What's old is new for 2005. Many of the biggest events next year will be evolutions and completions of things started before January. Development in all forms will top the list of things to watch for. Whether it's parks or buildings, how the community uses the land it has available will be paramount in the coming year.
One of the biggest changes that will be apparent in downtown McLean will be the opening of the Palladium Building. During construction it has dominated the skyline. After opening, it may well serve as a cultural hub and artist destination for miles around. Waterford Development Corp. began construction of the mid-rise building last year. It has 12,5000 square feet of retail space and 10,000 square feet of office space in addition to 69 condominiums. Prices for the exclusive condos range from $900,000 to $1.5 million.
What is likely to draw the greater community to the Palladium is the outdoor performing-arts park, with its flowing water sculpture. Waterford officials have promised to hold two cultural events a month at the Palladium. District supervisor Joan DuBois said, "I think that's going to be great, it's going to be great for McLean, great for downtown, and great for the people who live here." Given McLean's few options for this type of entertainment, locals are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to find entertainment in their own back yard.
MCLEAN ITSELF will continue to undergo a facelift as part of the revitalization project started several years ago. The object of the revitalization, under the auspices of the McLean Revitalization Corp. (MRC), is to make the town more attractive and more pedestrian friendly.
Jack Wilbern, who recently stepped down from MRC, said that in the next year, benches, trash cans and planters will begin cropping up around McLean, thanks to a $50,000 county stipend.
Dan DuVal, with the McLean Citizens Association (MCA), is working to underground the utilities in town to make McLean more aesthetically pleasing. "Our hope is that construction will begin in 2005. Hopefully [it won't be] a whole lot more than six months," said DuVal.
MCA and the Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce are also making a push for business owners to increase their landscaping around storefronts.
DEVELOPMENT WILL BEGIN this year on Clemyjontri Park in McLean. Because it will be the county's only fully accessible playground and park, it should be well-reported in the coming months. Some of McLean's most high-power residents, like the current Lord and Lady Fairfax, have joined forces with local government to ensure the park is well funded and able to go forward as soon as possible.
The 18-acre estate of Adele Lebowitz was donated for the park, with the caveat that it be constructed so that children with disabilities and without disabilities can play side by side. The centerpiece of Clemyjontri Park will be a carousel. The remaining acres are to be open space, trails and gardens for the public to enjoy.
Kevin Fay, with the Park Authority, has said that the park never would have been possible without the generous land donation. The price of land in Fairfax County has skyrocketed in recent years, with the cost of land in McLean some of the highest around. When the 2004 Park Bond was questioned by members of the MCA, Fay used Clemyjontri Park as leverage, knowing how important it is to the community. Fay told the board of MCA that if it voted against supporting the bond, and the bond were to ultimately fail; Clemyjontri would revert back to its owners, because the county would be unable to afford the property.
FAY CURRENTLY finds himself embroiled in debate over the fate of McLean High School Park. The 10-acre park is located between Davidson and Westmoreland roads, next to McLean High School. A handful of civic organizations have expressed fears that the county is looking to sell off the underutilized park to fund its acquisition and revitalization efforts in other parts of Fairfax County.
Fay, who was recently reappointed to the Park Authority by District supervisor Joan DuBois, said the land is "developable" but denies there are plans to sell it. Fay said recently, "Have I looked at that? Yes. Am I doing that? No."
SHOULD THE SALE OF SALONA to Fairfax County become a reality, expect there to be a loud and protracted outcry from the citizenry on how the land should be used. Salona consists of 44 acres that the DuVal Family has offered to the county under the condition that it be used as a park.
In Fairfax County, "park" means different things to different people. The Park Authority, in its recent needs-assessment analysis, concluded there is a shortage of athletic fields. The open space at Salona would certainly be attractive for that. However, not everyone in the community feels there is a shortage of fields for children to play sports. "There are a ton of fields around here. You can hardly turn a corner without seeing one. I don't think we should take a historic place like that and turn it into a soccer field," said resident Belinda Zwick.
