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by Bridget Reed Morawski February 23, 2018 at 2:15 pm 0

(Updated at 2:40 p.m.) The County Board is set to vote this Saturday (February 24) on a contested residential development in Ballston.

The development is planned around the intersection of N. Vermont and 11th streets, about four blocks from the Ballston Metro station. Developer NVR Inc. intends to build a 72-unit multifamily building with both condos and townhouse-style units on the southern block and 12 townhouse units on the northern parcel of land.

County staff, along with the Arlington’s planning and transportation commissions, are recommending that the Board approves the development, but some neighbors have objected to it.

“Save Our Neighborhood” signs in opposition of the development have been placed around Ballston, urging residents to wear red t-shirts to the County Board meeting to show their solidarity. A Change.org petition has garnered more than 500 signatures.

The petition’s organizer, Dana Gerk, cited a swamped mass transit infrastructure, overcrowding in the schools, concerns about increased traffic, “potential physical damage… from heavy machinery,” and a deviation from the county’s current zoning for the site.

Other opponents cite the proposed height of the condo building as harmful.

“Through the process, local residents vocally opposed the design and placement of the seven story multi-family building,” one resident said in an email to ARLnow.com. “At each public hearing Westview [condo] residents whose properties were built with floor to ceiling window balconies opposed the current design, which will block access to light according to developer-provided shadow studies.

“Other buildings in the area, such as on the corner of Glebe and Fairfax, were sculpted to preserve the access to sunlight for Westview residents, and Westview residents note that, if approved, this new building takes away the views of over 100 residents so that a developer can maximize profits for many fewer.”

Approval from the board would necessitate two exceptions be granted. The lot is currently planned as “low-medium residential,” meaning that it can accommodate 16-36 units per acre, and would need to be changed to “high-medium residential mixed use” in the General Land Use Plan (GLUP).

An additional rezoning request for the 55,667 square foot site would allow developers to build multiple family dwellings and commercial district property. The current status only allows for one family and restricted two-family dwellings.

The final plans were released earlier this month for the redevelopment, which would replace the Grace Community Church building and a parking lot.

by Christina Sturdivant-Sani February 23, 2018 at 9:00 am 0

Photo by anokarina

Before we get into the news of the day, we have an announcement: this is the final Meanwhile in D.C.

Special thanks to ARLnow for allowing Rachel Sadon and myself to share D.C. news for a little longer to our loyal DCist readers. And hopefully folks in Arlington have enjoyed learning about what’s happening across the river as well.

Though this column is ending, our writing still lives and it’s better than ever. Be sure to keep up with my latest articles by following me on Twitter @SeeSturdi. And don’t forget to follow Rachel Sadon @Rachel_Sadon and Rachel Kurzius @Curious_Kurz to see what they’re up to. We’re always looking for tips!

Now, here is what’s happening over in the District:

by ARLnow.com February 23, 2018 at 8:40 am 0

ACFD Black History Month Tweets — The Arlington County Fire Department has been recounting the history of black firefighters in Arlington in commemoration of Black History Month. There were several African-American volunteer fire departments in the county during the first half of the 20th century, serving neighborhoods like Hall’s Hill and “Hell’s Bottom,” which was cleared to make way for the Pentagon during World War II. [Twitter, Twitter]

ARLnow Wins ‘Amazon Thirsty Thursday’ Recognition — Our scoop that an internal Amazon website devoted to its “HQ2” search steered thousands of visits to a two-month-old ARLnow article, has earned us the distinction of being named the “winner” of Washingtonian’s “Amazon Thirsty Thursday” weekly feature. Our article pointing out that Amazon has an office in Arlington was apparently the icing on the thirsty cake. [Washingtonian]

Arlington Among Top Places for Women in Tech — Arlington is tied with St. Paul, Minnesota as the No. 6 best place in the U.S. for women in tech. The District ranks No. 1. [WTOP]

Shamrock Shake Sighting — The Shamrock Shake is back at McDonald’s. We spotted it on the menu at a Lee Highway McD’s yesterday. Some locations have gotten the shake, a harbinger of spring, earlier than others, according to social media reports. [Fox News, Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

by ARLnow.com February 22, 2018 at 5:40 pm 0

Community paper shredding events. Arlington’s poet laureate. The Citizen newsletter.

