COMMUNITY COMMENT: Commercial Space OK, But Apartments Will Have Perverse Effect

By Carl W. Anderson
April 4, 2013

The following Community Comment reflects oral remarks of Carl W. Anderson before the Falls Church City Council on Wednesday, March 27, 2013 concerning the proposed development of mixed-use commercial and residential properties in the 300 block of West Broad Street.
A modestly-sized Harris Teeter (and some other commercial offices or restaurants) could be a constructive addition to the downtown Falls Church area, but Rushmark’s proposal to build 282 apartments at “301 West Broad Street” will have the perverse effect of keeping the City’s school budget in a continuous state of shortfall for years to come. Building 282 apartments will benefit Rushmark, not current residents of the City of Falls Church.

Moreover, adding 282 apartments in this already crowded area will destroy the quality of life for Winter Hill residents, many of whom have been paying taxes to the City for decades. Current residents of Winter Hill should not be forced to bear nearly all of the adverse effects of development that will primarily benefit new residents and Falls Church residents living in uncongested areas of the city. Winter Hill residents already made a choice to be “environmentally conscious” years ago by buying homes with “small environmental footprints.”

I think it was Council member Ira Kaylin who commented that the apartments and condos in the relatively new mixed-use high-rise developments in Falls Church had contributed “only 30 percent of the new additional student population” in Falls Church public schools.

A 30-percent increase in the population of “new students” is a very significant increase when one considers that the recent mixed-use high-rise developments have all been built since 2005. If the new residences had been occupied by childless couples starting in 2006, their eldest children would be in just the first or second grades as of 2013; so, obviously, many people with children moved into the new high-rises beginning in 2006.

Further, an argument that “only 30 percent of the new additional student population in Falls Church public schools comes from new high-rise development” reflects a lack of thought about how families grow. Almost every family I ever knew began with a couple renting an apartment. (I know that many well-to-do young couples have been able to buy a house with inherited or family money, but most young couples still start out in an apartment.) By the time the first child arrives, the couple is planning either to move to a larger apartment or to buy a house, depending upon their career paths. Few successful couples stay in the same apartment for more than a very few years. Furthermore, there are heavy economic incentives for them to move out of an apartment: they can’t build equity by renting an apartment, and owning a home acts as a hedge against inflation. If their careers are going well enough and they still like the area, they may choose to buy a home in Falls Church, in which case they will continue to add to the school population.

As soon as they move out of the apartment, that apartment is available for rent by another couple, also of child-bearing age. And the process of family building repeats itself with the new couple.

Does anyone know a significant number of families that have not developed according to the pattern I have just described?

I know that Rushmark proudly proclaims that most of the 282 apartments will be small enough to discourage rental by couples. Has anyone on the Council heard of single-parent families, by any chance? They are pretty common in the United States these days, especially in large urban areas like inside the Washington beltway. In these times of diminished employment opportunities, many single parents—or couples of modest means—are going to be willing to squeeze into a small apartment. This will continue at least until the single parent or couple finds means to move to larger accommodations, or accommodations of their own.

In my remarks to the City Council on Wednesday, March 27, I stated that allowing Rushmark to build 282 apartments is “sacrificing the future for short-term gain.”

Why did I say that? Primarily because according to the City’s latest estimates of expenditures for 2014, education will eat up 45 percent of the City’s expenditures. (And a few years back, the City staff indicated that schools ate up about 75 percent of the capital budget.) So by building 282 new apartments as proposed by Rushmark, the City will lock itself into a long-term budgetary shortfall. Because of the process I have described above about how families grow and move into better lodgings, building the apartments will only increase the likelihood that the City stays in a permanent state of budgetary shortfall with respect to funding the City school system.

Therefore, building 282 apartments is for Rushmark’s benefit, not the City’s. Moreover, building that many apartments above the proposed Harris Teeter supermarket will ruin the quality of life for residents already living in the Winter Hill area, primarily for three reasons.

First, there are already about 481 residential units in the Winter Hill area immediately adjacent to the proposed Rushmark development. This includes the 194 townhouses of the Winter Hill Community Association, the 200 condominiums of the Winter Hill Condominium Association, and about 87 subsidized apartment units for low-income families and individuals. Adding 282 apartments above the Harris Teeter supermarket will increase the number of residential units in the Winter Hill area by about 60 percent. That is an outrageous number of new residences to add to an already crowded neighborhood. Rushmark claims to be providing sufficient new parking for the apartments; but since, according to Rushmark, it will be mostly young single professionals inhabiting these apartments, has Rushmark planned parking for the two-car married couples and the assorted friends and relatives who come to visit for parties and overnight stays?

