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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Board of Supervisors defers decision on Bailey's Crossroads land swap

The Southeast Quadrant on Columbia Pike.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors deferred a decision on the Southeast Quadrant land swap in Bailey’s Crossroads until Feb. 2.The delay will provide time for the board to review last-minute information on some “contractual tweaks,” said Mason Supervisor Penny Gross at the Jan. 12 BoS session.

The real estate exchange would spur revitalization of a blighted area along Columbia Pike, and Gross said she’s been working on plans to redevelop the Southeast Quadrant since 2002.

In general,  the deal calls for Fairfax County to swap land with AvalonBay and purchase the Landmark property next to Radley Acura. If the land swap is approved, AvalonBay would build a 375-unit apartment building on the site of the Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter, which would be relocated.

A new road would connect Seminary Road with Columbia Pike, and the county would build a new East County Government Center.

Several residents who spoke at the BoS hearing urged the supervisors to reject the land swap. Residents said they support revitalization in the Southeast Quadrant but raised concerns about the relocation of the homeless shelter, the lack of time for public feedback, the lack of transparency, and questioned the need for a new county office building.

Debbie Smith, chair of the Mason District Council of Community Associations (MDC), asked the supervisors to delay a decision on the land swap “until the community is given a reasonable amount of time to review it.” She said residents only had two business days to examine the land swap since a community meeting last week and still don’t have information on a lot of the details.

Smith called on the county to consider alternative sites for an East County office building, noting that Bailey’s Crossroads has an office vacancy rate of 47 percent and that BoS Chair Sharon Bulova has formed a working group to explore ways to repurpose vacant office buildings. She suggested the county look at the vacant building at 5600 Columbia Pike, where a proposal for an apartment building fell through.

Clyde Miller, president of the Holmes Run Valley Citizens Association, said there’s no reason for VDOT to spend $7 million in road improvements without a traffic analysis showing a new road is needed, there’s no proof that the county needs a new office building, and the homeless shelter shouldn’t be moved until a permanent location is found.

County officials are negotiating for a temporary site for the shelter until they can find a suitable location for a permanent site that also includes transitional housing for the homeless.

The county has not announced the site of the temporary shelter, pending a final agreement with the landowner, but local residents believe it is on the property of the First Christian Church at 6165 Leesburg Pike in Seven Corners.

Denise Patton told the supervisors she welcomes revitalization but “it’s the nature and quality of the revitalization that is the issue for me.” She questioned why the county wants to build a new office building when Bailey’s Crossroads has such a high office vacancy rate.

Ravenwood Park resident Carol Turner called the land swap “a bad deal for residents and the homeless.” If the new county office building includes a homeless shelter, it might be worth doing, she said. “Otherwise, it’s worthless."

Turner asked Gross if she is going to recuse herself from a decision on the land swap because John Thillman, who had contributed to Gross’ re-election campaigns, is a principal in Landmark Atlantic, which owns the office building the county wants to purchase.

Thillman “doesn’t have any ownership interest in the property we are talking about,” Gross responded.

Al Cobb, who also lives in Ravenwood Park, raised objections to locating a homeless shelter so close to his neighborhood and asked the board to delay a decision until the community is given more information and more time to comment.

Homeless advocate Esther Armstead spoke about the need for housing that is affordable for people at the lowest income levels and said the homeless shelter shouldn’t be moved until there is a permanent site for it.

Lake Barcroft resident Larry Golfer said the current deal on the table won’t create the vibrant, mixed-use, pedestrian and bicycle-friendly community envisioned in the comprehensive plan for Bailey’s Crossroads approved approved by the BoS in 2010.

Jon Clark of Annandale, a member of the MDC board, said “public involvement in this process has not been up to the standards Fairfax County has expressed it would like to maintain.”

Only two people who spoke at the hearing urged the BoS to approve the land swap.

Martin Howell, a representative of AvalonBay, said the land swap agreement is the culmination of three years of work by AvalonBay, county staff, and the former property owner, the Weissberg Corp. He said the proposal calls for an $86 million investment in the community, which would generate $5 million in fees and taxes to the country for the construction of the project and $1 million a year in property taxes.

“This is the worst stretch of road in Fairfax County,” and it’s a blighted area that needs to be developed, said Bill Lecos of Lake Barcroft. “We’ve talked about Bailey’s Crossroads for 10 years. This is the type of redevelopment we’re looking for,” he said. If the project goes forward, this property will be assessed at over $100 million. “One must look at the return on investment. This is an extraordinary opportunity.”


