Morning Notes

An SUV drives past townhouses on Park Street in Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

FCPD Arrests Former Arlington Teachers Union Leader — “A former president of the Arlington teachers union, who was ousted last spring, has been charged with embezzling more than $400,000″ from the Arlington Education Association, whose headquarters are in Bailey’s Crossroads, just inside Fairfax County’s borders. Ingrid Gant was arrested Monday (Jan. 23) and faces four counts of embezzlement. [ARLnow]

Man Mistakenly Steals Tesla in Tysons — A 50-year-old man was taken into custody for driving while intoxicated and grand larceny after taking off in another man’s Tesla that was parked at Tysons Corner Center last Thursday (Jan. 19). Police say their investigation suggests “the man likely confused the victim’s car with his own Tesla which was found nearby.” [FCPD/Facebook]

Chap Petersen Gets a Primary Challenger — “Saddam Salim officially announced his intention Tuesday morning to challenge Sen. Chap Petersen in the June 20 Democratic Party Primary for the State Senate seat in the 37th District,” which includes Tysons, Vienna and Fairfax City. Currently working as a financial consultant, Salim says he “will fight for core Democratic values down in Richmond,” while Petersen said he welcomed the competition. [Patch]

Police Seek Help Identifying Suspects in Gaming Machine Thefts — Fairfax County police detectives are investigating a series of thefts involving money being stolen from convenience store gaming machines. According to the department, there have been six incidents between Dec. 29 and this past Saturday (Jan. 21) in McLean, Springfield and the Alexandria area. [FCPD]

Tax Relief Approved for Military Service Member Spouses — “The Board of Supervisors approved a lower real estate tax rate for the surviving spouses of military service members who died in the line of duty…The board’s action on Tuesday establishes a tax rate for these spouses at $0.01 per $100 of assessed value which is the lowest rate allowed under the state law passed last year.” [Fairfax County Government]

Cybersecurity Firm Plans Reston Relocation — “SpiderOak is moving its headquarters from Chicago to Reston, Virginia, and establishing a space cybersecurity laboratory. In the new laboratory, SpiderOak will provide for hardware-in-the-loop qualification testing.” The startup recently raised $16.4 million, led by a space technology platform tied to the Chicago-based private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners. [Space News]

County Pensions Affected by Crypto Bankruptcy — “Genesis Global Holdco…filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection late Thursday because of its exposure to collapsed hedge fund Three Arrows Capital and fallen crypto exchange FTX. Genesis owes over $3.5 billion to its top 50 creditors — and one of the creditors has ties to a $6.8 billion pension fund system in Fairfax County” [CoinDesk]

Tysons Tech Company Gets Funding Boost — The Tysons-based startup Sheeva.AI has “finalized a $9.25 million Series A funding round, led by strategic investors Reynolds and Reynolds Company, with additional funding from Poppe + Potthoff Capital GmbH and Pegasus Tech Ventures.” The company provides real-time location data that can be used for vehicle-related services, such as parking and automated curbside pick-up payments. [Press Release]

Rocket Launch Seen From Reston — “Rocket Lab launch this evening of Electron rocket from Wallops Island, Va. as viewed from Reston. Heading away from us in this image. Separation of two stages was visible earlier.” [Bill Burton/Twitter]

It’s Wednesday — Rain throughout the day. High of 53 and low of 36. Sunrise at 7:21 am and sunset at 5:22 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Fairfax County is planning pilot projects to get different parts of the community more involved in reducing greenhouse gas emissions (via Fairfax County)

The clock is ticking on Fairfax County’s goal of achieving net-zero new carbon emissions by 2050.

With local government and school operations accounting for just 5% of all emissions, the county is developing a plan to help residents and organizations take action to reduce their carbon footprint and combat climate change.

Presented to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors at an environmental committee meeting on Dec. 13, the proposal suggests starting to implement the Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP) adopted in 2021 by partnering with businesses, nonprofits and others that will serve as “climate champions.”

