McAuliffe Under Investigation — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) is being investigated by the FBI and the Justice Department for possible illegal campaign contributions. [CNN]
Board Accepting Feedback on Blue Ribbon Panel — The County Board’s so-called Blue Ribbon Panel was supposed to help the Board set county priorities without getting bogged down in bureaucracy and process. Instead, the panel’s implementation has been delayed and the county is now asking for public feedback on the panel and its charge. [Arlington County]
The Legacy of ACFD’s First Black Firefighters — The Halls Hill/High View Park community held an event this past weekend to honor the Arlington County Fire Department’s first black professional firefighters. Some members of the original group of 14 black firefighters to staff Arlington’s Fire Station No. 8 were on hand for the event. [InsideNova]
Don Rockwell Profiled — Don Rockwell, the mysterious proprietor of the influential Don Rockwell online restaurant forum, lives along Columbia Pike and dines out just about every day for lunch and dinner. At the end of the profile, Rockwell lists some of his favorite local restaurants and dishes. [Arlington Magazine]
Flickr pool photo by James L.
The Arlington County Board has approved the redevelopment of the Berkeley Apartments near Four Mile Run.
The Berkeley, located at 2910 S. Glebe Road near the Arlington-Alexandria border, currently contains 137 apartments in two four-story buildings. Of those, 110 are committed affordable.
The redevelopment will replace them with two five-story buildings containing 257 apartments, 155 of which are committed affordable. One hundred forty units will be family sized, containing two or more bedrooms.
“This project will add high-quality housing — both market rate and committed affordable — to Four Mile Run,” said County Board Chair Libby Garvey, in a press release. “Two older apartment buildings will be replaced, and we will gain a total of 45 affordable units — most of them big enough for families.”
The project’s developer, AHC Inc., will file an application with the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund to help finance the redevelopment. During the financial underwriting process, AHC is hoping to increase the number of committed affordable units from 70 percent to 80 percent.
AHC also committed to achieving Earthcraft Gold green building certification, ensuring that the buildings meet Energy Star requirements. Community benefits of the project include a widening of the Four Mile Run trail from 8 to 12 feet and a $75,000 public art contribution.
The project was met with resistance from the Arlington Ridge Civic Association, which expressed concerns about the size of the new buildings.
Some building residents also expressed concerns a condition imposed by county staff that the property’s fence that runs along the Four Mile Mile Run trail be removed. The fence helps to improve the building’s security, residents said. County staff and others said the fence does not comply with the Four Mile Run Master Plan.
“The proposed fence would completely undercut that effort, and send a message to both Berkeley residents and others that Four Mile Run is a scary place to be avoided,” said Liz Birnbaum of the Four Mile Run Joint Task Force. “Just as we are beginning to achieve the Master Plan vision of an inviting, accessible Four Mile Run, the fence proposal denies that possibility.”
Ultimately, staff softened the language of the condition, instead requiring that the fence be removed no later than Dec. 31, 2026.
“The proposed change ensures that there will not be a continuous fence along the entire frontage of the Four Mile Run Trail and provides a date certain for removing the fence, while addressing the the applicant’s concerns related to safety and security in the near term,” staff wrote, noting that AHC preferred to keep the fence in place.
The three candidates for Arlington County Board debated business and other public policy issues Monday, at a forum sponsored by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce.
Both Democratic contenders — incumbent County Board Chair Libby Garvey and challenger Erik Gutshall — vowed to make it easier for companies to do business in Arlington, for companies large and small.
Early on, Garvey pointed to the difficulty Boeing encountered in trying to build its D.C. area headquarters in Arlington as an example of something that shouldn’t happen again.
“Boeing had planned to build a second building but found the process here so unpleasant that they said they’d never build another building in Arlington,” said Garvey.
Gutshall, who is the owner of a small business, Clarendon Home Services, focused on customer service as the key to improving the experience of operating a business in Arlington.
“I firmly believe that Arlington County needs leadership that will accept nothing less than a culture of get to yes,” said Gutshall. “Too many citizens and business owners continue to have frustrating horror stories of the lack of transparency, accountability and helpfulness of our county. I know because I have more than a few of my own.”
