Updates from Letty – Feb 11, 2016

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,

It’s been a busy week with three nights of City meetings this week, so many updates to follow. Make sure you get to the links at the bottom and take 10 minutes to provide your input on surveys that will shape the City Council’s work plan, upcoming CIP budget, and next year’s car decals – your voice does matter! Also, if you need dinner plans for tonight, be sure to read below to find out how to support a good cause in our Little City – I hope to see many familiar faces at Clare and Don’s tonight.

What Happened This Week:

Transform I-66 – for those following the proposals meant to relieve congestion on I-66, the Governor just announced yesterday a new plan to immediately widen 4 miles of eastbound I-66 from the Dulles Toll Road to Ballston, targeted opening to traffic in 2019. This is in addition to the dynamic tolling proposal during rush hours, scheduled to begin in 2017. Clearly we will need to understand how this affects Falls Church City, as that stretch of I-66 is near our borders and we’ll need to plan for construction, environmental, and tolling impacts.

The press release is here: http://governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/newsarticle…

City Council Meeting:

  • We had a lengthy meeting with a lot of public comment about the West Broad Small Area Plan. As you recall, small area plans are meant to be guiding vision documents for re-development to supplement zoning and the comprehensive plan. Staff has made several rounds of updates to the concept maps, and given the public interest, we decided to spend more time on the area plan in an upcoming work session before taking action.
  • We also heard the annual reports from the Planning Commission and the Library Board of Trustees (MRSPL again recognized as a top library in the country, only 1 of 3 in Virginia to receive the award).
  • Zoning updates – we passed ordinances to now allow businesses to use string lighting, second story signs in commercial districts, and to update parking and bike parking requirements for future developments. Updates to parking are needed to bring us in line with neighboring jurisdictions’ requirements; parking studies also showed that we had excess capacity across the City. And in the effort to continue championing Falls Church as a walkable and bikeable city, we also updated bike rack requirements to one of the highest in the region.
  • Bus Shelters coming soon – we authorized the City Manager to sign agreements for bus shelter construction (appropriated in previous budget cycle) for new spots we’ve received easements. Coming soon-ish: bus shelters at 24 Hr Fitness, Rees Place, Christ Crossman Church, and 210 E. Broad.

Housing Commission:

As the new liaison to the Housing Commission, I joined the commission on Tuesday night for their monthly meeting.

  • Affordable Housing 101 – a common misconception I’ve heard is that “affordable housing” is public housing – it is not. Given the very high cost of living in Falls Church and the metro DC area, the City’s affordable housing program is targeted to moderate income households by offering a discount from market rate rents to maintain and attract a diversity in housing, residents, and workforce.
  • Spread the word – 10 ADUs (Affordable Dwelling Units) are available at West Broad (Harris Teeter development) and 1 ADU at Pearson Square. The ones available at West Broad are for 80% and 100% AMI (area median income) and have been difficult to fill due to the high rent, even with the affordability adjustment. In recently approved Mason Row, we were able to negotiate ADUs with 60% AMIs, so I hope that sets a high bar of precedence going forward.

Appointments Committee:

  • I am the newest member of the  Appointments Committee, and we met last night and interviewed a number of terrific, highly qualified, and passionate city residents who wanted to volunteer for positions on the Board of Zoning Appeals and the Environmental Services Council.
  • If you’re interested in finding out more about the Boards and Commissions and vacancies, consider sharing your expertise and time in one of these openings.

What’s Coming Up:

Tonight! Join the community in supporting former Mayor and City Councilman Nader Baroukh and family at Clare and Don’s. Clare and Don’s will donate a percentage of food sales from the ENTIRE day this Thursday, February 11th (dine in only) in support of Mia Grace Baroukh’s medical bills and expenses in her fight again cancer. A raffle will be held during dinner hours, 5-8pm. Raffle tickets will be sold for $10 each. If you are unable to make it but would like to contribute, there are 2 options. You can make an online donation to Mia Grace via her very own website: https://www.youcaring.com/the-baroukh-family-519211 OR you can choose one or more raffle items you are interested in being entered to and drop money off with Jocelyn Potts

The City Needs Your Input

Regular citizen engagement is a key part of what I believe makes an effective and responsive government, so that is a principle I will be pushing throughout my term. We have 3 opportunities that need your input:

  1. Work Plan Survey – we’ll be embarking on a community-wide visioning process this spring and as the first step, City Council is getting ready for a worksession/retreat next weekend to update the work plan and begin discussing priorities. As the previous work plan was created 3 years ago, I look forward to being able to review progress and update our priorities. Before taking the survey, I suggest skimming the 2013 work plan to review the list of many projects under the categories of Successful Development, Sound Finances, Outstanding Government and Outreach, and Infrastructure and Renewal Projects.
  2. CIP Survey – it’s budget season and we need your input on the CIP – long term capital investments. Take a few minutes to let your government know how to prioritize investments of YOUR tax dollars – projects like school construction, parks, pedestrian needs, public buildings, transportation, etc. Last year’s CIP survey had a response rate of 7% – I would love to see us do way better!
  3. Decal Design Voting – the first annual Vehicle Decal Design competition is underway. The top 4 designs from local high school students’ artwork is available for voting.


FY17 Budget Schedule – upcoming dates:

  • 2/16: CIP Public Hearing & Work Session with the Planning Commission (7:30PM, Dogwood Room)
  • 2/22: CIP Public Hearing & Adoption with the Planning Commission (7:30PM, Council Chambers)
  • 3/14: City Manger Presents the Budget & CIP at the City Council Regular Meeting (7:30PM, Council Chambers
  • 3/19: Town Hall Meeting & Open House on the Budget & CIP (10AM, Community Center)

Stay warm – I hope that groundhog was right about an early spring!