Updates from Letty – April 16, 2020

Blog posts are the personal views of Letty Hardi and not official statements or records on behalf of the Falls Church City Council

Dear Friends,

This week’s post is early so that I can help make a final push for the Falls Church t-shirt campaign you may have seen. It ends tonight, so you still have a chance to contribute – support a small business, help a family in need, and get some new threads at the same time. And if you’re looking for ways to help directly, see here for vetted donation and volunteer opportunities. While all small businesses are hurting, I know many non-dining businesses have even less options to bring in revenue – I’d love to hear any of your creative ideas to support them.

Read for an update on emergency tax extensions and temporary zoning we passed this week. Two callouts for both commercial and residential properties:

  • With the property tax extension, the important takeaway for property owners is to pay it forward. As rent is usually one of the largest expenses for small businesses – I encourage property owners who will be able to take advantage of the extension to turn around and grant rent deferrals or other payment options to their tenants.
  • We know a number of residential property managers are already making arrangements with tenants with financial hardship. While evictions are on hold statewide and the city cannot mandate rent relief, the city has reached out to all of our multi-family buildings and offered recommendations to landlords, including payment plans and waiving late fees to keep our community housed. If you live in an apartment, I encourage you to share this with your neighbors.

We all could use some non-COVID good news, so keep reading for updates about our latest census response and commonsense gun legislation bills that were signed into law over the weekend.

Take care,

What Happened This Week:

(1) Tax Extensions

The City Council unanimously passed several emergency ordinances this week that should provide some near term relief for residents and businesses.

  • 31 day extension for the second installment of 2020 residential and commercial real estate property tax payment due on June 5, 2020 to July 6, 2020.
  • 61 day extension for applications for tax relief for seniors and people with disability from April 15, 2020 to June 15, 2020
  • Extension of payment deadline for March and April meals and transient occupancy taxes until June 1, 2020. Note that these taxes are paid by the customer, and the intention of this deadline extension is to help businesses with additional time to remit these taxes; therefore, these customer taxes should not be used by businesses to cover expenses.

More info from the Treasurer’s Office.

(2) Relaxed Zoning Rules

To help businesses and support the public’s access to food and critical services during this pandemic, we also authorized various temporary zoning changes: businesses can display signage to promote carryout/drive up without a permit, vend outdoors in the vicinity of a business entrance or its parking lot, and convert parking spaces for easier carryout. Should the Governor’s orders allow in the future, parking spaces could also be converted to more outdoor dining to allow for more space and distancing.

(3) Grab and Go Signs!

Speaking of signs, you may have seen these Grab & Go signs popping up. The City’s Economic Development Office has created these banners – they are for free to any business. Email edo@fallschurchva.gov to get one.

(4) 2020 Census

The City of Falls Church, while not a county, has been in the top 10 for self response across the US this week. Way to go! Not too late to send in your responses online if you’ve misplaced your letter.

(5) Finally.

As this City Council has been a big proponent of commonsense gun legislation, I was thrilled to see various bills signed into law last week. These would go into effect July 1: universal background checks, extreme risk protective order to temporarily take guns away from those deemed to be dangerous to themselves or others, one handgun per month law, and more. Two bills were sent back with amendments, including the bill to give local governments more authority – which would allow us to ban guns in public spaces like libraries, parks, and city hall. Will keep tracking those.

What’s Coming Up:

We’re taking schedules week by week for now, but we are planning another virtual City Council meeting next Monday.