They also discussed transportation, mentioning the need for improved transit infrastructure.
“Transit is largely regional and we really need to make it easy with a single seat ride for folks from Fairfax to Loudon to Prince William to get into Arlington and D.C. This is how we will get more cars off the roads,” said Garvey.
A common theme raised by Gutshall was the need to make infrastructure investments.
“For the sake of our economy and quality of life, we must be forceful advocates for a second river crossing for Metro,” he proposed. Gutshall and Garvey both spoke about transit on Columbia Pike; Gutshall has been critical of Garvey and the county’s lack of action following the cancellation of the Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar project.
“I’ll also work to ensure that bus routes on Columbia Pike contribute to the achievement of our main street vision by providing providing frequent 6-10 minute service, 18 hours a day that connects our diverse residents and businesses efficiently to the places they want and need to go — beyond work including more north to south connections in the county.”
Said Garvey: “I am pleased with the proposal to expand the transit way from Crystal City to Columbia Pike essentially running the same route as had been planned for the streetcar and we will have a one seat ride the west end of Columbia Pike all the way west through Crystal City.”
Also discussed was the proposed gondola connecting Rosslyn with Georgetown. Garvey has expressed skepticism about the gondola, while voting to approve funds for a feasibility study. Gutshall said he supported the study.
“I think that the gondola study is worthwhile,” said Gutshall. “I have my reservations and doubts seriously that it will come to fruition… It seems that it was a relatively modest sum for Arlington to kick in a little bit of funds just to see if it has legs and if it might go somewhere. But I will be very honest. I don’t think in the long run its going to have legs.”
The Arlington County Board voted unanimously Tuesday to defer implementation of the “blue ribbon panel” it voted unanimously last month to create.
The six-person panel was intended to advise the County Board on strategic priorities. The rushed vote to establish the panel on April 19, and questions about what exactly it is intended to accomplish, led to criticism from some community groups.
Its principal backer, County Board Chair Libby Garvey, has also faced criticism of the panel on the campaign trail from Democratic primary challenger Erik Gutshall, who has raised it as an issue of government transparency. Garvey defended the idea and clarified the intent of the panel at Tuesday afternoon’s Board meeting.
Jay Fisette, who was critical of the plan last month but voted to support it nonetheless, created the motion to defer its implementation. His motion was supported unanimously.
Fisette issued the following statement about his motion to defer.
Since we voted on the charge for this Blue Ribbon Panel in April, I have been inundated with questions and concerns. Many in our community are either angry at how this happened or confused about what actually happened. I was challenged to explain how I could vote for something after having publicly expressed significant concern about it. I had no good response.
This Board has received letters of concern from groups such as the Alliance for Housing Solutions (an umbrella group representing over 35 Arlington non-profits, churches and other organizations), the Planning and Urban Forestry Commissions and Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement.
The letters raised concerns with the process. One stated, “There was virtually no notice that the Board would adopt the Charge and the language was not available for public review and comment. This flies in the face of repeated messages by many Board members of the need for greater transparency and adequate public advance notice of Board actions.”
And another remarked, “When the Board takes action in this manner, abrogating its own stated commitment to transparency and accountability, it seriously undermines the importance of citizen engagement that should be the goal of everyone in the County.”
Others spoke to the panel’s charge itself. One commission was concerned that “the Panel’s charge is largely duplicative of the responsibilities of the Planning Commission as outlined in the Code of Virginia” and that “it was unclear from the Panel’s charge how members of the public would participate in its meetings or contribute to its work.”
And one letter summarized the concerns of many, “In short, the panel is duplicative; the charge is murky and invests far too much power in 6 people to potentially dramatically alter priorities resulting from the involvement of many Arlington residents already; and the Board’s action in creating it seriously undermines the good governance goal of encouraging and valuing citizen engagement. Thus, we urge you to rethink the panel.”
