In order to speed up the redevelopment of downtown Fairfax, the City Council gave itself the power to approve its own architectural, sign and land design plans. At Tuesday night's public hearing, the Council voted unanimously [Councilmembers Jeffrey Greenfield and Gary Rasmussen were absent] to approve the change to the zoning code.
Previously, such plans would need the approval of the Board of Architectural Review. "The City Council will hold a meeting earlier than the Board of Architectural Review normally would," said Jack Blevins of the city staff.
Now, joint meetings will take place with the City Council and the board, except in unusual circumstances, when the Council is permitted to conduct a meeting itself. This change only applies when the city is an applicant.
The City Council also authorized the installation of an artificial turf field on the football field of Fairfax High School. It may be completed as early as this spring.
The new field will be all-weather and low-maintenance and allow for more intense use than the current grass field, which Mayor Robert Lederer said will be a necessity once the renovation of the school begins. "Just at Fairfax High School alone, we'll lose all the practice fields," Lederer said.
"We have first-class schools. I'm happy to see a first-class athletic field," said Councilmember Gail Lyon.
The Fairfax Youth Police Club will pay $21,000 per year over eight years to help defray the costs. The Fairfax City School Board will match that amount, said Lederer. That will leave the city with a bill of $67,091 per year for eight years.
The price was too high for one Councilmember. "I find myself reluctantly against the proposal," said Joan Cross. "I feel like this is excessive."
In a previous worksession Cross had said that the city was already paying for a lot of "big ticket" items, and she was concerned about adding another one to the list. "I feel it’s a long commitment and a large commitment," Cross said.
She pointed out that the School Board contribution is still going to come from city taxpayers. "It's just another pocket of the city's overall budget," she said. The Council passed the measure 3-1.
DURING THE Council work session, the remaining Councilmembers [Mayor Lederer had to leave prior to the session] heard a proposal to formalize an agreement made between the City Council and the Country Club Hills Recreation Corp. — the corporation is its own entity and is not part of the Country Club Hills neighborhood.
The corporation owns and operates a pool, which is open to any city resident for membership. The corporation has also allowed access to the pool via what amounts to a public trail across its property.
The corporation would like to enter into a more formal agreement with the city about the use of the pool and trail. The Council will also consider paving the parking lot at the pool. "That parking lot is pretty much in shambles," Lyon said.
The cost of paving the lot is estimated to be between $20,000 and $30,000. Councilmember R. Scott Silverthorne expressed concern that it might set a precedent and other pools might ask for the same assistance.
City Manager Robert Sisson said that the arrangement with this pool is unusual, "We're burdening their property in a certain way,' he said.
The Council will have to decide on the matter after negotiations are completed, which is expected to take a few months.
The Council also discussed possible legislative priorities for the 2005 General Assembly session.
The Council discussed the possibility of requesting several amendments to the city charter.
Two that were brought up by Councilmembers could mean major changes to the city government. Silverthorne proposed an amendment that would increase the mayor's power. Under current law, the mayor may veto a Council decision, but that veto can be overridden by a simple majority vote.
In practice, this means that the same four Councilmembers who vote for a proposal can override the veto. "It's a useless tool, so why have it," Silverthorne said. He proposed requiring a five of six vote majority to override a veto.
Councilmember Joan Cross suggested changing the charter so that Councilmembers serve four-year terms instead of two-year terms. Fairfax is the only city in the state with four-year terms, said Silverthorne. Other jurisdictions, such as the towns of Vienna, Herndon and Clifton, have two-year terms.
Councilmembers said that the expense of holding an election every two years is too high, but agreed that an advisory referendum might be necessary before making any such change.
Councilmembers also wished to delete a provision that requires the first meeting after an election to take place at 8 p.m. The meeting would still take place on the first Tuesday in July, but at whatever time the Council wishes. City Council meetings typically start at 7 p.m.
They also wish to amend the charter to allow the city attorney to prosecute misdemeanors and delete the 4 percent cap on the "transient occupancy," or hotel tax.
They agreed that they should support regional priorities such as additional funding for transportation and pedestrian safety, a regional gas tax, and reauthorizing red light cameras.
They also want to request funding to assist with the restoration of the Blenheim Property and funding for human services and jail operations.
The Councilmembers also discussed how best to improve drainage along Mosby Road.