  1. I suspect that one of the factors influencing some of the witnesses against the swap is an uncontrollable personal animosity towards the Mason District Supervisor. These same people appear again and again and again against any idea which is presented by our Supervisor.
    Unfortunately, they are impeding what they say they want: redevelopment and revitalization.
    They are literally a guaranteed pain in the neck to whoever wants to redevelop and/or revise either the Baileys or Seven Corners areas. Never a positive suggestion.
    they envision bicycles and quaint shopping centers .. and nothing else - which is available - has any promise for them.
    Folks, those days of slow quaint living are gone....the world changes.

    1. If the Mason District supervisor took the time to inform her constituents instead of working these backroom deals that the public only finds out about at the last possible second, the 'same people' wouldn't be complaining. Your comments basically say let's rubber stamp redevelopment, whether it's prudent or not, or in this case, even necessary.

    2. What you don't understand is that our anger is controlled. The fault lies with Penny and her policies. We are ordinary people expressing appropriate outrage at the machinations of our Supervisor for Life who is selling our Mason District down the river. Wake up. Please.

    3. Stop and ask the questions before you judge. When are FXCO office building have huge vacancy rates why do we need a new FXCO office building. Why are we swapping land to then invest millions into a new site? Why is most of Penny's campaign funds coming from developers? Answer these questions before you judge.

    4. At the hearing, Supervisor Gross gave as the reason for delaying a decision that “There are partners involved in this and [their] need[s] to be some concurrence of some last minute information.” That concurrence will be sought and a decision made without any community involvement whatsoever. The profiteers will be involved, staff will be involved, Penny’s friends will be involved but the owners of the property, us, won’t be even be in the room. That is the kind of thing that creates "uncontrollable personal animosity towards the Mason District Supervisor" and it has been a pervasive characteristic throughout Penny's 20 year reign.

  2. i am all for that land being developed but think the land swap deal is super sketchy at best.

    1. I agree, and would add that the lack of transparency about the future location of the homeless shelter is troubling.

    2. AvalonBay seems to have a history of displacing vulnerable local residents.

    3. That project also appears to be 100% residential. Where are the amenities to the community that folks on here are so eager to attribute to AvalonBay?

  3. Why does the County have to fund the purchase? There's a development just down the road -- Ambrose Hills. Did the county subsidize that as well? If it's a worthwhile project, surely there's a developer willing and able to pay for the entire project. I'd prefer this be done without taxpayer dollars.

    And if surrounding home values go up, that's just higher taxes for me.


  4. An extraordinary opportunity for sure but for out of towners in the financial sector and a few local collaborators. With the level of code compliance we have in Mason District, under the watchful eye of Supervisor Gross this will surely be just be a taller version of nearby Culmore but without the amenities. What amenities? Good question.

  5. Some clarifications:
    1. The county is not subsidizing Avalon. They are trading the piece of land where the shelter sits - owned by the county - for a piece of land owned by avalon. Thus "land swap" to assemble a more develop-able piece of land for Avalon Bay who already owns the property. This is an example of county leadership in helping spur development in accordance with a 15+ year old Baileys Crossroads Comprehensive plan.
    2. The purchase of the building that will be torn down to build a road is the county beginning to implement a many-years-old comprehensive traffic plan (with requisite traffic studies already completed). Again,county leadership executing incremental progress toward these long term goals.
    3. Avalon Bay is based in Arlington. They are known for community development in around the DC area by specializing in neighborhoods just like the SE quadrant.
    4. Earlier posters bemoan how the county is doing "nothing" to spur Baileys development. That is EXACTLY what this land swap deal is: the county spurring development.
    5. Absolutely no cash is involved with the land swap transaction. It is only a transaction that makes it possible for Avalon to have a good site to develop on.
    6. This is how ALL real estate development transactions take place.
    7. None of this process has been "behind closed doors." In fact it is all public record.

    Unfortunately, Ellie's reporting is biased by her relationship to the so-called Mason District Council.

    This is an example of excellent county leadership that will result in excellent development and overall positive effect for the neighborhood and region.

    1. You must be kidding right? The land swap already has a building on it so now the taxpayers have to pay for a new building to be built. Is there a traffic analysis that show there is a new road needed? Details by PG are always hidden.

