After nearly two years of discussions and 15 meetings, a study group has voted in favor of ditching three pedestrian crossing options offered by a developer of an approved mixed-use development near the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station.

TF Cornerstone plans to transform an aging office park east of Wiehle Avenue between Sunrise Valley Drive and the Dulles Toll Road into a 1.3-million-square-foot development called Campus Commons. The county approved the project in late 2019 — but how the development will connect to Metro and provide safe passage to pedestrians remains a significant concern.

The developer proffered to encourage the formation of a study group that would assess three proposed pedestrian overpasses or identify another crossing option at the crossing of Wiehle Avenue at the Dulles Toll Road ramps at the northwest corner of the site.

All of the study group’s members voted against the developer’s proposal for a pedestrian overpass. Instead, a major of the 17-member group voted in favor of an underpass — an option that would up the cost of the project.

The study group did not vote on a singular option to address the issue and instead provided a general sense of preferences voiced by members and other community members.

The report noted that while the developer’s proposal for an overpass would be developer-funded, the option presents design, utilization, and maintenance concerns.

The first developer-proposed option would include a ramp and stairs on the west side of the road and elevators and stairs on the east side. The second bridge option would include elevators and stairs on both sides. The third option would include a ramp on the west and egress into the building on the east side.

An underpass would utilize the existing grade, provide the shortest consistent crossing time, and provide easier ADA access, according to the report. But cost and feasibility due to surrounding utilities remain a concern.

The pedestrian crossing was a major sticking point in the approval process in 2019. Residents and some county officials raised significant safety concerns about the issue.

At a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting yesterday, Hunter Mill District Supervisor formally accepted the group’s findings. The board now has one year to select the best and most feasible option. If the county for pedestrian crossing. If it does not select one of the three options proposed by the developer, the developer will provide $1.65 million towards another solution.

Additionally, the board will determine if an at-grade crossing at Wiehle Avenue and the Dulles Toll Road eastbound ramps should be provided by the developer. This proffer is separate from the grade-separated crossing options discussed above.

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Hot water issue at Lake Anne (Photo by Robin Jordan)

The historic Lake Anne area needs more than $37 million in repairs, according to a report released by the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services earlier this month.

An assessment by architecture firm Samaha Associates found that the property, which is managed by the Lake Anne of Reston Condominium Association, has major issues with aging infrastructure, including damage to concrete surfaces, brick buildings, and plumbing systems. Much of that damage and distress is visible to any passer-by.

“Items not addressed in a timely fashion will cause further deterioration of the buildings and potentially create worse conditions and more costly repairs,” the report concluded.

Maintenance and infrastructure issues caught statewide attention when residents of the Quayside condominiums went without hot water for several months last winter.

Lake Anne was the first village center created and designed by Bob Simon in Reston. The village center was constructed between 1963 through 1967. The National Register of Historic Places has called the plaza the “the historic heart and soul” of Reston.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn held a meeting with residents and the condominium association Monday night to review the report and discuss next steps. He also met with residents in July.

The county will consider assisting stakeholders with a plan for revitalization and infrastructure improvements. But county officials stressed that community input is needed before a proposal is considered.

One option could include leveraging county assistance in exchange for the development rights of Lake Anne’s common area.

“This is a tremendous burden on the community,” Alcorn said, noting that a condominium association that manages 131 units cannot bear the financial burden of a full-blown revitalization effort alone.

Several options are on the table.

Individual residents and businesses were excluded from the assessment, which primarily examined five buildings, including the Market-deli, Chimney House, the plaza, Quayside and Heron House.

The firm broke down cost estimates for each deficiency, which was ranked by priority. A priority rating of one represents a life safety issue that should be addressed immediately while a rating of five can be addressed when feasible.

A complete breakdown of estimated costs is below. The most critical repairs are close to $20 million.

Items that received that rating included multiple National Electrical Code violations in several buildings, extensive cracking along concrete throughout the plaza, clogged drains, and deteriorating wood balconies at the Chimney House.

A retaining wall at the Quayside condominiums has also shifted and needs to be repaired or replaced. Additionally, the building’s water boiler needs to be replaced. Similar issues were flagged in the Heron House.

The firm visited the plaza several times in June and July this year to conduct the assessment. The assessment notes that costs are conservative, especially since water and sewer upgrades, ADA compliance and other issues were not considered in the precursory analysis.

