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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Board of Supervisors approves Bailey's Crossroads redevelopment plan

The area outlined in red is the Columbia Pike/Moncure Avenue area proposed for redevelopment. [Fairfax County Planning and Zoning Department]

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a comprehensive plan amendment Jan. 13 to allow the redevelopment of a 7.4-acre property on Columbia Pike and Moncure Avenue in Bailey’s Crossroads.

AvalonBay is proposing a 250-unit apartment complex there, and a portion of the property owned by the county would be set aside for an elementary school or other public use.  

Seven people spoke at the BoS hearing before the vote, and all of them said they opposed a public school on that site and urged the supervisors to reject the plan amendment. Nearly all of them also urged the county to approve the school board’s request to transfer the county-owned Willston Center in Seven Corners to Fairfax County Public Schools for use as a school.

County officials, meanwhile, are pushing ahead with plans for a new East County office building on the Willston site – a situation that recently came to light through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Mason Supervisor Penny Gross spoke at length at the BoS hearing about why the plan amendment should be approved and accused those who prefer a school on the Willston site of being misinformed.

Residents want school at Willston

Clyde Miller, president of the Homes Run Valley Citizens Association, said the Columbia Pike/Moncure site “is not suitable for a school” because it’s too small, too close to a busy road slated to be widened, surrounded by commercial development, lacks usable green space, and poses “significant and unnecessary security risks.”

The Willston Center property is larger and has an athletic field, but Gross rejected FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza’s request to returnthat property to the school board, Miller said.

Community residents have been pushing the use of the Willston site for a school for the past two years, he said, but, instead, the county spent $20 million to buy an office building on Leesburg Pike and converted it to Bailey’s Upper Elementary School. “The school board was not consulted, and no public input was sought,” he said.

Denise Patton echoed those concerns and complained that the county has been working on plans to build a $125 million East County government center on the Willston site without community outreach. “Where was the public discourse on this? What happened to transparency?”

Mollie Loeffler, president of the Mason District Council of Community Associations (MDC), said she’s not against redevelopment in Bailey’s Crossroads or creative ideas to resolve school overcrowding but is concerned that the process is moving forward without enough community outreach.

Parents and community members believe the five-acre Willston site would be much better for a school, she said, noting that more than 360 people already signed a petition posted online Jan. 12 urging the county to transfer the Willston Center to the school board.

Loeffler complained that the supervisors failed to consider residents’ request to include extra classroom space in the renovation of the Woodrow Wilson Library which is next to Bailey’s Elementary School and instead created an urban school in an office building to house Bailey’s upper grades, which lacks a playground and is inconvenient for parents and staff.

“Why are we putting schoolchildren in trailers without bathrooms or running water and putting up a new building for county workers?” she asked. Three members of the MDC board – Debbie Smith, Carol Turner, and Jon Clark – also urged the BoS to reject the plan amendment and put a new school at the Willston property rather than an office building.  

“It’s a matter of integrity and transparency,” said Seven Corners resident Suzie Wells, who noted  that she attended many meetings of the Seven Corners Task Force, but didn’t hear any discussions of the East County building. “Engaged citizens shouldn’t have to depend on FOIA requests to learn what the county government is doing,” she said.

Willie Coleman, president of the Springdale Civic Association, said his community opposes the construction of an elementary school at the Columbia Pike/Moncure site because it would make traffic worse in the area, especially on Lacy Boulevard, Magnolia Lane, Columbia Pike, and Seminary Road.

Gross defends Columbia Pike plan

In response to the comments from the public, Gross said, “There is so much misinformation here, I don’t know where to begin.”

The East County office building has been planned for several years, she said, but a location hadn’t been set until recently, and its a long way from happening. “There is no money for this particular building at this point, and it will be a long time before we end up with this building.”

The county’s decisions to move county offices out of the building at 6245 Leesburg Pike to the Heritage complex in Annandale, purchase the Leesburg Pike building, transform it into Bailey’s Upper Elementary School, and plan for a new building for these employees “is not a conspiracy,” Gross said. “It was all about timing.”

The county wanted a shorter lease for its space at 6245 Leesburg Pike, and the building’s owner “would not renew the lease at the terms we wanted, so we walked,” Gross said. Moving those employees to leased space in Annandale is a temporary solution until “we can find a location and the money for a new East County government center.”

Meanwhile, the owner of the Leesburg Pike building couldn’t find new tenants, and the building fell into foreclosure. The county was looking for a way to relieve overcrowding at Bailey’s Elementary School and was able to buy that building at a good price, Gross said.

Gross called the transformation of the office building on Leesburg Pike “a wonderful solution” to overcrowding at Baileys. There will be a plan for adding a gymnasium soon, but that wasn’t done earlier because “we needed to get the kinds into classrooms first,” she said.

Regarding the proposal for using the Wilson Library renovation project to handle the Bailey’s Elementary School overflow, Gross said, the designs for the library were already done at that point and the Library Board wasn’t interested in putting classrooms in the library.

FCPS, BoS ‘not at a stalemate’

When Gross, Bulova, and other county officials met with FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza Dec. 1, “that was the first time we heard about the request to look at the Willston site and return it to the schools,” Gross said. People have the idea that FCPS has formally requested having the Willston site back; “it has not,” she said.

According to Gross, those discussions are continuing. “There was some discussion of a collaborative approach. We have not had time to flesh that out.” The school board and supervisors “are not at a stalemate,” as has been erroneously reported in the Fairfax Times, she  said.

With regard to residents’ questions about why the plan for the office building wasn’t shared with the Seven Corners Task Force, Gross said, “these vision items were shared, but perhaps with not as much specificity as discussed here.”  
The plan for the Southeast Quadrant (the Columbia Pike/Moncure site) has been under discussion since 2005, was put on the back burner during the recession, and has now resurfaced with a new owner, Gross said. “Now we have an opportunity to redevelop an area that is in serious decline.”

“Rejecting this comprehensive plan amendment would destroy years of work with the community,” Gross said. “It would tell the residents we don’t care about the impact of decline,” would tell developers we don’t want their investment in the community, and would tell parents and school advocates “we’re not willing to think outside the box.”

