64°Overcast

Condo Residents, County Officials Reach Agreement on Public Access to Courtyard

Updated with County statement 3/2/2018 at 11:17 a.m.:

Arlington County believes that the dispute with the Berkeley Condo Association over public courtyard access is close to being amicably resolved, and that public access will be restored to the pathway on the property. The County Board authorized the County Attorney to engage in settlement negotiations with the Berkeley Condo Association, to resolve ongoing litigation, and the parties are negotiating a proposal, which, in all likelihood, will be finalized soon. Any final settlement would be between the County Board and the Berkeley Condo Association, not their attorneys or other County officials.

The proposal requires the Berkeley Condo Association to take down the existing gates at the pathway and keep the path clear for public access from 6 a.m. to midnight, or one half-hour before opening and closing of the Ballston Metro station, whichever is later. Under the proposal, the Berkeley Condo Association would be allowed to put up security fencing off the path to prevent trespassing onto the areas adjacent to the residential units.

The Berkeley Condo Association has applied for a Site Plan amendment, and the County Board could advertise a public hearing on that proposed amendment as early as at its March meeting, if the settlement agreement is finalized in time.

An agreement over contested public courtyard access has been reached between the County Attorney and Ballston’s Berkeley Condo Association, the association’s attorney says.

The compromise would allow the Berkeley Condominiums to fence off pathways and the privately-owned patios. The patios will not be accessible at any point to the public and the pathways will only be available during hours that Metro is operational.

“We’ve come up with a win-win, I think,” said William Lawson, the building’s attorney and a Ballston resident.

According to Lawson, a site plan amendment request will go before the Arlington County Board in April to approve the compromise.

In September the Board unanimously rejected the condo association’s desire to remove a requirement — dating back to when the condominium complex was built — that it allow the public to access a courtyard on the property.

Residents cited criminal mischief, from fighting to public drunkenness to drug use, for keeping its property off-limits. A staff report, however, noted that only one police report was found regarding activity at the outdoor space.

The condo building, at 1000 N. Randolph Street, is across from A-Town Bar & Grill and IHOP and down the block from First Down Sports Bar & Grill.

File photos.

0 Comments

Officials: Prepare for Falling Debris and Power Outages During Wind Storm

High winds are expected to wallop the Washington region tonight through Saturday and officials are asking the public to take precautions.

Wind gusts as strong as 60-70 miles per hour are possible from Friday from 4 a.m. through midnight, forecasters say. Wind gusts over 30 miles per hour are expected generally from tonight into Sunday.

The Virginia Department of Transportation issued its own advisory, warning that roadways could be dangerous and that road closures could be possible due to downed trees and power lines or other road debris. Crews will begin working overnight to fix any infrastructure damage, the agency said.

VDOT issued a warning to drivers, and a reminder to:

  • Check road closures before you travel, and look at potential alternate routes.
  • Reduce your speeds and assume there may be a road obstruction ahead.
  • Move over for responders with blue, red, and amber lights, including VDOT and utility crews.
  • Always use your headlights, remember wipers on, lights on is the law.
  • Ensure gas tanks are full, and have a good emergency kit. Here’s how: www.ready.gov/car.

AAA Mid-Atlantic issued its own warning, including a reminder to treat non-working traffic signals as a four-way stop.

“Motorists who venture out during the Nor’easter should brace themselves for driving into tempestuous side winds, which would buffet them off course and off the road, and into blustery head winds and turbulent tail winds,” AAA said. “Drive defensively or stay off the roads until the mercurial storm passes over.”

More advisories from the agencies via social media:

https://twitter.com/VaDOTNOVA/status/969252081319202816

https://twitter.com/ReadyArlington/status/969322520582205440

File photo

0 Comments

The Right Note: Quick Hits

The 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.

Delegate Patrick Hope’s bill to give Arlington the authority to hold school board elections is on its way to Governor Northam. The legislation is an acknowledgement that no one is quite sure whether the authority to elect a school board really existed in Arlington.

It may or may not call into question any previous School Board actions from a body that could very well have been elected without specific statutory authority. As such, someone should get a legal opinion on what exactly this all means, including whether there needs to be an immediate election of all five School Board members to new four year terms, rather than waiting for their current terms to expire.

In January, Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol indicated the county would be able to disclose its offer to Amazon to bring the online retailing giant to the county. Now, she seems less sure of when or if that will happen.

