By a 6-1 vote (Baroukh against), the Falls Church City Council gave preliminary approval at 11:15 p.m. tonight to providing a $2 million loan and special exceptions permitting the development of a six-story, 66 units senior housing structure, The Wilden, under the auspices of the Falls Church Housing Authority. The Council is slated to take a final action on the item on Mar. 22.
The pastors of two Falls Church congregations, the Dulin United Methodist Church and the Christ Crossman Church, were among proponents who spoke in favor of the project tonight, along with State Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple, whose comments came via e-mail.
Councilman David Snyder, who apologized earlier in the evening for being unable to attend some City events last weekend because he was with his ailing mother in hospice in Pennsylvania, commented in support of the project that “the leverage here is undeniable, it is six times the City’s investment. This cannot be lost. There is an incredible participation by non-City taxpayers, and I am pleased with the development of a commercial office space (that will built in conjunction with it–ed.), and with the plans to pay back the City’s loan.”
Councilman Dan Maller said, “It’s not about the numbers, even though this project will bring in net money into the City in its first years. We’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do.” Councilman Dan Sze said, “A society that can’t take care of its old and young loses its reason for being.”
Councilmen Baroukh and Lawrence Webb expressed concerns for the lack of formal agreements linking the construction of the affordable structure to an adjacent proposed commercial office building that will help the affordable project meet its parking needs. But Mayor Robin Gardner said there would be no guarantees, no matter what kind of agreements there may be.
“This is not about a return on investment. It is not about dollars but about people. This is an investment in our City. It defines us as a community that takes care of its population, about holding our society up so that people have a safe place to land.”
Citizen and Falls Church City Council candidate Ira Kaylin lashed out at the project during a public petition period, saying it “has become a poster child for fiscal mismanagement, lack of transparency and accounting gimmicks.” Vice Mayor Hal Lipmann fired back, saying, “I utterly and unequivocably reject” Kaylin’s comments, including ones suggesting the City is “hiding the true cost to taxpayers.”