There’s been a large scale revamp of the sign regulations in Arlington’s Zoning Ordinance. The County Board approved changes to the ordinance during a marathon meeting last night (Tuesday) that stretched into early this morning.
The effort is intended to clarify gray areas, modernize the regulations and to make them easier for everyone to understand. Major issues included signs placed in the public right-of-way by private parties, the County Board’s involvement in reviewing sign requests and regulations for roofline signs.
Board members Walter Tejada and Chris Zimmerman pushed for a ban on commercial roofline signs — those installed above a height of 40 feet — but it didn’t pass. The county Planning Commission favored the ban, but county staff recommended keeping the signs and the other three Board members ended up siding with staff.
The Board acknowledged the difficulty of resolving the issue and pleasing all involved parties; speakers representing business interests (and some residents) at the meeting spoke in favor of keeping the signs, while a number of residents said they’d like them removed.
“We are being overwhelmed by this development,” said resident Jim Hurysz, speaking against rooftop signs. “If I wanted to live in downtown Las Vegas, I’d live there.”
“I like signs. I look for signs to know where I am. It’s useful, it’s attractive,” countered Rosslyn resident Valerie Crotty. “You’re not living in a suburb. You’re not living in a rural area.”
“All of these companies are now asking themselves ‘does Arlington not want us here?’” said Arlington Economic Development Commission member Marty Almquist. “‘Are they embarrassed that we’ve decided to locate here? Are they not interested in this live, work, play concept that has been touted for the Metro corridor?’”
“In the past, Arlington could rely on companies to relocate here,” Almquist continued. “That will all change when the Silver Line opens in 2013. Tysons Corner and Reston are going to be Metro accessible….that means Arlington needs to have at its disposal a variety of incentives to our tenants to persuade them to move here or stay here… one of those incentives needs to be signage.”
Board member Libby Garvey supported the signs, saying they distinguish Arlington and highlight its exciting atmosphere as an urban village.
“It’s so hugely personal,” Garvey said. “To me, if they’re done well, the sign, it gives the building a personality.”
Under the new regulations, businesses will have to limit the use of lighted signs to 8:00 a.m to 10:00 p.m. (a midnight cut-off was originally proposed) if they face national monuments or lands, such as Arlington National Cemetery or the National Mall. Those signs also will be limited to only one per facade. The Board approved limiting the brightness of lighted signs that are within 100 feet of residential high rises.
Board member Jay Fisette noted that whether for or against lighted signs, addressing the issue in the ordinance is “evolutionary.” Previously, the county did not have any set standards for these types of signs.
Existing signs that had been previously approved but may not meet the new standards will be grandfathered in, at least for now.
Much of the approval process for new signs will now lie with county staff, instead of needing Board approval. It was noted that this provision is not designed to allow the approval of a higher percentage of signs or to make the regulations less stringent, it’s simply to reduce how often individual sign issues have to go before the Board, so members are freed up to deal with other issues. Small businesses had frequently expressed disapproval of the length of time involved with the sign permitting process, considering 30-40 percent of them had to be approved by the Board.
The final point garnering attention dealt with signs in the public right-of-way. Under the new regulations, temporary signs advertising lost pets or community events — such as a meeting or spaghetti dinner — will be allowed provided they meet size requirements, are secured to the ground, and placed for no longer than seven consecutive days. Noncommercial signs that aren’t secured to the ground — like most A-frame signs — would be prohibited in the public right-of-way, but will still be allowed on private property.
The process of updating the signs regulations in the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance has been ongoing since December 2010. County staff members gathered input on the three revised drafts at a number of public hearings and workshops, before presenting the Board with the final proposal last night.
Despite nearly six hours of back-and-forth debate on individual aspects of the ordinance, the Board eventually unanimously voted to approve it.
“I think it is not perfect, and I think it is like anything, going to change. But I’ve been unhappy with the sign ordinance in this county since I first got involved with the Board,” said Zimmerman. “I do think the bulk of this is a real step forward for the county.”
(Updated at 3:05 p.m.) Arlington is near the top of a list highlighted in “The Atlantic” that features America’s top counties for the “creative class.”
