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Last-Minute Hesitation Delays Assisted Living Project Yet Again

 FALLS CHURCH CITY Councilman Dan Sze (right) expressed "extreme disappointment" that the Council was unable to approval on 'first reading' the Kensington Assisted Living project tonight, as planned. Also unhappy were Vice Mayor David Snyder (left) and Phil Duncan (center). (Photo: News-Press)
FALLS CHURCH CITY Councilman Dan Sze (right) expressed “extreme disappointment” that the Council was unable to approval on ‘first reading’ the Kensington Assisted Living project tonight, as planned. Also unhappy were Vice Mayor David Snyder (left) and Phil Duncan (center). (Photo: News-Press)

Some last-minute doubts raised late this afternoon about the “payment in lieu of taxes” agreement offered by developers of the Kensington Assisted Living project proposed for the current Burger King site at 700 W. Broad in Falls Church caused yet another delay in the F.C. City Council’s ability to send the plans out for more public scrutiny and consideration by relevant City boards and commissions Monday night.

“I am extremely disappointed that we are not prepared to vote (a preliminary approval) tonight,” stated Council member Dan Sze. “It has been nearly a year since this first came before us, and it still hasn’t gone to first reading.” Echoing Sze were Vice Mayor David Snyder and Council members Phil Duncan and Marybeth Connelly. They instead deferred a vote until March 10 while recessing at the conclusion of tonight’s meeting to a closed session to discuss some legal ramifications of the proposed deal with the City’s interim legal counsel.

Council member Nader Baroukh called the calculations of the net revenues to the City expected from the project (estimated by the City staff at $313,000 annually over the $125,000 annually that currently comes from the Burger King on the site) into doubt, saying that they could result in the City “losing a lot of credibility” because “apples are being compared to oranges.” His criticism was met with a forceful rebuttal by City Manager Wyatt Shields, who defended the calculations, saying they are consistent with what the City has used as a model on numerous other projects.

Rich Palmer, a principal developer of the Hilton Garden Inn now going up adjacent to where the Kensington project would go, spoke to the Council in glowing terms of how there is a synergy between his new hotel and the assisted living facility, saying that visits by relatives to those in the assisted living facility would be likely to stay at the hotel next door “increasing room nights and thus bringing secondary revenue to the City.”

He also spoke highly of Kensington developer Ed Novak based on many years working in the development industry. “I know Ed Novak,” he said. “They will do a quality project.” Novak has worked 13 years on projects in Falls Church, including on The Broadway and The Byron.

Novak reminded the City Council tonight his project is “100 percent commercial, under the definition of health care and professional services,” and that the 88 assisted living units will be on four floors above Broad Street retail to include a corner cafe with outdoor seating wrapping around W. Broad and Lee Streets and a second 1,000 square foot retail space.

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