Post #351: FIDO

Posted on August 17, 2019

Note:  After I published this, the same colleague who introduced me to FIDO suggested that I add one major caveat:  Things only appear in FIDO once they are in the hands of Fairfax County.  Issues that are handled solely by the Town of Vienna, or that are handled first by the Town and then by the County, either never appear or appear with some time lag.  So FIDO gives you a look at what’s going on with a property, but it’s not necessarily a complete look, or the most timely look, at what is happening.  That said, practically speaking, is the only look we’re going to get — the Town of Vienna does not have a similar publicly-visible permit-tracking system in place.

Original posting follows.

A colleague clued me in to the Fairfax County FIDO system.  There, for any address, you can look up the status of any building, occupancy, or other permits or licenses issued by Fairfax County.  The FIDO system can be used to provide some reassurance that projects that appear to be in process really are.

My first use of FIDO was for Post #343, regarding the Wawa planned for Maple and Nutley.  FIDO shows that Wawa has applied for a permit to operate a food service establishment, and that application is still open, along with various electrical, plumbing, and sign permits.

Let me try another example.  I still read people complaining about the dead Amoco gas station at Park and Maple.  (This is always in the context of claiming that we need MAC zoning because Maple is so run-down).  But, more than a year ago, the Town passed a developers’ request to revive the dead gas station at Maple and Park and add a full-sized convenience store, under standard commercial zoning.  So, did the developer then drop those plans, or is that still in process?

That property is clearly in process to be come a BP gas station and convenience store.  That’s according to FIDO.  There are recent permits for removing the old gas tanks, installing the new tanks, plumbing work, electrical work, asbestos abatement (apparently in the roof), a new sign, and so on.  All issued this year.  The project hasn’t been abandoned, it’s just taking quite a while.

What about Marco Polo?  The only recent permits that FIDO shows for 245 Maple Avenue West or the associated buildings on Pleasant are all for tearing them down:  Permits for asbestos abatement, for capping off the sewer and water service, and for demolition.  Presumably, Fairfax will not issue any permits for construction until the Town of Vienna signs off on the final design — which the Board of Architectural Review appears to have done on 8/15/2019.

What about the proposed Bear Branch Tavern (133 Maple Avenue E, replacing the Cardinal Bank on the first floor of the office building directly adjacent to the W&OD trail).  That’s well under way — permits for plumbing, electrical, mechanical work, and a food service establishment permit are all active.

The upshot is that even when there’s no obvious evidence that work is progressing, you can use FIDO to track the status of applications for various types of building permits.  This is a handy tool in cases where it’s not completely clear, based on the exterior of the building, that a building is being put to a new use.