Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com August 31, 2011 at 8:26 am 2,595 36 Comments

Car on Fire on I-395 — A car caught fire on southbound I-395 near Boundary Channel around 9:30 last night. The car was fully-engulfed by the time firefighters arrived on scene. No injuries were reported

Sun Gazette: Thumbs Down to Board’s ‘Walmart’ Action — The County Board’s last-minute, unannounced vote at the end of its final meeting before the summer recess is getting a “thumbs down” in the opinion pages of the Sun Gazette. The Board voted to advertise hearings on a zoning ordinance amendment that would prevent large-format retailers like Walmart from building a store without prior Board approval. “County staff so far have been unable to explain what the rush is – they want to get this approved by the County Board later in the month – and exactly what problem they are trying to solve,” the paper opined. [Sun Gazette]

School Board Challenger Drops Out — Independent Green candidate for school board Andrea Ochoa has withdrawn from the race, according to Arlington elections officials. Incumbent Democrat Abby Raphael will now run unopposed.

Street Sign Mistakes — Typos happen, including on street signs in Arlington. Among the examples: “22rd Road,” “Chian Br. Road” and an unspecified misspelling of “school” on a parking sign. [Falls Church News-Press]

Photo courtesy of @cmags44

  • I’ve seen street sign mistakes in other parts of the region also. It is the product of (1) a poor education system and (2) the hiring of people who do not speak English as a first language.

    • D’oh

      Yeah, it’s well documented that typos were brought over by Latin American immigrants.

  • charlie

    walmart zoning proposal is dead for September.

  • Steve

    3nd Street N isn’t very far from where I live.

  • Nunya

    i love car-b-qs.

  • steve85

    Common sense but no street sense

    • Richard Cranium

      I agree completely!

      No, wait – I mean I disagree vehemently!

      No, wait – actually, I mean I don’t have the first clue what you’re talking about or to what you’re referring.

      • steve85

        I was talking about they don’t have any “street” sense bc they were mispelling the street signs wrong

        • Maria

          So they spelled them right?

  • Pablo Hector Oritz-Diego

    I thought the Wal Mart situation was dead

  • Bender

    re: “a zoning ordinance amendment that would prevent large-format retailers like Walmart from building a store without prior Board approval”

    In other words, allow the Board to reject Wal-Mart for arbitrary and capricious reasons (and almost certainly political/ideological reasons), while giving approval to anyone and everyone else.

    • Thes

      Or, like the Board does with almost all other proposed development, approve it with conditions designed to ensure appropriate mitigation of harms and provision of community benefits.

      • charlie

        but walmart can build on this site with the existing zoning that is in place. has the board put the wrong zoning on this property? because the current zoning should accommodate all these horrible things you mention — otherwise it wouldn’t be zoned that way, right?

        • Lou

          I like how he said “almost all other proposed development”. As if by right development is anathema in Arlington.

          • KalashniKEV

            You would think so with the empty Dremo’s lot and the now contiguous former Blockbuster rubble lot… the rubble lot before you get to whole foods, etc.

          • Josh S

            I think it depends on the size of the development. And I don’t think that limiting the square footage of proposed stores is out of line.

          • Lou

            Zoning tells you what the allowable FAR is. It’s in black and white. That’s how they limit the square footage on a lot. It is not the kind of thing that the County invents after they find out who the developer is. That would make it impossible for owners to market their land to developers, because nobody would know how much they could build on a site. This is 101 type stuff.

    • GreaterClarendon

      Although I strongly dislike the liberal leaning Arlington County Board and its wasteful pet projects, If I recall correctly, they stopped a Home Depot from being developed where the Clarendon Market Commons is now – and I am thankful for that, as is my property value.

      • jan

        I agree

  • Bender

    When Home Depot wanted to build on a long-empty lot on Clarendon Blvd., it was rejected supposedly because such development would cause an increase in traffic.

    Shortly thereafter, a project to develop the property into a shopping mall was approved, as were several other developments approved in Clarendon that would dwarf the traffic issues that were cited to kill the Home Depot.

    Mind you, I detest Home Depot, but the decision to reject their store there was clearly arbitrary and capricious.

    • Clarendon

      There were several reasons HD was rejected. The general reason is that the county thought they could do better. I remember a big argument at the time was whether any development would EVER occur there if Home Depot was rejected – the proponents were saying that this was the best we can do with this old run-down former Sears parking lot. The opponent of Home Depot thought we could do better. Whether you think what has happened in Clarendon is better than Home Depot can be a matter of opinion, I think it turned out better.

      The question wasn’t so much would one vision or another bring more traffic, but what would bring the most benefit with the traffic.

      • Lou

        What was the legal basis behind “we think we can do better”? I don’t recall that debate, but for Home Depot to be blocked from developing a site, you need more than a hope for something better to back that up.

        • Dallyn

          I believe they specifically made the argument for another grocery store. Increased residential occupancy and only Safeway as a “larger” grocery store. Hence, Whole Foods.

