Vivian's Views > Community Concerns
Every person I've worked alongside, the many residents who've shared their concerns when I've knocked their doors, each experience of daily living over the 40 years I've lived in Fairfax County will continue to shape my legislative agenda. I remain committed to the hard work and constant learning it takes to develop effective solutions.
Both Springfield and Annandale are places of great stability where many people have lived in the same home 30, 40, 50 years, and more. They also are places undergoing significant change. State laws need to accommodate positive cultural differences that will strengthen our communities while protecting public safety and the values that make our communities such great places to do business and raise a family.
Like most Northern Virginians, we are very concerned about congestion, over-crowded and aging transit, intersection safety, cut-through traffic, andlack of basic maintenance. However, communities throughout the 39th House District also are impacted directly by the construction of regional megaprojects.
We bear the direct brunt of 25% of the Beltway HOT Lane construction, Engineering Proving Grounds access for 8,500 transferred workers, Fairfax County Parkway completion, and now the I-95/395 HOT Lanes construction from Landmark to Lorton as well as the impact of Mark Center traffic.
The battles I've fought on these projects underscore the disregard for citizen concerns that results when lack of state transportation funds keeps the State from going beyond what private, federal, or local funders can or will do.
Beltway Express Lanes On the plus side, this private, for-profit project provides a transit corridor between Tysons and I-95 at Springfield. In addition, the expansion took only 12 properties compared to over 300 in the original VDOT design. However, the neighborhoods that are most impacted by noise, loss of trees, and cut-through traffic will benefit least:
• Cut-through Traffic -- State funds were spent on replacing aging overpasses and building the ramp to connect the I-95 HOV lanes with the HOT Lanes. Furthermore, design savings resulted in no access at Rt 236, at Rt 50, or to Fairfax Hospital from the south. As noted in my HOT Lanes Public Commentand 2008 Secondary Road 6-Yr Plan Testimony no funds went to reduce cut-through traffic.
• Soundwalls -- The contract only required the contractor to build soundwalls to minimum federal standards. It did not require landscaping beyond slope stabilization and retention ponds. Thanks to the help of active citizens, I was able to get $94 million diverted from projects shutdown elsewhere in Virginia for enhanced Beltway HOT Lanes soundwalls, reforestation and landscaping.
• Landscaping/Reforestation -- However, most of the $94 million I got went for soundwall extensions all along the 15-mile corridor. I was grateful to Fluor and Transurban for funding a program of $5,000 grants directly to citizen efforts to restore or protect their neighborhoods over and above the $5 million extra I got in added state funds. I also worked alongside concerned citizens and Fairfax County and Virginia representatives to maximize native species re-growth.
I-95/395 Express Lanes First, the good news:
• As a separate project VDOT is constructing a new lane from the 236 ramp to Seminary Rd to relieve a long-standing bottle neck.
• There's been cooperation on soundwall design-decisions to protect communities between Edsall Road and Rt 236 and for Beverly Forest outside the beltway.
• Senator Saslaw got funding for monitoring the effect on neighborhood air quality where non-HOV vehicles must exit.
Now, the bad news: The I-395/95 HOT Lanes stop short of the Mark Center because, despite gaining Mark Center as a major employment center, the City of Alexandria threatened to block COG’s Transportation Planning Board federally-required approval to take the lanes to Mark Center to relieve BRAC congestion. Those doing business with DoD at Mark Center and the 6,400 DoD employees not in carpools, vanpools, or buses will have to exit the Express Lanes over 2 miles short of the exit ramp at Seminary Road.
Supervisor McKay is determined to make the Springfield Mall property a quality, urban, transit-oriented re-development, which will include Class-A office space and walk-to Metro highrise residential units. All of us representing the area are hopeful that the FBI will be relocated to the GSA warehouse site with its excellent access to transit, interstates, and Quantico. Senator Barker and I got VDOT approval process to fully consider the role of the existing transit and interstate network in diverting and/or shortening worktrips. My 2010 bill further opened the door to pedestrian-friendly urban road design standards to improve Metro station access.
BRAC What a shock when the Army announced in July 2006 that 22,000 employees would be moved to Ft. Belvoir -- 18,000 of whom would work at EPG. My testimony before a BRAC review panel expressed grave concern not only about the number of jobs but how their analysis of traffic didn't reflect actual commuting patterns, especially cut through traffic on Backlick and Rolling and transit access. When I later met with the Assistant Secretary of the Army (an old friend) in his Pentagon office, I saw their map didn't even show the Greenspring Community!
