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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Board of Supervisors approves Seven Corners redevelopment plan



The Seven Corners plan calls for affordable housing to be replaced on a one-to-one basis.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a long-term plan for the redevelopment of Seven Corners shortly after midnight July 29 after adding  provisions to ensure that affordable housing will be retained, that a school will be built on the Willston site, and that transportation improvement will move forward.

Only one supervisor, Pat Herrity (Springfield), voted against the Seven Corners amendment. He argued that unless the vote is deferred, “we’ll end up with something counterproductive.”

“I do not think there is value in deferring this any longer,” said Penny Gross (Mason), who spearheaded the effort to develop a plan amendment for Seven Corners more than three years ago. The aging commercial area is plagued by traffic congestion, and without redevelopment, Seven Corners will deteriorate further.

The process to develop the plan amendment spanned more than 80 public meetings, including a series of community visioning sessions, a task force,  two design charrettes, and a working group to consider the Sears site.

“Nothing will change right away,” Gross said. The plan sets out guidelines for redevelopment; any proposals by developers will have to go through a public process for zoning. Plan amendments for Annandale and Baileys Crossroads were adopted five years ago, she noted, and there still hasnt been any redevelopment.

The Seven Corners plan amendment considered by the BoS incorporated several changes endorsed by the Planning Commission July 15. Those included a 20 percent reduction in residential density in “Area B” (the site of the Seven Corners Shopping Center), the need for a relocation plan for existing tenants, and language stating that an elementary school should be built on the site of the Willston Multicultural Center.

More than 30 people spoke at the BoS hearing, many of them local residents who cited concerns about too much density and the need to improve the transportation infrastructure before redevelopment takes place. 

Supervisor John Cook (Braddock) proposed a couple of tweaks to the plan that Gross agreed to support.

Despite an agreement by County Executive Ed Long and Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Karen Garza in support of providing a school at the Willston site, Cook expressed doubts that the language in the plan wasn’t strong enough.

Cook’s proposed language, which was adopted by the BoS, states: “The plan provides for the building of an elementary school sufficient to meet the area’s needs whether it’s at Willston or elsewhere, unless Fairfax County Public Schools finds such a school is not necessary.”

Although it’s not spelled out in the plan amendment, Gross said she and school board member Sandy Evans are working on a concept for the Willston site that combines a school with community services, including those provided in the existing Willston Center.

The Willston area of Seven Corners currently has 589 units of affordable housing, most of it with very low rents. The plan amendment calls for an equal number of affordable units within Seven Corners. Those units, however, could be affordable to households up to 120 percent of the area median income (AMI).

Cook, however, urged that the replacement units be affordable for people with the same income levels as current tenants. If there are 589 units today affordable to households at 60 percent of AMI, the plan ought to say there will be at least 589 units at or below 60 percent of AMI,” he said.

Supervisor Catherine Hudgins (Hunter Miller) said the plan should allow for flexibility, while staff from the Fairfax County Housing office explained that more than half of the existing affordable units are market rate, while the rest are in a tax credit program with low rents locked in.  

The BoS approved Cook’s motion to provide at least a one-to-one replacement of the 589 units affordable to people at 60 percent AMI spread throughout Seven Corners.

In response to concerns that redevelopment could proceed before the transportation improvements are in place, the BoS adopted an amendment directing county staff to conduct a transportation analysis, including cost estimates for road improvements, a plan for phasing them in, and a process for engaging the community in the analysis. 

The Seven Corners plan would allow more than 5,000  additional housing units to the Seven Corners area, which would be divided into three mixed-uses villages, with the highest density levels at the site of the current Seven Corners Shopping Center. To reduce traffic congestion, the plan calls for the Seven Corners intersection to be simplified, an additional overpass to be built over Route 50, and a new grid of streets would be added in areas being redeveloped.


John Thillman, co-chair of the Seven Corners Land Use and Transportation Task Force, Karl Moritz, a member of both the task force and Sears Working Group; and a couple of local residents urged the BoS to approve the plan amendment.

While Thillman argued that revitalization won’t happen unless developers are allowed to increase density enough to generate sufficient revenue, several residents disputed that claim.

Catriona McCormack said excessive density creates “a terrible burden for our community.” High levels of density might make sense in an area close to Metro, said Donald Smith, but Seven Corners is more than a mile away.

Mollie Loeffler, an independent candidate running against Gross for Mason District supervisor, urged the BoS to use the entire five acres at the Willston site for a school and house county offices in vacant spaces in existing office buildings. She also called for affordable housing to be spread throughout the county.

