The Falls Church City Football Association, in conjunction with the George Mason Mustangs football team, will host the organization’s Annual Recruiting Event at FCCFA Treasurer Dave Hagigh’s home at 306 Shadow Walk, Fall Church, on April 29, from 1:00-3:00pm.
All MEH and GMHS students, 6th – 11th grade who are interested in playing George Mason football next Fall are welcome. Pizza and drinks will be served and opportunities for joining the team will be discussed.
Current Mustang players are welcome and encouraged to attend – bring a friend who doesn’t yet play!
To pose inquiries, contact theFCCFA (email@example.com)
March 22, 2012
DEDICATION OF WALTER MESS PLAZA – 400 N. Oak Street (next to the American Legion on the W&OD Trail) City of Falls Church
On Sunday, March 25, 2012 at 3 pm., several dignitaries including Congressman Jim Moran, Mayor Nader Baroukh, Brian Knapp, Chairman of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, and Roger Neighborgall, organizer of this event and President of the Friends of the W&OD Trail. will honor long time Falls Church City resident, local businessman, and community activist, Walter Mess.
Walter Mess was a pioneer in the founding of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, generating local and legislative support for the existing regional park system. As the Authority’s second Chairman, who served in that capacity for 46 years, Walter Mess conceived and designed the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad Trail, commonly called the W&OD Trail.
Upon his retirement in 2006, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority named him Chairman Emeritus in recognition of his founding role and his long list of accomplishments as Chairman. In the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority’s early years, Walter Mess, land economist and mortgage banker, hiked each property the new agency considered acquiring. NVRPA now preserves more than 10,000 acres and operates 19 regional parks in the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church and the counties of Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun.
Above is photo of Walter Mess in his OSS Award Beret, for Distinguished Service Award in WWII. Walter Mess, born December 21, 1912 is a storied war hero who received the Purple Heart for wounds received and many awards for bravery. He received the OSS Distinguished Service Award for his service in World War II, where he and his crew rescued over 200 downed Allied aviators. Commanding his 85 foot long boat that could reach speeds exceeding 60 mph was only part of his duties as head of the OSS Maritime Operations in the Indian Ocean. The OSS – Office of Strategic Services – was the predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency.
The public is invited to attend and join in the dedication of the Walter Mess Plaza on The W&OD Trail, at 400 N. Oak Street, next to the American Legion in the City of Falls Church.
Citizens are urged to participate and thank Walter Mess for his outstanding service to his community and his country, and for his vision in establishing the wonderful W&OD Trail which is enjoyed by so many, from biking enthusiasts to hikers and those who just stroll to enjoy the outdoors.
By STEPHEN SIEGEL
Falls Church Times Staff
March 22, 2012
What started as a request for a variance on City Manager Wyatt Shields’ new house exploded into a controversy this week that has so far caused two members of the City’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) to submit their resignations.
The two resignations are those of John Murphy, the board chairman, and Kent Taylor, who each sent letters detailing their unhappiness with City officials this week. Mr. Murphy’s letter, a source says, was a terse two sentence statement that said little other than that he objected to “city policies” and as a result couldn’t continue his service on the board.
Mr. Taylor’s letter, a different source says, is more detailed, but the Times has not yet been able to procure copies of either. Mr. Murphy declined to release his and declined to comment. Asked via email if his resignation letter speaks for itself, he responded: “Yes.”
The controversy began last fall, when Patricia Shields, Mr. Shields’ wife and the general contractor on the new home they are building at 900 Parker Street, requested a variance from the city zoning code to reduce the required “setback” — the house’s distance from the street — from 30 feet to 25 in order to add a second story to the existing one-story rambler.
The house predates the 30 foot setback requirement, and already sits just 25 feet from Parker Street, five feet less than is allowed now. So granting the variance would allow a second story without moving anything closer to the street than it already is, and the board approved it Oct 13.
But the board denied another request, this one for a front porch that would extend 10 feet from the structure. Under the code, a front porch can extend up to eight feet, making the dispute about a difference of just two feet. Nevertheless, the board denied the request the same night.
At this point, it seemed like a minor dispute. But it flared in December when Mr. Murphy visited Mr. Shields’ new home and saw that what was being constructed did not match the board’s ruling, he said at a meeting of the BZA March 15. Instead, a porch was being constructed 10 feet wide, in what Mr. Murphy said “appeared to countermand” the denial from Oct. 13.
City Zoning Administrator John Boyle was out of town the day of the hearing, but City Planning Director James Snyder and City Attorney John Foster defended the city’s decision to grant a permit despite the BZA’s order, telling the board that allowing the porch to extend 10 feet would only place it in line with the existing front stoop, which they said was within the city’s rights.
“The City’s position is that this is consistent with the ‘policy and practice of the City,” Mr. Snyder said.
Mr. Murphy responded by asking where the city code specifically allowed that. “Help me out here,” he said. “It seems to go against the intent of the BZA.”