Activists, and businesses not receiving special deals, are rightly asking questions about the incentives being offered to Amazon and the level of transparency the county will provide.

The Board should figure out exactly what it can say now to speak to the offer, and say it. In the future, they should not sign any non-disclosure agreement that would keep the public completely in the dark about what kinds of offers are being made. And the Board should continue to look for ways to make our economic environment more friendly to everyone who wants to do business here.

On more than one occasion, backers of the Columbia Pike streetcar project speak of their regret that Arlington did not move forward with the project. This week, news reports surfaced out of Washington that reminded us that promised results from such a project can go awry.

It seems that just two years after the first passenger trip on their initial $200 million streetcar line, DC officials are contemplating a total replacement of their streetcars as they cannot get their hands on parts to make needed repairs.

And they are still not collecting fares, though they hope to figure out how to start collecting in two to three years. Despite the fact they are still not charging for passengers, the District still plans to spend upwards of $500 million more to create two additional extensions of the line.

0 Comments

Progressive Voice: Counting Everyone in Arlington Affects our Bottom Line

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

 The 2020 Census is probably not anybody’s idea of a sexy topic. But ensuring an accurate 2020 Census count is vital to both getting the number of congressional seats a state deserves and to the day to day effective functioning of government.

As we currently sit, the upcoming 2020 Census is going to be a disaster.

The 2020 Census brings with is a technological redesign that relies on “many new and modified IT systems.” These changes include encouraging respondents to use the Internet and telephone instead of a paper survey, relying more heavily on local data, and using field technology to minimize data and increase productivity.

While these technological advances should make the census more cost efficient and accurate in the long run, the proprietary designs of the technology have been costly with well documented difficulties in implementation. This is in addition to the leadership vacuum created when former Census Director John H. Thompson resigned in the summer of 2017. The Trump administration has not yet appointed anyone to fill the position.

Beyond the institutional challenges are the societal concerns that could depress responses to a census questionnaire: cybersecurity threats, the climate of fear among immigrant communities regardless of their documented status and the growing digital divide between urban and rural areas and between wealthy and poor communities.

Why does this all matter?

First the Constitution requires a census every 10 years and declares it the official number for state populations in determining congressional representation. If the census undercounts individuals, a state could get less representation than it is entitled to.

The census has historically undercounted low-income households and households where English is not the first language. While Arlington is a largely affluent jurisdiction, an estimated 9 percent of Arlingtonians live in poverty. Moreover, a language other than English is spoken in nearly 30 percent of Arlington households.

Second, the federal government often relies on census data in allocating funding to state and local governments. More than 130 federal programs rely on census data to distribute funding to the states, including Medical Assistance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP or food stamps), Highway Planning and Construction, Special Education grants and Head Start. In 2015, the Commonwealth of Virginia received more than $10.2 billion from census-guided federal grant programs, which was approximately 20 percent of the state budget that year.

With the rapid population growth in Arlington and Northern Virginia over the past decade, an inaccurate census could lead to lower revenue to the Commonwealth to implement crucial programs.

What can we do?

First, we need to urge Congress to fully fund the 2020 Census. Last fall, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross requested the Census Bureau’s budget be increased by $187 million in FY 2018 to address some of the technological needs; however, that request did not include additional funding for the Integrated Partnership and Communications program that is crucial in addressing factors that may depress the census response rate.

Congress’ recent Continuing Resolution to fund the government did raise the Census’ budget for FY 2018, but only by $182 million – under what is needed just for the technological enhancements.

Second, although the census count is a federal responsibility, Arlington can take the small steps it can to increase the likelihood of an accurate count. For example, local and state governments can complete a Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) to help ensure that census workers have accurate addresses to survey in each jurisdiction.

In 2010, Arlington County government completed the LUCA and will be doing so again in 2018. In 2010, Arlington County also encouraged residents to participate in the census through the Complete Count Committee, a public campaign in which community leaders work to boost census participation. The County plans to once again launch the Complete Count Committee effort in 2019.

Given the unprecedented issues facing the 2020 Census, it is more important than ever for Arlington and the Commonwealth of Virginia to do whatever they can to ensure an accurate count. Not doing so will have long-term implications for both Virginia’s voice across the river and our own bottom line.

Maggie Davis is Deputy Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee and former President of the Arlington Young Democrats. She lives in the Radnor Heights- Ft. Myer neighborhood and works as an emergency management law and policy analyst.

