Construction on The Rylan apartments in the Highland District (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Fairfax County is moving forward with an update to its affordable housing policy that could ensure a one-for-one replacement of affordable housing units in areas under redevelopment — signaling a major push to bind development to affordable housing preservation.

Open for public feedback until 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 28, the proposal would amend the county’s comprehensive plan to require developers to replace affordable housing on sites where it’s being eliminated in order to get their project approved.

The proposed policy leads with the first goal of ensuring “no net loss of affordable housing units within redevelopment to the extent practicable.”

There are a few policy changes listed beneath that, but one of the more practical and relevant ones for new development is Policy E:

For any proposed Comprehensive Plan amendment or zoning application review that proposes redevelopment of existing multifamily residential units, conduct an affordability analysis through the Department of Housing and Community Development to 1) identify existing affordable housing onsite and 2) understand the potential impacts of the proposed redevelopment on the existing affordable housing, such as a reduction in the number of affordable units or modification to the income tiers served.

This policy seemingly extends not just to committed affordable units — those contractually set to be available at certain levels of income — but to market-rate affordable housing units too — units that are at levels considered affordable without being set as such by a regulatory agency.

While some of Fairfax County’s neighbors like Alexandria have one-to-one replacement requirements for committed affordable units, requiring the replacement of market-rate units is a fairly bold new step.

“Absent any long-term affordability commitments, market-affordable developments can be lost to redevelopment or repositioning of the asset, leading to the displacement of existing residents and to community fragmentation,” the policy proposal said. “The County has committed to a goal of no net loss of these market affordable units, and should preserve the affordability of market-affordable multifamily rental housing units to the extent practicable.”

The changes within the proposal could also ripple out beyond just affordable housing preservation. Like in Alexandria, the county could allow greater density in exchange for affordable housing units.

“Additional residential densities or intensities above the Plan recommendation may be considered in development proposals that commit to long-term preservation (30 or more years), as an incentive to preserve or replace existing affordable multifamily rental housing units,” the proposal said.

The policy proposal noted that levels of density granted could involve other factors, like transit accessibility or financial feasibility around affordable units.

“The potential benefit of the preservation relative to the number and type of units preserved, the income levels served, and/or the strategic importance of the units relative to other factors, such as transit accessibility or financial feasibility of the preservation should be considered as part of any proposed development seeking additional density or intensity,” the proposal said.

The change wouldn’t give developers carte blanche for added density, however, and any proposal would have to weigh the impacts to the environment, schools, parks and other public facilities.

The Board of Supervisors reviewed the proposal at a Housing Committee meeting on Sept. 30. The meeting raised some questions about its feasibility, but the committee seemed generally in favor of the changes to the plan amendment.

“I do acknowledge that in some areas we might have difficulties being able to actualize that one-for-one replacement,” Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk said. “Thinking about my own district, I’m thinking about flood plain issues and other environmental aspects. That creates an issue.”

In areas where there can’t be a one-to-one replacement on site, Lusk said the county should consider requiring housing built elsewhere, but for the sake of keeping communities together, he said off-site housing should be the last resort.

Supervisor Dan Storck said around 80% of the units that would be preserved would be along the Richmond Highway in his Mount Vernon District.

“We do not want to go the route of Alexandria,” Storck said. “Frankly, they’ve lost about 90% of their affordable housing over the last 20 years, and that’s exactly why we’re doing what we’re doing. I think the board gets that we can’t just sit idly by and hope for the best…That challenge means we have to sit up our game and work more. The next steps are all ones that I fully support and think are essential to preserving housing, and frankly, I think more is going to have to be done even than that.”

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Journalist Bob Woodward at the Washington West Film Festival’s 40th anniversary screening for “All the President’s Men” (courtesy of Washington West Film Festival)

The movie world’s annual parade of fall festivals will make a pit stop in Fairfax County next week, with the launch of the Washington West Film Festival.

After celebrating its 10th anniversary virtually in 2020 due to COVID-19, the festival returned in person last year and is now preparing for its 11th season, which will bring a variety of films to Tysons and Reston from Oct. 13-17.

