A local effort to help homeless people in Reston is taking another step: looking to Fairfax County for relief.
The community group Reston Strong plans to ask county supervisors to change zoning rules to make it easier for temporary transitional housing in commercial buildings and spaces by making those adaptations “by right,” meaning a property owner wouldn’t need extra approvals if a project is within certain areas.
The 2,000-member group originated from a donation drive from Sarah Selvaraj-D’Souza, who noted in a statement how several buildings have been empty and felt that the change would be the cheapest and easiest solution to help get people indoors this time of year. Among its efforts, the county since 2005 has worked to provide hypothermia shelters during the winter.
Advocates are also looking for the county to pilot a mobile mental health crisis unit. Selvaraj-D’Souza stated that Reston Strong helped a woman while she was experiencing a mental health emergency a few months ago after police found her in the snow without a jacket. She had lost her bearings, and the group placed her in a hotel.
In addition, Reston Strong wants the county and Inova to consider a housing feasibility study for the former Cameron Glen rehab facility that closed in 2014.
The county already assists and coordinates with other groups to help those experiencing homelessness through its Office to Prevent and End Homelessness, and it recently revived efforts to pair mental health crisis specialists with specially trained police officers for certain 911 calls.
Last weekend, Reston Strong staged reflective emergency tents the Reston Parkway to raise awareness of about homelessness. Signs said “Love thy neighbor; no exceptions.”
“By showcasing tents along Reston Parkway we brought visibility for one night to our unhoused neighbors sleeping in outdoor tents during the cold winter,” volunteer coordinator Mary Barthelson said in a statement.
The group is looking to submit its concerns to the county board in March.
(Updated at 9:30 a.m. The previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Metro was seeking the county board’s approval for the Silver Line project).
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will consider approval of changes to Herndon and Reston bus service to meet the needs of the Silver Line extension project.
The new bus routes would be run by the Fairfax Connector and provide enhanced service connecting routes coming from and to the new Metro stations along the new Silver Line extension.
Other plans for new connections and routes from Chantilly and Centreville into the Dulles Corridor, a route from the Loudoun campus of the Northern Virginia Community College, and from Sterling to Herndon. These connections and routes are designed to increase transit access to areas reliant for travel and employment.
Metro plans to open six new stops along the line this year. Those stops will run along the Dulles Airport Highway and its adjacent toll roads. The new stations for the line extension will be located at Reston Town Center, Herndon, Innovation, Loudoun Gateway, Ashburn, and will end at the Dulles International Airport.
Metro official opened phase one of its Silver Line in July 2014, stops along the line included McLean, Tysons Corner, Greensboro, Spring Hill, and Wiehle-Reston East. Most of these stations are served by Fairfax Connector buses.
According to Metro, while the physical stations themselves have been completed the stops themselves are still closed to the public due to ongoing construction and safety hazards. These include the installation and testing of high-voltage electrical systems.
In preparation for the line, Fairfax County has constructed two park and ride garages at the Herndon station and the Innovation Center. There will be a total combined 3,950 parking spaces in the garages for Metro commuters to use once the second phase officially opens.
Metro plans to open the Silver Line extension in the first quarter of 2022 pending. The board will consider approval of bus service changes at its meeting on February 22.
Photo by Chuck Samuelson/Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project
The county has officially begun thinking about the long-term future of Lake Anne plaza.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved tweaking the current budget to fund a master planning and visioning study of the aging village center. The board approved $250,000 to help fund the study at a meeting last week.
The move comes after the county hired a structural engineering company to survey the village center and complete an assessment of its condominium buildings.
The county has noted that more funding is needed to master planning and to support the long-term sustainable development of Lake Anne.
The review was conducted by the county’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services and Samaha Associates, an architectural firm, but the ARB said it failed to account for Lake Anne’s status as a historic district, among other concerns.
Photo by vantaghill/Flickr
A portion of Edmund Halley Drive has officially been transferred over to the state.
At a Tuesday meeting, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to transfer a section of the road to the Secondary System of State Highways, a move made in preparation of the completion of phase two of the Silver Line.
The move — which was stipulated in proffer agreements for the Reston Crossing project — allows the state to have unrestricted right-of-way along the road.
The formerly private street was improved with bike lanes, a trail, and a sidewalk in order to meet requirements in the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan.
The street was also widened to meet requirements set by the Virginia Department of Transportation.