He continued: “The administrative overruling of the BZA concerns me very much going forward. This is not something we like to see happen.”
Under the law, a denial of a variance by the BZA can be appealed within 30 days in Arlington County Circuit Court, but not in any other fashion.
Mr. Taylor also loudly objected at the hearing. “If this (the city’s decision) is okay, the BZA is useless.” He added later that the board members are all volunteers and he can “find other things I can do with my time.”
He and Mr. Murphy now have done so.
Only one other member of the five-person board was at the hearing. Darcy Williamson didn’t seem to have the same objections; he voted against sending a letter to the city asking for clarification on why they acted as they did. Messrs. Murphy and Taylor voted yes, but three votes were required, so no action was taken.
Justin Castillo and vice chair Howard Stoodley were not at the hearing. Mr. Castillo said he would like to listen to the tapes of the meeting before forming an opinion; Mr. Stoodley told the Falls Church Patch that he thought the resignations were “unwarranted.”
This isn’t the first time that zoning issues and the BZA have been controversial in the city.
In 2005, several residents challenged Mr. Boyle’s ruling on a front-yard setback at 807 Ridge Place, and the BZA overruled Mr. Boyle. The BZA later withdrew that decision, leading to a lawsuit and settlement with the city, according to Gordon Theisz, one of the plaintiffs in the case.
In 2007, Mr. Theisz and several other residents brought suit in Arlington, alleging that city officials were not adhering to the settlement. They lost, but the settlement remained in effect.
In 2010, residents on Forest Drive won a case at the BZA that upheld the same settlement and ruled that Mr. Boyle decided incorrectly on a setback issue involving new construction at 217 Forest. The house subsequently was built further from the street than the original zoning decision required — and as the neighbors wanted.
But the case that sparked this week’s resignations also adds an unusual level of complexity in that it involves a home being built by the city manager, who has power over the employment of the people making the decisions that directly affect him.
Nobody is asserting there’s any corruption involved, but those concerned about conflicts of interest in government could be alarmed. It’s not clear what else Mr. Shields could do; there may not be a provision in the city code for such an unusual situation.
One possibility might be to have Mr. Shields, or any city employee in a similar situation, be required to go directly to the all-volunteer BZA, rather than city staff, when seeking a variance from the zoning code.
Asked to comment on the case since he’s both the city manager and it’s his house, Mr. Shields declined, citing Virginia law on personnel matters.
“We regret the resignations of BZA members John Murphy and Kent Taylor and we thank them for their years of service,” spokeswoman Susan Finarelli said via email. “City Board and Commission members are considered to be personnel under Virginia law, and it is City policy to not comment on personnel matters.”
Mr. Boyle did not respond to a request for comment via email.
Creative Cauldron has added one more show to the run of Madeline and The Gypsies. The final performance of this very popular production will be at 5:00 pm Sunday, March 25 at ArtSpace Falls Church, 410 S. Maple Avenue. Adapted for the stage from the book by Ludwig Bemelmans, the musical features participants in Creative Cauldron’s Learning Theater Workshop. Order tickets in advance online at www.creativecauldron.org Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students.
By FALLS CHURCH POLICE DEPARTMENT
March 20, 2012
NOTE: This report is not a definitive list of all criminal activity and is subject to change upon investigation.
Panhandling, 1000 block E. Broad St. On Mar. 13 A 56 year old man of no fixed address was arrested for Panhandling.
Public Drunkenness and Drinking In Public, 100 block S. Washington St. On Mar. 14 a 44 year old man of no fixed address was arrested for Public Drunkenness and Drinking In Public.
Driving Under the Influence and Refusal to Submit to Blood or Breath Test, 500 block Roosevelt Blvd. On Mar. 14 an officer conducted a traffic stop for a motor vehicle violation. The driver, a 44 year old Olney, MD man, was arrested for Driving Under the Influence and Refusal to Submit to Blood or Breath Test.
Driving Under the Influence and Refusal to Submit to Blood or Breath Test, 6600 block Wilson Blvd. On Mar. 15, an officer conducted a traffic stop for a motor vehicle violation. The driver, a 38 year old Centreville man, was arrested for Driving Under the Influence and Refusal to Submit to Blood or Breath Test.
Larceny from Building, 803 W. Broad St. #740. On Mar. 15, unknown suspect(s) stole an unsecured wallet between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Underage Possession of Alcohol, 100 block E. Columbia St. On Mar. 15 a 20 year old man of the City of Falls Church was arrested for Underage Possession of Alcohol.
Driving Under the Influence and Refusal to Submit to Blood or Breath Test, 6700 block Wilson Blvd. On Mar. 16, an officer conducted a traffic stop for a motor vehicle violation. The driver, a 36 year old Annandale resident, was arrested for Driving Under the Influence and Refusal to Submit to Blood or Breath Test.
Larceny from Building, 929 W. Broad St. (Second Chance Thrift Store). Unknown suspect (s) stole cash and credit card receipts from a safe sometime between March 12 and 15.