Supervisor Pat Herrity (Springfield) noted that two acres doesn’t seem to be big enough for a school and asked why the county shouldn’t return the Willston site to the school board.

“We are in the midst of a complete visioning and replanning of the Seven Corners area,” Gross said. Recommendations for that area will be incorporated into a Seven Corners comprehensive plan amendment, and “there needs to be a whole lot of work done before can decide on a use for that [Willston Center] site.”

Bulova noted that Willston Center cannot be renovated; it would need to be torn down. “It the county were to give that to the schools, we’re not doing them a big favor.” She also clarified that the covenants on the property requiring that property to be used for educational purposes “no longer apply.”

Supervisor Linda Smith (Providence) said schools surrounded by commercial development can work, depending on the context, and noted that Luther Jackson Middle School is surrounded by commercial development. “More flexibility is better,” agreed Supervisor Jeff McKay (Lee). “I’m sympathetic to the idea of having as many options as possible.”

Now that the comprehensive plan amendment has been approved, the redevelopment proposal will go through a rezoning process, and there will more opportunities for public comment.


  1. “Rejecting this comprehensive plan amendment would destroy years of work with the community,” Gross said.

    As the FOIA's correspondence reveals, the "year of work with the community" involved mainly distracting and deceiving her consituency with a developer-led theater of charettes and visioning task forces.

    The specific plans that matter are moved forward by her staff in coordination with developers.

    It seems the only hope for real community engagement through a "street car" solution at the ballot box.

    1. Karen Garza is going to pay for ambushing Penny Gross. To date, Penny has had a long and undistinguished political career. However, her saving grace is that she's been a loyal soldier and the other Democrats on the BOS owe her. That explains their support of her sketchy street car proposal. The other BOS members clearly aren't going to overrule Penny on a matter like this. They have their own districts to manage. Moreover, dredging up the Upper Bailey's school was a big mistake. That extra space was desperately needed and public sentiment supported the project. This meeting seems to have centered around a few so-called community leaders engaging in little more than useless second guessing based on defective hindsight. I may not be a fan of Penny Gross, but at least she has her facts straight. - Tom

    2. Lovely comment, threatening Karen Garza, but the voice behind it defines the character and tactics of "One Cent Gross", A lowly traitor to the office she undeservedly holds.

    3. Ive know Supervisor Gross for 20 years and having her facts straight was never her strong point. She told us that the original Residential Studio Unit proposal specifically prohibited Residential Studio Units in residential areas, and she was serious. No confusion, no misunderstanding just a straight up lie, one of many over the years.
      She and her colleagues often counter by accusing their opponents of "so much misinformation". It doesn't mean anything, it is just what they do when they are wrong.
      Another of their zoning argument techniques is to insist that clearly linked properties be considered in isolation when that favors her position and then switches to emphasizing the importance of planning comprehensively when that works better for her arguments.
      From the citizens point of view it is entirely appropriate to look not only at the Columbia Pike site and the Willston site as linked from a zoning point of view but also Lower Bailey's and Upper Bailey's as well. If building of the Willston site had started 3 or 4 years ago as it should have, we wouldn't be talking about building even more 'urban' schools in a suburb. The $20 million spent on Upper Bailey's could have used to rebuild the Willston site and the social services departments would not have had to move to Annandale. No information on how much that cost taxpayers. -Tom also.

  2. There is no reason to tie the redevelopment of the Bailey's Crossroads site to the future fate of the Seven Corners (Willston Center) site.

    Continuing to tie the fates of these two sites together does a disservice to the residents of Mason District.

    I applaud the decision of the Board of Supervisors to unanimously approve the comprehensive plan amendment.

    The redevelopment of the Bailey's Crossroads site cannot begin soon enough.

    1. Agree completely. These two projects don't have anything in common other than the issue of additional school space several miles apart.

    2. There is EVERY reason to tie the redevelopment of the Bailey's Crossroads site to the future fate of the Seven Corners (Willston Center) site. The both reside in Mason District.

      Revitalization of Mason District, by Penny's (lip service) definition, must be coordinated and thoughtful and planned. To "revitalize" both areas, 7Corners and Bailey's XRoads, separately, without coordination and thoughtful planning is just.... stupid. Our kids all go to the same high schools, for Pete's sake. We are one community, with on BOS rep who should take responsibility to keep us informed about the ENTIRE district and work to BALANCE redevelopment and revitalization throughout the entire district.

    3. Sure sounds to me like our BOS member is working on redevelopment efforts at both Seven Corners and Baileys Crossroads. Just not in the way the individual named "Mason District" would like.

      "MD" wants a school at 7 Corners, darn it all. Nevermind that the neighborhood there is in Beech Tree's boundaries, and it no longer has a capacity issue, now that it's renovated and a bunch of its students reassigned to Mason Crest. The Moncure site is a stones throw from the Glen Forest boundaries and would alleviate ongoing overcrowding there. But don't let those details get in the way.

    4. The 7Corners apartments north of Route 7 and Route 50 behind the Willston School are split -- half are in Beechtree's boundary and half are in Sleepy Hollow Elementary School's boundary. It is what Sandy Evans refers to as the "duck head" boundary map, designed to balance the demographics at both schools.

      Glen Forest is not the only overcrowded elementary school in the 7Corners area of Mason District. The third grade at Sleepy Hollow Elementary School has been in three trailers on the blacktop behind the school for more than 4 years. FCPS statistics will show that this means the school is NOT over capacity. The new Bailey's Upper is projected to be over 100% capacity by 2017, in two years, three years after opening.

      You are right that the Moncure site, 2 acres, is "a stone's throw" from Glen Forest ES. I would argue that the Willston site, 5 acres, is just as close, also a "stone's throw" away from our neighbors in the Glen Forest ES community.

      Please also pay attention to the fact that the President of the Glen Forest PTA was not informed of the SE Quadrant redevelopment or that it included an elementary school that could be the new home to his and other Glen Forest children. We should let the Glen Forest folks have a say in this, don't you think? I wonder if they'd like to put their kids on a bus to attend a school on a 2-acre site or a 5-acre site with a field?

      With both sites available, isn't it rational to put an office building on the smaller site, and an elementary school on the larger site?

