City Council Extends CDC Lease for Two Years,
Continues Review of Stormwater Problems

Falls Church Times Staff

October 24, 2011

The Falls Church City Council this evening approved a resolution authorizing a two year extension of the lease for the Child Development Center (CDC).  The new term will extend until November 30, 2013 at a rate of $3,000 per month.

The Council’s debate followed a 40 minute closed session, during which members thrashed out unresolved issues concerning the lease.  Draft documents issued to the media prior to the meeting had indicated that the rent would be much higher.

The City-owned facility has been leased to Easter Seals for $1.00 per year since 1961.  The current 25 year term ends on November 11.  At several prior Council meetings many parents of children attending the CDC had implored officials to extend the lease, since there are few other options for day care in the area.

After brief discussion, the resolution passed, 4-1, with Councilmen Gardner and Peppe absent.  Councilman Ira Kaylin cast the sole negative vote.

Kaylin, who spent many years of his federal career in risk management, said that the relationship between Easter Seals of the Greater Washington-Baltimore region and the CDC is not transparent.  “I have never agreed to a financial proposal until I have understood it,” said Kaylin.  “This is going to be voted on, and no doubt approved, prior to us having a clear understanding of where and how the money flows and I find that extremely difficult to go along with.”

CDC parents expressed their appreciation when it became clear that the Council was leaning toward extending the lease.  “It seems like the City has been taking a lot of lumps lately,” said Stuart Rubin.  “I feel a vote in favor [of the extension] is a win for the City, the Council, and CDC.”

Mayor Nader Baroukh said the process had been arduous and that the terms of the lease are not necessarily ideal, but that both sides had worked very hard to find a middle ground.  “There are a variety of things that we have to balance,” said the mayor.  “I want to be clear the schools have an interest in the property.  I hope we will have a resolution during our budget and CIP process.”

City Manager Wyatt Shields confirmed that the school system has formally expressed their continued interest in the CDC, as recently as last weekend.

Response to Stormwater Town Hall Meeting

Shields encouraged all residents to view the entire video of the October 17 town hall, which is available on the City website.

The city manager described the problem as having two tracks.  One is the issue of the stormwater backflow into the sanitary sewer, which should not be happening.  He said that the City needs to identify where this occurs and take measures to prevent it.

Shields termed the other issue as “classic stormwater management”; i.e., systemic problems not involving the sewers,.  He said that the good news is that the City is well advanced on its watershed management plan, which should be ready by December.  However, a major unresolved policy question is the impact of federal mandates regarding Chesapeake Bay, which he termed a huge state and region-wide issue.

As more data is necessary a survey is being developed for residents to report problems they encountered during the September 8 flood.

Shields and the Council agreed that solutions to Falls Church’s stormwater problems will be expensive.  He said that a higher property tax or a dedicated funding stream through a stormwater utility would be required.  The councilmen leaned toward the second alternative.

The only funds immediately available for stormwater improvements are through a $1.7 million federal grant for improvements on the Pearson and Coe branches of Tripps Run.  Shields said such work should help some of the residents on Sherrow Avenue.

Other Business

The city manager advised that leaf collection is now underway.  Crews currently are working north of Broad St. and will shift to the south side next week.  There are three pickups for each side of town.  The full schedule is available on the City’s website.  He asked that residents keep brush away from the leaf piles.

Shields endorsed the City’s mentoring program, noting that adults can work with youth who could use additional support.   Those interested should contac Jessica Reyes at 703-219-2106.

At the city manager’s request the Council voted unanimously to defer action on a resolution to adopt the Northern Virginia Regional Water Supply Plan, the primary purpose of which is to ensure adequate and safe drinking water.  Shields suggested the Council wait until November 28 to allow time to review the final draft of the plan.  Vice Mayor Dave Snyder asked that the staff determine how many hours were devoted to responding to what he termed ” a classic no compensation mandate that makes absolutely no sense, considering the condition of the region.”

Consent Items

The Council passed a motion authorizing the city manager to award a contract to National Asphalt Manufacturing Corporation for the purchase of liquid asphalt hot mix as required for road repairs and maintenance.  The total FY 2012 expenditures will not exceed $200,000.

