Arlington, VA

Arlington County has debuted signage for the newly-renamed “Boeing Fields at Long Bridge Park” in recognition of Boeing Company’s donation of $10 million to the county park.

The new sign at the athletic complex was unveiled today (Wednesday) during a ceremony at the park. Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, County Board Chair Christian Dorsey and County Manager Mark Schwartz spoke at the event.

Boeing’s donation will help to cover the maintenance and operation expenses of Long Bridge Park, which is adjacent to the aerospace giant’s D.C. area headquarters in Crystal City.

“Sometimes these corporate partnerships don’t feel like a decent match, but with Boeing Fields, they’re right here, they’re in the community, so it made sense,” said Dorsey.

The funding also provides free access to the forthcoming Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center for active-duty military and their families, according to a county press release. Once completed, the 50-meter pool inside the aquatics center will also be named after Boeing.

“Boeing is committed to making a difference in the community and is proud to support members of the military who give so much to keep us safe,” said Tim Keating, Boeing’s Executive Vice President for Government Operations.

Following the announcement earlier this year, the County Board is set to officially accept the donation at its upcoming meeting on Saturday, Sept. 21.

0 Comments

Arlington County Board incumbents fought to hold their ground against independents over Amazon incentives and housing topics at a debate Monday evening.

At the Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s candidate forum at U.Group in Crystal City (2231 Crystal Drive), Democratic incumbents Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol faced off against independent challengers Audrey Clement and Arron O’Dell.

One of the moments of back-and-forth criticism among the candidates came over the redevelopment of a number of market-rate affordable housing complexes in the Westover neighborhood. Clement has frequently criticized the County Board for what she said was the “preventable demolition” of the Westover garden apartments.

The redevelopment was by-right, meaning the developer did not need County Board approval. But Clement said the County Board could have designated the apartments part of a historic district and preserved the homes.

Overall, Clement argued that development drives up costs to build housing and that even dedicated affordable housing units come at a steep cost.

“The average cost of a new [Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing] unit is in excess of $400,000,” Clement said. “Most of the units are not affordable. Because the units are not affordable, the income-qualified people who move in, 30 percent of them have to have rent subsidies to pay the nominal amount of rent that they do pay. The taxpayers are hit twice, they have to pay their own rent and their own mortgage and they have to pay someone else’s because the cost of building that unit was astronomical.”

Dorsey fired back that rather than use the historic district designation, the County Board is working to change the regulations to protect affordable communities from redevelopment.

“In the Westover reference that Ms. Clement talked about, while she thinks the Board has done nothing, what we did do was take a courageous stand… and stopped the perverse incentive that led people to take affordable communities and turn them into by-right townhouses,” Dorsey said. “We paused that option and put it into the special exemption process so that we created options to preserve that housing.”

“We’re studying ways that can be better purposed to provide long term, market-based affordable housing,” Dorsey added. So you have to figure out where you’re doing harm and stop doing harm to create new options to preserve affordability both through direct subsidies and through the market.”

O’Dell, meanwhile, said the County should do more to accommodate for “tiny apartments” aimed at people moving to Arlington immediately after college, who may need an affordable place to live but not a lot of space.

“When you talk about housing affordability, you need to have a variety of types of units,” O’Dell said. “We should look at the lower incomes that fall into the 60 percent bracket and give them opportunities to possibly move in and look at places to live.”

Cristol said the County should work to open the door to other types of housing, pointing to the recent legalization of detached accessory dwelling units as an example and noting the large amount of land in Arlington zoned for only single-family housing.

“One of the most important things we can do is legalizing alternative forms,” said Cristol. “There are so many housing forms that could offer folks not only an opportunity to rent but [also to] buy and it’s literally illegal to build them in huge swaths of the county… There’s room for creative ideas, this is an area where we need partnership in the private sector, particularly for those who develop housing.”

Read More

0 Comments

The independent challengers for Arlington County Board confronted the two Democratic incumbents on local hot button issues at last night’s Arlington County Civic Federation debate.

