Reston, VA

Board OKs Split of Child Care Center Property — “The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a special exception amendment Tuesday, allowing the owner of a piece of property along Centreville Road south of the Town of Herndon to adjust the lot lines of his property. The 2.61-acre property, which is situated east of Centreville Road and south of the West Ox Road intersection, consists of two lots.” [Reston Patch]

Hotel Rooms Help Homeless People in Fairfax County — “Fairfax County’s Office to Prevent and End Homelessness and local partners worked to establish a hotel room program to house homeless persons based on need during the coronavirus pandemic. People are referred to hotels by homeless service providers, medical providers such as Health Works of Northern Virginia and Neighborhood Health, and county staff.”[Reston Patch]

Coronavirus Leading to Fall of Urban Village“‘Relatively better performance of single-family homes in relation to multi-family condominium properties clearly suggest migration from the city centers to the suburbs,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association Realtors, in parsing sales data from May.'” [Inside NOVA]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust is joining an effort by Fairfax County officials to help people avoid evictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Foust teamed up with Chairman Jeff McKay and Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck on a board matter to address rent relief options. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the proposal yesterday (Tuesday).

“As we continue to address the impact of COVID-19 and the associated impact on employment in our community, low and moderate income families in particular are increasingly at risk of falling behind on rent and mortgages, and eventually eviction and even homelessness,” the board matter says.

County staff must now develop a Housing Partnership Pledge by working with landlords and lenders. The county officials want to see them offer to defer foreclosures and evictions, along with providing extra time for tenants to pay rent.

Fairfax County is looking at Chicago’s pledge as a guide, according to the board matter.

Along with the pledge, the county is directing the Department of Housing and Community Development to develop new guidelines for emergency rental assistance so that landlords must work “in good faith” to keep their tenants housed in exchange for the county helping tenants’ make payments.

Under the new guidelines, landlords receiving the assistance would have to notify the county before taking legal action against the tenants.

“In addition, we should explore asking landlords receiving emergency rental assistance to waive late fees dating to April 1,” the board matter says.

Additionally, the Redevelopment and Housing Authority is now asked to look into more opportunities to provide emergency rental assistance.

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Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors wants to address some confusion around exotic animals.

The board is looking to refresh its animal control code with several changes to resolve discrepancies with other policies and laws.

One change would allow people with valid permits from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) — like wildlife rehabilitators and exhibitors — to own wildlife.

Since the current code prohibits people from possessing wild or exotic animals, “DGIF has considered revoking permits issued to County residents because they do not comply with the local ordinance,” according to county documents. If approved, the proposal would clean up the conflicting rules.

The county documents note that DGIF oversees the county’s roughly 50 permit holders, ensuring that the housing and care conditions for the animals are appropriate.

Another clarification would alter the definition of “exotic or wild” animals and create a list of exceptions. The proposal comes more than a year after Fairfax County officials decided to legalize chinchillas, hedgehogs and hermit crabs as pets.

“[The current] definition has generated much confusion and required interpretation from staff about exactly what sorts of animals are classified as wild or exotic and thus prohibited in the County,” according to the county documents.

Under the proposed changes, the following animals would not be considered exotic animals as long as they are bred and haven’t been in the wilderness:

  • chinchillas
  • guinea pigs
  • hamsters
  • rats
  • mice
  • gerbils
  • rabbits
  • ferrets
  • hedgehogs
  • birds

Additionally, the list of exceptions would also include non-venomous reptiles and amphibians that are not crocodilians.

According to the county, the proposed changes would also:

  • add exemptions to the rabies vaccination requirement
  • add more details on confining animals suspected of being rabid
  • give animal control officers discretion to charge owners of unrestricted or unvaccinated dogs
  • require traveling animal exhibitors to have current certificates of health for each animal exhibited
  • remove the “impractical” requirement to inspect traveling animal exhibitions

The proposal would also clean up references to now-defunct programs and services, including the county’s oral rabies vaccination program and euthanasia of healthy wildlife brought to the shelter.

“The Department of Animal Sheltering believes such euthanasia runs counter to its mission and negatively affects the emotional and psychological well-being of shelter staff,” county documents say, adding that private companies offer the service to residents.

The board approved Tuesday to hold a public hearing on July 14 on the proposed code changes.

Photo by Javier Virues-Ortega on Unsplash

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Reston Strong, a local community advocacy group, offered a direct message when residents covered a Confederate monument in front of the old Fairfax County courthouse with tarp and white duck tape over the weekend.

