Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

prenny-fcnpWhen you stand for election, you stand for the democratic process. When you stand with your right hand in the air to take the oath of office, you commit to upholding the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia, to follow the law, and to serve in your elected office to the best of your ability.

That’s the easy part. Making decisions is the hard part, but making decisions is what elected officials do, and they don’t take that responsibility lightly. Neither has Sandy Evans, whether it involves a name change for J.E.B. Stuart High School, or any other school issue. Trying to recall an elected official because you don’t like a decision is a perversion of the democratic process, and should not be allowed to stand. I was pleased that 85 percent of those responding to a Falls Church News-Press poll last week do not support the petition to recall Sandy Evans. Let’s all put our energies into building up our community, not tearing it down.

Fairfax County is a generous community, and panhandlers know it! To date this year, our Police Department has received more than 2,000 calls related to panhandlers in the county. The calls range from traffic issues, to concerns about the person panhandling, to fears about a suspicious person at an intersection. Panhandling is not against the law, but the only way it can be stopped is to stop giving money to panhandlers. A better way to help is to provide the panhandler with the human services hotline number: 703-222-0880, or consider making a donation or volunteering for a local non-profit community partner dedicated to assisting residents in need.

Short Term Rentals (STRs) continue to elicit a lot of discussion in civic and homeowner associations, and at the Board of Zoning Appeals. Currently, STRs are illegal in most situations under Fairfax County’s Zoning Ordinance, and the Board of Supervisors has been working with staff on proposed draft language for an amendment that would permit STRs with some restrictions and requirements. I anticipate that an STR amendment will be considered by the Board sometime in 2018.

The Department of Code Compliance issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) earlier this year to a property owner in Lake Barcroft, who has admitted using the property as an STR. The owner appealed the NOV to the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA), which conducted a public hearing last week. After testimony from several people, both supporting and opposing the property owner’s position, the BZA deferred its decision in the case until January 10, pending responses to additional questions raised. Decision in a Mount Vernon STR case was similarly deferred. Supporters of Short Term Rentals note that allowing STRs allows participation in the “sharing economy,” helps property owners make extra income to pay their mortgages, and provides an alternative to expensive hotels for travelers. Opponents cite increased traffic, litter, noise, and security issues in neighborhoods, using a residential property as a business, and other negative effects on the stability and community spirit of existing neighborhoods. There seems to be no easy answer.


 Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov.