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Top Stories and 
News Briefs

GFCA Board Requests Pause in
School Redistricting Policy Revision Process

Over the Weekend, the GFCA Executive Board adopted a position paper that calls on the County's Board of Education to pause the current policy review process that is addressing changes to the county-wide school boundary adjustment policy.  This paper was forwarded to the entire School Board on June 17, 2024.  Read the GFCA paper here.


GFCA Town Hall Webinar With
Dranesville District
School Board Representative Ms. Robyn Lady

Representative Lady discuss the current draft revisions to Fairfax County Public Schools Policy Document 8130.7 that governs school boundary adjustments.

This Webinar held on Monday June 17, 2024 at 7:00 p.m. was open to the community.  More than 400 residents registered for the event.  This event followed from a GFCA membership meeting conducted on June 11, 2024 at which time significant community concern was expressed over the policy that is currently under review.  GFCA committed to the membership and attendees at that time that a Webinar would be scheduled as soon as possible to afford Representative Lady with the opportunity to clarify questions and hear public comment prior to the June 18, 2024 School Board Governance Committee Meeting during which time the committee members will review the policy drafts to date.

To view the GFCA's YouTube video of the Town Hall, click this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2ZmMSmY43U

SCHOOL BOUNDARY DISCUSSION DRAWS CAPACITY CROWD

On the evening of June 11, GFCA members and non-members filled the Great Falls Grange to its capacity requiring an overflow crowd to remain outside.  Because of capacity limits, GFCA Task Force on Schools and Board members relayed information about the proceedings to the residents awaiting entry to learn how the School Board's planned action would unfold when its Governance Committee meets on June 18th to review School Board Policy Document 8130 on Boundary Adjustments.  The Executive Board of the Great Falls Citizens Association (GFCA) thanks the members of the community who turned out last night to hear about the Fairfax County Board of Education's policies on School Boundary Adjustments that could have future impact on the Great Falls community.

GFCA Board Members leading the session inside the Grange Hall told the audience that its Task Force on Schools has not seen any plan to redraw district lines but that the current process consists of an administrative review of the school policy.  Nevertheless, GFCA Board members heard a succession of strong objections from the community in attendance regarding any future plans that would result in redistricting students in the community.  Residents also raised concerns and questions over the School Board’s process and the lack of information sharing on this policy matter.

Attendees also expressed grave concern over the lack of clarity on how the redistricting policy would be implemented and what several attendees characterized as the ambiguity and broad discretionary authority in the policy document itself.

Several Great Falls community members expressed outrage that the policy adjustments would create distress in the community and deprive their children of the quality education they now receive, should an adjustment affect the 22066 community.

GFCA leadership told residents at the conclusion of the two-hour session that among next steps they would immediately reach out to Robyn Lady, School Board Rep. for the Dranesville District to invite her to a Town Hall to offer the community more opportunity to provide their feedback and express  comments directly on the current policy plans.

The GFCA also completed their Executive Board annual election for the 2024-2025 fiscal year.

Policy documents under review by the School Board along with GFCA correspondence on the subject and information are posted here and on the Great Falls Resources Page on the Green bar at the top of this page.

Jennifer Falcone
Secretary
Great Falls Citizens Association


GFCA Annual Meeting and Election

The GFCA held its Annual Meeting and election of its Board of Directors at the Great Falls Grange on June 11, 2024

Election Results

President  -  John Halacy
Vice President  -  Dave Conover
Secretary  -  Jennifer Falcone
Director  -  Candice Burt
Director  -  Winnie Frost
Director  -  Jerry Peters
Director  -  Ed Phillips

The GFCA Executive Board is comprised of five officers and 12 directors with staggered terms. 

Board members that were not on the ballot whose terms expire in 2025 are: Henry Lippincott, Treasurer; Margaret Everett, Director; Dennis Huber, Director; Lisa Schlecht, Director; Karen Washburn, Director.


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Chase Bank Building Planned for Village Centre

Final reviews are being conducted by staff from Fairfax County's Site Development & Inspections Division (SDID) to ensure a proposed commercial bank project to be situated at 778 Walker Road meets applicable county, state and federal regulations.  The site is the current home of the Great Falls Farmers Market.  The bank is being developed for Chase Bank which has a limited presence in Great Falls provided by walk-up ATMs in the row of shops in the 9800 block of Georgetown Pike that includes the 7-11, a dry cleaners, and Senor Ramons Taqueria. 

This site has been under active consideration since the Board of Supervisors granted a Special Exception for a drive-through financial facility on September 12, 2017.  Initially, the facility was to be built for SunTrust which subsequently withdrew from the project.

In the project's final review stages, the SDID determined that the site should include an additional concrete sidewalk from Walker Road west for a distance along the north side of Columbine Street,which forms the southern boundary of the Chase parcel.  This is a technical requirement of Fairfax County's Public Facilities Manual an engineering guideline for county-wide development projects.  This sidewalk would be in addition to a sidewalk that is already planned along the entry road leading from Walker Road.  That service entryway divides the Chase property from the current Wells Fargo Bank property.