Democrats Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey faced off against perennial candidate Audrey Clement and newcomer Arron O’Dell at the Civic Federation’s annual candidate, which serves as the unofficial kickoff of the fall campaign season.

Clement’s main attacks centered around a perception of unchecked increases in development and density, destruction of native vegetation, and a lack of county government transparency. Specifically, Clement claimed the County Board’s decision to move forward with the Rosslyn boathouse project came with little public community input. Clement said the new boathouse will take away from one of the last green places in the Rosslyn area, a forested plot of land near Roosevelt Island.

“How can you have a public process when the County Board unanimously approved [the boathouse],” she said. “It’s not for or against the boathouse, it’s for or against double speak.”

Cristol fired back that the boathouse had been in the works for decades and has been subject to extensive public discussion. At some point, she said, projects need to move forward.

“The idea of the boathouse was the result of a public process a couple of decades ago,” Cristol said. “There needs to be a standard of finality. “

Cristol and Dorsey also defended repeated attacks from Clement, and to a lesser extent O’Dell, that Arlington’s ever-increasing density was fundamentally transforming the County.

“Development is synonymous with housing,” Cristol said. “So do I think there needs to be more housing? Yes, but we have to plan for the infrastructure to support that and plan for the student population [growth]. But I believe we can welcome more neighbors and still maintain our quality of life.”

Cristol argued later that the law of supply and demand applies to Arlington, as it does elsewhere — that adding more housing will keep housing costs lower. Clement disagreed, citing recent studies that showed rental rates were more closely tied with amenities than with the supply of housing.

Dorsey also disagreed with Clement’s characterization of “growth on steriods” in Arlington.

“We’ve seen 1.4 percent growth [per year] on average,” said Dorsey. “That’s moderate. In the ’40s, ’50s and ‘6os we grew far faster. Managing growth is what we do well. The idea of us closing up shop is not something that can happen.”

O’Dell, who said he did not have a strong opinion about the boathouse and some other topics of discussion during the debate, did express strong feelings on Amazon’s arrival into Arlington. The county is leaning too heavily on the tech giant for economic growth, he said, something that could backfire should Amazon’s plans change — much like over reliance on federal tenants led to high office vacancy rates following the implementation of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closing Act.

“It’s replacing the federal government with another entity,” he said. “We’re creating another potential vacuum. The key to success will be getting small businesses to follow Amazon.”

Clement also criticized the Board for overselling the positive impacts Amazon would bring and offering the company millions in incentives.

Dorsey recognized the concerns about Amazon’s arrival and said he sympathizes with many of them.

“One of the challenges [will be] the impact on housing,” Dorsey said. “It’s also going to require the Board to work in conjunction with Alexandria for inclusive growth for all as we create concrete arrangements with our neighbors.”

Overall, Dorsey said the company’s arrival will help reduce the strain on local taxpayers and open up new opportunities for the Pentagon City-Crystal City area.

Arlington voters will cast their general election ballots on Tuesday, Nov. 5. Residents have until October 15 to register to vote, and can check their registration status online.

0 Comments

Arlington is considering a new online system that would digitize the county’s permitting system.

The new system aims to move the Permit Office’s application process into a digital database while phasing out paper applications. Staff is expected to start testing the system — now dubbed “Permit Arlington,” after formerly being known as “One-Stop Arlington — next month.

The project is being divided into two phases, with different types of permits going digital-only at two different times. Phase I is expected to launch at some point following the testing.

“Customers will be able to apply either 24/7 from a computer or mobile device, or will still have the option to come into the office during regular business hours to use a kiosk with staff assistance,” said Deborah Albert, the project’s program manager. “Customers will still have to visit the office in person for Phase II permits, which are anticipated to go online in 2020.”

There are 33 permit types included in this summer’s Phase I testing, including right-of-way use permits, site-plan applications, and civil engineering plans.

Arlington Board Chair Christian Dorsey said during the annual State of the County address this week that the new system would be “a welcome relief for many of our community’s businesses.”

He added that “it’s taken longer to get to this point” because each type of permit application has a different process and has to be manually coded into the digital system.

