Park Authority releases details on pickleball project at Wakefield Park - DMV service center coming to Braddock Road - Board sets property tax ceiling at current rate

Arrest made in burglaries targeting minority-owned businesses - Neighborhood groups encouraged to help residents get vaccinated

Welcome to Braddock Buzz, where we’re feeling bleary-eyed after losing an hour of sleep. Contact us with news and feedback, or if you’re interested in advertising opportunities, at braddockbuzz@gmail.com.

Thank you to our sponsor, Realtor Jennifer Mack, whose column this week asks the question, are we in another housing bubble? Reach out to Jennifer with column suggestions or real estate questions at jennifer@jennifermackproperties.com.

Braddock District News

Park Authority releases Wakefield Park pickleball plan—which falls short of what advocates wanted: The Park Authority is looking to convert two platform tennis courts at Wakefield Park to pickleball to meet increasing demand for a sport that’s surging in popularity—but this falls short of an earlier proposal put forward by pickleball advocates. The Park Authority’s plan would repurpose platform tennis courts 12 and 13, which are in poor condition and rarely used, at a cost of $140,000, paid for with dedicated park renovation funds. Construction would begin in the late spring and last three months.

Here’s a map of the courts at Wakefield Park, with the ones slated to be repurposed circled in red:

The Park Authority’s plan is far less than what pickleball advocates had been hoping for. An informal group called the Fairfax County Advocates for Pickleball has proposed turning Wakefield Park into a “world class pickleball facility,” as the group said in a September presentation to Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw. 

The group wants to convert tennis courts 9 and 10 into six dedicated pickleball courts and court 11 into four dedicated pickleball courts. The presentation notes that Wakefield Park is perfect for a pickleball hub given that it is centrally located in the county, provides access to restrooms at the Audrey Moore RECenter, and that there would still be an “ample” number of tennis courts in the Wakefield area. “Our vision was for Wakefield to be a centerpiece for community play as well as a way to bring tournaments here,” said Braddock District pickleball advocate Mike Perel.

We emailed the Park Authority to ask about the discrepancy between its plan and the proposal put forward by the pickleball group. Spokesperson Judy Pedersen sent us this response:

The existing tennis courts at Wakefield Park are the most heavily used tennis courts in the park system. On a nice day it’s difficult to find a tennis court not in use. The tennis courts are used for competition, Park Authority classes, rentals and public use as well.

Courts 9 & 10 already include overlayed lines for pickleball. The Park Authority is proposing conversion of the Platform Tennis/Paddle ball courts 12 & 13 because the courts are rarely used. The Park Authority continually assesses the use of facilities to determine if the facility should be repurposed to better meet the needs of the community. Based on the low/rare use of the Platform Tennis, the Park Authority is recommending the courts be repurposed to two dedicated pickle ball courts.

Walkinshaw also sent us a statement, saying he’s “excited that the Park Authority has committed to repurposing two underutilized courts for pickleball at Wakefield Park.”

“These dedicated courts—the first at Wakefield Park—will give pickleball players a place to gather and enjoy their growing sport,” Walkinshaw continued. “The ongoing FCPA Pickleball survey and upcoming public meetings will guide future decisions related to expanding pickleball opportunities in Fairfax County."

Walkinshaw and the Park Authority will hold a virtual meeting April 8 at 7 p.m. to discuss the issue and receive community input. Details on how to attend are here.

DMV service center coming to Braddock Road: The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles is moving forward with the design of a new customer service center on Braddock Road just east of Burke Station Road, according to the latest edition of Supervisor Walkinshaw’s Braddock Beacon newsletter. The site, now used for motorcycle training, was purchased by DMV in 2015 with the intent to build a new service center to replace the one at Fair Oaks Mall.

Here’s more on the new facility via Walkinshaw, who says he’s requested that DMV host a virtual town hall and is disappointed that, so far, nothing has been done to solicit community input:

The new customer service center will be 15,435 square feet, with 20 teller windows, one overflow/testing window, and three information windows. All windows will be outfitted with clear plastic partitions, and lobby seating will be arranged to allow for adequate social distancing. 