While it likely won’t generate the Oscar buzz of Toronto or the gossip of Venice, Washington West has a more unique mission. Founded in 2011, the festival was designed as a “laboratory” to promote both cinema and philanthropy, according to its website.

The festival says it donates all of its box office proceeds to nonprofits that assist “struggling communities.” Since 2019, the beneficiaries have been the Henry & William Evans Home For Children, Virginia’s Kids Belong, Blu_Print, and The Children’s Inn at the National Institutes of Health.

This year’s edition will kick off at 7 p.m. on Oct. 13 with an opening night screening of “Refuge” at Tysons’ Capital One Hall (7750 Capital One Tower Road).

The documentary follows a friendship between a Muslim heart doctor and an ex-Ku Klux Klan member in Clarkston, Georgia, “the most diverse square mile in America,” per the festival website. There will be a Q&A with the movie’s subjects as well as co-director and producer Din Blankenship.

The schedule for the four-day event includes feature-length and short films — both fictional and documentary — along with a virtual workshop on crowdfunding a movie and showcases for local filmmakers and George Mason University students.

Steven Spielberg’s classic “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” will get a 40th anniversary celebration on Oct. 15 at ShowPlace ICON in The Boro, which will host the majority of events. That day will also have a free, outdoor screening of “Hocus Pocus” at Reston Town Square Park.

The festival’s closing night film will be the HBO documentary “The Slow Hustle,” screening at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 17 at Reston Community Center’s CenterStage.

The full schedule and links to buy tickets can be found on the festival website.

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Herndon Town Manager Bill Ashton presents the town’s fiscal year 2022 annual report (via Town of Herndon)

The Town of Herndon hasn’t missed a single trash day during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite grappling with the same labor and supply issues as other jurisdictions.

Town Manager Bill Ashton admitted to the town council on Sept. 27 that he typically wouldn’t highlight uninterrupted trash service “as a badge of honor” in the town’s annual report for fiscal year 2022, which ran from July 1, 2021 to June 30 of this year.

However, with both larger localities and private collectors struggling with pickups over the past couple of years, Herndon sees its seamless trash and recycling service to 5,200 households and over 150 public sites as a genuine accomplishment.

“Our ability to get [commercially licensed drivers] behind the wheels of our trash trucks was a very difficult task this year,” Ashton said. “I will applaud [Director of Public Works] Scott Robinson and [Deputy Director] Tammy Chastain and the team for really taking a look at our organization and moving resources where they needed to be…to make sure this happened, and we didn’t miss a single day of trash throughout the pandemic and even through to today.”

From similarly uninterrupted water and sewer services to the police department closing 207 of 263 new criminal investigations, everything that the town did over the past year was accomplished with staffing levels around 85%, according to Ashton.

That figure doesn’t account for employees taking leave, including the “four to five people we had out on Covid almost every week,” he told the council.

Reflecting national labor challenges, Herndon saw record employee turnover due to both resignations and retirements in FY 2022, according to the annual report.

“Eleven employees retired in FY 2022, a higher pace than recent years and — due largely to pandemic-caused pressures — consistent with national measures,” the report says. “Total turnover of regular status employees increased by 53 percent in FY 2022.”

The town did manage to hire 141 employees, a 59% increase from the previous fiscal year and a number consistent with pre-pandemic levels. But it now takes three to six months to hire for a new position that once would’ve taken half that time, even with the addition of a human resources staffer dedicated to recruiting, Ashton said.

In some cases, staff compensated for the shortage of personnel by adapting services and programming, as was the case with the annual Herndon Festival’s downsizing into a carnival. A shortage of volunteer support and difficulties booking entertainers also contributed to the decision to modify the festival.

“Attendance was not as robust as in previous years, when a full festival was held, but it affirmed the community was willing to support a modified and, in this case, a lesser event,” Ashton said.

Council members praised staff for their work and willingness to reevaluate and improve how the town operates. The parks and recreation department, for instance, changed its quarterly events guide to one produced in-house every two months, allowing staff more flexibility while giving the community more up-to-date information.