Those are a few of the relatively small cuts that add up to enough savingsin County Manager Mark Schwartz’s new proposed budget to bridge Arlington’s $20 million budget gap.

The proposed $1.27 billion budget, which is being presented to the County Board today (Thursday), keeps the county’s property tax rate steady — at $0.993 per $100 in assessed value, per the County Board’s earlier guidance — while generating some new revenue through slightly higher utility taxes and additional paid parking hours, rates and fines, among other measures. It includes $775.9 million for the county’s operating budget and $498 million for schools.

Schwartz says his budget cuts 50 county programs and eliminates 48 jobs, including 29 currently filled positions. It includes $8.4 million in spending reductions, $6.6 million in fee and tax increases and $5.5 million in “funding realignments.”

The cuts are necessary, in part, due to budget pressures from Metro and the need to raise employee salaries, particularly in the police and fire departments, to remain competitive with nearby jurisdictions. Arlington’s fast-rising home values, which have helped the county keep up with rising expenses, were offset this year falling commercial property values caused by higher office vacancy rates.

Among the ways the proposed budget increases county revenues:

  • Commercial utility taxes increased by 5%
  • Residential utility tax increased to $3/month per utility (revenue earmarked for schools and the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund, which is proposed at $13.7 million, matching last year’s AHIF proposal)
  • Parking rates increased by $0.25/hour
  • Parking meter hours extended to 8 p.m.
  • Parking fines increased from $35 to $40
  • Household Solid Waste fee up $2/year

Among the proposed cuts and “realignments:”

  • The Citizen printed newsletter, sent to all county residents ($82,000/year)
  • Lee Highway planning process scaled back ($500,000)
  • ART routes 54 and 92 eliminated ($350,000/year)
  • Snow blower loaner program eliminated ($30,000/year)
  • Free community paper shred events eliminated ($20,000/year)
  • Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy residential rebate program cut ($555,000)
  • Poet laureate eliminated along with other humanities programs ($77,000)
  • Long Bridge Park Fourth of July event entertainment eliminated ($50,000)
  • County window washing reduced from twice to once per year ($48,000)
  • In-house pharmacy and lab services cut from Dept. of Human Services ($625,000)
  • Reduction in DHS employment services staffing ($825,000)
  • Eliminate the Office of Community Health in the Dept. of Parks and Recreation ($483,000)
  • Eliminate a youth boxing program ($85,000)
  • Eliminate a parks volunteer office ($197,000)
  • Reduce money earmarked for Crystal City infrastructure, originally intended for the streetcar project, as generated via Tax Increment Financing (about $1 million)
  • Reduce the parks department vehicle fleet ($52,000)
  • Cut county funding for Arlington Independent Media by 20 percent ($91,000)
  • Eliminate the county cable administrator, who receives complaints about cable service from residents ($181,000)

The budget includes raises for many county employees, and even higher raises for most public safety personnel. Police officers, from the rank of sergeant on down, will see an additional 2.5 percent increase in pay, while firefighters will get an extra 4 percent bump over other county employees. Schwartz acknowledged that the departments have been having trouble filling open positions due to competition from other jurisdictions.

Schwartz said he and the county’s economic development office are determined to reduce Arlington’s office vacancy rate, which is back to nearly 20 percent after ticking down a bit from its previous high water mark. Schwartz expects office vacancies will put pressure on the budget for the next several years.

“It remains my primary focus to work on that vacancy rate, to get it down,” he said in a budget briefing with reporters. “We need to work through this problem. We have a lot of economic projects that are coming into the county, but this is the underlying problem that is going to challenge us in coming years.”

The Arlington County Board will advertise a property tax rate on Saturday, setting a ceiling on what the rate may go up to, and will hold various budget work sessions and hearings between now and final adoption on April 21.

by Bridget Reed Morawski February 22, 2018 at 4:30 pm 0

A Crystal City to Reagan National Airport pedestrian connection is feasible, according to a study conducted by the Crystal City Business Improvement District.

The study, released today (Thursday), determined that the connection would allow most Crystal City residents and employees to walk to the airport within approximately 15 minutes. The connection would link the airport’s terminal B/C parking garage with a JBG Smith private office building complex on Crystal Drive near 20th Street S.

