(Updated at 4:10 p.m.) Arlington County wants to put residents on a car-free diet, but a spat over on-street parking in Lyon Park shows that residents with cars still have plenty of pull with the county board.
The county’s streets bureau, responding to a complaint from a trash collector, determined that a curvy, two-block stretch of North Edgewood Street is too narrow. With cars parked on either side, firefighters brought in to test the width did not have enough room to open the bins on either side of their fire engine.
Acting upon the results of the test, the streets bureau sent notice to residents that they were planning on restricting parking to one side of the street. But residents fought back and, this weekend, seemed to get some cover from the county board.
Lyon Park Civic Association President Natalie Roy spoke before the board and asked why the county has not found fault with the street’s width until now. She said that elderly residents whose houses lack driveways rely on street parking. Residents tried to create an alternative plan for dealing with the situation, she added, but that county staff made “Draconian” changes to it.
Most board members were sympathetic to the parking concerns.
“The fire truck can be a once in several year occurrence,” said County Board Vice Chair Mary Hynes. “I don’t want a solution for the once every five year event. I want solutions that make livability on this street reasonable.”
“If safety is such a priority, why do we wait until a complaint?” board member Jay Fisette asked, pointing out that there are plenty of other county streets that could potentially be considered too narrow.
Why, then, did three self-identified teachers have to stand up before the county board last night to say that the affordable housing project the board was considering would result in them being forced from their already-affordable apartments? And why did the board unanimously approve a $6.38 million loan for the project anyway?
The answer is complex, but the practical implication is that because as single teachers they make just above the income limit for affordable housing, the board’s vote last night will most likely result in them being forced to move — perhaps even out of the county.
The loan in question will be made to the non-profit Community Preservation for Development Corporation, which specializes in affordable housing projects in the Washington region. CPDC will use the money to buy the 76-unit Howard Manner garden apartments, located at 2506 North 20th Road, just north of Clarendon. It’s one of the only market rate affordable housing complexes in the area.
What prompted more than a half dozen current residents to speak out last night was CPDC’s plan to renovate the 63-year-old apartments, convert most of the efficiencies into two-bedroom units, and impose income restrictions on residents.
Another woman said that as a single mother working two jobs, she would be making too much to stay in her apartment, for which she currently pays $870 per month.
“I really appreciate the efforts to preserve affordable housing, but this is already affordable housing,” said one self-identified teacher, who added that residents had only just heard about the renovation plan. “We felt blindsided and I felt betrayed.”
Despite residents’ pleas, the board said, essentially, that converting the current market-rate affordable housing units to dedicated affordable housing is the lesser of two evils. Should CPDC’s plan be denied, County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman said, nothing would stop a developer from buying the property and building more expensive apartments. Development rights on the property would allow such a move without the board’s approval.
The state Senate yesterday unanimously gave final approval to a bill that will permit the production of hard cider at higher alcohol levels.
The bill’s original sponsor, Del. David Englin (D), says that Virginia’s apples naturally ferment at an alcohol content between four and 10 percent, but current state law caps that level at seven percent.
“If we let them produce real Virginia cider, the kind that Thomas Jefferson served at his dinner table, we’ll clear the way for Virginia to become the world’s leading producer of this popular libation,” said Englin, who represents parts of Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax County.
“This is a jobs bill,” Englin added.
Englin issued the following press release about the bill this morning.
Richmond – With a final unanimous vote in the Virginia Senate, the General Assembly yesterday passed the Virginia Cider Act, which will allow Virginia cider producers to naturally ferment their cider without artificially capping the alcohol content. House Bill 2295, sponsored by Delegate David Englin (D-45), will launch a renaissance in Virginia’s burgeoning hard cider industry, opening the door for Virginia to become the world’s leading producer of traditional hard cider, according to industry experts.
