Mount Vernon District Town Hall: A Public Service

Observations from Saturday's Mount Vernon Town Hall Meeting.

I just got back from Supervisor Gerry Hyland’s 25th Annual Town Meeting at Mount Vernon High School. The meeting started at about 9:15, but for an hour or so before that, you can visit the 30 vendors with tables displaying their wares. The Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce, the Park Authority, INOVA Hospital, George Mason University, etc., all have tables so it’s a great opportunity to learn more about what resources we have in Mount Vernon.

Then, at 9:15 we listened to several speakers: County Chairwoman Sharon Bulova, Congressman Gerry Connolly and County Executive Tony Griffin all give updates.  The interesting tidbit that Mr. Griffin shared was that he will be proposing a budget to the Board of Supervisors that maintains the current tax rate (which means if your assessment goes up, you’ll pay more taxes). He also will recommend that the county give a little more money to the school system. 

After the speeches, Gerry Hyland did his popular “Bus Tour,” where he simulates being on a bus going up and down Richmond Highway (by the way, he asks that everyone not refer to it anymore as “Route One”). This “tour” provides an update on all the development in the area. So, the audience learned that the new Costco will be completed by the Spring of 2013, the new Mulligan Road that will lead us all to the new Wegman’s will be done by September 2013, and that the Gum Springs community is adamantly opposed to a new Transit Center at the corner of Boswell and Route One, uh, excuse me, Richmond Highway. We also learn that they want to put a new turf field in at Grist Mill Park. Lots of good info. The “tour” will be available on the Supervisor’s website in a short while. It’s worth a look. 

Now that I’ve done my “reporting” thing, I must now make a few observations: 

I’m sorry but can’t folks stay off their friggin' cell phones and give the speakers their full attention?  What is so vital to know on a Saturday morning?  Do you really need to get an update on your son’s soccer game or your daughter’s dance class?  And this goes for the speakers on the dais. Yep, one of the speakers actually had his head down during most of the presentations, looking into his lap. Now, sure, he may have just been fascinated with a bug crawling on the floor but I think his bobbing elbows gave it all away.

In future meetings, give everyone a name tag. This is the meeting that most of the movers and shakers come to but many have yet to put a face to a name.  Gerry’s staff might be interested in meeting (or running away from) a constituent who they may have been talking to over the phone for weeks.  It’s just a nice, social thing to do.

He would never say anything, but I think it was insulting to have Dan Storck, our school board representative, as the last speaker – even after the bus tour.  If there is a topic that is more important than education, I’m open to suggestions.  But, after the bus tour, half the room empties out and the ones that are left are too preoccupied with lining up to the microphones to get ready to hear themselves talk. Dan deserves better.

A shout-out to the MVHS Academic Boosters Corp for getting to Starbucks at the crack of dawn to have coffee for the attendees. And thanks for the low fat donuts!  And good decision on charging for the breakfast. For too many years, I watched in horror as too many people just took the coffee and food and never made the suggested donations.    

Anyway, it was a useful event and Gerry and his staff should be commended for doing this year after year.  It’s a great public service – it's just too bad that most of the public does not attend.   

