Updates from Letty – May 6, 2016

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,

City Council had no meeting this week, but it was still a packed week of important meetings and happenings. Read on for quick recaps at the EDA (Economic Development Authority) meeting, a commercial development industry event where Falls Church was the featured topic, a community meeting on Mt. Daniel, and upcoming bike route discussion.

What Happened This Week:

  • Budget – While City Council’s part of the FY17 budget process is complete, the School Board had their second work session on Tuesday night to continue revising the FCCPS budget. The video from their work session this week is available online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqrtDRGUZNQ&feature=youtu.be
  • Economic Development – coming out of budget season, it’s appropriate to turn our attention back to the work of diversifying and growing our tax base for future budget years. Two events this week focused on development –
    • On Tuesday night was the monthly meeting for the EDA (Economic Development Authority), to which I am the City Council liaison. Of most interest from this month’s meeting was a deep dive with a representative from Fairfax County to share learnings from their revitalization work in Merrifield, Springfield, and Seven Corners. A few personal “a-ha’s” I took away from the discussion:
      • Economic development does not happen overnight and requires years of thoughtful planning and investment – the redevelopment in Merrifield has been a 15-20 year process; Springfield’s revitalization plan around the former Springfield Mall started in 2008 and Phase 1 just opened.
      • Based on the projects either opening or underway in the region, it’s apparent that we are surrounded by re-development. Growth and change are the new norm. It’s really up to communities to take charge of it and decide what the change should look like. Mixed use development is still the trend and what the market is generating in this region.
      • A lot of public investment was seeded in Fairfax’s “revitalization districts” as a precursor to private development (ie, bonds to improve road and transportation infrastructure).
    • NAIOP Monthly Meeting (commercial real estate development association) was on Wednesday and the City of Falls Church was the featured topic! It was a great opportunity to showcase the Little City as a great place to do business and invite more economic development. We had a contingent of Falls Church “ambassadors” of City staff, EDA, Planning Commission, and the Chamber of Commerce at the event. Photos from the event are on my Facebook page.
  • Mt Daniel Community Meeting – the meeting from Wednesday night is available on YouTube. Highlights:
    • A new 2232 application has been submitted to Fairfax County. We expect to have another hearing with the Fairfax Planning Commission in June or July, which will be open to the public.
    • The original application from last year had a capacity of 792; the new 2232 application has capacity reduced to 704 (reduction of 4 classrooms from the front of the building) to address the issues of mass and traffic concerns from Oak St. At a school size of 704, it was discussed at the meeting that an expanded Mt Daniel would still have at least a 13 year horizon before reaching capacity.
    • Much of the discussion was focused on how to give Fairfax assurance and make commitments within the 2232 process (vs the alternate Special Exception process). Of note is the concept of a “restrictive covenant” on student enrollment as a discussion item with Fairfax, to gauge if it would address their concerns. It would be a legally enforceable restriction Fairfax County could use to cap enrollment at 704, but of course poses challenges for us on planning.
    •  Costs to date: $2.6MM (planned), $180K (unanticipated costs, mainly fees for attorneys, consultants, and traffic study)
    • Financing recap – the total project budget is $15.6MM, comprised of a Dec 2013 bond of $1MM, a Dec 2014 bond of $10.4MM (passed in 2014 referendum), and $4.2MM in developer contributions. The debt is structured as a 20 year level principal bond, which is consistent with how we’ve financed other capital projects in the past. To date, we’ve spent about $1MM in debt service and expect annual debt service to be around $900K.
    • FAQs raised in the meeting
      • Why did we issue debt before permits from Fairfax County were received? The City Manager explained the City felt it was more prudent to take advantage of the historically low interest rates, with the information and guidance we had at the time on the likelihood of approval from Fairfax.
      • Can the bond money be used elsewhere? Per the City Manager, both the referendum and bond language specifies that the bond proceeds are to be used only at Mt. Daniel.

What’s Coming Up:

  • City Council resumes our weekly meetings next Monday; the agenda has been posted. Of note on the agenda is the Streetscape Design Task Force I wrote about previously. Looking ahead to the May 16th City Council work session, we are expecting the developers of Tradition Place (S. Spring/Broad project) to share an update with us.
  • Speaking of streetscape – has anyone noticed the new Little City bright green bike racks installed around town? Last year, City Council made a commitment to revitalize our downtown and these bike racks are the first of several improvements you’ll be seeing this spring and summer (LED street lights to brighten and make our downtown more inviting, sidewalk and pedestrian improvements at Broad and Washington underway, benches, and trash/recycling receptacles).


  • Other upcoming meetings:
    • This Saturday – May 7 – Bicycle Master Plan Public Workshop – Meeting will be held from 10AM-12PM in the Community Room of the Community Center (223 Little Falls St.). The workshop is an opportunity to discuss with the community at large possibilities for marking/signing three routes in the City: (1) Park Ave, (2) Little Falls & Maple, and (3) Cherry & Columbia.


  • Monday, May 9, 2016 – 6:30-8:30 pm – Washington-Lee High School; Wednesday, May 11, 2016 – 6:30-8:30 pm Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School. There are two VDOT meetings on Transform 66 to discuss the widening component of the project.
  • Last week of the Solarize NOVA campaign – ends May 15th.  Solarize is a program that offers bulk purchasing discounts and free solar site assessments to homeowners.