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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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Tuesday Morning Notes

Tips for your winter wardrobe — If you find dressing for the cold challenging, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue has a handy infographic about how to layer up appropriately. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue]

Wine and wooden sign stenciling — Learn how to make a wooden sign, starting with a precut piece of pine wood, while sipping wine. The class at ArtSpace Herndon (750 Center Street) runs from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. tonight. [ArtSpace Herndon]

JAG sells residential part of Tall Oaks Village Center — Jefferson Apartment Group announced on Friday that it closed on the sale of the residential portion of the planned redevelopment of the center to Stanley Martin Homes. Back in October demolition began on a portion of the property, and construction of the residential project is slated to begin this summer. [Bisnow]

Town of Herndon deems a house concert series is in violation — The host of The Crib house concerts received a violation notice taped to his front door from the town for the Nov. 17 concert in his home, saying that the activity was “an indoor entertainment use” not permitted on the property. The owner has appealed the violation decision. [Herndon Connection]

Winter coat closet — With the winter weather here to stay, now’s the time to donate any unwanted coats, hats, gloves, mittens and scarves to the Hunter Mill District Winter Coat Closet, which is run jointly by Cornerstones and the Hunter Mill District Supervisor’s Office. Locals can drop off items at 1801 Cameron Glen Drive on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. [Cornerstones]

Photo by Marjorie Copson

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Second Democrat Joins Race for Hunter Mill District Supervisor’s Seat

Shyamali Hauth is joining the race to unseat Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins.

Hauth, a United States Air Force veteran and community advocate, announced her candidacy last night (Jan. 9) at the Hunter Mill District Democratic Committee meeting.

Hauth is focused on construction practices, budgets, security and education systems, according to her website. She wants to tackle transportation issues and affordable housing with SMART housing solutions.

“Our local government is where the rubber meets the road,” Hauth said in the press release. “This is where we make change that affects each of us on a daily basis. I want Fairfax County, and specifically the Hunter Mill District, to be the leading edge of a progressive vision of community.”

Other major issues she wants to address include:

  • public education
  • environmental issues
  • securing funding for social services
  • developing public-private partnerships that help businesses
  • keeping a low unemployment rate

She lives in Reston with her husband, who is also an Air Force veteran. Two of their four children attended Fairfax County public schools, according to her bio.

She has worked with Rescue Reston to preserve the Reston National Golf Course from development. She founded her own group called Hear Our Voice-Reston (HOV-R) where she led 70 people who worked to elect progressive candidates in Virginia in 2017. The group then joined up with Herndon Reston Indivisible, her bio says.

She also works with the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Virginia as an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. The Hunter Mill District Democratic Committee awarded her the Ed Herlihy Activist Award for 2018.

Currently, she chairs the Fairfax County Democratic Committee’s Veterans and Military Families Committee, according to her LinkedIn profile. She is also an independent business owner of Mahari Yoga, a veteran-owned business that offers yoga therapy in Northern Virginia, and self-employed as a Celtic harp instructor, professional speaker, according to LinkedIn.

She studied psychology and management at Saint Leo University in Florida. After receiving her Masters of Science in human resource management from Troy State University in Alabama, she joined the Air Force.

Hauth plans to host a listening session for Reston residents next Thursday (Jan. 17) night.

Another Democrat, Parker Messick, announced his campaign for the seat in December. Messick is running on a platform to “stop big development.”

Hudgins, who is nearing the end of her fifth term, was first elected to the board in 1999. The election for the county’s Board of Supervisors will take place on Nov. 5.

Photo via Shyamali Hauth for Board of Supervisors/Facebook

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Democrat Launches Campaign for Hunter Mill District Supervisor’s Seat

Parker Messick is running on a platform to “stop big development” to unseat Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins.

Messick, a Democrat, announced his campaign on Sunday (Dec. 16).

Messick told Reston Now that he wants to stop big development in Reston and Vienna, which “is on track to make Reston look more like Tysons or Arlington.”

“Reston was always meant to be a planned mixed-use community per the vision of Robert E. Simon, Reston’s founder,” Messick wrote in an email. “Despite this vision, developers have desired to build endless new high rises, with even more on the way, if they are allowed to continue.”

He added that while Reston was meant to have some big development, it “was always meant to be relegated to the Reston Town Center.”

Controversial paid parking is another top priority for him. Messick said he would negotiate with Boston Properties, the owners of Reston Town Center, to end the paid parking there.

“I agree with Boston Properties that people should not be able to use their parking for free simply as a way to avoid metro parking, but the approach that has been taken has caused many people to avoid RTC altogether and has harshly hurt the businesses located there,” he said.

Other major issues he wants to address include:

  • alleviating traffic congestion
  • increasing affordable housing
  • allocating available funds to improve the county’s public school system
  • preventing pollution and protecting the environment

He is a recent graduate of Roanoke College, where he studied political science. His website says he has a “background in the facilitation of political campaigns” and “experience engaging with the local community through volunteering and being receptive to the community’s voices.”

Hudgins, who is nearing the end of her fifth term, was first elected to the board in 1999.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will include a few new faces in 2020, with the recent announcement of Chairman Sharon Bulova’s upcoming retirement adding to the list of the supervisors leaving.

The election for the county’s Board of Supervisors will take place on Nov. 5, 2019.

Photo via Parker Messick for Supervisor

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Donations Sought for Blanket and Coat Drive for Refugees

A blanket and coat drive for refugees fleeing Syria kicks off on Saturday (Nov. 10). The drive, which is organized by the NOVA Relief Center, will run through Dec. 8.

Donations collected this year will go to three refugee camps in northern Jordan, with shipping costs covered by Paxton Van Lines and Maersk.

