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Rendering of townhomes for EYA project in Pimmit Hills (via Fairfax County)

A developer has received the go-ahead to build townhomes on a Pimmit Hills property currently occupied by a circular C-shaped office building from the 1970s.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the project Tuesday (Jan. 25) after Bethesda-based developer EYA addressed concerns from officials and community members about potential flooding issues in the area.

The project at 7700 Leesburg Pike calls for 104 townhomes that could be three stories high with fourth-story additions.

“By converting an old, dated office building into residential, we’re significantly reducing the number of vehicle trips into and out of the site,” Cooley LLP attorney Mark Looney said, describing those changes as part of several benefits of the project.

Looney, who represented the developer, said parts of the property are below the ground due to grading, and trees next to the buildings show the development won’t overwhelm the neighborhood.

Before the Fairfax County Planning Commission approved the project on Nov. 10, officials worked with the developer to establish more demanding standards for stormwater management and flooding. Heavy rain has led to water issues in basements and yards near the community.

Supervisors approved a Comprehensive Plan amendment on Oct. 19, 2021, allowing the development to proceed as long as it met certain conditions to mitigate downstream flooding and reduce runoff, including stormwater management controls above the county’s minimum standards.

EYA noted it will provide an underground detention system for stormwater as well as a water filtering system with two treatment facilities to address phosphorous levels, which can be harmful to people and animals.

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Morning Notes

Snow Exacerbates Regional Grocery Supply Issues — “Icy roads and the after-effects of last week’s snowy weather have stripped the shelves at local grocery stores in recent days, compounding supply chain crises that have been in the news for months, says one potato supplier.” [DCist]

County Gives Covid Relief to Businesses — “The Fairfax County Department of Economic Initiatives announced today that it has awarded more than $16,000,000 in PIVOT grant funds to 1,016 Fairfax County businesses adversely affected by the pandemic. Businesses in the most hard-hit sectors of the Fairfax County economy, including hotel, food service, retail and personal services, and arts and culture industries, were targeted.” [Fairfax County DEI]

FCPS Adopts Updated Covid Quarantine Guidelines — Fairfax County Public Schools has adopted most of the new federal guidelines for COVID-19 isolations and quarantines, allowing staff who test positive to return to work after five days if symptoms are gone or improving. Students must still isolate for 10 days, since school cafeterias don’t have room for social distancing. [Patch]

Christmas Tree Collection Extended — “Christmas tree collection has been extended through January 21, 2022, for recycling. Lights, decorations, and stands must be removed to ensure collection. After January 21, please schedule a brush Special Pickup to have the Christmas tree removed.” [DPWES]

Vienna Starts New Water Main Project Today — “Glen Ave. will be closed to through traffic from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. between Albrecht Circle and Wade Hampton Dr. to allow for installation of a new water main. Detours during those hours will last for 3 weeks or until the project is complete.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

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The Fairfax County Planning Commission has approved a townhouse project replacing the office building at 7700 Leesburg Pike (via Google Maps)

A townhome development planned for 7700 Leesburg Pike will include stormwater facilities intended to address flooding concerns in the nearby Pimmit Hills neighborhood.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission approved the more stringent plan for the site currently occupied by a circular office building on Nov. 10, determining that developer EYA met the county’s new standards to help prevent flood damage to nearby properties.

“We don’t want to have this development impact the downstream,” Commissioner Mary Cortina, who represents Braddock District, said during a Nov. 3 public hearing.

She noted that the property is not a big runoff producer today, but commissioners don’t want the proposed development to make flooding any worse.

The Board of Supervisors voted on Oct. 19 to adopt a comprehensive plan amendment allowing a residential project to proceed if it exceeded certain stormwater management standards to mitigate downstream flooding, among other factors.

Located on a hill, the four-story office was built in 1976 and includes professional and medical offices as well as a private college of nursing.

EYA is seeking to replace the office building with 104 townhomes, nine of which would be affordable dwelling units. The townhomes could be three stories high with optional fourth-story additions.

