The Barton Hill Recreation Area in Reston is slated for upgrades (via Google Maps)

Upgraded lighting is no longer a component of upgrades to the Barton Hill tennis courts in Reston.

Reston Association will not challenge the Oct. 26 vote by the Fairfax County Board of Appeals upholding an earlier decision to require additional approvals before lights can be installed at the facility.

Board of Appeals member Daniel Aminoff emphasized that the county’s current ordinance does not specifically indicate that lighting-related upgrades are considered exceptions to a requirement for an amendment to Reston’s existing Planned Residential Community (PRC) plan.

“Had the Board of Supervisors intended to include lights, they would have specifically delineated in that case,” said Aminoff.

The board agreed with a county zoning administrator that a PRC plan amendment is required for the proposed upgrades in addition to a site plan.

RA had argued that it only needs a sports illumination plan to move forward with 23 LED light poles, which would stand 26 feet tall. RA also said the approved development plan for the area describes the courts as a recreational area and, as a result, allows for greater flexibility in planning.

The project will still include refurbishment and replacement of the existing tennis courts. RA’s board removed roughly $381,000 from its budget after the lighting component was dropped, according to RA spokesperson Mike Leone.

Leone declined to provide a response on the association opting not to appeal the county’s decision.

The proposal includes renovation of four courts and striping for tennis and pickle ball. RA previously anticipated the project would be ready by the end of the year, but the new timeline has not currently been finalized.

Photo via Google Maps

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Fairfax County Public Schools

Fairfax County Public Schools could require parental notifications for class materials deemed sexually explicit, but in a deviation from the state, the proposed policy directly addresses concerns about censorship, specifically for LGBTQ-related content.

Introduced at the Fairfax County School Board meeting last night, the policy requires teachers to maintain lists of books, videos, and other instructional materials with “sexually explicit content.” Schools must notify parents at least 30 days before the materials are used and provide alternatives if sought by a parent or student.

“Schools shall defer to parents to determine whether the use of an instructional material with sexually explicit content is appropriate for their child,” the policy states.

As noted by staff, FCPS already has a policy and regulations governing selections of print and electronic materials, including guidance for notifying parents and fulfilling requests for access to the materials or alternatives.

The draft policy generally incorporates a model developed by the Virginia Department of Education, as dictated by Senate Bill 656, which requires school boards to adopt rules specifically for sexually explicit content by Jan. 1, 2023. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Glenn Youngkin on April 6.

However, FCPS has added one clause stating that:

This policy shall not be construed to require or provide for (1) the censoring of books in public elementary and secondary schools, or (2) the designation of instructional material as sexually explicit based solely upon the sexual orientation of the characters contained therein.

The school system told FFXnow it has no comment on the proposal “at this stage,” but the clause seems intended to quell fears that the new requirements could be used to limit access to materials that feature or deal with issues related to LGBTQ people.

Unveiled in early August, the VDOE model policy defines “sexually explicit content” in accordance with the state code:

(i) any description of or (ii) any picture, photograph, drawing, motion picture film, digital image or similar visual representation depicting sexual bestiality, a lewd exhibition of nudity, as nudity is defined in § 18.2-390, sexual excitement, sexual conduct or sadomasochistic abuse, as also defined in § 18.2-390, coprophilia, urophilia, or fetishism.

Virginia Code section 18.2-390 includes “homosexuality” in its definition of sexual conduct, raising concerns that LGBTQ people will be treated as inherently sexual and not suitable for students. The 1,750 public comments submitted on the policy also included praise for it as a step forward for “parental rights.”

The Pride Liberation Project, a student-led advocacy group that started in Fairfax County, was among the critics of the state-proposed policy, but the language added by FCPS has eased its concerns.

“We are grateful to see FCPS clarify that our existence is not sexually explicit,” the group told FFXnow. “Nothing about our existence as Queer students is inherently sexual, but SB 656 threatens to mislabel our community. We hope other school districts follow FCPS’ lead and protect the limited Queer representation in our classrooms from censorship attacks.”

Still, the proposed FCPS policy doesn’t go as far as ones adopted by neighboring districts in warding off potential attacks on LGBTQ materials.

Loudoun County’s school board approved a policy on Wednesday (Nov. 30) that protects materials based on the gender identity of characters, as well as sexual orientation. A policy that went before the Arlington school board last night removes references to section 18.2-390 from its definition of “sexually explicit content.”

FCPS faced questions about material selection last year, when parents complained that there was graphic sexual content in the novel “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison and Maia Kobabe’s memoir “Gender Queer,” which both have LGBTQ protagonists.

Initially pulled from library shelves, the books were restored after review committees determined the claims were unfounded and that their literary merits justified making them accessible to students.

A decade-old fight over Toni Morrison’s classic “Beloved” also became a talking point in Youngkin’s 2021 campaign to become governor. Legislation inspired by that attempted book ban got vetoed in 2016 but served as a precursor for the new state law.

FCPS Pride, an LGBTQ advocacy group for employees, expressed concern that teachers will “self-censor” material out of fear of complaints or harassment.

“No good can come from reducing our curriculum to a few books that make absolutely nobody uncomfortable,” FCPS Pride said in a statement. “Our hope is that, after enacting this policy, FCPS will take legal action on behalf of the right of all students to an education that includes and welcomes them.”

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A public art piece inspired by the connectivity and energy of atoms has been erected in Reston Town Center’s Hyatt Park.

Called “Vidustria,” the installation is drawn from the word “vigor” and the Latin term “industria,” or energy. It’s the brainchild of students from South Lakes High School’s STEAM Public Art Program.

Local officials and sponsors gathered last Friday (Nov. 25) to celebrate the work’s installation.

“We started this project over three years ago…and then something called the pandemic intervened,”

Tysons Warren, Hyatt Regency’s general manager, also approved using the site to renew the project for future art projects. Hyatt allowed the project team to use the space and power — to light up the artwork — at night.

Robert Goudie, Reston Town Center Association’s executive director,  said the project would not be possible with community partners. For example, power Service ran electric and secured conduit and writing for free and Commercial Concrete poured six concrete piers to secure the installation, along with bolting the beams to piers. Yellowstone Landscaping helped transport and install the sculpture at no cost.

“It has been an amazing community effort, supporting the dedication and commitment of dozens of students under Marco’s inspirational leadership over almost three years, interrupted by the pandemic, to make this happen,” Goudie said.

The structure is made from aluminum composite panels, acrylic panels, LED lights, screws, spray paint, vinyl print and wood. The sculpture features figures in motion on one side and a collection of human irises floating like celestial bodies on the other.

Here’s more from Reston Town Center Association describing the art work:

Atoms are minuscule particles, fundamental building blocks which combine to create all tangible objects in this universe. Alone, they are nothing. Together, they are everything. People, especially the students who made Vidustria, can be compared to these atoms due to their interconnectivity, a recurring theme within this sculpture. However, atoms have one deficiency: they do not compose energy, only maer. This is where the students of South Lakes High School have the upper hand. The unique, individual energy that each person has put into Vidustria is what elevates this artwork above the molecular foundations of the cosmos.

On one side of the sculpture is a series of figures in motion, while on the other side, a set of human irises, floating as if they’re celestial bodies. Both of these representations are meant to be universally recognizable. Interconnectivity is intertwined with one’s humanity, by simply inhabiting a body and perceiving this world (whether visually or not), people naturally gravitate toward one another based on these shared experiences. It should be easy to see yourself in Vidustria, to acknowledge the relationships you forge with other people and the energy that these relationships establish.

The school’s STEAM Club has created many art installations in Reston, including several projects on Lake Thoreau. It’s run by SLHS art teacher and local artist Marco Rando.

The sculpture will likely remain on the site until the spring of 2024.

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A man walks by trash bins next to the curb (via Trinity Nguyen on Unsplash)

(Updated at 1:25 p.m.) The service and staffing challenges plaguing trash collectors throughout Fairfax County have prompted one company to call it quits, leaving thousands of residents in limbo with little notice.

