A pair of identical 3-3 votes — one to defeat a motion to postpone action given a full majority of members were not present, and a second to defeat a motion to recommend approval of the 4.3-acre Mason Row project to the City Council — left the Falls Church Planning Commission forwarding final action on the Spectrum Group’s ambitious plan for a hotel, movie theater complex, town square, restaurants and 340 rental apartments to the F.C. City Council. Lacking the blessing of the Planners, the Council will need a so-called “super majority” of five votes (out of seven) to approve the plan.
The Planning Commission’s actions Monday night, following a public hearing that brought 38 citizens to the microphone, most being neighbors to the site against the plan — turned on the first 3-3 vote (a tie representing a failure to pass), when despite the absence of pivotal veteran member Melissa Teates, rejected the arguments that new changes to the plan needed to get sufficient vetting and review from City staff. Former Planning Commission chair Ruth Rodgers let the proverbial “cat out of the bag” on the reason for the vote to push ahead when she said that “the major change (if a deferral were OK’d–ed.) will be a change in the makeup of the City Council, and that’s what this is all about.”
In other words, Rodgers acknowledged that the outcome of the will of the citizenry in the Nov. 3 election needed immediate action by the Planning Commission, despite being shorthanded, to be negated by Monday’s vote. Once the make up of the new City Council would change in early January by the results of the Nov. 3 election, she suggested, the outcome would be different for Mason Row.