Zimmerman Plans Small Business “Listening Session”

by ARLnow.com March 15, 2011 at 11:30 am 2,390 46 Comments

Update at 3:30 p.m. — Zimmerman unveiled a new “Business Center” web portal at this afternoon’s board meeting. The portal is “designed to make the County web site work better for Arlington business owners,” according to county spokeswoman Mary Curtius.

On New Year’s Day, County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman kicked off the year by declaring that the board wanted to be seen a “facilitator, a partner to small business” in 2011.

The subtext of his comment was that the county was looking to reverse course from 2010, when a series of mini-controversies over enforcement of county ordinances had some entrepreneurs questioning Arlington’s commitment to small business.

Among the dust-ups: American Flatbread’s request for patio seating was denied in July. Then Screwtop Wine Bar and Bakeshop had their sandwich board-style signs confiscated and thrown in a dumpster by a county employee. Then some soon-to-open businesses began complaining about delays caused by zoning issues. And finally, the icing on the cake was a lawsuit filed by a doggy daycare owner over a mural that the county argued was disallowed under the sign ordinance. (A judge later sided with the county.)

With that unpleasantness behind him, Zimmerman is now organizing a small business “listening session” on March 31. In a letter to business owners, Zimmerman writes that “to make improvements that really work for business, we need direct input from our business owners and those who support them.”

The forum also comes at a time when the county is in the process of rewriting its zoning ordinance, including the sign ordinance, to correct inconsistencies and ambiguities. Zimmerman has also hinted that the board may relax certain regulations.

“Many feel [the zoning ordinance] is overly restrictive and unnecessarily hard to understand and comply with,” Zimmerman said at the Jan. 1 board meeting. “There has to be a better way. In 2011, we’re going to find one.”

See Zimmerman’s letter to business owners, after the jump.

March 10, 2010

Local entrepreneurship is essential to the vitality of our community, to give it unique character, to mark it as an authentic place, not just another indistinguishable product in a chain of mass-produced suburbs. We must continue to find ways to help small businesses succeed. As Chairman of the County Board for 2011, one of my most pressing concerns is the state of Arlington’s small businesses, and the role our local government plays in developing ways to improve our processes and regulations. But to make improvements that really work for business, we need direct input from our business owners and those who support them.

On March 31, 2011 you’ll have an opportunity to provide valuable and constructive feedback to County Board members and the Arlington County staff at a “listening session” from 7 to 10 p.m., at the Clarendon Ballroom, 3185 Wilson Boulevard.

This is an open forum with Arlington small business owners and those who support them. Everyone involved with small businesses in Arlington is encouraged to attend. This session is free but registration is reqired. Please register online.

Christopher Zimmerman
Chairman, Arlington County Board

  • bob

    Does zimmie look more and more like a 3rd world dictator?

    Days of Rage. Days of Rage.

    • Overgrown Bush

      I think he looks a little like a balding Pablo Escobar.

      • Rick

        I see a slight resemblance

      • But Escobar was a pilar of his community

    • LyonSteve

      Hah! That’s exactly what I thought when I saw the picture too!

  • Sgt. Hartman

    Please add “taxpayers” to the list of those questioning Arlington’s “commitment.”

  • Lou

    We refuse to be just another indistinguishable product in a chain of mass-produced pizza and cupcake places! Oh wait….

  • DT

    I vill listen to your concerns and the I vill tell you zat you are wrong.

    • madisonmanor

      LOL – thanks. Now I have to find something to clean my lunch off my monitor – at least it didn’t come out of my nose. The only thing possibly missing was “… is it SAFE?”

      • Tabby

        Haven’t laughed this hard reading ArlNow since the teen sex survey comments.

    • local

      Nothing like putting words in someone else’s mouth.

  • Rick

    Will he be listening to 105.9 the edge, or 100.3 while this goes on?

  • Tabby

    Ooooh, is there any look that’s sexier on a man than a turtleneck and tweed jacket?

    • Davidm

      Mock Turtle..

  • When next?

    No way, he is way more Ron Jeremy than Escobar.

    • MissGossip

      Do tell… How do you know this ?

  • borf

    Looks like the kids from Kenmore found a new thread.

    • Kenmore Cougar

      ….a thread that borf, I mean mehoo, I mean local, I mean borf had to comment upon.

      • borflochoo


    • mehoo

      Shut up, borf.

      • local

        No, you shut up.

  • Tabby

    That Ron Jeremy pic has rendered ArlNow not work safe for me.

  • GeorgeOrwell

    Is it Post a Joke Tuesday?
    Zimmie doesn’t know how to listen. Watch any board meeting.

  • Not sure why?

