Editorial: ‘Looking a Gift Horse In the Mouth’

March 19, 2014 9:49 PM4 comments

If we were running Falls Church, and were faced with the need to shove another big real estate tax increase down the throats of our citizens, on top of a nine percent increase in the assessed values of that real estate, and with a whole new financial burden on our citizens in the form of an annual storm water fee…

If we were running Falls Church when that was happening and someone showed up in our office with a plan for bringing $1.4 to $1.8 million in net annual new tax revenues and a plethora of major gifts, such as $2 million for the school construction fund…

If we were running Falls Church when that happened, we would tell that gift-bearing person thanks, but what he wants to do is definitely “too big,” and isn’t as quaint at the 7-Eleven he wants to replace…

No, wait, wait, that wouldn’t be us! Oh, but it would be the Falls Church City Council and its Planning Commission cohorts, because that’s exactly what many among them told the Spectrum developers of their proposed “Broad and West” project at a work session Monday night.

No, if we were running Falls Church when that happened, we would be hopping up and down, shrieking “Yes! Yes!” and “How soon can you get started?”

To be honest, the reception the Council and Planners provided the Spectrum people Monday night at City Hall was about as chilling as imaginable. We’ve been covering matters like this in the Little City for more than 23 years now, and this Monday’s official reception of a significant development project was more saturated with negatives than almost any we’ve seen. (In all the other similar cases, the projects never materialized.)

One had to wonder as the brave, stiff-upper-lip development team skulked out of the City Hall conference room Monday, whether they were such gluttons for punishment to ever be back.

In light of what this City Council is preparing to do to City taxpayers with the budget they’re now crafting, and with what kind of slash-and-burn it is preparing to do to the City’s school system, it was bizarre, to say the least, that the only concern they expressed to the Spectrum people Monday was the size of the project, not the size of the revenues they would generate for our taxpayers.

No one is suggesting for a moment that the City government should not fully and rigorously scrutinize a project of the size of Broad and West, with over 300 rental units, an extended stay hotel and lots of commercial.

But Monday’s shameful, inhospitable exhibition represented much more than honest probes for information. It was a bum’s rush.

Granted, there were a handful of grumpy neighbors to the site in the room with “stink eyes” directed at the Council. But somebody’s got to have some guts here. Otherwise the budget victims will just be the easy ones, the kids.

  • FourQ

    You act like there’s nothing there but the 7-11. In fact, there are several thriving businesses on the proposed site, many (or all) of whom would likely go under if forced to move.

    Why is the FCNP so hostile to local entrepeneurs and independent businesses?

    • David

      It’s not a zero-sum game, is it? Anthony’s, whose lease of its former site expired, was displaced by the Harris Teeter development and is now opening nearby.

      There’s an opportunity cost associated with the current small businesses occupying that land. I’d like to see a solution where they can be integrated into a bigger, better development that helps the City to grow (and increases the tax revenue, to reduce the residential burden).

      • FourQ

        That would be nice. Unfortunately, these types of developments often end up pricing local independents out of the property in favor of national chains, beholden to no one but their shareholders.

        Sure, property owners get more stable rental income and the city gets extra tax revenue, but at the cost of a saddening homogenization of a once-charming downtown.

        • David

          Big chains are more beholden to their customers than their shareholders, as any CEO of a publicly-held company that has gone bankrupt will tell you.

          I’m all for a charming downtown and I frequent the businesses at this location…but that corner is by no means part of the charm of downtown.

          Anthony’s is a good example of how a business can survive a new development.

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