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Board of Supervisors Ends Prickly, Decades-Long Debate Over Pet Hedgehogs

Despite strong opposition to hedgehogs as suitable pets, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved adding them to the list of commonly accepted pets, along with chinchillas and hermit crabs.

Yesterday’s decision ends a nearly 20-year-long push to legalize the prickly animals as pets.

Strong concerns about pet owners’ abilities to care for them dominated the public testimony before the supervisors voted.

While hedgehogs seem trendy, that doesn’t mean they are ideal pets, Christine Anderson, a member of the county’s Animal Services Advisory Commission, said. She then listed several reasons, including their risk of spreading salmonella, their high maintenance care and potential animal abandonment.

Others argued that it’s not so much the animals, but rather the humans who are the main problem.

Chris Schindler, the vice president of field services at the Humane Rescue Alliance in D.C., argued that exotic animals often suffer from poor care, highlighting a disturbing news report about 15 hedgehogs found in a trash can in Ocean Beach, Calif.

After the novelty of the impulse purchase wears off, people often don’t like hedgehogs’ noisy, aggressive and destructive behaviors, he said.

“It’s easy to think ‘What’s the harm?'” Schindler said. “When wild species are kept as pets, it’s the animals who suffer the most.”

While several supervisors acknowledged the potential risks for hedgehogs and humans, ultimately they argued that people armed with resources and education can make the right pet ownership decisions.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins said she cautiously supports the proposal. “This has come to us quite a few times, and with that in mind, maybe it is time,” she said, adding that she wants to the county to monitor the impact of the change.

Hedgehogs first popped up in a proposal to add them to the list of commonly accepted pets in 2001, Casey Judge, a senior assistant to the county’s zoning administrator, said in a presentation. Ever since then, the county has continued to receive inquiries from residents about them, she said.

Fairfax County now joins Loudoun County with allowing all three pets. Meanwhile, Arlington County only allows chinchillas and hedgehogs.

Fairfax City and Falls Church either do not allow or are unclear about the three animals.

Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals that require space, exercise and room temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure they do not start hibernating, according to the Hedgehog Welfare Society. Judge said that care for chinchillas is similar to rabbits, while care for hedgehogs is similar to ferrets.

Two students argued in the animals’ defense, saying that other pets, such as lizards, also require special care and that their pet care costs are comparable to dogs.

The student from Longfellow Middle School said that breeders ensure that future owners have the training and resource materials needed to help them take care of hedgehogs.

In response to Gina Marie Lynch, from the Human Society of Fairfax County, saying that hedgehogs breed like rabbits, the student said that hedgehogs will fight if left in the same space. “If you don’t want babies, don’t keep a male and female together.”

The student from Sandburg Middle School pointed out that the county won’t have to worry about escaped or abandoned hedgehogs becoming an invasive species. Since African pygmy hedgehogs can’t hibernate, they would not survive the cold weather.

While the three animals are unique pets that require special care, Chairman Sharon Bulova said that she does not expect everyone to go out and buy them.

“I frankly don’t think that this action will open up a floodgate of many, many situations where people will adopt a hedgehog or a chinchilla, but some people will,” Bulova said.

Images via Planning Commission and Kelly W.

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Nominations Open for Fairfax County Volunteer Service Awards

Calling all Fairfax County volunteers — nominations recently opened for the 2019 Fairfax County Volunteer Service Awards.

Established in 1993, the awards honor individuals, groups and organizations that have volunteered through a broad range of activities and programs that primarily benefitted the Fairfax County community.

The nominees are required to have completed their service hours in either Fairfax County, the City of Fairfax, the Town of Herndon, the Town of Vienna or the City of Falls Church, unless nominated for the RSVP Competitive Award.

Individuals and groups can be nominated in one of 14 competitive categories and four non-competitive categories. Some of the categories are broken down by “youth,” “adult” and “senior” awards.

The deadline to submit nominations is Friday, Feb. 8, at 5 p.m.