A waiver application has been submitted by representatives of the site developer.  The waiver application contains the following statements by the project planners:

  • There are no walkways along Columbine Street to which a new sidewalk might connect.
  • Installation of a sidewalk along Columbine Street would result in the removal of 5 notable existing trees along Columbine which are intended to be preserved to provide transitional screening as required by the Special Exception. 
  • Two trees would be jeopardized by the proposed sidewalk: a 33” Pin Oak and a 24” Eastern Red cedar.  Further westward along Columbine Street, a 24” Red Maple, a 36” Red Maple, and an offsite 21” Red Maple are also incompatible with the installation of a proposed sidewalk.
  • The developer also cited existing conditions of overhead utilities and poles, storm drainage structures and existing topography prevent the installation of a sidewalk along Columbine Street.

The GFCA Land Use and Zoning Committee reviewed the waiver application at its April 9 meeting and resolved by vote of the committee to urge support of the waiver based primarily on the potential for a loss of mature trees; and, that the sidewalk would not have the potential for an interconnection with the neighborhoods to the west, as Columbine Street and the streets of Oliver Estates have neither curb and gutters nor sidewalks throughout.  Nor are any planned.  It would essentially dead-end at the west boundary of the Chase parcel.  One member suggested the sidewalk would provide safety to pedestrians.  However, the Land Use committee concurred that pedestrians would ultimately be required to dismount from the sidewalk onto the street to continue on their way.

The Transportation Committee April 15 meeting also has the item on its agenda for review and it has been shared with the GFCA Environment & Parks Committee in order to maximize public awareness. 

If you would like to express an opinion on this county requirement and you are a resident of the Great Falls community,

please click here to send GFCA an email.


Upcoming events

MORE NEWS BRIEFS

Halacy To Lead GFCA

Following the resignation of GFCA president Christopher Rich, current GFCA Vice President John Halacy assumed the position of GFCA President on April 5, 2024.  Those changes were announced at the March Executive Board Meeting of the GFCA.  He will continue to head the GFCA Transportation Committee for continuity and because of the several critical transportation issues looming ahead. 

Halacy launched his involvement with the GFCA when he and his neighbors in the Springvale Road area learned of the possibility that the LIDL grocery chain was actively exploring the purchase of the former Meadows Farms Garden Center at Springvale Road and Leesburg Pike.  He joined with GFCA members and concerned residents who expressed concerns over the impact that the proposal could have on traffic and the creeping commercialism that such a development would bring to the community.  Shortly thereafter, he was asked to head up the Working Group on the Springvale Bridge VDOT replacement plan. 

He was elected to the GFCA Board in June 2023.  When he learned he would be next in line for the GFCA presidency caused by the departure of Chris Rich, he began to review the critical tasks and priorities that lie ahead and how he can work with the Executive Board to ensure that the organization’s activities are in furtherance of its mission and charter to advocate for the best interests of the community.

Halacy will immediately begin regular communication with the members and external stakeholders about GFCA programs and plans.  His leadership goals are to ensure  effective and transparent communications, by staying informed about critical issues in the community and keeping the GFCA leadership and members aware of new and ongoing concerns in the community affecting transportation safety, land development, zoning impact, and environment. 

GFCA Board Welcomes New Members


Executive Board Members Margaret Everett and Dennis Huber

The GFCA Executive Board voted in two new members recommended by the Nominating Committee at the February meeting filling vacancies that have occurred.  Margaret Everett and Dennis Huber, whose bios were presented to the Executive Board in January 2024, will serve from February 23, 2024 through June 30, 2025.

Everett retired from the Federal Government where she held senior positions in two agencies in law enforcement and intelligence.  She joined the GFCA in 2023 and is an active member of the Special Committee on Legislation, Transportation, and Environmental and Parks Committees.  In her free time, Margaret enjoys Swimming; Mah Jongg; Yoga; and Biking along with her husband David.

Dennis Huber, a GFCA member since 2020, is a former executive in the communications industry, currently a consultant to two agencies of the Federal government.  Previously, Huber managed engineering programs involving nuclear, chemical, and telecommunications.  Dennis and Elizabeth Huber settled in Great Falls in 1992.  Dennis is a member of the Transportation Committee and the Springvale Road Bridge Working Group.

Workdays at the Oak Grove behind the Grange 

For the third year in a row, GFCA is hosting three workdays at the Oak Grove to restore a mature grove of oak trees with native plants, shrubs, and trees.  Three workdays are scheduled for Sunday, April 7, 9-11:30 a.m., Saturday, May 11, 9-11:30 a.m., and Sunday, June 9, 9-11:30 a.m.  If you have a couple of hours to volunteer, come to the Grange and help garden in the oak grove and learn about invasives and growing native. The GFCA Environment and Parks Committee greatly appreciates your time and energy to restore this Great Falls resource, the oak grove. 

