The Annual Meeting of the Vantage Homeowner Association was called to order at 7:45 pm with board members Hal Allen, Earl Hughes, Tony O’Connor, Amanda Linares, Eric Kerby, and Jane Rueger in attendance. Over 43 homes were in attendance in person or by proxy, so quorum was met.
- Elections – Dave Balandrin and Hal Allen stood for re-election to the board, were nominated and seconded, and were unanimously elected to three-year terms.
- Treasurer – Earl Hughes presented the HOA budget for 2018, as well as the Treasurer’s report as of October 13, 2017 (including balance sheet and PnL sheet). Questions were asked about what is done to collect dues that have not been paid and the Treasurer described the dues collection process. The Treasurer noted the past year’s financials reflected major capital improvements in repaving the basketball court and significant quantities of new mulch for the playground.
- Supervisor McKay, supervisor for Lee District attended to provide remarks and answer questions. He noted that a panel has been appointed to address complaints against Fairfax County police, which is operating very well and has the full support of police force. Supervisor McKay noted that he chairs Budget Committee of the Board of Supervisors and that the principle source of revenue for the county is property taxes (65% of total). In terms of costs, Schools are the largest single budget item (55% of expenses) – public safety is next at 20%. Supervisor McKay noted that Fairfax County is a “donor” county in that only $3,000 of the total $13,000/student cost of schools is paid for by the state government. He stated that this is because state funding is based on an index that takes into account the wealth of a county but the formula is impacted by significant outliers. He has been working to change this indexing that governs state funding to be more fair.Supervisor McKay noted that the extensive paving project is ongoing – the county strategically worked with the water department to delay paving until after some water main line re-routing work was completed and worked with VDOT to re-pave as many roads as possible. The county is trying to focus on high-traffic areas and entire communities at the same time. VDOT is very behind schedule, however, and will be in paving cycles for the next 10 years.
Supervisor McKay discussed the Richmond Highway DART project – VA Department of Railroad and VDOT have a long-term plan to improve infrastructure and change planning rules to revitalize the Richmond Highway corridor. Most properties along that corridor were developed before environmental regulations (e.g. water quality, Chesapeake Bay protection) existed, so unchecked by those regulations. Now, with each redevelopment project, the county is bringing properties up to current code. Pedestrian safety is also important – landscaping and continuous sidewalks are being implemented, along with central bus-only express lanes. Supervisor McKay noted that this is the first time the county is employing this sophisticated approach to development of the Richmond Highway area, akin to the successful redevelopment process for Tyson’s Corner. McKay noted that a street widening project to create segments of three lane highway on Richmond Highway is also underway, but very expensive to fund. In 3-5 years, he expects to likely see the physical start of construction. Questions for Supervisor McKay (and his responses) included:
- Would the proposed bus route be similar to Arlington center lane? Yes, very similar. Richmond Highway is the heaviest used bus corridor in the county. The idea is to transport commuters more quickly by expanding use of express buses. Express buses will have signal preemption and limited stops in the dedicated lanes (not like connector buses that go through the neighborhoods).
- When you look at the number of buses vs. the number of cars down a lane, is that the best use of a lane to dedicate to a bus even when there are fewer buses? Bus users face unpredictable service now because of traffic and other issues – to be more reliable, the express buses must have time-travel benefit over a car. The long-term goal is to encourage bus use. If we continue to added traffic on Richmond Highway from development in parts of MD and Fort Belvoir at current pace, the county could not build a road wide enough to handle all the traffic. Thus there is a long-term need to connect communities better with public transport. Also, the long-term plan includes extending the yellow line metro farther down Richmond Highway, which can use the same right of way as the express bus lane.
- Any possibility of sidewalks at Lockheed boulevard? McKay acknowledged it is hard to walk to Huntley Meadows or Hybla Valley where segments are without sidewalks. Every sidewalk improvement on Richmond Highway includes filling gaps in sidewalks; the primary focus has been on Richmond Highway itself, to ensure continuous sidewalk on both sides for public safety. Segments of sidewalk are missing because very expensive to acquire the land and maintain, and acquiring sidewalks is not highest priority for funding. Lockheed and Harrison do have sidewalk segments on the county’s near term plan.
