Sebastian Gorka, a former aide to President Trump fired amidst mounting criticism of his anti-Muslim views, is coming to Arlington to raise money for local Republicans.
The Arlington Republican Women’s Club announced this weekend that Gorka will be a featured guest at its Sept. 23 fundraiser, to be held at the Army-Navy Country Club. Tickets run anywhere from $25 to $250 for the evening.
Long a fixture on Fox News and other right-wing news outlets, Gorka joined the Trump administration shortly after doing consulting work for the campaign on foreign policy matters. Yet he frequently courted controversy during his time in the White House, particularly after reporters discovered his ties to far-right, anti-Semitic groups in Hungary, and he was dismissed from his post last August.
Carole DeLong, the president of the Republican Women’s Club, told ARLnow that she expects Gorka “will speak to us about his time in the White House, and the interesting subjects of his books.” Gorka’s published works include “Why We Fight: Defeating America’s Enemies — With No Apologies” and “Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War.”
DeLong added that she recently met Gorka at an event they both attended, and quickly convinced him to come speak in Arlington.
“He is a very nice and unique person,” DeLong said. “We are all so happy that he agreed.”
Arlington Democrats are considerably less enthused about Gorka’s imminent arrival in the county.
County Democratic Committee Chair Jill Caiazzo dubbed Gorka a “far-right ideologue” in a statement, highlighting his vocal defense of Trump’s travel ban targeting majority Muslim countries, in particular. She noted that her committee happens to holding its own potluck on the same day, headlined by U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th District), which she sees as a clear contrast between the two parties.
“Like the races on the ballot in November, it’s not a hard choice for Arlington voters who seek to reject the extreme Trump-GOP agenda, including the discriminatory travel bans championed by Dr. Gorka,” Caiazzo said. “We look forward to seeing those voters at the potluck and the polls.”
Despite Caiazzo’s criticisms, DeLong said she had no compunctions about working with Gorka, calling him “delightful to work with.”
Gorka has made headlines in Arlington once before, prompting a brief Twitter outcry when someone spotted his distinctive Ford Mustang with the vanity plate “ART WAR” parked on a sidewalk near Rosslyn’s Gateway Park.
— Bilsko (@Bilsko) October 31, 2017
Photo via @SebGorka
Army-Navy Country Club Employee Alleges Supervisor Used Racial Slurs — A former golf cart attendant at the club claims that one of his bosses repeatedly used racist language to refer to him and former President Barack Obama. It seems the supervisor has been fired, and the club’s employees are receiving sensitivity training. [Falls Church News-Press]
Crystal City Hotel to Host Anti-Muslim Group’s Conference — ACT for America will hold its annual gathering at the Crystal City Hyatt this fall. The group has alleged that Muslims can’t be loyal citizens of the United States and held “anti-Sharia” marches across the country, prompting Muslim groups to call on the hotel to abandon the event. [DCist]
Man Accused of Indecent Exposures Around Rosslyn Previously Convicted in Alexandria — County police arrested Fairfax County resident Santiago Rodriquez Campos on indecent exposure charges Monday, and it seems he’s been convicted on similar charges in the past. Immigration officials also believe he entered the country illegally. [WJLA]
Arlington Police Chief Reviews Restructuring — Chief Jay Farr says all has largely gone smoothly with the county’s restructuring of the department to cope with a staffing crunch, which kicked off in May. The county even has its largest class of recruits ever currently in training. [Arlington Connection]
County First Responders Make a Special Delivery — Arlington medics were hoping to get an expecting mother to a D.C. hospital, but her baby had other plans. They made it to the Virginia Hospital Center in the nick of time. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by ksrjghkegkdhgkk
County officials seem to have found some money to speed up design work on an access road to link the Arlington View neighborhood to Army Navy Drive.
County Manager Mark Schwartz initially proposed some hefty delays for the project, which is set to stretch across a section of the Army Navy Country Club, in his proposed 10-year plan for county construction efforts. Under his proposal, design work on the effort wouldn’t even start until fiscal year 2027, with construction set for 2029.
