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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Gross reports on the state of Mason District in 2014

The Main Street Clarinet Quartet brings holiday cheer to the Mason District Government Center.

“Overall, 2014 was a pretty good year in Mason District,” said Supervisor Penny Gross at her annual holiday gathering Dec. 8.

The event included a performance of holiday songs by the Main Street Clarinet Quartet, refreshments, and door prizes, as well as Gross’ annual state-of-Mason District speech. Dozens of local residents attended the event, including many appointed by Gross to represent Mason District on various commissions and committees.

For Mason District, 2014 included lots of challenges, said Gross, including bad winter weather, budgetary constraints, and too many pedestrian accidents. There were plenty of high spots, too, such as the opening of Fairfax County’s first vertical school and the new Bailey’s Crossroads Fire Station.

Addressing the funding problems, Gross said, “an increase in the property tax rate allowed us to maintain core services in the face of continued reduced funding by the state and the feds,” along with the continued effects of sequestration and a sluggish economy all over the commonwealth. So much of the local economy has been based on government spending, and “when defense dollars are cut, it hurts really hard.”

The new Bailey’s Upper Elementary School opened for third, fourth, and fifth-graders on Sept. 2 – barely nine months after the county and school board first started talking about the possibility of acquiring a foreclosed office building and converting it into a school, Gross said. The school board is applying for a proffer condition amendment to allow for installation of a playground, gymnasium, and other outdoor play space, which should be in place by the start of the next school year.

“Some have been critical about the lack of a regular playground at Bailey’s Upper,” Gross noted. “But the school board and county agreed that classrooms were critical to relieve overcrowding and should go first. Waiting until a proffer amendment works its way through the county process would have delayed the overall project by over a year. That was time we could not waste.”

The other major grand opening occurred Oct. 11 when the new Bailey’s Crossroads Fire Station 10 celebrated its rebirth. The old station, badly damaged during “snowmageddon” in 2010, was replaced with a state-of-the-art facility with lots of natural light, training space for both county firefighters and volunteers, and drive-through bays.

Another grand opening will occur in early March, when the renovations to the Woodrow Wilson Library are completed.

Last week, the Board of Supervisors approved a rezoning application for market-rate, upscale apartment residences on Markham Street on the site of the bowling alley.

Markham Place, developed by the Webb Cos. and Southern Management, which will retain ownership of the property, includes “our first linear park, along with a walkable streetscape, and first-floor retail. It’s just the jump start we need to effect the Annandale Plan, first approved in 2007,” Gross said.

“Unfortunately, there have been some disappointments,” she said, including “the unilateral action taken by the Arlington County Board last month to abrogate the decade-long partnership with Fairfax County to develop the Columbia Pike Streetcar.” This decision “sets back transit options for the region for generations.”

“Although Arlington’s decision may be severely shortsighted, Fairfax County remains committed to providing high-quality transit that will transform eastern Fairfax County into an attractive urban destination with a supportive multimodal transportation system,” Gross said. “It won’t be the streetcar, but we’re going to have to figure out something else.”

Another disappointment involves the large number of pedestrian accidents on Mason roadways this fall. There was a death on Route 7 at Row Street in Seven Corners, another death on Columbia Pike in Annandale, the death of a moped driver death on Wilson Boulevard, a young woman seriously injured on Braddock Road near Green Spring Gardens, and students hit by a car while waiting for their bus – all in one six-week time frame.

“In most cases, it appears not to have been driver error,” Gross said. While some of the accidents are still under investigation, most of them happened at night, pedestrians were wearing dark clothing, some were not in crosswalks, and the drivers did stop at the scene. “But this carnage has got to stop,” she said.

During a ride-along last month with Capt. David Smith, commander of the Mason Police District, Gross said, “It was amazing to see how many people were trying to run across busy Route 7 in the dark when there was a crosswalk with a pedestrian signal less than half a block away.” She also saw many cars without headlights even though it was getting dark.

“We’re doing a lot to improve our sidewalks and crossings, and we have more to do,” Gross said, “but there’s personal responsibility involved, also.” She advises people to wear light-colored clothing or at least a white scarf, noting, “If you are walking and someone can’t see you, you are in danger.”

She noted new sidewalks were installed along Columbia Pike in front of the Annandale Fire Station and Annandale United Methodist Church and along Glen Forest Drive and Route 7 in Seven Corners – all funded by transportation bonds. Also, a longtime goal of hers, a new walkway along Elmdale Road by the Pinecrest Golf Course, is finally under construction.  

New traffic signals were installed on Annandale Road at South Street by the new Westlawn Shopping Center, Gross said, and another longtime goal, a traffic signal at Powell Lane and Columbia Pike, has been approved for installation when the new townhouse development at that location is completed. Her office has been requesting a signal there for more than 15 years.

Other transportation-related items include new residential parking permit districts in Culmore, Sunset Manor, and Springdale, a temporary parking permit district in Camelot, and a community parking district for Old Columbia Pike near the Little River Turnpike intersection.

