41°Clear

Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com September 12, 2011 at 9:13 am 2,358 74 Comments

Somber Anniversary at the Pentagon — A crowd of 1,600 people — including survivors and loved ones of victims — gathered at the Pentagon yesterday to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11 attacks. Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Adm. Mike Mullen were among the speakers. President Obama arrived later in the afternoon and laid a wreath at the Pentagon Memorial. [Washington Post, New York Times]

‘Walmart’ Ordinance May Be Delayed — The County Board was supposed to vote this month on a new ordinance designed to give the board final approval on all ‘big-box’ development in Arlington, but county staff wants another month to write the ordinance. [Sun Gazette]

APS Creates Sustainability Committee — Arlington Public Schools have created a “Superintendent’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability” in order to be “active stewards in protecting the environment.” The committee will examine sustainability policies and practices as well as energy and environmental curriculum in the schools. [Arlington Public Schools]

Flickr pool photo by Jason OX4

  • John Fontain

    Regarding the anti-WalMart proposal, I’m curious about the impetus behind it. I don’t recall my elected officials asking the public for our opinion on whether this proposal was something on which the County should be spending its time and money.

    Whether one likes the idea of a WalMart or not, it is troubling to think of property owners’ rights being whittled away because of the personal desires of one or two people on the County’s staff.

    • Josh S

      I’m not sure anyone’s “rights” will be changed by the actions of the Arlington County Board. If the action they take takes away anyone’s rights, they will be sued and found in the wrong. This is how the courts work. And with the current makeup of the Supreme Court, you can bet on property owner’s rights being given greater consideration than the interests of a local government to control or manage local development.

      • Ballstonian

        Not sure if you’re being sarcastic, but if not, you should probably check out the Supreme Court’s (fairly) recent decision in Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005), in which it held that the government can use eminent domain to transfer private property from one entity to another in furtherance of greater economic development (ie your house to Walmart if a Walmart would provide more tax revenue).

        • charlie

          Kelo has no relevance in Virginia law because of the way our laws are structured.

          In fact most people now agree (on both sides of the opinion) that Kelo has little impact outside of Connecticut and a few other states.

          That hasn’t stopped ballot initiatives in some state — even if said initiatives are useless since Kelo doesn’t apply in their state.

    • AllenB

      Isn’t the point of the legislation to be able to take the time to actually get community input into the decision on who builds? It’s not impeding anyone’s rights. Remember, Clarendon wouldn’t be what it is today (yes, I know some of you hate it but most love it) if not for the community input process.

      • John Fontain

        Let’s say you own a residential lot in Arlington. You currently live in the existing house on that lot. You decide you want to put an addition on your house. If you follow zoning regs and building codes, you can build that addition.

        Now let’s say the County passes a new ordinance that gives the public the right to ‘vote’ on whether you can build your addition.

        Do you not think that is impeding your property rights?

        • AllenB

          No they’re not. First of all, bad comparison – we’re talking commercial use vs residential.

          But to go with your bad analogy, the County does have a right to review and change my project if it will create a traffic mess in the neighborhood, change the look of the neighborhood, etc.

          • charlie

            AllenB, are you suggesting that the county can take commercial property rights but not residential ones?

        • Josh S

          Yeah, terrible analogy. The proposed rule would not give the public up or down voting ability on a specfic project. Also, I’m going to guess that the proposed rule will not allow the Board to make their decision without reason.

          • John Fontain

            I only mentioned public voting because AllenB said that was the point of the ordinance. In any event, I don’t see how an ordinance allowing the government to decide whether you can build within it’s own rules isn’t a removal of property rights.

        • drax

          Good point, John – but are you saying that the existing zoning regs and building codes under which you could build that addition should all be repealed – since, after all, they also impede property rights? They still limit the manner in which you can add that addition. And they were once new, when they were adopted or revised.

          So to repeat the question – should no zoning or regulations ever be changed, or even imposed at all?

          • John Fontain

            I don’t believe current zoning and regs and building codes should be repealed. Generally speaking, they serve a great purpose.

            And I also don’t believe they should never be changed.

