Forum on Mt. Daniel Referendum Set for Oct. 23

By Stephen Siegel
Falls Church Times Staff
October 11, 2014

Falls Church City voters next month will be asked to approve a referendum authorizing City officials to spend $15.6 million to expand and renovate Mt. Daniel in order to alleviate overcrowding at the school and make it compliant with a variety of modern safety codes.

It’s a lot of money for a city with an $80 million budget, which is causing some angst among residents concerned that the cost will lead to a property tax rate increase next year. Some residents are suggesting voters reject it for that reason.

Officials haven’t said how it would be paid for, and it’s possible some of the $20 million gained from the sale of the City’s water system to Fairfax earlier this year could be used to defray the cost.

But no decisions have been made, and a tax increase or cuts in other areas of next year’s budget also are possibilities if the referendum is approved.

Under a City ordinance dating to the 1980s, voters will have the final say: any capital expenditure over $10 million must be approved by residents, and this one is scheduled to coincide... [Read more...]

Forum on Water Sale Proceeds Set for Saturday

October 9, 2014

Falls Church City officials are seeking community input for how to use proceeds from the sale of the Falls Church Water Utility. The City will host a town hall meeting this Saturday, October 11, from 10 a.m. to noon in Council Chambers at City Hall.

City staff will present options for use of the proceeds, which are now expected to be in excess of $20 million. Summaries of the three proposals are available on the City’s website at

The public will be invited to ask questions at the Town Hall.

For those who cannot attend the Town Hall but would like to submit comments, please email Council via the City Clerk at

The meeting will be broadcast live on FCCTV and also on the FCCTV YouTube Channel at (

Parking at and near City Hall and Cherry Hill park is expected to be challenging on Saturday, due to this event, the Farmers’ Market, and Farm Day. Drivers are encouraged to utilize the two public parking garage options, especially the garage at Kaiser... [Read more...]

Gardner Arrested Again On New Sexual Battery Charge

By Stephen Siegel
Falls Church Times Staff
October 1, 2014

Michael Gardner, the husband of former Falls Church City Mayor Robin Gardner, was arrested Tuesday morning at his home on a new charge of sexual battery of a minor.

The new charge, which relates to an accusation from 2009, is different from the accusations that led to Mr. Gardner’s arrest in 2011 and subsequent conviction in 2012. That conviction was overturned by the Virginia Supreme Court in June and a new trial on those charges had previously been scheduled for February 2015.

The new case began after two indictments were returned by an Arlington County grand jury on Sept. 29. That grand jury was impaneled after a young girl this summer told an adult that she was abused by Mr. Gardner on Nov. 1, 2009. The adult was a mandatory reporter, meaning he or she was required by law to relay the allegations of abuse to authorities.

Police say the new accuser is related to Mr. Gardner. He is being held without bond pending an appearance in Arlington County Circuit Court, which is scheduled for Oct. 6.

Mr. Gardner was first arrested by Falls Church City Police in... [Read more...]

Architect Presents Plans for Commercial Development, New High School

By Stephen Siegel
Falls Church Times Staff
September 28, 2014

An architectural firm hired by Falls Church City officials has prepared four different drawings that show how a new George Mason High School could be relocated in order to allow for significant commercial development on the land housing the City’s middle school-high school complex.

That land, which was in Fairfax County until January of this year, became City land because of a boundary adjustment that was part of the deal to sell the City’s water system to Fairfax. That in turn opened up the possibility of selling some of it for commercial development, which could then be used to increase revenue to the City and help finance a new high school.

The firm, RTKL, presented the four drawings to City officials last week. Each drawing is quite a bit different from the others. But what they have in common is that a new high school would be built and the existing Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School, built in 2004, would be retained.

A new high school, which officials have been dreaming of and planning for some time, is controversial because of the high cost, estimated... [Read more...]

Around Town

OUTSIDE THE BOX: Just what makes a Little City?

OUTSIDE THE BOX: Just what makes a Little City?