Construction is estimated to cost approximately $38 million, with annual maintenance fees of $100,000. Various possible pedestrian connection configurations, including both open air and enclosed setups, were illustrated in the study. One configuration envisions the pedestrian bridge as a park-like destination, akin to New York City’s High Line.

The majority of airport arrivals are via either private car or taxi. Only 12 percent of arrivals are via Metro, according to the study.

by Bridget Reed Morawski February 22, 2018 at 1:45 pm 0

Enhanced crosswalks and curb extensions are coming to S. Walter Reed Drive, just south of Columbia Pike, in an effort to calm traffic and improve intersections for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Storm sewer upgrades and raised medians will also be added to the stretch of S. Walter Reed Drive between 11th Street S. and 13th Street S. The current “bike boulevard” will move from 12th Street S. to 11th Street S. between S. Highland Street and S. Cleveland Street.

County Manager Mark Schwartz has recommended awarding the project to Fort Meyer Construction, headquartered in Washington. The County Board is scheduled to consider the contract at its Saturday meeting. The contract cost is $444,575.11, with a change order contingency allocation of $88,915.02.

Photo via Google Maps

by Bridget Reed Morawski February 22, 2018 at 11:10 am 0

The Westover beer garden will again be a topic of conversation before the Arlington County Board this weekend.

In the latest installment of the Westover Market’s saga to operate their outdoor beer garden as they see fit, County Manager Mark Schwartz has recommended that the County Board advertise a public hearing which will consider new use permits for the market and beer garden.

Westover Market wants to expand the current 29 outdoor cafe seats, as permitted by current county code, to 102. It also wants to be able to host live music more often, expand the days in which it can use amplifiers during live music performances and play background music when live music isn’t taking place.

Outdoor live entertainment is presently permitted at these times:

From April 1 through October 31

Wednesdays: 6 p.m. through 8 p.m.
Fridays: 6 p.m. through 10 p.m.
Saturdays: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The market has proposed the following hours to the county:

From April 1 through October 31

Wednesdays: 6 p.m. through 8 p.m.
Thursdays: 6 p.m. through 9 p.m.
Fridays: 6 p.m. through 10 p.m.
Saturdays: 5 p.m. through 9 p.m.
Sundays which precede a federal holiday: 5 p.m. through 9 p.m.

Zoning issues have dogged the business, which at one point had a two year amplified musical hiatus as it waited for county permission. Noise complaints have also weighed down the market’s efforts to expand its live music entertainment in the past.

Typically permit amendments cannot be reviewed by the County Board within 360 days of its last consideration. The exception is for the County Board to review the use permit application “on its own motion,” as the County Manager has recommended has recommended in this case.

Westover Market, originally a smaller grocery store that has evolved into a more drinking and entertainment focused establishment, is located at 5863 Washington Boulevard.

File photos

by Bridget Reed Morawski February 22, 2018 at 9:20 am 0

Updated at 3:21 p.m. with additional details.

Updated at 9:41 a.m. with additional photos: A high rise AC unit caught fire this morning (Thursday) in Ballston, shutting down the 800 block of N. Quincy Street.

The fire was reported around 8:30 a.m., prompting a large response of Arlington County firefighters as well as units from Fairfax, Alexandria, and Fort Myer. The fire was extinguished quickly after units arrived on scene, according to Capt. Ben O’Bryant, Arlington County Fire Department spokesman.

O’Bryant confirmed that the Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the cause. The fire comes a day after record-breaking February warmth.

The building, at 801 N. Quincy Street, is home to the soon-to-open restaurant Urban Tandoor, along with numerous office tenants.

by Christina Sturdivant-Sani February 22, 2018 at 9:00 am 0

Photo by Daniel Kelly

D.C. restauranteur named humanitarian of the year, grand openings with free food next week, and other news of the day over in the District.

by ARLnow.com February 22, 2018 at 8:15 am 0

Record Warm Temperatures — Yesterday’s high temperature of 82 degrees was the hottest it has ever been this early in the year. Records were set at all three D.C. area airports. [Twitter, Capital Weather Gang]

Fatal Fall in Clarendon — The man who fell from the roof of a building in Clarendon last week died, police confirmed Wednesday. “The subject was transported to the hospital by Arlington County Fire Department medics where he was later pronounced deceased,” said Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “The police department is conducting an active death investigation and nothing in the investigation has lead us to categorize the death as suspicious.” [Twitter]

Vihstadt Expands Bipartisan Support — Former Arlington School Board member Sally Baird is the latest Democrat to endorse County Board member John Vihstadt in his reelection campaign. “We both know that maintaining top quality public schools is essential to Arlington’s future, and I’m honored to have her support,” Vihstadt said in a statement.

