After the recent fight over the Westover Beer Garden’s outdoor seating, the Arlington County Board will consider some changes at its meeting next month.
Under a plan put forward by staff, the County Board could review the seating capacity and hours of piped-in music in outdoor seats governed by a use permit, like the Westover Beer Garden, on a case-by-case basis. It would mean the Board can approve exceptions to the rules of a use permit individually.
Standards that cannot be modified under a use permit include parking requirements, the use of portable lights and furniture and tying their opening hours to the attached restaurant’s.
The beer garden at 5863 Washington Blvd ran into difficulties earlier this year when it tried to add to its outdoor seating as county use permits expressly forbid having more outdoor seats than indoor seats.
That stands in contrast to the just-open Continental Beer Garden in Rosslyn, which has many more seats outside than inside and can do so because it went through a site plan process, which requires County Board approval and is much more involved than a standard administrative permit process.
Similarly, the proposed beer garden known as “The Lot” in Clarendon would need to go through a site plan process to ensure it can have more seats outside than inside under the current rules.
Staff said outdoor seating cannot be considered as permanent seating for a restaurant, and must continue to be treated as an optional extra.
“Because it is an accessory use, an outdoor café is not considered a permanent expansion of a restaurant’s seating capacity, as it is a transitory use which provides patrons with additional seating options on days with pleasant weather,” staff wrote. “The accessory outdoor café also goes largely unused during periods of cold, snow, and rain.”
The County Board voted unanimously Saturday to hold a public hearing on the subject at its November meeting. Staff will make a recommendation on whether the Board should adopt the changes beforehand, with the Planning Commission also set to weigh in.
Photo via Facebook.
County staff said $11.1 million is left over, 1.4 percent of the county’s FY 2017 General Fund budget, excluding money appropriated to Arlington Public Schools.
The county collected just over $1.022 billion in revenue from property, business, sales taxes and other sources, having projected in April it would collect just over $1.004 billion. That is 1.8 percent more than projected.
“It is the lowest as a percent of total budget in recent years; in FY 2016, available funds totaled $17.8 million, or 2.4 percent, and in FY 2015 available funds totaled $21.8 million,” staff wrote. “This reflects diligent focus on executing the adopted FY 2017 budget.”
Schwartz is recommending the Arlington County Board use the leftover funds in the following ways:
- Affordable Housing Investment Fund: $5.2 million in one-time funding to be set aside for the FY 2019 budget.
- Critical Life Safety Needs: $2 million for unanticipated security system upgrades to the county’s Justice Center in Courthouse.
- Employee Compensation: $1.75 million to reflect changes in federal law on several position classes in public safety.
- County Manager Operating Contingent: $1.25 million to address “unforeseen needs that arise during the fiscal year without reprioritizing or cutting other programs.”
- Facility Studies: $900,000 to primarily fund additional site analysis at the Buck and Carlin Springs sites, as directed by the Board.
“As was started with housing grants as part of the FY 2018 budget, it is important to move to a higher level of ongoing funding for AHIF in the future,” staff wrote. “This transition to a higher amount could take several years, and the transition can be eased with reliance on available one-time funding.”
Certain community members and some County Board candidates have criticized the closeout practice in Arlington, and instead suggested the extra money should be given back to residents and businesses as tax relief, or at least applied to the next year’s budget.
The County Board will consider its options at its recessed meeting tomorrow (October 24), although numbers are preliminary until the county’s independent auditors complete their work at the end of the month.
Arlington County will spend just over $640,000 to re-configure an intersection in Courthouse neighborhood.
The County Board unanimously approved the construction project at its meeting Saturday.
The plan is to remove a one-way portion of roadway that serves as a shortcut to 15th Street N. in front of county government headquarters, and instead have Clarendon Blvd traffic access 15th Street via a 90 degree turn at the traffic signal-equipped intersection a bit farther down the road.
As currently configured the triangle of roadway leads to conflicts between cars and pedestrians, county staff says. The goal of the project is to improve “pedestrian safety, circulation and access in and around Courthouse Plaza.”
