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County Details Possible Zoning, Permit Changes Designed to Make Childcare More Accessible

Arlington officials are outlining more details about potential changes on the way for the county’s childcare policies, raising the possibility that Arlington could soon allow more children in small daycare centers, cut back on the permitting and zoning requirements for daycares and reduce the number of staff required for each center to operate.

County leaders have spent years studying what they could do to make childcare more accessible and affordable for Arlington parents, signing off on some broad goals with a “Childcare Action Plan” this summer. But the County Board is also hoping to make some more specific tweaks to its childcare ordinances, and a survey released this week reveals some of the proposals officials could consider before the year is up.

The Board has already agreed to set up a new subsidy to defray childcare costs for families that don’t qualify for state assistance, and plans to streamline some of its online resources for parents looking to find childcare options. Yet, after holding a community forum on the topic this month, the Board could endorse a dozen or more separate policy changes this December.

The new survey looks to collect yet more opinions on the proposed changes. Chiefly, the county could soon allow up to 12 children in small, family daycare homes, up from the current limit of nine. That change would match state law, which permits up to 12 kids in such a setting.

The Board could also do away with its requirement that anyone looking to open a new family childcare center first secure separate “use permits” from the county, making the process “by-right” instead to speed the proliferation of those daycare facilities. Additionally, the Board could eliminate limits on operating hours for those centers, or allow them to open earlier or stay open later to better accommodate working parents.

Another option the Board could consider would be changing its zoning ordinance to set more uniform standards for daycares, in order to help compensate for a lack of permit reviews. New guidelines could include limits on the hours of outdoor playtime for kids or requirements surrounding screening and buffering for playgrounds.

As for larger daycare centers, the Board may also allow them to bump up classroom sizes across kids of various age ranges. For instance, the county currently caps daycares at 10 children per class for two-year-olds, 16 per class for three-year-olds, and 25 per class for kids ranging from 6 to 14.

The Board could choose to adopt state standards instead, including a limit of 24 kids for age 2 and 30 for age three, with no cap on the number of kids per class above the age of six.

Finally, the Board could reduce the number of caregivers each daycare is required to have on staff, or change up its educational requirements for daycare staffers. The county currently stipulates that daycare providers should have two years of college experience, with evidence of childcare-focused coursework — the Board could move instead to state standards, which require a high school diploma and a set amount of relevant experience and training.

The survey on childcare changes is set to close by Friday (Oct. 12).

Photo via Arlington County

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Despite Traffic Worries, Lee Highway Daycare Center on Track to Open in Early 2019

A proposed childcare center on Lee Highway that has irked neighbors for months is now on track to open in the next few months.

The County Board unanimously signed off on a permit Tuesday to let Little Ambassadors’ Academy move ahead with plans to open a third location at 5801 and 5901 Lee Highway. The childcare center is now on course to open by February or March of next year.

The daycare company has hoped for just over a year now to remodel two existing buildings on the property and create space for as many as 155 children, but people living nearby have repeatedly raised concerns about how the facility’s addition would impact traffic in the area.

Two people living behind the site even filed a lawsuit to block the daycare center’s construction after the Board lent its initial approval last September, though a judge tossed out that case in January. The Leeway Overlee Civic Association has raised concerns about the project as well, urging the Board to restrict the number of children allowed at the facility in a bid to ease traffic in the area.

All the while, Little Ambassadors has worked to open up the new center — but the process has dragged on so long that the permit the Board issued last year came up for review, even though the daycare has yet open.

As Sara Mariska, an attorney for Little Ambassadors, told the Board: “There has been no change in circumstances since we were here a year ago.”

Nevertheless, neighborhood concerns linger. Adam Watson, a staffer in the county’s planning division, said he’s heard from a variety of people in the area concerned that the daycare will snarl an already-busy section of Lee Highway. The original District Taco location sits just down the block, and a new 711 is on the way nearby at 5747 Lee Highway as well.

“[Our] initial expression of general support for [the company’s] application was based on the understanding that the child care center would operate with no more than 135 children,” Leeway Overlee Civic Association President Jack Grimaldi wrote to the Board. “More children, in other words, raises the likelihood of more vehicles being needed to get them to and from the center.”

