During the course of last Thursday’s historic, four-and-a-half hour Falls Church City Council meeting, culminating in the final approval of the $317 million City Center project, Councilman Dan Sze quoted from an official document.
It was a City Council resolution calling for a study of development options for a new City Center around the Falls Church “crossroads” (Route 7 and 29 intersection). It was dated 1972.
That’s how long it has taken. Actually, Chamber of Commerce activist and renowned local architect Paul Barkley was here when the notion was buzzing around in 1964. That means the City Center plan finally voted into being last Thursday was 44 years in the making.
The fact that the City Council passed all six of the items needed to seal the deal unanimously is very significant as the City moves forward. It reflected an overwhelming consensus by all the officials elected by the citizens to act in their best interest. They included an array consisting of one who’s been on the Council since 1994, two who’re completing eight years, one completing four and three who are in their first terms, reflecting different times and election cycles from the City’s recent past. Also, throughout many of the long and tedious public hearings and deliberations sat the City’s respected former four-term (1980-88) mayor, Carol DeLong, who was keenly observing, occasionally making comments about process, but not objecting.
Those exercising their right to oppose the plan, either in its entirety or due to shortcomings they felt needed more time to resolve, were virtually all outside the domain of publicly-elected officials and the City’s professional staff, including the countless hours involved of improving and fine-tuning the many moving parts of the final deal. Those opponents are now moving with their on-going grievances to the referendum process and the May City Council election.
But everything, including biennial public elections and earlier referendum results, that brought the City forward to the point last week was summed up in the set of unanimous votes. This was the result of an overwhelming community-wide consensus with very long and deep roots in the City’s development over time.
When the Falls Church News-Press began in March 1991, the nation was in a recession and Falls Church’s inability to derive significant revenue from its commercially-zoned corridors was considered, by some at least, as cause for its potential failure as an independent jurisdiction. We began editorializing about that relentlessly beginning in our very first month. About the same time, with nothing but a vague vision, the City Council voted $50,000 for something yet to the created, which it called a “Private-Public Partnership.”
It was another start, a very tiny baby step, but the first among many that inched the process forward to where it arrived last Thursday night.