            I do, however, have a problem with the Board acting to specifically target one retailer (no one has denied this), especially when the Board hasn’t asked the residents what they think of the matter.

    • drax

      This action would not take anyone’s rights away. It would simply allow the county to act in the future, perhaps after getting input from the public.

      • charlie

        yes it would.
        right now I can built 201 parking spaces on my land.
        under the proposal I would not be able to without asking for Babs and Zimmie permission.
        today it is my lot. tomorrow it is your lot. watch out.

        • drax

          The point is that the current action wouldn’t actually be a decision on Walmart, that’s all.

          • charlie

            Yes, but it would impact other uses and sites. the “unintended consequences” — which is why it is being further studied.

          • drax

            That’s probably true, depending on what it ends up saying.

        • Biffie

          Wait a minute. Arent you the guy who was complaining that some landlord, the one who got busted for bribery, had turned houses into duplexes near you? And yet you want to be able to turn you land (assuming it is not commercial land) into parking spaces whenever you want?

        • Josh S

          I don’t know if you could build 201 parking spaces on your land without any county approvals needed. So what’s the difference?

          I do know that it is highly unlikely you’d be able to build a rendering facility on your land. Or an incinerator. So what’s the difference?

          You don’t currently have 100% free use of your land. So be careful with overstating your objections here.

          • John Fontain

            Comparing retail development to residential development is a “terrible analogy,” but comparing retail development to a rendering facility or an incinerator isn’t? Are you kidding?

          • drax

            Seriously, John, if you think he’s actually comparing a Walmart to an incinerator, you’re either not as smart as you think you are, or you’re pretending.

            I’ll let him explain in exquisite detail for you what he actually means.

          • Josh S

            Oi. The POINT is that you don’t currently have 100% free use of your land. The proposed rule is extremely marginal in terms of removing rights to develop land, especially since it doesn’t necessarily mean that any proposal would be denied.

          • John Fontain

            “The POINT is that you don’t currently have 100% free use of your land.”

            No question about that and I don’t think I’ve suggested anyone does. My point is simply that this ordinance would be a further restriction on use for the simple reason that you have to ask for permission to do something.

            “The proposed rule is extremely marginal in terms of removing rights to develop land”

            This is about as subjective a statement as one can make. And I doubt you’d have the same view if it was your property we were talking about. As I understand it, right now the owners of the potential WalMart site could build a WalMart. With the new ordinace, they may not be able to. How can you say that is a “marginal” removal of property rights?

      • John Fontain

        drax – when you say, “It would simply allow the county to act in the future,” what do you mean by that? What do you mean by “act”?

        • drax

          They could act to deny Walmart. The point is that this action isn’t denying Walmart the right to build.

          • John Fontain

            I don’t follow. Your first and second sentence appear contradictory. Please clarify and explain.

          • cyclist

            They could act IN THE FUTURE to deny Walmart persmission to build. The action described in the article would not deny Walmart permission to build, it would only require that Walmart get permission before building.

          • John Fontain

            cyclist said: “They could act…to deny Walmart persmission to build”

            cyclist then said: “The action…would not deny Walmart permission to build.”

            Again, these statements appear to contradict each other.

          • Thes

            Those statements (in context) only contradict each other if time does not exist. Otherwise, they are perfectly consistent. It is like if one’s spouse says “don’t buy a car without telling me.” That statement, in and of itself, does not prevent you from getting a car, but it does mean that your spouse could oppose any particular car. Then again, your spouse might approve. No harm, no foul.

            The pending County Board action merely says that a land owner must seek permission, not that permission would be denied (and, in fact, the vast, vast majority of use permits in Arlington are approved).

          • Mike Oksmal

            There is no pending board action. Staff is still wrestling with the legality of this whole fiasco.

          • John Fontain

            Thes – Of all people, I know you are smart enough to know that the substance of this would be an additional restriction on property rights. Your resorting to strained language like “in and of itself” demonstrates this clearly.

          • cyclist

            No, they do not conflict.

            They COULD deny, IN THE FUTURE. They have not yet denied, and this action would not deny. See how they say different things?