The complete assessment is available online

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Morning Notes

Mimosa over Lake Anne (via vantagehill/Flickr)

Flash Flood Watch in Effect for Ida — The National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Watch and Hazardous Weather Outlook for Fairfax County that will be in effect today (Wednesday) through tomorrow morning, as the remnants of Hurricane Ida pass over the region. The county advises avoiding flooded streets, moving valuables from basements, and making sure storm drains and gutters aren’t clogged. [Fairfax County Emergency Information]

Alcorn Denies County/Golf Course Development Deal — Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn told the citizens’ advocacy group Rescue Reston that Fairfax County is not aware of any deals to redevelop one of Reston’s two golf courses. A Rescue Reston board member said his group had been told a development deal was “in the works with the county,” which Alcorn denied. [Patch]

Eagerness and Uncertainty Mix in High School Football’s Return to Reston — “By 6 p.m. Friday, the only remaining evidence of that afternoon’s thunder and rain were shallow puddles dotting the back parking lot at South Lakes High School in Reston…It was time for a football game. This matchup between the Seahawks and Robinson was one of about 50 games played across the D.C. area last weekend — the official return of fall football.” [The Washington Post]

RA Announces Labor Day Weekend Pool Schedule — The North Shore, Ridge Heights, Lake Newport, and Glade pools will all be open from noon to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 4-5) and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday (Sept. 6). While the summer pool season is coming to a close, the North Shore and Ridge Heights pools will remain open through Sept. 19. [Reston Association/Twitter]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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The Fairfax County seal adorned on the Fairfax County Government Center (via Machvee/Flickr)

Fairfax County will conduct a “comprehensive review” of the county’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At today’s (July 13) Board of Supervisors meeting, Chairman Jeff McKay proposed as a board matter to have County Executive Bryan Hill review how county agencies responded to the challenges of the pandemic, how operations were affected, and how operational changes impacted the community.

The review will take place in two parts. The board directed staff to deliver a report with conclusions, recommendations, and areas of improvement in February 2022, and a follow-up is anticipated since the pandemic is still ongoing.

The motion passed unanimously.

“We did an amazing job [dealing with the pandemic],” McKay said, but he acknowledged that a review is needed since “there’s much to be learned about the county’s response and how we can improve upon that for the future.”

McKay also noted that a review is already essentially under way, but this formalizes the process and sets a deadline on it.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn agreed with the effort and asked the county executive not to pull any punches.

“I ask the county executive not to shy away from identifying challenges…[particularly] those in the labor market that were attributed to the pandemic and what happened after,” Alcorn said.

As noted in McKay’s comments, more than 75% of Fairfax Health District residents 18 years or older have received at least one vaccine shot. That’s above both national and state averages.

However, the county continues to face some challenges in convincing those who are still hesitant to get vaccinated.

When it comes to addressing COVID-19’s economic impact, the county has provided assistance with rent, food, and other basic needs to more than 10,000 households and helped get permanent housing for 400 individuals who were experiencing homelessness when the pandemic began, according to McKay’s board matter.

The county has also distributed more than $52 million in small business relief funding through the RISE program and is offering $25 million in their PIVOT program.

While half of the RISE grants went to minority-owned businesses, those particular businesses still suffered “acutely” during the pandemic. What’s more, the Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce recently called out the county for their belief that they were neglected in the development of some of the grant programs.

McKay said that getting a comprehensive report on Fairfax County’s COVID-19 response will help the county government “ensure we maintain the level of service and functionality our community expects” in any future large-scale crisis or emergency.

via Machvee/Flickr

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Herndon Senior Center (via Google Maps)

A majority of Fairfax County’s senior centers have reopened, allowing residents to come in to workout, play games, and use the computers.

Eight of the county’s 14 senior centers opened their doors on June 29 for the first time since March 2020 for “self-directed activities,” meaning those that are not led by staff like card games, ping-pong, billiards, working out in the fitness room, and using the computer labs.

The centers that are now open are:

  • Herndon Senior Center (873 Grace Street, Herndon)
  • Kingstowne Center for Active Adults (6488 Landsdowne Center, Alexandria)
  • Lewinsville Senior Center (1613 Great Falls Street, McLean)
  • Lincolnia Senior Center (4710 North Chambliss Street, Alexandria)
  • Little River Glen Senior Center (4001 Barker Court, Fairfax)
  • Lorton Senior Center (7722 Gunston Plaza, Lorton)
  • Sully Senior Center (14426 Albemarle Point Place, Chantilly)
  • Wakefield Senior Center at Audrey Moore RECenter (8100 Braddock Road, Annandale)

Residents can use any of the centers, even if it’s not their usual one. Lunch and bus service can also be provided by calling the individual center.

