Column: Shelter at Beacon Hill in Mount Vernon

Column: Shelter at Beacon Hill in Mount Vernon

In 2015, Fairfax County voters approved a Public Safety Bond Referendum for the renovation and 
Supervisor Dan Storck addresses the crowd at the site


expansion of five County fire stations, including the Penn Daw Fire Station. The current station was built in 1967 as a volunteer station and is one of the oldest and busiest in the county. A new, modern, eco-friendly facility will provide improved space and a healthy environment for our Fire and Rescue personnel. Community support for a new fire station has been unequivocal.

In 2016, Fairfax County voters approved funding to renovate or replace four emergency housing facilities through a Human Services and Community Development Bond Referendum. The existing Eleanor Kennedy Shelter was one of these facilities, as it operates from a 103-year-old converted pump house leased from Fort Belvoir with no options for additional supportive housing. 

Fairfax County is committed to best practices in all services, including that emergency housing be a part of a crisis response system that provides safety, access to services, and connections to permanent affordable housing. This new facility will serve as part of the crisis response system and a housing continuum that connects individuals experiencing homelessness to opportunities to chart their course toward housing stability in a new home.

Since these bonds were approved, County staff have been looking for a new location on the Corridor for the replacement Penn Daw Fire Station. Simultaneously, they were also looking for a new location to provide modernized services for our unsheltered residents.

Last year, County staff presented me with their preferred location near the Richmond Highway/Beacon Hill intersection at the Hybla Valley Garden Nursery site, 2801 Beacon Hill Road. 

While I challenged them to find additional potential sites, I recognized that the community needed to be brought into the conversation. So, last November, I convened the Penn Daw Fire Station and Supportive Housing Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee is comprised of members from nearby communities, the faith community, affordable/emergency housing providers, public safety representatives, civic and business leaders, Fort Belvoir and county staff. In addition to meeting monthly, members have received in-depth project information, toured other co-located facilities in the DMV, participated in community-wide meetings, and submitted substantive questions for the County to answer. These have been difficult conversations which have helped us all understand the complexity of these issues and the importance of addressing these needs in our community. 

As part of their initial review, county staff identified 12 potential sites. An additional nine sites were identified by the community, and all were considered with the Advisory Committee. 

After a year of considerable analysis that included community input, site considerations of size, zoning, parking, and community impacts, and with significant community outreach, county staff recommended the Beacon Hill site for co-location of a new fire station and emergency and supportive housing. Other available sites could not provide the same level of services that Fairfax County residents expect and need.

After very careful consideration, and in consultation with and the support of Fairfax County Chairman Jeff McKay and Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk, I have accepted staff’s recommendation. County staff will now proceed with planning and design work. I will be asking many members of the current Advisory Committee to continue in their critical role to provide design and community feedback throughout this process. 

Chairman Jeff McKay shared, “I appreciate all the work of County staff and the community to get us to this point. It is vital that we work together to make sure this facility is state of the art, addresses community concerns, and provides help for our vulnerable neighbors. While I know this isn’t the outcome some had hoped for, we will work closely with the Fire and Rescue Department and surrounding neighbors to be sure this co-location is carefully designed to meet multiple County and community needs.”

Benefits of the Beacon Hill site include:

* Co-location of the fire station, emergency and affordable housing in alignment with the County’s One Fairfax and Diversion First Objectives; and provide considerable cost savings;

* Easy access to public transportation and job opportunities for housing residents; and

* Locating affordable housing with emergency and supportive housing provides residents with an opportunity to move through the continuum of housing options.

I am committed to working with the Advisory Committee and surrounding neighborhoods to make this a safe, state-of-the-art facility of which we can all be proud. Formal public hearings will be held by the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors in 2022. 

Visit the project website for more information.