Arlington’s top executive is calling for a real estate tax hike and some select staff cuts to meet rising expenses passed along by county schools.
However, County Manager Mark Schwartz’s proposed budget for the new fiscal year is not quite as unpalatable as he’d initially feared.
Schwartz offered a first glimpse at his budget proposal for fiscal year 2020 to the County Board at a work session today (Thursday). The headline number: a 1.5-cent tax increase.
Unlike last year, when the Board opted to keep the tax rate level, Schwartz is envisioning bumping the base real estate rate to $1.008 per $100 of assessed value.
That’s a 4 percent jump from last year, factoring in the increase in real estate assessments, generating an extra $11.7 million for the county on an annual basis and costing the average homeowner an extra $277 annually. Schwartz plans to leave most other tax rates and fee schedules untouched.
In all, the annual tax burden on the average homeowner would reach $8,890, including car taxes and fees, trash collection charges, and water and sewer fees.
Neighboring Fairfax County, meanwhile, is considering holding its tax rate level at $1.15 per $100, while Alexandria’s rate is also likely to be held steady at $1.13.
Schwartz hopes to save $5.2 million by slashing a total of 29 full-time staff positions and one part-time role from the budget. Eleven of those positions are currently unfilled, and Schwartz is characterizing those cuts as ways to reform inefficient programs rather than as painful losses for the county.
The county manager had originally projected doom and gloom for the new year’s budget, predicting that the county would need to close a gap of anywhere between $20-35 million on its own, with the school system tacking on a $43 million deficit too. But Schwartz told reporters today that the county’s budget picture has improved substantially since those initial estimates in the fall, giving him a bit more room to maneuver.
“This budget been a little bit more of a meandering trail than a straight line,” Schwartz said. “I thought I’d be coming to the community proposing a budget with reductions to fundamental services in the county. We’d be doing less maintenance, we’d have fewer programs. That’s not really the case.”
Schwartz chalks up the sudden change partially to property values ticking up a bit more than the county anticipated — assessments saw a 3.5 percent increase this year, while Schwartz says the county projected a 2 percent jump.
That’s not to say that the county is out of the woods, fiscally speaking.
Schwartz says he’s still not sure just how large the school system’s budget gap might be, and the extra $24.8 million he plans to send to Arlington Public Schools next year still likely won’t be enough to meet all their needs. APS is opening three new schools next year, prompting plenty of new expenses, and persistently rising enrollment projections means that the school system will need to keep adding new buildings going forward.
“They still have something of a gap that will require cuts,” Schwartz said. “I can’t really quantify what those cuts would be, but I’m sure we’ll hear from the schools community and the School Board when the [County Board] has to decide what to advertise that my penny [on the tax rate] for them wasn’t enough.”
That tone toward the school system could set off yet another round of wrangling between the county and the School Board, which has repeatedly argued for more cash to fund school construction. School leaders narrowly avoided class size increases last year, but the Board is already warning that they may not be able to do so this time around.
Another potential spot of trouble for the county is Metro. Schwartz plans to spend an additional $45.6 million to support the transit service in FY2020, with only a 3 percent increase in expenses to fund Metro operations specifically. That’s a key figure because the deal to provide dedicated funding to Metro mandates that Virginia localities can’t increase spending on the transit service by more than 3 percent each year, but WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld is courting a bit of a dispute on the issue.
He’s proposing a Metro budget that calls for substantial changes aimed at boosting ridership, which would require localities to blow past that 3 percent spending cap. Wiedefeld argues that he’s crafted a way to avoid violating that stricture — Arlington officials disagree, and Schwartz said he had no desire to push the envelope on this front.
“We had a deal, this is the deal and to the extent that there’s more [money] that has to be added, we can talk about it,” Schwartz said. “But I wasn’t prepared to make the choices on my own right now to defund a county program in order to do something I think might be questionable.”
Aside from Metro, the rest of the budget includes raises of 3.25-3.5 percent for all county employees, including pay bumps of up to 5.5 percent for Arlington first responders, a key part of last year’s budget deliberations.
Schwartz also hopes to add four new staff positions geared around adapting to Amazon’s growing “HQ2” presence, assuming the Board signs off on an incentive package next month to bring the tech giant’s new headquarters to Crystal City and Pentagon City.
Most of those staffers will be dedicated to handling the surge in development activity the county is expecting to see related to Amazon’s arrival, even though the tech company itself will only have limited development demands. For instance, Schwartz pointed out that the county is planning on receiving three times as many applications for site-plan developments as they do in the average year, a clear sign of interest in major mixed-use development.
“There’s a whole bunch of other plans I’m assuming people have had on their shelves that they want to dust off, based on what they perceive as new economic circumstances,” Schwartz said. “And that’s a lot of what they’ll be be available to address.”
Schwartz is projecting that the fees attached to those extra development applications will generate an extra $1 million or so each year. He’s leaving that money untouched in his budget projections, giving the Board the full discretion to spend it “to address any other impacts from Amazon that they think are appropriate.”
Given expected new rent pressure from Amazon’s planned 25,000 local employees, Schwartz is also putting an emphasis on new money for affordable housing.
He hopes to send an extra $500,000 to the county’s housing grants program, which hands out cash to low-income and disabled renters to help them afford homes in the county. Schwartz is also planning another $200,000 for the Affordable Housing Investment Fund, a loan program designed to help spur the construction of reasonably priced homes in the county.
He also wants to make more of the cash the county sends to that fund each year “ongoing,” instead of being subject to yearly appropriations from the Board. Under the budget proposal, $8.7 million of the $14.5 million AHIF contribution would stay in the county’s budget going forward — an increase of about $1.5 million in ongoing cash.
That’s a change desired by several Board members, and Schwartz added that he also hopes to move away from the Board’s tradition of using leftover “closeout” funds at the end of each budget year to fund the program.
“That’s not a sustainable way of doing it, so year over year, we’re chipping away at it,” Schwartz said. “I’m not saying we’ve solved the affordable housing issue, but we’re doing more than we’ve ever done before, and we need to do more than that.”
The Board will now vote Saturday (Feb. 23) on an “advertised” tax rate — that will then become the highest rate the Board could ultimately set, though it could opt for a lower tax rate.