The Council approved the following appointments:

Andrew Curtin to the Falls Church Cable Access Advisory Board to a term ending October 31, 2014.
Lori LaFave to an unexpired term on the Recreation and Parks Advisory Board ending August 31, 2014.
Addison Heard to an unexpired term on the  Citizens’ Advisory Committee on Transportation ending Jaunary 31, 2012.

The following persons were reappointed to their respective positions:

Jerome Barrett to the City Employee Review Board to a term ending October 31, 2014.
Justin Berg to the Economic Development Authority to a term ending November 30, 2014.

October 24, 2011 


18 Responses to “City Council Extends CDC Lease for Two Years,
Continues Review of Stormwater Problems”

  1. sam mabry on October 26th, 2011 11:18 am

    With its action on renewing the Easter Seals facility on North Cherry Street, the majority of this Falls Church City Council—as well as previous Councils—have demonstrated once again that the special interest of the few trumps the common needs of the entire community.
    What has been played out with the Easter Seal Center lease negotiations is reminiscent of the multiple times different Councils over the years have caved. They have done so by either satiating their own special interests or those of groups who are perceived to have a “big” voice in the community and can wield political influence either beneficially or detrimentally to the incumbents or would-be candidates. Remember the push by the Robin Gardner Council to approve a phony loan to the Falls Church Housing Corporation; the self-serving Chamber of Commerce and the Falls Church News Press using their influence to achieve Council approval for customer laden condominiums, which were, with their support later converted to lower value apartments when the saturated condominium market collapsed? Then there was the office building slated for the spot where the Spectrum is now located. The Council let the developer off the hook from building the project and adding insult to fiscal injury, even let him cancel the $2.8 million bond in favor of the city if the office project didn’t go forward.
    In this current action, ignoring the advice of its own study group, the Council surrendered between $100,000 to $150,000 to Easter Seals over the two year period of the lease. That amount will be relevant when the public interest of the entire community is on the table during budget considerations next year and the schools, parks, police and delayed maintenance have to scratch and search for their budget needs.
    In short, we are endowed with a get along, go along, get re-elected Council paradigm and those of you who have recently come to our community, please take time to understand the limits of our city’s fiscal situation—especially if you have small children soon slated for school. Unfortunately, city government is boring to most citizens and that’s why only 25 percent vote in our local elections while the Presidential contests garner more that 85-90 percent turns out.
    We need members of Council who use their fingers to point in a direction that is preferential for the entire city rather than wetting their digits, putting them in the air to see which way the political wind is blowing. In this case, pursuing a facilities use lease agreement, the Easter Seals organization acted like a business in behalf of its constituency, which is appropriate, and the City Council acted like a charity in behalf of a narrow political constituency, which is inappropriate. In doing so, the Council majority committed itself to an egregious lapse in administering the public trust and confused good politics with good governance—particularly senior members of Council who have never tired of obfuscation to suit their political objectives.
    P.S. For those of you who might think I am taking and adversarial position again the Easter Seal organization, nothing could be further from the truth. We owe the Easter Seals so much. Our son was born with a significant speech impediment, abetted by numerous ear infections as an infant, and it was with the assistance of Easter Seals therapists over several years that he began to thrive and he is now a practicing dentist in Arlington.

  2. TFC on October 26th, 2011 11:47 am

    I think part of the decision involved the time frame for available funds to make the facility comply with the VDE standards for school use. IMHO, better to lease it to Easter Seals for the interim…they will have lead time for placement of current clients and time to relocate. As I recall, there would have been few uses for the building without renovations and I would suspect a short term lease of only two years might have limited the folks that might be interested in occupancy.

  3. Gordon Theisz, City of Falls Church on October 26th, 2011 12:25 pm

    Sam, I respectfully disagree with you. The City did not “surrender” cash to Easter Seals. The City actually is now making money on a site that was not producing any, and the City is making more than it could had it let the lease lapse, since there are no other viable options for the site. If the City had continued to demand $120K plus burdened Easter Seals with building maintenance and repairs, Easter Seals would have closed shop and then the City would have an empty building which could fall in to disrepair.