Clearly, the community has said that our April vote to approve this Panel without public notice was flawed, and today’s vote is a step toward rectifying that action. I very much appreciate my colleagues’ support for taking a step back and asking for feedback from some key stakeholders as well as from the larger community.
My support for this step should not be taken as support for the Panel. I remain skeptical, yet I am glad that the process will be opened, and I am willing to see if the purpose can be clarified and made useful.
Finally, we must thoughtfully consider the recommendations of the Community Facilities Study Committee (CFS Committee) and their relationship to the charge of this Panel. Many of the members of the CFS Committee have been unhappy with the lack of action on their recommendations, which was further inflamed by the creation of the Blue Ribbon Panel.
Honestly, if anything deserved the Blue Ribbon monikor, it was the CFS Committee. It was a model process with compelling and serious recommendations to guide our future. It was a true collaboration between the schools and the county, with a clear charge and broad representation, and it concluded within the established 10-month timeline.
To remind us, the CFS Committee was tasked to identify the principal strategic challenges that Arlington faces, point out the barriers to overcoming those challenges and recommend ways to address them.
And the key recommendation they made for responding to these challenges was to establish, “A new system for more open, systematic and coordinated County and School Board decisions about setting priorities for future facility budget and location decisions.” And they told us exactly how to do this.
It is this recommendation, that provides guidance on how to set priorities for much of our community’s future capital needs, that deserves our immediate attention and should be top of mind as we reconsider this Panel. I am especially interested in the feedback that we have requested of the CFS Committee in this regard.
The Marymount Farmers Market is expected to open on Saturday, May 21. It will take place in the university’s surface parking lot, at the intersection of N. Glebe Road and Old Dominion Drive, and will run on Saturdays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m., until Nov. 19.
Along with the use permit, the Board also approved a revision of the zoning ordinance allowing for an expansion of areas where open air markets will be allowed to take place.
Arlington currently has 11 open air markets approved throughout the county and until the revision, the markets were limited to fewer zoning classifications. They were also prohibited in residential zones.
Now, open air markets are allowed in residential zones after obtaining a special exception use permit. They will be allowed on any property along a major street that has an existing public, civic or institutional use such as a university or library.
“Arlingtonians love farmers markets,” Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said in a press release. “It makes sense to allow these markets to open in neighborhoods, where people can walk to buy fresh, healthy, locally grown produce, meats and more — and enjoy seeing their neighbors while they are shopping.”
The Arlington County Board, during an hours-long meeting on Saturday, debated whether to include a controversial driveway feature in the design for the forthcoming Stratford Middle School in Cherrydale.
Though the Arlington School Board approved the school’s design in November, the project’s designers, county staff and some neighbors have come to an impasse on whether that design should include a one-way driveway connecting N. Vacation Lane and Old Dominion Drive.
Proponents of the plan with the driveway — including its designers and some locals — argued the one-way avenue is needed to mitigate traffic in the area and would give the new school a much-needed area for pickup and drop-off. But opponents of the plan said building the driveway would negatively impact the environment by removing 166 trees from the site and would send hundreds of vehicles directly onto Old Dominion Drive, among other concerns.
Among those arguing against building the driveway is Dennis Leach, deputy director of transportation for Arlington County.
“The driveway causes adverse environmental impacts to the site and is not essential for transportation access,” he said.
But Vern Torney, a traffic expert hired by a community organization dubbed the Coalition for a Safe Stratford, said the driveway plan would actually help the environment, albeit in a different way.
“With the driveway, you’ll see that the fuel consumptions seven percent less and the noxious emissions range from one to ten percent less than the without driveway scenario,” argued Torney. “It’s my professional opinion that the with driveway scenario offers an advantage over the alternative.”
Members of Arlington Public Schools’ Building Level Planning Committee (BLPC) also supported the plan to build the driveway, citing reduced risk of pedestrian and cyclist injuries and better accessibility and emergency access.
After hearing hours of concerns and comments from members of the community and other interested parties, the Board’s members made their opinions known.
