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Council Reviews Financial Status

One week after election, City Council meeting business as usual.

The Fairfax mayor and City Council convened in City Hall for their first meeting after winning reelection, Tuesday, May 9.

They worked through agenda items quickly, before heading to a long work session meeting where the city's financial position was discussed.

The long work session meeting was the result of a discussion of the city's financial position based on its recent borrowings. Despite the city's increase in debt burden, its bond rating has remained at the second highest rating level. Financial advisors from Davenport & Company attended the work session to present the city's financial status to council members and answer any questions they had.

David Hodgkins, the city's finance director and assistant manager, said the city has been able to maintain its high bond rating because of its strong economic base and smart financial management.

One particular project noted as "a good deal," is the city's library construction project. Both Mayor Robert Lederer and Council member R. Scott Silverthorne agreed that the community's perception of the project has been skewed. The city's use of CIty Hall as collateral in the lowest cost financing option has saved the city $6-8 million, said Hodgkins. The council wanted to make it known that providing City Hall as collateral to the county, under the deal, was merely a financing method, and under no circumstance would the city abandon its financial obligation and have to forfeit the property.

"This is a pretty tough deal to find fault in," said Silverthorne.

THE COUNCIL also discussed the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority's TransAction 2030 Plan Summary Report. The plan adds an additional $16.6 billion in projects to the $30 billion Constrained Long Range Plan projects. The plan also shows that the addition of the $16.6 billion in projects still won't completely solve the transportation problems in Northern Virginia. City Manager Robert Sisson recommended that the council approve an endorsement of the plan by adopting jurisdictional resolution. To read more about the plan, visit http://www.transaction2030.com.

In the City Council meeting preceding the work session, three of the agenda's action items elicited more debate within the council than other items.

The first agenda action was a budget appropriation to fund several city improvement projects, including Chain Bridge Road pedestrian access improvements, drainage projects, construction of the Fire/Rescue Department Classroom and Training Support Building, the City's software migration project, and sidewalk improvements. The funding was originally included in the 2006-07 budget and allowed other budgeted items to move forward because of its postponement, thus saving taxpayers money, according to Silverthorne.

The city's acquisition of the former Westmore Elementary School property at 11000 Berry St. was the next agenda item to receive extended discussion amongst council and the public. Now that the city owns the property, the council approved an agenda action to give Sisson the power to execute a lease agreement for the property. The three-year lease of the property to the Northern Virginia Christian Academy will bring in net rental payments of $626,000 in the first year, $648,000 in the second year and $696,000 in the third year of the lease term. The city will not have to incur typical landlord costs in this case, as the lease states the Northern Virginian Christian Academy will pay for all of the school's interior and exterior maintenance needs. The city will, however, still have a right of access to the property, like a typical landlord would.

Next was agenda item 7d, the public hearing and council action on a zoning text amendment to require the Planning Commission's review and recommendation for resident development proposals in the Highway Corridor Overlay District (HCOD). The Planning Commission passed it at its May 8 meeting, and the council unanimously approved the item at the May 9 meeting.

City resident Douglas Schauss presented items not on the agenda following the conclusion of agenda action items. He asked the council to develop a city-wide zoning, planning and development policy governing mixed-use development in the city. He said he wants there to be a more concise definition of mixed-use development, including definitive policy on whether it is appropriate, where it can be best utilized, size and scale requirements, and its social, economic and quality of life impacts on the city and its residents. Until this is reached, Schauss said the council should deny the Rocky Gorge application proposing mixed-use development at the Stafford Property along the Mosby Parkway section of Fairfax Boulevard. He commended the council though for their action on the zoning text amendment agenda item 7d.

"Changing the zoning text is a big step in the right direction," said Schauss.