            Do you need every word explained in detail?

          • John Fontain

            cyclist said: “No, they do not conflict. They COULD deny, IN THE FUTURE. They have not yet denied, and this action would not deny. See how they say different things?”

            If you have the ability to develop “by right,” then you don’t need to get permission to build what you want to build. You just have to follow existing zoning ordinances and building codes. By adding an ordinance that says you have to get permission from a governmental body that will decide if your project is desirable, you have lost the ability to develop “by right.” Losing “by right” means you have lost a right.

          • Josh S

            Apparently.

          • cyclist

            “Losing “by right” means you have lost a right.”

            So if the Board adopts this, Wal-Mart will be forbidden from building there?

            No.

            Stop playing games. We all understand what you’re saying. Good for you. You made your point long ago, stop pretending not to get ours.

          • Josh S

            But John, John, John, don’t you see? Your very own sentence contains the truth that seems to be eluding you. “You just have to follow existing zoning ordinances and building codes.” So, ALREADY, the “by right” development is tainted. You can’t decide tomorrow to build a skyscraper on your property, even if yours is the only name on the deed.
            The proposed rules would alter the existing rules for obtaining your permits. What is crucial, and unknown to us at this time, is whether the proposed rule contains objective criteria by which the board could approve or deny any proposed development. If the rule does not, and maybe even if it does, depending on what they are, then you may have a case to claim unfair treatment.
            But, in general, trying to argue that this proposed rule represents an example of the government expanding their intrusion into our rights as private citizens you are carrying a very holey bucket there….

          • charlie

            Thes, terrible logic from you today.
            Are you suggesting that Arlington be maternal and that property owners can’t do anything unless mom says so?
            Because that is NOT how our Virginia property right laws are set up.
            And the County Board knows that they do not have the right to restrict land without a nexus — and arbitrary ones do NOT count.

    • Thes

      I’m very happy that property owners in Arlington don’t have the right to build like this. Keep up the good work, County Board.

      • Conan the Grammarian

        hy·per·bo·le

         [hahy-pur-buh-lee]
        noun Rhetoric .
        1. obvious and intentional exaggeration.
        2. an extravagant statement or figure of speech not intended to be taken literally, as “to wait an eternity.”

        Origin: Greek hyperbolḗ excess, exaggeration, throwing beyond, equivalent to hyper- hyper- + bolḗ throw

        Synonyms
        2. overstatement.

        Antonyms
        2. understatement.

        • charlie

          +1,000,000,000,000,003 (just staying in the hyperbole-stance)

  • Magic Hobo

    They didn’t ask your opinion. Anyone would think we had a representative system rather than a delegative one.

  • BreadBarber

    It’s unfair to change the rules of the game in the middle of the game.

    It’s unfair to the property owners, whether or not Wal-Mart even is thinking of building there.

    • Josh S

      A. What’s with all these unfamiliar names? Is ARLnow growing in popularity or something?
      B. What is “the middle of the game?” Couldn’t this potentially mean that local jurisdictions could never make any further zoning / regulatory changes ever? Property development doesn’t have a clock or 27 outs or anything else that would serve to deliniate a clear beginning and end. Up to the point that the building permits are issued, I think the “game” can and does change.

      • Thes

        Josh S. with regard to the unfamiliar names, are you suggesting that paid Wal-Mart employees or their lobbyists might be packing these comments? If so, that sounds entirely believable. Wal-Mart has a very sophisticated local lobbying operation. I suspect most actual voters of Arlington are happy with the idea of some regulation of big-box retail operations rather than having taxpayers foot the entire bill for untangling massive traffic tie-ups along Glebe and Shirlington Road.

        • BreadBarber

          Actually, there are some in Arlington who are against *increased* government intrusion in all aspects of life.

          • Josh S

            What is this “*increased* government intrustion in all aspects of life” you are referring to? Local jurisdictions around the country have, for decades, if not centuries, been involved in regulating / controling development on land within their borders. This has happened, and happens, with locally-elected Democrats, Republicans, Whigs, Independents, Greens, etc.There is nothing new in this proposal.