While the plan approved by the BoS sets an overall goal for density, it doesn’t preclude developers from proposing higher density during the rezoning process. Foulger-Pratt, which purchased Sears and two office buildings with an toward creating a mixed-use project on the site, has put its plans on “indefinite hold” because the reduced density level means it’s no longer economically viable, Dick Knapp, senior vice president for acquisitions, told the Annandale Blog last week. The company will “look at other options for leasing” Sears and the other buildings, he says, and will “regroup a couple of years from now when things settle down and try to get more density.” 

52 comments:

  1. Thank you to Supervisors Cook, Herrity and Smyth for asking important questions about the plan amendment, specifically about the need for clear language about the need for a school in the area in the near-term, questions about the rationale to support the level of residential density (over 5,000 new residences) that the plan will bring to Seven Corners, and the increased traffic volume that the new development will bring. These are all issues of great concern to the community and echo questions we have been asking for years.

    It was interesting to watch Supervisor Gross filibuster at the conclusion of the public comments, demonstrating incredible stamina to stay past the midnight hour as she lectured her constituents and her colleagues about land use decisions. The entire BOS demonstrated incredible stamina to stay engaged and continue to conduct a reasoned discussion at such a late hour.

    Community members are also to be commended for their dedication, many leaving work early to be at the Government Center for the 4:30pm start time, only to learn that the program was running more than three hours late: we started on this issue around 8pm.

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    1. What were some of the suggestions of Herrity and Smyth? They are not in the article.

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  2. What is the point?7/29/15, 12:20 PM

    "“Nothing will change right away,” Gross said. The plan sets out guidelines for redevelopment; any proposals by developers will have to go through a public process for zoning. Plan amendments for Annandale and Bailey’s Crossroads were adopted five years ago, she noted, and there still hasn’t been any redevelopment."

    Than what the HECK is the point of having 80+ community meetings, to do all this paperwork for these "comprehensive plans" that might essentially amount to a black hole of effort? What a waste of time and money.

    Fairfax County NEEDS to step up its redevelopment efforts in tandem with the passing of the comprehensive plans, needs to increase transportation spending, because better transportation is what drives development, and not just write a bunch of things down on a piece of paper that has no weight for anything. GOD! Government red-tape work at its finest! Do a bunch of paperwork, make a bunch of committees, but DON'T actually try and change anything!

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    1. Agree. Transportation is essential for a workable plan. Seven Corners and Baileys Crossroads, as well as areas to the west, are islands without adequate mass transport options. Density without transportation will not work.

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  3. Good! Its about time! This plan has been amended, changed, tweaked, etc. to incorporate community input. While its not perfect, the plan represents the best possible deal to move Seven Corners FORWARD. Plus we get a new school at the Wilston site! I

    Some of the angry NIMBY's would be never be satisfied no matter what. They have basically said that it has be done THEIR way, and that THEIR opinion is the ONLY one that matters. It was really quite off-putting.

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    1. I am hard-pressed to imagine where 5,000 NEW residences will go, not to mention 5,000 new vehicles on RT. 50 as it's currently configured. It's not NIMBYism, it's common sense.

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    2. There is more than enough land in the Seven Corners area for them to put the 5,000 new condos/apartments/townhouses/homes. Remember most it will be on RE-developed land...most of which of which is currently run-down buildings/lots. You are also going under the assumption that every single person will have a car.

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    3. You don't need to imagine. The plan offers information about where new residences will go and how transportation improvements (which the board reiterated support for) will allow for more, and more efficient, throughput.

      What you call common sense is just "I don't understand it, so I don't like it."

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    4. "It's not NIMBYism, it's common sense" said the NIMBY.

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    5. The Community Working Group saw many of their recommendations finally incorporated in the Seven Corners plan. Let’s be clear: changes were only considered by Penny Gross when Supervisors Herrity, Cook, Smyth and Hyland convinced Penny of the need for these adjustments. The voices of nearly 40 of Penny’s constituents who spoke passionately and knowledgeably on these very issues carried no weight with Penny. She simply moved to approve the plan without an attempt to include any of the community’s suggestions. It was appalling.

      Supervisor Herrity cautioned Mrs. Gross that usually after such lengthy vocal opposition during a hearing, the Board of Supervisors would move for a deferral to consider the public’s comments. Penny arrogantly ignored normal operating procedure.

      Even worse, there was no attempt on Mrs. Gross’ part to correct a significant error in information provided to Supervisor Faust by County staff about the Floor area ratio in the plan. Was she ignorant of the actual information or was she being deceptive? Either way it is disturbing. We want our Board to make informed decisions based on accurate information.

      You have a choice in the upcoming November election. Look into it. I know I will.

