Letter to the Editor: Amazon is a Good Deal for Arlington, Chamber of Commerce Argues

The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Arlington Chamber of Commerce President Kate Bates, who writes in support of passing the county’s incentive deals made to motivate Amazon to open its new headquarters in Crystal City and Pentagon City.  

The Chamber is a non-profit which advocates for 750 county businesses and organizations, which includes Amazon as of December. The Chamber has written several letters to County Board members and the Virginia General Assembly over the last year in support of bringing Amazon to the region, and to urge officials to pass state and local tax incentives. 

The County Board will vote on Saturday for their incentive package finalizing Amazon’s plans to move to area.

It’s an exciting time for Arlington. On Saturday, the County Board will vote on the performance agreement for Amazon’s headquarters. Approving this agreement is a powerful statement that Arlington is open for business and we are no longer solely a government town, but a magnet for innovation in all sectors. Welcoming Amazon to Arlington will create opportunities for residents and businesses. The community as a whole will benefit from the jobs, economic activity, and innovation that Amazon will bring to Arlington. The performance agreement is a good deal for Arlington.

Economic Well-being

Amazon’s commitment to Arlington will provide us with balance; adding business diversity will strengthen our local economy. The job losses from BRAC and sequestration, and the uncertainty of the recent shutdown have shown that we cannot rely on the Federal Government alone for our prosperity. Amazon gradually adding 25,000-37,850 private-sector jobs will replace the 24,000 federal and contractor jobs lost in the Crystal City area over the past two decades.

Amazon’s presence will solidify Arlington as an innovation hub. Having Amazon as an anchor will help Arlington and Northern Virginia attract innovative companies. A robust job market will provide opportunities for our young people to succeed here, in the community where they are growing up and getting their education. Our local businesses expect Amazon’s arrival and the resulting diversification in our local economy to help them thrive.

Incentives

Arlington Economic Development crafted a groundbreaking incentive package that truly invests in Arlington’s future. The overwhelming majority, 95%, of the Arlington incentive package comprises investments in our community through housing, transportation, and infrastructure. The incentive payment to Amazon, the other 5%, depends Amazon hitting their established benchmarks for office space.

The direct financial incentive to Amazon is funded through a fraction of the growth in the Transient Occupancy Tax, a tax paid by guests staying in Arlington’s hotels. Tying Amazon’s direct incentives to revenue growth ensures that payments will not divert money from other priorities. Focusing on the Transient Occupancy Tax means that taxes on Arlington residents and businesses will not fund these incentives and that Amazon will receive these payments only if our hoteliers grow their businesses too.

Community

In the months since the announcement, Amazon has shown they want to be a part of the Arlington community. Amazon is already engaging, joining the Chamber and meeting with businesses, nonprofits, and community groups to build long-term relationships. Amazon’s Director of Community Engagement met with more than 50 leaders from Arlington nonprofits at a Chamber-hosted gathering, and senior Amazon team members have attended many community events. Amazon’s culture values making direct change; we look forward to the prospect of thousands of innovative people participating in our community.

The Amazon headquarters announcement has focused Arlington on our transportation, housing, and school funding challenges, all of which predate Amazon. The redevelopment of the Crystal City area will bring the transportation infrastructure improvements and amenities envisioned in its sector plan. Approving this agreement will help secure Arlington’s fiscal health and provide tax revenues to help the community address these challenges.

This is an historic moment for Arlington. The establishment of Amazon’s headquarters offers Arlington a unique occasion to strengthen our economy, to create opportunities for residents, and to improve the County’s fiscal position. We look forward to working together as a community to seize the opportunities that welcoming Amazon affords to all of Arlington.

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about issues of local interest. To submit a letter to the editor for consideration, please email it to [email protected] Letters may be edited for content and brevity. 

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Morning Notes

Chamber Rallying Members to Support Amazon — “The Arlington Chamber of Commerce wants to make sure supporters of Amazon’s decision to locate in Crystal City aren’t caught napping. The business organization on March 4 sent out a missive to rally the troops in the days leading up to the County Board’s expected action on an economic-incentive package.” [InsideNova]

Local Bars Helping Women in Unsafe Situations — “Something from the United Kingdom’s bar scene is coming all the way across the pond to Arlington, Virginia — but it isn’t a new beer or liquor. Several bars in Arlington County have implemented the ‘Ask for Angela’ campaign, which aims to help women and anyone in an uncomfortable or threatening situation get help.” [NBC Washington]

