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by Ethan Rothstein — December 18, 2014 at 12:00 pm 910 0

John Vihstadt was sworn in for his first four-year term on the Arlington County Board yesterday evening before an overflow crowd in the County Board room.

It was the second time in a year Vihstadt was sworn in, after winning a special election in April to replace Chris Zimmerman, who resigned in February. In both cases, Vihstadt, a Republican-endorsed independent, defeated Democrat Alan Howze, who was in attendance yesterday.

“Our campaign brought so many people together, united with a message of fiscal responsibility, greater transparency, accountability and checks and balances,” Vihstadt said. Each of his electoral victories were by substantial margins, and came as surprises to many election observers.

“They were not victories based on one issue, despite what some have said, but many issues,” he continued. “They were not victories for national issues, but local issues. Issues that our county can do something about today, tomorrow and the next day.”

Vihstadt’s election was the biggest factor in the County Board’s decision to cancel the Columbia Pike streetcar last month, and as he laid out his priorities for his term, his fifth and final one was directed at the residents of the Pike, Pentagon City and Crystal City corridors. Despite the streetcar’s cancellation, he vowed to bring a more robust transit system to the corridor in the future.

“Yes there are wounds in our community,” he said, “but we need to work together to bind them up in a collaborative fashion.”

Vihstadt acknowledged his 94-year-old father, Ed, whose bible he was sworn in on, and his two sons, Ben, a college student, and Jack, a resident of the Columbia Pike area. He also reminded residents that his contact information is on his website. “Please use it,” he said.

Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette closed the ceremony, minutes before his last meeting as this year’s Board chair, and said he already has a good working relationship with his newest colleague.

“John’s sense of stewardship and responsibility have already become apparent and are very much appreciated,” Fisette said. “I have no doubt that Arlington’s future is bright and that John Vihstadt will be a part of that future success.”

by Ethan Rothstein — December 18, 2014 at 10:30 am 1,666 0

Signature Theatre (photo via Signature Theatre website)The Arlington County Board unanimously approved a $5 million loan and 19 years of free rent for Shirlington’s Signature Theatre at its meeting yesterday.

The decision came just hours after County Manager Barbara Donnellan recommended closing Rosslyn’s Artisphere next June. The County Board ultimately decided that the two arts organizations’ situations were different enough to begin a new investment as it acknowledged the failure of a previous one.

“Signature really is an Arlington treasure,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said. “It reaches into our community and impacts our community in substantial ways.”

The theater will receive the loan at a low, 1 percent interest rate; it will no longer have to pay $411,000 in unpaid county taxes and fees; and $2.7 million of its $7.7 million debt to United Bank will be forgiven.

“Signature will pay back this loan in full and on time,” the theater’s managing director, Maggie Boland, told the Board. “We often joke that ‘hope is not a strategy’ at Signature. We don’t commit to a production plan that we can’t afford.”

Signature’s yearly debt payments will be reduced from more than $1 million to about $300,000, a difference that county Director of Management and Finance Michelle Cowen called “transformative.”

“It allows them to bulk up on their balance sheet, which is in poor shape,” Cowen said.

There were 11 speakers from the public, and eight of them spoke in support of the County Board’s action. Many of the supporters were either current or former members of the Signature in the Schools program, Shirlington business owners or those with active interests in the theater’s success.

“We believe Signature is vital to the overall success of Shirlington and the greater Arlington County community,” Ken Mosig, director of asset management for the Village at Shirlington’s parent company, Federal Realty Investment Trust, said. “Their programs attract people to the Village of Shirlington. Having Signature Theatre as an entertainment venue has helped bring 100,000 people to the area per year.”

Among the dissenters were Jim Hurysz and Tim Wise, two frequent County Board critics and opponents of government spending.

“Taxpayers who oppose public subsidies for the arts do not oppose the arts,” Wise said. “We just think the arts should pay for themselves.”

Board member Libby Garvey asked Boland why they couldn’t raise ticket prices to generate the additional revenue, needed, but Boland said that if the tickets were any more expensive, “that would be detrimental to our business.”

Although the County Board unanimously approved the loan — the money for which comes from FY 2014 closeout funds — several members indicated that this would be the last chance Signature has for county funding for some time.

