91°Scattered Clouds

by ARLnow.com — July 19, 2016 at 8:35 am 0

Swimming at the Dominion Hills pool (Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick)

Fairfax Wants Arlington’s Tourism Dollars — Fairfax County wants Arlington’s crown as the biggest tourism center in Virginia. “It’s our goal to beat out Arlington, and we’re going to continue giving it all we’ve got,” said Fairfax’s tourism chief, who is pushing for the county to build a new convention center. [InsideNova]

Free House in South Arlington — Here’s some truly affordable housing: a historic, all-steel Lustron house is being offered for free in south Arlington, to anyone willing to haul it away. [Twitter]

Super Pollo Wins Commuting Competition — Super Pollo in Ballston has won a county-sponsored competition “designed to encourage the Hispanic workforce to use modes of transportation other than driving alone when commuting to work.” [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

by ARLnow.com — June 21, 2016 at 8:00 pm 0

Libby Garvey at 2016 State of the County addressArlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey addressed transportation and affordable housing on Columbia Pike at her State of the County address Tuesday morning.

Garvey said the county needs to “fix the transportation” on the Pike, “not that it’s too bad now.” She referenced the Transit Development Plan for enhanced bus service on Columbia Pike, which the Board is expected to consider at its July meeting.

Garvey noted that there has been continued development along the Columbia Pike corridor. The cancellation of the streetcar project — Garvey led the charge against it — “hasn’t affected people as much as some would suggest,” she said.

Garvey also said the county needs to “slow down a bit” the pace of affordable housing development along Arlington’s western end of Columbia Pike, to avoid an over-concentration of affordable housing in one place.

“It’s great what we’re doing, but I think we have to be aware that you don’t want to concentrate it too much,” she said.

That should be welcome news to the Coalition of Arlingtonians for Responsible Development (CARD), a particularly vocal civic group formed last year in opposition to what it views as a clustering of affordable housing on Columbia Pike. The group says it favors a more even geographic distribution of affordable housing throughout Arlington.

by ARLnow.com — June 20, 2016 at 9:00 am 0

Crystal Car show in Crystal City on Father's Day 2016

Courthouse, Columbia Pike Developments Approved — At its Saturday meeting, the Arlington County Board approved a 90-unit condominium building at 2000 Clarendon Blvd in Courthouse. The Board voted 4-1, with John Vihstadt voting against, after hearing objections from residents of the nearby Odyssey condo tower. Also on Saturday, the Board unanimously approved a 105-unit condo building on the Rappahannock Coffee site on Columbia Pike. [Arlington County, Arlington County]

Plans Filed for New Affordable Complex in Rosslyn — The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing has filed preliminary plans to redevelop the 39-unit Queens Court apartment complex into a new, 12-story, 250-unit affordable apartment building, with underground parking and a 9,000 square foot public park and playground. The redevelopment was included in 2015’s Western Rosslyn Area Plan, or WRAP. [Washington Business Journal]

Woodlawn Park Renovations Approved — The Arlington County Board has approved a $616,000 contract for improvements to Woodlawn Park in the Waycroft-Woodlawn neighborhood. The improvements to the 3.2 acre park includes “replacing the playground equipment, updating the trails and better protecting Lubber Run stream.” [Arlington County]

Couple Gets Engaged at Local Event — A San Antonio, Texas couple got engaged at Friday night’s Wine in the Waterpark event in Crystal City. [Twitter]

Stream Restoration Project OKed — The Arlington County Board has unanimously approved a $3.5 million contract to restore the lower portion of the Four Mile Run stream. Work on the project, which has been in the works since 2000, is expected to begin later this summer and may result in some trail detours over the course of a year. [Arlington County]

First Day of Summer Today — Today is the first day of astronomical summer, the summer solstice and the longest day of the year. [Capital Weather Gang]

Leadership Arlington to Run Volunteer Arlington — The nonprofit group Leadership Arlington will be taking over the administration of Volunteer Arlington from Arlington County. Leadership Arlington won the contract in a competitive bidding process. Volunteer Arlington is “the County’s clearinghouse for volunteerism, matching volunteers with non-profits and government programs that rely on volunteers in carrying out their work.” [Arlington County]

by Jackie Friedman — June 9, 2016 at 10:20 am 0

The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, County Board members and other elected officials and community leaders broke ground yesterday afternoon on the Columbia Hills Apartments, located at 1010 S. Frederick Street, off of Columbia Pike.