However, the centers currently have limited hours, operating from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday.

Residents also have to sign a liability waiver prior to visiting. Masks are still required for those who are not fully vaccinated, but are optional for those who are.

The remaining six centers will reopen on Sept. 7, with the exception of Hollin Hall in Alexandria, which is undergoing renovations.

At that time, all of the centers will revert to “full capacity,” including bringing back instructor and staff-led activities, a spokesperson for the county’s Neighborhood & Community Services says.

The senior centers cater to residents 50 years and older.

Three quarters of the Fairfax Health District’s population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, and those rates are even higher for those residents over the age of 55. About 93% of residents 65 to 84 years old have received at least one dose.

Vaccination efforts have allowed more and more county services and facilities to open back up.

“The county’s senior centers are a lifeline for our older residents, providing them with opportunities to exercise, play games, take classes and most importantly socialize with each other,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said by email. “The pandemic was especially isolating for older adults, taking a toll on both mental and physical health. It is a very welcome step forward to open up several of the senior centers now and have the full reopening in September.”

Virtual activities, classes, and programs will continue to be offered throughout the summer for those who prefer to remain at home or want to participate in a staff-led activity. These include Tai Chi, crossword puzzling, and crafts.

Photo via Google Maps

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A police use-of-force study commissioned by Fairfax County revealed that officers use force too often and more than should be expected against both Black and white civilians.

Findings and recommendations of the study conducted by researchers from the University of Texas at San Antonio were presented at the county’s Board of Supervisors public safety committee meeting yesterday (June 29).

The study dove into the 1,360 use-of-force cases involving the Fairfax County Police Department over a three-year period from January 2016 to December 2018.

About 42% of cases were directed at those who are Black, 38% to those who are white. Hispanic and Asian civilians comprised 16% and 3% of such cases, respectively.

Additionally, Black civilians were 1.8 times more likely to have a weapon, such as a taser or firearm, pointed at them by police.

Some of the findings surprised the researchers. For example, there was a higher level of use of force cases directed at those who are white than perhaps expected, and generally, police used force against Hispanic civilians less frequently than they predicted..

“It’s a little bit unusual to findings like that, in my experience,” said University of Texas professor Michael R. Smith, one of the researchers presenting the study. “But those are what they were here in Fairfax County.”

For Black people, who make up about 10.6% of Fairfax County’s population, force rates did exceed proportional rates in most categories — disparities that Smith noted were expected.

Some of the disparities can be tracked to specific district stations as well.

Force used against Black civilians happened at higher rates in the Mount Vernon District as well as in  Franconia, McLean, and West Springfield.

Also, worth noting is that while use of force rates against Asian civilians, who now compose 20% of the county’s population, was overall lower across the county than other racial groups, it exceeded proportional benchmarks in Reston, Fair Oaks, West Springfield, and Mount Vernon.

Men are also much more likely to have more severe force used against them than women, which the researchers said was not uncommon.

A data point that roiled some county board members was if pointing a weapon (firearm or taser) constituted a Level 1 or more severe Level 3 use of force.

For the purposes of the study and after consulting with FCPD, researchers admitted they knocked down the severity of pointing a weapon, which altered the data.

“After some preliminary discussions with senior leadership of the police department, we re-coded the pointing of a weapon — typically a taser or a firearm — to a level one,” Smith said. “This showed…the disparity in force against African-Americans was largely [having to do with] the pointing of the weapon.”

The data revealed that Black civilians were close to nearly two times more likely to have a weapon pointed at them than white civilians.

“These coding decisions matter. It’s a conceptual question,” said Smith. “Police departments around the country and their communities are wrestling with this right now…How serious is it to point a weapon at someone?” Read More

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Paul Olsen opened a second location of Weird Brothers Coffee at Worldgate Metro Plaza in October 2019.

The shopping center on Worldgate Drive was specifically marketed and named in anticipation of the Herndon Metro Station opening less than a quarter of a mile away as part of the Silver Line’s second phase.

Two years later, the Herndon station and the other Silver Line Phase II stops still won’t be operational for at least another eight months.

“At the time, we weren’t even considering expansion,” Olsen tells Reston Now. “We saw the Metro and…figured this is a great situation. But, then, obviously things changed. COVID hit a few months later. Then, we saw more Metro line delays.”

Weird Brothers Coffee on Worldgate Boulevard in Herndon (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Olsen’s situation isn’t unique. Many businesses specifically set up shop near a future Silver Line Phase II Metro station thinking it would provide a boost, only for Metro’s opening to be continuously delayed.