“Every single person and organization can have negative or positive impacts for reducing our greenhouse gas emissions in time to prevent serious harm to our children, nature and communities,” Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck, chair of the environmental committee, said in a statement. “Each segment of our community…must have simple, easy, adoptable actions to get started and get done the changes we need.”

Expected to roll out early this year, the Climate Champions initiative will take a three-pronged approach, Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination (OEEC) staff told the board:

Having pilot projects focused on specific sectors will help the county tailor its resources, policies and messaging to their needs, Storck said.

A hotel owner, for instance, could provide insight into how their building could be more sustainable — and what incentives would make those changes feasible. Homeowners’ associations could raise awareness of programs like Solarize Fairfax County, which aims to reduce the cost of solar panel installations.

“We can sit in this room all we want, but we need messengers out there in the community, taking ownership of elements in CECAP to make sure we’re successful,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said at the committee meeting.

Convincing churches and other places of worship to take action on climate change isn’t a challenge for FACS, a nonprofit with over 190 religious groups in Northern Virginia that has been a vocal advocate for CECAP and other environmental measures.

Many faith communities are already tackling climate projects, from solar sanctuaries that would turn them into refuges during power outages to staff at Reston’s St. John Neumann Catholic Church volunteering to clean up for events if they utilize reusable dishes and silverware to reduce waste.

The county’s pilot will help better coordinate those efforts and share ideas, while hopefully encouraging more congregations to get involved, FACS Executive Director Andrea McGimsey told FFXnow.

“We all need to work together as quickly as possible to try to get this done, and that’s going to take a lot of partners out in the community, so we really hope to hear from folks,” she said. “…I really think this pilot has the chance of making a real difference, and we’re honored that Fairfax County asked us to do this and we’re going to work as hard as we can at it and try to really make a difference.”

Per CECAP, the county hopes to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, reducing greenhouse gas emissions 50% from 2005 levels by 2030, 75% by 2040 and 87% by 2050.

Fairfax County has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions since 2005, but not at the rate needed to meet its future goals (via Fairfax County)

The D.C. area has seen a 30% reduction in emissions since 2005, despite its population growing over that time, according to OEEC staff, citing 2020 data from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

A steep drop betwen 2018 and 2020 partly reflects the pandemic’s impact. Even so, overall energy usage and electricity consumption levels have declined, and the adoption of renewable energy systems and electric vehicles surpassed the region’s 2020 goals.

According to the county’s energy dashboard, carbon emissions from local government facilities have stayed below pre-pandemic levels, ticking up over 55,000 metric tons in 2021 before decreasing to about 47,500 metric tons last year.

However, there is still a long way to go to reach the county’s 2030 goal of under 8 million metric tons across the community. Getting there will require “strong leadership” from the county and other figures in the community, McGimsey says.

She says FACS is talking with the county about working with its nonprofit partners in human services and other sectors for the Climate Champions pilot. The organization is also eager for a potential green bank that would provide funding for both residential and commercial clean energy projects.

“In the end, you can come up with all these good ideas, but if you can’t figure out how to finance it, you’re not going to get them built and on the ground, and that’s what we want to do,” McGimsey said.

John Morrill, OEEC’s division manager for innovation and sustainability, said a steering committee is finalizing its proposal for the green bank, which could go to the Board of Supervisors for a vote this spring.

“We’re anticipating a green bank will be able to hit the ground running in the middle [of 2023],” he told the environmental committee.

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The arts center could be located on Block J in Reston Town Center (via Fairfax County)

The location of Reston’s future arts center is officially inching closer to realization.

At a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ meeting today (Tuesday), Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn introduced a board matter selecting Block J — near the intersection of Sunset Hills Road and Town Center Parkway — as the location for nearly 60,000-square-foot future arts center.

So far, the county has determined that the arts center is the most appropriate location for the arts center. It’s part of proffers in Boston Properties’ development plans. The land could have been used as a park or a ball field.

The cost of the project is expected to be hefty — hovering between $58 million in current dollars and $81 million accounting for inflation. 

“This process clearly established that the arts center option is not only feasible, but it is clearly superior to the alternatives offered in the proffer,” Alcorn said in the board matter.

