The expansion will add a 33,040-square-foot addition in the northeast corner of the school, at 1030 N. McKinley Road, and smaller additions in the southwest corner and at the main entrance to the school. The project is expected to be complete by the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year.
An expansion of this size would, according to the county’s Zoning Ordinance, necessitate that Arlington Public Schools add 108 parking spaces. But because open space and a number of mature trees surround McKinley, the County Board approved plans to add just 20 spaces to the existing 36 spaces. Even those 20 spaces were the source of controversy; the county’s Planning Commission and Transportation Commission recommended adding no spaces and instead using street parking to accommodate the additional staff and parent vehicles.
Advocates from the school and community who were a part of the planning process, including McKinley Principal Colin Brown, spoke in favor of adding the 20 spaces.
“I’ve said from the start that we enjoy a fantastic day-to-day relationship with the neighbors and the community,” Brown told the Board. “At this point, the neighborhood is able to handle the volume of staff and parents parking on the street given the current capacity of the parking lot. We’re at a tipping point. We need to maintain a fine and delicate balance.”
Ultimately, County Manager Barbara Donnellan recommended keeping the 20 spaces in the plan, and the County Board approved it unanimously. Only three members of the general public spoke, two of whom, School Board candidate Audrey Clement and Jim Hurysz, decried APS’ inability to expand schools “up, not out,” which would save green space. Despite that opposition, County Board Chair Jay Fisette marveled at the lack of animosity toward the plan, which marked the expansion of Ashlawn Elementary School.
“I think it is quite a testament to this process that we had three speakers,” he said. “This is one of the easiest things I’ve seen to come before the Board.”
To make way for the school expansion, 78 trees will be removed – 12 of which are gingko trees that will be transplanted elsewhere in the county. Nearly 150 trees will be planted once construction is complete, according to APS Director of Design and Construction Scott Prisco.
“We feel strongly this is a sensitive approach to the neighbors, and it will meet our needs as a school system,” Prisco said.
In total, the expansion will mean a net increase of 32,250 square feet and include 10 new classrooms, two art rooms, two music rooms and expand the gymnasium to have enough space for the entire, expanded school. The expansion will also add a stage. Construction will include pedestrian improvements on N. McKinley Road and 11th Street N.
Photo via APS
The Board unanimously approved master plans on stormwater and water distribution on Saturday, which aim to maintain a clean water supply and reduce the risk of flooding.
“Arlington is committed to providing safe and reliable drinking water to our residents and ensuring that our community complies with environmental law and remains sustainable,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. “These plans will allow us to meet the demands of projected population growth and help restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay.”
About a third of the storm sewer system in the county needs additional capacity to reduce flooding risks, according to the county’s assessment. And a total of 11 miles of aging steel and terra cotta storm sewer pipes — some 87 years old — need to be replaced.
The average age of the county’s water mains is 55 years, Water, Sewer and Street Bureau Chief Harry Wang said earlier this year. Between Jan. 8 and Feb. 20 alone, the county had to perform 89 repairs on water mains — and average of 2.1 breaks per day, Wang said.
The approved plan estimates the capital cost per year for stormwater-related projects to increase from $2 million per year to $3.3 million per year, depending on what external regulations require.
Home construction is responsible for a spike in the amount of surfaces like streets, rooftops and sidewalks that can’t absorb runoff, the report said. “Single-family home projects accounted for the majority of pollutant load increases from development activity in the county during the time period studied [from July 2009 to July 2013],” the document said.