“It’s clear to me that reasonable people with good motives can still have profound disagreements about an ultimate proposal that’s before you,” said Board member Christian Dorsey. “I am comfortable with the driveway option as being the most prudent to address all of the concerns that the renovation of stratford has at this point.”
Board members John Vihstad and Katie Cristol also agreed that building the driveway was ultimately the right course of action in a complicated decision.
The lone voice of dissent came from Board member Jay Fisette.
“I think we can accomplish and maximize the benefits in the longer term… by not including the driveway,” Fisette said. “The best way to do that is changing the modal split.” But Fisette acknowledged that, “either way, we’re going to have a much better outcome.”
County Board Chair Libby Garvey had the last word on the matter.
“I do believe in the end that building the road will be helpful to the environment, will improve safety and will encourage more students and their families to be walking instead of driving to school,” Garvey said.
In total, the Board spend about 4.5 hours on the discussion, even though it was just a “Request to Advertise” on the “Consent Agenda” for non-controversial items. Most of the time was spent in an impromptu County Board work session; a vote on the matter is expected to take place at a subsequent Board meeting.
The Stratford school building is slated to be renovated after its current primary occupant, the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program, moves to the Wilson School in Rosslyn.
Photo via APS/Quinn Evans Architects
Gutshall, who is challenging County Board Chair Libby Garvey for the Democratic nomination, is, according to APAC, “a consensus-builder, with an eye to transparency and engagement all along the way.”
Garvey formerly served on the Arlington School Board.
From a press release:
APAC, the political action committee of the Arlington Education Association, has recommended Erik Gutshall for the County Board seat to be contested in the Democratic primary June 14th. The APAC Steering Committee was impressed with Mr. Gutshall’s vision for the county, viewing his ideas as both far-sighted in scope and inclusive of all segments of the community. APAC Steering Team co-chair Gerry Collins noted that Gutshall has applied his knowledge of the county and experience at the planning level to lay out some well-considered ideas on housing, transit, schools and revenue streams.
Collins added, “Erik Gutshall approaches decision-making as a consensus-builder, with an eye to transparency and engagement all along the way. We support his view of the schools as both institutions of opportunity for our students as well as assets for community activities and events, and are encouraged by his support for school funding.”
Gutshall, Garvey and independent candidate Audrey Clement will face off during an Arlington Chamber of Commerce candidate forum tonight from 6-8 p.m. at the Rosslyn Hyatt (1325 Wilson Blvd). The event is being moderated by ARLnow editor Scott Brodbeck
Kitchen Fire at Lebanese Taverna — Firefighters extinguished an early morning kitchen fire at Lebanese Taverna on Pentagon Row Saturday. [Twitter]
Arlington to Get Tourism Promotion Boost — A slight increase in Arlington’s hotel tax, approved by the County Board over the weekend, will allow the county to boost its tourism promotion budget by $1.25 million. The hotel tax increase was years in the making, as Arlington sought authorization from the state legislature, which stripped the county of the ability to levy the tax surcharge in 2011. [Arlington County]
Fire Station 8 Recommendation — The County Board’s Fire Station No. 8 task force is recommending that the current, aging station be torn down and a new, larger station be built in its place. The cost will be $5 million higher than the county’s estimate for what it originally wanted to do: move the station to county-owned land near Marymount University. That proposal met with resident resistance. [InsideNova]
New Temporary Home for County Buses, Vehicles — The County Board has approved a seven-year lease for a property near Shirlington, where it plans to temporarily store ART buses and county vehicles during separate construction projects. The land is near the CubeSmart self-storage facility. [Arlington County]
Bank Robbery Suspect Arrested — The “Ball Cap Bandit,” who allegedly robbed a bank near Fairlington while wearing a Brooklyn Nets hat, has been caught. According to the FBI, the suspect is 26-year-old Arlington resident Budder Khan. He’s being charged in three separate robberies. He wore Colorado Rockies and Oakland Raiders hats during his other two alleged robberies. [Washington Post]
Two Dozen APS Students Selected for Governor’s School — “This summer, 24 APS students will attend the Governor’s School for Academics, Mentorship, Visual and Performing Arts or the Foreign Language Academy. Both programs allow students to focus on a specific area of intellectual or artistic strengths and interests and to study in a way that best suits the gifted learner’s needs.” [Arlington Public Schools]
The Arlington-based Alliance for Housing Solutions is raising questions about the “Blue Ribbon Panel” on county priorities that was unanimously approved by the County Board last month.