    5. It seems from some of the comments here that the developers have suddenly taken a strong interest in the Mason District school system now that the community has discovered what Penny has in store for us: More overcrowding of schools, more public debt, more traffic, more ignoring the community and a brand new $125 million Penny's Palace where a school should be. And a high rise school on a six lane highway. The play ground would be on the roof. How is that going to work? Kids are not allowed to play on the roof. That would be stupid.

    6. Let's start at the bottom and work up:

      --No, it's not rational to put the school on the larger site if its nowhere near where the population needs it to be.

      --No, I wouldn't necessarily choose to have my kids ride the bus to the larger site. Not if it means they'd have a significantly longer ride...which they would, since there's no easy way to get from Rt. 7 in the Bailey's X-roads area to the other side of 7 Corners. And you're making a partial strawman argument anyway: it sure looks as if portions of the Glen Forest boundaries would be walkable to the Moncure site (not crossing Columbia Pike).

      --I think its too bad that the Glen Forest PTA wasn't aware of the matter. But it's been well covered here on this blog, and surely someone was aware of it. Should Glen Forest parents have a say? As much as any of the rest of us.

      --You say you "would argue" that Willston is just as close to the Glen Forest boundaries as is Moncure. You could argue that. You'd be wrong, particularly if you consider how the Glen Forest boundaries wrap around two sides of the Moncure property. (And that Route 50 is in the way for even the nearest Glen Forest students--on a stretch of 50 that is the most dangerous pedestrian stretch in the county.

      --Of course Glen Forest isn't the only overcrowded school in the area. You mention Bailey's--so which site is closer to the Bailey's boundaries? (Willston is closer to Upper Bailey's only because Upper is north of the Bailey's boundaries.)

      Look--you want the Willston site. Fine--that's your right. But that does not ipso facto make it the only obvious choice. I'm not convinced. And the reasons you've cited thus far haven't done anything to change my mind.

    7. For anyone reading: you can see boundary maps of these schools on the FCPS website. Go to for a list of the Stuart pyramid schools. Click on the "map" link of the school you're interested in, then on the "boundary map" link on that page. It'll bring up a PDF showing that school's boundaries on a local map.

    8. To Anonymous 10:09pm -

      The current Glen Forest boundary abuts 7Corners, all the way down Route 7 to the Target at Willston. I did more research last night and found that my statement "would argue that Willston is just as close to GF as Moncure" was inaccurate -- the GF boundary map ABUTS Willston. A huge portion of the GF kids, the boundary living all down Route 7 on the north side, are much closer to Willston. And, the kids who live adjacent to the Moncure site are districted to Parklawn ES, not GF.

      Penny has mentioned and if you look at the boundary maps you can see that, with current boundaries, GF kids would have to be bused to the Willston site; they would also have to be bused to the Moncure site. Check out the boundary map. Of course, with all this population increase, and new schools, there will be a boundary study and there will be boundary changes.

      And you are right that the new Bailey's Upper is very close to the Willston site. But, again with current boundaries, Bailey's Upper kids are also all bused -- through Lake Barcroft, through Ravenwood, and through Sleepy Hollow Manor and Buffalo Hill. Many of the Bailey's kids are much closer to the Moncure site than the Bailey's Upper site.

      It's a tangled mess. That's one reason why the community objected to Bailey's Upper, a school in the Sleepy Hollow ES boundary that serves kids in the Bailey's ES boundary. And, as you know, the Sleepy Hollow ES community was not included in the fast-track approval of the Bailey's Upper site -- it sits within the school's boundary and neither the PTA nor the school were included in the discussion.

      How can the BOS make decisions like this that affect all of us, and not include us in the conversation? It's insulting.

    9. They can make decisions because they were elected to make decisions. I'm sorry if you feel that you must be consulted on those decisions. You do not speak for Mason District, much as you wish that you did.

      Here's the detailed Glen Forest boundary map:

      You state that Glen Forest boundaries abut Willston. Well, one tiny corner of Glen Forest's boundaries abuts Route 50, just across from Willston--at the very top margin of the map. So I guess you're right about that. Of course, there's six lanes of traffic, multiple anti-pedestrian fences, and the most dangerous road crossing for pedestrians in the county between there and and the school site.

      By comparison, the Moncure site just west of the Rt 7/244 interchange, while also not in the Glen Forest boundaries sits in the "elbow" of a district that wraps around it on two sides. It's almost smack in the middle of this map. Perhaps that site's no better than Willston, but you have appeared to be arguing that it's so obvious that Moncure is deficient compared to Willston that only a politician who's incompetent or on the take would prefer it. That's a high bar to clear, and you've not proved that case by a long shot.

  3. Supervisor Gross is again not listening to the citizens of the district. She thinks she is the Queen and doesn't care what the peasants think.

    1. Penny Gross has never engaged her constituency and it hasn't hurt her political career a bit. She's correctly concluded that most Mason residents are disengaged from local matters. That's why she chooses to communicate largely with her supporters. After years of running things that way, it's no wonder that she's annoyed at being confronted over the Moncure project by a handful of critics. Face it, guys, you have yourselves to blame for this situation. - Tom

    2. True dat, but it is a new day.

  4. Penny Gross has my support. Governing is about taking all considerations into account and making decisions within the context of all the factors. All I see from the critics are a lot of complaints, plus suggestions that don't recognize reality.

    For example: every single school site discussed between Seven Corners and Bailey's Crossroads is rejected as "too small" but overcrowding is "critical" and we need solutions NOW. You can't have both--there aren't large parcels of undeveloped property on that corridor. (Unless you drain Lake Barcroft--then there will be a large enough site.)

    (I'm guessing these are the same commenters who lament the current housing stock and demographics in the district, yet object vociferously to any proposed investment in new housing stock.)

    Politics is the art of the possible. I see lots of naysayers who are asking for the moon, but I see a district supervisor who delivers on a lot in an era where funds are extremely hard to come by.

    I don't expect that's a popular position for many here. But the level of vitriol expressed here does nothing to convince me otherwise.