“We initially thought that the Metro would open, at the latest, early 2020,” said Don Lee, co-owner of Alo Vietnam Restaurant in Herndon.

The restaurant is about a five-minute walk from the not-yet-opened Innovation Center Metro station. Alo Vietnam is also expected to start a location in Reston at Faraday Park.

“We did invest in 2019…thinking that we will carry the load the first year until the Metro opens,” Lee said. “Then, we will have a good location with a lot of foot traffic with tourists and from all the businesses around.”

Seven years ago this July, the most expensive transportation project in the D.C. region’s history began operations. The opening of the Silver Line and its five new stops brought Metro into Tysons and up to the Wiehle-Reston East station.

However, the intention was always to extend the transit system further into D.C.’s growing Northern Virginia suburbs. Construction on five additional stations, including one at Reston Town Center and two in Herndon, began even before Phase I opened and originally had a completion date of 2018.

However, issues proliferated, from design changes and defective panels to flawed rail ties and bad concrete. Soon, the opening got pushed to early 2020, but the problems kept coming and coming. Read More

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The intersection of New Dominion Parkway and Fountain Drive in Reston (via Google Maps)

Fairfax County police and a local supervisor are asking residents to slow down and be more careful, especially at two Reston crosswalks often used by pedestrians and bicyclists.

In a new traffic safety campaign, the Fairfax County Police Department and Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn are bringing attention to the crosswalk at Glade Drive and Charthouse Circle in South Reston as well as the crosswalk at New Dominion Parkway and Fountain Drive near Reston Town Center.

Alcorn noted in videos shot for the campaign that his office have received “many complaints” about speeding on these particular roads.

Pfc. Katy Defoe, a crime prevention officer at the Reston District Station, confirms to Reston Now that they have also received a number of complaints from neighbors about not only speed, but also several other safety issues.

At the Glade Drive and Charthouse Circle intersection, Defoe says complaints are often related to people driving their cars too fast while also not stopping at the crosswalk. A new law that went into effect about a year ago now requires drivers to fully stop their vehicles, as opposed to yielding, at all crosswalks.

The crosswalk at New Dominion Parkway and Fountain Drive is often busy with pedestrians making their way to Reston Town Center. However, that hasn’t stopped drivers from speeding along those roads which can make it harder to stop. Additionally, pedestrians and bicyclists often note that the crosswalk light is too short, Defoe says.

Pedestrian and bicyclist safety has continued to be a major issue in Reston and Fairfax County. Last month, the county’s planning commission called on the county, state, and Metro to improve pedestrian and bicycle access at transit stations.

In recent years, there have also been repeated incidents of pedestrians being struck by fast-moving vehicles — sometimes fatally.

There have already been seven pedestrian and two bicyclist fatalities in the county this year, according to statistics provided by the FCPD.

Officials fear that these incidents could become more frequent as the warm weather and eased public health restrictions bring more people will be outside.

“During the summer months, you can expect to see an increase in pedestrians, bicycles, and vehicles sharing the road to enjoy our community’s amenities,” Captain Thea Pirnat, commander of the Reston District Police Station, wrote in Alcorn’s latest newsletter promoting the safety campaign. “Please pay attention to your surroundings, follow all the rules of the road, and arrive at your destination happy and safe.”

Alcorn, in the videos, asks drivers to pay attention to speed limits and to give themselves enough to get to the destination.

“I struggle with this myself, but it is important,” Alcorn added.

Distracted driving is also an issue that Alcorn addresses in the videos. A state law barring drivers from holding mobile devices while on the road went into effect at the beginning of this year. As of early April, FCPD had given out more than 415 tickets in violation of this new law.

He also asks pedestrians and bicyclists to remove earbuds or headphones in order to remain alert and to cross at crosswalks whenever possible.

Alcorn notes in the newsletter that he’s working with the state and county transportation departments to improve infrastructure. Additionally, the Board of Supervisors is developing a countywide Active Fairfax transportation plan that combines the county’s existing bicycle master plan and trails plan.

via Google Maps

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Silver Line test trains (Photo by Chuck Samuelson/Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project)

Metro service changes announced last week — including increased services, late night hours, and reduced fares — are being praised by many in the community.

On Thursday (June 10), the Metro Board approved a host of improvements with the intention of luring back riders after more than a year of reduced services and free-falling ridership.

The changes include more frequent service during both peak and non-peak times, extending operating hours until 1 a.m. on weekends, a flat $2 weekend rate, and free transfers between bus and rail.

