Initial reports suggest a public works crew struck a one-inch gas line on the 2100 block of S. Pollard Street, near Fort Barnard Park and the intersection with S. Walter Reed Drive.
Arlington County police and firefighters are on the scene. Washington Gas was considering ordering an evacuation of houses in a two block radius, but measuring devices indicated that the gas had dissipated, according to scanner traffic.
Currently, only the 2100 block of S. Pollard Street is closed while crews repair the ruptured gas line.
Arlington Has Highest Tax Burden for the Poor — Arlington County has the highest tax burden for low income people in the D.C. area, according to a new study. In response, County Board Chair Jay Fisette suggested that the higher taxes go to providing more services, like affordable housing and better public schools, compared to other jurisdictions. [WAMU]
Op-Ed: Lower The Tax Rate — Local fiscal watchdog Wayne Kubicki says that the the County Board should reduce the property tax rate by 1.5 cents by utilizing part of the $37.1 million in unspent funds left over from Fiscal Year 2014. Kubicki suggests calling the tax rate reduction a “Vihstadt Dividend.” [InsideNoVa]
National Issues Didn’t Help Dems in Local Race — Democratic County Board candidate Alan Howze and his allies tried to corner opponent John Vihstadt on issues like Medicaid and his past support of Republican candidates. But it didn’t work, and Vihstadt was elected in a virtual landslide, the first non-Democrat on the County Board in 15 years. Concludes “Our Man in Arlington” columnist Charlie Clark: “Superimposing state and national ideological issue tests on genuine local disputes won’t trump voter focus on the individual candidates’ qualifications and clarity of message.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Venture Fund Founder on Crystal City — Paul Singh, founder of the new $50 million Crystal Tech Fund, which will focus its investments on post-seed stage tech companies, talked to a reporter about why he chose to locate the fund in Crystal City. He said Crystal City is an “attractive” location for tech company founders because of Metro access and airport proximity, along with “great restaurants and great living environments.” [Washington Post]
National Airport Cab Fares May Rise – The cost of taking a cab from Reagan National Airport may rise starting in September. The Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is considering raising the dispatch fee for cabs picking up passengers from $2.50 to $3 per trip. The board is also considering a requirement that all cabs accept credit cards. [InsideNoVa]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
ARLnow.com first reported in Februrary that numerous businesses in the Clarendon area — mostly bars and restaurants — saw their real estate assessments skyrocket this year, in one case nearly 200 percent. A week later, the county announced that it would review ”all commercial real property assessments with a 50 percent or greater increase from calendar year 2013.”
That review is continuing, with Donnellan telling the Board that she had “no projection as to when it would be completed.” In an earlier interview with ARLnow.com, Rick Melman, Arlington’s director of real estate assessment, said he expected the review to wrap up by the end of May.
In all, 64 commercial properties had 50 percent or higher assessment increases and are being reviewed, Melman said. Responding to a request from ARLnow.com, the county released a list of those properties — albeit in the form of Real Property Codes, not addresses. Those codes can be searched here.
For some of the properties on the list, the big jump in assessments can be explained by building projects or development plans that drove up the value. Others remain unexplained — for instance, Rien Tong Restaurant’s nearly 200 percent increase, when neighboring restaurant Kabob Bazaar only increased 32 percent. Or Revolution Cycles’ 64 percent increase, when the Whole Foods across the street saw no increase.
Outside of Clarendon, some properties on the list stood out.
The Dolley Madison Towers apartment complex at 2300 24th Road S. saw its assessment spike from $44 million to $103 million between 2013 and 2014. The aging retail strip at 927 S. Walter Reed Drive rose in value from $1.3 million to $2.2 million. And the assessment for Ballston Animal Hospital at 5232 Wilson Blvd rose from $543,000 to $1 million.
“The assessment office is right now in the process of looking through these 64 properties,” said Melman. “It’s quite a lot to look at. At this early stage it looks that about half of them are explained by new construction, site plans, things like that. Examiners are re-examining the other half. There’s no real trend, they’re all over the county.”
Melman said the real estate assessment office, on balance, had a “pretty low appeal rate” this year. Still, he encouraged anyone who feels their property’s assessment was too high to contact the office and/or file an appeal. Today (Tuesday) is the final day to appeal to Arlington’s Board of Equalization.
“There have been some human errors on our part… and that’s what the appeals process is for,” Melman said. “We’d be glad to talk to any property owner if they have questions or concerns. Our goal is to be fair and equitable to citizen.”
Arlington Family Returns to Boston Marathon — The Walls family of Arlington will be returning to Boston this week to finish the marathon they didn’t get to complete last year because of the April 15 bombings. John Walls was in the grandstands on Boylston Street, waiting for wife Cindy and daughter Katie to cross the finish line, when the first bomb exploded across the street. John captured video of the ensuing chaos on his smartphone. Cindy and Katie were among the thousands of runners who did not get a chance to finish the race. They’re running again this year. [WTOP]
Dozens of Arlingtonians to Compete in Marathon — A record 112 runners from Arlington are signed up to run the 2014 Boston Marathon on Monday, April 21. The race is the world’s oldest annual marathon and widely considered the world’s most prestigious. [InsideNoVa]
HOT Lanes Proposed for 14th Street Bridge — The District of Columbia is considering a proposal to install High Occupancy Toll lanes on the 14th Street Bridge, the Southeast/Southwest Freeway, and I-295. Arlington County successfully blocked a HOT lanes proposal on the Alexandria and Arlington portion of I-395. [NBC Washington]
Kenmore Teacher Named ‘Teacher of the Year’ — Kenmore Middle School technology teacher Cassidy Nolen has been named Arlington’s 2014 teacher of the year. Glebe Elementary School principal Jamie Borg, meanwhile, was named principal of the year. [InsideNoVa]
‘Business of Weddings’ Forum at GMU — Weddings are big business, and a free forum tomorrow at George Mason University’s Arlington campus (3351 Fairfax Drive) will explore the economic impact of getting hitched. Attendees are asked to RSVP for the event, which is scheduled from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. Wednesday. [Eventbrite]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Police say Roy Anthony Jones, a 30-year-old D.C. resident, raped a 37-year-old female patient in the early morning hours of January 13, 2014, while he was working as a CT Scan Technician.
“The victim was at the hospital as a patient when the incident occurred and reported the crime to police following the attack,” Arlington County Police said in a press release today. “Virginia Hospital Center staff cooperated with detectives throughout the investigation.”
Jones was denied bond and is being held at the Arlington County Detention Facility.
Photo courtesy ACPD
The Board approved the the framework for its planned Rosslyn Sector Plan Update. It’s an outline for a plan that when finished and approved, will help move Rosslyn from its auto-oriented, commercial feel to what the County Board hopes will be a mixed-use hub of street-level activity.
Among the components of the framework the Board approved this weekend were developing more housing in central Rosslyn, studying turning Ft. Myer Drive and N. Lynn Street into two-way streets, creating a full 18th Street corridor to remove the “superblocks” between 19th Street N. and Wilson Blvd, creating an “esplanade” and connecting the open spaces in the area.
The 18th Street alignment was the source of some dispute between Rosslyn property owners last month, and the framework left the final alignment of the pedestrian and bicycle corridor to be determined. Tad Lunger, a lawyer representing the owner of the Ames Center at 1820 N. Fort Myer Drive. Lunger, spoke at Saturday’s meeting.
“This process, which lasted for over a year, resulted in many of the framework plan’s issues to remain unresolved and a source of anxiety to many stakeholders in Rosslyn,” Lunger said. “As a result, most major issues were not really addressed until the past month’s public portion of the process.”
The plans to turn Lynn Street and Fort Myer Drive into two-way streets also concerned residents of the area, who feel it could have traffic implications for the neighborhoods.
“The change of Lynn Street and Ft. Myer Drive to two lanes going in each direction from their current four lanes is probably a benefit to Rosslyn,” said Radnor-Ft. Myer Heights Civic Assocation President Stan Karson, “but it could have unintended consequences to the residents of the nearby area because of the possible and probable backup in the area.”
Among other goals set by the framework:
- Making Rosslyn a more walkable neighborhood
- Adding building density — especially housing density — in central Rosslyn while maintaining “sensitive transitions” to lower density on the edges
- Encouraging “more varied building facades”
- Enhancing connectivity among Rosslyn’s parks and green space, including additional connections to the Potomac waterfront
- Working with WMATA on plans for a second Rosslyn Metro station
- “Preserving the potential” for connecting D.C.’s planned Georgetown-to-Union Station streetcar line to Rosslyn
- Narrowing excessively wide streets by building wider sidewalks and more bike lanes
County staff will now take the framework and develop the specifics of the Rosslyn Sector Plan Update, which is expected to be complete by the end of 2014. The public will continue to have input through the Realize Rosslyn process, the county said.