Wilson Blvd Sidewalk Improvements Delayed — Arlington County Board members were apologetic on Saturday after a resident complained about the state of sidewalks along Wilson Blvd in the Bluemont area. The first phase of an improvement project, which will only consist of repaving and restriping the road, is now not slated to take place until the spring. County leaders promised to try to implement the second phase, which will actually improve the sidewalks, sooner rather than later. [InsideNova]
Bar to the Rescue in Crystal City? — Crystal City property owner Vornado hopes Highline, a new bar coming to the neighborhood, will help its growing tech community there after work. Vornado is trying to restyle Crystal City — which has lost government tenants for millions of square feet of office space, as a result of BRAC — as a tech hub. [Washington Post]
Neighborhood Conservation Projects Approved — A $2.5 million slate of four neighborhood improvement projects was approved by the County Board on Saturday. The projects include three in north Arlington and one in south Arlington. [Arlington County]
Bank Robber Sentenced — A D.C. man who robbed two Wells Fargo banks in Arlington has been sentenced to 35 years in prison, federal prosecutors announced. James Link, 57, was accused of robbing a Wells Fargo branch on Nov. 25, 2013, injuring an elderly woman in the process, and a branch on Dec. 31, after which he and an alleged accomplice were arrested by FBI agents who were waiting outside. [U.S. Dept. of Justice]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
The gas masks come from a $81,958 “urban area security” grant, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. DHS’ grant program came into focus in the wake of the protests in Ferguson, Mo., during which local police used military-grade equipment to try to disperse crowds of people.
The grant for the masks is part of $51.8 million that was allocated by DHS for the D.C. metro region in 2012. The gas masks were purchased from a subset of grant money allocated to the Alexandria Police Department, according to Arlington County staff, “to increase response capabilities of tactical teams” in the region. The County Board is scheduled to vote on the grant at its regular meeting this Saturday.
Alexandria has already purchased the masks and “related equipment,” the report says, and ACPD is simply waiting for Board approval before it can receive the masks. The masks are required for the ACPD to be considered a Type 1 tactical response team for responding to disasters, “including terrorism.”
The ACPD says there’s no known cost for maintaining the masks, which have a lifespan of 20 years. After 20 years, the county may have to pay for new masks from its own budget if it hopes for ACPD to maintain Type 1 status, according to the staff report.
Thanks to a reduction in noise complaints, County Manager Barbara Donnellan has recommended the Board approve renewal of A-Town’s permit, with another county staff review in three months and another Board review in six months.
“Residents in the community have stated to staff that the site plan condition, which restrict the permitted hours the outdoor cafe can be in use, has significantly cut down on noise-related disturbances,” the county staff’s board report states. “However, disturbances related to overcrowding and over-serving of alcohol still have a negative impact on adjacent properties.”
County staff specifically mentioned an incident during the World Cup final on the afternoon of July 13, when the restaurant was found to be over capacity by “at least 100 people” and Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control agents “found a truck, parked on the patio, dispensing champagne to the crowd without the proper licenses to do so.”
The County Board last approved the permit’s renewal three months ago, with conditions on limiting the times at which patrons can be on the outdoor patio. The restaurant also planned to install “theater-style curtains” on the patio to reduce noise after the Board’s December use permit review, which saw several residents of the surrounding area complain about the noise the bar was generating. However, A-Town opted to simply close the patio area early instead of putting in the curtains.
A-Town is still waiting for the results of a Virginia ABC Board hearing for a February incident in which, at an employee-only party, police say one man slashed another with a broken beer bottle in the face and neck.
County staff said A-Town gets more police calls than any other “liquor-serving establishment,” with or without live entertainment, in the Ballston area. It also “continues to have issues with compliance with local and state laws and regulations.” The situation has improved since the June decision to close the outdoor café at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays and even earlier during the week, but the County Board could still revoke the live entertainment permit at its meeting this Saturday.
Four projects aimed at improving pedestrian safety, removing invasive plants and more are likely to be approved at this Saturday’s regular Arlington County Board meeting.
The final four projects funded by the 2012 Neighborhood Conservation bond, approved in June by the Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Committee, will receive a total of $2,540,175 if the Board approves them. About $1.3 million of those funds would come from the 2012 bond, while about $1.2 million is expected come from the bond referendum on the ballot on Nov. 4.
The four projects up for approval:
- Pedestrian safety and street improvements for the intersections of N. Vacation Lane with N. Stuart and N. Utah Streets in Donaldson Run. Improvements include replacing a yield sign with a stop sign at the northeast corner of N. Stuart Street, replacing sidewalks on N. Utah Street and curb extensions at both intersections. Total cost: $608,749.
- Street improvements for N. Quintana Street between Washington Boulevard and 19th Street N. in East Falls Church. This includes constructing curbs and gutters on both sides of the road and installing a 5-foot-wide sidewalk on the east side on the street. Total cost: $756,581.
