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  • 07 Oct 2021 1:23 PM | Peter Falcone (Administrator)

    Newcomers to Great Falls, Va. soon realize that they have settled in a vibrant and growing community with a wonderful environment to raise a family, or to enjoy the peace and tranquility amid the surrounding hustle and bustle of suburban Washington. Once referred to as Forestville, reflecting the area’s dense tree growth punctuated only by farms of its early settlers, the community was renamed Great Falls in 1955, a name that aptly reminds us of the nearby falls and rapids of the Potomac running along its northern border.

    Though Great Falls’ early history has been replaced by a community largely residential in nature, some visible evidence of its past remains. Travelling along the nationally recognized historic Georgetown Pike, Great Falls’ main thoroughfare, visitors will see traces of that era. For example, the Turner Farm at Georgetown Pike and Springvale Road is now operated by the Fairfax County Park Authority. A large dairy barn and other buildings, including the Turner Family home, still stand. Turner Farm Park is now home to an equestrian facility, the County’s only Astronomical observatory, and the Turner Farmhouse Resident Curatorship.

    Approaching Great Falls from Route 7, the fully restored 200-year-old Colvin Run Mill with its functioning water wheel powering an operational mill is open for visitors to tour and attend special programs. Beautifully wooded and landscaped grounds, including a general store, offer opportunities for picnicking, shopping, and hiking nearby trails. Other historic sites in the community include the Great Falls Grange and the Forestville Schoolhouse located in the village, both fully restored and available for special events and private celebrations. Numerous athletic and recreational facilities dot the community, along with two major parks —Riverbend and Great Falls.

    The community, like most in Northern Virginia, also enjoys a top rated primary and secondary school system. But it is ultimately the residents that make the community special — passionate about what they value and working together to support local organizations, institutions, businesses, people, and events that offer the opportunity to interact. Celebrate Great Falls Foundation, the Rotary, the Garden Club, and numerous others, including Great Falls Citizens Association (GFCA), make Great Falls what it is and what it will become. - Great Falls Citizens Association, GFCA, organized in 1968, is a community organization engaged in keeping residents apprised of developing issues as they arise, offering a forum to express 

    https://connectionarchives.com/PDF/2021/092921/Great%20Falls.pdf

  • 25 May 2021 12:22 PM | Peter Falcone (Administrator)

    The Executive Board of the Great Falls Citizens Association (GFCA) recognized Eric Knudsen on Saturday, May 15, as the recipient of its 2021 Glen Sjoblom Award for his “long-time, extensive and meritorious service to the community of Great Falls.” Local, regional, and state leaders attended the special program held at the Great Falls Village Centre Green. GFCA honored Knudsen, who tirelessly devoted himself for several decades to enhancing Great Falls through his work on local transportation, land use, and environmental matters.

    GFCA established the Glen Sjoblom Award to recognize its members who excel in serving their community. It is the organization’s only award for outstanding service. Current GFCA President Bill Canis said that without this kind of civic involvement and activism, the community Great Falls citizens and others know today would have withered away.

    “We are gathered to celebrate the people who are dedicated to that philosophy,” said Canis. Eric Knudsen is one of those people.

    Glen Sjoblom is the 2019 Award recipient. He put the award in the context of the long commitment of GFCA’s pioneering board members, those who served the community since the organization’s founding in 1968.

    According to the honoring resolution, Knudsen served on the GFCA board with a distinguished record for more than 15 years, including three years as president, three years as vice-president, and additional terms as chair of the Transportation and Land Use & Zoning Committee.

    As President, Knudsen improved the efficiency and management of GFCA board proceedings, collaborating with past presidents to create GFCA’s first Policy & Procedures Manual that guides the organization. His prioritization of on-site visits to personally evaluate land use and transportation issues provided accurate perspectives and insights. The documented visits became a hallmark of GFCA’s work, validating issues the organization brings forward to the staff at Fairfax County and Commonwealth and developers.