The issue has prompted Fairfax County elected officials to request a complete report of Confederate street names, monuments and public places in the county.

Although the black tarp and tape that smother the statue was removed within an hour after installation on Sunday, the group says that it is time for the county to remove the 1904 granite monument that honors Confederate Capt. John Quincy Marr, who died roughly 800 feet from this marker in 1861.

The hashtag #restonstrong was written over white duck tape around a Confederate monument late last week as local residents. Some local and state elected officials have bowed to public demands to remove statues and monuments honoring Confederate leaders in recent weeks.

Located at 4000 Chain Bridge Road, the monument is dedicated to Marr, the first Confederate officer killed in the Civil War. “Union cavalry attached the city at 3:00 a.m. on June 1, 1861. The Warrenton rifles commanded by Marr defended the city,” according to information recently taken down by Fairfax County’s tourism board.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will discuss the issue at a meeting later this afternoon. Providence Supervisor Dalia Palchik and Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn plan to request a full inventory of Confederate names in public places in Fairfax County. The monument is located in Palchik’s district.

“Fairfax County residents stand together with fellow Americans in support of the recent movement for racial justice, brought on by the horrific deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others,” the board matter reads. “This powerful call for equity has brought attention to Confederate monuments and place names throughout the County, and the painful history they symbolize.”

Reston Strong issued the following response to today’s board matter:

We would like to Thank Supervisor Palchik for her response however we are saddened to note her motion while timely, fails to directly address our ask. We understand this topic is more polarizing than most and sincerely hope the below sentiments from our members will give our leaders the strength needed to take immediate action.

REMOVE – “It’s literally trauma!! The statue doesn’t erase the history! But the statue does remind my people each time they are disposed, mishandled in the judicial system where this statue resides that things will always be unjust and unfair, we’ve gotta take it, swallow it and keep hoping one day we will be free for real #free-ishsince1865″ – Candace Wiredu-Adams

RELOCATE – “Move it to a museum. We can’t just throw our past away. People wouldn’t believe the holocaust existed without seeing certain artifacts. We need to have these tangible items to provoke the emotion. We can’t just have pages in a textbook saying a statue was taken down.” – Rebecca Johnson

REPLACE – “I think markers at the places of important events is great. Nothing like standing right where it happened and reflecting. However, I don’t think we need monuments to people. So to me, two different things. I think the markers are a good reminder of history and where it happened (in some cases in our own backyard!). Glorifying people, not so much.”  – Colleen Montgomery

Photo via Reston Strong

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The county is considering a plan to establish an economic incentive program for Lake Anne Village Center and other areas with limited development activity and dipping competitiveness.

The Economic Incentive Program, if approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, would incentivize parcel consolidation by reducing site plan fees by 10 percent and offering real estate tax abatement for up to 10 years.

It is designed to target areas with limited development activity, declining competitiveness and outdated land development and architectural designs, according to county documents. Projects must be limited to commercial, industrial, multi-family or mind use development. Additionally, up to 20 percent of existing development can be retained or repurposed.

Preliminarily, the board has identified several areas for revitalization for the following locations:

  • Annandale
  • Seven Corners
  • Lincoln
  • McLean
  • Richmond Highway, Huntington
  • Springfield

Lake Anne Village Center’s 41-acre Community Revitalization Area (CRA) is primarily focused on the plaza, which was the first area developed in Reston. Efforts to revitalize the plaza have been on the table for several years. The county designated the village center as a CRA in 1998 in order to stimulate reinvestment and development. Currently, roughly 22 percent of the village center is covered by surface parking, which needs repairs.

A public hearing is tentatively set for Sept. 15. If approved, the county will begin meeting with applicants to discuss potential projects. An executive outreach and education campaign about the program is also planned.

The board’s Economic Initiatives Committee is set to discuss the plan at a meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) at 11 a.m.

File photo

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Fairfax County officials want to see the rollout of body-worn cameras for Fairfax County police happen as soon as possible to increase transparency with policing.

“The events in the last couple of weeks both across the country and in Fairfax made the importance of expanding the police body-worn camera program apparent both for improved public safety and transparency,” Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement.

Yesterday, the Board of Supervisors approved asking county staff to look for potential revenue sources to implement the second phase of the program as quickly as possible. The county directed staff to report back by June 30 with the funding options and a potential timeline for the rest of the phases.

McKay said that the county wants to resume the implementation of the program’s second phase during the 2021 fiscal year.