    1. You obvisouly do not have any kids currently in FXCO schools and you obviously do not care about the type of environment these children are being asked to put up with. If Penny Gross has your support you have not been following what is happening in our District or you really do not care. I am amazed also how you can say we do not "recognize reality". The reality is kids are being asked to go outside in rain, snow, freezing cold to go to the bathroom, lunch, PE, art, music and any other activities. Children are using bathrooms that are rusty and doors do not always lock. The reality of the situation is our kids are being treated poorly and as Penny Gross has said "That is not my problem". I am sure you are a friend of Penny so nothing I do say will change your mind but I do know the reality of the situation.

    2. Well met dude. Well met.

    3. I'm the 12:20 commenter. Three kids in Mason District schools, thank you. Even challenged Ffx schools are far better than those I knew growing up elsewhere. And I've met Penny Gross twice in my life, if you count the baking supply aisle at Giant as one of them. I just think you guys are putting the cart before the horse, demanding school investment come first. The school situation will be solved on the demand side, when the area redevelops and landlords can make more money investing in their properties, or selling them, rather than the status quo. The demographics of the area will change through market forces, and school capacity needs will change, too. The county can't turn away kids, and it probably can't build its way out of the overcrowding without a change in demographics.

    4. I agree with Anonymous 12:20 though I'm not a huge fan of Penny's, Mason District MUST have new development and it MUST have it now! Every minute we wait it continues to deteriorate. Mason District is no longer a sleepy suburb - it's an urban area and needs new modern development to reflect that - retail, higher density multi-family, multi-level schools on small plots of land. If you want rolling hills, move to Haymarket. Don't even try to stop this because you won't win!

    5. I went to an urban school and they have playgrounds and outdoor space. Even in cities such as NY and DC, their schools are NOT in office buildings. They don't have has much green space as our other Farifax schools but kids don't have to take elevators and they are not sitting in the middle of a shopping center or on a busy commercial roadway. I think that the new Bailey school on Leesburg Pike speaks poorly of our County's leadership on school construction. With that said, I understand the sense of immediacy however we do not have to repeat this on a greenfield. No matter how you disguise it the school on Leesburg Pike looks like an office building because IT IS! Shame on the Farifax and the FCPS leadership for setting this as the standard.

    6. "I see lots of naysayers who are asking for the moon, but I see a district supervisor who delivers." Yes, delivers Mason District to the pit of despair. You have been spending too much time in Penny's office.

    7. But I thought everyone loved the new Upper Bailey's and the "urban style" was all the least that is what numerous articles several months ago when it opened led me to believe. Oh well, I guess not so much several months later.

    8. As a parent of FCPS students, I'm a lot more concerned about Upper Bailey's when it comes to some serious allegations raised in a lawsuit against the current principal. But that doesn't seem to rile anyone near as much as it's location.

      I'm pretty sure no one thought Upper Bailey's was the best fix. But we'd lost years to trying to figure out the best fix, and it got done in amazing time, getting kids out of trailers in the process. Which you'd have thought was the goal...

  5. There is a good article about this matter in the Washington Post online edition today.

  6. Some folks could argue that her development decisions might ultimately make sense. I’m ambivalent on the details. Nobody can really agree with the goal of “smart development” might be.

    Whatever the merits of the end-state she envisions, she must live with the political reality shaped by her arrogant decision to operate behind the scenes,without the support of the school board or parents. She’s certainly lost the trust of consituents affected by this property manuever.

    The FOIA'ed communications clearly show she coordinated with developers to fix certain planning and process points to drive other decisions to an inevitable conclusion. No Machiavellian brilliance here, just standard practice in local government. She’s no better or worst at it. Fairfax’s previous riches have undoubtedly covered for a lot of mediocrity in county government in the recent past.

    But times are a changing. Gross’s palpable discomfort and flustered deflection and dithering in the face of some we’ll articulated criticism was embarrassing. But she's going to have to get used to it if she hopes to continue with the Avalon Bay plan in the public eye.

  7. Oh boy, where do I start?
    RE: The 12:20 post. Viable solutions with playgrounds have been routinely rejected to save land for Penny’s projects. Wilson Library was available. Willston campus was and is still available. They weren’t and aren’t “too small” and were and are shovel ready solutions a.k.a “NOW”. Me thinks you haven’t been paying attention. The Supervisor’s reality is far, far different from what her taxpayers see and believe. She wants a former school to become a $125M East County Government Center. That is her reality. Her constituents want a former school to remain a school. This seems realistic enough. Many people choose where to live based on the neighborhood schools. Personally I would rather have a home facing a school than a monolithic government center. “Politics is the art of the possible” and it is possible to engage constituents and the neighborhoods directly affected by these plan amendments. That hasn’t happened and 2 civic association presidents testified to that end.
    RE: 11:42 and 11:49 posts. Yes, there is every reason to tie Upper Bailey’s with Columbia Pike and Willston. Willston (and Wilson Library land) were available as solutions for Bailey’s but Penny managed to skirt those. Most residents weren’t even aware they were available because she didn’t bring those up. And so, of course, they were thrilled to get the kids out of trailers and into a clean, shiny facility with running water even if it was an office building. Obfuscation was at play here. The children’s situation deteriorated to the point where any solution was better than what they had. And, it is happening again with Glen Forest. Five acre Willston is available with a playground. Give it to the kids. Talk to the parents at Glen Forest and hear what they want. Why short the children with a 2 acre high rise school when we don’t have to.
    Supervisor Gross’s plans for Willston are long standing. Designs were drawn in April 2013. The 7 Corners Revitalization Task Force didn’t finish deliberations until Sept. 2014. In the article above, “With regard to residents’ questions about why the plan for the office building wasn’t shared with the Seven Corners Task Force, Gross said, “these vision items were shared, but perhaps with not as much specificity as discussed here.” Bingo; Obfuscation. 5 Pinocchios for Supervisor Gross.
    “Rejecting this comprehensive plan amendment would destroy years of work with the community,” Gross said.” Fact: There was a charrette and plans made for a Town Village on the SW Quadrant have been unceremoniously dumped to accommodate a developer. That Town Village would have allowed the Moncure Homeless Shelter to remain intact. Now it must be relocated, at additional expense, of course. Destroy years of work accomplished by volunteer residents? Isn’t there a developer for a nice Town Village in an already commercial area?
    Tom’s post. Are you one of Penny’s select supporters who gets to direct her visions? “That's why she chooses to communicate largely with her supporters. After years of running things that way, it's no wonder that she's annoyed at being confronted over the Moncure project by a handful of critics.” I think it disingenuous to infer those homeowner association presidents and the thousands of homeowners and voters they represent are “a handful of critics”. I surmise you are one of the in crowd.