    2. Bill, are you making things up again? I think you are!

    3. It is not the “so-called” Mason District Council; it is the Mason District Council of Civic Associations. Penny would do well to work with her district council, as other Supervisors do, rather than sending her minions out to attack it. The Mason District Council’s greatest sin is to provide the Mason District community with public forums in which they can take the microphone and express their opinion instead of just listening to self-serving over repeated pap about how well we are doing here in Mason District when we have been on a continuous 20 year decline that started exactly one year after Penny first took office. With a record like that, someone has to speak up. When that epic decline is pointed out to the community, Penny calls foul and counters with a string of excuses, falsehoods and innuendoes, honed to a fine edge over her 5 consecutive terms in office, and, of course, sends her land use professional partners to the blogs to disparage her opposition and trash the bloggers who give that opposition any kind of a forum.
      Penny’s cozy financial relationship with developers is not a matter of debate. It is well established fact . The unidentified authorabove, critical of the Mason District Council, is a land use professional. His bread is buttered by Penny and vice versa. The term ‘land use professional’ includes the real estate and construction sectors as well as other services to the real estate sector like real estate attorneys, lobbyists, architects, brokers and engineers. The green section of the pie chart in the link above, ‘Real Estate/Construction’ represents about 1/3 of Penny’s campaign ‘contributions, “contributions” totaling nearly one million dollars in her years as our Supervisor.
      The large “Other” category, which includes other industry sectors like law, business, finance, insurance, transportation and political, no doubt includes some large but unidentified amount of land use contributors, in addition to those included under ‘Real Estate/Construction. It may be legal to take over a quarter of a million dollars from the Real Estate/Construction industry over the years but the inevitable damage to our democratic system is beyond serious question.
      Further, with all due respect, Penny ‘won’ the election with less than 15% of registered Mason District voters, hardly a majority of voters, definitely not a mandate . That and the fact that Penny out spent her Independent, first time candidate, opponent in the last election by over 6 to 1 is a good argument for referring to her as the “so called” Supervisor. I hope that helps explain why so many believe that Mason District has corruption, corruption, corruption.

  6. Good points, however, I don't have a relationship with the Mason District Council.

    1. You could have fooled me.
      I wish you were more objective. Please work on it.

    2. Ellie -- do you get a lot of comments like this or is this one a snowflake?

    3. I'm under the impression that it's not just swapping land. What is the 6.3 million dollars that the county will be giving to AvalonBay?

    4. The county is not giving $6.3 million to Avalon Bay. The county is swapping a 1.4 acre parcel with a 1.4 acre parcel owned by Avalon bay. This then gives Avalon bay a contiguous and better-to-develop property. There is no handout like the "snowflakes" from the MDC like to profess.

      The $6 million is for a different transaction that happens to be an adjacent property and turns it into the first segment of a road that has been long-planned.

      And it is a fact that Ellie was Mollie Loeffler's propagandist and MDC's official mouthpiece. That's why a completely unelected group gets so much time in the A-blog.

    5. Nope. You're right about this until you get to the third paragraph. Let's set this straight: I was not involved in Loeffler's campaign in any capacity and I'm not on the board or a member of the MDC.

      This blog post reports on everybody who spoke at the Board of Supervisors hearing. If MDC board members are getting a lot of coverage in the blog, it's because they are the ones who speak at the meetings.

    6. Several Supervisors had very serious concerns about the future of the shelter and this deal. You can watch the Board of Supervisors' discussion from their Dec 8th meeting here at 2 hr 13 min 50 sec. – 2hr 32 min:

    7. Grow up! Ellie gives of her own time to report on meeting and different events in the County. What are you doing for the County that is volunteer. This is also a blog not a news site. I use it as a news site but she can write about her day just taking a walk around the block it is her right.

    8. @9:59 we all know you are Penny herself. It is obvious.
      I agree with 11:18. Forget the swap just give the County fair market value.

    9. Not a news site? Really? I'm sure Ellie would disagree.

      While it is her right to write what she wants, she reports on meetings in this blog and does not always present the entire picture.

      Regarding the "fair market value" of the land swap: the value of 1.4 acres next to the value of 1.4 acres right next door is equal and thus the fair market value.

      And if you think Penny reads Ellie's "non-news" site you are kidding yourself. Why should she read such drivel, especially as you've proclaimed that it is "not news."

    10. If it's such drivel 230, WTF are you doing here?

    11. Thank you, Adam.

      Ellie, love your reporting.

      Dear anonymous troll - I'm torn by your comments. Your more fact based commentary is helpful. While I still have reservations about the deal, I found it insighful. However, your attacks upon Ellie are shameful and are everything I expect from someone who hides behind anonyminity.

    12. Ellie we love you, don't listen to this political vitriol, its nothing but toxic commentary with maybe a few salient points buried by pro Penny banter. The snowflake thinks this will help Penny Gross and to be honest, I think it is having the opposite affect.

      Snowflake needs to find another audience or as once described by the wicked witch of the west in OZ "I'm melting." Yea and so is Mason District.

