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The Right Note: On the Radar

by Mark Kelly — October 24, 2013 at 1:45 pm 457 0

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column published on Thursdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyThe county staff response to the Urban Agriculture Task Force’s recommendations will be formally presented at a County Board work session Nov. 12. The most high profile among the recommendations is the consideration of allowing Arlingtonians to keep backyard chickens. If accepted, individuals would be able to have as many as four hens so long as the coops are set back 20 feet from their property lines, and a majority of their adjacent neighbors agree.

The biggest question seems to surround enforcement. How will the county enforce the inspection requirements for new coops as well as ongoing policing to ensure chicken owners stay in compliance? What will they do about people who do not file plans but put coops in their backyards anyway? Will fees for coops and fines for failures to comply cover any need to hire new county code enforcement personnel? Assuming revenue generated by chickens will not cover any costs, how will new personnel be paid for?

The recommendations are a priority for 2013 Board Chairman Tejada, so look for him to try to push these along before his term ends Jan. 1.

Next month, the County Board will consider what to do with excess revenue in the closeout process. Based on recent history, they could have up to tens of millions of dollars to spend outside of the regular budget process. Remember that in a couple months when the County Manager and County Board tell us we have to pay more in property taxes or fees next year because we have a “budget shortfall.”

The Potomac Yard Harris Teeter re-opened after an 18 month closure caused by a sewage backup that was not of their own making. Harris Teeter has sued Arlington County for $1 million in damages, alleging negligence for the backup. Reports on the causes at the time would lead one to believe Harris Teeter may have a case. If so, hopefully the county will settle this quickly rather than burning up time and legal fees for any outside counsel. The Board, as you may remember, ran up well over $1 million in legal fees to sue everyone they could think of during the HOT lanes fight.

Residents across the South Arlington neighborhoods near the Pentagon were largely opposed to the PenPlace development approved by the County Board in September. Among residents’ concerns about the development’s impact on the neighborhoods were traffic, public safety, services, like grocery stores, and parks.  Less than a month later, the Board approved an updated Arlington Ridge Neighborhood Conservation plan which covers some of the area near the PenPlace development. The Arlington Ridge plan had not been revised in 40 years.

Kudos to local residents whose concerns about the Crystal City Sector Plan and PenPlace were largely ignored when the County Board approved the plans. After the Crystal City Plan went through over their objections three years ago, they made sure to tee up the new conservation plan to push the County Board to accept when their PenPlace objections met the same fate.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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