The center would be located across the street from the Reston Town Center Metro Station, fulfilling land use and transportation goals, according to the board matter.

A survey in 2019 found that 68% of residents supported the idea of a larger performing center in Reston. While Reston Community Center has advocated for the venue, no determination has been made yet on who will operate it.

RCC hosted a series of meetings on the issue and conducted a feasibility study on the possibility of the center.

Alcorn noted that the board matter doesn’t address financing and other details of the plan, but RCC has indicated that Reston’s small tax district will not be used to pay for the project. A bond referendum would likely be used to pay for the project.

The board approved the measure to accept Block J as the location for a community arts center.

“Accepting this land is accepting it under the provision that it become an arts center, should financing be worked out,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “If for some reason that changes, there are other avenues we could pursue in the future.”

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Old Dominion Transportation Group is the only taxicab operator in Fairfax County (staff photo by David Taube)

With the rise of ride-hailing services, Fairfax County has seen its taxicab fleet whittled down to just one operator.

That operator, Old Dominion Transportation Group (ODTG), hopes to extend the life of its 130-vehicle fleet by asking the county to revise an existing requirement that phases out taxis once they reach 10 years of age or more than 500,000 miles traveled.

The company has requested that the model-year age be raised to 12 or 15 years and that the mileage limit be eliminated.

“ODTG cites the continued struggle with the effects of the pandemic as well as competition from the transportation network companies (TNCs),” county staff said in a report for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. “ODTG also references the different requirements of other surrounding jurisdictions. ODTG believes that it can continue to provide safe, comfortable transportation for their passengers if this request is approved.”

According to county staff, ODTG raised the request on Oct. 11, 2022 after its sole competitor — Alexandria-based White Top Cab — shut down its Fairfax County operations on Sept. 1, returning its 20 taxicab certificates.

ODTG reported that 25 of its vehicles were scheduled to “age out” on Dec. 31, 2022. While it has enough active vehicles to at least temporarily offset the losses, the company says replacing vehicles has become challenging, as the new and used car markets grapple with supply chain issues and fluctuating prices.

Fairfax County and D.C. are the only jurisdictions in the region to impose mileage requirements on their taxi fleets, according to staff.

A comparison of taxi vehicle requirements in D.C. area localities (via Fairfax County)

Following a model already used in Alexandria City and Arlington County, county staff have proposed splitting the requirement into separate tiers for gas-powered and electric or hybrid vehicles:

The 10-year model-age requirement [should] be increased to 12 years for gasoline-only powered non-wheelchair accessible vehicles and 15 years for hybrid, plug-in hybrid, electric, and wheelchair accessible vehicles. This proposal provides an incentive for the operators to replace their fleet with non-gasoline powered vehicles. Staff also recommends that the mileage requirement for all vehicles be eliminated.

The report notes that taxis are required to under go state inspections annually during their first six years of operation. Once they hit seven years of age, they’re also inspected every six months by the county’s taxicab inspector.

“Staff believes these inspections are sufficient in lieu of maintaining a mileage requirement,” staff said.

The staff’s recommended code amendment “balances the challenges of the taxicab operators, considers the practice of local jurisdictions, ensures the safety of the riding public, and helps the environment,” the report says.

The Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the proposal around 3:30 p.m. today (Tuesday).

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

Reston Association is poised to share updated plans for the renovation of Barton Hill tennis courts earlier this year.

Staff are prepared to host an early spring meeting to share the update plans to upgrade the tennis courts following a legal disagreement with a county that prompted RA to remove lighting upgrades from the plan.

The proposal to host a meeting in early spring will go before RA’s Board of Directors at a meeting on Thursday (Jan. 26).

Last year, county zoning staff said that RA needed to develop a Planned Residential Community plan to install court lighting. Despite an appeal by RA, the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals reaffirmed that county’s zoning administrator’s decision.

Instead of pursuing additional legal action, RA chose to drop court lighting from the renovations.

“Reston Association staff ire pared to host a meeting in early spring to share the update conceptual plans of the project,” according to draft meeting materials.

