weather icon 42° Fair
The Latest:

Residents, Nonprofits Line Up to Request Taxpayer Funds

by Ethan Rothstein | March 26, 2014 at 1:00 pm | 1,256 views | No Comments

County Board budget hearingThe Arlington County Board held its annual public budget hearing Tuesday night, and there was no shortage of requests for more spending.

During the hearing members of the community typically lobby the Board to direct budget funds to particular areas of need or to specific nonprofit organizations. Only a couple asked the Board to cut spending.

Forty-five speakers came to the podium Tuesday night, and even more packed the County Board meeting room in support of their causes.

Members of the Arlington General Employees Association (AGENA) represented a significant chunk of the audience, with speakers rallying against pay raises that they feel unfairly favor management over the labor force.

“A team works together to provide great service. Each member brings something unique which makes the team work well,” said Jewyll Davis, speaking on behalf of AGENA. Davis cited County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s budget that calls for an avergae general management pay-for-performance raise of 3.2 percent, but an average increase of 2.3 percent for general employees. “Good team members should not receive a raise less than their managers’.”

Dozens of speakers requested additional — or continued — funding for nonprofits like Arlington Free Clinic; Bu-Gata, a tenant advocacy group; and the new nonprofit Arlington Neighborhood Villages, which supports those aging in place in Arlington.

There were at least five speakers who mentioned a need for an increased contribution to mental health services, from $75,000 for peer counselors to support for replacing state and federal funding that is set to run out.

“The preservation of critical safety net services to protect our most vulnerable residents should take highest priority,” Jim Mack, chair of the county’s Community Services Board, said.

The biggest contingent of speakers were those requesting additional County Board investment in affordable housing. Six speakers presented direct cases for more affordable housing funding, while others speaking for related causes, like family services and tenant’s rights, expressed support during their comments for more affordable housing money.

“I’m here to ask that [the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing] and other organizations like APAH will be able to have a budget to be able to fund affordable housing in Arlington for many years to come,” one speaker said. “I know that that the request is for $5 million more in the budget, but it’s worth it.”

Donnellan’s proposed budget calls for a general fund of $1.1 billion, which includes no tax rate increase but an average yearly cost increase of $381 per family due to a rise in real estate assessments and other fees. Only three speakers at the meeting spoke out against spending more.

“Needs not wants must drive county government and the county board. But that’s not what’s occurring in Arlington County,” said Jim Hurysz, a frequent County Board critic. He said he’s attended several budget work sessions so far, and “no one, with the exception of [Board member Libby] Garvey, expressed any concern for Arlington’s taxpayers, and I haven’t heard any concern expressed here tonight.”

The County Board will be holding another public hearing tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. to address the tax rate, which Donnellan has proposed holding steady at $1.006 per $100 in assessed value tax rate.

Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | March 19, 2014 at 8:35 am | 2,275 views | No Comments

Courthouse Plaza (Flickr pool photo by Keithhall)

Noise Ordinance Approval Delayed — The Arlington County Board decided to delay approval of an update to the county’s noise ordinance after hearing concern from swim clubs that the ordinance could make cheering at swim meets illegal and punishable by fines or jail time. County staff will now try to craft an exemption for the summer swim leagues. In addition to strengthening prohibitions on loud TVs and music, the noise ordinance update calls for a “quiet period” in single-family home neighborhoods that would impact morning swim meets. [InsideNoVa]

Chatman Addresses Fraud Conviction — Fresh off the announcement that Oprah Winfrey would headline her upcoming fundraiser in Arlington, congressional candidate Lavern Chatman is trying to downplay word that she was found liable for $1.4 million in damages in a decade-old fraud case involving a D.C. nursing home operator. Chatman called the case a “nightmare” and said she “didn’t pay much attention to the details” when she agreed to provide a loan to a “trusted friend” — a friend who ended up withholding the wages of nearly 300 employees of the nursing home company. [Blue Virginia]

Arlington Honors ‘Women of Vision’ – Arlington County’s Commission on the Status of Women has announced the winners of the 2014 Arlington County Women of Vision awards. They are political strategist and Young Democrats of America president Atima Omara, Dominion regional manager Deborah Tompkins Johnson and Bowen McCauley Dance founder Lucy Bowen McCauley. [Arlington County]

