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. (more…)
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.”
Initial reports suggest a motorcycle and a car collided near the entrance to Army Navy Country Club around 5:15 p.m.
One person was evaluated for a possible back injury, according to scanner traffic.
Wounded Marine’s Golf Clubs Stolen — Retired Marine Lt. Col. Justin Constantine had a couple of his beloved, custom-made golf clubs stolen from Arlington’s Army Navy Country Club after accidentally leaving them at the driving range. Constantine was shot in the face by a sniper in Iraq in 2006. So far, one of the clubs has been returned while two remain missing. [Marine Corps Times]
Video: iPads in Use at APS — Arlington Public Schools has posted a new “#digitalAPS” video that shows iPads in use in a middle school science class. [Arlington Public Schools]
APS Community Engagement Juggling Act — Arlington Public Schools is planning a community engagement blitz as it seeks to keep up with rapidly rising school enrollment by building new schools. This comes in the wake of the County Board putting the brakes on a plan, unpopular with some residents, to build new elementary school next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School. APS is trying to juggle getting community consensus with the need to build new capacity quickly. [InsideNova]
Dremo’s Owner Dreams Up ‘BeerDisneyLand’ — The owner of the late, lamented Dr. Dremo’s in Rosslyn is proposing to build a two-acre “BeerDisneyLand” on D.C.’s Anacostia River waterfront near Navy Yard. [Hill Now]
Flickr pool by Kevin Wolf
The project was approved by the Arlington County Board in the 2015-2024 Capital Improvement Program. It will include a sidewalk and provide cyclists and pedestrians access from the Columbia Pike area to Pentagon City, according to county Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs Manager David Goodman.
“It was originally envisioned as a trail, but ultimately it has more value as an emergency access drive that also allows pedestrian and bicycle activity,” Goodman told ARLnow.com. “Its purpose is to provide an escape valve for getting emergency vehicles between the two sides of I-395. There really aren’t any other connections there.”
The CIP calls for the project to begin the planning phase in FY 2020, and for construction to occur in FY 2022 and 2023. The total project cost is estimated at $5.2 million, and the CIP calls for it to be paid for with state transportation funds. Goodman, who is leading the project, said the $5.2 million is a “back-of-napkin” estimate because there has been no preliminary engineering work done, but it’s possible it will cost less.
The approval in the CIP is the first concrete step toward building the path since the county received the easement for a 30-foot-wide stretch of property along the golf course in 2010. The easement was granted in exchange for zoning approval for a new clubhouse. At the time, members of the country club filed a lawsuit against the club’s leadership trying to block the path from being built.
The road will require a retaining wall because it will be at “a very steep grade,” Goodman said. It will likely have safety bollards on the entrances to block civilian motorist traffic from entering, but allowing the flow of cyclists and pedestrians.
“It’s a very steep and narrow piece of land we were given,” he said. “It’s just a leftover piece of land they were never going to use… Retaining walls are always expensive. We were asked to work with the easement we were given.”
Bicyclists hoping for a new way to get from Columbia Pike to Pentagon City without having to navigate the tricky eastern end of the Pike will have to keep waiting. A plan to build a bike and pedestrian path from the Arlington View neighborhood to Army Navy Drive is still on hold until additional engineering plans and project funding can be procured.
In June 2010, the Arlington County Board approved a plan for Army Navy County Club to build a new four-story clubhouse. As part of the approval process, the club agreed to grant the county an easement which would allow a 30-foot-wide emergency access road and bike/pedestrian path to be built from S. Queen Street, near Hoffman-Boston Elementary, to the I-395 underpass that leads from Army Navy Drive to the club.
The primary motivation for the new road, county officials emphasized, is a need for more north-south connections across I-395 for emergency vehicles.
“There are very few places along the 395 corridor in Arlington where we actually have an underpass, or a way to get from one site of the highway to another without going through an interchange,” says Arlington County Director of Transportation Dennis Leach. “So it’s incredibly valuable…. for emergency response purposes.”
As a side benefit, though, Leach said the path will be “a real benefit to the community” in terms of providing better access for cyclists and pedestrians.
Despite the positives, the project hasn’t gone very far. First, Leach says, more detailed engineering plans need to be drawn up. Then funding needs to be procured through the county’s Capital Improvement Plan and bond referendum process. An early engineering study, conducted in 2010, suggested that the project would require very high retaining walls to compensate for the steep hill the access facility must run along. The cost of such a construction project was expected to exceed $3 million, we’re told.
Leach declined to speculate as to when the access road might eventually be built. He also declined to comment about a 2010 lawsuit filed by disgruntled members of Army Navy Country Club who objected to a bike path being built along one of the holes at their golf course.
A call to Army Navy Country Club for comment was not returned. The club’s then-general manager, who wrote a letter to the editor in support of the emergency access and bike path in 2010, is no longer employed at the club, according to a woman who answered the phone there.
A rebel faction of tradition-bound military officers has declared a legal war on the management of Army Navy Country Club for having the temerity to allow Arlington to build a bike path along the northeastern edge of the golf course.
A gang infestation, hoards of recreation-seeking youngsters and liability issues are a few of the undesirable consequences that the dissident club members fear. The officers, 14 in number, have enlisted a lawyer and are suing the club.
The Washington Post reports that the “grumpy generals,” as they’re called, are seeking a club-wide vote on the trail, which had initially been received with enthusiasm by local bicyclists and county transportation planners.
The Arlington County Board approved a controversial snow removal ordinance on Saturday by a vote of 4-1. Board chairman Jay Fisette cast the lone ‘no’ vote, calling the hefty penalties in the ordinance “overkill.”
The board also passed a fare hike for the county’s ART and STAR buses. The base ART bus fare will increase from $1.25 to $1.50.
Additionally, the board approved a zoning change that will allow Army-Navy Country Club to build a sprawling new four-story clubhouse with views of Washington, D.C. As part of the zoning change, the club will allow an emergency access road to be constructed through its 254 acre grounds. The road, which will connect the Arlington Views neighborhood near Columbia Pike with Army Navy Drive near Pentagon City, will also be open to bicyclists and pedestrians.