“We don’t want to be here again,” Fisette said.

Photo via Signature Theatre website

by ARLnow.com — December 17, 2014 at 4:20 pm 5,300 0

Artisphere sign(Updated at 5:20 p.m.) Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan says the county should close the Artisphere cultural center in Rosslyn.

Donnellan made the recommendation at today’s County Board meeting, after being charged by the Board earlier this year to study Artisphere and suggest a way forward for the money-losing, county-run center.

“I will be recommending that the county close the Artisphere as a cultural center in fiscal year 2016,” Donnellan said. “This was a business decision… this was a tough decision, a disappointing one. The reality is that the Artisphere has not lived up to projections.”

Donnellan said Artisphere, in her opinion, would require “substantial ongoing tax support.”

“That is not what we promised our community when we opened Artisphere,” she said. Artisphere will remain open through June 30. It will close after that, if the County Board adopts Donnellan’s recommendation. After Donnellan gave her report, it became clear that the Board was behind her decision and it’s likely the art center will close on June 30.

“I support what you suggested, that next June, Artisphere would close as we know it,” Board Chair Jay Fisette said. “My hope is whatever option will move forward on our economic competitiveness goals one way or another.”

County Board member John Vihstadt, who had used the Artisphere as an example of wasteful county spending in his election campaign this year, obliquely referenced the county’s cancellation of the streetcar last month.

“I think we all realize the changing course on a long community initiative, as has happened in the last few years and months, is never easy,” he said. Speaking to reporters after the meeting had adjourned, he added, “I think it was the right decision. I was concerned about the Artisphere all along.”

County staff will be studying options for sub-leasing Artisphere to a private company or a private-public partnership in the “arts, media, technology” space, or returning it to landlord Monday Properties, Donnellan said.

She called the recommendation “a repositioning, not a retreat.” County staff will be tasked with coming up with a new art plan for the county, one that reflects current fiscal realities.

“Smart communities know when to reevaluate decisions,” Donnellan said.

Here Cafe + Bar in ArtisphereThe 62,000 square foot facility opened with a flourish, at a cost of $6.7 million in October 2010. Optimistic projections of a quarter million annual visitors quickly crashed down to earth in 2011. Visitor revenue was 75 percent below expectations, and Artisphere’s in-house restaurant closed after just a few months in business.

Arlington Economic Development assumed control of Artisphere by the end of 2011, and began implementing a business plan that included shorter hours and actively renting the facility for non-art-related events. The changes were successful by some measures, but problems remained — the facility again went over budget in Fiscal Year 2013. Last month, County Board allocated $1.3 million in its annual budget close-out for Artisphere-related expenses next year.

Donnellan told reporters after her report that 20 part-time and 12 full-time staff work at Artisphere, and some may be able to continue working in other areas of the county, but there will be some who lose their jobs.

The County Board may officially decide to close Artisphere before its April budget motion, Vihstadt said, and Donnellan said she will soon begin discussions with Monday Properties about the space’s future.

This evening, Donnellan will ask the Board to approve a $5 million loan to another art center, Signature Theatre. She said the two recommendations are “business decisions” and should be looked at separately.

by ARLnow.com — December 17, 2014 at 3:40 pm 1,184 0

County Board Chair Mary Hynes' chair was "yarn bombed"Mary Hynes is slated to take the chairman’s seat on the Arlington County Board next year.

Current Board chair Jay Fisette announced the expected leadership succession at the Board’s afternoon meeting today (Wednesday). Hynes is currently vice chair of the County Board.

Walter Tejada, meanwhile, is to be next year’s County Board vice chairman. The changes will take effect with the Board’s Jan. 1 organizational meeting.

