Updates from Letty – May 12, 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,

It’s been awhile since we had a 4+ hour meeting, and we had one this week. A big thank you to all of the citizens who wrote in or spoke during public comment – the hot topics this week being the “shrub wall” at the proposed Mason Row/Founders Row site and Railroad Cottages. Regardless of your position on either issue, this is democracy in action and I’m glad to be a part of this local government where everyone’s voice can be heard.

A scheduling note before the meaty updates: for those of you following Founders Row, we were scheduled to have a work session next Monday, May 8 about the amendment to their special exception, substituting 72 age-restricted apartments for the hotel anchor. Founders Row will now be coming to the May 22 regular meeting instead, so next Monday’s work session is cancelled.

Read on for my thoughts about Founders Row, Railroad Cottages, and a brief update on bike share.

What Happened This Week:

(1) Railroad Cottages

After much public comment, discussion with staff, and presentation by the developer – by a 5-2 vote, Railroad Cottages was granted “first reading” this week. That means that the project gets referred out to Boards and Commissions and various civic groups for feedback before it comes back before Council for a final vote. This is an important part of the special exception process – this is where volunteer citizens with specialized expertise and interest in various areas (eg, ESC – Environmental Sustainability Council, Housing Commission, CACT – Citizens Advisory Committee on Transportation, Tree Commission, and many more) roll up their sleeves and give feedback, leading to negotiations that ultimately improve projects before coming back to City Council at “second reading.”

During last week’s work session and during Q&A this week, I took copious notes of all the issues and concerns I read and heard and spent time getting answers and clarification item by item – both for my own understanding and also for the public’s. Everything from fair housing laws and HOPA (Housing for Older Persons Act) that allows for the age restriction and developer’s proposal to further prohibit any residents < 18 years (and have had both internal and external counsel weigh in on its legality); stormwater improvement; fire safety; widening of Railroad Ave; parking; rezoning vs subdivision into substandard lots (this is neither); and the alternate by-right proposal (4 large single family houses). I believe the majority of my questions were addressed satisfactorily with some areas that still need work. Ultimately, I believe in the value of creating much needed housing diversity and testing an innovative concept on an underutilized site, which is why I supported the first reading vote so that more iterations can happen.

However, I continue to field questions and concerns with misinformation about the cottage proposal. In the age of “alternative facts”, I know we can do better in the Little City. I encourage you to review the materials online or watch last week’s work session or this week’s meeting so you have the most up to date and accurate information. You can continue to send in your feedback and also attend any of the upcoming Board and Commission meetings which are all open to the public. And as always, I’m happy to listen and share the information that I have. I hope that there will be an earnest effort between the neighborhood and developers to constructively work together in the coming weeks.

(2) Founders Row

The other big happening this week was both the installation and subsequent removal of the “shrub wall” on the proposed Founders Row site. To clear up any misconceptions that the City approved the wall – I asked the City Manager to provide more background during Monday’s meeting. The City Manager reported that the City urged the developers not to put up the barricade when we first learned of the possibility. No permits were required, and building, zoning, and fire marshall officials were consulted, however, there were no code violations that would prevent the barricade from going up.

As mentioned above, we expect Founders Row to now be on our May 22 regular meeting agenda.

(3) Bike Share

Staff gave a brief report on the status of Capital Bikeshare coming to Falls Church with a preliminary station siting map based on consultant recommendations and public input. Expect more public engagement on station locations later this year, with phase 1 of the stations planned to be installed Spring 2018.



What’s Coming Up:

  • TODAY, Friday May 12 – Campus Economic Working Group (730 am, Dogwood)
  • Monday, May 15 – City Council Work Session (CANCELLED)
  • Friday, May 19 – Bike to Work Day – the City’s official pit stop on the W&OD Trail is at Little Falls Street (630 – 900 am)
  • Monday, May 22 – Volunteer Appreciation Reception at Cherry Hill Farmhouse (630-730 pm). If you’re a Board or Commission member or volunteered for the City in any way – we want to thank you and feed you dessert!  RSVP is requested by May 19
  • Monday, May 22 – City Council Regular Meeting
  • Monday, June 5 – joint City Council and School Board work session on GMHS; Broad & Washington project
  • Saturday, June 10 – Town Hall on GMHS