At its work session Monday night, the Falls Church City Council was almost unanimous in its skepticism and criticism of plans presented to it by the Fairfax County Water Authority to replace a water tank behind the Eden Center in the City with a giant new version that would be 72 feet higher than what is there now. The tank the Water Authority wants would require a “special exception” from the F.C. Council as, at 126 feet, it would exceed the City’s height limit and visibly dominate the neighborhood. The current height limit there is 45 feet. No votes were taken Monday, however.
Fairfax Water’s plan also requires easements onto the property of the Eden Center for construction trailers and unloading and laydown of construction components for a construction phase of at minimum 18 months, eating into the already tight parking at the popular Vietnamese-American shopping center.
The Council took under consideration Monday a letter from Alan B. Frank, general counsel for the Eden Center, who urged the Council to oppose the plan on grounds the proposed tank is “intrusive and permanent,” the height of a 15-story building only eight feet from the Eden Center property line, that it will negatively impact future development and tax revenues from the area, that the easement it seeks on Eden Center land is “not workable,” and that no alternatives have yet been explored by Fairfax Water.
The latter point struck a nerve with a number of members of the Council led by Councilman David Snyder who objected to Fairfax Water’s “failure to consider other sites given the high collateral costs to the City of Falls Church of the current plan.” Councilman Phil Duncan chimed in, saying since there is no crisis triggering this plan that more time should be taken to explore alternatives, also noting that the area is one of those in line for major economic development in coming years.. Mayor David Tarter said, “I have serious concerns about this,” noting that it would stand at a “gateway” to the City, and said that it was too big “no matter what kind of lipstick that’s put on it.” This will require some heavy vetting, he said.