All nominees will receive a complimentary invitation to Volunteer Fairfax’s annual county-wide volunteer recognition event, which takes place on April 24 at the Waterford in Springfield.

Photo via Volunteer Fairfax 

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FCPS Offers Resources, Hiring Events for Furloughed Government Employees

As the longest government shutdown in U.S. history continues, Fairfax County Public Schools is offering resources to furloughed government workers after most missed their first paycheck of the shutdown last Friday (Jan. 11).

FCPS plans to hold a second hiring event for furloughed federal employees interested in substitute teaching positions.

The hiring event last week hit capacity. The event is set for tomorrow (Jan. 15) from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the FCPS Administration Center at 8115 Gatehouse Road in Falls Church, Va. Participants are encouraged beforehand to register, complete an application for employment and bring original documents required for the I-9 form I-9.

FCPS’s “No Student Will Go Hungry” program is supporting families affected by the federal government shutdown by providing breakfast and lunch to all students regardless of their ability to pay or temporary financial circumstances. FCPS will also allow unpaid balances to accrue during the shutdown.

Furloughed workers can also look at Fairfax County’s resources online, including a Human Services Guide to seek assistance from nonprofits and a list of free or low-cost events at county libraries and parks.

The county also plans to have a “Stuff the Bus” event on Saturday (Jan. 19) where locals can bring food and cash donations to support local nonprofit food pantries. One of the collection spots will be the Fox Mill Giant (2551 John Milton Drive) in Herndon from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Food, utility and rent assistance is available from the county’s Health and Human Services agencies.

File photo

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Friday Morning Notes

MLK art exhibit opens — An art exhibit by Reston elementary school students debuts today at RCC Hunters Woods ahead of Reston’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations planned for next week. The exhibit will run through Jan. 31. [Reston Community Center]

Gymboree music — Discover melody and rhythm in songs at the Reston Regional Library with two dance sessions cosponsored by the Friends of the Reston Regional Library. Gymboree Music I runs from 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. for ages six months to 18 months with adults. Gymboree Music II from 11:15 a.m. to 11:40 a.m. is meant for kids ages 18 months to two-year-olds with an adult. [Reston Regional Library]

Deltek expands industry reach — The Herndon-based provider of software and solutions for project-based businesses recently announced it acquired Avitru, a content and software company. Deltek’s acquisition will expand its offerings to the architectural, engineering, construction and facility operations industry. [citybizlist]

Reston startup secures funding — Reston-based LifeFuels, which makes portable beverage makers, secured its Series-A funding. [Cision]

County expands drug disposal boxes at police stations — Fairfax County announced this week the expansion of the Prescription Drug Take Back Box Program Countywide, where locals can drop off prescription medications at boxes at district police stations. [Supervisor Pat Herrity]

Photo via Marjorie Copson

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Hunter Mill School Board Rep Won’t Seek Reelection

Hunter Mill District Representative Pat Hynes announced today (Jan. 9) that she won’t seek reelection to the Fairfax County School Board.

Hynes has been a member of the 12-member board for the last seven years. Previously, she was an elementary school teacher in the county’s public schools from 2002 to 2011 and has worked as a lawyer with Simpson, Thacher and Bartlett in New York City and community organizer, according to her bio.

The announcement arrived in her newsletter. In one section, she wrote:

As you may know, my current term as your school board member expires at the end of 2019. It has been the privilege of a lifetime to represent the welcoming, resilient, creative people of Hunter Mill for the last seven years. But I’ve decided not to seek reelection after this term. My first calling is the classroom and I’ve been teaching full time in Arlington these last two years. (The law does not allow me to serve on the board and teach in FCPS at the same time.) I was hopeful that I might be able to balance the time commitments of both jobs, but it really is not reasonable and I find myself stretched too thin too often. I look forward to the next year of work and progress on your behalf, but I also think it’s time for someone else to step up. I’m sure we will all be engaged in the November election and I have no doubt Hunter Mill will choose an excellent new school board member.

