Quilt Exhibit at July FIRSTfriday

June 30, 2011 by Falls Church Times Staff · 1 Comment 

By Falls Church Times Staff

The July 1st FIRSTfriday of Falls Church features musical performances and art exhibits at various locations – both indoors and outdoors — around The Little City.

This month, Art and Frame of Falls Church, 111 Park Avenue, will exhibit the work of artist and quilter Shanna Obelenus in her show titled, “Maka” (the Sioux name for Earth.)  Her work evokes themes of nature through the manipulation of patterns, colors, and textures in the fabric.  Shanna studied fine arts in college and double-majored in Art and Geology, and minored in Art Education. She has been quilting since 1994 and currently quilts under the business name “Vantage Point Quilting.”  As a professional quilter, Shanna enjoys designing a quilt that is customized for the end recipient, and she has created quilts both for charitable events and for private sale.  A reception will be held at the Park Avenue Gallery at Art and Frame of Falls Church this Friday from 6 to 8 pm.  Shanna will give an artist talk about her work at 7:15 pm.

For more detailed information about other FIRSTfriday of Falls Church events and locations for July 1, go to www.firstfridayoffallschurch.com

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Council Votes Preliminary Approval of Water Rate Increase; CDC Parents Plead for Lease Extension

June 28, 2011 by George Bromley · 10 Comments 

Falls Church Times Staff

June 28, 2011

The Falls Church City Council unanimously approved the first reading of a controversial 8% water rate increase Monday evening.  Prior to the vote, several Fairfax County residents spoke in opposition, insisting that the increase was unjustified, due in part to earlier court rulings against the City.    

Dennis Hennigan, an attorney, said he did not see how a system that had been so profitable  now needed a rate increase. “Something does not add up here,” he said.  “Falls Church should be reducing its rates and returning its overcharges to customers.”  He added that he found it somewhat disturbing that the City showed so little deference to the findings of Virginia courts. 

Hennigan cited Judge R. Terrence Ney’s Jaunuary 2010 finding that Falls Church could not transfer profits from its water system to its general fund.  As only 8% of its customers reside in the City, most of the system’s revenue is collected from Fairfax residents, who derived no benefit from transfers to the general fund.  The judge ruled Falls Church’s practice an unconstitutional tax on non-residents and enjoined it from making further transfers. 

McLean Citizens Association president Ron Jackson criticized the water rate study the City used to justify the increase.  “We’re paying twice,” he said, claiming that the system’s reserves were already built up due to past overcharges to Fairfax customers.

Elaine Cerriano called on the City to give people more time to review the study and raise.  She asked for at least 45 more days and suggested the information be made available in county libraries. 

Larry Sexton of the Falls Hill Civic Association concluded his questions for the Council by asking “Do you think if you didn’t have a monopoly we’d still be your customers?”  Another speaker was even harsher, calling the Council arrogant and its actions unconscionable.

In response to the customers’ comments, Vice Mayor Dave Snyder stated that the City’s intention is to insure that the water rates are set so that the system will provide safe and reliable water to our customers, whether in Falls Church City or Fairfax County. 

“I will not be swayed by political arguments or arguments directed to keep our rates artificially low that the system suffers,” he said.  “Nor will I delay needed rate actions, even though politically popular, if those rate actions are essential to providing the quality of the water we provide all of our customers.”

Snyder said that the City was in full compliance with Judge Ney’s ruling and that the proposed rate increase is consistent with that ruling and not based on any such profit transfer.   He added that traditionally, such organizations that are running a risk have a right to a fair rate of return, and that he respectfully did not agree with the court’s decision. 

The vice mayor noted that the rate study had been posted on Falls Church’s website on June 1 and that copies have been provided to Fairfax officials and anyone who’d asked for it, but he agreed to furnish copies to libraries within the system’s service area.    

Snyder said the bulk of the rate increase is to fund reserves and that the monies received would remain in the water fund.  He also lauded the system’s water quality and its past performance during inclement weather, when it maintained its high standards while other systems could not.

Second reading of the ordinance is scheduled for July 11.  If approved, the rate increase, the first in six years, would take effect on August 1.

Child Development Center Parents Seek Extension  –  Over a dozen parents of children attending the CDC asked the Council to consider extending the Easter Seal’s lease on the property, which is scheduled to expire in November.  Speakers had high praise for the quality of care provided at the Center and the dedication of its staff.  Many were concerned that they would not be able to find an alternative if the CDC were to close on short notice.