    Tabby, I only posted it because ARLnow.com posted about naked pizza. I figured if they could post about naked pizza then this was fair game. Sorry to offend, I’ll keep myself in check between clases at Kenmore. Oh, I hear Obama is coming over for patty melts and tater tots tomorrow! Yabba Dabba Doooo….

  • Tony Montana

    Hey, you Capitalist scum! Meet my “little friend.” It’s loaded with more taxes & regulations!!!

  • shirley

    i guess this is better than the usual zimmie bashing, right? seriously, right?
    anyone? anyone?

  • Forget You Chris

    This Board is great at lying – just ask them what happened with former CM Mike Brown. Ask them about the County’s budget woes or what they are NOT telling you about the Crystal City TIF that will syphon tax dollars from the rest of the County for decades to come. Yes, they are great at lying to their citizens are there is no unrelated authority, ie, an inspector general function, to hold them in check or to investigate allegations of mismanagement, fraud, waste, or abuse. Try asking this Board to fund an OIG with the next tax dollars they want to waste, er, I mean spend. Yes, Forget You, Chris, and Forget the Others, too.

  • FedUp

    The comments on this blog are getting sillier by the hour. It’s unfortunate that no reasonalbe discussion takes place here any longer.

    • OX4

      There was reasonable discussion? When?

  • Arlwhenever

    Making improvements for small business? I see about 40 or 50 links to regulatory materials on Zimmerman’s business portal. Duh, I wonder what needs to be done?

    Zimmerman listen? Heck, he can’t even read.

    • Lou

      I know. It’s just a site map. Progress!!!

    • Novanglus

      Exactly. That “portal” is just a collection of links assembled by Ms. Curtius and the PR staff.

      But this isn’t a PR issue. The problem is the lack of customer-focused management in the many county departments. Zimmerman needs to instruct the county manager to hire more business process people and empower them to make change in every single department. Then they need to create a REAL portal where all of the transactions a business needs to complete can be done in one place, with one login.

  • John Snyder

    I thought Arlnow had a policy against personal attacks. If that policy were enforced, maybe there could be some intelligent discussion again. Instead it just gets more childish by the day.

    • Rick

      Chris Zimmerman attacks my wallet on a daily basis, I’m allowed to post a picture of adrian grenier in a fat suit and say it looks like him. Other than “Shut up, borf” I don’t see any other personal attacks?

      • John Snyder

        Mocking a person’s appearance is a personal attack, and juvenile, and cowardly since you don’t use your real, full name. You can throw your spitballs and tantrums, but don’t think anyone considers them more than that.

    • Arlwhenever

      Chris Zimmerman attacked the students, faculty and alumni of Bishop O’Connell High School last night. Tell your buddy what goes around, comes around.

      • John Snyder

        Bull. Disagreement about a policy or public permit decision is not a personal attack. There is nothing personal about whether the lights are too bright, or not. Somebody, people with names, needs to make these decisions, and stand by them. If you ever want to be one of these people (a.k.a. grown ups) get a real name.

  • Dan
  • Coalition AgainstSandwichBoards

    Could be good to have a few obstacles to navigate before being allowed to put a useless sandwich board in the street. I’m just shocked that the boards were thrown into a dumpster and not recycled.

  • Donna

    Question for Mr. Zimmerman: If the County is in such great shape, why on any given day do 30 struggling restaurants owe an aggregate $1 million in meals tax?

    • South Arlington

      Because those restaurants have poor execution, poor menus, bad service, bad locations, poor business plans, etc.? It’s not the Government’s job to ensure everyone’s business ideas are sound.

      Why are these boards starting to sound like the boneheads that supposedly write into the Arlington Yupette blog/rabble-rousing-fest?

  • terri

    Question for Chris Zimmerman: At yesterday’s County Board Meeting you gave an interest free $490,000 loan to the developer of Founder’s Square to pay for the design of Mosaic Park. (Agenda Item 19). How do I sign up to get a similar loan for my business.

  • Brad

    Question for Chris Zimmerman: Is spending $138 million for a dozen streetcars on the Pike and $140 million for a dozen street cars in Crystal City sound fiscal policy?

    • Thes

      Um. Yes. The streetcars will generate far, far more than that amount in increased property values and economic activity. In fact, the wealth creation that infrastructure will very likely generate enough increased taxes (at 1% of the increase in property values plus about 3% of the increase in sales activity) to pay for them.

  • What gives?

    The knee-jerk negativity to Chris Zimmerman on this site is amazing. Although I’ve had no direct interactions with him for a while, when our neighborhood was working on traffic calming measures he was engaged, responsive and overrode some overly bureaucratic staff work that would simply have shifted traffic problems from one neighborhood street to another and undermined the whole plan.

  • NArl

    Zimmerman and the rest of the county board are going to run this county into the ground if they haven’t already done so.


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