Letters to the Editor: August 6 – 12, 2015
City Should Involve Public in Developer Response to RFP
On July 27 both the Falls Church City Council and School Board voted to release a Request for Proposals, known as RFP, for expanding George Mason High School and Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School, with commercial development allowed on a bit over 10 acres of the site – the RFP was then released on July 30. This was a critical step to start the process of improving these facilities, especially as George Mason is already over capacity, and no new facility would be ready until 2019 on the current timeline. While I do not believe the RFP is perfect, it is better to move forward and make adjustments as needed.
I am concerned that the process being used to consider developers’ proposals in response to the RFP will involve minimal public participation. I understand that Virginia law provides confidentiality for much of the content of proposals, including information that might adversely affect the bargaining position of the developer. I also understand that without confidentiality, developers are less likely to submit innovative proposals that others could copy. Nevertheless, it will be very difficult for the public and stakeholders to participate unless they understand the proposals.
The RFP requires that each proposal have an executive summary that will be made public. That’s good, but that requirement needs to be backed by Council and Board oversight to ensure that sufficient information is included in the summary to allow public understanding. And as proposals are received the staff needs to ensure that only material that meets the legal requirements for confidentiality is kept confidential.
As the process proceeds, the Council and Board should find ways to involve the public and stakeholders in the dialogue even if the details of proposals cannot be shared. This could involve, for example, additional town halls, public discussion of detailed evaluation criteria to be used to select the final winner, and further efforts to understand public opinion to supplement the excellent visioning work already done.
Why Add Another Grocery Store to F.C.?
I was horrified to read City Hall’s interest regarding the Broad-Washington Plan for a Whole Foods plus apartment rental complex.
Regarding adding a third grocery store to the two under construction nearby, City Planning Director Jim Snyder was quoted as saying that grocers want to be near one another. So? I want a unicorn. Any logical person would note the redundancy of these businesses and the creation of a ridiculous traffic pattern. I love Whole Foods as much as the next hemp grocery bag-toting patron but I go two miles to the existing one when need be. And here’s a crazy idea, why don’t we build the other two complexes first and see how that goes before adding a third?
2. Is the City of Falls Church prepared to accept the influx of students and temporary residents? The addition of another apartment complex seems diametrically opposed to already burdened school facilities. We moved here so our daughter could progress through one middle and one high school with her friends, instead of joining a feeder school community. I cringe that we are creating an irreversible situation that many of us purposefully moved here to avoid.
3. Additionally, Jim Snyder states that the City “could become a food and restaurant focal point for this part of Northern Virginia.” Oh good, that’s why my family and I chose to live in this peaceful 2.2 square mile area, to become a focal point for Northern Virginia. Maybe we will have to change our Little City logo to “Tyson’s Three.” I can picture a sky bridge from the Whole Foods garage to Cherry Hill in order for pedestrians to dodge traffic now coming through our neighborhood (not a suggestion).
My daughter brags about the City of Falls Church, saying she is proud to live here where she knows her neighbors and feels safe. We even know our postman (hi Dennis). When she heard about the plans she said “why are people trying to wreck our town?” I had no response. Speak now or forever hold your peace.
Not Enough Customers For 3 Grocery Stores In Same Area
Unlike having four to six coffee shops either in or near the City, or three or four yogurt shops, the plan to have another, full-sized grocery store at the corner of Broad and Washington makes no sense. With three large groceries the increase in traffic will be noticeable, and unwanted, plus I can’t help but think neither Harris Teeter nor Whole Foods can pull enough customers to both be successful.
I think eventually one of the three stores will fail and the other two will be marginally successful – maybe all three will be gone. There is not enough customers to support three large groceries within a four-block radius.
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