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  • 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

  • 29 May 2020 12:06 PM | Peter Falcone (Administrator)

    (Great Falls Connection - Mercia Hobson, May 27, 2020)  

    In its first survey since 2007, the Board of Directors and Committee Chairs of the Great Falls Citizens Association, a 100 percent volunteer 501(c)4 organization without paid staff, released findings of its Looking Forward to 2025 Survey, meant to gather feedback from the community on what was important to them and where the Association should direct its efforts and resources now through 2025. Rather than Great Falls being described any longer as a semi-rural community, findings from the recently completed survey lean to the concept of Great Falls as "a community that seeks to preserve its environmental and aesthetic character."

    BILL CANIS, President of the Great Falls Citizens Association, said that member Pam Grosvenor acted as the project manager for the survey that identified key interests and issues in the community. "What came through loud and clear is maintaining the more green character, the natural environments that Great Falls has still. We're losing it bit by bit, piece by piece," said Grosvenor. "We want to use the survey as a tool, a guide, to point to with our elected officials, and as I see it, make changes."

    #Since Great Falls is a census-designated place, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors governs the locality. "We interact with our supervisor's office quite a bit, and we keep pushing forward and advocating for what we want. But that's the best we can do with not having a pound," said Grosvenor. Canis explained that the Association also works extensively with the County Planning Commission. They had been open to many suggestions as had former Chairman Sharon Bulova, as seen when issues with the Virginia Department of Transportation arose for the widening of Route 7 at the intersection of Georgetown Pike.

    "We also have close relationships with our delegate, Kathleen Murphy and our state senator, Barbara Favola. We are in contact with them when there are issues in Richmond that can affect the agenda items we have there too...For example, we worked with both of those offices on some legislation, which was signed into law by Governor Northam about a year ago, that could be a way to help control traffic, (an Act to amend the Code of Virginia by adding a section numbered 15.2-2022.1, relating to turns into or out of certain residential areas; resident permits [H 2033] Approved)...If necessary, we work with our members of Congress as well," said Canis.

    IN ANALYZING RESULTS from the survey data, the Association found the ever-growing volume of commuters brought new challenges for transportation, and increasing residential density and infill development raised new environmental and land use issues for residents. On the other hand, many interests and concerns brought forth in conjunction with the 2007 survey continued to be important in 2020, particularly those related to development and how they might affect the community's quality of life.

    A reported 327 residents participated in the circulated survey. They will be among the first to receive the results, as will the 1000 members of the Association. While the Association will also post the report on the organization's webpage, when it does its annual community wide mailing to every household in Great Falls, Canis said that when that goes out, the survey results would be a prominent feature. "The work of GFCA goes on through our committees," said Canis. "They're all mentioned in that report- Environment, Planning and Zoning, Long Range Planning and Transportation and a Special Committee on Schools... Those are the pillars of our committees... Whether they're a member or not, any resident can attend any of our committee meetings. We will most likely be discussing these survey results and applying them through our committee structure," he said.

    The Association advertised its survey in the local media, mentioned it at public meetings and events, included it in the monthly newsletter, Dranesville Happenings by Supervisor John Foust (D- Dranesville) and emailed notifications to local nonprofit organizations and PTAs/PTOs/PSTAs. Out of the 5,391 households in Great Falls, 327 residents participated according to the survey.

    Highlights of Findings/Next Steps

    Source: Great Falls Citizens Association Looking Forward to 2025 Survey Executive Summary

    Many issues and initiatives cross-cut, in that they affected other areas, particularly those regarding development. Initiatives with the highest priority spanned land use, transportation, environment and infrastructure.

    • Limiting density and infill development, i.e., managing growth (79 percent)

    GFCA will continue to engage in and monitor local development projects and advocate to preserve what residents value about our community. In addition, GFCA will be investigating the feasibility and ramifications of designating Great Falls as a special planning district.

    • Reducing cut-through and commuter traffic (73 percent)

    GFCA supports VDOT's plan to redesign the Georgetown Pike/I-495 intersection and advocates for improvements to I-495. We will also continue to encourage our elected representatives to work with Maryland on widening the American Legion Bridge and exploring other alternatives to address increasing congestion on roads in Northern Virginia.

    • Advocating for development conditions to preserve trees and landscaping requirements in perpetuity (66 percent)

    GFCA will continue to engage in and monitor local development projects and advocate to preserve what residents value about our community. In addition, GFCA will be investigating the feasibility and ramifications of designating Great Falls as a special planning district.

