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by ARLnow.com — November 30, 2016 at 10:40 am 0

Shirlington site for land swapArlington County is considering a land swap that would provide more land for ART bus parking and would allow a developer to build a self-storage facility across from Washington-Lee High School.

Arcland Property Company, which owns a swath of industrial land near Shirlington, wants to swap those 3.5 acres for 2.3 acres of the 6.1 acre “Buck property” site across from W-L, which the county has an option to purchase for $30 million.

Arlington, which is already leasing a portion of the Shirlington property for parking, would get an even larger piece of property for its expanding ART bus fleet — it’s expected to grow from 65 to 90 vehicles by 2020 — and would save $4 million in lease payments.

Arcland would get the piece of the Buck property closest to N. Quincy Street, in the Virginia Square area, and would use it for a six-story, 150,000 square foot self-storage facility. (The company also developed the CubeSmart storage facility, which is located adjacent to I-395, next to the land it proposes to swap.)

Neighbors might object to the facility — they objected to a county proposal to use the Buck property for school bus parking — but the property is zoned for light industrial use and the facility could be built by right. The county says it will require tasteful building design as part of a deal.

“The land exchange agreement, if reached, would require high quality architecture from Arcland compatible with the surrounding neighborhood,” the county said in a press release. “The proposed facility must also comply with M-1 (light industrial) zoning regulations including set back and height restrictions, as would any use the County makes of the Shirlington site.”

N. Quincy Street site for land swap

Arcland only expects to use 1.2 acres of the Quincy Street property for the storage facility. The remaining 1.1 acres would be leased back to the county “at below market rate.”

“This is a rare opportunity for the County to secure land in Shirlington, zoned for light industrial use, that could accommodate our growing bus fleet,” County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a statement. “We have a critical need for support facilities, and must make smart, tough decisions about land to meet those needs. If the Board is interested in pursuing this proposal, I will work to shape an agreement with Arcland. I am confident that we can put facilities on these sites that will both serve our community’s needs and allow us to be a good neighbor.”

The deal will be discussed at next month’s Arlington County Board meeting. From the press release:

The proposed exchange, if approved, would take place after November 20, 2017, the date on which the County must exercise its option to purchase the N. Quincy Street site. The land exchange would involve no additional cost beyond the $30 million that the County has already agreed to pay for the N. Quincy Street site.

The Manager plans to seek the Board’s approval to pursue negotiations with Arcland at the Board’s December meeting. If the Board approves negotiations, any agreement that might be reached would come before the Board for consideration in 2017.

Update at 11 a.m. — Jim Todd, president of the Cherrydale Citizens Association, sent the following email to residents last night regarding the potential deal.

This is a complex issue and there are a lot of potential trade offs. On the plus side, the land swap would end the potential for the County to move the bus depot from Shirlington to the Buck property. But on the down side, it would also limit the County’s ability to use all of the Buck property for other, larger purposes (as the Buck property is also adjacent to Hayes Park, across the street from Washington-Lee High School, etc.).

This seems like its happening fast, but there is still plenty of time for us to better understand what’s going on, and to learn what other trade-offs and potential upsides and downsides there may be. I understand that the next step is for the County Board to talk about whether to further entertain this idea at its December 13 meeting. But I have been told that the Board will not be making a final decision at that meeting.

by ARLnow.com — November 18, 2016 at 11:45 am 0

Arlington Independent Media in Clarendon

Arlington Independent Media, the local public access cable channel and media education center, is asking its members to support a new cable franchise agreement the county has reportedly reached with Comcast.

The franchise agreement is what allows Comcast to serve customers in Arlington, to the exclusion of other traditional cable providers. (Verizon’s FiOS service has its own franchise agreement in Arlington.)

Arlington County has been negotiating a franchise agreement renewal with Comcast since 2013, when its last long-term agreement expired. The County Board has continuously, temporarily extended the agreement until negotiations could conclude.

The specifics of the new agreement, which reportedly runs through Dec. 2021 and is expected to be considered by the County Board next month, were not immediately available. However, in an email to its members, AIM said the agreement would continue to fund the organization, with some notable changes.

Arlington Independent Media students interview a subject on Wilson Boulevard in ClarendonUnder the agreement, AIM would be upgraded to an HD channel on Comcast’s cable service. Meanwhile, the organization would “continue to receive approximately 1% of Comcast’s gross revenue as operating support,” according to the email, with the county contributing another 1% from its 5% communications tax in addition to an annual capital grant.

AIM’s current facilities in the Comcast building in Clarendon, however, would cease to be rent-free starting Jan. 1, 2018. That “presents AIM with a significant challenge and we will have to quickly figure out a way to remain viable under these conditions,” wrote AIM Executive Director Paul LeValley.

