Updates from Letty – May 7, 2021

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,

This week’s post will be a little different. While City Council had a work session, I’m going to spend more time on topics outside of our meeting agenda, including: good news on the budget front, the latest on the noise ordinance for you outdoor music fans (final vote on Monday), Fellows Park, and what’s currently dubbed as Founders Row 2 to address some of the emails we’ve received.

As our vaccinations increase and infections decrease, there are more and more in person activities resuming, like some Memorial Day festivities and Thursday night concerts at Cherry Hill. Yesterday, Governor Northam announced a target date of June 15 to lift most COVID restrictions if trends continue – all the more reason to keep encouraging your friends, family, neighbors (and your 12-15 year olds when emergency authorization comes imminently) to get a vaccine and mask/distance if not yet vaccinated – let’s keep it going.

On that note, I’ll be continuing my monthly office hours – with my next one on Monday, May 17 at 9 am at Mr. Brown’s Park again. And when you are out enjoying the spring weather and post vaccination freedom – it’s not too late to log your physical activity in the Fitness Challenge. Despite being the smallest jurisdiction, the Little City is currently leading Vienna and Fairfax: as of yesterday we have 170,678.5 minutes recorded (Vienna had 141,878 minutes and Fairfax had 123,485.5 minutes recorded).

Take care,

What Happened This Week:

(1) Budget Amendment & New Earmarks

I know we just wrapped up the FY22 budget last week, so it’s probably confusing why we’re amending the budget already. For long-time readers, you’ll know that we regularly have budget amendments throughout the year and this one is on the current year’s budget (FY21, which ends in June), especially as we get various grants, make new appropriations, etc. Among many items in our latest budget amendment that will be up for the first vote on Monday: $50K to fund police body cams ($100K coming from a grant); restoring $450K for traffic calming, sidewalks, and facilities reinvestment that was taken out of FY22 budget; $2M from capital reserves to move a Washington Gas regulator needed for the new 10 acre project.

While we’re on topic of budgets and still awaiting more information on the federal relief dollars from the American Rescue Plan, I’ll note that we are grateful that several project requests from Falls Church made it into Congressman Beyer’s Community Project Fund requests (aka, earmarks). Falls Church’s items: electrifying our school buses and a stormwater project on Lincoln Ave.

(2) Noise Ordinance

This week, the police held a sound demonstration in Cherry Hill Park to help us better understand various sound levels at different distances before we vote next Monday. Some City Council members, staff, the Chamber of Commerce, and various businesses were in attendance.

An update to the noise ordinance has been on our docket for awhile – mainly because the current ordinance relies on a “reasonable person” standard that is out of date and unenforceable. As part of the update, we have been debating whether to permanently extend the hours to 10 pm (as part of COVID emergency, we had granted additional flexibility to allow businesses to add outdoor dining and move their live music outdoors, including extending live music hours to 10 pm on certain nights) and whether to keep the current decibel limit of 65 decibels or raise it. We are weighing the concerns of many residents, primarily in the Tinner Hill building, about live music with our desire to give flexibility to businesses to help them weather and recover from the pandemic. Staff has been collecting data on noise complaints for the past month to help inform our discussion.

You can write to us with your input and/or speak at our meeting on Monday night.

(3) Fellows Park

The Rec and Parks Board (of which I’m their City Council liaison) held their May meeting doing an in person walkaround of the Fellows Property at 604 S. Oak. (As you may recall, we bought the 1.9 acre Fellows Property in 2019 for $4.7M – one of the largest remaining parcels in the city to preserve as open space and potential future school use.) The board has been listening to comments from the community and neighbors and learning about options the past few months. The majority of comments are calling for more passive uses like light trails and community gardens vs active recreation options. The next step will be to create a “master park plan” where there will be more discussion and community input before the plans are finalized and construction proceeds.

(4) Founders Row 2

We’ve received comments from neighbors of the Founders Row 2 project (Broad and S. West corner with the vacant Rite Aid and carpet store) since the project was first discussed in our work session in March. The majority of the concerns included worries that we were approving the project too quickly as well as some perennial development topics every project needs to address like traffic, tapering to neighborhood, architecture, height, Since our March meeting, the Planning Commission also held a “workshop discussion” in April to include board and commissions so they can provide early feedback that can be considered in the next iteration of the project application.

If you have input – the project is in the very early stages and this is exactly the time to provide that feedback so the project can continue to improve and address the concerns. Typically, a development application has two votes from City Council (you might hear them referred to as first and second reading). In between those votes are several rounds of staff reviews, public hearings with the community, and board and commission comments. After that feedback is received, the application is revised, reviewed, and a new submission is submitted before City Council takes action for the second/final vote. That process usually takes months, and from my observation, has been closer to years.

What’s Coming Up:

Monday, May 17 at 9 am: Letty’s office hours (Mr. Brown’s Park)

City Council Meetings every Monday (except 5th Monday) at 730 pm: current draft schedule of meetings and agenda items

You can access the agenda and livestream here, including recordings of past meetings