    13. Mollie Loeffler1/15/16, 12:58 PM

      To Anon 9:51: "And it is a fact that Ellie was Mollie Loeffler's propagandist and MDC's official mouthpiece. That's why a completely unelected group gets so much time in the A-blog." It is very disappointing that you try to throw slurs at a person who is volunteering and reporting on things. When you have no argument to stand on I suppose a personal attack is what is left.

    14. Mollie:

      Ellie is not volunteering. She sells ad space here for profit. You should know - you were her advertising director before your embarrassing and disastrous run for office.

    15. To clarify, the Annandale Blog sells ad space but is definitely not making a profit. Not planning to quit my day job any time soon.

    16. Anonymous 1/13/16, 9:51 PM
      “And it is a fact that Ellie was Mollie Loeffler's propagandist and MDC's official mouthpiece. That's why a completely unelected group gets so much time in the A-blog.”
      The Mason District Board is not only not a “completely unelected group,” it is elected by delegates from member associations who are elected by their neighborhood associations. So in a sense they are not only elected, they are elected twice. Where do you get your "facts".

    17. The reps to the MDC generally are appointed by thePresident of the local association or a consensus of the Board of the local ass ociation..
      It is seldom a real competitive election.
      BTW, does anyone know how many associations are dues-paying and thus voting members of MDC?
      How many association are there inMason District, does anyone know?

  7. Why doesn't Avalon Bay want the parcel that they are "swapping"? Seems that more property to develop into mixed use would be to their advantage.

    The other question is the necessity of the County buying the existing office building in order to provide 20% of a possible future connection to Seminary Road. What about the other 80%? How much will that cost?

    While everyone wants redevelopment, this proposal is full of maybes Maybe there will be a future road to Seminary Road, maybe there will be a County Social Services building, maybe this will be the incentive needed to spur redevelopment of the area.

    While the "experts" are telling us that a building next to a car dealership across from a shopping center will attract upscale tenants, Penny can't answer the simple question: what happens to the homeless shelter? Their needs don't seem to fit into the current equation

    1. the larger question is why the county is involved with getting a building. there is a 100% empty building less than a mile that the Feds used till a few years ago. they can move in there and not waste money on a new building.

    2. I am afraid to say that the formerly respected MDC which got along quite well with the elected officials (for all our benefit) has now been taken over by complainers united.
      I doesn't seem to get them very far.
      Nor does it enhance Mason District.
      Too bad.

    3. Unfortunately, Ellie leaves out convenient details on why there is a swap. Avalon Bay owns two parcels adjacent to the Fairfax County owned parcel housing the homeless shelter. The two parcels owned by Avalon Bay do not make a good building lot. BUT, the parcel owned by the county and one of the two Avalon parcels DOES make a good building lot.

      The swap will put two lots together that make a good lot for the development and leaves the county with a lot that would be available, if ever deemed necessary, for a government facility. Unlike what you read in the blog - and what Ellie again conveniently leaves out - is that there is no "done deal" with a county building.

      The simple FACT is that Avalon Bay is not receiving county money. They are just completing a deal that has taken about three years to transact. Nothing shady, sneaky, nor private.

      I know Ellie was at the public meeting at the Mason District Center last week and heard these facts but she neglects to tell the entire story.

      If you want to see what Avalon Bay can be, just drive one mile north into Arlington and there are three new beautiful multi-family, mixed use developments where that been blighted strip malls before.

      To claim that this is an underhanded deal that is bad for the county and Mason District is plainly not based in reality.

      Search Avalon Bay's website and you will see what kind of quality development they will bring.

      And to be sure, Avalon Bay is headquartered in Ballston, in Arlington.

      I read complainers on this blog asking where the vision is? Complainers, this IS the vision. And it will be excellent!!

    4. look at Arlington is correct Supervisor Gross, you should go visit it and see how good development looks

    5. All this was covered in a previous blog post. Follow the links. I'm not repeating the whole history of this in every article.

    6. This guy sounds like Donald Trump! "It's gonna be yoog! It's gonna be classy! It's gonna be beautiful! All the opposition is from losers! They're not classy and frankly, they're very ugly people."

      If Avalon wants to do a deal, they should buy the property needed at fair market value. The County is currently using it. And the County shouldn't waste it's money on additional, unnecessary roads.

      But of course, this is harmless talk, and Avalon will get what it wants.

    7. To Anonymous1/13/16, 9:59 PM

      Defender Jake...this ISN'T the vision that Mason District residents have for the SEQ.