“We know that we have more to do to make our county government as efficient and user-friendly as possible for everyone — businesses and residents,” he said.

Many businesses have cited the county’s lengthy permitting process as a reason for delayed openings over the years. Arlington requires business owners to seek separate permits for zoning, building, and business licensing, and to take other steps before they can open their doors. Most applications have to be filed in person at the county’s Permit Office in Courthouse. It’s a time-consuming process some business leaders said stifles innovative business.

Restaurateur Mike Cordero told ARLnow in a podcast interview that opening Don Taco in Alexandria showed him just how fast that city’s permit process was compared to Arlington’s.

“I think it’s a major issue that we have to wait so long to get a permit when other counties and other jurisdictions are giving it to them right away,” he said. “I don’t know how they’re going to take care of Amazon.”

Meanwhile, some permit fees are increasing next month with the start of the new fiscal year on Monday, July 1. According to Albert, the increases include:

  • A 2.5% inflationary increase to the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development’s Development Fund fees, including the Department of Environmental Services development-related fees.
  • A 5% increase in the Automation Enhancement Surcharge for building, electrical, plumbing, gas, elevator, and fire protection systems permits and for zoning permits
  • New fees for Special General Land Use Plan studies and for Conceptual Site Plan applications.
0 Comments

Morning Notes

Last Week of School — The 2018-2019 school year is concluding this week for Arlington Public Schools. Today is the last day of school for high schools, while Friday is the last day of school for middle and elementary schools. [Arlington Public Schools]

Park Service Advances Boathouse Plan — “Plans to establish a community boathouse on the Potomac River in Arlington just passed a major milestone. The National Park Service completed its Environmental Assessment (EA) with a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), which sets up the project to move forward.” [Arlington County, Twitter]

State of the County Address — “Christian Dorsey began his State of the County address by thanking the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and the Arlington business community for their partnership ‘on specific issues from the transient occupancy tax, to dedicated funding for the Metro, to helping us put our best foot forward in the competition for  Amazon’s HQ2.'” [Press Release]

Arlington Public Safety Awards — “Following the State of the County address, awards were presented to honor Arlington County’s public safety personnel…  Stories of their heroic actions include two firefighters rescuing a person trapped inside a vehicle that was fully submerged in water, a detective dismantling a large, local cocaine trafficking organization with limited investigative leads, and a police officer saving two unresponsive passengers in an overturned, burning vehicle on the roadway.” [Press Release]

Fraud Alert from Arlington Police — “The Arlington County Police Department and Sheriff’s Office are warning the public about a telephone scam that uses the threat of arrest to extort money from potential victims.” [Arlington County]

Metro Studying Second Rosslyn Metro Station — “After decades of discussion, Metro kicked off a study this week of a new, second station at Rosslyn and other changes that could overhaul the way trains on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines run throughout the system.” [WTOP]

ACPD: No Plans for ‘Mass Deportation’ — “The Arlington County Police Department called the plan ‘political’ and said they have no intention on working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to fulfill [President] Trump’s mass deportation plan. The Fairfax County Police Department said it doesn’t participate with ICE on civil enforcement either.” [Fox 5]

Photo courtesy Dennis Dimick

0 Comments

(Updated at 10:55 a.m.) Starting at 6 a.m. today, voters began showing up at their polling places across Arlington as voting in the Democratic primary kicked off.

At Randolph Elementary School in Douglas Park, St. Agnes Catholic Church in Cherrydale, and Madison Community Center in Old Glebe, lines were short and skies were clear.

“It’s been slow, but steady. There’s been 83 people so far, or 2.7 percent turnout. It’s pretty normal,” said Bill Harkins, election officer at St. Agnes.

At Randolph Elementary around 41 people had cast their ballots by 7:41 a.m., according to election officer Harry Dunbar, and another 13 voters arrived in the next half hour. Dunbar said there are 3,000 people who live in the precinct.

“Half of that is normal for a busy general election,” Dunbar said, noting that primary election turnout is usually much lower.