The Arlington County Board approved a $16.5 million loan to affordable housing developer AHC on Saturday to purchase a Columbia Pike apartment building.
The loan, which comes from the county’s dedicated Affordable Housing Investment Fund, will allow AHC to purchase the Serrano Apartments at 5535 Columbia Pike, which are currently owned by Carmel Partners.
The apartment building, in the Columbia Heights West neighborhood, has 280 units, 239 of which are currently considered affordable. The loan allows AHC to purchase the building and keep 196 units in the building as dedicated affordable housing for the next 60 years. The remainder will be offered at a market rate.
AHC will also purchase the 39,500 square feet of vacant land fronting the Pike, which Carmel has an application to subdivide, according to the county’s press release. That land could be developed into a complex with about 80 apartment units, according to the Columbia Pike Form Based Code.
“The County Board has committed to preserving affordable housing along Columbia Pike,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in the press release. “This loan to AHC is in keeping with our commitment. These units now will remain affordable for generations of Arlingtonians — and help preserve the Pike’s rich diversity as it is redeveloped into a more transit-oriented, walkable ‘Main Street.’”
Current tenants will not be displaced with the ownership change, the county said. The purchase follows through on the Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Area Plan, which calls for keeping 6,200 of the current affordable market-rate apartments affordable as the Pike develops and creating 400 new units affordable to families at 80 percent of the area median income on the western portion of the Pike.
Photo via Bozzuto
Lubber Run Neighbors Rally Against Housing Proposal — Those who live around the Lubber Run Community Center showed up to the Saturday Arlington County Board meeting to rally against a proposal to use the public land around the community center for affordable housing or a new school. The residents also asked the Board to approve a renovation to the community center. [Sun Gazette]
Board Approves Expanded ‘Technology Zones’ — The County Board on Saturday approved an expansion of its program of reduced business license taxes for technology businesses in certain “technology zones.” About 5-10 businesses per year are expected to qualify for the tax incentives. [Arlington County]
Avg. Single Family Home Price Tops $900,000 — The average sale price of a single family home in Arlington hit $913,677 in March. That’s up 11.7 percent year-over-year. The average townhouse sale price, meanwhile, was $449,202 and the average condo was $515,000. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Educators Honored — Two Arlington educators, Glebe Elementary principal Jamie Borg and Kenmore Middle School teacher Cassidy Nolen, are among the recipients of the Washington Post’s annual education awards. [Washington Post]
Air Force Research Office to Remain in Arlington — After considering a move to Dayton, Ohio, the Air Force has decided to keep its Office of Scientific Research in Arlington. The decision was made after Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, and Rep. Jim Moran, pressed the Air Force to abandon the relocation proposal. The office employs about 170 people. [PR Newswire, Dayton Business Journal]
Arlington Runner Wins Marine Corp 17.75K – Arlington’s Kelly Swain was the top female finisher at the Marine Corps 17.75K race in Prince William County over the weekend. Swain, 28, finished the 11.03 mile event in 1:14:02. The 17.75K is a precursor to the Marine Corps Marathon, which starts and ends in Arlington. The sold-out race will take place this year on Oct. 26. [Army Times]
Flickr pool photo by J. Sonderman
John Vihstadt, the first non-Democrat elected to serve on the Arlington County Board since 1999, was sworn in to his new position this afternoon.
In his first remarks as a County Board member — filling the seat that Chris Zimmerman vacated when he resigned earlier this year — Vihstadt vowed to introduce an “audit function” to the Board, rein in spending and “break down silos” in county government.
“Our victory was not a victory for one candidate or one person,” Vihstadt said from a podium in the County Board room, “it was a victory for the people of Arlington County.”
Vihstadt, who ran as an independent endorsed by the Republican and Green parties, defeated Democrat Alan Howze on Tuesday by a 57 to 41 percent margin. The two will face off again in November’s general election, on the ballot with the race for Sen. Mark Warner (D)’s seat and the congressional seat of retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D).
Vihstadt campaigned against projects like the Columbia Pike streetcar and Artisphere, a message that resonated with the majority of the 22,209 voters on Tuesday. Friday afternoon, Vihstadt promised to follow through on his campaign platforms.
“I’ll question county spending decisions and ask ‘do we need it? How do we pay for it?’” he said. “It’s time county government lives within its means.”
