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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Supervisor Gross presents the highlights of 2013 in Mason District

The Tallwood Trio entertains at the Mason District Holiday Town Hall.

About 40 people gathered at the Mason District Government Center Dec. 4 for Supervisor Penny Gross’s annual Holiday Town Hall, featuring seasonal music, refreshments, door prizes, and a review of the past year.

Among the highlights of 2013, Gross said, was the ongoing effort of the Seven Corners Land Use and Transportation Task Force, which is undertaking the first in-depth look at the area in decades. The group held two charrettes—intense planning discussions—on transportation and redevelopment possibilities.

The task force’s subgroups on connectivity and quality of life have submitted their final reports, Gross said, but their work lives on through the continuing Bailey’s Business Breakfasts. The next one is Dec. 11, 7:30 a.m., at Public House No. 7.

Among other highlights cited by Gross:
  • Last winter, Gross hosted a series of meetings for civic association leaders with county officials on emergency preparation, air quality, and storm water issues. The series will continue in 2014 on topics to be announced later.
  • Regarding the county budget, Gross noted that the Board of Supervisors approved a 1 percent tax increase last spring. When community block grant funding was cut, the board some of its reserve funding to help people keep their homes. The federal government’s sequestration and shutdown presented a major challenge to Fairfax County, resulting in “significant loss of tax revenue,” Gross said.
  • Gross attended the graduation ceremonies for all four high schools in Mason District. She called the hope embodied in those young people “a renewal of the spirit.”
  • The proposal to reorganize the public library system elicited a huge amount of opposition from the public and employees, as did the discovery that thousands of library books were trashed. Gross said the Library Board will launch a new approach after the first of the year.
  • The Planning Commission’s proposal for “residential studio units” (RSUs) led to “a lot of misunderstanding and a good deal of insinuation,” she said. The proposal was amended and a vote was delayed until spring 2014.
  • The Woodrow Wilson Library has been temporarily relocated to an office building on Leesburg Pike while the library will undergo a two-year renovation. The new quarters are small, but ensure that the community will continue to have access to all library services, Gross said.
  • The Bailey’s Crossroads Fire Department moved into temporary quarters on Moncure Avenue, while a new fire stations is being built to replace the one badly damaged in a 2010 snowstorm. Bond funds are available for renovation of the Jefferson Fire Station in Falls Church, but the project hasn’t been scheduled yet. 
  • Overcrowding at Bailey’s Elementary School could be resolved soon by converting a vacant office building on Leesburg Pike to classrooms. Schools designed for an urban environment are the wave of the future in Fairfax County, Gross said, as “land for traditional horizontal-type schools is increasingly scarce, especially inside the beltway.”
  • The National Fish and Wildlife Service announced plans to move into the the Skyline Center on Leesburg Pike next year, bringing hundreds of employees to the area.
  •  Gross had no information on what’s going into the old Bloom spot, noting “that’s the question I get asked about more than anything.”
  • She said continuing challenges facing the Mason District include code compliance violations and parking and speeding problems.
“We’re so lucky to live in Fairfax County,” Gross concluded. “We’re the envy of people in other jurisdictions all over the country.” Compared to other places, “we have it so good here in Fairfax County.”

During the question period, Gross said there’s no buyer yet for the 117-acre Mobil Exxon property on Gallows Road, which the company is vacating. The purchase price hasn’t been announced yet. The four office buildings on the property are in great shape. They won’t be used by the FBI or other government agency because the county doesn’t want to lose potential tax revenue.

A restoration project for Indian Run stream should start in early 2014, she said, and the noise ordinance approved by the Board of Supervisors Dec. 3 is a limited, temporary measure until a more comprehensive ordinance can be adopted later in 2014.

In introducing the evening’s entertainment, the Tallwood Trio, consisting of three men in their 70s, Gross called the group “a nod to our changing demographics.” The trio charmed the crowd with lively interpretations of Christmas classics and jazz standards, including their theme song, “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.”

Pianist Alan Wenberg said his son suggested they name their band “The Hip Replacements,” but they settled on naming the trio for the place where they met: the Tallwood campus of George Mason University in Fairfax, where they took classes at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, a continuing education program aimed at retirees.

Wenberg, of Fairfax Station, worked in information technology at the Commerce Department. The bass player, Eric Henderson of Reston, retired from the CIA, and the drummer, David Hirsch of Annandale, worked for Fairfax County Public Schools as a teacher for severely impaired, home-bound children.

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