Little City’s Big List & Priorities It’s Facing

Falls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields presented an ambitious and lengthy Fiscal Year 2023—2024 Work Plan report to the City Council Monday night, a veritable laundry list of many things that are identified for action by the City in the next year, and the report, which the Council may formally approve next month, drew mixed reviews.

For some, like Council member Marybeth Connelly, the 10-page draft document was far too detailed and project-specific, rather than policy-driven. For others, like Vice Mayor Letty Hardi, the focus on specific projects is more like just what the doctor ordered, because it establishes identifiable parameters.
Either way, it is a “highly aspirational” document, Shields said.

It came at the request of the Council “reflecting on initial staff recommendations on the new programs, policies and projects that are aligned with Council priorities as laid out in its recent January 25 planning retreat.

It encompasses the City’s “vision statement” adopted in April 2017, that defines the jurisdiction as “a welcoming and inclusive community, a special place in the heart of Northern Virginia where involved citizens are the key to the City’s long term success as a leader in education, environmental sustainability, multi-modal transportation and vibrant economic development.”

That statement continues, “By investing in neighborhoods, community services and facilities, schools and parks, the City preserves small town character and history while honoring a deep commitment to progress and a growing community. The continual rejuvenation of robust commercial areas supports the City’s high quality of life for all citizens.”

F.C. architect Paul Barkley pulled this photo out of his archives of what the no-longer-there Robertson Building at the corner of Broad and Washington looked like when it was first going up in 1967. The building is now demolished as ground is being prepared for the Insight Group’s new mixed use project featuring a mega-Whole Foods market at the site. (Courtesy photo.)

Those values are contained in the City’s Comprehensive Plan, titled, “Vision 2040,” achieved by progress focusing on the following issues over the next two years:
Promotion of the City’s small town character;

Increase the vibrancy of the commercial areas and supporting economic development and growth in the City’s commercial areas;

Make housing more inclusive and affordable;

Increase environmental sustainability and making the City more resilient against ongoing climate change; continue delivering core government services to support a healthy and growing community;

Implement a robust capital improvements program that will serve current and future generations.

The draft biennial work plan includes the following:
Small town character in an urban setting, including commercial district amenities, West Broad Street Planning Opportunity Area, the East End Opportunity Area, park and open space initiatives, City support for community run events and festivals, public art initiatives, with right-scale and massing for new development;

Economic sustainability and vitality, with economic growth and diversification strategies, infill development standards and promotion, downtown parking and business friendly initiatives;

Safe and complete streets for mobility and accessibility, including pedestrian connections and crossings (including W&OD street crossings and completion of the Parks and Open Space Connections study that is exploring ways to connect the W&OD trail with Berman Park, Herman River Valley Park and the Cavalier Trail), neighborhood traffic calming, street infrastructure priorities, bicycle master plan implementation, and transit and transportation innovation;

Public health and public safety priorities, including traffic safety enforcement, emergency management, completion of a reunification plan for students and parents for all public schools and St. James School, completion of security audits for all city buildings, and emergency communications, including a “Next-Gen 911” project to allow residents to contact 911 emergency services through multiple communications platforms;

Environmental sustainability and leadership focused on carbon emissions reduction, the LED streetlight program, the adoption of a Community Energy Plan and government emissions reduction plan; advancing green building design and development standards, stormwater infrastructure and watershed management, the Greening of Lincoln and Greening of Lincoln West projects; sanitary sewer systems capacity and solid waste management;

Inclusiveness and social sustainability through affordable housing strategies, diversity in citizen appointments and City management and a cultural assessment of the City government workplace to better gauge handling of diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging from the perspective of city employees;

Effective and responsive governance, including city/citizen education and communication initiatives, Council and staff process reviews, human resources support, information technology system and general government facilities reinvestment;

Partnerships for education between the City and schools and post-secondary opportunities.