Monday night the Falls Church City Council gave final approval to a pair of ordinances designed to incentivize commercial development in the City. The first provided a tax abatement for improvements or new developments to all-commercial office structures in the City, and the second to redefine the conditions under which technology-related commercial entities in the City can also qualify for tax abatements. It was made clear in the meeting that these abatements would apply only to new developments where no taxes are currently coming in, at all, so there is now “give away” in that sense at all.
An earlier 1996 City ordinance on office space tax abatements was aimed only at limiting the vacation of certain sites, but the new ordinance, at the recommendation of the City’s Economic Development Authority aligned that program with “current City objectives to encourage higher commercial density, expand the commercial base, encourage land consolidation and increase the inventory of office spaces” by “encouraging developer investment in commercial properties,” according to a City staff report.
A motion to amend the measure to place a 10-year limit on the inventive was defeated by the Council in a tight 4-3 vote, with only Mayor David Tarter, David Snyder and Karen Oliver voting in favor, and then the measure passed unanimously 7-0.
The revised technology zone ordinance also passed unanimously, being the first change since the City first passed such a tech zone ordinance in 1997. The revisions limited the area of the City where the tax abatements could apply (it was currently the entire City) to its commercially zone corridors, redefinied the kinds of businesses that qualify, extended the duration of the abatements by two years.
In other significant developments in Monday’s Council meeting, the Council approved on first reading an ordinance to permit cottage-style senior residence developments in the City by a 6-1 vote (Mayor Tarter dissenting). The measure would permit as many as nine residences on a 45,-000 square feet parcel (or accumulation of parcels) limited to 1,000 square feet on the ground floor (and a 1 1/2 story height limit) with the purpose of providing a new form of housing stock in the City catering to older adults (ages 55 and up). Mayor Tarter’s objection was on grounds that since limitations on the teardown of existing residential units had been removed from the draft ordinance, now any number of parcels in the City could be combined to qualify for a cluster of such cottages if it became economically viable to do so. The matter will be forwarded to City boards and commissions over the next month and a half for recommendations before returning to the Council for a second and final reading late next January.
Finally, the Council approved major personnel changes to the City’s Planning Commission tonight, accepting the resignation at the end of their appointed terms at the end of December of current chair Rob Meeks and of long-time member Ruth Rodgers and appointing in their stead Tim Stevens and Brent Krasner. They also reappointed to new terms on the commission Russ Wodiska and Andy Rankin. In addition, reappointed to the Economic Development Authority were Brian Williams and Michael Novotny.