“Staff had a difficult time providing this community with the quality levels of services they expect, but through resilience, agility, and creativity, we met our missions,” Ashton said.

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Thinking about taking the next step in your career?

The Arlington-based Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University offers flexible part-time or full-time options for graduate certificate and master’s degree programs designed to teach applicable, real-world knowledge for in-demand careers.

Learn more at the upcoming virtual open house!

Master’s and Certificate Open House

Virtual Event
Wednesday, October 19
7-8 p.m. Eastern

During this online session, you will have the opportunity to hear from our Director of Graduate Admissions about the Schar School and applying to graduate and certificate programs, as well as from program faculty about our graduate programs. Prospective master’s and graduate certificate students who attend this event will be provided with an application fee waiver for the spring 2023 or fall 2023 graduate applications.

Master’s Degree Programs

Part-time, full-time, and online options available

  • Biodefense, MS
  • Global Commerce and Policy, MA
  • International Security, MA
  • Organization Development and Knowledge Management, MS
  • Political Science, MA
  • Public Administration, MPA
  • Public Policy, MPP

To learn more about graduate programs at the Schar School, register for the open house or fill out our inquiry form.

The preceding sponsored post was also published on FFXnow.com

Fairfax County has launched a new data dashboard on opioid overdoses (via Fairfax County Health Department)

With opioids topping the list of causes of non-natural death in Fairfax County, local health officials have launched a new resource to give residents a better understanding of the situation.

A public-facing dashboard went live Monday (Oct. 3) with data about opioid overdoses and overdose deaths in the Fairfax Health District, which includes Fairfax County and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church.

The Fairfax County Health Department worked with the county’s Opioid and Substance Use Task Force to put the dashboard together, according to the announcement.

“The goal of the dashboard is to ensure that Fairfax County residents understand the threat that opioid drugs pose in our community and recognize that overdoses and overdose deaths affect a wide range of ages, people of both sexes, and all racial and ethnic groups,” Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, the county’s director of epidemiology and population health, said in the release.

The dashboard provides information about overdoses broken down by age, race and ethnicity. It will be updated in the first week of every month, according to the announcement.

As of press time, the dashboard counted 205 non-fatal opioid overdoses from Jan. 1 through Sept. 30 in the Fairfax Health District. There were 237 non-fatal overdoses at this point in 2021.

The dashboard also noted that the first quarter of 2022 saw 20 fatal opioid overdoses, compared to 31 during the first quarter of 2021.

“We want the public to be aware of overdose trends, which reflect the impacts of social factors, the types and availability of drugs, and the effect of mitigation measures including law enforcement, treatment and harm reduction measures,” Schwartz said.

The data comes from two main places: A system managed by the state health department that keeps track of emergency room and urgent care visits for overdoses, and the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Earlier this year, county medical officials worked to step up their response to the opioid epidemic after emergency care statistics showed an increase in overdoses, particularly cases involving teenagers.

The county provides services to assist people struggling with opioid use, including the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board Peer Outreach Response Team and the Fairfax Detoxification Center.

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Lake Anne Plaza’s concert commemorating jazz musician Mykle Lyons is back for a second year (courtesy Alec Berry/Roxplosion)

The Mykle Lyons Commemorative Concert will return to Reston this weekend with a new charitable component.

The Lake Anne & Washington Plaza Merchant Association (LAWPA) introduced the now-annual music festival last year to celebrate the life of Mykle Lyons, a jazz musician and longtime Reston resident who died in May 2021.

Initially set for last Saturday (Oct. 1), the concert was postponed to Oct. 8 due to the threat of inclement weather from Hurricane Ian.

Organized by LAWPA in conjunction with Kalypso’s Sports Tavern and Roxplosion, the free concert will be held from noon to 6 p.m. at Lake Anne Plaza (1609 Washington Plaza).