Second, parking in the entire Winter Hill Community has always been inadequate. The parking lots for the townhouses, the condominiums, and the subsidized apartments are on the old “footprint” established for the Tyler Garden Apartments that preceded the Winter Hill developments. The Tyler Garden Apartments were built in 1946, immediately after World War II, when a family was lucky to own one automobile, let alone several. Parking in our community has worked out over the past 35 years solely because most neighbors are considerate of each other’s needs.

When I walked home with a neighbor after the City Council meeting on the night of March 27, the parking lanes on Annandale Road behind the proposed development site were loaded with vehicles “spilled over” from Winter Hill parking lots. I can only imagine what the parking spillover from 282 additional apartments will do to parking in the neighborhood. I expect the parking situation in Winter Hill to degenerate to nasty and brutish “Hobbesian conditions” in which parking becomes “a war of all against all.” (Yes, this is a bit hyperbolic, but I supervised the maintenance of Winter Hill townhouse parking lots from 2000 to 2013 and found that people become nasty when their parking is threatened.) As it is, the late-night parking situation throughout all of Winter Hill is certainly as dense as any in Northern Virginia and may equal the densest parking conditions in downtown Washington DC.

Third, it is already difficult to enter or leave the Winter Hill area during the morning and evening rush hours. There is a long wait to cross Broad Street at South Virginia Avenue, and Annandale Road traffic impedes exit from Gundry Drive and parking lots opening onto Annandale Road. Moreover, Annandale Road—a main route to the entrances to the proposed Harris Teeter and overlying apartments—presents a huge problem. There is a strong tendency for distracted or scofflaw drivers to run the stop signs located at Annandale Road’s intersection with Gundry Drive. Drivers exiting Broad Street want to “get the heck out of Falls Church”; and drivers headed toward Broad Street are accustomed to driving at 35 miles an hour for miles up Annandale Road and don’t seem to want to be inconvenienced by having to slow down approaching Broad Street. In any case, they constantly run the stop signs in both directions, and the City has had to station police nearby to ticket people running the signs. The ill-fated stop signs are located about 300 feet from the proposed Annandale Road entrances to the Harris Teeter/Apartment complex. This traffic-control problem will not be solved without a traffic light controlling the entrances to the complex. Good luck to all Winter Hill residents trying to leave the neighborhood to get to work on time in the morning.

In summary, the 282 apartments are a completely counterproductive idea in terms of generating revenue for Falls Church City Schools, and they will destroy the quality of life for Winter Hill residents who have been paying taxes to the City for decades. If the City Council had really wanted to help the City, they would have asked for a more modest supermarket of 30,000 or 40,000 square feet instead of the 60,000-square-foot behemoth that’s proposed. (I understand the Harris Teeter at Lee-Harrison Shopping Center in Arlington is about 40,000 square feet.) The smaller footprint would have left more room between the development and existing townhouses located on Annandale Road. Also, there would have been more room to accommodate Anthony’s Restaurant, and perhaps several other small shops, thereby preserving the quality of “The Little City.” (The current proposal might make it more like Clarendon or Ballston, except that there will be no subway service to alleviate traffic and parking problems.)

Instead of seven or eight levels of apartments above the Harris Teeter, there could be but two or three levels above Harris Teeter for other types of businesses or offices. That would at least comply with the City’s own zoning ordinances on building height. Offices and shopping would add revenue to Falls Church without overloading the school system. Offices would supply employees to frequent city restaurants and businesses, and the employees would leave the area in the evenings. They could use underground parking for offices and the Harris Teeter, and construction for office parking would not require as much expensive excavation as that required to provide parking for an additional 282 residential units.

For those of you who will make the final vote on this proposal in May, I ask that you do three simple things:

(1) Please take a drive around all streets in the Winter Hill area during the morning rush hour. You will notice that the first block of South Virginia Avenue below Broad Street is very narrow—especially when residents are still parked along the street. It is amazing that more drivers do not sideswipe each other in that area.