The street will connect to the Reston Town Center Metro Station from Sunrise Valley Drive.
New York-based company Tishman Speyer is developing Reston Crossing, a two-million-square development south of the Dulles Toll Road between Edmund Halley Drive and Reston Parkway.
The project was approved in 2019.
Driver Charged in Crash that Killed Reston Woman — Police have charged a Manassas man with driving under the influence and involuntary manslaughter in connection with a car crash that killed a Reston woman. [Fairfax County Police Department]
Lake Anne Visioning Plan Broadens — The county is considering a plan to dedicate $250,000 for a long-term visioning plan for the Lake Anne area. [Reston Patch]
Schools to Maintain Mask Requirement — Despite Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s order to lift mask mandates in schools, the Fairfax County Public Schools will maintain mask requirements for students. Virtual town halls to discuss the issue are planned for this week. [FCPS]
Police Investigate Gas Station Robbery — Local police are investigating a robbery that happened at Sunoco Gas Station at 13470 Coppermine Road on Jan. 19. A man displayed a gun and demanded property, according to police. [FCPD]
Photo by Marjorie Copson
County officials could allocate $300,000 in funding in order to develop a long-term vision and revitalization plan for the aging Lake Anne Village Center.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors budget committee will discuss the matter at a meeting today (Tuesday). Funding would require adjusting the fiscal year 2022 budget, according to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn.
In a Jan. 10 letter to Lake Anne residents, Alcorn said the funding would be used for economic envisioning and master planning in order to “support the long-term sustainable development planning for Lake Anne.”
In recent months, the village center has been the focus of renewed community focus due to the plaza’s deteriorating infrastructure and highly visible stagnation.
A little over a year ago, several condominium units in the plaza were without hot water for months.
The review was conducted by the county’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services and Samaha Associates, an architectural firm, but the ARB said it failed to account for Lake Anne’s status as a historic district, among other concerns.
The supplemental report would expand on the previous report, which was issued in September.
The Board of Supervisors is expected to discuss the newly proposed funding at a meeting on Jan. 25.
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Grandfather Accused of BASE Jumps — Police believe that a 70-year-old grandfather — a former local runner — is the prime suspect in several BASE jumps from area skyscrapers. It’s possible that Chuck Moeser got away with as many as six plunges, including a 32-story plunge over evening traffic. [The Washington Post]
Local Houseplant Swap Today — Residents can swap houseplants today at 1 p.m. at Reston Regional Library. Registration is required for the event. [Reston Regional Library]
Taxi Certificates on Hold — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to maintain the area’s current fleet of taxi cabs. The limit for taxi certificates stands at 654 as demand for other transportations options like Uber and Lyft grows. [Sun Gazette]
Metro to Restore Some Cars — Metro may begin restoring some 7000-series railcars as the system transitions back to service. The move comes after a go-ahead from the Washington Metrorail Satefy Commission, which said it has no technical objections to the plan submitted by Metro. [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority]
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved $5 million in funding for the delayed redevelopment of downtown Herndon.
The approval — which was requested by the town — brings the county’s contribution to $6.1 million of the $101 million public-private partnership between the town and developer Comstock.
Marred by delays and an oft-changing groundbreaking date, the revitalization project would bring transform 4.7 acres of land previously owned by the town into a mixed-use town center with 273 residential apartments, 17,000 square feet of retail space, an arts center, and a 726-space parking garage.
But the county’s financial commitment is conditional. Five payments of $1 million per year would go to the town. The first payment is conditioned on the approval of the certificate of occupancy for the first residential unit.
“The project provides an opportunity to partner with the Town of Herndon in its downtown redevelopment efforts and will produce new tax revenues for the county on a site that currently does not generate tax revenue,” according to a Dec. 7 staff memo.
In response to requests from Reston Now for information, town officials have provided few details on why the project has been pushed back. Comstock has also been tight-lipped about the project.
Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust lauded county staff for ironing out the conditions of the agreement.
“It’s just going to be absolutely awesome what they have going,” Foust said.
The project faced a $24.6 million funding gap as a result of the effects of the pandemic, changes in the construction market for materials and labor, and workforce restrictions. The town and Comstock agreed to split the funding gap equally as part of a new agreement that was negotiated roughly one year ago, including tax abatement efforts for Comstock.
The county already committed $1.2 million from its Economic Opportunity Reserve Fund in June 2018. The funds were committed but remain undistributed to the town.
