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High School Campus Econ Group to Hold 1st Meeting in 5 Weeks Friday

Falls Church Mayor David Tarter. (Photo: News-Press)

After the postponement of four consecutive weekly meetings, the Falls Church campus process’s Economic Development Group will resume meetings this Friday morning, F.C. Mayor David Tarter announced to the News-Press Monday night.

He said that scheduling conflicts, especially around vacations, of key personnel led to the postponements, but that the group needs to get back together this Friday, albeit still in the thick of summer, to begin important work of shaping the way in which their Alvarez and Marsal consultants shape a marketing effort to attract optimal economic development for 10 acres on the 36-acre site.

Tarter told the News-Press he favors “maximum value” derived from the site, because that will ease the burden on City taxpayers the most as they’re being asked to approve a $120 million bond referendum this November to build an all-new George Mason High School.

But the issue of “maximum value” is “tricky,” Tarter said. “If we want to derive a $40-$43 million lease sale of the site up front, then that precludes certain kinds of development, like luxury condos that bring a very high tax yield, but would require actually transferring property titles to the buyers.” He added that the same goes for a large hotel. It would generate terrific tax yields annually, but the City probably could not command the same price for the land for that use.

He also noted that the consultants cannot really get out there and market the land until the school bond referendum is voted on in November, because if it does not pass, then the location of the 10 acres on the site will have to change, if still available at all. But it is hoped that a draft marketing strategy document will be discussed this Friday that can be useful for informing the citizenry on parameters of the November referendum decision.

“For me,” Tarter said, “I think the best scenario would be to optimize the annual tax receipts from the development, which will yield far more over time, than worry about the up-front price for a land sale. But the up-front sale will make the biggest difference in the taxpayer burden for the new school, at least at first.

“There’s a lot to be considered and discussed,” Tarter said. “That’s why we can’t wait any longer to resume our weekly meetings.”

Council member Phil Duncan, in a note to the News-Press, concurred. “The purpose of this Friday’s meeting,” he said, “is to review and discuss the draft marketing strategy and get the group‘s input on that,” with the idea of briefing the full City Council on that at its Tuesday, Sept. 5, work session.

“This draft marketing strategy will be our guide for maximizing value and minimizing risk as we take the property to market. It can also serve as a resource for the community during the consideration of the referendum, so that people can understand the proposed process the City would undertake, should the referendum pass, on setting zoning and entitlements for the property, marketing, the “request for proposal” process, and a schedule for those steps, aligned with the new school design and construction schedule.”

The meeting will be this Friday, Aug. 25, at 7 a.m. at Falls Church City Hall. It will be open to the public, although no public input per se will be solicited.