Around F.C.

Shields Summarizes Remarkable F.C. Achievements of 2022

The first day back at work at the Falls Church City Hall this week began with a conference call among division leaders that focused on the City’s monumental achievements in the last year. City Manager Wyatt Shields outlined a detailed summary of the achievements of 2022 as the City government strove to serve the needs of “government, residents and businesses working together to improve our community.”

He summarized how the City’s key values include its 1. Small Town Character in an Urban Setting, 2. Economic Sustainability and Vitality, 3. Safe Streets for All, 4.Social Equity, Inclusion, and Affordable Housing, 5. Public Safety, 6. Environmental Sustainability, 7. Effective and Responsive Government Services, and 7. Effective and Responsive Government Services: Public Meetings.

“The highlights of the review were built on the foundation of day-to-day service to the community that all City staff take pride in,” he reported.

“In that daily work lies our strongest connections with the Falls Church community. As City resident, activist, and employee Annette Mills said at her retirement party, ‘We are most effective when we are working together, residents and government working hand in hand.’ I keep her words framed on my wall as a daily reminder of this truth.

“As the year 2022 draws to a close, it is good to take stock of some of the accomplishments of a very productive year. The City Comprehensive Plan lays out a vision and key objectives for our community and this Year in Review is organized along key values identified in that plan.”

The accomplishments presented in the 2022 summary report include the following, presented in the shorthand form used in the report. The City of Falls Church:

Completed Washington St. Plaza and history panels. Maintained flower baskets in the downtown commercial district.

Sponsored numerous special events including Memorial Day, Concerts in the Park, and more. Installed holiday lighting on Broad Street up to West Street.

Completed a new Wayfinding Sign program to help visitors find key attractions.Created a Park Master Plan for the two-acre “Fellows Property” adjacent to Oak Street School.

Developed an “East End Area Plan” to set a vision for a vibrant future for the Eden Center and adjacent properties on the east side of the City. The plan is scheduled for adoption in March 2023.

Executed a 99-year ground lease for the West Falls project to help pay for new Meridian High School.

Approved building permits for over 1 million square feet of new commercial development.
Executed an economic development agreement to bring a new movie theater to Founders Row.

Executed an agreement with Virginia Tech and Converge LLC to facilitate the development of a new Virginia Tech National Center for Smart Construction and other commercial uses on City owned land in Fairfax Co adjacent to Meridian H.S.

Issued permits for the Broad and Washington project which includes Whole Foods anchored retail, a theater for Creative Cauldron, and public parking.

Issued permits for Founders Row II, which will begin construction in 2023.

Created the new Little City Gift Card program to support shopping at local businesses.

Provided small business grants to help recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic. Completed traffic calming measures on Oak St. and Lee St.

Installed new sidewalk to the Tinner Hill Historic site. Installed new sidewalk on S. Maple and Tinner Hill Rd.

Developed plans for traffic calming solutions for the Greenway Downs neighborhood for review by residents. Completed Maple Ave & S. Washington St intersection safety improvements.

Completed a Bicycling and Facility study with Virginia Tech with recommendations that will be incorporated into the Bike Master Plan in 2023.

The City Council approved lowering speed limits to 20 miles per hour on smaller residential streets in the City. New 20 mph signage and enforcement will begin in spring 2023.

Developed engineering plans for pedestrian and bike safety improvements for Park Avenue from Washington Street to the Mary Riley Styles Library.

Issued a contract for reconstruction of the Oak Street bridge with enhanced sidewalks, with construction to start in the Spring of 2023.

Acquired three additional properties in Virginia Village to preserve them as affordable housing. Executed a Memorandum of Agreement with Wesley Housing to a) manage the five quadplexes in Virginia Village as affordable housing, b) acquire additional properties, and c) redevelop these properties into modern affordable housing.

Executed an affordable homeownership program agreement with NHP Foundation to purchase and rehabilitate homes and resell them with covenants to preserve them as affordable.

Conducted an assessment of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the city government workforce and began implementing recommendations from that assessment.

The Human Services Advisory Committee hosted a community workshop on race relations in the City of Falls Church with over 150 residents participating.

Intervened on behalf of rental tenants to resolve landlord tenant problems.

Created a new scholarship program to cover youth sports and summer camp fees based on participants ability to pay to assure that all in the community have access to these programs.

75 percent of uniformed Police Officers and Sheriff Deputies have completed Critical Incident Response training to help officers recognize mental health issues and intervene with safe practices for the individual, the officer, and the community.

