Updates from Letty – August 18, 2017

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 waning days of summer. We held our last meeting of the summer this week before we begin our official two week recess.

In case you missed it, we kicked off our meeting with a resolution in support of Charlottesville, reaffirming our values of equality, inclusion, and diversity. I’m proud to be a part of the community that welcomes all and so unequivocally rejects hate and bigotry. I’ve heard from many of you already this week. We welcome your thoughts on actions we can take at the local level and engagement with our state and federal representatives – we are listening.

Our next City Council meeting will be a work session on Tuesday, September 5th, so updates will resume then.

Happy summer,

What Happened This Week:

City Council Meeting – TL;DR version

(1) Railroad Cottages – as you recall, Railroad Cottages is a proposed clustered housing development with 10 age-restricted cottage houses on Railroad Ave, in the western part of the City, adjacent to the W&OD Trail. After hearing much public comment and discussion, we voted 6-0 to defer the final vote on Railroad Cottages until our Sept 11 meeting. I supported a deferral as there were some outstanding items, most notably we’re awaiting a final letter from NoVA Parks with permission to widen Railroad Ave, which is a key voluntary concession offered by the developer. Also, we heard a lengthy report by the police chief regarding an unfortunate house fire on Railroad Ave, directly next to the proposed cottage site. A review of the emergency response is underway, with a formal after action report due in the coming weeks, which may offer other suggestions on how to improve emergency access to all of Railroad Ave.

(2) 116 Great Falls St Rezoning, Subdivision & Comprehensive Plan Change – after passing first reading over the winter, we looked at the final proposal for a residential rezoning and subdivision request and associated comp plan change. Without getting into zoning jargon – in the simplest terms, the proposal involved allowing a historic house on a residentially zoned lot on the corner of Great Falls and Maple to subdivide their property to build a second house. Normally by right subdivisions are not in the purview of City Council, but in this case, rezonings were requested as the property owner was acquiring land from adjacent Columbia Baptist Church in order to meet lot size requirements for the two new parcels. As part of the proposal, Columbia Baptist requested split zoning to allow for church and preschool parking to be built behind a set of historic houses they own on N Maple Ave. The most notable proffer from this proposal was a sidewalk to be constructed the entire 300 block of N. Maple Ave and we heard from much of the neighborhood and the Columbia Baptist community that they were in support of this change.

Letty’s thoughts: While far less impactful than say a budget or large mixed use project decision – this was not an easy vote for me. I had toured the site, watched the Planning Commission deliberate, read and re-read the staff report and all of the comments received. I share the neighborhood’s sentiment that the sidewalk, landscaping, and historic preservation proffered by the applicant would be valuable community benefits. I also support the comp plan change for higher density zoning given its location in a transitional part of the city and the change in zoning doesn’t undermine or impact the historic zoning overlays; the original zoning doesn’t feel entirely appropriate given that it is surrounded by higher density zoning already and rezonings done in recent years. However, I ultimately voted against the proposal due to misgivings about precedence – what sort of precedence would this set in allowing future subdivisions, rezonings, or split zonings in comparable situations? While the City Attorney had reviewed this proposal at length and patiently answered my many questions, I am sensitive that every vote we make on Council sets precedence of some kind. I only cast “yes” votes after much due diligence and analysis. And with this one – despite the appeal of the benefits offered to the community, I could not get comfortable with a yes. The rezonings and comp plan changes ultimately passed 3-1 (only 4 of us voting due to recusals). 

(3) Bike Share – coming Spring 2017! We endorsed a preliminary set of 14 locations of bike share stations to begin the procurement process. For a recap on bike share including how it works, why it’s a good fit for the City, and how it will be funded, check out this presentation. If you have input on station siting, email us.


What’s Coming Up:

Tuesday, Sept 5 – City Council Work Session

Monday, Sept 11 – City Council Meeting