Overall, LeValley wrote, the agreement is “very positive for AIM and we are grateful to the County for negotiating its terms on our behalf.” The only change the organization is seeking is a provision requiring that Comcast list its programming on its on-screen guide.

It is “imperative that our full program schedule be included in Comcast’s digital program guide,” wrote LaValley. “Unfortunately, the draft agreement fails to make this requirement. We believe that inclusion of our program schedule would significantly improve our ability to attract and keep audiences for the many fine programs that you all work so hard to create for our community.”

The full email has been published on the AIM website.

by ARLnow.com — November 11, 2016 at 11:30 am 0

Money (file photo)Arlington County is launching a Financial Fraud, Waste and Abuse Hotline hotline to the public.

The hotline, which launches on Tuesday, Nov. 15, “will offer a confidential and secure way to report suspected incidents of financial fraud, waste and abuse.” It expands on a similar hotline for County employees to report activity that negatively impacts County operations.

“Ethics are at the core of what we do as public stewards,” Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a statement. “Our employees, by and large, do the right thing every day. We successfully launched an employee financial waste, fraud and abuse hotline in May of 2015. We are pleased to expand this hotline to the public, as another easy way for anyone to report suspected instances of financial fraud, waste and abuse.”

The hotline, operated by third-party provider Ethical Advocate, can be reached via phone at 866-565-9206 or online at arlingtonva.ethicaladvocate.com. Tipsters can opt to remain anonymous.

Complaints will be examined by a “Review Committee” that will then “determine appropriate action,” including potential review by the Arlington County Police Department.

Dr. Chris Horton (photo courtesy Arlington County)Separately, the Arlington County Board announced at its Wednesday meeting that it had hired a new County Auditor, after the county’s first independent auditor left the job in July.

The new auditor, Dr. Chris Horton, previously served as audit manager for the Fairfax County Public Schools’ Office of Auditor General.

More about the hire from a county press release, after the jump.

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by ARLnow.com — November 10, 2016 at 4:30 pm 0

It’s probably safe to say that “shock and horror” was the predominant reaction among local Democrats to Donald Trump’s surprise victory in Tuesday’s presidential election.

In Arlington, only 17 percent of those casting ballots voted for Trump, while 76 percent voted for Hillary Clinton. Early on, as the results just started coming in, some officials we spoke to at the Democratic victory party in Clarendon refused to even concede that there was even a possibility that Trump could be elected.

Both the surprise over the result and the fear over what a Trump presidency means for Arlington and the nation was on display at Wednesday’s Arlington County Board meeting. Each Board member weighed in with their thoughts on the election. (See video, above.)

Here’s a bit of what Christian Dorsey had to say:

The outcome of this Presidential election was not what I desired, nor what I ever thought possible. This morning, my wife Rachel and I had to tell our budding feminist, 8-year-old daughter, who just a couple of weeks ago dressed as a suffragette for Halloween and explain to her that our candidate lost. That was hard. But harder still was finding answers to her very natural follow up questions, why, how? But I have to tell you that hardest of all, were finding words of reassurance to an outcome that in my opinion has dramatic consequences for our country. I hope to be proven wrong. Tens of millions of Americans, 20,000 Arlingtonians, and for all I know, perhaps some of you in this room chose Mr. Trump. I won’t try to believe it, but I will try to accept it.

County Board Chair Libby Garvey said a Trump presidency will not change the nature of the Arlington community.

At this point, I know we need to not give into fear, we need to not give into anger, we need to not assume that we know why everybody voted the way they did. And we need to continue what we have been doing here. This is a beautiful, wonderful community and we will do everything we can to preserve it and I am hopeful that we can. The rule of law and the rule of our constitution must prevail.

Jay Fisette said he was trying his best to cope with the results and give the new president a chance.

Yesterday was likely the most consequential election in my lifetime, for our country, to our world, to our understanding of democracy, the economy and our environment. Earlier today, I watched Hillary Clinton’s poignant and gracious concession speech and I actually took to heart her advice.

Number one, to respect the orderly transition of power that which is fundamental of our constitutional democracy. Two, to work with ourselves to open our minds and give our President Elect a chance to lead. And three, to continue to believe in our vision, in our values for the community, for the country.

In each of these, the first is easy for me. Everyone must and will come together to respect and accept the election results, as that is how we work, via the example that was set by our very first president, George Washington. So congratulations, Mr. Trump.

The second will be harder for some, like me, to open my mind and give our President Elect a chance to lead, yet we must do that. After we each finish our own grieving, those that supported Mrs. Clinton, and our assessment of what happened and why it happened, we must give the President a chance.

