Although handled as almost a mere formality Tuesday night, the Falls Church City Council cast its final vote to ratify the sale of the City of Falls Church water system to Fairfax County by a unanimous 6-0 vote following last week’s landslide City voter approval of the sale in the Nov. 11 election.
It took a reminder from F.C. City Attorney John Foster to awaken the Council to the fact that “this is it” for its role in the sale of the system, a second-reading vote on all the stipulations of the deal that had been hammered out during mediation just a year ago.
Now the matter is in the hands of a panel of three circuit court judges who will be appointed by the State Supreme Court and will give final approval to the deal next month, which is expected since both parties to it are in agreement. With that, the “closing” of the deal will come with signings that will take place right after the first of the year.
“This is really a big deal,” Councilman David Tarter suddenly seemed to realize, although the matter had been described as a mere “procedural requirement.”
“It is a watershed moment,” chimed in Mayor Nader Baroukh, apologizing for the pun.”This sale has definitely changed the tenor of conversations between us and Fairfax County, and we are headed in the right direction.” He said the deal will have positive implications in this regard for generations to come.
Tarter noted that it marked the first time in the history of the City that it has expanded its borders as part of the agreement. Almost 40 acres will come within the City limits in the part of the deal that is the most promising, economically, for the City, since nine of those acres can be developed for commercial use that sit within walking distance of the West Falls Church Metro.
Discussion already began by the Council’s Budget and Finance Committee last Friday morning (that was attended by all the new Council members-elect who were voted onto the Council last week) about how to optimally deploy the cash component of the deal, about $10 million net, that will come to the City presumably in January. Ten million amounts to about 15 percent of the City’s annual operating budget.
Committee head Ira Kaylin said that among the options, figuring out how to leverage the funds to add an additional $10 million might offer the best way to strengthen the City’s position without requiring an increase in the tax rate.
The only citizen speaking to the Council tonight was a member of the board of the Friends of the Falls Church Homeless Shelter who thanked the Council and City staff for, in the negotiations, arranging for the current site of the shelter to remain in the City limits.