Updates from Letty – February 22, 2019

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,

We had a good work session this week covering some biggies: financials, parks, and development. In addition to the Q2 financial report (fiscal year 2019 is now half over), we are preparing for the acquisition of the Fellows Property, one of the largest remaining undeveloped parcels in the city and the first open space acquisition in a long time. We then spent the majority of our work session on the West Falls Church (10 acre) project – links below for you to review and provide us your thoughts.

On that note, it’s already time for February’s Campus Coordinating Committee meeting this morning and Sunday Series town hall where you’ll get updates on the new high school and economic development projects. Hope to see you on Sunday at 2 pm, Community Center.


PS If you haven’t seen it yet, Aldi is now open!


What Happened This Week:

(1) FY 2019 Q2 Financials

While overall trends are not especially remarkable (revenues 1.2% above forecast and slight underspending across departments), we honed in on the largest variances in the financial report which indicated happy news. Sales and meals tax, which are arguably the local financial metrics we can control the most, were both higher than forecast (9% and 10%, respectively) and higher than last year (8% and 11% higher than last year’s results). See the detailed financial results here.

Letty’s thoughts: with our focus on bringing more dining options to Falls Church + recent holiday promotion to shop local, we believe these two efforts are making an impact as shown by the strong sales and meals tax growth. Together, sales and meals taxes represent about 9% of our total revenues (about $90M/year) so they do move the needle. In response to adding more eateries and retail businesses here, a common question I receive is whether the increased competition impacts the revenue per business in addition to growing the overall revenue pie. That was one of my follow up questions to our CFO, so more to come when that data is available. 

It’s important to note that the biggest contributors to our revenues remain real estate property taxes (62% of total revenues) and personal property taxes, ie car tax and business property (7% of total revenues) so variances there can be very impactful. While real estate property taxes are expected to be in line with forecast, personal property taxes were slightly below projections and 3.6% lower than last year. I believe it’s important for us to closely monitor business taxes – as I’ve written in previous posts, many economists predict a downturn in the coming years and business metrics are usually a good leading indicator of the strength of the economy vs consumer metrics.

(2) Fellows Property Acquisition

Next week, we’ll be asked to vote to authorize the City Manager to proceed with acquisition of the Fellows Property (604 S. Oak St). At nearly 2 acres, it’s one of the largest undeveloped parcels remaining in the city and has been on the open space acquisition plan for 14 years. It had an approved subdivision, for 7 new single family homes to be built on 7 subdivided lots. Now, it will be preserved as open park space and/or future school use. While we initiated eminent domain proceedings, the city and property owner agreed on a settlement to the case, with a voluntary sale price of $4.67M ($4M is what was budgeted in the CIP and our recent budget amendment appropriated the additional money for the purchase).

Expect more discussion on the plans for the property during upcoming budget discussions.

(3) West Falls Church Economic Development Project – SEE Application 

As I previewed last week, the staff report and actual submission are available for public review, which includes the layout of the site, proposed uses with min and max square footage ranges, massing diagrams with building height ranges, the ever popular shadow studies, and streetscape cross sections. We will be taking the first reading vote next Monday, to decide if the project proceeds to board and commission review. If passed at first reading, board and commission reviews will occur in March, in time for staff to compile their comments and have further work session time with us before a final submission and vote at the end of May.

This is an especially complex and ambitious development, so I encourage the community to chime in with your thoughts so we can make this the best project possible. If 70+ pages is daunting, pay attention to pages 40-45, which shows the proposed ground floor vs upper floor uses, proposed square footage by use, massing diagrams. If you’d like to see the types of questions and feedback staff has already provided, pages 21-34 contain a question and answer matrix of what’s been asked so far.

In our work session this week, we provided feedback on building heights, parking, streetscape plans, commitments to uses, location of retail, transportation, bike and pedestrian access, and more. Take a look, and let me know what you think.

WFC ground floor
Ground Floor Use
WFC upper floor
Upper Floor Use


What’s Coming Up:

  • TODAY – 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)
  • Monday, March 4 – City Council Work Session
  • Monday, March 11 – City Council Meeting (FY20 budget presentation)
  • Monday, March 18 – City Council Work Session (budget worksession #1)