The changes will take effect starting Labor Day weekend, the traditional end of the summer.

“These are all very positive changes,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn told Reston Now. “The only thing that made these service improvements possible is the money from our federal partners. Because Congress stepped up and delivered, we’re able to make these service improvements and, frankly, do what needs to be done to help build back ridership.”

Metro received nearly $723 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds, including $193 million from the American Rescue Plan enacted in March. These funds not only prevented severe cuts, but allowed Metro to increase services while cutting fares.

Local labor unions are also pleased with the changes, including ATU Local 689, which represents more than 10,000 regional transit workers and said it “strongly supports” the service increases.

“We know that public transit is a safe and effective way for riders to get where they need to go, but we have to do the work to rebuild rider confidence,” ATU Local 689 President Raymond Jackson wrote in an email to Reston Now. “The first step to this is making sure that passengers know there will always be a bus or train there for them when they need it. That requires full service. We’re proud that WMATA took this step.”

Alcorn says that, during the pandemic, cuts to service were a “significant hardship” for those who couldn’t work from home, like hospitality workers, who often need rail and bus service at different times than those in other industries.

“We realized that, in the middle of the pandemic, that there’s still a lot of folks that depend on transit to get to work and to do what they need to do to get around,” Alcorn said.

John Boardman is executive secretary and treasurer for Local 25, a union that represents about 7,000 people who work in hotels, casinos, and restaurants in the D.C. metro region. He says expanding services is inherently beneficial to their members.

“Our jobs are not 9 to 5 jobs. They start early in the morning and can go late into night,” Boardman said. “More transportation and longer hours helps our workforce. Reliable transportation is one of the issues that affects people’s ability to get back to work.”

Increased service and fare cuts will also greatly benefit those most vulnerable in the community, such as the clients the D.C. Reentry Action Network, a regional organization that assists people being released from prison.

“Any reduction in the cost of transportation would contribute greatly to reducing the already tremendous hurdles one faces when returning home,” founder Paula Thompson told The Washington Post.

Metro admits it could still take years for ridership to return to pre-pandemic levels. A graph presented at the transit agency’s June 10 board of directors meeting estimates that even by the end of 2024, ridership may still be off by as much as 25% from late 2019 levels.

But it’s hoped that these changes could at least spur gradual growth. Read More

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CACI International, one of the country’s largest government defense, intelligence, and cyber security contractors, cut the ribbon on its new Reston headquarters last week.

The corporate headquarters of the nearly $6 billion company is now located in a newly renovated 135,000-square-foot, six-story building at 12021 Sunset Hills Road across the street from the impending Reston Town Center Metro station.

“We’re very excited about our updated modern facilities and confident that this new building will be key to continuing this vital work for our customers’ important national security missions and groundbreaking technology,” CACI President and CEO John Mengucci said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The building will house approximately 450 employees as well as a Center for Research, Application, Development, Learning and Engagement (CRADLE). The workshop will allow employees and clients to interactively work together on concept design and prototypes.

CACI headquarters was located in Ballston for nearly fifty years, but the company signed a lease with Boston Properties, which owns nearby Reston Town Center, late last year to move into two-decade-old building.

Bearing the slogan “Ever Vigilant,” CACI has become one of the nation’s leading defense contractors since its founding in 1962. In fact, President Joe Biden’s recent nominee for the assistant secretary of defense for readiness job is a former employee.

In attendance at the ribbon-cutting were a number of local officials, including Rep. Gerry Connolly, who represents Virginia’s 11th Congressional district which includes large swaths of Reston and Herndon.

Connolly complimented the company’s foresight and spoke about the region’s continued growth.

“[CACI has] chosen a location that is only going to grow in economic investment and technological importance in the coming years: the Dulles corridor,” he said. “This is maybe one of the most dynamic economic corridors in the United States. It is certainly going to eclipse even downtown Washington as the single most important investment and economic corridor in the capital region.”

He also noted that the building’s proximity to a soon-to-be-opened Metro station showcases why extending the Silver Line was critical to economic growth in Reston and Herndon, a sentiment echoed by Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn.

“It’s an affirmation that the long-term development strategy of transit-oriented development makes sense,” Alcorn told Reston Now. “It’s important to have employers like CACI in Reston, where there are multiple transportation options available to workers, visitors, and others using the facilities.”

Building around public transportation, Alcorn notes, allows more people to benefit from economic and development activity.

Del. Ken Plum, who represents Virginia’s 36th House District, says that, as Reston and Fairfax County grow as a economic and technology center of the region, there needs to be efforts to service a diverse workforce.

