The current membership of the Falls Church City Council will hold what may be its final official business meeting as a group this Monday, prior to the swearing in of new Council members and the election of a new mayor and vice-mayor on July 1.
Current Council member David Chavern has already said his goodbyes, as he will be out of town on business next Monday, and Vice Mayor Lindy Hockenberry will say hers, completing eight outstanding years on the Council.
We are expectant that this Council, which has functioned as effectively as any in the 17-plus years the News-Press has been following Falls Church politics up close and personal, will conclude its term by planting yet another solid foundation for the sustainable future of the City. A vote on a modest height bonus is needed to approve a Hilton Garden Inn Hotel at 706 W. Broad, and it will surprise us if the vote is not unanimous. (It remained unclear at press time whether a zoning change, requiring a super majority, will also be needed, or not).
Certainly another rigorous opposition by neighbors to a proposed project was mounted in this case, from both those residing in the area and parents of St. James School students. Some of the concerns have been worthy of consideration and led to major improvements in the project, others proved not to be. But most of the objections have been generic, as seen in dozens of similar situations in Falls Church since the early 1990s. Neighbors have mounted noisy campaigns to deter an array of developments near them for years, beginning in the recent era with the location of a girls’ home in 1989, and the proposed Taco Bell at the W. Broad and S. West St. site in 1993. Councils have sometimes caved to neighborhood pressures, sometimes listened, made changes but gone ahead, and sometimes made regrettable modifications, such as severely downsizing the Community Center renovation in 1998.
In the current case, while taking quite seriously fears of perceived dangers to St. James children associated with the hotel, the Council seems persuaded, as is the City staff, that they simply don’t stand up to real scrutiny. If anything, they appear inclined to agree that the hotel will make the area safer for St. James children, and we are happy that it will. The more lights, the more cameras, the more law abiding, watchful people with cell phones around, the safer an area becomes.
As for parking, traffic and storm water concerns, and positive fiscal impact factors, the Falls Church City staff of professionals addressed each with favorable conclusions at the Council work session Monday.
Providence Supervisor Linda Smyth’s sobering reminder to the Merrifield Business Association this week (see story, elsewhere this edition), that foreclosures in Fairfax County will create a $350 million budget shortfall there, should convince the Falls Church Council not to pass on a good hotel project that will bring in hefty new tax revenues.