Arlington, VA

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.

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Morning Notes

Class of 2023 Moves in at Marymount — “The Office of Campus and Residential Services (OCRS) at Marymount University is welcoming new students as they move into residence halls on campus during 2019 Move-In Day on Wednesday.” [Press Release, Twitter]

New Medians Coming to Clarendon Circle — New medians are in the process of being built on Washington Boulevard as construction on the Clarendon Circle project continues. [Twitter]

Civ Fed Ponders Serving Those Who Cannot Attend — Asked about a lack of diversity among its membership, the new president of the Arlington County Civic Federation replied in part: “I feel that some of the residents not being served might never have the time to attend a Civic Federation meeting due to jobs and family concerns, but through member organizations and nearby civic associations, some of their issues can be addressed even though the faces of these residents might not appear in the audience.” [InsideNova]

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The Arlington County Civic Federation is set to hold its annual candidate forum next month.

On Tuesday, September 3, residents will be able to hear the candidates for local office answer questions from the public and make the case for why they should be elected or re-elected.

The event is taking place at Virginia Hospital Center’s Hazel conference center at 1701 N. George Mason Drive. A reception with the candidates will kick off the evening at 6:30 p.m., following by the forum starting at 7 p.m. Both events are free.

The Civic Federation’s forum marks the unofficial start of the fall campaign season for the November 5 general election.

Several candidates running for office this year will attend the event, including Arlington County Board members Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey, both of whom faced no opposition in the Democratic primary.

The Board members will be joined by their independent challengers, Audrey Clement and Arron O’Dell, who hope to oust the incumbents based on a more aggressive pursuit of affordable housing and opposition to the Board’s salary raise, among other issues.

Also slated to attend is Del. Alfonso Lopez who defeated Democratic challenger J.D. Spain, Sr. in the June primary with 77% percent of the vote after amassing a sizable warchest and a number of campaign endorsements.

Lopez is now being challenged by independent candidate Terry Modglin, who opposed the delegate’s recent legislation intended to expand access to abortion, but did agree with his stance on gun reform.

The candidates running for the 32nd Virginia Senate district, incumbent Democrat Janet Howell and Republican challenger Arthur Purves, are also expected to participate. The seven-term state senator ran unopposed in this year’s Democratic primary and previously told ARLnow that her top accomplishments this year included budget bumps to foster care, affordable housing, and teacher pay.

The event will be recorded by local cable access and community radio station, Arlington Independent Media.

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Arlington’s Nauck neighborhood is now one step closer to changing its name back to Green Valley, thanks to the Arlington County Civic Federation.

The federation approved the Nauck Civic Association’s request to change its name to the Green Valley Civic Association on Tuesday. The vote came after neighbors requested the county nix the name they said obscures the true history of freed slaves who founded the community.

“We’re just very happy that it’s changed and it’s the name that’s always associated with it,” said Nauck Civic Association President Portia Clark.

The historically black neighborhood was first built partly by freed slaves Sarah Ann and Levi Jones. They bought 14 acres of land along Four Mile Run and sold parcels to other African Americans during and after the Civil War, according to research from Dr. Alfred O. Taylor Jr., who formerly led the Nauck Civic Association and the local NAACP chapter.

The renaming resolution passed by the Civic Federation notes:

“The residents of the area continually celebrate and honor the heritage of a ‘FREED’ community that reminds us of the many hills our ancestors had to climb, slavery, segregation and racial covenants that have bought us to today with the freedoms that we hold.”

Taylor wrote in a February open letter that his research indicates county officials began calling the area Nauck in the 1970s after Confederate soldier and German immigrant John D. Nauck, who purchased almost 80 acres of land in the area in the 1870s.

“It is inappropriate for the diverse community to venerate a person who fought to preserve slavery and whose memory evokes painful reminders of laws that segregated and excluded African Americans from public life,” Taylor wrote. “We find no record or evidence linking Nauck to efforts to improve the quality of life for its residents.”

Tuesday’s vote by the Civic Federation is not the last step in the process. The organization must transmit the matter to the County Board, which will then discuss and vote on the change.

Support for reconsidering the county’s Confederate vestiges has gained steam since the deadly Charlottesville white supremacist rally in 2017 and amid national conversations about the recent rise of racist hate groups.

