Blog posts are the personal views of Letty Hardi and not official statements or records on behalf of the Falls Church City Council
Happy Fall! We had a big weekend last week in the Little City, and we covered a lot of business in this week’s City Council work session too. Read on if you’re especially interested in economic development news (many interesting proposals and updates to various business openings). Take note of several community engagement opportunities on the City Hall project and City Visioning work in early October.
I encourage you to look at the results of the Visioning survey below and let me know if it reflects your thoughts. Send me an email if you have other ideas or thoughts!
What Happened This Week:
Coalition for Smarter Growth Walking Tour – with the Fall Festival, Taste of Falls Church, and the FCEF Run for the Schools, last weekend was great timing to showcase Falls Church in the Coalition for Smarter Growth walking tour. (As you may recall, the CSG helped us advocate and successfully secure bikeshare funding over the summer.) With City Council’s focus on walkability (both pedestrian/transit/bicyclist improvements and new destinations to which to walk), I enjoyed hearing the observations from a great turnout of CSG members and citizens on how Falls Church is evolving into walkable, vibrant community. In case you missed it, Stewart Schwartz, CSG’s executive director wrote a great summary in this week’s FCNP guest commentary
City Council Work Session – 9/19/16
- The Economic Development Authority (EDA) was the guest board and commission group to join us at this week’s work session. We reviewed two proposals from the EDA and staff to incent new office development in the City. With a soft office market, mostly older Class B/C/below office space in Falls Church, and our location between two much larger office market (Arlington, Tysons) – it’s important for Falls Church to ensure we’re competitive in attracting new office and businesses to continue to expand the commercial tax base. Expect both of these proposals to go to City Council for first reading later this fall.
- Commercial property tax abatement – this proposal focuses on abatement of real estate taxes for office (not mixed use) improvements or expansions where the assessed value is doubled and minimum of 10K square foot improvement (100% for first 5 years, then 50% for the latter 5 years) . Note that the base value of real estate taxes is not abated, only the improved/new space. Staff performed analysis that shows the taxes abated could be offset by improved land values, personal property and business taxes, incremental spending and meals taxes so that it would be an overall fiscal net positive for the City.
- Technology zone tax incentives – Falls Church’s technology zone incentive program was been unchanged since 1997, so the proposal recommends updating the definition of tech businesses, limiting the abatement of BPOL (business, professional and other license) taxes to business districts only, and extending the time period from 3 to 5 years with a phasing of 100% in years 1-3 then 50% in years 4-5, This proposal can help fill up available commercial spaces and attract new businesses (despite our high 92% occupancy rate, we can always do better) and add daytime worker population that will further attract more dining and retail.
- Paper Streets / Greenways – do you know what a Paper Street is? (I didn’t before I was on City Council!). Paper streets are areas of land that are publicly owned and designated for use as streets, but that have not been developed as such. (The link includes a map of the paper streets in the City.) Some of these spaces are used for pedestrian passage; others are difficult to find or to use and can easily be confused as being private property. Staff recommends re-classifying paper streets in the Future Land Use Maps as greenways, which affirms that the streets won’t be developed into paved roads but remains City right-of-way.
- Transportation Grants – Staff provided us a detailed update on transportation projects in progress and the many grant applications we’re submitting to secure funding for those projects. My main takeaways – we have a lot of active projects focused on improving transportation and while some have gotten a lot of coverage (neighborhood traffic calming, bikeshare, W&OD), we have many more projects focused on the basics like traffic signals and paving. There is also a complex coordination required between grant cycle timing and staff resources – as a result, much of this work takes several years before completion.
- Visioning Update – thank you all who submitted thoughts in the Visioning survey. Staff gave us an update on the community engagement work since the first summer meeting – the survey, “pop up” meetings held around town, and discussions with GMHS students. Community input is critical to the visioning work – this is your chance to influence the future of the City!
- Here are a few snippets from the 472 responses to the survey – does this reflect your vision for the City? Send me an email – I’d love to hear your thoughts.
- Other business/development news – the Economic Development Office has published their monthly bulletin with updates on new businesses opening in the community.
- Mt Daniel – In the elementary PTA meeting this week, Dr. Jones reported that with the approval of the 2232 application by Fairfax County Planning Commission, Mt. Daniel construction is expected to start next summer. Preparations will occur during this school year, but do not expect construction to impact teachers or students during the school year. If you haven’t signed up already, these construction updates are helpful way to stay informed.
- GM/MEH campus planning – as we discussed in the last joint session between City Council and School Board over the summer, we are re-starting work on the GM/MEH campus planning. Interviews with key stakeholders are happening now, and we are mapping out the key questions/issues that need to be solved and a new approach to be discussed at our next joint session on October 3rd.
What’s Coming Up:
Sept 26 – City Council Meeting & Work Session at 730 pm – we have a double header next Monday night. We have a light regular session scheduled but will go into work session for deep dives on City finances (proposed update to financial policies and the FY16 year end financial report) in the 2nd half of the meeting.
Oct 1, 9 – 11 am at Columbia Baptist Church – Community Visioning Meeting #2. Join your neighbors, City officials, staff, and guest speakers to discuss survey results and what you think The Little City look and feel like in 25 years.
Oct 1, 10 am – 2 pm – Fall Community Clean Up & Litter Pick Up – Clean up the City and keep litter out of our waterways. Meet at the Community Center to pickup supplies (provided by the City) and then spread out across the City to the areas of highest impact.
Oct 3, Joint Session with City Council and School Board on GMHS/MEH Campus at 730 pm
Oct 5 – Personal Property Taxes are due. By now, you should have received your personal property tax bills. Remember that the new 10% late penalty structure is in effect for late payments.
Oct 6, 730 pm at City Council Chambers – Town Hall on the City Hall project – join City staff and the architectural firm for an update on the City Hall project. Give input on the overall concept, building flow, and more.