Urinating In Public, 6763 Wilson Blvd. #R3 (V3 Club). On Mar. 17, a 26 year old Falls Church man was arrested for Urinating In Public.
Public Drunkenness, 306 Hillwood Ave. (Lesly’s Restaurant). On Mar. 17 two Hyattsville, MD men, ages 35 and 39, were arrested for Public Drunkenness.
Narcotics Violation, 6795 Wilson Blvd. (Eden Center). On Mar. 18 a 32 year old Springfield man was arrested for Possession of Cocaine.
Narcotics Violation, 200 block S. Washington St. On Mar. 18, an 18 year old Gainesville, FL man was arrested for Possession of Marijuana.
Narcotics Violation, 300 block Riley St. On Mar. 19 an 18 year old Arlington man was arrested for Possession of Marijuana.
Assault and Battery, 6763 Wilson Blvd. #R3 (V3 Club). On Mar. 19, a 25 year old Falls Church man was arrested for Assault and Battery.
At Creative Cauldron at ArtSpace at 7:30 pm on April 20, talented local high school bands will perform Indie, Blues, Rock, Alternative, Acoustic, and Jazz. Creative Cauldron is located at 410 S. Maple Avenue. Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for student/seniors and can be purchased in advance at www.creativecauldron.org
Bands performing are: Security Report (Classic Rock Covers), Lu and the Blues Crew, Elephant Pistol (Indie/Alternative), Simple Sounds (Acoustic Covers), JKL, (Piano/Vocals) and the George Mason High School Jazz Combo.
Nancy Jordan will speak on the topic “Civil War – Life on the Homefront.”
No charge. 10 a.m. – noon, Falls Church Community Center, 221 Little Falls Street. 703-248-5020. The Forum meets every other Friday, same time, same place.
March 19, 2012
To the Editors of the Falls Church Times,
I am running for re-election to the Falls Church City Council. It took time to make the decision to run again considering all the difficult decisions the council had to make during the economic downturn. My friends and family helped me to see that those difficult decisions are starting to pay-off and the City of Falls Church still needs energized voices to completely return to its strong fiscal state. I believe I am capable of providing a balanced approach to helping the city completely recover; moreover, I recognize the council cannot complete this task without the assistance of our citizens.
Growing up in rural southern Virginia my parents instilled the value of hard work and giving back to your community. They also gave me the value of spending for necessities and saving up for big ticket items. With that being said, I have brought those small town values with me to our “Little City”. We have experienced one of the most challenging recessions in years; one that made us make some tough choices to be able to get to this point today. Our “Little City” is in the beginning stages of observing a recovery and we are seeing increased interest from developers. With the current work being done on area plans, we will be in a stronger position to share what we want in future development in the City of Falls Church. I am looking forward to engaging our citizens in conversations about what we want the City of Falls Church to look like in the next decade.
We have heard about “The Falls Church way” is to get buy in from citizens because we know a plan without citizens input will be dead on arrival. At this time a taskforce has been established by the city council to begin the tough work on developing an affordable housing policy that will set realistic goals when it comes to taking cash versus units within mixed use developments. The group has all the stakeholders at the table: developers, city board and commission members, community groups and citizens talking about all the different aspects of what a good policy will need to be effective. As the council liaison to the taskforce, I will make sure when a decision is rendered to take cash in these developments there will be a plan in place. One that will either maintain existing affordable housing or work to expand regionally affordable housing near the city limits.
Fortunately our schools are one of the best in the state. For the past two years I’ve visited George Mason High School to help provide information to seniors and parents on what will be the first of many challenges that a student will face and that’s choosing the right college to attend. I believe strongly in the value of education; however, I will continue to advocate for a revenue sharing agreement between the schools and the city. This plan can strike a balance that will fully fund our schools while taking into account the services we provide to city residents. After witnessing the flooding experienced by residents during several storms this fall, it is very important that we continue to fund and expand our storm water management plan in the city. We have an updated Watershed Management Plan which outlines the needs of our city. One of my goals is to make sure we have the appropriate resources to alleviate flooding in our city.
As we continue litigation over our water system, I will work hard to ensure that the system continues to provide safe and quality water to all of our customers. I will, when it is appropriate, communicate to our counterparts in Fairfax to discuss and work on positive solutions. Yet, when it’s time to protect the interest of the City of Falls Church I will be the first to protect our rights. I recognize that we have experienced some challenging times in Falls Church and that some decisions made were not popular. But in making those decisions I carefully considered input from citizens and city staff, and weighed those insights with what I thought best supported our city. I have tried to make those decisions that would allow the city to maintain, survive, and eventually thrive.
Over the next several weeks I will work diligently for your support in allowing me the opportunity to continue the job that has started to make our “Little City” a star here in Northern Virginia. I welcome your input during and beyond the campaign.
Lawrence Webb is a member of the Falls Church City Council.