The renovation includes the installation new pickle ball courts and the refurbishment of court surfaces.

The tennis courts were developed as a PRC zoning district in 1985. Four unlit tennis courts with a single water fountain and a nine-space parking area are located on the site. A neighboring parking lot has 19 parking spaces.

Photo via Google Maps

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A Fairfax Connector bus stopped at the Tysons Metro station (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

A bus route carrying passengers between western Fairfax County and Tysons on the new I-66 Express Lanes will take effect early next month.

Fairfax Connector will start operating its new Route 660 on Monday, Feb. 6, providing weekday, rush-hour service from the Stone Road Park & Ride in Centreville to the Tysons Metro station, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation announced Friday (Jan. 20).

The route will include stops at the Fairfax County Government Center, the Vienna Metro station and the intersection of Tysons Blvd and Westbranch Drive.

With the addition, the transit agency will eliminate Route 644, which currently connects Centreville and the Sully Government Center to the Vienna Metro on weekdays.

A couple of tweaks to service in the Reston and Herndon area will also go into effect on Saturday, Feb. 4:

  • Route 937: Coppermine-Elden-Herndon Metrorail Station — Southbound service on Route 937 will be realigned to serve Coppermine Rd, with a left turn to Frying Pan Rd. Northbound Route 937 remains unchanged.
  • Route 951: Wiehle-Reston East Metrorail Station to Innovation Center Metrorail Station — Eastbound service realigned to serve Coppermine Rd, with left turn to Frying Pan Rd. Westbound remains unchanged.

The service changes were approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in September. They’re being implemented slightly later than previously anticipated.

In a report, county staff said the changes are intended “to improve the customer experience and increase ridership through improved connectivity, on-time performance, service reliability, and effectiveness.”

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Morning Notes

People walk past Parc de Ville in the Mosaic District (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

County Lowers Flags After California Mass Shooting — “The U.S., state and county flags are lowered to half-staff today at all county government facilities as a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated in Monterey Park, California. The flags will remain at half-staff until sunset on Jan. 26.” [Fairfax County/Twitter]

More Families Join Disability Rights Lawsuit — “Civil rights lawyers have expanded the scope of their class action lawsuit against the Fairfax County School Board and the Virginia Department of Education after more families came forward alleging the state had denied students their federally-mandated special education services.” [DCist]

Contract for New Dulles Terminal Awarded — “The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has awarded a contract to Clark Construction as it moves forward with plans for a new 14-gate regional-jet terminal at Washington Dulles International Airport. ‘We anticipate brearking ground this year,’ Airports Authority CEO Jack Potter said on Jan. 18.” [Sun Gazette]

FCPS Relocates Bus Stop Due to Registered Sex Offender — “Fairfax County Public Schools changed the bus stop location for students in Mount Vernon after a parent raised concerns over its proximity to a registered sex offender…FCPS announced that starting on Tuesday, the new pick-up and drop-off spot will be…about a block away and out of view from the home.” [WUSA9]

Historic Mount Vernon High School Almost Fully Demolished — “The Original Mount Vernon High School’s (OMVHS) ongoing interior demolition and hazardous materials remediation work will likely wrap up this spring, with construction expected to kick off by the end of the year, according to Fairfax County officials. The historic building…will eventually be used for a variety of educational/workforce, recreational, childcare, entrepreneurial and cultural purposes.” [On the MoVe]

Juice Company With Vienna Shop Acquired — “In addition to its existing locations, expect to see Greenheart juice at Wooden Nickel’s establishments, and be on the lookout for new shops elsewhere in Northern Virginia. It’s part of a larger growth plan for Wooden Nickel, which also plans an American eatery at Capital One Center in Tysons.” [Washington Business Journal]

TJ Students Among Winners of NASA Contest — “Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology was among the 60 winning teams chosen by NASA for the second TechRise Student Challenge…These teams will work together to build science and technology experiments in preparation for a suborbital flight test.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Most Popular Baby Names in Virginia for 2022 Revealed — “The Office of Vital Records in the Virginia Department of Health has unveiled its list of the Top 15 baby names for children born in the commonwealth in 2022. Topping the list of the most popular names for boys in 2022 was Noah while Charlotte was the most popular for girls.” [Inside NoVA]