Chamber Honors Hospitality Workers — On Tuesday the Arlington Chamber of Commerce honored more than 80 “frontline” hospitality workers at its 10th annual Hospitality Awards. One winner was Gadisa Bulla, who rescued a co-worker’s son from a fire across from the Sheraton hotel on Columbia Pike. [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

Rosslyn Company Scores Angel Investment Encore Alert, a Rosslyn-based social analytics startup, has raised a $390,000 seed round from the local investment group NextGen Angels. [Washington Business Journal]

Flickr pool photo by Keithhall

Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | March 17, 2014 at 10:45 am | 1,039 views | No Comments

Courthouse snow (Photo courtesy @mindpivot)

Irish PM Visits Shirlington — Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny visited Samuel Beckett’s Irish Pub (2800 S. Randolph Street) in Shirlington over the weekend to watch an Irish rugby game. The Taoiseach, as the position of Irish prime minister is also called, is in the U.S. celebrating the St. Patrick’s Day holiday. [Facebook, The Independent]

County Board Approves Ashlawn Addition Revision — The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved a revised plan for an addition to Ashlawn Elementary School but not before making Arlington Public Schools officials explain how the project went wrong. Local residents have complained about several aspects of the plan, including tree removal the building of a parking lot. [InsideNoVa]

‘Intersection of Doom’ Left Out of Rosslyn Planning — A draft Rosslyn sector plan framework doesn’t include any solutions for the so-called “intersection of doom” — the intersection of N. Lynn Street and Lee Highway that has been the site of numerous pedestrian and bicyclist vs. vehicle accidents. Some believe a pedestrian tunnel or bridge may be the best solution for the busy intersection. [Greater Greater Washington]

County Board Approves New Synthetic Field Surface — The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved up to $701,000 to replace a 10-year-old synthetic turf field at Wakefield High School. [Sun Gazette]

Photo courtesy @mindpivot

Arlington Could Extend Tax Breaks to Small Tech Firms

by Ethan Rothstein | March 14, 2014 at 1:35 pm | 879 views | No Comments

View of Clarendon to Ballston from a commercial flight (Flickr pool photo by Ddimick)The Arlington County Board is mulling whether to expand the tax breaks it offers to large technology businesses in the county to tech firms with fewer than 100 employees.

Currently, technology firms located in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, Crystal City, Columbia Pike and Shirlington only have to pay 50 percent or less of the county’s standard business license tax rate, 36-cent per $100 of gross receipts. For tech companies with between 500 and 999 employees, the rate is 14 cents. For tech companies with more than 1,000 employees, it falls farther to 10 cents.

Tech companies located along the Pike or in Shirlington have no minimum for the amount of employees to qualify for the reduced tax rate. However, in the R-B Corridor and Crystal City — the county’s two “Downtown Technology Zones” — tech firms must have at least 100 employees to pay the 18-cent rate. The County Board could approve waiving the minimum at its meeting this Saturday.

In addition, the Board will vote on whether to expand the parameters for a technology company to qualify for the tax breaks. The ordinance lists a broad range of eligible businesses, but since it was last updated seven years ago, firms in new sectors — the main one being social media — have been left out.

“The fundamentals of the local real estate market have changed,” the staff report, prepared by Arlington Economic Development, states. “Today tenants may choose among more available spaces and sites than ever before. Large deals may come about, but more often an assortment of small and medium deals is required to fill buildings. In many cases, the smaller firms have the most growth potential. They are expanding in a variety of digital economy and creative enterprises such as e-democracy, social media and healthcare data services.”

AED said there have been 12 instances where a tech company that was ineligible for the Technology Zone tax breaks did not choose Arlington to locate. Ten of those instances, the company was smaller than 100 employees.

If the changes are approved, the savings for tech companies in the R-B corridor would amount to approximately $2.25 per square foot of rent for office space, AED estimates.

“While this may not change a business decision on its own, it could be effective in combination with other forms of assistance the County and Commonwealth may provide, or it may help close the gap in rent or other expenses between Arlington and another jurisdiction,” the staff report reads. “AED estimates that — with the proposed changes in place — between five and 10 companies per year may qualify for this incentive.”

