Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

After a late summer hiatus, the Board of Supervisors lost no time in approving a number of significant actions during a marathon 13-hour meeting last week. First on the agenda was consideration of the Fiscal Year 2019 Carryover Review. Carryover provides an opportunity to appropriate and reallocate monies that were not spent or anticipated during the previous fiscal year. Part of the savings included $600,000 unspent in Board of Supervisors office budgets, and returned to the county’s finance office.

In a jurisdiction as large as Fairfax County, prudent fiscal management results in a budget adjustment of $54 million, or 1.24 percent of the General Fund budget. Board policy mandates that 40 percent, or almost $22 million, be allocated to the county’s reserves, which helps maintain our Triple A bond rating. In addition to the reserves, Carryover funding included money for infrastructure replacement and upgrades, such as new roofs (roofs also are being reviewed for installation of solar panels), electrical systems, and HVAC units at county and park-owned properties. County facilities get a lot of use, requiring periodic replacements of major systems.

One-time Carryover funding for police body-worn cameras also was approved. The action followed an extensive test period at the Mason, Mount Vernon, and Reston police stations, and will provide additional information and support for interactions between the police and community members. Implementation of the new body-worn camera program will be phased in over a three-year period.

Following the recommendation of the Board’s Environment Committee, which I chair, the Board approved $750,000 to support the Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP). Funding will support community outreach, development of an interactive web presence, technical analysis, and plan development, to address global climate change, and Fairfax County’s role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Housing was a focus of the Board’s public hearings that stretched far into the evening. The One University proposal to redevelop 10 acres across Route 123 from George Mason University generated a lot of discussion from the community and Board members. Ultimately, the proposal, which will support affordable housing for students, senior citizens, and working families, was approved. The development will use under-utilized county-owned land to leverage additional housing and financing, as well as new community space. Safe pedestrian crossing at the site was the subject of some public testimony, and addressing that issue will be required in the site plan process.

The Board also approved a Site-Specific Plan Amendment for the Merrifield Suburban Center in Providence District. The amendment adds redevelopment options for the Fairview Park and the Inova Center for Personalized Health, and a series of follow-on motions by Supervisor Linda Smyth outlined transportation initiatives that must accompany the Plan. The Merrifield Plan would allow up to 840 housing units, about 20 percent less than recommended by staff.

The South County Site-Specific Plan Amendment (SSPA) process, which includes Mason District, opened in early September and closes on Dec. 3, 2019. Information about the SSPA process may be found at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/planning-development/plan-amendments/sspa. Once all nominations are submitted, I will appoint a citizen Task Force to review the Mason District nominations and conduct public meetings to hear from neighbors and nominators about the proposals.