Haulin’ Trash LLC has permanently shuttered, informing customers by email Wednesday (Nov. 30) that it will cease operations effective yesterday.

“We have faced many challenges over the past several weeks that we simply cannot overcome. This decision has not only affected our customers but it has affected dozens of employees and their families,” owner Bobby Frazier said in the message, apologizing for the resulting inconvenience.

Frazier said that the “keys to the business” will transferred to a court-appointed trustee “over the next couple of weeks,” who will be in charge of giving out credits or refunds.

Started in 2017, the Leesburg-based company served around 3,000 customers in the county, including homeowners’ associations and 1,800 single-household customers, the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) says.

The county has over a dozen private, licensed haulers that serve about 90% of residents and businesses. The rest get waste collection services from the county government.

DPWES says its Solid Waste Management Program contacted Haulin’ Trash on Tuesday (Nov. 29) after receiving “a surge in resident complaints about missed collections.” The company told staff that it was “experiencing operational and financial difficulties,” but said it was looking at options to address the reported concerns, according to the county.

A day later, though, Haulin’ Trash notified the county that it had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and would close on Dec. 1.

An email sent to customers on Nov. 30 said plans to “catch up” on missed collections proved impossible because it had only four trucks — half its fleet – available.

Shared with FFXnow today, the email has a timestamp of 4:29 p.m. The announcement that Haulin’ was permanently closing went out at 9:39 p.m. that same day. The company didn’t return a request for comment.

While sudden, the closure doesn’t appear to be a total surprise to Haulin’ customers. One told FFXnow that the company’s service “had degraded to almost nothing this month,” while an Oakton resident said it missed three consecutive pickups in their neighborhood in November.

“The delayed/missed pickups have caused trash/recycle bin(s) and yard waste bag(s) sit on the curbside/street for weeks,” the resident wrote in an anonymous tip. “As a result, the neighbor looks disorganized with unpleasant smell, trashes littering on street, in storm drainage, on lawn(s).” Read More

Morning Notes

Sunlight behind a peaked, glass roof at the Vienna Metro station (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Suspect in Mount Vernon Fatal Shooting Arrested — Fairfax County police arrested Kyjuan Omar Braxton Trott-McLean, of Mount Vernon in the 3800 block of Colonial Avenue yesterday after a brief vehicle pursuit. The search for Trott-McLean took nearly two months after police identified him as “a suspect in the Oct. 2 killing of Brandon Wims, 31, of Maryland.” [The Washington Post]

Lego Discovery Center Groundbreaking Soon — “A new Lego Discovery Center is set to open in Springfield Town Center in Summer 2023. Officials from PREIT (the parent company of Springfield Town Center) and Merlin Entertainments will break ground on the project next week, with a ceremonial brick drop to signify the beginning of the new space.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Zoë’s Kitchen Has Closed in Vienna — “A sign posted at the restaurant notified customers of the closure as of Nov. 30. Zoës Kitchen, which was acquired by CAVA in 2018, has one remaining Northern Virginia restaurant in Ashburn. CAVA has a Vienna location down the road from the closed Zoës Kitchen.” [Patch]

Mount Vernon HS Football Coach Steps Down — “Monty Fritts, who coached the varsity football team at Mount Vernon High School for the past seven seasons, officially ended his coaching career Nov. 16…[Fritts] will continue serving in his role as assistant director of student activities at Mount Vernon” [On the MoVe]

Virginia Reports Season’s First Flu Death — “Sadly, a child (5-12 years old) in Virginia’s Southwest region died from complications associated with influenza. To protect the family’s privacy, VDH will not provide any further information regarding this death.” [VDH]

Annandale Skate Park Renovation Completed — “The newly refurbished and expanded Wakefield Skate Park is open to the public. The site is open daily from dawn until 10 p.m. and is already bringing out loads of skateboarders eager to enjoy the new amenities.” [Fairfax County Park Authority]

McLean Cybersecurity Company to Go Public — “McLean cybersecurity solutions firm Cycurion Inc. is going public early next year via a merger with the special purpose acquisition company Western Acquisition Ventures Corp. Cycurion…expects to raise about $113 million in the deal and intends to use the proceeds to acquire smaller companies and eventually triple its headcount.” [DC Inno]