Hynes and Tejada are both up for reelection in 2015.

by ARLnow.com — December 16, 2014 at 9:30 am 1,611 0

Apartment construction project on Lee Highway, at dusk

Blue, Orange, Silver Lines Suspended — Metrorail service on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines was suspended during the morning rush hour due to a water main break in D.C. Those in Arlington hoping to get to work via Uber were being charged four times the normal rate, thanks to the company’s “surge pricing” practices. An Arlington Alert, meanwhile, contained an oddly appropriate typo — it noted that service was suspended at “Farragut Wet” due to the water main break. [Washington Post]

Board: Traffic Light Coming in 18 Months — The Arlington County Board had good news for activists at its Saturday meeting: the traffic light they’re seeking at Columbia Pike and S. Frederick Street is coming. The bad news is that it could take up to 18 months. Board member Walter Tejada said that is “too long” and “we have to find a way to make it happen.” [InsideNova]

Zoning Change Advertised for Wendy’s Redevelopment — The County Board on Saturday voted to advertise a potential zoning change for 2026 and 2038 Wilson Blvd, the current site of the Wendy’s restaurant in Courthouse, which is slated for a redevelopment. Developer Carr Properties wants to build a 12-story office building on the site. Public hearings will now be held in advance of Board consideration of the rezoning request. [Arlington County]

Arlington Book Store Wins Grant — East Falls Church bookstore One More Page Books has won a $9,000 grant from novelist James Patterson. The store plans to use the grant to launch a “bookmobile” — a modified food truck that sells books around the community. [Washington Post]

by Ethan Rothstein — December 15, 2014 at 12:00 pm 581 0

An All Access Taxi accessible cab (photo courtesy All Access Taxi)Arlington will soon see an influx of wheelchair accessible taxis.

The Arlington County Board voted on Saturday to approve the licenses for 60 new taxis, all wheelchair accessible. Ten of those taxis will be operated by Blue Top Cab while the other 50 licenses will be owned by new company All Access Taxi.

The Board’s unanimous decision adds 20 more taxis to the county’s fleet than County Manager Barbara Donnellan recommended, bringing the total number of licensed cabs in the county to 847, 97 of which will be accessible cabs.

“Our taxi companies, members of the disability community and riders are telling us there is a growing demand for accessible taxi service in Arlington,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a press release. “We strive to be a fully welcoming community, and these additional cabs will provide more options and convenience to many people with a disability.”

County staff’s report on the licenses said people with wheelchairs have had to wait three hours for an accessible taxi and have had trouble getting taxis from Reagan National Airport. Julie Piche, the CEO of All Access Taxi, said the County Board’s approval will drastically improve the lives of disabled Arlington residents.

“This is ground-breaking because for the first time a local government has recognized that accessible and equitable service requires a fleet and a dedicated effort,” Piche told ARLnow.com today. “This is a victory for people with disabilities across the nation because their needs have been recognized and their quest for accessible, on-demand transportation has been validated. Arlington’s leadership will set the standard for the nation.”

All Access Taxi anticipates offering rides on demand — via phone, online and a mobile app – in February, Piche said, and its full fleet is expected to be operational by April.

Photo courtesy All Access Taxi

by ARLnow.com — December 15, 2014 at 9:20 am 3,016 0

An accident on southbound I-395 Sunday night (photo courtesy Dave Prentice)

Tejada Rips Streetcar Decision — Arlington County Board member Walter Tejada made a forceful seven-and-a-half minute speech at Saturday’s Board meeting, ripping into the decision to cancel the county’s streetcar project. Tejada said the county government “has failed” and wasted the time of those involved in the streetcar’s 15-year planning process. Tejada was joined by two members of the public who spoke out against the decision. [Blue Virginia, Washington Post]

Wilson School Supporters Speak Out — Supporters of the Wilson School in Rosslyn are making what might be a last push to save the 104-year-old building — which they claim is historic — from potential demolition. Stan Karson, president of the nearby Radnor/Fort Myer Heights Civic Association, told the School Board week that “if you tear down Wilson School, you are saying to Arlington students history is important only in the classroom, not in the board room.” Meanwhile, Karson wrote in a newspaper letter to the editor that “the concerned community has been silenced.” [InsideNova, Washington Post]

Abby Raphael Won’t Seek Reelection — School Board member Abby Raphael says she will not seek reelection in 2015 and has no plans to run for County Board. Raphael is on her second term on the School Board. Some believe she may have her sights set on a state-level office. [InsideNova]

