Updates from Letty – Oct 28, 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,

It’s proving to be a busy last few months of the year. This week’s City Council agenda was a packed one, and we only have 4 more regular meetings the rest of this calendar year with an ambitious docket of work: work sessions on 11/21 and 12/5 and regular meetings on 11/28 and 12/12. The upcoming two weeks are joint meetings with the School Board on the campus project and with our counterparts in Arlington and Alexandria to learn and work together across jurisdictions.

Traffic calming was the hot topic this week – read on for the discussion and my thoughts on why I voted to allocate surplus money to traffic calming. Also: late breaking news – site plans for the Broad and West project (Mason Row) were just received this week. A less-talked about project, for by right development of a new hotel at the Inns of Virginia (419/421 W. Broad) is also undergoing site plan review. The Planning Commission is the 7 member appointed body responsible for reviewing all land use matters, including site plans. More to come when the items get scheduled for upcoming PC discussions.

If you’re a Facebook user – a good way to stay updated on development or business topics is the City’s Economic Development Office’s new Facebook page. Give them a like and welcome them to Facebook!

Remember, we have no meeting on Halloween Monday and will be meeting with the School Board at Central Office on Tuesday 11/1, 730 pm to discuss next steps on GMHS/MEH, and it is open to the public. Feel free to reach out with questions or comments.



What Happened This Week:

City Council Meeting – Mon, 10/24:

FY17 Budget Amendment & Traffic Calming – as discussed in previous work sessions, we have a small surplus of $920K ending the FY16 fiscal year. (The $920K is in excess of the 12-17% range our financial policies specify to maintain in the Unassigned Fund Balance, aka rainy day fund.)

  • The proposed staff recommendation was to put the entire $920K in Capital Reserves, with the plan that it would be used to pay debt service for the GMHS/MEH project. In the most recent funding scenario we’ve reviewed – if we were to bond for a new $112MM GMHS and all the other planned CIP projects like a renovated Library and City Hall , the anticipated annual debt service would increase from the current $6MM to $16MM at peak years.
  • I advocated for setting aside $200K of the $920K for traffic calming, with the remainder going to reserves. As you may recall from our spring budget deliberations, traffic calming was one of the high priority projects we were unable to fund. Ultimately, there was a 4-3 vote to amend the budget amendment for the $200K to traffic calming.
  • Letty’s thoughts: staff’s recommendation to set aside all $920K into reserves is reasonable given future years’ capital costs. As much as I am a believer in planning for the future (and saving for it) we need to strike a balance with short term needs, especially quality of life and safety issues like traffic calming where requests have been backlogged for years. It’s clear that the demand for traffic calming hasn’t waned. I believe it’s an obligation we have to our neighborhoods as we welcome new economic development and growth in the region. One concern is that the $200K won’t be spent in the winter months until the temperatures warm up for paint or road work. There are currently 10 projects in the Neighborhood Traffic Calming queue and the queue is quickly growing. Traffic analysis and neighborhood options discussions can happen irregardless of weather, which will help us work through the backlog. Once we have recommended solutions, the $200K is available for work to begin immediately in the spring – which will be months ahead of the next funding opportunity when the next fiscal year begins in July 2017.  
  • Post amendment for traffic calming, the first reading vote for the entire budget amendment was  7-0 and will come back for a final vote on 11/28. See last week’s blog post for a quick summary of the other items in the budget amendment.
  • If you are interested in requesting traffic calming for your neighborhood, visit the “Neighborhood Traffic Calming” webpage, www.fallschurchva.gov/NTC. There you’ll find information on the process for requesting crosswalks, speed bumps, and more, as well as the decision-making that goes into the program.

Year 2040 Vision Work – have you seen the draft Vision Statement to guide Falls Church for the next 25 years? You can email me or vision@fallschurchva.gov with feedback ahead of our next work session to discuss on November 21. Draft statement: “In the year 2040, the City of Falls Church is an independent, walkable small city within the Northern Virginia region. Through all the changes, the City celebrates its history and community character and invests in its neighborhoods, schools, and natural environment. These community investments are made possible by a growing population and economy.”

City Hall Project Update – we also heard a brief update from the City Manager about the City Hall project ahead of the November 21 work session where we’ll deep dive and be asked to authorize the next phase of the project in December. The project is wrapping up the schematic design; the current schedule calls for detailed design and site plan work in 2017 and construction starting in late 2017 or early 2018. If you haven’t seen it yet, this is a handy one pager explaining the components of the $17MM project and a helpful 4 minute video to see the schematic design. Take a look, and we’d welcome more community feedback!

Commercial Tax Abatement Programs – for those following the commercial property tax abatement or technology zone programs, both were deferred to November 28 so we can continue to collect feedback from citizens, Boards & Commissions, and the Chamber of Commerce.

Financial Policies – at the recommendation of the Budget & Finance Committee, we also voted to defer the adoption of the revised Financial Policies so more feedback can be incorporated.


What’s Coming Up:

  • Halloween in the Little City! There are a variety of Halloween events sponsored by government and community groups happening this weekend. If you haven’t strolled downtown Falls Church recently, it’s looking like great weather this weekend to check out the painted storefront windows (most of them are painted by FCC families) while you support local businesses and get a cup of coffee or run errands.
  • Walkability Survey is still underway – the CACT (Citizens Advisory Committee on Transportation) has created a survey for pedestrians to complete while they’re strolling around town – specifically the Broad and Washington corridors. This data will be used to make recommendations to us on City Council! So if you’re heading to the Farmers Market or running errands on foot between now and November 18, choose a block you’ll be walking and take this survey on your phone or tablet on the go: http://www.fallschurchva.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=414
  • Tues, 11/1 – Joint session with School Board on GM/MEH campus
  • Tues, 11/15 – Joint meeting with Arlington and Alexandria
  • Mon, 11/21 – City Council work session
  • Mon 11/28 – City Council meeting