The county’s budget challenges have ensured that Arlington officials haven’t suddenly found enough money to build the road, and its accompanying bike and pedestrian trails, right away. But county staff did manage to track down about $230,000 to pay for design and engineering work starting in fiscal year 2020, officials told the County Board during a work session Tuesday (July 10).
That news is quite welcome for Board members and residents alike, considering that the county has been working to build the 30-foot-wide road since 2010, in order to better connect Columbia Pike to Crystal City.
The road would run from S. Queen Street, near Hoffman-Boston Elementary, to the I-395 underpass, where a country club access road meets up with Army Navy Drive. The process of securing an easement to even cross the country club in the first place was a challenging one for the county, but the two sides ultimately struck a deal after the county agreed to allow the club to build a larger clubhouse than county zoning rules would ordinarily permit.
Staff cautioned the Board that reallocating this money for design work won’t do anything to change when the project gets built, at least for the time being. But members supported the change all the same as a way to provide some more detailed plans for the Board to consider a few years from now, when the county’s fiscal picture could improve.
“At least it’s getting us somewhere,” said Board member Erik Gutshall. “We’ve got to move the ball forward.”
In order to get that design work moving, the Board would need to pull $105,000 away from some minor arterial road projects over the next two fiscal years, and another $125,000 away from the “Walk Arlington” program for pedestrian-centric projects. The latter move will leave just $50,000 available for the program in 2020 and 2021.
But Board members seem to believe the funding shake-up is well worth it, particularly as bicycling advocates stress the importance of the project.
“There is a compelling case to be made that this will allow one of our largest growing population centers, Columbia Pike, to have more access to one of our major commercial and office centers of Crystal City,” Board Chair Katie Cristol said. “The most important thing is we get the scope of this proiect to the point where we can have those conversations about feasibility.”
County transportation director Dennis Leach cautioned that additional examinations of the project could reveal that it’s too challenging for the county to pursue. He noted that the “steep grades” in the area, combined with its proximity to woodlands and I-395, could all combine to make the effort “extremely expensive.”
Initial estimates pegged construction costs around $5.2 million, but the county hasn’t updated that figure in years.
Cristol added that there are also “big questions” about whether the county can afford to bring the project into compliance with federal accessibility laws. However, she did suggest that one avenue for addressing those cost concerns might be redirecting some revenue generated by the commercial and industrial property tax on Crystal City businesses, as the area would potentially stand to benefit from the project.
“I look forward to the prospect of a taking a better scoped project and having a conversation with the business community about whether it’s a proper use of that tax money,” Cristol said.
The Board will make the reallocation of money for the access road official when it votes to approve a final Capital Improvement Plan on Saturday (July 14).
Photo via Google Maps
Construction work on an access road crossing a portion of Army Navy Country Club could be pushed back by nearly a decade, as Arlington grapples with a funding squeeze impacting transportation projects.
County Manager Mark Schwartz’s proposed Capital Improvement Plan calls for engineering work on the project, which is designed to link the Arlington View neighborhood to Army Navy Drive, to start by fiscal year 2027 with construction kicking off two years later. The county has long expected to start design work for the project by fiscal year 2020, with work to begin in 2022.
Since 2010, county officials have aimed to build the new road, which would be reserved for emergency vehicles looking to more easily cross I-395, as well as bicyclists and pedestrians. The 30-foot-wide road would run from S. Queen Street, near Hoffman-Boston Elementary, to the I-395 underpass, where a country club access road meets up with Army Navy Drive.
The process has required a good bit of back-and-forth with the country club — the county only secured an easement on the club’s property as part of a deal to allow Army Navy’s owners to build a larger clubhouse than county zoning rules would ordinarily permit. Some members of the country club even sued the county to block the arrangement, over concerns that cyclists and pedestrians on the proposed trail would be disruptive to golfers.
Yet Arlington leaders have pressed ahead with the project all the same, with the County Board approving two different updates to the county’s Capital Improvement Plan, known as the CIP, including funding for the project.
Schwartz hasn’t gone so far as to ask the Board to abandon the project — his proposed CIP calls for the county to spend $837,000 on engineering work in fiscal years 2027 and 2028 — but the delay does reflect Arlington’s new challenges paying for transportation projects.