0 Comments

Peter’s Take: Manager’s Budget — Good Short-Term, Headwinds Long-Term

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

On February 22, Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz presented his proposed FY 2019 Annual Operating Budget. It’s balanced at the current real estate tax rate.

Some aspects of the manager’s budget are commendable, particularly the short-term focus on core services, coupled with many sensible cuts, to close a $20.5 million budget gap.

Other aspects are troubling, exposing a lack of long-term financial planning relating to many of the same core services.

Commendable

The manager’s budget appropriately focuses on several core service areas, including:

  • increasing public safety personnel salaries and benefits to remain competitive in recruitment and retention
  • Metro
  • Arlington Public Schools (APS)

The manager notes his proposed budget “includes the first installment of a multi-year plan to gradually reduce the workweek for firefighters.”

The manager observes that his budget meets the Metro request “for a 3 percent increase in operating funding, while relying on a comprehensive solution (among Virginia, Maryland, and the District) to meet our capital obligations.”

His budget “meets the commitment to Arlington Public Schools articulated as part of the Revenue Sharing Principles (local taxes split with 53.4 percent to the County and 46.6 percent to APS) and provides an additional $13.4 million in ongoing funding compared to FY 2018.”

Troubling

Both the manager and the APS superintendent dance around the operating budget implications of APS’ projected enrollment growth. That’s troubling. This is an example–but only one example–of both the manager and the superintendent failing appropriately to engage the community regarding many important long-term financial issues at stake.

The manager states: “increasing taxes each year to meet school enrollment needs is not sustainable.” He’s right, but he fails to provide the community with a quantitative explanation why increasing taxes each year to meet school enrollment needs is not fiscally sustainable.

Moreover, he has not provided the community with a manageable number of alternative options that are fiscally sustainable. Finally, the manager should explain why continuously increasing APS’ current 46.6 percent share of local tax revenues is not sustainable.

Meanwhile, the superintendent says that because APS is on pace to grow to 30,000 students by 2021, “we’ve got to begin to think about a sustainable future.” He also fails to provide the community with a manageable number of alternative quantitative options that achieve a fiscally sustainable future.

The time merely “to begin to think” about these financial issues is over. The time to think about these financial issues extensively, involving the community at every stage of the process, is now!

An over-simplified example is illustrative. The superintendent’s proposed operating budget assumes per-pupil expenditures of $19,235. APS’ latest enrollment projections show enrollment growing from 28,020 in 2017 to 32,666 by 2027. If that projected enrollment growth of 4,646 students is multiplied by the assumed per-pupil expenditures, that would add $89,365,810 of expenditures into the operating budget by 2027 solely to support the increase in enrollment.

Conclusion

It is highly unlikely that County tax revenues will rise sufficiently by 2027 to cover an $89,365,810 increase in spending solely to support an increase in current APS enrollment. What are the major alternative options available to address such a projected budget gap, and which ones command the greatest community support?

The County Board and School Board should collaborate quickly to present the major alternative financial options to the community, inviting the community to say which options the community prefers.

0 Comments

Did Cancelling the Streetcar Hurt Arlington’s Amazon Chances?

It’s a question that some have been asking themselves as Arlington has advanced to be among the most likely destinations for Amazon’s second headquarters.

Would the proposed Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar system have helped Arlington’s chances had it been built?

The Arlington County Board voted to cancel the project in 2014 after rising cost estimates and questions about its advantages over buses led to widespread opposition and voter discontent.

Had it been built, the streetcar would have run from Crystal City — which is seen as a strong contender among D.C. area locales — to Columbia Pike and the Skyline area of Fairfax County.

ARLnow.com talked to several insiders to get their take on the hypothetical question.

Several we spoke to, who work in economic development and on transportation issues, said that the streetcar would have been an attractive amenity in the eyes of Amazon. It would have provided a vital, high-frequency link from offices in Crystal City to workforce housing along Columbia Pike, they said.

Also cited as evidence: Amazon’s own support of streetcar system in Seattle.

However, another insider, who works in the works in the commercial real estate industry, doubts that the streetcar would have made much of a difference.

For one, the would-be streetcar is being replaced with enhanced bus service on the Pike and along the Potomac Yard-Crystal City corridor. Also, Crystal City already has one of the highest scores for transportation accessibility among HQ2 contenders, thanks to the frequent bus service, Metro’s Yellow and Blue lines, VRE, commuter buses, the Mt. Vernon Trail and walkability to Reagan National Airport.

