May 24, 2015 § Leave a comment
Councilmembers Singh and Mitchell
1. Land Purchase By the Town for Downtown Development: Approval of a contract to buy 72,968 sq. ft of land (located at the corner of Elden and Center Streets (commonly known as Subaru Dealership) from Ashwell LLC). This purchase by the Town raises numerous questions of public interest as shown below.
Sample Questions: How can the public decide whether the purchase price is fair, if the Town does not release the appraisals that formed the basis for negotiations with Ashwell? Why should the Town buy the land in the first place? Why should the Town interfere with the free-market system? How did the council set the negotiating range? Does the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) provide a councilmember any discretion to release information contained in the appraisals? What assumptions about density, open space, and type-of-use (residential, office, commercial, etc.) underlie the contract price? Do the assumptions conform to the mandates of the Downtown Master Plan (that was approved in 2011 and represented our vision of future downtown development)? If not, how do they affect the appraisals and the contract price?
2. Very Low Bills Followed by Very High Water (& Sewer) Bills: I feel compelled to first explain the underlying problem. Two residents approached me (Singh) with similar problems. Their water bills were abnormally high – $887 in one case and $1,605 in another. Their regular quarterly bills were about $120 and $300 respectively. An examination of their past bills showed that, in both cases, the bills preceding the large bills, were abnormally low – $37 and $29 respectively. I asked the town to explain the low bills, because, to me, they suggested that the water meters were not functioning properly, which in turn indicated that high bills were not valid either.
The Town, rather than explaining the low bills, claimed that the low and high bills cannot be explained and that leaks of unknown origin had occurred in both cases. Accordingly, it has proposed to “amend, clarify, and expand the water leak credit policy to include leaks or high bills of unknown origin”, and, thereby provide a smaller credit in the current cases than in those in which a resident certifies a leak. The town would have to give full credit for excess charges, if it accepts that the water meters were not functioning properly. In both cases, though, it replaced the water meters.
Sample Questions: Why would the Town replace the water meters, if they were functioning properly, especially when over the next two years, the Town will replace all existing water meters with digital “drive-by-read” water meters anyway? Why are the low readings in these cases not an indication of malfunctioning water meters (especially in the light of the fact that the Town has determined that many water meters give lower readings than they should)?
3. Elden/Center Streets Intersection: Center Street at this intersection is misaligned with its south side located slightly to the west of its north side. The staff has developed three options for improving the intersection. ( View the Discussion by the Director of Public Works – CLICK — EldenCenter )
4. East Elden Street Project: The VDOT has finally approved a $10 million plus overhaul of Elden Street from Fairfax County Parkway to Monroe Street. Conceived many years ago, this project should increase capacity, reduce congestion, add bicycle lanes, address storm-water flooding and make other improvements. Over the next several months, VDOT plans to receive comments from the Town, affected businesses and the general public about its proposed improvements. ( View the Discussion by Transportation Program Manager – CLICK – EastElden Street, Discussion )