Local Commentary

Win-Win, But Not Veto Power

As with so many development projects that seek to modernize and generate fabulous new revenues for a community, there are two sides that line up in opposition to each other. The one is the side standing for the general good of the community, and the other is the side standing up for the narrow self-interest of some near the site who perceive the change will bring a disadvantage to them. One stands for the good of the community, the other is selfish. The latter group is often nicknamed, “NIMBYs,” as in “Not In My Back Yard.”

The remarkable success of the City of Falls Church in attracting lucrative and beneficial development in the last 20 years has been largely the result of local leaders and visionaries keeping the “NIMBY” impulse at bay, although it has almost always been there in debates over new projects in one degree or another. Part of the success at this has been the result of persuading the neighbors to a project that there is a significant upside to the project coming in, in the form of revenues to keep their property taxes low, generous contributions to the growth and development of the local school system, landscaping and infrastructure benefits and attractive amenities of the projects themselves that make for a better community for everyone.

Because smart citizens have been willing to see these upsides in new and handsome developments, the reputation of the City of Falls Church among the most progressive elements of the regional development community has grown significantly in the past two decades. To developers, it’s not just the positives of a community that matter to them, but the willingness of a community to be open to new and creative development ideas and to see issues facing a project from both the community’s and the developers’ point of view. It’s led to a lot of good for Falls Church.

Now, the community-good-versus-“NIMBY” issue is back involving the City Council’s sought approval for a major project at the central downtown intersection of Broad and Washington, where a developer is ready to provide a state-of-the-art Whole Foods megamarket and generous space to house the City’s premiere theatre troupe, Creative Cauldron, and much more. The project is projected to add $2 million annually to the City’s tax roles, compared to the $116,000 annually that comes from that property. In these highly uncertain Covid-19 pandemic times, the prospect of that is downright amazing.

What’s most bothersome here is the notion by some on the Council that they will approve the project only if the neighbors say OK. Good government is defined by providing for the best interest of the whole community, not condescending to only one or two tiny segments. While seeking a win-win is always a meritorious goal, the Council should not give any singular entity a veritable veto power over such matters as this.