“There is dire need for affordable housing” in Arlington, said APAH President and CEO Nina Janopaul. “We’ve lost 13,500 affordable homes since 2000 so this is an opportunity in a big way to help make up for that.”

Columbia Hills will be APAH’s 15th property. Their 14th property, The Springs Apartments in Buckingham, will be welcoming residents this fall.

The Columbia Hills Apartment property is a $91 million project that includes land donated by APAH and M&T Bank, federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits and innovative “hybrid financing.”

“We are proud of the financing and are very appreciative of our partners who have allowed us to take the parking lot out of service and donate it to the new project,” said Janopaul.

Columbia Hills will be built on 1.2 acres of APAH’s land adjacent to the Columbia Grove Apartments. The property includes 10 permanent supportive housing units and 13 accessible units, serving housing needs for senior and disabled residents who cannot live comfortably in the neighboring Columbia Grove walk-up apartments.

The connecting east and west buildings will each be eight stories tall. The buildings will have a total of 229 homes, including 64 studio apartments, 27 one-bedroom units, 110 two-bedroom units, and 28 three-bedroom homes.

The committed affordable apartments are available to lower income households earning 60% of Area Median Income (AMI). There are 10 designated for households below 40% AMI and 39 for households below 50% AMI.

“Columbia Hills is one of the first projects to be developed under the Arlington County’s award-winning Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Plan and will contribute significantly to meeting the Plan’s goal of preserving 3,000 affordable homes along Columbia Pike,” Janopaul said.

The apartments are expected to be completed in the spring of 2018.

by ARLnow.com — May 19, 2016 at 9:20 am 0

Cannon

Women of Vision Honorees Announced — The 2016 Arlington County Women of Vision award winners have been announced. The honorees are Arlington Public Library director Diane Kresh, Sprout CEO Rebecca Carpenter and STEM education advocate Susan Senn. Kresh, Carpenter and Senn will be honored at a ceremony on Tuesday, June 28. [Arlington County]

Immigration Rally in Arlington — Local immigrants rallied in Arlington last night “to make their voices heard — and some began the process of becoming a citizen.” Some 100 people attended the CASA-sponsored event. [WJLA]

APAH Gets Big Grant — The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing announced yesterday that it was one of 40 nonprofits nationwide to be selected for a grant from the Citi Foundation Community Progress Makers Fund. “APAH will receive a core operating support grant of $500,000 over the course of two years to continue its work in the community around affordable housing.” [APAH]

Photo by Jackie Friedman

by Adrian Cruz — May 18, 2016 at 4:55 pm 0

The Arlington County Board has approved the redevelopment of the Berkeley Apartments near Four Mile Run.

The Berkeley, located at 2910 S. Glebe Road near the Arlington-Alexandria border, currently contains 137 apartments in two four-story buildings. Of those, 110 are committed affordable.

The redevelopment will replace them with two five-story buildings containing 257 apartments, 155 of which are committed affordable. One hundred forty units will be family sized, containing two or more bedrooms.

“This project will add high-quality housing — both market rate and committed affordable — to Four Mile Run,” said County Board Chair Libby Garvey, in a press release. “Two older apartment buildings will be replaced, and we will gain a total of 45 affordable units — most of them big enough for families.”

The project’s developer, AHC Inc., will file an application with the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund to help finance the redevelopment. During the financial underwriting process, AHC is hoping to increase the number of committed affordable units from 70 percent to 80 percent.

