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by Kalina Newman — June 8, 2017 at 1:30 pm 17 Comments

Following President Donald Trump’s recent announcement to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, Fairfax County is joining the Mayors Climate Action Agenda.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors endorsed joining more than 200 other municipalities nationwide in an effort to combat climate change. The three main takeaway points from the Mayors Climate Action Agenda are the development of a community greenhouse gas emissions inventory, the setting of near- and long-term emissions reduction targets, and the development of a climate action plan.

Ten years ago, Fairfax County was part of a similar agreement called Cool Counties. Cool Counties committed Fairfax County to cut the D.C. region’s greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

Through Cool Counties, the county has since reached its initial goal of cutting its per capita emissions by 10 percent. Helene Shore of local environmental activism group 350 Fairfax argues that this hasn’t been enough, but she’d glad the county has recommitted itself.

“We’d like to see 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. We wish that other mayors would hop aboard — it’s important that we address this at a local level and that local governments keep working towards renewable energy, since our central government won’t be doing much work it seems. We don’t have much time left and it’s important that we keep working forward.”

Fairfax County is encouraging residents to get involved, especially in reducing their electricity emissions. Residents can sign up for discounted solar panels, get expert advice on energy savings, checkout a thermal camera from the library and apply for a matching grant to fund any possible projects that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

by Dave Emke — June 7, 2017 at 4:00 pm 35 Comments

At its meeting Tuesday, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors gave its seal of approval to plans to widen Leesburg Pike (Route 7) from Reston to Tysons.

The Virginia Department of Transportation project will involve nearly seven miles of Route 7, between Reston Avenue and Jarrett Valley Drive, which is just before the Dulles Toll Road interchange. Supervisors approved the plan, with two minor amendments, as it was presented at a public hearing in November. (View information shared and discussed at that meeting here.)

“[This has been] a long-awaited case,” Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins said at the meeting prior to the vote.

This is the latest stage of VDOT’s work to add two lanes to the heavily traveled highway, bringing it to six overall. They also plan to add facilities for cyclists and pedestrians, and make “substantial intersection and other improvements” along the corridor. Those improvements, according to VDOT, will include constructing a partial interchange at Baron Cameron Avenue to reduce congestion.

A rendering provided by VDOT shows the Baron Cameron interchange will have the eastbound lanes of Route 7 traveling under the road, connected via ramps. Westbound lanes will continue to face a stoplight at the intersection.

According to 2011 traffic counts provided by VDOT, the stretch of Route 7 carries between 46,000 and 54,000 vehicles per day. That number is expected to increase to 73,000 to 86,000 by 2040, VDOT says.

Anticipated cost of the project is $234 million. VDOT is expected to put out its request for proposals on the project later this year. Work is planned to start in late 2020 and last until 2025.

Rendering and map courtesy Virginia Department of Transportation

by Dave Emke — June 7, 2017 at 9:30 am 7 Comments

Backpacks Checked Out at Festival — Herndon Police say abandoned backpacks Friday and Saturday at the Herndon Festival brought out the department’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit. No threat was found in either case. [Herndon Police Department]

SLHS Student-Athletes Honored — Spring sports players at South Lakes High School were honored Monday night for their performances on and off the field. [South Lakes Athletics]

Official Name Change for RTC Street — The private street at Reston Town Center that is home to The Avant, CVS, Barcelona and Bartaco is officially known as Town Square. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, as an administrative item, approved a name change to Town Square Street. [Fairfax County Board of Supervisors]

Area Player to Go High in MLB Draft — Ashburn’s J.B. Bukauskas, a Stone Bridge High School grad and a star pitcher at the University of North Carolina, is projected to be picked in the Top 7 of next week’s Major League Baseball Draft. [EIN Presswire]

by RestonNow.com — May 2, 2017 at 2:45 pm 8 Comments

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors (BOS) officially adopted its budget for FY2018 on Tuesday, with a 2.79-percent increase in funding for schools and nearly $2 million in additional funding for assistance to those suffering from mental illnesses.