As he’s unveiled the new CIP, Schwartz has frequently warned that the deal hammered out by state lawmakers to send the Metro system hundreds of millions of dollars in annual funding has hammered localities like Arlington. Not only does the deal increase the county’s annual contribution to Metro, but it sucks away money from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, a regional body that would ordinarily help localities fund transportation projects.
With the county having to shift money around to compensate for those changes, officials say smaller projects like the Army Navy access road will necessarily suffer.
“Overall, the transportation CIP has fewer resources for smaller, neighborhood-scale improvements due to reduced funding resulting from legislation,” Jessica Baxter, a spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Environmental Services, told ARLnow via email.
The project’s delay comes as particularly bad news for people living in the Arlington View neighborhood. One resident, Eric Davis, told ARLnow via email that he fears delaying the project would “endanger the lives of nearby bicyclists and pedestrians.”
“With Columbia Pike being our only access out of the neighborhood, this new access road would give us a safe alternative to reaching Pentagon City, Crystal City, and other points east,” Davis wrote. “And, if/when connected to the Washington Boulevard path currently under construction, it then becomes an essential north/south connection in Arlington for bikes and pedestrians.”
Davis also pointed out that the project as a whole could be in jeopardy if delayed much longer.
The county’s CIP documents note that the easement for the country club’s land was recorded back in March 2012, and “may terminate automatically if construction contracts are not awarded within 20 years of that date.” Baxter noted that “the current schedule anticipates completion before the easement expires,” however.
Any delay is also contingent on the County Board approving the change in the CIP. The Board is in the midst of holding a series of work sessions on the CIP this month, but doesn’t expect to sign off on a final spending plan until July 14.
Photo via Google Maps
Family Wants to See Relative Shot By Police — The family of Steven Best, who was shot by police last week after allegedly trying to ram a police cruiser with a van, says they have not been allowed to see him nor have they been given information on his condition. [WJLA]
Legislative Threat Helped Country Club Tax Deal — “The decision by two Arlington country clubs to take their case to the General Assembly helped get all parties to come together on a deal more expeditiously than otherwise might have been the case, the Arlington government’s top legal official said,” reports the Sun Gazette. Arlington clubs, meanwhile, “came away with most of what they were seeking in assessment reductions.” [InsideNova, Washington Post]
Local Sixth Graders Make Headlines — A fourth-period, sixth-grade class at Gunston Middle School is the May Class of WaPo’s KidsPost. [Washington Post]
Marymount Employee’s Boston Marathon Journey — Katie Sprinkel, a lab coordinator and adjunct professor at Arlington’s Marymount University, overcame knee and leg injuries — and a battle with breast cancer — to finish this year’s Boston Marathon. She was back at work the next day. [Marymount University]
Arlington Among Top Walkable Places — Arlington is No. 9 on a list of the most walkable communities in the country. The list was compiled by the travel site Expedia. [Viewfinder]
Major Metro Work Starting Next Summer — “There will be no service on Metro’s Blue and Yellow lines south of Reagan National Airport for 98 days beginning in May 2019, as the transit agency embarks on a platform rebuilding project spanning six stations, part of an effort to refurbish 20 station platforms over three years.” Arlington’s East Falls Church Metro station is also on the list of platforms to be rebuilt. [Washington Post, WMATA]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) A dispute between two private country clubs and Arlington County that resulted in some wrangling in Richmond seems to have come to an end.
The Army Navy Country Club (1700 Army Navy Drive) and Washington Golf and Country Club (3017 N. Glebe Road) were both pushing for property tax changes that could have cost the county roughly $1.4 million in tax revenue each year, even backing legislation at the state level this year to force those alterations. That miffed county leaders, who bristled at attempts by the state General Assembly to change Arlington’s tax policy to save money for the golf courses.
Now, the county has agreed to reduce the tax burden on each club by tweaking how it values their land, according to an April 27 email sent out by the Washington Golf and Country Club’s president and obtained by ARLnow. County attorney Steve MacIsaac confirmed that the parties have signed off on a settlement agreement, putting to bed a 2014 lawsuit brought by the clubs over the tax question.
“Like any settlement, both sides give a little bit to get to a mutually acceptable outcome,” MacIsaac told ARLnow.