Photo courtesy James Mahony

by Bridget Reed Morawski February 21, 2018 at 5:35 pm 0

Hype has been building over Amazon eying Arlington as a potential destination for its second headquarters, but many may be unaware that the online giant already has offices in the county.

The D.C. region already has a number of Amazon offices and facilities, including a 50,000 square foot office at 4250 N. Fairfax Drive in Ballston.

Amazon did not respond to requests for more information about the office, but job listings for the Ballston office include titles like “Event Marketing Manager,” “Partner Development Representative” and “Business Development, DoD.”

Other property leased or owned by Amazon in the region includes a small D.C. headquarters a block away from Union Station and a planned two million square foot data center, reportedly either in Virginia’s Loudon or Prince William counties.

Northern Virginia is a significant data center hub for Amazon Web Services, the company’s cloud computing arm. Data Center Frontier reported the following in November 2017:

Amazon Web Services is believed to operate at least nine data centers in Sterling and nine in Ashburn (with two more under construction) as well seven in Manassas. The company also has two data facilities in Chantilly, and one in Haymarket in Prince William County.

Reston Now, ARLnow’s sister news site, reported last June that Amazon was creating 1,500 jobs in Herndon, Va. at a new “East Coast corporate campus.” Amazon fulfillment centers, meanwhile, employ thousands across the region, including warehouses in Springfield, Va., Rockville, Md., and Baltimore.

The Washington metro region as a whole is gunning for the $685 billion dollar company, but few details have emerged regarding the incentive packages that local governments have crafted to lure Amazon to their jurisdictions.

Arlington County Board Chairman Katie Cristol promised eventual transparency on Arlington’s incentive package in January at a “Meet the Chair” event, according to the Sun Gazette.

Crystal City (in combination with Potomac Yard) is considered strong contender for the Amazon’s new second headquarters, primarily due to the large expanse of undeveloped land, contiguous office space and proximity to Reagan National Airport, D.C. and the Blue and Yellow Metro lines. Rosslyn is also in contention for “HQ2,” as are sites in Alexandria, Fairfax and Loudoun counties, Montgomery County, Md. and the District.

by ARLnow.com February 21, 2018 at 1:45 pm 0

A Falls Church man driving a stolen car ran a red light, ditched the car and then took off on foot as police gave chase, according to this week’s Arlington County Police Department crime report.

The alleged incident happened early Monday morning near the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive.

More from the crime report:

ELUDING, 2018-02190017, Columbia Pike at S. Walter Reed Drive. At approximately 1:34 a.m. on February 19, an officer on routine patrol observed a vehicle traveling without its headlights on and attempted a traffic stop by activating their emergency equipment. The suspect continued driving through a red light, before coming to a stop and exiting the vehicle. The suspect disregarded police commands and attempted to flee the area on foot. Following a brief foot pursuit, the suspect was taken into custody, with the assistance of a Virginia State Trooper arriving on scene. During the course of the investigation, the vehicle operated by the suspect was determined to be stolen out of Fairfax County. Kevin Hernandez Gomez, 22, of Falls Church, VA, was arrested and charged with Grand Larceny: Motor Vehicle Theft, Obstruction of Justice/Resisting Arrest, Eluding Police, Driving with a Suspended or Revoked License/No Insurance, Failure to Dim Headlights and Failure to Obey Traffic Lights. He was held on no bond.

On Sunday and Monday, a man — or men — ran up to two women on Wilson Blvd and on the W&OD Trail and grabbed the backside of each.

SEXUAL BATTERY (late), 2018-02190111, 6000 block of Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 1:35 p.m. on February 19, police were dispatched to the late report of an assault. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 1:50 p.m. on February 18, the female victim was waiting at the bus stop when an unknown male suspect approached her from behind and placed his hands on her back and buttocks. When the victim turned around, the suspect fled on foot. The suspect is described as a male with an average build, approximately 6’0″, wearing a black hoodie. The investigation is ongoing.