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    6. This has been the most reviewed, analyzed, debated, discussed, commented, revised redevelopment plan in the history of western civilization. The plan was changed to include the public's ideas and comments - at least those that were based in reality. Not everyone is going to be 100% happy with any redevelopment plan. Leadership means having to make hard choices sometimes - something Mollie will need to learn is she wants to be supervisor.

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    7. I love how you have input on a subject and name calling as an arguement comes right out. Can an arguement on each side not be made without name calling? By the Way, Name Calling is not an arguement.

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  4. This is good news. Several compromises made while the new development will bring in much need revenue to the county to pay for schools and transportation. The transportation improvement should include "Route 7 Transit study" implementation and Circulator Bus thru the area connecting to Falls Church metro.

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  5. Congrats to Supervisor Gross and Mason District citizens. A plan that thinks regionally and ensures that Seven Corners doesn't get leapfrogged again. This should have been completed a year ago!

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  6. Can another less worthless, more competent, real estate investment company purchase properties in Seven Corners/Bailey's please? First Foulger-Pratt pulls out of Bailey's Gateway, and now the Sears site?

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    1. Can another more idiotic commentor exist than the one critizing Foulger-Pratt because it decided it does not make business sense to pursue redevelopment in Mason District under current conditions?
      NO

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    2. This is just a negotiating strategy. The buildings in area C are crumbling. As soon as office rents drop off a cliff the tune will change

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  7. I wouldn't be so congratulatory to Supervisor Gross. Many in the audience saw for the first time during the board discussion, after over 35 local residents requested changes in the plan, that she does not represent the community. Only after 4 other supervisors spoke up for Mason District did she capitulate to changes that were offered. Why was she so insistently against a standard designed elementary school on the Williston property in the face of school overcrowding in Mason? Why was she not concerned about involuntary relocations of low income residents? Why has she not worked to alleviate the horrendous condition of the Seven Corners Interchange after years in office before promising changes years away to that transportation nighmare? Why did she continue to support such high density development in an area without a Metro station? Support Mollie Loeffler and let's get someone in who really wants to represent community interests.

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    1. You said: "Why was she (Penny) not concerned about involuntary relocations of low income residents."

      Umm, it was Mollie who said the low-income housing residents needed to be "spread to different parts of the county." Sounds like Mollie is the one who wants to move "those people" out of Mason.

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    2. Mollie's long election season statement above is another example of Mollie just complaining while Penny does the hard work of reaching a consensus on what the community wants (knowing you can't satisfy everyone, especially the unreasonable and the unhinged) and consulting with her colleagues to get the plan approved and the job done.

      I thought Mollie and her family liked and supported low-income immigrants, such as the neighborhood boy Mollie's family befriended. Now I find out Mollie would like these immigrants much better if they lived further away from her and her family. Pathetic flip-flop Mollie.

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    3. I agree with Mollie. Enough is enough. Mason district has given darn enough to the destitute, and all we have to show for it is crime, congestion, lower-rated schools, and low-end retail, and office vacancies. We have done enough, and now it needs to be our turn for some redevelopment.

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    4. "Penny does the hard work of reaching a consensus on what the community wants"

      Is weed legal in Mason District? You are super high!

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    5. Penny Gross has ZERO interest in solutions that are in the best interest of her constituents. We have seen that time and time again over the years. She panders to the developers and ignores serious and legitimate concerns raised by those who will bear the costs, in so many ways, of the plans she forces through without batting an eyelash. Why the citizens of Mason District continue to re-elect Penny Gross is not ncomprehensible. Speaking of improved and needed transportation, does anyone with any decision making authority realize that there is NOT ONE bus stop from one end of Sleepy Hollow Road to the other??? We can't use public transportation to get to Seven Corners today because it doesn't exist! If we're talking about increasing the density, someone better get real about this issue, or the 5000 new residents will have no other choice BUT to drive their cars!!!

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  8. Let's hope that November brings the real change needed in Mason District.

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    1. Yes, let's re-elect Penny Gross whose leadership helped make this revitalization plan happen that will improve and change Seven Corners!

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    2. Yes, let's re-elect Penny, rather than Mollie whose only campaign issue from all appearances is building a school, and only a school, on the Williston site (and moving the low-income immigrants living in Seven Corners to someplace else; anyplace else).

      There is no doubt Mollie is the NIMBY candidate.

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    3. Better a NIMBY than a I dont give a flying F about your backyard

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    4. Stay classy there, 10:55.

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  9. Supervisor Gross looked lost in the meeting and needed other Supervisors to bail her out. Sad thing is none of this plan will ever happen anyway.