Gov. Ralph Northam (D) had vetoed the bill addressing the issue in the hopes that the county and the clubs would come to some sort of compromise, and his spokeswoman Ofirah Yheskel said his office is “still evaluating the details but support[s] a locally negotiated solution here.”
The country clubs had backed the legislation, sponsored by Del. Tim Hugo, R-40th District, which would have forced the county to change how it assesses the value of the roughly 630 acres held by the two clubs.
Currently, the courses are valued as “large acreage parcels” at $12 per square foot, while residential land near each course is valued as high $100 per square foot. Hugo’s legislation would have slashed the rate to about 50 cents per square foot, in a bid to meet persistent concerns from the courses that they were overtaxed.
Washington Golf and Country Club President Stephen Fedorchak wrote a letter to members explaining that the county now has agreed to reduce the club’s valuation from “approximately $93 million to approximately $47 million” in 2018, which reduces the club’s property tax bill this year to about $460,000. Arlington also plans to credit $815,000 toward the club’s current tax bill to make up for the last three tax bills the club has paid at the previous, higher valuation, MacIsaac added.
“We are gratified by this reasonable, sustainable resolution,” Fedorchak wrote to members. “It will benefit the club’s general fiscal health for years to come.”
Raighne Delaney, the Army Navy Country Club’s secretary, did not respond to a call seeking details on the structure of his course’s deal with Arlington. But MacIsaac estimated that the club will receive about $1.25 million in credits toward its tax bill, and the valuation of the property will shrink by 25 to 35 percent under the terms of the settlement.
The Army Navy Country Club was assessed at just over $149 million for 2018, and was set to owe about $842,000 in taxes this year before any credits.
Starting in 2019, the clubs’ assessments will “increase or decrease based on the average annual change in the county’s residential real estate assessments,” Fedorchak wrote. Should the assessment change “outside those parameters” the clubs reserve the right to challenge that valuation, Fedorchak noted.
Arlington officials have previously argued that land is at a premium in the 26-square-mile county, necessitating the higher taxes.
“Our community is already grappling with reductions to services in order to address budget gaps for the upcoming fiscal year and larger projected budget gaps in future years,” the county board wrote in a March 21 letter to Northam urging him to veto Hugo’s bill.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has vetoed legislation that would have dramatically reduced Arlington County’s tax revenue from two country clubs.
HB 1204 would have reduced the tax bills for Army Navy Country Club and Washington Golf and Country Club, but would have cost the county’s coffers nearly $1.5 million annually.
The state legislature will now have an opportunity to override the veto.
More from an Arlington County press release:
“We are grateful to Governor Northam for vetoing HB 1204,” Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol said. “The governor, by his action to keep authority over local property assessments in the hands of local government, and not in Richmond, has shown real leadership. This legislation had major implications for all localities across the Commonwealth.”
Arlington encourages all local governments to unify and ask their legislators to sustain the veto when the General Assembly reconvenes April 18 at the State Capitol, Cristol said.
“We are committed to resolving the assessment issue with the golf courses, and we are confident that we can find an equitable solution,” she said. “I want to thank our Arlington delegation for standing strong with us throughout this process.”
In his veto message, Northam says that he expects Arlington and the clubs to reach a compromise soon. The clubs are suing the county, fighting back against what they say is an unfair way to assess what is essentially open space — treating the many acres of golf courses as developable land.
The governor’s veto message is below.
Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I veto House Bill 1204, which requires the County of Arlington to assess two private country clubs within its boundaries as land dedicated to open space rather than its current method of highest and best use.
This is a local dispute over a local government’s method of assessing land for property taxation. As such, the solution to this dispute should be reached on the local level without the involvement of the state.
I have been assured that an agreement acceptable to both sides of this dispute is close to being reached. I encourage the parties to continue negotiations to find a solution so that similar legislation will not be necessary in the future.
Accordingly, I veto this bill.
