Updates from Letty – March 5, 2021
Blog posts are the personal views of Letty Hardi and not official statements or records on behalf of the Falls Church City Council
With the arrival of longer days, warmer temps, kids settling into school, and more vaccine progress – this week offered real signs of hope and normalcy. I hope you felt it too. The first few weeks of the month are packed with meetings for me, so this week’s post will be briefer – I’ll include lots of links should you want to dig into a particular topic. This week’s updates will cover:
(1) Vaccine FAQs
(2) Library project update and photos
(3) West Falls Church (aka 10 acre project) update
Next Monday, the FY22 Budget cycle kicks off, followed by a busy 2 month schedule of public meetings, work sessions, and town halls before budget adoption on April 26. We’re also scheduled to vote on the noise ordinance next Monday night. While we’re still in virtual mode, you can submit public comments via email or join us live (sign up to speak by Monday at noon).
PS The General Assembly has adjourned, and I’m excited that Governor Northam signed into law the bill (HB1931) that expands electronic participation of public bodies. This was a bill that many of you supported (thank you!), citing that the current restricition lowers the barrier to participation for women, working parents, and other under-represented groups in government. Effective July 1, members of public bodies will be able to participate electronically when there is a physical quorum in up to 25% of meetings (or 2, whichever is greater).
What Happened This Week:
(1) Vaccine updates
- Here’s a helpful post about the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine and a good explanation about efficacy rates. The bottom line is that residents are encouraged to get whatever vaccine is available to them first.
- With additional supply from a third vaccine and more federal supply going straight to various pharmacies, we will see vaccinations continue to ramp up. It was notable this week that the Health Department finished scheduling the largest batch of registrations that occurred on January 19. I’m also hearing that the local 16-64 high risk population is beginning to get vaccinated, which hopefully means we’ll soon be able to call for other groups in Phase 1b to register.
- A top FAQ I’ve received is how we are tracking vaccination progress. The Virginia Department of Health maintains a dashboard with data by locality (you may need to zoom in so you can click on the City of Falls Church). You can see that as of yesterday, VDH reported that we had 1201 fully vaccinated residents, and using a population estimate of 15K for the City, that is about 8% of the total population.
(2) Library Construction Update
- We received a briefing on the status of the library project, which is on budget (in fact – due to some contract savings, the main floor bathrooms, which were not in the original scope, will now be renovated).
- The project’s scheduled completion is currently a month behind due to weather delays from a rainy summer. Per the contract, the schedule extension is non-compensable. The current final completion date is mid June, and the hope is that the library will be able to re-open to the public with COVID-safe protocols in place.
- For photos of the current progress, check out fellow Councilmember Duncan’s photos from this week’s hardhat tour.
(3) West Falls Church Project Update
- On Monday, we also had our first review of the site plan (Special Exception Site Plan) for phase 1 of the 10 acre project. There are too many documents to link here, but they’re all available on the project webpage and our agenda package from last week.
- For a more digestible summary, I suggest checking out the presentation and the recording of the town hall meeting held this week.
- What’s next: similar to other projects, the site plan will be reviewed and discussed by staff, various boards and commissions, and City Council. The developers also shared that they have a signed lease with the anchor grocer tenant and are wrapping up negotiations with their office and senior housing partners, but can’t make announcements yet. Expect demolition of the old high school to begin this spring.
- Meanwhile, next door: Virginia Tech and Hitt announced they won’t be proceeding to jointly redevelop the property adjacent to our 10 acre site. The City Manager reported that VT still plans to work with the West Falls Church developers to create a road connecting to the metro station as originally envisioned. The City and VT have also been collaborating on securing $10M in funding to pursue a “smart cities” transportation pilot in the West Falls Church area, which is still in the state budget.
What’s Coming Up:
Current draft schedule of meetings and agenda items
City Council Meetings start at 730 pm, unless otherwise specified. You can access the agenda and livestream here, including recordings of past meetings