AHC also committed to achieving Earthcraft Gold green building certification, ensuring that the buildings meet Energy Star requirements. Community benefits of the project include a widening of the Four Mile Run trail from 8 to 12 feet and a $75,000 public art contribution. 

The project was met with resistance from the Arlington Ridge Civic Association, which expressed concerns about the size of the new buildings.

Some building residents also expressed concerns a condition imposed by county staff that the property’s fence that runs along the Four Mile Mile Run trail be removed. The fence helps to improve the building’s security, residents said. County staff and others said the fence does not comply with the Four Mile Run Master Plan.

“The proposed fence would completely undercut that effort, and send a message to both Berkeley residents and others that Four Mile Run is a scary place to be avoided,” said Liz Birnbaum of the Four Mile Run Joint Task Force. “Just as we are beginning to achieve the Master Plan vision of an inviting, accessible Four Mile Run, the fence proposal denies that possibility.”

Ultimately, staff softened the language of the condition, instead requiring that the fence be removed no later than Dec. 31, 2026.

“The proposed change ensures that there will not be a continuous fence along the entire frontage of the Four Mile Run Trail and provides a date certain for removing the fence, while addressing the the applicant’s concerns related to safety and security in the near term,” staff wrote, noting that AHC preferred to keep the fence in place.

by ARLnow.com — May 13, 2016 at 3:35 pm 0

The Shelton apartment building (photo via AHC, Inc.)Residents of The Shelton apartment building in Nauck are speaking out about what they say are poor and unsafe living conditions at the affordable apartment complex.

The four-story building, at 3215 24th Street S., was built in 2009 and has 94 committed affordable apartments. There’s also a community center, landscaped courtyard with a play area and underground parking.

A letter signed by 19 residents alleges “poor and disrespectful customer service,” “harassment of residents by staff” and — most pointedly — problems with drug dealing and usage in and around the building, chronic loitering and a pest infestation.

“The Shelton was built and operates using public funds, but is not accountable to the residents or the community,” the letter says. “Our living conditions continue to deteriorate… It is not always a safe place for us or our children to live. Security currently in place is not adequate.”

“As residents we have a right to live in a building that is well maintained, welcoming and secure,” the letter continues. “We need dedicated staffing and security personnel on these premises that will work with us as tenants… Safety and security at the Shelton should be a priority for management and on-site staff.”

Arlington County Police Department records show that there were 125 calls for service to the apartment building between May 1, 2015 and today. While high, we’re told that’s not an excessive number for a large, multi-family building. The top four types of police calls to the building were for domestic incidents, noise complaints, trespassing and disorderly conduct.

Arlington-based AHC, which owns and manages The Shelton, has organized a community meeting in response to the letter, a spokeswoman told ARLnow.com this afternoon. That meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, May 18 at 6 p.m. at the building’s community room. It will “discuss any concerns [residents] may have” and provide “an update on the steps we have taken over the last several months to rectify several issues.”

AHC says trash areas in the building are now being checked daily and extra trash collection days have been scheduled to help address the pest problem. Also, adjustments are being made to correct inaccurate utility bills that were sent to some residents.

To address the safety issue, an automated system asking loiterers to “please move on” was recently installed near the 7-Eleven store and the automatic front door now prevents individuals from holding it open indefinitely. AHC says the building currently has 32 security cameras.

“AHC has deep roots in the Nauck community,” said AHC Communications Manager Celia Slater. “We are dedicated to working with local organizations like the Nauck Civic Association and the Bonder and Amanda Johnson Community Development Corporation. We continue to partner with Arlington County and other groups to help move forward plans for the Nauck neighborhood revitalization.”

The full letter from residents, after the jump.

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by ARLnow.com — May 11, 2016 at 11:30 am 0

2016 Arlington County BoardThe Arlington-based Alliance for Housing Solutions is raising questions about the “Blue Ribbon Panel” on county priorities that was unanimously approved by the County Board last month.