Moran Laments ‘Demagoguing’ Left — Retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) says the left wing of the Democratic party is starting to pick up some traits of the Republican party’s Tea Party wing. Moran said liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was “demagoguing” the issue of financial reform by opposing a compromise spending bill — a bill that avoided a government shutdown but contained some changes to the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law. [Blue Virginia]

Board Approves Bond Refinancing — Arlington County will save $147,000 a year over the next 16 years thanks to a refinancing of three wastewater and water system bonds. The County Board unanimously approved the refinancing on Saturday. [Arlington County]

Photo courtesy Dave Prentice

by Ethan Rothstein — December 11, 2014 at 3:30 pm 5,255 0

Signature Theatre (photo via Signature Theatre website)(Updated at 4:10 p.m.) Arlington County could come to the rescue for Signature Theatre‘s financial troubles.

County Manager Barbara Donnellan is recommending the county lend the Shirlington theater $5 million, to be repaid over 19 years at a low 1 percent interest, she announced today.

The Arlington County Board will decide whether to approve the theater’s new financing plan at its recessed meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 17. If approved, the county would also forgive Signature for $411,000 in unpaid lease and utility payments, and not collect rent for the term of the loan.

“Signature Theatre is key to Shirlington’s success,” Donnellan said in a press release. “This restructuring will put Signature on a sound financial footing and help ensure that it will continue to draw thousands of people to Arlington every year. This loan, which Signature will repay over the next two decades, is the basis of a responsible financial plan. It will support one of the County’s most important arts organizations, an organization that yields important cultural and economic benefits for our entire community.”

The $5 million will be allocated from FY 2014 closeout funds, Donnellan said. The loan removes Signature from consideration for future county cultural grants. Last spring, the county awarded the theater a $250,000 grant to help it pay off its real estate and business taxes.

The loan negotiations have been ongoing for several years, the county said, and include Signature’s private lender, United Bank, forgiving $2.7 million of its $7.7 million loan.

“All of us at Signature are deeply grateful to our partners at United Bank and Arlington County for working with us to ensure that Signature can continue to thrive in Shirlington for many years to come,” Signature’s Managing Director Maggie Boland said in the release. “As the largest arts organization in Arlington, and Virginia’s largest theater, we are very pleased to cement this long-term partnership with the County.”

Signature, which won a Regional Theater Tony Award in 2009, is arguably the county’s most prominent arts organization. The theater is currently hosting the world premiere of the musical adaptation of Diner. It also conducts an education program for high school students called Signature in the Schools.

Janet Kopenhaver, chair of the Arlington Commission for the Arts, says the commission enthusiastically supports the county’s loan proposal.

“On behalf of the Arlington Commission for the Arts, I want to express our total support for this agreement with Signature Theatre — a critical asset to the County’s vibrant arts community,” Kopenhaver said. “We applaud the County for considering not only protecting a vital real estate investment in Shirlington, but also supporting our nationally-renowned, Tony-award winning theater company that we are so proud to have located in Arlington County.”

Photo via Signature Theatre

by Ethan Rothstein — December 10, 2014 at 5:10 pm 1,119 0

A retail space at 1800 N. Kent Street that has been vacant for six yearsFour vacant retail spaces — three in Rosslyn and one in Courthouse — could be converted into medical or office space following action by the Arlington County Board this weekend.

The Board has four items in Saturday’s consent agenda dealing with the conversion of space mandated to be retail, based on building’s site plans, to office or medical uses. One of those items is for a dentist’s office already in operation in Courthouse Plaza under a temporary site plan amendment.

The other three agenda items are for:

  • Two vacant retail spaces, totaling 3,696 square feet, at 1800 N. Kent Street. One space (pictured above) was a private school space that has been vacant for six years. The other had been occupied by dry cleaners, but has been vacant for 10 years, according to the staff report.
  • A 2,830-square-foot vacant space on the ground floor of 2001 15th Street N., in the Odyssey Condominiums. The space fronts Clarendon Blvd, but it has been vacant for five years, other than serving as a temporary leasing office for the now-opened apartments across the street, the staff report states. Since the leasing office has relocated, the owner reports difficulty finding a tenant for the space.
  • A 1,520-square-foot space at 1600 Wilson Blvd, the former site of the Sir Speedy Printing Center, which has been vacant since July. The space, according to the staff report, “has a history of retail vacancy and poses some location challenges for retail attraction.”

