The Board Corner: Perspectives from Penny – Last month, COVID-19 was becoming a household word. By now, COVID-19 permeates nearly everything in our individual spheres – family, home, work, play (Until they stopped, I didn't realize how much I enjoy watching sports). Conditions still are changing quickly, and there is information elsewhere in this newsletter about COVID-19 resources available in the county. My message in the April e-newsletter remains the same: wash your hands frequently, observe social distancing (six feet apart from others), stay at home if you don't feel well, and don't panic. To that I would add, wear a face mask when you go outside of your home. It doesn't have to be fancy; just be sure it covers your mouth and nose. A nurse gave me some advice if you wear glasses: put on the mask first, and then your glasses. That helps cut down (but does not eliminate) fogging on your glasses!
While emergencies sometimes bring out the worst in people, they also can bring out the best. I am amazed at the number of constituents who are sewing face masks for family, friends, and neighbors, especially the elderly. One constituent called me about making extra masks. If she made more before putting away her sewing machine, could I find a good home for them? Soon two dozen colorful masks were on their way to the non-profit Culmore Clinic for use by patients and volunteer staff.
Food pantries report enormous increases in request for food assistance. Rather than a canned food drive to replenish, food pantries really need cash to make the bulk purchases needed to serve increased demand. If your paycheck has not been sorely affected by COVID-19, please consider helping those who need it. Check with your faith community or local food bank for more information.
Real Food for Kids: Chefs Feeding Families is a joint initiative with metro-area restaurants to provide nourishing grab-and-go meals for families affected by school closures and job losses because of COVID-19. Real Food for Kids has served more than 14,000 meals since March 18, and hands out hundreds of pizzas and fresh fruit at ACCA (7200 Columbia Pike) and John Calvin Presbyterian Church (6531 Columbia Pike) each weekend. For information about how you can help support the Annandale meal sites, and make your own pizzas, too, log on to www.realfoodforkids.org/chefsfeedingfamilies.
Please stay safe, and healthy. Together, we all will get through the coronavirus pandemic, but it will take patience, and some positive thoughts.
Land Use News – Land use items of interest this month include:
- The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is preparing a Virtual Presentation of the Route 50 STARS (Strategically Targeted and Affordable Roadway Solutions) Study, from Jaguar Trail to Wilson Boulevard (Seven Corners junction). In lieu of an in-person public meeting, a video presentation of study findings, potential improvements, and supporting documentation will be available on the study webpage in June. Residents and drivers are welcome to participate in a survey, which will be open for responses and comments for approximately 30 days. VDOT will issue a formal announcement when the presentation is available on the study webpage. For more information, visit www.virginiadot.org/projects/northernvirginia/route50fallschurchstudy.asp, send an e-mail to the project manager at Bobby.Mangalath@vdot.virginia.gov, or call 703-259-3238.
- As a reminder, and to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the Mason District South County Site-Specific Plan Amendment (SSPA) task force meetings are suspended until they can be rescheduled in the future. The SSPA website www.fairfaxcounty.gov/planning-development/plan-amendments/sspa/south/track-nomination has information about the nominations. SSPA is the process that allowed anyone to nominate site specific land use changes to the Comprehensive Plan, the guiding document for land use and development decisions in Fairfax County. Information about the SSPA process is available at the South County SSPA website at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/planning-development/plan-amendments/sspa/south, or contact the Planning Division of the Department of Planning and Development at 703-324-1380; TTY 711.
Mason District's First Virtual Budget Town Meeting – In anticipation of the upcoming budget public hearings, on April 27 Supervisor Penny Gross discussed the Revised FY 2021 Fairfax County Budget with Chief Financial Officer Joe Mondoro, Dr. Ricardy Anderson, Mason District Representative on the School Board, and Leigh Burden, Assistant Superintendent for Financial Services for Fairfax County Public Schools. The FY 2021 Fairfax County Budget was updated because of the adverse effects the global COVID-19 pandemic has had on our county, our region, and our country. Information about the revised budget is available at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/budget/. A recording of the program is available at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/cableconsumer/channel-16/mason-district-videos. Budget mark up by the Board of Supervisors is scheduled for Tuesday, May 5, and final budget adoption is scheduled for Tuesday, May 12, 2020.
