Our editor carved another notch in his belt this Monday, having endured over his 16-year history of news reporting here yet another Falls Church City Council meeting that went past midnight.
It was worth the five hours Monday. It was gratifying to see the resolve demonstrated by five members of the Council who, after hours of angry protests from some 20 citizens residing in the wealthiest part of town, voted 5-1 to approve a project that will bring 105 badly-needed, moderately-priced rental apartments to Falls Church.
After three years of frustration, the respected Hekemian Company finally got the approvals it has sought for so long and will now move to transform the old Pearson Funeral Home site on N. Washington St. into an attractive mixed use development project providing a significant addition to the diminishing stock of affordable housing in the City.
This Council listened to and then responded to the concerns of the neighbors to the site, who strode to the microphone one after another all giving as their home addresses either E. Jefferson, E. Columbia, Lawton Street or Gresham Place, all immediately adjacent the site. They reside in among the largest and most expensive homes in the City. Yet, their considerable collective clout was not enough to dissuade the Council. It was like NIMBY-ism (“Not in My Back Yard”) gave it its best shot ever in Falls Church Monday, and was effectively fended off.
No one denies that there will be real problems of traffic and construction that will need to be handled. But Mayor Robin Gardner noted that everyone buying a home in Falls Church has to recognize that major new development is likely to occur on the main commercial corridors, and has to expect it. The same goes for those in the 400 block of W. Broad St., where considerable new road work will begin next month. If the bulk of that work is not done at night, the impact on air quality, much less loss of business revenue and countless hours of human productivity, caused by 30,000 cars a day brought to a standstill while siphoning through single lanes will be devastating, by contrast to the impact of work while less than 1,000 cars pass that way by night.
Most heartening about the Council’s action Monday was that it was not based so much on a need for new tax revenue, as that it established two highly-principled standards for its actions, best articulated by Councilman Hal Lippman. The first, that policy must be set not on the basis of the concerns of any single neighborhood, but only from the standpoint of the City as a whole (Gardner’s way of saying it was that, being as small as Falls Church is, it’s really just one big neighborhood). The second, that addressing the affordable housing need is a true cornerstone of City policy both now and going forward.
These two standards, taken together and so resolutely affirmed, represent a good cause to be optimistic about the City’s future.