Reston, VA

With more Fairfax County residents social distancing in their home, the 2020 census is expected to see higher response rates than usual in the county.

So far, nearly 43 percent of households have completed the questionnaire, up from the statewide response rate of 37 percent.

In the past, Fairfax County boasted a high response rate in the 2000 count. The county, which had a population of roughly 945,717 people,  had an 80 percent response rate, up from the 76 percent response rate in 1990.

The county trailed behind Macomb, Count, Mich., which had the highest response rate of 81 percent, data show.

With more people at home, the nationwide response rate could see an increase. In the last count, roughly 67 percent of all respondents completed the 2000 questionnaire. That was the first time in history the response rate improved over the preview census.

County officials are urging residents to take part in the census. “For each resident who does not respond to the census, Fairfax County could lose $12,000 in potential funding over the course of a decade,” according to the county’s government website.

Residents should expect an invitation to participate in the census. Responses can be completed online, by phone or email.

The COVID-19 outbreak pushed the U.S. Census Bureau to alters its operation schedule. The deadline for self-response rates was extended through August 14, along with a number of changes.

Image via U.S. Census Bureau

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A man in his 60s is the second person to die from complications from COVID-19 in the Fairfax County, according to officials.

The Fairfax County Health Department announced Friday evening that the man acquired COVID-19 through travel and later tested positive for the virus.

“This is a tragic loss and our hearts go out to his family and friends,” Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu, the health department’s director, said in the announcement.

On Saturday, the county announced that a man in his 60s, who got sick through contact with a another coronavirus person, was the county’s first COVID-19 death, WJLA reported.

Earlier today (Friday), the number of known COVID-19 cases jumped to 124 in the Fairfax Health District, which includes Fairfax County, the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church and towns in the county.

Expanding testing capacity in the state could explain the increase in confirmed cases.

Inova Urgent Care locations in Chantille, Arlington and Tysons recently turned into respiratory illness clinics that offer the test.

“This most recent death, along with the increasing numbers of coronavirus cases we are seeing, is a reminder that we all need to be diligent in doing our part to help slow the spread of virus in the community,” Addo-Ayensu said.

“Please continue to practice social distancing, wash your hands and avoid touching your face, and stay home when you are sick,” she said.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved today (Tuesday) giving taxpayers more time to file and pay their taxes.

Now, individuals and businesses in the county will have until June 1 to file their personal property tax returns. Additionally, the first half of payments for real estate taxes won’t be due until Aug. 8.

“Both these resolutions are intended to alleviate the negative impact threatened by the potential spread of COVID-19,” according to county documents.

“I’ve been asked a lot about this since a lot of folks in the county have found themselves without paychecks,” Chairman Jeff McKay said.

McKay said that people won’t accrue late fees for following the new deadlines.

By pushing the deadlines, the county will likely be delayed in receiving tax revenue, according to the county. However, county staff said that the benefits to the community by pushing the deadlines outweighs potential impacts on revenue.

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Tuesday Morning Notes

New Food Pick-Up Sites — Grab-and-go-meals are available at no cost for students at 21 sites. Breakfast is served from 8-10:30 a.m. and lunch from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Reston Association Discontinues All Walk-in Service — Members can no longer pay their annual membership assessment in-person and should instead conduct services online. “Amid ongoing concern about the coronavirus (COVID-19), Reston Association’s top priority is the health and safety of our employees, members and visitors,” writes RA CEO Hank Lynch. [Reston Association]

Tips on Stay Engaged During Social Distances — “Social distancing can feel isolating and tedious, but Fairfax County offers residents numerous activities and services with which you can engage while following good social distancing practices.” [Fairfax County Government]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Former Vice President Joe Biden easily notched the Virginia Presidential Primary yesterday (Tuesday), winning 53 percent of the vote.

Sen. Bernie Sanders had just under a quarter of the vote, while Elizabeth Warren had 10.8 percent and Michael Bloomberg took 9.7 percent.

In the Hunter Mill District, Biden won by 48.4 percent. Sanders won second place with 18.9 percent and Sen. Elizabeth Warren took 12.1 percent. The Hunter Mill District’s voting pattern aligns with the county overall.