In other words, said the insider, the streetcar might have been icing on the cake, but it is unlikely to have moved the needle much on Amazon’s decision. Plus, it is possible that Arlington would have had to contend with some of the streetcar problems currently being experienced by D.C.

Amazon is expected to make its decision later this year. Arlington and Northern Virginia, one insider speculated, is likely to at least be among the top five contenders, and at least one betting market agrees, giving the region the highest odds among the company’s top 20.

0 Comments

Arlington Filmmaker Takes New Film on Festival Circuit

An Arlington filmmaker is back on the film circuit, this time showcasing a film tackling end-of-life care issues.

The movie, “Nothing to Do,” centers on a radio D.J. who has take care of his dying father. Director Mike Kravinsky was inspired in part by taking care of his own father during his final weeks.

“It was frightening and challenging, but unbelievably rewarding, to be there for my dad at the end,” Kravinsky said. “Even though this very sad thing is happening, life goes on.”

To prepare for filming, Kravinsky interviewed doctors and funeral directors about a family’s experience at the end of a parent’s life, including the inevitable and emotional fighting that was a reoccurring scene in the movie.

Some scenes were shot in Kravinsky’s bedroom, but also at Clarendon’s Goody’s pizzeria and Columbia Pike’s Twisted Vines wine bar.

Filmmaking was a career change for Kravinsky, a Lyon Village resident who worked for ABC News in D.C. as an editor for 30 years before accepting a buyout in 2010.

“In the back of my mind I always had this thing, like ‘film making is so cool,'” said Kravinsky. “I just gave this a shot and it’s been really gratifying, really rewarding for me.”

The film will be screened this Friday and Sunday (March 2 and March 4) at the Durango Independent Film Festival in Colo., and it was just screened at the Beaufort International Film Festival in Beaufort, S.C., where it was nominated for best actor/director.

Kravinsky said more film festivals have been interested in “Nothing to Do” than his previous film “Geographically Desirable” which came out in 2015.

“Nothing to Do” won the Special Jury Award at Virginia’s Alexandria Film Festival. It was also a finalist at the Cinequest Screenplay Competition in San Jose, Calif., and an honorable mention at the TrackingB Screenplay Competition in Los Angeles.

Kravinsky said he hopes he can bring the film back to the D.C. area and is currently applying for different screenings nearby.

Photos courtesy of Mike Kravinsky

0 Comments

Custis Trail Safety Improvement Project Underway Near Rosslyn

Safety improvements on three Custis Trail intersections have begun.

The project will reconfigure bike lanes at N. Quinn and N. Scott streets, as well as widen the Custis Trail. Other safety improvements include curb extensions, ADA-compliant curb ramps, trail separation from Lee Highway, and crosswalks with higher visibility.

Construction has temporarily closed a lane of Lee Highway. Jersey barriers have been erected to form a bike detour along the right-hand, westbound lane of Lee Highway between N. Scott Street and N. Oak Street.

At least one Arlington bicyclist took to social media to cheer on the bicycling infrastructure, saying the jersey barriers were “better than 99 percent of bike facilities in the U.S.”

In addition to the Lee Highway lane closure, the north legs of the intersection at both N. Scott Street and N. Oak Street will be restricted to one lane. Northbound traffic will be permitted only at the N. Scott Street intersection, while southbound traffic will be permitted only at N. Oak Street intersection, according to the county.

Detour signs will be present to guide drivers out of the North Highlands neighborhood.

The bus stop for the ART 55 and WMATA 3Y buses will be relocated from the construction zone to the west side of the N. Scott Street and Lee Highway intersection. Part of the construction includes plans for an improved bus stop with a bench.

Project funding comes from a Federal Highway Administration bicycle and pedestrian safety program grant.

Work hours are scheduled for 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Monday through Thursday, and between  9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays. The project web page notes that construction is anticipated to wrap up at all three points in May.

The Custis Trail project is being done in concert with the N. Lynn Street esplanade project, for which the Arlington County approved additional funding this week.

0 Comments

Beyer Co-Sponsors ‘Assault Weapons Ban of 2018’

Congressman Don Beyer (D-Va.) co-sponsored a bill this week that would prohibit the sale, transfer, production, and importation of assault weapons.