Independent John Vihstadt, the lone non-Democrat on the Board, said he was disappointed by the slate of presidential candidates this year.

Regardless of our political perspective, everyone in the nation and across the globe is still processing the remarkable outcome of yesterday’s election. Many are jubilant, others are apprehensive, or even fearful, and many others no doubt are conflicted. In my view, all four party nominees on the Virginia ballot for President this year fell short of what our nation deserved and needed in 2016. I voted, but did not vote for any of them. Still, the American people have spoken.

I am confident that our democratic institution will heal and endure, and I hope and pray, that people of goodwill will come together, lower our voices, and work together to find common ground to advance the human condition.

I’m reminded of the statement chiseled in stone above the main door to the state capitol of my home state of Nebraska, “the salvation of the state is watchfulness in the citizen.”

Katie Cristol said Arlington County would “navigate the coming days as we have other major economic and political events in the past” thanks to residents, county staff and prudent planning.

Cristol said the county would continue to respect the rights of immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, in the face of Trump’s deportation promises.

I want to take this opportunity to reaffirm what has been a hallmark of Arlington County: inclusion and protection of our diversity and of our residents. I want to reaffirm that my commitment to the safety of our immigrant neighbors, emphasizing as this board did in 2016 that all residents and visitors to Arlington County have a right to public safety protection. That it is our longstanding policy that Arlington County law enforcement does not monitor, detain, interview or investigate people solely for the purpose of determining their integration status, and that the services we provide in Arlington County, including education, public transit, access to our parks and to our libraries are not restricted based on immigration status.

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by ARLnow.com — November 10, 2016 at 10:45 am 0

Revised Bluemont Park baseball field planThe Arlington County Board on Wednesday approved a compromise plan for a baseball field renovation at Bluemont Park.

The $720,000 plan to renovate Athletic Field No. 3 at the park, which would have converted a run-down baseball diamond to a fenced-in field with new dugouts, bleachers and other furnishings, was met with opposition from some local residents.

To balance the desires of the opponents, who mostly objected to the fence, and the supporters, who say that the county needs more fields for youth sports, the new plan removed about 20 percent of the fencing from around the field.

“When games aren’t in play, you’ll be able to walk through the area,” said County Manager Mark Schwartz. “There’s still space for Frisbee, picnicking and walking your dog. But when a game is in play, you’ll get a good baseball experience.. and a safe one.”

Schwartz also noted in a press release that the controversy — opponents insisted that they were blindsided by the plan even though a public meeting about it had been held and it was approved by the County Board months before opponents organized — pointed to a need to reconsider Arlington’s public outreach on such projects.

Schwartz acknowledged that the County’s engagement process in planning for the renovations, which included a community meeting and digital communications, was not successful. The concerns of those opposed to the fence became known to staff and elected officials only after the County Board approved the construction contract in July 2016.

“We are working to improve the County’s processes for engaging the community across County government,” Schwartz said. “I’ve asked our new Assistant County Manager for Communications and Public Engagement, Bryna Helfer, to report back to me in early 2017 with recommendations.”

Construction of the new field is currently underway.

The full press release about the County Board’s action, after the jump.

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by ARLnow.com — November 10, 2016 at 9:30 am 0

Trump cutout goes out with the recycling after Election Day (photo courtesy Ari P.)

David Black Convicted, Sentenced for Wife’s Murder — An Arlington County jury this week found Arlington Ridge resident David Black guilty of murdering his wife. Bonnie Delgado Black was found stabbed to death in her home, which was just blocks from her estranged husband’s house, on April 17, 2015. Yesterday the jury recommended that Black serve two life sentences. [NBC 4, WTOP]

County Board Ditches New Year’s Day Meeting — Eschewing a long-standing tradition of holding its first meeting of the year on New Year’s Day, the Arlington County Board yesterday voted unanimously to hold its 2017 organizational meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 3. “We still will start our year off with the community, but without forcing employees to give up their personal and family time on a holiday,” said County Board Chair Libby Garvey. [Arlington County]

Retail Space for WeWork in Crystal City — The County Board on Saturday voted to convert 440 square feet of the WeWork and WeLive building in Crystal City to ground floor retail space, at the request of WeWork. No word yet on what kind of a retailer may be moving in. [Arlington County]

More on Park Protests — “Our Man in Arlington” columnist Charlie Clark has tackled the dual controversies of the baseball field fence in Bluemont Park (the Board acted on that yesterday, article coming soon) and the proposed Williamsburg Middle School athletic field lights. Clark concluded: “Popular sports for kids, peaceful green parks: competing Arlington virtues.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Evolent Health Stock Soars — As of 10 a.m. the share price for Ballston-based Evolent Health is up more than 12 percent today and nearly 70 percent for the year. The tech firm reported a narrower-than-expected loss and higher-than-expected revenue in the third quarter of 2016. [CNBC, Yahoo]

Board Approves Loan for Apartment Renovations — The Culpepper Garden affordable apartment complex for low-income seniors will receive needed renovations thanks to a $9.9 million loan from Arlington’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund. The County Board unanimously approved the loan yesterday. The renovations are expected to begin in the spring and will require tenants to temporarily move to other units on site while their units are renovated. [Arlington County]

Photo courtesy Ari P.

by ARLnow.com — November 8, 2016 at 1:05 pm 0

Arlington County Board on 9/27/16The Arlington County Board on Saturday spent an hour and a half discussing changes to the county’s towing ordinance.

The Board voted to advertise a series of changes — final approval is set for next month — but not before making some alterations to the County Manager’s recommendations.

The alterations were essentially intended to prevent towing malfeasance. Among them:

  • The Board inserted a provision that requires towing companies to receive authorization from the property owner to tow a vehicle, which would apply only to non-residential properties during business hours.
  • The Board kept the current requirement that tow truck drivers photograph the condition of a vehicle before towing it, and added a requirement that tow companies notify those who have been towed that they may view the photos upon request.
  • While the County Manager recommended language stipulating that tow companies must notify police of a tow within 10 minutes, rather than “immediately,” as currently worded, the Board gave itself the option of requiring police notification prior to a tow.

The Arlington Chamber of Commerce objected to the authorization requirement — also referred to as a “second signature” — on the grounds that it could cost businesses more time and money to remove trespassers who park on their lots.

A towing standoff outside Ray's Hell BurgerThe Chamber sent a letter to the Board expressing its “vehement opposition” to the requirement. Chamber President and CEO Kate Bates also spoke at the meeting.

“Nobody likes it when their car is towed but that is not justification for putting significant burden on property owners,” said Bates.

County Board Vice Chair Jay Fisette proposed the addition of the second signature requirement. It passed, but with at least two County Board members saying they were unlikely to support it when a final vote is taken next month.

Fisette said that the low number of formal complaints against towing companies — there were 87 towing complaints and seven violations recorded by the county in 2015 — does not reflect the reality of widespread disdain for so-called “predatory towing” practices in Arlington.

As evidence, Fisette cited an ARLnow.com poll from last year in which 84 percent of respondents — nearly 2,300 people — said towing companies in Arlington were more predatory in their conduct than “just doing their job” for local businesses.

“It’s actually refreshing to have the Vice Chair cite an ARLnow poll,” said Board member John Vihstadt, to laughter in the County Board room.

Fisette also cited an ARLnow.com opinion column that recounted someone being towed from the former Taco Bell lot on Wilson Blvd in 2000 while eating at the restaurant — because a spotter saw him walk next door to get cash from an ATM.

A resident who spoke at the Board meeting agreed with Fisette’s assessment of towing practices.

“Many mom and pop restaurants are being harmed by aggressive and predatory towing… it’s driving business away,” said Sarah McKinley, a towing critic and the vice president of the Columbia Heights Civic Association. “A second signature creates a balance and gives retail owners some control over this situation so they aren’t so damaged.”

The Chamber, however, said towing companies provide a valuable service to local businesses. The Chamber supported the County Manager’s original proposal, which it described as a “compromise.”

“We… emphasize our vehement opposition to the addition of a second signature requirement for the removal of illegally parked vehicles or the prohibition of parking ‘spotters’ to monitor parking areas,” the Chamber wrote in its letter to the Board.

“The addition of either would present significant administrative and cost burdens to implement and would deteriorate the level of service provided by towing contractors to local businesses who must keep parking areas clear and available to their employees, visitors and customers to remain financially viable,” the letter said. “We appreciate the steps the County has been working towards to make Arlington a more business friendly community, and urge extreme caution to the Board in exploring proposals that would shift things in the opposite direction.”

by ARLnow.com — November 8, 2016 at 11:35 am 0

The Arlington County Board on Saturday accepted state funding for mental health services and suicide prevention for those age 17 and younger.

From a county press release:

Arlington has received an additional $200,000 in state funding for a program that provides mobile crisis response and video-conference psychiatric counseling (tele-psychiatry) to children under the age of 18 across the region. The mobile nature of the program means that trained professionals will come to the home of a youth in crisis (or other community location) to provide face-to-face assessment, intervention and support, and coordinate follow-up services.