Winter Market Showcases Local Small Businesses — “On Fridays, December 2nd, 9th and 16th, the Winter Market will be held from 4:30pm-8pm. On Saturdays, December 3rd, 10th and 17th, the Winter Market will run from 12pm-5pm. The Winter Market series will be held at Celebrate Fairfax’s community hub, The PARC at Tysons…The venue hosts over 10,000 square feet of indoor space transformed into a winter wonderland and offers free parking.” [Celebrate Fairfax]

GMU Partners with Amazon Web Services — “Amazon Web Services, which bases its east coast operations in Herndon, is working with Fairfax-based George Mason University on developing a new project-based curriculum and coursework focused on data centers for engineering students…The curriculum will officially launch through its bachelor’s degree programs in electrical and mechanical engineering in 2023 at the school’s main Fairfax campus.” [FCEDA]

It’s Friday — Clear throughout the day. High of 49 and low of 30. Sunrise at 7:11 am and sunset at 4:48 pm. [Weather.gov]

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The Fairfax County Government Center (staff photo by David Taube)

With the 2022 elections now in the rearview mirror, five Fairfax County supervisors have already confirmed that they will be seeking re-election in 2023.

All 10 Board of Supervisors seats will be on the ballot come Nov. 7, 2023, along with the entire school board, General Assembly members, and other local elected offices.

While individuals can’t submit paperwork to the county’s office of elections until after Jan. 1 to make their candidacy official, a number of incumbents have already confirmed their plans.

Seeking Reelection

Board Chairman Jeff McKay intends to run for reelection next year, a spokesperson told FFXnow.

“His campaign will make an announcement soon,” the spokesperson said.

First elected to the position in 2019, McKay previously represented Lee District, which is now known as Franconia District. He has been a vocal advocate for local authority, and in recent months, he has clashed with the state on abortion-related protests and policies limiting transgender student rights.

Over the summer, Rodney Lusk announced he will seek a second term in McKay’s former seat. In 2019, he became the first African American man elected to the Board of Supervisors, per his website.

He told FFXnow at the time that his second-term priorities will be similar to his first term, when he emphasized access to affordable housing, school funding, pedestrian and bicycle safety, criminal justice reform, and food insecurity.

This Saturday (Dec. 3), Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck is set to launch his own re-election campaign. He’s running for his third term on the board after first getting elected in 2015 following a stint on the Fairfax County School Board.

On his website, he highlights as achievements his work to reduce crime, the opening of a number of new county facilities in the Mount Vernon District, the continued revitalization of the Richmond Highway Corridor, and the saving of River Farm.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn told FFXnow in an email that he’s been raising campaign funds and does “intend to run for re-election in 2023,” as suggested by his newly updated campaign website.

This would be Alcorn’s second term. He was first elected in 2019 after serving on the county’s planning commission.

During his first three years in office, he has opposed development of Reston National Golf Course, supported affordable housing initiatives and, perhaps most notably, helped get the Silver Line Phase II on track to opening as the chair of the board’s transportation committee.

Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw also confirmed that he will be seeking a second term next year:

Serving on the Board of Supervisors is an incredible honor. We’ve accomplished a lot in the last three years. We navigated a global pandemic, created new community-building events like our children’s concert series and Braddock Bark festival, sent hundreds of editions of our email newsletters, and helped answer questions and solve problems for thousands of constituents. I look forward to taking that record of responsive, collaborative leadership to the voters in 2023.

Stepping Down

In August, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust announced he will step down after 16 years when his term ends on Dec. 31, 2023. During his tenure, he oversaw the creation of a plan to revitalize downtown McLean and advocated for the widening of Route 7.

In a new statement to FFXnow, Foust said it was a “very difficult” decision not to seek re-election but ultimately decided this was what was best for him:

I have loved serving my community on the Board of Supervisors for the past 15 years, and I especially enjoy working with the current Chairman and Board members. I decided, however, that there were other things I want to do at this time. While I enjoy working on the very broad range of a Supervisor’s responsibilities, going forward I am looking forward to focusing my efforts more specifically on some of the causes I care about most. And I am very much looking forward to having more time for my family, friends, and travel.