      We the people want mixed-use residential/retail, no government office building and a permanent location for the homeless shelter. I refer you to the original SEQ CIP plan and the mission statement of the 2010 plan.

      I give you credit for clarifying the land swap. There is definitely misinformation floating around out there. It is a clean swap of 1.49 acres for 1.49 acres.

      The victims of the swap are the homeless who are getting shuttled to temporary housing...I'm hearing about possible trailers? Bet they aren't Airstreams.

    8. The homeless are indeed victims. One of the individuals who expressed their concern at the January 7 meeting made it very clear that she was concerned about the homeless shelter.

      She stated verbatim that she was concerned that the shelter would be "in her backyard." Her words, not mine.

      You guys are all see-through. You'd rather keep the homeless in a blighted neighborhood than see progress that might put a shelter in your backyard.

      Pretty pathetic.

    9. I don't know what you are worried about. The new DMV will force Harris Teeter to not renew their lease and leave Barcroft Plaza. Leadership will move the homeless shelter to the vacant store with a HUGE long term lease for Federal Realty so that we can have the largest State/County subsidized shopping center for social services on the planet.

      Bring us your drunks, your unlicensed, your illegals and unfortunate souls and we will house you in the newly renovated and converted Plaza with plenty of parking and convenient alcohol access for your food stamp purchases.

      Perfect solution, the homeless don't have cars and the DMV will have all it needs once all the free enterprise tenants vacate; its a win-win.

      Federal Realty will be so pleased with this lease deal that they will more than likely change the name of the shopping center to "Bulova Penny Plaza."

      I cannot wait till our property values skyrocket with this genius of urban planning.

    10. @ 958 and a lot of others really, you do realize that despite this 20 years of hell you won't stop ranting about, your property values are still going up?

    11. What a stupid thing to say. DMV will bring more customers to Harris Teeter. They will sell more groceries.

      You can be assured that the Harris Teeter folks are NOT going to move and that their business will improve.

      There are things in Mason to be concerned about. A DMV in a shopping center is NOT one of them.

      What we should be more concerned about is the new gun shop that opened in Falls Church right next door to St. James School.

    12. Adam Goldberg1/15/16, 7:31 AM said: “@ 958 and a lot of others really, you do realize that despite this 20 years of hell you won't stop ranting about, your property values are still going up?”
      Yes, but with our location, they would go up under just about any scenario. The problem is that as prices are going up residential value, the reason we bought and set our fortunes and futures here, is going down. Here is a typical dynamic:
      You had a mortgage of $1000 or less for a single family house in most of Mason District 20 years ago, you had the American Dream: A good job, a safe, stable, comfortable neighborhood, top of the line schools, a great future and a local government that worked for you, the homeowner. Now the investor owned homes surrounding yours, have 6 or more unrelated tenants with 8 cars, trucks and commercial equipment and inventory in various places around the yard and in the streets and the schools are badly overcrowded, your community associations are nonexistent, your County is teetering on the edge of financial disaster and the County government is unresponsive but never changes except to get worse each year. So we rant, when we are not too tired. Property prices are not the only thing on our minds.

  8. Spending 6 million to buy land for a road necessary for a private development sounds like a subsidy to me.

  9. Let's build the damn thing. The time is right for this to happen, we need to stop bickering and get this out of the ground. Just wish the DMV would move there so they won't cause Harris Teeter at Barcroft Plaza to shutter their doors. There is already a "HUGE" existing DMV sign at this location. It is calling to be on the ground floor of the East Govt Building where it belongs instead of running commercial businesses/services out of the area that we need. But I lament that would make too much sense!

  10. Invariably there are other office buildings in Bailey's (Skyline) that may be used for a county office building. 5600 Columbia Pike is ideal sell to renters of mark rate apartments with quick transit to either Ballston or Pentagon. The building really should be replaced.

  11. I saw the drawings for when/if Seminary Road continues on to Columbia Pike. It narrows to one lane each way with bike lanes. That is not going to ease traffic on Lacy Blvd to Columbia Pike for any savvy driver trying to get westbound on Columbia Pike from Rt. 7 or I-395. The proposed road basically rolls right into the proposed apartment and govt. building. For anyone not living in the SE Quadrant, parking here is awful (blight looks better) and there was no assurance there would be more than enough parking spaces for the apartments since the formula for parking spaces is outdated. I'm happy residents took the time to attend the hearing and are holding our elected officials accountable. What happened to retail and green spaces that residents suggested in many meetings, many times in the last 12 years? Looks like we'll need to drive to Tyson's for that.