“Pimmit Hills has experienced a lot of problems with stormwater through the Pimmit Run watershed and through some of their sub watersheds,” said Dranesville District Commissioner John Ulfelder, who serves as the planning commission’s vice chair. “People have had flooded basements many times, and there’ve been lots of complaints.”

An engineer for the project conceded that the proposed development would make the site 12% more impervious, meaning it will have surfaces that produce runoff as opposed to vegetated areas that absorb water.

But the developer is pursuing several solutions to address stormwater issues, according to a county staff report.

That includes reducing possible discharges of phosphorous, which can be harmful to people and animals. EYA will provide two water treatment facilities to improve worst-case scenarios for different levels of flooding, including a 100-year-flood, which isn’t required.

According to the county report, the developer has committed in a proffer to meeting certain targets for stormwater runoff reduction:

The applicant proposes to reduce the 1-year site peak runoff rate to a minimum of 5% below the allowable release rate determined using the energy balance equation for sites draining to a natural stream. The site peak runoff rates for the 2-year event will be reduced below the peak runoff rates of the site as it exists prior to the current development by a minimum of 20%. The 10-year site peak runoff rate will be reduced to the peak runoff rate that would drain off the site if it has a forested condition. The 100- year site peak runoff rate will also be reduced a minimum of 10% below the peak runoff rate that would be released from the post-development site if it did not have any stormwater measures.

The Board of Supervisors will still have to give the final approval to the townhouse project, which Ulfelder said might not be scheduled this year.

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The office building at 7700 Leesburg Pike could be redeveloped into townhomes (via Google Maps)

The Fairfax County Planning Commission gave its support to a proposed comprehensive plan amendment last week that will let a developer replace an aging Pimmit Hills office building at 7700 Leesburg Pike with townhomes.

The vote to recommend approval of the amendment came only after two commissioners and county staff worked with EYA Development to secure stronger language regarding the prospective developer’s obligations to address existing stormwater management and flooding issues.

“I think we’re at a place where we need to be in terms of strengthening that language and beefing it up,” Dranesville District Planning Commissioner John Ulfelder said during the Oct. 6 meeting. “So, as the rezoning proceeds, we have some clear guidance based on the particular issues and problems that this site and sub-water shed present.”

Initiated by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Sept. 15, 2020, the 7700 Leesburg Pike plan amendment process is unfolding in conjunction with a rezoning application that EYA submitted in December.

The developer has proposed building 104 single-family, attached townhouses — nine of which will be priced as affordable dwelling units — in place of the 150,000 square-foot office complex that currently occupies on the site.

The property is right on the edge of Pimmit Hills, which has encountered drainage and flooding challenges since construction began on the neighborhood in the 1950s, according to Ulfelder.

“People had muddy yards and so on,” he said. “Today, people — with some of the extraordinary rain events we’ve had — have had real problems with their basements and with their yards.”

Flood Factor, a tool developed by the nonprofit First Street Foundation, characterizes the overall risk of flooding in Pimmit Hills over the next 30 years as minor, but it says 174 properties, or 8% of all properties in the neighborhood, face a 26% or greater chance of being severely affected by flooding in that time frame.

A map of properties in Pimmit Hills facing flood risks, with 7700 Leesburg Pike in the red square (via Flood Factor)

In addition, the risk to residential properties and roads is increasing, with the latter already deemed at moderate risk of flooding, according to the database.

Fairfax County staff recommended in a report that the plan amendment include a provision requiring “stormwater management controls for the new development above the minimum standards are provided to the extent possible.”

However, Ulfelder and Braddock District Commissioner Mary Cortina raised concerns about what exactly that will entail at a Sept. 29 public hearing on the amendment. The commission decided to defer making a decision at that meeting.

“The feeling was, maybe the language that was being initially proposed didn’t go far enough in spelling out how we should proceed in order to try to reduce runoff,” Ulfelder said on Oct. 6.