(2) Please do the same thing for the evening rush hour. You will notice that there are numerous young families with young children along all areas of Winter Hill during warm weather. It would be a good thing if all of those young children reached adulthood by virtue of having lived in a safe neighborhood. You will also notice how inconvenient it is to cross Broad Street and how unruly traffic is on Annandale Road.

(3) Please take a drive through all streets in the Winter Hill area after 9:30 pm. on a normal week night. You will see that the parking situation is very tight. A number of neighbors have complained to me that when they arrive home from a late night at work or an evening out, they have to park several blocks from home. That doesn’t sound very much like “home” to me, and the City Council can make things much worse with the approval of this misguided project.

Finally, one of the Council members on March 27 stated that it was important for the City to resist being absorbed back into Fairfax County, or with Arlington County—with which the City of Falls Church has merged its legal system. Well, if the City Council is going to insist on approving “mixed-use high-rise developments” that are self-defeating, increase gridlock, and which ensure that the City stays in budgetary shortfall with respect to its future school system—“chasing its tail,” so to speak—then I think that integrating with one or the other of the larger jurisdictions will become an inevitability, rather than a matter of choice. (You’ve already had to sell the water system to Fairfax.) Furthermore, if you’re going to approve projects that create gridlock and make Falls Church a choke point for Northern Virginia commuters trying to move along Route 7 or Route 29, then the puffed-up “Little City” will soon become a subject of derision and scorn. (To really emulate Clarendon and Ballston, you must have a subway.)

Carl W. Anderson has lived in the Winter Hill section of Falls Church City for 35 years.

April 4, 2013 


18 Responses to “COMMUNITY COMMENT: Commercial Space OK, But Apartments Will Have Perverse Effect”

  1. FC Voter on April 4th, 2013 9:04 am

    Some good points, but your thinly-veiled NIMBY sentiment seems to be overwhelming some of your logic. The data on school age children in apartments with less than two bedrooms are conlsuive-there are very few kids becuase parents dont like to share bedrooms with their kids or make them sleeop in the livingroom. The couples you mention will likely wind up in Fairfax county when they have kids, becaue the Ciity has almost no single-family detached inventory. You’ve tried to blame every problem under the sun (or at least in FC) on this one development. Perhaps the additonal apartments will knock the earth’s gravitational field out of balance and we’ll go hutrling into space, too. The new residents will not be parking in your neighborhood because 1) people are lazy and dont like to walk any farther than they have too, and 2) they will have their own parking on-site. This project has the potential to act as the cornerstone for a reviatlization of the core of downtown. With all due respect, let’s not lose site of the big picture.

  2. Winter Hill young professional on April 4th, 2013 4:59 pm

    My wife and I are also Winter Hill residents. We’ve followed the natural progression of living in a tiny apartment in Georgetown, then a larger apartment in Clarendon, followed by the purchase of our first home 3 years ago in Falls Church. We are in our early 30s and plan on having children in the next few years. We picked Falls Church and specifically a Winter Hill townhome for a variety of reasons, best bang for the buck inside the beltway, the school system, proximity and walkability to Falls Church’s restaurants and farmer’s market, and finally all the untapped potential that the City has to develop a downtown in desperate need of a facelift.

    Respectfully, I cannot disagree more with you on your analysis of the Harris Teeter development. There seems to be a real rift between the older residents’ desire to maintain the status quo and the younger/newer residents that welcome change and a more urbanized neighborhood. I can understand that you and other longtime Falls Church residents might be opposed to change. In just the past decade we have seen incredible demographic and development changes all over the DC region (Logan Circle, Columbia Heights, Penn Quarter, H Street NE, Shirlington, Mosaic District, ect.) And I would argue that the DC region as a whole is much better off now than a decade ago. But for some people change is hard to stomach. As Falls Church begins to capitalize on its strategic geographic location, top notch schools, and an underutilized downtown itching for redevelopment, the City will indeed change. More people will be attracted to the lifestyle that the new Falls Church will offer, and for those residents who don’t like it, will find that they will be able to sell their homes for a premium as the proposed developments will have a net positive effect.