“We also need to recognize the service workers and others that support [this headquarters],” Plum said to Reston Now. “We’ve also got to accommodate them with appropriate housing and transportation alternatives. It’s all good to cut a ribbon, but we have to recognize the bigger picture…and provide the support structure necessary.”

Even as some workers return to offices with vaccine rates rising, there may be a permanent shift toward more teleworking as opposed to employees coming into an office every day, a possibility anticipated by the renovations and more open work spaces in CACI’s new headquarters, Mengucci said.

Both Alcorn and Plum say a more flexible approach to work spaces could have positive ramifications on everything from public transportation to child care.

“The new normal is recognizing working at home doesn’t reduce productivity,” Plum said. “I think we are seeing an increasing emphasis on that as an option.”

However, bringing more companies like CACI to Reston remains a priority for tax revenue reasons as well as continuing to grow Fairfax County’s economy.

“They’re still very much a role for office space in centralized commercial locations,” Alcorn said. “But people will have more options now, not only about where they live, but also how often they come into work.”

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Southgate Community Center is getting a new name.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted yesterday (Tuesday) to approve Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn’s suggestion that the community center be renamed after his predecessor, Catherine Hudgins, who retired from the board at the end of 2019.

The board directed staff from Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services, which operates the facility, to “work with the community” and report back with a plan for implementing the change.

Located at 12125 Pinecrest Road, the Southgate Community Center provides a variety of recreational, cultural, and educational programs, along with access to county and community resources. Recently, the facility has hosted regular COVID-19 vaccination clinics.

According to Alcorn’s board matter, Hudgins was instrumental in establishing Southgate as an essential community facility during her nearly two decades as supervisor.

“It was her vision and dedication that has made Southgate Community Center the success that it is,” Alcorn said.

The full board matter is below:

Mr. Chairman, for two decades, Cathy Hudgins tirelessly served our communities in Hunter Mill District, from 2000 until 2019 when she retired from the Board of Supervisors. She was a community builder with a passion for improving the quality of life in our neighborhoods that are often overlooked. One of Supervisor Hudgins’ biggest accomplishments and one that is a lasting legacy is the re-creation of the Southgate Community Center as a County-owned facility in Reston in 2006.

From the day this renewed facility’s doors opened, Southgate Community Center has been a mainstay of the surrounding neighborhoods, providing residents of all ages a place to meet, learn and play. There is a gymnasium, teen center, computer lab, multi-purpose rooms, and other accommodations. Children in need have been fed, pro bono legal advice has been given, English lessons have been provided, COVID vaccinations delivered, and teens have had a safe place to go after school.

Supervisor Hudgins worked tirelessly to negotiate the land lease with the Reston Association, secure the financing, review the building design, monitor its construction, and support the center’s program activities. It was her vision and dedication that has made Southgate Community Center the success that it is.

Therefore, Mr. Chairman, in honor of Cathy’s passionate and successful efforts, I move that the Department of Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS) work with the community to re-name Southgate Community Center in recognition of Supervisor Catherine M. Hudgins, and I further request that NCS to report back to the Board about the name change and an implementation plan.

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Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn hosted a town hall on Tuesday (April 20) to talk about public places in Fairfax County named after Confederates.

The discussion was based on the Fairfax County History Commission’s 539-page inventory, which was first released in December and details the history and context of each place named after a prominent Confederate figure.

The project traces its roots to last summer, when the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors directed the commission to study the legal and financial implications of possible name changes throughout the county.

The commission determined that, out of about 26,500 total named places in the county, approximately 157 streets, parks, monuments, subdivisions, and public places in Fairfax County bear names with ties to the Confederacy.

“This research confirmed…that Fairfax County was a crossroads of war,” Fairfax County History Commissioner Barbara Naef said. “Combatants of both Union and Confederates flourished, camped, marched, clashed, and suffered both victory and defeat here.”

In addition to cataloging sites, the report provides appropriate context, history, and narrative for possible name change discussions, including a dive into “Lost Cause” ideology, its pervasiveness in Fairfax County, and how it influenced the naming of places.

The Lost Cause ideology encompasses myths used to rationalize Confederacy sympathy, mainly that the Civil War was not fought over slavery, the pre-war Southern way of life is to be celebrated, and that prominent figures like Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee didn’t believe in slavery.

“There was an urging by some to exclude it from the report altogether or soften its tone,” Naef said. “These reactions prove the point. The perspective of the Lost Cause has been embraced by generations.”