Lorton Area House Race Gets New Candidate — “Natalie Shorter…announced her candidacy for the House of Delegates, running for District 19 to represent Prince William and Fairfax Counties. Shorter — a local advocate and mom of two teenage daughters — highlighted protecting abortion rights in her announcement.” [Press Release]

It’s Tuesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 47 and low of 30. Sunrise at 7:22 am and sunset at 5:21 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Comstock plans to tweak its development plan for Reston Row (via Comstock)

Comstock is seeking to tweak a critical piece of the Reston Station neighborhood.

With one block at Reston Station complete, the developer is moving towards Reston Row. The team is reexamining its 17.6-acre assemblage to complete the neighborhood in a “more organized, intuitive, and rail-focused manner.”

That’s why the developer plans to reallocated unused density on the block two parcel for a “more logical, transit-proximate location at Reston Row” and the “accelerated production of more workforce dwelling units closer to rail.”

Block two is located on Metro Center Drive and contains a 75,000-square-foot, six-story office building that will remain during the construction project. The parking structure on the site will be redeveloped as an office or residential building.

Comstock hopes to shift unused density from a 180,00-square-foot planned hotel and a 350,000-square-foot residential building to the site.

Set to go before the Reston Planning & Zoning Committee tonight (Monday), the application would shift roughly 360,000 square feet of available but unused density from the planned hotel and residential building to the project, which is approved for nearly 1.4 acres of mixed-use development.

Comstock will not build a planned nearly 167,000-square-foot hotel at Reston Station, because it would “interfere” with Founding Farmers’ outdoor seating and the overall experience of the plaza.

The developer also says it no longer makes sense to build a 280-foot-tall residential building on block two next to a 140-foot-tall office building.

Instead, Comstock hopes to bring 165 units or 280,000 square feet for a 425-unit residential building directly opposite the BLVD at Reston Station on block two.

Remaining density would be allowed for a roof deck on top of the building for Founding Farmers and other improvements, along with an unspecified “future building” on block two. Ground-floor retail is still planned on the base of the building along Reston Station Blvd.

“With all 35 of the formerly disparate parcels within the Reston Station and Reston Row properties now consolidated and included in the Reston Station Neighborhood, Comstock has much more flexibility to reorganize all of the pieces to maximize its rail proximity and plan the highest and best use of the whole,” the Jan. 13 amended application says.

The application does not add additional density and only requires reallocation.

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Bow Tie Cinemas closed in April at Reston Town Center (staff photo by Fatimah Waseem)

It may be a some time before Reston Town Center patrons get a first look at the replacement for BowTie Cinemas.

Initially expected to come in late 2022, LOOK Dine-in Cinemas now anticipates an opening sometime in the first half of this year.

A company representative told FFXnow that the movie theater will likely open sometime in the second quarter of the year, which runs from April to June.

Once an officially date is known, the company plans to announce details on its website.

This is the first location in the D.C. area for the company, which plans to renovate the Reston theater. Other features of the “luxury” brand include a food, beverage and cocktail menu, according to the company’s website.

Bow Tie Cinemas, which acquired the theater from Rave Cinema in 2011, closed in April.

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Casino (image via Kvnga/Unsplash)

A new set of bills before the General Assembly would allow a casino to be built somewhere along the Silver Line corridor, Washington Business Journal first reported.

The casino could be placed somewhere around Tysons, the Reston Town Center or Herndon based on the stipulations of the proposed legislation, which would allow a casino in an urban county with at least 1 million residents.

Legislatively speaking, the casino isn’t a sure bet. It’s got a long way to go before it’s a reality, as it would still need to be approved by the Board of Supervisors and a ballot referendum.

The proposal comes amid a rush of new legislation around gambling, with several types being recently legalized over recent years. New casinos are planned in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Danville and Bristol.

The legislature is also looking at some ways to offer additional support for those suffering from a gambling addiction.

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