m.tracy February 07, 2012 at 07:29 PM
what struck me about that meeting, and all the politicians' talk about the importance of widening rte 1, , is that all the pretty plans for the area from Beacon Mall to Woodlawn don't show a widened road . Just one scary slide shown at the town meeting:: the development plan for holly,woods,and vines /bestway site, calls for 435 new residences (about 1000 new residents);, 60 k sf of offices,; 80 k sq ft of retail (retail alone would be be more than 4 times the size of the current hollin hall safeway). . To get all this development on site (and keep heights lower near residential neighborhoods), most of the development will be jammed up against rte 1-- leaving little space to get in and out of rte 1, or add a lane.. just like the heights at groveton (now called the beacon at groveton) to see what people can look forward to in terms of perpetual gridlock.. .
MSandyDogg February 07, 2012 at 07:54 PM
The bus tour isn't produced by Connolly's office -- it's Hyland's.
Jessie Biele (Editor) February 07, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Hi T Ailshire and MSandyDogg, The bus tour is produced by Gerry Hyland's office - I just made the clarification in the article. Thanks for reading. Jessie Biele, Local Editor
T Ailshire February 07, 2012 at 10:59 PM
My bad, folks. Connolly has replied - form letters that don't address the issue. It's Hyland who's never responded. I get the Gerrys mixed up - they seem as one to me.
Steve Chaconas February 08, 2012 at 01:05 PM
Gerry Hyland has always been responsive! With the exception of one of his former staffers, his staff has been very helpful on the phone, via email and in person. His town meeting was well attended and Jay Spiegel's singing of the National Anthem, accompanied by the crowd, was very nice!
Wildermann February 08, 2012 at 04:49 PM
The early poster session is helpful and keeps citizens aware of services and agencies operating in the District. The blather by pols might serve some useful purpose if taped and used as part of a study looking for a cure for insomnia. I think people attending an event such as this are engaged enough in the civic affairs of the community that additional statements of the obvious and reiterations of what is already reported in the news and on county websites is not the best use of time. I did not stay for the bus tour this year. I viewed the online version. I have attended many in years past and there is a repetitive predictability that only blurs the reality of Richmond Highway. I like Supervisor Highland for his personable nature and his friendly demeanor. It has served him well. His once clever approach to the bus tour unfortunately has evolved into a slide show of promised revitalization with snazzy renderings of projects as destination points on the simulated bus trip. These glittering generalities however, do not deliver his citizen passengers of the faux bus tour to the long desired destination of a renewed and revitalized highway corridor.
T Ailshire February 08, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Maybe you have a -D after your name, or maybe he has something against my name, but my experience has been exactly the opposite.
Steve Chaconas February 08, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Hi T Ailshire. I do not have a D after my name. I have found Gerry and his staff, with the exception of one former staffer, to be very cooperative. I do not agree with everything Gerry does, and feel comfortable letting him know. Now Connolly is a different story!
T Ailshire February 08, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Okay, you get the last word. He's been responsive to you. My experience has been different. See ya.
Wildermann February 08, 2012 at 09:14 PM
I have neither the D or R after my name and like Mr. Chaconas, find the Supervisor and his staff responsive to what I consider the important day to day neighborhood issues. I openly disagree with the Supervisor on a number of issues such as North Hill, Westgrove Dog Park and US 1 development in public forums, local papers and blogs but never felt like the Supervisor or his staff would or ever did hold back or deny services requested for the neighborhood. I think the Supervisor deserves credit for addressing the daily concerns of his many constituents and I don't think he cares what ones political affiliation is or any other persuasions for that matter. For that he has an immense popularity. My primary criticism is over the length of time served and the snail like pace of addressing revitalization. I recognize the overwhelming odds of a highway corridor split between 2 magisterial districts, Dillon Rule by right development as an impediment to development and trying to work with a highway that throughout its nearly 100 year history as a paved road is unevenly developed because many sections were built before there was planning and zoning and much was developed before there was a uniform public facilities manual for guidance. This has left much of the highway in a state of disarray with degraded sites and developers hesitant to come to the table because the county and communities look to them to help replace and fix enormously expensive and very old infrastructure.
