Blog posts are the personal views of Letty Hardi and not official statements or records on behalf of the Falls Church City Council
We covered many important items in this week’s City Council meeting, and I also joined the Housing Commission and Arts and Humanities Council meetings, the kickoff of the Streetscape Task Force, and a neighborhood meeting about the new submission of the Mt. Daniel project. Some of you may have seen the outcome of our Council meeting on my Facebook page on Tuesday, but read on for the lengthier recap and my personal thoughts. The TL; DR version of this week’s updates:
- GMHS PPEA process stops
- Referred out proposed amendment to the Future Land Use Map and Comp Plan for 604 S. Oak St. (Fellows Property)
- New development fees (eg, building permits, right of way and grading permits, etc) ordinance passes – effective July 1, 2016
- Mt Daniel meeting with Fairfax County Planning Commission scheduled for July 21, 2016
- On deck next week’a City Council Work Session: Library Referendum in Nov 2016, Miller House, Work Plan Goals, Performance Reviews for City Manager, City Attorney, and City Clerk (closed session)
- Last day of school fun – 2nd Play Streets pilot on Friday, June 24 from 130-4 pm on Pine Street between Lincoln Ave. and Highland Ave.
I know it will be a busy weekend with the last of spring sports make up games and the start of swim season – but to everyone who has ever written me with input and questions – whether you’re passionate about development, transportation, budget, walkability or all of the above – I hope you will join your neighbors at tomorrow morning’s Community Visioning Meeting where we’ll have a discussion and guest speakers on many of these topics. Help us plan the future of Falls Church!
What Happened This Week:
(1) City Council Meeting
- We started the meeting with a proclamation declaring June as LGBT Pride Month in Falls Church and a moment of silence to reflect on last week’s Orlando shootings. I remarked that while we make a lot of proclamations up on the dais, this one especially resonates in light of the profound sadness and anger we feel about massacre. Much like anything else – love, tolerance, and peace starts locally, neighbor to neighbor. It needs to start with us. I’m proud that we reiterated Falls Church as a welcoming place for all. I hope we all take the month to reflect and celebrate diversity of all kinds in our community, workplaces, and schools and speak out against hate and divisiveness.
- 6 new specimen trees designated (51 total in the City)
- Update development fees ordinance passed 7-0. These fees, levied by the Department of Development Services and Department of Public Works, include: building permits, grading fees, right of way fees, etc – to pay for the plan review and inspections required when property owners renovate or build new space. The goal of the fees changes is to move to full cost recovery model where the costs to those services are borne by the permit applicants instead of the general population, improve service delivery, and ensure our fees are competitive and in line with neighboring counties. Letty’s thoughts: while staff reported out process improvements like enhanced turnaround time and electronic reviews and have planned uses for the extra revenue – given expected future years’ budget pressures – I would love to see these fees help reduce reliance on the General Fund of the budget. I’ve continued to push to understand the fiscal impact of the new fee structure, and I expect Council will receive an update at the end of this year (6 mos after implementation of the fees) before the FY18 budget process starts.
- 604 S. Oak St – Future Land Use Map and Comp Plan amendments. We voted 7-0 to refer an amendment to the Future Land Use Map within the Comprehensive Plan to reclassify 604 S. Oak St as Parks and Open Space and add a school symbol. I believe we should take changes to the FLUM and Comp Plan very seriously and with a lot of public input, and our motion on Monday refers out the proposal to the Planning Commission, School Board, and Parks and Rec Board and review the staff recommendation and to hold public hearings. The public hearing date for the Planning Commission is planned for August 8.
- GMHS Campus Project – after a recap from the City Manager and a lengthy debate, we ultimately voted 4-3 to defer issuing the 2nd phase of the RFP in the current PPEA process. The following night, the School Board voted 4-2 to discontinue the process. Given that both bodies are needed to vote affirmatively to proceed with the 2nd phase of the PPEA process, the current process stops.
- Letty’s thoughts: I was one of the 3 dissenting votes and advocated for stopping the process on Monday night. With 2 bids and ones that I didn’t feel would be the best options for the school or the City nor ones that I ultimately think would be supported by voters in a referendum – I believe there is value in acknowledging that the PPEA didn’t pan out and “hit the reset button” so that we can re-start a conversation with the community in a more transparent and collaborative decoupled process. While the vote was split, it was apparent that all 7 of us shared many of the same concerns, but primarily differed in the timing of when we were all willing to move on. There are plenty of questions we need discussion and the public’s input before we issue another RFP. We need to understand what we can afford as a City and if we are willing to pay more than we can afford and those implications; we need to have pragmatic discussions on revisiting the school program – what are non-negotiables and what can be phased; we need to discuss the best ways to finance the school and different tradeoffs the community might be willing to make on the commercial components. We also weren’t satisfied with the first draft of the decoupled process so that in itself will need more work. Now that the School Board has also voted – I hope both bodies will move quickly to develop a new roadmap that starts with answers and options to those key questions, involves more of the community in the tradeoff discussions – and ultimately elicits more creative, competitive bids.