    • Calming traffic and improving safety on local roads (64 percent)

    GFCA continues to push for crosswalks that would connect the library to the commercial areas. In addition, GFCA plans to reexamine other recommended improvements and pursue those that are felt to be the most viable; other ideas for calming traffic will also be examined.

    • Ensuring a reliable energy infrastructure (63 percent)

    Although undergrounding across the entire community at Dominion's expense is unlikely because of the high costs involved, it may be possible if everyone in a particular neighborhood, or along a road, agreed to have an undergrounding fee added to their power bills for a specified number of years...Given the interest in this issue, GFCA will continue to pursue undergrounding, reaching out to both residents and Dominion Energy to discuss options.

    #Additional High Interest Initiatives

    • Setting limits for, and monitoring, stormwater runoff (46 percent)
    • Monitoring underground storage tanks and harmful waste to protect well water and septic systems (44 percent)
    • Ensuring property maintenance (42 percent)
    • Creating an interconnected trails system and sidewalks in the commercial area (41 percent)
    • Controlling the deer population and managing other wildlife (41 percent)
    • Lighting and sign policies that support businesses while limiting light pollution and signage clutter (41 percent)

    Visit https://gfca.org/Looking-Forward-to-2025-Survey for more information.

  • 26 May 2020 10:59 AM | Peter Falcone (Administrator)

    BRIAN TROMPETER Staff­ Writer, Sun Gazette May 21, 2020

    Preserving Great Falls’ quality of life – largely by preventing over development, tamping down traffic and preserving the environment – is the top priority of the village’s residents, according to the Great Falls Citizens Association’s (GFCA) recent community survey.

    The resulting 23-page document, titled “Looking Forward to 2025,” was produced entirely by the association’s leaders, and is loaded with data and graphics.  “It continues our marching orders to serve the community,” said GFCA president Bill Canis.

    The group most recently undertook such a survey in 2007, and board members thought it was time to take the public’s pulse again. GFCA initially targeted the online survey at the group’s 985 members, then fanned it out to the larger community. A total of 327 residents from 5,391 households responded, with 60 percent of results coming from GFCA members.

    The survey showed that 79 percent of respondents placed highest priority on managing growth in Great Falls by limiting density and infi­ll development.

    Great Falls residents cannot do much on that front in cases of by-right development, but can influence proceedings if the matters involve rezoning or special exceptions, according to the report.

    For example, GFCA managed to get a reduction in the number of houses, and implementation of numerous environmental protections, in the Rivermont development, the report noted. In addition to continuing to monitor development applications and advocating on residents’ behalf, GFCA leaders will examine potential bene­fits and drawbacks of designating Great Falls as a special planning district.

    Seventy-three percent of survey respondents favored reducing cut-through and commuter traffic. “Traffic congestion is a big thorn in the side of everyone who lives here,” said GFCA board member Pamela Grosvenor, who helped write the survey report.

    GFCA leaders expect some traffic benefi­ts following the widening of Route 7 between Reston and Tysons, but also hope that a partial interchange can be built at that road’s intersection with Baron Cameron Avenue/Springvale Road. GFCA also favors efforts to widen the American Legion Bridge and supports the Virginia Department of Transportation’s plans to improve Interstate 495 and redesign that highway’s interchange at Georgetown Pike.

    Sixty-six percent of survey takers sought implementation of development conditions to preserve trees and landscaping requirements in perpetuity. GFCA, in a joint effort with Fairfax ReLeaf, each year distributes 500 free saplings to residents. The association also recently worked with the Fairfax County Park Authority to plant ­five white oaks near the playground at Grange Park.

    Reducing traffic speeds and improving roadway safety would benefit motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians, according to 64 percent of survey respondents. GFCA made some progress on that front in 2013 when it conceived of the Walker Road “diet” project, which narrowed that road from ­vehicle traffic lanes to three in the village’s center and built bumpouts, which were landscaped by the Great Falls Garden Club. The association also is advocating for crosswalks to link Great Falls Library with adjacent commercial areas. People currently making that crossing must be agile and fleet of foot, given the volume and speed of traffic on Georgetown Pike.

    Sixty-three percent of survey respondents favored ensuring a reliable energy infrastructure.

    A key objective on that front would be undergrounding utility lines to protect them from wind, ice and tree damage, thus preventing power outages. Power failures especially are disruptive in Great Falls, because the community’s many wells and septic systems need electricity to function, Canis added.