Kari Warren February 09, 2012 at 02:35 AM
I must add to Mr. Tillet's comments that there is also hesitance on the part of developers to do business with Route 1 (Sorry, Gerry...it's what I have called it since I was 12 years old...and I love The Highway dearly). The reason is because of some of the truly hostile civic groups that have made every project nearly impossible to develop due to numerous demands. So....we are left with the byright properties going up, one by one....laundromat by laundromat...Walmart by Walmart...drug store by drug store... I've seen several really great projects that had developers walking away because of the impossible demands.
DAVE February 09, 2012 at 12:01 PM
Kari, I agree with you 100%. Richmond Highway will never be more than a poorly developed afterthought in Fairfax County until someone takes the bull by the horns and tell some of these civic associations to suck it up for the greater good. My thought is always the same: get a fleet of bulldozers and level everything on Richmond Highway from the Beltway to Belvoir.
Wildermann February 09, 2012 at 05:07 PM
How nice of you to suggest that US 1 communities like mine that are multicultural with a range of income levels and housing options need to suck it up and get flattened for the greater good. We too have a strong sense of community, hold block parties and work diligently for revitalization on US 1 for all communities. Faulting us for wanting to improve our neighborhood is less productive than challenging county leaders and elected officials for claims that made over strip shopping centers is revitalization. Keep giving those with power a pass to do nothing to fix the degradation and to implement a true revitalization plan for the corridor by attacking US 1 communities. I and other members of my community spent 18 months of our lives civilly engaged with developers alongside with SFDC. County officials were the missing wheel in the process in that they would not agree to incentives that we agreed with the developer were needed from Fairfax County to make the project work for both sides. Never mind that the same kinds of incentives (tax increment funding) were being dispensed like candy elsewhere in the county. We and the developer were up against the TIF Nazis " No TIF for you" was all we heard. Leadership is more than delivering day to day services. Just how many times does the Mount Vernon Supervisor have to take Mount Vernon citizens on a faux bus tour and wax eloquent on the potential for a better US 1 without delivering his passengers to that destination?
m.tracy February 09, 2012 at 10:16 PM
what is missing is a coordinated plan for development of both sides of rte 1 that addresses the gridlock and concentrates development only in areas where there is adequate access / egress. the county's comprehensive plan is very vague and general, and exceptions seem to be made on a case-by-case basis, with little coordination between the leaders of the two separate districts on either side of rte 1.. based on saturday's meeting, it appears that our leaders are simply responding to grandiose plans of individual developers and their architects without giving serious thought to the consequences--, not only in terms of the impact on residents of adjacent communities, but on mobility.. blaming the state for not funding improvements to rte 1 may be politically correct, but the headlong rush to develop rte 1 means that even if funds become available, it will soon be prohibitively expensive to try to widen that road .. the county's intense focus on luring new companies to the area with taxpayer- funded incentives may sound exciting, but until more realism in brought to bear, it's hard to see that we will be better off. .
Wildermann February 10, 2012 at 03:35 PM
I agree completely regarding the lack of coordination. A major thoroughfare it would seem should not bisect two districts for that reason unless the leaders of the two districts are truly focused together and appoint citizens from both sides of the highway and ask advisory committees and planning commissioners from both sides to work together. VA agencies should be actively engaged as well. I spent over a year on the Belle Haven Watershed Planning committee. A major contributor to the degraded water quality is Richmond Highway due to storm water infrastructure built to decades old standards. I consistently asked where was VDOT during the meeting sessions as well as business and or land developers with properties that had massive parking areas also with old infrastructure during the planning process. It was repeatedly stated that the DEPWES (Department of Public Works & Environmental Services) cannot dictate to a Virginia State Agency whether they attend such planning sessions. Business owners and developers with property holdings were invited but apparently choose not to attend, You are also correct in that it is the developers and architects that are in the drivers seat with elected officials following their plans instead of leading any coordinated effort. The neighborhoods consistently are reactive to the plan and then get demonized for their reactions. (cont. next page)
