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Arlington County Board candidates Adam Theo, Matt de Ferranti and Audrey Clement at a Chamber of Commerce debate (courtesy of Arlington Chamber of Commerce)

A record-high office vacancy rate plus burdensome taxes and permit processes are just some hurdles for local businesses that Arlington County Board hopefuls are pledging to tackle.

During a debate hosted by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce last night (Wednesday), incumbent Matt de Ferranti (D) and his two independent opponents, Audrey Clement and Adam Theo, explained to a 30-person audience how they would extend a helping hand toward area businesses.

Clement emphasized office-to-residential conversions as a way of reducing the office vacancy rate, which reached 20.8% in the last quarter, and “deal with our housing crisis at the same time.”

“Office-to-residential conversion is a smart approach that both Alexandria and the District of Columbia are implementing,” she said. “There are many reasons this is a sensible strategy, and Arlington’s Missing Middle is not.”

Office buildings are readily available, have more parking than most new apartment buildings and are close to Metro, she said.

“I don’t believe honestly there’s disagreement that we should do office to residential. It’s how we do it,” de Ferranti said. “We are already working on that, but we need to move more quickly.”

Seeing as empty offices are spread throughout buildings, Theo said “conversions are not a silver bullet” and suggested filling these vacancies with schools.

“That is something that’s much easier to renovate for than residential and it helps to tackle our school overcrowding that we’ll be facing over the next decade or two,” and makes more opportunities available to young families in urban areas, he said.

Currently, the county is exploring more flexible zoning in offices to allow for “light industrial” uses such as delivery staging areas, urban farms, breweries and small warehouses.

All three, meanwhile, say they would change how businesses are taxed.

“I am concerned about excessive taxation, particularly real estate taxes, but if you can start with shaving off some of those business taxes, that would be just fine with me,” Clement said.

Theo called for removing the business tangible tax, a tax levied on property used in business that requires maintaining records of nearly every item of value that a business owns.

Personal property tax revenue in Arlington over the last decade (via Arlington County)

Business tangible tax assessments are expected to increase by 16% this fiscal year, according to the 2022-23 budget. But Theo said the $40 million it netted last year is not worth squeezing support businesses with thin margins.

“The county sneezes and it spends $40 million,” he quipped.

De Ferranti advocated for increasing the threshold for Business, Professional and Occupational License (BPOL) tax, which comprises about 5% of the county’s revenue for this fiscal year, and has been steadily rising over the last decade.

Under the tax — which has long had critics both on the right and the left — businesses with revenue of less than $10,000 owe nothing, while those grossing up to $50,000 pay $30 and those grossing up to $100,000 pay $50. Beyond that, most businesses pay $0.36 per $100 in gross receipts, regardless of whether the business is profitable or not. Some businesses, like stores and restaurants, pay a lower rate while others, like printed newspapers, are exempt.

The rising revenue Arlington nets from the BPOL tax (via Arlington County)

De Ferranti, however, balked at other tax cut suggestions.

“But broad statements like, ‘We should cut’ — first, our real estate tax rate is the lowest in the region,” de Ferranti said. “Our property values are so high, so that’s why our total bills are higher than some other localities. We have to keep investing when there’s a challenge in our economy.”

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Slide from Missing Middle Housing Study draft framework (via Arlington County)

Earlier this month, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to the Arlington County Board, supporting the county’s Missing Middle Housing Study.

The letter says that the proposed framework of legalizing small-scale multifamily housing in neighborhoods currently only zoned for single-family homes would be a positive step in creating new housing that’s more affordable than what would otherwise be built on single-family-only lots.

But, the Chamber suggests, the proposal might not go far enough.

The Arlington Chamber of Commerce strongly supports the goals of the County’s Missing Middle Housing Study. Allowing for more density and a greater diversity of housing types in Arlington’s single-family neighborhoods is an important step forward. It is critical to making Arlington a place where people of all backgrounds can live, and where workers can find homes near their jobs. With the overwhelming majority of Arlington’s land area taken up by single- family detached zoning, there must be opportunities to open up these neighborhoods to new housing forms if Arlington is to ever make real progress on this issue.