Panel Recommends Aquatics Center Fees — “Fees ranging from $9 for a one-day entrance to $630 for an annual pass have been proposed for the future Long Bridge Park aquatics and fitness center. But the fee schedule, developed by a task force set up by county leaders, leaves undetermined, for now, how much of a subsidy taxpayers will need to provide for the Crystal City facility’s operation.” [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Tim Brown

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Morning Notes

New Hotel for DCA? — “A hotel might be in the works for Reagan National Airport, according to Jack Potter, CEO of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority… A spokeswoman for MWAA said they are still in the ideas phase and nothing is concrete.” [Washington Business Journal]

Parents Fight Proposed Key Changes — “Parents are battling for the school’s future after Arlington Public Schools surprised them with a plan to relocate Key [Elementary], an announcement that animated larger questions about race, class and the purpose of bilingual education.” [Washington Post]

APS Friday Closure Questioned — “Most schools in the DC region decided to stay open despite the wintry mix Friday morning, but Arlington County Public Schools decided to close leaving parents in disbelief.” [WJLA]

Kindergarteners Learn About Transgender — “Dozens of kindergarten students sat cross-legged in his classroom at Ashlawn Elementary School in Arlington, listening as an advocate for transgender rights paged through a children’s picture book about a transgender girl,” as part of an event with the National Education Association and the Human Rights Campaign. [Washington Post]

Chamber Partners with APS — “The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce a partnership with Arlington Public Schools Career Center for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) program. The Chamber is in its fifth year of offering the YEA! Program, but this is its first class of students for the program as part of their Arlington Public Schools learning.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

Dog With Dementia Falls into Storm Drain — “A small dog with dementia is missing after falling into a storm drain in Arlington, Virginia. The Animal Welfare League of Arlington tweeted out an alert Thursday and said the cute pup disappeared after falling into the sewer about 8 p.m.” [NBC Washington, Twitter]

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County Considers Changing How It Reviews Major Development Plans, Irking Arlington Chamber

County officials could soon change how they sign off on major zoning alterations, sparking some pushback from the county’s business community over fears that the new process could make large redevelopments more difficult.

The county is currently mulling an overhaul of its methods for reviewing applications for special “General Land Use Plan” studies.

The GLUP is Arlington’s primary policy guide guiding development around the county, and property owners and developers can request a special study of a specific area if county leaders have yet to adopt zoning standards for a property, or if they’re proposing changes outside the scope of what the county envisioned for the area. A GLUP study most recently charted out changes in Virginia Square, clearing the way for the planned addition of a new affordable housing complex and new apartments along Washington Blvd.

But county staff have had trouble handling the workload of special GLUP studies requests recently, which has been particularly impactful for one prominent shopping center: the Village at Shirlington. The development’s owner, Federal Realty Investment Trust, has hoped for a study since December 2017, with the eventual goal of adding more density on the property. The company is also weighing putting a new apartment building on the parking lot at the corner of S. Arlington Mill Drive and S. Randolph Street.

But the firm would need an amendment to the county’s land-use plans to make those changes happen, and that will only come with a special GLUP study. Accordingly, the process has been closely watched by county developers eager to learn more about how it might change.

In a Jan. 22 meeting of the county’s Long Range Planning Commission, Arlington staff laid out a series of proposed changes to GLUP study applications. In a bid to make the process “more efficient and streamlined,” cutting down on staff time devoted to the issue, applicants would have to provide more detailed information on proposed changes up front, including 3-D models of the property and a more robust analysis of transportation impacts from the development.

Staff also hope to limit study applications to June 1-Sept. 1 each year, with the goal of passing along reports on the study requests to the County Board by the following February. Applicants would also be required to pay an “initial review fee” before even filing a full GLUP application.

But those proposals drew the ire of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, with CEO Kate Bates writing in a Jan. 18 letter to county officials that the changes will “likely have the unintended consequence of hindering economic development in Arlington.”

While she acknowledges that the changes might create “workflow certainty” for county staff, she warned that could come at “the cost of lost opportunities for Arlington” by dragging the process out for too long.

“Arlington prides itself on being a community with a forward-looking, progressive planning policy but this proposal is clearly a step back,” Bates said.

Bates believes that any study proposed in “June of one year could be queued to be heard at the end of the following year and approved in the year after, possibly creating an almost two-year delay before even beginning the site plan process.”

“The chamber is confounded how adding a possible two years to an already lengthy process could be considered efficient,” Bates said. “The chamber also wonders how a process so opaquely envisioned, without soliciting input from affected businesses or citizens, could lead to more inclusivity. Again, this proposed fix is out of scale with the issues it is hoping to remedy.”