- Park improvements for Oakland Park at 3701 Wilson Blvd. in Ballston-Virginia Square. This project is meant to give the park a complete upgrade, bringing features up to Americans with Disabilities Act standards and adding new site furnishings, ornamental plantings and wood decking. Total cost: $798,845.
- Removing invasive plants from Lucky Run Stream in Fairlington-Shirlington. The project calls for creating a “pollinator habitat between the stream bank and bike trail” and creating buffers with trees on either side of the stream. Total cost: $376,000.
The four projects were selected from a pool of 26 applications from neighborhoods around the county because they scored the highest on the NCAC’s points system, which is explained in the county staff’s report.
The county also has produced a five-minute video, embedded above, in honor of the Neighborhood Conservation Program’s 50th anniversary.
“When it was created in 1964, the goal was to empower residents by having them come together to discuss and share ideas for improving their neighborhoods,” the narrator says. The video includes interviews from NCAC Chair Bill Braswell and other committee members. “Over the years, the program has moved from beautification efforts to focus more on infrastructure needs… The program enables residents to identify and plan projects in their own neighborhoods.”
Arlington’s support of the bid appears based largely around its currently-stalled plans to build an Olympic-quality aquatics facility at Long Bridge Park, which Arlington expects to be a candidate for the location of the swimming and diving events if D.C. is chosen as the host city.
“Back in June, when we suspended construction plans for Phase 2 of Long Bridge Park, which will include the Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility, we noted that we expected the park to be part of the plan for bringing the Olympics to the Washington Region,” Fisette said in a press release. “That is still our hope. We believe that Long Bridge could be a great venue for Olympic swimming events.”
The group that will be leading D.C.’s bid to host the Olympics was also announced this morning. The group, called Washington 2024 will be led by Chairman and CEO Russ Ramsey, an investment banker and former board chairman of George Washington. The board includes Washington Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, who will serve as vice chairman, Washington Nationals owner Mark Lerner, Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank, chef José Andrés, former National Football League commissioner Paul Tagliabue and former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams.
“This is about bringing the world to Washington and bringing Washington to the world,” Leonsis said in a press release. “The idea of fostering unity could leave, for the whole of mankind, the greatest Olympics legacy ever. Only Washington could do this.”
D.C. is under consideration by the United States Olympic Committee to be its chosen city for the International Olympics Committee. D.C. is one of four American finalist cities, along with Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston. The United States has not hosted a Summer Olympics since the 1996 games in Atlanta. The 2016 games will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the 2020 games will be held in Tokyo.
“I speak for the County Board when I say that the Olympics could be a great thing for this region and for Arlington,” Fisette said. “We agree with Washington 2024 that this is an historic opportunity for our region to be part of the Olympic Movement.”
(Updated at 2:25 p.m.) Vying for a seat on the Arlington County Board, challenger Alan Howze and incumbent John Vihstadt made their cases for and against the big-ticket Columbia Pike streetcar and described other goals should they be elected November 4.
Speaking before the Arlington Civic Federation last night, Howze, a streetcar backer, repeated his call for a public referendum on the transportation option, calling it a huge economic opportunity for the county.
“When you look at the capacity and the economic development that will be driven by the streetcar versus the buses, it’s a smart investment to make,” he said. “We’re talking about passing on thousands of jobs in our community and hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue that can go toward funding our schools and our social services.”
Howze suggested looking at renewable energy to power the streetcar. “If we can get into a long-term power purchasing agreement, it may actually not cost anything” beyond current energy rates, he said.
Vihstadt countered that the streetcar’s operating costs will have to be funded by bonds and tax dollars and that improved buses are a cheaper and more flexible option.
“The way to keep taxes under control in this county is not to spend so much,” he said. “People want to get from point A to point B in the fastest amount of time, in reasonable comfort and at a good price. The bus is the way to do that.”
Vihstadt said he is not a “single-issue candidate” and stated he would focus on creating affordable housing if elected.
“We want an Arlington that’s welcoming, that’s diverse and that’s affordable to everybody and it’s just really a question of how we’re going to do that — whether it’s through additional committed affordable units or additional housing grants or a special program for workforce housing, I am completely open to that,” he said.