County supervisors also voted to keep real estate taxes at the same rate of $1.13 per $100 assessed value of a property.

In a statement released around 11 a.m. Tuesday, following the BOS meeting, Chairman Sharon Bulova said “few changes” were made to the proposed budget that was previously advertised.

Though it falls roughly $47 million short of what education advocates told the County they needed, the superviors approved a 2.79-percent increase in funding for schools, bringing Fairfax County Public Schools’ annual budget to $2.17 billion for the upcoming 2017-18 school year. The increase is equivalent to an additional $53.4 million over FY2017. (more…)

by Dave Emke — April 25, 2017 at 1:30 pm 6 Comments

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors at their meeting Tuesday morning marked up the proposed FY2018 budget, and the current real estate tax rate remains.

Upon approval of the budget, the real estate tax rate will remain at the FY 2017 level of $1.13 per $100 of the assessed value of the home, as proposed by the county executive. (The average Reston real estate assessment has gone down by 0.33 percent in 2017.) Board chairman Sharon Bulova said the stable rate “ensure[s] Fairfax County continues to be an affordable place to live for seniors and families.”

At the board’s Feb. 28 meeting, Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (Hunter Mill District) supported an amendment that would have raised the advertised real estate tax rate to $1.15 per $100. The amendment, introduced by Supervisor Kathy Smith (Sully District), failed by a vote of 7-3, with Supervisor Daniel Storck (Mount Vernon District) casting the third vote in favor.

Changes in the marked-up $4.1 billion budget include:

  • an additional $1.7 million in funding for Fairfax County Public Schools above the amount in the county executive’s proposed budget, for a total transfer of $2.17 billion (52.8 percent of the budget)
  • just under $2 million and 18 new positions to support the second year of the county’s Diversion First initiative, which helps divert individuals with mental illness from jail into mental health treatment
  • more than $13 million in reductions and nine position eliminations, resulting from agency reductions and continued savings in fuel and retiree health expenses

The marked-up budget was approved by an 8-2 vote of the Board, with Smith and Storck dissenting.

The board is expected to officially approve the budget May 2, and it will go into effect July 1.

by RestonNow.com — April 24, 2017 at 10:15 am 32 Comments

This is an op/ed submitted by Terry Maynard, co-chair of the Reston 20/20 committee. It does not reflect the opinions of Reston Now.

Our County Board of Supervisors, led by Chairman Sharon Bulova, is in the process of overbuilding and underserving residents in Reston and across the county. The result will be the eroding livability of Reston and other county areas facing urbanization.  

And this is being accomplished by a simple arithmetical trick: Overstating the amount of space new housing and office space require to accommodate residents and workers. Very simply, county planners continue to overstate the space needed for office workers as 300 gross square feet (GSF) per worker when studies globally over nearly a decade show it is now under 200 GSF/worker and could be headed to 150 GSF/worker.  

At the same time, as it started to plan for Tysons’ redevelopment nearly a decade ago, the County raised its planning assumption for the size of station area dwelling units (DUs) from 1,000 GSF/DU to 1,200 GSF/DU. Nonetheless, a County planning study for Tysons showed then (2007) that the average size of Tysons residents was 1,100 GSF, mostly in garden apartments before the recent advent of massive high-rise residential development there. Now, the average high-rise DU size is shrinking well below 1,000 GSF/DU, more than offsetting the few mid-rise and single-family attached DUs in station areas, as some recent Reston development proposals show:

  • JBG/Wiehle and partners plan for 1,300-1,500 residential units in 1.2 million GSF of development in two 5-story buildings, or 800-925 GSF/DU;
  • Golf Course Plaza proposes 413 DUs in a 392,600 GSF multi-family building or 950 GSF/DU, also in 5-story structures;
  • Faraday’s proposes redeveloping the area just south of Wiehle Station with up to 500 apartments in two buildings with about 487,000 GSF of residential space that will reach about 975 GSF/DU according to its plan submission.
  • Lerner Enterprises is planning a 457-“luxury apartment” complex called Excelsior Park with average unit size at about 1,050 GSF in 423,587 rentable square feet (RBA), which equates to 481,350 GSF.