We are pleased to see that the proposal allows these new housing types to be built by-right. This is essential to making them viable for builders. Given the nature of the rezoning process, it is unlikely that many builders would go through the trouble of rezoning when they can build more expensive homes by-right without the hassle and expense. However, we are disappointed by the projections of how many units this change will bring forward. The consultant’s study projects the redevelopment of 20 lots per year, divided into approximately 100 units. While that would represent a step forward, it barely scratches the surface of the problem of housing affordability in Arlington.

Further, we are concerned that the study may be overestimating the viability of some of these units. By requiring the structures to fit into the same footprint required for single-family detached homes, builders’ options for new housing types can be very limited. By requiring building heights to be no higher than 35 feet, stacked townhomes are effectively blocked, despite being there being a proven market for them in neighboring jurisdictions at reasonable price points. By requiring lot coverage standards to be the same as those required for single-family detached homes, sufficient on-site parking may be very difficult to install for larger projects.

The letter predicts that most of what will be built, should the zoning change be made, will be townhouses, duplexes, and triplexes. The proposal calls for allowing up to 8-unit homes, but only on sufficiently large lots and no larger in terms of building size than what is currently allowed for single-family zones.

In order to realize the goal of making housing more attainable, more flexibility should be granted. That would mean increasing building heights by just five to ten feet to allow stacked townhomes to be considered as an option. That might also mean allowing increases in lot coverage to allow for parking that meets the demand of prospective residents further away from transit. Existing zoning rules allow 56% lot coverage for duplexes, townhomes, and multifamily housing, which, if applied here, would enable a more diverse type of units to be constructed on larger lots than we would likely see at single-family detached standards.

While allowing for the construction of more duplexes and three-unit townhomes is a positive, and much needed change, the price points for these units could still be over $1 million. This is especially true in many areas where the County would allow more units per lot under the proposed changes, but which might not come into fruition without more flexibility. Duplexes and triplexes are great, but will accomplish less than other types in improving Arlington’s affordability. We are worried that given the proposed height and lot coverage rules, they may end up being a significantly larger portion of the missing middle units that get built than currently projected.

The Chamber strongly support the goals of this study, and we urge the County not to give in to the demands of opponents who want to shut this down prematurely. However, we think it is important that the County get this right, and would go further to bring real options to residents who would otherwise be unable to find them in these neighborhoods. As you move through the process, please consider what it would take to build units, that the County wants to allow with these changes, at a lower cost based on market conditions, and ensure that the development standards are imposed allow for that. Thank you for your consideration.

The Chamber joins the Arlington chapters of the NAACP and the Sierra Club in endorsing the “Missing Middle” plan. But there has also been plenty of pushback, with many residents expressing concern about increased traffic, overcrowded schools, loss of tree canopy, noise and a loss of neighborhood “character.”

The concern for the latter was expressed last night in one of numerous emails to the County Board, opposing zoning changes, that ARLnow has been CCed on recently.

As a 10 year resident of Lyon Village, I have appreciated the quiet tree-lined streets which our neighborhood offers as well as the convenience to the high density and vibrancy of Clarendon. Unlike many in our neighborhood, I have personal experience with the effects of higher density living as our backyard abuts a multi-family dwelling at 1325 N. Hudson. Over the past decade, we have been witness to hearing drunken altercations in the parking lot, as well as the late arrival and early departure of vehicles with loud mufflers or loud stereos, and even salacious activity in the open between residents who deemed it appropriate behavior to do so in the apartment buildings parking area.

While all of these events are possible in any urban/suburban neighborhood, the likelihood of any occurring increases with greater population density.

I urge you to consider alternative means to provide housing opportunities in Arlington that do not include changing the character of single-family home neighborhoods which many of us cherish.

