New Dranesville supervisor seeks to build on predecessor’s legacy, prioritizes housing and ‘smart growth’

Dranesville Supervisor Jimmy Bierman (courtesy of Jimmy Bierman)

Jimmy Bierman officially stepped into the role of Dranesville District supervisor last week, taking the reins from John Foust, who retired last year after 16 years on Fairfax County’s board.

Bierman, a lawyer and McLean resident, has a clear vision for his tenure, but he says he’s also committed to continuing the work of his predecessor, focusing on issues such as the revitalization of downtown McLean, senior living opportunities and the impact of the I-495 expansion on local residents.

“I had gotten to know John Foust very well, through local Democratic Party circles,” Bierman told FFXnow. “He was really a mentor to me, and a role model.”

Before securing his victory last November against Fairfax County Republican Committee first vice chair Puneet Ahluwalia with 61% of the vote, Bierman served on the county’s Police Civilian Review Panel from April 2019 to December 2022 and worked as an attorney advisor to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

But Bierman wanted to do more at the local level.

“I loved my job at federal government, but I started realizing that the government that interacted with people sort of on a day-to-day basis, that you really needed at times, was your local government,” he said.

For his first term representing the Dranesville District, which covers McLean, Great Falls, Herndon and Idylwood, Bierman’s priorities include adopting more environmentally friendly practices, enhancing housing density in areas well-served by public transit and securing additional funding for Fairfax County Public Schools.

Sustainability

At the top of his list is managing the county’s growth in a “sustainable way.”

While in office, Bierman says he plans to not only advocate for conserving green space, but also promoting green practices in county-owned buildings. Specifically, he will focus on incentivizing more renewable energy sources in both the public and private sectors.

“A good example of something that the county did recently in our district, that I very much applaud and think is great, is we’ve moved to powering the Spring Hill Rec Center, partially, through geothermal energy,” Bierman said.

The recreation center at 1239 Spring Hill Road is one of a growing number of county facilities that are getting power from renewable energy.

In July 2021, Fairfax County adopted an Operational Energy Strategy, aiming to become carbon neutral by 2040 through renewable energy practices.

Housing

In addition to promoting sustainable practices, Bierman is focused on curbing the county’s housing crisis.

“Housing affordability is just incredibly difficult in this town,” he said. “This is a problem that affects all jurisdictions.”

Bierman said he believes the county should focus not just on affordable housing, but also on initiating pilot programs to expand senior and workforce housing, specifically for public sector workers like teachers, firefighters, and police officers.

“It’s both the public and private partnerships that lead to affordable and workforce housing being built and expanding those programs,” he said. “We need to expand our stock of housing stock in general in the places that can sustain it,”

In 2022, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors set a new goal of creating 10,000 affordable housing units by 2034. The previous target, set in 2019, was 5,000 new units in 15 years.

As of April 2022, the county reported that 2,911 homes have been created or are in the development pipeline, according to its data dashboard.

Bierman believes the future of housing projects in Fairfax County will be mixed-use developments along Metro’s Silver Line.

“We have a great opportunity, for instance, near the [Innovation Center Metro station] in Dranesville, to redevelop some of those properties so that you have people who are living right near and on top of a Metro station,” he said. “That will allow us to increase our overall stock of housing, which will help us with housing affordability issues.”

Bierman also pointed to the downtown McLean revitalization effort as a blueprint for future housing initiatives.

“I think mixed-use is the future of the suburbs,” Bierman said. “It is no longer necessarily the case that we simply want only housing here or commercial there…Think the downtown in McLean. We have a real opportunity to continue what we’ve already started.”

Schools

While acknowledging he doesn’t have a say on the inner workings of FCPS, which is governed by the school board, Bierman says he’s committed to “fully funding” the school system and promoting school safety in general.

“Schools are absolutely the crown jewel of Fairfax County,” Bierman said.

Last fall, the county projected a budget shortfall of $284.5 million, which county staff attributed to a cooling real estate market, global economic impacts, and upcoming collective bargaining agreements.

While the impact on the school system’s 2024 budget remains uncertain, Bierman says the county should consider increasing the bond threshold again, ensuring continued investment in school-related capital projects and increasing teacher salaries.

“We are not afraid to take to the voters, opportunities for us to actually succeed on those improvements, while still being cognizant of the fact we always have to maintain our triple-A bond rating,” Bierman said.

Even as those financial hurdles loom, Bierman underscored his commitment to prioritizing student safety, particularly on gun safety measures. His proposals include a gun buyback program, gun lock distributions at police stations and an expansion of the state’s red flag law.

“I’d like to see us continue to chip away at…our country’s gun violence problem,” he said. “I don’t necessarily think it’s a huge problem in Fairfax County, per se, but I want us to continue to come up with reasonable measures that we think will make us safer from gun violence.”

I-495 expansion

Lastly, Bierman intends to continue pushing for transparency around 495 NEXT, the I-495 expansion that has faced intense opposition from neighboring residents.

Under construction now for nearly two years, the project is extending the I-495 Express Lanes by approximately two miles from the Dulles Toll Road in Tysons to the George Washington Memorial Parkway in McLean.

The project, however, has been under intense scrutiny from nearby residents who filed a federal lawsuit last year, alleging that major revisions to the project’s design violated federal law and caused “significant ongoing environmental harms” to the community.

Like Foust, Bierman expressed concerns not only about the project’s environmental impact, but also about how state entities, including the Virginia Department of Transportation, have addressed the issues raised by the community.

“I am extremely troubled by the destruction that has occurred around the Beltway, in neighborhoods and throughout my district, affecting our constituents, for a program to build ramps that are contingent on moving traffic from Maryland’s [toll] lanes that do not exist,” he said.

Bierman didn’t provide specific details about his plans moving forward but mentioned that he intends to thoroughly examine the project.

Read more on FFXnow…

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