          • John Fontain

            josh s said: “There is nothing new in this proposal.”

            Then why is it needed?

          • Mike Oksmal

            Take your logic and rational thoughts elsewhere.

          • drax

            “Nothing new” means it is normal. It isn’t unusual for a government to do.

        • John Fontain

          thes said: “I suspect most actual voters of Arlington are happy with the idea of some regulation”

          Did you do a poll? Your statement is probably indicative of the way the county staffers decided to draw up this new ordinance: “I suspect most people would want XYZ, so let’s write it up and put it into law.”

          • AllenB

            If you think he’s wrong, you obviously don’t know much about Arlington and it’s residents. We love to have input into projects and shape the neighborhoods in which we live. That only comes with some regulation as developers would thumb their noses at us if they could.

          • Thes

            Um, that’s why I said “I suspect” instead of “here’s a citation”. However, the government does a similar poll every year on the second Tuesday in November. The results seem to bolster my suspicions.

            I actually wish County staff could do a better job imagining what the public wanted. As unelected bureaucrats with no training in public outreach, they sometimes do a very bad job guessing on their own. Fortunately, the County’s agenda is mostly set by elected officials accountable to the voters. The Board’s action in July is a good example of this.

          • John Fontain

            I don’t remember there being a referendum on restricting WalMarts. Maybe I didn’t look closely enough at the ballot.

            In regards to your suggestion that a democratic voting populous is generally opposed to allowing affordable shopping for lower income residents, I’d also like to know whether you polled. I ‘suspect’ you didn’t.

          • Thes

            I have not claimed any of those things. So there is no need for you to refute them. I stand by what I did say.

          • Josh S

            “affordable shopping for lower income residents” – well, at least we know that John isn’t the Walmart shill around here. I doubt they’d refer publicly to their intended customer base as “lower income.”

            In any case, though – don’t be willfully slow, John. The prices of the products sold at Walmart are not the issue. It’s all the waste and other undesireable elements that generally come with big box retail as it is normally built.

          • John Fontain

            josh s said: ” It’s all the waste and other undesireable elements that generally come with big box retail as it is normally built.”

            Please explain what waste and other undesirable elements you are referring to. I’m not willfully slow, just slow.

          • Thes

            I can think of some. Excess storm water runoff, undirected auto traffic flows, noise from loading and unloading at odd hours, garbage smell, and soul-killing building design. There’s also the possibility of insufficient nearby affordable workforce housing, leading to long commutes for the workers and associated increases in traffic density. Energy inefficiency in cheap construction adds excess strain and infrastructure demands to the power grid. Probably, there are other things.

          • Mike Oksmal

            Wow, that’s an awful lot of things for one zoning ordinance to mitigate. Must be one heck of a piece of new law they are working on.

          • Thes

            Mike, the “heckuva law” is already on the books — it’s called the use permit process. It allows the community to address some or all of those concerns. The proposal made by the Board is to put big-box retail into the category that requires a use permit. But you already knew this, as you are paid to.

          • Thes

            Actually, Mike, unlike some of the other commentators here, you may not be one of the people being paid to know these things. If so, please be advised that there is a well-established use permit process for development in Arlington, it is meant to address the kinds of concerns I listed above, and that the Board is merely proposing to use it for big-box development. Sorry to cast unfounded aspersions, if they are, indeed, unfounded.

          • John Fontain

            Thes, don’t hold back: Which posters are paid WalMart shills and how do you know this?

          • Thes

            John, you may need to brush up on the use of the conditional and subjunctive constructions in English. For example, the use of the phrase “may need” in the previous sentence does not mean the same as “will need”, nor is it the same as “will not need”. Attacking me for not knowing something with precision isn’t very helpful to the discussion when I explicitly haven’t made any such claim. You have done that repeatedly today. (Note on that last one I said “have done” not “may have done” because it’s a provable fact.)

            Or perhaps you’re just trolling. In which case, you got me. Congratulations. I hope you found the experience was positive for your everlasting soul.

