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County leaders honor Griffin

Past and present members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors paid tribute to outgoing county executive Anthony Griffin on Tuesday. Griffin retired April 24 after 12 years leading county staff.

Those who worked closely with Griffin during the years repeatedly cited his calm demeanor and recalled how reassuring that was during times of crisis, such as Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the sniper shootings and the Great Recession.

His tenure also included the county planning for massive redevelopment in Tysons Corner around four new Metro stations. Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence) said Griffin’s planning background was an asset in that regard.

“Of 1 million people in the county, I am not sure there has been anyone who has had more influence on the direction of this county over the last decade,” said Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock).

Griffin’s replacement is Ed Long, a longtime deputy county executive who came out of retirement to take the top post.

‘Solar freedom’ bill won’t see light of day

The Virginia General Assembly has upheld Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) veto of legislation preventing community associations from prohibiting the installation of solar panels on homes.

The Senate could not muster the votes to override the veto of Senate Bill 627, which was sponsored by state Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Dist. 34) of Fairfax.

Petersen expressed disappointment that his “solar freedom” bill will not become law. He said the bill would have allowed all Virginians who live in homeowners associations to lower their electricity bills and qualify for federal tax credits by installing solar panels on their houses.

Some community associations traditionally have prohibited or restricted solar panels for aesthetic reasons. In 2008, the General Assembly passed legislation to address that situation.

That law prohibited community associations from imposing new rules banning solar panels after July 1, 2008, but still maintained reasonable restrictions on size and placement of solar panels.

However, that law did not affect solar panel prohibitions that had been in place before July 1, 2008. That’s why Petersen introduced S.B. 627 this legislative session.

“Ninety-nine percent of the homeowner associations’ covenants were unaffected by the law in 2008 because the restrictions already existed,” Petersen said. “My bill struck out the grandfather clause and said this will be the state law across the board and prohibitions on solar panels are not enforceable in Virginia.”

During the General Assembly’s regular session, the Senate passed S.B. 627 on a 31-8 vote, and the House approved it 74-24. But, on April 9, McDonnell vetoed the bill.

The governor said the 2008 law provided community associations with more than enough opportunities to change previous covenants regarding solar panels. S.B. 627 was an attempt to retroactively enforce that law, McDonnell said.

Overturning a veto requires a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and the Senate. That means getting 27 senators to vote in favor of overriding the vote.

On April 18, the Senate voted 21-18 in favor of overturning McDonnell’s veto — and so the vote failed.

Petersen said he probably will reintroduce the legislation in the future.

— Ashley McLeod, Capital News Service