Bates is instead urging the county to leave the current GLUP study process in place, but dedicate more county workers to handling the study requests. That could be challenging, however, given the county’s current mix of a hiring slowdown and the elimination of some county positions during a difficult budget year.

The Long Range Planning Commission and Zoning Committee are set to hold a joint meeting on the topic tomorrow (Wednesday), with the goal of advancing the proposal to the full Planning Commission in March and the County Board in April.

Photo via Arlington County

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Morning Notes

Overturned Vehicle Near Gunston — A vehicle overturned in a reported four-vehicle crash in the Long Branch Creek neighborhood yesterday afternoon. The crash happened on the 1500 block of 28th Street S., near Gunston Middle School. Two occupants of the overturned vehicle were able to get out safely prior to rescuers arriving on scene, according to initial reports. [Twitter]

Dog Rescued by ACFD — Firefighters rescued a dog named Bling from yesterday’s house fire in Lyon Park. “Medics provided oxygen to Bling with a special pet mask,” the fire department said. “Although Bling did suffer some smoke inhalation, his outlook is good!” [Twitter, Twitter]

WUSA 9 Back on Fios — After several days of being blacked out for Verizon Fios customers as a result of a fee dispute between Verizon and Tysons-based broadcaster Tegna, local CBS affiliate WUSA 9 has returned to the Fios lineup. In an email to an upset resident during the blackout, forwarded to ARLnow.com, Arlington’s cable administrator said there was nothing the county could do to help resolve the dispute. [Washington Business Journal]

Salt Dome Goes Bye Bye — “Up since 1928 when it originally held water, the old salt tank on Old Dominion is coming down this week with an interim replacement directly behind… Tanks for your service.” [Twitter]

Chamber: Amazon Will Help Arlington Grow — In a letter to its members, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce argues that Amazon’s arrival in the county will be a benefit for the local business community. “The Amazon headquarters helps us to grow back the jobs lost in the past decade,” the Chamber’s Scott Pedowitz wrote. “This development will happen across the next 12 years, which means that it will be gradual; our labor and real estate markets will not change overnight.” Amazon is only expected to bring 400-500 jobs to Arlington this year, though it plans to add 25,000 jobs in the county through 2030, the letter said. [Chamber of Commerce]

News About the News — Alexandria local news site AlexandriaNews.org has shut down after 10 years in business. Meanwhile, Sun Gazette editor Scott McCaffrey is celebrating 25 years in that position. [Sun Gazette, Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Arlington Chamber Urges County Board to Avoid Tax Hikes, Despite Looming Budget Deficit

As Arlington leaders gear up to confront a yawning budget deficit in the new fiscal year, the county’s business community is delivering a message to officials holding the purse strings: cut spending, but don’t raise taxes.

The Arlington Chamber of Commerce recently staked out a series of local policy positions as 2019 gets rolling, and one of its biggest asks this year is that the “county government seek and adopt additional savings and economies of scale before considering any increase in the real estate tax burden.”

Such a request may well be a futile one — the County Board has already asked County Manager Mark Schwartz for proposals on what various tax rate hikes might look like for fiscal year 2020. Schwartz has also warned that a mix of service cuts, layoffs and tax increases will likely be necessary to cope with a budget deficit that could prove to be as large as $78 million, as Arlington anxiously awaits Amazon and its projected boost to county coffers.

But the chamber is, perhaps predictably, urging the Board to instead embrace its strategy from a year ago, when members opted to avoid any tax rate increase in favor of some targeted cuts.

The business group is even asking the Board to conduct “a local study of comparative tax rates between Arlington and surrounding jurisdictions to discover specific tax rates and impact fees that put the county at a competitive disadvantage in attracting and retaining certain segments of the business community,” which could prompt additional rate and fee cuts.

The chamber would much rather see the Board focus on attracting more businesses to boost revenues instead, urging leaders to make economic development the Board’s “chief policy priority” this year.

That means the business group wants the county to continue its use of “competitive incentives, tied to strong benchmarks, both to attract and to retain businesses” — Arlington officials long disdained such measures, but the county’s soaring office vacancy rate has convinced leaders to use incentives to lure companies from Amazon to Nestle in recent years.

Naturally, the chamber says it also backs the county’s proposed incentive package for Amazon itself, set to include a mix of investments in transportation improvements around the new headquarters and a chunk of the new tax revenues generated by the company’s arrival in the area. The chamber previously backed the county’s pursuit of Amazon even before the exact details around the incentives became public in November; the Board will formally vote on the deal this winter, as will the General Assembly.