    Knudsen launched ongoing investigative and mitigation efforts in the community to control stormwater runoff. He participated in a GFCA committee tasked with overseeing the cleanup of chemical spills in the center of Great Falls that threatened residents’ well water. It culminated in a program managed by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

    Leading land use negotiations with the County and developers led to the rezoning of Brooks Farm and plans for a SunTrust Bank. According to the resolution, Knudsen became a “driving force for the establishment of the Great Falls Grange Foundation, serving as the GFCA representative in establishing that organization to preserve one of our community’s most important historical assets.”

    Knudsen also co-chaired the Transportation Committee. In collaboration with co-chair Joan Barnes, they worked to have the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) revise its proposed plans for the intersection of Route 7 and Georgetown Pike, reducing congestion and ensuring greater safety. Knudsen initiated and managed negotiations with engineers and county staff to narrow Walker Road, facilitating pedestrian crossings in the commercial center.

    Knudsen’s interest in citizen input in the widening project of Route 7 between Reston Avenue and Tysons led to the Route 7 Working Group. This eight-year commitment advised VDOT and included participation by the McLean and Reston citizens associations.

    Speakers at the May 15 award presentation praised Knudsen for his record of service. Virginia State Senator Barbara Favola (D-31) commended Knudsen for giving residents a voice by reaching out to them for verified consensus. She called these characteristics the hallmark of strong nonprofit organizations.

    GFCA Board member Gary Pan worked with Knudsen to establish the Great Falls Grange Foundation. He commended him for helping to breathe new life into the historic building and providing a new level of community involvement.

    “I have worked closely with Eric Knudsen on numerous transportation and land use projects over the years,” said Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville). “His leadership has improved life for residents of the Great Falls community. In 2011, I selected him to represent Dranesville as Lord Fairfax. He is a worthy recipient of the Glen Sjoblom Award for community service,” Foust said.

  • 10 Apr 2021 12:34 PM | Peter Falcone (Administrator)

    Upgrades at Route 7’s intersection with Towlston Road will boost safety with more generous turning radii and better sightlines, state transportation officials told the Great Falls Citizens Association (GFCA) at a March 31 online meeting.

    The upgrades, part of VDOT’s project to widen Route 7 between Reston and Tysons, are being executed by the design/build team of Dewberry and Shirley Contracting.

    GFCA’s main concerns are the intersection’s post-construction safety and functionality, said Scott Knight, who co-chairs the group’s Transportation Committee.

    Safety is poor for drivers entering Route 7 from Towlston Road, GFCA members said. Local resident Steve Meyer said he hoped Route 7’s speed limit there could be lowered to 45 mph after construction is finished.
    Route 7 is designed for speeds up to 60 mph and Towlston Road for 35 mph, said Steve Kuntz of Dewberry, VDOT’s design consultant for the project.

    VDOT has reduced Route 7’s speed limit to 45 mph in the construction area, as many of the roadway’s elements did not support speeds of 55 to 60 mph before work began, he said. VDOT plans to raise the speed limit back to 55 mph when the improvements are finished.

    Towlston Road’s speed limit is 35 mph, but VDOT is moving to reduce it permanently to 25 mph between Route 7 and Leigh Mill Road, VDOT district construction engineer Bill Cuttler, who is overseeing the Route 7 widening project.

    Michael Barclay, the other co-chairman of GFCA’s Transportation Committee, sought confirmation that sightlines at the redone intersection would meet or exceed VDOT’s design standards, especially for motorists turning left from southbound Towlston Road onto eastbound Route 7.

    When the project is finished, motorists on southbound Towlston Road will be able to see 1,100 feet to the east on Route 7, Kuntz said. A signal pole now on the northeast corner of the intersection will be relocated this summer, allowing for improved sightlines and turning movements, he said.