    That process sometimes can be derailed, however, if just one homeowner refuses to grant an easement for Dominion Energy to perform that work, GFCA leaders said.

    Survey takers also expressed interest in monitoring and setting limits for stormwater runoff. Stream erosion has been increasing because of global climate change and many local roads, often poorly lighted, are subject to flooding that endangers motorists, Canis said.

    The survey also found residents wanted wells and septic systems protected from harmful waste and leaks from underground storage tanks. This concern is more acute in Great Falls than in much of the rest of Fairfax County, where residents have access to public water and sewer systems, GFCA leaders said.

    Survey respondents also wanted community leaders to ensure property maintenance; create an interconnected trail system; provide sidewalks in commercial areas; control the local deer population and manage other forms of wildlife; and support businesses with lighting and signs, but in a way that limits light pollution and visual clutter.

    During the current pandemic, the group has held virtual board and committee meetings via Zoom, and may continue holding virtual meetings even after the emergency ends.

    “I think they’re an effective way to get people involved,” Grosvenor said. “It’s so easy.”

  • 11 May 2020 10:00 AM | Peter Falcone (Administrator)

    One of the challenges confronting a community organization like GFCA in the midst of a pandemic, where social distancing and quarantining rules prevent the usual interaction of its membership and the community-at-large, is how to engage and maintain an effective line of communication. GFCA, like most organizations, was suddenly faced with the prospect of cancelling its regular in-person meetings and radically changing the way it conducts its business this past March.

    GFCA leadership responded to the challenge by immediately investigating the options for effective alternative methods of communications to serve both its internal and external communications needs. GFCA selected ZOOM for its meeting and conferencing requirements. Several meetings have been held over Zoom including the April GFCA Board meeting, and going forward, GFCA expects to sponsor GFCA-wide webinars on important topics in the broad cross-section of issues affecting the community of Great Falls.

    In addition, GFCA is also examining other technology upgrades to enhance internal board functioning, such as document collaboration, storage, and access in the face of our “new normal”, with an eventual eye toward building on the quality and timeliness of information GFCA can share with its members. In this regard, GFCA is searching for volunteers and members with proficiency in SharePoint, Salesforce, and web design who would be willing to lend their expertise to the GFCA Communications Committee as it works through technology options.

    If you are interested in volunteering, please contact: Peter Falcone, Co-Chair GFCA Communications Committee; Communications@GFCA.org


  • 11 May 2020 9:59 AM | Peter Falcone (Administrator)

    Rivermont, the Basheer & Edgemoore Residential development on Forest Lake Drive, has been the focus of GFCA and community interest in the management and control of issues involving damage to the environment caused by storm water runoff and, more recently because homes are being constructed and occupied, outdoor lighting and compliance with Dark Skies Proffers.

    Meetings to monitor compliance with County stormwater management requirements have been held on a monthly basis: initially, in-person, and now via Zoom virtual conferencing. The meetings involve representatives from Fairfax County Land Development staff, Ben Wiles from Dranesville Supervisor Foust’s Office—who proposed these unique monthly meetings, representatives for the developer, GFCA, the Forest Lake Drive Home Owners Association, as well as Walker Lake Drive residents John & Melonie Sullivan representing neighboring homeowners affected by runoff. While stormwater management is a county-wide problem, the mitigation of the problems at Rivermont remains a challenge for the developer.

    Through the diligent efforts of all concerned parties, Fairfax County personnel and the Sullivan’s have expressed optimism as a result of the recent efforts that have been undertaken by the developer to prevent further stormwater runoff into the downstream Walker Lake.

    The developer made progress in retrofitting outdoor lighting fixtures to bring those non-conforming residential fixtures previously installed in the development with new, non-glare, dark-skies compliant shrouds, and it is working to ensure all new installations are following County standards.


  • 11 May 2020 9:58 AM | Peter Falcone (Administrator)


    Due to the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic, the GFCA Board has unanimously agreed to temporarily postpone its annual in-person election of board members and officers at its June townhall meeting as required under the By-Laws.

    Per Virginia state law and the GFCA ByLaws, the current serving board members and officers who are up for re-election will remain in place (past their original terms) until such time as an approved election can be held. The Board’s Nominating Committee has paused most of its externally focused face-to-face candidate search and interview activities due to the pandemic.

    The GFCA Nominating Committee plans to restart its candidate search and interview activities for developing a proposed slate of candidates, and an in-person town hall meeting for the election as stipulated in the ByLaws, as soon as safe and reasonable under the Commonwealth of Virginia’s pandemic guidelines.


