Letters to the Editor: March 24 – 30, 2011

ZOAC Wrong to Seek Mandatory Preservation Steps


The extensive recommendations of the Falls Church Zoning Ordinance Advisory Committee (ZOAC) also contain recommendations that the Historic Architectural Review Board (HARB) review process of renovations be mandatory. The property owners of the designated historic properties in the city have had to address multiple attempts over several decades by well-meaning activists seeking to extend even greater mandatory controls over their homes.

Our HARB statute was crafted to carefully balance the interest of imposing mandatory controls against the property rights of our citizens and came out in favor of property rights. Where mandatory controls are provided, such as demolition, the HARB statute contains detailed appeal rights and exceptions to avoid hardship — no similar protections are contained for exterior renovations.

The ZOAC report does not contain any analysis or data to support that such material harm is being caused that these controls are even needed. More important, our HARB ordinance contains none of the extensively developed design parameters, specificity and appeal rights needed to avoid illegally vague standards. Any attempt to adopt mandatory controls over renovations would require a complete revamping of the HARB statute to avoid granting unlimited rights of control based on personal taste and individual discretion by a small group (the HARB) over the property rights of their neighbors.

Nevertheless, the single biggest issue the city will face for such a significant change to the statute is that the HARB ordinance should now cover many more city homes. The statute was debated in the 1970s (the proposal was crafted about 1977) and finally implemented in 1982. At that time, houses constructed prior to 1910 were considered historic and they were few in number in the city. Any rational historic statute would provide that the HARB would cover other subsequently built housing stock with the passage of time — i.e., in 1987, houses built prior to 1920 would be covered. To further regulate the small minority of homes built prior to 1910 because they are somehow more “historic” than houses located immediately next door but built just a few years later is irrational and indefensible.

Bob Pender

Falls Church


School Support Salaries Hit More Than on City Side


Being a Falls Church City School employee and after following the coverage of the latest budget process in Falls Church I would like to point out the one forgotten element in the discussions of the proposed changes and the effect it will have on the schools support staff. As published reports have stated we would receive a half step pay increase midway through the 2011-12 school year. While this translates to a roughly 1.4 % increase in compensation (to those not on a longevity step ), what is not mentioned is the fact that there are school employees on City retirement.

Consequentially we (maintenance, custodians, cafeteria workers, some transportation and paraprofessionals) will be asked to raise our present contribution to the 5 % level. Since we would not be eligible for the City’s one time bonus of $1,300 to its employees , our situation is even less favorable then theirs. We support the efforts those City employees (especially police officers and librarians) have made in describing the consequences of these budget cuts to the City Council and hope that these words find a receptive audience.

Gabriel Fernandez

Maintenance Department, Falls Church City Public Schools


Didgeridoo Story Opened New World for Appreciation


I enjoyed reading the article in last week’s paper on Karl Kalbaugh and his fascinating hobby, the didgeridoo.

As soon as I read the article, I listened to several didgeridoo videos on YouTube and can now understand Karl’s passion for this instrument and its music.

As a banjo player, I thank Karl and Falls Church News-Press for opening up a new musical world to me.

Dan Campbell

Falls Church


Labelling King Hearings ‘McCarthyite’ Too Predictable


Helen Thomas is just too predictable with her knee-jerk reaction to anything organized by Republicans: “A New McCarthy?” There is every reason in the world to have a reasoned discussion about the how and why that otherwise peace-loving muslims become radicalized. The fact that some do and become committed jihadists who believe that murder in the name of Allah is fully justified is indisputable. It is far better to have a public discussion about why this happens and what might be done to prevent it than to do as many governments in muslim countries of Central Asia and the Middle East have done which is to lock up anyone who promotes a jihadist viewpoint.

While it can be debated that a House subcommittee may not be the best venue for such a discussion, the hyperbolic charge that to have the discussion is a new McCarthyism is absurd. It is also further evidence of Ms. Thomas’ deeply ingrained hypocrisy since I am confident that she would have any objection whatsoever to Congressional hearings an radical Christians who promote violence against gays and abortionists.

And while Congressman King’s past support for the IRA was also reprehensible, let’s not forgot that most of his fellow travelers at the time in reaching out to Sinn Fein and the IRA were Democratic officials from the liberal bastions of New York and Massachusetts.

James Philip Callahan

Falls Church


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