Earlier this year, the county board delayed funding for the phased program due to budget challenges posed by COVID-19, but still kept an increase of $1.77 million increase for the first phase of the program.

Three county district stations already have the cameras, including the Reston District Station.

The motion follows recent calls from several supervisors, including Walter Alcorn and John Foust, to continue the program in the other parts of the county.

County officials are looking for ways to move forward with the program in response to rising concerns about police transparency and use of force following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and a Fairfax County police officer allegedly assaulting a black man in the Mt. Vernon area. The Fairfax County officer is facing three counts of misdemeanor assault and battery.

Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said that he was initially willing to delay the cameras before, but now said he sees an immediate need for the cameras.

Storck noted that the body-worn camera footage of the Mt. Vernon incident, which the police department released on Sunday (June 7), “dramatically changed” conversations between the police and the community.

Storck added that the police officers he’s spoken to support the cameras.

“I join my colleagues in deep disappointment in what we saw on that police camera this weekend,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said. “It shows that it works.”

McKay mentioned said that the action of a handful of officers — “is not indicative” of the thousands of officers in the Fairfax County Police Department. McKay called the police department “committed” and “well trained.”

He thanked both the police chief and commonwealth’s attorney for their “quick response” to the incident.

Fairfax County Adding Equity Task Force

Work to speed up the police cameras is one of several steps the county is taking to address inequity.

“There is no one policy or program we can enact today that will solve every issue,” McKay said, pointing to previous efforts like adding the county’s Police Civilian Review Panel and independent police auditor.

The Board of Supervisors also unveiled yesterday a new equity task force. “We know this is an issue that requires constant vigilance,” McKay said.

“The Chairman’s Taskforce on Equity and Opportunity will explore the range of situations and conditions that contribute to disproportionate trends, facilitate shared responsibility and collective action, build on the strengths of our community, and lift up solutions to make all residents and neighborhoods more resilient,” according to county documents.

McKay said that the task force will be coordinated by Karla Bruce, the county’s chief equity officer, and her staff with his office. Costs will be absorbed within the existing budget, McKay said.

Each supervisor will provide recommendations for who should serve on the task force, McKay said. He added that the county is aiming for a geographically and demographically balanced membership “to make sure this group is attempting to represent this county as a whole.”

Palchik noted that the county took the “first step forward as we battle through this crisis,” adding that she wants the county to address housing and pre-K programs to combat inequity.

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors plans to defer a decision on a cellphone communications facility at Herndon High School to later this year.

At a meeting this afternoon, the board is expected to defer the vote to September 15, according to county documents. The proposal has been deferred five times since the public hearing crossing the board’s desk on Feb. 25.

The county’s planning commission voted to defer a decision to yesterday (Monday) following concerns from the public. Commission members encouraged Fairfax County Public Schools to address issues flagged by residents.

Milestrone Communications is seeking to install a 124-foot monopole and associated equipment in a compound on the north side of the school’s football field. The tower is expected to help improve service for Spring customers.

The 3,185-square-foot compound, which will be enclosed by a chain-link fence, will be roughly 35 feet by 91 feet in size, according to the proposal.

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The COVID-19 dining experience in Fairfax County will change tomorrow as more parking lots and other outdoor spaces in Fairfax County could be used for dining and exercise under certain conditions.

As Northern Virginia begins phase one of its reopening plan tomorrow, Fairfax County officials are considering instituting a blanket approval of outdoor dining, fitness and exercise activities.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will consider the plan at an emergency session at 3 p.m. today (Thursday). Typically, approvals for outdoor dining and fitness activities require a range of applications for approval. If the county approves the emergency ordinance today, businesses would automatically be able to pursue outdoor dining and exercise activities.

The county will begun easing COVID-19 restrictions businesses tomorrow (Friday). Gov. Ralph Northam’s order limits phase one to specific activities. For example, restaurants can only operate at 50 percent of their interior capacity.

Here’s more from the proposal:

With the impending expiration of Phase Zero in Northern Virginia, the County 2 needs to be prepared for Phase One. Under current County ordinances and 3 regulations, business owners would typically be required to pursue a range of 4 applications to allow outdoor dining and outdoor fitness and exercise activities. 5 In the midst of the COVID-19 emergency, the cost and time to meet such 6 requirements would compound the stress on economically challenged 7 businesses, hinder the opportunity presented by Phase One to revitalize the 8 County’s economy, and likely result in a continued de facto closure of such 9 businesses. At the same time, processing and deciding such a multitude of 10 applications on an urgent basis would be virtually impossible for the County 11 government and would consume extraordinary amounts of time and attention on 12 the part of the County’s staff and its deliberative bodies, at a time when they are 13 also strained by the emergency. These factors, separately and collectively, 14 threaten the County’s continuity in government.