That’s nearly 3,000 DUs, including luxury apartments, whose average GSF is about 925 GSF/DU — nowhere near the County’s assumed size of 1,200 GSF/DU — and suggesting the number of future residents and DUs in Reston’s station areas will be nearly one-third greater than planned under existing allowable densities. This is consistent with national data: A study of apartment sizes over the last decade shows that their average size has shrunk — not expanded — from 1,015 square feet to 934 square feet.  

The impact is straightforward: The resulting planned densities (total GSF of development divided by the square footage of the lot on which it sits) will allow half-again as many office workers and 28 percent more residential units than the County plan officially intends. Yet developers and the County are only planning to provide services — improved roads, schools and parks, and more — based on the lower count envisioned in the plan. The result will be reduced services and higher taxes.

So what does that mean for “real people?” Based on GSF information provided by FCDOT to the Supervisors serving as the Board Transportation Committee, the current Reston station area plan offers the potential for 76,280 added residents (at 2.0 residents/DU) and 29,059 added office worker jobs (at 300GSF/worker) in the next four decades.  

If instead of using the County’s faulty planning assumptions, we use real world experience, we can anticipate that the allowable development could result in an addition of 101,492 total residents in 50,746 DUs and 78,559 office workers, including retrofitted office buildings, market conditions permitting.  More specifically, it suggests an order of magnitude explosion in residents (11,720 in 2010 vs. 113,212 then) and more than twice as many office employees (69,941 in 2010 vs. 148,500 then) in Reston’s station areas. Overall, Reston can expect twice as many people living and working in the station areas as is anticipated by the Reston plan.

(more…)

by Dave Emke — April 7, 2017 at 11:30 am 3 Comments

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has approved the installation of a speed hump on Colts Brook Drive in the westernmost part of Reston.

According to information provided within the board’s April 4 meeting package, the hump will be located adjacent to 2320 Colts Brook Drive. A Reston Association pathway between the Colts Brook Recreation Area and the Tournament Recreation Area crosses Colts Brook Drive just south of where the hump will be installed.

Colts Brook Drive runs between Fox Mill Road and Sunrise Valley Drive, with the hump to be installed south of the intersection with Thunder Chase Drive. The posted speed limit on the road is 25 mph.

Information provided to the Board of Supervisors indicates that there is community support for the traffic-calming measure. The Fairfax County Department of Transportation has been instructed to do the work “as soon as possible,” with a budget of $7,000.

The project is part of the county’s Residential Traffic Administration Program. Also through the program, the board in 2015 approved additional speeding fines on Thunder Chase Drive in the same neighborhood. On the other side of Fairfax County Parkway, they did the same on Rosedown Drive in 2016.

Map via Reston Association

by Dave Emke — April 5, 2017 at 9:00 am 1 Comment

Document-Shredding Program Set for Saturday — The Fairfax County Solid Waste Management Program will sponsor a secure-document shredding event at the North County Human Services building (1850 Cameron Glen Drive) on Saturday morning. Residents can have up to four boxes of materials of a sensitive nature, such as tax documents and financial records, shredded. [Fairfax County]

Board of Supervisors Adopts Resolution on Diversity, Inclusion — At their meeting Tuesday, Supervisors voted to reaffirm that the county is “a welcoming and accepting community where residents of all backgrounds deserve to feel respected and safe.” [Sharon Bulova/Facebook]

Checkers to Expand in D.C. Region — The fast-food chain plans to open 20 locations in the Metro area and is currently in the process of seeking franchisees. [Washington Business Journal]

Longtime Coach Goes Into Local Hall of Fame — Al McCullock, who won 235 games and two regional championships in 15 years as Herndon High School’s baseball coach, was recently inducted into NOVA Baseball Magazine’s “Home Plate Club” Hall of Fame. [NOVA Baseball Magazine]

Beware of Bears as Weather Warms — The Fairfax County Police Department is sharing precautions for how to keep bears away and what to do should you encounter one. They say while bears tend to avoid humans, they sometimes wander into suburban areas in search of food. [Fairfax County Police Department]