Wildermann February 10, 2012 at 03:47 PM
(continuation) I visited with my wife last summer her cousin in Sweden, a retired businessman that is a planning commissioner for the town of Ekera, a suburb of Stockholm. The Swedes are outstanding business people and they don't look to do development that won't turn a profit, but developers know that any proposals must be of service to the community and must meet rigorous environmental standards. They accept the community/environmental centered approach to development and there is no shortage of proposals and unlike their American counterparts the never ending whine that restrictions and expectations will hurt their bottom line is non-existent. I saw a wide range of residential developments, mixed use developments and commercial development projects and these were thriving, aesthetically appealing places to live work and shop. The water quality standards are some of the best in the world and there is a well earned trust for the local government from the citizens.The planning commissioner said that there were many project proposals in the pipeline for years to come. Apparently there is still a profit to be made when development is community centered and environmentally friendly.
Will Radle February 10, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Ron, thank you for the excellent article. Gerry Hyland sets a fine example as a public servant. He shows how to run a town hall meeting. Every person who wanted to speak was heard. Gerry and everyone listens. Ahem, as for the guy repeatedly invading Gerry's personal space on stage, he needs to take some lessons from this great public servant. Gerry has been providing this forum for 25 years. Does anyone remember him ever yelling at anyone, at any constituent in his decades of serving our community? Or telling someone who invests time to attend, stands up in a public forum and asks a question to sit down and write a letter as he dismisses their concerns, for example someone who wants to avoid future government shut-downs, as having an agenda? I was struck by how this neighbor whom I do not know and have never met was treated: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLSnAt4F0c8 Jim Moran acts as if we need to suspect our neighbors of nefarious activities because they ask a question. He needs to learn how to treat people with dignity. He has helped cultivate a culture of insularity, arrogance and corruption. We need more Democratic leaders like Gerry Hyland who earn broad community support even from people who may disagree on issues. Recently on MSNBC, Jim Moran told Martin Bashir that treating people with disrespect was a weakness of character. We agree. It's a weakness of character. It's time to move forward. Don't you think? A. Will Radle, Jr. www.VA8.com
Wildermann February 10, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Much of the conversation here has to do with the Supervisors long tenure and what is happening on US 1 between Old Town and Alexandria. We know the positive side of Supervisor Hyland and it is acknowledged in numerous posts. After 25 years of service how would we not know? So Mr. Radle, the VA8 is a large area and US1 is in it and citizens want revitalization that has been elusive due to a wide array of perceived problems and challenges. What specifically would you do to get the ball rolling on a coordinated revitalization that engages all of the principle stakeholders (neighborhoods, developers, businesses, local, state and federal agencies) of the Richmond Highway corridor? How would you serving in the US Congress be a game changer in a decades long effort to get the "bus" to deliver the citizens to the their desired revitalized Richmond Highway destination?
Will Radle February 11, 2012 at 01:09 AM
Martin Tillett's following comment was inadvertently deleted when I modified my earlier statement. Mr. Tillett, I apologize for the mistake. I will respond to your excellent question. "Much of the conversation here has to do with the Supervisors long tenure and what is happening on US 1 between Old Town and Alexandria. We know the positive side of Supervisor Hyland and it is acknowledged in numerous posts. After 25 years of service how would we not know?So Mr. Radle, the VA8 is a large area and US1 is in it and citizens want revitalization that has been elusive due to a wide array of perceived problems and challenges. What specifically would you do to get the ball rolling on a coordinated revitalization that engages all of the principle stakeholders (neighborhoods, developers, businesses, local, state and federal agencies) of the Richmond Highway corridor? How would you serving in the US Congress be a game changer in a decades long effort to get the "bus" to deliver the citizens to the their desired revitalized Richmond Highway destination?"
Will Radle February 11, 2012 at 01:59 AM