“This free, family-friendly event celebrates the accomplishments, generosity, and compassion demonstrated by a well-loved member of our community — featuring acclaimed artists, exquisite food, and lots of fun,” LAWPA said in a press release.

New for this year, the organizers announced that they are establishing a memorial scholarship fund in Lyons’s name. Donations will go to the Friends of Music at Mason to help a music student attend George Mason University.

LAWPA says checks can be made out to the George Mason Foundation and mailed to GMU-CVPA Development Office, Friends of Music, 4400 University Drive, MS 4C1, Fairfax, VA 22030. The association says to write “in memory of Mykle Lyons” on the check’s memo line.

The second annual Mykle Lyons Commemorative Concert line-up will feature the Dan Lamaestra Trio, the Peter Fraize Quartet, the Chris Timbers Band, and a trio from GMU’s jazz ensemble.

In addition to playing at music venues around the world and frequently performing for former vice president Al Gore, Lyons was a regular at Reston Town Center’s now-closed Market Street Bar and Grill. He founded the Lake Anne Jazz and Blues Festival, which returned to the plaza for a 15th year on Sept. 3.

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Morning Notes

The Jefferson Manor neighborhood had a block party to celebrate its 75th anniversary this past weekend (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

GMU Explores Possible Mixed-Use Development — George Mason University recently issued a request for proposals to study the feasibility of building up nearly 300 acres at its main Fairfax campus. The potential development could bring housing, “experiential learning space” and commercial uses, such as retail, office, a hotel or entertainment, to three university-owned properties. [Washington Business Journal]

Metro to Crack Down on Fare Evasion — “Metro is rolling out a multi-faceted plan to address a $40 million fare evasion problem. Beginning this month, Metro will start posting reminders on digital screens in stations, and Metro Transit Police officers will hand out fliers reminding riders to pay their fares. Metro will have more police out on the system and install cameras and monitors to deter gate-jumping.” [DCist]

In October, Fairfax County Police Officers Wear Pink — “We’re proudly supporting #BreastCancerAwareness Month @FairfaxCountyPD this October. To show our support, some of our officers will be wearing pink enameled police badges throughout the month.” [FCPD/Facebook]

New GMU Project Aims to Boost Bailey’s Crossroads — “George Mason University is spearheading a place-based initiative to bring together residents of Culmore and Bailey’s Crossroads and the organizations that serve them…The goals, Wilson said, are to ‘build community leaders, grow community engagement and ownership, and foster strategic collaboration toward positive community change.'” [Annandale Today]

Former Governor’s McLean Mansion Sold — “A mystery buyer of residential properties along McLean’s Gold Coast recently acquired land on Chain Bridge Road that was home to the mansion of former U.S. Sen. and Virginia Gov. Chuck Robb and his wife, Lynda Robb, until a late December fire left it in ruins. According to Fairfax County records, 600 CBR LLC paid $23 million for 612 and 618 Chain Bridge Road. That ranks as the largest residential sale of 2022 in Greater Washington thus far” [WBJ]

A Murdered Man Maybe Haunts Herndon — “Frances’s story was not the only one we have heard about legend of the ghost at Dead Man’s Hollow. Another long-time Herndon resident who grew up in Herndon recalled hearing about Dead Man’s Hollow, saying that it was located along Dranesville Road, between Wiehle Avenue and Hiddenbrook Drive.” [Patch]

Great Falls Celebrated With Ornament — “The Great Falls Citizens Association and The Arts of Great Falls have teamed up to offer signature ornaments…as a fund-raiser. The first ornament, in what organizers plan to be an annual series that highlights the community’s unique features, depicts ‘Great Falls of the Potomac,’ a watercolor painting by local artist Begoña Morton.” [Sun Gazette]

Wolf Trap National Park Gets New Leader — Ken Bigley has been named the new superintendent of Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, making permanent the title he has held on an acting basis since May 2021. The park has also added more performances for The Barns at Wolf Trap’s current season, with tickets going on sale at 10 a.m. this Friday (Oct. 7). [Patch]

It’s Wednesday — Possible drizzle in the morning. High of 61 and low of 51. Sunrise at 7:09 am and sunset at 6:46 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Electric vehicle chargers in Oakton (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Fairfax County is looking to charge up a new electric vehicle charging station program and pilot it in Reston.