Image via @NickDowsett on Twitter

by Dave Emke — March 31, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

Rain, Rain Go Away — Rain that is expected to inundate the area through Friday is forecast to vacate later tonight. Saturday looks to be dry but cloudy, with sun coming back Sunday. Temperatures in the 50s and 60s will make for a nice weekend. [Capital Weather Gang]

RA Election Ends Monday — There are only a few days left to get your ballot in for the Reston Association Board of Directors election. Voting can be done online through RA’s website. Winners will be announced at the annual members’ meeting April 11. [Reston Association]

Submit a Video to Fairfax County Board — In what it says is an attempt to increase the amount of public participation in hearings, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is encouraging residents to submit pre-recorded comments via YouTube. The video-submission program will first be used for the county’s public budget hearings April 5-6. [Fairfax County]

Local Student Presents at Alabama Conference — Christine Roesch, of Reston, was one of 500 University of Alabama undergraduate students who were selected to showcase their research and creative projects during the school’s annual Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Conference earlier this week. Her project was titled “The Layout of Grass and a Trip to Starbucks Can Influence Which Way You Walk to Class.” According to her Facebook page, Roesch is a psychology major with a criminal justice minor. [University of Alabama]

by Dave Emke — March 2, 2017 at 11:30 am 0

Rhonda VanLoweA Reston woman is one of nine citizens who have been appointed to Fairfax County’s new Citizens Police Review Panel.

Rhonda VanLowe was appointed Tuesday to a one-year term on the panel. She is a member of the Governor’s Taskforce for Improving Mental Health Services and Crisis Response and served on the Public Safety workgroup.

According to a news release from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors:

“[VanLowe] has devoted much of her community service work to serving those with unique physical, mental, emotional, intellectual or cognitive backgrounds. Ms. VanLowe practiced law in law firm and corporate settings, served as Board Chair of The Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program, Inc., and received the National Women of Color Special Recognition Award at the 2008 STEM Conference. Ms. VanLowe is a 36-year resident of Fairfax County and looks forward to working together with members of the Panel to develop procedures that will set the foundational tone and tenor for the work of the Panel.”

According to her LinkedIn page, VanLowe has served as legal counsel for Rolls-Royce North America Inc. since 1999. She is also a member of the Board of Visitors at the University of Mary Washington.

The Citizens Police Review Panel was created in December by the county Board of Supervisors. Its goal will be to look over police complaints and internal probes as part of a new effort to increase transparency in the area’s law enforcement.

The county’s Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission called for the panel in an October 2015 report to the Board of Supervisors. While the commission was established in the aftermath of a fatal police-involved shooting in 2013, the new panel won’t handle matters concerning potentially criminal uses of force.

Members of the panel can serve up to two three-year terms. The inaugural members of the board were randomly assigned one-, two- and three-year initial terms so that term expirations would be staggered, supervisors said Tuesday.

The full makeup of the panel is listed below:

  • ONE-YEAR TERMS: Hansel Aguilar (Fairfax), Hollye Doane (Oakton) and VanLowe
  • TWO-YEAR TERMS: Randy Sayles (Oak Hill), Jean Senseman (Lorton) and Adrian L. Steel Jr. (McLean)
  • THREE-YEAR TERMS: Kathleen Davis-Siudut (Springfield), Steve Descano (Springfield) and Douglas Kay (Fairfax)

Steel will serve as the panel’s first chairman.

Image via University of Mary Washington

by Dave Emke — March 2, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

Morning Notes

No Increase to Property Tax Rate — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday to advertise a property tax rate for FY2018 that is equal to the FY2017 rate. [Washington Post]

‘Epiphany’ Returning to NextStop — Herndon native and South Lakes High School graduate Derek Jasper is a magician, mentalist and deception expert. His show, “Epiphany,” returns to NextStop Theatre in Herndon (269 Sunset Park Drive) next weekend. [Connection Newspapers]

Herndon Police Led on High-Speed Chase — A traffic stop Sunday near the intersection of Crestview Drive and Herndon Parkway turned into chase when the driver fled. Herndon Police later found the vehicle, but not the driver. [Herndon Patch]