In a letter to the panel’s principle supporter, County Board Chair Libby Garvey, and the four other members of the County Board, AHS asks the Board to delay implementation of the panel — the six members are slated to be appointed at the Board’s meeting on Tuesday — and gather more public feedback.
Garvey said last month that the panel would serve an advisory role for the Board and would not set policy, thus negating the need for an extensive public process.
As an organization, AHS is dedicated to “preserving and increasing affordable housing in Arlington through public education, facilitation and action.”
The full letter from AHS leaders Eugene Hubbard and Mary Margaret Whipple, the former state legislator, is below.
Dear Madam Chair and Members of the County Board:
The Alliance for Housing Solutions is writing to express its disappointment in the Board’s unanimous adoption of the Blue Ribbon Panel Charge on April 19, 2016. We urge that the Board delay this process, including the appointment of Panel members, until the public has had reasonable opportunity to provide feedback and the Charge is clarified to explain what appear to be inconsistencies.
Our principal concerns are summarized as follows:
1. Process. While it is clear that the Blue Ribbon Panel and Charge were discussed among Board members and perhaps members of the public as well, there was virtually no notice that the Board would adopt the Charge and the language was not available for public review and comment. This flies in the face of repeated messages by many Board members of the need for greater transparency and adequate public advance notice of Board actions.
2. Governance. The complete scope of what is being asked of the members of the Panel is not clear but explicitly includes the ability to “Affirm the[se] goals and objectives [of the Comprehensive Plan] and/or consider policy areas that should be revisited.” This is high-level policy-making that we believe should not be in the hands of unelected persons.
Further, we believe that the need to create a process to set priorities is redundant. As the Charge itself notes, priorities are set every year by the County Board in the budget and CIP processes, with feedback from the community and from affected Commissions.
3. Inclusion. The Charge speaks of the Panel of six reflecting “broad diversity, including knowledge of and experience with Arlington Public Schools”. Respectfully, we think that such diversity of issues and concerns cannot be reflected by six persons in a six month process. Further, AHS is concerned about how the on-going roles of Commissions and other appointed bodies will be considered.
Thank you for your consideration of these views.
Mary Margaret Whipple
New Capital Bikeshare station are coming to Washington-Lee High School and to the Westover Library.
Use permits for both are on this weekend’s Arlington County Board agenda. The stations will include docks for 16 bikes.
“The proposed Capital Bikeshare station provides convenient access to users, complies with the clear sidewalk width requirements and will not cause an undue adverse impact to adjacent streets or neighborhoods,” said a county staff report.
County Board Contenders Debate — The two Democratic contenders for Arlington County Board, incumbent Libby Garvey and challenger Erik Gutshall, debated who would be the most transparent and the best agent of change last night. Gutshall criticized Garvey for the lack of action on new transit options for Columbia Pike and for supporting the creation of a “blue ribbon panel” to study county priorities. [InsideNova, Washington Post]
Residents Concerned About Sex Offender — Some residents in the Bluemont neighborhood and the area around Bon Air Park are concerned about a registered sex offender who recently moved to the area. There have been reports of the man watching children’s soccer games and leaving balloons in the backyard of a family home. Police say they’re investigating. [Fox 5]
Vornado Attracting Millennials With Cool Restaurants — “Vornado has carefully curated its retail in Crystal City and Pentagon City to appeal to creative Millennials, bringing in tenants like DIY design and fabrication space TechShop and hip restaurants like We The Pizza, Sweetgreen and Taylor Gourmet, which just opened Monday. That’s not to mention the Whole Foods anchoring the retail section of Vornado’s The Bartlett, a trendy ‘city within a city’ with nearly 700 residential units.” [Bisnow]
Chinese News Agency Profiles Arlington’s Tech Scene — Xinhua, the state-run news agency that’s said to be the largest and most influential media organization in China, has published a feature story that discusses how Arlington has become a “hot spot for tech startups.” The story notes that in addition to a robust talent pool and the availability of investment capital, “government has also played a vital role in the development of startups in Arlington.” [Xinhua]
Outdoor Lab to Celebrate 50th Anniversary — The Arlington Outdoor Lab, a nonprofit facility that hosts more than 9,000 students annually for outdoor and environmental education, is celebrating its 50th anniversary with an event in Ballston next month. [Arlington Outdoor Lab]
Flickr pool photo by James L.