As of this moment, no one has announced their candidacy for Foust’s seat.

Undeclared

Long-time Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross said she will declare her intentions by the end of 2022. She’s served on the Board for 27 years, since 1995, and is now in her seventh term.

“It’s a little early for planning for 2023,” she told FFXnow. “But I anticipate making an announcement sometime in December.”

Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith, Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik, and Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity all said they plan to make campaign announcements early next year.

Herrity already has a potential challenger in the Springfield District. Local tech entrepreneur Albert Vega announced in September that he will run in the Democratic primary in June 2023.

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A special remembrance ceremony is slated for this weekend (via Google Maps)

More than 920 military veterans laid to rest at Chestnut Grove Cemetery in Herndon will be honored during a special ceremony later this month.

The Town of Herndon is working with the Herndon Woman’s Club and Wreaths Across America for the remembrance ceremony, which is open to the public and begins at noon on Saturday, Dec. 17.

First established in 1872, the 25-acre cemetery is the final resting place for veterans dating back to the War of 1812. The historic cemetery was deeded to the town in 1997 by the Chestnut Grove Cemetery Association, which operated the cemetery from the early 1950s.

“This event has been going on in the Herndon community for many years, and everyone thinks it continues to be a wonderful way for the community to show respect for those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country,” town spokesperson Reid Okoniewski said.

The woman’s club is a nonprofit organization that aims to support local, state, national and international causes since it was established in 1939.

Individuals unable to attend the event can sponsor a wreath for $15. Checks can be made payable to the Herndon Woman’s Club and sent to P.O. Box 231, Herndon, VA, 20172.

Photo via Google Maps

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This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Northern Virginia that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By Melissa L. Watkins, Esq.

Over the past year, there have been significant changes to the federal government’s stance on marijuana as it relates to federal employees, applicants, and clearance holders.

These changes, while still very much unfolding, signal that federal employees, applicants, and clearance holders will be treated differently when it comes to prior use of marijuana. It is important to note at the outset that while these changes suggest that prior use of marijuana may not be the barrier to employment or possessing a clearance that it once was, the federal government still does not authorize, condone, or accept the use of marijuana by current employees or clearance holders.

Federal Government Changes to Marijuana Policy

In the most recent wave of elections held around the country, marijuana was again a focus in several states. As a result of recent state ballot referendums, more than 155 million Americans will now live in states with legal weed. Maryland and Missouri passed legalization referendums on November 8, 2022, meaning there are now 21 states where anyone at least 21 years old will be able to legally possess marijuana.

That marks a seismic shift since Colorado and Washington became the first states to back full legalization at the ballot box a decade ago. While people will soon be able to legally purchase and use marijuana in 21 states, cannabis remains classified as a Schedule I drug on the Controlled Substances Act. That means cannabis use can still be a disqualifying factor for anyone applying for a security clearance or trying to enter federal employment.

However, along with the continued adoption of laws legalizing the substance at the state level, the federal government has begun undertaking efforts to change its stance on marijuana.

For instance, on December 21, 2021, Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence (DNI), issued an unclassified memo to agency heads, which was “designed to provide clarifying guidance to federal agencies charged with determining [security] eligibility through adjudication,” following changes on the state and local levels. The big takeaways from the memo included the following:

  • “Prior recreational marijuana use by an individual may be relevant to adjudications, but not determinative.” Employees are warned though, “In light of the long-standing federal law and policy prohibiting illegal drug use while occupying a sensitive position or holding a security clearance, agencies are encouraged to advise prospective national security workforce employees that they should refrain from any future marijuana use upon initiation of the national security vetting process.”
  • With respect to the use of CBD products, using these cannabis derivatives may be relevant to adjudications in accordance with security regulations. Products containing greater than a 0.3 percent concentration of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), do not meet the definition of “hemp.” Accordingly, products labeled as hemp-derived that contain greater than 0.3 percent THC continue to meet the legal definition of marijuana, and therefore remain illegal to use under federal law and policy.
  • An adjudicative determination for an individual’s eligibility for access to classified information or eligibility to hold a sensitive position may be impacted negatively should that individual knowingly and directly invest in stocks or business ventures that specifically pertain to marijuana growers and retailers while the cultivation and distribution of marijuana remains illegal under the Controlled Substances Act.