A task force has been formed to address the issue.  Deputy City Manager Cindy Mester informed the council that it had met Monday afternoon and was scheduled to meet again on Thursday.  Staff will set up a website page on the topic that would appear on both the City and Schools sites.  Mester said the task force will ask the Council to extend its deadline to July 30.      

For nearly 50 years the facility has been leased to Easter Seals, who would prefer an extension until at least the summer of 2013.  Easter Seals would be willing to pay $50,000 annually for the space, currently leased at $1 per year. 

City Schools have asked to assume control of the property in July 2012 in order to house the preschool education programs currently located at Mt. Daniel.  This would also free space to permit the relocation of  the Falls Church Community Center preschool program

Economic Incentives Adopted  –  The Council also unanimously approved, 6-0, with Ms. Gardner absent, a resolution establishing a policy which will give the City the opportunity to provide new incentives for commercial redevelopment. The stated goal is to encourage new and sustainable economic development and private investment in targeted areas of the City and to create a better balance between the City’s residential and commercial tax base components.

This will be achieved primarily through land use planning and zoning that provides height and density bonuses for desired outcomes in designed areas. In some cases the City will encourage and accelerate new commercial redevelopment by considering public participation, including tax increment financing and partial and temporary abatement of business taxes.

City Attorney John Foster advised that the resolution essentially serves as a guide to the Council going forward and that it does not extend any rights to developers.

Appointments  –  The Council appointed the following citizens to unexpired terms on various City commissions, committees, and boards:

Robert Loftur-Thun to the Planning Commission:  (01/01/09) – 12/31/12
Julio Idrobo to the Housing Commission:  (01/01/09) – 12/31/11
Paul Baldino to the Citizens Advisory Committee on Transportation:  (02/01/09) – 1/31/12
Steve Selby to the Recreation and Parks Advisory Board:  (09/01/09) – 08/31/12
Ed Henderson to the Historical Commission:  (9/01/09) – 8/31/12

These officials were reappointed to their positions:  

Jeff Peterson to the Library Board of Trustees:  07/01/11 – 06/30/15
Jonathan Fritsch to the Architectural Advisory Board:  06/01/11 – 05/31/14
Mark Gross to the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board:  07/01/11 – 06/30/14

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Falls Church City Council Adopts Financial Incentives for Economic Development

June 28, 2011 by (see byline) · Leave a Comment 


June 28, 2011

The Falls Church City Council has adopted a new policy which will give the City the opportunity to provide new incentives for commercial redevelopment.  “It is the City’s goal to encourage new and sustainable commercial development, accelerate redevelopment, and attract private investment in targeted areas of the City,” said Mayor Nader Baroukh.  “Our current land use planning and supportive zoning are the City’s primary tools for incentivizing development and creating a stronger commercial tax base.  However, in exceptional cases the City will now consider providing additional incentives, including tax increment financing and partial, temporary abatement of business taxes,” he said.

The resolution adopted by the City Council noted that as the Washington, D.C. region begins to recover from the recession, it is critical for the City to best position itself for the next round of business investment and commercial development.  Staff has examined policies of other jurisdictions in the region for best practices and has followed closely proposed new legislation that can be utilized by the City to create an advantage in the fierce competition for the highest quality commercial projects and business location commitments.

The proposed policy contains threshold requirements for City participation in selected projects.  There must be a demonstrated consistency with official City land use visioning and zoning.  Projects must demonstrate exceptionally strong and sustainable net new positive commercial revenue potential for the City.  Projects will be measured by their return on City investment compared to the best performing projects of a similar nature and land use in the City and the Washington, D.C. region.

Vice Mayor David Snyder said, “This is a component of our overall strategy to keep and attract new business to our inside-the-Beltway location, which is well-served by public transit and highways and has a  strong community spirit, a high quality of life and a history going back 300 years. Other aspects of our commercial strategy include tangible improvements such as new parking signs, streamlined review processes and the use of transportation enhancements to support economic development.” 

Specific financial incentives and options for City participation are identified in the policy, which is available on the City website.  For more information, contact the City’s Economic Development Office, 703-248-5491 or [email protected].

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Crime Report for June 21 – 27

June 28, 2011 by (see byline) · 4 Comments 


June 28, 2011

Sex Offense, 1305 Ellison St., June 22, 5:24 p.m.  Michael A. Gardner was arrested on two counts of Sexual Assault and one count of Object Sexual Penetration of minors. 