Schwartz says he has prepared options for the Board should they opt not to raise the tax rate, but he expects the cuts that would entail would not be palatable to Board members.
Final budget adoption is scheduled for April 23.
The theater signed a lease extension for its space at 1800 S. Bell Street through “late 2022,” according to a press release from property owner JBG Smith.
The building is one of several in the neighborhood that will likely become home to Amazon’s new headquarters in Arlington, and JBG told the theater’s staff last summer that this season would be its last in the 12,000-square-foot underground space. The developer is planning a host of renovations to the building ahead of Amazon’s arrival, and could even redevelop it entirely once Amazon’s employees move to office space that the company plans to build in Pentagon City.
But it seems JBG and the theater were able to work out an arrangement for Synetic to stay put, at least temporarily. The theater has called the space home since 2010.
“Synetic Theater has been one of National Landing’s leading cultural organizations for nearly a decade, and this agreement ensures that the theater’s work will continue to enrich and inspire the community for years to come,” JBG Smith Executive Vice President Andrew VanHorn said in a statement.
Paata and Irina Tsikurishvili founded Synetic in 1996, but the S. Bell Street space was the theater’s first permanent home. It’s one of a dwindling number of performing arts space left in the county, and arts advocates had initially been quite concerned that the rising real estate prices driven by Amazon’s arrival would force Synetic to go elsewhere.
“We are excited for Synetic Theater’s role in the future of National Landing,” Paata Tsikurishvili said in a statement, using the moniker crafted for the Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard area. “As we continue to captivate audiences from our long-time home at 1800 S. Bell Street, our hope is to be a source of enjoyment to both current residents and those who will be joining National Landing.”
The fate of other businesses in the underground Crystal City Shops is a bit unclear — previous reports have suggested that many have fled the development recently, and others have seen business stagnate.
But the entire area is set to see a host of changes in the coming months, from JBG’s new “Central District” redevelopment project to its efforts to transform an empty office building at 1900 Crystal Drive into new mixed-use space.
Arlington leaders have already decided to do with away with the county’s car decal program to track personal property tax payments, but they’re still looking to make the change a bit more official before it goes into effect this summer.
Starting July 1, county drivers will no longer need to display the brightly colored stickers on their cars to prove they’re paid up on their taxes. The County Board eliminated the program last year, though the annual fee previously attached to the decals will remain.
Now, the Board needs to make a few tweaks to its existing ordinances to eliminate any reference to the car decals. Members are set to take up the matter for the first time at their meeting Saturday (Feb. 23).
Proposed changes to the county code include the elimination of police officers’ authority to hand out fines for not displaying a valid “license tag.”
However, county workers will still be able to write $50 tickets if they discover drivers haven’t paid that motor vehicle fee, thanks to license plate reader technology increasingly embraced by the county treasurer’s office.
The changes would also clarify that the “motor vehicle license fee” will still be collected alongside property tax payments, even though it’s no longer attached to any decals.
The Board would also stipulate that the annual license fee is “not to be prorated” and is only refundable “when proof is provided that the fee was paid in error” under the proposed alterations.
In order to make the changes official, the Board plans to call for an April 2 public hearing on the matter, then hold a final vote immediately afterward.
Crystal City’s leading business advocacy group is taking its most concrete steps yet to expand and represent Pentagon City and Arlington’s portion of Potomac Yard as well.
The Crystal City Business Improvement District is hoping to bump out its borders as soon as next year, according to documents submitted to the County Board. The BID plans to spend the next few months working secure the support of businesses in its adjacent neighborhoods, then finalize the change sometime in fiscal year 2020.
The business group, funded via a tax on properties in Crystal City, has been eyeing a potential expansion for months now, and the move took on increased importance once Amazon announced it would be setting up shop across all three South Arlington neighborhoods: the tech giant will have office space in both Crystal City and Pentagon City, and is spurring the creation of a new Virginia Tech campus in Potomac Yard.
The BID has already started to pitch the area to businesses as a cohesive “downtown” for Arlington, and is billing the creation of an “area-wide” BID as a way to “reinforce the complementary nature of these markets” when it comes time to lure new companies and residents to the area.
“In fact, the Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Potomac Yard-Arlington area has a total asset value of over $11 billion and represents a powerful economic engine for Arlington County, the region, and the Commonwealth of Virginia,” the BID wrote in its work plan for FY2020, delivered to the Board ahead of its meeting Saturday (Feb. 23).
The group’s new proposed borders would expand the BID’s reach down Army Navy Drive until it meets S. Hayes Street, putting major developments like Amazon’s future home near Metropolitan Park and the neighborhood’s Costco and Best Buy under the BID’s umbrella. However, the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall would not be included under the BID’s current proposal.
On the Potomac Yard side of the things to the south, the BID would extend its borders down Route 1 until it meets Four Mile Run (and the county’s border with Alexandria). That would pull in the large development that includes Lidl’s American headquarters and a Harris Teeter grocery store.
According to its work plan, the BID plans to spend the second and third quarters of the current fiscal year rallying support from business owners in Pentagon City and Potomac Yard. It also plans to move offices later this year, then hire more staff to account for its expanded borders.
The Board will also set the tax rate it imposes on Crystal City businesses to fund the BID as part of its upcoming budget deliberations. The BID is requesting that the tax rate remain stable, and when combined with a 6.8 percent jump in property values in the neighborhood, the group expects to pull in about $2.76 million in revenue this year.
Janet Caputo and her husband thought they’d found just the right home for a new chapter in their lives when they moved into an apartment at “The Rixey” building in Ballston last month.
The couple had just sold their Cherrydale home of the last 22 years, looking to downsize now that their children are all heading off to college. Caputo says they spent months on the apartment search, touring buildings across Arlington multiple times before settling on The Rixey, located at 1008 N. Glebe Road.
Then came the news on Feb. 8 that Marymount University would be buying the building from its current owners, the prominent real estate developer The Shooshan Company, and converting it into housing for students, faculty and staff.
“I was not told the truth,” Caputo told ARLnow. “I wouldn’t have spent all this money to move in if we knew we could only stay for 14 months.”
Indeed, Shooshan and Marymount are now working over the course of the next several months to manage the tricky process of converting what was once yet another luxury apartment building in Ballston into an upscale dorm.