The revised amendment includes a more specific explanation of the stormwater requirements that EYA will need to meet in order to get its proposed development approved:

Provide stormwater management controls above the minimum standards to the greatest extent possible to reduce runoff to good forested conditions; provide for an adequate outfall as informed by the Middle Potomac Watershed Plan; and to help mitigate downstream flooding.

EYA’s legal representative said at the public hearing that the developer plans to provide two facilities designed to capture water before releasing it at a slower rate, along with filters throughout the property that will improve the water quality.

The planning commission voted 10-0-1 to recommend that the Board of Supervisors adopt the revised amendment, with At-Large Commissioner Timothy Sargeant abstaining and Commissioner Candice Bennett not present.

The commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on EYA’s rezoning application on Nov. 3.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Adolescents Drive COVID-19 Vaccination Surge — “More than 52,000 Virginians in the 12-to-15 age group have received their first COVID-19 shot in the nine days since federal regulators authorized use of Pfizer’s vaccine for adolescents. This means 1 out of 9 kids in this age bracket — there are 422,741 in total — are at least partially protected against the coronavirus in the lead-up to schools fully reopening in the fall. [Richmond Times-Dispatch]

Three Displaced by West Falls Church House Fire — Three people were displaced by a house fire in the 7000 block of Ted Drive in West Falls Church that caused approximately $25,000 in damages. Units from Fairfax and Arlington counties arrived at the two-story house at approximately 1:27 a.m. on Sunday (May 23). The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but it is believed to have been accidental. [FCFRD]

Vienna Begins Water Flushing Program — “The Town will begin its annual Fairfax County water main flushing program today. It will run from today till 6/14. Work will not impact traffic or Town services.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

Falls Church City Schools Rank Top in State — Falls Church City Public Schools was ranked as the top school district in Virginia by Newsweek magazine, which published rankings this week based on data from the U.S. Department of Education. A 14:1 student-to-teacher ratio and 97% graduation rate were among the factors that distinguished FCCPS. [Falls Church News-Press]

Photo by Joanne Liebig

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It’s time for Fairfax Water’s annual flush, meaning the fire hydrants are flowing and the water might smell a little funny.

Every year, water companies flush their systems in order to clean out and remove sediment from water mains and pipes that have accumulated. This sediment occurs from internal corrosion as well as natural build-ups of iron and manganese.

It also ensures that chlorine contraction levels, which disinfect the water, remain steady since chlorine degrades in water over time.

The flush involves opening up fire hydrants and allowing water to flow freely. It may look like wasting water, but it ensures that sentiment, chlorine, and other materials are flushed out.

During this short period of time, Fairfax Water switches from using combined chlorine to free chlorine as their primary disinfectant.

Most of the year, combined chlorine — or chloramines — are used to treat drinking water. Produced by a chemical reaction between chlorine and ammonia, it’s not as effective as free chlorine in disinfecting water, but it can stay in the water longer.

Free chlorine acts faster than combined chloring to break up sediment, but degrades in a shorter period of time.

The use of free chlorine can also lead to the water tasting and smelling funny.

So, if you are taking a big gulp out of the tap and it tastes like pool water, that’s why.

If you or someone in your household is particularly sensitive to this taste and smell, storing an open container of drinking water in the refrigerator will allow the chlorine to dissipate.

Drinking water does have a shelf life, though, so it should be switched out regularly.

At the levels used in drinking water, both combined and free chlorine are considered safe by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Environmental Protection Agency .

All of this flushing began at the end of March and is expected to run until June 14 for most of Fairfax County.

Nearly 2 million people in Northern Virginia get their water from Fairfax Water, including nearly all of the county and the towns of Vienna and Herndon. It is Virginia’s largest water utility company and one of the 25 largest in the country.

Both Herndon and Vienna get their water “wholesale” from the company, meaning a third party or utility has the right to distribute water but not have the capability to treat their own water.