City Police and Sheriff implemented body worn cameras for uniformed officers. City Police and Sheriff continued to implement the key recommendations of the Use of Force Review Committee. Implemented the second year of the City’s restorative justice program for non-felony youth offenders.

Office of Emergency Management conducted training with condo associations to help them plan for extreme weather, prolonged power outages, fire evacuation, and other emergencies.

Office of Emergency Management conducted training exercises with school staff, library staff, and the faith community to prepare for a gun violence emergency. City sponsored Drug Take Back Day for safe disposal of unused prescription drugs.

Purchased a flood prone property in the Tripps Run Floodway to reduce flood risk and expand the Cavalier Trail. Achieved the second highest scores in Virginia for flood risk mitigation through FEMA’s Community Rating System (CRS) which results in a 20 percent reduction in flood insurance premiums for property owners in the City.

Lifted the state of emergency for Covid-19 after over two years of public health measures to protect the community and critical services.

Achieved a Recycling Rate of 59 percent, the highest in Northern Virginia and second highest in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Recognized as an EPA Green Power Partner for purchasing at least 25 percent of electricity from renewable sources for City operations.

Continued transition to fuel efficient fleet, with two electric buses for City schools and electric vehicles for Police Command Staff and Public Safety Aides. Purchased bio diesel fuel for Public Works heavy trucks and equipment. Achieved 20 percent reduction in carbon emissions since 2005.

Launched Community Energy Planning to accelerate the City’s transition toward renewable energy sources to meet goal of 50 percent reduction of carbon emissions by 2030. Issued contract for construction of the Trammel Branch Stormwater Project to reduce flooding in the Shadow Walk, W. Columbia Street area.

Completed the Laura – Poplar Stormwater connection to reduce flood risk for homes in this area. Began construction of Wren’s Branch stormwater improvements to reduce flood risk in the Van Buren / E. Columbia neighborhood. Achieved LEED Silver Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for the recently completed Mary Riley Styles Public Library renovation.

Won a $4 million state grant for Stormwater Improvements, approved by the Virginia General Assembly. Implemented a 5 cents per plastic bag tax to encourage the reduction of single use plastics that are harmful to the environment. Maintained AAA Bond ratings.

Adopted a budget that fully funded the School Board request and general government services and reduced the real estate tax rate by 9 cents, to $1.23 (12 cent reduction over two years). Maintained financial reserves at or above adopted policy of 20 percent of annual revenue to ensure resilience against emergencies or economic downturn.

Produced informative videos for the Capital Improvements Program and budget videos to explain the key services and costs in every departmental budget. Published 52 issues of the Falls Church Focus online providing timely news on City programs and events.

Mary Riley Styles Public Library named a “4 Star Library”- one of only six statewide.

The library began its strategic planning process with a community survey and workshops. The library strategic plan will be finalized in early 2023. The library redesigned its website to make it easier for patrons to access online materials and services.
City Council adopted a two-year work plan to prioritize key goals and vision of the City Comprehensive Plan.

Completed a Compensation Study to ensure government pay is competitive relative to market, to retain and attract a high performing workforce.

40 City employees graduated from the Supervisors Academy, a three-day course on leadership and management best practices to serve the community effectively.

The City Treasurer completed a competitive bidding process for city banking services which will result in $441,000 savings per year on bank fees and better interest rates.

Executed an agreement with VDOT for a $10 million Smart Cities grant in partnership with Virginia Tech.

The School Board and City Council worked together on the Revenue Sharing Principle to allow greater planning and predictability in the annual budget process.

The City Council held 34 regular meetings and work sessions, 37 committee meetings, 34 Agenda Planning meetings, and 10 City Council “Office Hours” meetings. Council approved 20 Ordinances and 48 Resolutions, which included budget adoption, land use and community development applications, affordable housing acquisition, transportation grant applications, and a new policy on equity and human rights.

Issued 29 Proclamations reinforcing the welcoming nature of Falls Church and its respect for different identities, cultures, and ways of life; recognizing those working to ensure the safety and sense of community within the City; supporting environmental sustainability measures; and providing a platform for important public information and awareness for community issues.

City Boards and Commissions held 193 public meetings with City staff to shape new policy and programs. Responded to 179 Freedom of Information Act requests.

Maintained the ability for public participation in all public meetings both remotely and in person after the COVID Emergency Declaration was lifted. Posted video recordings of all Council and Board and Commission meetings to promote transparency and public information.