Arlington County’s Department of Human Services serves as the responsible fiscal agent for the Children’s Regional Crisis Response (CR2), launched in 2015. The program provides mobile crisis response and tele-psychiatry to youth under the age of 18 in Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park. Services to youth and their families are provided under contract by the National Counseling Group, a community mental health organization that works throughout Virginia.

The additional state funding raises the ongoing regional budget for these services to $1.44 million for Fiscal Year 2017. The program is fully state-funded. So far in FY 2017, the program working with an average of 75 youth per month across the service area. Service provision is based on need rather than on a jurisdictional allocation formula.

“This regional program is an important part of our overall range of services for youth,” said County Board Chair Libby Garvey. “It complements the County’s outpatient therapy, case management and psychiatric services by providing rapid response to all youth facing a mental health and/or substance use crisis. I encourage everyone to learn more about the signs and symptoms of a child in crisis and how to get help. You can visit the website at cr2crisis.com.”

The Board unanimously approved accepting the funding.  To read the staff report, visit the county website. Scroll down to Item No. 28 on the Agenda for the Saturday, Nov. 5 Regular County Board Meeting.

Where to get help:

  1. If someone is in immediate danger, call 911
  1. In need of emergency mental health services? Call Arlington Children’s Behavioral Healthcare Services:
  • Emergency Line: 703-228-5160
  • General Number: 703-228-1560
  1. Contact CR2. Visit the website, or call:
  • 844-N-Crisis (844-627-4747) or 571-364-7390

Additional resources

Worried your child may attempt suicide/self-harm? Not sure what to do? Call:

  • Crisis Link Regional Hot Line: 703-527-4077
  • National Hope Line: 1-800-SUICIDE
  • LGBTQ Lifeline: 1-866-488-7386
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK
  • Text: CONNECT to 85511

by ARLnow.com — November 7, 2016 at 10:45 am 0

Expansion of the Pentagon City mallArlington County is relaxing its somewhat strict sign rules for its two major shopping malls.

The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City and the under-renovation Ballston Quarter mall will allowed to have more signs, larger signs and temporary projected images.

The County Board voted unanimously to make the changes to the county zoning ordinance.

From an Arlington County press release:

Citing the unique challenges Arlington’s regional shopping centers face in an evolving retail market, the Arlington County Board today approved new, tailored sign regulations that will apply to Ballston Common Mall (the future Ballston Quarter) and Fashion Centre at Pentagon City.

The Zoning Ordinance changes adopted by the Board include the type of signs allowed at urban regional shopping centers; the amount of sign area; placement and sign characteristics. Under the amendments, regional shopping centers will be allowed a larger amount of sign area and more flexibility in where signs are placed. They also will be allowed to have freestanding signs and temporary projected images.

“Our two big malls are important to Arlington’s economy and are centers of activity in the Ballston and Pentagon City neighborhoods,” said County Board Chair Libby Garvey. “The County listened to the business community and the neighborhoods and I’m pleased that we were able to move quickly to adopt common-sense changes to the Zoning Ordinance that will encourage these shopping centers to increase their placemaking, be creative with their signage and stay regionally competitive.”

The Board voted unanimously to approve the changes to the Zoning Ordinance.

Following recommendations of 2015 Retail Plan

The Board’s actions follow the recommendations of the Arlington County Retail Plan, adopted by the Board in July 2015. The plan calls for studying opportunities to reposition and redevelop aging urban regional shopping centers.

The Retail Plan recommends that Ballston Common Mall and Fashion Centre increase placemaking efforts by pulling storefronts to the street; creating multiple entry points and creating activity and attractions on the outside as well as inside. Ballston Mall is currently being redeveloped into Ballston Quarter, incorporating many of the Retail Plan’s recommendations. Fashion Centre also is being expanded and remodeled. To support the redevelopment and repositioning, staff studied the centers’ characteristics and looked at examples throughout the country.

The new regulations are tailored to the unique character of these centers — their built form and the concentration of retail, entertainment and restaurants they offer. They also support the transformation recommended by the Retail Plan by providing more sign area and placement flexibility on facades that have been opened up to the street. The regulations could be used by an urban regional shopping center through an administratively approved comprehensive sign plan.

Community process

The Zoning Ordinance amendments were discussed at a public meeting on April 7, 2016. The amendments also were reviewed by the Zoning Committee of the Planning Commission as well as a number of other stakeholder groups and commissions including the Economic Development Commission, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce Government Relations Committee, the Planning Commission and the Commercial Real Estate Development Group.

by ARLnow.com — November 3, 2016 at 5:35 pm 0

Libby Garvey victory party at Rincome Thai Cuisine on Columbia Pike(Updated at 6:55 p.m.) After fending off a primary challenge from fellow Democrat Erik Gutshall, Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey (D) is now running for reelection against independent candidate Audrey Clement.