Howze said he was also committed to making affordable housing a priority.
Vihstadt touted his successes thus far in bringing “balance and accountability” to the Board and reminded audience members that he won their vote in April. Vihstadt, a Republican who ran as an independent, won the special election in April to replace Chris Zimmerman (D) on the board. He captured 57 percent of the vote, to Democrat Howze’s 41 percent.
“Since I’ve been on the Board, we have lowered the property tax rate for the first time in nine years, freed up more bonding authority for more new schools and additions to address our capacity crisis, and we’ve directed the County Manager to examine staffing levels for our fire and police,” Vihstadt’s opening statement said.
In his opening statement, Howze criticized Vihstadt’s work on the board thus far.
“He put politics ahead of the needs of our community when he voted this summer against funding for school construction, Metro and parks in the Capital Improvement Plan, just to make a political point,” the statement said. “But political obstruction won’t build schools for our children or secure a more prosperous future.”
Also participating in the Civic Federation candidate forum were the three candidates running for two open Arlington School Board seats. Nancy Van Doren, who is running unopposed, addressed the capacity crowd at Virginia Hospital Center’s Hazel conference center, as did Nov. 4 opponents Barbara Kanninen and Audrey Clement.
Arlington County has worked to bring a boathouse to the area since the 1990s. It has collaborated with the National Park Service on the project because Arlington’s shoreline technically is NPS property.
NPS launched an environmental impact statement (EIS) more than two years ago per direction from Congress, but had to put it on hold. Neither the county nor NPS would comment on why the EIS stalled. NPS and county staff revived the process when they met twice this spring to discuss moving forward. NPS now is in the process of finding a contractor to complete the EIS. According to NPS Superintendent Alex Romero, the goal is to partner with the contractor who previously began the EIS.
“There’s work that’s already been done,” said Romero. “We’re purposely identifying the same contractor that worked on it in the past to pick up where they left off. There may be some tweaks to the existing document, but we don’t want to revisit the whole thing.”
The county acquired some land in May on which the boathouse could be built if the Key Bridge area is chosen as the boathouse location. The County Board approved the purchase of 1101 Lee Hwy in Rosslyn for $2.4 million. However, the exact site for a boathouse hasn’t been chosen and won’t be until the completion of the EIS. So if an area other than Rosslyn is picked, the land purchased in May could be used for other recreational uses, according to Arlington County Park Development Division Chief Lisa Grandle.
Rep. Jim Moran, who is touted as being instrumental in securing funding for the EIS, believes the land purchase is a step in the right direction.
“Arlington’s decision to acquire land at Rosslyn Circle for a potential joint initiative with the National Park Service is encouraging and moves us closer to bringing the dream of an Arlington boathouse to reality.” Moran said.
The hope is that a contractor will be chosen soon and can begin to work on the EIS this year. Once a contract is awarded, NPS will have a better idea of long-term timelines for steps like public involvement, final plan approval and finding a company to build a boathouse.
“Until then, everything is preliminary, but the ball is rolling,” said Romero. “We are looking forward to moving ahead with the study and developing alternatives, and seeing what the alternative is so it blends into the landscape along the George Washington Memorial Parkway.”
A majority of Arlington residents between the ages of 25 and 34 say they are likely to leave the county within five years because of the cost of housing, according to a county-sponsored survey.
According to the survey, which polled 1,744 Arlington residents, 60 percent of 25-34 year olds responded “somewhat likely” or “very likely” to the question: “In the next five years or so, how likely is it you will have to move out of Arlington because you would not have the kind of housing you want at the price you can afford?”
Thirty-four percent of respondents said it was “very likely” they would move away.
The survey is a component of the county’s ongoing affordable housing study, which launched in July 2012 and is being run by Arlington’s Affordable Housing Working Group. Michael Spotts, the vice chair of the working group, said the high cost of housing in Arlington is an impediment to those hoping to start families here.
“It was a little surprising to me,” Spotts, 30, said about the survey results, “but I think whether [current 25-34 year olds moving out of Arlington] will actually happen depends a lot on how consumer preferences change moving forward.