Conditions for outdoor dining include, but are not limited to:

  • No outdoor entertainment activities
  • Outdoor area must be kept free of trash and debris
  • Temporary tents must be open on all sides and less than 900 square feet in size
  • All tables, chairs and other items must be removable and in good “appearance and repair”
  • Adequate parking must be available for on-site users
  • Parking designated for individuals with disabilities must be maintained
  • The location cannot obstruct sidewalks, travel ways, fire lanes, any building entrance or exit, or interfere with street access for fire department response

The ordinance will not go into effect in the Town of Herndon until the Herndon Town Council approves the emergency ordinance.

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Following more details to reopen Virginia later this week, Fairfax County’s chairman joined Northern Virginia leaders in saying that the region is not ready yet to ease restrictions.

On Sunday (May 10), McKay, along with the top officials for the City of Alexandria and Loudoun, Prince William and Arlington counties, said in a letter to the governor saying that regional threshold metrics should be used instead of statewide metrics for reopening the five localities.

“While it is certainly useful to examine statewide metrics as we gauge the success of current public health policies, we feel strongly that any changes to current policies be guided by what is occurring in our region,” the letter said.

The health directors for the five localities also sent a letter to the state health commissioner. “Based on our assessment, we do not believe that the Northern Virginia region has met the criteria for moving into Phase 1 at this time,” the letter said.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Friday that his plans to begin the first phase on Friday (May 15) as part of his “Forward Virginia” plan include these new restrictions:

  • Restaurants with open air space will be allowed to seat guests outdoors but at 50% capacity while other in-door only restaurants will be only be allowed to offer takeout and delivery.
  • Residents will be under a “safer at home” suggestion.
  • Retail businesses will be able to open at a 50% capacity.
  • Fitness centers must remain closed unless they offer outdoor facilities.
  • Entertainment and amusement centers will still be closed.
  • Churches and places of worship will be allowed to gather at 50% capacity.
  • Private campgrounds and specific public camping facilities will be reopened.
  • A 10-person gathering limit for private parties will be still be required.

If the number of COVID-19 cases rise with the new orders, Northam said that there is a chance tighter restrictions will once again go into place.

“The virus is still in our communities and we need to continue our vigilance,” he said. “We may be living with it for months or maybe years.

Northam stressed on Friday that his proposed plan is an easement of the temporary restrictions: “We are not opening the flood gate here.”

Prior to the governor’s announcement, McKay and other local leaders had been pushing the state’s administration to provide more collaboration with the reopening plans.

For places like Fairfax County, Northam said on Friday that they may be allowed to reopen at a slower pace and that he will announce more details early this week.

“I have said from the beginning this is a dynamic-fluid process,” he said.

Catherine Douglas Moran and Ashley Hopko contributed to this report 

Photo via Fairfax County Government; image via Virginia.gov

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Fairfax County’s top official wants increased communication with Gov. Ralph Northam as the state administration considers easing business restrictions.

On Monday, Northam unveiled a three-phase plan to roll back restrictions, which could start as soon as May 15.

The next day, Jeff McKay, the chairman for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, and the board chairs for Prince William and Loudoun counties sent a letter urging Northam’s administration to collaborate more with them.

More from the letter:

We proudly represent more than 2 million residents; just shy of a quarter of the population of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Sadly, our three counties also account for 40 percent of all known positive cases and hospitalizations due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Commonwealth. Regionally, Northern Virginia equates for 40 percent of the Commonwealth’s GDP…

To that end, we write to you today to communicate our strong desire to be both briefed and consulted as your administration makes decisions about the reopening of the Commonwealth… We request a discussion with you prior to future announcements about the state’s reopening. This is not an attempt to slow our progress. Rather, a recognition of the need for greater collaboration between state and local governments.

Additionally, we request a weekly phone call between a member of your team and our chiefs of staff… In addition to the reopening, some of the topics our respective teams would like to cover include testing capacity, the acquisition of personal protective equipment, racial disparities, and the methodology used for the distribution of CARES Act funds.

Del. Mark Keam (D-35th) also chimed in this week, posting on Facebook today: “I agree with Chairman Jeff Mckay that Northern Virginia needs to be MUCH MORE cautious than other regions of Virginia in reopening our businesses due to the heightened and ongoing threats here.”