- McKay noted that bike lanes have been controversial – whenever VDOT builds a new road in Fairfax County, the county requires them to put in trail, sidewalk and a bike lane. Also certain repaving projects include adding bike lanes. The reasons for this are (1) bike lanes need to be networked or they are worthless; (2) while some people do not like bike lanes, analysis shows that people drive slower (and safer) with striped bike lanes in place.
- What’s going to happen with the ISA building? McKay noted this property used to be Mt Vernon high school, and Fairfax County owns the building. The ISA decided not to renew its lease on the property. The county is still figuring out how to use the property in a cost-effective way (it is very old, and does not meet current code). The county moved a teen center into that building, and is considering a senior center also. The fire marshal office is there also. The county will put out an RFP on this and got some responses from private builders. The goal for the county is to continue to own the property and repurpose it in a way that opens back up to public use.
- Any updates on rash of vehicle break ins in our neighborhood? Crime district–wide is down but spot problems like vehicle break-ins continue. Often they involve vehicles that are unlocked, so be sure to lock your cars. Also do not leave high value items out in plain view. If you see people acting suspiciously call the non-emergency police line. Police take break-ins seriously, they will follow up / dust the car for evidence, etc. McKay noted that two years ago a bond measure passed to build a new police station in Lorton which is a big improvement in public safety. This also helps our district because it reduces the geographic scope of our police station’s service territory.
- Speed is a huge issue, people speed down Vantage, how do we get a speed bump? The county is allowed to implement traffic calming measures by VDOT. However, we have to follow VDOT rules – the HOA or ten neighbors must petition to do a traffic study to determine whether the street qualifies for calming measures. Further petition is required for a majority of residents on that street to agree that calming measures are necessary. If that step is passed, then the county will determine the appropriate calming measures. McKay noted that in some places calming measures do not actually work as intended (they can be noisy for those living next to the speed bumps, can reduce home values, can slow down EMS response times, and sometimes do not actually slow down traffic other than right near the speed bump). McKay noted that one likely impediment to traffic calming on Vantage is the comparatively low volume of traffic.
- CERT Representatives– Jonathan Keel spoke about the Community Emergency Response Team. CERT prepares the community for disasters. Its mission is to talk to the public about disaster preparedness. The CERT program evolved from a recognition 35 years ago that good people want to help but after a disaster is over, such people can do more harm than good without training. CERT provides free training to members of the public. 28 hour training program includes basic emergency response organization; fundamental medical training (e.g. preventing bleeding out, recovering from certain types of injuries); search & rescue; and fire suppression. More advanced free training – including first aid – is available also. CERT is sponsored by Fairfax County Fire Department. Classes are held at Fort Belvoir and at the Fire Academy, among other places. Keel provided reading materials for community members to take with them. Mr. Keel also noted in particular an alert system that can be customized to geographic areas of interest and provide advance notice of disasters, shut downs, police activity, etc. Organizing local CERT teams by zip codes with members of the community who are prepared with training was discussed as a suggestion. One more class will be held this year starting in early November – usually 15-20 classes are held per year.
- Other Business
- Request was made for the Board to write a letter to Fairfax County, which owns and maintains the drainage culvert near the Vantage park, about clearing the mud and undergrowth from the culvert. The Board agreed to inform the county.
- A question was raised about whether to establish a community inventory of homeowners who live in the subdivision, in particular the elderly or single homeowners, that first-responders could access to offer assistance. The Board noted that CERT may be able to coordinate something like that for those who voluntarily sign up for the service. However, a concern was raised about publicly making available information about those who live alone in that they could be targeted. The Board took it as an action item to consider how best to address the suggestion.
Meeting adjourned at 9:15 pm.