The new intersection will include additional trees, green space and other amenities for pedestrians and bicyclists.
More from a county press release:
Clarendon Boulevard is a key arterial street in the R-B corridor, and the intersection of 15th Street is central to the busy Courthouse Metro Station. The intersection is currently designed primarily to funnel automobiles onto 15th Street North, which often results in conflicts between pedestrians, vehicles and transit users.
New safety and streetscape improvements, which will include new concrete curb and gutter, ADA compliant sidewalks, storm structures and streetscape amenities, such as benches and bike racks, will make this area safer for all travelers. The project also will improve the circulation of the Courthouse Plaza parking garage and provide better access to the surrounding street network by extending the parking garage’s entrance to Clarendon Boulevard. The bus stop waiting area along 15th Street North will be expanded and the existing bus stop at Clarendon Boulevard/N. Wayne Street will be relocated to the far right of the intersection to facilitate safer pedestrian crossing along this street segment.
“These are the kinds of projects that make Arlington such a great place to walk,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. “This intersection is going to function better for all who use it – and look a lot better – as a result of the improvements the Board approved today.”
Photo (1) via Arlington County, photo (2) via Google Maps
Two Arlington Men Finish in MCM Top 3 — Arlington residents Desta Morkama and Kieran O’Connor finished first and third, respectively, in the 42nd Marine Corps Marathon yesterday. Al Richmond, the last remaining “Groundpounder” who has run every MCM since it started, kept his streak alive with a 6:48.35 finish. The race, which begins and ends in Arlington, had its start delayed by 10 minutes due to a suspicious package investigation. [RunWashington, Washington Post, NBC Washington]
No Major Incidents at MCM — Other than the short starting delay, no major incidents were reported at this year’s Marine Corps Marathon. Within the county, Arlington law enforcement and the fire department maintained a heavy presence along the course, along with Virginia State Police and other agencies. Arlington school buses were parked at key intersections to prevent anyone from driving onto the course. [Twitter, Facebook, Twitter]
Pedestrian Killed on Memorial Bridge — The Arlington Memorial Bridge was closed for more than three hours Saturday morning after a 47-year-old man was struck and killed by a car on the bridge. The driver remained on scene. Police are seeking additional information about the crash from witnesses. [NBC Washington]
Board Approves Library Renovation Project — Arlington Central Library will be getting $1.7 million in renovations, thanks in large part to a private donation. The Arlington County Board approved the project at its Saturday meeting. Per a press release, the plans include “new meeting rooms, an updated ‘tech-central’ area and a multi-purpose maker lab, a community-based space where people can share knowledge and tools to create together.” [Arlington County]
Roosevelt Memorial Anniversary Event — The National Park Service is holding a family-friendly event on Sunday, Oct. 29 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial on Roosevelt Island. The event will feature food including fried chicken and Indian pudding; an address from the former president’s great-grandson, Tweed Roosevelt; a Teddy Roosevelt re-enactor; and a “Teddy Bear story time.” Shuttles will be available from the Pentagon parking lot. [InsideNova]
Library to Launch New Digital Collection — “Arlington Public Library will launch a new digital collection of Arlington women and their achievements in March 2018. The Center for Local History’s (CLH) Community Archives contains many collections pertaining to women’s history and consequently the history of Arlington County.” [Arlington County]
Phone2Action is a software-as-a-service company that creates software for organizations to launch campaigns on public policy. That includes helping connect advocates with lawmakers and other decision-makers. It has more than 300 clients.
The firm was originally located at 1401 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, but chose to relocate to 1500 Wilson Blvd in the same neighborhood after outgrowing its previous office space.
The county convinced it to stay through an incentive-based Gazelle Grant, which encourages businesses to move into or stay in Arlington.
Under the terms of the grant, Phone2Action would receive $50,000 in return for leasing at least 13,400 square feet of office space, maintaining its existing 50 full-time jobs and adding another 170 new full-time jobs.
If Phone2Action does not reach 90 percent of its office space target, and has not created at least 50 percent of the new jobs by September 30, 2020, it will have to pay back some or all of the grant. It will use the money to build out its new office, and to defray the costs related to hiring new employees and relocating.