At last week’s Transportation Committee meeting, the Board of Supervisors discussed a new “Charge Up Fairfax” program, where the county would provide support to homeowners’ associations (HOAs) and multi-family communities to install electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in common areas.

“Electric vehicles are coming and a large segment of the population won’t be able to participate simply because of the issue of at-home charging,” Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination Director Kambiz Agazi said Friday (Sept. 30).

The county hopes that, by 2030, 15% of all light-duty vehicle registrations in the county will be EVs, per the Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP) adopted last year. By 2050, the aim is to be at 42%. As of May 2022, though, under 1% of light-duty vehicle registrations are electric.

Under the proposed pilot program, the county would work with HOAs, large multi-family apartment buildings, and condo associations to install EV charging stations in publicly available locations, such as parking garages and designated parking spots owned by an HOA.

The pilot will start with Reston Association (RA), the largest HOA in the county and possibly the country.

Agazi said the pilot program is funded, but a timeline wasn’t established at the meeting. FFXnow reached out to the Reston Association about the pilot program and a possible timeline but has yet to hear back as of publication.

There are more than 1,500 home, apartment and condo associations in the county, according to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn.

“We are kind of at the forefront on this one and there not a lot of communities in the region, or even around the country, that are trying to tackle this,” Alcorn said. “We are really talking about roughly half of our population that live in communities like I do that don’t have a [private] garage or a private space that they could put a charger. So, this is a big deal.”

“Charge Up Fairfax” would assist HOAs in identifying locations for charging stations, provide technical support to set them up, and offer financial assistance. The grants would be structured to reimburse communities for a third of eligible expenses up to $5,000.

So-called “disadvantaged” communities would be able to apply for two grants, meaning they would have eligible expenses reimbursed for up to $10,000.

A big component will be a feasibility study, which the county will conduct for the HOAs. The study will consider power sources, the parking situation, community input, and other factors to determine where the best locations would be for charging stations.

“We are going to be giving the HOAs quite an extensive package…They are going to have everything at their disposal to install charging stations,” Agazi said.

While the supervisors seemed generally in support of the proposal, they had a number of questions around logistics, cost, and equity.

Chairman Jeff McKay cautioned that permitting and regulatory processes could discourage some HOAs that may not have the resources of large ones like RA from utilizing this program.

He and Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik suggested piloting the program with a variety of associations to see what issues smaller organizations might face.

Palchik said that, while conceptually she’s on board, more work needs to be done to figure out the best way to engage and hear from some of the HOAs that are smaller, less resourced, and may not prioritize EV charging stations over other, more immediate challenges.

Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith asked more granular questions that were not addressed in the presentation, including the overall cost to the county and the intended capacity.

The committe ran out of time before getting answers to those inquiries, but “Charge Up Fairfax” appears to be charging up to expand across the county in the future. The OEEC will seek the board’s approval on Nov. 1 to apply for federal funding to support the program.

“There’s nothing like this in the DMV and there’s nothing like this program in the country that I’m aware of,” Agazi said. “This program is all about guiding the HOAs through the process. In other words, Fairfax County staff is prepared to work with HOAs through…until electric vehicle charging stations are installed.”

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Before & After. (Photo courtesy Synergy Design & Construction)

By Nicola Caul Shelley, Synergy Design & Construction

Well, last month’s “Design Elements That Are Dating Your Home” column clearly struck a chord with many local homeowners! We heard from lots of people who shared other items they think are ready for a new, fresh twist. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some other dated items homeowners want to switch up when it comes time for their next home remodel or refresh!

Kitchen Desks

We’ve lost count of how many of these we’ve pulled out of homes in recent years! The kitchen desk seemed like such a great addition when it became ‘in’. However, many homeowners just never used them and they became a dumping zone rather than a work zone. When the COVID pandemic and lockdown happened, most people didn’t want to work at a desk in a small space facing a wall, so the home office/dining room got more attention as a work zone and the kitchen desk was abandoned. If you’re thinking of a kitchen remodel, we say replace the kitchen desk if you don’t use it. Put that square footage to better use!