    1. "Tom’s post. Are you one of Penny’s select supporters who gets to direct her visions?" - If you've read my posts and nevertheless still believe I'm one of Penny's supporters, then you should be enrolling at Bailey's instead of criticizing it. - Tom

    2. 12:20 here. I paid attention to the Wilson site debate, thank you. It always seemed like a well-meaning suggestion that was completely impractical--conceived too late, and having very little support from the library supporters. And I didn't particularly think a school and library co-located would have been a good idea from a practical standpoint. Actually, if you're going to repurpose county land on that side of rt 7, JEB Stuart park would be a better choice, IMHO, but I don't even want to imagine the public outcry over that idea.

      Speaking of public outcry, the neighborhood griped that six buses would be needed between Upper and Lower Bailey's...but the idea now is to fix Glen Forest overcrowding with Willston, rather than the Moncure site. One of those is walking distance to Glen Forest's current population...and it ain't Willston.

    3. Nothing is too late until ground is broken. A library/school partnership would have been a good deal for both Bailey's and Wilson Library. Libraries need customers.

      And, BTW, Willston IS within walking distance of many of the Glen Forest students.

      I agree with your idea of giving JEB Stuart the park. Seems to me that school grounds offer after hours recreational space to communities, if allow. JEB Stuart needs help. But then, the Parks Department would have to agree.

    4. 12:20, I have to correct you. As you know, the FCPS boundary maps are complicated.

      The Glen Forest kids who live in the SE Quadrant (down Lacy Blvd, etc.) are more than a mile from the Moncure site, so they'd have to be bused. No walkers. And the Glen Forest kids who live North/East of Route 7, closest to GF, obviously can't walk to the Moncure site because they're much farther away, and on the other side of Route 7 and Columbia Pike. That's self-evident.

      The kids who live on Moncure Ave and the surrounding community, closest to the proposed school site, and who would logically walk to the new school site, actually go to Parklawn ES, they're not Glen Forest kids. (Part of Lacy Blvd is Parklawn and part of it is Glen Forest; the part that is Glen Forest is more than a mile to Moncure.)

      Check out the boundary map:

    5. Perhaps this map of Glen Forest boundaries is clearer:

      The corner of Lacy and Colfax is well into the Glen Forest boundaries. Google Maps from there to the Safari restaurant (middle of the Moncure site, since I don't know exactly which part of the parcel will house the school) is a 1.0 mile walk. So I believe you are mistaken, at least based on the FCPS and Google date I cite.

      (And you don't think that section of Parklawn might be included in the boundaries? Broyhill Crest didn't stay at Beech Tree once Mason Crest was built within their own neighborhood. And Parklawn is projected to be more than 10% over capacity by the 18-19 school year.)

    6. Please refer to Penny Gross' comments on the subject, that all GF children would be bused to the Moncure site.

  8. Here is the problem for the critics.

    So far they appear to be composed of the School Board, Karen Garza, and their citizen supporters who wrap their cause in the flag of we are doing this all for the children, because nobody with a heart and any sensitivity can argue against doing more for the children.

    So what do the critics want?

    More land.

    The critics reject the land for a new school at Bailey's Crossroads as not good enough for the children. The critics want the land at Seven Corner's the School Board abandoned decades ago NOW for the children.

    Then critics also demand more money NOW. The critics reject as a total waste the $20+ million recently spent by Fairfax County taxpayers to renovate and open Upper Bailey's public school. The critics would declare this large expenditure a total loss - and demand that Fairfax County taxpayers expend millions more dollars to build a new public school within spitting distance of Upper Bailey's.

    The critics are also more than willing to torpedo the opportunity to have built a brand-new modern apartment building on the Fairfax side of Columbia Pike instead of the Arlington side which has seen many new apartment buildings open in recent years.

    No the critics are advocating against the Bailey's Crossroads redevelopment, even though the current site - a festering sore that includes the closed Safari Lounge which has recently been the site of an unsolved murder and other crimes - if left undeveloped will lead to further crime and neighborhood decay.

    But the critics want what they want and they want it NOW! And everyone opposed to the critics are heartless insensitive people who don't care about the children. And....Penny.... Penny is a Queen.

    The critics need to do better. Beginning with getting off their high horse and letting go of their self-righteousness.

    1. Willston School was vacated because of a decline in population. Now we have a population explosion. Neighborhood schools are in stone's throw of each other. That is the definition of a neighborhood school. Bailey's, Sleepy Hollow, Belvedere, Beechtree are all within a couple of miles of each other. And so, Willston fits in nicely.

      The point of bringing up Upper Bailey's is that it didn't have to happen. There were two superior options that were denied. Don't do this to Glen Forest. Give them a walkable, safe 5 acre campus with a playground instead of 2 acres on a very busy commercial highway and rooftop turf. Come on...where you would rather go to school?

      There are other options for the Columbia Pike "public land". For example, improve the Moncure Homeless Shelter. That must be relocated, but to where? The people at the shelter are safe there and used to finding that location. Why disrupt them? Because the developer doesn't want a homeless shelter next to his apartment development. Let's look at the real picture.

      BTW, I've never met Dr. Garza and I have not been a part of any conversations with her. But, you go girl! Right on! Get the children what the need, not what Penny wants to give them.

    2. The critics "appear to be composed of the School Board, Karen Garza, and their citizen supporters who wrap their cause in the flag of we are doing this all for the children"


      I'll join that company any day before Thillman (Atlantic Properties), Super Gross, and the Avalon Bay real estate investment trust.

  9. Didn't the old Lacey school become Mason Crest?

    Why can't the same happen with Willson? It just seems to make sense.

    The land is there, the zoning is right.

    I don't understand why Gross is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

    Even if they have to tear what's there down to build a new school wouldn't they be doing that at the Columbia Pike site?