Representatives for both the company and the university say they’ll honor all existing leases, and are committed to making the transition go smoothly. Still, residents like Caputo can’t help but feel that they were blindsided by the change.
“I don’t think millennials are out to wreck the world… I don’t mind living among them,” Caputo said. “What I don’t like is being told I can’t stay in this building after I put all this effort into moving here.”
Kelly Shooshan, the company’s chief operating officer and director of residential development, says she can’t speak to what people were or were not told about the building’s future when they signed their leases. She deferred questions on that to The Rixey’s management company, the Bozzuto Group — Jamie Gorski, Bozzuto’s chief marketing officer, declined comment for this article.
However, Shooshan says residents have long been aware that some Marymount graduate students have lived in the building since it opened in October 2017, making ties to the university quite clear.
“In fact, they were the first students to move in,” Shooshan wrote in an email.
She added that the sale shouldn’t have come as a complete surprise, considering how Marymount and Shooshan worked together to make the development happen.
Marymount built its new Ballston Center building right next door to the Rixey, leasing the adjacent land to Shooshan. But the university reserved the right to purchase the apartment building outright in the future, and that’s exactly what Marymount did earlier this month, using a mix of state funds and private financing to afford the $95 million price tag.
“The Rixey was my baby,” Shooshan said. “I worked on it for four-plus years, so no one will miss it more than me. But all that means is I have to go build another great project.”
But Caputo says she had no idea that such an option was ever a possibility, and thinks it’s unreasonable that this wasn’t explained to residents ahead of time — she fully expects that if she’d known about the option, she and her husband wouldn’t have chosen The Rixey, and they certainly wouldn’t have spent close to $7,000 installing upgrades to the apartment’s furnishings.
Caputo adds that many of her neighbors are in the same boat. She’s heard from some who signed leases just weeks ago, and even encountered one family that put pen to paper on a lease the day the sale was announced.
A letter provided to ARLnow from the building’s new management company (American Campus Communities) says staff have also heard “a number of residents express concern” and surprise about the change.
“It’s just house flipping on an enormous scale, without telling unsuspecting people who think they are signing a lease in a multifamily building,” Caputo said.
Yet Shooshan points out that it’s not as if current Rixey residents are being thrown out on the street overnight.
“All leases will be honored,” Marymount Chief Financial Officer Al Diaz wrote in a statement. “But we will only renew leases for qualifying students, faculty and staff.”
Diaz says the university won’t start moving in undergraduate students to The Rixey until this coming August, though he says it “may fill vacancies that develop with graduate students, faculty and staff.”
But for anyone looking for a more immediate change, Shooshan says her staff is already working to help them move to another one of the company’s residential properties.
“Hopefully, this will resolve some of the initial frustrations,” Shooshan said. “As you know, no one likes change.”
Caputo isn’t yet sure what she and her husband will do — they’ve already paid their first month’s rent, and aren’t sure whether they’ll get it back if they move out early.
And she’s adamant that she has no interest in living in another Shooshan-owned property, after her experience at The Rixey.
“My husband and I are beside ourselves,” she said.
Board Member Wants Lower School Costs — “In remarks to a local service organization, Matt de Ferranti telegraphed the likelihood that Arlington property owners would see a higher real-estate-tax rate this year, in part to pay for higher school costs. But at the same time, he said the days of gold-plated school facilities must come to an end.” [InsideNova]
Arlington No. 5 on ‘Women in Tech’ List — Arlington County ranks fifth on a new list of “the Best Cities for Women in Tech in 2019.” D.C. ranked No. 1. [SmartAsset]
Isabella Restaurant Gear Up for Auction — “Rasmus Auctions is advertising online auctions for kitchen equipment, dining room contents, decor and more at Yona, Pepita and Kapnos Taverna in Arlington until about noon March 13.” [Washington Business Journal]
County Expanding Drug Take-Back Boxes — “In the first calendar year of the Permanent Drug Take-Back Box program, residents safely disposed of 1008 pounds of unused, unwanted or expired prescription medications. Due to the success of the program, an additional permanent drug take-back box has been installed at Arlington County Fire Station #5.” [Arlington County]
AWLA Calls for More Pet Foster Families — “We need your help! Our kennels are full and we are in URGENT need of foster homes for medium-large adult dogs and kittens undergoing treatment for ringworm.” [Facebook]
Falls Church Becoming ‘Un-boring’ — The sleepy City of Falls Church is attracting younger residents amid a development boom, cheered on in an editorial by the little city’s newspaper. [Falls Church News-Press]
Arlington County Police are looking for the suspect in a robbery in the Bluemont neighborhood over the weekend.
The crime happened Saturday afternoon on the 800 block of N. Lexington Street, near Wilson Blvd and the W&OD Trail.
Police say a woman was sitting on a bench when a man approached her from behind, asked for directions, then exposed himself. The man then grabbed the woman’s personal belongings and ran off, according to police.
More from ACPD:
ROBBERY, 2019-02160157, 800 block of N. Lexington Street. At approximately 1:15 p.m. on February 16, police were dispatched to the report of a larceny and exposure. Upon arrival, it was determined that the female victim was sitting on a bench when the unknown suspect approached her from behind and asked for directions. As she turned, she observed the suspect exposing himself before he grabbed her personal belongings and fled the scene on foot. The suspect is described as a Hispanic male, 18 – 20 years of age, 5’2″ – 5’4″, 130 – 150 lbs with black hair and brown eyes. He was wearing a black hoodie, green shirt and burgundy shorts at the time of the incident. The investigation is ongoing.
The rest of this week’s Arlington County Police crime report is below.
BURGLARY, 2019-02140221, 2200 block of N. Nottingham Street. At approximately 5:35 p.m. on February 14, police were dispatched to the report of a burglary just discovered. Upon arrival, it was determined that between 11:00 a.m. on February 11 and 12:45 p.m. on February 13, an unknown subject forced entry into a residence and moved items around but nothing was reported stolen. The subject also entered the victim’s vehicle but no items were reported stolen. There is no suspect description and the investigation is ongoing.
BURGLARY (late), 2019-02140282, 1200 block of N. Garfield Street. At approximately 10:29 p.m. on February 14, police were dispatched to the report of a late burglary. Upon arrival, it was determined that a subject entered a residence and damaged property. The investigation is ongoing.