Gross is gauging community support for making all of Mason District a community parking district – with the goal of banning boats, RVs, and derelict vehicles on public streets. Lee and Mt. Vernon have already done this.

“I’m still not there. I want to hear from the community,” Gross said. Her office has received 44 responses to her request for feedback, 44 of them supportive and three opposed. If Mason District goes ahead with this, “we have to proceed thoughtfully and not too quickly.”

The Seven Corners Task Force has completed its work and has made recommendations for redevelopment in two of the three areas under study but could not come to a consensus on “Opportunity Area C,” also known as the Sears site. Gross appointed a special working group made up of local residents to come up with recommendations for that site, which will be folded into a proposed amendment to the county’s comprehensive plan.

Last week, the working group developed three conceptual ideas for the Sears site. The public is invited to review and comment on those ideas Dec. 9, at an open house, 3-9 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble in the Seven Corners Shopping Center.

Among other Mason highlights in 2014 cited by Gross: the successful free summer concerts (five days a week) at Mason District Park and Ossian Hall Park; the first Senior Safety Summit, co-hosted by Fire Chief Richard Bowers, to help older residents learn how to prevent accidents and avoid 911 calls; the county’s first tobacco-free play area at Ossian Hall Park; and a workshop series for community association leaders.

Gross lauded the many “unsung heroes and volunteers in Mason District,” and cited in particular Jan Reitman, Mason representative on the Fairfax County Trails and Sidewalks Committee, and Terry O’Hara Lavoie, cofounder of the Culmore Clinic, as Mason District’s Lord and Lady Fairfax and Volunteer Fairfax’s “community champion” Pat Daniels, who is active with the Lifetime Learning Institute at Northern Virginia Community College.

Despite the challenges, it’s been a good year, Gross said. “Our children attend great schools. Our parks are well, and sometimes overly, used, and our public safety responders are top-notch, addressing emergencies and keeping crime rates very low,” she said. “The everyday aggravations of life continue to be vexing, but I hope you will agree, we are so lucky to live in Fairfax County, the envy of most other jurisdictions.”


  1. I ask of only one thing from "One Cent" Gross. Please retire and let someone else take over. We are not the envy but the ridicule of other jurisdictions.

    1. Mason hasn't had competent aggressive leadership since Tom Davis left. Penny Gross has yet to accomplish anything significant and, most recently, lost considerable face over the Arlington street car project. However, she's remained entrenched in office because she latched on to Sharon Bulova's coattails and never let go. So long as Bulova's policies are popular, Gross is likely to remain supervisor-for-life. That means she'll also be free to continue her policy of ignoring anyone who opposes her.

      I'd have thought that last year's substantial tax increase might have generated more vocal opposition to her, but the electorate seems affluent enough not to mind her rubber stamping every annual tax increase and spending proposal. After all, those $100 MM transportation bonds don't ratify themselves. Especially by a vote of seventy percent.

      The GOP has largely ceded Mason to the Democrats. Buzz Hawley was the last significant opponent of Gross and that was years ago. Perhaps someone will finally step up to oppose her now that the political tide is running against the Democrats, but I'm not optimistic about that.

  2. Please retire , you are not fooling any young professional into renting from Markham Place with all the Section 8 housing / crime in Mason District.

    Also where else are we suppose to bike without having worry about getting killed by hit and run amigos.

    1. Dear friends who are living in the Mason District,
      Ms. Gross will NEVER retire....just as Ms. Bulova will also NEVER retire. These people are under-educated and for the most part do not have the experience to run ANYTHING let alone a Million-person county. WHO would hire these people?
      *********SOLUTION: Become dedicated to provide opposition to Penny for the 2015 election. NOW is the time to start on providing choices for voters on Nov. 2015; the more the better to reduce the chance that she might win.

  3. i heard a rumor that a well financed person is thinking about running against Penny Gross and a lot of well to do people in the Lake Barcroft area are offering to pitch in.

    1. I hope they run I will support them. We need to get Penny out of office along with Sharon Bulova. They are two peas in a pod.

    2. I certainly hope it isn't like the last BOZO and out of date rich person in Lake Barcroft....many - of those folks have no clue about the REAL issues. Too busy riding in their boats.

    3. The lady is touting upper baileys as a success. That is her EPIC FAIL. Adding more strain and stress to the parents driving and the PTA doing double duty. Thanks for nothing Penny. Typical to actually think that is a success - shows how out of touch this sad excuse of a leader is.

  4. One Cent Gross is too busy with Falls Church, she has a weekly column on I don't think she is concerned about Annandale, other than to provide a place for illegals. That way they stay out of Falls Church.

  5. How old is Penny. Gross? She can't work forever. I generally don't vote Republican but would welcome back Tom Davis.

    1. My educated guess is that she is 71. Based on this Washington Post link from 2003 stating that she was 60 at the time.

  6. Looks like the board of clowns want a raise! I don't think so.