    In your second paragraph, you say, “adding 282 apartments in this already crowded area will destroy the quality of life for Winter Hill residents.” This area of Broad Street is incredibly underutilized and has been for a long time. There is so little density, which brings so little foot traffic, which brings a sparse customer base to the City’s shops and restaurants. The little density and foot traffic makes it unappealing for entrepreneurs to open new shops or restaurants in the neighborhood. This Harris Teeter development project will help solve this. And this development will further attract more restaurants, shops, apartments/condos, etc. as our downtown grows into a sustainable and walkable community. An “environmentally conscious” City means creating a walkable community, and not forcing households to own 2 cars out of necessity. And with only 2.2 square miles, the majority of City residents should be able reap the benefits of a more walkable community. It is true that the City has a long way to go making the area walker-friendly (more crosswalks or traffic lights will be necessary) but as we evolve I believe these problems will get solved.

    The “adverse effects of development” that you mention for the residents of Winter Hill will be dwarfed by the benefits. It will be great to have a grocery store and hopefully more that we will be able to walk to. Out of the entire Winter Hill Community only a tiny fraction of the townhomes bordering the project will bear potential adverse effects. But this should not stop the project from going forward. The City should work with these residents to come up with a solution. Perhaps a tax abatement for these residents, or some other compromise? But the overall benefits to the City will far outweigh these potential negatives.

    Furthermore, still the main attraction for new people moving to Falls Church City is for the top-notch schools. The City should not abandon the priority of keeping the schools top-notch. As the development increases and attracts more people to the City, it is unavoidable that the student populations will increase. However, with a higher tax revenue base, I think we as a community should be able to come up with other solutions. In the meantime, the City needs to keep the school system a priority, but not at the expense of development. In the longrun, increased development will contribute to the desirability of Falls Church and help fund the school system.

    In your argument to the City Council on March 27, you say that by allowing the Rushmark development, we are “sacrificing the future for short-term gain.” I believe you have this backwards. We will be sacrificing the short-term in the form of construction hassles and potentially vacant storefronts and residential units. However, this is one development in a string of many other past and future developments that will hopefully bring the City of Falls Church into the 21st century as a sustainable, walkable, and vibrant community with an excellent school system, parks, and a great farmer’s market.

    Finally, your claims of the parking and commuting situation in Winter Hill are greatly exaggerated. I have never had to park very far from my townhouse no matter what time of day or night it is. In fact I never have to drive around the block looking for a space. Perhaps some residents have trouble parking because they cannot parallel park (as noticed by some horrible parking jobs on the streets). If you equate the parking difficulty in Winter Hill to downtown DC or Clarendon, you obviously don’t leave the confines of Falls Church much. The evening commute through Broad Street is certainly no picnic. But traffic all over the DC region is terrible, and we are no different. As more jobs move into Tysons Corner, more people will be driving through Broad Street. There is no more backup on Annandale or South Virginia than anywhere else. I do not see how having a smaller development or no development improves these problems. And I do not want people to think you are the sole voice of Winter Hill residents.

  3. Lincoln Ave. on April 4th, 2013 9:13 pm

    It’s the easiest thing in the world to pick apart a proposal. But the question isn’t whether the Harris-Teeter project is flawed; the question is whether the proposal is better than the status quo. It is. Endless NIMBY complaints about the number of units and the square footage of the grocery store will only lead the project to fall through altogether — the worst of all possible worlds.

    The Route 7 corridor is full of sadly underutilized commercial real estate, given the disposable income in the city. The Harris-Teeter project would not only allow more people to shop nearby, it will lead to more foot traffic and spur better utilization of adjacent commercial property — and a more diverse property tax base to pay for those schools.

  4. Jim Bledsoe Falls Church on April 4th, 2013 9:34 pm

    Whether you agree with Carl’s opinion or not, at least he signed his name to it.

  5. Lloyd Crowther, Falls Church City on April 4th, 2013 10:58 pm

    I agree with Joe Bledsoe’s comment, take credit for your comments, pro or con.

  6. David (another Winter Hill resident) on April 5th, 2013 9:37 am

    A few points in response. First of all, I don’t appreciate how this statement and others imply that they’re on behalf of all Winter Hill residents. Believe it or not, many of us disagree that this project will “ruin our quality of life.”