The forum is being organized by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. It will be held from 6-8 p.m. at the Hyatt in Rosslyn (1325 Wilson Blvd). ARLnow.com, a Chamber member, is the event’s media sponsor.
During the forum, incumbent Libby Garvey and challenger Erik Gutshall will be asked a variety of questions, with a special focus on local business.
“This business-themed candidate forum will feature a moderated discussion of topics important to the Arlington business community, and will provide each candidate with the opportunity to engage with local business leaders and address the key issues for the business community,” the Chamber said. “This event will also offer attendees the chance to gain an inside look into the candidates’ views on business in Arlington County.”
(Perennial independent candidate Audrey Clement, who has qualified for the ballot again this year, has also been invited to participate.)
In a debate earlier this month, Gutshall lamented that Arlington County’s economic development efforts are “geared towards the types of businesses that are going to fill office buildings,” more so than helping small businesses. Garvey said the county is “aware that small businesses are having issues” and is holding a small business summit next week.
Meanwhile, the county’s high office vacancy rate — some 8 million square feet of office space is vacant in Arlington — remains a significant issue.
This candidate forum is open to the general public. Registration is $10. Light refreshments will be provided.
The Arlington County Democratic Committee is planning its own candidate debate from 7-9 p.m. on Wednesday, May 4. The debate will be held at GMU’s Founders Hall (3351 Fairfax Drive).
A near-capacity crowd packed into Mad Rose Tavern in Clarendon Wednesday night for a Democratic showdown between County Board member Libby Garvey and primary challenger Erik Gutshall.
The Arlington Young Democrats-hosted debate was perhaps not the battle royale some were expecting, but there were a few pointed barbs from Gutshall and an assertive defense from Garvey of her record.
Gutshall started his line of attack before the debate even started, by CCing news outlets that morning on a letter to Garvey, questioning why former Republican Congressman Tom Davis donated $1,000 to her campaign. (In 2014, Davis also donated $1,000 to the campaign of independent County Board member John Vihstadt, who Garvey endorsed over Democrat Alan Howze.)
“I was shocked to learn that someone running to be the Democratic nominee would so openly solicit, and accept, campaign contributions from someone whose job and mission it was to defeat Democrats,” Gutshall wrote. He asked Garvey to sign a pledge to only support Democratic candidates and to reject campaign contributions from current or former Republican elected officials.
At the debate, Gutshall said it was “not acceptable” that Garvey had not signed the pledge, also citing her decision not to endorse Del. Rip Sullivan during his campaign.
“Absolutely, unequivocally, 100 percent I will support the Democrat, period,” Gutshall said.
Garvey, meanwhile, declined to make any absolute promises, saying she would make decisions based on “what is the right thing for Arlington… what is best for the people I serve.”
“Generally, that’s the Democrat,” she said. Her answer was followed by a couple loud boos from the crowd.
Gutshall attempted to re-litigate the streetcar battle, saying that Garvey “has sat on the sidelines” since she and Vihstadt helped to scuttle the project, which would have brought light rail transit to Columbia Pike. (The county has said an alternative transit plan will be coming this year.)
“We don’t have the transit that’s there to meet the needs of density” along Columbia Pike, said Gutshall. “We have the right to expect more and do better.”
Garvey said that until January, when she took over the County Board chairmanship, she “did not have the votes” to push a Bus Rapid Transit plan for the Pike. With the addition of like-minded Democrats Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey this year, she said the County Board is functioning well as a team.
