Updates from Letty – January 26, 2018

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 relatively short meeting this week, but took some key votes on the library and various appointments, including the Campus Coordinating Committee to manage decisions across the school and economic development workstreams. You may have read that I voted against the task order on the library renovation project, so read on to understand why.

Reminder #1: join your friends and neighbors this Sunday (2 pm, Community Center) at the first joint town hall of 2018 about the GMHS campus and economic development project. If you can’t make it, it will be both livestreamed and recorded for later viewing, so I encourage you to tune in one way or another. We especially would love to hear feedback and questions before the issuance of the detailed RFP for the new GMHS (2/22) and issuance of the conceptual RFP for the eeconomic development of the 10 acres of land (3/1). Just because the referendum has happened doesn’t mean we’re done – the hard work is now ahead of us. Hope to see you there.

Reminder #2: I’m holding office hours next Monday morning at 9 am, Rare Bird Coffee. I’d love to see some new faces and hear what’s on your mind. Also, Council is getting ready for our biennial retreat/priorities planning session in a few weeks, so I’m seeking the community’s thoughts on the key areas of focus for the next 2 years.

City Council resumes meeting on February 5th, so my blog is taking a mini vacation as well.



What Happened This Week:

(1) Library Renovation & Expansion – by a 4-2 vote, Council moved to advance the Library renovation and expansion work project via a $880K task order (out of the total $8.7M budget) for design, architecture, etc work. I was in the minority with my dissenting vote.

Letty’s thoughts: similar to how I supported a more modest, modified CIP (which was the recommendation of the Planning Commission and staff) last summer, many of my concerns about our current CIP still stand. I see the value of the library – my family and I have been active users – and believe we should invest in a community gem like the library. However, I disagree that now is the right time to take this on. I am concerned that we are taking on too many capital projects at once with both cost and operational risk concerns. In fact, the planned library construction process would be concurrent with the GMHS construction – June 2019-June 2021. Each project in the CIP has merit and in the ideal world, we could do them all, and all at once. I believe we have an opportunity to better prioritize and sequence our projects to minimize the risk to the City. We can still pursue the library project within the referendum legal timeframe (Virginia law offers 8 years after a referendum to issue the bonds). There are also open questions that merit further scoping, such as the possibility of closing the library during renovation which could shorten the construction period and decrease the cost, that I believe should be decided before we start committing funds and assuming debt.

(2) We voted 6-0 to adopt the changes to Comp Plan and Future Land Use Map designations for the GMHS campus, with recommendations from both the Planning Commission and the School Board, including the creation of a “special revitalization district”. This is part of the continuing prep work before we can bring the 10 acres to market. Note also the socialization with both neighboring Arlington and Fairfax Counties for their input.

(3) Appointments – among the other appointments we approved this week, we also appointed members of Council (Mayor Tarter and myself), Planning Commission Chair Russ Wodiska, and EDA Chair Mike Novotny to the Campus Coordinating Committee.

(4) Housing – if you remember my letter to the editor last week, the first of many housing commentaries/articles ran in the Falls Church News Press this week. Check out one perspective advocating for more affordable rental housing – I’d love to hear what you think.

(5) City Hall construction is well underway. See here for information on various City Hall offices that have already relocated and other moves planned next Friday February 2 (West Wing departments – so if you need a building permit, site plan, or other land use related matters, note the new location) and the last round of moves in April (East Wing departments).



What’s Coming Up:

Sunday, January 28 – West Falls Church Project & GMHS Town Hall (2 pm, Community Center)

Monday, January 29 – Letty’s Office Hours (9 am, Rare Bird)

Wednesday, January 31 – Falls Church Goes to Richmond: General Assembly Lobbying Day!

Monday, February 5 – City Council work session (730 pm, Community Center)

Saturday, February 10 – City Council Planning Retreat

Monday, February 12 – City Council Meeting


GMHS and West Falls Church Economic Development Timelines – as I regularly field questions about the GMHS timelines, I wanted to share these high level milestones again.

  • School Milestones:
    • January 17, 2018  – Initial RFP Proposals Due
    • February 13, 2018 – Short List of Proposals Determined
    • February 22, 2018 – Detailed RFP issued to 3 finalists
    • May 17, 2018  – Detailed Proposals Due
    • July 2018 – Select Design Team / PPEA Contract Approval
    • July 2018 – June 2019 – School Design & Engineering
    • July 2019 – School Construction Begins
    • July 2021 – School Construction Complete
  • Economic Development Milestones:
    • February 2018 – Comp Plan Revisions, Marketing of 10 acres, Culminating in Issuance of RFQ for Economic Development
    • May 2018 – Short List of Respondents Determined
    • May 2018 – Bond #1 for Architecture & Engineering ($10M)
    • June 2018 – RFP for Economic Development
    • Oct 2018 – Select Top Ranked Respondent & Negotiations Commence
    • May 2019 –  Sign Master Development Agreement, followed by land and site approvals for development
    • June 2019 – Bond #2 for Construction ($60M)
    • Sept 2020 – Bond #3 for Construction ($50M)
    • Fall 2021 – Commercial Development Begins on former high school site