With Amazon on the way, the group also urged the Board to embrace the “addition of mass transit systems (bus-rapid transit or similar) in the Crystal City/Potomac Yard and Columbia Pike corridors.” The county is set to extend the Crystal City-Potomac Yard Transitway to Pentagon City in the coming years, while the idea of bus-rapid transit for the Pike has been batted around ever since the notorious streetcar’s cancellation.

Other transit projects on the chamber’s wishlist include “second entrances at the Crystal City and Ballston Metro stations, and a new Rosslyn tunnel.” The Crystal City second entrance is set to be constructed as part of the Amazon improvements; the Ballston and Rosslyn projects will require a considerably more tricky funding lift from the county.

And when it comes to ways to beef up the county’s supply of affordable housing to cope with Amazon’s projected impact on home prices, the chamber stressed that “providing developers and property owners with incentives is the best, perhaps only, way to obtain substantial additional units that are affordable to a broad part of the community and to preserve existing housing stock.”

The chamber also did not pass by another opportunity to lament the “ill-advised” nature of the county’s development of new “housing conservation districts” in 2017.

Some property owners felt ambushed by the county’s work to freeze the redevelopment of affordable homes, and the chamber is pushing for a more “open process that includes suggestions and comments from the business community” as the Board charts out the next phase of policies governing the districts.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Chamber Backs Amazon Incentives — “The Arlington Chamber of Commerce has provided its formal stamp of approval, supporting the planned Arlington County government incentive package for Amazon. The package ‘will have positive benefits for the Arlington community as a whole,’ the business organization said.” [InsideNova]

New County Finance Director Appointed — “Maria Meredith has been named Arlington County’s new Director of the Department of Management and Finance (DMF), effective January 14, 2019. She will be responsible for approximately 50 staff involved in the County’s financial operations, including management and budget, accounting, purchasing and real estate assessment.” [Arlington County]

Arlington Road Project Recognized — “We’re ready to announce the winners of our highest honor of the year — the 2018 Streetsie Award for Best Urban Street Redesign. Our readers weighed in and chose… Arlington, which received more than 1,000 votes for its road diet/protected bike lane project on Veitch Street.” [StreetsBlog]

Local Startup Struggling to Pay Bills — “Trustify, the Arlington company that provides private investigation services through digital platforms, has had trouble making payroll since October and is in arrears to its landlord and several other vendors, according to at least five employees who recently left the company.” [Washington Business Journal]

Button for Filing Air Noise Complaints — Residents in Maryland, Northwest D.C. and elsewhere have a new tool for filing complaints about noise from Reagan National Airport air traffic: a converted Amazon Dash button that does the heavy lifting of filing complaints with aviation authorities. [Washington Post]

‘Floss-Cutting’ Ceremony for Dental Clinic — “The Arlington Free Clinic recently celebrated completion of a $1.5 million fund-raising drive to support construction and outfitting of a dental facility to support those in need across Arlington. The capital campaign, which was launched by support from longtime volunteer and donor Mary Mellon (whose father died of a tooth infection he could not afford to treat when she was a teen), will allow the clinic to triple the number of dental patients it can serve.” [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Morning Notes

Christmas Travel Crunch Starts Today — “A record number of people are expected to travel this Christmas season, spurred on by economic comfort and relatively modest gas prices… This year INRIX, a traffic data firm, has forecast the very worst time for drivers to set out on the highways, and for the Washington region, that’s five days before Christmas, on Dec. 20, between 1:15 p.m. and 2:15 p.m.” [Washington Post]

County Manager Pans ART Service — “‘The ART bus performance, recently, stinks,’ Mark Schwartz said during a meeting with Arlington County Civic Federation delegates… In the second quarter of 2018, on-time performance dropped to 83 percent from 92 percent a year before, according to data provided to the county government’s Transit Advisory Committee. Ridership in that quarter was down 14 percent from a year before.” [InsideNova]

Free ART Rides Today and Tomorrow — “Free ART rides on Thurs. December 20 & Fri. December 21. Everyone rides for free! Happy holidays and thank you for riding ART!” [Twitter]

Small Fire in Under-Construction Home — “ACFD is on the scene of a small trash fire at an under-construction home near Discovery Elementary and Williamsburg Middle School.” [Twitter]