In a letter to the panel’s principle supporter, County Board Chair Libby Garvey, and the four other members of the County Board, AHS asks the Board to delay implementation of the panel — the six members are slated to be appointed at the Board’s meeting on Tuesday — and gather more public feedback.

Garvey said last month that the panel would serve an advisory role for the Board and would not set policy, thus negating the need for an extensive public process.

As an organization, AHS is dedicated to “preserving and increasing affordable housing in Arlington through public education, facilitation and action.”

The full letter from AHS leaders Eugene Hubbard and Mary Margaret Whipple, the former state legislator, is below.

Dear Madam Chair and Members of the County Board:

The Alliance for Housing Solutions is writing to express its disappointment in the Board’s unanimous adoption of the Blue Ribbon Panel Charge on April 19, 2016. We urge that the Board delay this process, including the appointment of Panel members, until the public has had reasonable opportunity to provide feedback and the Charge is clarified to explain what appear to be inconsistencies.

Our principal concerns are summarized as follows:

1. Process. While it is clear that the Blue Ribbon Panel and Charge were discussed among Board members and perhaps members of the public as well, there was virtually no notice that the Board would adopt the Charge and the language was not available for public review and comment. This flies in the face of repeated messages by many Board members of the need for greater transparency and adequate public advance notice of Board actions.

2. Governance. The complete scope of what is being asked of the members of the Panel is not clear but explicitly includes the ability to “Affirm the[se] goals and objectives [of the Comprehensive Plan] and/or consider policy areas that should be revisited.” This is high-level policy-making that we believe should not be in the hands of unelected persons.

Further, we believe that the need to create a process to set priorities is redundant. As the Charge itself notes, priorities are set every year by the County Board in the budget and CIP processes, with feedback from the community and from affected Commissions.

3. Inclusion. The Charge speaks of the Panel of six reflecting “broad diversity, including knowledge of and experience with Arlington Public Schools”. Respectfully, we think that such diversity of issues and concerns cannot be reflected by six persons in a six month process. Further, AHS is concerned about how the on-going roles of Commissions and other appointed bodies will be considered.

Thank you for your consideration of these views.

Sincerely,

Eugene Hubbard
Chair

Mary Margaret Whipple
President

by ARLnow.com — April 20, 2016 at 10:00 am 0

2016 Arlington County BoardA slight tax rate cut and more money for schools and public safety were the three big items of note during last night’s county budget approval.

The Board largely took the recommendations of County Manager Mark Schwartz, who presented his proposed budget in February, and voted unanimously for the new, $1.2 billion FY 2017 budget.

Under the budget, the property tax rate will be reduced by half a cent, to $0.991 for every $100 in assessed value, while the overall property tax burden on the average homeowner will increase from $7,640 to $7,829. The increase is due to a 2.8 percent rise in residential property assessments.

The budget provides more money for Arlington Public Schools than APS asked for, in stark contrast to the budget battle in Fairfax County.

APS, which is continuing to grapple with a burgeoning student population, will get a $466.9 million budget transfer from the county, a 3.3 percent increase over the previous fiscal year. That includes “$1.1 million in one-time and ongoing funding above the School Board’s funding request.”

The budget includes the biggest boost to Arlington’s public safety funding in years, satisfying some long-sought requests.

The fire department will get eight additional firefighters to convert existing three-person fire units to the recommended safe staffing level of four per unit. ACFD will also get four additional firefighters to address persistent strains to medic unit staffing during peak times.

“A positive step forward for public safety,” the Arlington Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association said via Twitter.

The police department will get six new officers to help the department “meet its core mission responsibilities.” The Sheriff’s Office, which is facing a lawsuit over the alleged mistreatment of a deaf jail inmate, is getting five new positions to “improve safety and security at the Courthouse and the Detention Center, bolster its administrative staff and add a uniformed American with Disabilities Act coordinator.”