Here’s how the candidates fared in the Hunter Mill District:

  • Joe Biden: 16,964 (48.4 percent)
  • Bernie Sanders: 6,626 (18.9 percent)
  • Elizabeth Warren: 4,241 (12.1 percent)
  • Tulsi Gabbard: 247 votes
  • Amy Klobuchar: 75 votes
  • Pete Buttigieg: 74 votes
  • Cory Booker: 28 votes
  • Michael Bennet: 18 votes
  • Marianne Williamson: 15 votes
  • Julian Castro: 8 votes
  • Deval Patrick: 6 votes

All but three of the state’s 133 counties were led by Biden, including Fairfax County where Biden won with more than 50,000 votes than Sanders.

The Hunter Mill District boasted the highest turnout in Fairfax County. More than 39 percent of voters cast a ballot, a few percentage points above the county-wide average of 34 percent. The Sully District had the lowest voter turnout (30 percent) in the county.

In the 2016 primary, voter turnout was 22.2 percent. Virginia was one of 14 states taking part in Super Tuesday.

Photo via Joe Biden/Facebook

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Yes, we’re at it again.

Earlier this month, we asked our readers if they’ve noticed more airplane noise in the area. Most of you told us that you have but the Federal Aviation Administration doesn’t have an explanation. They say that there have been no changes in flight paths or altitudes in the last year.

During the course of the request for reader feedback, a number of you told us that you’ve noticed more airplane noise in the last few months, especially in South Reston.

While it’s normal to hear sporadic increases in helicopter noise due to police activity or checks by Dominion Energy, there’s a chance there could be more going on.

We’d love to hear more from you on this issue. Let us know what you think in the poll below and feel free to submit what you’re experiencing by emailing [email protected].

Please include a general description of where you live, when and if you started noticing changes, and if you can spot any details about the helicopter.

Photo via FCPD

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Reston environmentalists received an award from Fairfax County last week.

The Reston Annual State of the Environment (RASER), a report compiled by nine people, won an Environmental Excellence Award from Fairfax County.

The report covers air, water, forests, meadows, wetlands, landscaping, urban agriculture, wildlife, hazardous materials, light and noise pollution and education in the Reston region, the Fairfax County website said. RASER was founded in 2017 and consists of professionals and citizen scientists who volunteer their time to synthesize the 325 data sources, the website said.

From the 2018 report, the group said Reston should focus on improving urban forests and community access to nature, which they say improves wellbeing for people in the area. The group sent in an application for the Biophilic Cities Network Program and drafted a pledge that residents can take to become more nature-friendly.

Based on other findings, they followed through on a biological diversity study in the area, called a BioBlitz, which cataloged more than 600 species of plants, animals and organisms.

“Through these and other actions, the RASER Working Group has established a strong foundation for the assessment and enhancement of Reston’s ecological resources and helped to create well-connected urban landscapes where nature and community members can thrive,” the Fairfax County website said.

In total, the report took volunteers more than 2,000 hours to complete, according to the website.

The nine members primarily responsible for compiling the report were invited to a ceremony on Tuesday (Oct. 22).

Photo via Fairfax County

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A ribbon-cutting ceremony will celebrate the completion of the Georgetown Pike Trail next week.

The new 4.2-mile-long pedestrian trail will allow passers-by to travel from River Bend Road westward to Seneca Road in Great Falls.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust and other Fairfax County officials will be on-site at the intersection of Georgetown Pike and Falls Bridge Lane at 11 a.m. to announce the completion of the project, according to a press release.

All community members are welcome to attend the free event.

The project began in 2001 and was completed in four parts, according to Fairfax County.

Image via Fairfax County

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A former landfill used by the CIA and the Russian embassy near Great Falls is looking to push past its complicated history and become protected agricultural land.

The current owners of Lockmoor farm (802 Utterback Store Road) went before the Fairfax County Planning Commission on Thursday (Oct. 2) to request that the county label the farm as an agricultural district — ultimately giving the owners a tax break as long as they do not develop the land. They plan to add goats, sheep, bees and possibly a vineyard to the property.

The landfill was in use from 1970 until 1989 and served as a place to dump old tree stumps, earning it the nickname “Stump Dump,” as well as a dumping ground for waste from the CIA and certain foreign embassies, according to a Fairfax County report.

Both the CIA and the Russian embassy used to dump garbage there.