ASSAULT & BATTERY ON POLICE, 2019-02130108, 4100 block of Campbell Ave. At approximately 12:00 p.m. on February 13, police were dispatched to the report of a disorderly female subject refusing to leave a business. While being detained pending the completion of a banning notice, the suspect struck one of the responding officers with a closed fist. Senait Taye, 38, of Arlington, VA was arrested and charged with Assault and Batter on Law Enforcement and Failure to ID. She was held without bond.
Map via Google Maps
Amazon can feel a bit omnipresent around Arlington these days, but, in one key way, local leaders and activists say the company has been missing in action.
The tech giant sent a few emissaries to Pentagon City in mid-November, as politicians from around the state and the region congregated to hail the company’s massive Arlington expansion. Since then, however, people closely watching the Amazon debate say they’ve seen barely any evidence that the company’s executives have shown their faces in the community.
And in the wake of Amazon’s sudden, splashy decision to cancel plans for a new headquarters in New York City over local opposition to the project, officials see a clear need for the company to build stronger in-person relationships in Arlington.
“I don’t really understand why they’re not out here… they need to have their coming out party, if you will,” County Board member Erik Gutshall told ARLnow. “Without some really clear rationale or justification from them, I would be very, very hesitant to vote on the incentive agreement without them having had some meaningful engagement in the community. In fact, I couldn’t see us voting on this without that happening first.”
The Board is set to take up that $23 million incentive package on March 16, after delaying a planned February vote on the matter, leaving just a few weeks for the company to meet those concerns.
“We should have a dialogue with them on this, and the community’s legitimate concerns, and it should be a dialogue soon,” said Board member Matt de Ferranti.
For its part, Amazon says it’s done plenty of work on the ground to build strong partnerships in Arlington. Spokeswoman Jill Kerr said in a statement that the company “has met with stakeholders in the community to discuss plans for our second headquarters in National Landing and we will continue to do so into the future.”
The company has also joined the county’s Chamber of Commerce to work with local business owners. Scott Pedowitz, the Chamber’s government affairs manager, says the company has “been very active since joining” and sent its representatives to a variety of the group’s gatherings.
“Earlier this month, we convened a meeting of over 50 local nonprofit organizations with Amazon’s head of community engagement,” Pedowitz wrote in an email. “It was a great dialogue and we’ve heard directly from several of our local nonprofits about follow-up.”
But activists opposed to the project argue that the company can’t simply work with the business community and Arlington’s professional class, when Amazon’s arrival threatens so many low- and middle-income people in the area. Expert opinions are split on just how much the company’s 25,000 highly paid workers will drive up rent prices in the county, but the changes to the housing market will almost certainly force some people to leave their homes.
“We’re being sold all this stuff about how Amazon wants to be a good neighbor and they love our community, but they haven’t spent a second with the community,” said Roshan Abraham, a longtime Amazon critic and a leader of the progressive group Our Revolution Arlington. “Maybe they’ve had meetings with the Arlington Chamber, and they think that’s the community. But they haven’t spoken to the rest of us.”
In all of the many community meetings focused on the project he’s attended over the last few months, anti-Amazon organizer Alex Howe points out that “the only time I’ve ever seen an Amazon official is in Richmond.” And that was when state lawmakers were debating a $750 million incentive package for the company, which Gov. Ralph Northam ultimately approved earlier this month.
Gutshall did suggest that perhaps Amazon was “distracted” with the opposition it was facing in New York, where city officials called company executives in for heated hearings on the project. However, Abraham reasons that the company has seen no need to make its case to skeptics in Arlington because local leaders have so aggressively pushed the project on their own.
“They haven’t had to speak to us because the County Board has been doing their work for them,” Abraham said. “In New York, politicians pressured them and Amazon was put in a position where they had to speak to the community. No one’s putting that pressure on them here.”
Yet de Ferranti and Gutshall say they’ve both urged the company to engage in Arlington. Gutshall says his consistent message to Amazon officials has been that “the Board and the community are expecting you to join the community, and if you’re going to do that, you need to show up.”
However, de Ferranti says he is concerned that activists opposed to the company’s presence in the county would turn any community meeting into a “shouting match” rather than a constructive dialogue.
“I want to have a real conversation on this, not a chance for people to demagogue,” de Ferranti said.
Abraham says that sort of stance “totally baffles me,” arguing that the Board “shouldn’t be afraid of how the community might respond to Amazon executives being here.” Gutshall also noted that “even our most contentious town halls on this haven’t been abominable.”
“You don’t have to engage with the only purpose of trying to change somebody’s mind,” Gutshall said. “But if you have a dialogue and if it’s done in a civil way, it’s healthy. It’s not necessarily everyone singing ‘kumbaya’ all of a sudden, but it’s important to have those conversations.”
Gutshall says the company has assured him that it has “imminent” plans to start holding community meetings, even though he’s seen no evidence of specific plans just yet.
Pedowitz points out that the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments is organizing an event titled “A Regional Conversation with Amazon,” scheduled for George Mason’s Virginia Square campus tomorrow night (Thursday). The event will convene “elected officials, government executives, and business and community leaders” for a meeting with Amazon representatives to “discuss plans to become a bigger part of our diverse, dynamic and growing region.”
But that event is described as an “invitation-only” gathering, and does not appear publicly on the group’s website — a Washington Post reporter tweeting out a link to an internal event description seems to be the first public reference to the meeting.
An organizer of the event did not respond to a request for comment on whether the gathering is open to the public or the press.
Arlington County Police arrested a suspect who allegedly tried to rob a bank in Crystal City this morning.
Around 11:30 a.m., the suspect walked into the BB&T branch at the corner of 23rd Street S. and S. Eads Street and “passed a note to the teller demanding money,” according to ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage.
“The suspect fled the scene without any money and was located by responding officers and taken into police custody,” Savage said.
Additional details, including the suspect’s name, were not immediately available.
Map via Google Maps
A new bill just passed by state lawmakers could soon allow localities like Arlington to start waiving many fees for new affordable housing developments, a change that advocates expect could have big impact on the county’s housing crunch.
New legislation backed by Dels. Lamont Bagby (D-74th District) and Alfonso Lopez (D-49th District) would let officials across the state pass ordinances to do away with any building permit fees or other local levies on affordable housing plans, in a bid to ease the construction of such projects.