“This legislation is a critical breakthrough for those dedicated to reintroducing Virginia and America to the libation our forebears made and enjoyed in the agrarian society from which we sprung. It will be a significant support to the development of a new industry, attractive to the tourists who visit our Commonwealth as well as our own people,” said Charlotte Shelton, founder and owner of Albemarle CiderWorks, who testified for the bill. “This legislation permits Virginia ciderists to produce a natural beverage without amendment reminiscent of what Jefferson served at Monticello and what Washington produced and served at Mount Vernon. Before this bill, Virginia ciders were required to be seven percent alcohol or less. Our apples do not know this. Apples grown in Virginia ferment naturally to something between four and 10 percent alcohol. This legislation frees Virginia ciderists to make the beverage apples were meant to produce, without amendment or adulteration.”
“I’m honored to have had the opportunity to help a burgeoning industry and to support the market for locally-grown Virginia apples,” said Englin, who carried the bill at the request of the Virginia Wine Council, whose members include cider producers. “My constituents are ecologically-conscious urbanites with a strong preference for locally-grown and locally-made agriculture products. This is an example of the mutually-beneficial relationship between urban and rural parts of our state.”
“One does not know how to predict how far it may develop or may grow,” said Shelton. “After all, 30 years ago, the very term Virginia wine was a virtual oxymoron, but today there are nearly 200 wineries in Virginia and Virginia wines have achieved an international reach. How much more logical to think that Virginia Cider may do as well or better? After all, grapes were a problematical crop for Mr. Jefferson, but he had two orchards, one devoted exclusively to cider apples.”
Delegate David Englin is Vice Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and is serving his third term in the Virginia House of Delegates, where he represents the 45th District, which includes parts of the City of Alexandria, Fairfax County, and Arlington County. An Air Force veteran, Englin is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He serves on the Finance Committee, the Health, Welfare, and Institutions Committee, and the Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources Committee. For more information, visit http://www.davidenglin.org.
Despite County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s recommendation that the property tax rate be held steady, the county board voted last night to give itself the flexibility to raise the rate by a penny, if need be.
The board will now be able to set the FY 2012 property tax rate at or below 96.8 cents per $100 in assessed value. The current rate — the rate that Donnellan recommended in her proposed budget — is 95.8 cents per $100.
Last year, when the board set the property tax rate at 1.6 cents above Donnellan’s recommended figure, the advertised rate was 96.5 cents.
The county will hold two public hearings about the FY 2012 budget next month. The first, on the budget itself, will be held on March 22. The second, which will be about the tax rate and fees, will be held on March 24. Both meetings will be held at 7:00 p.m. in the county board room.
“Now that the County Manager has presented her proposal, in the next six weeks we will hear more from the public, and weigh the needs of the community,” County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman said in a statement. “Our goal is to deliver a sustainable, balanced budget in April that spends tax dollars wisely, delivers core services efficiently and makes intelligent investments in the future.”
The county’s press release also laid out proposed changes to various fees.
According to the county: “The Board also voted to advertise proposed fee changes including: an increase in the water/sewer rate; a decrease in the residential solid waste fee; an increase in parking meter rates; and fee increases in several parks and recreation areas such as preschool, summer camps, senior adult registration, facility rentals, farmers’ markets, and community gardens.”
The final county budget and tax rate will be adopted in April.
Capital Bikeshare Stations Coming to R-B Corridor — Crystal City and Pentagon City have had all the Capital Bikeshare fun so far, but now it’s North Arlington’s turn. The approximate locations for the first four Bikeshare stations in Rosslyn and Courthouse have been decided, with installation expected to take place next month. Also decided: the stations will be placed on the street, likely replacing existing parking spaces. [People-Powered Arlington, TBD]
Bill Could Make Common Traffic Offenses Misdemeanors — If a bill currently under consideration in the Virginia General Assembly becomes law, it could make rolling stops at traffic lights and other common traffic offenses misdemeanors punishable by jail time or a hefty fine. The bill is intended to give police the flexibility of charging drivers with reckless driving when a specific situation warrants. Supporters, including Del. David Englin (D), say the bill could help improve pedestrian safety. [We Love DC, Richmond Sunlight]
Bike Trail Will Link Pentagon, Pike, Memorial Bridge — The Route 110 Bike Trail is being touted as a more convenient alternative to the Mt. Vernon Trail for many trail users. The project to pave the dirt path into a proper trail just got a big infusion of cash, thanks to the county board approving $250,000 in grant funding from the state. Construction won’t begin, however, for at least another year. [TBD]
Flickr pool by Damiec