PAGE 6 | FEBRUARY 2 – 8, 2017
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Vol. XXVI, No. 50 February 2 – 8, 2017 • City of Falls Church ‘Business of the Year’ 1991 & 2001 • • Certified by the Commonwealth of Virginia to Publish Official Legal Notices • • Member, Virginia Press Association •
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E D I TO R I A L
City & Schools Need The Public’s Input
We join the chorus of everyone in the City of Falls Church government and schools urging a robust Falls Church citizen attendance at Saturday morning’s town hall meeting on the progress toward a final plan for the 39-acre high school property at the west end of the City. At this stage, after many hours of deliberations, the groups have divided the options into about three, with variables in each. The first is a mere renovation of the existing footprint, with the addition of more trailers to house classrooms (the cheapest option), or a more expensive plan that couples a renovation with 100,000 square feet of a new classroom building. There is a phased option which calculates out as the most expensive one, though phased, and there is one for a new high school in one fell swoop, which appears pricey at first (at $117 million), but which can go down below $100,000 if only the high school and not ancillary uses is built. This approach proposed by interim Superintendent Dr. Robert Schiller is a very level headed one, especially because it will include the ability for the maximum economic development on the site once the new school is completed. This Saturday, the public will get information on all the options, and then weigh in with its thoughts. The key decisions, of course, will remain with the Council and School Board, which will work to craft language for the bond referendum that will go on this November’s ballot to seek citizen approval. Of course, nobody wants to commit too many tax dollars to anything these days, (especially with the voter-approved renovation of the library and expansion of City Hall coming soon). But the most remarkable feature of the high school project is the potential for an enormous yield in sale and tax dollars from the dense economic development of up to 10 of the acres. Handled right, this could mitigate the impact of the cost of the new school to an enormous degree. As there are no really hard numbers about what economic development could bring, it is our view that now is the time to put out a “request for proposal” (RFP) to commercial developers for just that part of the project. Among other things, it is assumed so far that the economic development would be most lucrative at the area nearest the Haycock and W. Broad intersection. But that may not be what a developer thinks. He or she might like the current football field better for its greater proximity to the West Falls Church Metro station. Let’s let the developers tell the project developers what they think could work best there. Our view has always been to cut a deal with WMATA for some of its surface parking space there and couple it with 10 acres at that end of the school property to put something really big and dense right at the Metro station itself.
Finds Many News-Press Articles Are Missing Info
Editor, One of my great frustrations with the News-Press is that I am one of the majority of residents of the City who are not “A-listers” who know the details of everything that is going on in the City. Therefore, I cannot take for granted many of the aspects of your articles that you simply throw out in one-liners. When I read many of your articles, I find that missing information leaves me feeling that there is something
important happening, but I’m not getting enough detail on significant and sometimes critical issues. For example, in your front-page story on the possible destruction of the Merrill House Apartments you wrote that the current seven story, 159 apartment building “… has a net negative fiscal impact on the City estimated at $600,000 per year.” My immediate questions were: Who estimated that and how did they arrive at the figure? Net
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negative of what? Compared to what? The owners pay taxes don’t they? If the City does not itself spend money on the property, then how can it be anything other than a positive cash flow? Then you wrote that the owners offered four possible replacement options to the City. However, the City Manager did not like any of them, and the City’s “position” is to sell it to someone who would keep it like it is. So why, if it costs the City $600,000 a year would the City want to keep it unchanged? You also inferred that the four options would not increase the City’s affordable housing stock. Later in the paper, you picked up on the “pressing need” for afford-
able housing in your editorial. What causes the City to need low cost houses? Where does our pressing need originate? How could anyone in the City government be so hypocritical as to say the City needs affordable housing while at the same time allowing developers to tear down every house they can acquire for $750,000 or less to replace them with $1,500,000+ mini-mansions? Maybe you and the insiders know the answers to all these questions, so you don’t have to include them in an article like this. But we aren’t, so a little detail on important issues would be welcome, here and in the future. Robert A. Speir Falls Church
Falls Church News-Press 2-2-2017