Ralph S. Northam
Northam Talks Golf Course Bill — Speaking on WTOP’s “Ask the Governor” program, Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) addressed the country club tax bill that Arlington officials want him to veto. Northam said the taxation of Army Navy Country Club, which counts numerous veterans among its members, particularly “needs to be addressed” and that if negotiations are not successful he will “step in and take action,” though the exact action he would take is unclear. [WTOP]
How Arlington Almost Was Home to the Nationals — Boosters of baseball in Arlington almost succeeded in bringing a Major League Baseball team to the county. The Nationals, before landing near Navy Yard in D.C., were considering a stadium site in Pentagon City, but a series of unfortunate events nixed it. [Arlington Magazine]
ART Bus Turns into Sauna — From a Twitter user yesterday: “@ART_Alert my bus driver just begged me to contact you and ask to get his bus fixed. The heat is stuck on the bus and it must be 95 degrees inside.” [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
The Arlington County Board sent a letter to Gov. Ralph Northam today (March 27) requesting that he veto a bill adopted by the General Assembly that would provide big tax savings to two Arlington country clubs but cost the county millions.
The bill would mandate an open space assessment of golf course properties in the county, providing big tax breaks to Washington Golf and Country Club and Army Navy Country Club. According to a county press release, the assessment changes would result in a county revenue loss of about $1.43 million per year.
The hit to the county’s coffer would require “significant potential reductions in the areas of student education, public safety, transportation, community health, and social services,” the letter said, suggesting also that the “preferential tax treatment” conflicted with the Code of Virginia and the state constitution.
“This bill comes at a time when our community is already grappling with reductions to services in order to address budget gaps for the upcoming fiscal year and larger projected budget gaps in future years,” said the letter, which was signed by all five County Board members.
The full text of the letter after the jump.
Dear Governor Northam:
We are writing to respectfully request that you veto HB1204, a bill adopted by the General
Assembly mandating the open space assessment of golf course properties in Arlington County.
In an effort to provide preferential tax treatment to two golf clubs in Arlington, the bill conflicts
with the Constitution and Code of Virginia, sets a dangerous precedent for real property tax
assessment decisions to be made in Richmond instead of at the local level, and undermines state
laws related to the preservation of open space. Moreover, this legislated tax relief solely for two
golf clubs has a substantial budgetary impact on Arlington County at the expense of schools,
public safety, public services, public health, and transportation.
This bill would require Arlington County to assess the two country clubs located in the County
as land devoted to open space. It mandates an assessment for Arlington’s golf courses that
currently is only available through an optional program local governments may adopt by
ordinance. Such programs would require participating properties to pay taxes on the full fair
market value of their property for the five years prior to when they choose to leave the program
(“roll back taxes”), something HB1204 does not require.
Enacting this legislation is a dangerous intrusion into the local real estate assessment process
which has traditionally been the sole province of local decision making, and sets a dangerous
precedent of the General Assembly becoming the venue for what is at its core a local issue,
potentially leading to further future carve outs for preferred property owners through legislation
sought under the pretense of equity. Further, the legislation undermines the Use Value Taxation
Program in Virginia, which since its inception in 1972, has provided preferential tax treatment
for certain categories of real estate in exchange for their preservation. HB1204 clearly provides
the preferential tax treatment but, contrary to the Code of Virginia, does not require preservation
of the property as open space, and absolves property owners from paying any tax recapture upon
sale of their land.
Finally, HB1204 would result in a decrease of County tax revenue by $1.43 million annually,
necessitating significant potential reductions in the areas of student education, public safety,
transportation, community health, and social services. This bill comes at a time when our
community is already grappling with reductions to services in order to address budget gaps for
the upcoming fiscal year and larger projected budget gaps in future years.
The County and the clubs had been utilizing the process established by the General Assembly for
all property owners to challenge their assessments – namely through the Board of Equalization
and the Circuit Court. While this process is not yet completed, we understand the concerns
expressed by Washington Golf and Country Club and Army Navy Country Club. The County
has, in the context of settlement discussions, proposed a revised approach to valuation of the
clubs, and has expressed our willingness to work together to identify options to reduce their tax
liability under the law. Given the good faith efforts to resolve the pending litigation with both
clubs, and to mutually agree upon a valuation approach going forward, the County is requesting
the time to address this matter locally instead of through legislative mandate. We are confident
that we can reach a mutually agreeable resolution with both clubs, preventing this issue from
returning to the General Assembly in the 2019 session.
