Local Commentary

Editorial: Wholly Foods, Batman!

Wholly foods, Batman! The news that a major regional developer who acquired 2.6 acres of commercially-zoned land at Falls Church’s “crossroads” of Routes 7 and 29 (N. Washington and E. Broad) has approached by the Falls Church City Council with a preliminary plan to locate a mega-Whole Foods store there has everyone in town buzzing, and it’s almost all good.

So now, the City has two prime locations for dense commercial development that will have almost no impact on residential neighborhoods. The other besides the Whole Foods plan is the as-yet-undetermined use to which the 13 acres of land adjacent the West Falls Church Metro will be put. When put together, these two projects could have the positive fiscal impact close to what discovering oil in Cherry Hill Park might bring.

The City Council and School Board (the West Falls Church land being owned by the Schools though now annexed by the City as part of the deal to sell Fairfax County the City’s water system) have decided to go slow in the process to bring in a developer for it. It may have been prudent to reject the unsolicited proposal from Clark Construction to build it out, including a brand new, state of the art high school campus at no cost and in the first stage of its plan. But Clark may come back to respond to a “request for proposal” to do the same thing when the time comes.

So, going slow may be OK, but going small won’t be. With the public “visioning” first state of the process now about to unfold, it is not likely that many citizens will favor a dense commercial development of the 13 acre portion of the 39 total acres, according to the terms of the sale, can be put to that use. But that is not only possible, it is also most desirable. Backed up to almost no residential areas, the prime land offers the prospect for what being so close to any Metro station holds. It could become a “cash cow” for the City to keep its taxes low and funding of its public services, including its schools, with almost no impact on the residential neighborhoods of the City.

It’s time to “think big” with that parcel, and especially to be sensitive to what the development community thinks could work best as a “highest and best use.”

The Whole Foods plan is the second case of a proposed development that will not impact residential areas, and can only be good not only for residents in terms of the amenities it will provide, but also in terms of its net tax revenue components for the City coffers. If that plan, indeed, goes forward, it will require some “special exceptions” that the City Council will have to approve. But there is no reason to delay, and it will be important that the process go quickly and smoothly.

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