The bill unanimously passed the state Senate last week, after earning similarly swift approval in the House of Delegates, and now heads to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk for his signature. The legislation was designed as part of a broader package of bills aimed at bringing housing costs down, due not only to rising concerns about Amazon’s impact in Northern Virginia, but also to new research showing the Richmond and Virginia Beach areas with some of the highest eviction rates in the entire country.
“Every Virginian deserves a safe place to call home,” Bagby wrote in a statement. “By supporting more affordable housing, we can address the devastating impacts of Virginia’s high eviction rates.”
Michelle Winters, the executive director of the Arlington-based Alliance for Housing Solutions, told ARLnow that the county doesn’t currently waive fees for affordable developments, but could well embrace such a tactic in the near future.
She points out that a coalition of affordable housing advocates called for the county to take just such a step in a 2017 report outlining potential strategies for officials to meet their own goals for building more reasonably priced homes.
Arlington officials have already struggled to meet those goals for creating homes guaranteed to remain affordable to renters of modest means, known as “committed affordable” units, prompting housing advocates to pen the report and press for progress. And with Amazon bringing its 25,000 (or more) highly paid workers to the county, Winters believes its conclusions are all the more important for leaders to consider.
“The report estimated that waiving ‘permit and tap fees’ for affordable housing projects would save $1.4 million per year, or allow the addition of 16 more committed affordable units each year,” Winters said.
That would only be a small change in the grand scheme of the county’s housing needs — the county created or preserved 515 affordable homes last year, short of the 585 homes officials hope to produce each year — but housing researchers still expect waiving such fees would make a meaningful difference.
“Although the total amount of fees imposed by local governments during the development review process can vary by locality, affordable housing developments operate under extremely complex financing mechanisms and tight margins,” said Andrew Clark, vice president of government affairs for the Home Builders Association of Virginia, wrote in a statement. “Reduction or elimination of these local fees could be a significant incentive for a private-sector development considering an affordable housing development and could also help incentive the private-sector developer to re-invest those savings into amenities, building materials or labor.”
The report, titled “Fulfilling the Promise: Meeting the Production Goal of Arlington’s Affordable Housing Master Plan,” uses the recently completed “Columbia Hills” project backed by the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing as an example of how county fees impact such projects.
APAH spent about $91.1 million on the project in all, but that included close to $701,000 in fees including building permit fees, sewer and water levies and zoning review costs.
“If all of these fees had been waived for this affordable project, it would have reduced the costs of development, freeing up resources for the development of eight (8) additional [committed affordable units],” the advocates wrote.
The report also notes that other cities around the country have already adopted such a strategy. In Austin, Texas, for instance, the city waives fees on a sliding scale based on what portion of a development’s homes are priced to be affordable to people making less than 80 percent of the area median income.
Of course, it might be a tough pill to swallow for county leaders to forego any revenue while times are tough for Arlington financially.
But officials have seen some reason for optimism about the upcoming budget recently, and Winters says county workers have already assured her that they plan to examine the impacts of waiving affordable development fees as part of a broader study of Arlington’s permitting process.
Photo via @APAH_org
(Updated at 2 p.m) Some community leaders in Nauck are pushing to see the neighborhood’s name changed to “Green Valley,” arguing that an area so rich in African American history shouldn’t be named for a former Confederate soldier.
The historically black South Arlington neighborhood was founded, in part, by freed slaves. Yet it’s come to be known for John D. Nauck, a German immigrant who served in the Confederate Army, then purchased a total of 79 acres of land in the area in 1874 and 1875.
In an open letter to the Nauck community distributed Friday (Feb. 15), longtime civic leader Dr. Alfred Taylor argues that it is “inappropriate for the diverse community to venerate a person who fought to preserve slavery and whose memory evokes painful reminders of laws that segregated and excluded African Americans from public life.”
The county has been locked in some contentious debates over Confederate symbols across Arlington ever since the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville in August 2017 sparked a nationwide conversation about the issue. The School Board’s push to strip Robert E. Lee’s name from Washington-Lee High School proved to be an especially heated process, but Taylor suggested that other communities in the county should be “taking a page” from the Board’s example on this front.
It’s not yet clear how the process of renaming the neighborhood might proceed — the community’s civic association could look to simply change its own name, though there may be additional county approvals tied up in that process. But Nauck Civic Association President Portia Clark is at least circulating Taylor’s letter in a bid to receive feedback on the proposal, particularly given the persistent complaints from residents that the county has failed to listen to their voices.
In the letter, Taylor argues that Nauck residents increasingly support naming the neighborhood “Green Valley/Nauck” or just “Green Valley,” in a bid to honor the area’s original nickname.
The exact origins of the “Green Valley” name are uncertain — Taylor, once the head of the Nauck Civic Association and Arlington’s chapter of the NAACP, wrote that his extensive research into the area’s history suggests the name is linked back to James Green, who owned property on what is now the site of the Army-Navy Country Club.
Yet he writes that “Green Valley” name bears more of a link to the area’s African American history than it does to any one person. Levi and Sarah Ann Jones became famous as the first freed slaves to purchase property in the area back in 1844, and Taylor argues that they helped build up a community in the area and make the “Green Valley” name more widespread.
The area was occupied by the Union Army during the Civil War, and eventually became home to a “Freedmen’s Village” following the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Taylor also writes that the Jones family subsequently sold some property to other African American families, helping to establish the area as an enclave for Arlington’s black residents.
As Virginia officials increasingly embraced policies of segregation, the area became home to a large number of businesses owned by black residents, according to the Guide to the African American Heritage of Arlington County, prepared in 2016 as part of the county’s Historic Preservation Program.
Taylor pointed out that the area was “largely excluded from full participation in mainstream American political and social life and commerce” and so residents felt they had to “do for themselves.” Many of the businesses to spring up in the 1900s bore the “Green Valley” name, including the Green Valley Pharmacy, which the County Board designated as a historic district in 2013.
Nonetheless, Taylor argues that the name “Nauck” took hold among the “official Arlington” set in the 1970s — the county’s history of the area suggests that the name “Nauck” first appeared in reference to the area as far back as 1876, and that black residents referred to it as “Nauckville” dating back to the late 19th century.