“The company raised $4.6 million in July 2016 and is currently operating within two growth industries: the advocacy industry (growing at 12 percent annually) and the social media/CRM industry (growing at 17 percent annually),” staff wrote. “For all of these reasons, Phone2Action has a large market opportunity for the long term.”
The Arlington County Board will vote on the grant at its meeting tomorrow (Saturday).
Photos via Phone2Action.
Arlington Central Library is in line for renovations on its first and second floors as well as some modernization of its technology.
The library at 1015 N. Quincy Street will receive what county staff described in a report as a “partial refurbishment,” with improvements to open seating areas, newer and larger public meeting rooms and the conversion of an existing computer lab into a multipurpose technology lab.
Existing mechanical, electrical and communication systems would also get a refresh.
The library, which opened in 1961 and was renovated in 1992, will remain open for its normal business hours (Sunday 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., Monday-Thursday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) during the work, which will take place one floor at a time.
The project will be funded in part by former Arlington County resident Rosemarie Bowie, who died in 2013 and left the libraries her home on N. Danville Street and half of her estate. The Executor of her estate sold her home and remitted the proceeds to the Arlington County Board along with half her estate.
Bowie’s estate funds just over $1.1 million for this project. The County Board will vote on whether to award a construction contract worth just over $1.4 million at its meeting Saturday, with contingency funds of just over $220,000.
Arlington County and the City of Alexandria will be working together on further upgrades to their respective 911 systems.
The Arlington County Board is set to approve a Memorandum of Understanding at its meeting on Saturday (October 21), paving the way for cooperation with the Alexandria City Council and interoperability between the two 911 systems.
Last year Arlington added text-to-911 capability, 5.5 years after first announcing, during a visit from the then-FCC chairman, that it was working to give residents the ability to send text messages to 911. Other “Next Generation 911” capabilities are still in the works.
In a report on the MOU, county staff said the two jurisdictions working together will help “improve operational standards and increase public safety in the region,” as part of a regional goal to improve the efficiency of handling emergency calls.
“Towards that end, Arlington County and the City of Alexandria have proposed an MOU for the planning, design, procurement, installation, configuration, operation and lifecycle management of a new shared NG 9-1-1 system to support these goals of interoperability and improve efficiency of call processing and public safety emergency response,” staff wrote. “Arlington County and the City of Alexandria have both planned for and allocated funding to improve their 9-1-1 call processing systems.”
The MOU will help create an integrated system for both jurisdictions, meaning they can process both emergency and non-emergency calls from either jurisdiction’s primary and backup 9-1-1 center.
Both will also be able to answer each other’s telephone calls when the other cannot do so, such as during a system failure or an evacuation.
The county will be the “fiduciary agent” for the scheme, meaning it handles all the finances. Alexandria will provide an inter-jurisdictional transfer of money to fund its side of the project.
The Arlington County Board will vote Saturday on a seven-year lease for an ART Bus maintenance facility in Fairfax County.
Currently, British transportation company National Express leases the space and has a contract to maintain ART buses at 6100-A and 6104 Farrington Ave., in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County. The space has a 10,000-square-foot building and a 32,833-square-foot parking area.
National Express’ contract with the county and its lease on the property both expire on June 30, 2018.
Under this plan, the county would control the facility for bus maintenance to, staff said, “promote more competition for the ART operations and maintenance contract, leading to more advantageous pricing for the county.”
The County Board voted last December to buy a maintenance site in Springfield for $4.65 million. But staff said that it will take at least five years to acquire the site and build it out, so this lease helps fill in the “gap years” until it is ready.
This new lease would begin on July 1, 2018, and expire on June 30, 2025. The initial base rent would be just under $180,000 a year, with an annual increase of 3 percent, which staff says would ultimately save the county money.
“The County’s new lease agreement cost of $178,345.80 for Fiscal Year 2019 is $16,483.32, which is 8.6% less than the amount National Express Transit would have paid,” the staff report says. “In the new ART operations contract, the payment to the contractor will be reduced accordingly.”