    1. I'm also thinking that the blight that is there is better than what the county and developers are proposing.

  12. Thank goodness for the Mason District Council (MDC)!!! They are our community watchdog. Without them residents of Mason District would have no idea what was being planned. Our supervisor works behind closed doors.

    The people in attendance at the standing room only SEQ information meeting Jan. 7 weren’t thrilled with Gross’s latest SEQ plan. Guess you had to be there. This second amendment to the Bailey’s SEQ plan doesn’t even slightly resemble the original charrettes and planning done by the community that called for mixed- use residential and retail. We’ve been abandoned. This is her second amendment of the Bailey’s SEQ plan. Gross is clearly undermining the original CIP mission.

    I want more of Avalon Bay! How about if the county get out of the way and let Avalon Bay work its magic at the entire SEQ? Avalon Bay has beautiful mixed-use residential and retail developments. This is what “we the people” want! Rezoning is a next step to make SEQ redevelopment happen. Rezone the county out of the SEQ.

    Last thing we need in the SEQ or anywhere in Mason District is another office building. We have a 47% vacancy rate. MDC President Debbie Smith was savvy pointing out that 5600 Columbia Pike is available at a fire sale price. That building is huge. It could house the homeless and provide the transitional apartments that Penny says are the modern way. It could also house the east government center services she wants. I don’t think the objectors to the land swap are intending to disparage Avalon Bay. Rather, people want a permanent solution for the homeless, not excessive expenditures for temporary and then permanent housing.

    In fact, I believe there is another option worth looking at for a permanent homeless shelter. Fairfax Animal Hospital moved to a new location and their .44 acre building/site is available. It is within walking distance to transportation and retail and not very far from the current homeless shelter location on Moncure Avenue.

    Last, but definitely not least, John Thillman, Penny’s appointed lead co-chairman of the Seven Corners Revitalization Committee, is a principal of Landmark Atlantic. The title “principal” generally signals a significant financial interest in a company. He is also the registered agent for the LLC that owns the tower building that would be purchased for $6.3 with county transportation funds and $250,000 from Avalon Bay. Does this mean he is a sales agent for the tower building with a commission on a $6.6M purchase? I don’t know, but this smells fishy. He may not be the “owner” of the tower building, but you betcha he has a financial interest in selling the place.

    Hey, I feel a Johnny Rivers song coming on…Secret agent man. Secret agent man. LOL!

  13. To Anonymous1/13/16, 3:17 PM

    There is no bias in this article. Ellie did a great job reporting on the BOS hearing. Watch it online and you will see that.

    There was no discussion at that hearing about the proposed plan amendment/land swap details and therefore she isn't required to write about what didn't occur.

    The details of the real estate exchange (land swap) agreement were reported after Penny's information meeting. Read her earlier blog on that.

    BTW, This is a blog, not a series of comprehensive feature articles.

    1. Right, it is a Blog. Ellie's blog. She is chief writer and editor. "She is not required to write about what didn't occur." That is dubious reporting. She has a responsibility to report the entire story - every time. That is what journalists do. But you are correct, this is not journalism, but blogging. And blogging on behalf of the blowhard from MDC that don't want anything that has Penny Gross' signature.

      So the responder who said he/she'd rather have the blight . . . be careful what you wish for.

      You can't outsmart stupid.

    2. ...but if she's not a journalist as you say, then why does she have the responsibility of a journalist?

    3. Point is: she cannot be both a free-wheeling blogger unshackled by journalistic responsibility yet still claim, as her MDC cronies claim, to be the people's voice of reason when she reports untruths and partial truths.

      The problem is, citizens read the blog and read it as unobjective fact when in fact it is not.

      The blog often leaves out important facts. That is crystal clear.

    4. Can you please link me to where Ellie has claimed to "be the people's voice of reason?" I don't think she's done that, but I guess I could be wrong.

      If citizens read her blog as fact and don't bother to do their own research, that's their fault, not hers.

    5. Ellie does an amazing job and should be recognized for all her hard work. Penny - you and your staff should stop making comments on this blog if all you do is bash Ellie. This is the class that comes out of Penny's office.

  14. To quote 1/13/19 9:59PM -"the 2 parcels owned by Avalon Bay do not make a good building lot..." Then why purchase them?

    There is an adjacent car dealership, a vacant restaurant, an existing office building, road frontage only on Columbia Pike and a homeless shelter next door. If you can't deal with the situation as it is, why would you expect it to change? And if it does, why be surprised that the community wants a voice.

    It seems a questionable purchase for such a savvy company.

    Don't blame Ellie for presenting facts with which you disagree?

    1. That's what developers do. They properties and develop them. Sometimes they buy them one lot at a time until it can make sense.