    Isn't that what was done with Lacey/Mason Crest?

    Contrary to what some people believe, kids need playgrounds, they need to get out and run around.

    The WIllston site is there, it's a known good fit for such a use. How can Penny Gross deny that?

    1. I and the Presidents of many community associations, representing hundreds and hundreds of households, and many other individuals, agree with you.

    2. I'm in one of those associations. You may have the support of the board; it's a pretty specious claim to suggest that you have the support of the households in the association. Most of those boards probably haven't shared one word with their members about this issue, much less sought input from us.

    3. Anonymous Thanks for injecting a note of reality into this conversation. Mason District is obviously suffering from delusions of grandeur. I am confident that a spectrum of views about this issue will begin to emerge after the initial hysteria and wave of disinformation subsides. - Tom

    4. Many community associations are very plugged into this conversation. Please take a look at the public testimony from the January 13 public hearing to listen to their comments (discussion of this matter begins at 4:13:30, public testimony begins at 4:22:28).

    5. "Mason District" on this site you are anonymous as the rest of us, so when you are commenting here you are only commenting for yourself. Your criticism of Supervisor Gross for allegedly not representing her constitutents is laughable based on your behavior on this site.

      Give your name and title, or else continue to just comment for yourself.

  10. After attempting to digest the many comments, there are several points that I would like to make. To those who say what we need is development, I ask what kind?
    Thousands of apartment units have been proposed. The tenants in those buildings require services, COUNTY services. such as, schools, roads, public safety,parks recreation and an improved public facility infrastructure. Do you believe that the possible proffers and real estate taxes paid by the apartment owners will even begin to cover the cost of these services?
    We are not getting mixed use at the Baileys site and the proposed developers at 7 Corners are also opposing retail and commercial in favor of rental.units.
    Perhaps, a dose of fiscal responsibility in the face of a projected $179 million budget shortfall and the possible downgrading of County bonds is needed.

    1. Excellent points.

  11. This quote is simply disingenuous:

    When Gross, Bulova, and other county officials met with FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza Dec. 1, “that was the first time we heard about the request to look at the Willston site and return it to the schools,” Gross said. People have the idea that FCPS has formally requested having the Willston site back; “it has not,” she said.

    Here is a letter to Mr. John Thillman, Seven Corners Land Use and Transportation Task Force from School Board Member Sandy Evans dated August 8, 2014:

    “The School Board has a longstanding request for the county to return the Willston Center, which previously served as an elementary school, to the school system.”

    In Dr. Garza's December letter to to County Executive Edward Long, Dr. Garza said:

    “FCPS staff and Board members… have articulated the need for Willston on many occasions over the past two to three years.”

    These are just two examples. I'm not sure what a "formal" request is, but the above letters show that FCPS has been requesting the property be returned back to them for years and the BOS knows that.

    In addition, I attended a Seven Corners Visioning Task Force Land Use and Transportation Committee Meeting two years ago where a developer gave a presentation on what a revitalized Seven Corners area might look like and he said that a school would fit in very well with that vision. John Thillman was at that meeting. It doesn't have to be one or the other (school OR development)--I would like both!

    1. "I'm not sure what a "formal" request is..."

      That would be a request to the BOS for a formal study of the budgetary, commercial and environmental impact of returning the Willston site to the FCPS for the construction of a school. Such studies have already been done for the East County Office Building and the Moncure site. I believe an expedited one was also performed for Upper Bailey's, but I'm not sure.

      Upper Bailey's was relatively straightforward because it was a retrofit. In contrast, the Willston Center would have to be razed and a new structure built to replace it.

      I have to hand it to Sandy Evans for once again demonstrating her ineptitude in misleading her constituents. It's common knowledge that the Willston site was earmarked for the ECOB. So, merely asking the BOS to return the site to the FCPS was not only facetious, it was absolutely deceptive. - Tom

    2. I'm not sure how asking for the site back is facetious or deceptive on Sandy Evans part. What I believe is facetious and deceptive is saying this "was the first time we heard about the request to look at the Willston site and return it to the schools."

      Anyone who has been following this issue knows that this property has been earmarked by Supervisor Gross for the ECOB. That doesn't mean it's the right thing or it's what the majority of constituents of Mason District actually want.

      I would like to see a school built at Willston and revitalization in Seven Corners. I don't think they are mutually exclusive.

    3. In case you missed my earlier point, Sharon Bulova confirmed that the Willston property must be razed before anything can be built on that site. So, there's more to this than simply passing title. Moreover, a request to simply hand over the property isn't a proposal. What you're referring to seems like an informal request the BOS probably tabled pending the resolution of more pressing business. If you'll remember, the BOS appropriated millions for Upper Bailey's around that time, so building yet another school at nearby Willston wasn't exactly a pressing matter. Furthermore, there's no indication that the BOS would have considered the FCPS proposal for Willston once the prospect of building a school at Moncure arose. And, btw, I still haven't heard any mention of where the human services office slated for Willston are to be housed if that site is developed for a school. - Tom

    4. I didn't miss your earlier point because I was already aware of that and so are most people who have been following this issue for years. Most likely a building will have to be razed wherever a school is built in Mason District. There simply aren’t that many vacant lots in our area. This isn't new information although I am interested to hear more about this $12m renovation cost that someone mentions below in a comment below. Personally, I would like to see the building renovated if possible.

      As far as a formal proposal, a formal proposal was made for the library next to Bailey's. That didn't sway the BOS. As Dean Tistadt said two years ago in a Washington Post article:

      “Tistadt said he offered Gross multiple options to alleviate the crowding at Bailey’s, including a plan to renovate a nearby county library into a state-of-the-art education facility using schools money. Tistadt said none of the options were taken seriously.

      ‘They give one excuse after the other,’ Tistadt said.”

      The impression I have is that a formal proposal was not made because the BOS has made it clear that they will reject the proposal. In other words—don’t waste your time. (This is just my opinion.)

      The Bailey’s retrofit was the first part of the solution to alleviate crowding in Mason District. The second part was to build a new school. The request for Willston may not have been made formally, but the BOS was well aware that FCPS wanted the site.