Assault – Simple, 220 N Washington St., (State Theater), June 22, 10:24 p.m.  An officer on a walking beat observed an altercation.  A two Falls Church men, ages 26 and 27, were arrested for Assault and Battery. 

Driving Under the Influence, 6700 block Wilson Blvd., June 23, 1:53 a.m.  A 45 year old Falls Church man was arrested for Driving Under the Influence and for Refusal.

Possession of Marijuana, 1200 block W. Broad St., June 23, 8:30 p.m.  Following a traffic stop, a 17 year-old male was charged with Possession of Marijuana and released to the custody of his mother. 

Urinating in Public, 132 W. Broad St., (Dogwood Tavern), June 24, 1:25 a.m.  A 39 year old Reston man was arrested for Urinating in Public.

Drunk in Public, 400 block S. Washington St., June 25, 12:25 a.m.  A 23 year old man holding aUnited Kingdom passport, was arrested for being Drunk in Public.

Drunk in Public, 400 block Hampton Ct., June 25, 2:12 a.m.  A 48 year old City of Falls Church woman was arrested for being Drunk in Public.

Larceny from Building, 300 block Buxton Ct., sometime between 8:00 and 10:00 p.m. on June 24, an Apple iPad, Blackberry cell phone, and North Face backpack were taken from a residence. 

Driving Under the Influence, 6763-R3 Wilson Blvd., (V-3 Club), June 26, 2:20 a.m.  A 21 year old Springfield man was arrested for Driving Under the Influence.   

Drunk in Public, 6763 Wilson Blvd., June 26, 2:42 a.m.  A 22 year old Burke man was arrested for being Drunk in Public. 

Larceny from Vehicle,  400 block Jackson St., between June 25, 6:00 p.m. and June 27, 5:54 p.m.  Unknown suspect took an ASAP ignition interlock device from an unlocked vehicle. 

Driving Under the Influence, 6700 block Wilson Blvd, June 27, 11:14 p.m.  A 29 year old Springfield man was arrested for Driving Under the Influence.

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The Capitol Steps Holding a Cabaret & Comedy Workshop at ArtSpace

By Falls Church Times Staff

Creative Cauldron, an innovative educational arts organization, and The Mike Thornton Agency are partnering to present two summer cabaret and comedy workshops for teens ages 16-19.  The workshops will be held July 11-15 and July 18-22 and will be taught by members of the nationally known musical political satire group “The Capitol Steps.”

Members of The Capitol Steps are partnering with Creative Cauldron to offer a comedy workshop for teens at ArtSpace Falls Church. (Photo credit: Bill Hurd and Keith Stanley)

The Monday through Friday program includes five evenings (6:30 pm to 10:00 pm) of classes in acting, musical comedy, and improvisation culminating in a Friday evening performance with the teens performing alongside the professionals from The Capitol Steps. All programs will be held at Creative Cauldron’s permanent home at ArtSpace Falls Church, 410 South Maple Avenue in the Pearson Square building.

Workshop Director Mike Thornton has been an active member of The Capitol Steps for over ten years and has worked professionally as an actor, director, writer and musician for more than thirty years. Joining him are fellow “Steps” Mike Carruthers, Kevin Corbett, Morgan Duncan, David Kane, and Emily Bell Spitz, as well as veteran educator and former Mclean High School Drama Department Chair Denise Perrino.

“This workshop will give students a chance to fine  tune their acting, vocal and comedy skills and give them the opportunity to perform with some veteran musical theater and comedic actors”, said Thornton.  “Every young actor will get individual attention, and come away with a clear understanding of how to present themselves in a professional format.”

The fee for the workshops is $375 per week. For complete information and registration materials go to http://creativecauldron.org/page_144.html or call 571-239-5288 or email: [email protected]

Creative Cauldron is a not-for-profit arts organization providing opportunities for learning  and participation in the performing and visual arts for children and adults.  It has been operating in Northern Virginia since 2002. In June of 2009, Creative Cauldron opened the doors of its new home at ArtSpace Falls Church, a 3,000 square foot flexible arts facility located in the City of Falls Church. Creative Cauldron offers programs all year round at the site, including performances of theater, music and dance that have multi-generational appeal. For information on Creative Cauldron programs, see www.creativecauldron.org

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LETTER: City of Falls Church Fireworks on as Usual