The list is an excerpt from a recently released book, written on the belief that the role of creativity is on the rise in American society. It asserts that the creative class consists of around 40 million workers, or more than one-third of the total workforce. Examples of fields with high numbers of creative class professionals include management, education, science, architecture and media.
The list charts the concentration of the creative class by county (although several independent Virginia cities also made the list). Arlington County came in at number two, second only to Los Alamos County, New Mexico. A number of D.C.-area locales also made the list, including:
3. Falls Church, VA
4. District of Columbia
6. Alexandria, VA
8. Fairfax County, VA
9. Howard County, MD
10. Loudoun County, VA
11. Montgomery County, MD
12. Fairfax City, VA
15. Albemarle County, VA
The region also fared well on the list of states with high numbers of the creative class. The District came in first, Maryland is third and Virginia came in fifth.
The new public plaza at the Penrose Square development along Columbia Pike is still expected to open this fall, despite a recent setback.
The contractor working on the $2 million project found and accidentally ruptured an oil tank earlier this month during excavation work, we’re told. The rupture contaminated part of the site, but the county and contractors worked quickly to remedy the situation.
According to Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish:
The tank’s presence was previously unknown by the County. [Arlington] County’s construction manager immediately stopped contractor from working and notified our 3rd party consultant. Samples were taken and the fire marshal and Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VADEQ) were notified. VADEQ directed County to have the tanks removed by a licensed contractor in the presence of the fire marshal. Samples were also taken to determine the extent of the contamination. Remediation steps have been approved by VADEQ.
Kalish said the plaza is still on track to open this fall.
“Construction is scheduled to be completed and the project opened in fall 2012,” she told ARLnow.com. “This issue will cause some delay, but is still expected to be completed and open in fall 2012.”
The plaza will consist of “a tree-covered, upper terrace with movable tables and chairs; an inner plaza with a water feature; a unique two-piece sculpture called ‘Echo’; an inscription of the historic significance of the site, and a grass mound area shaded with trees for informal seating,” according to the county.
(Updated at 1:00 p.m.) The County Board has voted unanimously to follow the recommendation of the Arlington Commission for the Arts, approving $249,100 in grants for local artists and art organizations.
Of the 33 direct financial support application the Commission received, it recommended the Board approve 25 of them. All 25 recommended grant recipients are Arlington arts organizations or individual artists.
The Commission recommends three types of support for the arts — general operating grants, project grants and spotlight grants. General operating grants help organizations with the cost of overall administration and program offerings. Project grants assist organizations or individual artists with completing a specific project. Spotlight grants go to individual artists for their development and presentation of innovative new arts projects or programs.
The largest allocations of funds will go to Signature Theatre and Synetic Theatre, both slated to receive $45,000. Arlington Arts Center receives the next largest sum, at more than $20,000.
WSC Avant Bard is set to receive $18,077.71, but county staff noted that funds for the theater company are contingent on a management transition that’s currently underway.
“Avant Bard is in a transition period that has caused them to restructure their board and reconfigure their season,” staff wrote. “While staff and the Arts Commission firmly believe that WSC Avant Bard will be successful in this process, and are providing them with assistance through our non-profit resource center, our intention is to withhold their financial grant until progress is ensured and their first performance has been scheduled.”
The funds were appropriated in the County Board’s FY 2013 adopted operating budget for Arlington Economic Development. See the full list of monetary grants, after the jump.
Police are investigating an armed robbery at a check cashing store on Columbia Pike.
According to police, an employee had been walking up to the door of the store in the 4700 block of Columbia Pike around 9:00 this morning to begin her shift. Two men approached her and forced her to unlock the door. According to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck, one of the suspects held a knife to the woman’s neck, and the other held a gun to her head.
Once inside, the suspects reportedly forced the woman to take them to a back room and emptied the safe. They fled on foot with $40,000 in cash.
Police were unsuccessful in their attempts to track the men with K9 units. They are currently working to see if there is surveillance video of the incident.
The suspect descriptions are vague, but police are describing both as Hispanic men between 5’8″ and 5’10″. One was wearing a white shirt and the other was wearing a black shirt.
The store employee was not injured during the incident, and is continuing to assist police with their investigation.