    Even if Mr. Anderson is right about the impacts on parking and traffic (and I don’t think he is), his proposed alternative is not an alternative at all. There is no current proposal by any developer to build a commercial-only building here. The City itself doesn’t want this; the zoning/master plan for the site calls for “mixed use” development. Rushmark has already made clear that they’ll simply develop elsewhere if they can’t build apartments here. The residential real estate market is a lot hotter in FC than the commercial market is. So it’s either this or nothing-and they’ve already made a lot of modifications and concessions to nearby homeowners (see:

    Second, the commenters above are correct that Mr. Anderson overstates the parking problem. I looked around Gundry/James/Annandale last night at 9pm and saw ample parking. And who are we to bash others for parking? Our residents regularly park in fire zones, reserved spots, 10 ft. from the curb, etc. We’re part of the problem. We chose to live in a very dense residential area, and apparently some of us voted for people who decided to drop a large subsidized housing project on top of it.

    Third, I notice that the Opposition rarely discusses the financial benefits of this development. What’s the opportunity cost associated with an eyesore lot and an abandoned Post Office? A supermarket and apartments are projected in tens of millions of dollars over the next 20 years; no small feat when real estate assessments, property tax rates, and stormwater fees are exploding. The desire to implement our version of China’s one-child policy is silly. Last I checked, schools can be expanded. And when I lived in Court House, most apartment dwellers didn’t have kids anyway. When they did, they moved out to Fairfax or Maryland or left the area entirely for affordable single-family housing.

    If Mr. Anderson has lived in Winter Hill for 35 years, he probably paid off his mortgage long ago. He likely purchased his home for a fraction of what new homeowners in the area pay today. He presumably feels less of the property tax “bite” than the rest of us do. This development will be one step in alleviating that burden-and will create a walkable, convenient retail area that will revitalize our pitiful “City Center.”

  7. David (another Winter Hill resident) on April 5th, 2013 9:43 am

    Another point I forgot to mention. The developer is seeking an exception to build an additional 15 feet higher than the zoning normally permits (which they’ve already scaled back from an initially higher request).

    Does anybody really believe that if this project were 15 ft. shorter (thus requiring no lengthy debate and approval process), that the nearby neighbors would be okay with it? Of course not. I live one block from this site and I’ve attended some of the City meetings. Those who live closest pretend to be okay with “some development” in their official letters but behind the scenes, they complain about any “monstrosity” (i.e. tall building) going there.

    These people chose to live next to a B-2 zone. I know, because I chose to live 1 block away from it, because I didn’t want it in *my* backyard! Take a little personal responsibility for your decisions!

  8. Winter Hill young professional on April 5th, 2013 9:45 am

    Great, so Jim Bledsoe and Lloyd Crowther can share their names but not their opinions. Who cares whether people post anonymously or not.

  9. Bruce Turner on April 5th, 2013 10:37 am

    I have a condo in a high rise in Old Town Alexandria where a Harris Teeter/Condo development is currently underway and our residents had all of the same issues. Not everyone is happy, but Harris Teeter was easy to engage and our HOA board was very successful at negotiating design concessions from Harris Teeter including more desirable entrance/exit locations, an extra floor of parking at a huge cost to them, facing apartments and lobby across from existing residential, and extensive landscaping enhancements on land that we own and a commitment to maintain it. We invited them to give several briefings and they showed up. Just saying…

  10. vlfrance, Falls Church on April 5th, 2013 12:18 pm

    There will always be strong opinions on these topics – in agreement and disagreement.

    What struck me was the comment on the new mixed-use development having added 30% of the new student population. If there were 100 new students, then 1/3 came from the developments. The developments didn’t add 30% more to the school population.

    I’ve lived in the city for ten years (WH townhouse, Spectrum Condo, SFH and no children). The new development will cause problems for some, but will benefit the city overall, especially by removing some of the residential tax burden. Let apartment owners/renters and those visiting our city help pay for our lifestyle by shopping and dining here.

  11. AnnandaleRd on April 5th, 2013 3:04 pm

    The HT will be a nice bonus to the area and it will generate a huge win fall for the city (I think the most recent estimate is a range of $900k to $1.32m annual net).

    Traffic will be an issue, but it already is; just needs to be managed better than it currently is. I’d be fine with more lights or even those speed or stop sign cameras on Annandale (yes, I said it…speed bumps suck).

    Regarding the zoning, though, I don’t think the issue is the height or residential mixed use necessarily, but the proximity of the “service road” to the neighboring residents. The developer needs special exemptions to the height and residential uses, but the city is also granting a waiver to zoning that prohibits loading docks or entrances to private roads within 100 ft of a residential area. So, even if the developer lowered the height to circumvent the required special exemptions, they still could not build this design “by right” without a waiver from the city to the zoning on the private road and loading docks.