Flickr pool photo by Ddimick

County Board to Consider Dedicated Funding for Baseball, Softball Fields

by Ethan Rothstein | March 13, 2014 at 5:00 pm | 1,061 views | No Comments

GW baseball game at the newly renovated Barcroft ParkThe Arlington County Board is set vote on whether to direct field fees collected on baseball and softball diamonds toward maintaining and enhancing those fields.

Currently, the county collects fees from all leagues that use county fields — for youth, it’s $8 per resident and $20 for non-residents. It’s $100 per team per season for adults — but there is no dedicated funding stream for the improvement of baseball and softball fields. The fees have, to this point, been used to fund the replacement of soccer and other rectangle fields with artificial turf.

If approved, the Field Fund would be segregated, and fees collected from using diamond fields would be reserved just for those fields. In addition, staff is asking the Board to dedicate $85,000 in seed funding for the field improvements.

Funds will be assigned to projects following recommendations from Parks and Recreation staff and the county’s Sports Commission. The County Board is expected to vote on the plan this weekend.

Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | March 11, 2014 at 8:35 am | 1,269 views | No Comments

"Sunday Soccer" (Flickr pool photo by Ddimick)

Power Issues at Rosslyn Metro — All elevators and escalators were out of service at the Rosslyn Metro station from around 5:30 to 7:00 this morning. The outage was due to a “power problem.” Metro temporarily provided bus service from the station for those who needed it. [Twitter]

County Board to Buy Douglas Park House — The Arlington County Board on Saturday is expected to approve the purchase of a house on S. Quincy Street. The house abuts Douglas Park and would be torn down to expand the park. The expansion plan is predicated on the Board also purchasing neighboring houses when they come on the market. [Sun Gazette]

Crowded Congressional Primary – Election officials are expecting a turnout of about 64,000 votes for the upcoming Virginia Eighth District congressional primary. With 11 candidates in the race, it could take as few as 12,000 votes to win. ”What we are talking about here is a Democratic nominee, who is almost certainly assured of election given this district, could be elected with about the size of a decent size high-school basketball game fan base,” a political science professor told reporter Michael Lee Pope. [Connection Newspapers]

Arlington Couple’s Wedding Profiled — Washingtonian profiles the wedding of Arlington residents Lynn Chheang and Ryan Hill, whose first date took place in the former Ray’s Hell-Burger. [Washingtonian]

Flickr pool photo by Ddimick

Vihstadt: ‘I Don’t Want to Upset the Applecart’

by ARLnow.com | March 6, 2014 at 8:55 am | 2,255 views | No Comments

John Vihstadt at the County Board candidates debate 3/4/14The four candidates running to replace Chris Zimmerman on the Arlington County Board held one of their first debates Tuesday night.

The debate, at the Arlington Civic Federation’s monthly meeting, was relatively short and did not give the candidates much time to delve deeply into issues. But by and large, Republican- and Green-endorsed independent candidate John Vihstadt tried to position himself as a choice that would be palatable for local Democrats who oppose the county’s big-ticket streetcar and aquatics center projects.

“I don’t want to upset the applecart, I just want to rearrange some of those apples,” said Vihstadt, who arguably has the best shot at being elected to the Board of any non-Democrat in years. “[My wife and I] love Arlington, we want to give back to Arlington.”

Vihstadt said he uses mass transit to commute on a daily basis, but “this $310 million streetcar is not the way to go on Columbia Pike.” He instead said he favors “a modified form of bus rapid transit.”

County Board candidates debate 3/4/14Vihstadt also differed from the current County Board in calling for an independent county auditor, by wanting to “break down the silos” between county government and Arlington Public Schools, and by suggesting that he opposes some of the development currently taking place in Arlington.

“I have serious differences with this Board about density and where that is taking our county right now,” he said to applause from the Civic Federation delegates.

Vihstadt, however, was also careful to point out areas where he agrees with the County Board. He supports gay marriage, increased spending on schools, and the new homeless services center in Courthouse.

“I support the new homeless shelter,” he said. “On balance I think it’s the right place and the right thing to do.”