      And developers spending THEIR OWN money increase the value of a neighborhood intrinsically. One of Ellie's earlier posts was about new restaurants in Mosaic and many of the complainers wondered why that wasn't happening in Mason.

      Well, this is how it happens. Encourage private investment to build, increase value, develop a sense of place, and the nice business will follow.

      Go to Mosaic. It is a classic case study in this type of development. It used to be multiplex theatre with a big parking lot. It is now a thriving mixed use town center.

      And, it didn't happen in one year with one developer. It took over ten years with multiple developers.

      And, what is "designed" in a masterplan or preliminary design charrette is almost never implemented exactly. This is always guided by economic, programmatic, legal, neighborhood, and other influences.

      This is a good deal for Mason and a good deal for Mason residents.

      Embrace it.

    2. yes mosaic is a thriving mixed used town center. nothing even close is ever suggested in mason. nothing is ever mixed use. will these condos have retail? are they mixed used? seems we approve strip malls, fast food and random condo projects,nothing with long term planning or thinking. it is a pipe dream if you think by putting a few random things here and there the area will become nicer and better. it will only mean more of a strain on our roads and schools b/c it wasn't properly planned out. speaking of planned out, how does this effect the millions of dollars we just spent bricking the sidewalk from columbia pike to seminary. won't that all be torn up?

    3. Mosaic is thriving because is is not in the dumpster near the DMV, ABC and all the other crap we have in Mason.

  15. Avalon Bay builds beautiful mixed use residential/retail developments. Now they are interested in Mason District. This is great! But, they have been limited to residential only, this isn't great!

    Supervisor Gross needs to be responsive to her constituents and give up her unfathomable idea of building her East County Government Center palace.

    The area economics and 47% office vacancy rate in Bailey's Crossroads don't support her singular dream. Gross and her ECGC are impediments to economic recovery in Bailey's.

    Gross won her election by 3000 votes only. She doesn't have a mandate for "my way or the highway".

    Get out of the way, Penny. Your constituents want economic recovery and want builders like Avalon Bay to build mixed use developments.

    1. hit the nail on the head. let Avalon Bay build mix use here and no gov office building. that would work for most people.

    2. Let the government workers go into a vacant office building available. Quit wasting tax-payer dollars on your social services castles.

    3. "wasting tax-payer dollars on social services"

      Really? You want to cut out social services. The services that would be placed in the proposed building are costing the county $3.2 million/year in rent at present.

      What social services do you propose to get rid of?

    4. Correction - Gross won by 2494 votes.

  16. There will be many opportunities for the community to express themselves during the zoning process and then the design approval process.

    There are no "done deals" yet with the SEQ. And if you want to see the "vision" for Bailey's google it and you will see that it DOES INDEED included mixed use.

    Rome was not built in a day.

    1. nor has Mason in 20 years of failed leadership

  17. There has been tons of progress. I've lived in the neighborhood for over 20 years and it is is WAY better. Pull your head out of the sand.

    1. examples?

    2. Are you serious? I'd love to hear how it's better!

  18. To Anonymous1/14/16, 4:36 PM

    You really are a joker, aren't you? I've lived in this area 34 years and I can tell you definitively that it has been a downhill slide in the past 20.

    Penny is ignoring the SEQ plan that calls for mixed use. That big expensive planning process done with community charrettes and beautiful drawings of those designs has been overturned by Penny.

    Nothing originally planned called for an office building, let alone another a government office building/monolithic palace or high rise urban school. She manipulates and manipulates to save her dream palace.

    Get out of the way Penny. Listen to your constituents for a change.

  19. To Anonymous1/14/16, 1:42 PM

    We know that trick. There's no room for discussion once a plan gets to the zoning process. Folks were shut out of a decent/fruitable comment process at the Planning Commission when Seven Corners was deliberated.

    Can't pull the wool over our eyes again. If this plan gets sent to zoning its a done deal. Penny always maneouvers to get her way.

  20. To: Anonymous1/14/16, 4:58 PM

    Penny already has WAPO's Olivio in her pocket. Sour grapes because she can't control the Annandale Blog?

    Ellie isn't beholden to anyone. She writes a chronological digest and we all know it. Look back at her other articles if you must.

    BTW, I thought I heard Penny was MDC president once upon a time. Yet you now excoriate this godsend to the community. You rock MDC! Wish more people knew about you.

  21. This land swap needs to be approved, and the ground-breaking of a new apartment building by Avalon Bay needs to take place ASAP. This area is the ugliest eyesore in Fairfax County. The opponents could care less about Mason District. They are willing to oppose any redevelopment of this area. What will it take, someone trying to keep warm inside the abandoned Safari Lounge setting off a massive multi-block fire, for this community to rally in support of redevelopment?