    Also, the city’s comprehensive plan indicates a desire to respect the abutting properties and recognizes the problems that close development would create. In the old city center and comprehensive plan, I think this area was slated as a buffer or transition from higher density development to the east.

    Even though the area is zoned R-2, this plan goes far beyond what’s there now and what could/can have been built according to zoning and the city’s comprehensive plan. I think one could have reasonably assumed that development was inevitable, but on a smaller scale and with better integration with its surroundings.

    The design has certainly improved. It’s a shame the city, not the developer or HT, can’t do more. I hope that this isn’t a new trend for the city; brushing aside zoning intended to protect private property rights for the sake of more tax revenues. People complain about taxes weighing on home values, imagine what uncertain property rights would do!

  12. Re Annandale on April 5th, 2013 4:37 pm

    There is already a parking lot-which used to receive heavy Post Office truck traffic-mere feet from the houses on Annandale. And there is also a parking lot and “service road”(where the mailboxes are) right next to/behind a few of the houses. The only difference as I understand it is that there will be more traffic now. But the developer has also made exceptions to move, buffer, and enclose much of the loading area and service road.

    Personally, if people chose to buy a home with a backyard that abuts a Post Office parking lot and loading zone, I don’t see a strong argument against an analogous area for trucks.

  13. Re Re Annandale on April 5th, 2013 5:31 pm

    By your logic, should the city not help those impacted by storm water run-off? After all, they knew they lived down hill and where does water go in a rain? Or is the issue that someone later made changes that exacerbated the issue (parking lots impervious to water). You would allow development far beyond what exists and is already recognized as a problem.

    That’s true about the trucks, but if they worked 9-5 (leaving in the AM and returning in the evening when most people are at work) it is a different animal than a busy 24-hour grocery with the sights and sounds of 18-wheelers and the smells of rotting garbage.

    The car volume would be a magnitude different too. The parking lot is currently one-way with cut-through traffic prohibited…likely an attempt to mitigate the impact on the neighbors.

    I’m not sure when the 100-ft zoning was put into place, but it likely reflects a similar attempt to rectify just such a problem or to prevent it from happening again.

  14. Chuck Anderson – Falls Church City on April 5th, 2013 11:46 pm

    I’d like to clear up some confusion evident in comments about the attitudes of residents immediately adjacent to the post office site. Carl and I have similar names, we both live in Winter Hill and both have been vocal about the project. But we have been vocal about two fairly different sets of concerns. I agree with Carl that the project has the potential to increase traffic and parking issues in our community. But because I live in one of the houses closest to the proposed Harris Teeter/high rise combo, I’ve been focused on the building’s impact on my home and the homes of my closest neighbors here on the north side of Annandale Road. We have been fairly unanimous from the outset that the site is ripe for redevelopment and we’ve taken a positive attitude about a new grocery store while also acknowledging the benefits of infill development, even if it means a high rise apartment building within a few feet of our bedroom windows.

    Living as close as we do to the site, we’ve had to pay close attention to the details. Anyone who has seen the renderings will agree that the project is very big and dense. Initially we advocated for a smaller footprint, in part because of our concern about a mismatch of scale between our 24-foot-high townhomes and a 90-foot high-rise . But more importantly, because the size of the project was the main driver of code violations regarding buffer and the placement of the loading dock. To voice our concerns, we’ve met more than a dozen times with the developer, city staff and elected/appointed officials, attended public meetings, published letters to the editor, etc.

    The final building is not going to have a smaller footprint but we believe our efforts have paid off in that the developer’s current site concept removes one code violation (the buffer) while ameliorating another (the loading dock will be enclosed though not moved to the distance of 100 feet as called for by code). The developer also reduced the building’s “loom” by moving some of its mass closer to Broad Street, a significant change, and moved three large transformers further from our homes. We have one major concern remaining and are in a productive dialog with the developer to address it, regarding the building’s drive aisle. The proposed drive aisle would vastly increase the amount of traffic passing within a few feet of four homes. (It is true that the post office, when it was operational, was a busy place but it wasn’t busy 24-7 and it didn’t generate nearly the 3,000 daily car trips or any 18-wheeler deliveries as projected in the current concept. )

    In sum, those of us who live closest to the site have recognized from the beginning that the proposed redevelopment could bring important benefits to the city and our neighborhood, and we’ve engaged in constructive dialog with decision makers to address code violations and other valid concerns. We won’t end up with our ideal building but at this point most of us are hopeful of ending up with a building whose positives outweigh the negatives.