    The project will lengthen turn lanes leading up to the intersection and provide three southbound lanes on Towlston Road approaching Route 7, including dedicated left-turn, right-turn and through-traffic lanes, Kuntz said.

    The intersection’s permanent configuration will not be finished until 2024.
    “It is still a work in progress, so we still have time to make tweaks if tweaks are warranted,” Kuntz said.

    The turning radius for drivers turning right from westbound Route 7 onto northbound Towlston Road currently is so tight that large vehicles often encroach on Towlston Road’s southbound lane when executing that maneuver, Barclay said.

    The new crossing will be designed so shorter, articulated tractor trailers with trailers up to 33 feet long, as well as non-articulated vehicles such as school buses and fire engines, can turn onto Towlston and remain in their own travel lane.

    Trucks with 53-foot-long trailers, such as those used by long-haul semis and large moving vans, would have to turn wider or encroach briefly on opposing traffic lanes when turning onto Towlston, he said.

    Several callers at the meeting told cautionary stories about safety at the intersection. GFCA members also expressed concerns about traffic impacts from Toll Bros.’ Arden development, which will build at least 100 houses just north of the intersection and have one entrance onto Towlston Road.

    The Arden development likely will produce more traffic on Georgetown Pike and Old Dominion Drive, said GFCA board member Pam Grosvenor.

    “The Pike cannot and should not serve as a high-volume, east-west commuter route,” said Grosvenor, who favored encouraging motorists to use Route 7 instead.

    “Transportation is the most critical issue facing Great Falls at this point,” said GFCA president Bill Canis, citing the Route 7 widening project, proposals to replace a pair of one-lane bridges in the community and the 495 NEXT project, which will extend Express Lanes on the Beltway up to the American Legion Bridge.

    To view the GFCA’s meeting, visit

    SIDEBAR:

    Some of the concerns voiced during about safety at the intersection during the Great Falls Citizens Association’s (GFCA) March 31 meeting:

    • Michael Barclay cited a Dec. 6, 2020, accident in which a southbound car on Towlston Road was struck while turning by a pickup truck headed west on Route 7, killing Great Falls resident Holly Kuga, 72.

    “What the community is seeking is an assurance that the intersection will be safe as possible when VDOT completes its work under the widening process,” he said.

    • GFCA member Karl Pierson recounted how on March 22 a tractor-tractor driver had skidded into the tight turn to avoid hitting his daughter’s vehicle.
    • Longtime Great Falls resident Susan Blakely told how she had been involved in a serious accident at that intersection four years earlier.
      “It cannot be denied that cars travel well above the speed limit on Route 7,” Blakely said.
    • David Marion, vice president of Leigh Mill Meadows Homeowners Association, said the group’s members want a dedicated left-turn arrow for drivers entering the intersection on southbound Towlston Road.
    • Four-decade resident Bill Glikbarg said he learned years ago not to accelerate immediately upon getting a green light on Towlston Road, as drivers on Route 7 often run that stoplight. He wondered whether a system could be installed to warn Route 7 motorists of impending red lights.
  • 10 Apr 2021 12:16 PM | Peter Falcone (Administrator)
    Reprinted from the Oct. 25, 2005 Edition of the Great Falls Connection.

    For a truck driver unfamiliar with the Great Falls and McLean area, Georgetown Pike can be deceivingly inviting as an alternate route to other more heavily trafficked roads.

    "On a map, it looks like a straight line," said Wade Smith, a member of the McLean Citizen's Association (MCA) transportation committee.

    William Byrnes, Chair of the MCA transportation committee agrees.

    "It looks perfectly innocent on a map," said Byrnes. "It's just too bad it doesn't have any place to turn around. It's scary for trucks once they are on it — they don't realize what they are getting themselves into and then they can't get off."

    Smith pointed out that truck drivers need to be warned about Georgetown Pike's sharp curves and hilly terrain.

    "It's largely people that don't know what they are getting in to," said Smith. "No truck driver from this region would ever choose that route."

