Local Commentary

Letters to the Editor: April 11 – 17, 2013

 Chamber Chief: Storm Water Plan Issues Remain


The Falls Church Chamber of Commerce supports the City’s goal of upgrading and repairing the City’s storm water management capabilities and infrastructure. There is clearly a need. That said, the Chamber is very concerned about the City’s plan for addressing those issues as there are still a number of important unanswered questions, many of which will remain unanswered when Council is expected to vote on its plan April 22. That plan will include a storm water management “fee” that will be paid by every property owner — private and commercial — in the City.

For example, why was the original fund request reduced by 2/3s? Is this an indication that it can be further reduced? Does the fund really need to support 9.2 new staff positions? If voters approve the sale of the City’s water system, can the revenue generated by that sale be dedicated to the new storm water management effort? Will the bonds that will be issued for the capital improvements related to storm water management adversely affect the City’s ability to secure other bonds, such as those required for school construction? How will the requests for discounts regarding the new fee be monitored? Will there be a payment plan for those unable to afford the fees that their property will generate?

There are many questions that the Chamber believes need to be answered before a decision should be made that will cost residents and businesses alike a significant amount of money in addition to the tax increase Council is considering on top of increased property values. We urge the Council to postpone making this decision until these questions are answered. The community’s long-term interests would be best served by a more fully developed and vetted plan that does more to incentivize solutions and to ensure that the scale and costs of any new utility are justified. Every resident of the City needs to know more because there is no reason to rush to decision here. This issue is far too important for that.

Christopher Bergin

Chairman, Falls Church Chamber of Commerce


F.C. Citizens May Become Highest Taxed in State


Falls Church City tax rates are exorbitant already. The City’s real property tax rate (now $1.27/$100 in value) is much higher than Arlington ($0.958) and Fairfax ($1.07). For 2013, Arlington raised its rate by 1.3 cents; Fairfax by 2 cents. While Fairfax imposes additional assessments by district, only some districts impacted by metro will be taxed at rates approaching those in Falls Church. The City’s personal property tax rate is much higher than the average for nearby communities. The City restaurant meal tax is as high as anywhere around. The City’s business taxes are extraordinary, especially for certain businesses. Professionals, for example, pay 52 cents per $100 in gross revenue to the City compared to 31 cents in Fairfax and 36 cents in Arlington. And, Fairfax and Arlington provide far better breaks to small businesses. If the City increases real property taxes to $1.33 and creates a Storm Water fund equivalent to an additional 5.5 cents, as predicted by the News-Press, the City’s residents may become the most highly taxed people in the entire state.

Jeff Robinette

Falls Church


Neighbor Concerned With Size, Scope of Harris Teeter


I live about 300 yards from where Harris Teeter’s project will loom like a huge cliff over our homes – or maybe not. That is one of the problems we have with this project, the inexplicable refusal to provide ground level views of what the project will seem like from various points, relatively easy to create with Photoshop.

I do support the overall concept of the project but there are some major concerns with the size and scope. Why such are large store on a small site, a larger store than North Old Town which has more site space? Where will the 2,400 extra cars (projected daily use) go on our already crowded streets, especially given the proximity to school bus stops and the overall size of W. Annadale Rd.? Why 24 hours when nothing else is open that late? How hard will it be for a semi-truck to pull out on Broad St. from the projected exit point – there is barely enough room before the Little Falls light – into traffic, especially morning traffic?

There are many groups with a stake in this project; each has tried to bring its concerns to the table. We need the tax revenue, but maybe not the size. It’s an overall good project, but the traffic problems are still not resolved. Just to name a few. To have Harris Teeter at this point start with the “I’ll take my ball and go home” attitude does beg the question – how well will they live up to their part of any bargain.

I’m glad that action will be sooner than later, but I hope residents like Mr. Henderson will understand if residents most affected by this project are more skeptical of the final agreement and design which might loom like a large glass cliff face over our houses – or maybe not. Maybe we can get the ground view renderings before the final vote so we know what we are buying.

Michael Baker

Falls Church


Questions Actions By Police, Court & More in Gardner Case


I write to question assumptions and actions of the police department, the prosecutors and the court who found Michael Gardner guilty of molesting two underage girls at his home during his daughter’s slumber party in June 2011. I have found myself deeply troubled with questions that for me were not adequately answered.

For purposes of disclosure, I know Michael well. I have been a guest in his home on numerous occasions and I served with him on the Vestry of The Falls Church Episcopal. I have not been asked by his family or his attorney to write, nor have I shared these questions with them. I write as one keenly aware that our justice system wrongly imprisons many innocent persons.

There is no clear evidence of Michael’s innocence or guilt, other than the testimony of these two 10-year-old girls. They spent that night in a lower-level den with eight other girls and none of the others saw or heard anything related to these charges. Why?

Why was Michael never accused of sexual misconduct at any other time? Child molesters are almost always serial molesters.

Why did the Falls Church police come to the home of Michael and Robin in the middle of the night, bang on the door, shout “open up for the police” and with bravado place him in handcuffs and carry him away? Michael and Robin, who was on the City Council at the time, are leading citizens, and, I believe, outstanding Christians. They are not going to try to escape. What is going on?

Why did city police publish a story that sperm had been found in one girl’s pajamas, with the clear implication that this convicted Michael, before an analysis was done to determine the source of the sperm? Later it was found that the sperm was not from Michael, but from the girl’s father.

Why did the Chief of Police instruct the Department of Protective Services not to investigate this evidence?

Why were the two girls so carefully instructed and trained for their court testimony? The girls met with the two prosecuting attorneys a dozen times for instruction before the trial.

Why did the Chief of Police announce that this conviction was the biggest achievement of his years in office? Why did the he give plaques of appreciation which cost $200 to the prosecutors and their witnesses? Is this customary?

Robert L. McCan

Falls Church


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