Exciting new things are planned for the Sully District, and Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) shared the latest information about them, last week, with the Chantilly Farm Homeowners Association.
The group met last Tuesday, Feb. 11, and Frey talked about the good and the not-so-good things in store for area residents. He was especially pleased about the new Sully District Police Station, expected to open next month in Westfields.
"It's the first new one in Fairfax County in 18 years, and it will double the number of officers on the street because the service area that the Fair Oaks District Station had to cover will be cut in half," said Frey. "About 75 officers will staff it, and each district will be broken into smaller patrol areas, so residents will become familiar with the officers in their area."
He said bike squads will be instituted at every district station (Fair Oaks already has a bicycle patrol). "It's one of the concepts of neighborhood policing to give people a higher comfort level," explained Frey. "We continue to be one of the safest jurisdictions of our size in the country, but we have to be ever-vigilant."
He said the new station's captain is hand-picking his staff and has already been busy since summertime, recruiting people. "It will be a real benefit to this area," said Frey.
He said groundbreaking for the Sully District Rec Center is March 29, with some 15 months before completion. And this December, he said, another thing that will "change the face of Chantilly" will be the opening of the National Air and Space Museum Annex. He said construction of the full, cloverleaf interchange connecting Route 28 at Barnsfield Road to the museum should be completed by the end of September.
"Clearly, it will bring traffic — and they're looking at shuttlebuses [bringing visitors] from [Washington], D.C.," said Frey. "But it also provides an additional base for transit."
He said the new museum will add off-peak traffic to this area, and "we're promoting people visiting Washington to stay in Fairfax County — go downtown, see the sights and come back to Virginia in the evening to stay." The nice thing about tourism, he said frankly, is "you don't have to educate their kids. Tourist dollars are pretty much gravy."
Regarding the five other, grade-separated interchanges planned for Route 28 from Westfields Boulevard in Chantilly to Route 7 in Loudoun County, Frey said these transportation improvements are financed through the Route 28 Tax District. Businesses within it, he explained, pay an extra 20 cents on the dollar.
However, he warned, even though these six interchanges already in the pipeline are going to be constructed, four others that are part of the same project fall under federal, air-quality mandates and are, therefore, in jeopardy. He said they "may not all get to be built until this region meets these air-quality standards. We have until 2005 [to do so]." Furthermore, said Frey, an additional lane planned for Route 28 will also have to wait until the standards are met.
On the bright side, though, he said the Westfields Boulevard and McLearen Road interchanges should both be under construction by early 2005. The long-range goal, he said, is to "get rid of all those traffic lights" on Route 28.
Frey also discussed the homeless shelter the county proposes building near the intersection of Route 29 and Stringfellow Road, just west of Meadows Farms Nursery. Although some nearby residents object to it, he said the Pleasant Acres and All-States motels in that same area have, in fact, been functioning as homeless shelters for years.
"I'd estimate that 90 percent of the people who were [in those motels] were placed there by the [county] Department of Family Services," he said. "And given the track record of the other shelters in the county, I wouldn't expect any problems with [this shelter]."
It's planned mainly for women with young children, and there'll be requirements about who can stay there and for how long. "On the other hand," said Frey, "we have homeless individuals on the street with mental-health and/or substance-abuse problems. And on a cold night, I'd expect the shelter to take them in."
Still, he said, "I know that, if [the shelter] goes there, it will be done properly. And you can have better security in a controlled facility than you can at a motel."
Next came the not-so-good news. In March, said Frey, the average assessment is going up 11-12 percent. "We're required to assess at full, fair-market value," he said. "It'll be on the tax bill due in July." He said the Board of Supervisors asked the county for a 2-cent reduction in the tax rate, and the county executive's budget will be released on Monday, Feb. 24. Then, after several work sessions, the Board will vote on it, the third week in April.
When a local resident complained to him about all the development around here — even though it outpaces roads' and schools' abilities to keep up — Frey replied, "We can't deny a rezoning based on a lack of adequate public facilities. As office vacancies go to 20 percent or more, the value of commercial property declines. The one thing that's hot is residential property. Home sales are still strong and sales prices are not dropping."
As a result, he said, "It's a difficult budget and there's a lot of stress on homeowners. I voted against five of the last six budgets because they didn't do anything for the taxpayers."
Therefore, said Frey, he'll be looking to reduce the tax rate by even more than 2 cents. "We have a lot of people living on the edge," he said. "And if we push them over it, what have we done?"