Local Commentary

Editorial: What’s Another $629,000?

Following unanimous Planning Commission approval, the Falls Church City Council will undoubtedly approve on Monday the purchase for $629,000 of a residential lot on S. Lee Street that it will designate for use as a portal into the undeveloped Hamlett-Rees parkland property behind it. It will also probably respond to appeals from residential neighbors to the property the way the Planning Commission did this Monday. $629,000 is equal to more than two cents on the residential real estate tax rate.

For all the efforts of a considerable contingent of S. Lee residents to inform the commission of the ways in which their plans would disrupt their quiet, cul-de-sac neighborhood and make it unsafe for 29 children living there who often play kickball and other games in the cul-de-sac, they were rewarded by “thank you’s” for showing up and the promise of still more hearings. Not one member of the commission picked up on the concerns of the neighbors to ask whether any examination of the impact of the plan on them had been done, and what that might be.

The minute the property in question came onto the market, the City rushed to purchase it, without regard for any examination of its impact. Despite lip service that no decisions as to the specific use of the property have yet been made, the resolution stipulated it would be for parkland or open space. Notwithstanding all the promises of more hearings, it is clear where the City intends to go with this and it is a juggernaut the neighbors certainly can’t expect to stand up against.

In these kinds of matters, it all comes down to the same thing with the Falls Church City government. It operates at the behest of a certain class of wealthy property owners, those whom it insists are creating a “great demand for more open space,” among other things. Here is a case where folks living in valuable homes, given the recent years’ appreciation of values, learn that they might as well be paupers in the eyes of a City committed to assuaging the sensibilities of people with real money. The only time the very wealthy and the more modest homeowners see eye to eye is when something like a proposal for senior affordable housing comes into an area, like it did near the West End Park recently. Then the immediate neighbors can be aroused as the unwitting shock troops for the City’s elites, demanding the area in question be preserved for open space when its real motive is to torpedo the housing project and what it would bring to the pristine community.

Our problem with the latest plan for spending $629,000 taxpayer dollars is not only that it comes with a disregard for the neighborhood, but that is money being spent on that aim, and not the ever-more pressing need for affordable housing. If the City government was serious about the lip service it gives to affordable housing, then it should resolve to at least match, for every dollar spent on new open space, an equal amount for acquisition of affordable housing.