Updates from Letty – March 25, 2022
Blog posts are the personal views of Letty Hardi and not official statements or records on behalf of the Falls Church City Council
This week’s post will be short and sweet. Your top 3:
- In our work session, we reviewed the East End small area plan underway (East End, as you may have guessed, is the eastern part of the city – where the Eden Center, BJs, and Falls Green are located). If you’ve ever wondered how planning occurs in our commercial sectors, small area plans are a good place to start. We also heard a budget update on the first two quarters of the current fiscal year. Read on to learn more.
- Next week we’ll be getting our first look at the City Manager’s proposed budget – we will be in person at City Hall but you can also tune in online. We’re also scheduled for a final vote on Founders Row 2.
- Ukraine help – Here’s a new way to take action: Falls Church is part of a regional effort to collect donations for Ukrainian refugees that will be shipped to Poland. Before you pack away those (gently used) coats – consider dropping off coats and other items at boxes located at City Hall, Library, and Community Center and many other locations across Northern Virginia.
PS – I continue to get feedback about the new wayfinding signs. If you haven’t seen them yet, there are also pedestrian signs for the Tinner Hill historic district with a map of landmarks and other notable significance around the city. For example, the 1887 gerrymandering border is noted on the map, which may be the first public acknowledgement of this wrongdoing in our history. I had last written about the importance of owning and learning from our history in June 2020 after the murder of George Floyd. And don’t forget this weekend’s community workshop on race and equity.
What Happened This Week:
(1) East End Small Area Plan
Before talking about the East End plan itself, it’s a good time to talk about what “small area plans” are. Small Area Plans (SAP) define a vision for redevelopment or reinvestment in a relatively small area of the City, approximately 10 blocks in size. Small area planning started for the main commercial districts in Falls Church long before I joined City Council, with five plans now adopted and the East End Small Area Plan being the final, sixth plan underway. Small area plans are developed over the course of many months as a collaborative effort of City staff, City Council, Boards and Commissions, and the community at large. Besides a broad vision and goals for a particular part of the city, small area plans contain concepts and proposals for future land use and zoning, transportation network, and public amenities like parks. The plans represent long term concepts and ideas to guide future private and public investment, not specific projects with timelines and certainty of execution.
The draft chapters of the East End Small Area Plan are linked here, which have more content and accompanying visuals. Here’s are my highlights:
- Compared to other planning areas, the East End currently is currently dominated by commercial and industrial uses and large surface parking lots (eg, Eden Center, BJs, Koons car dealership)
- The Eden Center is recognized for its rich history and cultural significance and the current owners/management have no plans to redevelop. The SAP proposes ideas to celebrate the importance of the Eden Center, better connect it to the rest of the city and region, and add amenities like parks and green space.
- Multimodal transportation and accessibility will be important themes in the final plans. Most of the streets in the East End don’t “feel like Falls Church” without street trees and sidewalks. It’s difficult to travel to or within the East End without a car.
The East End Small Area Plan is far from done so you’ll have more opportunities to shape the vision – expect to see more pop up community input sessions and public meetings in the coming months.
(2) Q2 Financial Update
Ahead of the budget presentation next week, we received an update on the city’s financial picture, 7 months into the current fiscal year. TL;DR: The local economy is strong – revenues are slightly over budget by 2.1% with recovery of most revenue indicators to pre-pandemic levels.
Especially notable: Two key indicators of our local economy are sales and meals tax: sales tax continue to grow over 5% year over year and is 6% over budget target. Meals tax revenue has also experienced significant growth and exceeded the budgeted target for the year, returning to pre-COVID levels. Meal tax receipts are over 40% ahead of the same period last year. Hotel taxes have not returned to pre-COVID levels – currently at 65% of pre-COVID levels.
What’s Coming Up:
Monday, March 28, 2022 – City Council Meeting (Budget)*
Thursday, March 31, 2022 (noon) – Budget Town Hall #1
Friday, April 1, 2022 – New 5¢ Plastic Tax Begins
Monday, April 4, 2022 – City Council Work Session*
Monday, April 11, 2022 – City Council Meeting (budget first reading vote)*
Monday, April 18, 2022 – City Council Work Session*
Thursday, April 21, 2022 (7 pm) – Budget Town Hall #2
Monday, April 25, 2022 – City Council Meeting*
Monday, May 2, 2022 – City Council Meeting (budget adoption)*
*every Monday (except 5th Mondays and holidays) at 7:30 pm. You can access the agenda and livestream here, including recordings of past meetings