Her term expires at the end of 2019.

Until then, she outlined in her newsletter several school board issues on her radar, including climate change and equity.

With Virginia’s General Assembly starting today, Hynes said “we are fortunate here in Hunter Mill to have state representatives who fight for public education and other critical needs of families and communities.”

File photo

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Friday Morning Notes

Herndon’s HawkEye 360 aims high — The Herndon-based company behind a space-based civil global intelligence network successfully sent its first three satellites into orbit last month. [Financial Times]

Bike ban ends — Starting next week, Metro will allow bikes on trains during rush hours, which means Metro riders can now bring their bikes onboard at any time. The ban on bikes during rush hours ends on Monday. [WMATA]

Metro crime decreases — Metro recently announced there were fewer serious crimes on the transit system in 2018 than any year since 1999. The decline was driven mostly by a 19 percent reduction in theft. Robberies decreased 6.2 percent and aggravated assaults declined at slightly 3 percent. [WMATA]

County tallies up most traffic fatalities statewide — Fairfax County had the most traffic fatalities in 2018 in Virginia with 44 deaths — an increase from 35 in 2017. On Dec. 30, a 16-year-old South Lakes High School student died after a hit-and-run in Reston. [DCist]

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Locals Can ‘Adopt’ Fire Hydrants in Fairfax County

Residents and business owners can help firefighters potentially save lives by “adopting” fire hydrants.

Fairfax County’s “Adopt-A-Hydrant” program helps combat obstacles created by snow and ice during wintertime and weeds, leaves and shrubs in warmer weather.

Locals who adopt a fire hydrant pledge to keep it clear for firefighters to access in case of an emergency. For snowy weather, locals may need to clear a three-foot area around the hydrant and make a path to the road to ensure visibility and accessibility.

Locals can submit an online application to get one close to their home or business. A crew from the participant’s closest fire station will then deliver an “adoption certificate” identifying the hydrant.

The county encourages locals to take pictures with their adopted fire hydrants and share them on social media with #FCFRDHydrant. Because they are the property of the Fairfax Water Authority, people cannot paint, personalize or change the appearance of the fire hydrants.

Photo via Fairfax County

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Reston Companies Added to ‘2018 Best Workplaces for Commuters’

Reston and Herndon companies made up nearly half of Fairfax County’s list of top workplaces for commuters.

The county’s Board of Supervisors recognized 14 employers last Tuesday (Dec. 4) who have taken steps to become more commuter-friendly.

The Reston employers include:

KeyW Corporation and Northwest Federal Credit Union in Herndon also received the designation as “Best Workplaces for Commuters.”

The county’s Department of Transportation partnered with “Best Workplaces for Commuters,” a membership program managed by the National Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida.

The designation recognizes employers who have excelled in implementing green commuter programs, including ride-sharing, transit benefits, biking and walking, teleworking, alternate work schedules and other strategies. The program provides qualified employers with national recognition and an elite designation for offering outstanding commuter benefits.

Julie Bond, the program manager of “Best Workplaces for Commuters,” said that employers in Fairfax County supporting commuter options like taking the bus, biking, teleworking or carpooling can all reduce travel time and costs for employees.

“Employee-provided commuter benefits give them a competitive edge in employee recruitment, retention and brand recognition,” Bond said. “We also know that commute options can lead to an increase in productivity, employee retention, and put us on the map for attracting top talent in our sector.”

The county has some programs in place to help foster commuter-friendly workplaces. Fairfax County Commuter Services — a program of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation — works with employers, residential properties and commuters to encourage alternatives to driving alone to work.

With this year’s additions, Fairfax County totals 93 companies with the recognition since 2010.