Ballston Company Announces New Funding — “Acendre, a leader in secure, cloud-based talent management software for regulated industry verticals, today announced a majority growth investment from Strattam Capital. The investment will enable Acendre to accelerate its growth and more quickly advance its innovative, easy-to-use Software as a Service (SaaS) talent management platform, which helps organizations solve some of today’s most challenging hiring problems.” [Acendre]

Amazon Joins Arlington Chamber — “Amazon.com Inc. has agreed to join the Greater Washington Hispanic and Arlington chambers of commerce and could join more in the region in 2019… The e-commerce giant formally joined the 760-member Arlington chamber on Dec. 3. and subsequently sent a senior public policy official to its annual meeting on Dec. 7, said Kate Bates, chamber president.” [Washington Business Journal]

Nearby: Georgetown Wawa Opening Today — “What an exciting couple of days this week will bring, for fans of hoagies and tacos and caffeine and alcohol-infused frozen Pepsi products. Wawa announced Monday it will open its second D.C. location Thursday, in Georgetown at 1222 Wisconsin Ave. NW. As usual, the event will feature free coffee and a sampling of Wawa fare, in addition to a ‘Georgetown-inspired beverage.'” [WTOP]

Nearby: D.C. Population Breaks 700K — “Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released new official population numbers that put the District’s population at 702,455 as of July 1, 2018. The District’s population has risen every year since 2006 and has soared by more than 100,000 people since the 2010 Census.” [PoPville]

Flickr pool photo by Maryland Nomadic

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Morning Notes

Still No Answers About Ghaisar Shooting — Tuesday was the one year anniversary of the death of Bijan Ghaisar, who was shot by U.S. Park Police officers. Thus far, Arlington County has declined to release the recording or transcript of 911 calls connected to the case. [WUSA 9]

Spotted: Beto and TMZ at DCA — Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), who narrowly lost his nationally-followed electoral challenge to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), was seen being interviewed by a TMZ producer outside of Reagan National Airport yesterday. [Twitter]

Chamber: Keep Dillon Rule — “As part of its 2019 package of legislative priorities, the [Arlington] Chamber of Commerce is continuing its belief that the ‘Dillon Rule‘ needs to be maintained, and urged members of the General Assembly to do nothing that would lessen it.” [InsideNova]

Ballston Booster Saves Dozen Dogs — Ballston BID chief Tina Leone has “rescued more than 200 dogs from around the world, and brought a dozen more to Northern Virginia on Monday.” [Patch]

Amazon News Roundup — Some people want to keep Crystal City weird. They and others will be able to register their opinions about Amazon’s imminent arrival at a pair of community meetings.

Nearby: Pedestrian’s Foot Run Over Along W&OD Trail — Last week at a road crossing of the W&OD Trail in Falls Church, “a black or gray sedan of unknown make failed to yield to a pedestrian on the sidewalk, ran over their foot, and failed to stop at the scene.” [City of Falls Church]

Flickr pool photo by Duluoz Me

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Morning Notes

Worker Rescued from Memorial Bridge — A man working on the Memorial Bridge rehabilitation project was injured this morning and transported to the hospital via fireboat and then ambulance. The injuries were reported to be non-life-threatening. [Twitter, Twitter, Twitter]

More Worries About Real Estate Prices Post-Amazon — “Amazon’s possible arrival in Northern Virginia and Queens, New York, has already sent shockwaves through surrounding real estate markets. Mara Gemond, a longtime Arlington, Virginia, realtor… Crystal City — until news broke that Amazon might be splitting its 50,000-employee second headquarters between there and Long Island City in New York. All of a sudden, the two-bedroom condo in a 1980s-era building that had been sitting on the market for nearly three months with no offers, even after a price cut, had a flood of interest.” [CNN, Washington Post, ARLnow]

Metro Closure Causes DCA Gridlock — The closure of the Crystal City and National Airport Metro stations prior to Friday’s evening rush hour, amid a rush to get out of town for the holiday weekend, caused gridlock around the airport, the GW Parkway, Route 1 and other nearby roads. Arlington County Police were dispatched to the area to help with traffic control. [NBC 4, Twitter, Greater Greater Washington]

Chamber Welcomes Amazon — Among those welcoming Amazon to Arlington is the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. “This addition to Arlington is a significant step toward enhancing and maintaining the strength of Arlington’s commercial sector and diversifying our economic base,” the Chamber said in a statement. [Arlington Chamber]

Restrictions for West Glebe Road Bridge Traffic — “A routine inspection of the bridge on West Glebe Road at South Four Mile Run has uncovered deterioration, which will require a vehicle weight restriction of 5-tons, and closure of the sidewalks in both directions. Because safety is the priority, the restrictions are effective immediately.” [Arlington County]