SEXUAL BATTERY (late), 2018-02190119, Washington and Old Dominion Trail. At approximately 2:34 p.m. on February 19, police responded to the late report of an assault. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 12:15 p.m., while the female victim was running on the Washington and Old Dominion Trail, a male suspect ran up behind her, grabbed her buttocks and fled on foot. The suspect is described as a black male, approximately 5’6″ to 5’10”, between the ages of 14 and 18, with a slim build, medium length hair, wearing black sweatpants and a hoodie, with black and white shoes. The investigation is ongoing.

On Saturday, D.C. police arrested a man accused of throwing an object at a passing car in Rosslyn and shattering a back window.

MISSILE INTO OCCUPIED VEHICLE, 2018-02170116, Fort Myer Drive at Lee Highway. At approximately 9:41 a.m. on February 17, police were dispatched to the report of destruction of property. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was driving her vehicle in the area when an object was thrown through a rear window, causing it to break. No injuries were reported. Witnesses followed the suspect as he fled on foot into D.C., where he was apprehended with assistance from the Metropolitan Police Department. A warrant for Shooting/Throwing Missiles at Occupied Vehicle was obtained for David Turner, 41, of Washington, D.C.

The rest of this past week’s crime report highlights, including some that we’ve already reported, after the jump.

(more…)

by Bridget Reed Morawski February 21, 2018 at 10:45 am 0

After nearly seven years of heavy use, Long Bridge Park is getting new synthetic turf.

County Manager Mark Schwartz has recommended awarding a $425,329 synthetic turf contract to GTR Turf Inc., a Canadian commercial and residential synthetic turf and artificial grass installation company.

The contract will cover the synthetic turf replacement at Long Bridge Park’s field three. Construction is expected to begin March 2018, continuing through “the second quarter of this year,” according to a County Board agenda item, scheduled to be considered at the Board’s Saturday meeting.

Arlington intends to replace two to three turf fields per year across the county as part of its capital improvement program for 2017-2026. Long Bridge Park’s fields one and four are slotted for replacement in 2019.

The synthetic turf fields were installed seven years ago, when the park opened in 2011, but are “now worn and beyond reasonable repair,” according to the recommendation to the County Board.

Seven companies were listed as contract bidders, six of which were American companies bidding between $437,645 and $663,650 for the project. There is a $42,532.90 contingency for change orders built into the proposed contract.

by Christina Sturdivant-Sani February 21, 2018 at 9:00 am 0

Photo by Rob Pegoraro

D.C. chancellor resigns, boutique gym to open near Capitol Hill, and other news of the day over in the District.

by ARLnow.com February 21, 2018 at 8:15 am 0

Pentagon City Metro Tunnel Now Open — At long last, the pedestrian tunnel from the corner of S. Hayes Street and 12th Street S. to the Pentagon City Metro station has opened. [Twitter]

Firefighters Push for RaiseIAFF Local 2800, which represents Arlington firefighters and paramedics, is pushing for a raise in this year’s county budget process. The group says Arlington’s compensation for public safety employees “is at the bottom of the DMV.” [Twitter]

Chamber Concerned With 4MRV Initiative — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce has written a letter to the County Board expressing concerns with the Four Mile Run Valley Initiative and possible changes to or acquisition of the light industrial properties along Four Mile Run Drive. [Arlington Chamber]

Growing Up Black in Arlington — From 1950 to 1962, growing up black in Arlington meant facing segregation and racism at every turn, and not feeling safe venturing out of the largely self-contained confines of a historically African-American neighborhood like Hall’s Hill. [Falls Church News-Press]

Arlington Startup Raises $3 Million — What started as a way for the owner of conveyor belt sushi chain Wasabi Sushi to streamline his accounting is now a venture-funded startup. Arlington-based MarginEdge has raised $3 million to go national with its restaurant management software. [Washington Business Journal]

Axios Makes ‘Most Innovative’ List Fast-growing Clarendon-based media startup Axios has been named one of the top 10 most innovative media companies of 2018. [Fast Company]

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