Updates from Letty – November 11, 2022

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,

In honor of those who have served bravely, our City government is closed today – thank you veterans. I hope you can join this morning’s annual Veteran’s Day ceremony, which has been moved indoors to the Community Center due to the soggy weather.

We had a meaty work session this week on two main topics:

1) Staff’s recommendations on a budget amendment, totaling about $6M from a combination of revenue surplus, underspending, and American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

2) The proposed development at the Virginia Tech Graduate Center site, where we had approved the sale of city land over the summer. As this site will be adjacent to the secondary school campus and the West Falls project, we have interests as the current landowner and as the future neighbor.

Due to the holidays at the end of the month, I’ll be moving my monthly office hours to this coming Monday, November 14 at 12 pm, at the side patio of Northside Social. The colder weather is a good time to resume my rotation to local coffee shops. We have 4 remaining City Council meetings in 2022 and we’ll be tackling budget (amendments that reflect the community’s priorities and preparation for next year’s budget), 20 mph speed limits, Council salaries, our Richmond legislative agenda, and more – drop by and share what’s on your mind.


What Happened This Week:

(1) ICYMI – it’s official!

Mill Creek Announces Addition of Paragon Theaters to Founders Row

(2) Budget Amendment

As I wrote about in October, we wrapped up the last fiscal year FY22 with a budget surplus. There also are additional ARPA funds to be allocated and unspent funds from the last budget to be carried forward. This week, staff presented us a plan to allocate $5.8M on priorities that span from education, inflation mitigation for employees, transportation projects, and more. Year end dollars are “one-time dollars”, so sound fiscal management calls for generally using them on “one-time needs” vs ongoing operating expenses. We also discussed this amendment in the backdrop of a likely recession and ensuring the city is well positioned to weather any storms.

As this is a large budget amendment, I recommend looking at the staff report and its charts for the specifics. I”ll pull out a few highlights based on input I’ve received from the community on your priorities:

  • Per our revenue sharing agreement, any surplus revenues would be shared with the schools. The use of the funds be appropriated by the School Board ($1.1M)
  • $1000 bonus for employees to address impacts of inflation, a similar bonus is proposed for school employees ($275K)
  • W&OD Trail crossings – due to cost escalation, additinal funds are needed to widen the street-trail crossings for the expanded Dual Trails ($425k)
  • Repair brick crosswalks ($150K)
  • Rapid Response Team on ped/bike transportation projects – as we discussed in September, we hear the community’s desire for more responsive and faster implementation of street safety projects. A “strike team” focused on delivering quick, agile solutions is proposed. Year 1 would cover initial hires and equipment but this would need to be sustained in the operating budget if successful. ($147K)
  • Reduction of speed limits to 20 mph on most residential streets. This was last discussed in September and I shared my thoughts on why I support the change, as one of several measures to improve safety ($100K)
  • Parklets along S. Washington – building on the success of Mr. Brown’s Park, the EDA has proposed building additional pocket parks to create vibrancy, gathering spots, and support local businesses post Covid ($800K)
  • Cash in lieu of debt – in the rising interest rate environment and our already high debt ratios, staff is proposing using cash in lieu of issuing debt for various capital projects we previously approved ($800K)

Budget amendments require 2 votes – we’ll be casting our first one next Monday after a public hearing and a final one after Thanksgiving at our meeting on November 28. We’d welcome your input.

(3) Converge (Hitt/Virginia Tech) Project

As I wrote back in July, the city entered into a purchase and sale agreement for the Virginia Tech Graduate Center site, which is about 7 acres total, with about 5 acres owned by the city and 2 acres owned by VT, both located within Fairfax County, adjacent to the secondary campus and the under construction West Falls project. (Quick recap: the 5 acres were leased to VT, dating back to an agreement from the 1990s. Currently, the VT site has a 100K square foot office building and large surface parking lot. Originally, UVA was also a tenant up until 2018 when VT bought out UVA’s interest.)

This week, the City Council along with members of the School Board and Planning Commission heard a presentation on the Converge redevelopment proposal, which will consist of two main components – a net zero ready commercial building (Hitt Contracting corporate headquarters and the VT smart construction center) and a residential building (440 units and ground floor retail).

Because this land is in Fairfax County (but currently owned by the city), City Council plays a different role than typical projects. In this case, we are the current landowners with an agreement to sell the property (and will be future neighbors) so we still have interests but don’t have underlying land use approval authority with rests with the county. We discussed the proximity and interaction with Meridian High School (60′ away), ensuring that West Falls Station Blvd the new road/green space through the West Falls project continues through the Converge site to Metro, and use of Mustang Alley, which borders the project.

What’s Coming Up:

Monday, November 14 , 12 pm – Letty’s Office Hours (Northside Social)

Monday, November 14 – City Council Meeting*

Saturday, November 19 – East End Small Area Plan Community Meeting

Monday, November 28 – Holiday Lighting Event

Monday, November 28 – City Council Meeting*

Monday, December 5 – City Council Work Session* (Joint with School Board)

Monday, December 12 – City Council Meeting* (last meeting of 2022)

*every Monday (except 5th Mondays and holidays) at 7:30 pm. You can access the agenda and livestream here, including recordings of past meetings