Drop-off locations are available throughout the region. Options in Herndon and Reston include the following:

  • Office of Supervisor Cathy Hudgins North County Governmental Center (1801 Cameron Glen Drive)
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1515 Poplar Grove Drive) – Sundays only
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – Franklin building (2727 Centerville Rd. Herndon, VA 20171) – Sundays only
  • Oak Hill Elementary School 3210 Kinross Circle Herndon, Virginia Town of Herndon Town Hall (777 Lynn Street Herndon)
  • The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany (3301 Hidden Meadow Drive)
  • Congregation Beth Emeth (12523 Lawyers Road) 

All sizes and fabric are accepted for the blanket and coat drive, but items must be clean and in new or gently-used condition. Interested residents can also donate funds for the drive, allowing the center to purchase high-quality blankets and coats in bulk and at non-profit discounts.

The drive is in its fifth year of operation. NOVA Relief Center is a non-profit organization that aims to improve the quality of life for refugees abroad and in northern Virginia.

Photo via NOVA Relief Center

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County Board Approves Nearly 10 Million Square Feet of Development in Reston

In a streak of votes on development proposals in Reston Tuesday evening, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved three projects totaling nearly 10 million square feet of development and up to 3,731 residential units at full development capacity.

The first approval by CoreSite brings nearly 943,000 square feet of space for data centers to Sunrise Technology Policy, a 21-acre office parking with four existing buildings.

David Gill, the applicant’s legal representative, said the project represents a significant investment in Fairfax County and would help serve current and future enterprises in Reston. Gill said CoreSite intentionally chose Reston instead of Loudoun County to serve as the premier data center provider for this reason.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins said the data center would also significantly reduce trip generation. “In some sense, that’s a good news piece,” she said.

Approvals for two other mixed-use projects, Reston Gateway and Reston Crescent, would open the door to a new phase of development in and around Reston Town Center. The board unanimously approved Brookfield Partners’ Reston Crescent proposal, which brings up to 1,721 residential units, 1.5 million square feet of office space, 380,00 square feet of retail and a 200-room hotel. The project is located on Sunrise Valley Drive between Edmund Halley Dive and Reston Parkway and will be the future home of a two-story Wegmans.

On the north side of the Reston Town Center Metro Station, Boston Properties’ Reston Gateway project, which brings 4.8 million square feet of development across 28 acres. The plan includes 2.2 million square feet of office, up to 2,010 residential units, a hotel, 93,900 square feet of retail and restaurant space.

The plan for Reston Gateway piqued concerns by Rob Whitfield, a Reston resident of 20 years, who said an immediate and detailed transportation plan was necessary for Reston Town Center, which he said is already congested during peak traffic hours.

Hudgins said that while projects on the drawing table are largely unfunded, each developer is offering transportation funding that will help fund future improvements that she said are necessary. Hudgins also noted that the arrival of the Silver Line over the next two years would reduce the number of drivers on the road.

“This is a large transition as we see it,” she said. 

Whitfield was the only individual to testify during the public hearings on all three projects Tuesday evening.

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Tomorrow: Local Meeting on Fairfax County’s $4.3 Billion Budget Proposal

Residents of the Hunter Mill District will have a chance tomorrow to weigh in on the fiscal year 2019 budget.

Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill proposed the $4.29 billion general fund budget in February. The proposal would raise the residential property tax rate from $1.13 to $1.155 per $100 of assessed value.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins will hold a town hall on the proposal tomorrow at South Lakes High School from 7-9 p.m.

During the public meeting, Hill will discuss his proposal for the upcoming fiscal year, as well as the county’s financial forecast. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions following county presentations.

Photo via handout

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Decision on Kensington Assisted Living Facility Delayed

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors deferred a decision on a proposal to bring a 91-unit assisted living facility to 11501 Sunrise Valley Drive amid backlash from residents neighboring the project.

At a Tuesday night meeting, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins said she wanted to work with residents and the developer Kensington Senior Development to tackle concerns raised by residents over several months.

During the meeting, residents continued to protest the location of the two-to-three story building, which they said was shoehorned onto 1.8 acres. The new structure, which would replaces Good Beginning School, a child care facility, is more than eight times larger than the current building. The facility would include up to 125 beds and up to 91 rooms.

Responding to residents’ concerns about limited privacy and the overwhelming nature of the plan, Hudgins said the application was “difficult” even though “the zoning is what the zoning is.”

“The zoning change has been made and it is an acceptable development in the center,” she said. “It’s just difficult for the neighbors to accept as far as the size and the screening that is provided.”

The board will vote on the project on Feb. 6 at 3:30 p.m — a delay that allows Hudgins says allows the stakeholders to settle concerns.

The developer’s representative, Mark Looney of Cooley LLP, pointed to the “evolution” of the plan since it was originally proposed. After back and forth with county entities like the Design Review Board, the developer scaled back the plan by reducing the number of stories from five to either two or three stories.

In a November staff report, the county’s Department of Planning and Zoning recommended approval of the plan.

Photo via handout

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Contributions Sought for Winter Coat Closet This Month

The Hunter Mill District Supervisor’s Office (1801 Cameron Glen Drive) will be collecting winter coats and cold weather items for the annual Winter Coat Closet drive this month.

Donations will be accepted through Jan. 31 at the office. Acceptable donations include new or clean, gently used men’s, women’s and children’s coats, hats, gloves and scarves.

The closet will remain open through March 8 in the community room of the North County Government Center (1801 Cameron Glen Drive) on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 4 to 7 p.m.

The drive is in partnership with Cornerstones, a non-profit organization that promotes self-sufficiency by providing support and advocacy for people in need of shelter, affordable housing, food, childcare and other services.

For more information, contact Andy Sigle at 571-323-9553.  

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