Commentary, Local Commentary

They Heard You, They Don’t Agree

One of the most oft-repeated refrains from those citizens who came before the Falls Church City Council this Monday, was the charge that because a majority of the F.C. City Council hadn’t signaled a change in its position on the proposed changes in the City’s Transitional Zones ordinance, that somehow they weren’t listening.

Rightly, Council members Marybeth Connelly and Caroline Lian took umbrage openly with that view. With the scores of public meetings and hearings on the subject, indicating a willingness to “bend over backwards” to address citizen concerns, it is hard to stomach some of the cavalier criticisms of the Council that some citizens expressed. Some argue that the sheer number of citizens who’ve raised concerns over these two years should be enough to persuade a majority on the Council to tank the effort to open up the City’s tiny t-zoned strips to some alternative housing and small business options.

But the Council consensus on this after all this time seems based on what is best for the some 15,000 residents of the City, and not the few scores who turned up, some over and over again, to protest at Council and other meetings. Even at 15,000, of course, Falls Church is a tiny part of the wider DMV region, but its best leaders view much of what they do in the context of being exemplary for a much wider population. They also view themselves serving not just those who show up to “get in their faces” at public hearings, or even the vaster total population of even a small city, but they are also looking into the eyes, metaphorically, of those perhaps hundreds of potential new residents who may be striving to afford to live here.

Well over a decade ago, this is what proponents of more affordable housing, including senior housing, said motivated their efforts when the City Council majority then rejected millions of federal dollars, among other things, to dash a senior affordable housing project by a split vote and after at least two other viable sites for such a project were rejected due to protests by neighbors.

No, the fact remains that, after two years of this, the Council has heard loud and clear what the citizens have had to say, to the point of exhaustion. They apparently, with all due respect, simply do not agree with them.

As for the argument that the opponents of the t-zone modifications are acting out of something more noble than “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) sentiments, that may be true for a handful, but listening to what almost every opponent has had to say in letters of pronouncements before the Council, Planning Commission or some other body, their objections echo the same ones used to oppose more affordable housing, senior affordable housing and other plans they felt encroached on their neighborhoods, whether the excuse given was to object to too much traffic or parking or just plain people.