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    1. So misleading and far from true. And I actually found many points of the plan opponent group to be very productive and well thought out. Dissapointing that you would make an issue this important an opporunity for a personal attack on Ms. Gross.

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    2. Whatever you think of the plan, Penny is hardly it's most articulate voice. She tends to ramble and suck the air out of the room. Perhaps intentionally. It's a proven stock defense.

      Despite her long tenure in local gov, she's not a natural politician. Perhaps that's to her credit. And the perma-scowl is not her fault, but it does present as irritatation in the face of dissenting viewpoints.

      Much of the neighborhood ire she's faced was unneccessary and a product of her (and Thillman's) condenscending manner and behind the scenes orchestration of the process.

      She certainly owns that.



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    3. Mr.Miller (who I assume is responsible for at least 70% of these "anonymous posts) will say anything to denigrate Supervisor Gross, including use the insulting language above about her personal appearance.

      There is nothing that will ever satiate the likes of Mr. Miller. It looked on TV that Mr.Miller tried to rush the stage and confront the Supervisors at the hearing. I was alarmed and taken a back by his aggressiveness. It was scary! I am so happy Chairman Bulova was able to calm him down before something bad happened.

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  10. Does anyone that watched the complexity of that meeting really think Mollie Loeffler would last two days on the job?

    She barely made it through a 3 minute, bizarre, lost strange hodge podge. Mollie should stick to organizing angry forums, and let the adults do the governing.

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    1. The more appropriate question is why anyone would believe your nonsense. Mollie did just fine. There are a startling number comments about Mollie in this thread that are deliberately erroneous and clearly submitted by supporters of Penny. These factually misleading remarks are a contrived effort to shift attention away from the numerous expressions of legitimate concern made here and elsewhere about Penny's unwillingness to consider the opinions of her constituents. However, it's too late for such games. Penny's arrogance and ineptitude are matters of record. So, kindly spare us the contrived comments.

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    2. I will take 3 minutes of Mollie over the diatribe of Penny

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    3. And I'll take 4 more years of Penny over a Republican in sheep's clothing who caters to angry NIMBY's and would be a disaster as supervisor.

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  11. Please consider the impact of the high density projects currently underway in Falls Church, including the Cherry Street development west of 7C, north of Rt. 50, the Harris Teeter project on Broad St west of seven corners, the Hotel and Housing project west of 7C on Rt. 50.
    Let's hope all those people are heading west to Tysons. God help us if they're going through 7C daily, before Folgers- Pratt "revitalizes" the east side of 7C.

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  12. I like an earlier posting that suggested Trump run for Supervisor and build his 70 story, 7 facet Trump Tower with a statue Penny Gross perched on the spire. So simple: density, luxury, heliport, grand boulevards and certainly a plus for the NIMBY property owners......go Trump.

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  13. I want to commend the supervisors for their work, This is a well thought out plan the included views of all. I disagreed with some out comes but I accept my neighbors views. I did recent those who used the issue for their political purpose and not for our neighborhood improvement. A special call out to Penny Gross for standing tall.

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    1. You must be kidding. Penny Gross dismissed the testimony of 40 residents and was pushed to make changes by the 4 supervisors who did listen and respond.

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    2. Kidding doesn't quite describe it. A better description would be drawing conclusions based on what you want to believe and ignoring (or being ignorant of) the facts. Mollie Loeffler has posted a statement on her campaign website which is similar to yours. Penny plainly ignored many important details of this plan and it was up to her more competent counterparts to fill them in. When the video of this marathon meeting is posted online, everyone will be able to see how far Penny was out of her depth. The Seven Corners plan is in its very early stages and I shudder to think what mess Penny will make of it. I'm especially concerned that she'll rubber stamp whatever increases in density that the developers will inevitably propose.

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    3. It is painfully obvious that Mollie (with the help of Tina Trapnell) politicized this entire process from the start solely to try and give her campaign a boost. It was a complete farce with Mad Mollie and her posse of angry NIMBY's trying to trip up the project at every turn just for her campaign purposes. Mollie may be good at campaigning, but she is clueless as to what it takes to govern. She is the Donald Trump of Mason District.

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    4. "It is painfully obvious..." (?) Maybe to you, but I've watched Penny hide out in her office for years and that's the real issue here. It's ridiculous to assume that residents living in close proximity to the Route 7 corridor wouldn't be resentful of being ignored. Mollie's campaign simply reflects their discontent. Furthermore, Penny's the one receiving all the campaign contributions from developers. So, she and not Mollie would more appropriately be dubbed the Donald Trump of Mason District

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    5. To annon 3:33pm

      You don't know what you are babbling about. As Donald Trump would say: "You're fired!"