In this week’s podcast, we asked Garvey about a number of local issues, from development to transit along Columbia Pike to preparations for snow removal this winter.

We also asked Garvey (around 36:30) about her support of Republican-turned-independent John Vihstadt, her colleague on the County Board. It was Garvey’s endorsement of Vihstadt over Democrat Alan Howze that precipitated her temporary expulsion from the local party’s good graces.

“He’s an independent, he’s clearly an independent,” Garvey said of Vihstadt. “It’s basically where a lot of Democrats are moving towards, and in fact where I think the center of this country is: socially liberal and fiscally responsible.”

“That’s where a lot of us are and I think it’s where Arlington is,” she concluded, “which is why I think John won and why I won.”

Garvey said the Board is functioning better as a body with more diverse viewpoints, as opposed to the previous all-Democrat regime that was “accused, somewhat justly I believe, of being in lockstep.”

Check out interviews of other local candidates on the Nov. 8 ballot from our previous podcast episodes: County Board candidate Audrey Clement (I) and congressional candidates Rep. Don Beyer (D) and Charles Hernick (R).

Be sure to subscribe to ARLnow.com’s podcast, 26 Square Miles, on iTunes, Google PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

by ARLnow.com — November 3, 2016 at 2:30 pm 0

County Board member Libby Garvey

Last week we asked the two candidates for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the November 8 election.

Here is the unedited response from incumbent Libby Garvey (D):

“What an exciting time to be in Arlington!” I said at our January meeting. Ten months on, my excitement about our community’s future has only grown. We have highly educated and incredibly talented people; diversity, which brings much of the world’s experience together in just 26 square miles; beautiful and safe neighborhoods; an outstanding school system; a strong safety net to protect the most vulnerable; and a committed and talented business community.

With our resources, we can solve just about any problem we face. And we’ve solved many. It has been a real privilege to serve you on the County Board for the past four-and-a-half years, and on the School Board for fifteen years before that. This is a wonderful community, but we have challenges. I am running for reelection to the County Board because I know that together we will continue to meet our challenges, and I want to help Arlington achieve our potential.

We must make sure our services work well for residents. We have taken steps this year, such as e-filing of building permit applications, but there is more to do. We must embrace new tools, but innovation and service delivery isn’t only about technology. I will continue to encourage our staff to try new processes to make using public services simple and straightforward.

I will continue my work to help us get around. The Transit Development Plan we approved this summer was a start toward realizing premium bus service on Columbia Pike and throughout the county, but we need to continue to update our transit services so they get riders where they want to go. The crisis with Metro reminds us that we must also deepen our cooperation around the region. I will continue to work with leaders around the region both to improve Metro and to build new regional transit options.

We must make sure that every Arlingtonian can participate in our community processes. We made a good start this year by webcasting and recording County Board work sessions and meetings of the Planning and Transportation Commissions, but we need to expand these webcasts to all commission meetings. I will continue to push for more online tools that both inform residents about what’s happening and allow them to provide feedback to their government. Traditional, time-intensive methods, which often don’t account for family and work commitments, cannot be a bar to resident participation in our community and government.

Arlington must be a place where everyone feels that she or he can contribute. This year, I helped bring people together on different sides of issues like Fire Station 8 and the Stratford school driveway to discuss the options openly before moving forward. Everyone can’t have his or her preferred outcome, and I did not have mine on every issue. But when we have an open dialogue and focus on speaking with – and listening to – each other, we make sure that everyone can contribute to the ultimate decision in some way.

We still need a strategic plan to unify all of our issue-specific master plans. Coming up with an overall strategic plan will take time and must include the whole community so that we hear everyone’s voice. We started down this path this year, and I look forward to building on it in my next term.

Arlington County is a place where residents, business, and government all work to bring out the best in our community. I ask for your vote on Tuesday to continue serving you as we work together to realize our full potential.

by ARLnow.com — November 3, 2016 at 2:00 pm 0

Audrey Clement

Last week we asked the two candidates for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the November 8 election.

Here is the unedited response from Audrey Clement (I):

Millions of people are turned off by this year’s presidential election. In fact so unhappy is the public with the major party presidential candidates that psychologists have come up with a new diagnosis–Election Stress Disorder (ESD)–characterized by anxiety over the prospect of electing them! If you’re an Arlington resident suffering from ESD, a cure is in sight. No. I’m not running for President. But as an Independent candidate for Arlington County Board, I offer local voters a change from business as usual to real reform.

