County Resident Says F.C.’s Water Charge Unconstitutional
City Manager Wyatt Shields, who has continued the City’s longtime unconstitutional practice of charging Fairfax County residents like me an average quarterly water bill of $85.19, while my County’s water authority charges only $50.97 quarterly, has responded to Judge R. Terrance Ney’s excellent January 6, 2010 letter opinion ruling by shutting off water to Fairfax County residents who receive water without proper written legal notice, so the City can make up its massive budget deficit.
Despite the City’s constant approval of zoning variances which have turned Broad Street into a 21st century version of the Burma Road with its huge potholes and ruts, the City still lacks the vaunted commercial revenue to balance its huge governmental spending appetite. Judge Ney found the City has violated its own charter for years, charging non-residents a much higher water rate, and transferring the water receipts surplus to the City’s General Fund.
Judge Ney’s opinion, which is based on the Virginia Supreme Court’s 2008 Marshall v. Northern Virginia Transportation Authority’s unanimous ruling, indicates the City is most likely to lose its appeal, because the ink on the Marshall ruling has yet to dry, but City residents can take comfort the City will spend a small fortune on the brief their law firm is filing for the appeal.
Such legal fees spending despite the likelihood of City defeat should comfort City residents concerned about their budget deficit. No doubt, Mr. Shields would argue the City needs to take the appeal, so the County doesn’t obtain the $21 million in damages it seeks for Falls Church’s longtime violation of both the City Charter and the Virginia Constitution. Judge Ney’s opinion uses a phrase which American schoolchildren used to learn by the fourth or fifth grade: “no taxation without representation.” So, what’s the “Little City” going to do, if Judge Ney rules against it on the damages? Most likely the City will increase its property taxes, because local politicians are absolutely convinced Northern Virginia residents are under-taxed.
Perhaps someone needs to file a suit against the City for shutting off water service to its customers without providing proper written notice, to force the City to again comply with basic laws.
Daniel M. Gray
OK’ing Wilden Signals F.C. ‘Open for Business’
I appreciate the careful consideration that Council and Planning Commission have given to the issue of providing affordable housing in Falls Church. I hope the City will be able to move forward with Bob Young to get the Wilden built. Council approval of the proposal, and then a rapid move to ground-breaking, will send an important signal to other developers that Falls Church is “open for business” even in these tough economic times.
As with any proposal, there are risks involved, but given the track record that Bob has established with his other projects in the City, it seems reasonable to anticipate that as he pursues his business interests, he will continue listening carefully to us and be mindful of the City’s interests.
As a member of the City’s Economic Development Authority – and let me be clear that I am speaking here as an individual, not on behalf of the EDA – I have had the chance to examine the Wilden proposal as it has evolved over the past several months. I see the building as having a number of positives: It meets the longstanding community objective of increasing the stock of affordable housing. It will get federal and state monies flowing into the City. It will put a modern, pleasant-looking building in place of a grim relic of the past. It will help spur the revitalization of our City Center.
Naturally there was much discouragement when the Wall Street meltdown and national economic nosedive stalled the plans we carefully laid over many years to create a vibrant new City Center. But the Wilden gives us a chance to get moving again in City Center. Building the Wilden will help the community see that action and change in the heart of Falls Church are possible and desirable. It will give us a fresh start on the hard work of economic revitalization that is so vital to generating the new revenues we need to pay for schools and essential services while easing the tax burden on our citizens.
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