The DMV will continue to use the appointment system that has been in place since May 2020, allowing control over customer flow. When it opens, the office will staff 9 windows to accommodate 350-400 appointments per day on weekdays and half that on Saturdays. When it is appropriate to increase the number of open windows, the DMV anticipates operating at 75 percent capacity, which would result in 600 appointments per day on weekdays and 300 on Saturdays. The parking lot will accommodate not only customers and employees, but also road skills testing. That will avoid sending cars onto Braddock Road for that purpose.

County Government

Board sets property tax ceiling at current rate: The Board of Supervisors has approved a maximum property tax rate for the next budget year of $1.15 per $100 in assessed value. This is the current rate, but would represent a tax hike for most homeowners because of rising property values. County Executive Bryan Hill had recommended cutting the tax rate by a penny, to $1.14—and even that reduced rate would increase the average homeowner’s tax burden by $224, with real estate assessments up 4.25% over last year.

The board’s decision will likely come as welcome news to county employees hoping for a raise. Hill’s proposed budget would keep pay flat for all county employees, including teachers, for the second year in a row—which he’s framed as a necessity given the pandemic’s toll on the economy. A higher tax rate could give the board more wiggle room to boost employee pay.

Here’s how Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay explained the tax decision:

We advertised the tax rate as $1.15 – flat from last year. This is the ceiling of the tax rate that we will now have a full County conversation on, not a decision being made today. I am fully aware that many residents' assessments are on the rise, many folks are struggling, and that also vital County services are needed now more than ever. We must balance these issues in the weeks and months ahead leading up to budget adoption on May 4, 2021.

Supervisor Walkinshaw is scheduled to hold a Braddock District Budget Town Hall on March 30 at 7 p.m. with Joe Mondoro, the county’s chief financial officer. More info here.

zMOD decision deferred to March 23: The Board of Supervisors last week deferred a decision to overhaul the county’s four-decade-old zoning rules until March 23. The Planning Commission had previously approved the Zoning Ordinance Modernization Project, or zMOD, but with tweaks to the most controversial elements, including rejecting a proposal to streamline the approval process for Accessory Living Units.

“Our decision to defer the vote on zMod is to make sure we get it right,” Chairman McKay said in a statement. “We received a lot of testimony today and a Planning Commission action just last week which needs to be reviewed by Board members. Modernizing the ordinance is way overdue to make our ordinance simpler, easier to understand, and in better alignment with our surrounding jurisdictions.”

Pandemic

Neighborhood groups encouraged to help residents get vaccinated: The Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations is encouraging neighborhood civic groups to ensure their residents have the resources they need to get Covid-19 vaccinations. In a letter to member groups, Federation President Bill Barfield said Fairfax County has done an “outstanding” job implementing its vaccination program—but there still may be knowledge and transportation gaps for some residents.

“The Federation believes that its member citizens associations are in a good position to address this gap by providing neighbor-to-neighbor help to those who may be struggling to get vaccination appointments because of technical challenges or because they have limited transportation to vaccination sites,” Barfield wrote. 

The federation is working with member associations to establish a network of neighborhood volunteers, “Neighborhood COVID Navigators,” to help residents schedule and attend vaccination appointments. In a flyer distributed to member groups, the federation notes that county residents can reach the Health Department call center at 703-324-7404, TTY 711, for help scheduling appointments or arranging transportation.

Crime

Arrest made in burglaries targeting minority-owned businesses: D.C. resident Kwasi Crichlow, 27, has been arrested in Georgia for his alleged involvement in multiple overnight burglaries targeting minority-owned businesses in the area. Police are investigating at least 16 burglaries that occurred since late January, including the March 3 burglary of Ariake Restaurant on Little River Turnpike, but their statement ties Crichlow to just three of the incidents, which all occurred the night of Jan. 28 in Annandale:

  • Naz Food     

  • Kogiya Korean BBQ

  • Han Gang Korean Restaurant

Detectives continue to investigate Crichlow’s involvement in other burglaries and do not believe he acted alone. Anyone with information regarding the incidents is asked to call the Mason District Station Criminal Investigation Section at 703-256-8035, or submit an anonymous tip here.