  15. Re Re Re Annandale on April 8th, 2013 2:29 pm

    No, that’s not my logic. The construction of a large building with vehicle traffic at a site zoned for large commercial buildings is a bit more foreseeable than a parking lot having inadequate run-off infrastructure.

    The 9-5 argument is a bit ridiculous too. Even supermarkets that are open less than 24 hours receive plenty of truck deliveries before 9am and after 5pm (side note: HT recently said they may not stay open 24 hrs). The Post Office had early morning/late afternoon vehicle traffic, and our own City trash contractors can begin work at 6:01am…meaning every City resident is subject to some noisy truck activity in the early morning hours. The developer has actually made significant efforts to address neighbor concerns in this regard. The entire loading area is enclosed as I understand it (which is expensive and unusual), and the buffer has been brought into compliance with the zoning standard. As a commenter above notes, the drive aisle may be moved altogether.

    I have no problem with folks who live near this site voicing their concerns and working with the developer and City to come up with reasonable compromises. But Mr. Anderson’s “public comment” offers no alternative, since there is no proposal for a commercial-only site. And I don’t have a lot of sympathy for people who choose to live next to a commercially-zoned lot having to deal with some of the less-than-favorable factors that accompany that decision.

  16. Stephen Siegel on April 8th, 2013 8:00 pm

    The comment above is interesting, although in the interest of accuracy, it should be pointed out that city contractors cannot begin work at 6:01 am.

    The city’s noise ordinance prohibits garbage pickup and a variety of other activities until 7 am weekdays and 9 am weekends and holidays.

    Many people think it’s 6 am, and the garbage companies use that as an excuse (“I thought it was 6!”), but they have been told many times that it’s 7 am.

  17. Re Re Annandale on April 12th, 2013 11:08 am

    Isn’t the point that a “large commercial building” can’t be built at this site without the waivers and special exemptions?

    I don’t buy the “personal responsibility” argument, either. So, you chose 5-10 years ago (more?) to purchase a block away from a future development that requires two special exemptions and a waiver to zoning? You have amazing foresight. Seems like the ground rules have been changed.

    On the current trash times, I’ve never seen our trash picked up before 9:00am. The City trash pickup is once a week, not multiple deliveries daily in the early morning and the late evening as you suggest a grocery would require.

  18. Why are others posting without a name? (Falls Church City Resident) on April 19th, 2013 12:00 am

    Nobody can change your mind – only you can do that. So I encourage everyone interested in the development (for or against) to read and think about what is actually being proposed. Then see if you still have the same opinion. The information is posted on our City website:

    Now my opinion? I think it would be great to have a Harris Teeter. I understand why the developers and Harris Teeter want residential. My only ask is that the City ENSURE the risks of the development are managed. Two key risks:

    Traffic (and possibly parking) and the actual budget impact of the development.

    1. Traffic – it was great to read the developer’s analysis that the only change required would be a minor adjustment to the traffic lights (a few seconds!). If you agree with that great. I am skeptical. Fortunately, so was our city. Staff noted “several discrepancies were noted by staff regarding the traffic data and capacity analysis.” and “Significant discrepancies exist between the traffic counts provided in the report and historical City counts used for signal timing.” Note that the developer is also asking for exceptions to the amount of parking required (reasonable? Maybe?)

    2. Budget – there are many considerations here, but look at our city budget now. One major concern is always the schools. So why not start there? The developer says they reduced the “residential density”, because the number of units went from 294 to 282. BUT they increased the number of two bedroom units to 106 from 88? Do they (or YOU) expect those additional 18 units to be empty? If they have people in them the density increased. If those people are school age children, the budget costs have increased. The developer projects the school cost at approximately $13,000 per pupil. And that the development will add 34 new student. Do you think 282 apartments (with 106 two bedroom units) will add 34 students? What if it adds 50? That’s only an additional $200,000 per year cost… assuming education costs do not rise (and this is a pretty simplified example – not truly all in costs).

    The developer is putting out a “best case” (no matter what they tell you). That’s their job. Our job and our city council’s job is to ensure we plan for a more realistic scenario (and for the worst case because that is known to happen).

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