FCPD Gang Unit Involved in Search for Remains — Acting on recently received information, Fairfax County Police Department homicide, gang unit and crime scene detectives have been looking for human remains in Holmes Run Park and Lemon Road Park, near Falls Church. This follows an earlier investigation in which 10 people (including a Reston woman) were charged with gang activity in connection with the killing of a 15-year-old whose body was found near Lake Accotink Park in Springfield. [Fairfax County Police Department/WTOP]

by Dave Emke — March 1, 2017 at 4:00 pm 8 Comments

Woodland Park Development/Fairfax County

A development project just west of the future Herndon Metro station has been given the go-ahead by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, who approved it at their meeting Tuesday.

Woodland Park Development/Fairfax CountyThe mixed-use Woodland Park East development will include 678 residential units: 74 single-family attached homes, 90 two-over-two stacked townhomes and 515 multifamily dwelling units within two buildings. Two office buildings — 16 stories and 14 stories — that will include 20,000 square feet of optional ground-floor retail are also part of the plan. The property will also include 6.1 acres of public parks and 2.8 acres of private open space.

The county Planning Commission recommended the project for approval in January.

The development is planned to provide affordable housing, with 12 percent of the total units (approximately 81) set aside as affordable or workforce housing.

“It really does reflect the opportunity of need, if you think about the development that has come forward with the workforce there and all of the housing,” said Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (Hunter Mill District). “How do we meet the needs of work and living throughout the tiers of incomes? I really do appreciate working on that. I think this is a very good project.”

The property, which borders the Dulles Toll Road to the north and Monroe Street to the east, is owned by Tishman Speyer. Development will be done by NVR Inc.

Illustration and map via Fairfax County

by Dave Emke — March 1, 2017 at 2:45 pm 32 Comments

Reston Transit Area/Fairfax County

At its meeting Tuesday, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the $2.27 billion Reston Transportation Funding Plan.

Included in the plan is a 2.1 cent/$100 of assessed value tax assessed to properties in the Reston Transit Station Area (pictured). Under the agreed-upon plan, current homeowners in the TSA will be responsible for up to $44.6 million of the estimated cost. The remainder of the tax funds (totaling $350 million) will be collected from commercial/industrial properties and from residential properties built in the future.

The rest of private funds, about $716 million, is expected to be collected through in-kind contributions to the grid by developers.

The residential tax issue was a concern of several of the speakers during a public hearing before the vote.

“FCDOT implicitly declares that Reston homeowners must be taxed because the County cannot move any current tax revenues in its $4 billion budget to improve Reston’s streets, the County can’t use any future station area property tax revenues to invest in Reston’s streets [and] the County can never raise the rates on any countywide taxes that would help generate billions in future tax revenues,” said Terry Maynard of the Reston 20/20 committee, who has been an outspoken detractor of the tax. “To insist on these assumptions is an outright falsehood, and FCDOT and [the Board of Supervisors] know it.”

Reston resident Tammi Petrine also addressed the board with similar concerns about forcing residents to pay for needed infrastructure. In addition, John McBride, land-use attorney representing Reston Association, addressed the board to share the RA Board of Directors’ stance against the residential tax.

Representing the Reston Network Analysis Advisory Group, chairman Andy Sigle said the “alternative funding sources” beyond the in-kind developer contributions were necessary.

“Following much discussion and additional community input, a majority of the advisory group voted to endorse staff’s recommendation,” Sigle said. “While the vote was not unanimous in regard to the specific road fund and service district contribution rates, the advisory group was in agreement regarding the general structure of the funding plan.”

Maggie Parker of developer Comstock Partners, who was also a part of RNAAG, said the group’s meetings were “informative, inclusive and impactful.”

“This funding plan is burdensome; however, after dozens of meetings, revision of scope and countless financial models, it is what it is,” she said. “Ultimately, it’s an investment in our community and the citizens who live and work here.”

