Local Commentary

Editorial: Planning Commission’s Classless Act

A minority of three (out of seven appointed members) of the Falls Church Planning Commission acted in a shameful fashion Monday night to prevent the full membership of their body from participating in one of the more important votes in their history. As a result, they were able to defeat by a 3-3 tie (lacking a majority) an approval of the 4.3-acre Mason Row project, sending it to the Falls Church City Council for what will now require a “super majority,” five votes out of seven, to win approval.

The move, led by chairman Rob Meeks and veteran member Ruth Rodgers, who made the intent of their group very clear by citing that the impact of a further deferral of action would allow the newly-elected City Council, rather than the current one, to decide the ultimate fate of the project. “The major change (if a deferral was granted—ed.) would be a change in the make-up of the City Council, and that’s what this is all about,” she remarked.

Yes, indeed! The election to fill three City Council and three School Board seats earlier this month centered on whether or not continued “smart growth” development to improve the community, to make abundance new tax revenues available to enable holding the line on residential real estate taxes and by so doing to maintain some of the best schools in the nation, would continue, or would it all be called to a halt with what two candidates called a “moratorium” on all that. “Momentum” versus “moratorium” was the backdrop against which the election was decided.

And the citizens of Falls Church spoke loudly and clearly in that election. They voted a clean sweep for “momentum” and against “moratorium.” It couldn’t have been more obvious or clear. The three candidates who won City Council seats – two of whom were running as incumbents – were all foursquare for “momentum.” The two candidates advocating a “moratorium” on new development were both defeated.

One would think the lesson of this vote would not be lost on members of either the Planning Commission or City Council, and that having three dozen neighbors to the proposed development site to get “in their faces” during a public hearing would have to be considered in the context of a resounding vote earlier in the month.

Ironically, it was not lost on those three members of the Planning Commission this week, who chose to defy the public will and jump at a chance, with one of their members not present, to put a dent in the Mason Row project…accomplishing that before the winners of the election would be sworn in in early January.

That move was downright classless, rude and disrespectful of the City’s majority, exploiting the gap that still persists between an election and swearing in only as a carry-forward from more antiquated days when it took much longer to count votes.