Mr. Tillett, thank you for your excellent question. Please call me Will. Richmond Highway is my home base. In fact, I am the only resident of Fairfax County seeking to serve as VA8's representative. I have been serving as a neighborhood representative on the Lee District Land Use and Transportation Committee beginning in 2004 and have been a member of the Mt Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce since 2008. First, I will provide unprecedented access as a neighbor who cares, listens and takes responsible action. Unlike the incumbent, I will host regular town hall meetings to strengthen inclusion of stakeholders representing neighborhoods, developers and businesses as well as local, state and federal agencies. Everyone will be encouraged to participate, to voice their concerns and ideas as together we create effective, sustainable solutions for the challenges confronting our community. We have been seeking to advance a vision for the Richmond Highway corridor since the 1960's with limited progress. Consistently ranked among the nation's worst in traffic, we have the best arguments for federal investment in transportation infrastructure. However, the incumbent's performance has been pathetic. Making himself an icon for insularity, arrogance and corruption, Moran's reputation hurts our community. Our community is a centrally important strategic and economic region. We must bring our infrastructure up to the standards appropriate for economic and strategic realities.
Will Radle February 11, 2012 at 02:41 AM
First ensuring meaningful community participation, I will earn the trust and respect of colleagues across the aisle rather than the contempt generated by the incumbent. Can anyone name any landmark legislation the incumbent has written in his time on Capitol Hill? My plan summary is available on our website at www.VA8.com. Centrally important to our nation's security and economy, we will not stop at advocating for fair funding. We provide ingenuity to solve challenges long tolerated under failed leadership. Our plan's national investment in education benefits every US House district and will gain widespread support. The national K-12 program rewards communities for properly preparing students for tomorrow's economy. Why is education funding relevant to transportation? We will provide Fairfax County over $324 million in new annual funding. Our community will be able to offset portions of federal grant funding to address important local priorities. Providing intermodal traffic solutions remains one of the greatest needs in our community. We will acquire federal funding commensurate with our national strategic and economic importance while bringing innovation to funding local priorities. Working together we will extend the Yellow Line, widen Richmond Highway, and expand VRE services. I embrace accountability in bringing our district the effective, sustainable solutions we need. Please check out www.VA8.com. It's time to move forward. Don't you think?
Wildermann February 11, 2012 at 04:45 AM
The Rosslyn - Ballston corridor is in the VA8 district and is viewed as a major revitalization success. It involved a twelve year intensive effort by citizens, staff and County officials. The County Board established the "Rosslyn Coordinated Redevelopment District." The purpose of this district is to encourage the physical and economic development of the Rosslyn area to maximize Rosslyn's potential, over the next 25 years, to become a competitive first class urban center which exemplifies superior architecture and excellent urban design practice. This is envisioned to be achieved through the development of high quality mixed-use development at the core of Rosslyn including enhanced residential and hotel resources, and office buildings that are home to regional and national headquarters of major private/public corporations and institutions. How is it that one area in the VA8 can successfully implement a plan such as this with widespread support while another area such as Richmond Highway remains fragmented and unable to get enough local government support to fulfill community aspirations? Metro seemed to be the game changing factor in my view for Rosslyn - Ballston. What must happen to Richmond Highway in order to attain the monumental success that they are experiencing in Arlington? Fairfax County seems intent on redeveloping its newer areas like Tysons while leaving Mount Vernon in a perpetual state of neglect.
Kari Warren February 11, 2012 at 10:02 PM
I believe we owe the new Walmart to the Spring Banks Community volunteers/leaders who drove away the developers with impossible demands. I stand by my statements. Please help us if these same civic groups have any say in the Lee District. We'll never get anywhere.
Steve Chaconas February 12, 2012 at 01:13 AM
OK Kari. Thank you Spring Bank. It's wonderful to have another WalMart. They are a great community member and they attract shoppers from across the bridge.
Wildermann February 12, 2012 at 01:52 AM
