Letters to the Editor: August 8 – 14, 2013

August 8, 2013 10:28 AM3 comments

Annual Celebration of F.C.’s Birthday is Great Idea

Editor,

The suggestion in the August 1-7 News-Press that Falls Church honor its birthday is a superb idea. Providing for an annual fête to recognize and celebrate the “Little City’s” rich and progressive history is long overdue. And using 1948, the year of the city’s incorporation, is an inspired suggestion, based on the significant undertakings that were made at that time.

In addition to noted achievements so aptly described by the News-Press, especially the establishment of the city’s independent school system – the raison d’etre for creating a city – is the construction of the city’s modern water system. Until 1948, the Town of Falls Church relied on four municipal wells to provide water. This was a period of major growth following the close of World War II, and housing was a major component of this growth. Falls Church would shoulder its share of the new housing.

In 1948, it was the construction a 480 unit apartment complex on a 27 acre West Broad Street site that caused the largest a stir. The burden of providing water to the 950 new residences at Tyler Gardens (today’s Winter Hill & Cherry Hill), would put an extraordinary burden on the four wells. As a solution, the town issued 30 year bonds worth one million dollars to finance a connection to the Arlington County water system. The little city with big dreams was nationally publicized in municipal and public works journals at the time for taking on this monumental task and building its own state-of-the-art water system.

Think of the commitment, determination and foresight these visionary city fathers exhibited in 1948, achievements that continue to serve us in an exceedingly excellent manner. Their noteworthy and exemplary actions are worth celebrating every year.

Paul H. Barkley

Arlington

 

City of F.C. is Headed Down The Wrong Path

Editor,

Falls Church is heading on the wrong path.

Over the last few months Falls Church has begun a change (not for the better) to try and become a big city, not the little city we love.

Here are a few simple facts, which if anyone answered honestly would stop this nonsense:

1) Town centers have been on the decline as a profitable outcome since just before the recession. Get any developer to answer you honestly and they will tell you this, and those residents you are trying to attract, have a stronger attraction to the Big City as per current exodus to Washington, D.C.

2) Town centers will only be marginally profitable when on top or nearly on top of a Metro rail. The only locations for that are East Falls Church (already well underway), and West Falls Church, which if the council at the time had sided with Don Beyer’s vision back then would be rivaling the Mosaic District now.

3) Any politician who tells you that bringing in new development and business is going to lower your taxes is either lying, not telling you everything or an idiot who got sold on a bad deal. Most of these enticements require giving tax breaks to the developers to get them to build. That means that the infrastructure (including emergency services) needs to be increased to cover the new population and or visitors (i.e. an increase in government budget, and since tax breaks were given that falls to the current population to pay.

4) Let’s say building continues on the proposed Broad /West St site. Who in their right mind thinks it’s right to put up a new drugstore pretty much in one block of another? Competition is fierce in these industries, so one will be forced out of business, and again loss in tax revenue.

The charm in Falls Church is much like that in Old town Alexandria, the eclectic shops, non chain restaurants where they treat you as a person not a paycheck, the feel of real community belonging, with a strong sense of the history..

David Hacker

Falls Church

 

F.C. Council Should Reconsider Stormwater Fee

Editor,

On August 1, several of my neighbors and I attended a meeting called by the City of Falls Church to discuss the mechanics of the new stormwater utility fee program that will soon be implemented. While most of the persons at the meeting did not question the need for the program, the manner in which the funds are being raised can only be described as cumbersome and devious.

City staff estimates the fee will be approximately $252 per home per year, apparently far higher than neighboring jurisdictions that have such a charge. Instead of securing this money through the general fund revenues paid through real estate taxes, the city is raising this money through separate assessments that require time-consuming calculations and agreement with individual homeowner associations on the mechanics, appropriate amount per association and the allocation of the assessment within the association. By using general fund revenues, the individual calculation process would be eliminated.

Falls Church already has one of the highest real estate tax rates in the area. This is contrasted with the scenario of 30 years ago when Falls Church had one of the region’s lowest tax rates. Now, by using this “off-budget” fee mechanism, taxes, in effect, will go still higher. In our individual case, using the $252 per home estimate, our taxes will be increased about 3%, making the real tax rate not $1.305 per $100 but $1.343 per $100 of assessed value.

When asked why general fund revenues weren’t utilized instead of this special assessment, a city engineer at the meeting responded by saying that the city wanted a dedicated source of revenue for the program so they would not have to compete with the schools. Many would ask why this expense shouldn’t compete with the schools’ requests and maybe the schools should take a hit for part of the cost. Finally, the engineer informed the group that this cost would, unlike real estate taxes, not be a deductible tax expense.

This sort of funding mechanism, the bureaucratic mechanics of determining the cost per association or homeowner, and the precedent it sets should be re-thought. I urge the Council to take action before this is finalized.

James E. Schoenberger

Falls Church


Letters to the Editor may be submitted to letters@fcnp.com or via our online form here. Letters should be limited to 350 words and may be edited for content, clarity and length. To view the FCNP’s letter and submission policy, please click here.

  • D_Wayne_Jones

    Mr. Hacker,
    I would be very interested to read your description of what path our city should take that will fund our needs (health, safety, education, etc.).

  • vseidita

    If my $252 Storm Water fee becomes part of the general fund it only costs me $167. If the city agrees to this approach I promise to spend the extra $85 on a dinner at a local restaurant, thereby stimulating the economy! As to the question of whether our storm water mitigation activities need to compete with other priorities I ask whether they are more critical than police, fire and sanitation, none of which have their own dedicated revenue stream and all of whom have provided outstanding service during the 28 years I have lived in the City

  • c0mment

    David, could you show us the tax breaks being given to these developers? Other than the arrangement with BJ’s (where a portion of taxes above a threshold are rebated to the owner), I’m not aware of any tax incentives.

    The stormwater situation is a challenge. James mentions how low the tax rate was 30 years ago. It should be obvious now that the tax rate was too low back then – City leaders should have been anticipating stormwater management upkeep costs and either taxing and saving to do that upkeep now or taxing and doing the upkeep along the way. Anyone who has lived in the City for a long time who is no complaining about the stormwater costs – I think you should consider that you were paying less in tax/fees all those years than you should have been.

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