Unanimous Result Achieved in Late Night Deliberation
The push for the development of a new City Center in downtown Falls Church took a giant leap forward Monday night, when a diminished City Council, only four members present, voted unanimously to give final approval to a revamp of the City’s Comprehensive Plan.
The move paves the way for Atlantic Realty, which has secured the land rights for construction of the entire section of the project on the south side of West Broad, to bring forward specific petitions for special exceptions and other approvals needed to launch the ambitious plan.
Key to Monday night’s vote was the intense deliberation led by Vice Mayor Lindy Hockenberry, presiding over the meeting in the absence of Mayor Robin Gardner, leading to the unanimous 4-0 vote.
As the clock neared midnight, Hockenberry and Councilman David Snyder, who has been the most outspoken critic of components of the City Center plan, put their pencils and erasers to work to narrow the gap and finally come to a slightly-amended wording to the original resolution which met everyone’s approval.
“I think it was very important that we got the unanimous vote, instead of 3-1,” Hockenberry later told the News-Press.
The resolution, calling for the adoption of a revised City Center Concept Plan as part of the City’s Comprehensive Plan, came to the Council, after its preliminary OK, with a 4-2 vote of approval from the Planning Commission, which recommended minor revisions that were incorporated into the final version.
The new concept plan allows for a comprehensive vision for future redevelopment on both the north and south side of West Broad in the blocks immediately to the west of Washington Street (Rt. 29). It includes a “human pedestrian scale environment,” new pedestrian connections, and a transportation network to allow “a vibrant, accessible and walkable City Center.”
The final revisions hammered out between Hockenberry and Snyder involved language about preserving surrounding neighborhoods, expanding open space and assuring that a inter-modal transportation center not be located at Park and Maple.
The Council members present (Gardner, David Chavern and Dan Sze were absent) all agreed it was time to “move forward” after over a year of deliberating on the matter. “We could nit-pick this to death, but with diminishing returns,” said Councilman Hal Lippman. “We’re at the point where perfection becomes the enemy of the good.”
Other developments at Monday’s Council meeting included the following:
* The Council approved $460,000 for sewer main lining in various locations in the City that had been identified as leaking earlier this year through use of steam tests.
* The Council OK’d up to $220,000 for the purchase of nine new police cruisers.
* The Council extended tax relief for low income elderly and/or the permanently and totally disabled.
* The Council approved the award of an affordable housing fund grant of $45,000 to the Falls Church Housing Corporation for preliminary planning of a proposed new facility.
* In a petition to the Council, Lincoln Avenue property owner Diann Watkins criticized Council member Dan Maller, saying he followed up on his failed legal efforts to prevent construction of large homes there by showing up at an open house and making an issue out of measuring the distance between two of her homes. Maller replied that he would “not be intimidated” by her complaint, saying “citizens have rights to do things within the law.”