Between the five-hour Falls Church Planning Commission meeting last week, and the four-and-a-half hour City Council meeting last Monday, it has been a genuine challenge to keep focused on the critical issues that the Council must consider as it votes on whether or not to finally approve the $317 million, 8.9 acre City Center plan tonight.
A strong showing of pro-City Center citizens, including ones living in immediate proximity to the site, business leaders, pastors and church members, civil rights advocates and others at Monday’s Council meeting helped to keep that focus. For them all, as it does for us, the City Hall staff and all on the Council in their unanimous, first preliminary vote last month, the City Center represents an enormous opportunity to both sustain and make Falls Church a far better place.
The conservatively-estimated $2.7 million net annual tax revenue generated by this project, on top of $16 million in developer proffers, gives Falls Church the ability to see over the present, tough fiscal times to a day soon coming when long-term fiscal stability will preserve the City as a very special, independent jurisdiction far into the future.
The rejection of this project would not only make all that go up in smoke, but also fatally cripple the City’s ability to attract future development. No builder is going to step into what they’ll all see as the hostile, snake-ridden waters of Falls Church if that happens, not after seeing the squandering of the huge investment of time and money it took Atlantic Realty to bring their City Center plan to this point.
It’s a wild fantasy to think that there could be a second try at this, or that someone would come along with a better offer. Not after all this, were this plan to fail, it would be far too easy for the development community to avoid the tiny 2.2 square mile area of Falls Church to find friendlier and more receptive jurisdictions in which to build.
Aside from pure fantasies, the opponents to the current plan have come forward with no alternative solution, whatsoever, to the fiscal crunch that is currently threatening the viability of Falls Church as a quality independent jurisdiction. This issue simply doesn’t compute with most of them. Do they prefer to gut the school system, which will torpedo home values far more than a temporary market downturn? Do they prefer to double the tax rate, driving out all but the extremely well-heeled? Do they want the City to abandon its independence, and be absorbed back into the 1.1-million Fairfax County? If they do, they’d better be prepared for Fairfax County to permit development far more dense in Metro-proximate Falls Church than anything the current plan involves, and none of the 11,000 residents of the former Falls Church would have any say in the matter. No, the nay-sayers offer nothing.
So, the City Council and staff are to be applauded for their tireless work bringing this magnificent City Center solution to fruition tonight.