  • 11 May 2020 9:57 AM | Peter Falcone (Administrator)

    The GFCA Environment and Parks Committee learned on May 6 that the purple glass recycling bin has returned to the parking lot behind the library. Residents may once again drop off glass bottles and jars; Fairfax County will make an official announcement on May 11, 2020.

  • 11 May 2020 9:54 AM | Peter Falcone (Administrator)

    GFCA’s Special Committee on Schools (SCS) hosted Elaine Tholen, Dranesville’s Representative to the Fairfax County School Public (FCSP) Board and Sara Harper, Principal Great Falls Elementary School, at a virtual committee meeting on April 29th. Below are select topics that were discussed during the virtual meeting.

    McLean HS Overcrowding and Boundary Change with Langley HS

    Even before COVID-19, it was not likely that a boundary adjustment would be decided for the coming 2020-21 school year. The current lack of opportunity for public engagement and meetings will further slow the process. When the process resumes, Ms. Tholen explained that the Board needs to be careful about the number of students who would move to Langley from McLean. “The last thing we need is to overcrowd Langley High School,” she said and explained that “we can't move enough students from McLean High School (MHS) to Langley High School (LHS) to solve the problem in McLean, so multiple other measures are needed."

    On May 7, the FCPS board approved providing a large, modular classroom space at McLean to replace the current trailers. While not a permanent brick and mortar addition, it is seen by many residents as an improvement from the current trailer space because the modular addition will offer connected space and restrooms. During the meeting, it was noted that proffer funds of $10 million to $32 million by 2025 are already earmarked for MHS from area developers. The $360 million school bond that was passed last November is intentionally written in broad terms without specific mention of projects. MHS is arguably in a more urgent situation than other school projects in the current queue for renovation. Some of that bond money added to the proffer money could be used to expand MHS.

    Distance Learning

    Problems with the current distance learning roll-out were discussed. Parents expressed that one or one-and-a-half hours per day of instruction—for only four days a week—is not enough engagement between students and teachers. Because of work commitments, and no daycare, parents need more help with their children’s education. Ms. Tholen explained that the duration of daily screen time with teachers was based on research related to the ability to hold a student’s attention in an online environment. Attention span varies with the age of a student.

    Participants at the SCS meeting said that leadership decisions, and not only technology, is responsible for shortcomings of distance learning to date. For example, during the first weeks of distance learning, it has been apparent to some parents that teachers have been held back from proceeding with their classes by guidance from FCPS central staff.


  • 11 May 2020 9:50 AM | Peter Falcone (Administrator)

    GFCA recently provided feedback to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) regarding the I-495 Express Lanes Northern Extension. Because construction of the Express Lanes will also include modifications to the Georgetown Pike/I-495 interchange, this project will have a direct impact on the Great Falls community.

    The I-495 Northern Extension will include widening of the Georgetown Pike bridge over I-495 so that there will be two left turn lanes eastbound for the full length of the bridge (instead of the single lane that currently exists until nearer the light and entrance ramp to I-495 north). GFCA has suggested that on-ramps be widened to avoid on-ramp backups from I-495 and that alternate intersection designs be used to prevent off-ramp traffic from crossing directly to on-ramps. In addition, GFCA has requested that all proposed improvements be funded from HOT revenue to avoid diversion of FCDOT funds from projects that could be performed in Great Falls.

    GFCA encourages community involvement to improve VDOT response from the Great Falls community. A meeting was scheduled for March 12 but was indefinitely postponed due to the pandemic. Please visit the 495 Northern Extension website at www.495northernextension.org and provide feedback either by completing the on-line comment form (http://495northernextension.org/comments/default.asp) or emailing your comments to 495NorthernExtension@VDOT.virginia.gov.

  • 11 May 2020 9:49 AM | Peter Falcone (Administrator)

    GFCA Survey Results Coming Soon

    The recent survey of GFCA members and Great Falls residents, due to be released in May 2020, reveals strong interest in issues that affect the quality of life in our community during the coming years. For example, an overwhelming majority of survey respondents—79%—felt that limiting density and infill development is one of the highest priorities.

    Transportation-related issues, and specifically the need to reduce cut-through and commuter traffic, along with concerns about preserving our trees and the environment, are also priorities. Find out more about what is important to you and your neighbors.

    Look for the survey results soon in your email box and on the GFCA website.

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