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    6. Mr. Clyde Miller, I assume under the guise of "Mollie Loeffler", is posting the same material on Mollie's website as he is on the Annandale Blog. They have become one in the same. Take whatever you read here with a grain of salt. This is also the same Mr. Miller that rushed the stage at the BOS hearing and had to be calmed down by Sharon Bulova.

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    7. To congratulate Penny on the success of all the hard work she put into initiating and seeing through to fruition this redevelopment plan is to be attacked on this blog; and to criticize Mollie's underwhelming performance is considered nonsense.

      Just because the NIMBY's have their single-family homes and don't care if others have to live in dilapidated and increasingly worn out housing and have made it clear they don't want any more density (tough) - it sure doesn't mean they will be able to drag their favored NIMBY candidate to victory.

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  14. Mollie Loeffler was a precinct captain who worked to elect Ken Cuccinelli the Attorney General of Virginia. She wanted him to be Governor. She volunteered for him.

    Ken Cuccinelli was the worst AG in the history of Virgnia. Mollie still worked to make him Governor.

    So no, I will not support Mollie Loeffler, someone who volunteered and worked hard to make Ken Cuccinelli the Governor.

    PS: I also saw her speech at the BOS. The Cuccinellite was way out of her league.

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    1. Penny Gross has reached functional obsolescence. VOTE GROSS OUT!

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    2. "Mollie Loeffler was a precinct captain who worked to elect Ken Cuccinelli " Which explains why Penny has been receiving all the big corporate campaign contributions. If you'd bothered to check VPAP, you'd have noticed that Mollie is running a shoestring independent campaign. She owes nothing to the GOP and her ideas clearly don't reflect a commitment to anything Cuccinelli was blathering about. Nice try, but your effort at misdirection falls short. As this campaign unfolds, it will become increasingly evident that Mollie is the only candidate with any real ideas about how to address Mason's growing difficulties.

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  15. TO: Anonymous7/29/15, 5:55 PM

    Please familiarize yourself with social policy for affordable housing so you understand that dispersing affordable housing decentralizes poverty. This is something President Obama has recently ordered HUD to review in all jurisdictions receiving federal financing. Dispersing affordable housing gives low income families a chance to assimilate and succeed. It reduces crime and gang activity.

    So, Mollie Loeffler's testimony Tuesday night was right on. Seven Corners, Bailey's Crossroads and Culmore are deep pockets of poverty. Dranesville has zero affordable housing. Even land use plans in Dranesville approved by the BOS on Tuesday night did not include affordable housing. It would seem that Dranesville's Supervisor Foust is practicing NIMBY.

    The fact is that FFX County needs to place affordable housing throughout the county and give low income families a chance to better their quality of life. At the same time dispersement relieves the pressure of concentrated poverty in mature communities and reduces overcrowding of schools and the stress on emergency services, etc. People pile into boarding houses and crowd into apartment because there is no where else to go. The ADU policy in FFX County must change for the better.

    Your knee jerk reactions about NIMBY and dispersing affordable housing are misguided and misdirected. You do not help further serious discussion such as is needed for affordable housing in FFX County.

    Familiarize yourself with the facts before you point fingers. Also, consider that Supervisor Gross was perfectly willing to involuntarily relocate about 500 families in favor of building subsidized apartments for families earning up to $130,000 a year.

    Mollie Loeffler is pragmatic, knowledgeable and has a heart. She wants better circumstances for low income families and dispersing affordable housing throughout the county would help them.

    Supervisor Gross was callous in her disregard for 41 speakers at the BOS Tuesday evening. She and Task Force Chairman Thillman orchestrated their premediated conclusion for the Seven Corners Plan and she wouldn't let go. Four other Supervisors rose to the rescue of Mason District constituents and refused to vote for her plan without changes. This is stunningly shameful behavior for our elected representative.

    Thank you Supervisors Cook, Hyland, Herrity and Symth for standing up for the people of Mason District. Something our very own Supervisor Gross would not do.

    Mollie has my vote. I can't stomach more of Penny Gross.

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  16. After Penny's calculated cold determination to have it her way at the Tuesday night BOS meeting, how could anyone want her to continue as our Supervisor.

    FOUR other supervisors had to prevail to get her to address our concerns. And, then she only did that because they refused to vote for her plan if she didn't.

    No more, please. Haven't you figured out that party affiliation has nothing to do with local politics. So Penny is a flaming liberal and a bought and paid for crony of developers. Just check out her list of contributors at VPAP.

    We need a fresh start in Mason District. Get over the politics and let's save Mason District. If re-elected Penny will do a lot of damage in the next four years.

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  17. This place will never get out of the dumpster, its doomed to be a dump.

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