County staff identified no issues for any of these sites, suggesting a “medical/physical therapy office, will help activate the street and pose no adverse impacts to the neighborhood,” in all of the reports.

The county seems to be taking a softer line on mandated ground floor retail spaces, in recognition that some storefronts are just not viable for traditional retail. For instance, 1800 N. Kent Street is well hidden from Rosslyn’s main N. Lynn Street drag, resulting in a relative paucity of the foot traffic that could bring customers to a small business.

County staff, in recommending approval of the motions, used the draft Arlington Retail Action Plan as guidance in its decisions.

The draft action plan, which would replace and expand upon the 2001 Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor Retail Plan, includes a map that specifies which type of retail can go where. According to the county’s planning staff, all four locations on Saturday’s agenda are considered appropriate for medical or office use under the draft retail map.

by Ethan Rothstein — December 10, 2014 at 10:55 am 2,440 0

Rendering of the proposed Columbia Hills development on S. Frederick StreetSome stakeholders along Columbia Pike are asking the Arlington County Board to name the area a “revitalization district” — a designation normally reserved for blighted and impoverished communities — in order to spur affordable housing development.

County Manager Barbara Donnellan has yet to issue a recommendation on the item, which the Board is set to discuss at its meeting this Saturday.

According to Virginia Code, an area can be deemed a revitalization district if:

  • “the area is blighted, deteriorated, deteriorating…”
  • “the industrial, commercial or other economic development of such area will benefit the city or county but such area lacks the housing needed to induce manufacturing, industrial, commercial, governmental … enterprises or undertakings to locate or remain in such area,” or
  • “private enterprise and investment are not reasonably expected, without assistance, to produce the construction or rehabilitation of decent, safe and sanitary housing and supporting facilities that will meet the needs of low and moderate income persons and families.”

Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization Executive Director Takis Karantonis said the Pike isn’t blighted, but he believes it may qualify for revitalization district standards because “when a community lacks the diversity of housing that would support certain types of economic development, then it still can qualify for Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) points.”

Those points are crucial for affordable housing on the Pike, as LIHTC money funds “9 out of every 10 of America’s apartments for low-income families,” according to the Housing Advisory Group. In Virginia, those funds are distributed by the Virginia Housing Development Authority, which gives projects 30 points toward its total qualification score simply for being located in a revitalization district.

“In the past, these points weren’t really critical to obtain tax credits,” Karantonis told ARLnow.com. “Now they are critical. If you don’t have a project in a revitalization district, you can really forget about LIHTC support.”

Karantonis said the decision to apply for the district had “nothing to do with” the recent cancellation of the streetcar project.

It’s unclear if the County Board will have the same interpretation of Virginia Code as CPRO and the Pike’s affordable housing developers, but at least one project in the pipeline is relying on the designation.

The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing has submitted initial plans to build two eight-story residential buildings, containing a total of 229 apartments on S. Frederick Street, a block from Columbia Pike in the Columbia Forest neighborhood. The building, whose rendering is pictured above, would be built on what is currently the parking lot of the Columbia Grove apartments.

That application is in the early stages — it’s scheduled to be discussed by the Form-Based Code Advisory Working Group today — but Karantonis said it an projects like it on Columbia Pike need the revitalization district designation to continue receiving federal support for affordable housing.

“This is exactly the kind of density related to the future transportation system’s capacity,” Karantonis said. “In order to get this kind of density, you need the financial support to do that, and you have to weave it together. One of the important parts in the LIHTC subsidy, and for this we want to qualify.”

Rendering via APAH

by Ethan Rothstein — December 8, 2014 at 12:30 pm 580 0

An All-Access Taxi cab (photo courtesy All-Access Taxi)Arlington appears likely to get an influx of dozens of wheelchair-accessible taxis in the near future.

The Arlington County Board will vote on whether to approve 40 new taxi licenses — all for taxis accessible to those with disabilities — at its meeting this Saturday. County Manager Barbara Donnellan, after initially recommending no new taxi licenses be issued for 2014, changed her mind in October, pushing for the new licenses.