“I’m a millennial myself and my wife and I live in Arlington, and we bought a house in Arlington and are very happy here,” Spotts continued. “I think it was a little surprising, but given how expensive it is, especially as people get older and start a family, it’s not particularly surprising.”
According to the study, 39 percent of the 25-34 age range said they want to buy a home at some point in the future, and Arlington is out of their price range. The study also included the figures on which ARLnow.com reported earlier this week that suggested residents generally approve of the Arlington County Board’s affordable housing policies and priorities.
County Board Vice Chair Mary Hynes is the Board’s liaison to the working group, and she presented the survey to the Board last week. While Hynes said everyone is aware of the housing struggle in Arlington, even she was surprised that so many younger residents were planning to leave.
“The numbers do jump out at you,” Hynes told ARLnow.com on the phone from Los Angeles yesterday. “It is one of the reasons we’re being so proactive around housing, because we know it’s a challenge for people. It’s not just a challenge for Arlington, it’s a challenge for the whole region.”
The same question about moving within five years, when asked to minority groups, received a lower but still high “likely” response.
Forty percent of Hispanic respondents and 50 percent of African Americans said they were somewhat or very likely to leave Arlington within five years due to housing costs. The lowest “likely” response came from current property owners, at 28 percent.
The region’s economic prosperity is generally viewed as the main factor that housing prices have escalated to the point where such a study is even worthwhile, but Spotts said Arlington may have inadvertently contributed to its own predicament.
“One of the things that a lot of people, generally speaking, would find surprising is that all of the things that go into the county that make it great are also things that can add cost to housing,” Spotts, who studies affordable housing policy as his career, said. “You want to protect your parkland and streams, and there’s a direct cost of those elements in terms of maintaining green space, but there’s also sort of an indirect cost. If you’re restricting some of the housing you can build because of other goals, then that drives up the cost of housing.”
According to a survey, cited during last week’s County Board meeting, 65 percent of 1,744 respondents believe it’s “very important” to help senior citizens age in place. Meanwhile, 60 percent believe affordable housing options for the county’s workforce are “very important,” and 58 percent believe it’s important for “moderate and low-income families with children in public schools” to have affordable housing options.
When “very important” answers were combined with “somewhat important,” those figures jump to 92 percent, 88 percent and 90 percent, respectively.
The survey, which was conducted in English and Spanish, is a component of the county’s ongoing affordable housing study, which was launched in July 2012. The study’s recent work includes a review of best practices, a preliminary report on housing needs and a “complete assessment of strategies/program approaches, with community review.”
County Board Vice Chair Mary Hynes said the survey revealed “strong support for what [the County Board] has been doing.” She also said that the survey wasn’t an attempt to “duplicate census information,” but rather measure the priorities of the community.
“We were instead trying to find out what people thought about how housing is at the moment in Arlington,” she said. “As well as their attitudes about housing objectives and policies that this board has been pursuing… It’s good validation for us, and really helpful information for our group as they continue to work on refining what will become, we hope, a comprehensive plan.”
The study weighed residents’ opinions on the county’s affordable housing policies. Forty-six percent of respondents “strongly favor” Arlington’s affordable housing ordinance — which allows developers bonus density if they dedicate affordable housing units or donate to the county’s affordable housing fund — while 44 percent strongly favor the county’s affordable housing grant program. Twenty-four percent of survey takers either somewhat oppose or strongly oppose the affordable housing ordinance.
The County Board is expected reveal more survey results at its September meeting. Another phase of the affordable housing study is expected to conclude in June 2015.
Arlington County dedicates about 5 percent of its non-school budget to affordable housing investment.
Morgan Fecto contributed to this report
The Arlington County Board has approved a concept for two acres of open place on the planned PenPlace development in Pentagon City.
The plan calls for three open spaces: two small parks along planned 10th and 12th Street S. connections between S. Fern and Eads Streets and a “Central Green” in the middle of the large development. The Central Green is designed to allow for events like outdoor movies and concerts, according to the space’s designer, and will include a cafe in the northeast corner.
The concept was presented to the County Board during its Thursday meeting last week after three community meetings. The PenPlace development was approved by the County Board last September, with the condition that a concept for the open space be brought back within a year.