But Taylor hypothesizes that the destruction of the manor on Green’s original property in 1924 helped contribute to the “Green Valley” name fading away, or perhaps that leaders at the time avoided referring to Green Valley because it was “extensively occupied and used throughout most of the Civil War by the Union Army.” The construction of many Confederate statues and monuments in the early 20th century has often been connected to efforts by white leaders to send a message to black residents, and Taylor suggests some of that could be at play in the decision to embrace a former Confederate soldier like Nauck.
While recounting that John D. Nauck held county positions like Justice of the Peace and “sold considerable property to African Americans,” the county’s heritage guide notes that Nauck fled Arlington in 1891 after his efforts to evict an African American resident were met with resistance.
Taylor also points out that community leaders like the Jones family or William Augustus Rowe (a leader within the “Freedmen’s Village” who later won political office) were passed over in favor of Nauck, and Taylor argues they also deserve consideration.
“We find no record or evidence linking Nauck to efforts to improve the quality of life for its residents,” Taylor wrote. “Look at many of the local, national and international contributions that were made by the residents under the banner of Green Valley… to let that name slip into nothingness would be a travesty to their memory.”
Clark did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the civic association’s next steps for considering Taylor’s proposal.
Taylor’s full letter is below.
Residents of the Nauck Community would like to rename our community “Green Valley. For unknown reasons, the County made a decision to officially change or refer to our community as “Nauck” and drop “Green Valley” many years ago.
The Present Nauck Community
The Nauck Community–bordered by Army-Navy Country Club, Four Mile Run, South Walter Reed Drive and South 16th Road—features African-American roots that predate the Civil War. Records from the 1840s show that free blacks like Levi and Sarah Ann Jones bought land, built homes and sometimes found neighbors by selling portions of their lots.
A surge of growth came with the start of the 20th Century when an influx of former slaves arrived as the federal government shuttered its nearby Freedman’s Village.
Faced with encroaching segregation, Green Valley residents became self-sustaining as entrepreneurs, educators, religious leaders, health workers and other professionals established an array of resilient neighborhood institutions. Several survive to this day.
Green Valley’s Origin
In.1719, John Todd and Evan Thomas received a land grant within the area that is now referred to as the Nauck neighborhood. Robert Alexander later acquired the land. In 1778, Alexander sold his property to John Parke Custis, whereupon the land became part of Custis’ Abingdon estate. During the mid-1800s, Gustavus Brown Alexander owned much of the area that became Nauck, which at the time was called Green Valley. It has been stated that it is doubtful that any of the early settlers of Northern Virginia made a more significant and large-scale contribution to the development of Arlington and have received less credit and recognition for it than the Frazier’s of the Green Valley Estate. Anthony Frazier built Green Valley Manor in 1821 on what is now the Army-Navy Club. William Frazier, Jr. acquired from the Alexander family several hundred acres of ground straddling lower Long Branch, a tributary of Four Mile Run. The lands were known as Green Valley, perhaps named for James Green, who lived on the land near the present location of the clubhouse at the Army-Navy Country Club..
Green Valley Manor was cited in the floor of a valley about a hundred yards from Long Branch The estate included what are now the Oakridge Elementary School, the Gunston Middle School, Shirley Park, and Arna Valley (Avalon), as well as land from Pentagon City and the River House almost to the banks of Four Mile Run.
The Frazier properties were extensively occupied and used by the Union Army throughout the Civil War. In 1924 Green Valley Manor was destroyed by fire, originating from causes that have never been conclusively established. This may be a hint to why the Green Valley name was dropped and Nauck established.
African Americans began to purchase property and settle in the Green Valley area during that period. Among the early African American property owners were Levi and Sarah Ann Jones. In 1844 Levi and Sarah Ann purchased 14 acres of land in eastern Arlington along Four Mile Run with a down payment of $200 and an additional $235 to be paid over a period of five years. Throughout the decades before and after the Civil War, the Jones family expanded their farm, sold land to fellow African Americans to help create the Green Valley neighborhood and become community leaders. By the time the Civil War commenced, Jones’ farm consisted of seventeen acres, twelve of which had been cleared for cultivation. Jones’ property eventually became the southern extension of the Green Valley community. In the early stages of the community’s development Jones’ home served as a school, a church and a meeting house. Throughout the decades before and after the Civil War, the Jones family expanded their farm, sold land to fellow African Americans to help create the Green Valley neighborhood, and became community leaders. By 1900 this neighborhood in eastern Arlington County became the largest black community in terms of both geography and population. This large population supported both a church and school within the community. The early strength of Green Valley was due, in large part, to the presence of the Jones family who actively sold land to fellow African Americans. After the war ended in 1865, Thornton and Selina Gray, an African American couple that had earlier been slaves at Arlington House, purchased a small piece of property in the area in 1867.
In the 1970s the community started to become heavily referred to by “official Arlington” as Nauck, rather than what it was commonly known as. It then raises the question why was it still commonly referred to as “Green Valley” when it was recorded in Alexandria County in 1885 as “Nauck?” Was the new Arlington County, started in 1920 bound by recordings of Alexandria County? If they were not bound, why did they continue to refer to it as Green Valley for the first 50 years of its existence (1920-1970)? Was it because John D. Nauck was a former Confederate Army soldier and rhe Green Valley Manor was extensively occupied and used throughout most of the Civil War by the Union Army?
During 1874-1875, John D. Nauck, a former Confederate Army soldier who had immigrated from Germany, purchased parcels of land in South Arlington (some 30 years after Levi and Sarah Ann Jones) and began subdividing it. Prior to that time the areas was known as Green Valley. Some articles state he purchased 69 parcels (acres) and others state he purchased 46 parcels (acres). John Nauck held at least one political office in the area, lived on his property and subdivided and sold the remainder. During the post-war period, the area attracted several African American families residing in Freedman’s Village and other locations. In 1876, William Augustus Rowe, an African American who lived in Freedman’s Village and was elected to a number of political positions, was among those who purchased property in the area during that period. Green Valley grew slowly during the late nineteenth century. Again it raises the question, why their names were not considered?
