Blog posts are the personal views of Letty Hardi and not official statements or records on behalf of the Falls Church City Council
It’s was a terrifying week for the city and our neighbors. Seeing my own street turn into a river and and photos and videos across the city, I know Monday’s flooding event hit us hard. And many of you are still cleaning up basements and have more work and expenses ahead. The City retroactively declared a local emergency in response to the flash flooding – which is one step in determining our eligibility for state and federal disaster recovery assistance. Read on for a few other ways the city is providing assistance, including waiving the fee for special bulk trash collection for water damaged items (deadline to request a collection is next Tuesday, July 16 at noon). We also had a broader discussion on stormwater issues in our City Council meeting. Next to traffic calming, we hear about residential stormwater issues from citizens with increasing frequency, so we know it’s a big concern.
Aside from the historic flooding that occurred, we also made history in other ways this week: we approved the conceptual plan for the 9 acre West Falls Church project adjacent to the high school and we passed an overhaul of the senior tax relief program. These are both important achievements and investments in the city, reflecting our values of education, financial sustainability, and diversity in our community.
Finally, next week is our last meeting of July and we have one August meeting. Don’t forget – you can come still see me at my office hours on Monday, July 29 at 9 am at the new downtown park (which may get a new name soon – read on).
What Happened This Week:
(1) Historic Flooding
In the aftermath of the flooding, here are a few steps the city is taking to aid citizens:
- The fee for special bulk trash collection is waived next week. More information here, including how to request a special pick up by next Tuesday at noon. http://www.fallschurchva.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=885
- Building permit fees will be waived for homeowners who need to make repairs for flood damage.
- And finally, the City Manager reported that if finished basements are flooded and unusable for a duration of time until they’re repaired, homeowners can contact the Real Estate Assessors office so that the value of the basement, during the time period the basement is unusable, can be deducted from the annual real estate taxes.
City Council discussed stormwater management in the city, including potential ways to accelerate stormwater system upgrades and zoning requirements for residential redevelopment. I expect we’ll continue the discussion at our meeting next week, which includes a regular quarterly update on capital projects (for new readers: capital projects cost $150,000+ and have a useful life of 10+ years – like the new high school, parks, and road improvements). Stormwater issues are becoming more common, especially as climate change leads to more severe weather events like Monday’s, so I believe cities have a role in preparing for greater resilience.
(2) West Falls Church Economic Development Project
Following a final work session last week and revisions since the approval of the comprehensive agreement in May, we approved the entitlement and conceptual plan for the 9.45 acre development adjacent to the new high school. The financial terms, committed uses, green space, and overall densities have remained the same, but a series of changes were made in response to feedback we heard last winter and spring – reorienting buildings, pulling height and massing away from the schools, and continued work on the voluntary concessions. Besides reducing the acreage by nearly an acre, the key plan changes include:
- No garage adjacent to the middle school (instead parking will be distributed in several underground and one above ground garages, including surge parking for school and community events)
- Retail (planned to be an anchor grocer) was brought more prominently out to the Haycock/Leesburg Pike corner
- Senior housing building, which is planned to be the tallest building, was moved away from the schools
- Street grid changed slightly, including the addition of a small “woonerf”
- Phase 2 buildings are split in two locations – with the second office building to be built adjacent to the Phase 1 office building
Finally, the fiscal model analysis (the tool we use to assess the *net* costs of a new development which are revenues generated minus expected service costs at full build out) increased from $4.7M in Phase 1 to $5.1M, with Phase 2 generating an additional $1.8M per year (see page 18 of staff report for fiscal analysis).
The WFC project will be transformative: besides being the biggest development project *ever* in Falls Church and the land payments enabling us to finance the new high school – the fiscal projections, environmental benefits, number of affordable housing units and microhousing, public art commitment… represent the largest and best we’ve secured to date. We’ve come a long way with the realization of a new high school now underway and a development project now approved – both which seemed nearly impossible 3.5 years ago when I joined City Council. Much more work to come.
So what’s next?
After the project teams get a breather, the next of plans for approvals, the SESP (Special Exception Site Plan), are due next January. The approval we gave this week sets out the land entitlements for the developer and governs the conceptual development program – more details will come in the SESP before this development can break ground in Fall 2021, after the new high school is complete and the old one is demolished.
(3) Senior Tax Relief
We passed at second reading the changes to senior tax relief program we’ve been discussing the past 6 months. Ordinance changes require two votes. Now that the changes are official, expect more communication from the Treasurer on how to qualify and apply for the program.
(4) Downtown Park – Name Recommendation
From nearly 130 suggestions we received for the new downtown park, the overwhelming majority favored a name related to Brown’s Hardware. The subcommittee recommended to City Council the name “Mr. Brown’s Park” which would honor all three generations of Browns who owned the business. The name was referred out to boards and commissions for their feedback, with a vote targeted in early fall for a final name unveiling.
Also – check out the events happening at the park in July:
What’s Coming Up:
- Monday, July 15 – City Council Work Session – Joint with Planning Commission (730 pm, City Hall)
- Monday, July 29 – Letty’s Office Hours (9 am, Downtown Park)
- Monday, August 12 – City Council Regular Meeting (730 pm, City Hall)
- Tuesday, September 3 – City Council Regular Meeting (730 pm, City Hall)