Photo via Believe It, Reston/Facebook

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Monday Morning Notes

Vote for Reston as “Best Holiday Parade” — Voting closes at noon today for USA Today’s holiday parade contest. Last year, Reston landed in sixth place on the list. [USA Today]

Faulty work on Silver Line — A man who admitted faking records to hide faulty Silver Line concrete panels was sentenced Friday to prison time. [WTOP]

New zoning rules for artisan manufacturers — Fairfax County recently adopted new zoning rules to help more small-scale production businesses. [Fairfax County]

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Friday Morning Notes

County remains among the richest — the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that Fairfax County ranks second as the richest county from 2013 to 2017, following Loudoun County. [U.S. Census Bureau]

It’s snow joke — With snow predictions looming, the Virginia Department of Transportation wants residents to stay safe by looking over its 2018-2019 “snow facts.” [VDOT]

Fine arts photography collection — The “La Lumiere DuBois VII” exhibit by Michael DuBois, who highlights his love of nature, opens today at the Reston Community Center Hunters Woods. The exhibit is open until  Jan. 6. [Reston Community Center]

“She Kills Monsters: Young Adventurers Edition” — Watch students from the Herndon High School perform a contemporary dramatic comedy tonight at 7 p.m. Parental guidance is recommended. [Herndon High School Theatre]

Photo by Susan Berger

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Planning Commission Defers Controversial Sign Changes

Fairfax County Government is currently mulling over changes to its sign ordinance that has everyone from schools and parks to local realtors concerned.

At a Planning Commission meeting last night (Wednesday), the commission deferred a decision on the new sign regulations until Jan. 16 to allow for more discussion on the impact of the ordinance.

Currently, county staff are reviewing changes to the zoning ordinance to make the language content-neutral. The change is in response to the United States Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Reed vs. Town of Gilbert, which ruled that localities that define sign categories based on the message expressed, or content-based, is unconstitutional unless it furthers a compelling governmental interest.

Rather than allow free reign for Fairfax residents of businesses to erect signs regardless of content, a proposed amendment would clamp down on sign regulations across the board.

Changes to the sign ordinance are widespread but often minor corrections. One of the biggest changes is that one freestanding building identification sign is permitted for each detached building and such signs must be limited to identifying the name of the building or the individual enterprises located therein, the address, trademark or identifying symbol of the building occupant.

According to county staff, minor signs (formerly referred to as temporary signs) were the largest challenge in the zoning ordinance rewrite.

“While staff acknowledges that the proposed language could negatively affect some developments that are currently exempt from regulation, we continue to recommend the language found in the draft text as it provides the closest level of regulation as the current provision.”

A representative from real estate investment company Macerich said at the meeting said the company had a laundry list of concerns but has been working with county staff to whittle those issues down. Another local realtor at the meeting said the new ordinance could push the open house signs and corner signs off of local lawns and into the already crowded right-of-way spaces.

The sign ordinance changes sparked concern with the inclusion of language that would remove government exemptions from sign ordinances.

“Staff has received comments from both Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) and the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA), neither of which is in favor of eliminating the current exemption status. Of particular concern to the Park Authority is the limitation on the size, number and location of minor signs permitted for non-residential uses in a residential district. These signs are used to announce summer concert series, camps and other activities at the parks. The schools have raised concerns with the proposed height of permitted freestanding signs for non-residential uses in residential districts which is proposed to be limited to 8 feet in height.”

As a result, staff said at the Planning Commission meeting that there would be modifications to the ordinance allowing some exceptions for schools and parks.

Planning Commissioner Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner said at the meeting he was generally in favor of holding Fairfax County government accountable to many of the same sign regulations as the public.

“There’s something to be said with us being able to model our behavior consistent with what we expect from the private sector,” said Niedzielski-Eichner. “There is a different benefit to be realized to the public with the park authority and public school [having] latitude with signs, but frankly I’m comfortable with them doing it within a regulatory context… not unfettered.”

Photo via Flickr/Alan Levine

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Board of Supervisors Chairman to Retire After Term Ends Next Year

Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova announced today (Dec. 6) her plans to retire after her term ends Dec. 31, 2019. Her departure adds to the list of supervisors who have also decided to retire.