Closet Pantry

There was a time when homes in this area weren’t built without a closet pantry. Although they are useful, they take up A LOT of square footage and because of their layout (not to mention an added door in a small space), things tend to disappear into the back of them, never to see the light of day again. Closet pantries are now being replaced with pull-out pantry cabinets instead. Got room for a separate pantry? Lucky you! The pantry has become a curated space in its own right and we LOVE it!

Platform Tubs in the Primary Bathroom

We’ve been saying this for a while, but the days of oversized platform tubs are gone. Taking their place are free-standing soaking tubs — or no tub at all! If you love a good soak, then the new style of tub is a great addition to your primary bathroom, but it’s no longer a ‘must-have’. Many homeowners are foregoing the tub altogether and creating large, glass shower enclosures instead. If you simply must have a tub, the trend of having a glass enclosure that has both the shower and the tub in one ‘wet’ zone has also been showing up everywhere in recent years.

When it comes to resale, many prospective buyers may want a tub somewhere in the home for kids (and yes, sometimes, pets!), but it is no longer a requirement to have a tub in the primary bathroom.

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Lake Anne House ribbon cutting (photo courtesy of Harry Connolly/Fellowship Square)

After a nearly decade-long effort to redevelop a 1970s-era housing community, the Lake Anne House is finally open.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held last week to open the $86 million redevelopment project at 11444 North Shore Drive in Reston. The Lake Anne House is a 240-apartment complex for low-income seniors that is replacing the five-decade-old Lake Anne Fellowship House.

Conceived by the nonprofits Fellowship Square Foundation and Enterprise Community Development, the new building will house those 65 years or older who are living on incomes 60% and below the area median income.

“This new state-of-the-art building in terms of energy efficiency and accessibility sets a new standard for what affordable housing can be,” Fellowship Square CEO Christy Zeitz said in a press release. “Most importantly, it will enable financially fragile older adults to be able to age in place here in Northern Virginia for many years to come.”

While the official opening was just last Thursday (Sept. 29), residents already relocated from the Lake Anne Fellowship House to the new building over the summer.

Built in 1970, the Lake Anne Fellowship House was the first high-rise and first dedicated affordable apartment complex for seniors in Reston. It was also part of Robert Simon’s original vision for the community.

But after more than 50 years of use, the building is now considered aging, and since its construction predated the Americans with Disabilities Act, accessibility for many residents became an issue.

With the opening of the Lake Anne House, the hope is that those challenges are now solved.

In attendance at the ribbon-cutting ceremony last week were local officials, including Hunter Mill Supervisor Walter Alcorn, as well as the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Adrianne Todman.

“Lake Anne House is an example of the high-quality affordable housing we can build with ingenuity, tenacity, and partnership,” Todman said. “It is what fixing our housing supply looks like — a demonstration of how we can work collaboratively at all levels to build and rehabilitate housing — project by project, block by block, community by community — across the country.”

The idea of building a whole new complex on an underused portion of the site next to the Lake Anne Fellowship House was proposed in 2013. It took five years of design and development before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the project in 2018.

Two years after breaking ground in October 2020, the Lake Anne House is now officially open to residents. It has 56 studios, 178 one-bedroom, and six two-bedroom apartments, including 54 fully handicap-accessible units, per a press release.

The building also has a fitness center, arts and crafts room, a social hall, a sunroom, a game room, an outdoor terrace, a wellness clinic, and on-site residents’ services offices.

Lake Anne House was mostly financed by a combination of state and local funds, including $47 million from a tax-exempt bond financing from state-created Virginia Housing.

The old building next door is now vacant and currently being used as a training location for fire departments. It’s set to be demolished early next year and the land sold to a private developer for new townhomes.

Fellowship Square also completed a renovation of its affordable housing at Hunters Woods this summer.

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