“Your board is a very exciting board right now,” she said. “I have done a lot since January. I would like to build on this experience and build on this work.”
Gutshall accused Garvey of abandoning the infrastructure investment mindset that led previous generations of local Democratic leaders to support, for instance, the building of the Metrorail system.
“Progress comes by investing in the future,” he said. “The main reason I’m running here is that I have heard rhetoric that we should turn and look inward and that we cannot afford to meet these challenges.”
Eleven homes on the 900 block of N. Daniel and Danville streets are connected to a failing sewer line that runs through their backyards. The line is believed to date back to the 1920s, when the first of the homes in the neighborhood were built.
As we reported in 2013, county workers had been clearing occasional blockages of the line, until the county determined that it did not actually own the line — it was privately constructed and the county had “no rights to operate or maintain this line.”
Facing steep plumbing and excavation costs for connecting to a public sewer line, homeowners threatened legal action. On Tuesday, the County Board settled the matter by voting unanimously to approve a compromise agreement with the homeowners.
Arlington will roughly split the cost of connecting all 11 homes — $253,980 plus a $50,000 contingency — and will advance the other half of the money to seven homeowners who asked for help financing the work. The seven homeowners will repay their share over seven years, at 2 percent interest, via the establishment of a “service district” that will levy a frontage assessment on their property.
Arlington County said the compromise was necessary because the private sewer line was failing and beyond repair, and a major sewage backup in the midst of a protracted legal dispute could have resulted in a significant public health hazard.
” The amount of time required to resolve the disagreement would delay the time when remedial action could be taken, thereby threatening the likelihood of a public health emergency, and would result in costly litigation for all involved,” notes the staff report. “In an effort to prevent further delay, the County and the property owners negotiated an agreement that would promptly address the looming public health concern.”
The Board voted Tuesday afternoon to create the six-member panel, with each Board member and the County Manager appointing one member apiece. The panel will mull “recommendations for how the Board should develop strategic priorities” to supplement the county’s Comprehensive Plan.
The panel was advanced by County Board Chair Libby Garvey, with the support of Board members John Vihstadt, Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey. Jay Fisette, the longest-serving member of the Board, questioned the need for such a panel and the manner in which it was proposed.
“What is the problem we’re trying to solve?” Fisette asked, calling the proposal “a lot of foam and not a lot of beer.”
Fisette, the last of the former old guard Democratic establishment on the Board, worried that the panel could be used to reduce environmental or human services priorities in favor of “core services.”
Cristol and Dorsey, the newest Board members, disagreed with that assessment, with the latter saying he wouldn’t support the creation of the panel if he thought that was the goal.
Fisette also pointed out that while the idea of the panel had been discussed internally by the Board for several months, it had not been made public and was not part of the day’s County Board agenda online. That, he said, ran counter to the stated desire of other Board members that County Board agenda items be posted online at least 48 hours in advance.
“Nobody in the community has seen this quote blue ribbon panel charge to actually weigh in or give us feedback on whether this is a good idea,” he said.
Garvey said the panel would not be setting policy — it would be advising the Board. She also suggested that applying the “Arlington Way” to too many county functions may be a hinderance to good governance.
“This is not the traditional Arlington Way where we get input from as many people as possible and we have a huge process,” Garvey said. “This is really getting us a small group of smart, experienced people who are going to bring different things to the table that we value, and they will advise us. I’m looking for ways to be more adaptable and quick on our feet on things.”
Garvey said an overabundance of priorities in the Comprehensive Plan results in pressure to fund the many groups that come to the Board around budget time saying, in her words, “well this is a priority, you have to fund it.”
“They’re right, it is a priority, it’s one of many priorities,” she said. “I have been feeling for some time that we need to look through our priorities and set them in some sort of priority order.”
“Our own Facilities Study working group recommended that we do a better job of planning and setting priorities,” Garvey added.
Members of the panel will be announced “in the coming weeks,” according to a press release (below, after the jump).