Updates from Letty – Jan 8, 2016 edition

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,

Happy new year! I hope 2016 has been off to a great start for you.
New Mayor & Vice Mayor
City Council held its first meeting of the year this past Monday night, which consisted of an organizational meeting to select the new mayor and vice mayor, appointments to regional bodies, followed by a work session on Mason Row. Congratulations to Dave Tarter for being re-elected as Mayor and Marybeth Connelly for her new role as Vice Mayor. I’m excited about our leadership and the commitment and optimism everyone on Council shares about the future of our City.
Keeping You Informed
Regular communication and more inclusive, transparent government are key commitments I made, and I want to make sure I “walk the talk” as I begin my term on Council. As I did during my campaign, I plan to continue to provide updates after City Council meetings and on key topics. Note that I write these in my personal capacity and do not speak for City Council as a body. I will post the summaries on my blog and email out the links. This week’s post below is mainly focused on Mason Row discussed Monday night and the EDA meeting on Tuesday night.

I post briefer updates on Facebook, so consider following me on social media too. Communication and outreach are themes I’ll continue to push on during my term, so I look forward to the City trying new ways to engage citizens. My official email is up and running – I would love to hear from you at lhardi@fallschurchva.gov – let me know what your priorities and ideas are for Falls Church. 
On the topic of communication, did you know about the City’s Focus on Falls Church weekly e-newsletter? It’s full of good info about happenings around town. Here is this week’s and you can sign up to receive them in your inbox and other email alerts here.

Want to Get Involved? Boards and Commissions Vacancies

Consider volunteering your time and expertise to fill a vacancy on one of the City’s Boards and Commissions – a great way to get involved and dip your toes in local government. These citizen-staffed groups are charged with the development and oversight of city policy and to advise Council – areas spanning parks, economic development, housing, human services, environment, and many more. Here are current vacancies and the application to apply.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2016. I look forward to getting to work.


City Council Meeting & Work Session – 1/4/16

After the election of the mayor and vice mayor, the majority of this week’s meeting was a work session on Mason Row. The second reading vote for Mason Row is scheduled for next Monday Jan 11. It is a public meeting, so you will be able to provide public comment up to 3 minutes. If you have questions or would like to share your views with City Council before the vote, you can send an email to the City Clerk at cityclerk@fallschurchva.gov; the emails get sent to every Council member and summarized at the beginning of meetings.

A) Mason Row topics discussed:

Link to documents: https://fallschurch-va.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=691&meta_id=51427

1. As a recap – the most notable changes submitted in December by developer: moving the theater to above ground behind Park Ave and reduction of apartments from 340 to 322.

2. Since the December submission – new changes and concessions were made as negotiations continued:

  • As a result of much community feedback, the loading dock permission was removed from the submission and the trash bay that was located on West St. will be removed; the developer is working on a solution to locate both internally.
  • Additional assurances were put in place to ensure both theater and hotel would be built. If granted, the Special Exception would not be final until there is an executed lease with specific rent payments outlined for the theater and an executed agreement for hotel construction and operation. Also, the final block of apt occupancy permits will not be issued until building permits and construction is underway for the theater and hotel.
  • There is a new commitment in the VCs (Voluntary Concessions) that there will be a restaurant on the ground floor of the hotel. There is already a commitment that a minimum 20K square feet will be dedicated for food/beverage (out of 62K square feet total commercial space, not including hotel or theater). There is a list of prohibited uses and also a list of “conditional uses” – primarily service-oriented retail, and the conditional uses cannot exceed 15% of the commercial space.
  • Added VC to provide St James 30 parking spots on Sunday – there was verbal commitment from the developers to increase to 50 spaces.
  • Metro shuttles will run for both hotel and residential.

3. Updated fiscal impact analysis was done based on the new changes and available in the staff reported posted above. It is projected to provide $1.3-2 MM net fiscal impact ($1.1-1.8 MM net net). The net figures include the service and operating costs the city would incur for new residents and students in schools. “Net net” subtracts current revenue generated from the existing buildings on the properties, about $200K.

4. Key Items that need resolution and formal commitments before vote

  • Uniform 20′ setbacks on West and Broad
  • No shuttle to run on Grove Ave.
  • Increase St. James parking to minimum 50 spots
  • Addition of gun stores to list of prohibited retail uses
  • Regular community meetings and liaison role during construction
  • Propose a drop off area for theater

5. Theater Tax:

The current proposal is modeled after the BJs tax sharing agreement – the City would levy a new 10% theater tax on ticket sales (no other taxes on tickets, like sales tax). The City would receive the first $20K in taxes, the developer gets the next $340K. The City receives any taxes above $360K. There is a 3% annual increase on both the City and developer share, with a 20 year term of the tax sharing, which would be the length of the theater lease.

As the theater is proposed to be a dining concept, the City expects to receive revenue from meals tax (about $265K/year) which is included in the fiscal impact analysis above.

(B) Council Committees

There was discussion on Council committee assignments – these are committees of Council members that meet on specific topics like Budget and Finance, Economic Development, Appointments, etc. Several options were discussed – with general themes to improve efficiency of meetings, get more community expertise involved, and ensure we are using staff and Council time effectively. More to come on this as Council further discusses options.

Economic Development Authority (EDA) – 1/5/16

Link to Agenda: https://www.fallschurchva.gov/AgendaCenter/Economic-Development-Authority-6

(A) West Broad Small Area Plan

Paul Stoddard from the Planning division presented updates on the W. Broad Small Area Plan. Again, small area plans are the vision documents for the commercial corridors (7 identified) of Falls Church. It is expected to go before City Council in February for adoption.(B) Downtown Public Plaza

pocket park option pre pocket park

The EDA voted to grant funding for a new public plaza/pocket park (estimated to cost $550K) on Broad St. between Hunan Cafe and Hot and Juicy Crawfish, Little City Creamery. It’s currently an unused space with a small alley to the parking lot. It’s envisioned to transform into a gathering place with water feature, outdoor seating for the adjacent restaurants, and small performance area. Discussion need to continue to occur with neighboring businesses and landlords.The park is now included in the upcoming CIP (Capital Improvements Plan), which as part of the budget process will have several town halls and public meetings before City Council adoption this spring.