-State’s request to reduce the required 50-foot yard setback to between 27 and 34 feet, depending on the side of the lot, was a particular point of concern for Bobbi Bowman, the abutting neighbor to the site. She specifically requested that a proposed clubhouse, outdoor dining area, and fire pit be relocated from an area adjacent to her property to another location on the site.

“This clubhouse restaurant is essentially a business located adjacent to my home and my very low-density and quiet neighborhood,” Bowman said. “The clubhouse with its noise, and lights and happy hours is even closer to my home and our neighborhood because the applicant has asked to shrink the setbacks.”

Riegle said the clubhouse will be 83 feet from the common property line and the outdoor dining area 88 feet from the neighboring building, but he added that the issue is still being addressed.

“I think we can do some things with landscaping or the special arrangement to potentially improve that,” Riegle said. “We’ve conveyed that to the resident and we will continue to work on that between now and when this application is brought back for decision.”

Map via Fairfax County

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The Shepherd’s Center that serves Oakton, Vienna, Reston, and Herndon is no more.

The local nonprofit organization, which provides services to older adults, has merged with an affiliate in Great Falls to form the Shepherd’s Center of Northern Virginia (SCNOVA), the new organization’s interim executive director, Jayne Young, announced on Feb. 15.

Young says the Oakton/Vienna/Reston/Herndon Shepherd’s Center and Shepherd’s Center of Great Falls started exploring options to improve their reach and efficiency several months ago, as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced nonprofits to reevaluate how they deliver services.

“Certainly, the pandemic has challenged us to find new ways of tackling most anything you can think of,” Young said in a letter. “For our Shepherd’s Center, that included taking a look at the way we meet our mission so we ensure that we continue delivering impactful services as efficiently as possible.”

The merger will give clients from the smaller Great Falls center access to more services, while combining the resources and volunteer networks of the two organizations, which are both affiliates of the Shepherd’s Centers of America.

Young says all Great Falls volunteers and clients will be transferred to SCNOVA, which will operate out of the existing Oakton/Vienna/Reston/Herndon facility at 541 Marshall Road in Vienna. Free transportation services will also still be provided to seniors in Great Falls.

The full transition is expected to be completed on Sunday (Feb. 28).

Founded in 1997, the Shepherd’s Center of Oakton-Vienna expanded to include the Reston and Herndon areas in 2019.

The nonprofit assists adults 55 and older with free transportation to medical and therapy appointments, food pick-up and delivery, minor home repairs, and health counseling and referrals. It also offers educational classes, luncheons, caregiver support groups, and other community programs.

“We are excited to begin 2021 with such good news!” Young said in her letter. “Working together, we hope to provide even better and more impactful services to seniors in Northern Virginia.”

Image via Google Maps

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Updated at 3:25 p.m. on 2/18/2021 — Tri-State Development Companies will not be constructing a vehicular link between a private road in its proposed independent living facility and Fern Oak Court.

Fairfax County planning staff had recommended such a connection, but “the applicant has expressed that the surrounding neighbors have voiced opposition to such a connection and therefore, is not proposing this link,” according to the staff report.

Tri-State tells Tysons Reporter that the internal, private road will be closed.

Earlier: Tri-State Development Companies has secured the approval of Fairfax County’s planning staff to build an independent living facility for adults 60 and older on Chain Bridge Road in McLean.

A staff report published on Feb. 10 recommends that the county grant the McLean-based developer’s request for a special exception, which would enable the construction of the proposed Chain Bridge Estates facility on 3.26 acres of land zoned for single-family residential use.

If the application is ultimately approved, the existing single-family dwellings at 1638 and 1642 Chain Bridge Road will be replaced by 35 independent living units designed to serve residents over 60 years of age.

According to the report, the new residences will be a mix of single-family attached units and multi-family dwellings. In keeping with the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance, 15% of the units will be priced at a rate affordable to households that earn 70% or less of the D.C. area’s median income.

The report says that Fairfax County staff initially had concerns about the development’s proposed layout, but those were allayed after Tri-State revised its application to include an eight-foot-wide trail along Chain Bridge Road and full transitional screening, except for a northwest corner that will have an underground stormwater management system.

“While staff acknowledges that screening alone does not address concerns with compatibility and intensity, staff finds that the combination of screening, architecture and open space results in reduced massing and intensity near the property line,” the report said.

Staff also note that having individual residential units, rather than a large multifamily building, will ensure “the development is more in keeping with the residential character of the area and does not appear as a commercial use.”

To serve residents, Tri-State has proposed building a 3,600 square-foot community clubhouse with various amenities, such as rooms for on-site medical and physical therapy appointments, an indoor warm-water pool, a community library, fitness room, art studio, and outdoor gathering area for dining.

The developer also says it will provide 90 parking spaces and an on-site network of walking trails with seating, recreation areas, and connections to nearby neighborhoods.

The McLean Citizens Association passed a resolution on Feb. 3 supporting the project with some conditions, including that Tri-State pay for a traffic light if one is needed at the Davidson Road intersection.

According to the report, evaluations by Virginia and Fairfax County transportation staff and an analysis submitted by Tri-State indicate that the intersection will not warrant a traffic signal, but it will need a turn lane with at least 100 feet of vehicle storage. Tri-State has proposed constructing a 117-foot lane.

The property is expected to generate seven trips in the morning peak hour, nine in the evening, and 130 daily trips when completed, the report says.

Other transportation-related commitments from Tri-State include:

  • renovating the existing Fairfax Connector bus stop at Chain Bridge and Audmar Drive with a new shelter and pad
  • providing a vehicular link between a proposed internal, private road and Fern Oak Court to the north (Correction: A vehicular link was proposed between the internal road and Fern Oak Court, but it is not being considered due to neighborhood opposition. Tysons Reporter apologizes for the error.)
  • giving residents the ability to outfit their homes with electric vehicle charging infrastructure

The Chain Bridge Estates project has been scheduled for a public hearing before the Fairfax County Planning Commission on Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m.

Map via Fairfax County

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