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Falls Church VPIS Weekend Meeting Raises Questions to ZOAC Board

Meeting turned town hall styled discussion.

Sunday afternoon’s semiannual membership meeting of the City of Falls Church Village Preservation and Improvement Society turned into a town hall style question and answer session with city Planning Director Jim Snyder.

After VPIS Vice President Mark Gross gave the latest VPIS news and announced the Summer Concert series, he transitioned into a lively discussion that also featured John Murphy, chairman of the Zoning Ordinance Advisory Committee.

Residents and VPIS committee members alike were seeking to find out when large-scale redevelopment projects were going to take place in the city, as has been discussed for years.

“How long is it before any of this work, any of these ideas filter down into something more than an endless Special Exemption?” asked Carol Sly, a VPIS membership chair. “How long before its done and complete and we’re working from something real, instead of just piecemeal doing little bits.”

Sly was reacting to Snyder’s revelation that the Planning Commission was going to use the extensive review process on the city Zoning ordinances done by Murphy and the ZOAC, to start making changes to the City of Falls Church Comprehensive Plan.

“We are primarily going to look at chapter 4 which is Economic Development and Land Use, and embark on small area planning,” said Snyder. “We are applying for a grant from the council of governments to help us with the transportation side, so we can take better advantage of metro and link these areas that have our name on them but are outside the city.”

Tough economic times and stakeholder interests have long delayed any changes to “start making Falls Church look more like a city,” but according to Snyder there will be plans for the city to at least position
itself to see some change by the end of 2011. At one point a member of the audience stood up and accused
the city of never doing anything about an urban revitalization plan from 10 years ago.

“The primary purpose of the ZOAC was to provide an opportunity for public participation in the zoning code rewriting process, there had been a rising course of complaints that the zoning code was out of
date and not meeting the needs of the city in face of redevelopment of both our neighborhoods and our commercial districts,” said Murphy.

But it was evident at the meeting that changes discussed by the ZOAC regarding zoning ordinances would not start to take shape in the form of visible redevelopment in the city any time soon.

VPIS treasurer Melissa Teates also announced at the meeting that VPIS will continue to make grant donations in the area, and that they have planted a total of 46 trees since the early spring.

For more information on VPIS and to see their response to ZOAC, log on to their website at www.vpis.org.

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