A Phased Re-Opening of Farmer's Markets Begins in May – The Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) is preparing for a gradual re-opening of some Farmer's Markets, beginning May 9, 2020. During this phased approach, social distancing and safety guidelines that comply with Governor Northam's orders will be observed. All other park amenities, such as visitors' centers and restrooms, will remain closed. Information about which Farmer's Markets will open can be found on the FCPA website www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/farmersmarkets.
The 2020 Census Continues: Complete Census Form Online to Ensure an Accurate Count – An accurate population count is needed for the distribution of more than $675 billion in federal funds back to state and local governments. In April, the U.S. Census Bureau mailed reminder letters and paper questionnaires to households that have not responded to the census. Information about completing the census form is available at www.census.gov, or contact the Call Center at 301-763-INFO (4636) or 800-923-8282; TTY 1-800-877-8339. Information about the 2020 Census also is available on the Fairfax County website at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/topics/census. Questions? Send an e-mail to email@example.com, or call 703-324-2391; TTY 711. Responses to Census Bureau surveys are kept confidential and protected under Title 13 of the U.S. Code. The results from any census or survey are reported in statistical format only.
Mason District and Fairfax County Resources During COVID-19 – To find additional resources during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the Mason District COVID-19 website (www.fairfaxcounty.gov/mason/covid-19), which offers online resources and information at the local, state, and federal level. Fairfax County also has new resources, which include:
- A COVID-19 languages portal that features information about basic needs assistance translated into the top seven non-English languages spoken in Fairfax County: Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Arabic, Urdu, and Farsi: www.fairfaxcounty.gov/covid19/language-portal;
- Fairfax County offers COVID-19 text alerts in Spanish. To sign up, text FFXCOVIDESP to 888777. Reciba mensajes por texto de COVID-19 en Español. Para inscribirse, textea FFXCOVIDESP a 888777.;
- Food resources for families: https://www.fcps.edu/news/coronavirus-update-food-resources;
- A COVID-19 Geospatial Resources Platform that offers maps and interactive applications with data relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic in Fairfax County: https://fairfax-county-covid-19-geospatial-resources-fairfaxcountygis.hub.arcgis.com/;
- Stores with dedicated store hours for vulnerable populations, list compiled by Northern Virginia Family Services: www.nvfs.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Dedicated-Store-Hours-Most-Vulnerable-Operating-Updates.pdf.
- The most recent information about COVID-19 in Fairfax County is available on the Health Department website: www.fairfaxcounty.gov/health/novel-coronavirus; and
- The latest key updates is available: www.fairfaxcounty.gov/covid19/.
For information about the Fairfax County's operating status, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/status. Although most county buildings are closed to the public, visit the "Assistance from a Distance" website at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/covid19/assistance-distance for key government services that are available online or by phone so you can conduct business with Fairfax County.
Fairfax County Libraries at Home – Did you know that there are more than just books at the Fairfax County Public Library (FCPL)? Your library card is your passport to free services. Many library services are available online, and new ones are being added as they become available. Read e-books and e-Magazines, listen to e-Audiobooks, stream videos "Just for Kids," learn a new language, take an online course, discover your roots with genealogical resources, use online homework resources, and more! A top 10 list of ways you can use the FCPL from home is available at https://research.fairfaxcounty.gov/unlimited/at-home. Need more to explore? Visit the FCPL calendar at https://librarycalendar.fairfaxcounty.gov/ to find online events.
