Shields Touts

Falls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields hailed the use of “eminent domain,” the government’s right to force the sale of private property for public use, in two sessions discussing the proposed City Center plan for Falls Church last week. The sessions were called “Deliberation Days” and drew a combined attendance of 95 citizens last Thursday night and Saturday afternoon. He said that, with regard to the sector of the proposed City Center north of Broad Street, the city “is moving in the direction” of using eminent domain, while conceding “it is hard to enact with the force of law.” He added, “If we do it well, it sets the plate for the private sector.” He added, “We’ve threatened to use it in recent years and it works,” noting that it also gives property owners certain tax benefits. “The greatest things in the nation have been built with it,” Shields said of the policy. Former Vice Mayor Dr. Steve Rogers, who also served a term as president of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce, stressed that any City Center project “has got to be profitable to be built,” against the government’s tendency, as seen by developers, of “death by a thousand cuts.” He added, “I am not afraid of density. You go up and it leaves room for open space.” Lou Olom, considered a founding father of the city since its incorporation almost 60 years ago, protested the Deliberation Day process at the conclusion of the second session, noting that his point of view, and those of some others, was not presented to the panel of experts. He said he opposes any large scale City Center plans.