In 1874, a congregation initially organized in Freedman’s Village purchased land in the area on which to relocate a building containing an African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, (the Lomax A.M.E. Zion Church). The church’s building housed a public school that was later known as the Kemper School. In 1885, the Alexandria County school board built a one-room school nearby. The board constructed a new two-story brick school in 1893 on South Lincoln Street. The Arlington County school board later replaced that building with a larger facility that now contains the Drew Model Elementary School.
While the Nauck community’s origins predate the Civil War and John D. Nauck, African American families like the Jones family formed a seed for the future, the community’s growth, particularly the first half–of the twentieth century was fed by migration. In particular, Green Valley became a station on a migration that traces to the end of the Civil War and the establishment of Freedman’s Village in Arlington following the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.
From its earliest days and throughout most–and particularly the first half–of the twentieth century, Green Valley and other African American communities were largely excluded from full participation in mainstream American political and social life and commerce. As a result, communities had to “do for themselves.” They made their own institutions, and they did their best to provide services for themselves and their neighbors. They also made their own fun. Community churches facilitated many of these activities.
However, the 1902 Virginia Constitution, which established racial segregation throughout the state and restricted the rights of African Americans, stopped the neighborhood’s expansion. African American property owners continued to subdivide their lands to accommodate more people, but Nauck’s boundaries largely remained unchanged.
During World War II, the federal government constructed Paul Lawrence Dunbar Homes, an 11 acres segregated barracks-style wartime emergency low-income housing community for African Americans in Green Valley. The government built this affordable housing project on a parcel of land at Kemper Road and Shirlington Road that Levi Jones and his family had once owned. Meanwhile, construction of The Pentagon and its surrounding roads during the war destroyed several older African American communities. Some of those communities’ displaced residents relocated to Green Valley, thus stimulating the neighborhood’s development and increasing its African American population. By 1952, few blocks in Green Valley were still vacant. Others were built nearly to capacity. The neighborhood continued to develop during the remainder of the 20th century along the lines established many years earlier. In 2013, the Arlington County Board designated the Green Valley Pharmacy in Nauck as a local historic district. Not only did many of the businesses carry the surname Green Valley, e.g., Green Valley Carryout, Green Valley Blacksox, Green Valley Park, etc., but it was identified as that by most areas of the DMV until its present identification as Nauck. Additionally, the busses and street cars before them ran from their terminus in Rosslyn to its terminus in Green Valley, only extending to Shirlington after its extension of Seminary Road.
Rationale for Change to Include the Name Green Valley
William Frazier, Jr. acquired from the Alexander family several hundred acres of ground straddling lower Long Branch, a tributary of Four Mile Run. The lands were known as Green Valley, perhaps named for James Green, who lived on the land near the present location of the clubhouse at the Army-Navy Country Club. From that time, then a part of Alexandria County, through the establishment of Arlington County until circa 1970 the area was referred to and known as Green Valley. In the 1970s the three areas where most of its African American population was residing, underwent a name change, i.e., Green Valley became Nauck, Halls Hill became High View Park and Johnson Hill became Arlington View without the knowledge of the residents as to why. It was under the name of Green Valley that its pioneers surviving Jim Crow Laws, black codes, lacking financial backing, becoming economically independent, educating themselves and their children, fighting for freedom’ and remembering from whence they came, served as an inspiration to all to celebrate and continue sharing past and present, ordinary Green Valley resident’s accomplishments. It is this memory we seek to memorialize of the important work of what those residents of Green Valley achieved and the legacy they leave for future generations.
Taking a page from the following “It’s time to talk about the names of our schools and what they mean and why they matter,” Barbara Kanninen, School Board Chair, said at an August 2017 meeting, “It is also time to talk about our communities and the values these names reflect and the messages we are sending, not only to our children, but to our future residents.” Residents of the Nauck Community would like to rename their community “Green Valley/Nauck, (although we prefer the name Nauck excluded,” as it was so named and still referred to before for unknown reasons, the County made a decision to officially change or refer to it as the Nauck community and drop “Green Valley,”
Although the Jones family purchased and starting selling parcels of their land, some 30 years before John D. Nauck, raises the question, “if the name of the area was referred to as Green Valley from its inception in the 1700s to the 1970s,” why was the name “Nauck” selected and not one of the early African American residents who contributed to its growth, i.e., Jones, Gray or Rowe”? We find no record or evidence linking Nauck to efforts to improve the quality of life for its residents.
Unlike today’s process utilized by the Arlington Civic Federation in allowing its Civic Associations to select the name of the area and its Association, the Green Valley residents were not afforded that opportunity. Today, we are asking for that opportunity by requesting our community once again become the Green Valley/Nauck community in keeping with its rich history. In today’s time for the community to be named after John D. Nauck, a former Confederate Army soldier and developer who was not known to have made any other contribution to the improvement of the quality of life or values of the residents of Green Valley is not the message we want to send to our children or future residents. Look at many of the local, national and international contributions that were made by the residents under the banner of Green Valley and to let that name slip into nothingness would be a travesty to their memory.
Borrowing further from the schools direction, supporters of the renaming — “Nauck” to include its original name “Green Valley”– argued that it is inappropriate for the diverse community to venerate a person who fought to preserve slavery and whose memory evokes painful reminders of laws that segregated and excluded African Americans from public life.
County officials could soon change how they sign off on major zoning alterations, sparking some pushback from the county’s business community over fears that the new process could make large redevelopments more difficult.
The county is currently mulling an overhaul of its methods for reviewing applications for special “General Land Use Plan” studies.
The GLUP is Arlington’s primary policy guide guiding development around the county, and property owners and developers can request a special study of a specific area if county leaders have yet to adopt zoning standards for a property, or if they’re proposing changes outside the scope of what the county envisioned for the area. A GLUP study most recently charted out changes in Virginia Square, clearing the way for the planned addition of a new affordable housing complex and new apartments along Washington Blvd.
But county staff have had trouble handling the workload of special GLUP studies requests recently, which has been particularly impactful for one prominent shopping center: the Village at Shirlington. The development’s owner, Federal Realty Investment Trust, has hoped for a study since December 2017, with the eventual goal of adding more density on the property. The company is also weighing putting a new apartment building on the parking lot at the corner of S. Arlington Mill Drive and S. Randolph Street.
But the firm would need an amendment to the county’s land-use plans to make those changes happen, and that will only come with a special GLUP study. Accordingly, the process has been closely watched by county developers eager to learn more about how it might change.
