Updates from Letty – April 9, 2021

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,

I hope everyone is enjoying the sunshine and sense of hope and renewal that spring (and vaccines!) brings. The beginning of April also marks the halfway point to the annual budget process. We had a long work session this week, with several more meetings and one more town hall before budget adoption on April 26. While we wait for more clarity and details on the city’s share of the American Rescue Plan, the work of digging into the city budget continues. It’s our biggest responsibility to judiciously deploy taxpayer dollars against key community priorities. I’ll share a quick recap with links to more information.

Two other topics this week: the review of the site plan for the West Falls project (there’s also a town hall for that) and a new project in the pipeline – Atlantic Realty’s One City Center project at the 4Ps corner of Broad and Washington (don’t worry, the project won’t displace the 4Ps).

Finally, another sign of spring is our annual tradition of recognizing April as child abuse prevention month with the pinwheel garden “planted” outside of Cherry Hill Park – all the more important to increase awareness this year due to the stress and isolating impacts of COVID. Today is Wear Blue Day, and everyone is encouraged to make a visible commitment to preventing child abuse and helping make great childhoods happen.

Take care,

What Happened This Week:

(1) Mark your calendars – April 18 and April 19

On the COVID front – vaccine registration opened for all of Phase 1c workers this week. We’re about 10 days away from everyone 16+ becoming eligible to register on April 18. Besides registering at the health department, vaccine appointments also are available at local pharmacies as the federal supply to pharmacies continues to increase.

Locally, we have about 34% of the total population having received 1 dose and about 18% of the total population fully vaccinated.

I’m also going to resume office hours (outdoors, socially distanced) – Monday, April 19th 9-10 am at Mr. Brown’s Park. There are limited number of chairs, so we’ll stay well below the Governor’s gathering limits. Bring your questions about the budget, development projects under review, or just say hello after a loong year. I’m also happy to keep hearing from you via email.

(2) FY22 Budget

New this year are department directors’ videos with overviews of their budgets. This week, we focused on public safety, public works, and housing and human services. With police reform being high community interest – here are some highlights: we learned that we expect 95% of our police force will be CIT (crisis intervention) trained by the end of 2021. Body cams will be implemented this year, funded by some grant and some local dollars – and our officers also want them for transparency. I’m particularly interested in testing a mental health first model to policing. Because our human services are largely contracted with Fairfax County, we have asked that our police be part of a pilot program in the county where mental health professionals are dispatched to non criminal service calls instead of just police officers.

Next week, we’ll deep dive into planning/economic development, HR, rec and parks, and library. If you want to learn more, check out the budget website, attend next Thursday’s town hall, or view last month’s town hall video recording. My March 12 blog post also included highlights of this year’s budget,

Remember at first reading, we advertised a tax rate of $1.34 (1.5 cents less than the current rate of $1.355), which will be the upper limit when we finalize the tax rate on April 26. Our hope is that with more forthcoming details on ARP dollars (perhaps much less than the $13M windfall as originally reported), we will be able to supplement lost revenue and fund key priorities and find opportunities for further lowering of the tax rate.

Budget glossary & FAQs

(3) West Falls Church

As the West Falls Church project is 3-4x larger than any other development in the city undertaken to date, the reviews of the site plans are also more complex. This week, we focused on the transportation and environment aspects for the proposal, with future work sessions on areas like urban design and fiscals.

I imagine the average resident is not going to want to dig into all of the details, like crosswalks and street cross sections and LEED scorecards but if you are – the details are all here (scroll to see the 2021 submission). Of note is that there is an innovative proposal for the intersection of Chestnut/Rt 7/Commons Drive that balances the concerns of the businesses, residents in the Falls Hill/Shreve neighborhoods, while creating safer pedestrian access to the new project. The north end of Chestnut would be closed, addressing neighborhood concerns of cut through and speeding traffic, and a new intersection would be created (with signalized and shorter pedestrian crossings) that aligns with Commons Drive across the street.

The main takeaway is that you should know there is a huge effort involved in reviewing the designs with several more public discussions before the project is up for a final approval at the end of May. And if you’d like to tune in, there is another Virtual Town Hall on West Falls Church next Wednesday at noon.

(4) One City Center

A preface: while it may seem like there is one project after another, keep in mind that each project has a long lead time with reviews, community input, and approvals before they proceed. Projects we’re discussing now, if approved, won’t be breaking ground for awhile. And pragmatically, mixed use development diversifies our tax base, generating about $4M in net revenue each year (equivalent to 9 cents on the real estate property tax rate) on top of revitalizing underutilized parcels and adding walkable destinations, people, and vibrancy to our city.

One City Center is a new mixed-use development project proposed by Atlantic Realty Companies, assembling 5 parcels at the southwestern corner of Broad and Washington. It would include the following elements: 

  • Façade improvements to the existing George Mason Square office campus (office building above the 4Ps)
  • Façade improvements to 150 S. Washington St office building
  • At the corner of Broad and S. Maple, a new 10 story mixed-use building comprised of approximately 110K square feet of new commercial uses (ground floor retail, potential grocer, and upper level office), 320K square feet of new residential uses with 246 rental apartments, and a new garage. The new building would be about a 75/25 residential to commercial mix and generate roughly $740K of net fiscal benefit per year
  • Note a cool traffic circle proposed to improve the S. Maple/Annandale intersection

What’s Coming Up:

April 14, noon: Virtual Town Hall on West Falls Church

April 15, 730 pm: FY22 Budget Town Hall #2

April 18: planned opening of vaccine registration for all 16+

April 19, 9-10 am: Letty’s office hours (Mr. Brown’s Park)

Current draft schedule of meetings and agenda items

City Council Meetings start at 730 pm, unless otherwise specified. You can access the agenda and livestream here, including recordings of past meetings