By FALLS CHURCH CITY OFFICE OF COMMUNICATIONS
August 8, 2012
The City of Falls Church announced today that negotiations with Fairfax County and Fairfax Water for the sale of the City’s water utility have been discontinued. The City will continue to operate a world class water system by delivering safe, dependable drinking water at a competitive price.
“The City took a business approach to these negotiations,” said Mayor Nader Baroukh. “The goal was to explore the possibility of a sale agreement that would benefit City taxpayers and all of the customers of the water system. We did not reach such an agreement and we are happy to continue to provide vital public water services to the City and County as we have for over 80 years.”
The Falls Church Water Utility currently provides water service to McLean, Tysons Corner, and Merrifield as well as the City of Falls Church. Falls Church Water has an 80 year track record of excellent water service with rates below average for the region and in the bottom quartile statewide.
The City had three meetings in July with Fairfax County and Fairfax Water to discuss a possible sale of the City’s system. The City was clear throughout the discussions that any sale agreement would based on the value of the City’s utility assets using standard utility valuation methods.
“It was worthwhile discussing the matter with Fairfax Water. However, we could not justify selling the system below what it is objectively worth. Accordingly, there was no basis for an agreement,” said Ira Kaylin, City Councilmember and member of the City’s Public Utility Commission.
In December 2011, Fairfax County adopted an ordinance that would force new development to incur millions in additional costs in order to connect to Fairfax Water, and would have the County attempt to regulate water rates duly enacted by the municipal water systems operating in the County. In June 2012, U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady issued an order to stay any enforcement of the Fairfax County water ordinance for a period of 90 days. The stay was jointly requested by the City, Fairfax Water, and Fairfax County.
The City used the 90 day period to explore possible resolution of issues with Fairfax County. The stay also applied to enforcement of the ordinance with respect to the water utilities owned by the City of Fairfax, Town of Vienna, and Town of Herndon.
With the termination of negotiations, the City will resume its effort to overturn the County ordinance in court at the end of the 90 day period in September.
By STEPHEN SIEGEL
Falls Church Times Staff
August 8, 2012
City officials on Wednesday accepted the legality of the Planning Commission’s Monday night ruling — that the construction of two new houses at 1007 Lincoln Avenue is in violation of water management rules — and ordered a halt to the project.
But the City went even further than that: it also voided the building permit it previously had issued to the developer, Art McArthur, which means he will need to repeat the city’s “standard approval process” before construction can resume. The project already has been started, and two foundations already have been poured.
“If or when a new grading plan is submitted, it will be reviewed for consistency with the Planning Commission determination,” said a statement from City Spokeswoman Susan Finarelli. “A new plan will also need to successfully complete the City’s standard approval process, which includes staff review, notice to adjacent properties, and a public CBIRT meeting prior to approval. The stop work order will stay in force until a new grading plan is approved.”
The purpose of the CBIRT, which is an acronym for Chesapeake Bay Interdisciplinary Review Team, is to evaluate whether a project meets water management rules. The rules exist to minimize the amount of water entering the city’s stormwater system and improve the quality of water that ends up in area streams, rivers, and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay.
In the case of this project, opponents argued that it didn’t meet the CBIRT requirement that a maximum of 35 percent of the land be impermeable, such as a house, driveway, and concrete walkways or decks. The Planning Commission agreed Monday night.
But the issue wasn’t settled with the Commission’s ruling, because there was some doubt if City officials, who were being overruled by the Planning Commission, would enforce the ruling. Neither the Commission chairwoman nor other City officials were willing to comment on it on Tuesday, citing questions about what the City’s next steps would be.