Updates from Letty – January 13, 2017

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 light City Council meeting agenda this week, but it ended up being a busy week full of other meetings with interesting topics that I’ll highlight below, including the latest from the GMHS working group.

If you’re in town for the upcoming long weekend, I hope you’ll consider joining a service project and/or participating in the first annual March for Unity to honor Dr. King’s legacy. City Communications issued a helpful guide to what’s happening in Falls Church, with links to service opportunities around the area on MLK Day – including the service event City Council is leading and the Elementary PTA’s GIVE Day. Even if you do not have children in elementary schools, you can participate in GIVE Day by donating food or money that will go towards food supplies for disadvantaged children.

Finally, our next Council work session next week (next Tuesday instead of Monday due to the holiday) will be a good one for those interested in traffic calming, streetscape recommendations, financial policies, or the Fairfax Water proposed water tank. Feel free to join us and listen in.


What Happened This Week:

City Council Meeting – our formal agenda was fairly light this week, but a few interesting topics were raised that may be of interest:

  • Stormwater RainSmart incentive program. To encourage residents to implement best practices like rain gardens and rain barrels to reduce stormwater runoff into the Chesapeake, the City will introduce a benefit program (capped at $1500 per household with an annual program cap of $10K). More info to come.
  • Firing Range – as initially discussed in December, Chief Gavin and Fairfax City Police Chief provided a more detailed report on the proposed new firing range, to replace the current one shared by both jurisdictions in the City of Fairfax for required training of police officers. Due to structural integrity issues with the current building (walls bowing, air handling/HVAC/ventilation issues), both police chiefs made the case on the need to replace the building. Repairs and  other options such as sharing with other jurisdictions, private ranges were considered but a new range was deemed the best route with the least impacts to staffing and training needs. The City’s share of the capital cost would be limited to $1.2MM, with annual debt service about $100K or a quarter penny on the tax rate. No decision was taken this week, but an agreement to fund the new firing range will come up at our January 23rd meeting for action.
  • Kensington – as you may have noticed, the finishing touches at the new Kensington assisted living building are underway. Staff training is expected to occur this month with the first wave of residents moving in February. The four corners at Lee and Broad will have pedestrian activated crossings and signals, which were part of the voluntary concessions from the developer. There will also be a subsidy program for low income residents for the Kensington that the City will administer.


  • GMHS Campus Project – the Working Group continued to meet this week. The Working Group has been diving into a range of options and reviewed the construction costs of the 10 options to the joint bodies last week. This week, we reviewed the offset economic development could provide for the options that would free up land for development and continued vetting the phased approach. If you need to catch up, my update from last week summarized the options. Highlights from this week:
    • While the initial look at options for brand new school had the highest construction costs ($107MM – $117MM), with economic development, the total net costs of those options ends up being much smaller.
    • Besides the construction numbers and implications on tax rate, there are many other considerations I’m weighing: what type of economic development should we allow to make the project more affordable in the long run and fund future City needs; financial risk of taking on large debt; phasing to make the project more affordable in the short run; future land needs; financing costs, as we would need to use 30 year vs traditional 20 year financing and other levers to enable the significant upfront cost; duration of construction for students and staff; longevity/lifespan of the end school across the various options.
    • Save the date – Saturday, Feb 4th – GMHS Town Hall. We plan to update the community on the work done to date and seek feedback on the options, which all have pluses, minuses, and implications before we choose a path forward.
  • Staff is making presentations to Boards and Commissions to various topics City Council referred out for feedback. Specifically, now is also a great time for you provide input on the Cottage Housing draft ordinance and the City Vision and Comp Plan Update which were presented at the Housing Commission and the Economic Development Authority (EDA) meetings this week when I attended. If you have comments for us, you can email cityclerk@fallschurchva.gov to reach all of City Council.
  • Business Bulletin – to find out the latest on various development projects, business openings, etc – check out this month’s business bulletin. Several of us attended Zoya’s Atelier grand opening last weekend, which opened at 260 W. Broad.

What’s Coming Up:

  • TOMORROW – Saturday, 1/14/17 (10 am, Community Center) – Legislative Town Hall with Delegate Marcus Simon and Senator Dick Saslaw to discuss the 2017 General Assembly and legislative agendas and opportunity for Q&A. A concurrent blood drive will be at the Community Center.
  • Monday, 1/16/17 – Martin Luther King Jr Day – we declared MLK Jr Day as a City-wide Day of Service and the City co-sponsored march at Tinner Hill begins at 1 pm. This news release has useful info and links to various opportunities in the area.
  • Tuesday 1/17/17 – City Council Work Session – agenda and documents posted here. Traffic calming, Fairfax water tank, Streetscape Task Force recommendations, fiscal policies.
  • Monday 1/23/17 – City Council Meeting
  • Tuesday, 1/24/17 – 9 am – GMHS Campus Working Group (location TBD)
  • Wednesday, 1/25/17 – City Council Goes to Richmond (Virginia Municipal League Lobbying Day)
  • Thursday, 1/26/17 – Mason Row Open House – The developers of the Mason Row project at West and Broad Streets are holding an open house at 730 pm in the Community Center.
  • Save the Date!  Saturday 2/4/17 – Community Town Hall on GMHS Project