For these reasons, we respectfully request that you veto this legislation. Thank you in advance
for your consideration and for all that you do to support counties, cities and towns throughout the
Katie Cristol – Chair
Christian Dorsey – Vice-Chair
Libby Garvey – Member
John Vihstadt – Member
Erik Gutshall – Member
Dem Support for Country Club Bill Slips — A procedural vote in the Virginia House of Delegates to send the Arlington country club bill to the governor’s desk passed, but without a veto-proof margin. Some Democratic lawmakers who supported the bill the first time around voted no instead. If signed by Gov. Ralph Northam (D), the legislation would greatly lower the property taxes of Army Navy Country Club and Washington Golf and Country Club. [InsideNova]
Food Trucks Grumble About Festival Fees — “To participate in May’s Taste of Arlington festival… food trucks must pay a flat fee of between $400 and $500. Festival attendees purchase tickets worth $5 each that can be redeemed at food trucks for a few bites. When the gates close, event organizers reimburse the food truck between 25 and 75 cents per ticket… Would you sign this contract?” [Washington City Paper]
‘Women of Vision’ Awards — Nominations are now being accepted for the 2018 Arlington Women of Vision Awards. The nomination deadline is April 20. [Arlington County]
How to Do Business With Arlington — Arlington is hosting an event next week that will show small businesses “the nuances of successfully doing business with Arlington County.” Per the event website: “Experts will be speaking on topics such as obtaining opportunities to work with the County and understanding the procurement process.” [Arlington Economic Development]
Nearby: Alexandria Tops Tourism List — Alexandria is No. 1 on Money magazine’s “The 20 Best Places to Go in 2018” list, topping Anaheim, Calif., the home of Disneyland, among other destinations. Harper’s Ferry, W. Va. was ranked No. 2. [Washington Post]
Partisans Stake Out Sides on Country Club Tax Bill — There are two very different political perspectives on the state bill that would greatly lower the tax bills of Arlington’s two country clubs. On one hand, a writer on the conservative blog Bearing Drift says Arlington’s tax treatment of Army-Navy Country Club (which is covered by the bill along with Washington Golf & Country Club) is “manifestly unfair, and… impacts an especially distinguished and patriotic group of older folks.” On the other hand, progressive blog Blue Virginia says the bill, which passed the Virginia General Assembly last week, should be vetoed by Gov. Ralph Northam (D) because it would “lavish big $$$ on super-rich people, weaken local autonomy vs state AND set a horrible precedent.” [Bearing Drift, Blue Virginia]
County Launches Online Payments for Building Permits — After years of grumbles from local businesses, starting today Arlington County is accepting online payments for building permits. Payments can only be made online when one is submitting permits via the ePlan Review portal. [Arlington County]
Arlington Tourism Tax Bill Passes — “More than a dozen Republican members of the House of Delegates voted against, but Arlington’s effort to retain its ability to levy a surtax on hotel stays to pay for tourism promotion is headed to the governor’s desk.” [InsideNova]
Arlingtonian Making World Record Attempt — Crystal City resident and elite runner Tyler Andrews will attempt to break the 3o-year-old record for fastest 50K run next month. [STRIVE Trips]
First Down Marks Ninth Anniversary — First Down Sports Bar & Grill in Ballston is celebrating 9 years in business today. [ARLnow Events]
Nearby: Lebanese Taverna Closing in Bethesda — Arlington-based local restaurant chain Lebanese Taverna is closing its Bethesda location, citing an inability to reach agreement on a new lease with the landlord of Bethesda Row. [Bethesda Beat]
Photo courtesy Paola Lyle
Golf Course Tax Bill Passes — A bill that would provide a massive tax break to two Arlington country clubs has passed the Virginia General Assembly. The bill, if signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam (D), would cost Arlington $1.5 million or more in tax revenue. [Washington Post]
Military Couple Fights Wife’s Deportation — The wife of a retired Army special forces veteran was to face deportation in an Arlington-based immigration court next week, but the Dept. of Homeland Security is now offering to drop the proceedings. Prior to the reversal, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) called said via social media: “Military families should not be targeted like this. It’s unconscionable.” [Military Times, Twitter]
Cherry Blossom Bloom Prediction — The National Park Service expects peak bloom for the Tidal Basin cherry blossoms to take place March 17-20. [PoPville]
Beyer’s GOP Challenger — “The Republican challenger to U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D) used a Feb. 28 meeting of the Arlington County Republican Committee to introduce himself to the county’s GOP rank-and-file. ‘I look forward to the campaign,’ said Thomas Oh… an Army veteran and currently a contractor in Falls Church.” [InsideNova]
County Seeking Budget Feedback — Arlington County is seeking feedback on its proposed budget. The online survey asks residents to weigh in on various priorities, including county employee raises, economic development, Metro funding, school funding, infrastructure investment and affordable housing. [SurveyMonkey]
A state bill targeted at helping country clubs in Arlington would cost the county more than $2 million in tax revenue, an internal county report says.