Northam said yesterday (Wednesday) that localities might be able to keep some restrictions as the state begins to reopen, WTOP reported. Now that the governor is poised to provide an update tomorrow (Friday), McKay is repeating his request.

“Northam joined regional leaders on a call this afternoon to further outline his gradual plans for reopening Virginia,” McKay said in a statement. “Though this won’t be a locality-by-locality decision, he has recognized the need to look at this issue regionally.”

McKay said that he again requested “continued open lines of communication to ensure coordination between our community, D.C., and Maryland, as well as the need for effective communication to businesses and our residents when a decision to reopen is made.”

Fairfax County continues to have the highest reported number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Virginia.

“We are still in the exponential growth phase of our epidemic curve – that means that COVID-19 cases in our health district continues to increase,” according to the county.

As of today, the county had more than 5,000 cases and 211 deaths, according to the state’s health department.

The county says that the high number of cases may be due to three factors: “significant community-wide transmission,” increased testing and the new inclusion of “probable” cases along with confirmed ones.

Photo via Fairfax County

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved changes to Arrowbrook Centre, a proposed mixed-use development that was approved in 2005 for more than two million square feet of development.

The company behind the massive development, which is located near the future Innovation Center Metro Station, received the county’s blessing yesterday (April 14) to convert previously planned high-rise residential buildings into single-family homes and mid-rise apartment units.

The changes, which are restricted to a 3.4-acre section of the 54-acre site, reduce the residential component of the site from 480 to 392 units.

Describing the development as “first-class,” Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said Arrowbrook Centre would help create a “sense of community in that area.”

“This is a very straightforward case,” he added.

The county also approved the developer’s plan to build a 32-unit multi-family building and 10 single-family houses. A 50-space parking garage for the apartment building and 27 parking spaces for the single-family houses, in addition to garage parking, were also approved.

The developer also plans to incorporate an asphalt trail that was suggested in the Herndon Metrorail Stations Access Management Study to connect to the future Innovation Center Metro Station.

John McGranaham, the applicant’s representative, noted that the developer is committed to completing the trail once easements and appropriate approvals are granted.

“It’s an important trail to have open when the Innovation Station opens shortly,” McGranaham said.

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Fairfax County officials have created a fund to support small businesses struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Board of Supervisors approved creating the “Fairfax County Small Business COVID-19 Recovery Microloan Fund” during their meeting today (Tuesday). The board expects the loan program to be ready by May 1, according to county documents.

The program allows the Community Business Partnership to distribute roughly $1.2 million to eligible small businesses in the county. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees make up about 94 percent of businesses in the county, according to the documents.

Businesses who undergo a pre-submission counseling session will be able to apply for loans up to $20,000 and will be able to use the money for things like rent, equipment and critical cash operating expenses. The loans will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis, the documents say.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said the county’s program complements federal aid, including financial assistance from the Small Business Administration.

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity said he was concerned about the administrative costs of operating the county’s program. He also proposed an amendment requiring the CBP to direct small business owners to seek federal aid prior to seeking local assistance.

McKay said Herrity’s amendment, which did not pass, was not necessary because the CBP already encourages individuals to seek federal avenues for help. He also noted that many businesses are falling through the cracks due to the limits of federal assistance, including delays in the rollout of funds.

Others encourage the county to reach as many affected businesses as possible.

Mt. Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said he hopes the program champions “administrative flexibility” in order to help out businesses with between two and 10 employees.

The funding for the program is coming from $2.5 million from the Economic Opportunity Reserve to support economic relief efforts.

Staff in the Department of Economic Initiatives will monitor the distribution of the funds to figure out how to use the remaining $1.28 million, according to county documents. After 45 days, staff will let the board know if they recommend additional funds for the program.

McKay also directed county staff to explore additional relief options for businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Catherine Douglas Moran and Fatimah Waseem contributed to this story.

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Health Alert Kit On the Way — Households in Fairfax County and the Town of Herndon will receive a COVID-19 toolkit in the mail that includes instruction on what to do if you’re sick, what to do if you’re in contact with someone who is sick, and how to talk to close contents if you are sick. [Fairfax County Government]

Attempted Robbery at Exxon in Great Falls — A man attempted to rob the Exxon gas station on 9829 Georgetown Pike in Great Falls on April 10. Police said the man left when the clerk told him there was no money. [Fairfax County Police Department]

What’s Happening Today — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will meet electronically today beginning at 1 p.m. to discuss next year’s revised budget and other coronavirus-related items. [Fairfax County Government]

Plans for Non-essential Businesses — “As the end date approaches for the Gov. Ralph Northam’s order that closed non-essential recreation and entertainment businesses, the governor plans to extend the date. Northam has not set an end date for that extension, but an announcement is expected. Wednesday.”  [Patch]

Photo by Bryan Harrell/Twitter

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Some county residents and organizations are questioning the Fairfax County Board of Supervisor’s decision to proceed with voting on land use cases and other development matters at a meeting tomorrow (Tuesday).

