Updates from Letty – May 29, 2020

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,

Today marks an important turning point in the pandemic – Northern Virginia has entered Phase 1 re-opening, which is a tiptoe and not yet a complete re-opening. Read on for the specific restrictions still in place and what you can expect from businesses. The US also surpassed another grim milestone this week, topping 100K deaths from COVID-19. 

All that to say: with re-opening, the threat of COVID-19 hasn’t gone away. We are still being asked to follow the guidance for handwashing, social distancing, not gathering in groups larger than 10, and staying at home as much as possible to minimize harm to ourselves and others. I’m also cognizant that today’s re-opening brings anxiety and uncertainty for individuals and businesses who have to determine the level of risk each is willing to tolerate to gradually resume work and activities. 

In the tricky balance between individualism and collectivism, I hope mask-wearing will be an unifying act of solidarity in Falls Church – whether you wear a mask for the obvious public health benefits, hope to spur faster economic recovery, or both. Effective today, masks will be mandatory in all indoor public settings. Northern Virginia’s elected leaders have joined together in sharing reasons why we wear masks in a new PSA video. And all of your City Council members are united in setting the example and encouraging our citizens to do the same. If you can’t make or get a mask for any reason, reply to me and I’ll connect you with one. The City is also asking for donated masks so we can re-distribute to those without. 

Besides business re-opening today, this week’s post will also cover other city services and facilities that are opening again, new COVID testing, FY21 Budget, Traffic Calming, and a few development project updates.

Finally, in non COVID topics, I know many hearts are heavy by events of this week (and every week, it seems). We all need to be better allies. Empathy is important, moreso is actionable change. In the vein of my post last year, I’m sharing another book recommendation and discussion topics this time for fellow parents, as a helpful way to spark the conversation with young kids. We are responsible to guide and teach the next generation and issues of racism, sexism, misogyny, and privilege can’t be ignored. 

Take care,

What Happened This Week:

(1) COVID Updates 

Today’s Phase 1 Re-Opening Means:

  • Retail: Open with 50 percent capacity
  • Restaurants: Take-out and delivery only; if they have outdoor seating, it can only be used at 50% capacity
  • Places of Worship: Open with 50% capacity
  • Personal Grooming: By appointment only; social distancing and face coverings required
  • Private Campgrounds: Open
  • Child Care: Open for working families
  • Overnight Summer Camps: Closed
  • “Stay at Home” becomes “Safer at Home”: Residents are still encouraged to stay home

The Economic Development Office’s website, www.choosefallschurch.org/PhaseOne, has details for businesses that would like to use tents and expand outdoor areas. See also the specific guidelines by business sector and FAQs from the Governor’s office.

Tennis: The City Manager also reported out that City tennis courts will be re-opening today. 

Library: The library will take new requests via curbside service soon, likely launch by June 1. 

Camps: Also in case you missed it, summer camps from June 15 to to July 2 are cancelled (except for Summer Fun) with July and August camps to be decided by June 15.

Testing: after last weekend’s pop up testing sites, CVS announced 39 drive-thru testing locations opening today, many in locations with the highest concentration of positive cases and therefore the greatest need for testing access. Testing will be scheduled online and take place through the pharmacy drive-thru window; no testing will take place in-store. 

(2) FY21 Budget

We adopted the FY21 Budget this week – largely the same as the revised version that was presented at the beginning of May – $5.60 million (-5.4%) relative to original March version and by $1.36 million (-1.4%) relative to the current FY20 budget. We’ll revisit in the fall when we have more data on actual revenue hits over the summer. The main changes due to some good news I shared last week:

Traffic calming & sidewalk/LED street lights funding: as a result of WMATA getting CARES money, the City’s obligation to fund WMATA is smaller so we’ll be able to restore $100K to traffic calming and $180K for sidewalks/ LED streetlight conversion.

Rent relief: the proposed budget will allocate $45K of CARES money towards emergency rent relief. 

Assistant Registrar position: also with the City’s CARES allocation, the budget proposes funding a new assistant registrar position to prepare for the November general election.

CIP – we’re not done with budget season. The CIP (Capital Improvement Program) is on a slower timeline due to uncertainty on transportation funding. The CIP is scheduled for final votes on June 22.

(3) Traffic Calming

We also directed the City Manager to release $100K of the $400K total toward traffic calming and spot improvements. (That $400K originated from the surplus from the current year’s budget that was debated in February. It was placed on hold by the City Manager until the fall, pending on the economy.) As there is about a month left in the fiscal year, the hope is that the $100K can be deployed to quick, light solutions like signs and painting to address additional streets in the traffic calming queue.

(4) Development Project Updates

In non COVID news – we have begun to add in committee meetings and other business in our virtual, open meeting format. We held our first virtual EDC meeting this week (the Economic Development Committee of City Council) and we discussed updates on a few projects. In light of the current economic situation, there is admittedly a lot of uncertainty, but also reassuring that there continues to be development interest in Falls Church and projects in the pipeline are on track.

  • WFC (West Falls Church, the 10 acre project adjacent to the new GMHS) – the development team is on track to submit the site plan in early June.
  • Broad and Washington – we continued discussions on the interim and permanent parking concerns with the latest submission of the project which is under staff review. We consider the parking concerns to be a threshold issue that needs to be addressed.
  • Rite Aid / Carpet Store sites – with Mill Creek putting in offers on the Broad and West corner opposite Founders Row, the developer has shared preliminary ideas with the neighborhood and staff on the mixed use plan. 

What’s Coming Up:

  • Monday, June 8: City Council Meeting
  • Monday, June 22: Final Vote on CIP

City Council Meetings start at 730 pm, unless otherwise specified. You can access the agenda and livestream here, including recordings of all of our other virtual Board & Commission meetings: http://www.fallschurchva.gov/471/Watch-City-Council-Meetings