    At last week's MCA transportation committee meeting, members discussed a resolution to urge the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the Commonwealth Transportation Board to prohibit or restrict cut-through trucks, trailers and semitrailers on Georgetown Pike between the Washington Beltway and the intersection of Old Dominion Drive. The resolution asks that the Board of Supervisors first hold a public hearing on the issue, and that they then take steps to put limitations on truck traffic.

    "Can you think of any road in this area that is more scary to drive on than that stretch of road?" asked committee member Rob Bates.

    THE RESOLUTION STEMS AS THE RESULT of an initiative by Dranesville District Supervisor Joan DuBois. Four months ago, DuBois received a call from a Great Falls resident who had a near fatal run-in with a truck on Georgetown Pike.

    "He had an accident out there on one of the corners when a large truck going by had pushed him off the road," said DuBois.

    According to the MCA resolution, the resident "was nearly killed when a large tractor trailer could not physically navigate the sharp turns at Difficult Run, and fish-tailed, causing his vehicle to slide underneath the truck and be totaled."

    "He asked if we could do anything, and my office started looking into it and we found out that we can," said DuBois. "You can't keep local trucks off, but you do have the ability to work through VDOT [Virginia Department of Transportation] to keep trucks from using it as a cut-through."

    DuBois' office then contacted the Great Falls Citizen's Association (GFCA) and the MCA and asked for feedback. DuBois says she is currently waiting to hear back from the community, and will proceed with the initiative when it becomes clear that it is desired by local residents.

    "I need input from the citizens to make it happen because that's the way you initiate the restriction," she said.

    According to Ryan Hall, VDOT representative, a request for cut-through truck restrictions from the citizens is "just one step" in the process. Once the request is submitted, a public hearing must be held with the Board of Supervisors and VDOT, and VDOT must assess the impact of such a restriction.

    "But the final authority comes from the Commonwealth Transportation Board," said Hall.

    In an effort to help the situation, VDOT recently installed signs along Georgetown Pike stating that it is not recommended for tractor trailers and truck traffic.

    "But VDOT cannot restrict through-truck traffic without the County putting in a request and holding public hearings," said Hall.

    It appears that DuBois will be getting the feedback she needs to take the next step in the process. At its meeting last week the MCA transportation committee completed its resolution, which will be submitted to DuBois once the MCA Board gives the final approval. Additionally, the GFCA has declared its full support of DuBois and the MCA resolution.

    "The Board certainly does endorse the effort to try to restrict tractor trailers," said Eleanor Anderson, chair of the GFCA transportation committee. "They're much too big for Georgetown Pike and they can't negotiate the turns safely without going over into somebody else's space. They are inappropriate, especially since they are bigger and longer than trucks used to be. We are in full agreement with the MCA."

  • 05 Apr 2021 5:59 PM | Peter Falcone (Administrator)

    The zoning ordinance (Article 2, Part 5) limits how many people can live in a single residence. In general:

    • No more than one family, plus two renters, may live in one house.
    • Or, no more than four unrelated people may live in one house.

    However, the rules define that more than one person can live in a residence:

    1. One family, which may consist of one person or two or more persons related by blood or marriage with any number of natural children, foster children, step children or adopted children and with not to exceed two roomers or boarders.

    2. Two single parents or guardians with not more than a total of six of their dependent children, including natural children, foster children, step children or adopted children, functioning as a single housekeeping unit.

    3. A group of not more than four persons not necessarily related by blood or marriage functioning as a single housekeeping unit.

    4. A group residential facility.

    5. Any group housekeeping unit which may consist of not more than 10 persons as may be approved by the Board of Zoning Appeals.

    6. One person or two persons one of whom shall be elderly and/or disabled, and one or both of whom own the dwelling unit, plus one family, which may consist of one person or two or more persons related by blood or marriage, and with any number of natural children, foster children, step children or adopted children.