June 26, 2011 by (see byline) · Leave a Comment 


June 26, 2011

A variety of special events organized year-round by the Recreation and Parks Department are one feature that makes the City of Falls Church such a popular place to live and visit. All City departments, including Recreation and Parks, have had to make cuts in programs and staffing levels due to the economic challenges of the past two years. Recreation and Parks has responded to cuts in its budget by reducing some programs and by asking for donations and sponsors for special events and activities. To date, more than $4,000 has been donated to help defray some of the costs of special events. Additional donations are welcome and needed. Read more

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Falls Church City Arrest Shocks City, Garners Intense Media Coverage

June 24, 2011 by Falls Church Times Staff · 15 Comments 


June 24, 2011

Michael A. Gardner’s arrest Wednesday on charges of aggravated sexual battery and object sexual penetration involving three young girls has stunned Falls Church City residents, from neighbors to those who know him through his political organizing and writing.

But the case also has attracted area and national media attention from The Washington Post, MSNBC, several local television stations, and the Associated Press, whose version of the story was published on the web site of the San Antonio Express-News in San Antonio, Texas, Friday morning.

Court documents say that Mr. Gardner, who is married to former Falls Church City Mayor and current City Councilwoman Robin Gardner, was arrested after two girls, ages 9 and 10, reported the assault to their parents “individually and separately.” The girls had been at Mr. Gardner’s house June 18 for a sleepover birthday party with Mr. Gardner’s daughter, according to a request for a search warrant filed by Falls Church Police.

A third girl under the age of 13 also alleged an assault in Mr. Gardner’s home two days prior to the sleepover on June 16.

In an interview with the Falls Church Times, Mr. Gardner’s attorney, Brian O’Connor, says Mr. Gardner is pleading not guilty to all charges.

“We deny the charges. This man would never harm a child,” Mr. O’Connor said. “That’s the way we see it. It’s all very preliminary at this stage as far as what the facts are.

“We take the charges seriously. But we don’t believe he did anything improper.”

Authorities disagree, and set bail at $50,000, which Mr. Gardner posted Thursday. As conditions of his release, he was not allowed to reside in his Ellison Street home between June 23 and July 12, when a preliminary hearing is scheduled in the case, and he is not allowed to have any contact with any minor children, the court documents say.

Mr. Gardner, who is 47 and has no criminal record, is something of a celebrity in Falls Church City. Not only is he a spouse to the former mayor, he also is a political activist on a variety of issues, and is a former head of the Falls Church Democratic Committee. He previously wrote a widely read local political blog, and until his arrest was writing a weekly column for the Falls Church News-Press.

He isn’t shy about expressing an opinion, and has called out a variety of politicians and local activists with whom he has disagreed.

Mr. Gardner initially declined a request for a DNA sample prior to retaining an attorney, but Mr. O’Connor, his attorney, told the Times that once he was representing Mr. Gardner, he called authorities to say they would not object. A saliva swab was taken via mouth Wednesday afternoon, court documents say. Authorities believe the sample will prove the girls’ allegations.

“Your affiant has probable cause to believe that a comparison of the requested saliva sample to DNA retrieved from the (sexual assault) examination and clothing of the victims will establish a connection between the victims and the suspect,” Police Detective Richardson wrote in requesting a search warrant.

However this case develops and whatever facts emerge, there will be fallout, both for the families involved and the community, which already has begun grappling with the case’s implications.

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To Our Readers: Why We Suspended Comments

June 24, 2011 by (see byline) · 4 Comments 


June 24, 2011

Thursday morning the editors of the Falls Church Times reluctantly decided to suspend comments on a breaking story.  Since then we have received emails both praising and panning our decision.  We believe that we owe our readers a brief explanation for our action.

We normally do not monitor comments closely.  Civility usually prevails on our forum and only rarely have we deleted a comment or an exchange of comments.  However, one comment on Thursday morning’s story made a very serious and specific allegation regarding a criminal case.  As we could not quickly confirm the statement, we decided to suspend further comments and delete those already received.  Since then we have learned that the  allegation was consistent with the charges and have posted a follow-up story which we have opened to comments.

Abrupt as it was, we believe that yesterday’s action was necessary and prudent.   Readers previously have made statements which we could not confirm, but those comments did not involve possible defamation or pertain to a story involving serious criminal charges under active investigation. 

The Falls Church Times will continue to report on this story, recognizing that it is a tragedy for all concerned.  We trust that our readers will keep that foremost in mind when commenting.

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