But Joanne Gabor, who works with county’s Department of Environmental Services, assured the Board that staff believe Little Amabassdors’ strategy for managing traffic in the area “is a good plan and it’s workable.” And without any real-world examples of the childcare facility’s impact on the local traffic, the Board wasn’t inclined to change its original decision.

“A lot of the concerns that people had when this use permit was approved originally, we haven’t had a chance to see if any mitigating or corrective actions will be needed,” said Vice Chair Christian Dorsey. “I can’t find a way to mitigate something that hasn’t happened. It may seem like a callous approach to safety, but we have to see how the network responds.”

Board member Libby Garvey added that Little Ambassadors’ track record at its other Lee Highway locations, at 5232 Lee Highway and 3565 Lee Highway, also gives the Board confidence.

“We have a lot of background coming to us on this,” Garvey said. “I don’t want people to think we’re just winging this.”

The Board will review the daycare center’s use permit once more in September 2019, when it will have a chance to assess any potential traffic impact.

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Morning Notes

Parking Changes Among Child Care Proposals — Changing onerous parking requirements for child care centers is going to be “on the list of proposed ordinance changes we’re introducing” at a community meeting next Monday, according to a tweet from Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol. [Twitter]

Smoke the Dog Dies — “Smoke, the Arlington, Virginia, dog with a bucket list, died this week, the Animal Welfare League of Arlington announced Friday. In July, Smoke captured a lot of hearts in the area when the Arlington shelter announced that he had terminal cancer and that they’d created a bucket list for him.” [WTOP]

Letter: Arlington Lacks Airbnb Enforcement — A letter to the editor argues that Arlington County has been ineffective in enforcement of a short-term rental ordinance passed in 2016. Per the letter: “Short-term rental industry websites showed more than 1,000 units advertised for short-term rent in Arlington as of early July, but only 72 residents had obtained permits, down from 86 in January.” [Washington Post]

Dems Make Money Via Mail — The top fundraising activity for the Arlington County Democratic Committee: sending hand-addressed and hand-stamped letters. [InsideNova]

Tree Falls on Chain Bridge Road — Chain Bridge Road was closed Sunday after a tree fell and took down utility lines, for at least the second time this year. The stretch of Chain Bridge Road in Arlington that was closed is home to the most expensive house in the D.C. area. [Twitter]

Photo courtesy Jeremy Galliani

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County Looking for More Childcare Feedback, With New Policy Proposals Coming This Fall

Arlington is looking for a bit more feedback on the county’s plans to expand access to childcare, releasing a new community survey on the topic.

The county rolled out the 19-question form today (Friday), just a few weeks after the County Board signed off on a final version of its “Childcare Action Plan.”

That document calls for the implementation of several new initiatives, like a subsidy program to defray childcare costs for families who don’t qualify for state assistance and the streamlining of the county’s online resources for parents. But the Board is also weighing some zoning and code changes to make it easier for daycare facilities to operate in Arlington, and pledged to collect more community feedback ahead of proposing those policy tweaks later this fall.

The survey asks respondents how they currently meet their childcare needs — via a public or private childcare program, a babysitter or a family day home childcare provider — and in what zip code of the county they live, work and patronize childcare facilities.

Respondents are also asked to select their preference for where they’d like to see daycare facilities located. That’s a key point the Board has debated in the past, as it found that many county workers rely on childcare services in neighboring localities like Falls Church or Fairfax County. Members have often sought more clarity on whether that’s because services in Arlington are inaccessible or because people who work in Arlington often live outside of the county and are looking for closer options.

The survey also includes questions on what barriers to accessing childcare parents encounter around the county. Available responses include factors like transportation, cost, a lack of care when it’s most needed (before 7 a.m. or after 6 p.m.) and potential language barriers.

