Arlington, VA

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.

Earlier this month, ARLnow.com posted a story highlighting a spate of restaurant closures on the west side of Glebe Road:Restaurateurs along the west side of Glebe Road almost unanimously agreed that the biggest challenges for local businesses all stem from traffic issues. …[I]t can be difficult for visitors to find the right places to park.”

But some sources held out hope for west side restaurants:

“[T]here’s some light at the end of the tunnel with a massive mixed-use building called The Waycroft — which includes 491 residential units as well as a Target and Silver Diner — expected to open at 750 N. Glebe Road sometime in the first quarter of 2020.”

One other massive new Ballston residential project is the redevelopment of the Harris Teeter site at 600 N. Glebe Road (732 residential units, 965 parking spaces). This project envisions the creation of a tiny new privately-owned “park.” Over 100 mature trees will be destroyed.

Other substantial Ballston residential projects completed or in the pipeline include :

The belief that adding density is the right solution doesn’t end at Glebe Road. Discussions continue about adding more and more density in the Bluemont residential neighborhood, and expanding the western boundaries of the Ballston BID to include portions of Bluemont.

Show us the money and the green — Part 1

While many of the residents in these new Ballston projects may become customers of restaurants on the west side of Glebe Road, our County government has yet to demonstrate that it has fiscally and environmentally sustainable long-term plans to accommodate them plus all the other new residents in other parts of the County.

Fiscal Sustainability

In his analysis of the likely impacts on Arlington’s budget of Amazon’s arrival, prominent regional economist Stephen Fuller prepared a report estimating (at p. 11) that each new Arlington resident will have a net negative impact on Arlington’s budget of over $800. It’s net negative because the likely new infrastructure costs, including schools, fire stations, and road improvements, exceed the likely new tax revenues from higher real estate assessments.

The County has yet to explain what its long-term plans are to finance these new infrastructure costs.

Environmental Sustainability

Portions of the Ballston/Bluemont area are part of the Lubber Run watershed. As outlined in a recent column, County development and construction policies and practices in this area exacerbated the July 8 flooding damage to Lubber Run Park.

Also, County government has failed to develop appropriate long-term plans to upgrade our stormwater infrastructure serving Ballston/Bluemont and other areas of the County to accommodate all the new residents in our climate change era.

Show us the money and the green — Part 2

County leaders have sent multiple signals that they favor new plans to enable a lot more density on top of that already authorized.

For example, in a story earlier this year, County Board members were quoted as believing that Arlington housing would be made more affordable by up-zoning to substantially increase housing supply. (Up-zoning = approving more dense development than permitted by current zoning.)

Another ARLnow.com story (“Arlington Must Open Up Single-Family-Neighborhoods To Different Housing Options, Advocates Argue”) further described such suggestions.

Conclusion

It makes no sense to plunge ahead and enable for the first time such large increases in new residential density without first preparing and discussing with the community a long-term strategic plan demonstrating that we have fiscally and environmentally sustainable solutions for the density and population growth we have already authorized.

Therefore, I concur with Eric Harold’s suggestion in a recent Progressive Voice column:

“[T]he County Board should lead a transparent public process to rethink how growth is managed and develop better tools for managing the County’s growth for the next 50 years.”

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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