Fairfax County Continues Zoning Ordinance Modernization (zMOD): Changes Proposed to Accessory Dwelling Units and Home-Based Businesses – To better serve Fairfax County residents, the zMOD project includes an updated approach to two uses allowed in dwellings. Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) currently are allowed only for single-family detached homes with a special permit approval by the Board of Zoning Appeals, and require the occupant of the house or the accessory unit to be age 55 or older, or be a person with a disability. The proposed regulations would remove the age and disability requirements, update the size limitation of the dwelling, and ease the approval process for interested homeowners and small businesses. Fairfax County also is updating Home-Based Business regulations to consolidate the different types of home-based business approval processes, and create an equitable system to allow most home-based business owners to apply through an administrative process instead of the traditional public hearing before the Board of Zoning Appeals. To learn more about the proposed changes and share your insight about the proposed changes, watch two short videos available at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/planning-development/zmod and complete the surveys by May 31, 2020. Questions? Call the Department of Planning and Development at 703-324-1314, or send an e-mail to the zMOD Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reminder: Senior Citizen Tax Relief Application Due June 1 – To mitigate the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) within our community, the Department of Tax Administration (DTA) is encouraging residents to continue social distancing and submit their annual applications by e-mail, first-class mail, or fax. Senior citizens and people with disabilities may submit their 2020 Tax Relief Application by June 1, 2020. The application form is available at the DTA website www.fairfaxcounty.gov/taxes/sites/taxes/files/assets/documents/pdf/2020-tax-relief-application-seniors-people-disabilities.pdf, and may be submitted:
- By E-mail: email@example.com;
- By Mail: Department of Tax Administration
Attn: Tax Relief Section
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 225.5
Fairfax, VA 22035; or
- By Fax: 703-802-7595
If you require assistance with completing the application, or have any questions, call 703-222-8234 (TTY 711). Information about the Tax Relief Program for Seniors and People with Disabilities can be found at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/taxes/relief/tax-relief-seniors-people-with-disabilities.
Real estate tax relief is available for older adults and people with disabilities who meet certain qualifications. Qualified residents also may be eligible for car tax and rent relief. For more information, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/taxes/.
Absentee Voting for June 23 Democratic Primary – In Fairfax County, there is a Democratic Primary in the 11th District, U.S. House of Representatives on June 23, 2020. The Virginia Department of Elections urges voters to protect their health during the COVID-19 outbreak. Voting absentee in the upcoming May (municipal) and June 2020 elections is urged to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Voters may choose reason "2A My disability or illness" to vote absentee. The deadline to register to vote, or update an existing registration, is Tuesday, May 26, 2020, for the June 23 Democratic Primary. The deadline to request an absentee ballot by mail is 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 16, 2020. Voters who choose to vote absentee by first-class mail should do so as soon as possible to get their ballots, complete, and return them by mail by Election Day. To apply online for a Virginia absentee ballot, visit the Virginia State Board of Elections website at https://vote.elections.virginia.gov/VoterInformation. Additional information about absentee voting is available at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/elections/absentee and www.elections.virginia.gov/casting-a-ballot/absentee-voting/. Questions? Send an e-mail to the Office of Elections at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 703-222-0776, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Please Note: There will not be any in-person absentee voting at the Mason District Governmental Center for the Democratic Primary.
Mason News and Updates – To receive news and updates about Fairfax County services and events in Mason District, send an e-mail to email@example.com to subscribe. If you wish to unsubscribe, send an e-mail and include unsubscribe in the subject line to remove your e-mail address from the subscription list.
Mason Matters! The Television Show – No one could have predicted the appearance and rapid global spread of the coronavirus known as COVID-19. Medical experts are good at anticipating potential contagious diseases, but COVID-19 is a pandemic whose evolution presents daily, if not hourly, challenges for the global medical community, and it is rapidly consuming the resources needed to control and eradicate it. Preparedness, contingency planning, and swift and efficient execution for something visible, such as a natural or human-made threat, is achieved readily. But an invisible, pandemic virus requires a different level of preparedness, and it is testing the fortitude of the medical profession, governments, and our communities. The May edition of Mason Matters!, the television show that brings you news and information about our Mason District community, hosted by Supervisor Penny Gross, features Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, director of the Division of Epidemiology and Population Health at the Fairfax County Health Department. Mason Matters! airs on Cable Channel 16 every Thursday at 7 p.m., and every Friday and Sunday at 6:30 p.m., and daily on-line at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/mason.
The Quick 411 – I am looking for ways I can donate and help locally, during COVID-19. Can Fairfax County provide some suggestions? Yes. There are several ways you can help the community – volunteering, donating blood, and more. Visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/covid19/donate-help to learn how you can help.