The county is also planning a community forum on the childcare initiative next month. The meeting, scheduled for Sept. 17 from 7-9:30 p.m. at 2100 Washington Blvd, will focus on collecting opinions on some potential changes the Board could make. Per a county event description, those include the following topics:

  • Increasing the maximum number of children from nine to 12 in family day care homes and eliminating or adjusting the use permit requirement
  • Land use standards for family day care homes
  • Parking requirements for center-based and family-based child care programs
  • Group size requirements for center-based child care programs
  • Teacher-child ratio requirements for center-based and family-based child care programs
  • Teacher qualifications for center-based child care programs

The Board is aiming to pass more childcare changes by December.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Top Chef Alum Opening Clarendon Restaurant — “Former ‘Top Chef’ contestant Katsuji Tanabe, best known for his kosher taco spot MexiKosher in New York, will open his first restaurant in the D.C. area in Clarendon in September. Le Kon, whose name comes from the Japanese word for corn, is taking over the space previously occupied by Park Lane Tavern at 3227 Washington Blvd.” [Washington Business Journal]

Progress on Child Care Initiative — “The county government’s child-care initiative has been under way for a little over a year, focusing in large part on the existing barriers to increasing the supply of day-care providers in the county. Hurdles run the gamut from zoning and parking issues to qualifications and pay of teachers and other staff… Using the most recent data available, county officials estimate there were about 13,500 children under age 5 in Arlington in 2015, but only about half that number of available slots in day care.” [InsideNova]

Flyover Planned Today — A flyover of Arlington National Cemetery is planned to take place at 9:15 a.m. today. [Twitter]

White Supremacist Train Runs Through Arlington — A small group of white supremacists rode Metro from the Vienna station, through Arlington, before arriving in D.C. for a rally. Police tried to keep the group separated from a much larger group of anti-hate protesters, prompting some complaints about the white supremacists having their own “private” Metrorail car, though a reporter was able to board their train car at Clarendon without issue. [Twitter, Twitter]

W&OD Railroad Stopped Running 50 Years Ago — The Washington & Old Dominion Railroad stopped running 50 years ago this month, after 130 years of service. The former rail line was later acquired by the regional park authority and converted into the current W&OD Trail, which runs from Arlington to rural Loudoun County. [InsideNova]

Reminder: Major Metro Work — “Starting Saturday (Aug. 11) and running through Aug. 26, Metro will shut down the Blue Line completely starting at the Arlington Cemetery station, and single-track between the McPherson Square and Smithsonian stations. Officials expect that will result in 20-minute headways on the Orange and Silver lines ‘at all times,’ and it’s urging riders to ‘only use Metrorail if you have no other option.'” [ARLnow, Twitter]

County Twitter Account Pokes Fun at Metro — Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services tweeted yesterday: “As a courtesy, the C&O Canal-Alexandria Canal system will be reopen to traffic. Note: two-mule minimum per team.” [Twitter]

Photo courtesy Jeremy Galliani

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County Board Plans New Childcare Subsidy, Policy Changes Before Year’s End

Arlington officials are moving closer to setting up a new financial assistance program to help families afford childcare, with overhauls to zoning and parking requirements for daycare facilities possible before the year is out.

The County Board signed off yesterday (Tuesday) on a final version of a “Childcare Action Plan” it’s been eyeing since late last year, setting the stage for leaders to address the affordability and availability of childcare in Arlington following years of debate.

In the near term, the county will work with local businesses and nonprofits to set up a program to defray childcare costs for families who don’t qualify for state subsidies, similar to existing efforts in Alexandria and D.C. Staff also plan to study the county’s childcare needs and shortcomings in more detail, building on work they’ve done over the last year or so, and make the county’s online resources for childcare providers a bit more streamlined.

By December, the Board plans to rewrite some of its zoning ordinances to make it a bit easier for daycare centers to open and operate in the county, with the goal of bringing costs for parents down in the process. That same month, the Board will propose changes to the county’s childcare codes, with a vote on the edits soon afterward.

Leaders haven’t quite finalized what all of those changes will look like, with community engagement and public hearings to discuss the specifics set for the coming months, but they’re broadly aiming to give parents more affordable options for daycare around Arlington.

“We’ve come a far way, but we’ve got a long way to go,” said Board member Libby Garvey.

Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey pointed out that Arlington parents foot the highest average annual bill for childcare for an infant and a 4-year-old out of any locality in the region. The county’s average cost of $42,705 per year, compared to $40,521 in D.C. and $37,787 in Alexandria per staff’s findings, left Dorsey “gobsmacked” and eager to see what the Board could do to bring that figure down.

“I can’t imagine our rents are higher than they are in D.C.,” Dorsey said. “The District has just as much supply-demand pressure, yet we’re more expensive… I’m not interested in Arlington exceptionalism when it comes to this.”

One contributing factor could be the county’s parking requirements for daycare facilities. Deborah Warren, the deputy director of the county’s Department of Human Services, noted that Arlington currently requires providers to have one parking space for each employee, in addition to space for pickups and drop offs.

The Board could tweak that requirement to make it easier for more facilities to open in the county’s densest neighborhoods, or even let smaller, family daycare providers avoid the lengthy process of applying for a special use permit before opening their doors.

“If it takes less time, there’s less of a process to go through, hopefully we can increase the number that’s out there,” said Kimberly Vacca, an associate planner with the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development.

With roughly 13,435 children under the age of 5 in the county and 6,894 spaces in licensed daycares, as of 2015, county leaders recognize they have an urgent need to somehow attract more providers to the area.

Dorsey urged the Board not to lose sight of the county’s focus on using its regulations to enforce high standards at all of its daycare facilities, yet the entire Board expressed a desire to see some of those requirements somehow loosened by the time this process wraps up.

“To the extent that the pendulum swings between affordability and quality, the pendulum might’ve swung a bit too far away from affordability here,” said Board Chair Katie Cristol.

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New Daycare Center in Courthouse Set to Win Permit

A new daycare center could soon be open for business for Courthouse.

The Merit School nearly has the final approval it needs to open up a new facility in an office building at 2311 Wilson Blvd.

The County Board is reviewing a use permit to allow the daycare company, an offshoot of a similar school in Woodbridge, to start operating in the space, and has approved several other child care facilities in the area in recent months. The Board has made the availability of child care in the county a particular focus over the last few years, and is still working on an overhaul of Arlington’s policies governing the facilities.

The 7,600-square-foot space could someday serve as many as 103 children, and includes a nearly 3,000-square-foot playground around the rear of the building.

According to a letter to county staff from the company’s managers, the facility “will be designed with separate areas designated for children by age,” serving kids from toddlers up to 12-year-olds.

The daycare center will have eight parking spaces reserved for its employees in a nearby underground garage, with another six saved for pick-up and drop-offs by parents along N. Adams Street.

The Lyon Village Civic Association raised a few “concerns about potential increased traffic and parking issues in the neighborhood,” according to a county staff report. But county staff ultimately decided to simply require the daycare center to make its parking rules clear to parents in advance, rather than forcing the company to make any significant changes.

The County Board is set to vote on the permit for the new facility at its meeting Saturday (July 14). Board members are planning to unveil their childcare changes in a July 24 work session.

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The Children’s School Advances Plans for Former Alpine Restaurant Site

The Children’s School is moving closer to finding a permanent new home, as it pushes forward plans to build a three-story daycare facility along Lee Highway.

The child care program for Arlington Public Schools employees is looking for a county permit to redevelop the space once occupied by the Alpine Restaurant at 4770 Lee Highway, marking the first formal proposal that the school would seek to build a a 27,500-square-foot facility on the property.

The Children’s School got its start in 1987 at the Reed School building in Westover as a childcare program owned and operated by school system employees, but APS’ plans to build a new elementary school at the site pushed the program elsewhere.

The co-op is currently operating out of a Ballston office building, and would look to use the Alpine site to expand its operations and serve about 235 children in total. Anywhere from 60 to 70 of those students would likely be part of the “Integration Station” program, which is reserved for kids with developmental or other disabilities, allaying initial worries that The Children’s School wouldn’t be able to maintain its relationship with the program.

The school is hoping to demolish the current restaurant on the property, then build a three-story facility complete with two outdoor play spaces and a one-level underground parking garage.

