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Letters to the Editor: City Should Involve Public in Developer Response to RFP

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Letters to the Editor: August 6 – 12, 2015

 

City Should Involve Public in Developer Response to RFP

Editor,

On July 27 both the Falls Church City Council and School Board voted to release a Request for Proposals, known as RFP, for expanding George Mason High School and Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School, with commercial development allowed on a bit over 10 acres of the site – the RFP was then released on July 30. This was a critical step to start the process of improving these facilities, especially as George Mason is already over capacity, and no new facility would be ready until 2019 on the current timeline. While I do not believe the RFP is perfect, it is better to move forward and make adjustments as needed.

I am concerned that the process being used to consider developers’ proposals in response to the RFP will involve minimal public participation. I understand that Virginia law provides confidentiality for much of the content of proposals, including information that might adversely affect the bargaining position of the developer. I also understand that without confidentiality, developers are less likely to submit innovative proposals that others could copy. Nevertheless, it will be very difficult for the public and stakeholders to participate unless they understand the proposals.
The RFP requires that each proposal have an executive summary that will be made public. That’s good, but that requirement needs to be backed by Council and Board oversight to ensure that sufficient information is included in the summary to allow public understanding. And as proposals are received the staff needs to ensure that only material that meets the legal requirements for confidentiality is kept confidential.

As the process proceeds, the Council and Board should find ways to involve the public and stakeholders in the dialogue even if the details of proposals cannot be shared. This could involve, for example, additional town halls, public discussion of detailed evaluation criteria to be used to select the final winner, and further efforts to understand public opinion to supplement the excellent visioning work already done.

Phil Reitinger

Falls Church

 

Why Add Another Grocery Store to F.C.?

Editor,

I was horrified to read City Hall’s interest regarding the Broad-Washington Plan for a Whole Foods plus apartment rental complex.

Regarding adding a third grocery store to the two under construction nearby, City Planning Director Jim Snyder was quoted as saying that grocers want to be near one another. So? I want a unicorn. Any logical person would note the redundancy of these businesses and the creation of a ridiculous traffic pattern. I love Whole Foods as much as the next hemp grocery bag-toting patron but I go two miles to the existing one when need be. And here’s a crazy idea, why don’t we build the other two complexes first and see how that goes before adding a third?

2. Is the City of Falls Church prepared to accept the influx of students and temporary residents? The addition of another apartment complex seems diametrically opposed to already burdened school facilities. We moved here so our daughter could progress through one middle and one high school with her friends, instead of joining a feeder school community. I cringe that we are creating an irreversible situation that many of us purposefully moved here to avoid.

3. Additionally, Jim Snyder states that the City “could become a food and restaurant focal point for this part of Northern Virginia.” Oh good, that’s why my family and I chose to live in this peaceful 2.2 square mile area, to become a focal point for Northern Virginia. Maybe we will have to change our Little City logo to “Tyson’s Three.” I can picture a sky bridge from the Whole Foods garage to Cherry Hill in order for pedestrians to dodge traffic now coming through our neighborhood (not a suggestion).

My daughter brags about the City of Falls Church, saying she is proud to live here where she knows her neighbors and feels safe. We even know our postman (hi Dennis). When she heard about the plans she said “why are people trying to wreck our town?” I had no response. Speak now or forever hold your peace.

Kate Jefferson

Falls Church

 

Not Enough Customers For 3 Grocery Stores In Same Area

Editor,

Unlike having four to six coffee shops either in or near the City, or three or four yogurt shops, the plan to have another, full-sized grocery store at the corner of Broad and Washington makes no sense. With three large groceries the increase in traffic will be noticeable, and unwanted, plus I can’t help but think neither Harris Teeter nor Whole Foods can pull enough customers to both be successful.

I think eventually one of the three stores will fail and the other two will be marginally successful – maybe all three will be gone. There is not enough customers to support three large groceries within a four-block radius.

Michael Baker

Falls Church

 


Letters to the Editor may be submitted to letters@fcnp.com or via our online form here. Letters should be limited to 350 words and may be edited for content, clarity and length. To view the FCNP’s letter and submission policy, please click here.

3 Comments

  1. Re: grocery stores. I thought I heard that Whole Foods was going to build a store in Tysons and then in Falls Church, eventually tearing down the current one in Pimmit Hills. Don’t know if that is accurate or not.

  2. The fact that an announced school board candidate would endorse
    an inherently flawed approach to developing the land now occupied by GMHS/MEH
    is amazing … even more amazing is that he acknowledges his concerns about
    minimal public knowledge – but still says move forward!

    To start with a misguided approach to development of the land in
    question – and then state that adjustments can be made as needed – is magical
    thinking.

    The process currently put forth is a public-private partnership
    (PPP). These PPP ‘schemes’ have a
    troublesome history. They are more often
    than not used by elected officials in the short run to dodge borrowing limits
    and avoid real estate property tax increases.
    In turn the City will hand over massive tax breaks to a developer – and incur
    possible future liabilities if the project fails (all at the expense of
    taxpayers).

    The expectation that our City Council and administration has the
    knowledge and expertise to understand the complex and arcane financial
    arrangements put forth by sophisticated developers and their Wall Street
    financiers for a PPP is laughable.

    The mere suggestion that the citizens of Falls Church City can
    make sound judgements based upon ‘summary’ information is disheartening. The citizens deserve to see and know the
    details of any such major decision impacting the well-being of the City.

    Mark Kaye
    Candidate for FCC School Board

    • Linda Neighborgall

      What folly to proceed on this insupportable path to develop the newly acquired commercial land. It defies common sense, logic and experience to think of siting commercial development on Rte. 7 instead of adjacent the Metro. This bad idea has always served the purpose of forcing and justifying a complete tear-down of GMHS in service of perhaps costly construction of a new school. The Council and School Board have consistently refused to produce a detailed professional and believable analysis by a disintered source of the potential and cost of renovation and addition on the current site. They have signalled to developers all along a preference for a costly and maybe unnecessary new GMHS and expansion of MEH in spite of serious questions being raised about the need and affordability of that plan and are now rushing headlong to implement, as always without providing the information and opportunity for cotizens to make informed opinions and without the necessary the kind of transparency and citizen input that a decision of such far-reaching consequence requires. All the while, the Council is proceeding apace with rental apartment construction that will only exacerbate the problems school construction is trying to address. Madness.

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