Never have Arlington residents been more in need of this remedy. Consider that when I recently complained to County Board about some questionable numbers that appear in Arlington Public Schools’ (APS) 2017-2026 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) documents, I was told by my opponent, County Board Chair Libby Garvey, that County Board couldn’t address the issue. I should direct my complaint to the School Board instead.

Come again? County Board is responsible for approving not only the School Board’s operating budget, but also its CIP. That responsibility includes reviewing the School Board’s budget documents. By insisting that it has no such responsibility, Arlington County Board is abdicating its duty to oversight the School Board budget. Why is this important? At $565 million, the School Board operating budget accounts for 36% of Arlington government annual expenditures and almost 50 percent of local tax revenue. At $510 million, APS outlays account for 15% of Arlington’s ten year capital budget.

Not only has the current County Board given the School Board carte blanche to adopt whatever budgets it wants, it also routinely rubberstamps major development projects, ignoring their impacts on streets, schools, parks and public safety.

Consider the Rosslyn Plaza Phased Development Site Plan (PDSP) between Kent Street and Arlington Ridge Road that will house 500 new housing units, 200 new hotel rooms, 1.8 million square feet of office space and 2,168 parking spaces. In approving the PDSP, not only did County Board ignore the impact of additional traffic on the Rosslyn community, it also ignored the joint appeal of the Metropolitan Washington Airlines Committee, Airports Authority, American Airlines, Airlines for America, and the Airline Pilots Association to defer approval of the Rosslyn Plaza project until FAA has decided whether to amend its regulations to consider the hazard of constructing office towers so close to White House prohibited airspace. This project will not only further congest Rosslyn, it will also jeopardize the safety of Rosslyn residents.

If elected, I plan to seek a fiscal impact analysis of every major site plan development to assure that the project actually benefits the County and that its impacts are adequately addressed. In addition, I plan to:

  • Seek tax relief for residents and businesses and stop the exodus of federal agencies from Arlington.
  • Preserve green space and emphasize basic services like: streets, schools, libraries and public safety.
  • Promote transparency by requiring publication of official documents at least 72 hours before board and commission meetings.
  • Provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers.

As a 12-year Westover resident and long-time civic activist–with a Ph.D. in political science and service as a Congressional Fellow–I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.

To find out more about my campaign, visit:
www.AudreyClement.com [http://www.AudreyClement.com]

You can make a difference! Boost my campaign for Arlington County Board by:

  • volunteering for an hour at your polling place on Election Day;
  • donating time or money;
  • planting a yard sign in your yard or window;
  • spreading the word via your PTA, civic association, listserv or blog.

Together we can make the “Arlington Way” more than an empty phrase.

Sincerely,
Audrey Clement, Ph.D.
Independent Candidate, Arlington County Board
www.AudreyClement.com [http://www.audreyclement.com]

by ARLnow.com — November 3, 2016 at 11:10 am 0

Robert Ball graveyard in Ballston

Members of the Ball family, for which Ballston is named, would like to see their small family graveyard along Fairfax Drive preserved and not moved for a redevelopment.

An attorney representing four descendants of Robert Ball Sr. sent a letter (below) stating the family members’ position to the Arlington County Board earlier this week.

The family members “fully support” an item on this Saturday’s County Board agenda that would be a first step to designating the graveyard a local historic district, according to the letter .

The attorney, Alexander Berger, said family members do not want to prevent the planned redevelopment of the church, but they do want the church to honor its century-old commitment — made after the family granted the church the land on which it sits — to preserve the graveyard.

“This is a situation where everyone involved can certainly find agreement,” Berger said. The family members have “no desire to stand in the way of the church and the development, provided they honor the history of the county and the family.”

The church, meanwhile, is pursuing two different methods of trying to get approval to move the graveyard. First, it has applied for a permit with the Virginia Dept. of Historic Resources. Additionally, it has filed suit against members of the Ball family in Arlington Circuit Court in order to have the graveyard declared abandoned, which would then allow it to be moved.

“It is not a lawsuit in the sense anybody is suing anybody,” explained Tad Lunger, the attorney for the church.  “There are basically two ways to allow for the relocation of human remains in Virginia, the first being through the DHR permit process, and the second being to get a court order to allow the relocations to occur.”

“The DHR permit is more of a passive notice process, whereas for the court process we cast a wider net and actually have to do genealogical research to locate any potential descendants and proactively go out and notify them,” Lunger continued. “Because we wanted as much opportunity for descendants to know we might find human remains at this site, and we wanted to know directly from them what they felt was most appropriate to do with any remains if they were found, we decided to do both processes to get as much involvement as possible.”