In all, there would be 42 parking spaces located on site, as well as nine extra spaces on an adjacent lot to serve the roughly 40 employees at the program. The building would also include a “covered drive aisle” to facilitate easy pick-up and drop-offs by parents, with hours running from about 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. each weekday.

The play areas, designed to serve kids from 2 months old to 5 years old, would be located on the second- and third-floor roofs of the property, and both will be enclosed by a 7-foot-tall mesh fence. Those will face away from the road and toward the residential neighborhoods behind the building.

County staff are recommending that the County Board approve the project, writing in a report that the program has managed to work up the right sort of plans to mitigate any potential traffic impacts along Lee Highway. The Lee Highway Alliance also endorsed the project in a letter to the Board.

Board members will consider the permit request Saturday (July 14) as part of the Board’s “consent agenda,” which is generally reserved for non-controversial matters that are passed without debate.

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County Board Will Unveil Long-Debated Childcare Policy Overhaul Next Month

Arlington officials plan to unveil their long-awaited overhaul of the county’s childcare policies next month.

County Board Chair Katie Cristol announced those plans her first “State of the County” address today (Thursday) while speaking to the Arlington Chamber of Commerce in Crystal City. The overhaul is a substantial step forward in the debate over how to improve the availability and affordability of daycare in the county.

While Cristol said she was broadly “optimistic” about the county’s future, she stressed that the Board needs to take action to bring down the cost of childcare and ease the financial burden on working families. County leaders have been examining a “draft action plan” to tackle the issue since December, and Cristol says the Board plans to unveil a final product and debate it in full at a July 24 work session.

“For many families, child care can cost more than rent,” Cristol said. “In just a few weeks time, the Board will consider a detailed plan to address this… including a new set of land-use strategies, public-private partnerships and more.”

She noted that county staff and a host of community partners have been studying the issue since early last year, and will finally be able to present a path forward in some “granularity” next month.

Some items will be able to put into motion immediately, while others will require more Board debate, particularly if they involve zoning changes.

Cristol also stressed the childcare plan would be just one of the Board’s priorities as it moves into the back half of 2018. Following the “Big Idea Roundtables” the county convened to spark conversations among county residents, Cristol said she’s newly hopeful that the Board will be able to revisit its zoning policies to increase Arlington’s supply of market rate affordable housing.

Specifically, she’s interested in tackling the problem of the county’s “missing middle,” or homes available for county residents who might make too much money to qualify for dedicated affordable housing but still can’t afford detached single-family homes or high-priced luxury condos.

Cristol is hoping to find new ways to encourage the development of duplexes, moderately-priced townhouses or even “accessory” homes small enough to fit on another single-family home’s property. The county has already loosened its rules for such construction, known as “accessory dwelling units,” but she believes there’s more work still to do.

“We cannot lose sight of affordability as the fundamental challenge of Arlington’s future,” Cristol said.

She expects that the “overdue” kickoff of planning along the Lee Highway corridor, which the Board found new funding for this year and will start in earnest in the coming months, will have some role to play in that conversation.

Cristol would acknowledge, however, that the specter of Amazon’s arrival in Arlington hovers over any discussion of affordable housing or any other pressing issue in the county.

She declined to “break any news” on that front, but would say that she felt the county’s pursuit of the tech giant’s HQ2 “will make the county stronger.”

“Whatever choice Amazon makes on HQ2, it means the national spotlight has found our county,” Cristol said.

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Morning Notes

Action Coming on Child Care Initiative — “When it comes to addressing issues related to child care, “this is a year we’re looking to see some concrete action,” [Arlington County Board Chair Katie] Cristol said during a May 30 meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Arlington.” [InsideNova]

Arlington Ridge Closures Continue — Daytime work will continue today on a collapsed 18-inch stormwater pipe, necessitating the daily closure of Arlington Ridge Road between Glebe Road and 23rd Street S. Rain and a leaking water main break slowed crews down last week. [Twitter]

