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Falls Church Mayor Confirms Water Settlement Terms in Exclusive Interview

gardnermugCity of Falls Church Mayor Robin Gardner, in an exclusive telephone interview with the News-Press this afternoon, confirmed the terms of the settlement reached between the City and the Fairfax Water Authority announced earlier today. She noted that, pending the settlement’s approval by the Fairfax Circuit Court, a major effect is to lift off the City the Fairfax Authority’s legal demand for over $20 million in damages. “This agreement means that no money will have to come out of the City’s general fund in the final resolution of this matter,” she said.

City of Falls Church Mayor Robin Gardner, in an exclusive telephone interview with the News-Press this afternoon, confirmed the terms of the settlement reached between the City and the Fairfax Water Authority announced earlier today. She noted that, pending the settlement’s approval by the Fairfax Circuit Court, a major effect is to lift off the City the Fairfax Authority’s legal demand for over $20 million in damages. “This agreement means that no money will have to come out of the City’s general fund in the final resolution of this matter,” she said.

The settlement includes the City’s willingness to pay $750,000 to the Authority to cover legal and other fees, but that sum will be covered by the City’s liability insurance. The settlement has no bearing on the Fairfax Circuit Court’s earlier ruling prohibiting the City from extracting a reasonable “return on investment” from its water fund, a matter that is now being appealed.

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City of Falls Church Mayor Robin Gardner. (News-Press photo)

Gardner confirmed that the settlement allows the City’s water system to continue to provide its service to areas of Fairfax County that have been traditionally circumscribed as the system’s area of service, but that it does not prohibit the county’s water authority from also providing service within that area. According to the consent decree, each party shall have a “full, free and fair opportunity to provide water service within the City’s traditional service area in Fairfax County.” Currently, Falls Church’s water system serves over 110,000 properties in Fairfax County in areas covering Tysons Corner, Merrifield, McLean and Langley.

The settlement further stipulates that “the City shall lnot represent to any person or entity that it has an exclusive legal right to provide public water service to any property located in Fairfax County outside the City limits.” It establishes that “the City shall not condition its permission for the relocation on” a customer’s “promise to connect the property to the City’s water system,” nor that it condition the ability of a customer to relocate the City’s water lines or facilities on the refusal of that customer to accept public water service from the county’s water authority.

Further, the settlement stipulates that the City shall not renew its objections to the site plan submitted by the Halstead developer group for a project in the Dunn Loring area and, “in the event the Halstead Developer selects Fairfax Water as its water service provider, (the City–ed.) shall reasonably cooperate with the Halstead Developer’s relocation of the City’s waterline easements…and its efforts to construct the project.” It adds, “The City shall not impose any condition that unreasonably interferes with the ability of any owner, customer, contract purchaser, or developer in Fairfax County to obtain public water service from Fairfax Water.”

Also according to the terms, neither the City nor the county shall “directly or indirectly, seek to exclude” the other from offering public water services to customers in Fairfax County.Gardner would not comment to the News-Press when asked whether the settlement permits the county’s water authority to engage in just the practice that originally sparked the legal conflict between the two parties in 2007, namely, the county’s extension of its water service into the City’s traditional service area, which is now known as the Fairfax County “service interface area.”

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