Things might not have gotten off on the right foot for the Columbia Baptist Church representatives who came, with their ideas for development of a portion of their N. Washington St. property, to a joint work session of the Falls Church City Council and Planning Commission Monday night.
The church representatives, a team of Brett Flanders, Donna Groover and Bob Brody, ran into a strong dose of skepticism from the City officials, despite an ambitious plan to place two currently-exempt acres of land back onto the City’s tax roles for purpose of a mixed-use development project.
It was a very preliminary “feeling out” session to help the church’s leadership determine if it should spend the additional resources needed to further their plans and seek zoning and special exception variances from the City.
Councilman Dan Sze brought the standing-room-only gathering in the City Hall Training Room to a jaw-dropping standstill when he reacted to Flanders’ suggestion that if the Council didn’t cooperate, the church had recourse to a state court ruling allowing it to do whatever it wants on its property.
“What you are saying sounds like a ‘throw down’ to me,” Sze growled.
Taken aback, Flanders said, “I was not saying we’d do that. It is just that there are some people who might think about that option.”
It was not a good start for the church, but huddled in the parking lot outside, the church representatives met with veteran Falls Church Attorney Bill Baskin, who counseled them to be patient.
The church’s plan would be to sell two of its total 5.68 acres of land to a private developer, who would build a five-story, 73,000 square foot office building at 301 N. Washington St. where a three-story structure sits now, and a mixed-use condo/retail building housing 70 condo units and 23,000 square feet of retail. There would be underground parking.
“The City would benefit from the tax revenues and a nice-looking development,” the church representatives noted.
As part of the benefit from the sale of the land, the church would also enjoy the construction paid for, and built by the developer of a new parish life center on a portion of the remaining land.
“We don’t want to put a lot of time and effort into this if it is going nowhere,” Groover, who is director of administration at the church, said.