County Board Primary Update — “The two candidates competing in the June 12 primary for the Arlington County Board are what voters might expect of a Democrat in the affluent, educated, rapidly urbanizing enclave — highly prepared, willing to get into the details of local issues and claiming fealty to the county’s tradition of careful, long-term planning.” [Washington Post]

GW Parkway Bridge Work Next Week — Work to repair a bridge carrying the GW Parkway over Windy Run in Arlington is scheduled to begin next week. The work will result in lane closures that could snarl traffic, especially when more impactful repairs start — likely in late July. [WTOP, InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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Cherrydale Day Care Dispute Exposes Deeper County Board Rift

A neighborhood dispute over a Cherrydale daycare facility laid bare some deeper disagreements about the proper role of the Arlington County Board at the body’s Tuesday (May 22) meeting.

The Dalbir family day care, located at a home on the 3900 block of 17th Street N., was asking the Board for a permit to make what might seem like a minor change — instead of supervising five children at the home, its owners wanted to care for up to nine.

Yet that request touched off fierce debate on the Board, which only approved the permit on a 3-2 vote. Board members Erik Gutshall and John Vihstadt cast the dissenting votes.

The dispute largely centered around the day care facility’s impact on parking and traffic on narrow 17th Street N., just off N. Quincy Street. Some neighbors complained to the Board that the day care’s customers and employees have already caused real problems in the area, even before adding capacity for more kids.

The Cherrydale Citizens Association opposed the permit, though the day care — which has been in business for more than two decades, according to the county staff report — is not technically located within the civic association’s boundaries.

Gutshall and Vihstadt argued that those complaints demonstrated that the day care’s owners hadn’t done enough to work with their neighbors, and they supported deferring a vote on the permit. But the other Board members strongly disagreed that it was up to the Board to step into a dispute among just a handful of households.

“This is an issue for the neighbors to resolve among themselves,” said Board Chair Katie Cristol. “Even very reasonable people can find themselves in disputes between neighbors. It happens across the county on a manner of issues, often related to parking and traffic. But that’s not the role of this Board.”

Vihstadt did acknowledge that it’s “difficult and awkward for us up here to be referees” on such parochial issues, particularly as the county looks to expand access to childcare. Cristol, in particular, has focused on the issue, though the Board has faced pushback from neighbors of other day care centers in recent months.

Gutshall and Vihstadt both urged their colleagues to take the complaints of people in the neighborhood seriously, noting that the Board previously deferred a vote on the permit in April to urge the owners to work with the community more closely to resolve these problems. (Between April and May the day care center made concessions that placated the first neighbor to contact the Board, but other households have since weighed in with their own complaints.)

“To add more density will only cause more trouble on an already troubled street,” Kathy Lash, who rents out a house next to the day care, told the Board.

Vihstadt also pointed to a letter from the Cherrydale Citizens Association echoing those concerns and lamenting that the day care’s owners have “a history of unpleasant interactions with affected residents concerning the operation of their day care.”

“Many different residents have reported that the provider’s family members have repeatedly yelled at, and occasionally cursed at, neighbors in response to their concerns about the operation of the business,” wrote Jim Todd, the civic association’s president.

Manbir Nahal, the son of the day care’s owners, told the Board that he had never heard such concerns from the civic association, and offered to meet with the group. Board member Christian Dorsey even argued that county officials shouldn’t be making decisions based on secondhand accounts of neighborhood arguments.

“They were just reporting what they heard,” Dorsey said. “We are not equipped to use that as a finding of fact with which to judge who has, or has not, been a good neighbor. It’s really beyond the point of what our job is.”

Gutshall pushed back forcefully on that point, arguing that it is “absolutely within the purview of this Board to examine whether the proposed use is consistent with good land use practices in a residential zoning district.” He added that he felt it was “incumbent on the applicant” to reach out to the civic association and assuage their concerns before earning the permit.

(Nahal said he exchanged emails with the civic association president but was unaware of the importance of meeting with the group in person.)

A majority of the Board disagreed that there were grounds to again delay approval of the day care’s request and a motion to defer for another month was voted down 3-2. Cristol, however, did urge the day care’s owners to meet with neighbors about their complaints.