The PenPlace development, when completed, is planned to have five buildings, each between 16 and 22 stories tall, that include 1.8 million square feet of office space and a 300-room hotel. It will be adjacent to a planned streetcar station on 12th Street.
As part of the approval, the developer, Vornado/Charles E. Smith, agreed to build about two acres of public space as a component of the community benefit package required for bonus density.
“I think the overarching goal here, that we’ve shared with the public, is to create a vibrant urban space in the heart of Pentagon City,” said Hallie Boyce, a design partner with Olin Landscape Architects, which designed the open space, “that will not only allow people to enjoy the great outdoors but also to enjoy each other’s company, and to really create a sense of community here in Pentagon City.”
In addition, Vornado plans to include up to 20,000 square feet of community-oriented space in the building at the corner of the planned 10th Street and S. Eads Street intersection. According to Vornado’s presentation to the County Board, the space could be used for educational use or a university, a business incubator, a library or community center, or large entertainment use, such as a bowling alley, movie theater or performance venue.
The concept was submitted and approved as a “base case,” which will now operate as a guiding principle for when the buildings come back before the Board for a full site plan approval. According to Vornado Senior Vice President and Director of Development Mitch Bonanno, there is still no timeline for any construction.
PenPlace was met with numerous resident objections when it first came before the County Board last year. Four speakers came to Thursday’s meeting in protest of a provision that allows Vornado additional density on the site, saying they felt they were caught unaware after the community meetings. The base case includes a provision that, if the open space costs more than the staff’s estimate of $2.65 million, Vornado is entitled to added density.
“The citizen participants were under the mistaken impression that the outdoor space improvements were part of the extremely generous deal Vornado already got,” Pentagon City resident Elizabeth Wirick said. “Those who took part in the workshops feel betrayed. This is a concept, not a plan, we don’t have any data on how much it’s going to cost other than staff estimates, and with regards to staff estimates, I’ll keep it short. Two words: aquatics center.”
(Vornado agreed to partially fund the proposed Long Bridge Park aquatics center project as part of PenPlace’s initial phased development approval. The aquatics center is now stalled after construction bids came in well above staff estimates.)
The motion passed just before midnight, 3-1, with Board member John Vihstadt dissenting and Board member Libby Garvey absent.
(Updated at 1:05 p.m.) The Arlington County Board approved the next step in building a new elementary school in South Arlington by commissioning a working group to study land around Thomas Jefferson Middle School.
The working group, the members of which have not yet been announced, will first meet in September and take five months to study the feasibility of building an elementary school adjacent to the middle school at 125 S. Old Glebe Road.
The site is the preferred choice of Arlington’s School Board, which will ask county taxpayers for upwards of $50 million for the school as part of its $106 million referendum package on the Nov. 4 ballot.
“Our County is desirable and growing, and more students are entering our school system,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a press release. “We need to work together to find creative ways to meet this challenge. This working group will bring together community members, Schools, and County staff for a robust consideration of whether to use a portion of the Thomas Jefferson site for a new elementary school.”
The working group — to be comprised of members from surrounding civic associations and members of schools and county staff, advisory boards and commissions — is charged with returning to the County Board with a recommendation in January 2015. Its goals from the County Board include:
- Retaining the current wooded eastern end of “TJ Park” as is (area along the western portion of S. Irving Street and stretching west along Arlington Blvd.); maintain a cohesive park; ensure no significant loss of green space and no net loss of recreational programming.
- Considering the neighborhood impacts of traffic and parking and ensure safety of existing pedestrian walkways and bikeways.
- Ensuring that the community center would remain available for use.
- Ensuring the building massing is compatible with adjacent neighborhood.
The plan has given rise to a new group opposing building the school on parkland, the Friends of Thomas Jefferson Park. The group dressed in green and showed up a few dozen strong at the County Board’s Saturday meeting. The Board approved the working group in its meeting yesterday, but on Saturday, the group’s leader, Jim Presswood, spoke during the public comment period.
“TJ Park is Arlington’s central park and a wonderful resource that needs to be conserved,” he said. “We’re committed to enhancing our park and we’re hoping to be around for a while.”