Fairfax4Horses, for example, would very much like to see the grounds developed into an equestrian park that could be used by everyone in the area. Still others would like to see it preserved as open space with trails.
Even though creating the financing to pay for Salona will be difficult, finding a compromise on its usage may turn out to be even more difficult.
MCLEAN BIBLE CHURCH'S continued development will be noticed next year. Founded in 1961, the group has grown to be one of the country's largest religious organizations, with thousands of worshipers arriving at the church each weekend. McLean Bible Church's leader Lon Solomon came under fire last year for his controversial involvement in the Jews for Jesus campaign in the Washington metropolitan area.
Current controversy centers on the issue of traffic associated with so many churchgoers attempting to navigate in and out of the 51-acre campus. There are also plans to develop a respite center on the campus.
GREAT FALLS RESIDENTS are poised to hear fireworks over the fireworks. The greater debate, according to members of the Great Falls Friends, sponsors of the fireworks, is whether new members of the community are going to step up and get more involved in local events. "I would like to see how many people have moved into Great Falls is the last few years. It would be interesting to see the numbers. If you look around here at the people who are involved, they've all been doing it for years and aren't getting any help. They are really tired of it," said Friends member Mike Kearney.
Eleanor Anderson recently predicted there wouldn't be any fireworks in 2005 because all the people who have worked to make it happen for the past several years were poised to quit in protest.
Similarly, other groups that put on events in Great Falls have expressed dismay at the lack of involvement by the overall community in staging activities enjoyed by all. Organizers of everything from the annual Easter Egg Hunt and Spring Festival to Great Falls Day and the Christmas Tree Lighting say that recruiting help from members of the community is increasingly difficult.
OBSERVATORY PARK in Great Falls will likely be a visible change that people in the community will be discussing next year. The Analemma Society is currently trying to raise money from the public to restore a structure on the site, in the same vein that Brogue Charities raised money for the Freedom Memorial. Observatory Park should also be getting some money through the county, from the park bond.
Some apprehension has been expressed to the Great Falls Citizens Association (GFCA) regarding how much of a draw the park will ultimately be. Charles Olin, who has driven the project, would like to see it become a center of academic learning that will draw students from around the state and beyond, to study astronomy and its impact throughout history. Residents have said that traffic on Georgetown Pike is already taxed, and creating a park of the scope imagined could create problems.
Another issue related to Observatory Park is that the GFCA will need to take a vote on supporting funding. The president of the GFCA is David Olin, the son of Charles Olin. David Olin is declining to recuse himself from that vote saying, "I'm just not going to do it. Everyone knows he's my father. I don't think it's a problem." Those have a tendency to become the biggest problems and are something to watch out for.
THE CONTINUED DEBATE over extending the watermain in Great Falls to meet the needs of homeowners in Riverside Manor will spill into the new year. There are two issues here Ñ the one people are talking about and the one people are worried about. Discussions to date have centered mainly on the perceived necessity of expanding the existing waterline to make up for the problems being experienced at the well that currently serves that enclave.
Fairfax Water owns that well. It is the last one it owns, and they are experiencing problems like detectable radon in the well and having to truck water out to the well during drought conditions to prevent interruption of service to those customers.
Some members of the community, however, believe the water issue is really just a way for the county to get its foot in the door regarding sewer lines. GFCA's Olin recently called the radon-in-the-well claim "a possible red herring."
GFCA's John Ulfelder said, "There's a domino theory of the septic situation and a deep distrust of government."
As a community, Great Falls is opposed to increased sewer lines because more often than not it leads to increased density. Because of Great Falls pastoral background, still evidenced in the large lots and rolling terrain that are a throwback to its dairy farming roots, cluster housing is not looked on lightly.
Business owners in central Great Falls often suffer because of the lack of sewage hookup. New restaurants can't open up because they would overburden a system that is already failing. The Great Falls Volunteer Fire Department, for example, has a company come in every month to empty its septic tanks because of the problem.