HB 1204, patroned by Fairfax and Prince William County Del. Tim Hugo (R), passed the House of Delegates last week by a vote of 65-33-1. The bill would “reserve to the Commonwealth the power to classify golf courses as land dedicated to open space for assessment and tax purposes,” according to an internal Arlington County fact sheet.
More from the bill’s summary:
Requires the assessing official in any county that experienced at least a 14% increase in population from 2010 to 2016 to specially and separately assess real property that is devoted to open space and contains at least five acres based on the actual physical use of the property, if requested to do so by the owner. The measure is effective for taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2018.
The bill only would apply to Arlington and Loudoun counties, we’re told, and it would primarily affect the tax assessments of two entities: Army Navy Country Club and Washington Golf and Country Club, both in Arlington.
The country clubs are currently suing the county, challenging their respective assessments. Arlington assesses each based in part on their potential value as developable land, meaning that the assessments — and yearly tax bills — are much higher than if the clubs were assessed only on the basis of their current use.
Army Navy Country Club, near Pentagon City, was assessed at $149 million this year, and paid $1.5 million in taxes last year, according to county records. Washington Golf and Country Club, located along N. Glebe Road near Marymount University, is assessed at $79 million and paid about $839,000 in taxes last year.
The internal county report says that the country clubs are both currently assessed as “large acreage parcels,” valued at about $12 per square foot. By comparison, some residential property near WGCC is assessed at nearly $100 per square foot. Should the legislation pass, the assessed value of the clubs is expected to drop to around $0.50 per square foot, costing the county nearly $2.4 million.
“This is a bad bill for Arlington County government and for Arlington County property owners,” said County Board Chair Katie Cristol, adding that it would set a “damaging precedent.”
The Virginia Municipal League is opposing Hugo’s bill, which is currently being considered by the state Senate. In an email, the organization urged localities to take action.
“Notwithstanding the arguments posed by the bill’s proponents, the measure shatters existing state policy,” the email said. “If approved, nothing will prevent future General Assemblies from giving away local tax dollars and disregarding land use and tax policy decisions that belong to local governments. And, for the record, HB 1204 does not obligate the Commonwealth to reimburse local governments for the resulting lost revenues.”
The state Senate’s Finance Committee is expected to discuss the legislation at a hearing Tuesday morning.
At its meeting Saturday, two County Board members supported advertising a higher property tax rate, based on the risk of lost tax revenue from the bill. A majority of the Board, however, voted against raising the rate.
