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.
In September 2018, the County Board appointed a new 15-member task force. The Board charged the task force with developing a Master Plan for a 7.6-acre parcel of County-owned land located at 26th Street N. and Old Dominion Drive.
This parcel is often referred to as the Salt Dome site.
Why the new task force?
The Board’s goal was to avert a third consecutive fiasco related to this site.
The first fiasco involved the failure by County staff to justify shifting the location of Fire Station 8 to this site. The second fiasco involved the failure by County staff to provide enough notice that the old salt storage unit previously located on this site was in imminent danger of collapse.
The new task force submitted its final report to the County Board on April 12. Most other critical documents relating to this task force’s work can be accessed here.
Due to skillful leadership, the task force achieved a remarkable degree of consensus.
After 5 months, multiple meetings, and hundreds of hours of hard work, the task force, led by Chair Noah Simon, was able to forge a remarkable degree of consensus regarding the best possible recommendation to the Board given the information available.
As the Sun-Gazette previously reported: “The task force included representation from four adjacent civic associations — Old Dominion, Yorktown, Donaldson Run and Rock Spring — plus representatives from a number of government advisory commissions. Marymount also was represented on the panel, as was St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.”
County staff attempted to make a case that a substantially increased percentage of the acreage on the site should be paved over and devoted to vehicle parking and staging areas to support snow removal equipment (roughly 100 new parking spaces) and the existing leaf storage operations. But when challenged to present operating and other data to justify why it was necessary to expand snow operations, staff failed to provide sufficient data.
Most important lessons learned
The public cares deeply: instead of simply saying NIMBY, most neighbors came together and said essentially, “if in the future you can compile the necessary operating data to make your case, here is our recommended plan for how the site should be re-configured to support those operations.”
Dozens of members of nearby civic associations joined the discussion, providing creative options that included: arranging to park on nearby paved areas; using existing changing facilities nearby, such as Langston; looking at jurisdictions that stopped mulching leaves in an expensive, energy-intensive way; and exploring other systems of loading salt. Others asked why the shift-change facility needed to be co-located with salt storage?
The positions taken by County staff lack supporting data: staff was unable to provide data concerning the number of snow events/year across time, or what volumes/quantities of road salt or brine they distribute. Other jurisdictions, such as Maryland, measure the number of salt/mile of road/inch of snow, work to reduce dependency on salt (vital because of salt’s toxicity), and accordingly demonstrate percentage reductions in salt use annually.
The County should begin to measure all critical aspects of the “problem” to develop meaningful data to drive management decisions. The County should develop similar metrics for the leaf collection and mulching process. How much is “free” mulch costing its residents?
In our rapidly developing County, proposed changes in the uses of land all come with direct and opportunity costs and must be justified by data that backs up proposed changes.
Despite this site being on a precipitous hill, at the edge of a Resource Protection Area, and at the trailhead of Donaldson Run, County staff too often talk about massive soil disturbance as though it comes at no cost — even in the face of tree removal and other proven environmental damage.
County staff is too narrowly focused on short-term construction of facilities without considering medium- and long-term impacts on erosion, water quality, air quality, flooding, or mitigation of climate change. The County is being paved over at an unsustainable rate, and flooding is a severe problem. Shared use of existing paved areas needs to be a priority.
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.
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Arlington and its neighbors have become more segregated in the last 10 years while fair housing legislation at the state level faces significant roadblocks. Arlington’s fair housing enforcement, education, and commitment to equity practices in housing policy and programs are beginning to show signs of improvement but much more needs to be done.
Join the NAACP Arlington Branch, HOME of Virginia, and Equal Rights Center for the 2nd Annual Arlington Fair Housing Conference on April 15th to discuss the threats and opportunities to advancing fair housing policy across the state and within Arlington.
The half-day, in-person event will feature speakers from fair housing advocacy organizations and government agencies including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and focus on fair housing policy trends in Virginia and Arlington County. The conference aims to advance the understanding of issues and policies related to equity and affirmatively further fair housing among local officials, advocates, and members of the public.
2nd Annual Arlington Fair Housing Conference
Is home ownership a goal of yours in 2023? Now is the time to make it happen! Grab a (virtual) drink with the area’s top Real Estate experts, learn all about the home buying process and on how you can get $1,500 towards your closing costs immediately!
Did you know the average Arlington renter will spend $150K in 5 years of renting? Stop paying down someone else’s mortgage! Join us for a Rent vs. Buy Happy Hour on Wednesday, April 5th at 6 p.m. via Zoom. If this time doesn’t work, we also are offering times convenient for your schedule!
A lot has happened in the local market since the beginning of the pandemic. Sip on your drink of choice and learn from Northern Virginia, Arlington and Washingtonian Magazines top producing agents! We will discuss the latest market updates, the home buying process and rent vs. buy cost savings. Please RSVP by clicking here.
Call/text Manavi at 703-869-6698 with any questions!
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