The Town of Vienna runs its own flushing program in coordination with Fairfax Water. This year’s water main flush began on March 26 and will run through May 21 from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day.

Fairfax Water also highly encourages commercial and residential property owners to flush their system if they’ve had to shut it down for an extended period of time during the COVID-19 pandemic. A thorough flushing is needed to clean out water that may have been sitting dormant in plumbing.

Water that remains stagnant for as little as two days can have mold, leeching, and other hazards in it that can lead to illness.

Photo by Pan Xiaozhen on Unsplash

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Northbound Lawyers Road from Maple Avenue will be closed for four to five hours today so that a water main break can be repaired, the Town of Vienna announced this morning.

The closure was expected to start around 9:30 a.m. It is not affecting southbound traffic on Lawyers going into Vienna.

The town also warned that water service to businesses in the area may be affected by the repair work.

Photo via Google Maps

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A contractor with the Town of Vienna started working to replace the water main on Broadleaf Drive NE between Beulah Road and Holloway Court NE today (Monday).

E.E. Lyons Construction will install approximately 1,000 linear feet of eight-inch ductile iron pipe to update a water main that was originally constructed in the 1960s, according to Vienna water quality engineer Christine Horner.

The town says the project is expected to take about six weeks to complete. Traffic will be controlled during construction using flaggers.

The Vienna Town Council voted on Apr. 27 of last year to award $1 million to E.E. Lyons for water system improvements throughout the town, including the installation of a new water meter and repairs to aging infrastructure.

Carrying an estimated cost of $216,000, the Broadleaf Drive water main replacement is one of about 26 projects encompassed by the contract. According to the town, individual sites have been prioritized based on water main break data, and work is being conducted in coordination with other town projects.

Construction first started in August on Center Street S. from Maple Avenue to Locust Street, and it continued in different locations throughout the town during the fall.

The projects funds came from a 2020 capital improvements project bond.

Image via Google Maps

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Restoration recently finished on a stream in McLean as part of Fairfax County’s larger efforts to improve water quality and reduce flooding.

Restoration started at Bull Neck Run, a stream just north of Tysons, in 2018 and included improving the ecological function of the stream and extracting nitrogen and phosphorous from the soil.

Before the project, the banks of the stream were eroding and the stream bed was identified as instable.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust celebrated the project’s completion with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday (Oct. 21).

“Projects like this will help ensure the health of our watersheds for generations to come and I look forward to continue working with the community on these improvements,” Foust said in a press release.

The project cost $1.6 million and was funded through the county’s stormwater service district.

Lewinsville Coalition, a local advocacy group, provided input during the project’s design and construction, along with pushing for trails to stay open while work was underway, according to a press release from Foust.

“The work involved restoration of approximately 2,000 linear feet of Bull Neck Run and several tributaries and will remove 800 pounds of nitrogen and 71,000 pounds of suspended solids per
year,” according to the press release.

Work to restore the native trees along with other landscaping is expected to wrap up next month.

The project is the latest stormwater project completed.

Upcoming projects include the restoration of Dead Run toward Georgetown Pike and work on Tucker Avenue in Falls Church.

Photo courtesy John Foust 

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After seven months of work, construction crews finally refurbished the stream that cuts through a nature preserve in McLean.

Scotts Run Tributary is encompassed by the Scotts Run Watershed project.

Improvements to the stream included reducing sediment, improving ground nutrients, stabilizing the banks and improving the overall water quality for 600 feet of stream, Matthew Kaiser, a spokesperson for Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, said.

The project began in late November of 2018 and finished this July and cost Fairfax County $1.5 million, Kaiser said.

“Water quality benefits of the project include removal of 47 pounds of total phosphorus, removal of 238 pounds of total nitrogen, and removal of 15,132 pounds of total suspended solids per year,” Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust wrote in his September newsletter.

The makeover also added setup pools, a reinforced pipe and stronger material, according to a Fairfax County presentation.

Photo via Fairfax County

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