Marymount U Prez Dances with Local Stars — “Dr. Irma Becerra has many accomplishments to her name. Dancing is not one of them, but D.C.’s Dancing Stars Gala could soon change that. Marymount University’s new president is one of eight local celebrities who will vie for $10,000 [this past] Saturday when the annual fundraising competition is held at The Ritz-Carlton in Tysons Corner.” [Fairfax News]

Arlington Resident Buys Airline — Sanford Rederer, a resident of North Arlington and Sarasota, Florida, has purchased Florida-based Island Air Charters. [Business Observer]

Pictured above: Crystal City as it once was — building and wayfinding sign in 2011 (Flickr pool photo by Chris Reed)

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Virginia Hospital Center Expansion Proponents Mobilize Ahead of Key Vote

Supporters of the Virginia Hospital Center’s expansion plans are ramping up their advocacy efforts, now that the project’s fate looks murky ahead of a key County Board vote.

The hospital itself has begun sending out mailers backing the expansion, according to ARLnow reader Dave Schutz, urging county residents to contact the Board about the $250 million project. Arlington’s lone comprehensive hospital has hoped for roughly a year now to add a seven-story outpatient facility and a 10-story parking garage next to its existing campus (1701 N. George Mason Drive), arguing that it desperately needs more space to keep pace with the county’s burgeoning population.

Meanwhile, the county’s business community is also redoubling its efforts to push the expansion forward. The Chamber of Commerce penned a new letter to the Board today (Tuesday), imploring officials to ignore the recommendation of the county’s Planning Commission and approve the project “without further delay” this weekend.

“Further deferral of this already-delayed project will impose additional financial and time costs that will redirect resources that VHC would otherwise use to provide health care services to the Arlington community,” Chamber President and CEO Kate Bates wrote.

County planners are indeed urging the Board to hold off on giving the project a green light, over concerns about the height and design of the proposed buildings. VHC is looking to build the facilities on a parcel of county-owned land near the intersection of 19th Street N. and N. Edison Street, and the commission argues the large new buildings would look out of place sitting across the street from small single-family homes.

Though commissioners support the project in principle, they voted unanimously last week to recommend that the Board force the hospital to revise its plans to address those concerns. They argue that the county would be better served by requiring the hospital to go through a “Phased Development Site Plan” process, a long-range exercise that would give planners more say over VHC’s intentions to redevelop its existing campus.

The hospital argued that such a process would be prohibitively difficult and expensive, and Bates alleged in her letter that VHC has already been made to wait too long to move ahead with its expansion plans. The hospital originally hoped to earn the Board’s approval this July, but neighbors successfully convinced the county to hold off on until the end of the summer to allow for more community involvement in the process.

“Each additional delay in the approval of the site plan application puts off the day when VHC will be able to care for its patient load in a full and comfortable facility,” Bates wrote. “Absent a timely expansion of VHC to accommodate its patient-centric mission, the community as a whole will bear these costs.”

The Board will have the final say on the matter at its meeting Saturday (Sept. 22), a vote made all the more consequential for the county because Arlington stands to gain an 11.5-acre site on S. Carlin Springs Road as part of a “land swap” with the hospital if the expansion moves forward.

Though Board members have been loath to tip their hands on the vote, they are pledging to thoughtfully consider the concerns of neighbors and planners about the project.

“Public or private institutions and buildings, whether hospitals or schools, office buildings or community centers, must respect our planning documents, the built environment and the residents of surrounding communities,” said Board member John Vihstadt during a Chamber forum last week. “Height, setbacks, connectivity, building orientation, traffic and parking concerns are critical factors in any development proposal, and they’re concerns I take seriously. I’m looking forward to hearing more from the hospital and community in the coming days.”

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ABC Officials, Lawmakers Pitch Reforms to Arlington Businesses

Virginia lawmakers are considering loosening some state alcohol regulations in the coming months — and that could be good news for Arlington’s bars and restaurants.

The General Assembly is weighing a bevy of changes to how the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control authority, commonly known as the ABC, hands out licenses and permits to better match the ever-evolving beverage business.

Changes could include a big reduction in the types of permits the ABC hands out, or perhaps even a change in regulations dictating how much food businesses need to sell if they’re also offering liquor. All that and more were tweaks offered up by ABC officials and state lawmakers to local business owners at a gathering hosted by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce Thursday (Aug. 16), as part of a bid to connect the business community to its regulators.