New residential buildings near Metro stations in Arlington County could have car parking spaces substituted for spots for bike and car-sharing.
The Arlington County Board is expected to advance an updated off-street parking policy for multi-family buildings at its meeting Saturday. It would allow developers to provide fewer car parking spaces for certain new apartment and condo buildings built in the Rosslyn-Ballston and Crystal City-Pentagon City Metro corridors.
The new policy would incldue the following, per a report by county staff:
- Minimum parking requirements for market-rate units ranging from 0.2 to 0.6 spaces per unit depending on distance from the nearest Metro station entrance (ranging from 1/8 to 3/4 of a mile).
- Minimum parking requirements for 60-percent-of-Area-Median-Income and 50-percent-of-AMI committed affordable units, and no minimum parking requirements for 40%-of-AMI units.
- Reductions of up to 50 percent of the minimum parking requirements in exchange for providing bike parking, bike share, or car-share amenities on site, in addition to those already required by the county.
- A separate visitor parking requirement of 0.05 spaces per unit for the first 200 units.
- Allowances for shared parking between different land uses in mixed-use projects, like offices, retail and residential.
- Allowances for meeting parking requirements through the dedication of spaces at existing garages located within 800 feet of the new building and in the Metro corridors.
- Mitigation requirements for parking in excess of 1.65 spaces per unit.
- Relief from minimum parking requirements for sites with physical constraints like size, historic structures that must be retained and more.
In their report, staff noted the potential for knock-on effects in neighborhoods where new buildings have lower parking requirements.
“Staff have heard concern from some stakeholders that low parking requirements will lead developers to seek permission to build less parking on-site than the buildings’ residents will need,” they wrote. “According to this line of thinking, some residents of those multi-family buildings will then park on neighboring streets, thereby increasing competition for on-street parking spaces, making parking less convenient.”
If the Board moves the plan forward on Saturday, as staff recommends, a public hearing and final vote on the subject will be set for its November meeting.
Images via county presentation.
A farmer’s market could return to the Arlington Mill Community Center next spring, with organizers planning to operate it on Saturdays.
The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization is proposing reviving the market at the center at 909 S. Dinwiddie Street, having decided to close it in 2014 due to a lack of customers. It would be open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and be one of two along Columbia Pike.
Originally, the Arlington County Board approved a permit for a market in July 2014, and it began the following month, opening each Wednesday from 3-7 p.m. But CPRO decided to close the market that October, citing a lack of sales, and “reassess the needs for a successful re-launch of the open-air/farmers market,” staff wrote in a report. Its permit expired in July 2016.
CPRO believes the new day and hours will attract more customers, and staff wrote it will benefit those along Arlington’s western end of Columbia Pike. They added that the Arlington Mill Civic Association, Columbia Forest Civic Association, Douglas Park Civic Association and Barcroft School and Civic League all expressed their support for the market.
“The proposed open-air market is strongly supported by the surrounding community and will provide a community amenity to the residents and this portion of Columbia Pike,” staff wrote.
Staff’s report on the plan recommends the County Board advertise a public hearing on the market for next month.
After being given three months to remedy its violations, county staff is recommending the Arlington County Board not extend the live entertainment permit for Chester’s Billiards, Bar & Grill.
Since the Board’s last review in June, staff said the Arlington County Police Department visited to help Chester’s staff correct outstanding violations, train security staff and conduct ABC compliance checks.
But during that period, police found three ABC violations and saw Chester’s hosting a dance party for between 40 and 50 people in August, despite being warned it was not allowed under its permit with the county.
Staff also said police were called five times, with four of those calls involving co-owner David Breedlove. No arrests were made.
The building’s unsafe elevator also remains an ongoing problem, with the property’s owner having been served a court summons and set for arraignment next month for violating the Virginia Maintenance Code. Staff said the elevator is, in the opinion of Code Enforcement, “dangerous to the health, safety and welfare of the building’s occupants.”
A property owner nearby also complained that Chester’s patrons used a parking lot on his property without permission.