If construction stops within six months of the first payment, the county would suspect future funding and restart payments at its discretion — if and when construction activity resumes.
The Herndon Town Council will review the updated MOU at its Dec. 13 meeting. The town is contributing nearly $18 million while Comstock will shoulder $85 million of the total cost. The county’s contribution amounts to six percent of the total cost estimate.
County funds would be pulled from the Economic Opportunity Reserve Fund, which aims to support capital development projects, real estate purchases, and programming support for economic development activities.
Confederate Names Task Force to Meet — The task force, which was established by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, will meet today to recommend whether or not to rename Lee and Lee-Jackson highways. [Fairfax County Government]
Reston Association’s Holiday Fest Returns — Holiday Fest will return to Walker Nature Center on Sunday. Guests can enjoy live music, hot cocoa, and a gingerbread contest. [Reston Association]
Libraries to Offer COVID-19 Test Kits — Fairfax County Public Library branches will begin distributing free COVID-19 rapid antigen at-home test kits as part of pilot program that begins Dec. 3. Quantities are limited. Tests should be taken at home, not in a library branch. [Fairfax County Government]
Photo by Marjorie Copson
To date, the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) has been running fare collection at the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station — a county-owned facility — without compensation.
As a hand-off date for the 11.5-mile extension comes close to fruition, officials are now contemplating the best way for fare collections to continue. In a proposed agreement that goes before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors today, the county is hoping to compensate WMATA for its efforts by paying roughly $45 per parking space per year.
The county does not own any other garages, a spokesperson for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation told Reston Now.
“We are paying for WMATA to operate the fare collection system in those garages so it is the same for all customers in the county,” said Robin Geiger, FCDOT’s spokesperson.
The yearly payment would amount to around $366,000, with funds largely being offset by parking fees collected at the facilities.
WMATA’s board is expected to take up the matter in a few months.
Wiehle-Reston East has the county’s first county-owned parking facility. With 2,300 spaces, it is the second largest of the new station. The Herndon station will have a 3,751 parking space garage while Innovation Center will have a 2,072-space parking garage.
The parking garage at Innovation Center Metro Station is located on the south side of the station. The $52 million facility was sinking in 2019 and has since been repaired.
The Herndon Metro Station will serve the Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride garage, which has parking for roughly 3,500 cars. The new facility, constructed by Manhattan Construction Co., cost roughly $44.5 million.
The Wiehle-Reston East garage has 2,300 spaces, but some commuters have reported difficulty snagging spots and navigating signs in the garage, especially during early morning hours.
The county’s Board of Supervisors is expected to discuss the issue at a meeting today.
The first step of a development vision, sidetracked for years by legal action from a neighboring business group, is moving forward.
The extension of McNair Farms Road is being built near Arrowbrook Park. It’s what developers have sought to accomplish as early as 2017 to help connect a nearby wooded property originally eyed for apartments.
“Stanley Martin Homes is developing a residential neighborhood on Dulles Technology Drive and has contracted with William A. Hazel Inc. to construct the extension of McNair Farms Drive,” the county said in an online post on Oct. 20 after people asked about the park’s pond and trail being closed off.
Stanley Martin Homes got approval in 2018 to build 172 units in stacked townhomes that could be four stories tall. It also received the county’s OK to alternatively pursue a previously approved 2017 plan that would involve building two six-story buildings for 460 units.
But a neighboring business group sued in 2018, saying its property value diminished by $3.3 million, a court document said. The business group — an office condominium association consisting of Spectrum Innovative Properties, McWhorter and Mulpuri Properties — claimed a four-lane extension of McNair Farms Drive would take approximately 12% of its property.
The lawsuit and appeals involved Fairfax County Board of Supervisors as the primary defendant, and the case eventually went to the Virginia Supreme Court, which issued an order May 20, 2021, that found the business group had no additional injuries from the 2018 approval and had no standing for the case.
The Virginia Supreme Court’s order follows Stanley Martin Homes’ purchase of the property for nearly $20.4 million in December 2020 from JLB Dulles Tech LLC — an entity linked to Dallas-based multifamily developer JLB Partners — that had the previous approval in 2017.
The road extension has temporarily closed Arrowbrook Park, where heavy equipment gained access to the site along a pond. The county and Stanley Martin Homes suggested the park work could be completed this summer or be at the point where at least trail access would be restored.
