Blog posts are the personal views of Letty Hardi and not official statements or records on behalf of the Falls Church City Council
Happy February! With cold temps and still several months of winter ahead – if you see someone at risk of hypothermia, don’t hesitate to call city staff or the non emergency police line, who can offer resources or help get them to a hypothermia shelter. These winter months have once again highlighted for me the inequality in many of our cities, ours included. I hope you’ll consider lending a land to great local non-profits like Homestretch and the Falls Church Homeless Shelter who would benefit from donations or volunteer time.
Read on for the latest on the new high school and economic development projects, the FY20 budget, and gun violence prevention (#LocalGovernmentAtWork).
What Happened This Week:
(1) GMHS and West Falls Church Economic Development Update
If you missed last Sunday’s town hall, the video is now available. In the video, you can see the latest renderings of the new high school and a preview of draft development plans (special exception application) by EYA/PN Hoffman/Regency, that City Council will be discussing in an upcoming work session.
Where are we?
Since the last update, the new high school is the detailed design phase. Assuming all stays on track, we’re about 6 months out from construction, with completion still targeting Dec 2020/Jan 2021. In the meantime, next steps include detailed design documents, site plan approvals, permitting, GMP (guaranteed maximum price) negotiations, construction documents, then groundbreaking this summer.
In parallel, the economic development project has been progressing as well. Since we chose the developer team in November and signed an interim agreement with EYA/PN Hoffman/Regency, we have been under a due diligence period in which environmental reviews, land records searches, financing feasibility, etc occur. During the months of Feb-May, you can expect the project to follow a community process similar to past development projects – public meetings, referral out to boards and commissions for input, before coming back to City Council for a final decision in May. The target is to have final land use approvals and a signed final comprehensive agreement in May, prior to issuing the next round of bonds for the new high school and its groundbreaking. Construction would not start for 2+ years – until fall 2021, after the new high school is complete and the old high school is demolished.
Also – as noted in open session this week, we have had several weeks of closed sessions at the end of our weekly City Council meetings. We take the need to go into closed sessions seriously and do so when a discussion in open session could compromise the city’s negotiating position. Therefore I am limited in what what I can share, but I can say that we have been considering developer-requested changes to some terms of the interim agreement, with no decisions yet. Expect a public discussion at our meeting next Monday night 2/4 before anything is decided – stay tuned.
We’re also committed to keeping the community informed via ongoing monthly Sunday Series town hall meetings – mark your calendars:
- Sunday, February 24, 2019 from 2pm to 4pm, Community Center
- Sunday, March 24, 2019 from 2pm to 4pm, Community Center
- Sunday, April 28, 2019 from 2pm to 4pm, Community Center
- Sunday, May 19, 2019 from 2pm to 4pm, Community Center
(2) Updated gun ordinance passed!
Good news – we had a final, unanimous vote this week to update our weapons ordinance to ban the transport of loaded shotguns and other long guns in vehicles and clean up the rest of the ordinance. While a small step, I believe it is an important way to demonstrate Falls Church’s commitment to the reduction of gun violence. We intend to exercise every little bit of power we’re given by Richmond and we’ll continue to demand to do more to protect our community. Speaking of Richmond, the Virginia Senate just passed a bill to legalize bringing guns into churches this week.
Special thanks to the police chief, city attorney, and the citizen advocates, including Moms Demand Action, who have been consistent and strong voices of support for our new gun ordinance.
(3) FY19 Budget amendment passes
We also took our second vote on a budget amendment on the current FY19 budget to authorize additional appropriations on several items, including Big Chimneys Park and acquisition of the Fellows property. It’s important to note these two projects’ costs have come in higher than planned, as we continue into the headwinds of rising costs for all projects, especially with increased materials costs and labor shortages.
(4) FY20 Budget schedule and early pressures
Speaking of budget pressures…while the School Board is working on the schools’ budget (ICYMI: the Superintendent proposed a FY20 budget within the 2% budget growth guidance we issued in December – ie, everyone’s budgets can grow 2% over last year, with 2% being the forecasted organic revenue growth), expect the city budget process to ramp up publicly in March when the City Manager presents the unified general government + schools budget to City Council on 3/11. A few early cost drivers we’re watching:
- As has happened in past years, the city could be shouldering a bigger burden for funding our share of WMATA expenses (ongoing funding issues + it was reported WMATA lost $400K per weekday during the partial government shutdown due to decreased ridership). If you have input on WMATA’s budget, they have issued a survey to collect feedback.
- Our bill for fire and EMS services we contract with Arlington has also dramatically increased
We expect more clarity and updates before the 3/11 budget presentation, with final FY20 budget adoption on 4/22.
(5) Restaurant guide
We love restaurants and all sorts of eateries! If you haven’t seen it before, here’s a handy restaurant listing from the city’s Economic Development Office for the next time you’re looking to try something new in the city.
What’s Coming Up:
- Monday, February 4 – City Council Work Session (730 pm, Community Center)
- Monday, February 11 – City Council Meeting (730 pm, Community Center)
- Tuesday, February 19 – City Council Work Session (730 pm, Community Center)
- Friday. February 22 – Campus Coordinating Committee meeting (730 am, School Board offices)
- Sunday, February 24 – Sunday Series Town Hall (2 pm, Community Center)
- Monday, February 25 – City Council Meeting (730 pm, Community Center)