By Stephen Siegel
Falls Church Times Staff
September 21, 2014

It isn’t exactly news that there is an ongoing concern about Falls Church City’s continuing urbanization. But the opinions on that topic took an interesting turn recently in the comments on the Times and elsewhere.

The commenters weren’t expressing some of the time-honored concerns with traffic or density or the impact on our small schools. Instead, they seemed to be more focused on how the City’s look and feel was going to change.

One commenter worried that a redevelopment of both Seven Corners in Fairfax County and the City’s new land where George Mason High School is located would affect our “village feel.” Yet another commenter looked at it in a completely different way, welcoming more density in order to generate more walkable amenities.

And that got me thinking: What make a Little City? More precisely, what makes THE Little City? I’m not repeating myself here; I’m asking what makes a small city generally, and also what specifically makes our Little City, so named by the consultant that several years ago came up with the Little City logo and... [Read more...]

Cavalier Trail Park Gets a Makeover

By Stephen Siegel
Falls Church Times Staff
September 14, 2014

Cavalier Trail Park, a City park tucked between South Maple Avenue and Westmoreland Road, is in the process of getting completely rebuilt from the ground up.

The makeover was funded because the park’s asphalt basketball and tennis courts were in very poor condition; photos taken by a City official show large cracks in both facilities.

To rectify that, officials decided not to simply patch the cracks; they instead bulldozed both structures and plan to build brand new ones in their place with money from the capital improvements portion of the 2015 budget approved last spring.

“Those courts were the worst of all of our courts as far as condition and required a complete overhaul to include milling in place and rebuilding from there,” said Susan Finarelli, spokeswoman for the City. She added that the reconstruction is expected to be completed “in a few weeks.”

Other City basketball courts, at Madison, Lincoln, and Cherry Hill parks, also are being repaired as part of the same project. But those didn’t need a full rehab and are getting crack repairs... [Read more...]

OUTSIDE THE BOX: Is City’s Future Viability Coming into Focus?

OUTSIDE THE BOX: Is City’s Future Viability Coming into Focus?

By Stephen Siegel
Falls Church Times Staff
September 9, 2014

For some time now, questions about whether Falls Church City can survive as an independent jurisdiction have been in the air. These are fair questions; the cost of running a top-notch school system is a challenge, which is why it is generally county governments that do so in Virginia and many other locales. But the path to the City’s long-term independence now seems a bit clearer than before.

That’s because the stars may be aligning on a number of fronts that help the City raise the necessary revenue to survive and prosper.

The first piece to fall into place was the sale of the City’s water system to Fairfax. Not only did that bring in considerable cash, but, more importantly, it brought into the City limits a very valuable piece of land near the West Falls Church Metro station. Development of that land, if done correctly, could bring in significant revenue, and a group of City officials has been meeting since February to discuss the issues related both to that development and to the financing of a new George Mason High School, which could cost as much as $100 million.

No... [Read more...]

Trendy Vegan Restaurant Slated for former Pietanza Space

By Stephen Siegel
Falls Church Times Staff
September 7, 2014

When the popular Italian eatery Pie-Tanza shuttered its space in the Falls Plaza next to Starbucks Aug. 28, it came as a great shock. The restaurant, which had been open for six years at that location, was frequently packed.

But the restaurant apparently wasn’t doing well financially, largely because of an expensive lease, so it decided to shutter the City location and retreat to its original Arlington store in the Lee Harrison shops near Harris Teeter, a source familiar with the situation told the Times.

The storefront won’t be empty long, though, because a replacement tenant already is on the way. The trendy restaurant Native Foods Cafe, which offers an extensive menu featuring no meat, dairy, or animal products of any kind, known as “vegan” food, is preparing to take over the space, the Falls Church Times has learned.

Native Foods began in 1994 in Palm Springs, Calif., and has expanded slowly since. Its 22 locations are in five metro areas: Los Angeles, San Diego, Denver, Portland, Ore., and Chicago. Its first two East Coast locations are scheduled to open... [Read more...]

More Page1 >>