Part of the Stanley Martin Homes property hugs another access point: Dulles Technology Drive, where construction crews are also accessing the site to build the McNair Farms Drive extension.
The Stanley Martin Homes executive said the company plans to submit an application to the Virginia Department of Transportation to connect a traffic light at Centreville Road with the soon-to-be-built McNair Farms Drive extension, which requires building a bridge.
The executive with Stanley Martin Homes, a subsidiary of the Japan-based Daiwa House Group, said the company will build stacked townhomes there.
Members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors have expressed support for providing $5 million for the delayed development of downtown Herndon — a project that faced a nearly $25 million funding gap last year.
The $109 million project would transform 4.7 acres in the town’s historic district with 273 apartments, 17,000 square feet of retail, a 16,265-square-foot arts center, and a 726-space public parking garage, 330 of which would be reserved for the town.
At a meeting with the board earlier this week, town manager Bill Ashton said a major funding gap prompted the town to turn to the county for help.
The Town of Herndon and Comstock, its private development partner, agreed to split a funding gap of roughly $24.6 million. Tax abatement efforts and several design changes — including eliminating the mezzanine of the arts center and reducing one underground level of the planning parking garage — still left a $5 million funding gap.
The estimated price tag of the project rose from $79.4 million in 2016 to $111 million in 2019 due to increases in the cost of construction, materials and labor, Ashton said.
Comstock rebid the project in 2020 in order to leverage possible savings due to the pandemic, but a significant funding gap still remained.
The town then quickly crafted a robust tax break program, creating the mechanism to offer Comstock $2.4 million in fee reductions and $1.9 million in real estate tax abatement.
The project is expected to result in $886,500 in Fairfax County General Fund Real Estate taxes after the first year of occupancy, according to an analysis by JLL.
County staff suggested dishing out funds over a period of years in order to minimize the impact of the request on the reserve fund. The economic opportunity reserve fund is intended to purchase real estate, fund capital development projects and provide programming support for economic development activities of “strategic importance,” according to the county.
Board chairman Jeff McKay encouraged staff to ensure that the delivery of funds was tied to development milestones. County staff noted that funds would be dispersed conditionally.
The board is expected to vote on the funding request at its board meeting on Dec. 7. Groundbreaking is expected to begin in December — nearly two years after the first estimate.
The garage will be completed by August 2023, followed by the arts center in December of that year. The entire project is expected to close out in March 2024. The Town selected Comstock for the redevelopment project in November 2016.
It’s not the first time the town went before the board for project funding.
In 2018, the board approved $1.2 million in funding for the project. But no funds have been dispersed to date because the agreement required the town to contribute $1.2 million first.
The arts center will include a black box theater with programming by ArtsHerndon and NextStop Theatre Co.
Mason District Penny Gross urged the Town of Herndon to ensure the arts center is accessible to all, especially in a town with as much economic diversity as Herndon.
Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn also said he wanted to ensure the arts center and the overall project was an asset to the public.
Ashton said that the arts center will include programmable outdoor space and a public plaza. The council will determine an operating model for the arts center once groundbreaking begins, he said.
Photo via handout/Comstock
Construction on a $5.2 million bridge over Colvin Run is set to wrap up by the fall of next year.
The two-lane bridge on Hunter Mill Road over Colvin Run will replace a one-lane bridge that has been deemed structurally deficient by state and national standards.
The Virginia Department of Transportation began building in the bridge in August after launching a public engagement process in April 2018.
While VDOT is expected to fund most of the bridge through federal and state dollars, the department is asking the county to pitch in $408,000 to help construct a splitter island, median refuge, and rapid flashing beacons on bridge.
“The median refuge and RRFB will improve safety and accessibility of drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians where Hunter Mill Road and the Colvin Run Stream Valley Trail intersect just south of the bridge. The bridge is also being designed to allow a future trail crossing of Colvin Run,” according to a memo prepared by county staff.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will vote on an agreement to firm up the county’s contribution at a board meeting tomorrow.
The one-lane bridge had to be reinforced in an emergency move in February last year. The maximum load of the bridge was reduced to 10 tons and the lane width was reduced to 10 feet.
The bridge was built in 1974 and averages roughly 8,500 vehicles per day, according to VDOT.
A construction contract was awarded to Clearwater Construction, Inc. in April.
The county board is expected to vote on a formal project administration agreement with VDOT so that the state can continue project work.