“The Russians arrived every few months, paying the dump fee in cash or bottles of vodka,” according to the Washington Post. “A landfill employee would then call the FBI, whose agents would soon arrive to paw through the discards, usually restaurant receipts and parking tickets but once a stripped-down, brand-new Russian car.”

The almost 69 acres of land was also once a zoo with giraffes, zebras, kangaroos, gazelles, buffalos and other non-carnivorous creatures, according to Fairfax planners. The previous owner also wanted to bring lions and bears to the property, but Fairfax County wouldn’t allow it, Peter Murphy, the chairman of the Planning Commission, said. 

Evidence of the zoo can still be seen from underground enclosures at the base of the hill on the property.

Despite previous uses, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality determined that the land is fit for agricultural use because the soil and water meet safety and health requirements. VDEQ stopped monitoring the area in 2016 and now requests that the current owners maintain the landfill cap, which sits on the top of the hill. 

Partners John Nguyen and Hanna Chakarji bought the land two years ago in pursuit of their lifelong dream of farm ownership, Chakarji told the Planning Commission. 

“When the opportunity presented itself to purchase this property, we jumped, we grabbed it and have no intention of developing it,” Chakarji said. “We want to keep it in its present state, which is beautiful.”

The land is now divided into five parcels. Onlookers can spot the growing Tysons skyline in the background of the property, as the farm sits on one of the highest points in Fairfax County.

Currently, the men own several cows and ducks, 20 chickens and 49 goats. They sell the goats to local restaurants in D.C. and produce more than 1,000 pounds of tomatoes, which they donate to local churches, according to county documents.

Chakarji said their top priority is to integrate the sheep and bees, saying they understand that a vineyard and winery would take time.

“The winery is an afterthought, I’m sure it will take a lot of zoning,” he said, adding that his top priority is to preserve the farmland for his family. 

After an extensive discussion about goats, the Planning Commission recommended approval of the agricultural district proposal, which now heads to the Board of Supervisors next week.

“This was probably the most interesting agriculture and foresting districting we’ve had in a long time,” Murphy said.  

Images via Fairfax County

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Following recent changes to state law, the Fairfax County School Board is drafting a policy to store and administer cannabis-derived medication to students at school.

The board is set to discuss the draft policy at a meeting tonight (Monday). Earlier this year, the Virginia General Assembly passed three bills that would expand access to the medications. Under the changes, students who have proper documentation can use cannabinol (CBD) oil and tetrahydrocannabinol acid (THC-A) oil at school.

The oils are derived from the cannabis plant and have been used by healthcare providers to treat conditions like chronic pain, anxiety, migraines, attention disorders, seizure, and other ailments.

The bill also protected school nurses from being prosecuted for possessing and distributing the oils — in accordance with school board policy.

Under the policy, students who have documented permission from a parent or guardian and a licensed practitioner of medicine or osteopath can receive the toils at school. Parents and guardians would also be required to provide the oils to students.

The board will discuss the draft policy at a work session tonight at 6 p.m.

Photo via Unsplash

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Monday Morning Notes

Vehicle Tax Payments Due Today — The deadline to pay annual bills for vehicles in Fairfax County is today (Monday). Residents can pay their bill online, by phone, by mail and with your smartphone. [Fairfax County Government]

Fairfax Connector Sees Uptick in Ridership — ‘Fairfax Connector bus ridership was up during the second quarter of 2019 compared to a year before, according to new data, spurring hope it has turned a corner from declining ridership totals. The bus system, operated by a private firm under contract to the Fairfax County government, recorded a ridership of about 2.2 million in the three-month period ending June 30, according to figures reported to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.”  [Inside NOVA]

Unveiling of Colts Neck Underpass Project Set for Next Week — Philadelphia-based artist Ben Volta will unveil the Colts Neck Road underpass art project on Wednesday, Oct. 16. The artwork features drawings from hundreds of local residents. [Hunters Woods at Trails Edge]

Photo by Jay Westcott

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Fairfax County is requesting input from community members passionate about the development of Reston as county officials work on the first-ever county-wide strategic plan.

An upcoming event, “Community Conversation: Shaping the Future of Fairfax County Together,” will be an opportunity for people to discuss what they want the area to look like in 10 to 20 years.