An entire block of Rosslyn is going to be redeveloped, now that the County Board has approved the rezoning and phased development site plan for the 1 million square foot Rosslyn Gateway project.
The mixed-use project covers the 2.2 acres of land bounded by N. 20th Street on the north, N. Moore Street on the east, N. 19th Street on the south, and Fort Myer Drive on the west. The existing two office buildings will be replaced with three buildings — an office building, a residential tower and a hotel/residential building.
The County Board voted 4-1 to approve the project at its meeting last night (Tuesday).
“Rosslyn Gateway is a turning point for the County’s efforts to transform Rosslyn into a more welcoming neighborhood for the people who live, work or visit there,’’ said Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes. ‘’This is exactly the sort of high quality, beautifully designed, mixed use development we hoped that the rezoning of Rosslyn would encourage.”
The project will be constructed in three phases:
- Phase 1 — 25-story, 490,056 square-foot office building with 8,688 square feet of ground-floor retail.
- Phase 2 — 25-story building with 133 residential units, 148 hotel rooms and 10,001 square feet of retail.
- Phase 3 — 20-story residential tower with 140 residential units and 7,687 square feet of ground-floor retail.
Under an agreement with developer JBG, the county will vacate certain easements and public rights-of-way it owns, including the service road that loops around part of the block. JBG would pay compensation to the county for the vacated areas, listed at about $7.5 million.
In addition to removing the service road, three sky bridges will also be removed to accommodate the new development. The sky bridges will be replaced with 12 foot wide clear sidewalks, crossings and street trees to improve pedestrian safety and encourage connections between the buildings. Parking will be located beneath the buildings.
Businesses on the block, such as Continental (1911 Fort Myer Drive), will be affected by the redevelopment. However, it’s unclear if they will relocate or if they will negotiate with JBG to take up some of the ground floor space in the new development.
JBG also agreed to provide $30 million worth of public benefits as a condition of site plan approval. The benefits include contributions to the county’s affordable housing fund, Gateway Park planning efforts, off-site transportation improvements and the Corridor of Light public art project.
A county staff member says the timeline for the project is still up in the air, although JBG’s current work on Central Place will likely take precedence over beginning construction on Rosslyn Gateway. However, due to county guidelines approved in the agreement, work would have to begin sometime in the next five years.
The Georgetown Center for Continuing and Professional Education (CCPE) will be moving from Clarendon to the District.
The campus, part of the Gerogetown School of Continuing Studies (SCS), is recognizable by the “Georgetown University” sign across from the Clarendon Metro station. CCPE, which offers non-credit classes and 25 professional certificate programs, is one of the tenants of an office building at 3101 Wilson Boulevard.
The Center is being consolidated into a newly-announced Georgetown SCS campus in the Chinatown section of D.C., according to a university spokeswoman.
“Right now we’re hoping the new Georgetown downtown space will be ready for fall 2013,” said Stacy Kerr, Georgetown’s Assistant Vice President for Communications. “We would intend to keep our SCS students in Clarendon until the new space is ready.”
Kerr tells ARLnow.com that the university is still deciding what to do with the Clarendon space. Georgetown’s lease runs through fall 2014, she said.
“We certainly have needs and we would like to keep it as a consideration,” said Kerr.
W-L Softball Field Approved — The Arlington County Board has unanimously approved use permits for a new softball field at Washington-Lee High School. The $1 million field will include lighting, grandstands, and a press box.
Comcast Doubling Internet Speeds — Arlington is one of the areas where Comcast is increasing its internet speeds this week. The company says it’s doubling the internet speeds of Arlington customers who currently have the Blast 25 Mbps or the Extreme 50 Mbps internet service, at no additional cost. “This is the seventh time since 2002 that Comcast has increased speeds for its customers,” Comcast spokeswoman Alisha Martin said.
Encore’s ‘Pirates of Penzance’ Reviewed — The Encore Stage and Studio production of “The Pirates of Penzance” — currently playing at the Thomas Jefferson Community Theater at 125 S. Old Glebe Road — is “two hours of solid entertainment for all ages,” according to a newspaper review. [Sun Gazette]