In addition to the grid, private funds are slated to be used for upgrades to intersections. Public funds — from local, state, regional and federal sources — totaling $1.2 billion are to be used for roadway improvements including the construction of a bridge over the Dulles Toll Road at Soapstone Drive and a Town Center Parkway underpass of the Toll Road.

Two supervisors abstained from the vote. Supervisor Pat Herrity (Springfield District) said he continues to have concerns about the overall cost of the project, and Supervisor Linda Smyth (Providence District) said she could not support the plan when she has continually opposed a similar tax in Tysons.

Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (Hunter Mill District) said she understands taxes are unpopular, but she believes the impact is outweighed by the benefits.

“I think the relative point is that the majority of [the plan] is being paid for by public dollars and by developers,” she said. “It is a difficult ask, but we think it is an important ask. As Reston continues to grow, we have congestion — very bad congestion — and these infrastructure improvements need to get started.”

by Dave Emke — February 28, 2017 at 2:45 pm 14 Comments

Reston Transit Area/Fairfax County

At their meeting last week, the Reston Association Board of Directors officially took a position against a residential tax related to the $2.27 billion Reston Transportation Funding Plan.

Saying that RA has historically not taken a stance on county tax issues, the original recommendation to the board from land-use attorney John McBride was to not do so. Director Sherri Hebert (Lake Anne/Tall Oaks District), though, said she believes there should be no special tax and that it would behoove the board to go on record with that stance.

“Are we going to let this happen? There are so many things that come along with this tax for the residential units within the [Transit Station Area],” she said. “We hope that every cluster that starts to pop up in the TSA we’re going to bring into RA, so I would think that we would want to make a stance that this needs to be paid for by the developers.”

Director Julie Bitzer (South Lakes District) agreed with Hebert’s assessment.

“As we seek to make in-roads into what’s becoming more residential within that corridor, it’s important that we not be short-sighted in our anticipation of addressing those concerns,” she said.

The tax would be on all types of real estate, not just residential, McBride clarified.

The motion passed by RA directors Thursday states that while they recognize the improvements are needed to keep pace with development, they do not want the proposed service district tax applied to residential properties within the TSA.

“I think we need to have a longer-term strategy… that takes these issues into account,” Michael Sanio, RA Board vice president, said. “We should not be silent, we should not just have these events happen and us not have a voice in them.”

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the plan today at 4:30 p.m.

Map of Reston Transit Station Area via Fairfax County

by Dave Emke — February 14, 2017 at 1:30 pm 13 Comments

Proposed Fairfax County FY2018 budget

Residents of the Hunter Mill District will have their chance on March 4 to weigh in on the proposed Fairfax County FY2018 budget.

County Executive Edward Long presented the $4.1 billion proposal to the county Board of Supervisors at their Tuesday meeting. Each supervisor is holding local meetings to get community input on its details.

Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins will hold her summit Saturday, March 4 from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Frying Pan Farm Park visitor center (2739 West Ox Road, Herndon). In addition to the budget presentation and a speaker, the event will also include a “build-a-budget” workshop that Hudgins said would help residents understand what has to be done with the funds available.

In her response to Long’s proposal to the board Tuesday, Hudgins said the state has made it difficult for Fairfax County to “control [its] own destiny.”

“It is troubling when we have to return our value to the state in the way that we do,” Hudgins said. “When you think about that, it is daunting to have our citizens look to us and think that we actually do control it, and we don’t.”

Hudgins said a lack of diversity of revenue for the county, caused by an “inability to break through the stronghold that is in the general assembly,” is forcing some residents to be priced out.

The cost of living here, it does increase, and many of those seniors that I talked with at a senior group [Monday] are saying, ‘I have to move if I want to stay in a place that is affordable for me,'” she said. “We are going to have a lot of discussion from people on that conversation.”

Following their community meetings, supervisors plan to present their changes to the executive’s recommendations on April 25. The budget is scheduled to be adopted May 2.

Hudgins will be joined at the March 4 budget session by Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova and Vienna Mayor Laurie DiRocco. Residents interested in attending are asked to RSVP to [email protected].

Chart via Fairfax County FY2018 budget presentation

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