The County Board is set to wade into the debate in July when it votes on whether to advance the Missing Middle study to a third phase. The push and pull of advocates and opponents pushing for more or less density raises a question: is there a middle ground?

This morning’s poll question asks whether there’s an upper bound on the number of units per multifamily building that would be acceptable to readers.

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Morning Notes

Deer in a local neighborhood (Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann)

Memorial Day Closures — County offices and facilities like libraries and community centers will be closed Monday for the Memorial Day holiday. Metered parking will not be enforced. But trash collection will continue as normal. [Arlington County, Twitter]

Tree Group Opposes ‘Missing Middle’ — “A tree-advocacy group believes proposed changes to Arlington housing policy could have a cataclysmic impact on existing tree canopy in the community. ‘Tell the county ‘no’ – do not enact policies that further reduce our tree canopy,’ the Arlington Tree Action Group (ATAG) said May 20 in response to a county-government proposal on possible zoning changes.” [Sun Gazette]

Chamber Supports New Ballston Metro Entrance — “I am writing to express our strong support for full Authority funding of Arlington County’s $80 million application for the Ballston-MU Metrorail Station West Entrance. This project is a critical improvement to the regional transit network and supports the Authority’s programming goals of modal and geographic balance… As we move forward, its construction will be very important to the success of businesses in Arlington.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

W-L’s Royal Rowing History — “In the spring of 1958, under the guidance of head coach Charlie Butt, a group of teenage rowers from Washington-Lee High School (now Washington-Liberty) performed so well at stateside races that they earned a spot at the Henley Royal Regatta in England–becoming the first public high school in America invited to the iconic race, which dates to 1839. But first, they needed money.” [Arlington Magazine]

County Now Offering Boosters for Kids — “After federal approvals, Arlington County and other providers are offering the COVID-19 vaccine booster to children aged 5 to 11.” [Patch]

County Polling About Pickleball — “As Arlington’s population continues to grow and sports trends change, the Department of Parks and Recreation recognizes there has been a shift in the use and demand for outdoor athletic courts. Our Outdoor Athletic Court Project includes creating criteria to identify existing courts that are candidates for permanent pickleball lines as well as identify an existing amenity to convert into a permanent pickleball facility.” [Arlington County]

Storms Possible Tomorrow — From the National Weather Service: “We’ll stay mostly dry and cloudy for the remainder of today with highs in the 60s across the area. We are monitoring the potential for an unsettled start to the long holiday weekend this Friday with severe storm/flood threats.” [Twitter]

It’s Thursday — Overcast throughout the day. High of 71 and low of 60. Sunrise at 5:49 am and sunset at 8:25 pm. [Weather.gov]

Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann

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Many small businesses in Arlington are hurting amid the pandemic, and that’s on top of some of the unique issues faced by Black and female business owners.

That was the topic of a pair of discussions held by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) in Arlington on Friday (Feb. 4)

Over heaping plates of Doro Wat and injera, Warner met with local Black business owners at Dama Restaurant on Columbia Pike to discuss ongoing challenges they face and how the government can help them with better access to capital.

In attendance at the lunch were business owners from across Arlington and Northern Virginia, including the owners of Greens N Teff on Columbia Pike, Elliot DeBose from Sol Brothers Candles, Idido Coffee House owner Sofonias Gebretsadick, and Lauren A. Harris of Little Ambassadors’ Academy on Langston Blvd.

Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey and Arlington Economic Development Director Telly Tucker were also there.

The 45 minute conversation ranged from Covid-related federal loan programs, the need for mentorships, how to simplify access to capital, and discrimination towards Black-owned businesses.

Prior to the discussion, Warner talked about how he failed twice as an entrepreneur prior to hitting it big in telecommunications. He said he understands what it takes to be a business owner, but only from his own perspective.

“I am very aware that if I had not been a white man with appropriate education, I might not have had three chances to be an entrepreneur,” he said to the crowd of about 20 business owners. “Or two chances to be an entrepreneur. Or maybe even a first chance.”

One of the biggest challenges that kept coming up was not the availability of federal dollars, like Paycheck Protection Program loans, but easier access to it. That means simplified applications and improved messaging and communication, to make sure minority-owned small businesses are aware the dollars are out there.

Harris, owner of the nearly decade-old Little Ambassadors’ Academy preschool, said her biggest criticism is confusion about how to access capital. With her being very focused on the day-to-day of her business, Harris said it’s difficult to navigate all the paperwork and  to know where exactly she needs to turn for help.

“I think as a small business owner it is very hard sometimes to figure out where the support comes from,” she said.

Questions like what’s forgivable for loans, which funds have the longest lead time, and which business over 50 employees can apply are often on Harris’ mind, but clarity of answers can be lacking.

At one point in the conversation, a recommendation of creating a “one stop shop” type of website where all available grants, loans, and programs are listed was mentioned, in which Warner agreed needs to happen.

Beakal Melaku, co-owner of Greens N Teff, said the restaurant’s experience as a brand new business points to the need for additional help marketing and reaching customers. Money to do that would go a long way, he says, but he’s unsure where to turn for that.

The question of child care came up often at both the the business roundtable at Dama and at the AWE Women in Business Summit that was also attended by Warner on Friday.

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Morning Notes

Local Home Sales, Prices Up — “The average price of a detached, single-family house that sold in Arlington County, Virginia, in December was $1,258,648. That is 17% more than the average price a year earlier, according to the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors.” [WTOP]

Crystal City Office Tower Sells for $188M — “The building at 1400 Crystal Drive, totaling 308,000 square feet, was sold in late December by affiliates of Lincoln Property Co. for $188.5 million, or $612 per square foot, to Starwood Capital Group, according to Arlington County property records.” [Washington Business Journal]

Metro GM/CEO Retires — General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul J. Wiedefeld will retire from Metro in six months, after more than six years running the regional transit agency. [WMATA]

More Water Main Breaks — From Arlington DES: “An unusually intense winter has triggered an above-average number of water main breaks, often during the cold, dark early morning when most people are asleep. Saluting the folks who respond. They’re not in it for the glamour. #TheOtherFirstResponders.” [Twitter]

Larry Finch Plaque Likely Coming to Zachary Taylor Park — “The proposal emanated from the Donaldson Run Civic Association to honor Finch (1933-2020), who lived in Arlington from 1966 and 2013 and was active in civic affairs – especially in the parks and ecological arena – for much of that lengthy period.” [Sun Gazette]

Gas Leak Closes Street — A natural gas leak in Crystal City closed S Eads Street for over an hour Tuesday morning as Arlington County Fire Department waited for utility crews to assess the situation. Buildings were checked and no gas was detected. [Patch, Twitter]

Small Business Program Launches — From Arlington Chamber of Commerce: “We are proud to launch our Small Business Accelerator Program, presented by Amazon. As the Presenting Sponsor of this program, Amazon will sponsor half of the membership dues to verified Small, Women and Minority-owned (SWaM) businesses located in Virginia joining the Chamber for their first year of membership.” [Twitter]

It’s Wednesday — Today will be mostly sunny, with a high near 47. South wind 9 to 11 mph, with gusts as high as 23 mph. Sunrise at 7:23 a.m. and sunset at 5:15 p.m. Tomorrow we’ll see rain and snow before 1 p.m., then a slight chance of snow. High near 38. North wind 10 to 13 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

“WL Runs A-Town” spray-painted on a wall near Washington-Liberty High School (Flickr pool photo by Cyrus.W)

Longtime Local Business Leader Dies — “Longtime Arlington Chamber of Commerce president and civic leader Rich Doud passed away Dec. 9 at Virginia Hospital Center, the chamber announced Friday. Doud served as president of the Chamber for 23 years before retiring in May 2014. Among his many accomplishments were the creation of the Arlington Business Hall of Fame — to which he was enshrined in 2017 — and the Community Action Committee, and the establishment of Leadership Arlington, now known as Leadership Center for Excellence.” [InsideNova, Sun Gazette]

Televised Tree Lighting in Rosslyn — “The Rosslyn tree lighting was live on 7News Thursday evening with live music. Rosslyn Cheer 2021 includes the tree lighting, a holiday market at Central Place Plaza, raffles, and other giveaways.” [WJLA]

Former County Board Member Dies — “[Roye] Lowry, who served a four-year term on the Arlington County Board in the early 1960s (chairing it for a year) and later was active in a host of civic affairs, died Dec. 4, Goodwin House officials confirmed to the Sun Gazette. He was 103 years old – probably the longest lived of any person who has served on the County Board since it was established in the early 1930s.” [Sun Gazette]

Top Brunch Spots in Arlington — “Everyone knows that weekends are better with brunch, and in our area, it’s easy to find a spread to suit just about any taste or budget. Check this list of local brunch spots in Arlington to satisfy that midday hankering for dishes ranging from corned beef hash to waffles stuffed with apples, plus coffee, cocktails and other requisite hangover cures.” [Arlington Magazine]

It’s Monday — Today will be clear throughout the day, with a low of 38 and a high of 54. Sunrise at 7:18 a.m., sunset at 4:46 p.m. Tuesday will be mostly cloudy, with a low of 38 and a high of 55.

Flickr pool photo by Cyrus.W

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Volunteers distributing food at AFAC (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

‘Tis the season for charity, as year-end giving campaigns and holiday donation drives ramp up.

This year, with Thanksgiving and Christmas on the horizon, two dozen local nonprofits have listed what they need to serve their clients this holiday season.

Contribution opportunities include providing essentials to people in affordable housing, transitional housing and recovery programs, supporting the arts, feeding people and animals and helping nonprofits provide STEM programming and assist job-seeking clients.

The lists, republished with permission of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce after originally appearing in the Chamber’s Arlingtonian newsletter, are below.

AHC Inc.

  • Assemble holiday gift bags filled with fun items such as fuzzy socks, craft supplies and a gift card for teens and senior citizens in AHC’s programs.
  • Donate education tools for AHC’s youth. Purchase gifts from AmazonSmile through AHC Inc.’s Wish List.

Animal Welfare League of Arlington 

  • Donate food and supplies from our Chewy Wish list so pets and their families get the resources they deserve to stay together.
  • Donate items from our Amazon Wish list to give shelter animals the care they need or even a special surprise this holiday season.

Arlington Arts Center

  • Donate two foldable wheelchairs for visitors who may need assistance during their visit.
  • Donate painting supplies for gallery walls (roller covers, painters tape and drop cloths).

Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC)

  • Register online to organize a food drive to help AFAC collect food for Arlington families struggling against hunger. AFAC will provide boxes and will pick up the donated food.

Arlington Free Clinic

  • Donate a $25 Target gift card so that patients who are parents can buy holiday presents.
  • Donate lotion and hand cream for patients who visit during the cold, dry months.

Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing 

  • Donate household supplies, such as toiletries, for our Household Essential Pantry.
  • Donate winter clothing accessories for Holiday Seasonal Drive, such as children’s face masks, gloves, scarves and hats.

Arlington Thrive

  • Empower and celebrate an Arlington case manager or social worker by donating a gift — such as a gift card, office supplies, an experience or an accessory — for their holiday surprise care package.

Aspire! Afterschool Learning

  • Donate an Amazon gift card in any amount for student program needs and family support.
  • Donate an item from Aspire!’s Amazon Wish list.

Bridges to Independence

  • Donate towels for families in need of shower supplies.
  • Donate pots and frying pans to families in need of kitchen supplies.

Computer CORE

  • Donate used laptop or desktop computers for us to refurbish and give at no-cost to our low-income adult job-seeking clients.
  • Donate computer mice and external cameras for recipients to participate in Zoom meetings.

Culpepper Garden

  • Donate cloth face masks and personal hygiene products for seniors in our assisted living residence.
  • Support Culpepper Garden’s Daffodil Bulb Drive by ordering a reusable bag of 25 select daffodil bulbs to keep or donate back to Culpepper Garden.

ENDependence Center of Northern Virginia

  • Assist our move from the Courthouse area to National Landing in January 2022.
  • Donate a SmartBoard interactive display to use in our new accessible meeting room at our new location.

Jennifer Bush-Lawson Foundation (JBLF)

  • Check out JBLF’s Amazon Wish list and help elevate the lives of low-income moms this holiday season.

National Capital Treatment & Recovery (formerly Phoenix House Mid-Atlantic)

  • Donate socks or winter gloves to an adult struggling with substance use disorder.
  • Donate travel-size items for hygiene kits (such as toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant and shampoo) for an adult struggling with substance use disorder.

New Hope Housing (NHH)

  • View NHH’s Amazon Wish list at for items to donate which can serve our guests at the Residential Program Center (RPC).
  • Donate gift cards from Giant, Safeway, Walmart or Target in $25 increments. These make great welcome home gifts for our guests who move out of RPC and into their own place.

Operation Renewed Hope Foundation

  • Donate new bath towel sets: one large towel, one hand towel and one or two washcloths.
  • Donate a bagless vacuum cleaner.

PathForward

  • Donate a new twin-size bed bundle, such as sheets and a blanket, to an adult seeking warmth this winter at our Homeless Services Center.
  • Donate Glucerna Protein Shakes to an adult managing their health and wellness in our Medical Program.

Restoration Immigration Legal Aid 

  • Donate Walmart gift cards for asylum seekers and vulnerable immigrant children to buy food and holiday gifts for their families.
  • Donate essential hygiene items for the most vulnerable immigrants in our area.

Rosie Riveters

  • Donate a space where Rosie Riveters can hold paid and free after-school and weekend STEM programs.

RPSVA’s Arlington Peers Helping Peers in Recovery

  • Donate winter gear (such as hats, heavy socks, gloves, blankets and sleeping bags) for homeless adults.
  • Donate snacks and bottled water for homeless adults.

The Clothesline for Arlington Kids

  • Prepare a student for winter weather. Donate new winter coats or lightly used coats in excellent condition. Particular need for adult sizes for teens.
  • Put a smile on a kid’s face. Donate new sneakers.

Wreaths Across America

  • Sponsor a veteran’s wreath to be placed on the headstone of an American hero laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery this National Wreaths Across America Day (Saturday, Dec. 18). Each $15 handmade, live balsam wreath is placed by a volunteer and sponsored by an individual.
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Morning Notes

Another APS Sexual Harassment Incident — “The most recent case of sexual harassment being discussed on social media happened at Swanson Middle School. Students told their parents two weeks ago cheerleaders were being called sexual names and having their body parts touched inappropriately during the school day. The Swanson Middle School principal sent out a letter alerting families… Some say that was only revealed after the community caught wind of the incident which makes them now question — how many situations are not brought to light?” [Fox 5]

Two Libraries Reopening on Sundays — “The slow resumption of Arlington library hours continues on Oct. 31, when Central Library and the Columbia Pike branch will resume Sunday service for the first time since the onset of the pandemic. Those two libraries will be open 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays.” [Sun Gazette]

Tree Falls Near Wakefield HS — “First tree down across a road that we’ve heard during [Tuesday’s] windy weather… This is reportedly at 25th Street S. and S. Dinwiddie Street, a couple of blocks from Wakefield High School.” [Twitter]

Activists Decry Tree Loss from New Homes — “Arlington County Board members say they will take under advisement concerns that a quirk – critics call it a loophole – in the local zoning ordinance encourages developers to clear-cut certain lots to maximize the footprint of new construction out of proportion to surrounding homes. The matter was raised by activist Anne Bodine at the Oct. 16 County Board meeting.” [Sun Gazette]

More Trees to Be Removed from Water Park — “The board voted 5-0 on Oct. 19 to approve modifications to the plan for the waterpark (located at 1601 Crystal Drive and now being rebranded as National Landing Water Park) that will see seven additional trees removed from the site, while one tree that previously had been slated for removal will be retained… Removing these trees ‘is not ideal,’ acknowledged Olivia Sontag of the county government’s Department of Planning, Housing and Community Development, but staff concluded it represents a fair tradeoff for a package that includes the planting of 11 additional buffer trees.” [Sun Gazette]

Chamber to Help Teach Financial Skills — ” The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is proud to announce the launch of a new program to support early childhood education providers in partnership with 20 Degrees. The Early Childhood Financial Resiliency Accelerator focuses on teaching child care providers the business and financial technical skills necessary to maintain and to grow their businesses and on building a community of practice among child care providers. The program will be available at no cost to the participants thanks to support from Presenting Sponsor Amazon as well as the PNC Foundation.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

TV Station Broadcasts from Outdoor Lab — “The Phoebe Hall Knipling Outdoor Laboratory is a 225-acre facility in Fauquier County that provides a natural classroom for Arlington Public School students. The Arlington Outdoor Lab is designed to give Arlington students an opportunity to learn science, outdoor skills, arts, and humanities in a natural setting. Brian van de Graaf takes us to Broad Run, VA for a look.” [WJLA]

It’s Wednesday — 🍃 Today will be breezy, but less so than yesterday. It will start mostly cloudy, then gradually become sunny, with a high near 67. Northwest wind 13 to 16 mph, with gusts as high as 26 mph. Sunrise at 7:30 a.m. and sunset at 6:13 p.m. Tomorrow, it will be partly sunny, with a high near 63.

Get the Morning Notes four hours early on most days (and get text alerts for urgent stories) by joining the ARLnow Press Club.

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Arlington County says it will explore ways to make it easier for restaurants to establish or expand outdoor dining after the pandemic ends, according to a county report.

During the pandemic, the Arlington County Board approved a temporary way for restaurants to circumvent the normally lengthy county process for getting an outdoor dining permit. Many restaurants debuted outdoor seating over the last year to make up for the indoor space lost to social distancing requirements and give guests a safer dining experience.

Since then, the County Board has amended the outdoor dining ordinance to expand it and mold it to changing circumstances.

In December, the Board granted restaurant and bar owners the ability to set up temporary outdoor seating areas (TOSAs) in common areas, such as plazas. When capacity restrictions were lifted this spring, the County Board gave restaurants a way to request temporary certificates of occupancy (TCOs) for their TOSAs so they could operate the seating areas while operating at full capacity indoors.

The county report said staff will be looking to see if some aspects of the program could be worked into the regular outdoor seating approval process. It did not include a timeline for this inquiry.

“Specifically, staff will be working to commence a strategic exploration of whether certain flexibilities provided as part of the TOSA program initiated in response to the COVID-19 emergency should be incorporated into established regulatory provisions for outdoor dining,” it said. “This future process will have a robust engagement element and would also include public hearings prior to the County Board’s consideration of any recommended policy or regulatory changes that might result from the study,”

All this is being considered in the background of a technical change that will give restaurateurs a little leeway in phasing out the outdoor seating when the local pandemic emergency is declared over.

When the county passed a continuity of governance emergency ordinance last spring to keep government and business operations afloat, it said any flexibility allowed by the ordinance, such as TOSAs, would expire six months after the declared end of the emergency. But in reality, the document’s section on TOSAs said they expire with the declared end of the emergency.

On Saturday, the County Board is slated to consider advertising a public hearing to amend the ordinance so it’s clear that eateries also have six months to phase out the seating.

“In addition to providing consistency with the Ordinance and continued support of Arlington’s businesses, this proposed amendment will also ensure that food establishments are not required, immediately at the end of the emergency, to make significant changes to their operations and allows time for business planning,” the county report said.

Kate Bates, President and CEO of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber supports this change but urged the county to get cracking on the study of permanent options.

“Given the time it will take for Arlington County to set the rules for permanent, expanded outdoor dining, and the further time it will take for restaurants to adapt to new rules, the Chamber encourages Arlington County to advance its work on making the TOSA program permanent,” she said. “While the 2022 outdoor dining season feels far off as the summer of 2021 winds down, restaurants will need to start making investments soon to be prepared in the spring.”

As part of the upcoming request to advertise, staff said they will do outreach to see how locals feel about TOSAs. Staff report fielding a range of comments, questions and opinions on them, from support from the business community to concern that outdoor dining makes it harder for pedestrians and cyclists to get around. The report said neighbors near TOSAs tolerate the noise associated with them provided that TOSAs would end along with the emergency.

Bates said making the provisions permanent will allow restaurants to invest in their spaces in ways that could mitigate these concerns.

“We expect that there will be some refinements to the outdoor dining rules as they are made permanent, but we encourage Arlington County not to risk the success of outdoor dining by over-regulating to ameliorate any possible complaint,” she said.

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Morning Notes

Pentagon Metro Station Reopening — “Metro will reopen the Pentagon Station and Pentagon Transit Center to customers beginning with the start of bus and rail service Thursday morning. The station and transit center has been closed since early Tuesday, due to the law enforcement response and investigation following a fatal incident that occurred in the bus bays.” [WMATA]

Chamber Supports Langston Blvd Plan — “The Arlington Chamber of Commerce broadly supports the Plan Lee Highway Scenario Analysis, providing for additional commercial and residential density in an established, aging, yet vibrant and critical transit corridor. Moreover, the Chamber encourages creating flexible land use policies and regulations so as to attract investment to the Langston Boulevard corridor.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

ACPD Celebrates ‘National Night Out’ — “Across the nation and throughout the region, neighbors and police mingled Tuesday night in the National Night Out — an annual effort to fight crime by building relationships between communities and police. In Drew Park, nestled in Arlington County, Virginia’s historic Green Valley neighborhood, a DJ played music and children petted a yellow Lab K-9, while their parents huddled together with police officers including Chief Charles ‘Andy’ Penn.” [WTOP]

New Community Center Profiled — “This is a story about a building, but it’s also a story about a park, which flows into the building, driving the structure’s design to an unusually high degree. Located in Arlington, Virginia’s Lubber Run Park–a public recreation area with walking trails and a gentle stream winding through a forest–the Lubber Run Community Center replaces an outdated building from the 1950s that was torn down in 2018.” [Metropolis]

Mini Earthquake Shook Area Yesterday — “A small earthquake shook parts of Central Maryland in the overnight hours of Wednesday morning. The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 2.1 earthquake was centered in Clarksville, Maryland, at 2:11 a.m. with a depth of about 1.8 miles.” [WTOP]

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Arlington Agenda: Aug. 2-8

Arlington Agenda is a listing of interesting events for the week ahead in Arlington County. If you’d like your event considered, fill out the event submission form to submit it to our event calendar.

Tuesday, Aug. 3

Coffee Breaks at Summer House
National Landing’s Gateway Green (101 12th Street S.)
Time: 8:30-10:30 a.m.

Local coffee shops are serving brews every Tuesday morning at Gateway Green in Crystal City. Parking is available at 201 12th Street S.

Thursday, Aug. 5

Chamber 101
Arlington Chamber of Commerce (2009 14th Street N., Ste 100)
Time: 4-5:15 p.m.

The Chamber is hosting a free networking seminar for both old and new members. The seminar will teach attendees about what the chamber does and different ways members can take advantage of their membership.

Friday, Aug. 6

Magic of the Ordinary — National Juried Exhibition at Gallery Underground in August
Gallery Underground (2100 Crystal Drive)
Time: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Magic of the Ordinary is a gallery of artwork juried by watercolor artist Lois Wolford. The art focuses on everyday items and scenes that are often overlooked.

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