Topics of discussion at this public forum will include transportation, public facilities like libraries and community centers, recreation, educational opportunities, safety and security, economic development, health and even government.

“Whether you are new to Fairfax County, have lived here all your life or are somewhere in between, we’re interested in your vision for the future of the county and your community,” said the event’s webpage.

The event will take place from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 19, at South Lakes High School (11400 Seahawks Drive). It is free and open to the public.

Anyone who needs special assistance with childcare, transportation assistance, interpretation services and reasonable ADA accommodations can contact Angela Jones.

Photo via Fairfax County Government

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Fairfax County to Seek Flood Recovery Funds — “At its July 16 meeting, the county’s Board of Supervisors declared a local emergency for Fairfax County as a result of the July 8 torrential rainstorm that caused substantial damage to both public and private property. The heavy rains caused several county closures, numerous road closures, damage to homes, businesses, roads and dams as well as multiple rescues from our fire and rescue personnel of motorists stranded in flooded roadways.” [Fairfax News]

Previous Charges for Sex Offender in Custody for Assault in Reston — Gregg MacDonald reports that the suspect arrested in connection with a June 11 sexual assault was originally convicted of a sex crime in Greenville, S.C. in 2006. He is listed as wanted in the Virginia State Police Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry. [Fairfax County Times]

Free Yoga on Reston Station Plaza Today — Beloved Yoga hosts a free yoga session for all at Reston Station Plaza today from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Yoga sessions continue throughout the summer. Attendees should bring water, a mat and a “zen-ready mind,” according to event organizers. [Reston Station]

Photo by vantagehill/Flickr

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(Updated at 1:10 p.m.) Voting is in full swing for the Democratic primary as five candidates vie for Hunter Mill District Supervisor — a seat vacated by local veteran legislator Cathy Hudgins.

As of 1 p.m., turnout in the Hunter Mill District was around 4.7 percent — the highest of all other districts in the county. Overall, turnout in the county is 3.4 percent.

The morning got off to a slow start. Campaign volunteers at Reston Community Centers said they only saw a handful of candidates between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. today (Tuesday). Campaign signs flapped quietly in the wind as the casual voter strolled in.

In previous years, voter turnout for local primaries has been under 10 percent. For example, in the 2010 Republican primary, turnout was just under 5 percent in the Hunter Mill District.

So far, Comstock spokeswoman Maggie Parker leads total fundraising with $258,225 raised, despite a late start to her campaign. Former Fairfax County Planning Commissioner Walter Alcorn — who has also picked up a number of local and county endorsements — raised $102,749.

U.S. Air Force Veteran and community advocate Shyamali Hauth raised $28,738 — a little more than lawyer Laurie Dodd, who raised $24,919. Recent Roanoke College graduate Parker Messick raised a little over $7,000.

Candidate profiles published on Reston Now are linked below:

Voters will also select a new chair for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors:

Information about the complete ballot is available online.

Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. today. Acceptable forms of identification include a Virginia driver’s license, a U.S. passport, employer-issued photo ID, and student photo ID. Only one form of ID is required.

County officials will post updates on Twitter about voter turnout totals throughout the day. Unofficial election returns are expected to come in starting around 7 p.m. today.

As a reminder, registered voters of any party can participate in the Democratic primary.

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The intersection of Reston Parkway and Baron Cameron Avenue may soon get a makeover.

Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors approved today (June 4) $500,000 for preliminary engineering and feasibility studies on improving the intersection in Reston.

The county staff report said:

This improvement is designed to relieve traffic congestion on westbound Baron Cameron Avenue. The project will include a second left turn lane on westbound Baron Cameron Avenue to southbound Reston Parkway. The current total project estimate is $2,500,000.

Back in March, the Reston Transportation Service District Advisory Board OK’d using $500,000 in service district funds for the preliminary engineering and conceptual design.

The funding the Board of Supervisors approved will come from the Reston service district funds. It was part of $55 million approved today for 10 transportation projects in Tysons, Reston and Alexandria, with a bulk of the funding — $51 million — going toward Tysons-area roads.

The funding adjustments from the Tysons and Reston Transportation Service Districts and the Tysons Grid of Streets Road Fund will be made as part of the carryover review for fiscal year 2019, according to the staff report.

Image via Google Maps

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