Local Commentary

Letters to the Editor

New Projects Don’t Overcrowd F.C. School

Editor,

As a 29-year resident of Falls Church and a past president of PTAs at every level of our schools, I’m concerned about some of the candidates running for City Council and their “plans” for our City. Our schools are among the best in the nation and we want to keep them that way. To keep our schools competitive, we need funds to support them.

For decades, Falls Church tried with little success to attract significant commercial development. Then a number of expert studies showed that a key factor in attracting business is incorporating high-end, mixed-use development – because new residents in the mix add the buying power needed to draw businesses.

Recent Councils have successfully increased our tax base through mixed-use development, so much so that we will pay lower taxes this coming year, while we fully fund the School Board’s budget request.

New development has replaced blighted sites with high-end buildings, new shops and restaurants (e.g., The Broadway replaced the long abandoned AdCom building and The Spectrum replaced an overgrown lot vacant more than two decades).

Some candidates say the new development “overcrowds” our schools. This is not the case. Buildings such as the Broadway and Byron house very few school children. These kinds of mixed-use projects generate substantial new revenue for the City, and put little load on our schools. They also mean more customers for our local businesses, helping them prosper and generate more sales tax revenue, further enhancing school funding.

Thanks to diligent planning by recent School Boards & Councils, and strong community support for construction of our new middle school and expansion of Mt. Daniel, our schools have ample capacity. As the current School Board chair stated in a letter Feb. 24, “we can handle the anticipated influx of students in our current buildings and classroom space in the upcoming years.”

I plan to vote for Robin Gardner, Lindy Hockenberry and Lawrence Webb for Council because they support reasonable mixed-use development as part of an overall strategy to attract business, citizens and tax dollars to Falls Church to support our excellent services and schools.

Sharon Schoeller

Falls Church

Keep F.C. City Campaigns Civil & Non-Partisan

Editor,

As a high school student who has done his best to take up the task of whipping up democratic spirit among the senior class at George Mason High School, I find many aspects of the current City Council election troubling.

One would hope that the general discourse of a community election would remain civil and productive. However, one or two blogs that have been staples of city discussion have taken an uncivil turn. I have seen such unproductive statements as derogatory nicknames for city officials and council members, negative references to candidates’ personal lives, and links to pages discussing citizens’ personal matters. No matter CBC-endorsed or “opposition;” no matter pro-City Center or anti-City Center; no matter the individual policy position of each—what holds true is that every candidate in the upcoming election cares deeply about the betterment of the City of Falls Church.

We have a chance to set an example for the next generation of community activists and voters— so let us, as commentators and/or candidates, keep our electoral discussion non-personal, civil and on the issues.

Peter Davis

Via the Internet

‘Mixed-Use’ is Not Cause of Enrollment Hike

Editor,

In his letter to the editor last week, Stan Fendley states that he doesn’t “buy the notion that we must add hundreds of residential units to get” a new city center with shops and restaurants, green space and pedestrian areas. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is precisely the strong condo market that is the economic driving force of construction of new town centers, from Arlington’s Market Square to Reston Town Center.

Fendley also goes on to state that revenues gained from these residential units will likely be consumed by school costs for the new residents. The experience of our neighbors, again, proves this to be a false belief. For instance, Arlington planners report, as I have learned, that not one new classroom has been constructed as a result of the surge in condominium construction – development considerably more dense than any built or proposed for Falls Church.

Falls Church history also supports this fact. From 1961 until 1967, a period equal to the time we have been working to implement the Streetscape plan, a number of multi-family residential buildings were constructed in Falls Church totaling more than 900 units; Broadfalls Apartments, Merrill House & Roosevelt Towers among them. But instead of over taxing the school system, enrolment began to decrease in the 1970’s. Thought was given to even closing Mt. Daniel Elementary, but the school board decided to move their offices into a couple classrooms saving the rental costs for office space. The city even formed a committee to attract families with school age children, publishing a brochure and running ads to encourage families to consider Falls Church as an ideal place to live and educate their children.

The truth is that mixed used development with a substantial residential component contributes significantly to city tax revenues, serves a residential market underserved in the city, provides a strong customer base to support desirable retail establishments, restaurants, arts and entertainment venues, and yes helps create a greater sense of community.

I am supporting the election of CBC candidates for City Council including two outstanding incumbents, Robin Gardner and Lindy Hockenberry.  

Paul H. Barkley

Falls Church

Chamber Board Urges ‘No’ Vote on Referendum

Editor,

The Falls Church Chamber of Commerce supports mixed use development projects and the policies and procedures currently in place to review such projects. As such, the Board opposes the Referendum, which will appear on the City’s ballot May 6th, which would restrict the amount of residential units in mixed use projects. It would deny the City Council and staff the ability to make decisions based on the current market and City needs. And, it would very likely put a stop to all development in the City, something we taxpayers cannot afford.