Supervisors Linda Smyth, for the Providence District, and John Cook, for the Braddock District, recently said that they won’t seek reelection.

Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay plans to run for the top seat, as well as Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity, who faces a Democratic challenger for his district seat, The Washington Post reported. The upcoming election for the county’s Board of Supervisors will take place on Nov. 5, 2019.

Bulova, who hits the 10-year mark in February for leading the board, joined the board in 1988 as the Braddock District Supervisor.

The announcement arrived in her monthly newsletter. In one section, she wrote:

Local government is an awesome place to be. It’s the level of government closest to the people you represent. It’s the place where you can truly make a tangible difference, touch lives, and engage with the community in a personal, positive way. Deciding when to stop is just as hard as making the decision to start down the road of elective office. For me, however, that time has come.

When questioned by Tony Olivo of the Washington Post about my plans for running, I told him I was going to use the Thanksgiving holiday to think about it, and to talk to my family and friends. On Thanksgiving Day my son David arrived for dinner equipped with a large flip chart and colored stickies for voting. He titled the Chart “Family Decision Making Matrix” and separated it into “Pros” and “Cons.” It was a fun, light-hearted after dinner activity. Many of the items listed on the “Pro” side of the chart were some of the reasons that had already persuaded me to not seek another four-year term. More time with family and grandchildren, time for travel, to entertain, to smell the roses. It has been an honor to serve the Fairfax County community on the Board of Supervisors. During these past thirty years, I have been privileged to work alongside dedicated elected officials at every level of government, with talented, caring county staff and a county full of enthusiastic community volunteers. While I will not be running for re-election in 2019 I sure do have a lot to look back on with satisfaction.

Congress members representing Virginia have applauded Bulova’s leadership style and accomplishments.

“As former mayor to a city of 200,000 people, I have enormous respect for Sharon Bulova’s leadership of a county of 1.1 million,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said in a statement. “Over the past 30 years, Fairfax County’s population has grown by nearly half, and Sharon’s service during that time has played a major role in ensuring the prosperity and quality of life accompanying that growth.”

U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who was the chairman before Bulova, said in a statement that Bulova “is a true community treasure,” whose time on the board will be remembered for decency and commitment to improving Fairfax County.

“Under her leadership, she turned the idea of the Virginia Railway Express into a reality,” Connolly said. “As Chairman, she guided the county through the worst of the Great Recession, while still maintaining the critical investments and services that Fairfax residents have come to expect.”

Reston Now reached out to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins for a comment and has not heard back.

Pat Hynes, the Hunter Mill District representative for Fairfax County Public Schools, board supervisors and Eileen Filler-Corn, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates representing Fairfax County, took to Twitter this afternoon:

Photo via Fairfax County. Second photo via Evan Michio Cantwell.

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County Approves $4 Million Grant for Appian’s Move to Tysons

Cloud computing company Appian Corporation will receive $4 million from Fairfax County for the company’s expansion and new headquarters in Tysons Corner.

The Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors approved the Development Opportunity Fund grant from the Commonwealth at its meeting on Tuesday (Dec. 4).

The funds will pay for the leasing, improvements, equipment and operation of Appian’s Tysons Corner facility (7950 Jones Branch Drive), which is expected to lead to 600 new jobs there.

News of the company’s move from Reston to Tysons first broke in April.

Currently, Appian is headquartered at 11955 Democracy Drive, Suite 1700 in Reston Town Center.

Fairfax County competed with another jurisdiction for the expansion of Appian’s headquarters, according to county documents.

As part of the grant, Fairfax County must provide a local match which will be in the form of the Lincoln Street project, a roadway improvement which is already planned and funded in the county budget. The road improvement was identified by coordinating with the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

Additionally, the county will provide an estimated funding of $288,000 from the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.

The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority will monitor Appian’s performance metrics agreed upon for the grant funding, updating the Office of the County Executive annually on the number of jobs and capital investment achieved during that time.