As the county continues to grow in population, Board members acknowledged that this is likely far from the last time they’ll hear about such problems.

“This is just part of Arlington being really crowded,” said Board member Libby Garvey.

Photo and map via Google Maps

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Nearby Residents Voice Concerns About Proposed Courthouse Child Care Center

A proposed child care center in Courthouse is likely to be approved by the County Board at this weekend’s meeting, but it is not without some controversy.

Residents of the Woodbury Heights Condominiums have raised concerns about the proximity of the proposed Bright Horizons child care center to Arlington’s Homeless Services Center, according to the county staff report.

Several tenants of the Courthouse condominium building publicly opposed the homeless shelter prior to its construction due to safety and property value concerns.

The 24-hour homeless shelter is at 2020 14th Street N., and the child care facility would be at 2000 14th Street N. That’s a distance of less than 330 feet, according to a Google Maps estimate.

Pending approval, the child care center would also be near Ragtime restaurant, as well as Arlington County Police headquarters, the county jail and the county courthouse.

The center is slated to have a maximum permitted enrollment of 136 children, but the number could be set lower by Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services if deemed necessary.

County staff concluded that “the proposed location of the Bright Horizons child care center is not anticipated to cause an undue adverse impact on the surrounding community and will provide a valuable service at the proposed location.”

The report added that the site has adequate parking spaces and public transportation access. The child care center would convert 10,868 square feet of office space into child care use. An outdoor plaza would be converted into a 4,645 square foot outdoor play space enclosed by a five foot fence.

The Radnor/Ft. Myer Heights Civic Association did not object to the child care center and several nearby apartment buildings did not respond to county staff’s notification, according to county documents.

The child care center would help with the county’s lack of available child care services. The shortage of child care options — particularly affordable options — relative to demand prompted the launch of the county’s Child Care Initiative in December.

Bright Horizons has agreed to operate from Monday-Friday from 6:30 a.m.-7 p.m. The child care chain has three locations in Arlington already — in Rosslyn, Ballston, and Crystal City — and has dozens across the country.

Attempts to reach a current representative of the Woodbury Heights Condominium Association were unsuccessful.

Photo via Arlington County

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Morning Notes

County Focused on Child Care — “Demand for child care in Arlington is high and the County is working with business owners and families to meet the increasing needs. Preliminary steps also are underway to map out a comprehensive Child Care Initiative that establishes an action plan to advance the availability, accessibility, and quality of childcare in Arlington.” [Arlington County]

GGW Urges Support for Accessory Apartments — The website Greater Greater Washington is urging its readers to write to the Arlington County Board in support of two proposals: lowering parking minimums for buildings near Metro stations, and “reforming overly burdensome regulations on accessory apartments.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Yankee Stadium Operator to Run Rosslyn Observation Deck — JBG Smith has hired New York City-based Legends to run the public observation deck at the top of its Central Place tower in Rosslyn. Legends also operates Yankee Stadium, Angel Stadium in Anaheim, AT&T Stadium in Dallas and the One World Observatory at One World Trade Center. The 12,000 square foot Central Place observation deck will feature “an outdoor cantilevered terrace and full food and beverage program,” plus panoramic views. [Washington Business Journal]

Ballston Building Sells for $72 Million — New York-based property investment group Westbrook Partners has acquired the Two Liberty Center office building, at 4075 Wilson Blvd in Ballston, for $72 million. [Commercial Property Executive]

Ballston BID CEO on Redevelopment — Ballston Business Improvement District CEO Tina Leone says changes along the Ballston corridor, including extensive renovations to the former Ballston Common Mall (now Ballston Quarter), are having a ripple effect. “This redevelopment has spurred on like 10 other projects here,” she said. “The face of Ballston is going to change again in the next three to five years, it’s going to look so different. I know it’s just going to be better.” [Washington Business Journal]

Reminder: No Parking Meter Enforcement Today — Parking meters in Arlington will not be enforced today, due to the Veterans Day observation, but meters will be enforced tomorrow. [ARLnow]

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D.C. Startup Compiles Hard-to-Find List of Local Daycare Options

A D.C.-based startup is helping parents find daycare options in Arlington County, even those not usually easy to find online.

