An almost four-hour long sequence of meetings at City Hall Monday night culminated with a 5-0 unanimous vote by the Falls Church Planning Commission to recommend approval of the proposed Kensington Assisted Living project at the W. Broad site currently occupied by a Burger King. The Planners’ recommendation of approval was a key step to getting final approval from the Falls Church City Council, which sat with the Planners through the first nearly three hours of a work session deliberation. Following the joint work session, the Planners went into formal session in the Council chambers awaiting some last-minute clarification language on the 18 proffers offered by the developers — Ed Novak of Nova Habitat and Harley Cook of Kensington Homes — and when they were hammered out and signed off on by the developers, it then did not take long for the Planners to finish the night’s work around 11:20 p.m. tonight with their unanimous vote.
The key to overcoming concerns by some on both the Council and Planning Commission that persisted to tonight had to do with additional language added to the Kensington’s proffer package that served to insure the project would yield significant new revenues to the City annually. The change was more semantic than substantive, but it worked to make it clear the project was not seeking a subsidy, but on the contrary is willing to make “supplemental payments” on its tax obligations to, as City Manager Wyatt Shields said, “pay its fair share of taxes.” In an effort to underscore this, the project developers were willing to submit to a tax payment schedule annually equal to a basket, as it was stated, of comparable average tax payments of the 10 highest-taxed commercial entities in the City in any given year.
As a result of this commitment, the project’s .78 acres will rank as the second highest in the entire City in terms of “estimated net annual revenue per acre,” bringing to the City a net-net positive of $403,794 per acre, second only to the soon-to-be-completed Hilton Garden Inn next door, estimated to bring in $460,000 per acre on its 1.12 acres.
With this new commitment, the Kensington “is now a purely commercial facility,” said Councilman Dan Sze during the work session. It was significant that the meeting also brought forth the news that the board of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce emphatically endorsed the project as well.