            To recap: Walmart is thinking of building a big-box retail outlet in Arlington. The County government is thinking of regulating that, as they should since most people in Arlington want this kind of thing to be regulated. Regulated is not the same thing as prohibiting. The Board is not proposing to prohibit Wal-Mart. It’s too soon to tell if most people in Arlington would support or oppose such Wal-Mart. My guess is that most Arlingtonians would support a propertly regulated Wal-Mart to be built. And by “guess” I mean I have not yet conducted a scientific poll. But it’s a very good guess, nonetheless, based on how they vote in elections, where those candidates proposing, in general, to regulate development routinely prevail.

            I have not heard anything on this thread or previously that refutes any of these points. So the paid development operatives have been reduced to inane semantic attacks. I think this shows the strength of their position. If they hope for legal action to save them from regulation, their lawyers will need to do a better job.

          • John Fontain

            Thes – Thank you for admitting, albeit in as indirect a way as possible, that you didn’t have a basis for claiming that those with differing views were paid shills.

            Thanks also for the English lessons. I’ll take help wherever I can get it.

          • John Fontain

            thes said: “Excess storm water runoff, undirected auto traffic flows, noise from loading and unloading at odd hours, garbage smell, and soul-killing building design….”

            In other words, problems that could potentially arise from any sort of development, not just a WalMart.

    • drax

      Really? So zoning and other restrictions should never change, ever?

      • BreadBarber

        Not in a knee-jerk type response to a rumor of a new store coming..,

        • drax

          Fine – that’s not what’s happening here. The board isn’t making any changes whatsoever to zoning or other restrictions.

          • John Fontain

            drax said: “The board isn’t making any…restrictions.”

            Then what would the proposed ordinance do? Don’t ordinances usually limit or restrict?

          • drax

            Yes, it restricts Wal-Mart’s right to build without getting prior permission from the Board. Which you already know, and we already know, and everyone already knows.

  • Paid Spokesperson

    Kudos to the staff for putting a reality check on what the Board so flippantly thought they could ordain. Making this law able to withstand a property rights challenge in court is going to dilute it quite a bit.

  • Arlwhenver

    Most Saturdays I drive by one of those new-fangled urban Walmarts, in the Penn Daw area of Fairfax County down along Route 1. There typically are about 100 cars in the lot, and there has been no noticeable increase in traffic congestion since the Walmart opened.

    The putative Arlington Walmart site, across from the old Washington Golf outlet, is an excellent location for retail, particularly retail that is attractive for the diverse population that Arlington County claims it values. It’s accesible via a four lane lightly travelled street. The County gearing up to stick it to Walmart smacks of elitism.

    • Thes

      If the speculated-upon Wal-Mart poses so few problems, then they should have no problem getting their use permit, as developers in Arlington routinely do. On the other hand, if they exacerbate the tie-ups at the 395 ramps at this location, they may be asked to adjust their design to make the traffic flow better. That’s hardly “sticking it” to Wal-Mart.

  • MC

    I’m unmoved by these arguments about infringing someone’s future rights. Any new rule has the potential to change the rights of someone who perhaps owns property, is thinking about owning property, or is planning to have children who may own property, or maybe have children who will want to consider owning property. I’m not aware that Walmart owns anything property in Arlington at all, so how are they being hurt?

    • John Fontain

      MC said: ” I’m not aware that Walmart owns anything property in Arlington at all, so how are they being hurt?”

      I started out this thread by stating, “…it is troubling to think of property owners’ rights being whittled away because of the personal desires of one or two people on the County’s staff.” This statement was not limited to WalMart. It applied to all property owners. The proposed WalMart site is currently owned by another party. If the County were to further limit how the site could be developed, then the current owner’s property rights would be whittled away.

      “I’m unmoved by these arguments about infringing someone’s future rights. Any new rule has the potential to change the rights of someone who perhaps owns property…”

      The issue here is that the Board is drafting an ordinance to target (no pun intended) one retailer, WalMart, and they are doing so based on the assumption that no one in the County would want an affordable place to shop. They didn’t ask us what we want, they have just decided for us. This is a terrible way for elected officials to conduct themselves.

×

Subscribe to our mailing list