    Furthermore, 90+ families continue to have a day care option and 15+ employees (many who are City residents) still have a job! I think they made pretty good lemonade here and it is unfair of you to try to tie this issue with “special interests” involved in past Council actions.

    I for one would like to hear more about Mr. Kaylin’s concerns about the “money flow.” His objections could be proven valid and if so, would again suggest that the City was forced into a bad negotiating position by waiting until the last minute to settle this issue (the subject of my FCNP letter to the editor last week).

  4. Andrew Smythe on October 26th, 2011 3:06 pm

    Gordon – On behalf of myself [I have a four-year old presently attending the CDC] and all of our families, we would like to offer our sincere thanks for all your support for Easter Seals on Cherry Street throughout the years. Bottom line – it would have been impossible for 90 working families to find day care on such short notice. Most day care waiting lists are 9+ months long.

    Also, 15+ employees would have been left scrambling for new jobs. We are all very greatful for your support, and for thos who supported the two year lease extension.

  5. A Guy on October 26th, 2011 4:46 pm

    Let’s also thank the generous citizens of the City of Falls Church for providing a valuable facility for a very reasonable price.

  6. TFC on October 26th, 2011 6:35 pm

    Andrew, I wish the lease could have been a long term renewal of some kind. I support the CDC mission, my mother was a volunteer with Ruth Proctor when it was opened. I think once the schools put dibbies on the building….CDC was going to have to leave. At least this provides a time line for an orderly closure.

  7. TheBoss on October 27th, 2011 8:17 am

    Sam – why don’t you run? Seriously – why not? One of the big advantages of a council type of government is you CAN have people representing all viewpoints. While I don’t really agree with much of your opinions, it’d be good to have your views out there instead of in the comments area here.

  8. Responsible Citizen Falls Church on October 27th, 2011 9:59 am

    In terms of addressing the sotromwater issue, the council should strongly consider a Special assessments or special tax districts in the areas affected to address the issue. This is the most logical and fair approach since many of the homes affected are in or adjacent to flood zone areas and should have been aware of the risks when moving in to their home. Socializing the costs should not be an option

  9. Suzanne Updike on October 27th, 2011 11:48 am

    responsible citizen — you should look at it a different way — storm water utility fees, if enacted, would be fees to maintain and repair the system. If your property has stormwater draining off of it, then you are “using” the system.

  10. sam mabry on October 27th, 2011 12:06 pm

    To TheBoss: Thanks for the encouragement….been there and done that twice-chalking up eight years on the Council. I am, however, not given to “Shermanesque” statements.

  11. Barry Buschow on October 28th, 2011 9:36 am

    So Sam you agree that Easter Seals is a good thing. The Child Development Center at one time was independent, started because there was a need in the community and the Proctors on Cherry Street lobbied the city to use an undeveloped parcel of land across his street. People in the community, right where you live now, joined the effort. The Lions Club helped provide the resources and with the help of member Don Frady, also the city public works director at the time, raised the building that provided the resources the community wanted. I was on the Board of the CDC in the early 90’s and it was a struggle to make payroll. Easter Seals came in with a business plan that has kept the facility going while providing a need for our community and city staff as they commute to work knowing their children are well taken care of. Not everything is measured in dollars. Sometimes our community actually gets something whose value doesn’t go to the bottom line but to the well being of the citizen…..

  12. Stephen Siegel on October 28th, 2011 9:39 am

    Responsible Citizen and Ms. Updike are each opening cans of worms here. While I sympathize with RC about socializing costs and being aware of where you live, if your house isn’t in a floodplain, it becomes hard to decide who should pay.

    Is being one-eighth of a mile from a FEMA floodplain the line between people who should be responsible for their choice and those who shouldn’t be? Who decides where the line goes?

    On the other hand, Ms. Updike says we all “use” the system. But that’s a dangerous road, too, since everybody’s property drains a different amount of stormwater. And property taxes are not based on the costs our property imposes, but its value. Does the community want to make property taxes based on the amount of water we use in the yard or the amount of runoff?

    If our roof runoff goes into a French drain, do we get a discount or an exemption? What about if we have permeable material driveways?

