|Penny Gross speaks to residents at the annual Mason District Holiday Town Gathering.|
“I love my job. I really do. I consider Mason District my family,” Gross told the audience of several dozen people at the annual event at the Mason District Government Center.
Currently the vice chair, Gross was first elected to the board in 1995 and is currently serving her sixth term. She plans to host a campaign kickoff event in February. The election is Nov. 5, 2019.
If re-elected, Gross would bring some stability to the board, as big changes are expected in 2020.
Chair Sharon Bulova announced earlier this month that she will not run for re-election. Supervisor Jeff McKay (Lee) is running for the chairmanship. James Migliaccio, who represents the Lee District on the Planning Commission, is running for McKay’s seat on the board.
Pet Herrity (Springfield), one of two Republicans on the board, is reportedly also considering a run for the chairmanship. Linda Sperling is running for the Springfield seat on the board.
Both John Cook (Braddock), the other Republican, and Linda Smyth (Providence) announced they are not running for re-election. James Walkinshaw, the chief of staff for Rep. Gerry Connolly, is running for the Braddock seat on the board.
Two candidates are running in the Democratic primary for the Providence seat on the BoS: Providence school board member Dalia Palchik, who already received the endorsement of Sharon Bulova, and Erika Yalowitz, vice president of the Providence District Council.
Gross’ Holiday Town Gathering featured entertainment by the Reflections Quartet, an all-female barbershop group based in Fairfax, door prizes, a review of the past year in Mason District, and a bit of news from Gross.
Gross has been in discussions with the owner of the Kmart property, who is “looking for opportunities to redevelop,” she said. “There’s an opportunity to do something really great there.” It won’t be a Wegman’s, as those stores need a much bigger space.
There’s a possibility that a Chik-fil-A could come to the former antiques center property on Little River Turnpike, although that is far from a done deal, Gross told the audience.
The bowling alley on Markham Street will be redeveloped as an entertainment center as the owners who had planned a high-end apartment project on that site decided to sell the property instead.
Gross predicts Amazon’s plans to locate a new headquarters in Crystal City will have a spillover effect, with some employees choosing to live in Mason District and a possibility the project could boost redevelopment opportunities.
Gross listed some of the highlights of the past year:
- Bryan Hill took office as county executive in February and presented his first budget, which fully funded the employee compensation plan. The board later shaved half a cent off the proposed tax increase.
- Gross’s civic leadership series last winter offered civic association leaders a chance to learn about emergency management, code compliance, and other county services. The 2019 series starts Jan. 12.
- The Mason Police District pilot-tested a new body camera program. “Preliminary results show great promise,” Gross said. A report on the pilot will be submitted to the BoS in early January.
- The Jefferson Fire station has been demolished and will be replaced with a new bigger building. Renovations and an expansion of the Edsall Fire Station will start in 2019.
- A bond referendum passed by voters last month will provide funds to renovate the Seven Corners Fire Station and the Mason Police Station.
- Among land use issues in 2018, the board adopted a new zoning ordinance on short-term rentals and approved an expansion of the Vulcan plant. The redevelopment of Graham Park Plaza will start next year, and a proposal by Christopher Land for a 55+ community on Gallows Road will be considered in January.
- Sidewalk projects along Route 50 and Route 7 and several traffic calming projects were completed in 2018 and more will be done next year.
- Roads in subdivisions throughout Mason District were repaved in 2018.
- A temporary roundabout was installed on Ravensworth Road with federal funding.
- Ground was broken on the new Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter.
- A temporary, interactive public art project was installed in Seven Corners last spring.
- The Spotlight by Starlight programs drew thousands of people to free concerts at two local parks.
- JEB Stuart High School was renamed Justice High School, and Justice students participated in a new free bus pass program.
- In September, the huge St. James sports complex opened in Mason District, and on the same day, a new golf similar was unveiled at the Valis Family Golf Learning Center at the Pinecrest Golf Center.
- In October, the big event was the hugely successful Taste of Annandale. This street festival “is getting so large, it might need a new venue,” Gross said.
- Extensive improvements at Backlick Park were unveiled last month.
- Both the BoS and school board passed the One Fairfax resolution, with calls for both bodies to consider equity issues when considering policy proposals.
- As chair of the BoS Environment Committee, Gross is working on a way to reduce utility costs for county facilities. A free exchange program allowing residents to turn in regular light bulbs and get more efficient bulbs was extremely popular, with long lines at the library.
- Among the volunteers Gross chose to honor in 2018 were the Community Labor Force, the Sheriff’s program that uses inmates for public maintenance projects.
- Gross’ motions to support the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution were approved by the board. “Only one more state needs to ratify the amendment,” she said. “Wouldn’t it be great if that was the commonwealth of Virginia?”