Updates from Letty – Feb 26, 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,

I attended fewer meetings this week, but most were lengthy- including the Council retreat last Saturday and a marathon 5 hour City Council meeting Monday night, 4 hours of which was in closed session with the School Board discussing the GM/MEH project. Read on to find out what we heard from the community as their priorities, how to support gun violence prevention efforts, the City’s new economic development website choosefallschurch.com, and important dates to get involved with the budget process.

What happened this week?

Council Retreat – what are your priorities? The entire City Council met for 5 hours last Saturday at TJ as the initial discussion on priorities  for the City, which in turn drives updates to the Two Year Work Plan. Many thanks to all of those who joined us – we had terrific attendance by members of Boards & Commissions and the public and discussed collaboration and communication improvements between the groups. As input for the retreat, we put out a survey to ask what were the most successful projects done to date and priorities for the next Work Plan. Check out the community’s responses and let me know if you have other ideas or feedback. Expect to hear more this spring on community-wide visioning sessions to get your input on priorities and the future of the Little City.

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League of Women Voters – Understanding Commercial Development – there was nearly full house at the event hosted by the League of Women Voters last Sunday. 4 members of the community (developer, government, community member, and retailer) were invited to give perspectives on the development process. It was very informative and worth a watch. I often hear people ask why Falls Church can’t attract XYZ retailer or ABC restaurant – the Streetsense presenter offered good perspective on the retail market and how retailers view us. If you have cable, it’s broadcasting on FCC-TV (check out the schedule here), and I expect a YouTube link soon for on demand viewing.


City Council Meeting (open session highlights):

  • The auto decal design award winner was announced (congrats 11th grader Aki Maher!). Coming to your cars at the end of the year!
  • We heard annual reports from the Tree Commission and Environmental Services Council (soon to be Environmental Sustainability Council).
  • During public comment, we heard from Carol Luten, a citizen who is championing a special interest license plate design in Virginia to promote awareness of gun violence prevention. The effort needs 450 applications before it can move forward in the General Assembly for approval. If you are interested, reach out to Carol at cpluten@msn.com for more information- the annual fee for the license plate is just $10 for non personalized and $20 for personalized plates. If approved by the General Assembly, Virginia would be the first state to have a license plate supporting gun violence prevention.
  • Real estate assessments – by now homeowners should have received 2016 real estate assessments. The City Manager reported that total assessed values went up 3.8%, with 80% of the increase coming from new construction; residential appreciation was flat except for condos.

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City Council Economic Development Committee:

As the new member of the City Council’s EDC (Economic Development Committee), we had our first organizational meeting this week with City Staff. City Council has a number of sub-committees with 2-3 members of Council to focus on specific issues like Budget and Finance, Appointments, Government Operations, Legislative Affairs, and Economic Development.

  • We covered a number of topics, including a deep dive on the marketing efforts by the City’s economic development team, meant to increase brand awareness of Falls Church and to attract and retain businesses. One of the first efforts is the launch of a website that will be the destination of all the marketing efforts – choosefallschurch.com.
  • A lot of ideas were shared about outreach with potential businesses, networking at industry events, and tax incentive programs to make Falls Church attractive to business to continue to grow our commercial tax base.
  • We also briefly talked about Richmond legislation on proffer limits for residential rezoning, the pipeline of development proposals, and potential metrics to monitor the health of economic development in the City.
  • What does the EDC do? The role of the EDC has not been clear in the past. Given the importance of the economic development to everyone on City Council, I believe EDC should not to get into the details of negotiating because everyone on Council will want to fully review the project. The EDC can be effective by providing guidance on key issues for staff to focus so that the project is ready for discussion with the larger group. As we learned from Mason Row, engaging the neighborhood early is important, so that is another key theme I will push on as projects are discussed with the EDC.

What’s coming up?

Mark your calendars:

  • City Council typically takes the 5th Monday off when they occur, so there is no regular meeting scheduled next week. We may convene a closed session with School Board to continue the discussions on the GM/MEH project.
  • We did vote on Monday night to hold a public hearing for the Miller House on March 14, which is proposed to be a group home for people with disabilities on N. Washington, between Sunrise and Christ Crossman church. Last week’s blog post had more information on the Miller House if you missed it.
  • Budget season:
    • Monday, March 14 – the City Manager presents the budget to City Council
    • Budget & CIP Open House – Saturday, March 19 at 10 am at the Community Center. The City is trying a new format this year and will have each department (FCCPS included) host stations with data on their budgets for community members to visit and ask questions.

Have a great weekend,