A person living just outside the City limits but who claims to be an avid follower of all things Falls Church posted this on the News-Press website last week, “There seems to be a real divide between a handful of citizens of the city and the majority. I wouldn’t know anybody in this group if standing in front of me so I feel as though I can offer an opinion that might be a little unbiased. I only know from the readings I see online. I have to say that it almost seems there is a little gang of negativity in The Little City and their target always seems to be the schools.”
With the November 3 election for three City Council and three School Board seats now less than three weeks away, the citizen’s comment seems more and more apropos. There is a quality of negativity and divisiveness in this election that we haven’t seen in our almost 25 years on the scene, and it makes us wonder why. Whatever the underlying causes of the discontent, they haven’t really surfaced yet as far as we can see.
Yes, there are those who are genuinely worried that the City could become overdeveloped with mixed use and related projects. But it is wrong for a candidate to knowingly use as an example, to exploit this fear, the very preliminary proposal for a ten-story all residential apartment building at the current site of the Stratford Motor Lodge. When that was floated by developers to the Economic Development Committee of the City Council a couple weeks ago, everyone on the City Council made it very clear to them that the idea, with its 7.2 FAR (floor to area ratio) would simply never fly in the Little City.
So, if anything, that case should be a prime plus for the advocates of mixed use development, because as has been the case all along, the plans that come before City Hall and the City Council get very close scrutiny, a lot of public comment, and often change dramatically in order to conform to the City’s wishes for good, smart development.
The City has boosted projects that are classy and modest, in fact. Worried about big mixed use development? Check out Tysons Corner. There you will see more than one 25 floor residential monstrosity going in. Falls Church, on the other hand, retains serious height and density limits.
And for those who contend that City Hall’s “Special Exception” process puts undue power into the hands of a majority on the City Council, it needs to be pointed out that this feature provides the City with enormous leverage to extract valuable proffers and gifts to the City and its schools they could not otherwise get.
Zero development threatens the sustainability of Falls Church. If the City became absorbed by Fairfax or Arlington as a result, then you’d get those 25 story monsters here no matter how much citizen howling.