Here’s how the Fairfax County Police Department described Crichlow’s arrest, which occured in Georgia after he evaded capture in Maryland:

On Mar. 4, officers learned that Crichlow was entering Fairfax County in a white BMW SUV. Officers saw the car near Lorton Road at I-95 and attempted a traffic stop. The driver refused to stop, which resulted in a pursuit that traveled into Maryland. Our police helicopter coordinated with officers in Prince George’s County, but Crichlow evaded arrest. Crichlow fled the National Capital Region and our law enforcement partners located him on Mar. 6, just outside Atlanta, Georgia. He was taken into custody and is currently held at the Fulton County Jail pending extradition. 

News in Brief

  • The Park Authority Board has approved a $16,200 Mastenbrook grant to the Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts (MORE) for a trail restoration project in Wakefield Park, the Annandale Blog reports. The grant will cover half of the $32,400 project, with MORE expected to raise money to cover the other half.

  • A second lawsuit has been filed against FCPS arguing that the decision to scrap the admissions test at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology is discriminatory against Asian Americans, The Washington Post reports.

  • An environmental activist group tested the tap water in 19 locations across Northern Virginia and found cancer-causing “forever chemicals” to be present at higher levels than elsewhere in the D.C. region and among the highest levels in the country, WAMU reports.

Real Estate

Sponsored Content

Jennifer Mack column: Are we in another housing bubble?

See Jennifer’s video column introduction here:

You may be seeing some of the record prices your neighbors are getting for homes and wondering if we’re in for another housing bubble like we had back in 2008. Prices are up by double digits, and buyers are paying well over appraised values for homes—in some cases buying them sight unseen and without inspections.

Depending on whom you ask, you will get different answers—but my opinion is we are not in for another housing bubble. The main reason for this is the quality of borrowers shopping for homes in this market. We’re seeing high down payments and buyers with a good stockpile of cash and high credit scores and high income. Borrowers are more qualified than ever to buy a home, and this is contributing to the selling environment being so competitive. Buyers are able to waive appraisal and financing contingencies and offer huge earnest money deposits and down payments. They’re also able to waive inspections because they have the cash on hand to make necessary repairs after closing, even if there are unfortunate surprises.

Because of their strong financial position, they’re going into purchases with a sizable amount of equity in their homes. So even if values were to drop 10-15%, they would still be in a good position—and most don't plan on selling anytime soon. In fact, in my experience, buyers are planning to stay in their homes longer than ever. The majority of millennial buyers I work with are purchasing the home they plan to stay in until all their children have graduated from high school. They feel their jobs are stable and that their income will continue to rise. 

The demand for quality housing is not expected to go away anytime soon. Fifty-two percent of young adults ages 18-29 are living with their parents. Eventually, these people will move out and many will buy homes as they are saving for their down payment while living at home.

It would, however, be naive for home buyers and sellers to assume prices will continue to increase at this rate each year, as that is simply not sustainable. For now, sellers can enjoy the ride while buyers struggle to secure suitable housing in this truly unprecedented market.

Jennifer Mack has more than 15 years of experience in the real estate industry, with her team servicing Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. Contact her at jennifer@jennifermackproperties.com or by calling 703-672-0038.