“We’re trying to look for a concept that does free up the market a little bit, without getting to the point that we have bars on every corner,” said Tom Kirby, ABC’s acting chief of law enforcement.

A particularly popular option offered up by Kirby and his colleagues: somehow adjusting ABC’s current requirement that businesses maintain a 45 percent to 55 percent split between food and mixed drink sales. Beer and wine sales are exempted from that requirement, yet some bars and restaurants still find themselves challenged by that standard.

Freddie Lutz, owner of Freddie’s Beach Bar in Crystal City, recounted that he’s had several slow winters where he’s bumped up against those limits, largely thanks to competition from bars in D.C. and Maryland. Accordingly, he’d be quite happy indeed to see those limits change, particularly as he prepares to open another restaurant in Crystal City.

“I just want to see that ratio tweaked just enough to not get gray hair over it,” Lutz said.

To that end, Kirby said his agency could work with lawmakers to bump the food standard down to 35 percent of gross sales, or even offer exemptions at certain levels of sales.

State Sen. Jeremy McPike, D-29th District, currently sits on a subcommittee examining ABC issues, which he says is weighing even more targeted fixes. For instance, lawmakers could measure how much liquor bars sell by volume to determine a balance between food and drink, instead of looking at the dollar amount of sales.

The goal of the limit in the first place is, after all, to prevent bar patrons from being overserved.

“What if you have a higher-priced shot that costs like $150?” McPike said. “Think about how much you need to sell to make up for that.”

ABC officials stressed that such a change would in the agency’s interest as well — Chris Curtis, secretary to the ABC’s board, noted its employees spend roughly “10,400 man hours” each year monitoring whether restaurants are complying with the food-drink split.

“But I’m sure that pales in comparison to the amount of time you all have to spend sending us this information,” Curtis said.

Another possible change the ABC could consider is issuing a new type of permit to let bar patrons bring their beverages outside into a common area shared by multiple businesses. McPike suggested that local governments, or even business improvement districts, could manage the process, allowing for more events drawing in a variety of restaurants in a small area.

Kate Bates, the chamber’s president and CEO, noted that Rosslyn businesses have long hoped to offer events pulling in all the neighborhood’s different bars, but have run into challenges letting people easily move between different establishments if they’re too far away from each.

Similarly, Cassie Hurley, events manager for the Crystal City BID, suggested that her group “would love to do something similar to 6th Street in Austin, [Texas] on 23rd Street” to let people bring their drinks into stores along the small strip.

Kirby says ABC is receptive to the idea, though he did caution that inevitably there will be enforcement issues to consider, considering that revelers could easily get carried away and leave the permitted boundaries for such activities.

Complicating matters further are the political realities of Richmond — the needs of Northern Virginia businesses are quite different from those in Southwest Virginia, where, as McPike pointed out, there are still some dry counties left.

Progress could certainly be slow in some areas, as lawmakers will only meet for a short legislative session next year with more elections on the way. And, as Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-30th District, noted “it’s rare that we rewrite whole code sections all at the same time.”

But Kirby underscored that ABC is willing to work with lawmakers to ensure everyone is a bit more satisfied with the entire regulatory framework.

“There is a lot of agreement that we need to do something differently,” Kirby said.

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Arlington Chamber Backs County Efforts to Win Amazon’s HQ2

Arlington’s business community is throwing its support behind the county’s efforts to land Amazon’s second headquarters.

The county’s Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 750 businesses in the area, penned a letter to the County Board Friday (June 8) expressing its “utmost support” for Arlington’s work to secure the vaunted HQ2.

“Adding a global brand like Amazon to Arlington’s corporate roster would be a monumental win for our area, helping to continue to diversify our economy and helping to maintain the significant commercial sector in our tax base,” Kate Bates, the chamber’s president and CEO, wrote. “And in turn, our location sets Amazon up for maximum success.”

County leaders have worked with the state to offer up two different sites for the tech giant to call home: one anchored in Crystal City and extending to Alexandria’s Potomac Yard, and another in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. The company has yet to tip its hand, but, by all accounts, Arlington is a leading contender to win out among 20 other HQ2 finalists.

Yet concerns abound among county residents and leaders alike about how Amazon’s arrival would impact the area, particularly with the county already dealing with rising rents and an influx of students in Arlington Public Schools. But Bates argued that any “challenges” associated with HQ2 setting up shop in Arlington pale in comparison to the benefits it could offer.

“We understand the amount of growth that comes with a large corporation like Amazon settling in Arlington comes with challenges,” Bates wrote. “However, we know these are challenges that Arlington has the infrastructure to successfully overcome.”

