Updates from Letty – June 16, 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,

If you missed last weekend’s town hall about GMHS, FCC-TV recorded the meeting and the video is now available on YouTube. And coming soon will be meeting materials and FAQs, another good way to get up to speed about the project. We’ll be voting at the end of July whether to proceed with a November bond referendum, so this will be a big weekly topic for us.

While the school construction workstream has been wrapping up, the other half of the project – the economic development workstream is also underway. We will get our first look at the market study on the 10 acres based on likely mix of uses from real estate consultants, which will be a key input in the financing plan for the $120-130M cost of a new high school. The economic development working group meets at 730 am this morning (open to the public), and City Council and School Board will be in a joint session again next Monday.

Read on for a bunch of interesting topics this week – the new W&OD bike/pedestrian bridge, the City joins the coalition supporting the Paris Agreement, Metro funding, and development projects.

Happy almost summer,


What Happened This Week

(1) GMHS Town Hall – recorded video available on YouTube

(2) Climate change – Cities leading the way! I’m proud that Falls Church joined the national coalition of other cities and counties to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement last week. We also reaffirmed our commitment to reducing carbon emissions at this week’s meeting. A related, interesting article is one I shared on my Facebook page. Researchers assert “by building climate-smart urban infrastructure and buildings, we could cut future emissions in half from 2040 onwards.” This is another great example where “density” is not a bad word. Our role in urban planning and focus on building a more vibrant, walkable Falls Church and a community where you can live-work-play not only brings in additional tax revenue and improves quality of life for residents, but also has a role in reducing greenhouse gases.

(3) VDOT Update on the Rt 29 Bike/Pedestrian Bridge 

As part of the I-66 eastbound widening and toll project (reminder: I-66 tolling scheduled to begin end of 2017), a bridge is proposed for the W&OD crossing over Rt 29. Between 1500-1800 people use that intersection per day, sometimes double in the summers and weekends. We heard a presentation from VDOT that showed the current design of the bridge, which will be an important and welcome infrastructure for the northeastern gateway to the city. Construction of widening and the bridge is planned to start in mid 2018.

bike bridge

(4) Broad & Washington Project – following last week’s work session, we saw a brief presentation from the developer of the Broad and Washington project with responses to our feedback. I think the project has merit, so I hope to see continued progress on the concerns we outlined and engagement with the adjacent neighborhood. The proposed schedule has the project coming to City Council in July for a first reading vote and if it proceeds, Boards and Commission review will occur at the end of the summer through early fall.

(5) Founders Row – we heard from many citizens about Founders Row during this week’s public comment. Rescheduling of their presentation to us about their revised proposal is still in process; no new date yet.

(6) Metro Funding – we had long discussions last week and this week about Metro funding. Despite no Metro stations within our city borders and only bus service along Rt 7, the City still contributes to Metro’s operating and capital budgets. Currently, the City’s share of Metro funding is equivalent to 2.5 cents of the real estate tax rate, but could jump to 6 cents in the next year. While the escalating costs and service issues are very concerning, especially in light of our own ambitious capital plans – we ultimately voted 6-1 to extend funding agreement for another year and join in WMATA’s debt issuance (vs issuing and carrying the debt on our own books). Given our citizens’ reliance on Metro, our focus on transit-oriented development, and the unpredictable consequences of us withdrawing from WMATA, I think it was important for us to extend the agreement so we have a “seat at the table” to advocate for better service and alternative funding sources.

What’s Coming Up