In the many meetings that followed with those of us who represent the area and the Draft EIS hearing, we got EPG reduced to 8,500 employees working 24/7 for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. In addition, four of the five essential “bolt-on” connections to EPG with surrounding roads were built and paid for by the Army. Unfortunately, a grade-separated interchange at Neuman to replace the Spring Village Dr / Bonniemill intersection did not meet the federal BRAC-impact policy threshold. Increased connections with transit remains a concern.
However, Working with Governor Kaine we were first in line for $60 million of federal stimulus funds to complete the Fairfax County Parkway as designed 15 years ago and divert industrial traffic from Rolling Road. 2008 Secondary Road 6-Yr Plan Testimony
Spring Village Dr / Bonniemill When the Fairfax Parkway was built over 25 years ago, it was determined that a grade-separated intersection was needed for the safety of existing neighborhoods. With over 2000 residents now in Greenspring Village, development of EPG, and extension of the Parkway, it is even more critical. The re-signage to improve the safety of left turns across 4 lanes of on-coming traffic is a poor substitute.
Real estate tax relief I will continue fight for increased state funds for Fairfax Public Schools, by changing the unfair distribution formula and by using every opportunity -- as I did in 2004 when my vote for the budget compromise was conditional on a permanent annual increase equal to almost 1-cent on our real estate tax rate. I believe Fairfax County should no longer be forced to keep the tax structure of a rural county, which focuses almost solely on real estate taxes, but should be treated as a city.
The income limit for real estate tax relief given by local governments is controlled by state law. I consistently voted to increase it. I also carried legislation that led in 2011 to letting local governments include low income small businessmen and retirees who don't have pensions, even if they have investments (excluding their residence) over $340,000. If you are over 65 or disabled and have a gross household income of less than $72,000, go to Fairfax County's real estate tax relief website to determine if you qualify for full ($52,000) or partial (up to $72,000) relief.
Contractors Based on voter complaints, in 2008, I got bill passed to put suits against un-licensed contractors under the Consumer Protection Act which allows history of offenses to come into evidence and provides for triple damage, court costs and attorney fees for willful violation. I also got legislation passed in 2004 to make it clear that a contractor who does not have the proper Class A, B, or C license for the job can be fined up to $500 a day.
Illegal Immigration Under the Constitution, only the federal government has the authority to deport but federal authorities are not doing their job. Our borders are porous; illegal aliens brought to ICE by local authorities are routinely released back to the community unless they have a criminal record; federal laws against employing illegal aliens are virtually un-enforced; and even Social Security does not prevent multiple use of the same social security number.
My focus is on protecting public safety and health. I am determined to prevent criminal activity from becoming entrenched, victimizing non-citizens and posing a greater and greater threat to the community at large. I have introduced bills to fight gangs, effectively prosecute human trafficking, enforce building codes, place significant fines on employers who use illegal aliens, and control loitering. However, I believe diverting local/state law enforcement to serve as federal immigration agents contributes to criminal activity becoming entrenched because those who are foreign born are afraid to report crime or their victimization.
I believe in-state tuition for Virginia high school graduates whose the parents or they themselves have paid Virginia state and local taxes for at least 3 years and have applied for legal residency. These provisions are used in other states and parallel Virginia's requirements, which were defined by a study I chaired in the 1980's, on whether any student must pay out-of-state tuition.
I believe these actions will benefit us all as we constructively engage the incredible determination of law-abiding residents to build a new life for their families.
Multi-families in single family homes No one can or wants to outlaw the Brady Bunch. Therefore, in 2002, I drafted a bill limiting only the number of adults living in a house based on zoning categories. Because it’s not based on family relationship, it would be much easier to enforce than Fairfax County’s current ordinance. Because it doesn't discriminate against children, it meets federal Fair Housing law requirements. Because it’s based on public health and safety issues related to the sewer and water capacity when a subdivision was originally zoned, it is constitutional. The bill allowed for visitors with a legal residence elsewhere. In the 2003 Session it faced the strong opposition from realtors and never got out of committee.
Instead, what I saw going door to door in 2005 led me to work closely with then-Supervisor Dana Kauffman who initiated the Fairfax County Strike Force to enforce zoning violations. In 2007, I got HB 466 passed to allow the County Attorney to not have to start legal action over if the property is sold but the illegal use continues.
Blighted properties It was a long time in coming for Ravensworth, but action was finally taken in 1999 to fix up the abandoned house they'd lived with for over a decade and put it back on the market. It was the first time the County took action under the enabling legislation I got passed in 1996 (HB1062). Fairfax County has since used the procedure in many instances where a house has
been condemned for human habitation to repair the property and recover the costs when the property is sold.