The board is considering an ordinance that would allow the county to proceed with some land use work that would “otherwise expire or require time-consuming, case-by-case attention to extend at the expense of operations.”

The ordinance is intended to automatically extend the validity of expiring director-approved plans, pats, grading permits, parking reductions, and modifications or waivers for specific public facilities stands until nearly two months after the board ends the local state of emergency.

“By temporarily supplanting this cumbersome extension process, this ordinance will help to a sure continuity in government by enabling Land Development Services to continue providing essential services to homeowners and the development community.”

But some say the wording of the ordinance leaves too much room for interpretation, regardless of how well-intentioned the proposed ordinance is.

In a letter to the board, former Fairfax County Planning Commissioner James Hart said the ordinance was “so broad and flexible that it invites abuse of that streamlined emergency process and an expansion into land use matters.”

Here’s more from Hart’s letter:

The definition of “Continuity in Fairfax County government” on p. 119 is so vague as to be meaningless.   It includes, “without limitation,” almost anything, including “applications . . . or other requests” and “measures that help sustain the County’s economy” which conceivably could be every land use application that causes economic activity [construction, real estate, commerce, taxes, etc.].   What case arguably doesn’t help sustain the economy, in some way?  There should be some “limitation” on the authority of a supervisor, or the Board collectively, to approve anything, ostensibly within this overbroad definition, as an essential continuation of the function of government.  

Some residents are especially concerned about an expected vote on a proposal for 157 townhouses in Chantilly tomorrow (Tuesday). The controversial project by McLean-based company Elm Street Communities — which is located directly under a flight path — has been a source of concern, especially due to noise impacts

Residents say that members of the public cannot meaningfully comment on the application or rebut information presented by staff or the applicant by submitting written testimony or comments via YouTube in advance of the meeting.

The virus emergency is no excuse to adopt streamlined procedures that facilitate land use cases going forward without meaningful citizen participation in the public hearings.  Reasonable limitations on the Board’s powers should include some more specific clarification of what matters, such as the budget, are truly ‘essential.”” Hart wrote.

The state’s Sierra Club chapter also voiced reservations on the ordinance to streamline the public engagement process, which it says could be perceived as using an emergency to reduce public input and increase opportunities for development.

“Fairfax County residents become passive contributors by submitting electronic public comment and hope that it is read or watched. Gone is the ability to engage in dialogue with staff or supervisors, make site visits, verify or rebut information, and actively impact decision-making.”

Photo via Unsplash

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Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn is hoping that more resources get allocated to small businesses as Fairfax County officials discuss the revised fiscal year 2021 budget.

Alcorn held a media call this morning (April 9) to discuss dramatic cuts and changes to the changed budget proposal, following a digital public hearing he held last night with residents.

“I’m not happy about the updated budget but it does reflect the reality we’re in right now,” Alcorn said during the media call.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill to revise suggestions for the upcoming budget, which were integrated into a draft and published on Tuesday (April 7).

Many of the changes include halting the expansion of new projects — focusing instead to retain projects already in progress, according to  Alcorn.

“We are going to see some delays on some of our affordable housing projects,” Alcorn said, “It’s disappointing to me because doing more on affordable housing will help the same folks who are being impacted by the Covid emergency… These are some of the same folks who have been laid off.”

Other programs that will likely be delayed are the implementation of body cameras for police officers and a freeze in salary for Fairfax County employees.

“It really is an attempt to put the breaks on anything new,” he said.

Alcorn said he also wants to see relief programs for small businesses in Fairfax County, which may happen.

Next Tuesday, the Board of supervisors will discuss a micro-loan program for local business owners impacted by the pandemic, Alcorn said.

The Budget Committee spoke last week about the potential for the program to offer up roughly $1 million for small businesses, but Alcorn suggested this number was meant to be a “place holder” until there was an opportunity for further discussion.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is set to vote on the final adjusted budget during the May 12 meeting, which was later than previously suggested in Fairfax County documents.

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