Other notable budget items include:

  • An additional $1.5 million for Arlington Economic Development, “to focus on lowering the commercial vacancy rate.”
  • $13.6 million for the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund, which is $1.1 million more than proposed by the manager.
  • “Modest funding to continue the County’s open data efforts” and funding for livestreaming County Board work sessions and certain commission meetings.
  • Merit pay increases for county employees.
  • An increase in the living wage for county employees to $14.50 per hour, plus tuition reimbursement and continued funding for the Live Where You Work program.

“This is a good budget,” Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said in a statement. “Even as our population and school enrollment continue to grow, and our office vacancy rate remains high, the Board was able to put together a budget that preserves our community’s values, gives schools more funding than they requested, and adds funding for public safety, economic development and other key services – with a slight decrease in the tax rate.”

The budget is a complex document and the adopted budget is not yet online. Know of any other notable budget items not included here? Any quiet boosts or cuts in funding to a certain group or county department? Let us know in the comments.

by Buzz McClain — January 19, 2016 at 4:45 pm 0

Gov. Terry McAuliffe, photo by Jon Grant

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced a $750,000 award to the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) today during a ceremony at the Arlington Mill Community and Senior Center in south Arlington.

The funds, said APAH president and CEO Nina Janopaul, will go toward the construction of Columbia Hills Apartments, a new 229-apartment building scheduled to begin in May at South Frederick Street and Columbia Pike. The building will be erected in the parking lot of Columbia Grove Apartments, another APAH property.

“There are multiple financing tools, and this is an important piece of it,” Janopaul told ARLnews.com. “These funds will make [rents] more affordable for our residents and give us an opportunity to do a better job” of providing affordable housing.

Eleven nonprofits throughout the commonwealth received funding from the $6 million Virginia Housing Trust Fund Competitive Loan Pool during Tuesday’s ceremony. Along with two Richmond organizations, APAH’s $750,000 was the most granted to a regional housing nonprofit.

“On behalf of all the citizens of Virginia, I thank you,” McAuliffe told the audience in a fifth floor conference room at Arlington Mill. “Think of all the lives you have helped.”

Left to right: Maurice Jones, Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade; Nina Janopaul, APAH President/CEO; Gov. Terry McAuliffe; John Milliken, APAH Board Chairman; and Mike Chiappa, APAH Real Estate Associate; Photo by Jon Grant

by ARLnow.com — January 12, 2016 at 4:45 pm 0

The Springs, a new affordable apartment complex in the Buckingham area, near Ballston, celebrated its “topping out” last week.

The five story, 104-unit apartment building, at the corner of Carlin Springs Road and N. Thomas Street, is being developed by the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing. The project was approved by the Arlington County Board in 2014.

A topping out ceremony was held last Wednesday, after the construction project reached its highest point. Construction is expected to wrap up later this year.

“APAH purchased this site in 1997,” APAH Board member Susan Bell said in a statement. “Nine of APAH’s 14 properties are in North Arlington. The redevelopment of The Springs expands APAH’s presence in this wonderful Ballston location, just 1/2 mile from Metro and close to so many jobs and services.”

As part of the ceremony, more than 40 attendees, including County Board members and local legislators, signed a “commemorative beam” that will be installed on the top floor of the building.

“Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing is one of our key community partners,” said County Board Chair Libby Garvey. “Today only 9,600 Arlington apartments are affordable to the 17,000 low income families looking for housing in our community. With the targets set in the County’s Master Plan, we are committed to keeping Arlington a place where people from across the socioeconomic spectrum can live and work comfortably.”

by ARLnow.com — December 28, 2015 at 9:30 am 0

Cherry blossoms blooming in Rosslyn (Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk)

DoD Renews Leases on Crystal City Buildings — In a win for Arlington County’s beleaguered commercial real estate market, the GSA has renewed leases on two buildings with some 912,000 square feet of office space, in Crystal City, for the Department of Defense. [Washington Business Journal]