    7. A bed and breakfast, as may be approved by the Board of Supervisors. 

  • 05 Apr 2021 5:57 PM | Peter Falcone (Administrator)

    Site development in Fairfax County must conform to county codes and standards, including the Public Facilities Manual, with respect to the quality of new public infrastructure, control of erosion and sedimentation, storm drainage, storm water management, tree preservation and protection of public waters. Land Development Services provides support to religious and community groups, the development community, residents and other county agencies throughout the site development process.

    Use the Land Development System (LDSnet) to research zoning cases, site plans, grading plans and waivers. You may also visit our Online Building and Land Development Information page to find information on building and site-related activities.

  • 05 Apr 2021 5:31 PM | Peter Falcone (Administrator)

    Fairfax County updated its 42-year-old Zoning Ordinance to bring it into the 21st century. On Tuesday, March 23, the Board of Supervisors approved the modernization project which goes into effect on July 1, 2021.
     

    A More User Friendly Zoning Ordinance

    The multi-year project, called zMOD for short, was launched in 2018 to update the overall ordinance, in order to: make it easier to understand and navigate; to update and modernize land uses; and creating simpler, more general zoning use categories.

    Extensive public outreach was a key part of the zMOD process. County staff held over 100 meetings both in person and virtually over the course of three years to directly engage the community. The new Zoning Ordinance was developed in multiple installments allowing the community to provide feedback that helped staff develop the final Ordinance.

    In addition, staff made the Zoning Ordinance more user friendly by reducing redundancies in the text and using language that’s easy to understand. These combined efforts cut the size of the Zoning Ordinance in half.

    A new website is being developed that will launch in the summer to help everyone access zoning regulations in a simple format. The website will use tables, graphics and hyperlinks and be accessible on multiple platforms.
     

    What Regulations are Changing

    The new modernized Zoning Ordinance updates regulations around certain residential uses, including accessory structures, accessory living units, home-based businesses, and flags.

    kid playset in yardNotable changes include:

    • Allowing accessory structures, such as sheds, children’s play equipment, and gazebos, up to 12 feet in height to be located five feet from the side and rear lot lines.
       
    • Removing the age and disability requirements for accessory living units (previously known as accessory dwelling units) and changing the process from requiring special permit approval to an administrative permit for interior units.
       
    • Modernizing home-based business use and permitting customers with special permit approval.
       
    • Adding a maximum flagpole height of 25 feet for lots with single-family dwellings or manufactured homes and 60 feet for lots with all other uses, with the ability to request a special permit for an increased height. The limit of three flags per lot was carried forward from the previous Ordinance. No limit on the size of flags was added.
       

    Stay Up to Date

    The Board also passed a number of follow-on motions, including a motion directing staff to monitor and evaluate accessory living units and home-based businesses. A report on these two topics will be provided to the Board within 18 months of the July 1 effective date.

  • 07 Dec 2020 2:47 PM | Peter Falcone (Administrator)


    • ·         GFCA recently launched a survey that was distributed within targeted areas of Great Falls through Homeowners Associations concerning the one-lane bridge situation on Springvale Road and to query the community that would be affected by introduction of two-lane bridges. The majority of GFCA survey respondents favor retention of the one-lane Springvale Road Bridge and also expressed concerns over increased traffic volume and safety risks.
    • ·         GFCA now seeks the support of the Board of Supervisors to submit a letter of support to its efforts to obtain a waiver from the VDOT State Bridge Engineer in order to have the replacement bridge designed as one lane.
    • ·         GFCA’s concerns focus partly on the lack of consideration by VDOT of the impact simultaneous major road construction projects would have on the communities like Great Falls that lie within close proximity to the Route 7 Corridor and the Capital Beltway and that communities like Great Falls are uniquely situated to bear the burden of high volumes of traffic seeking alternatives to congested roads undergoing construction. I-495 HOT lanes expansion and associated construction-related road closures will also create traffic chaos in the Northern Virginia region.
    • ·         Also, that Great Falls’ one-lane bridges on Springvale Road and Walker Road serve as an effective means of discouraging commuter traffic seeking to avoid bottlenecks on Route 7 due to construction and lane reductions approaching the area of Tysons.
    • ·         GFCA is aware that the VDOT plans to replace the one-lane bridges are based on recent inspections that describe deficiencies in some parts of the bridge components.  GFCA believes that these deficiencies are not substantial and could be repaired at a significantly lower cost than total bridge replacement.
    • ·         Although VDOT has repaired and replaced two other one-lane bridges in the Great Falls community that exceed the VDOT average daily traffic guidelines of a maximum of 400 vehicles, they’ve stated they do not intend to repair the single lane bridges on Walker Road and Springvale Road only to replace them.
  • 07 Dec 2020 2:20 PM | Peter Falcone (Administrator)


