Community Leaders Outline High Priority Local Issues

Community Leaders Outline High Priority Local Issues

Gerald Hyland

Supervisor, Mount Vernon District:

  • Widen the Richmond Highway through Woodlawn and Fort Belvoir.
  • Revitalize Richmond Highway, including implementing the Laurel Hill Adaptive Reuse Plan, deciding on the residential density and building housing at North Hill, and ensuring the survival of the Lorton Arts Foundation.

Hyland commented on these issues:

“The Route 1 widening project will help ease the daily traffic backups around Fort Belvoir …. As part of the process, the National Trust for Historic Preservation must decide if they will continue to lease the Woodlawn Stables property past 2016 before the Board of Supervisors can endorse any (Route 1) alignment option.

“At North Hill the community must decide if they want to support amending the Comprehensive Plan and rezone the property to permit more density in a multifamily development with a mix of market rate and affordable units at no cost to Fairfax County through a public-private partnership, or have Fairfax County finance approximately $9 million in bonds to build 67 manufactured homes.

“The Lorton Arts Foundation (LAF) is a jewel at the corner of Ox and Lorton roads which has struggled to raise money during the recession. A second successful concert series has been started over the summer at the LAF …. I encourage everyone to visit the art facility and/or take classes at this wonderful facility …. Mount Vernon is truly a great place to live.”

Dan Storck

School Board member,

noted the top elementary and secondary education issues facing Mount Vernon area residents:

  • A new superintendent search will soon begin in order to replace current Superintendent Jack Dale, who will retire June 30, 2013.
  • Boundary studies will be conducted in the elementary school areas north of Fort Belvoir both east and west of Route 1 to determine where a projected 1,000 new students will attend school. Simultaneously, all Mount Vernon District middle and high school boundaries will be involved in a boundary study to address the projected overcrowding at West Potomac High School and to better utilize existing educational capacity at other schools.
  • Capital and operating funding needs to be sustained in order to continue to maintain first class schools. Per capita funding levels are lower than they were five years ago and everything possible must be done to refocus our resources on core achievement goals.
  • We must continue to strengthen student achievement. When enriched academics are needed, it means offering advanced instruction in a classroom, in a center, or at special schools. Our mission must remain ensuring that each child reaches their full potential.

David Versel

Executive Director, Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation:

  • Improve Route 1 Connectivity, ie., improve the connections between major arterials and nodes.
  • Bring rail transit to the area.
  • Obtain proffers from developers to help pay for the transportation and environmental improvements as part of the already underway multimillion dollar investments in commercial and residential building projects along the Route 1 corridor.
  • Expand the availability of dining and entertainment offerings
  • Do what it takes to bring together the Lee and Mount Vernon communities and its leaders to pursue a unified vision of a revitalized Route 1 corridor.

Scott Surovell

State Delegate, 44th District:

  • Widen Route 1 and provide a transit model that will support redevelopment for the next 100 years.
  • Improve and expand public education assistance. We need to expand opportunities for early childhood education and fully fund our secondary school system. The state is not fully funding our public education needs. In addition, the cost of higher education in Virginia is out of control. We are supporting our state colleges at 50 percent of the inflation-adjusted levels we were 20 years ago. This needs to change.
  • Virginia needs to expand its Medicaid eligibility requirements and establish a health insurance exchange so individuals can have access to affordable insurance.
  • We need to do a better job of establishing systems of elder care support to allow seniors to age in place. Our area has one of the highest concentrations of seniors.
  • We need to protect the water quality of the streams in the Mount Vernon area by establishing storm water controls, and to provide a means to reduce and prevent litter and toxic runoff to prevent contamination of our streams and rivers. Also, the state should adopt renewal energy tax incentives to help preserve and protect our environment.

Betsy Martin

Chair, Environment & Recreation Committee, MVCCA:

  • We must develop the will and urge the funding necessary to adequately address the serious air and water quality problems we face in the area.
  • We need to reduce stormwater runoff, and reduce water pollution.
  • We have to prepare for climate change; severe heat, extreme weather, including extreme storms.
  • A third challenge is to ensure that all people, but especially children, are provided with opportunities to experience the natural world. We are so wired to our electronic media that we tend to be cut off from the natural world; the sensual and spiritual experience of nature. Experiencing nature is good for people-it reduces stress and helps people slow down and restore balance and perspective that is really important for our emotional well-being. I remember right after 9-11 we noticed a man regularly bicycle down to Little Hunting Creek to sit on a bench and read the Bible. Finally my husband talked to him to find out that he worked in counterterrorism at the Pentagon. He couldn’t tell us the details about what he did. However, clearly he found some respite from the tension of his job by experiencing the peaceful setting of the creek. People who have forgotten how to experience nature need to be invited back in, to relearn their connection to the natural world. I think our connection with the natural world makes people happier and more aware-not to mention better stewards of the earth.

Queenie Cox

Chair, Consumer Protection Committee, MVCCA:

Consumers are very likely to face the following problems in the coming year and, therefore, our community and political leaders need to be ready to help those in need: Increases in gasoline prices; increases in food prices; a reduction in emergency or disaster assistance services; a failure on the part of the state to provide a fair share of the state surplus to the Mount Vernon area for those most in need of assistance.

Elizabeth Lardner

Mount Vernon commissioner and chair of the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority:

  • Retain and preserve affordable market rate housing in the Route 1 Corridor as it undergoes transformation and redevelopment.
  • Provide for the inclusion of accessory dwelling units within single family neighborhoods in support of seniors desire to age in place.
  • Integrate new units of affordable housing into our community that serve all income levels; through mixed use developments and in conjunction with the development of public facilities.
  • Make use of vacant county lands and institutional properties such as religious facilities or hospitals for the provision of workforce housing.

Shirley Marshall

Newly appointed executive director, United Community Ministries (UCM), who directs one of several non-profit service providers assisting needy individuals and families in the Route 1 Corridor, said:

“Last year we served over 4,000 households, thanks to donations to UCM …. We expect a substantial demand for our services this fall and the coming year due to several factors: the drought nationally will drive up food prices, and proposed federal changes may cut the local workforce. If you are buying less, stores will sell less, and employers may lay off workers, etc. In Virginia there is a long and growing waiting list for child care support. Without affordable child care or higher wages it is hard to stay employed. In addition, demand for housing keeps rent high. Fortunately we have successful programs to help people deal with these troubles; however, we need more support to grow them.”

Holly Dougherty

Executive Director, Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce:

  • We need to create a better sense of identity to what is already a wonderful community. The U.S. Postal Service continues to use the mailing address for the Mount Vernon community as “Alexandria” even though it is not Alexandria city. Identifying our community as distinct from Alexandria city would help create a better sense of community.
  • Tourism is a major industry for our community and we should do more to promote it by encouraging a colonial appearance in new buildings being constructed along the Route 1 corridor. It would attract tourists to the area. Route 1 is “America’s First Highway” and needs a patriotic facelift as the gateway to our historic destinations and Fort Belvoir.
  • We should be promoting the construction of new office buildings to bring jobs to the Route 1 corridor.
  • Route 1 widening should extend from the Occoquan river in the south to the Beltway in the north to enable a consistent traffic flow and economic development.

Dougherty added: “Mount Vernon is a place where people care about each other and about the success of the community. Our local business owners live here in the community where they operate their businesses, and they are responsive to local needs. As a result Mount Vernon has a small town feel and a small town heart where there is a genuine concern about the children and families who live here, and their opportunities for education, recreation, and workforce training.”