Well there is that demonizing of a community mentioned previously. Why not provide a list of the "impossible demands" if you are as knowledgeable as you imply. I am very interested to hear your understanding of why there is a Walmart where their should have been a mixed use development. We voted not to oppose a project plan that gave developers more lucrative residential units than commercial retail units as called for in the comprehensive plan ratios. That was the community saying they wanted a mixed use project so bad that they did not take the advice of SFDC to not accept the residential/retail-commercial ratio in the comprehensive plan. The uploading of high density along Route 1 called for structured parking which the developer said took too much away from their profit calculus for estimated rates for office space and residential rentals on Richmond Highway. The developer was looking for a carrot from Fairfax County. Tax increment financing was brought up at several meetings. The representative for the Fairfax County Agency on Redevelopment said no to the TIF. The community went along with the plan the developer proposed and the county disengaged. Please tell the readers here the specifics you know that say otherwise. Your supporter below should chime in his two cents since he infers he too is knowledgeable of the causes and apparently likes the commerce from across the bridge. Lee District has 2 large Walmarts by the way. Mount Vernon has 1 small version Walmart.
m.tracy February 12, 2012 at 04:27 PM
according to the fine print in today's wash post story on the Supervisors' retreat (c.4), , it would appear that the Board is intent on making it even more difficult for residents to weigh in on land use deals in the future (and even now too much seems to go on under the radar). paul revere, where are you??
Wildermann February 12, 2012 at 05:28 PM
Aaah, those pesky citizens interfering with progress. So to whom are the Supervisors accountable? The citizens that elect them and mistakenly believe the Supervisors work for them or do they work in the interest of the primary donors to their campaigns? VPAP or the Virginia Public Access Project does a great job tracing the money in the campaigns of VA pols. Developers, real estate businesses and ancillary businesses connected to real estate and business are the biggest campaign money boosters in local election contests aside from political party contributions. The evidence shows clearly who is in the development drivers seat. I believe that we simply have at the local level a microcosm of the same phenomena that is corrupting our national politics. Richmond highway needs leadership that unifies the neighborhoods and communities along the corridor not finger pointing or assigning blame by demonizing citizens for having the sense of community to say we welcome your desire to do development in our neighborhood, won't you please come to the table with us and together decide what works best for all of us. Leadership should be about moderating the interests of both sides and using county staff and agencies to offer guidance and resources to smooth out the bumps and come to a consensus. In my view under the radar tinkering with Kings Xing undermined efforts by SFDC resulting in a number of people in executive positions just leaving out of frustration.
m.tracy February 12, 2012 at 08:23 PM
with respect to comparing rte 1 with arlington, the development there occurred along the subway line. don't see an extension happening here before hell freezes over, if at all, though it seems the developers believe otherwise.
Wildermann February 12, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Understood and a critical point. Transportation issues must be addressed first. Stewart Schwartz of the Coalition for Smart Growth has brought this very point before Mount Vernon and Lee District citizens and communities along the corridor at several forums. It could happen here the same as in Tysons to Dulles but given the development history of the county and the outright attention deficit disorder by Fairfax County towards Richmond Highway, highly unlikely. Without a unifying plan beginning with transportation focusing on historical and natural resource assets linked to commerce on the corridor the best that will happen is a continued proliferation of automobile dependent strip shopping centers, fast food eateries, and an abundance of new motels to match the number of drug stores. Current projects do not bode well for the environment in terms of water and air quality nor do they offer a change in opportunity for economic prosperity for the large number of Richmond Highway residents on public assistance and in rent subsidized housing. Retail clerks and motel housekeeping jobs are not living wage jobs. Pedestrian friendly, mixed use community business centers supported by surrounding communities have a nice ring but still seem out of touch with the reality citizens face given the continued hodge-podge development patterns masquerading as revitalization.
Will Radle February 13, 2012 at 12:09 AM
I bring a new approach. As a public servant bringing decades of service on state, regional and local public committees as well as nonprofit boards, I work to create a culture of listening and deliver the solutions our community needs. Developing roads, rails and lines in Northern Virginia is clearly in the best interests of our nation and our community. We need advocates who are not merely controversial benchwarmers. Our plan for positive action remains avaliable for your review on www.VA8.com. Thank you. A. Will Radle, Jr. www.VA8.com


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something