In their report, staff noted that the Nauck Civic Association “had not come to a consensus” on whether the permit should be renewed. Staff added that the president of the Bowman’s Hill Homeowners Association, speaking for himself, said there had “not been much of an improvement” from Chester’s.
Staff were critical of Chester’s management, who they said had not worked hard enough to remedy the problems.
“Given the continued non-compliance with the use permit conditions, and a general lack of good-faith effort on behalf of both the applicant and the property owner to voluntarily comply with these conditions, staff recommends that the County Board not renew the subject use permit,” staff wrote.
Photo via Google Maps.
A plan to make it easier for homeowners to add an “accessory dwelling unit” to their property could be set for an Arlington County Board vote as early as next month.
The proposal has been under discussion since earlier this year as the county looks to encourage more ADUs, also known as “granny flats” or “mother-in-law suites.”
Only about 20 ADUs — defined as a second place to live on a property, with a kitchen, a bathroom and a separate entrance — have been approved in Arlington since the ordinance first came into effect in 2009. Local advocates have previously said that relaxing regulations could help ease the county’s lack of affordable housing.
“While accessory dwellings will not alone solve the housing affordability issue, as the Plan notes, it is another tool to provide a typically lower-priced housing alternative,” staff wrote in a report on the proposal.
Staff said they are proposing the following revisions to the ordinance on ADUs, “in order to increase opportunities for residents to add accessory dwellings, while maintaining the residential neighborhood character.”
- Allow for ADUs in detached buildings (like a garage)
- Increase ADUs’ maximum occupancy from two to three
- Increase the maximum square footage from 750 square feet to 1,000 square feet for a basement ADU
- Remove the minimum lot width requirement and area requirements
- Remove the requirement that a resident must live in a home for one year prior to applying for an ADU
- Remove the annual limit of 28 new ADUs in the county
Staff recommended that the following requirements remain largely unchanged:
- Owner occupancy requirement
- Parking requirements
- Compliance requirements
- Design requirements, although some revisions are proposed to allow for additional flexibility
On Saturday, the Board will decide whether advance the plan for public hearings at the Planning Commission on November 6 and a hearing and vote at its November 18 monthly meeting.
With Election Day less than a month away, candidates for the Arlington County Board and School Board are honing in on their final pitches to voters.
And at a forum Wednesday night at Marymount University hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100, the six candidates clashed on a range of issues, from how to engage more millennials in county government to closing the achievement gap in Arlington Public Schools.
The format varied from previous forums, as each candidate was able to ask a question of their opponents before taking further questions from the audience.
Erik Gutshall and Monique O’Grady, who were victorious in the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s caucus earlier this year for County Board and School Board, respectively, both touted their experience in county issues.
Both agreed that while Arlington is largely on the right course, it can do better. Gutshall, who is the current chair of the Planning Commission, said the county must not make too many concessions to developers on proposed site plans.
“If we don’t stick to our plans and our negotiations… and we don’t stick to our values, then we’ve lost,” he said.
Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement pointed to her regular attendance at the body’s monthly meetings as relevant experience.
And fellow independent Charles McCullough II said that beyond his involvement in the South Arlington Working Group among others, he would represent a fresh face with new ideas if elected to the County Board.
“We need to have other ideas, other experiences,” he said.
On the budget, Clement criticized the Board’s practice of spending closeout funds from higher tax revenue than anticipated. She said that the money should be paid forward to the following year to relieve the tax burden, rather than directed to “pet projects to satisfy its particularized constituencies.”
McCullough argued that developers in Arlington must pay their “fair share” to help make up budget shortfalls, while Gutshall said that rising property values must not be treated as a “blank check” for increased spending.
Among the School Board candidates, there were some sharp differences. O’Grady and fellow candidate Alison Dough agreed that the Arlington Career Center represents a “good opportunity” for a fourth comprehensive high school. But Mike Webb, running for School Board after an unsuccessful tilt at Rep. Don Beyer’s (D-Va.) seat in the U.S. House of Representatives last year, disagreed.
