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The Right Note: How was this vote 3 to 2?

by Mark Kelly — October 8, 2015 at 2:00 pm 0

Mark KellyThe Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

In a bizarre 3-2 vote last month, the County Board barely upheld the ability of a Courthouse dental practice to stay in business. By all indications, this is a thriving practice that provides a needed service for the community.

The renewal of a 22 year-old exemption allowing for a dental office in the location was being discussed as part of a site plan review. County staff pointed out that the dental office complied with the county’s new retail action plan.

The only opponents at the Board Meeting were the Clarendon-Courthouse Civic Association, which believes a different type of tenant would activate Courthouse Plaza. The point is arguable based on the size of the space and the other retail tenants currently occupying spaces nearby.

While listening to civic association input is important, most observers would ask why would you want to kick a business out of a space they want to stay in? And yet, retiring Board Members Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada voted to force the dentist to close up shop.

What makes this whole episode even more odd is that just last December, the Board voted unanimously to approve temporary continuance of this space and allow three other retail spaces to be converted to medical or office space.

Neither Hynes nor Tejada offered any debate at the Board Meeting that would explain their decisions to vote no. So, it is hard to comprehend why Hynes and Tejada would want kicking a local small business in the teeth to be one of their last votes on the way out the door.

This is particularly concerning at a time when office vacancy rates in general are alarmingly high. And, ground floor retail space in particular has been difficult, if not impossible to keep filled in Arlington.

As the county struggles to find a strategy to attract new businesses and retain existing ones, this episode cannot help. Instead of hanging a big “Open for Business” sign on the county, Hynes and Tejada seemed intent on making county policies towards new and existing businesses look absurd.

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