    All the critics need and deserve the experience of further government services moved to their doorsteps. What if the homeless shelter is temporary moved to the abandoned Bloom storefront; or the closed senior center in blighted downtown Annandale?

    The shrieks of horror, the wailing and gnashing of teeth that would result would make the complaints over the move of the DMV to Barcroft Plaza sound like the soothing sounds of a day at the beach in comparison.

    In short, the opponents of this land-swap need to Move On.

    1. AMEN!
      And next time, before they start biting, it might be positive for the District if they find out the facts of how these projects work.
      This project is very positive for Mason and Baileys in particular...
      Perhaps learning more about land use would make the district more attractive to developers.
      Now anyone with any ideas has to
      consider the automatic pulling out of knives by the Mason District Council.
      Why do they do that?
      They are too much political and too much interested in the economic welfare of Mason District.
      I shall see if my Citizens Association belongs.
      MDC is not a positive influence.. What a shame.

    2. If this is so positive, then why were all the people (standing room only) at Penny's meeting opposed to it?

    3. Not everyone was opposed, not even close.

  22. The property of that empty office building referenced by some at Carlin Springs Road is partially in Arlington County

    1. And your point is???

  23. What did this MDC group do?

    1. They testified at the BOS hearing.

  24. Above the Noise1/15/16, 3:19 PM

    Let's tell it like it is:

    1. This is Ellie's Blog.

    She has the right to favor the MDC people if she wants. She has no responsibility to give both sides of the story.

    And, either way, it seems Penny Gross realized long ago that Ellie was in camp with the Anti-Penny crowd, and has ingnored Ellie -- as she has a right too.

    I have no problem with Ellie's slanted coverage. It is what her readers (the hyper-involved, Anti-Penny crowd) wants to read.

    Ellie does a very nice job of (a) reporting updates in Mason District and (b) using her blog to denigrate anything Penny Gross does. It is her right, and no one should complain. It is what it is.

    2. Coming to Grips

    Penny won both of her elections handily. Any incumbent of 20 years starts with at least 40 percent against her/him, that's just how politics works. The Lake Barcroft and Ravenwood Park precincts were able to push Swanson and Loeffler's numbers into the mid 40s, but there was no widespread dissatisfaction with Penny to make the races very close.

    3. The MDC

    Ellie, in her thoughts above, is absolutely spot on. The MDC folks are the ones who testify at all these public hearings. They do not represent anyone, but they are definitely committed to their cause. So if Ellie is going to cover public hearings, these MDC folks are the ones who are going to receive the coverage.

    I think of the MDC as kind of like a Book Club. They are harmless, cute even. I am really impressed with their ability to hallucinate a world where their opinion actually matters.

    In all, Mason District is very lucky to have Penny Gross for as long as she wants to be Supervisor. The voters obviously like her and it gives people like Ellie and the MDC stuff to complain about.

    And that was above the noise.

    1. I'm actually trying to be objective and cover both sides.

    2. No, less than 15% of registered voters obviously like Penny. That is all she could get for her $309,000 in campaign expenses. She paid $36 per vote Mollie paid $8 per vote. Mollie no in a position or inclined to sell of Mason District for votes. A little more money and/or a lot fewer lies about Mollie's politics, and the nightmare would have ended Nov 3 2015.

    3. "but there was no widespread dissatisfaction with Penny to make the races very close." If that is true then why did Penny, the 5 term incumbent, have to spend over 4 times as much per vote as Mollie to get people to vote for her? Because Penny had to run on her record and it costs a lot to throw enough mud to hide 20 years of failed leadership.

    4. Very helpful! Divide, smear, denigrate.
      Go to it 1/16/16!!!
      Ellie- perhaps you should look around at other blogs and make up a list of
      expectations of the writers and start deleting as appropriate.

    5. ABOVE THE NOISE said: "MDC folks are the ones who testify at all these public hearings."

      At the recent 7 Corners Board of Supervisors meeting over 40 people testified against higher density. The Board of the Mason District Council is only 4 people. The other 36 people were concerned, well informed neighborhood leaders who strongly disagreed with Penny’s proposal. Hyper-involved is not the problem here. Hypo-involved has been Mason District’s plague. But not to worry, Dr. Mason MDC has the antidote: let the people be heard and be respected.

    6. What are you saying? Not sure, are you one of those people that wanted the DMV that has been in hiding?

  25. Looks like MDC just helped the community with the DMV situation.