To sign up click here: Volunteer signup.  On the site click on "Volunteer Search" then on "Great Falls Grange Park Habitat Restoration" and sign up for your desired dates.

Pedestrian Safety in Fairfax County - Stop for Pedestrians!

As a driver, you may have noticed the prominent signage like the one pictured at left posted by Fairfax County at marked crosswalks.  These signs warn drivers that they must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians crossing the highway at those signed locations.  Further, drivers are advised that any operator of a motor vehicle who fails to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians as required shall be guilty of a traffic infraction punishable by a fine of no less than $100 or more than $500.  According to the Fairfax County Department of Transportation’s pedestrian sign page, “Any new Yield to Pedestrian signage will need to be funded and approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.”  There are several such approved signs in place at marked crosswalks in Great Falls.

GFCA shares the concerns of the county and state transportation agencies that have identified pedestrian safety as a top priority, due to the increasing numbers of pedestrian-related injuries and fatalities that have been reported recently.  Regrettably, some motorists may be confused about the signage that is found throughout the county that instructs motorists to “yield” to pedestrians in crosswalks instead of stating that drivers must stop.  Furthermore, some drivers may not understand the current laws governing the requirements imposed on motorists approaching pedestrians in a crosswalk.

Since 2020, ยง46.2-924 of the Code of Virginia has required that “The driver of any vehicle on a highway shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian crossing such highway by stopping and remaining stopped until such pedestrian has passed the lane in which the vehicle is stopped…” Previously, that section of the Virginia Code did not spell out the specific requirement to stop.  In 2023, statutory language was further refined to require that the “…driver of any vehicle on a highway shall stop when any pedestrian crossing such highway is within the driver's lane or within an adjacent lane and approaching the driver's lane until such pedestrian has passed the lane in which the vehicle is stopped. Also, Fairfax County Code, Section 82-9-2. - Right-of-way of pedestrians contains similar requirements for the driver of any vehicle upon a highway or street to stop when a pedestrian crossing is within the driver's lane or within an adjacent lane and approaching the driver's lane of such highway or street within any clearly marked crosswalk…

The message is clear, as far as the authorities in law provide, that when a pedestrian is within a crosswalk, a driver has a duty to stop!  But, notwithstanding the law, Fairfax County efforts to warn drivers of their obligations toward pedestrians to stop appears to be lagging as evidenced by its posted regulatory signs. 

Efforts should be made to bring the signage and the guidance up to date so that there is a consistent message to the motoring public:  Stop for pedestrians in crosswalks!        


ABOUT GFCA

Our goal is to preserve the semi-rural character of our community while addressing practical concerns like traffic, zoning, retail, schools, parks and the environment where problems arise and solutions must be found. 

Since Great Falls is not an incorporated municipality like the Town of Vienna, or City of Falls Church, we lack a town/city government to represent our local interests.  The GFCA acts in an unofficial capacity to represent the voices of the citizens of Great Falls on these matters, and works with county, state, and national government to get things done.  On Great Falls issues, no other organization has GFCA’s influence with elected leaders at the County and State level, or is as respected by them.

Our charter calls for GFCA to "serve as a community organization to promote all aspects of community interest accruing to a common good and, in general, to preserve the historic, low density, semi-rural character of Great Falls and its natural resources."


https://gfca.org/resources/Pictures/Blue%20Bells%20at%20Riverbend%20960%20x%20614%20Lawrence%20copy.jpg

"Bluebells at Riverbend Park"
Image courtesy of Walt Lawrence,
Great Falls Studios

GFCA is a Proud Sponsor of
Celebrate Great Falls


The Great Falls Citizens Association (GFCA) is a non-profit, 501(c)4, organization based in Great Falls, Virginia, whose mission is to promote and protect the quality of life and the unique characteristics of the Great Falls community.  The GFCA is a volunteer-based organization that is open to all residents of Great Falls and the surrounding area.

The GFCA is known for its advocacy and community engagement activities, which include working with local government officials and other community organizations on issues related to land use, zoning, transportation, and environmental protection.  The organization also organizes events and programs to promote community engagement and connect residents with local resources and services. 

Some of the activities the GFCA is involved in include:

  • Zoning and land-use issues, like protecting the rural character of Great Falls from over development
  • Advocacy for traffic and transportation improvements
  • Promoting the protection of natural and historic resources in Great Falls
  • Organizing community events and programs, like educational seminars, social events, and volunteer opportunities
  • Providing information and resources to the community on issues of importance to Great Falls.
The GFCA is an active organization in Great Falls and plays a critical role in preserving the community's unique character and quality of life, through its advocacy and community engagement activities.  Join us today!

Great Falls Citizens Association            
PO Box 27  •  Great Falls, VA   •  2206
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