- We also passed a number of other items – 1st reading for home child care code updates, authorized Falls Church’s contributions to WMATA/Metro (our FY17 share to WMATA is $3MM, with $565K from the General Fund, the remaining from gas tax receipts and matching transportation funds), a new salt storage facility to replace one that had collapsed in the 2010 blizzard and new library books.
(2) Housing Commission Meeting – a notable update from this week’s Housing Commission update is the availability of an 2 bedroom Affordable Dwelling Unit at Northgate. The lottery for the ADU unit will be held on July 19. All of the ADU units have been filled at the new West Broad (ie, Harris Teeter) building.
(3) Mt. Daniel Community Meeting – Superintendent Dr. Jones presented the revised 2232 application to a Mt. Daniel/Ellison Heights neighborhood association on Wednesday night. In the revised application, the School Board has eliminated four classrooms, reduced the building size by approximately 10,000 square feet, and now proposes a maximum student enrollment of 704 students as compared with the previous 2232 application’s capacity of 792. It also includes proposals to use covenants for FCCPS to make commitments on enrollment growth and other accommodations. Many of the neighborhood’s concerns continue to center on traffic and parking on Oak St. and enforceability of the enrollment number. Dr. Jones also updated the group that the Fairfax County Planning Commission is scheduled to hear the Mt. Daniel application on July 21, 2016, and the Mclean Citizens Association is also expected to discuss the topic at their July 6th meeting who will likely make a recommendation to Fairfax County. If you aren’t already signed up for construction updates from FCCPS, that is a good way to stay tuned in over the summer.
What’s Coming Up:
(1) TOMORROW – Saturday June 18 – 845 am – 12 pm, Community Visioning @ The Falls Church, 115 E. Fairfax St. What should the Little City look like and feel like as we look ahead 25 years? Join your neighbors, City officials, staff, and guest speakers for a presentation and workshop to help update the City’s Vision; we’ll seek your input on community character, commercial redevelopment, transportation, and financial stability. You can RSVP to attend this one or be notified of future events. Guest speakers include: –Ken Billingsley, Director of Demographics and Information, Northern Virginia Regional Commission –Roger Lewis, Professor Emeritus of Architecture, University of Maryland and architecture critic for the Washington Post –Bob Wulff, Director, George Mason University Center for Real Estate Entrepreneurship
(2) City Council Work Session – Monday June 20 @ 730 pm
We are expected to have the Library Board join us next Monday to discuss the expansion and renovation of the library, with referendum for the $8MM project targeted to be on the ballot this November. The project is part of the ambitious 5 year CIP, that includes many other capital projects proposed across the City, such as GMHS and City Hall. The library project proposes adding 14,500 square feet to its existing 18,500 square foot facility to bring its size to 33,000 square feet. In addition to adding square footage, the plan recommends upgrades to the existing building. While this is a work session where we don’t usually take public comments, if you have thoughts about the library project, I encourage you to attend to listen or you can send in your comments to us over email at email@example.com.
We are also expected to discuss the Miller House comprehensive agreeement, Council work plan goals following the Community Visioning meeting, and go into closed session for annual performance reviews of the City Manager, City Attorney, and City Clerk.
(3) Planning Commission – Monday June 20 @ 730 pm – concurrent with our work session, the Planning Commission is scheduled to discuss the subdivision application for 604 S. Oak St (Fellows Property) and then go into work session to discuss Comp Plan amendments for the Fellows Property and re-zoning/sub-division requests for the N. Maple/Great Falls property that City Council previously discussed and referred out for review and recommendations.
(4) Play Streets Pilot – last day of school fun! 2nd Play Streets pilot on Friday, June 24 from 130-4 pm on Pine Street between Lincoln Ave. and Highland Ave.
(5) Bring Bike Share to FCC – some good news, but still need everyone’s help! We did get the good news that the City, pending final state level meetings, will receive $500K in funds for operating costs of bikeshare from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC). We still have a $2MM capital grant request that is outstanding to be decided by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA). The NVTA met last night and there was opposition to our bikeshare request as we’re competing against large highway projects in the region that typically get more attention and funding. You can email the NVTA at FY2017Program@TheNoVaAuthority.org with your support before their final vote in July.