In Arlington, leaders waged heated battles to strip Washington-Lee of the second half of its hyphenated name, which referenced Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. They are also poised to remove the “Stratford” in Stratford School, which originated from the name of Lee’s birthplace.

The County Board previously has acknowledged Green Valley’s unique history. In 2013, members approved a historic location designation to the Green Valley Pharmacy in recognition of it being the first store in the county to serve black and white customers, including serving food at an integrated diner inside the shop.

The business closed in 2018, reportedly for renovations, a year after its owner Leonard “Doc” Muse died. Muse had run the shop for 54 years and was a fixture of the community.

Photo (2) via Nauck Civic Association, (3) via Google Maps

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Arlington leaders will soon convene more than a dozen town halls to discuss Amazon’s plans for the county in the run-up to a planned vote on the matter later this month.

County Board members plan to spend the next few weeks holding meetings with a variety of civic associations and advocacy groups to discuss the tech giant’s arrival in Crystal City and Pentagon City, and have now released a schedule of the impending gatherings.

Up to two Board members will attend each one, planning them as open forums for community members to discuss all the implications of Amazon’s new headquarters for county residents.

The Board had originally expected to vote on an incentive package designed to lure the company to Arlington in February, but delayed those plans slightly to allow for more time for community engagement. Since the company announced its expansion plans for the county, concerns have bubbled up over the company’s potential impact on everything from housing affordability to traffic congestion.

New Board member Matt de Ferranti was especially insistent on pushing for the extra time, inviting civic groups of all stripes to request meetings with the Board.

The sessions will not, however, include representatives from Amazon itself. County officials and activists critical of the company have been insistent on seeing some engagement from Amazon executives with the broader community — for its part, the company argues that it’s conversations with local business leaders have adequately helped set the stage for its arrival in the county.

The Board already held some meetings last month, holding gatherings with 10 civic associations and the environmental group EcoAction Arlington. Board members now plan to meet with the following:

  • League of Women Voters: Saturday (March 2)
  • Etz Hayim: Sunday (March 3)
  • Civic Federation: March 5
  • Donaldson Run Civic Association: March 6
  • Freedom Is Not Free: March 7
  • Barcroft School & Civic League: March 7
  • Lyon Village Civic Association: March 11
  • Shirlington Civic Association: March 11
  • Columbia Heights Civic Association: March 11
  • Radnor/Ft. Myer Heights Civic Association: March 12
  • Waycroft Woodlawn Civic Association: March 12
  • Leeway Overlee Civic Association: March 13
  • Aurora Highlands Civic Association: March 13
  • Columbia Forest Civic Association: March 13
  • Arlington Mill Civic Association: March 13
  • Northern Virginia Conservation Trust: March 21
  • Arlington Ridge Civic Association: March 21

Anyone interested in attending can check with each group individually for exact times and locations as they’re finalized.

The Board currently plans to vote on the incentive package at its March 16 meeting. Arlington is proposing to send $23 million in grant money to the company over the next 15 years, with the cash drawn from a projected increase in hotel tax revenues driven by Amazon’s arrival.

The Board’s decision is the final domino that has yet to fall in finalizing the company’s plans for the area. Gov. Ralph Northam and state lawmakers have already approved up to $750 million in tax rebates for the company.

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Morning Notes

More Rumbles of More Amazon — “John Boyd, principal of the Boyd Co. Inc., a private site selection firm in Princeton, N.J… said he wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon decided to add more jobs to its operations in Crystal City.” [Washington Business Journal]

ACFD Rescues Stuck Puppy — Arlington firefighters helped to free a 9-week-old puppy whose head got stuck while being a bit too curious. “She thanked the crew with many kisses,” the department said. [Twitter]

Caps Player Joins Bash — New Arlington-based fitness business Bash Boxing has gained an investor and partner known for throwing a few punches: Washington Capitals winger Tom Wilson. [Washington Business Journal]

Middle School Project May Be Delayed — “The surroundings may prove a bit cramped for a while, but county school officials say they are working up contingencies if the expansion of Dorothy Hamm Middle School isn’t ready in time for the start of classes in September.” [InsideNova]

Favola vs. Merlene Preview — “Has a longtime member of the Arlington Democratic establishment solidly represented Northern Virginia at the state legislature in Richmond, or is there need for new blood?” [Greater Greater Washington]

