The METRO January Surprise to Develop West Falls Church Metro
“Giving Away” the Treasure of Land Has Become a Falls Church Council Hallmark
On Route 7 and Waiting for a Call from Jeff Bezos
By Sam Mabry
Mabry is a former Member of the City Council and Vice Mayor
New Year’s Note to Readers
The Post begins 2018, recommitting itself to those standards of governance which protect the fiscal integrity of the city in order to sustain high home values and the financial capacity to provide excellent future classroom instruction for our children.
We will continue to oppose the the “frothy” and “puffy” fiscal machinations of the current Council and its leadership, which obscures the fictitious financial “Rube Goldberg” mantra that George Mason development will generate significant revenue for a new school.
And some some of that “fiscal froth” continues to be dished out by Council Members Letty Hardi and Phil Duncan, who each wildly over estimated the value of commercial property in the City to grease the skids for a yes vote on the referendum. And now Ms. Hardi is at it again, equating a 1950’s real estate tax rate with our current and projected annual tax bill.
Such a comment by Ms. Hardi represents yet another example of an on going effort to continually mislead the community on funding the new school. Or, perhaps even more disturbing, she may actually believe in the accuracy of her remarks on financial issues.
Lack of Transparency
By making Falls Church the most indebted jurisdiction on a per capita basis in Northern Virginia, we require and deserve a Council that is forthright with the citizens. While we have been subjected to “frothy” and “puffy” positive revenue generation projections, absent is anything substantial on the expenditure side and the tax rates necessary to sustain the city over the next five to 10 years.
The Council remains steadfastly happy to keep you in the dark–or as Ira Kaylin has remarked, the Council avoids transparency on fiscal issues the way Dracula avoids the daylight.
The Financial Threat for Young Families and Their School Children
For myself and others who have written critically of this City Council regarding the financial risk presented by $120 Million of unnecessary debt, it is done to alert the families with children in the school system as to future risks and with long term expectations for the increasing value of their home. Many of us have been residents for years, even decades, and have enjoyed significantly increased home values. Our children are educated the and have launched their own careers and families. Many of us can absorb a negative financial result produced by a City Council willing to satiate wants over needs.
The Mayor Had No Clue and Snyder Erupts
What is known is the City was caught unprepared for the Fairfax/WMATA land development announcement. The Mayor should be trolling for information and intelligence with his counterparts. Every regional meeting, every phone conversation with his peers, must be an opportunity to question them about their intentions regarding an impact on Falls Church. We must not rely on the a “Boy Scout” approach when dealing with our adjoining financial and political giants.
And Dave Snyder, the city’s regional transportation guru, should have been taking soundings at all of the regional transportation meetings that he attends. Raging after the fact is nothing more than posturing.
Just as no man is an island so is no city. We need informed public officials not those who find themselves clueless or enraged. If the past is prologue, the City Council is once again at the precipice of a nearly century long litany of dumb decisions on land use and disposition.
UVA and VPI Sitting on a Fortune—Thanks to Falls Church
The City Manager provided the following information on the lease terms for the city owned land on which the Grad Center sits:
- 5.33 acres
- City of Falls Church
- UVA and VPI
- Began Aug 17, 1995
- Expires Aug 17, 2035
Option to Purchase by Tenant:
- Beginning 2021 in the 26th year
- Price: $3,350,000 minus $500,000 credit
- 3.6% annual increase to purchase price after 2021
More Land for Development+Competition=Even Lower Land Values?
Since the colleges can buy the 5.33 acres for a bargain basement price of about $650,000 per acre, this sets up a unpredictable land value dynamic among the landowners and tenants at the GMHS/WMATA/VT and UVA location.
With so many land parcels now or soon to be available, will the estimated value for the City’s 8-10 acres go down? If so, how will this affect the City’s plans to fund a new GMHS and a possible additional burden on the citizens?
However, the $50 Million value that Hardi and Duncan placed on the 8-10 acres could lead a reasonable voter to conclude that they were duped by the two of them in order to secure a yes vote on the Referendum.
And it certainly begs the question how a city council can be so naive and insular as to option land to be sold in 2021 at 1995 prices?
The 70% Millstone Cross Jurisdictional Deal
While many of us had serious reservations about the sale of the water system, one provision of the deal was irksome at the time and is now downright appalling: For the next 50 years 70% of the land that came into the city cannot be developed for commercial purposes.
Do you think Fairfax County/Fairfax Water knew at the time of the settlement that there were development projects at the other end of Haycock Road that would be enhanced if the city was prevented from commercial land development for 50 years?
I wouldn’t put it past them: They are clever in protecting the interests and treasure of their citizens and history shows that Falls Church is not.
Meanwhile, at the Other End of Town
A similar development dynamic is occurring at the east end of town at 7 Corners, with Fairfax County hot on the trail of a total area redevelopment over the next several decades. Do our elected officials have a handle on what the County is up to? At one point the County was planning to run a street behind Koons Ford, creating a new intersection with Roosevelt Street. We should ask the Mayor what he and the staff are doing to protect the interest of the City as the Fairfax development process moves along—before it’s too late.
Nothing New: On the Other Side of the Tracks the Loss that Still Hurts
In the mid-1930, the area known as East Falls Church acceded into Arlington County—or perhaps more accurately seceded from the City of Falls Church. It’s the area in and around the East Falls Church Metro and Route 66, including the Exxon Station and the Cote d’Or restaurant. The City let fester a situation of overlapping and confusing jurisdictional issues encountered by the local residents. As a result, the East Falls Church citizens petitioned the local Court to separate themselves from Falls Church. They were successful with the Virginia Supreme Court agreeing. The City absenting itself from attending to the needs of this community then now means a Falls Church City severely diminished in developable size, including a Metro station that could have been within its corporate limits generating potential significant revenue for the city and its schools as a result of enhanced development.
Waiting for Bezos
The notion that Amazon would be wise to locate in Falls Church, as suggested by our local paper of record, is on the face of it bizarre. It clearly demonstrates a serious lack of knowledge regarding the location requirements of Amazon specified in its request for proposals from interested jurisdictions. The editorial also reveals the same kind of development and financial “puff” and “foam” that we receive from the city council.
The Editor and Council Echo Chamber
It’s clear that in Falls Church the printed press and the government function as an undivided whole–in short, an echo chamber to promote their shared but flawed development and financial agenda with endless rhetoric and data that cannot withstand close scrutiny.