  13. Suzanne Updike on October 28th, 2011 11:15 am

    Towns that use the “stormwater utility” model to collect dedicated revenue to maintain the stormwater system usually collect a flat fee from single family homes and use some kind of formula for multi-family and commercial sites. Theoretically, it makes sense to give credits for using best management practices, but it becomes a question of administrative complexity.

  14. sam mabry on October 28th, 2011 1:47 pm

    Hi Barry. The Easter Seals/CDC is an asset to the community and my neighborhood. I have always supported its efforts on and off the Council. The point is that the bottom line—given this city’s abject failure to diversify and bolster revenues—is important to the broader interests of the community. The Easter Seals lease is not an isolated incidence of Councils past and present failing to develop best possible economic/financial outcomes—either by measuring the bottom or top lines as I pointed out in my original comment. Acordingly, the inability of the Council in this case to negotiate a timely and more beneficial “bottom line” CDC lease—especially with the input it had from commercial sources as to the value of the property—is a symptom of that much larger problem that has been endemic in our community for decades. Again, my focus is on the efficient and economical delivery of educational and core public services in the next several years. Present practices do not bode well in that regard. Best to you Barry

  15. TFC on October 28th, 2011 3:41 pm

    I see effective or improved storm water management as a community wide issue. I think the recent Town Hall meeting showed that many homeowners and businesses have long standing water problems……and many are *not* in a designated flood plain. The way I see it…everyone is downstream from somewhere. I am downstream from the greater Broadmont area…..Jefferson St and Gresham are downstream from me and….Arlington is downstream from them…on and on.
    While we have not yet heard specific ideas from the City, I would be inclined to think a storm water utility tax on all properties appeals to my sense of fairness dealing with a problem that effects our whole community. If it’s something like Fairfax rate of 1.5 cents per $100…that might be OK. Of course, this is easy for me to say right now without knowing what other RE tax pressures will rear their ugly heads this budget cycle.
    I liked Mr. Hick’s idea of the three tiered system of ranking problems. I do know that you can’t please everyone with any ranking system (just ask Boise State) but…maybe it will be s start of a discussion.

  16. Gordon Theisz, City of Falls Church on October 28th, 2011 5:37 pm

    The property which the Easter Seals is zoned residential and is part of Frady Park. As I understand things, it would take Council action to rezone it for commercial use (and they would likely have a neighborhood revolt on their hands). So the City is stuck with the current, grandfathered use by Easter Seals, other park use, or the choice of selling the land for new home development. In this case, any revenue the City receives is better than the other options.

    Regarding runoff issues, the Chesapeake Bay ordinance requires water to remain on properties. French drains and drainage fields do fill in with silt over time, and we all know that rain water will run off our properties. In my mind, the relentless over development of our residential properties leads to increased runoff and flooding. Instead of taking down all of the trees, we should be preserving as many mature ones as possible (mature trees take up enormous amounts of water each day – which is why removal of trees results in more runoff. We should follow our existing ZONING CODE to make sure that houses are not too close to the property line, do not exceed square foot coverage, do not have excess impermeable coverage, and especially, do not allow substandard lots to be uncombined by skirting the intent of the zoning code.

  17. Andy Rankin (Falls Church) on October 28th, 2011 9:37 pm

    Could another organization lease the CDC property and provide a similar service without the City having to rezone things? It seems like the service provided by the CDC is in high demand and low supply, which suggests it’s valuable. I’d be curious to hear if other organizations think they could be successful doing business in that location while paying a rate higher than we’re getting from Easter Seals.

    I’d be in favor of an arrangement that provided a lower rate based on the number of city residents, city employees, and special needs kids served at the center. I don’t really support subsidizing childcare for non-taxpayers.

    This all seems moot if the current plan is for the schools to take over in a couple of years – but if that doesn’t pan out I hope City Council will do more to determine what the going rate for the property really is.

  18. Gordon Theisz, City of Falls Church on October 28th, 2011 10:21 pm

    Andy, as I understand it, the grandfathering only applies to the current business as the parking is not adequate enough for a new business to get a license to use the space. The schools will have a similar problem if they take over the building.

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