        • Clarendon

          Not a lawyer, I just live here. Sorry.

        • Thes

          Lou, the County Board, in our democratic system of government, must and should consider at least three things in its decisions. First, does it have a legal right to act/regulate? Second, within its legal rights to regulate/what would be most effective? And third, what do the people of Arlington (the voters who control the government) prefer?

          Not every part of every decision of the Board can be tested using just one of those prongs. In this case, the Board has the legal right to regulate land use subject to a very broad mandate of protecting the public and ensuring its welfare, and subject to some restrictions, the main one being that their decisions cannot be “arbitrary and capricious’. The latter restriction merely means that the Board must accept or reject proposals according to objective criteria and not simply a like or dislike of the applicant (which is why, by the way, it is so hard for the Board to promote and preserve “cute” small businesses everyone wishes were more favored in Arlington).

          So using such objective criteria, for example, the Board can say that it prefers mixed use to a single use, more pedestrian/transit oriented development (such as Market Common) to auto oriented development (such as Home Depot). In choosing which objective criteria to use, the Board can legitimately take into consideration which ones the people of Arlington prefer. It can reject one proposal as “not better” than another likely proposal. I agree with @Clarendon that the Board correctly created and/or applied criteria in the Home Depot property that “raised the bar” to a point that we got a better outcome than Home Depot would have been.

          Every property in Arlington can build *something* by-right. If an owner wants to build more than that, they have to get permission. The property owner must show that what they propose (taking into consideration both the greater harms and the greater benefits) would be better than the by-right option, and even then, the Board is and should be free to reject a barely-better-than-by-right option if they think a later owner would propose a much-better-than-by-right option.

          • charlie

            this is all generally correct with a bit of nuance thrown in.
            but the property in Shirlington WOULD permit a walmart to be built.
            The County Board has arbitrarily (without input of the community) decided it doesn’t like that and therefore did a last minute play to deny a request that didn’t need to be made.

          • Lou

            That’s the glaringly obvious point some people can’t swallow. By right, subject to the VUSBC, Walmart can currently proceed with their development.

            Despite all the pixels someone wants to type on the internet.

          • Thes

            Lou, those pixels were typed in response to *your* question about site plan approvals, which was not a question about by-right regulation. So before you suggest that others are missing a “glaringly obvious point,” remove the beam from your own eye.

            The County Board *also* has the ability and the obligation to ensure that unregulated by-right development doesn’t produce excessive harms to nearby property owners. They are well within their purview to decide that on certain parcels, giant single-story retail stores would produce such harms. It would of course be wrong of the Board to impose such a restriction on just one property that Wal-Mart owns, for as long as Wal-Mart happens to own it, and then lift the restiction. But that’s not what the Board has proposed. The Board has proposed (for public comment, and not yet enacted, by the way), a regulation that would cover similar sites all around Arlington in a similar way.

          • Lou

            Unregulated by right? There is no such thing to be fearful of.

            There are regulations in the current zoning that limit density, and the building codes regulate construction and life safety.

            No need to be afraid of something called “unregulated by right”, because there are indeed standardized regulations in place.

          • John Fontain

            Thes said: “They are well within their purview to decide that on certain parcels, giant single-story retail stores would produce such harms.”

            Is the likely format a traditional single-level store or something like this that takes better advantage of the valuable land and the somewhat urban nature of the potential site…


          • charlie

            the county board does have the right to regulate by-rigiht development. it is called the ZONING ORDINANCE. And the ZONING Ordinance would allow Walmart as proposed.
            that is the glaringly obvious point that many people don’t get.
            another lawsuit is head our way for the taxpayers to support arbitrary decisions by a Board of Supervisors that wouldn’t know good planning policy if it hit them in the head.

          • Thes

            Um, the Zoning Ordinance, whether in all-caps or not, is not a document handed down from God that must never change. The County Board writes, and can amend it, and should amend it when it needs revision, which is exactly what they are proposing do to.

          • charlie

            nice touch, criticize my EMPHASIS without admitting that you agree that the glaring error is the Board of Supervisors has acted willy nilly in dumping this on their agenda.
            Yes it can change and we have a laborious process called the Arlington Way that reviews and reviews and reviewed these types of things before they EVER (emphasis added) end up on the County Board Agenda.
            It is just bad politics for the Supervisors.

    • charlie

      the majority of the land that was proposed for Home Depot was zoned for single family homes.
      home depot WITHDREW their request.
      the subsequent development was approved because the uses were more compatible with the attitude of the community.

    • jan

      I recall that the abutting neighbors didn’t want to hear trucks unloading all night.

  • Re: Wal*Mart: This is the “Arlington Way”– “do it our way because we’re special”. The arrogance of the “diverse and inclusive if we like you” Board is astounding, similar to their “exceptionalist” view of sanctuary for illegal aliens because they’re more enlightened than the Law of the Land.


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