Church Decided to Sell After Hearing from Residents — While initially skeptical, a majority of the membership of the Arlington Presbyterian Church on Columbia Pike approved a plan to sell the church to an affordable housing developer after hearing the stories of working class residents who said they worked in Arlington but couldn’t afford to live there anymore. [Washington Post]

Fisette: Arlington Will Work to Improve Bike Rating — County Board member Jay Fisette says Arlington will work to improve its Bicycle Friendly Community rating. Arlington received a silver-level designation, but there are 29 U.S. communities that are either gold or platinum level. In order to achieve that, Arlington will need more bike lanes, bike programs for lower-income residents and bicycle-themed street events. [InsideNova]

Howell Introduces Courthouse Security Bill — State Sen. Janet Howell (D), whose sprawling district includes part of north Arlington, has introduced a bill intended to improve courthouse security. The bill would increase from $10 to $20 the maximum amount a local jurisdiction could charge a defendant convicted on traffic or criminal charges, to help fund security measures. [Richmond Sunlight]

Webb Responds to Criticism in Comments — Michael Webb, who hopes to run as a Republican against Rep. Don Beyer next year, has personally responded to criticism in the comments of the article about his campaign announcement. [ARLnow]

Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk

by Jennifer Currier — December 14, 2015 at 12:30 pm 0

Arlington Presbyterian Church (photo via Google Maps)

The Arlington County Board unanimously approved the redevelopment of Arlington Presbyterian Church into an apartment complex with 173 affordable housing units at its meeting on Saturday.

“For over 100 years, Arlington Presbyterian Church has been a place where people of vision, connected with the community, have heard and responded to the needs of our neighbors,” the church said in a release. “As a faith community, APC is committed to creating and nurturing a community of disciples, being a people and place of crossroads for the Columbia Pike neighborhood, and redeveloping their property to provide affordable housing for those in their community.”

The project is a partnership between the church congregation and the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, the organization overseeing the sale of the property at 3507 Columbia Pike, demolition of the church and construction of the apartment building.

“One of the key benefits of stable, affordable housing is the stable households it creates,” said John Milliken, vice chairman of the APAH Board of Directors at Saturday’s meeting. “It’s a unique and special opportunity to partner with APC… in carrying out what it has determined as its spiritual mission.”

As part of the vote, Board members also approved approximately $18 million in loans to help APAH fund the project.

Plans for affordable apartment building on Arlington Presbyterian Church site

The new building will also include a three-floor parking garage and ground floor retail space.

“This is another case where our development tools, coupled with major transportation investments, are helping us transform the Pike into the ‘main street’ that the community has long envisioned, while preserving the rich resident diversity that makes this part of Arlington so special,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement.

The church first approved the redevelopment plan in November 2013, but the sale of the church to APAH wasn’t until this February. Now that the loan from the County has been approved as well, the project is expected to move forward as planned.

At the meeting, community members spoke in support of the project’s final approval.

“[My wife and I] really love our neighborhood, its diversity, its walkability, the history, and the people,” Columbia Pike and Arlington Presbyterian Church member Miles Townes said. “We’re concerned some of our neighbors are not able to live in our neighborhood anymore, and we plainly see that the need for affordable housing is growing on the Pike.”

The project also has the support of other area faith communities.

“This project is a perfect example of doing something now for generations yet unborn that will look back and say ‘thank you,'” said the Rev. Andrew Merrow of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.

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by ARLnow.com — December 10, 2015 at 10:25 am 0

The Arlington County Board is scheduled to consider a project that would tear down Arlington Presbyterian Church along Columbia Pike and replace it with an affordable housing apartment building.

County staff is recommending approval of the project, which was approved by the church’s congregation in 2013. The church’s regional governing body gave the green light for its sale to the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing earlier this year.

APAH is proposing to tear down the church, which was built in 1931, and construct a six-story apartment building with 173 units, all of which will be committed affordable housing. The building would include a three-level parking garage and 8,900 square feet of retail or civic use space.