Photo via handout/VDOT
After nearly two years of discussions and 15 meetings, a study group has voted in favor of ditching three pedestrian crossing options offered by a developer of an approved mixed-use development near the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station.
TF Cornerstone plans to transform an aging office park east of Wiehle Avenue between Sunrise Valley Drive and the Dulles Toll Road into a 1.3-million-square-foot development called Campus Commons. The county approved the project in late 2019 — but how the development will connect to Metro and provide safe passage to pedestrians remains a significant concern.
The developer proffered to encourage the formation of a study group that would assess three proposed pedestrian overpasses or identify another crossing option at the crossing of Wiehle Avenue at the Dulles Toll Road ramps at the northwest corner of the site.
All of the study group’s members voted against the developer’s proposal for a pedestrian overpass. Instead, a major of the 17-member group voted in favor of an underpass — an option that would up the cost of the project.
The study group did not vote on a singular option to address the issue and instead provided a general sense of preferences voiced by members and other community members.
The report noted that while the developer’s proposal for an overpass would be developer-funded, the option presents design, utilization, and maintenance concerns.
The first developer-proposed option would include a ramp and stairs on the west side of the road and elevators and stairs on the east side. The second bridge option would include elevators and stairs on both sides. The third option would include a ramp on the west and egress into the building on the east side.
An underpass would utilize the existing grade, provide the shortest consistent crossing time, and provide easier ADA access, according to the report. But cost and feasibility due to surrounding utilities remain a concern.
At a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting yesterday, Hunter Mill District Supervisor formally accepted the group’s findings. The board now has one year to select the best and most feasible option. If the county for pedestrian crossing. If it does not select one of the three options proposed by the developer, the developer will provide $1.65 million towards another solution.
Additionally, the board will determine if an at-grade crossing at Wiehle Avenue and the Dulles Toll Road eastbound ramps should be provided by the developer. This proffer is separate from the grade-separated crossing options discussed above.
On the heels of last week’s sobering United Nations climate change report, Fairfax County is beginning to implement its first-ever Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP), which sets goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Fairfax County staff delivered a final update of the CECAP to the Board of Supervisors during its environmental committee meeting on July 20. The board is expected to accept the report when it meets on Sept. 14.
The CECAP provides an inventory of current greenhouse gas emissions and recommends actions that the county and individuals can take to mitigate future emissions in order to achieve carbon neutrality within three decades.
“A lot of times, people feel like this problem is so big and out of their hands, that they feel like they can’t make a difference,” Fairfax County Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination Senior Community Specialist Maya Dhavale said. “I feel like it’s very timely that Fairfax County has been putting this plan and report together…We’re able to provide residents, business owners, and individuals in Fairfax County a path forward.”
Dhavale, who spearheaded the project, says staff have already begun the process of implementing the plan. That starts with community outreach, public education, and a review of existing county policies to determine how they line up with the proposed plan.
First proposed in 2018 and initiated in early 2020, the CECAP report was developed by a working group composed of environmental advocates, business representatives, civic association members, and other citizens.
As an overarching goal, the work group proposed that Fairfax County become carbon-neutral by 2050 with an 87% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels.
The Board of Supervisors has already pledged to make county government operations — including building and facility energy use and transportation — carbon neutral by 2040 in conjunction with an updated operational energy strategy adopted on July 13.
The county’s recent push to prioritize environmental initiatives comes as the U.N. continues to sound the alarm on climate change as a crisis that’s already in motion and will only get worse without a substantial shift in human behavior.
In its latest report released on Aug. 9, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that human activities are directly responsible for a roughly 1 degree Celsius climb in the global surface temperature from 1900 to 2019, contributing to retreating glaciers, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.
Even if future emissions are kept very low, global temperatures will continue going up until at least the mid-21st century and could very likely still be one to 1.8 degrees Celsius higher than 1900 levels by the end of the century, according to the report.
“Stabilizing the climate will require strong, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and reaching net zero CO2 emissions,” IPCC Working Group I Co-Chair Panmao Zhai said in a news release. “Limiting other greenhouse gases and air pollutants, especially methane, could have benefits both for health and the climate.”
In their report, the CECAP working group says the impact of climate change on Fairfax County is already evident in declining snowfall, more extremely hot days, heavier rainfall, and increased incidences of mosquito and tick-borne illnesses. Read More