Thirty of the new licenses would go to new company All Access Taxi, which had requested 60 taxi licenses. Ten of the new licenses would go to Blue Top Cab, bringing the total number of accessible cabs in the county to 77, or 9.3 percent of the county’s 827-vehicle fleet.

At its Oct. 30 meeting, Arlington’s Transportation Commission recommended the County Board approve 80 new taxi licenses for accessible cabs. County staff noted that even the 40 licenses its recommending could have adverse impacts on crowding at taxi stands and could impair the ability of current drivers to earn a living.

“It is not desirable to add new vehicles to the taxi fleet if a drop in taxi utilization due to [companies like UberX and Lyft] is resulting in existing taxicabs being idled,” the county staff report states. “It is uncertain how much the size of the overall taxi consumer market would increase with the presence of additional accessible taxis and whether that market increase could offset the additional taxicabs.”

Staff also said it recognizes the challenges All Access Taxi will face as a new company with a “limited” fleet of vehicles, but added the approved 30 licenses will require a significant up-front investment and “if needed, other mechanisms, other than through Arlington County certificate process, could be pursued.” Staff also questioned both Blue Top and All Access Taxi’s ability to recruit professional drivers and train them to handle disabled customers.

The County Board is scheduled to discuss the licenses this Saturday morning as a regular hearing item.

Photo courtesy All Access Taxi

 

by Ethan Rothstein — December 2, 2014 at 12:55 pm 2,045 0

Lubber Run Community CenterArlington’s “Public Land for Public Good” initiative should be “reassessed,” according to the Long Range Planning Committee of the county Planning Commission.

The initiative, launched this year by County Manager Barbara Donnellan, is intended to identify county-owned land where affordable housing could be built. That could include parks, community centers and public safety facilities, such as fire stations.

The county received public comments this fall on the guidelines for evaluating sites. After reviewing those comments, the LRPC determined that the guidelines should be “set aside” while the entire initiative — and how the county engages the community in its decision-making process — is re-evaluated.

Among the committee’s strongest indictments of the current process is its recommendation that the criteria Donnellan used in her preliminary report to the Board in May — the catalyst for the public opposition to the initiative since — should be “withdrawn and reassessed.”

“The term Public Land for Public Good does not capture the importance and benefits of other public facilities and uses and should be reconsidered,” the report, approved at the LRPC’s meeting last week, states.

All of the LRPC’s recommendations include reaching out to the community before continuing the process further. The committee recommended that the county’s deliberations over which sites are evaluated and why need to be made more transparent. “This process should result in an understanding of how site selection is conducted and how the public participates in the decision,” the report states.

The LRPC’s report comes on the heels of County Board Chair Jay Fisette’s statement during last month’s Board meeting that the “Public Land for Public Good” rollout “didn’t work.”

While recommending the county slow down on evaluating land it currently owns, the LRPC also recommends Arlington adopt an “aggressive land acquisition policy.”

The Planning Commission will likely discuss the LRPC’s recommendations at a meeting this week. The County Board could discuss the issue at its Saturday, Dec. 13 meeting.

by ARLnow.com — November 24, 2014 at 10:15 am 2,061 0

American Tap Room in ClarendonAmerican Tap Room (3101 Wilson Blvd) in Clarendon had its live entertainment permit renewed last week, but the establishment’s staying power in Arlington is uncertain.

ATR’s permit renewal request was pulled from the Board’s “consent agenda” for non-controversial items by County Board member Mary Hynes. It was instead heard individually on Tuesday, giving Hynes, a nearby resident, a chance to inquire about a couple of noise complaints she had received from her Lyon Village neighbors.

The Board was assured by an ATR manager that the bar has addressed the noise issue and that it in fact doesn’t host any live entertainment anymore — instead it’s seeking to hang on to the permit “just in case.” That was enough assurance for Board, which took little additional time to approve the routine renewal request.

While it won the battle, it’s unclear if ATR in Clarendon will win the war. Restaurant and commercial real estate industry sources have told ARLnow.com that American Tap Room has been seeking a buyer to take over its lease.

We’re told that the company pays more than $650,000 per year in rent for the Clarendon location, which has not enjoyed the same level of success as its locations in Bethesda and Reston. The latter two locations are “crushing it” and the company may simply be looking to focus on more profitable ventures, a source says.