Instead, he said, School Board members should focus on ensuring instruction is as good as possible, and that no students are left behind.
“Before we build another high school, we have to think about the achievement gap that affects all our students,” Webb said.
And on the subject of the upcoming boundary changes in Arlington Public Schools, Dough said that more immersion schools where classes are taught in more than one language could help relieve the capacity pressures on other buildings.
Dough, who said her special needs child inspired her to run for School Board, suggested more language programs, like immersion in Chinese, French or Russian to help APS students embrace new cultures.
“Let’s look at the boundary issue differently and give our parents a reason to switch schools,” she said.
And with the nationwide opioid epidemic also touching Arlington, O’Grady said parents and students alike must be educated on the risks and solutions.
“It’s in our neighborhoods, it’s in our communities,” she said. “Let’s come together to learn how to deal with this.”
All six agreed on the need for elected officials to encourage more county residents to get involved, and help uphold the so-called “Arlington Way.”
“We need to be opening that door,” Webb said. “We have to build that pathway to leadership.”
The candidates will face off in another forum Sunday (October 15) hosted by the local chapter of the League of Women Voters at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street).
Arlington County is interested in purchasing property in Nauck that has been the subject of redevelopment talks for years.
At its meeting next month, the County Board will take up the issue of purchasing 2631 and 2633 Shirlington Road, according to a public notice the county released this week.
Several years ago, a portion of the 153,000-square-foot industrial site near Shirlington was redeveloped into a self-storage facility, called CubeSmart. Prior to that, it was considered as a potential location for an urban Walmart, but the County Board quickly passed a measure that would require large-format retailers to get Board approval for building stores.
Arlington County is already leasing the parking lot next to the CubeSmart for ART buses and other needs.
The public notice indicates that the county might consider acquiring the land through eminent domain if the owner does not agree to sell.
Photo via Google Maps
County Board Stalls on VRE Decision — The Arlington County Board, at a Tuesday meeting that stretched into early Wednesday morning, declined to endorse one of the options for a proposed new Virginia Railway Express station in Crystal City. VRE officials, county staff, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and Arlington’s Transportation Commission backed Option 2, which places the station closer to the Crystal City Metro station and transit center. Some local condominium residents and the Planning Commission, citing concerns about noise, wanted Option 3 — which places the station behind an office building — to be considered as well. [InsideNova, InsideNova]
Michelle Obama Stops By Arlington for Salon Opening — Former first lady Michelle Obama and her Secret Service entourage were among “a crowd of about 40 VIPs” who came to Arlington Tuesday night for the opening of a new salon. The business, Aesthetics Salon, is owned by stylist Yene Damtew, who was part of Obama’s “glam squad” while she was in the White House. Aesthetics Salon is located at 2412 26th Road S. in the Long Branch Creek neighborhood just south of I-395. [Washington Post]
Clarendon Day Closures — Expect lots of road closures in central Clarendon on Saturday for the annual Clarendon Day festival, which is taking place from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. On Sunday morning Wilson Blvd will be closed from Clarendon to Rosslyn for the Clarendon Day 5K, 10K and Kids Dash races. [Arlington County, Arlington County]
More on Proposed Columbia Pike Bus Revamp — “Recently Metro unveiled the latest proposed changes to the Metrobus network which includes a major restructuring to the 16 series bus lines on Columbia Pike in Arlington. The long-awaited restructuring is aimed at simplifying and improving bus service in the corridor.” [Greater Greater Washington]
County Seeking Pike Bus Feedback — While WMATA continues to collect feedback on the proposed Columbia Pike bus changes via an online survey, a public meeting is scheduled tonight (Thursday) to discuss the changes in person with residents. The meeting is taking place at the Arlington Mill Community Center from 6-8 p.m. [Arlington County]
Local Nonprofit Lender Steps Up Loan Volume — “Arlington-based Capital Impact Partners said Wednesday it provided $75 million in private financing in the second quarter of 2017, the largest quarterly loan volume in its history. The nonprofit community development financial institution backs projects that support increased access to health care, education, affordable housing and healthy food in the United States.” [Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok