Post-Election Harassment in Arlington — Among the incidents of “harassment and intimidation” reported across the country following the election was one in Arlington. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a woman was crossing the street when two men in a car yelled, “you better be ready because with Trump, we can grab you by the p***y even if you don’t want it.” [Independent UK, Southern Poverty Law Center]
GOP Wants Va. Electoral College Change — Following another year of Virginia being a blue state in the presidential election, state Republicans are pushing to change Virginia from a “winner take all” state to one that allocates Electoral College electors by congressional district. [InsideNova]
Heavy Traffic This Morning — With rain and fog slowing things down, heavy traffic has been reported on local highways throughout the morning rush hour. [Twitter]
Chamber Threatens to Go to Richmond on Towing — If Arlington County follows through on a proposal that would make it harder for property owners to have trespassing cars towed off their lot, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce says it may go to Richmond to lobby for a law superseding Arlington’s regulation. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Drew H.
Dogs Die in Seven Corners Fire — Two dogs perished in a Sunday morning house fire in the Seven Corners area, although three dogs and four people were able to make it out of the burning home okay. Arlington County firefighters responded to the scene, assisting Fairfax County units in battling the blaze. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue]
Water Main Break in Fairlington — Parts of north Fairlington had low or no water pressure for most of the day Monday due to a water main break. [Twitter]
Remembering Obama’s Local Bookstore Visit — Even four years later, not a day goes by when One More Page Books owner Eileen McGervey doesn’t hear from someone about the time in 2012 when President Obama visited her store on Small Business Saturday. She recounted how it happened recently on a local public radio show. [WAMU]
Carpool Still Hanging On — Once believed to be closing this fall to make way for a redevelopment, popular Ballston bar Carpool is now likely to remain open through March 2017, co-owner Mark Handwerger tells ARLnow.com. The Washington Business Journal reported last month that the redevelopment has hit a bit of a snag.
Yorktown Senior Joins Chamber — Mark Yates, Jr., a senior at Yorktown High School and the founder of a lawn care business, has joined the Arlington Chamber of Commerce as a member after participating in the Chamber’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy. [Arlington Chamber]
Jonathan Kinney Honored — Prominent local attorney Jonathan Kinney was honored by the Arlington Community Foundation earlier this month, in front of a record luncheon crowd of nearly 400. Despite his low-key demeanor, Kinney, a land use and estate planning attorney, was described as “Arlington’s most indispensable citizen.” [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
The Board voted to advertise a series of changes — final approval is set for next month — but not before making some alterations to the County Manager’s recommendations.
The alterations were essentially intended to prevent towing malfeasance. Among them:
- The Board inserted a provision that requires towing companies to receive authorization from the property owner to tow a vehicle, which would apply only to non-residential properties during business hours.
- The Board kept the current requirement that tow truck drivers photograph the condition of a vehicle before towing it, and added a requirement that tow companies notify those who have been towed that they may view the photos upon request.
- While the County Manager recommended language stipulating that tow companies must notify police of a tow within 10 minutes, rather than “immediately,” as currently worded, the Board gave itself the option of requiring police notification prior to a tow.
The Arlington Chamber of Commerce objected to the authorization requirement — also referred to as a “second signature” — on the grounds that it could cost businesses more time and money to remove trespassers who park on their lots.
The Chamber sent a letter to the Board expressing its “vehement opposition” to the requirement. Chamber President and CEO Kate Bates also spoke at the meeting.
“Nobody likes it when their car is towed but that is not justification for putting significant burden on property owners,” said Bates.
County Board Vice Chair Jay Fisette proposed the addition of the second signature requirement. It passed, but with at least two County Board members saying they were unlikely to support it when a final vote is taken next month.
Fisette said that the low number of formal complaints against towing companies — there were 87 towing complaints and seven violations recorded by the county in 2015 — does not reflect the reality of widespread disdain for so-called “predatory towing” practices in Arlington.
As evidence, Fisette cited an ARLnow.com poll from last year in which 84 percent of respondents — nearly 2,300 people — said towing companies in Arlington were more predatory in their conduct than “just doing their job” for local businesses.
“It’s actually refreshing to have the Vice Chair cite an ARLnow poll,” said Board member John Vihstadt, to laughter in the County Board room.
Fisette also cited an ARLnow.com opinion column that recounted someone being towed from the former Taco Bell lot on Wilson Blvd in 2000 while eating at the restaurant — because a spotter saw him walk next door to get cash from an ATM.
A resident who spoke at the Board meeting agreed with Fisette’s assessment of towing practices.
“Many mom and pop restaurants are being harmed by aggressive and predatory towing… it’s driving business away,” said Sarah McKinley, a towing critic and the vice president of the Columbia Heights Civic Association. “A second signature creates a balance and gives retail owners some control over this situation so they aren’t so damaged.”
The Chamber, however, said towing companies provide a valuable service to local businesses. The Chamber supported the County Manager’s original proposal, which it described as a “compromise.”
“We… emphasize our vehement opposition to the addition of a second signature requirement for the removal of illegally parked vehicles or the prohibition of parking ‘spotters’ to monitor parking areas,” the Chamber wrote in its letter to the Board.
“The addition of either would present significant administrative and cost burdens to implement and would deteriorate the level of service provided by towing contractors to local businesses who must keep parking areas clear and available to their employees, visitors and customers to remain financially viable,” the letter said. “We appreciate the steps the County has been working towards to make Arlington a more business friendly community, and urge extreme caution to the Board in exploring proposals that would shift things in the opposite direction.”
Average Paycheck Decreases — The average weekly paycheck in Arlington was $1,734 in the first quarter of 2016, down 0.2 percent compared to one year prior. Nationally, however, the average paycheck was down 0.5 percent. Arlington ranked in the top 10 of U.S. counties with the highest pay. [InsideNova]
New Media Venture Based in Clarendon — Politico co-founder Jim VandeHei’s next media venture is headquartered in Arlington. VandeHei, along with Politico’s Mike Allen and the publication’s former Chief Revenue Officer, are among those helping to found the venture, which has reportedly secured $10 million in financing and is said to be “a media outlet targeting corporate executives and other professionals with a mix of business and political news.” While Politico remains in Rosslyn, VandeHei’s new venture is based in MakeOffices in Clarendon. [Wall Street Journal]
Porn Discussion at DJO — Last night Bishop O’Connell High School hosted a public discussion, aimed at parents and teens, about “the effects of pornography on teenagers.” Today the founder of the website The Porn Effect will address DJO students and “present the reality behind pornography to the entire student body.” [Catholic Diocese of Arlington]
First Responders Cup This Weekend — The annual First Responders Cup fastpitch softball tournament will take place in Arlington this weekend. Among the participants, one team from Salem, Va. is paying tribute by wearing the name of fallen firefighters on the back of their jerseys. The players, who also wrote letters to the families of the firefighters, will be visiting Arlington’s Fire Station No. 5 near Pentagon City today. [WDBJ]
New Website for Chamber — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce has launched a redesigned website. [Arlington Chamber]
AHC Seeking Volunteer Mentors — Updated at 2:15 p.m. — Affordable housing organization AHC Inc. is seeking volunteers to serve as mentors and tutors for middle- and high school students. Before the start of the school year, AHC provided backpacks filled with school supplies to more than 900 low-income, school-aged children living in its apartment communities. “Along with scores of generous individuals, several local organizations donated funds or supplies, including Arlington County Community Outreach, BM Smith, Boeing, The Reading Connection, and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington,” AHC noted in a press release. [AHC Inc.]
Arlington hotels are offering free coffee, cookies and other perks to the county’s cops to thank them for their service.
At an Arlington Chamber of Commerce ceremony yesterday, Arlington County Police Department chief Jay Farr received the gifts from six local hotels.
“Each day, the hardworking men and women of the Arlington County Police Department work tirelessly to protect us,” DoubleTree general manager Dori Familiant said in a press release. “It is an honor to work with the other hotels through the Chamber to extend our appreciation to the ACPD officers for their dedication to keeping our businesses, residents, and visitors safe.”
According to the Chamber, the gifts included:
- Arlington Court Suites Hotel
- A three-day free access to its Capital View Lounge for a choice of breakfast or dinner along with free parking and free access to the Capital View
- DoubleTree by Hilton Crystal City
- Free coffee anytime in Made Market, the grab and go located in the lobby
- Complimentary lunch and dinner any day in the employee cafeteria
- Complimentary DoubleTree by Hilton cookies at any time (Available at the front desk)
- Holiday Inn Rosslyn
- Complimentary cup of coffee daily from 6 a.m.-8 p.m. from the Potomac Perk Cafe
- Hyatt Arlington at Washington’s Key Bridge
- Complimentary items from Starbucks on an ongoing basis
- Key Bridge Marriott
- Complimentary beverages to be picked up in the staff breakroom
- Residence Inn Arlington Capital View
- Free cup of coffee at Illy’s Cafe from 6 a.m.- 6 p.m. every day.
Photo via Arlington Chamber of Commerce
Arts Truck, Grants Approved — The Arlington County Board last night approved $215,810 in grants to local arts organizations and nearly $70,000 for the purchase and deployment of a new mobile art studio. [Arlington County]
Snow Plowing Policy Change — Starting this winter, Arlington County will plow residential streets at the outset of snowstorms, reversing its previous policy of only focusing on major arterial routes before moving on to residential streets after the snow stops and major roads are clear. [InsideNova]
Ballston Mall Redevelopment Authority Approved — Arlington County is creating its first Community Development Authority. The CDA will be focused on making infrastructure improvements around the future Ballston Quarter mall — the new identity of Ballston Common Mall, which is being renovated. As part of a public-private partnership, the county plans to spend around $55 million to improve local roads, public plazas and the public Ballston parking garage. [Arlington County]
Chamber Supports Aquatics Center Plan — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce has penned a letter in support of building a scaled-down version of the Long Bridge Park aquatics center. “One of Arlington’s main assets is the employee talent pool we have residing in our county,” wrote the Chamber’s president. “The proposed facility will help attract and retain this talent, as well as the businesses looking to employ them.” [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
The Arlington Chamber of Commerce has recognized seven local businesses for its 30th annual Arlington’s Best Business Awards.
The award ceremony was held Tuesday at the Sheraton hotel on Columbia Pike.
The seven business honorees were:
- Strategic Consulting Partners – Home-Based Small Business of the Year 2016
- Virginia Center for Orthodontics – 2016 Service Small Business of the Year
- Joe’s Place Pizza and Pasta – 2016 Retail Small Business of the Year
- Design TLC, LLC – 2016 Technology Small Business of the Year
- Phoenix Bikes – 2016 Nonprofit Small Business of the Year
- Crystal City Marriott – 2016 Business of the Year
- Snagajob – 2016 Business of the Year
Three local business luminaries were also inducted into the Chamber’s Arlington Business Hall of Fame:
- Emerson G. Reinsch (posthumously)
- Bill Buck of Buck & Associates
- John Shooshan of The Shooshan Company
Photo courtesy Arlington Chamber of Commerce
The three candidates for Arlington County Board debated business and other public policy issues Monday, at a forum sponsored by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce.
Both Democratic contenders — incumbent County Board Chair Libby Garvey and challenger Erik Gutshall — vowed to make it easier for companies to do business in Arlington, for companies large and small.
Early on, Garvey pointed to the difficulty Boeing encountered in trying to build its D.C. area headquarters in Arlington as an example of something that shouldn’t happen again.
“Boeing had planned to build a second building but found the process here so unpleasant that they said they’d never build another building in Arlington,” said Garvey.
Gutshall, who is the owner of a small business, Clarendon Home Services, focused on customer service as the key to improving the experience of operating a business in Arlington.
“I firmly believe that Arlington County needs leadership that will accept nothing less than a culture of get to yes,” said Gutshall. “Too many citizens and business owners continue to have frustrating horror stories of the lack of transparency, accountability and helpfulness of our county. I know because I have more than a few of my own.”
They also discussed transportation, mentioning the need for improved transit infrastructure.
“Transit is largely regional and we really need to make it easy with a single seat ride for folks from Fairfax to Loudon to Prince William to get into Arlington and D.C. This is how we will get more cars off the roads,” said Garvey.
A common theme raised by Gutshall was the need to make infrastructure investments.
“For the sake of our economy and quality of life, we must be forceful advocates for a second river crossing for Metro,” he proposed. Gutshall and Garvey both spoke about transit on Columbia Pike; Gutshall has been critical of Garvey and the county’s lack of action following the cancellation of the Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar project.
“I’ll also work to ensure that bus routes on Columbia Pike contribute to the achievement of our main street vision by providing providing frequent 6-10 minute service, 18 hours a day that connects our diverse residents and businesses efficiently to the places they want and need to go — beyond work including more north to south connections in the county.”
Said Garvey: “I am pleased with the proposal to expand the transit way from Crystal City to Columbia Pike essentially running the same route as had been planned for the streetcar and we will have a one seat ride the west end of Columbia Pike all the way west through Crystal City.”
Also discussed was the proposed gondola connecting Rosslyn with Georgetown. Garvey has expressed skepticism about the gondola, while voting to approve funds for a feasibility study. Gutshall said he supported the study.
“I think that the gondola study is worthwhile,” said Gutshall. “I have my reservations and doubts seriously that it will come to fruition… It seems that it was a relatively modest sum for Arlington to kick in a little bit of funds just to see if it has legs and if it might go somewhere. But I will be very honest. I don’t think in the long run its going to have legs.”
Big Changes Planned for Ballston Church — The Central United Methodist Church at 4201 Fairfax Drive in Ballston is planning a complete redevelopment of its 30,000 square foot property. Preliminary plans have been filed to build “a new church, a new preschool space, and a seven-story, 132-unit apartment building — 60 percent market-rate and 40 percent dedicated affordable.” [Washington Business Journal]
McAuliffe Signs Bills at Wakefield HS — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed two pieces of education legislation at Wakefield High School yesterday, as pictured above. The new laws “will lead to an overhaul of the state’s high school graduation requirements, aiming to make high school more relevant to the working world” and better supporting students who start a career after high school. [Washington Post, Twitter]
Reagan Airport Bridge Closed This Weekend — Starting at 11 p.m. tonight, through early Monday morning, drivers heading to Reagan National Airport will not be able to access it via the Route 233 bridge over Jefferson Davis Highway. Ongoing construction prompted the planned closure. [Patch]
Solar House for Sale — A “one-of-a-kind luxury home” is for sale in Cherrydale. The five-bedroom house features a 10KW photovoltaic solar panel array, an energy recovery ventilation system, two-story screened porch, two-car garage, third floor loft with wet bar, a 560 square foot rooftop deck, exercise room with yoga/MMA flooring and an outdoor shower. It’s listed at just under $1.9 million. [Truplace]
Reminder: Chamber Hosts Candidate Forum Monday — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is hosting a County Board candidate forum this coming Monday. The forum, featuring a discussion of topics important to the Arlington business community, is taking place from 6-8 p.m. at the Rosslyn Hyatt (1325 Wilson Boulevard). Democrats Libby Garvey and Erik Gutshall, and independent Audrey Clement, are set to participate in the forum, which will be moderated by ARLnow.com editor Scott Brodbeck. Tickets are $10. [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]
Photo via Arlington County
The forum is being organized by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. It will be held from 6-8 p.m. at the Hyatt in Rosslyn (1325 Wilson Blvd). ARLnow.com, a Chamber member, is the event’s media sponsor.
During the forum, incumbent Libby Garvey and challenger Erik Gutshall will be asked a variety of questions, with a special focus on local business.
“This business-themed candidate forum will feature a moderated discussion of topics important to the Arlington business community, and will provide each candidate with the opportunity to engage with local business leaders and address the key issues for the business community,” the Chamber said. “This event will also offer attendees the chance to gain an inside look into the candidates’ views on business in Arlington County.”
(Perennial independent candidate Audrey Clement, who has qualified for the ballot again this year, has also been invited to participate.)
In a debate earlier this month, Gutshall lamented that Arlington County’s economic development efforts are “geared towards the types of businesses that are going to fill office buildings,” more so than helping small businesses. Garvey said the county is “aware that small businesses are having issues” and is holding a small business summit next week.
Meanwhile, the county’s high office vacancy rate — some 8 million square feet of office space is vacant in Arlington — remains a significant issue.
This candidate forum is open to the general public. Registration is $10. Light refreshments will be provided.
The Arlington County Democratic Committee is planning its own candidate debate from 7-9 p.m. on Wednesday, May 4. The debate will be held at GMU’s Founders Hall (3351 Fairfax Drive).
Valor Awards Recount Harrowing Moments — Saving a suicidal woman who was about to jump from the seventh floor of a parking garage. Saving the life of a man who had just been run over by an SUV twice. Smashing a car window in order to resuscitate the victim of a major crash on I-395. Those are a few of the acts of valor recognized at the Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s Valor Awards this week. [InsideNova, Arlington Chamber]
WaPo Questions Crystal City-Brooklyn Comparison — The Washington Post isn’t letting the New York Times get away with a quote that compared Crystal City to Brooklyn. The area’s hometown paper instead quoted a number of Twitter critics, one of whom called Crystal City a “Ballardian hellscape.” The Times story suggests that Crystal City — with its new restaurants, emerging tech scene, transportation improvements and community events — is experiencing something of a mini renaissance. [Washington Post]
Nauck Town Square Designs — Arlington County is seeking feedback on the draft design of the forthcoming Nauck Town Square park. The design includes a large sculpture of the word “FREED.” [Arlington County]
County Gets Adorable Letters — Arlington County gets adorable letters from children, who ask about things like raising backyard chickens and saving worms that might have gotten swept up as yard waste. [Arlington County]
The trip will take place Nov. 10-14. With the thaw in relations between the United States and Cuba, many in the business community see a land of opportunity in the Communist-ruled island nation just 90 miles from Key West.
A press release from the Chamber (below) has details on the itinerary and the costs.
The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is excited to announce a new partnership with Chamber Explorations to send travelers on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure to explore Cuba, a country where time has stood still. From November 10-14, participants can travel to Cuba with business colleagues, family, and community members. Travelers have the option of beginning their trip from Miami, or flying locally from Washington Dulles International Airport at an additional cost.
“We are thrilled to expand our Chamber travel program with the addition of the Cuba Getaway,” said President & CEO Kate Bates. “We look forward to continuing to provide our members and the community unique opportunities like this trip to Cuba.”
In a key time for Cuban-United States relationship building, current travel to Cuba is limited to “people-to-people” trips such as this one. With an itinerary reflecting a leisure trip, Cuba Getaway travelers will visit sights such as Ernest Hemingway’s farm, the Museum of the Revolution, and a Havana cigar factory. Travelers will also have the opportunity to meet with the local Old Style Car Club owners and learn why Havana’s streets are filled with vintage American automobiles and understand what it takes to keep them on the road.
- The trip package includes:
- Flights to and from Cuba
- First class hotel accommodations
- Bilingual Cuban Tour Guide
- Itinerary Interactions & Admissions
- Eight meals – three breakfasts, three lunches, three dinners
- Cuban medical insurance
- Deluxe Air Conditioned Motorcoach
- And more!
Full details can be found in the trip itinerary on the Arlington Chamber Travel page.
The Cuba Getaway early bird cost (ending May 31, 2016) is $2,695 for Chamber members, their families, and guests. Non-member early bird registration is $2,895. After May 31, registration increases to $2,795 for Chamber members and $2,995 for non-members. To register, visit the Chamber website and download the Cuba Getaway 2016 Registration Form (also found here). Final registration deadline is August 27, 2016.
For more information about the trip, contact the Chamber office by calling 703-525-2400 or emailing [email protected] Trip itinerary is available through the Chamber.
Please note: Rates are based on double occupancy. There is a $500 fee for travelers who choose to have a single room.
Police Seek Witness in Pentagon City Investigation — Arlington County Police are trying to find a witness who rendered aid to an injured man found face down in the street in Pentagon City. The incident happened around 9:30 p.m. on February 25, on the 1200 block of S. Eads Street. The 65-year-old man remains in critical but stable condition. [Arlington County]
Group Forms to Oppose Gun Store — Updated at 11:05 a.m. — A group called Act4LyonPark has formed to oppose NOVA Armory, the gun store that’s planning to open on March 26 at 2300 N. Pershing Drive. So far, Act4LyonPark has raised $6,300 to support its activities. The group says that in a recent vote, 88 percent of residents who responded voted for the Lyon Park Citizens Association to take an official stance against the gun shop.
Board to Consider Relaxed Historic Rules for Schools — The Arlington County Board is expected to vote Saturday on a proposal to make it easier for Arlington Public Schools to make changes to schools within local historic districts. The proposal would remove schools from the oversight of the county’s rigid Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board. Facing a school capacity crunch, APS says going through HALRB adds unnecessary delays and costs to projects. [InsideNova]
One Person Filed 6,500 Noise Complaints Against DCA — A single individual is responsible for 6,500 of the 8,670 noise complaints filed against Reagan National Airport last year, according to the airports authority. [WTOP]
Chamber Savors Hotel Tax Victory — With Arlington’s 0.25 percent hotel tax surcharge reinstated, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce is celebrating a long-awaited legislative victory. “Reinstating Arlington’s [Transient Occupancy Tax] was the Chamber’s top priority for the 2016 legislative session, with the funds generated by the additional TOT providing much needed support to ensure that Arlington remains competitive in attracting leisure and business travel,” said Chamber president and CEO Kate Roche. [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]
In 2014, Arlington had 6 million visitors who spent nearly $3 billion in the County, making Arlington the number one county for economic impact of tourism in Virginia.
This is a substantial boost to our local economy. In just tax dollars alone, tourism revenue generates approximately $81 million in County taxes and $108 million in state taxes per year. Without these revenues, each Arlington household would pay an average of $1,800 each year in taxes to receive the same services.
Tourism also accounts for about 25,000 jobs in Arlington. As the President & CEO of the Chamber, I’ve had the pleasure of working with many in our hospitality industry who work hard every day and reflect positively on our community to those who visit.
Every year the Chamber hosts our Hospitality Awards which recognizes individuals in the industry who go above and beyond. These awards are not for managers or properties, but for the front-line individuals who make a difference – whether it’s the concierge who takes off his own tie and irons it for a guest who spilled mustard on his, or the parking attendant who rescues a guest during a blizzard. These are the people who make Arlington’s first impression on visitors and keep them coming back to our great county.
While our hospitality industry is thriving, its potential to grow has been significantly limited by budget constraints. As the chart below shows, the Arlington Convention and Visitors Service’s budget pales in comparison to our neighboring jurisdictions’ tourism budgets. While the ACVS staff is effective with the resources available, they are severely financially constrained.
More than twenty years ago, the Chamber successfully lobbied the General Assembly for an additional 0.25% Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) surcharge on hotel rooms in Arlington with all revenues to fund tourism. The Chamber has an active Hotel General Managers Committee who were, and continue to be, fully supportive of this. Even with this tax, our hotel room tax rates are extremely competitive, particularly compared to DC. This is a surcharge that pays for itself in additional revenue generated.
The TOT surcharge had a three year sunset clause and was renewed consecutively until 2011 when it lapsed. That lapse had nothing to do with tourism, but with the political climate in Virginia and some legislators’ view of Arlington.
The Chamber is working hard to make sure that politics don’t get in the way of what is not only good for Arlington County, but also good for Northern Virginia and the entire Commonwealth. Reinstating the additional TOT has been the Chamber’s top legislative priority this session. We have worked closely with the entire Arlington delegation to the General Assembly on this issue, with Senator Janet Howell introducing SB160 and Delegate Patrick Hope introducing HB 1147. I, along with our Chair Todd Yeatts and a number of Chamber members, have gone down to Richmond several times for these hearings. At this time SB160 has passed the Senate and HB 1147 passed the House of Delegates just last week.
The Arlington Chamber is hopeful this legislation will be signed into law by Governor McAuliffe and is incredibly optimistic about the impact these additional tourism funds will have not only on Arlington business, but the larger community.
The County Board voted 4-1 on Saturday to approve the plan, which has been years in the making and will replace an outdated retail plan originally passed in 2001. The new plan moves Arlington from a “retail everywhere” approach — policies designed to put ground floor retail in most commercial buildings, regardless of whether a business could actually survive in a given location — to what’s billed as a flexible but “curated” approach.
Color-coded maps will now define where the county would like certain types of retail businesses to set up shop. The owners of buildings in high foot traffic areas will be encouraged to adopt certain building standards that are conducive to ground floor retailers, from higher ceilings to smaller building lobbies.
“By partnering with our business community and our residents, we’ve developed a plan that takes important steps to improve and strengthen the retail sector in Arlington,” Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement. “We believe the consistent, clear guidance and definitions, as well as flexibility of use, design and timing in the plan will better serve those who live and work here when they shop, dine, get their hair cut and bank on streets throughout the County.”
The plan passed with two notable amendments, both proposed by County Board member John Vihstadt and both addressing concerns of the local business community.
The first further codified that the plan is intended as a guiding principle — to be applied primarily during development approval processes — rather than explicit county rules and regulations. The second added service and repair businesses to the types of businesses encouraged in “red zones” — the parts of Arlington’s business districts with the highest foot traffic. In the draft plan, staff had recommended limiting those zones to shopping, dining and entertainment.
“This plan has come a long, long way,” Vihstadt said after the motions passed by 4-1 and 3-2 respectively. “It was not a good plan when it started out.”
The plan passed with tepid support from the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, which had expressed concern about earlier versions of the plan it deemed “too proscriptive.”
“Explicit addition of a statement that the retail plan is not regulatory is paramount,” Chamber President and CEO Kate Roche told the Board. “Moving forward into implementation, we emphasize the importance of the plan being understood as a guideline… we want to make sure this plan isn’t codifying anything that will prevent Arlington from becoming the great, flexible place that we all want it to be.”
The changes still weren’t enough for Libby Garvey, who was the lone vote against the plan.
“I’m much more conformable with the plan with the changes, but still not comfortable enough to support it,” she said. “Both the people who have to make it work and the people we serve are saying, ‘it’s too proscriptive.'”