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Board slows expansion of affordable housing fees

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors directed county staff to continue studying a proposed countywide expansion of an affordable housing funding strategy used in Tysons Corner before bringing it back to the board level.

The proposal, presented to a board committee earlier this month, builds on a concept pioneered in Tysons Corner, where the developers of commercial properties near the four new Metro stations are expected to contribute $3 per square foot to the county’s housing trust fund.

The so-called “3-2-1” concept would encourage $3 per square foot contributions from commercial development in areas within a quarter-mile of a transit station, $2 per square foot for properties between a quarter and half mile, and $1 per square foot for any other commercial development. It would apply only to rezoning cases that include an increase in density.

However, some supervisors expressed concern that the proposal would hamper commercial development; particularly in areas targeted for revitalization that already struggle to attract new commercial development.

On Tuesday, Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee) successfully put forward a motion that puts the initiative on hold until county officials can evaluate how well it is working in Tysons.

“Before we do this in other areas of the county, we have to make sure that it works there first,” McKay said.

County to review sidewalk snow removal

Fairfax County will convene a forum to review regulations and procedures for removing snow from sidewalks after winter storms. Under the initiative from Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill), the forum will include representatives from the Virginia Department of Transportation, the county transportation and public works departments, Fairfax County Public Schools and community organizations.

Hudgins said the latest major snowstorm demonstrated that there are still communication and coordination challenges between the different entities responsible for snow removal.

For example, in Reston, the Reston Association cleared many paths and sidewalks “and then VDOT blocked every last one of them” when plowing the streets, Hudgins said. As the county tries to make certain neighborhoods like Tysons Corner more pedestrian-friendly, this can’t happen, she said.

Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence) said she saw people standing in the street waiting for buses because the bus stop was piled high with snow and suggested that there might need to be a list of target areas where sidewalks must be clear, such as schools, transit station areas and bus stops.

“Everybody was really pretty pleased with how VDOT cleared the roads, the problem was with what they were doing with the snow,” Smyth said.

County to spray for cankerworm in April

Fairfax County urban foresters recorded a significant increase in the number of fall cankerworms in certain portions of the county during their annual survey. The county will spray 2,200 acres in the most affected areas in late April to combat the caterpillars.

Contrary to its name, the fall cankerworm is destructive only when the caterpillars are active in the early spring. In normal years, the fall cankerworm causes little to no damage. However, Fairfax County is experiencing a dramatic increase in population levels in residential and forested areas, according to urban foresters. Defoliation will stress the trees and if the cankerworms are left unchecked, may put hundreds of acres of trees in Fairfax County at risk.

Areas of the Mason, Mount Vernon and Lee districts with a high fall cankerworm population will be sprayed with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which is similar to a naturally occurring bacteria that is often used on organic gardens.

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