      But back to my original point, to say “that was the first time we heard about the request to look at the Willston site and return it to the schools” is simply not true.

      Instead, of feigning surprise, I think it would help if the BOS would explain why the ECOB HAS to be at the Willston location. There is no question that a school is needed in the Seven Corners area and many constituents and FCPS think this be an ideal location. Now let’s hear why this site is better suited for the ECOB. Let’s just have an honest discussion about it and debate the pros and cons of each instead of talking over one another.

  12. I read recently that the county did a cost estimate on a new school at Willston. Not sure of the date; either 2011 or 2012. The estimate was $12M. Hmm. So the children were placed in a retrofitted office space in a commercial area on Leesburg Pike for $20M when they could have been in a brand new school on the Willston campus for $12M. Quite obviously our tax dollars are not being spent wisely. Return Willston School to the children and FCPS. The county owns the land; no purchase necessary. The school can be built for around $12M which is far better than $125M for a palatial county building with turf for an athletic field. Who wants to look at that from their new high rise condo in revitalized 7 Corners anyway?

    1. I'd like to see if that that estimate includes the costs of demolishing the existing structure. Sharon Bulova acknowledged that razing the present structure would be necessary to build a school. I'd also like to see an estimate for relocating the East County Office Building to a site that presumably isn't owned by the County. And kindly stop spouting nonsense about the ECOB being "palatial". There's a plan of the building included in another story on this blog. If you care to examine it, you'll note that's it's a fairly nondescript big office building intended to house offices and a shelter. The social service offices to be housed there are currently occupying leased space in Annandale. The lease expires in 2020. - Tom

    2. Do you want to see it because you suspect that the cost of the school demolition will exceed $123 million?!

    3. Directed to "Concerned" 1:30. You provide no factual support for your claim it would cost $12M to build a school on the site you prefer except that you "read" it "recently."

      Until you or someone else provides a document that demeenstrates this is a realistic estimate it is a fictional nonsense number you could have just as easily made up.

      If you are truly concerned do the research rather than attack with factually unsupported arguments.

    4. Anonymous1/15/15, 8:32 PM:

      Your statement echos what Penny Gross is quoted as saying in this article ; i.e. "There is so much misinformation here, I don’t know where to begin.” I'm not a Gross supporter, but I have to admit that she's correctly stated the pertinent facts, if somewhat clumsily. As I stated previously, this is a political ambush engineered by by Karen Garza. However, other than demanding the Willston property, Garza has yet to provide a single detail as to how the project will be funded. Gross has stated that there are currently no funds budgeted for the ECOB on the site, so it follows that Garza is writing a virtual check she expects the already cash strapped County to cash.

      Moreover, those venerable community leaders who are linking Willston to Moncure are making an equally ill informed judgment. As Gross pointed out, Moncure has finally attracted a developer after languishing for years. Accordingly, there's no valid reason not to seize the opportunity to develop the site. The availability of proffers to help finance the adjacent elementary school is a welcome collateral benefit. Since there has never been a concrete proposal put forth by the FCPS to build a school at Willston, it would be foolish to wait an indeterminate amount of additional time instead of promptly building a school at Moncure.

      Hopefully, Penny Gross will seize the opportunity to confront the likes of Molly Loeffler et al. about their inability to grasp the pertinent facts. However, I'm not optimistic that the latter have the inclination to listen. - Tom

    5. I will try to figure out how to post FOIA documents. It is a PDF analyzing the costs of a new school. It also noted that the Justice Department ordered ADA upgrades for the Multicultural Center that would cost $1.5M. That was a 2012 budget item. The $12M estimate was for building a new school at Willston. Demolition wasn't mentioned in the document. Palatial is an apt description for ECGC. 700 car parking garage and a turf rooftop athletic field is big.

    6. As promised, here is the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) obtained County document with lots of facts.. Had to have it converted from PDF to Word so it is a bit rough. No date on it. By inference it appears to be late 2011 or early 2012.

      Fairfax County Willston Multicultural Center
      6131 Willston Drive Falls Church, Virginia 22030

      The estimated envelope replacement cost for the Willston Center based on order of magnitude
      .is $12,000,000.

      Renovation is required when a building appears on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and/or the National Trust for Historic Preservation)-the Willston Center is not on either preservation Hst.

      With.any renovation there will be surprises. The existing Willston Center drawings are limited and do not show past renovations and additions and deviations during the construction process were not recorded. Not knowing how a structure was built, what is above the ceiling or behind the walls, or what the foundation is really like maks it difficult to assess renovation costs and determine a reliable, detailed scope of work.

      Renovating and incorporating ADA requirements and renewal needs into the existing space will further impede on and limit program space. If there is no reasonable design options to adequately reconfigure space and expand so as to fit even .the most fundamentalgoals and objectiv:es of the operations and programs then new construction is likely the better option.

      A new building offers many benefits such as by definition it's healthier since it is presumed that a new building will have no issues with mold, asbestos, etc. A new building may permit the consolidation of offices/tasks currently spread across multiple locations possibly achieving significant savings in equipment, personnel, security and overall operational efficiency. A new building can easily incorporate cutting-edge technology; better adopt flexible, open layouts, and it can easily enhance productivity and programs. Equally important a new building can often
      revit"alize and anchor a community and Green elements and innumerable energy-management efficiencies are easier to integrate into a new building.

      It is the recommendation of the Facilities Management Department that the Willston Center building be raised.

      The Willston Center must be brought up to present-day health, safety and access building codes and standards. The historical integrity issues associated with the existing building's envelope,its roof and windows may be so daunting that .the effort and cost to upgrade the structure to meet current building codes and program requirements is not practical. It is envisioned that due to the need to meet 2010 ADA requirements there will be resulting significant reconfiguration of walls so it is likely that the cost to renovate will radically jump, especially if the plan involves modifying or removing load-bearing concrete or masonry walls (elevator).Components of the existing structure -- ranging from HVAC to electrical systems to eleyator-- will need to .be replaced/installed.

      .The Facilities Management Department identified several lease sites where staff could be relocated (Attachment C) during construction. The Fairfax County School Board plans to relocate the Adult and Community Education Program at the site to the Graham Road Elementary School. Staff at Graham Road will be moving to" the newly renovated Devonshire facility at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year.