More recently, in October 2022, President Joe Biden announced he was issuing pardons to people with federal marijuana possession offenses — a move that impacts roughly 6,500 individuals — and directed federal agencies to review whether marijuana should be reclassified under federal law.

However, despite the directive, marijuana’s classification under the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged. There has been some movement in Congress on the issue, with Senator Jamie Raskin announcing a forthcoming bill that would tackle federal employment issues related to marijuana use. However, Senator Raskin’s bill has not yet been introduced and it is unclear whether it would be passed if/when it does reach the Senate floor.

Finally, on November 23, 2022, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced in the Federal Register significant proposed changes to the current landscape of forms utilized to establish trustworthiness of federal employees in positions of trust or requiring access to classified information. One area where significant changes are being proposed relates to prior drug use, specifically prior use of marijuana. The changes appear to implement much of the guidance contained in the December 2021 memo and could signal a noteworthy change in position by the federal government related to prior marijuana use, if adopted.

What Federal Employees and Clearance Holders Need to Know

Overall, the DNI’s guidance articulated in the December 2021 memo seems to raise the prospects of approval for security clearance applicants who previously have used marijuana or use hemp products with less than 0.3 percent THC. This is further supported by the recently proposed changes to the security questionnaires published by OPM in November 2022.

However, applicants, employees, and clearance holders should be fully cognizant of the fact that marijuana use remains illegal under federal law. This means that such individuals should continue to avoid the use of the substance, verify CBD products for THC concentrations, and avoid investment in cannabis businesses.

One point is clear: for those interested in pursuing federal employment or obtaining (or retaining) a security clearance, ceasing involvement with anything marijuana-related remains a good idea. While an applicant’s past actions will not automatically disqualify her from being deemed suitable for federal employment or obtaining a security clearance, the determinations will continue to consider prior involvement with marijuana, even if on a more limited basis.

If you are an employee in need of employment law representation, please contact our office at 703-668-0070 or through our contact page to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on Facebook and Twitter.

The preceding sponsored post was also published on FFXnow.com

Closed sign (via Tim Mossholder/Unsplash)

With a high office and commercial vacancy rate and over 1,000 locals experiencing homelessness, Fairfax County is considering a zoning change that could use one problem to help solve the other.

The proposal would allow unused commercial spaces, including office and hotel space, to be used as emergency shelters for those experiencing homelessness.

The new zoning would let private entities — namely nonprofits that work with those experiencing homelessness — operate emergency shelters in vacant or underutilized commercial or industrial properties.

“Special exception use would permit repurposing of a commercial building in a commercial, Industrial, or in some Planned Districts with approval by the Board,” a staff report on the change said. “Commercial building includes buildings designed or used for office, hotel, retail, institutional, or industrial purposes.”

In a presentation to the Board of Supervisors housing committee on Nov. 22, staff said there is currently no “emergency shelter” use in the county zoning code.

In addition to creating an emergency shelter use, the zoning change would add a “permanent supportive housing” use for housing that provides assistance and supportive services, like transportation and training, to residents. Supportive housing is reserved in the zoning ordinance for those making below 60% of the area median income.

The presentation didn’t include information on incentives to get private property owners to open their space up for use used as emergency shelter, but board members still expressed enthusiasm for the idea.

“We’ve had similar conversations to this before, but I think we’re in a different situation right now,” said County Board Chair Jeff McKay, “not only with what we know about homelessness but that we also, unfortunately, have a higher number of vacancies because of Covid. I think it’s time to have a conversation about adaptive reuse.”

The proposed changes are part of a general push by the county to reevaluate how it tackles homelessness, particularly by increasing the availability of permanent and supportive housing instead of relying on temporary shelters.

