In 4-3 Vote, F.C. Council Rejects Move To Kill Senior Affordable Housing Project

After a four hour special Falls Church City Council meeting tonight, The Wilden still lives. An effort to kill it with a motion to deny the partners seeking to develop the 63-unit senior affordable housing project a modification of the terms of an earlier approval from the Council failed by a 4-3 vote after 11 p.m tonight.

While an altered amendment in support of the modification did not get approved, being superceded by a motion to table the matter until August 9, the supporters of the project are now optimistic that they can “buy some more time” from the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA) to await the outcome of that vote. Three members of the City Council, in fact, told leaders of The Wilden Partnership, including Carol Jackson, executive director of the Falls Church Housing Corporation (FCHC) that they’ll weigh in with calls to the VHDA tomorrow to urge them to hold off on canceling the application of $4.035 million in federal stimulus cash to the Falls Church project.

Vice Mayor David Snyder and Council members Robin Gardner and Ron Peppe, who voted with Councilman Lawrence Webb to keep the project alive, offered their willingness to help persuade the VHDA to give The Wilden until a vote at the Council’s Aug. 9 meeting.

The four Council members who voted to keep The Wilden alive tonight did so over a surprising recommendation by City Manager Wyatt Shields, issued at the beginning of the meeting, to deny the housing coalition’s request. Shields, in his written statement, expressed concern for the overall fiscal condition of the City.

Arguments were forceful on both sides of the issue, both from the public during the petition period and by the Council members themselves. The motion to deny the housing coalition request came from newly-sworn in Councilman Ira Kaylin and was seconded by newly-sworn in Council member Johanna Barry. Those two were joined by Mayor Nader Baroukh, the only member of the Council to vote against the original agreement between the City and The Wilden in the spring, but their combined three votes were not enough to kill the plan tonight.

Jackson told the News-Press in an interview following the meeting that some on the Council failed to realize, until well into the meeting tonight, that the federal stimulus money, the $4.035 million that the VHDA parcels out to worthy projects, is in the form of hard cash, part of the Obama Administration’s federal stimulus initiative, and does not require the City to incur debt. “There are plenty of projects in Virginia that are lined up right behind us eagerly hoping to get their hands on that money,” she said. “There is just no telling now how patient the VHDA will continue to be with us until we can get this hopefully resolved early next month.”

But she said that the 4-3 vote on the Council tonight against effectively killing The Wilden will serve as solid evidence for the VHDA that the necessary support for the project is there on the Council.

She said that the housing coalition had offered an alteration in its request for the modification it sought based on a good-faith effort to find $1 million in funding, in lieu of an advance on the City’s loan, citing some new leads that had surfaced earlier in the day today.

However, Councilman Webb said he was not satisfied there was enough of a solid nature in that alteration, and substituted a motion to table the matter to Aug. 9, which passed 4-3, with Webb, Gardner, Peppe and Snyder voting in favor. “This is about as much as we can expect to get done tonight,” Vice Mayor Snyder stated before that vote which ended the meeting at 11:15 p.m.