Senior Assisted Living in Downtown May Require Vote
In its first post-summer break work session Tuesday night, the Falls Church City Council agreed to move ahead with a vote on a proposed new ordinance that would require any application for a senior assisted living project in the downtown business district to be subject to a Council vote of approval.
The swift move to modify the City’s zoning code in this way comes in the wake of the application for just such a use on property where the Burger King in the 500 block of W. Broad currently sits. That proposed project, first reported in the June 27 edition of the News-Press, calls for a five-story, 88-unit mixed use senior assisted living building with ground-floor retail.
But now that numerous discussions have occurred at City Hall and papers filed for the plan, the City Council Tuesday night moved to place on the agenda for this Monday’s business meeting a measure that would require its vote to approve such a use in a “B-1,” or business, zoned part of the City.
City Manager Wyatt Shields explained to the News-Press after last night’s meeting that the discussions at City Hall between the Economic Development Committee of the City Council and developer Ed Novak of Nova-Habitat, and his partner in the proposed project, Harley Cook of Kensington Senior Development, gave rise to the measure that will be voted on Monday.
The timing and nature of the measure suggest that it is designed to give the Council a chance to vote down the proposed use.
Otherwise, the use is permitted “by right” in the B-1 zone, and the only action that Novak and Cook needed from the Council was approval of a special exception to allow five, instead of four, stories.
This isn’t the first time the City Council will have acted preemptively to dash an undesired use in its commercially-zoned areas. Catching wind of plans for yet another drive-through bank at an intersection susceptible to dense development, it passed an ordinance prohibiting drive-throughs except under certain special conditions.
Then when word came that a used car dealership was considering the site upon which eventually the City’s BJ’s Wholesale Warehouse was built, the Council jumped in to pass an ordinance that made the car dealership prohibitive.
In the case of a senior assisted living project, it was noted at Tuesday night’s meeting that “the core purpose of a B1 zone is that it is intended for a busy commercial area,” and that “human care uses” may not fit that.
Councilman Phil Duncan questioned whether senior citizens “are not lively contributors to the City.” He said it may not be valid to think of them as “getting in the way of hip-hopping people doing cool things.” He said that the proposed use “is in every respect a good use, putting older folks front and center.”
Councilman Ira Kaylin, calling himself the oldest member of the Council, quipped that “as the oldest, I have no interest in being front and center of anything.”
The zoning amendment will be voted on this coming Monday, prior to whatever date it might be utilized to vote on the Novak and Cook plan.
Novak purchased the three-fourths of an acre Burger King site earlier this year. He’s played an integral role in mixed use development in Falls Church since his originating role in The Broadway in 2001, followed by The Byron across the street.