By mid-morning, Arlington’s elections office reported that turnout was somewhat light, but higher in precincts in Arlington’s northwest. Voters in residential northwest Arlington tend to be a bit more conservative, at least relative to the rest of the county.

The only hiccup noticed so far was a ballot that wouldn’t scan at Randolph Elementary. At around 8 a.m., officials had identified the likely culprit: blocks that printed too faintly along the border of the document.

Today’s primary marks the end of several hotly contested races between the Democrats on the ballot — namely the race for commonwealth’s attorney and the state Senate seat in the 31st District. With most races still lacking a non-Democratic candidate, the primary could also decide the Nov. 5 general election.

At Randolph, the race on most people’s minds was the one for commonwealth’s attorney between incumbent Theo Stamos and challenger Parisa Dehghani-Tafti who have clashed in debates since kicking off their campaigns last winter.

Evelyn Luis, a long-time Douglas Park resident, said she doesn’t usually vote in the primaries but showed up today to support Stamos.

“Even though she’s running as a Democrat and I am not a Democrat I know I have to make a choice between the two candidates.” Luis said.

Luis wore a shirt from the 1990s-era Crime Prevention Council of Arlington County, on which she was a board member. She said she disagreed with Tafti’s platform and PAC funding.

Another voter, Aaron Willis, who has lived in the area for a decade, said he’s voted in every primary since moving to the D.C. region. He feels part of the “nerve center” of politics after coming from Ohio where he sometimes felt disconnected.

Willis said he supported Tafti in today’s election, citing her record of pushing for reproductive rights and restoring voting rights to felons.

The interest in the prosecutor’s race also ran high at St. Agnes.

“The important race to me was the commonwealth’s attorney,” said St. Agnes voter Chris Guest. “I think it’s always good to have options, but I wanted to vote against outside money, especially when that’s heavily for one candidate.”

“All of the races are important. Arlington is a great place to live and we have good candidates,” said St. Agnes voter Sarah Devoe this morning. “I’ve been surprised with the commonwealth’s attorney race; it’s not really a race I think of as being competitive. There’s been a lot of TV and print ads. There are two strong candidates.”

Stamos’ record in office and Tafti’s proposed criminal justice reforms have split support among local attorneys and sparked conversations about police brutality and the county’s discovery policy in criminal cases.

Read More

0 Comments

(Updated at 4 p.m.) A local interfaith group is proposing Arlington and Alexandria redirect Amazon revenue to address long-standing community issues like affordable housing and school crowding.

Virginians for Organized Interfaith Community Engagement called on officials to dedicate portions of their revenue from Amazon to solve long-standing issues like Arlington’s affordable housing squeeze and ever-growing school enrollment.

The so-called “Community First Initiative” calls for Arlington County to earmark the first $10 million it receives from Amazon tax revenue to invest in affordability and equity, and dedicate 50 percent of all future revenue to the same.

“This would bring upwards of $232 million by 2035,” noted a VOICE press release on the proposed initiative, adding that leaders needed to start investing in solutions now because, “affordable housing and places are disappearing too fast. Too many residents are already being pushed out.”

Officials have estimated that Amazon will net the county $342.3 million in combined tax revenue over the next 16 years.

Arlington Board Chair Christian Dorsey and Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson both expressed general support for the plan during a planned event at Wakefield High School yesterday, though Dorsey disagreed about the specific funding mechanism proposed.

VOICE asked officials to invest in their communities by taking a loan out on the revenue the county expects to earn from Amazon’s second headquarters, making use of the county’s high bond ratings.

“The whole idea that you bond against revenues that you anticipate to come, but that you don’t have a definite stream, that’s not something that’s done affordably for a community, nor would I ever recommend that we do something like that,” said Dorsey, who added that he would look into alternative funding mechanisms like general appropriations during next year’s budget negotiations.

Arlington County Board members passed a $1.4 billion budget two months ago that increased funding for the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund to $16 million for the next fiscal year, up from $14.3 million currently.

The investment came after a contentious hearing in March over the county’s incentive package for Amazon, which includes up to $23 million in incentives to Amazon over the next 15 years and up to $28 million in local transportation project funding. Protesters disrupted the meeting several times to express fears that the community needed more investment in affordable housing to combat gentrification that could be caused by Amazon’s arrival.