The last point-in-time count, conducted on Jan. 26, found 1,191 people experiencing homelessness in the county, a decrease from 2021 but higher than the numbers reported in the most recent years preceding the pandemic. About 50% of the individuals counted were Black, even though only 10% of the county’s population falls in that demographic.

During the initial months of the pandemic, the county enlisted hotels as temporary shelter for individuals who were experiencing homelessness or otherwise lacked space needed for isolating or quarantining due to Covid.

Photo via Tim Mossholder/Unsplash

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Sunrise at Reston National Golf Course (photo by Terry Baranski)

Developers are seeking permission to redevelop Reston’s two golf courses through a process where Fairfax County considers land use changes to its comprehensive plan.

The county is currently considering dozens of nominations throughout the county for the Site-Specific Plan Amendment process, including the redevelopment of Reston National Golf Course and Hidden Creek Country Club.

Currently, the county’s comprehensive plan states that both areas are planned for private recreation uses — more specifically as golf courses. For years, community organizations like Rescue Reston have vehemently opposed the redevelopment of both golf courses.

Reston National

Weller Development and War Horse Cities, the owners of Reston National, want to convert the “obsolescent golf course” into a 100-acre open space conservancy with an 8-acre linear park and a “mixed-use village.” The concept is not new and was initially floated several years ago.

The application says the development team could pursue a more intense development plan with more residential development, given its “substantial, longstanding zoning rights.”

“Repurposing the property to provide much needed community amenities, a range of housing and shopping opportunities, and permanent useable open space with covenants, so as to preserve that open space in perpetuity, better utilizes one of Reston’s premier assets,” the application says.

But the prospect has previously drawn backlash from community groups. Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn also publicly stated that he would not support redevelopment, unless there is existing community support.

The owners say the golf course is the “very definition of underutilization,” averaging 95 people per day on an annual basis across its 168 acres.

“To remain a dedicated ‘golf course’ is counter to the vision set out by Robert E. Simon in his founding principles, as his was a uniquely inclusionary vision,” the application argues. “Far worse, this serves to delay or potentially forfeit a timely opportunity to accomplish key goals set out by Fairfax County leadership.”

The application proposes converting the golf course into a “village” with new houses and retail and permanent open space dubbed the Conservancy, joined by a linear park that could have nurseries for native plants, vegetable gardens, and pollinators.

The Conservancy is described as a “generational opportunity” to create publicly accessible open space with restored meadows, a performance pavilion, other pavilions, seating areas, community gardens, a dog park, waterfront pier, and new trees.

“Reston National Golf Course has been the focus of intense debate within the community going back more than a decade,” Steve Siegel, a partner at Weller Development, wrote in the application. “While this Owner respects and understands the perspective of Reston National’s immediate neighbors, we contend that, as wonderful as the game of golf is for the few who actually play it, a private pay-to-play golf course is the wrong use for this site in 2022 and moving forward.”

Hidden Creek

Wheelock Communities, the owner of Hidden Creek Country Club, also contend that the golf course “no longer contributes appropriate to the live, work and play principles on which Reston was based,” adding that the country club has roughly 500 members.

The application notes that a significant number of the club’s membership lives outside of Reston.

“The reality, therefore, is that the combination of weakening economics and competing country club and golf course options, together with ongoing and significant need for capital reinvestment not supported by current revenue, means the Country Club’s future in its current form is shaky, at best,” wrote Mark Cooley, a land use lawyer representing Wheelock.

Instead, the developer pitches turning roughly 100 acres of the property into recreational open space and adding residential units, which could include a range of housing types at several price points to address the “missing middle” of affordable housing.

In July, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors tweaked the SSPA process by allowing more frequent opportunities for nominations, new submission criteria with more information, and enhanced community engagement.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is expected to decide which nominations will move forward — and which ones will be killed — at a meeting on Dec. 6.

The first SSPA cycle kicked off in 2017 for the North County area followed by a second cycle in 2019 for the South County area.

In October, the county accepted nominations for all nine supervisor districts in the current SSPA cycle.

A complete list of other SSPA nominations for the Hunter Mill District is available online.

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