    The Special Committee on Schools met and assembled the following options to consider presenting to the Fairfax County School Board at a Meeting scheduled for December 7, 2020:

    Feedback ideas/questions:

    - Prefer the smallest boundary change option with the Colvin Run ES split feeder area and a potion of Wesbriar ES. Because a) it offers some relief b) it solves a split feeder problem at Colvin Run c) it leaves room for growth at Langley - because of the concern about the accuracy of FCPS student enrollment forecasts

    - Question to submit: Are boundary adjustment options based on no growth/negative growth FCPS forecasts or on Fairfax County’s high growth forecasts for the McLean/Langley school pyramids?
    - Leave room for growth at Langley (Fairfax County demographics reports forecasts addition 4000 housholds in 2025 for zip codes 22102 and 22066 that primarily feed Langley HS)
    - Do not overcrowd Cooper
    - Include Mclean HS expansion as part of any boundary change plan
    - Add McLean HS expansion to the next CIP (Capital Improvement Plan)
    - Offer grandfathering at least for 8th graders but 6th graders is preferred for affected families
    - Offer also an opt-in option, if students want to switch ahead of the grandfathering period.
    - Explore program placement solutions
    - Add overcrowding as reason for Transfer Requests per Regulation 2230

  • 05 Jun 2020 1:31 PM | Peter Falcone (Administrator)

     GFCA has been working with the National Park Service (NPS) on ways to mitigate the backups that occur sporadically near the park entrance on Georgetown Pike and Old Dominion.  NPS will soon launch a tool to address the traffic congestion near the park by piloting three variable message signs, one of which will be in Great Falls. The idea is to alert would-be visitors about full parking lots and wait times before they reach Great Falls National Park so that they might temporarily delay their arrival or go elsewhere.

    One sign will be located adjacent to the eastbound lane on Georgetown Pike near the rear entrance to Great Falls Center and across from the Great Falls Library. The other two are in McLean, one near the Old Dominion/Springhill Rd. intersection and another just west of the I-495 exit to Georgetown Pike.

    As there is no law or regulation regarding traffic control signs on Virginia Byways, and because these signs are temporary, the NPS pilot provides an opportunity to determine whether traffic near the park can be reduced. The signs will be lit only when needed and will be turned off at night when the park is closed. The signs will be removed in the fall. As required by VDOT, orange traffic barrels will be placed in front of the Variable Message Sign (VMS) units.

    The signs are similar to the one that the park has been using on Old Dominion. At about 4 ½ feet wide by 7 ½ feet high, the NPS  solar powered sign is smaller than the typical VDOT VMS. Messages will be controlled and changed remotely by NPS.

    GFCA’s Transportation Committee will continue to coordinate with NPS, McLean Citizens Assoc. and Fairfax supervisor Foust's office on the evaluation of this pilot.  We look forward to your feedback on this initiative:contact Transportation@GFCA.ORG

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The opinions expressed on these pages are those of the authors and may not reflect the views of the Great Falls Citizens Association

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