Vihstadt also said he wants to reform the county’s bond process and the wording of ballot items, both measures that could reduce Arlington’s capability for large community investments.
County Board Chairman Jay Fisette introduced Vihstadt, whose father held the bible during the ceremony, and explained why the ceremony was pushed back to Friday when it was originally scheduled for Wednesday. Virginia passed a law in 2012, Fisette said, that required any provisional ballots to be reviewed by the Friday after an election before the results could be certified. There was one provisional ballot cast in the special election.
“Many of us have worked with John, and I certainly have on a variety of things over the years,” Fisette said. “I look forward to getting back to work with John as one of the five of us on the Board.”
Del. Patrick Hope (D) was in attendance, as was Board member Libby Garvey and Commonweath’s Attorney Theo Stamos, both Democrats who endorsed Vihstadt’s campaign. Board Vice Chair Mary Hynes was attending a regional meeting and Board member Walter Tejada was late, leading Fisette to comment that Tejada was “running on Latino time.”
A woman escaped serious injuries after crashing her motorcycle on S. Arlington Ridge Road.
The accident happened around noon today. The woman somehow lost control of her motorcycle as she was riding down the 1100 block of S. Arlington Ridge Road, crashing into the front of a parked car. She and the motorcycle both came to rest in some woods adjacent to the car.
The woman was transported by ambulance to George Washington University hospital but her injuries are said to be minor.
Arlington County Police are closing the investigation into the fatal pedestrian crash that occurred in front of Nottingham Elementary School on Feb. 24.
After a month-and-a-half accident investigation, police have charged 33-year-old Manassas resident Marvin Valladres with “failure to pay full time and attention,” a traffic infraction. He will not face more serious criminal charges, like negligence or involuntary manslaughter.
Valladres had just left a nearby construction site and was driving his dump truck down N. Little Falls Road around 11:30 a.m. when a passenger side step caught the open rear sliding door on 39-year-old Jennifer Lawson’s minivan, according to investigators. Lawson had just finished putting her young child in a car seat and was standing next to the driver’s side door when the truck drove by, ripping the sliding door off the minivan and fatally injuring her, police said.
Following the crash, neighbors in the Williamsburg neighborhood held a community meeting, with many calling for answers and accountability. Investigators, however, believe this is a case of a tragic accident.
Valladres was “very cooperative” during the investigation, there was “no indication of any driver distraction or alcohol involved” in the accident, and there was also ”no indication of any speeding violation,” according to ACPD Dep. Chief Daniel J. Murray.
Advice for Vihstadt — Dave Foster, a Republican elected to two full terms on the Arlington School Board starting in 1999, has some advice for the newly-elected County Board member John Vihstadt. In order for Vihstadt to win re-election and a full term in November, he will need to practice “thoughtful and independent decision-making, hard work and constant community outreach,” Foster said. [InsideNoVa]
‘Brave’ Moran Loses Two Votes — Retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D) is taking some bold but symbolic stances in his last term. Moran was one of “two brave Democrats” who voted for a doomed interpretation of President Obama’s budget, as floated by House Republicans for the express purpose of getting Democrats to vote against it. Moran also lost his bid to raise pay for members of Congress; the proposal died in committee. [Washington Times, Associated Press]
Road Closures for Parade — Parts of Walter Reed Drive, Four Mile Run and George Mason Drive will be closed Sunday morning and afternoon for the Carnival de Oruro Parade. [Arlington County]
Library Extends DVD Renewals – Arlington Public Library is now letting patrons renew DVDs twice, meaning the maximum rental period is now 21 days. [Arlington Public Library]
Del. Brink Finds 13 to Be Unlucky – Was it a coincidence? Arlington’s Del. Bob Brink (D) was 13th in seniority in the Virginia House of Delegates this year. And as he was putting his “13″ specialty license plate on his car (such plates are issued to lawmakers annually by the state), his pliers slipped and gouged a deep cut in his finger. One fellow lawmaker, however, opined that the bad luck was actually because Brink had just, by virtue of timing, introduced House Bill 666. [InsideNoVa]
Thieves stole the airbags from a number of cars parked in Fairlington early Tuesday morning.