“I’m not going to hide my Republican background, but i’m running as an independent,” Vihstadt said. “I’m running to add balance… because we need to recalibrate our spending priorities. We have to concentrate on core services like public education… roads and infrastructure maintenance… and neighborhood quality of life.”

“I’m giving voice to so many people across the political spectrum who are frustrated, who are concerned about where we are going as a county and where we are spending of our dollars at a time of skyrocketing school enrollment,” he said, pledging to be “fair, even-handed, bridge-building and nonpartisan.”

Alan Howze at the County Board candidates debate 3/4/14Democrat Alan Howze enters the race as the odds-on favorite thanks to the party’s well-honed get-out-the-vote effort, which will be needed as the race will be decided by a special election. Howze largely toed the party line — supporting a social safety, affordable housing, a “progressive community,” etc. — but suggested that he would be a bit more cautious when it comes to spending and a bit more aggressive when it comes to economic development.

Asked about something about which he disagreed with the County Board, Howze said the design and cost of the $1.6 million James Hunter dog park in Clarendon “well exceeded what was needed for the space and the community.”

Howze touted his private sector experience working at IBM and said he would work to “help strengthen the commercial base in Arlington,” thus combating rising office vacancy rates.

Like Vihstadt, Howze said he supports gay marriage, the county’s new homeless shelter, and increased spending on schools. (“Rising school enrollment is the biggest challenge facing our community,” he said.) Howze, however, supports the Columbia Pike streetcar project and has said he would like to see the Long Bridge Park aquatics center built provided it doesn’t exceed its original $79 million budget.

“We need to improve our community,” he said. “We can’t give any project a blank check, but neither can we stand still. I’m not chicken little… the sky is not falling. We can’t just say no — no is not a solution. Short term solutions that are politically expedient today but don’t lead to long-term prosperity.”

(more…)

Five North Arlington Homes Win Design Arlington Awards

by Ethan Rothstein | February 27, 2014 at 11:00 am | 3,695 views | No Comments

(Updated at 12:10 p.m.) The Arlington County Board announced the 2013 Design Arlington awards winners at its meeting on Tuesday, honoring six residential projects in North Arlington and commercial renovations in Crystal City and Pentagon City.

The biennial awards are given to projects completed in the last 10 years in these categories: residential, commercial, institutional/civic, historic preservation/building rehabilitation, public art and open space.

The submissions are judged based on “overall design excellence; visual composition and aesthetic character; relationship to surrounding context; sustainable design and development; preservation of historic buildings, facades, elements, and character; high-quality craftsmanship; and creative use of durable materials,” according to the county website. This year, there were 43 entries evaluated by a panel of four architecture, preservation and design professionals.

“These awards honor those who work to create exceptional architectural and landscape design in Arlington,” County Board Chairman Jay Fisette said in a press release. “Their efforts prove that projects that are functional can also be visually interesting, beautify our neighborhoods and be respectful of the neighborhood’s character.”

Below are this year’s winners:

  • Diaz Residence (4301 37th Road N.) – Residential addition/renovation – Subtle updates to the front façade and a significant addition to the rear of the home modernized a single-family home without completely changing its appearance or how it fits in with neighboring homes.
  • Bromptons at Monument Place (N. Nash Street and 14th Street N.) – Residential new construction — Well-detailed neoclassical townhomes engage the street in a thoughtful way.
  • Wood Temple in a Garden (1608 N. Cleveland Street) – Residential new construction — Well-designed studio outbuilding incorporates materials from the existing home. New addition is modern but respectful to neighborhood character.
  • “+2Edison7” (5077 27th Street N.) – Residential addition/renovation — Compact footprint is appropriately scaled for the neighborhood. It creates contrasts with neighboring buildings without competing for attention.
  • Monroe House (3132 N. Monroe Street) – Residential new construction — Design is respectful of setbacks and scale of neighboring homes. Meticulously detailed without looking out of place.
  • Crystal Drive streetscape – Commercial renovation/new construction — Transformed an auto-oriented street into a lively multi-use corridor. Highlights the shifting goals in urban design and placemaking.
  • Egge Residence (3317 N. 23rd Street) – Residential addition/historic preservation — Addition nearly doubled the size of the historic home without altering its character.
  • Pentagon Row plaza – Open space renovation — Optimizes space and outdoor recreational areas. Highlights how a public space can be reinvented to adapt to new needs.

