Although , it didn’t stop residents from commenting on the proposal for an hour-and-a-half.
People who spoke at the meeting were relatively evenly split over whether or not they were supportive of the proposed project, but council members cautioned people from forming an opinion before going through the whole environmental review process and urged residents to remain civil and orderly. Everyone would have an opportunity to share their concerns and thoughts throughout the permitting process, said council members.
“This is just the beginning of the beginning,” said Mayor Larry Bragman. “Give democracy a chance. It can work; it’s the best thing we’ve got.”
Council Member David Weinsoff also denounced tactics that reportedly included along Lesh’s morning walking route outside his house in Ross and on cars at for a funeral. Weinsoff said he would be bringing forward a resolution condemning the acts, which he called “terrorism” and “un-Fairfaxian.”
But neighbors who live near the proposed project said that, although they didn’t know who had hung the signs, they were concerned about over-characterizing the acts as intimidation, since none of the council members had actually seen any of the signs.
David Kroll, who lives in the neighborhood near the project, said he received an “angry and accusatory” phone call from Jill Lesh about the signs. “While I was grateful the Leshes were taking the project elsewhere, I was very upset at the nature and tone of the phone call,” he said.
Ross Police Chief Erik Masterson said that no police report was filed about the flyering, which took place outside the Leshes’ Ross home and directly following Phil Lesh’s morning walking route. Masterson said he called the Leshes, in fact, after hearing about the incident.
“There was no vandalism, just some pasting of notices in the area of his home,” said Masterson.
Masterson said the notices were removed because they were in violation of a town ordinance.
A large number of supporters of the project also spoke out at Wednesday night’s meeting, urging the Leshes not to be dismayed by the critics.
“This is an opportunity we should not pass up,” said Mark Squire, one of the owners of and of the space that the . Though there were other parties interested in the empty garage space next to Good Earth, Squire said this project offered a good fit for the town and an opportunity for development that wasn’t a big chain store. “It brings so much vitality to the town.”
Mimi Newton also presented a petition she was starting to gather signatures in support of the project.
Even more people said they had not yet made up their minds, but hoped that the facts could be evenly weighed – starting with a community meeting sponsored by the Chamber on Sept. 1 at 6:30 p.m.
If the Leshes decide to bring the project back after that community meeting and once things have calmed down, then they will go through the regular permitting and environmental review process – at which time concerns and questions will be weighed.
“I have never seen Fairfax give a rubber stamp to any project that comes in front of us,” said Vice Mayor Pam Hartwell-Herrero.