The church has proposed leasing much of the retail area for a non-traditional worship space. A coffee shop was also suggested as a possible retail use, in addition to the church.

The apartment building would also replace the church’s surface parking lot and its tot lots, which are currently used by daycare provider Funshine Preschool. The preschool is being relocated to 3412 22nd Street S. and the tot lots are expected to be sold to a single family home developer in order to help fund the apartment building’s construction.

The County Board is expected to follow staff’s recommendations and approve a rezoning, use permit and $8.6 million loan from its Affordable Housing Investment Fund for the project.

The church is located at 3507 Columbia Pike.

by Heather Mongilio — October 5, 2015 at 12:40 pm 0

Mike McMenaminAffordable housing continues to divide the candidates for County Board, with the two Democratic nominees supporting the Affordable Housing Master Plan and the two independents proposing alternative methods at a debate over the weekend.

The County Board candidates all announced varying degrees of support for increasing affordable housing in Arlington, but disagreed on the best way to implement it during a candidate forum held by Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement Sunday evening.

“Everyone’s in favor of everything, and that’s the balancing act in this community,” said independent candidate Mike McMenamin.

The county needs to focus on geographic distribution of affordable housing units, said McMenamin, who has previously said affordable housing is not one of his priorities. The county should also go back and address its 2003 targets for the amount of affordable units, which it only met twice, he added.

McMenamin, who does not support the Affordable Housing Master Plan passed by the County Board last month, said that the County Board needs to look at how to add affordable housing and address school capacity, without sacrificing parkland for more affordable housing units or more schools. Finding the money to support all of these plans is also a challenge, he added.

Audrey Clement

One of the high costs to the affordable housing plan is the choice to increase the amount of committed affordable units (CAFs) instead of trying to incentivize market-rate affordable units (MARKs), said Audrey Clement, the other independent candidate.

“There is a serious question of whether CAFs are the way to go,” Clement said.

The new Affordable Housing plan calls for 15,800 affordable housing units, and making them all CAFs would be too expensive for the county, she said, arguing that MARKs are cheaper.

“Private developers can build units much more cheaply than the county can, so limit new construction to onsite units in market-rate developments,” she said.

Clement has spoken out against the Affordable Housing Master Plan, and if elected, plans on creating a housing authority to oversee all housing concerns in Arlington, similar to the authorities in Fairfax County and Alexandria.

Both Democratic nominees, Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey, reaffirmed their support in the affordable housing plan.

Beyond affordable housing, candidates all addressed community concerns about the disconnect between Arlington residents and the Board. The “Arlington Way,” the county’s system of community involvement in decision-making, needs some retuning, candidates said.

Christian DorseyIt is on the community’s shoulder to tell County Board members what the problems are in the county, Dorsey said.

“It’s not what I am going to do. It’s what you all are going to do, and everybody else in Arlington. You all are going to tell us what is necessary to make sure every voice counts,” he said. “It does not work if elected officials tell you what they are going to do to listen. You have to tell us what we need to do to make sure your voices are heard.”

It’s also about going to meet the community where they are, Dorsey and Cristol said.

“We have to get rid of this excuse that they don’t come to our meetings,” Cristol said.

Increasing community engagement means making meetings at times that are reasonable to community members and personally inviting leaders to come to meetings, she said.

It’s also important that the public is brought into the process at the beginning, not the tail end, said McMenamin, citing the recent discussions about Fire Station 8.

If elected, he plans on going to community meetings, talking to people at farmer’s markets and even knocking on people’s doors to get their opinions about bigger decisions, he said.

“You have to listen to the neighborhoods and do what’s right,” he said.

Katie CristolIn addition to fixing the “Arlington Way,” all candidates pledged to focus on the school capacity crisis and the commercial vacancy rate issues that are plaguing the county.

Addressing the school capacity rate needs to be figured out by both the Arlington School Board and the County Board, Cristol said, adding the community has to be involved from the beginning.

“To me, this issue is one of how do we manage our growth,” she said.

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