In Great Falls in 2004, a new Dranesville District supervisor takes office, just as two high-profile proposals move through Fairfax County’s site-approval process.
At the federal level, officials at Great Falls National Park are receiving public comment on a new general management plan for the park through Jan. 15.
On Jan. 5, Joan DuBois (R-Dranesville) takes over as supervisor of the Fairfax County magisterial district that includes Great Falls, McLean and Herndon.
When Stuart Mendelsohn left office after two terms and eight years, Great Falls lost the first local supervisor since Mark Turner served as supervisor in the late 1940s.
Susan Blakely, also of Great Falls, who was Mendelsohn’s chief of staff, did not continue in that role in the DuBois administration.
Voters in Great Falls seemed not to notice the May 10 Republican Party caucus race between DuBois and Bob McConahy, a Republican, who was the only candidate from Great Falls.
McConahy won 203 of just 658 votes that determined the Republican candidate who would seek the open seat in Dranesville District. Three candidates who ran as Democrats all live in McLean: John Foust, Fred Mittelman and Merrily Pierce. In an assembled caucus on May 10, they divided 526 votes, with John Foust receiving the majority of 304 votes.
In the general election, DuBois edged Foust by a margin of about 500 votes; approximately 13,000 people voted.
DuBois waited until the first board meeting of her term on Jan. 5 to name her successor as Dranesville District’s planning commissioners.
At her swearing-in ceremony on Dec. 15, she announced that five staff members from the Mendelsohn administration — including Linda Lammersen of Vienna, Rosemary Ryan of McLean and Vicky Dorman of Herndon — will handle constituent services.
They are likely to hear more complaints about increased property taxes as a result of rising tax assessments that county officials predict. A booming real-estate market is driving the increases, they say — a good news/bad news situation for homeowners..
In Dranesville District, it will be the fifth consecutive year that property taxes have gone up.
Last year, the Board of Supervisors reduced the tax rate from $1.21 to $1.16 per hundred dollars of assessed value, but that was not enough to countermand the sharp rise in home values in a tight real-estate market that saw multiple contracts offered on many new listings last year.
But there were no new services. In fact, the Board eliminated the traditional trash parkouts in McLean and Great Falls and closed 415-acre River Bend Park on all but three days a week.
Citizens took action.
Garret Preis in Great Falls and John Theon in McLean both organized their own private trash pickups at the same locations used by the county: Great Falls Elementary and Cooper Middle School.
And Riverbend’s funding was restored after county officials discovered $39 million in carryover funds, the result, they said, of an uptick in investment income.
Nonetheless, the McLean Citizens Association was sufficiently alarmed to ask the Board of Supervisors to create an office of financial management and institute zero-based budgeting.
They asked that the Economic Development Authority refrain from recruiting new construction until an existing excess of office space is taken up, particularly in Tysons Corner. Neither suggestion was followed.
Seneca Place Shopping Center Proposed
In Great Falls, where six different fund-raisers are under way to pay for public-use projects such as parks and community fireworks on July 4, land use dominated the public agenda.
Just after DuBois’ swearing-in on Dec. 15, about 80 citizens of the Seneca Road corridor attended a Dec. 17 “town meeting” called by Seneca Road corridor residents Ralph Lazaro and Dianne Van Volkenburg to air their concerns about plans for Seneca Place Shopping Center, already approved by Fairfax County officials for construction at the intersection of Seneca Road and Georgetown Pike.
It is likely to be the first major issue to confront DuBois in Great Falls. In McLean, she faces a controversial proposal for an adult assisted-living center that will house about 120 elderly people, more than half of them supported by a government-funded program known as “Section 8” housing.
Great Falls National Park: New Plan Proposed
A proposed general management plan for Great Falls National Park was driving e-mails among trail-users of all kinds: hikers, bikers and equestrians.
GFNP officials set Jan. 15 as the deadline for public comment on the proposal [www.nps.gov/grfa/pphtml/news.html].
Defense of Freedom Memorial
Another controversial proposal pending in Great Falls is the “Defense of Freedom” memorial on public property just west of the public library on Georgetown Pike.
Planners hope to raise $80,000 in private funding from the community to pay for the memorial on public land.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the memorial “in concept,” granting final approval for the design to County Executive Tony Griffin.
Pete Hilgartner, who proposed the project, and committee members Bill Ten Eyck, and Glen Sjoblom developed a design that shows three large stones, four small evergreens, two shrubs and two benches, arranged in a semicircle.
Historian Milburn Sanders is working on a list of names from Great Falls of people who died “in service” to freedom; it presently includes six military men and one civilian who died in the Civil War. There were 61 fatalities during the Battle of Dranesville on Georgetown Pike at Leesburg Pike on Dec. 20, 1861.
Six others from the Great Falls area died in World War II, and six died at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, and two others, Sanders said.
They and any others will be memorialized with a page in a book inside the library, he said.
The Great Falls Citizens Association (GFCA) has not yet discussed the project or made a recommendation.
David Olin, the president, said the GFCA typically reviews projects at a later stage to vet the details, rather than during the early conceptual stage of a proposal.
Friends of Fireworks
Brogue Charities announced the formation of Friends of Fireworks, a board to raise money for the community fireworks held on July 4.
Its members are Peter Garahan, Tim Hill, Janet Jameson, Richard Kelly and Jeff Rainey.
They plan a Feb. 28 Mardi Gras dance and silent auction at River Bend Country Club to raise $40,000 to establish an annuity to pay for the annual fireworks, held at The Turner Farm for six of the last seven years. Tickets to the dance are $125 each, $50 of which is tax deductible.
The pyrotechnics cost about $11,000, according to Mike Kearney of Brogue Charities. Attendant costs of police support, portable toilets, insurance, permits, and games for children bring the total to almost $18,000, he said.
“Money Letters,” requesting support for both the Defense of Freedom memorial and the fireworks, were mailed to every occupant in ZIP code 22066 just before Christmas.
Since July 4 falls on a Sunday this year, the 5K road race, baby parade and grand parade will be held on Monday, July 5, according to Kearney, a decision made by the board of directors of the Great Falls Friends, sponsors of the events.
The fireworks will proceed as scheduled on the evening of July 4, with July 5 as the rain date, Kearney said.
Firehouse, Observatory and Equestrian Features Seek Funds, Too
The Great Falls Woman’s Club and Great Falls Volunteer Fire Department are raising money for a new firehouse on Georgetown Pike, for which a design has already been approved.
The Analemma Society is raising money to house telescopes at Observatory Park at The Turner Farm.
Lift Me Up held a fund-raiser in November to raise money for instruction and property to maintain therapeutic horseback riding lessons for disabled children.
And the equestrian committee of Friends of the Turner Farm is raising money for a cross-country course, dressage arena and round lunging pen at The Turner Farm. Molly Hockman chairs that effort.