Civic Federation Diversity Efforts Hit Snag — “Duke Banks hopes one of his legacies will be a commitment to bringing in a younger and more diverse group of leaders… Efforts to bring in new faces at the venerable organization have seen successes, but took a recent step backward with the resignation of two members of the board’s leadership.” [InsideNova]

Nearby: Affordable Homes Disappearing in Alexandria — The number of single-family homes in Alexandria valued at less than $500,000 dipped below the number priced higher last year. [Washington Business Journal]

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Morning Notes

Rare, Tropical Dragonfly Spotted in Arlington — “There was quite the discovery at this year’s Bioblitz in Glencarlyn Park. After a photo posted on the crowd-sourcing tracker, iNaturalist, started to spark a lot of interest… the consensus was that what had been photographed was a Great Pondhawk Dragonfly (Erythemis vesiculosa).” [Arlington County]

Frost Fest Rescheduled — Frost Fest at Pentagon Row, originally planned for Saturday, has been rescheduled due to expected rainy weather. It will now take place this Sunday from 4-7 p.m. [Twitter]

County to Open Garages During Snowstorms — “If a big winter storm – or two, or three – hits the region in coming months, Arlington residents will be able to leave their cars safe and sound in county-owned garages for the duration. It’s all part of an effort to keep residential streets as free of vehicles as possible so snow-plow operators can do their job.” [InsideNova]

Crafthouse Going Big — Beer-centric local restaurant chain Crafthouse, which has a location in Ballston, has inked a $250 million deal to franchise nationally. [Reston Now]

Portion of W&OD Trail to Get Separate Lanes — “A major 1.2-mile stretch of the W&OD Trail bike path that traverses the City of Falls Church… will soon be enhanced with the benefit of $3.2 million from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority and turned into a dual path — one for bikes and the other for pedestrians.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Amazon News Roundup — Virginia economic development officials say they have “accounted for a host of risks that might arise related to Amazon, from a shift in direction for the company to antitrust litigation.” The Arlington Civic Federation “will host a discussion of the proposed Amazon economic-incentive package at its monthly meeting, to be held on Tuesday, Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. at Virginia Hospital Center.” Arlington County’s building and permitting staff “won’t be doing anything out of the ordinary to accommodate Amazon, such as fast-tracking, a common incentive offered to big economic development prizes.” And, in a new report on the oft-reported subject, “Amazon’s Northern Virginia headquarters could exacerbate existing economic disparities.”

Flickr pool photo by David Giambarresi

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Morning Notes

Reminder: Yellow Line Shutdown Starts Today — There will be no Yellow Line service today through Sunday, Dec. 9 as Metro works to repair the Yellow Line bridge over the Potomac. Yellow Line riders can instead take the Blue Line and/or free shuttle service. [ARLnow, Twitter]

New ‘Clarendon Circle’ Traffic Restriction — Work on improvements to the busy “Clarendon Circle” intersection are underway and have resulted in at least one traffic pattern change. During construction, drivers will not be allowed to make the “tricky” left from eastbound Washington Blvd to Clarendon Blvd, and will instead have to follow a detour via N. Kirkwood Road. [Twitter, Arlington County]

Civ Fed Prepares Tree Canopy Resolution — “The Arlington County Civic Federation in December will weigh in on the development plan of Upton Hill Regional Park and, more broadly, on Arlington government policies on retaining or removing trees during redevelopment on public land. A resolution demanding a temporary halt to current development plans at Upton Hill was introduced at the Civic Federation’s Nov. 13 meeting and will be debated and voted on Dec. 4.” [InsideNova]

Minor Bluemont House Fire — Firefighters extinguished an out-of-control fire in the fireplace of a Bluemont house Saturday night. No injuries were reported but the home, on the 900 block of N. Frederick Street, suffered some smoke damage. [Twitter, Twitter]

Another Traffic Nightmare at DCA — As if the gridlock caused by the Veterans Day shutdown of the National Airport Metro station wasn’t bad enough, the traffic nightmare repeated itself Sunday evening, during one of the busiest travel days of the year. Some drivers reported spending hours trying to get to and from the airport. [NBC Washington, Twitter]