The Assault Weapons Ban of 2018, H.R. 5087, was introduced by Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI) on Monday (February 26). The bill comes as pressure mounts nationwide following the Parkland, Fla., school shooting which sparked renewed efforts to pass gun control legislation.

“We need the Assault Weapons Ban because we have to get weapons of war out of America’s communities,” Beyer said in a press release. “It is too late to stop the shootings in Parkland, Newtown, Aurora, and so many others which were carried out with an AR-15 style rifle, but we must act to prevent future such massacres.

“Congress should listen to the young people in Florida and across the country and pass this lifesaving measure immediately,” he added.

The ban would specifically prohibit the sale, transfer, production, and importation of the following:

  • Semi-automatic rifles and handguns with a military-style feature that can accept a detachable magazine
  • Semi-automatic rifles and handguns with a fixed magazine that can hold more than 10 rounds
  • Semi-automatic shotguns with a military-style features
  • Any ammunition feeding device that can hold more than 10 rounds
  • 205 specifically-named and listed firearms

More from the press release:

When an assault weapon or a high-capacity magazine is used in a shooting, the number of victims who are killed increases by 63 percent. There have been almost 8,300 incidents of gun violence so far in 2018. More than 2,200 Americans have lost their lives. More than 500 children have been killed or injured.

File photo

0 Comments

Police Investigating Threat at Yorktown High School

Update at 1 p.m. — Arlington County Police have issued a statement about the investigation via Twitter.

Earlier: A threat scrawled on a bathroom wall has Yorktown High School on high alert.

In a letter to parents, Yorktown Principal Bridget Loft said that police are investigating and “community members may see a heightened police presence at Yorktown through the week,” but school is not being cancelled.

There has been a spike in school threats in the wake of the Parkland, Florida high school shooting, including in the D.C. area. One parent said that students are in “a froth of anxiety” following the shooting.

“Some have expressed concerns about threats during a walkout protest as well, because they feel less secure outside the building,” said the parent.

An Arlington Public Schools spokesman says the threat at Yorktown is being taken seriously.

“We take threats very seriously and will continue to work with ACPD if any are made,” said Frank Bellavia. “We are asking our school community that if the hear or see something to say something to and adult or the police.”

“At this time, we are not aware of any other threats made to schools,” he added.

The full letter from Loft about the Yorktown threat is below.

Dear Yorktown Families:

Earlier today, Yorktown staff was made aware of a threat that was posted on a restroom wall indicating possible harm to the school later this week. The Arlington County Police Department was immediately made aware of the threat, and they are investigating the situation. For this reason, parents and community members may see a heightened police presence at Yorktown through the week.

We know that any rumor about a potential for violence is always alarming for our community, especially in light of the recent events in Florida. However, due to the recent events here at Yorktown, we know that emotions for our students, families, and staff have been especially heightened.

For these reasons, we wanted to share that we also learned that some students may have taken photos of what was posted and then shared those images out on social media. While we want our students always to report any threats they may see or hear about, we need to remind everyone that spreading rumors among classmates or on social media that have not been verified can create unnecessary panic and stress.

Please be assured that we always take threats of this sort very seriously. Any and all concerns about possible threats should be reported to an adult, but they should not be shared among students until we can investigate, since sharing unfounded threats will only increase anxiety for everyone.

We will continue to investigate this report and will work with the ACPD as well. If we hear more information about this threat, we will share it with you as soon as possible.

I also want to thank the Yorktown community for your support and responsiveness, and if you hear or see something that concerns you, please let me or a member of our Yorktown staff know immediately.

0 Comments

Morning Notes

ACPD Cameo on ‘Homeland’ — The Arlington County Police Department made a brief appearance last week on the TV show “Homeland.” [Twitter]

High Wind Watch Upgraded to Warning — The threat of a damaging wind storm Friday has become more likely. The National Weather Service has upgraded the previous High Wind Watch to a warning. [Twitter]

EFC Development Stalled — “Seven years ago, the county blessed a vision of new ‘transitown’ development of stores, greenery and new pedestrian access around the East Falls Church Metro. But that utilitarian commuter site is largely unchanged.” [Falls Church News-Press]

New Logo, Website for AAC — Thanks to a philanthropic grant, the Arlington Arts Center has new branding and a “new, mobile-friendly site reflecting our enduring commitment to excellent contemporary art, quality educational programs, and our artist residency program.” [Arlington Arts Center]

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list