Concerned About Size of Harris Teeter Project
The News-Press correctly reports the concerns many neighbors have about the size of the Harris Teeter and high rise apartment building proposed at 301 W. Broad. But the paper is wrong to suggest in its reporting and its “Question of the Week” poll for December 20 that Falls Church must choose between a downsized project and the tax revenue that the city sorely needs.
Many of us who live closest to 301 W. Broad are happy to see a Harris Teeter built there, even if it means considering the two special exceptions that Rushmark Properties seeks regarding building height and putting residential units on a commercial lot. We do, however, object strongly to the multiple zoning code waivers the developer seeks since to grant them would remove all appropriate buffering with our neighborhood. The modifications we request won’t significantly affect tax revenue, most of which will come from the property tax and sales tax generated from Harris Teeter.
Our city’s long-term health will be assured not simply by big projects, but by excellent ones that help build the pedestrian-friendly downtown that will attract people to spend their time and money. That vision is undermined by a super-sized, automobile-dependent grocery store (one of the biggest Harris Teeters in Northern Virginia) shoe-horned into a small, downtown lot. While any Big Project might bring marginally more tax dollars, it will harm our longer-term future if it degrades the walkability of Broad Street and adjoining neighborhoods, and thus slows future investments.
Instead of Harris Teeter, F.C. Needs More Condos
If Mr. Rupert’s figures are correct (Guest Commentary, December 13-19 issue) I believe the Harris Teeter project would be a mistake.
First, I do not understand the parking. Mr. Rupert said that there will be 294 apartments to be built above the store. Guessing everyone would be offered two spots per apartment, that equals almost 600 parking places. Where do the shoppers park? I also agree that shoppers will drive to the store & not walk. Families with one or more children are definitely not going to walk!
Also, did anyone look at the store Harris-Teeter built in the early 2000’s in the City of Fairfax? Parking was awful there also and Harris-Teeter was gone within two years. Their parking lot was an “accident waiting to happen.” They then built one on Route 50 and everyone I know who lives out that way goes to Wegmans.
Second, the assault on neighboring homes is a tragedy. No one wants noise, fumes from gasoline, trash collectors, etc. in their backyard. Do the people who are planning all of this live in the neighborhood? If asked, would they like to live there?
I believe what the City of Falls Church needs is a condo building similar to the Bryon and The Broadway. There are many “empty nesters” who would like to downsize, but want more room than the Spectrum offers. I feel a nice condo building with between 1,800-2,200 sq. ft. would be sufficient with two parking spaces offered per condo.
If and when any of this is built, Broad St. would be a mess for sure, traveling east or west. Along with the Hilton Garden Inn (which is a plus for the City) underway, these projects could be ongoing for 3-4 years. No one is going to want come to Falls Church during that time.
It is just sad that the City of Falls Church does not have the acreage to build a Wegmans.
Faults Lack of Public Review on Chief’s Job
With Chief Reitze’s recent retirement, no public, objective analysis of his job performance occurred. The Falls Church City Police Department’s investigative unit, under Chief Reitze, had many failures with procedure, communication, and policy. In order to correct some long-standing problems with the City of Falls Church Police Department, it is important to remind the community of some of his shortcomings and failures, especially in the context of new police department leadership.
When Chief Reitze took office, he instituted a process by which community groups allowed citizens to report “illegal actions” as deemed by the reporting parties. These would then be investigated by the police. If the police made an arrest, the citizen would receive $500. Maybe this was well intentioned, but it clearly pitted citizen against citizen and, in a City of 2.2 square miles, this “self-dispatching” program was harmful.
Under Chief Reitze, the City lost its accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, a big deal to the City. Although the department regained accreditation, it must be noted that there are different levels of accreditation – the City’s police department accreditation is now minimal.
In 2010, Chief Reitze ordered locker searches on the students of George Mason High School. If anything was found, the students were questioned without notifying their parents. The public questioned these searches at the time and no good answer was ever provided by the police department to the citizens, the students, or their parents.
Under Chief Reitze, a number of raids occurred which caused great turmoil in the City’s Vietnamese community – strife that is still problematic.
This ongoing pattern of problems and ongoing failures of leadership creates an atmosphere of unprofessionalism and distrust between community groups and negatively affects inter-jurisdictional relationships.
The new Chief has an excellent opportunity to regain the trust of the citizens of Falls Church, by making sure these issues are revisited, addressed by policy revisions and training if necessary, to make sure they do not happen again. The citizens of Falls Church deserve better police leadership than previously existed under Chief Reitze.
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