In its report, the History Commission recommended making the inventory available to the public via the Fairfax County Public Library, which is currently the case, and using the report as a guide for “a robust public process for considering future actions.”

The Hunter Mill District town hall is one of the first steps in that process, members of the commission at the meeting noted.

Within the Hunter Mill District, there are believed to be four places named after Confederates: Fort Lee Street, Lee Manor, the Mosby’s Landing condominium complex, and Wade Hampton Drive.

Fort Lee Street in Herndon and Lee Manor along Lee Highway near Vienna both derive their names from Robert E. Lee.

Fort Lee Street was named in the mid-1970s when Fox Mill Inc. developed the Folkstone subdivision, while Lee Manor is directly tied to Lee Highway, which is in the process of being renamed.

The Virginia General Assembly passed a bill in February, allowing Arlington to rename their portion of Lee Highway.

Mosby’s Landing in Vienna takes its name from John Mosby, a Confederate commander who was also known as the “Gray Ghost.” The condo complex was built on the site where legend says that Mosby and his horse hid out from Union soldiers.

Vienna’s Wade Hampton Drive is named after a Confederate lieutenant general who reportedly led a unit of 600 men and horses down the road in 1865. After the war, Hampton criticized Reconstruction and worked to suppress the vote among South Carolina’s Black population when he became governor of the state.

According to the history commission, the Town of Vienna named the street after Hampton in recognition of the Civil War’s 100th anniversary. The town is currently in the process of having the road’s name changed.

“The town has appointed an ad hoc group to look at this street name and consider alternatives,” Fairfax County History Commissioner Anne Stuntz said.

While the Commission’s charge was to examine places named after Confederates, several residents suggested that places named after individuals involved in the “Mass Resistance” movement opposing school integration should also be re-examined.

Examples include former Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent W.T. Woodson, who opposed desegregation and still has a high school bearing his name, though schools were overall not included in the history commission’s inventory.

Commenters also mentioned Carter Glass, a state senator who developed laws intended to prevent Black people from voting, including Virginia’s poll tax.

For years, the library at Lake Anne Plaza in Reston was named after Glass. Today, that building is now the Reston Museum.

Photo via Fairfax County/YouTube

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The real estate tax, a proposed freeze on county employees’ wages, and affordable housing were on top of residents’ minds at the Hunter Mill District virtual budget town hall on Monday (March 29).

Hosted by District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, the town hall gave residents the chance to provide feedback and ask questions about the county’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2022, which begins on July 1.

Fairfax County Department of Management and Budget Director Christina Jackson kicked off the meeting with a review of the proposed budget, which termed as “conservative” due to the ongoing pandemic and lost revenue associated.

Highlights include decreasing the real estate tax rate by one cent to $1.14 per $100 assessed value, schools receiving a half percent increase in funding compared to 2021, no pay increases for county employees, and “modest investments” in Board priorities like public safety staffing, environmental initiatives, and opioid use prevention efforts.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted on March 9 to advertise a real estate tax rate of $1.15. The final adopted rate could be lower but not higher than that limit.

The proposed decrease in the real estate tax rate is intended to give homeowners a bit of financial relief at a time when the unemployment rate remains high. Even with the reduction, however, the average real estate tax bill will still go up by more than $200 due to significant increases in assessed value for many county residential properties.

Lowering the real estate tax also takes about $27 million off the table for the county to use to fund other priorities, such as increased compensation for county employees and affordable housing initiatives, Alcorn noted.

“We tied at least one hand behind our back by [advertising] the tax rate at $1.15,” he said.

Under the proposed budget, this would be the second straight year that county employee wages will not be increased.

One resident participating in the town hall said she was “incredibly disappointed” in the potential salary freeze, particularly because some neighboring jurisdictions, such as Loudoun and Prince William counties, are raising wages for employees.

“We are failing our employees who can’t afford to be [county] residents,” the resident said. “It’s really disappointing to see that the county doesn’t want to retain us because they don’t want to pay us.”

Alcorn responded that he was also very concerned about the implications of the pay freeze. Jackson noted that the county is considering potential bonuses and are annually reviewing job classifications for potential increases in 2023.

“We are trying to find ways to reward our employees with compensation increases,” Jackson said. “I anticipate that 2023 is going to be different and we might have to do a little bit of catching up if those jurisdictions do provide sizable pay increases.”

Alcorn argued that decreasing the real estate tax rate will make it “very hard” to make progress on the county level to expand the availability of affordable housing, something that has long been a challenge for Reston and a priority for the supervisor.

