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Final Vote on Hilton Hotel by F.C. Council Monday

Project Would Bring $381,000 in Tax Yield Annually

A final vote on a proposed 110-room Hilton Garden Inn in the 700 block of West Broad Street in Falls Church, projected to bring $381,000 annually in new tax revenues to the City, is expected by the Falls Church City Council next week. The vote will take place either at the Council’s regular business meeting Monday or at a follow-up meeting later in the week, depending on whether Council members are comfortable with casting their votes.

But at a work session this week, all Council members who will be present Monday agreed that an “up or down” vote should occur before July 1, when two current members of the Council will depart and newly-elected Council members will come in.

“This current Council has been involved in all the deliberations on this subject, and therefore it’s our responsibility to see it through,” Falls Church Mayor Robin Gardner said at the work session.

Other Council members said they were prepared to vote this Monday. Meanwhile, more meetings seeking accommodations between developer Robert Young of the Jefferson Group LLC and neighbors to the site, including parents of students attending the nearby St. James School, were to go forward this week.

Young announced major changes to his project this week, including eliminating his proposed office building on Park Avenue, thus enabling access to all levels of his proposed parking garage from Broad Street. That removed the contentious issue of required parking deck access from N. Oak Street, across from the St. James School.

In another new development, Young said he’d increase his proffer for improvements to the streets and sidewalks adjacent the site to $300,000.

Concerning this coming Monday’s Council meetings, two members of the Council have already indicated they will not be present to vote. David Chavern, who will leave the Council on July 1, as he chose not to run for re-election last month, and David Snyder said they will be out of town on business.

It remained unclear as the News-Press went to press Wednesday night whether the remaining five Council members would have to deliver a unanimous vote for the approval of the project, or merely a simple majority.

New City Attorney John E. Foster told the Council he would review a concern raised by Councilman Dan Maller at Monday’s work session that the City code, in fact, does not require a zoning change to accommodate the parking deck component of the hotel project.

If that turns out to be the case, and therefore no zoning change is required, then the vote will simply be for a “height bonus” that can be achieved by a “special exception,” and that can be done with a simple majority.

By his decision to forego the construction of an office building facing onto Park Avenue, Young also eliminated the need for almost all the special waivers he’d asked for earlier.

If Foster advises the Council that a zoning change is, indeed, required to approve the project, then the Council will need a “super-majority” vote to permit it. That’s because, under City’s rules, the City’s appointed Planning Commission failed to approve the project, deadlocked by a 3-3 vote last month.

A “super majority” would require five votes of the seven-member Council, and with two Council members expected to be absent, that would mean all five who will show up Monday would need to vote in favor.

City staff professionals Elizabeth Perry, Rick Goff and Bill Hicks addressed issues of traffic, parking, storm water and fiscal impact at this week’s Council work session.

The traffic study suggested the new hotel would not overburden the traffic network in the neighborhood, and the storm water impact will be minimized by the use of “rain water foresting” and “green roof” techniques, in keeping the Young’s contention that the hotel would meet “Silver LEED” environmental standards.

Hicks, the City’s new utility division chief, presented an evaluation of storm water runoff issues, and concluded that “there will be no damage to buildings” from any drainage components associated with the project. Councilman Dan Sze said he found Hick’s report “reassuring.”

Goff presented an updated fiscal impact review, which indicated that conservatively-calculated net tax revenues to the City from the project are now estimated to be $381,000 annually.

This is compared to almost no net tax income from the site, which is a parking lot, currently. It is also significantly higher than the claims of opponents to the project who did not calculate real property taxes into their estimate, Goff said.

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