The Chamber does not, however, automatically support mixed use projects. The Chamber reviews and analyzes each project based on a specific set of criteria. That criteria includes whether or not the project includes an anchor or attraction for drawing people to the City, whether or not it provides significant amenities and aesthetic considerations, whether it provides significant parking, whether it provides attractive pedestrian access and traffic mitigation, whether or not the project places an undue burden on municipal services including the schools and utilities, whether its design, massing of building elements, scale, use of materials, colors, and textures, height, and density, and overall architectural character will contribute to the image, whether or not the project will increase commercial property values, and whether or not the project will result in a substantial net revenue gain for the City. All of these criteria are important – and all of them bear the same weight in the Chamber’s consideration process.

The Chamber Board, half of whom are also City residents, makes its recommendations based on what it believes to be in the best interests – both near term and long term – of the City for all of its taxpayers – residents as well as businesses. Citizens interested in acting in our communities’ best interest can make their voice heard May 6th – Vote “No” to the Charter Change Referendum.   

Gary LaPorta

Co-Chair, F.C Chamber

Legislative Committee

Claims National Episcopal Leaders ‘Reject Christ’

Editor,

Regarding the Falls Church: A heart-felt letter in the News-Press spoke eloquently of what the Falls Church ought to be (unbounded tolerance), what is (self-exiles meeting in a loft), what can be done (wait), and what will be (welcomed home by “brothers and sisters who forgot”). The pattern – ought / is / can / will – that no one cannot think without, the pattern at the core of Christian belief: creation / fall / redemption / restoration – through Christ, who will put sin (including mine) and death, to death. But the national Episcopal leadership rejects Christ, denying specifically that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. All else flows from that rejection: intolerance of anyone orthodox; cutting off promising negotiations on property; and starting disgraceful lawsuits between Christians in secular courts. But they provide humor too: intolerant tolerance, exclusive inclusivity, and judgmental non-judging are, at bottom, funny.  

Ron Parson

Falls Church

Include Tinner Hill Group in F.C. Arts Plans

Editor,

I was delighted to read about the proposed “specially designated arts and culture district.”  At the same time, I was disappointed that the project was so narrowly defined and did not include organizations like Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation (THHF).  Art and culture go hand and hand and Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation is one of the primary organizations in the city that consistently presents cultural programming for the residents of Falls Church. We are an integral part of the cultural fabric of the City of Falls Church.  After meeting with representatives involved in this proposed project, we each amicably agreed that the omission of Tinner Hill (and perhaps other groups as well) was an unintentional oversight.  As a result of several subsequent discussions, a number of collaborative projects are now on the drawing board. One such collaboration includes an exciting joint venture between Falls Church Arts, Creative Cauldron and Tinner Hill as an addition to the upcoming Tinner Hill Blues Festival.  Please do remember to mark your calendars for the 15th Annual Tinner Hill Blues Festival on Saturday, June 14 (more on that later!)

If this “arts cultural district” does move forward, I suggest that we embark on the endeavor by developing a “community cultural plan.”  The cultural plan would take stock of our community’s arts and cultural assets, needs, opportunities, and resources, then establish an agenda for the future. The planning process should be inclusive and ensure that all viewpoints are represented: city officials, artists, artists and cultural groups, members of the public, business owners, schools, students, parents and so forth. Last year, THHF had a feasibility completed by consultant, Anne Edmunds and Associates of Philadelphia. Part of that study, included an exhaustive survey of the arts and cultural organizations in Falls Church, Northern Virginia, and the Metropolitan Washington D.C.  Area.  The study also included several recommendations, one of which was that the cultural and arts organizations in our city collaborate. THHF have shared the results of the study with city officials and would be happy to discuss it with other arts/cultural groups.   

Nikki Graves Henderson

Falls Church

Morrison Thanks All for Fund Contributions

Editor,

I want to take this opportunity to thank the many people who collaborated with my wife Meredith on a wonderful surprise for my 70th birthday. Unknown to me, she created a scholarship fund in my honor with the Falls Church Education Foundation for students pursuing higher education in visual arts. She then sent letters describing it and asking for contributions.

The secret was well kept. When I finally learned of it last week on my birthday, I was overwhelmed and humbled by your response: The fund totaled more than $21,000.

I thank everyone who helped make this my most memorable birthday ever.   

Bob Morrison

Falls Church

 

(Ed’s note: Even though Morrison’s birthday has passed, the fund continues to accept donations at the Falls Church Education Foundation, 450 W. Broad St. Ste. 305, Falls Church, VA 22046. Make checks payable to FCEF, with “Bob Morrison” in the memo field.)

Time to Get Serious About Energy Use

Editor,

I read Tom Whipple’s interesting article on “The Peak Oil Crisis,” and I would like to see him go into more detail on the problem. While the U.S. transportation sector currently uses the largest share of our oil (40%), U.S. power generation is now down to 6% of our oil supply. We should get serious about cutting back on our transportation fuel. Also, with increasing competition for global oil supplies from China and India, we should be looking at increasing the amount of oil that is readily available to be imported from Canada.   

Ed Badolato

Falls Church

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