(Updated at 12:45 p.m.) The Arlington County Board on Saturday voted to approve a controversial use permit for the county’s new year-round Homeless Services Center in Courthouse.
The permit will allow the county and the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network to run a year-round homeless shelter in the office building at 2020 14th Street N., which the county recently purchased. The building is located across the street from Arlington County Police headquarters and two blocks from the existing Emergency Winter Shelter, which closes from April 1 to Oct. 31.
Citing concerns primarily about crime, residents of the Woodbury Heights Condominium continued to voice opposition to the shelter, which will be located adjacent to their building. With approval of the use permit looking inevitable, condo residents unsuccessfully lobbied for a 24/7 security guard, and a prohibition on housing homeless individuals with a history of violent crime or sex offenses.
The Board agreed to a condition calling for a security guard from 4:00 p.m. to midnight, and agreed to some design changes intended to address neighbor concerns. That wasn’t enough for condo residents.
“Why in heaven’s name would you cheap out… and cut way back on the security,” said Ken Robinson, president of the Woodbury Heights Condominium Association, in his remarks to the Board. “They have made some changes here that are very positive, but they have to do more to safeguard the community.”
“I will tell you, if something occurs and people come back and say ‘how did this happen’… and it comes out that the County Board decided to squeeze pennies and not have adequate security, you’re going to have a lot of negative publicity about Arlington County and its social policies,” Robinson added.
Along with speakers who opposed the homeless shelter, the Board also heard from A-SPAN and its supporters, including volunteers, formerly homeless clients of A-SPAN, faith leaders and state Sen. (and former County Board member) Barbara Favola.
“There’s no reason to delay this use permit,” Favola said. She called the proposed year-round shelter a “national model” that is the “economically smart thing to do” since, she said, it will actually save money compared to the societal cost of dealing with and caring for homeless individuals who sleep on the streets.
In a report to the Board, county staff argued that the new shelter is not the dire safety concern that residents make it out to be. The current Emergency Winter Shelter, staff says, has not resulted in any significant safety incidents for residents.
“The EWS does not have security cameras or a security guard,” staff wrote. “The EWS has operated one and a half blocks away from the proposed location for the Homeless Services Center for over 20 years with no significant problems for the surrounding area.”
Vote Expected on Homeless Shelter — The Arlington County Board is expected to vote this weekend on a use permit for the planned year-round homeless shelter at 2020 14th Street N. in Courthouse. A group of neighbors has vehemently opposed the shelter, which is located two blocks from the existing emergency winter shelter. [Sun Gazette]
Opposition to Environmental Cuts — One local environmental advocate is sounding the alarm about proposed cuts in the County Manager’s proposed budget. The budget would cut a Natural Resources Specialist at the Long Branch Nature Center, would eliminate an “urban forestry” position,” and would shrink the budget for tree plantings, tree supplies and invasive species control. [Arlington Mercury]
Proposed 2013-14 School Calendar – The 2013-14 school year for Arlington Public Schools would begin on Tuesday, Sept. 3 under a proposed calendar that administrators presented to the School Board. [Arlington Public Schools]
Volunteers Pack 60,000+ Meals — A group of volunteers packed more than 60,000 meals for the hungry on Saturday. The meals — a lentil casserole consisting of “lentils, dehydrated vegetables, rice, vitamins and Himalayan sea salt” — were packed in baggies that will be distributed through the Arlington Food Assistance Center and the Capital Area Food Bank. [Sun Gazette]
Spring Forward This Weekend — Daylight Saving Time starts this weekend. Clocks should “spring forward” one hour at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday. [Yahoo]
Condo Residents Still Oppose Homeless Shelter – Arlington County has failed to allay the fears of Woodbury Heights Condominium residents, who still oppose the opening of a new year-round homeless shelter on their block in Courthouse. A vocal group of residents spoke out at an Arlington Planning Commission meeting last night. [Patch]
Fiorina to Participate in AED Event — Former Hewlett-Packard CEO and U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina has just been added to a panel discussion of “empathy in business,” organized by Arlington Economic Development and George Mason University. The event is taking place from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 14 at Artisphere (1101 Wilson Blvd). [Arlington Economic Development]
Flickr pool photo by Sunday Money
Wakefield Captures District Championship — On Friday, the Wakefield High School boy’s basketball team defeated Mount Vernon 69-60 to become the National District champions. Wakefield is now competing in the Northern Region regional tournament. Yorktown, which fell 42-82 to Wakefield in the National District tournament, is also competing as a lower seed in the Northern Region tournament. [Northern Virginia Sports]
Neighbors Want Security Guard at New Homeless Shelter — Residents of the Woodbury Heights Condominium in Courthouse are pressing Arlington officials to place a 24-hour security guard at the county’s planned year-round homeless shelter at 2020 14th Street N. Residents say they’re worried about an increase in crime as a result of the shelter moving next to their building. A resident’s Freedom of Information Act request revealed that there have been just under 6 police responses to the existing shelter per year, on average, between 1994 and 2011, mostly for alcohol-related incidents. [Arlington Mercury]
Arlington Tourism Tax Bill Passes General Assembly — A bill that would restore Arlington’s 0.25 percent hotel tax surcharge is destined for the desk of Gov. Bob McDonnell. The state legislature approved the bill, which will restore the tax authority — which is used to fund tourism promotion — for three years. [Sun Gazette]
Conservative Tech Biz Booming in Arlington — Business is booming for a small Arlington-based conservative digital advocacy company. The co-founder of Red Edge, which is based above an antique shop in Lyon Park, says he expects the business to double or triple this year as Republicans look to make up ground lost to Democrats in the online sphere. [New York Times]
Registration Open for Ballston LaunchPad Challenge — Registration is now open for the Ballston LaunchPad Challenge. The contest challenges entrepreneurs to come up with the “next great idea,” for a chance to pitch their innovation to billionaire Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis. [Ballston BID]
Budget Cuts May Hurt Local Economic Growth — With looming budget cuts and the possible implications of the fiscal cliff, the D.C. area economy is starting to look more vulnerable and more like the rest of the country, according to economists. The federal government and information job categories have seen losses recently, and slower economic growth is expected over the next two decades. [Sun Gazette]
Residents Still Wary of Homeless Shelter — Residents have of the Woodbury Heights condominium in Courthouse, who have been speaking out against the county’s planned year-round homeless shelter at 2020 14th Street N., have been working with Arlington and its contractors on changes to the design of the building. Residents want the entrance to the shelter to be as far away from their building as possible. One homeless advocate, frustrated with the residents’ continued opposition to the shelter, called the attendees at a recent community meeting “the biggest group of snobs I’ve ever seen.” [Patch]
Library Recommends Audiobooks for Holiday Trips — Arlington Public Library has some recommendations for family-friendly audiobooks to make your holiday road trip go faster. [Arlington Public Library]
Flickr pool by John Sonderman