Updates from Letty – December 1, 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,

As we kickoff the holiday season, I hope you’ve seen the new festive lighting in action, either driving through town or better yet, shopping and dining locally. The lights will now be up year round and change color with the season! Using new revenue from the hotel occupancy tax we passed this year, the lighting is one of the ways we’re continuing to invest in our city to make it more welcoming and distinctive as a special place to live, work, and play.

We have two remaining meetings in 2017 before we take a brief winter recess, and much work is underway! The School Board issued the first RFP for a new GMHS yesterday. The School Board and City Council have an important joint session next Monday night to kickoff FY 2019 budget planning – the meeting is open to the public. Also, I’m including a few quick development updates on Broad and Washington and Founders Row coming out of the EDC (Economic Development Committee) yesterday. Also, we passed at first reading an out-of-state vehicle license tax, similar to what our neighbors already have in place. More on all of these topics below.

Finally – I’m holding my last 2017 office hours next Tuesday 12/5 at 9 am at The Happy Tart – I hope you’ll stop by and share what’s on your mind over a cup of coffee.


PS – Reminder: tolling on I-66 starts on Monday – are you ready?


What Happened This Week:

(1) GMHS Campus Work

-Project Governance  – as we started discussing in our pre-Thanksgiving work session, a joint “coordinating committee” is proposed as part of the governance structure for the GMHS Campus work. School construction and economic development operate as distinct workstreams, with accountability to the School Board and City Council respectively. Note the explicit role we expect Boards and Commissions, citizen groups, and ad hoc task forces will play in consulting and providing input. Ultimately, the underlying principles behind the governance structure is cooperation and shared goals, with clear decision points and and maximum transparency with the public.

Letty’s thoughts: a robust governance structure is critical to managing such a complex and ambitious project. Given the interdependencies between the workstreams, I’m a big fan of chartering a joint body where overlapping issues are discussed and worked. I’ve also advocated for a project executive to oversee the entire project. For fellow project managers out there, you’ll understand the difference between being “responsible” and “accountable”. While your elected officials are all ultimately accountable for a successful outcome, I believe a project of this size and risk merits a focused resource who is responsible for the day to day work across the workstreams, without competing priorities from existing city and school operations.

More to come on governance structure in the coming weeks. If this is something you feel strongly about or have professional experience, I encourage you to share your ideas with us!

-First RFP – the majority of our meeting was an update from the Superintendent about the first RFP for school construction that was approved by the School Board and then issued yesterday. This first RFP is meant to gather the bidders interested in the project and filter down to 3 bidders in Feb 2018, who will then submit proposals for a detailed RFP in the next phase. A a finalist would then be chosen in June 2018. For those following the details of the RFP since the feasibility study done in the spring – note this RFP has stronger sustainability construction requirements with LEED Gold and net-zero ready called out as the baseline.

-Land Use Designations – in last week’s work session and this week’s meeting, we passed at first reading changes to the Comprehensive Plan and fucture land use designations for the GMHS campus site. Since the boundary adjustment, the land has not been officially planned and only default zoned, so amendments to the Comp Plan are the first step in being able to market the land for economic development. This will be referred to the Planning Commission and the School Board for review before we take the item back up at second reading in January.

-Budget Amendment – we also approved at first reading a budget amendment to appropriate $400K from capital reserves for the campus work until bonds will be issued next year, bringing the total use of capital reserves to $1.3M. According to the City Manager, these expenses were anticipated and included in the financial modeling done for the CIP, where using reserves is a key part of the financing plan for GMHS.

(2) Out of state license tax – we passed at first reading a license tax of $100 on vehicles in the City that do not display current Virginia license plates. The goal of the code amendment, which has been adopted in surrounding jurisdictions, is to encourage compliance with City and State licensing and registration laws. Active duty service members would be exempt.

(3) Development Updates

-Broad and Washington – between now and January, the Broad and Washington project that we approved at first reading a few weeks ago will be discussed in Boards and Commissions’ meetings – most notably at the Planning Commission work session next Monday night. The input will be collected and presented to the developer, with a final submission in response and vote by the City Council, tentatively planned for April 2018. The schedule of board and commission meetings is published online and meetings are open to the public.

-Founders Row – I’ve been fielding a lot of requests for a status update on Founders Row (formerly Mason Row). We’ve been in a holding pattern since the developer proposed a swap of the hotel with age restricted apartments. Meanwhile the developer has continued to work on securing a movie theater lease. At this week’s EDC (Economic Development Committee, a sub committee of the City Council) meeting, we heard from Eric Smart, a real estate advisor we’ve worked with closely on our fiscal impact model, who has been performing an updated analysis of the project’s proforma. With access to the project’s financial projections (based on a confidential agreement with the developer) the analysis assesses changes in market conditions since the original project approval, the change to age restricted housing, and the bottom line impact to the developer – all of which are important considerations for us to evaluate next steps with Founders Row. We expect the full Council will discuss Founders Row and review updated fiscal impact numbers in early 2018.


What’s Coming Up:

  • Tuesday, December 5 at 9 am – Letty’s Office Hours (The Happy Tart)
  • Friday, December 8 at 730 am – Campus Economic Development Working Group (Dogwood Room, City Hall)
  • Monday, December 11 at 730 pm – Last City Council meeting of 2017
  • Wednesday, December 13 at 730 pm at GMHS Mustang Cafe – the 1st Campus Project Interactive Briefing. It will be the first of several meetings to update our progress and gather civic input as we continue to fine tune the plans that were the basis of the referendum.