Two honorable mentions also were recognized:

  • 800 N. Glebe Road – Mixed-use new construction — Building engages the adjacent sidewalk. It includes a historic architectural reference to the former Bob Peck Chevrolet building, as well as a historic marker.
  • “Wave Arbor” in Long Bridge Park – Public art — Kinetic art incorporated into a recreational space.

Photos courtesy Arlington County

County Towing Fees Raised to $135

by Ethan Rothstein | February 26, 2014 at 3:30 pm | 1,719 views | No Comments

A towing standoff outside Ray's Hell BurgerThe Arlington County Board approved raising the base towing fee in the county to $135, while enacting stricter regulations on towing companies aimed at protecting those who park in Arlington.

The Board approved the motion on a 2-1 vote, with Board Chair Jay Fisette and Libby Garvey voting to approve and Walter Tejada voting against the motion. Board Member Mary Hynes had left the meeting earlier with an illness.

The fee increases from $125 — where it had been raised to from $115 in 2011 — to $135, which is the state maximum. As part of the state towing law, Arlington can enact higher towing fees, based on market rates, if they conduct a thorough study, which the Board has instructed county staff to do.

The ordinance also puts in place more stringent requirements for towing companies to document the vehicle’s location, reason for removal and condition before it’s towed, including taking pictures or videos.

Advanced Towing owner John O’Neill said the fee increase was necessary because Arlington is more costly to operate in than nearby jurisdictions. Advanced Towing is one of three towing companies with storage facilities in Arlington, according to Brian Stout, the county’s liaison to the Trespass Towing Advisory Board.

“It is more expensive to operate our business in Arlington than any other location in Virginia,” O’Neill told the Board. “We are close to the point of no return with regards to sustaining an Arlington-based towing firm.”

Tejada asked Stout if companies were required to give car owners information about filing a complaint and their right to inspect their vehicle before paying to get it out of the lot. The ordinance requires the towing company to post signs telling owners their rights, but does not require giving owners a pamphlet or some sort, Stout said. O’Neill said the sign is “the first thing you see” in his lot at 4000 5th Road N. in Ballston.

“I have information that’s not what the case is from residents who have complained to me about having been towed,” Tejada told O’Neill. “There is some predatory towing that’s still happening. I cannot support the motion because there are people who are still being victims of predatory towing, some of whom are low income who don’t even know they have a right to complain. I will cast a vote of ‘no’ on their behalf.”

A majority of the surrounding jurisdictions already have towing fees comparable to Arlington’s new structure, and some have additional penalties up to $50 for nights, weekends and holidays.

The county enacted its towing ordinance years ago after a long history of predatory towing. Fisette, the longest-tenured current Board member, was a part of drafting the original ordinance.

“When I joined the Board, we had tons and tons of complaints about the tow industry, and we had no regulatory authority,” he said. “Having gotten involved, I’ve always recognized that the industry is a need. We’re a compact, busy place with parking issues… The recommendation strengthen the requirements on the towing company. This isn’t only about raising the base fee, it’s balancing it out with becoming more clear on some of the rights of those who own the vehicles.”

Arlington Approves Homeless Shelter Construction Contract

by Ethan Rothstein | February 26, 2014 at 11:30 am | 1,726 views | No Comments

2020 14th St. N. (photo via Google Maps)The Arlington County Board approved a $6.6 million contract yesterday to renovate two floors of a Courthouse office building to turn it into the long-planned and controversial Homeless Services Center at 2020 14th Street N.

The Board approved the contract 3-0 — Mary Hynes was absent with an illness and former Board Member Chris Zimmerman’s seat is vacant pending a special election — clearing what appears to be the final hurdle, other than the construction itself, before the homeless shelter is expected to open in early 2015.

The shelter will have 50 year-round beds, 25 winter beds and five medical beds. The construction will include building a separate entrance and elevator to separate the shelter from the rest of the tenants in the building, including the two ground-floor restaurants, which will remain open during construction.