One south Reston homeowner commented that the annual increases in value for her townhouse have become a concern not only because it raises her tax bill, but also because it means so-called “starter homes” are no longer affordable for those looking to live in Fairfax County.

“Frequently, I go out and there’s a new baby in the neighborhood. Those are the people buying these houses,” she said. “…Because of these increases, these [houses] are increasingly becoming out of reach for many people.”

Hanging over the budget discussion is the possibility that Fairfax County will receive as much as $222 million from the most recent federal stimulus package, though the county does not know exactly when that money will come in.

The budget does not factor that money in, because it’s a one-time payment, as opposed to recurring dollars, Jackson explained.

In the last stimulus package, Fairfax County received about $200 million that was used for a myriad of needs, including virtual education, contact tracing program, business relief grants, and pandemic-related administrative leave.

Public hearings on the proposed budget will be held on April 13-15. It will go through mark-ups on April 27 and is scheduled to be adopted on May 4.

Image via Fairfax County government

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(Update 5:00 p.m.) The soon-to-be-completed Reston Comprehensive Plan study is reviewing previous plans from 2014-2015 that say the Reston’s population is slated to more than double in the coming years, according to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn.

Reston was home to an estimated 66,000 people in 2019, according to Fairfax County, which projects the population to jump to about 71,000 people by 2040. The existing comprehensive plan makes room for up to 157,000 people to eventually live in Reston — a 138% increase from 2019.

However, the RCP community task force is reassessing that number to see if it still remains appropriate.

“It’s definitely been an area of discussion for the task force,” Alcorn said at a briefing with local reporters on Friday (March 26). “The task force is making sure…the [RCP] infrastructure will be sufficient to manage that, both in terms of residential but also office workers and retail.”

Alcorn also noted that this population hike will have a notable impact on transportation and school capacity, elements that are continually part of the task force’s discussions.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a review of the Reston Comprehensive Plan in January 2020, and the task force formed in May. The goal of the review is to analyze potential changes to the plan, which was last adopted in 2017 and guides future planning and land use decisions for the area.

The process was expected to take 12 to 18 months, but the pandemic may end up delaying the study’s completion by a few months. Alcorn said they are looking to wrap up by the end of the summer.

Chaired by Alcorn, the task force is made up of 32 members, including representatives from Reston Association, Save Our Sunrise, Reston Community Center, and Southgate Community Center.

In relation to anticipated population increases, the task force is also examining land use and areas where density might need to come down. Alcorn specifically noted Hunters Woods, South Lakes, and North Point village centers.

There’s also talk of having developers “earn” requested density by making commitments related to environmental impact and equity.

“How can new development, and the economic activity that comes with that, [make] connections…with underserved communities, communities in the Reston area that have not had the opportunity to fully take advantage of prosperity that comes with new development?” Alcorn said.

In terms of environmental footprint, Arlington County offers a similar exchange to developers, allowing extra density if they promise buildings will earn green building certification.

Alcorn noted that Reston could end up being a model for the rest of Fairfax County with what they are finding out from this study.

“Reston is exactly the right place to start these discussions in Fairfax County, given Reston’s history and Bob Simon’s principles,” Alcorn said.

The task force’s next meeting will take place on April 12.

Photo via Reston Association/Facebook

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(Updated 3/29) This May, bicyclists will get a chance to pedal around Hunter Mill District with Fairfax County Supervisor Walter Alcorn.

Fairfax County is planning its inaugural “Tour de Hunter Mill” for May 15 starting at 8:30 a.m. Alcorn will host the scenic bicycle tour of the district that he represents.

“This will allow people to explore parts of Hunter Mill District that they haven’t before,” Alcorn said on a call with reporters talking about the event.

After starting at Reston Community Center, the ridealong will take bikers along the Washington & Old Dominion Trail to the Vienna Metro station before following quiet trails to the Spring Hill Metro station. Then, the route will circle back to Reston Community Center.

All in all, this “long” route encompasses about 20 miles. There’s also an option to board the Metro at Spring Hill to come back to Reston, which shaves about six miles and 475 feet of climbing from the trip.

Families or more inexperienced riders can also take a route that’s less than five miles through the Reston Association’s pathway system.

The tour costs $25 per adult, but the price includes a pair of “Tour de Hunter Mill” socks and a $5 donation to Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling.

Safety and health protocols will be followed, adhering to Virginia Department of Health’s current guidelines. Riders will be capped at 150 people and must stay at least six feet apart. Ride marshals and Fairfax County police will follow along as well.

The event will take place rain or shine.

Photo Courtesy of Fairfax County

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