CBS Looks at Clarendon’s Vpoint Apartments — On Saturday morning, CBS News took a close look at the vPoint affordable housing project in Clarendon. The project, which converted a stand-alone church to a combination worship space and apartment building, is potentially a model for other communities struggling with affordable housing. At the time, however, the redevelopment faced lawsuits and other community opposition. [YouTube]

Amazon News Roundup — Arlington saw only modest successes in its quest to pitch itself as a tech hub over the past few years, but Amazon’s arrival changes that narrative in a big way. That said, half of the jobs Amazon brings to Arlington will be non-technical. Meanwhile, Amazon may benefit lower-income residents in New York City more than in Arlington, as subcontractors in New York will be subject to the state’s $15 per hour minimum wage; Virginia’s minimum wage is currently the federal $7.25 per hour minimum. And Nashville, some say, will be the biggest winner in terms of Amazon’s new presence boosting the local commercial real estate market.

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The Old Glebe Civic Association is eyeing an expansion, planning to scoop up a few additional streets from neighboring Country Club Hills.

The group is currently hoping to add about three blocks to its boundaries, targeting homes that aren’t currently part of any civic association. In particular, the OGCA is looking at adding homes along Dittmar Road as it meets 35th Street N., N. Abingdon Street as it meets 36th Street N. and two cul-de-sacs off N. Vermont Street (one on 35th Road N. and one on 36th Street N.).

OGCA President Rich Samp told ARLnow that those streets are “one of the few areas in the whole county not included in any civic association,” after residents there decided decades ago decided not to join one. But considering that the streets sit adjacent to Old Glebe’s current boundaries, with part of Dittmar Road already ensconced within the civic association, Samp felt it made sense to push for the minor expansion.

“It’s a good idea to have all the neighborhoods in Arlington engaged with the local community… and we’re always trying to do things to make the neighborhood more cohesive,” Samp said. “And having entire streets, such as all of Dittmar Road, in the civic association probably helps to create more of a cohesive neighborhood sense.”

Samp says civic association members started knocking doors in the proposed expansion area a few weeks back to gauge neighbors’ feelings on the mater, and the reaction was broadly “positive.”

“The worst we heard was that some people expressed indifference, but the majority view was, ‘We’d love to join,'” Samp said.

The Arlington County Civic Federation requires civic associations to collect signatures to kick off the expansion process, so Samp says his group did just that. Now, he’ll need to win a green light from from both the civic federation and, eventually, the County Board to make it official.

“I don’t have a great sense for how long it’ll take,” Samp said. “But knowing how slowly the wheels of our group, and the government generally, turn, it’ll probably be a couple of months.”

Samp admitted that adding these neighborhoods is “hardly an earth-shattering step” for his group, but he does hope it can be the first expansion of many to come for the civic association.

“To go to more homes, it would’ve taken just huge amount of canvassing,” Samp said. “So we thought this would be a nice way to start it.”

Photo via the Old Glebe Civic Association

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Morning Notes

Civic Federation Holds Candidate Forum — The unofficial kickoff to the local fall campaign season took place on Tuesday: the Arlington County Civic Federation candidate forum. Contenders for County Board, School Board and Congress squared off in front of a standing-room-only audience at Virginia Hospital Center’s auditorium. [InsideNova, InsideNova, Blue Virginia]

Drug Take-Back Boxes Deemed a Success — “In June, Arlington County installed three permanent drug take-back boxes to address a crucial public safety and public health crisis facing communities across the country – prescription drug abuse. In the first three months of the program, the public safely disposed of 407 pounds of unused, unwanted or expired prescription medications. Due to the success of the program, the police department is exploring expanding the program.” [Arlington County]

New Commuter Store Opens — A new Arlington Commuter Store opened at the Pentagon on Tuesday, near bus bays 7 and 8. [Commuter Page]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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For more than two decades, Jim Pebley worked to make Arlington a better place.

Pebley, a retired U.S. Navy commander, last year moved to a more leisurely locale in North Carolina, but not before receiving plenty of plaudits for his civic involvement from across the political spectrum.

We decided to check in with Jim, see how he’s doing and get his take on the current state of the county. We covered a variety of local topics, including the safety of Reagan National Airport, the cost of school construction, the potential of Amazon’s HQ2 in Arlington and why he decided to decamp for elsewhere.

Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

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