  13. This is the most biased headline - not ALL residents disagree with this, and not ALL residents are against Penny Gross so please do not characterize it as such. Also I don't see Penny Gross as being the cause of the problem - its the FCPS and Karen Garza who were asleep at the wheel and then suddenly decided that they wanted the Wilston site back.

    1. You nailed it "Anonymous 1/16/15 2:44 PM" The self-righteous school supporters want what they want and everyone not on their side are heartless, soulless, enemies of the children.

    2. According to School Board Rep Sandy Evans, there have been requests to Supervisor Gross for the return of Willston School for years upon years that met deaf ears. Nothing sudden about the Dec. 8 letter with yet another request.

      Dr. Garza was sworn in as Superintendent in July, 2013.

      To insist that she has a political machine capable of a political ambush is ludicrous. She hasn't been around that long. What Dr. Garza has on her side is an outraged responsible citizenship that craves a return to common sense and sound management of taxpayers' dollars.

      As for attacking Dr. Garza and

    3. "There have been requests to Supervisor Gross for the return of Willston School for years upon years..."

      You're just parroting the comments already made about that issue. I have yet to see one formal request from the FCPS Board predating the current controversy requesting anything like that. There's apparently been some discussion about it, but that's meaningless without concerted action. As Penny Gross has stated, the BOS has approved the funding of three schools for Mason in the past half dozen years. That's concrete enough for me. Karen Garza comes from Texas where schools can raise their own taxes. That's certainly not the case in Fairfax. It follows that pulling these grandstand stunts certainly won't benefit her cause.

      I've said before that there is no evidence that the FCPS Board ever made a concerted effort to acquire the Willston property. If they had, this discussion would have been held long ago. So, suddenly linking Willston to the Moncure property certainly is an ambush. I'm adamantly opposed to jeopardizing over $10 MM is proffers on the latter site merely because Karen Garza wants to play games.

      There was an article in the Post the other day reporting that Kaye Kory has joined with Evans in supporting construction of a school on the Willston site. Kory's intrusion merely threatens to politicize a situation in which the facts have already be massively obfuscated. It also confirms how thoroughly Sandy Evans is still dominated by her. Kory's actions are also predicable because Kory and Gross are political adversaries. As much as it galls me, I hope the BOS promptly steps in to resolve this matter because I don't believe Penny Gross has the ability to fend off the political wags and self-important self-designated community leaders who are criticizing her. - Tom

  14. Poor Penny.

    It was she who ambushed the community; the community is responding. Perhaps you try your own petition to rally support to Gross. I doubt many taxpaying residents would be convinced by your analysis. 10mm is a pittance weighed against the services that will be required to support the residential density the developers are demanding.

    The hundreds of "self-appointed" community members who signed "return Willston" petition within 48 hours are justifiably pissed.

  15. To 1/15/15 @ 7:10 pm
    Put away the thesaurus and bring out the dictionary...."facts have already be(en) massively obfuscated" ? Also, is there such a condition as slightly obfuscated - is that similar to semi pregnant?

    1. I see this phenomenon periodically. It's the signature trait of the terminally indignant; i.e. frustrated individuals who lack the requisite wit and insight to respond meaningfully. Hence, the pointless grammar lesson. How sad.

    2. Penny seems intent on railroading this through. Her fluster and bluster at the BOS meeting suggests she knows she's really been outed this time. Perhaps there is an opportunity to legally challenge the corrupt process. Anything to stop, or even slow, the construction of her palace while we try to vote her -- and maybe Bulova -- out.

      The streetcar debacle provides a blueprint. The salary hike vote adds to the fire. VA Del Kory could indeed be a strong, viable candidate. But even a potted plant would be better than Super Gross considering the damage she wreaking in Mason District on behalf of real estate developers.

    3. To 1/19/15 7:17 AM

      What "corrupt process" are you referring to?

      The unanimous bipartisan vote by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in favor of the redevelopment plan?

      Or are you referring to the planning of the East County Government Building, which has not yet been voted on by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors; or any other Fairfax County Board, Committee, or Commission to the best of my knowledge?

      What is "corrupt" are the baseless charges you made against democratically elected representatives in Fairfax County.

      Simply because one or more elected officials or county employees work on a project you do not agree with; or an elected official votes in a way you do not agree with; does not make them "corrupt."

      For you too make these charges with no factual justification demonstrates the emptiness and shallowness of your position.

      Especially in the case of a Fairfax County property owner willing to invest millions of dollars to develop a site that is currently a source of crime and an eyesore, and is in addition willing to profer $10 million; you have nothing at all similar to the Arlington County streetcar issue.

      Go take your baseless "corruption" charges someplace else.

    4. we'll have to disagree about the definition of corruption.

      appointing thillman to lead a "community" development task force is beyond shady.He had clear conflict of interest with his atlantic properties financial interests. read the foia'd emails and tell me he and penny weren't in cahoots from the beginning.

      i guess we'll have to see what the voters think about the process.

      penny's palace might be her legacy -- though not the one she intended.

    5. Yea, corrupt seem like the right word.

    6. Corrupt. That's the right word and the correct word: corrupt. Used in a sentence - The corrupt partners used stealth, speed and the charade of charrettes with handpicked, propagandized ‘citizen groups’ to cover their manipulation of the public approval process. Corrupt

    7. Well now, I would respond to these lazy overblown allegations of corruption in the same way our President did when asked in last year's pre-Super Bowl interview whether there was any corruption involved in the IRS's targeting of Tea Party Organizations (and pro-Israel organizations) applications for tax exempt status for "special" review in the run up to Obama's 2012 election.

      The President stated there was no corruption, not even a "smidgen" see this article by "the Hill."

      The ludicrousness and hypocrisy of some individuals in this Fed-dominated area crying "corruption" when a local government decision doesn't go the way they want while many millions of Americans increasingly can't stand the Federal Government's increasingly arbitrary and abusive use of its power is astounding.

      "Oh yes, Penny put people she trusted to do what she wanted on a public committee and she talked to them in private and they made decisions I don't like. That's corruption. Whaaa.... I want my mommy..... Whaaa....Not the Pacifier....Nooo"