Reston Environmental Study Wins Fairfax County Award

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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Ribbon Cutting to Celebrate New Georgetown Pike Trail in Great Falls

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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Great Falls Then and Now: Lockmoor Farm

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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School Board to Allow Access to Cannabis-derived Medicine in Schools

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 Seeking Input on New Strategic Plan

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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Thursday Morning Notes

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: Democratic Primary in the Hunter Mill District in Full Swing

(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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Funds Approved for Makeover of Reston Parkway Intersection

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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Tuesday Morning Notes

Fox Mill Road Closure Rescheduled – The closure, which was originally planned for this week, has been pushed to next week from Monday, May 20 to Thursday, May 23. After that weekend, the road will close against from Tuesday, May 28 to Thursday, May 30. Closures are in effect from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each weekday. [Virginia Department of Transportation]

Walking through Selling Your Home in Reston — Shellie Calloway, a Reston Association staff member who works on covenants, walks members through the process dictated by the Virginia Property Owners’ Association Act. Requirements include RA’s disclosure packet. [Reston Today]

Big Capital Bikeshare Growth Planned — “A recently completed study of the potential for bikeshare in an area largely along Virginia Route 123 from Tysons through Vienna, the City of Fairfax and the George Mason University area recommends expanding Capital Bikeshare into most of that corridor, with future consideration of dockless options particularly in lower density areas.” [WTOP]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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‘LOVE’ is in the Air in Reston Next Month

“LOVE” will tour around Fairfax County this summer. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the “Virginia is for Lovers” slogan, the iconic letters will take a trip across the county to promote the message “Love is at the heart of every Virginia vacation,” according to the Virginia Tourism Corporation.

Fairfax County received a $10,000 grant from the corporation for its first permanent “LOVEwork” sign, which kicks off its tour in Tysons next month. It’ll make stops at Roer’s Zoofari (May 21-27), Reston Town Center (May 20 to June 4), and Frying Pan Farm Park (July 26 to August 4).

The tour concludes in August at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton — the permanent home of the letters.

Virginia’s slogan was coined by Richmond-based advertising agency Martin & Woltz in the late 1960s. After playing with different slogans like “Virginia is for History Lovers” and “Virginia is for mountain Lovers,” the firm chose the catch-all phrase “Virginia is for Lovers.” In 2009, the marketing campaign was recognized by Forbes.com as one of the top ten tourism marketing campaigns of all time.

Photo via Virginia Tourism Corporation

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After County Lawsuit, Town of Herndon Moves to Finalize Airbnb Regulations

Renewed discussions are underway on how to regulate Airbnb-style rentals in the Town of Herndon following an unsuccessful legal challenge by residents to Fairfax County’s recently established regulations.

The Herndon Planning Commission took up the issue at a work session on Monday (April 8). If approved, the new zoning ordinance would require residential property owners seeking to rent out their homes to limit guests to six adults for terms of no longer than 90 days. A $200 zoning permit, valid for two years, and an associated inspection will be required before property owners can operate a short-term rental.

Town officials first considered ways to regulate short-term rentals late last year. The commission directed zoning staff to research best practices regarding regulations and monitor the legal challenge to Fairfax County’s zoning ordinance, which is similar to the town’s proposal.

In the latest draft, zoning staff removed a condition requiring residential property owners to maintain a guest log. The new proposal also defines who constitutes a permanent resident, according to David Stromberg, the town’s zoning administrator. The draft also stipulates the following:

  • Operators must provide proof of permanent residency.
  • Events like weddings, concerts, parties and banquets associated with a short-term rental are prohibited.
  • Operators must provide two off-street parking spaces. The county’s ordinance requires one off-street parking space.
  • Recreational vehicles are not allowed.
  • One rental contract is allowed per night.
  • There is no limit on the number of nights where a portion of the unit can be rented if the primary resident is present.
  • Operators must provide safety equipment like smoke alarms, fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide detectors.

Late last year, 36 Fairfax County residents sued the county for overreaching its authority on regulating short-term lodging rentals. The county’s motion to dismiss was granted, although the plaintiffs can come back to the court with an amended petition, according to town officials.

Efforts to regulate the burgeoning industry were set into motion two years ago when the state’s General Assembly approved legislation allowing localities to regulate short-term rentals. Permit fees and the maximum number of nights allowed per unit vary across jurisdictions. Arlington County sets a limit of 180 nights and has a $63 permit for one year whereas Loudoun County allows unlimited nights and requires no permits.

Photo via Airbnb

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Herndon Metro Parking Moving Next Week as Work Continues on Silver Line Expansion

Drivers will have their Herndon-Monroe parking relocated to the new garage starting next week as work continues in preparation for the new Herndon Metro station.

The existing parking garage will close next Monday (April 8) for a few months as it undergoes changes. Parking will get relocated to the first, second and third levels of the new garage, which is almost done with construction, according to Fairfax County.

Ridesharing pickup and drop-off will also get moved to the first level of the new garage.

Access to eastbound Dulles Toll Road from the parking facility is scheduled to resume in late April after toll booth renovation is done.

Until then, drivers will need to take a detour onto Sunrise Valley Drive via the Fairfax County Parkway.

Photos via Fairfax County

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Pulte Expects Year-End Goal for Starting Work on Townhomes at Reston Arboretum

A residential project at the Reston Arboretum could break ground by the end of this year.

Pulte Homes’ plans are currently going through the final process with Fairfax County to obtain platted lots and grading permits, Julie Pulliam, a spokeswoman for Pulte, told Reston Now.

Pulte expects that process to be completed by the end of this year, which will then mark the start of the land development process, Pulliam said.

The project now calls for 40 townhomes instead of the originally planned 44 single-family attached residential units and a parking garage, Pulliam said. Model units are expected to open in late 2020. Pricing for the townhomes has not been finalized yet, Pulliam added.

The four-story office building currently there will remain on the property at 12700 Sunrise Valley Drive, which is less than half of mile away from the future Herndon Metro station.

The project does not have an estimated completion date yet, Pulliam said.

Image via Google Maps

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Locals Asked to Sign Up for Statewide Tornado Drill This Month

Fairfax County wants locals to sign up for the upcoming statewide tornado drill.

The annual drill is meant to help prepare residents for tornadoes, which can strike quickly and cause extensive damage. Virginia has averaged 24 tornadoes per year over the last 10 years, according to the county.

After locals sign up to participate, the National Weather Service will send a test tornado warning over NOAA Weather Radios at 9:45 a.m. on March 19.

The test should come through a tone or message alert simulating what people would hear and see during an actual tornado. Local radio stations, TV stations and cable outlets will also participate by broadcasting the test message.

Once the drill starts, here’s what to do: move to a safe area, crouch, face down and cover your head with your hands. Some examples of safe areas include sturdy buildings, basements and storm cellars.

If you are in a car or outdoors, cover your head and neck and try to cover your body with a blanket or coat.

Here are things not to do:

  • do not outrun a tornado in a vehicle
  • do not go underneath an overpass or bridge
  • do not stay near windows, doors and outside walls

Image via Fairfax County

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