|Supervisor Penny Gross (left) hands out door prizes with chief aide Fran Tunick.|
“Overall, 2016 was great year in Mason District,” said Supervisor Penny Gross at the annual Mason District Holiday Gathering Dec. 12.
Gross presented a review of the past year and a look ahead, while Christmas music by the Bonnie Piano Quartet, door prizes, and refreshments rounded out the evening.
|The Bonnie Piano Quartet entertains guests at the Mason Holiday Gathering.|
Several projects approved in 2016 should get under way next year, Gross told the audience:
- The Board of Supervisors approved a retail center by Spectrum Development on Leesburg Pike in Bailey’s Crossroads.
- A proposal to temporarily relocate the Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter to Lincolnia was withdrawn when the BoS purchased property on Seminary Road in Bailey’s Crossroads for a permanent shelter.
- A mixed-use retail/multifamily housing development at Graham Park Plaza on Arlington Boulevard was approved by the BoS Dec. 6.
- On the same day, the BoS approved the e-Loft concept, with flexible units for living or working, in a vacant office building at Columbia Pike and Carlin Springs Road. “This one is going to be special,” Gross said. It’s a new concept that’s going to invest $50 million in the community and will be “a real shot in the arm to revitalization.”
- The old Jefferson Fire Station is going to be replaced with a bigger facility with drive-through bays better able to handle large apparatus.
Among other new developments: LongHorn Steakhouse opened in Bailey’s Crossroads, the Home Depot in Seven Corners was expanded, Glory Days is coming to Barcroft Plaza, and Pinecrest Plaza is getting a new TD Bank.
And then there’s the one everybody asks about: An Aldi grocery store is opening in early 2017 in part of the space formerly occupied by Bloom in the Annandale Shopping Center on Columbia Pike.
When asked about the proposed apartment project on the site of the bowling alley on Markham Street in Annandale, Gross said it’s still going to happen. The BoS approved a rezoning application for the project in December 2014, but no building permits have been issued yet. “They are still trying to work out the financing,” she said.
Gross told another audience member she does not know what will go into the spot vacated by Staples in Pinecrest Plaza.
“The most earthshaking event this fall was the presidential election,” Gross noted. Hillary Clinton carried Mason District by a wide margin, as large numbers of voters turned out at the polls. More than 6,400 Mason residents voted absentee, and turnout in Mason was 81.2 percent. The Mason precincts with the highest turnout were Barcroft and Belvedere.
A big highlight of the year was the renewal of Fairfax County’s Triple-A bond rating, which saved the county $770 million in interest, Gross said.
Other initiatives cited by Gross included the successful Culmore Cleanups, the historic market at Pine Ridge Park commemorating a vanished African-American community known as The Pines, and the Land Use College to educate residents in advance of the next phase of the Lincolnia Planning Study.
Among the challenges of 2016 was winter storm Jonas, which dumped more than 30 inches of snow on the area, Gross recalled. Rescue squads had to get through heavy drifts on foot to save some residents.
The failure of voters to pass a meals tax – which would have generated as much as $100 million annually – means the county will not diversify revenue sources and will still be dependent on the real estate tax, she said.
The county recycling center at the ABC store on Little River Turnpike was shut down despite efforts by Gross to keep it open. Recycling at the center had dropped by double digits over the past few years, while illegal dumping of items like furniture and mattresses had gotten out of hand.
Traffic and transportation continue to be major issues for the supervisor, even though projects are mostly overseen by VDOT. In 2016, 12 traffic-calming projects were approved in Mason District, and 10 more have been proposed. Pedestrian connectivity projects have been completed or are under construction in nine areas, and bicycle lanes have been installed on several roads.
The county is in the process of implementing some of the recommendations of the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission, Gross said. Since the Diversion First program was adopted, more than 200 people with mental health issues have been diverted to treatment instead of being jailed. The creation of a Police Civilian Review Panel was approved by the Board of Supervisors last week.
She said the BoS is considering the commission’s recommendations for equipping police officers with body cameras but first needs to resolve issues around cost, privacy, and how the data will be stored.
Gross’s 2017 leadership series will begin June 14. These sessions offer an opportunity for civic association and HOA board members to speak with representatives from the police, fire department, code compliance, public works, and other county agencies.
Despite the challenges and the “everyday aggravations of life, we are so lucky to live here in Fairfax County,” said Gross, citing such assets as the great schools and parks. “It’s an honor and privilege to serve as your Mason District Supervisor.”