However, everything seemed business as usual with the ATR manager who spoke at the County Board meeting. He gave no hints of any possible changes to come.

Responding to an inquiry sent to a media representative, an ATR manager contacted ARLnow.com last week. The manager said the Clarendon location is not closing, but declined to speak on the record and sought assurances that an ARLnow.com editor was not recording the call.

American Tap Room opened its Clarendon location in 2011.

by Ethan Rothstein — November 20, 2014 at 5:00 pm 3,431 0

The Arlington County Board, Nov. 15, 2014The Arlington County Board officially closed out its FY 2014 budget — which covered from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014 — this week and allocated all of its $233.1 million in carryover funds.

Of that money, $203.3 million has already been allocated for FY 2015 programs, toward county reserves or spent according to county policy.

This includes $46.7 million toward Arlington Public Schools and $62.4 million toward “maintaining the operating and self-insurance reserves” required to keep the county’s current bond rating.

A significant leftover sum is present nearly every year and was accounted for in the FY 2015 budget process. This year, there’s $29.8 million in discretionary funds remaining the county can spend as they see fit.

The County Board approved in a 5-0 vote the county manager’s recommendation to allocate:

  • $13 million for “FY 2016 budget issues,” including $6.3 million in capital improvements like ConnectArlington and the continued move of Department of Human Services divisions to the Sequoia Plaza along Arlington Blvd
  • $8.2 million to the affordable housing investment fund for FY 2016
  • $3.4 million for “employee compensation and management,” including recruiting for the Arlington County Fire Department, staffing the Emergency Communications Center and the fourth year of the county’s pay reclassification program
  • $2 million for safety and technology investments, such as field training, software replacement and records retention
  • $2.4 million for programs like economic development and for contingency funds
  • $1.5 million to housing grants

Among the $13 million is $1.3 million for funding Artisphere. Next month, County Manager Barbara Donnellan will give the County Board a recommendation on the future of the facility, which was expected to be self-sustaining but instead requires millions of dollars in county funding per year.

Donnellan declined to give a preview of her recommendation, but said that even if the county decided to terminate its contract, it would still need to pay $1.1-1.3 million as part of its commitment to the owner of the building that houses Artisphere.

Last year, the county had a $25 million surplus and spent it on many of the same projects: Artisphere, employee compensation and affordable housing. During the County Board’s discussion on Tuesday, no Board member brought up the idea of directing funds elsewhere, including back to taxpayers.

by ARLnow.com — November 20, 2014 at 11:00 am 1,286 0

Local political blogger and Democratic strategist Ben Tribbett, who correctly predicted that the election of John Vihstadt would doom Arlington’s streetcar project, recently analyzed the Nov. 4 County Board election on the public access program Inside Scoop Virginia.

Tribbett placed the blame for Democrat Alan Howze’s stunning defeat squarely on the shoulders of the County Board itself and its communication “meltdowns.”

“The Arlington County Board is insular, arrogant, doesn’t listen well to the community, insults people when they disagree with them,” Tribbett said.

In addition to discussing the role the streetcar, the million dollar bus stop and other spending projects played in stoking voter discontentment, he examined the precinct-by-precinct crossover vote — those who voted for Democratic Sen. Mark Warner but also voted for independent John Vihstadt.

The smallest crossover vote margin in a precinct was 28 percent, Tribbett said. The largest was 82 percent, in the Arlington Forest precinct, which has objected to a plan to build affordable housing on top of the neighborhood’s Lubber Run Community Center.

Tribbett also blasted the belief of some Democrats that John Vihstadt “tricked” voters by running as an independent and not as a Republican.

“Arlington County has just been full of debacles recently. You can see how Democrats are upset at the local level and making conscientious decisions,” he said. “This is where the Arlington County Board is really messing up. These are extremely well-educated voters. They know exactly what they’re doing. They’re not mistakenly voting for the Republican. And [Democratic leaders] keep expecting them to turn around as if it’s a mistake.”

“[It's] in the heart of the most liberal area of Northern Virginia… the whole thing in Arlington has just been breathtaking,” Tribbett concluded.

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