The total cost estimate for the shelter project is $8.9 million, which includes $1.5 million in design, administration and county staff costs. The contract also includes a $1.1 million contingency, and the contract adds on to the county’s 2011 purchase of the building for $27.1 million. The shelter will be operated by the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN) and will replace the Emergency Winter Shelter, just two blocks away.

When the plan to build the shelter was approved last spring, residents of the adjacent Woodbury Heights Condominiums expressed concern that the facility would be a security hazard. Last night, no neighbors spoke against the item, and only one speaker voiced opposition: former Green party County Board candidate Audrey Clement.

“I’m not opposed to a year-round homeless shelter,” Clement said. “What I’m objecting to is the county’s propensity to undertake projects without doing the cost-benefit analyses needed to get the best value for dollar spent.”

Board Chairman Jay Fisette said the shelter is an accomplishment for the community and will be something to take pride in.

“This should be a time for rejoicing, not complaining,” he said from the dais. “This is a terrific project. It has been in the works for, one might say, decades as this community came to terms with our responsibility to the homeless. We’ve always done a good job, and now we’re going to do an outstanding job.”

Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | February 25, 2014 at 9:15 am | 2,407 views | No Comments

Squirrel in the snow (Flickr pool photo by J. Sonder)

County Board Still Steamed Over Tree Removal — Arlington County Board members are still lashing out against Arlington Public Schools’ removal of some trees from the grounds of Ashlawn Elementary School, which is beginning an expansion project. The school system received county staff approval to remove the trees but did not receive County Board approval. “The community has reason to be upset,” Board member Walter Tejada reiterated on Saturday. County Board members also questioned whether a controversial plan to create a loop road for student drop-off was still necessary. [Sun Gazette]

Transitway Stops Cheaper than Superstop — The new transit stops along the just-approved Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway will cost between $345,000 and $530,000. That’s significantly less than the cost of the $1 million “Superstop” on the corner of Walter Reed Drive and Columbia Pike. The new transit stops will still come with an “[improved] sidewalk, boarding platform, benches, trash cans, lighting, information signs, canopy, bike racks and windscreen.” [Washington Post]

W-L Wrestler Finishes Second in Tourney — Washington-Lee senior wrestler Narankhuu Ganbaatar has finished second in the 6A state tournament. [Sun Gazette]

Flickr pool photo by J. Sonder

Board Advertises No Change to Real Estate Tax Rate

by ARLnow.com | February 24, 2014 at 5:00 pm | 1,006 views | No Comments

arlington-va-logoThe Arlington County Board on Saturday voted to advertise no increase to the county’s real estate tax rate.

That means that the tax rate can only go down or remain the same ($1.006 for every $100 in assessed value) in the Board’s budget, which will be crafted over the next two months before final approval on April 22.

Two residential fees, meanwhile — the water-sewer rate and the household solid waste rate — are proposed to increase 3.4 and 2.4 percent respectively in County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s budget, which will be used as a jumping off point by the Board.

In all, thanks to a 5.9 percent increase in residential property assessments, the total tax and fee burden on the average Arlington household is expected to increase by $368, or 5.3 percent, to $7,371 if the Board follows Donnellan’s proposal to hold the real estate tax rate steady.

Additional information on the budget and the budget process can be found in our previous article and on the county website.

Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | February 24, 2014 at 9:00 am | 3,143 views | No Comments

"Nailed it" (Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann)

County Board Approves Projects — The Arlington County Board approved a number of projects at its Saturday meeting. Among the projects approved: Arlington’s portion of the $10.3 million Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway, a new half-million-dollar tot playground at Chestnut Hills Park, and six Neighborhood Conservation Projects in Waverly Hills, Arlington Ridge and elsewhere.

