The City of Falls Church has a bright future as a unique, independent jurisdiction, a relevant player in what promises to be one of the most vibrant and progressive regions of the entire nation, and even the globe. But this is conditional on the resolve of some very strong local leadership.
The picture painted last week by Jerry Gordon, chair and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, at a speech in Falls Church, as reported in this edition, centers on the recent decisions by four major U.S. corporations to relocate from California and other locations to Northern Virginia. And a fifth, Northrup Grumman, has already announced it is moving to the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region, and is being wooed by Gordon and representatives of other jurisdictions.
“We (meaning Northern Virginia-ed.) benefit from national recessions because in tough times, people want to come this way,” Gordon said, adding that while double-digit unemployment levels are causing deep crises everywhere else in the U.S., it is only 4.5 percent in Fairfax County. It is also true that the sight of hardhats and heavy earth-moving equipment may be extremely rare right now in most places, the Tysons Corner is being ripped up to make way for the extension of the Metro rail system, and ambitious plans for development around the new stations are moving ahead.
What does all this mean for the tiny City of Falls Church, beset with its revenue shortfall woes exacerbated by the unfortunate court ruling earlier this month to forbid the City from extracting an annual “return on investment” from its water system? From one point of view, the City may appear to be facing its Waterloo (no pun intended). However, in the context of Gordon’s robust vision for the economic growth of the region, the current difficulties facing Falls Church are dwarfed by its future potential for prosperity and the perpetuation of its exemplary school system and quality of life.
From our point of view, the City can proceed toward that latter path to prosperity if, and only if, its local political leaders have the intestinal fortitude to establish the preconditions required for it to happen. Put simply, the City must lay the groundwork with zoning and other legal changes. The City has to wake up to some critical changes it needs to make on matters of density and parking requirements, in particular. It also needs to be ready to wheel and deal on some swaps with the neighboring counties aimed at enhancing its potential for dense development near the two Metro rail stations just beyond its boundaries.
If the City stalls in the traditional “Falls Church ways” on matters of radically modifying parking requisites, altered in the context of a rapid construction of a downtown parking garage, and density, then it is doomed to be absorbed into a larger neighboring jurisdiction in a manner that is guaranteed to disappoint every citizen who lives in its borders now. It comes right down to that.