In a Jan. 22 meeting of the county’s Long Range Planning Commission, Arlington staff laid out a series of proposed changes to GLUP study applications. In a bid to make the process “more efficient and streamlined,” cutting down on staff time devoted to the issue, applicants would have to provide more detailed information on proposed changes up front, including 3-D models of the property and a more robust analysis of transportation impacts from the development.
Staff also hope to limit study applications to June 1-Sept. 1 each year, with the goal of passing along reports on the study requests to the County Board by the following February. Applicants would also be required to pay an “initial review fee” before even filing a full GLUP application.
But those proposals drew the ire of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, with CEO Kate Bates writing in a Jan. 18 letter to county officials that the changes will “likely have the unintended consequence of hindering economic development in Arlington.”
While she acknowledges that the changes might create “workflow certainty” for county staff, she warned that could come at “the cost of lost opportunities for Arlington” by dragging the process out for too long.
“Arlington prides itself on being a community with a forward-looking, progressive planning policy but this proposal is clearly a step back,” Bates said.
Bates believes that any study proposed in “June of one year could be queued to be heard at the end of the following year and approved in the year after, possibly creating an almost two-year delay before even beginning the site plan process.”
“The chamber is confounded how adding a possible two years to an already lengthy process could be considered efficient,” Bates said. “The chamber also wonders how a process so opaquely envisioned, without soliciting input from affected businesses or citizens, could lead to more inclusivity. Again, this proposed fix is out of scale with the issues it is hoping to remedy.”
Bates is instead urging the county to leave the current GLUP study process in place, but dedicate more county workers to handling the study requests. That could be challenging, however, given the county’s current mix of a hiring slowdown and the elimination of some county positions during a difficult budget year.
The Long Range Planning Commission and Zoning Committee are set to hold a joint meeting on the topic tomorrow (Wednesday), with the goal of advancing the proposal to the full Planning Commission in March and the County Board in April.
Photo via Arlington County
Alcova Heights Park is set to see some renovations next year, and county officials are getting ready to unveil their plans for the park’s improvements.
The county plans to hold a meeting Thursday (Feb. 21) at 7 p.m. at the Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street) to discuss new designs for the park.
Officials began planning for a refresh of the green space, located at 901 S. George Mason Drive, this past fall and held a few community meetings on the topic.
Though the county will only detail the full extent of its plans at the meeting later this week, proposed improvements include the renovation of the park’s basketball court and lights, as well as its sand volleyball court, according to the county’s website.
The park’s large picnic shelter and restroom could be in for some upgrades, and the county also hopes to add improved signage and landscaping to the area. Improving the park’s drainage and stormwater management will be another key focus of the work, particularly after several residents mentioned muddy conditions at the park in a survey seeking to identify potential improvements.
The county hopes to finalize designs and start construction on the renovation work by the third quarter of 2020, then wrap up that work by the second quarter of 2021.
Eventually, officials plan to overhaul the Alcova Heights playground and diamond field in a second phase of the project, but the county’s current funding squeeze means they aren’t yet sure when they’ll be able to afford that work.
Rabid Raccoon in Tara-Leeway Heights — “On Wednesday, February 13, 2019, a raccoon was reported in the area of 1500 block of N. Greenbrier Street acting lethargic. The raccoon was captured and removed from the community. It was later found to be carrying rabies.” [Twitter, AWLA]
Crash Knocks Out Traffic Signals — Traffic signals at at least three intersections in the Clarendon area were rendered inoperable over the weekend due to electrical transformer damage following a single-vehicle crash at Wilson Boulevard and 10th Street N. Power to the signals was reported to have been restored Monday night. [Arlington County, Twitter]
Second Amazon Bill Advances in State Legislature — “On the same day that Amazon’s plan to move 25,000 workers into a distressed area of New York City was imploding, the Virginia General Assembly gave the online giant another in a series of welcome-to-the-commonwealth valentines.” [InsideNova]
Hitt’s Home for Sale — Now-convicted fraudster Todd Hitt has listed his north Arlington home for sale for $1.75 million. However, the home’s back deck is currently the subject of a Board of Zoning Appeals case. [Washington Business Journal, Arlington County]
Booz Allen Staying in Crystal City — “Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. will remain in Crystal City, inking a lease extension and expansion for its space at 1550 Crystal Drive, building owner JBG Smith Properties announced Thursday. The lease, which commences in September, brings Booz Allen’s space at 1550 Crystal to 84,000 square feet, about 10,000 square feet more than it currently occupies.” [Washington Business Journal]
Take Our Reader Survey — Once a year, we ask readers to take a couple of minutes to weigh in on the future of ARLnow. This year, we’re asking about ideas for new emails, features, approaches and events. Your feedback would be greatly appreciated. [SurveyMonkey]
Photo courtesy Dennis Dimick
The FBI’s Washington office is now offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the man’s capture, up from $5,000, and investigators believe he’s now been involved in 20 robberies across Virginia, Maryland and D.C. over the last year or so.
County police believe a man walked into the Capital One bank at 3532 Columbia Pike around 2:15 p.m. Monday, brandishing a gun and passing a teller a note demanding money. However, he fled the scene before he could get any cash.
Police released surveillance photos yesterday (Thursday) of the man wearing a mask and hard hat, which the FBI believes is consistent with the “Bank Bandit’s” previous robberies. Investigators say he’s passed a threatening note to tellers in each of his robberies, and has “worn different disguises such as a baseball cap, wig, gloves, hijab or hoodie to alter his appearance,” according to a news release.
The FBI believes the man has previously robbed banks in Alexandria, Falls Church and Centreville, but this is the first incident he’s been involved in Arlington.
Investigators describe him as a black man in 20s or 30s, standing between 5’7″ and 6’2″, weighing between 160 and 170 pounds.
The FBI is asking anyone with more information to call 202-278-2000 or submit a tip at tips.fbi.gov.
The #FBI has doubled the #reward to $10,000 for information leading to the capture of the "Beltway Bank Bandit." Have info? Submit a tip at https://t.co/t8G7LO4hxu #Wanted https://t.co/AZwvolZekC pic.twitter.com/YJKxTr7WeH
— FBI Washington Field (@FBIWFO) February 15, 2019