Two Rescued from I-66 Storm Sewer — Two people were rescued Saturday afternoon from a storm sewer on I-66. The confined space rescue tied up traffic on westbound I-66 near Sycamore Street. The individuals were not injured. [Twitter]

Blind ‘Dad’ Mentors Blind Triplets — Born blind and raised by a single mother, the Argel triplets are now 14-years-old and have a new outlook on life thanks to a man who has become like a father to them — so much so that he’s now in the process of formally adopting them. Ollie Cantos, a blind man who lived in the boys’ Arlington neighborhood, has changed the brothers’ lives for the better by helping with their homework, teaching them how to use their canes more effectively and providing moral support during tough times. [NPR]

Advocates Decry Arlington Mill, Langston Changes — Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy will unveil his proposed FY 2015 budget this week, but before he does supporters of Arlington Mill High School and the Langston High School Continuation Program are speaking out against possible changes. The advocates are concerned that Murphy may merge the two programs or may do away with APS’ policy of providing education to immigrants after the age of 22. [Sun Gazette]

Del. Sickles: ‘I Am a Proud, Gay Man’ — Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax), one of the 11 Democrats vying to replace Rep. Jim Moran (D) in congress, has revealed that he is gay. That makes Sickles the second openly gay member of the Virginia General Assembly. The first was state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), who is also running for Moran’s seat. [Washington Post, Richmond Times-Dispatch]

Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann

County Seeking to Acquire Ballston Park Apartments

by ARLnow.com | February 21, 2014 at 5:15 pm | 4,276 views | No Comments

Ballston Park apartments (photo via Google Maps)

Arlington County, via a complicated real estate transaction, is seeking to acquire the sprawling Ballston Park apartments on the 300 block of N. Glebe Road.

The 20-acre, 52-building complex has 513 apartments, 233 of which are committed affordable to those making 60 percent or less of the area median income. If the county’s purchase were to go through, the county would increase the number of units committed as affordable and keep them affordable for another 75 years.

The complex is expected to sell for around $100 million, but the net cost to the Arlington — from the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund — is not expected to exceed $16 million. That’s because the county already has a partial stake in the apartments, and because the county is only providing 25 percent of the sale price. The rest is being supplied by affordable housing nonprofit AHC Inc., through loans.

The terms of the proposed sale specify that the county will own the title to the apartment complex, but will grant AHC a 75-year ground lease and will help provide AHC with partial financing. Barring the sale, the existing affordable units would expire in 2027 and become market rate units.

“The County is taking this action in order to preserve the Ballston Park community – an important affordable housing asset,” said Arlington County Housing Director David Cristeal. “We believe that through this transaction, the County can preserve long term affordability and acquire a historically valuable asset for less than an estimated $70,000 per unit.”

“This transaction offers the opportunity to not only to extend the duration of current affordable units but to increase the number of affordable units within the property, obtain greater control over the long-term future use and development of the property and receive residual income in the form of lease payments for 75 years,” Cristeal continued.

The sale was quietly approved by the County Board at the end of its Tuesday, Jan. 28 meeting. The item was not originally on the Board’s public agenda. The sale agreement provided by the Board caps the total sale price at no more than $105 million.

Photo via Google Maps

County ‘Poised to Move Ahead’ With Crystal City BRT

by Ethan Rothstein | February 19, 2014 at 5:30 pm | 2,255 views | No Comments

Future Metro 9X and 9S BRT linesThe Arlington County Board is set to approve a $10.2 million construction contract to build a network of dedicated bus lanes in Crystal City and Potomac Yard.

The construction is part of the Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway Project, a project that, when completed, will see a bus rapid transit system connect from Crystal City and Pentagon City down to the Braddock Road Metrorail Station in Alexandria.

The project’s construction is expected to start this spring and last for 10 months. Alexandria’s portion of the Transitway is already under construction, according to county staff. In Arlington, the bus will operate in dedicated lanes near Potomac Yard, with stops on Crystal Drive, S. Bell Street, Clark Street, 15th Street, 20th Street and 26th Street.

During morning and evening rush hours, the buses — which will be a new 9X Metrobus route — will use a dedicated lane south on S. Bell and Clark Streets and north on Crystal Drive, replacing an existing traffic lane. The lane will be open to normal traffic during other times.

A little more than $1 million of the project’s funds will come from county funds and bonds, while the rest will come from state and federal transit grants, according to the county’s staff report. The project is designed to support the redevelopment of Potomac Yard and provide another transit option for commuters and residents of the Jefferson Davis Highway corridor.

Last year, Metro announced that the Transitway would be WMATA’s first BRT service. The dedicated lanes are expected to expedite travel times and keep buses running on a more reliable schedule.

×

Subscribe to our mailing list