Arson Not Suspected in Ashton Heights Blaze — The house fire that critically injured an occupant of a house on N. Ivy Street in Ashton Heights “doesn’t appear to be malicious,” says the Arlington County Fire Department. The blaze caused about $300,000 in damage to the home. [Twitter]
Homes in Arlington Get Pricier — “A total of 237 properties went to closing in September, up 8.7 percent from the 218 transactions a year before… With the increase in sales came a nearly identical hike in average sales price, which was up 8.8 percent to $640,441.” [InsideNova]
Police: Arlington Woman Left Stroller in Middle of Road — “A 19-year-old Arlington woman was arrested on Sunday after she allegedly left an infant in a stroller in the middle of the road in Woodbridge while she bit and assaulted an acquaintance during an argument.” [Prince William Times]
Lidl Struggling to Break Into U.S. Market — Lidl, the German grocery chain with its U.S. headquarters in Crystal City, is reportedly pulling out of a lease deal in Prince George’s County, Md. as it struggles to gain market share in the U.S. [Washington Business Journal]
Lost Dog Taking in Shelter Pets from Puerto Rico — The Arlington-based Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation is among the local organizations taking in shelter pets from hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. [WJLA]
Grohl References ‘Mario’s Pizza’ at D.C. Show — Northern Virginia native Dave Grohl said “we’re all going to Mario’s Pizza” while wrapping up a Foo Fighters performance at The Anthem in D.C. last night. The band will headline the venue’s grand opening tonight. [Twitter]
There’s been a lot of clean-up in Arlington following last Thursday’s strong storms that produced a weak tornado.
The National Weather Service says the tornado formed adjacent to the Army Navy Country Club and lasted for six minutes on its 4.5 mile journey through Pentagon City and into Washington, D.C. The F-0 tornado had peak winds of 60-70 miles per hour.
The Army Navy Country Club property experienced quite a bit of damage, and a spokesperson issued the following statement to ARLnow on Monday:
“The tornado did interrupt some of the Club’s golf operations, as we had to close 18 of the 27 holes of golf in the Club’s Arlington location. Due to the tornado, we lost dozens of trees, several water coolers, trash cans, and benches on the course. We are fortunate that the path of the tornado did not cause any injuries or damages to the buildings.”
The last time a tornado was recorded in Arlington was on September 24, 2001, when an F-1 that originated in Fairfax County traveled northeast for 15 miles through Alexandria and Arlington, then it crossed the 14th Street Bridge into the District. It caused extensive damage and injured two people in south Arlington.
The scene was different for Thursday’s tornado in Arlington and the two others confirmed in the region that day, said Chris Strong, a warning coordination meteorologist with NWS Baltimore/Washington. Not only were the tornadoes weaker, but they also formed in a different manner.
“These weaker ones last week were basically eddies along a gust front, rather than more classic supercell thunderstorm tornadoes,” Strong says. “Those eddies produced small whirls of wind that in narrow corridors snapped some trees and caused siding and roofing damages.”
Some of that damage occurred when a portion of the facade and roof of the Macy’s at the Pentagon City mall ripped off and fell onto a car, resulting in one minor injury.
Technological advances have prompted changes in how local emergency managers warn the public about tornadoes and other weather emergencies. Some parts of the country, especially those that are more prone to tornadoes, use sirens as a warning. But sirens aren’t necessarily as effective in Arlington and the District, partially because of the dense buildings and foliage.
“Tornado sirens are not used much in this region of the country,” Strong said. “One of the reasons they work better in tornado alley is the wide open spaces with lack of trees that allows the sound to travel well.”
Outdoor audible warning systems other than sirens have had varying success as well. In 2007, Arlington received a federal grant and launched a pilot for an outdoor warning system with speakers and sirens in eight of the county’s denser residential and commercial areas. That technology has fallen out of favor with the county, though, because tests found that the voice messages and tones can’t penetrate newer buildings.
“We tested the system regularly and found the voice messages became increasingly less understandable with the addition of new construction and the corresponding degradation of the radio signal,” said Jack Brown, director of the Arlington County Office of Emergency Management.
Instead, the county’s OEM relies on spreading emergency messages through technology citizens commonly use: smartphones.
“With the saturation of smartphones the past few years, we made a conscious decision to discontinue pursuing other technology,” Brown said.
OEM encourages all residents to sign up for Arlington Alert, which sends emergency notifications — including NWS severe weather warnings — via mobile devices and social media.
The April 6 situation was a bit unique because NWS didn’t classify the event as a tornado until the following day, so no advance tornado notifications were sent. That’s why Strong recommends taking severe thunderstorm warnings seriously and preparing for potential escalation.
“Everyone should be ready to get indoors and away from windows (preferably on the lowest floor) with either a Severe Thunderstorm Warning or a Tornado Warning,” Strong said. “They both are saying there is the expectation of damaging winds somewhere in that threat area that is warned.”
Map via National Weather Service