Berger, who was hired by family members after they were served with the lawsuit, said that the church “didn’t go about this in the right way.”

Berger said he believes the church is working on a plan for building the new development around the graveyard, which family members would likely support, but those plans have not yet been shared with him or the family.

by ARLnow.com — November 1, 2016 at 2:40 pm 0

A towing standoff outside Ray's Hell BurgerA set of proposed changes to Arlington’s trespass towing ordinance would remove the requirement that tow truck drivers photograph the condition of a vehicle before towing it.

The Arlington County Board is set to consider an advertisement of the changes at its meeting this coming Saturday.

The proposal would not change the requirement that tow truck drivers obtain photographic or video evidence “clearly showing the location of the vehicle, substantiating the reason for its removal.” Instead, it removes a provision calling for any existing damage to the vehicle be documented.

Brian Stout, the county’s legislative liaison, says the change won’t have much practical impact, as photographing the condition of the vehicle was more of a best practice guideline than an enforceable law.

“Originally envisioned as a way to protect vehicle owners in the event of damage to their vehicle resulting from the tow, the County’s ordinance was amended in 2012 to require the tower to document the condition of the vehicle,” Stout told ARLnow.com. “Recognizing that the County has no role in damage claims, language was included stating that failure to meet this requirement does not result in a violation of the ordinance. This requirement has led to confusion among all parties regarding what is required to satisfy this provision and has led many vehicle owners to believe that the County has a role to play in such damage claims, which we do not.”

“While the County maintains that it is good practice for the towing and recovery operator to document the condition of the vehicle prior to its removal,” Stout added, “we believe removal of this provision will provide clarity to all parties while also not decreasing protections to vehicle owners.”

Other proposed towing changes include:

  • Requiring additional signs on the interior of a parking facility to supplement signs at the entrances and “identify additional parking restrictions should they exist.”
  • Adding an additional $25 fee for tows on weekends, holidays and between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. on weekdays, as required by a new state law.
  • Allowing the towing storage facility to be 3.25 miles away from the county line rather than the existing 3 mile requirement, thus allowing additional towing companies to compete for business in Arlington.
  • Clarifying that nothing in the ordinance “shall release tow truck drivers from liability for failure to use reasonable care while towing a vehicle.”
  • Clarifying existing language that prohibits the towing of federal, state or local public safety vehicles.

The changes were all discussed by the county’s Trespass Towing Advisory Board, the voting members of which are three towing company operators, three representatives from the Arlington County Police Department and one local resident, Nancy Iacomini, who chairs the board.

Iacomini tried to introduce amendments that would keep the requirement to photograph the condition of towed vehicles, but the amendments failed.

Separately, the county is hoping to obtain permission to allow it to add more local residents to the towing board.

The county’s draft set of legislative priorities for 2017, which is to be voted upon by the County Board next month, includes an item seeking a law that would “permit localities to add an equal number of voting members of the general public to their towing advisory board as there are representatives of local law-enforcement agencies and representatives of licensed towing and recovery operators.”

“The composition of voting members of local trespass towing advisory boards is a matter that is controlled by Virginia State Code Section 46.2-1233.2,” Stout said. “The County’s request would allow for localities that have a local ordinance and advisory board to allow for equal voting representation from the general public if they chose to do so. As these issues affect the general public in a substantial way, we believe that localities should have the ability to allow for equal representation.”

by ARLnow.com — November 1, 2016 at 9:05 am 0

Giant Meteor campaign sign

Garvey Wants to Nix New Year’s Day Meeting — Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey has proposed moving the Board’s traditional New Year’s Day meeting (this year it would otherwise be held on Jan. 2, the federal observance of the New Year holiday) to the next business day: Tuesday, Jan. 3. [Washington Post]

Neighbors Upset About Sex Offender’s Halloween Decorations — A 57-year-old registered sex offender says he did nothing wrong in putting up Halloween decorations in front of his Arlington house. But nearby residents don’t agree: they called the police and local TV stations, saying the display is “inappropriate” since it might “entice” children. One concerned resident said, “we are within our rights as taxpayers and longtime members of this community to protect the children in our community.” [Fox 5]

Higher Meal Tax Possible? — If state lawmakers act to provide counties with the same taxing powers as Virginia cities, as Arlington County is asking for again this year, it could eventually mean an increase in the meals tax at local restaurants. [InsideNova]

It’s November — Today is the first day of November. In a week, it’s finally Election Day. In three weeks and two days, it’s Thanksgiving. The weather forecast for the next two days, however: highs of 75 and 79 on Wednesday and Thursday.

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