“Will I work with VOICE to dedicate at least half of all additional revenues that come from Amazon’s investments in Arlington priorities in equity and inclusion, among which are the proposals you have generated? The answer is unequivocally yes,” Dorsey said on Sunday.

Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson, who joked it was “great to be across Four Mile Run in his second favorite Virginia jurisdiction,” told the audience that he too was committed to continuing conversations with VOICE, tech leaders, and Virginia Tech, which is planning to build a new 65-acre tech campus in Alexandria close to Amazon’s new headquarters.

Read More

0 Comments

A local interfaith organization is holding a meeting this weekend about how to ensure Amazon’s second headquarters benefits the local community.

Virginians for Organized Interfaith Community Engagement is holding the public meeting at Wakefield High School (1325 S. Dinwiddie Street) this Sunday, June 9 from 4:30-6:15 p.m. and is encouraging residents from Arlington and Alexandria to attend.

Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey and Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson are expected to attend the event, per a VOICE press release. Other attendees slated to be there include local clergy of various religions, teachers, students, and business owners.

The topics of discussion include affordable housing and equal opportunities in education.

“Arlington and Alexandria officials have talked about the need to work together to mitigate negative impacts and maximize public benefits,” VOICE spokeswoman Marjorie Green told ARLnow. “This VOICE gathering will mark the first public joint event addressing potential actions in any detail.”

The event is free but attendees are asked to RSVP to [email protected]‐iaf.org.

0 Comments

(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) The Commonwealth of Virginia and Arlington County are loaning a combined $13,700,000 to a Virginia Square affordable housing project focusing on veterans.

Officials announced yesterday (Tuesday) evening that the Virginia Housing Trust Fund will loan $700,000 and Arlington County will loan the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) $13,000,000 to build a seven-story, 160-unit building on the site of the American Legion Post 139 (3445 Washington Blvd).

“We want to make sure Virginia is the most veteran-friendly state in this great country of ours,” Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said in a speech outside the aging Legion building, which will be torn down and replaced by the new development.

Half the units will have a “veteran-preference in perpetuity,” APAH President and CEO Nina Janopaul told ARLnow Tuesday.

County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said in a speech he was “really thrilled” the county could be a part of the effort to help veterans.

“This is an opportunity for us to actually, truly thank them for their service by providing a very key need. That is, long-term housing,” Dorsey said.

Board member Katie Cristol told ARLnow that it was a “terrific project” and a “model” for Legion posts statewide. She added that it was inherently difficult to bring together all of the disparate parties on these kinds of projects, but the process could be easier if state legislators invested more in the affordable housing fund.

“You see Arlington and APAH trying to fill a really big hole,” said Cristol.

Northam thanked legislators, including state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st), for helping to add $11 million to the state’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, of which $700,000 is loaned to the Legion development.

The governor added the the fund needs an addition $9 million to meet affordable housing needs across Virginia, saying “we still have a lot of work to do.”

The current design of the Legion’s new building features a new access road that runs along the west side of the lot, by the Casual Adventure shop next door. At the rear of the lot, the road will end in a parking garage for residents and Legion members.

Some neighbors have expressed concern about traffic and noise from the development. A total of 96 parking spaces are proposed, some of which are designated for use by the Legion. Janopaul said the parking ratio is lower than other APAH projects due to proximity to transit, adding that a planned driveway was moved in response to resident concerns.

Read More

0 Comments

Many Arlington homeowners can now build backyard cottages, thanks to a vote from the County Board.

Board members unanimously voted to loosen zoning regulations on so-called detached “accessory dwelling units” (ADUs) during their Saturday meeting. The vote came after a contentious discussion with residents who said they feared the impacts of greater density and fewer trees in their neighborhoods.

“I am very pleased to support this motion for the benefits I think we’re going to see,” Board member Erik Gutshall said. “In my view the benefits far outweigh the potential impacts. To me it’s about housing. Period.”