Maternie, founded by Meghan McCarthy, describes itself as a service to “empower pregnant women and new parents with the best information on life’s most important decisions.”

And its Daycare Directory lists licensed child care providers in Arlington, Alexandria and D.C., including commercial and in-home daycare, some of which it says are “not easily found online.” The directory can be sorted by zip code, and will soon include information that used to require a phone call to determine, including pricing, operating hours, waiting lists and registration costs.

It lists 101 commercial and in-home child care providers in Arlington, sourced from state data obtained in September.

(On its child care website, Arlington County has its own lists of child care centers and in-home child care. The county’s lists appear to have more child care options than Maternie’s, but do not have the same level of detail Maternie is planning.)

In addition to its child care directory, Maternie offers quick guides on picking a health care provider, and will soon offer another on maternity leave. It provides expectant mothers struggling with “morning” sickness, disturbed sleep and heartburn guidance on symptoms, why they might be feeling that way and how to deal with it.

And there is also a section for women to anonymously share their stories of being in labor, with another to follow in the future about postpartum depression.

“This is a collection of stories from women in their own words,” the section on labor reads. “It includes the good, the bad and everything in between about labor and delivery. Nothing can quite capture the experience of giving birth, but hopefully these stories can demystify as much as possible.”

Images via Maternie

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Neighbors File Lawsuit After Board Approves Lee Highway Child Care Center

Two neighbors of a planned child care center on Lee Highway filed a lawsuit in Arlington Circuit Court this month to try and stop it opening.

The suit, filed by N. McKinley Street residents Francisca Ferro and Cornelius James Coakley who live right behind the property, is against the proposed Little Ambassadors Academy, which is planning to open at 5801 and 5901 Lee Highway. The Arlington County Board approved the plan at its September meeting.

Little Ambassadors, which already operates two child care centers on Lee Highway, is planning to open another facility that would have space for up to 155 children aged 20 months to 5 years old.

The center would be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and have its rear parking lot converted into an outdoor playground, while the loading area next to N. McKinley Street would be modified to have 20 parking spaces.

But in a complaint filed on October 18, the pair allege that the child care facility will negatively affect parking, traffic congestion and noise in the neighborhood, especially for local residents.

“The Special Use Permit materially impacts Petitioners in a way that is different from the impact on to the general public, by greatly increasing traffic and safety concerns in the vicinity of their residences as a result of the expanding the number of cars permitted to traverse and park in the area,” the complaint reads.

The complaint against the County Board and Little Ambassadors rests on four claims.

First, they allege that the Board did not give neighbors sufficient notice that a hearing on the planned child care facility would be taking place.

By law, those nearby must be given at least five days’ written notice, but Ferro and Coakley said they only heard about the hearing on September 14, two days before it was scheduled to be heard by the County Board.

Second, the pair argue that the County Board broke the Dillon Rule, which limits the power of local government by leaving it up to the state government to delegate powers to localities.

Third, the complaintants say that in having the county Department of Human Services decide on the maximum number of children that can attend, and by having the county Zoning Administrator approve the center’s parking plan, the County Board did not have the power to delegate those tasks and should have done it themselves.

Fourth, the pair also dinged the Board for an “unreasonable exercise of legislative function” in approving the center, meaning it should not have been approved, and said the center’s parking plan violates the county’s Zoning Ordinance.

Arlington zoning calls for one parking space on site for each staff member at a child care center, with one parking space also provided for every 10 children that attend. The complaint says the 20 on-site spaces and four off-site spaces do not add up to enough parking.

In May, the Board added a staff member to the Dept. of Community, Planning, Housing and Development to suggest changes to Arlington’s zoning ordinance to help child care centers open.

At the time, Board vice chair Katie Cristol told ARLnow that “our biggest obstacles are within the zoning ordinance in terms of the number of parking spaces required by childcare centers or the amount of indoor vs. outdoor space.”

No hearing date has yet been set for the case.

Photos No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 via Google Maps

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