Photo via Appian/Facebook

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Proposed Zoning Changes Spark Local Backlash

As Reston is projected to continue growing at a dramatic pace, Fairfax County is moving forward with a proposed zoning amendment to allow for greater density. But a group of Reston citizens are protesting the move, saying the proposed amendment is rushed through and under-explained.

The zoning amendment would increase the maximum population per acre in the Planned Residential Community (PRC) district from 13 persons to 15. Dwelling units per acre would increase from 50 units to 70 near Metro stations.

The Board of Supervisors is anticipated to authorize public hearings on the zoning changes at its upcoming Tuesday (Dec. 4) meeting. Public comment will not be heard at the meeting.

A group of citizens calling themselves the Coalition for a Planned Reston wrote a letter to Supervisor Cathy Hudgins saying that approval of the zoning amendment would be premature.

“The Coalition for a Planned Reston (CPR) is deeply concerned and dismayed by the announcement that you have requested County staff to move forward with the proposed PRC Zoning Ordinance Amendment,” the CPR wrote in the letter. “We strongly urge you to withdraw your request immediately and to complete the community dialogue to which you committed.”

The letter included a list of 23 areas where the groups say Fairfax County officials have supplied inadequate information. Among the criticisms of the zoning amendment are exemptions given to developers with proposals that do not conform with the Reston Master Plan.

Some of the topics of the letter involve the minutiae of zoning amendments but others — like what the CPR calls a lack of clarity over the expected number of students the added density would have on the school systems — could shape Reston for years to come.

This isn’t the first letter from the CPR over the issue. The group had previously sent a letter on Aug. 1 urging Hudgins to suspend action on the amendment. The Reston Association has also expressed concern about the impact of the zoning amendment.

Photo via Fairfax County

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Reston to Nearly Double in Size Over Next Quarter-Century

(Updated at 10:05 a.m.) Don’t expect Reston’s recent population boom to slow anytime soon.

Fairfax County’s Demographic Reports 2018 project high levels of residential growth throughout Reston over the next 27 years and the Hunter Mill District leads the county in new housing in development to match.

Reston, divided across the 20190, 20191, and 20194 zip codes, currently has a total population of 64,546 people. By 2045, the population is anticipated to reach 103,989.

To the south, 20191 is projected to increase to a population of 30,512 by 2020 and 31,995 by 2025. The 20190 zip code north of the Toll Road is also expected to grow and, by 2045, will start to close the population gap with its southern neighbor. Much of the growth in Reston’s core is likely spurred by plans to continue expansion on the Silver Line.

Further to the north though, the more suburban 20194 area code shows very little growth.

The demographics report also breaks down the type of housing throughout Reston. The 20191 area code south of the Toll Road leads in single family homes and townhomes, with 3,694 and 4,225 respectively. However, Reston north of the Toll Road contains most of the area’s multifamily housing, with 7,701 multifamily apartment units. Both sides of the road are expected to continue adding housing at about the same rate for the foreseeable future.

To deal with the increasing development, Hunter Mill also leads the county in housing development. Of the 4,354 housing projects in the county currently under construction, 3,052 are in Hunter Mill.

The Hunter Mill District overall is among the County’s most affluent areas. Income in Hunter Mill is more concentrated at the higher end than income range than the Fairfax average. The unemployment rate in Hunter Mill is approximately half a percent lower in Reston than in the rest of Fairfax County.

The cost of living is also higher in the Hunter Mill District. The median market value of an owned home throughout Fairfax County is $519,560. In Hunter Mill, it’s $584,094. Average housing rent in the County is $1,789. In Hunter Mill, it’s $1,907.

Hunter Mill also has higher levels of education than the Fairfax County average, with 73.9 percent of men and 67.4 percent of women having a bachelor’s degree or higher, as compared to the countywide average of 62.9 percent of men and 57.8 percent of women with college degrees.

Photo courtesy Lauren Pinkston
Chart via Demographics Report 2018

This story has been updated

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