Man Pleads to Arlington Hospital Rape — A former Virginia Hospital Center employee has pleaded guilty to the rape of a 37-year-old woman at the hospital. The victim was at the hospital to receive a CT scan after falling and hitting her head while drunk. The rapist, 30-year-old Roy Anthony Jones, will be sentenced in October and could spend up to 18 years in prison. [Washington Post]
Construction Permits Filed for Office Tower — JBG Cos. has already filed for construction permits for the new CEB Tower office building in Rosslyn. The 31-story tower is part of JBG’s Central Place project, which also includes a residential tower which is currently under construction. [Washington Business Journal]
Arlington Powerball Winner Claims Prize — Arlington resident Tim Dudgeon has come forward as the winner of a $1 million Powerball prize. Dudgeon bought the ticket at Mia’s Market and Deli at 1607 S. Glebe Road. The store received a $10,000 bonus from the lottery for selling the ticket. [WJLA]
Vihstadt Pushes for Greater Contract Oversight — After a $7 million streetcar contract was able to bypass a County Board approval process on a technicality, Board member John Vihstadt wants to require all capital improvement contracts valued at $1 million or above to receive Board approval. County Manager Barbara Donnellan is evaluating the proposal. [InsideNova]
Arlington Celebrates Public Art Milestone — Arlington County is celebrating “30 years of Public Art placemaking in our community.” The multi-month celebration will kick off Aug. 1 on Dark Star Park Day, held at 1655 Fort Myer Drive in Rosslyn. [Arlington County]
County Board members weighed in on the ongoing Uber and Lyft controversy during Saturday’s monthly meeting, largely expressing support for the taxi drivers and companies.
None of the County Board members expressed an explicit desire to ban Uber, citing its popularity, but Board Chair Jay Fisette, Vice Chair Mary Hynes and Board member Walter Tejada each expressed sympathy for the county’s taxi drivers — who have organized protests of Uber and Lyft — who are losing business to the ridesharing services.
“As a Board, as individuals, there is a recognition that some of these new services have stolen some people’s hearts or gotten their business because of the technology they provide and some of the customer service they provide,” Fisette said. “We are very respectful of the drivers… that do need to make a living in this community and do a fine job of it, and then we need to figure out as a state and as a community what authority we have and how we might effect and take advantage of that authority as that unfolds.”
Uber’s UberX service and Lyft allow smartphone users to book rides with non-professional drivers. The drivers drive their own cars and Uber and Lyft don’t have licenses to operate as taxi or car service companies. The lack of regulatory oversight led the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to issue a cease and desist order against the companies, but both Uber and Lyft have continued to operate in the state.
Most recently, eight Northern Virginia taxi companies — including Arlington Blue Top Cabs — have filed a lawsuit requesting an injunction against the two companies, requesting a judge order them to stop operations in the state before the DMV and Attorney General Mark Herring make a ruling on their requests for operating authority.
“I thought the cease and desist order from the state was very appropriate,” Tejada said. “Who knows what other issues are going on that we don’t know about because these [companies] are not regulated. I want to make sure the cab drivers, who are working very hard in this area, get the respect they have earned. These are hard-working individuals, and some of these companies charge them an arm and a leg to operate a cab. I hope that everyone will indeed play by the rules.”
Only John Vihstadt, the lone non-Democrat on the County Board, sang a different tune in responding to the issue, remarking about the popularity of services while pointing out he’s a loyal Arlington Red Top Cab customer.
“I think we need to keep in mind that the marketplace is responding to a need and responding to a demand,” Vihstadt said. “Competition is a good thing and we should not stifle innovation… At the same time, I think we need to consider the current regulatory scheme that we have for our established cab companies to allow them to be more competitive and able to better respond to the needs of the marketplace.”
Hynes pointed out that while Uber and Lyft have grabbed a sizable portion of the market share, they leave out customers who don’t have access to smartphones.
“The state has to explore how you make sure this service is available to all the people who might need it and that nobody is dealt out of the process by their age, disability or income,” she said. “It’s not just about the young people who use Uber and Lyft, but it’s really how it functions as a piece of our transportation system overall.”