Victims told NBC 4 that they woke up to find their car hoods open and their airbags missing. From this week’s Arlington County crime report:
GRAND LARCENY FROM AUTO (series), 140408013, 3000 block of S. Columbus Street. On April 8 at 5:46am, it was reported that multiple vehicles in the Fairlington area were broken into by an unknown subject(s) and airbags were stolen. There is no suspect(s) description and the investigation is ongoing.
Also on Tuesday, a cab driver was allegedly robbed at gunpoint in the Rosslyn area.
ROBBERY, 140408063, 1800 block of N. Clarendon Boulevard. On April 8 at 7:06pm, a taxi cab driver reported he was robbed at gunpoint by a passenger. The suspect later identified as Sami Troy Traboulsi, 28, of Alexandria, VA was taken into custody and charged with robbery.
The rest of the crime report, after the jump. All named suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty.
New Restaurants Coming to Rosslyn – At least three new restaurant concepts are reportedly coming to Rosslyn. The restaurants will be opening on the ground floor of the Sedona/Slate apartment building and office buildings at 1100 and 1501 Wilson Blvd, according to speakers at a Bisnow conference in Rosslyn yesterday morning. Little is known about the restaurants — so far, property owners aren’t naming names — but one rumor relayed to ARLnow.com is that one of the restaurants will feature a Top Chef contestant as its head chef. [Bisnow]
Vihstadt Swearing-In Set for Friday — The swearing-in of new Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt will take place at 3:30 p.m. on Friday. The ceremony will be aired live on Arlington TV (Comcast 25 / Verizon 40). [Arlington County]
Other Localities Are Also Having Transit Debates — Arlington County isn’t the only community having a debate over a large transit project, like the planned Columbia Pike streetcar line. Streetcar critics are also active in Cincinnati, where a 3.6 mile, $133 million streetcar line is under construction. In Nashville, meanwhile, opposition to a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line has spilled over to the state Senate. [Greater Greater Washington]
Yorktown Boys Soccer Moves Up in Rankings — The boys soccer team at Yorktown High School is now ranked No. 6 in the region after opening the season with a 5-1 record. [Washington Post]
Rosslyn McDonald’s Demolition Scheduled — The demolition of the now-closed McDonald’s restaurant near the Rosslyn Metro station is scheduled to begin on Monday, April 21. Demolition work is expected to take 7-10 days. [Rosslyn BID]
Flickr pool photo by Nathan Jones
In the fourth quarter of 2013, Arlington reported about $813 million in taxable retail sales in its March economic indicators study today. Over the same period in 2013, Arlington had about $786 million, a drop of 3.3 percent. The change can’t be attributed to the unusually snowy winter, either: nearly all of the snow this winter fell in the first quarter of 2014, after these numbers were recorded.
While the retail industry — which includes everything from restaurants to grocery stores to stands in the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City — lost $27 million in sales year-over-year, Arlington’s workforce grew 1.4 percent while its unemployment rate dropped from 3.9 percent in January 2013 to 3.3 percent in January.
In addition, housing prices were up across the board this February compared to last year, with a 2.2 percent bump in single family detached house prices, 3.7 percent for single family attached (like townhouses and duplexes) and a 4.7 percent jump in condominium prices, from $410,339 to $430,115.
Local retail broker John Asadoorian, of Asadoorian Retail Solutions, said the numbers don’t raise any alarm just yet.
“It’s hard to really discern what the drop means,” Asadoorian told ARLnow.com. “The only thing I could say is there hasn’t been that much new retail space delivered in Arlington, which means there hasn’t been a whole influx of new tenants, which means the mix in Arlington is stable. If it’s stable, is it still competitive with other jurisdictions that may be growing?”
Asadoorian referred to Tysons Corner and Georgetown as two areas whose growing retail options could be poaching customers from Arlington’s shops. However, several buildings under construction in Ballston and Rosslyn figure to bump the retail number back up in the coming years, he said.
While those buildings may help the retail market, they may not do wonders for the office vacancy rate in Arlington, which ballooned to 19.9 percent over the past year, a 3.7 percent jump over 2012. A significant chunk of that is from the 35-story 1812 N. Moore Street building in Rosslyn which is still looking for its first tenants.
The office vacancy rate in Rosslyn grew 8.4 percent year-over-year and sits at 25.2 percent, now the highest area in the county. Crystal City, still smarting from BRAC closures, is the second-most vacant neighborhood at 24.7 percent. Only the Clarendon-Courthouse corridor gained more office tenants than it lost last year, with its vacancy rate falling from 11.2 to 9.0 percent.