Three potential designs for the re-envisioned Courthouse Square area will be presented to the community tomorrow (Wednesday) night.
The workshop will be held on the third floor of the office building at 1310 N. Courthouse Road from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. The public will see three draft design concepts for the area that include plans for open space, building location and design, cultural resources, circulation (moving cars, pedestrians and bicycles through the area) and sustainability.
After the workshop, county staff and the Envision Courthouse Square Working Group will take the community’s recommendations and, along with county planning staff, formulate a draft revision to the 1993 Courthouse Sector Plan Addendum, to be brought before the Arlington County Board this winter.
The workshop could be the final chance for the public to engage in person with the working group before the plans start to take a more definite shape. There have already been two community workshops — one in March and another in April — as well as an online survey that revealed respondents have more open space and an outdoor movie program on the top of their wish list for the area.
Courthouse Square is defined as the 9-acre area around the large surface parking lot between Courthouse Plaza and the Arlington County Justice Center. It’s bounded by N. Courthouse Road to the east, Clarendon Blvd to the north, Courthouse Plaza to the west and just south of 14th Street N. to the south.
Image via Arlington County
As the Arlington County Board moves forward on an update to its noise ordinance, owners of high-rise condominiums in Ballston, members of private swimming clubs and economic development boosters are all upset with some of county staff’s recommendations.
Staff consulted an ad hoc committee of condo owners in Ballston who want police to issue citations whenever they can hear noise in their apartments that originates from at least 50 feet away. The condo owners want the enforcement period to start at 10:00 p.m. on weeknights, 11:00 p.m. on weekends and from noon to 6:00 p.m. on Sundays.
In voting to advertise changes to the noise ordinance on Tuesday night, the County Board gave itself the flexibility to decide whether to make the minimum distance 50, 100 or 200 feet, and to decide when the noise ordinance should be enforced.
Judson McIntire spoke for a more restrictive ordinance. He bought a condominium two years ago on the second floor of the Berkeley Condominiums, at the corner of Fairfax Drive and N. Randolph Street, which is directly across the street from A-Town Bar & Grill.
“Staff has recommended that protections start at midnight,” said McIntire, who insisted that he moved to Ballston for its “vibrant mixed use” and said he loves living in the neighborhood. ”We believe this is too lenient and urge the board to accept stricter enforcement times. Many Arlington residents go to bed before midnight and they expect and deserve an uninterrupted night’s sleep.”
Business owners and economic development advocates worry that provisions in the noise ordinance that prohibit “yelling, wailing, shouting, or screaming” at night in Arlington’s mixed-use corridors, including areas near Metro stations, are overly restrictive. They’re also concerned about provisions that could hold business owners and managers personally responsible for such noise coming from their patrons when they’re outside on patios or rooftop bars.
Sally Duran, a member of the Arlington Economic Commission, countered the condo owners, saying the Board should discuss any noise ordinance changes with the business community, which pays half of all taxes in Arlington, and millennials — generally, those 25-34 years of age.
“These millennials, which make up 45 percent of our population, are the ones who are living and working in Arlington and they are the driving force of businesses’ desire to be located here,” Duran said. “Obviously that’s a blessing, but it’s also creating a little bit of noise… The county needs to holistically study the issues associated with the lively, energetic and sometimes messy environment created by the nightlife uses in urban and mixed-use environments.”
The Board hasn’t given any indication on which direction it prefers. It is advertising the noise ordinance for various enforcement times, to be as broad as possible. It can vote on later hours when it holds its public hearing and likely adopts the noise ordinance at its meeting next month.
One other sticking point among the public was proposed noise restrictions on private swimming clubs, which are located in residential neighborhoods and which hold swim meets during the warmer weather months. Swim club representatives have expressed concern that the new ordinance would make it illegal for fans to cheer on swimmers and divers, particularly on weekend mornings.
Staff recommended these clubs hold no more than 10 meets a year, submit an annual noise management plan and ensure “measures are in place to limit the extent to which noise sources used in the conduct of athletic contests and other activities are audible on properties at least 200 feet from the noise source. ”
“Swim and dive meets have been held at all these community pools for more than 50 years without an issue ever arising,” said Lander Allin, who lives in the Arlington Forest neighborhood. “The ordinance as proposed is so restrictive and burdensome that it puts us at risk of civil and criminal penalties for staging athletic events for our children. It would require us to take very expensive steps to fix a problem that does not exist.”
The Board is expected to vote on a final version of the revised noise ordinance as soon as next month.
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.
The park is being built on a third of an acre of what is currently vacant land along Clarendon Blvd, between N. Adams Street and N. Barton Street. The land, which belongs to the Embassy of the Republic of Korea, is being leased to the county at no cost for at least two years, under the condition that the county maintains the land.
The park proposed for the parcel is being described as a “dynamic, inviting and sustainable open space” and Arlington’s “first temporary pop-up park.” It will include paths accessible to those with disabilities, chairs, tables, umbrellas, benches, planters, a drinking fountain, a small lawn area, shade trees, other plantings, and a small lawn area.
“A portion of the park building materials will be recycled from existing County surplus materials,” the county said. “Improvements to the site will be mostly surface improvements and will be designed to minimize the need for excavation. This will reduce the cost of construction and allow park elements to be reused at other sites.”
Via its Open Arlington website, the county is seeking community input on other potential park features. Ideas floated by county staff include:
- Small-scale outdoor games (like cornhole, croquet or table tennis)
- Bocce court
- Miniature golf course
- Gardening/demonstration gardens
- Exercise classes
- Outdoor market
- Game tables for chess or checkers
- Picnic tables
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Flickr pool photo by Christaki