The full letter from the chamber is after the jump.

Dear Chairman Cristol:

As Arlington County moves forward in the process of recruiting Amazon’s second headquarters, I write to you on behalf of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 750 local businesses, to express our utmost support of all efforts to bring Amazon HQ2 to Arlington.

Adding a global brand like Amazon to Arlington’s corporate roster would be a monumental win for our area, helping to continue to diversify our economy, and helping to maintain the significant commercial sector in our tax base. And in turn, our location sets Amazon up for maximum success. While Amazon carefully considers each of the final locations, we are confident that the County will be able to prove to Amazon what all of us know: Arlington is the best home for the online retail giant to continue to grow and lead on the international stage.

More and more large companies – a most recent example being Nestlé – have acknowledged Arlington as the premier place to relocate, due to the unparalleled opportunities our area offers. Arlington has all of the critical factors needed for success and expansion, including the ability to provide key access, transportation, technology, one of the most highly-educated talent pools in the country, and close proximity to the nation’s capital.

We understand the amount of growth that comes with a large corporation like Amazon settling in Arlington comes with challenges. However, we know these are challenges that Arlington has the infrastructure to successfully overcome. We are thrilled at the idea of bringing a company like Amazon to our area, whose innovative practices and strong global presence exemplify what we our area seeks to add to our business community.

We thank the County for its work to attract exceptional businesses like Amazon to our area, and we stand ready to assist however possible.

Sincerely,

Kate Bates

President & CEO

File photo

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Morning Notes

Fund Bets on Amazon HQ2 Coming to Crystal City — A New York-based asset manager is making a $10 million bet that Crystal City will be the location chosen for Amazon’s HQ2. The company cited a high concentration of millennials and housing in the area, as well as proximity to Metro stations, commuter rail and Reagan National Airport. [Bloomberg, ZeroHedge]

Chamber Wants Extended Parking Meter Hours Paused — “Leadership of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce wants the county government to hit the brakes on a proposal to increase parking-meter fees and extend the hours meters must be fed. In a letter to County Board Chairman Katie Cristol, Arlington Chamber president Kate Bates said the government failed to do proper outreach before proposing the alterations to existing policy.” [InsideNova]

Grumbles About Ballston Construction — “Like many who venture to the kingdom of Ballston, I am impatient for the never-ending renovations to be over. Tina Leone, CEO of the Ballston Business Improvement District, was happy to promise me that the rewards for us patrons of Arlington’s most central community will unfold in September–with staggered openings continuing through May 2019.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Average Single-Family Home Sale: $1 Million — The average sale price of a single-family home in Arlington in March was $1,066,368, up 6.9 percent from a year prior. [InsideNova]

Ribbon Cutting for Abingdon Renovations — A ribbon cutting ceremony is being held at 9:30 this morning to celebrate the recently-completed addition and renovations at Abingdon Elementary School in Fairlington. [Twitter]

Lopez Talks Medicaid Expansion — Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) was a guest on Politico’s healthcare podcast to discuss the possibility of expanding Medicaid in Virginia. [Simplecast, Twitter]

Photo by Anna Merod

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Morning Notes

Pentagon City Metro Tunnel Now Open — At long last, the pedestrian tunnel from the corner of S. Hayes Street and 12th Street S. to the Pentagon City Metro station has opened. [Twitter]

Firefighters Push for RaiseIAFF Local 2800, which represents Arlington firefighters and paramedics, is pushing for a raise in this year’s county budget process. The group says Arlington’s compensation for public safety employees “is at the bottom of the DMV.” [Twitter]

Chamber Concerned With 4MRV Initiative — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce has written a letter to the County Board expressing concerns with the Four Mile Run Valley Initiative and possible changes to or acquisition of the light industrial properties along Four Mile Run Drive. [Arlington Chamber]

Growing Up Black in Arlington — From 1950 to 1962, growing up black in Arlington meant facing segregation and racism at every turn, and not feeling safe venturing out of the largely self-contained confines of a historically African-American neighborhood like Hall’s Hill. [Falls Church News-Press]

Arlington Startup Raises $3 Million — What started as a way for the owner of conveyor belt sushi chain Wasabi Sushi to streamline his accounting is now a venture-funded startup. Arlington-based MarginEdge has raised $3 million to go national with its restaurant management software. [Washington Business Journal]

Axios Makes ‘Most Innovative’ List Fast-growing Clarendon-based media startup Axios has been named one of the top 10 most innovative media companies of 2018. [Fast Company]

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