Board members have long eyed small backyard homes as a way to help increase the county’s available affordable housing stock.

The newly amended zoning rules allow Arlington homeowners to build detached ADUs on their property without first seeking county permission to do so — as long as it’s a one-family property. Previously, homeowners could only build an ADU inside their house (such as an English basement) or convert an existing outside structure into one.

Now, homeowners can build an ADU on an interior lot as long as the structure is at least 5 feet away from the property lines. ADUs built on corner lots must sit 5 feet from the side yard line and 10 feet from the rear yard line.

Previously, the County Board debated whether to allow 1-foot setback distances, but members ultimately nixed the idea, citing privacy concerns between neighbors and the fact it would only increase the number of ADU-eligible properties by 2 percent.

The exact distance didn’t matter to Urban Forestry Commission member Phil Klingelhofer, who said Saturday he had “serious concerns” about allowing any detached ADUs because laying sewer lines and footings anywhere could hurt the county’s tree canopy coverage.

“I want to make sure that we’re not… losing the forest for the trees,” Board member Katie Cristol replied. “Nationally, the biggest driver of emission and therefore climate change is sprawl development.”

Previously, several members of the activist Arlington Tree Action Group cited concerns about ADU construction killing trees and adding impervious surfaces to the county, which is already at a higher risk of floods.

Among the opponents was former County Board member John Vihstadt, who said the measure was part of a bigger mismanagement of density and natural resources.

“We must do better with managing our growth,” he said.

County Housing Planner Joel Franklin said since Jan 1, 2018, the county has approved 10 requests to build ADUs, three of which were converting existing structures into detached backyard cottage-style units.

Read More

0 Comments

(Updated at 5 p.m.) Arlington will now join Alexandria and Fairfax in renaming Jefferson Davis Highway as “Richmond Highway.”

Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board unanimously approved changing the name for the highway, which is also known as U.S. Route 1, earlier this morning.

The state Board’s approval was the last step in the months-long process to strip the Confederate president’s name from the roadway. The Arlington County Board unanimously approved a renaming resolution last month.

One of the attendees at this morning’s meeting asked the CTB “what the direction was for the future” considering that renaming one highway may lead the Board to “be overrun with requests for the future.”

CTB Secretary Shannon Valentine responded by sharing a passage from a letter Gov. Ralph Northam sent the group urging them to approve the name change.

“While it is necessary for us to honestly discuss and interpret Virginia’s history, I feel strongly that commemorating the president of the Confederacy through the name for a major thoroughfare is not appropriate,” Valentine read.

The Arlington Chamber of Commerce shared the news on social media, calling it an “action to support businesses.” The Chamber said hotels along Route 1 have lost business due to the Jefferson Davis Highway name, according to WTOP.

In their request to the state Board, Arlington County requested the CTB change the name to either Richmond Highway or Richmond Blvd.

The county argued to CTB that renaming would help “to avoid confusion and promote consistency” for motorists and businesses.

It’s the same argument local officials used before their own vote last month and one that potentially counters the historical preservation arguments that opposed other local Confederate renaming resolutions like changing Washington-Lee High School to Washington-Liberty.

The county estimated last month that the costs involved in rolling out the new name would be around $17,000.

“No street numbers will be changed, and the United States Postal Service will, in perpetuity, continue to deliver mail to the businesses and residences along the highway addressed to Jefferson Davis Highway,” an April county press release on the name change read.

The General Assembly renamed the highway to honor Davis in 1922. Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey spoke at the CTB meeting, which was held at a Crystal City hotel, and told the Board that the Jefferson Davis’ name “symbolized white supremacy in a Jim Crow south,” reported WTOP.

The Crystal City BID thanked the Board for its Wednesday vote in a tweet, sharing applause symbols with the message.

Google Maps already renamed the highway on its maps several months ago.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, whose legal opinion in response to an inquiry from Del. Mark Levine allowed Arlington County to seek the renaming, called the CTB’s vote “a step in the right decision.”

Near the end of the meeting, Valentine said the CTB is considering forming a “task force” to handle future Confederate re-naming requests and create guidelines.

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list