New listings

10522 Arrowood St, Fairfax | 4 beds, 4 baths, 2,880 sf | $737,888

10701 Buckingham Rd, Fairfax | 4 beds,  3.5 baths, 2,738 sf | $724,900

10822 Burr Oak Way, Burke | 4 beds, 2.5 baths, 2,208 sf | $715,000

10917 Maple St, Fairfax | 4 beds, 2 baths, 1,931 sf | $575,000

11300 Nancyann Way, Fairfax | 5 beds, 3.5 baths, 2,854 sf | $700,000

4227 Holborn Ave, Annandale | 5 beds, 2.5 baths, 2,728 sf | $889,900

4314 Chain Bridge Rd, Fairfax | 3 beds, 3.5 baths, 2,509 sf | $739,900

4454 Edan Mae Ct, Annandale | 3 beds, 3.5 baths, 2,196 sf | $499,900

4920 Herkimer St, Annandale | 3 beds, 3.5 baths, 2,240 sf | $499,000

4955 Oriskany Dr, Annandale | 3 beds, 3.5 baths, 1,914 sf | $445,000

5201 Dalby Ln, Burke | 5 beds, 3 baths, 2,636 sf | $685,500

5509 Swift Current Ct, Burke | 3 beds, 3 baths, 2,078 sf | $514,900

5545 Ridgeton Hill Ct, Fairfax | 3 beds, 3 baths, 1,636 sf | $475,000

6047 Meyers Landing Ct, Burke | 3 beds, 3 baths, 1,377 sf | $464,900

7419 Jervis St, Springfield | 4 beds, 2 baths, 1,247 sf | $699,000

7471 Little River Tpke #204, Annandale | 1 bed, 1 bath, 631 sf | $185,000

7905 Dassett Ct #18, Annandale | 2 beds, 2 baths, 1,218 sf | $295,000

9823 Lakepointe Dr, Burke | 3 beds, 2.5 baths, 1,860 sf | $449,888

9524 Marcus Ct, Fairfax | 4 beds, 3.5 baths, 3,980 sf | $874,900

Recently sold

4102 Wakefield Dr, Annandale | 3 beds, 2 baths, 2,000 sf | 2 days on market | $690,000

4351 Americana Dr Unit I- 203, Annandale | 2 beds, 1 bath, 796 sf | 2 days on market | $205,000

4404 Island Pl #101, Annandale | 2 beds, 2 baths, 1,218 sf | 2 days on market | $250,000

8260 Branch Rd, Annandale | 4 beds, 3 baths, 4,001 sf | 2 days on market | $969,000

9038 Ashmeade Dr, Fairfax | 5 beds, 3 baths, 2,425 sf | 2 days on market | $730,000

4900 Asquith Ct, Fairfax | 5 beds, 3.5 baths, 3,199 sf | 1 day on market | $883,000

10838 Split Oak Ln, Burke | 3 beds, 2.5 baths, 1,040 sf | 1 day on market | $525,000

4422 Rockcrest Dr, Fairfax | 5 beds, 2.5 baths, 2,140 sf | 1 day on market | $745,000

5002 Wakefield Chapel Rd, Annandale | 4 beds, 3 baths, 2,464 sf | 1 day on market | $660,000

5427 Crows Nest Ct, Fairfax | 3 beds, 3.5 baths, 1,950 sf | 7 days on market | $495,000

4104 Accotink Pkwy, Annandale | 3 beds, 4.5 baths, 3,216 sf | 7 days on market | $830,000

10519 Earlham St, Fairfax | 5 beds, 3 baths, 2,632 sf | 7 days on market | $752,501

4820 Wakefield Chapel Rd, Annandale | 5 beds, 2 baths, 2,040 sf | 7 days on market | $755,000

5001 Fleming Dr, Annandale | 5 beds, 3 baths, 2,464 sf | 7 days on market | $725,000

5609 Herberts Crossing Dr, Burke | 4 beds, 3.5 baths, 3,174 sf | 7 days on market | $801,500

4206 Pickett Rd, Fairfax | 4 beds, 2.5 baths, 1,884 sf | 7 days on market | $731,000

9107 Fox Lair Dr, Burke | 5 beds, 3 baths, 1,137 sf | 7 days on market | $586,000

9615 Westport Ln, Burke | 3 beds, 3.5 baths, 1,757 sf | 4 days on market | $500,000

9205 Kristin Ln, Fairfax | 5 beds, 4.5 baths, 2,132 sf | 4 days on market | $740,000

5775 Heming Ave, Springfield | 4 beds, 2.5 baths, 1,908 sf | 4 days on market | $480,000

5505 Ventnor Ln, Springfield | 4 beds, 3 baths, 2,246 sf | 4 days on market | $685,000

11221 Wilburn Dr, Fairfax | 3 beds, 2 baths, 1,180 sf 3 days on market | $27,000

7006 Leewood Forest Dr, Springfield | 3 beds, 3.5 baths, 1,276 sf | 3 days on market | $431,000

4600 Duncan Dr, Annandale | 5 beds, 2.5 baths, 1,661 sf | 3 days on market | $775,000

9506 Babson Ct, Fairfax | 5 beds, 5 baths, 2,476 sf | 3 days on market | $700,000

5574 Hecate Ct, Fairfax | 3 beds, 3 baths, 1,622 sf | 2 days on market | $480,000

10028 Black Ct, Fairfax | 4 beds, 3.5 baths, 1,590 sf | 2 days on market | $650,000

4301 Still Meadow Rd, Fairfax | 4 beds, 2.5 baths, 1,932 sf | 2 days on market | $760,000