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.
Two stories posted on ARLnow.com last week underscore the urgent need for the County and School Boards to expedite long-range public facilities and fiscal planning.
The first story (“Never Let A Crisis Go To Waste”) quoted various activists and County Board members stressing the need to make Arlington housing more affordable by up-zoning in order to substantially increase housing supply. (Up-zoning = approving more dense development than permitted by current zoning.)
The second story (“New APS Enrollment Projections”) quoted various activists and School Board members about the need for a fourth comprehensive high school.
The most up-voted comment to the second story captured how the two stories are linked:
Gavrilo2014 Those advocating housing growth, whether “affordable” or otherwise, need to address the questions of school capacity.
First, the good news
The good news is that since the Community Facilities Study Group released its final report and recommendations in 2015, relentless pressure — primarily from citizen activists — has pushed the County and School Boards (often grudgingly) to work more closely together to integrate their forecasting methods and improve their ability to estimate future APS enrollment more accurately.
As I noted in a December 2018 column, the APS Facilities Advisory Committee (FAC) has prepared an excellent report on future school facilities needs. But that FAC report was prepared prior to publication of the latest APS enrollment projections.
Second, the questionable news
Particularly since the announcement that Amazon will be locating a new HQ in Crystal City, various County Board members and citizen activists have been sending strong signals that county government is planning to unveil a series of far reaching new proposals to up-zone major areas of Arlington. A Jan. 31 story (“Arlington Must Open Up Single-Family-Neighborhoods To Different Housing Options”) further described these suggestions.
Proponents of up-zoning believe that if we increase housing supply relative to demand substantially, then housing prices will be significantly lower than they would have been otherwise. This hypothesis is alluring but must be tested in the context of long-range cost-benefit analyses in Arlington to determine whether the hoped-for benefits justify the costs. Evidence elsewhere casts doubt on the hypothesis.
Nowhere in any of these recent stories is there any indication that county government officials are planning to accompany their major up-zoning proposals with quantitative estimates of the net long-range (15-year) fiscal impacts on county and APS budgets of their proposals.
Particularly unhelpful are remarks like those by APS Superintendent Patrick Murphy about the new enrollment projections: “take a breath, look at this one year, and see if these patterns begin to play themselves out over a long period of time.” As another commenter to the enrollment story noted:
LocalChatter it sure seems like Murphy’s statement is another way of saying “I don’t want to deal with this”
Murphy has been singing the same song for many years: this year might be an aberration, so let’s wait ’till next year. Murphy consistently has been proven wrong.
The community cannot afford to wait any longer. We are out of breath. The new APS enrollment projections forecast a net deficit of 2,400 elementary school seats by 2028. Those projections don’t yet take Amazon’s arrival into account. Where will those new elementary school seats be located? How much will they cost to fill? When will the two Boards provide the answers?
Up-zoning designed to increase affordable housing does not entail immediate taxpayer cash subsidies in the same way that AHIF contributions do. But major up-zoning does lead directly to major public infrastructure costs, such as the need to provide new seats for new students. While affordable housing is a worthy goal, it must take its seat at the budget table along with many other community priorities.
Even before Amazon showed up, Arlington had failed to develop a long-range (15-year) plan regarding:
- where to locate the new public facilities (e.g., schools, parks, fire stations) Arlington will need to handle the development already authorized by current zoning
- how Arlington will pay for those new public facilities
Amazon’s arrival heightens the imperative for the two Boards to create such a long-range strategic plan and discuss it with the community before approving any proposals for major new up-zoning.
Peter Rousselot previously served as Chair of the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission (FAAC) to the Arlington County Board and as Co-Chair of the Advisory Council on Instruction (ACI) to the Arlington School Board. He is also a former Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) and a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA). He currently serves as a board member of the Together Virginia PAC-a political action committee dedicated to identifying, helping and advising Democratic candidates in rural Virginia.
After a foggy morning, Saturday night and Sunday morning might be even foggier. Dense fog has formed in Arlington and around the D.C. area, making driving increasingly hazardous as the…
Gunshots were fired near where a group of children were playing this afternoon in the Green Valley neighborhood. Multiple 911 callers reported the sound of gunshots shortly before 3:30 p.m….
Good Friday evening, Arlington. Let’s take a look back at today’s stories and a look forward to tomorrow’s event calendar. 🕗 News recap The following articles were published earlier today…
There’s no official word on its website, but it looks like Bar Ivy in Clarendon may have closed permanently.
Children’s Weekday Program (CWP) is a non-profit preschool rooted in a play-based philosophy. We focus on developing a love of learning and exploration, cooperation, empathy, and independence.
Our caring and experienced educators create opportunities for children 16 months to 5 years old to play, learn, and grow in a nurturing environment of child-centered and developmentally appropriate experiences.
Initially established more than 50 years ago in South Arlington, CWP continues to be a lauded program in the Northern Virginia area. We are extremely proud to have been recognized as a Best Preschool in Northern Virginia Magazine for the last 4 years.
Located now in North Arlington at 2666 Military Road, CWP offers a part-time parents day out and preschool program with options to extend care both before and after school. We offer a supportive and inclusive school community for children and parents alike and welcome all families to join our school!
The Optimist Club of Arlington is holding its 77th annual Christmas tree sale!
This year, the tree sale will be held at the Knights of Columbus (5115 Little Falls Road). The lot opens for sales on November 24th. The Optimist Club is selling small and large trees ranging from tabletop size to 10 foot tall trees! Wreaths, garland, tree stands, and White House Christmas ornaments will also be for sale.
100% of all proceeds go towards helping Arlington County youth.
For more information, please visit the Arlington Optimists website at https://optimistclubofarlingtonva.org/.
Holiday Art Show featuring artists: Peter Fitzgerald, Claire Plante, Alanna Rivera, and Suzy Scollon. At the Barcroft Community House, 800 South Buchanan St., Arlington, VA. Dec. 8 from, 2 PM to 8 PM and Dec. 9 from 10 AM to
2023 Christmas Tree Sales Begin
Saturday, December 2
Get your holiday decorating off to the right start this year! We will be selling 150 Fraser firs, freshly cut and delivered from Sparta, North Carolina.