Arlington, VA

Passed Virginia legislation allows Arlington County to rename Lee Highway, but it’s unlikely to be “Loving Avenue.”

Yesterday (Feb. 23), HB 1854 passed the Virginia State Senate after passing through the House of Delegates late last month. The bill now goes to Governor Ralph Northam for his signature, which will officially codify it.

The bill specifically authorizes the Arlington County Board to name the section of U.S. Route 29, known for decades as “Lee Highway,” located within its boundaries.

However, it’s unlikely to be renamed Loving Avenue in honor of the Virginia couple whose fight to get married went to the U.S. Supreme Court despite the recommendation of the Lee Highway Alliance work group in December..

This is due to the family’s objection, says Arlington County Board Vice Chair Katie Cristol. The Loving family has reiterated that the couple was extremely private and would not want a road named after them.

“I’m saddened but understanding that [the family] is strongly opposed to renaming [Route 29] in honor of their parents and grandparents,” she tells ARLnow. “Privacy is a prevailing value for them.”

Late last year, a task force put together by the Lee Highway Alliance recommended renaming Arlington’s section of Route 29 to Loving Avenue. However, they also suggested four alternatives: John M. Langston Boulevard, Ella Baker Boulevard, Dr. Edward T. Morton Avenue, and Main Street.

Ginger Brown, Executive Director for the Lee Highway Alliance, tells ARLnow that Langston Blvd is the “strong second” choice.

Cristol noted that there remains some follow-up to be done with the Loving family, but at this point, naming Route 29 in Arlington after Mildred and Richard Loving isn’t likely.

“At some point, I’ll have to take a vote on this,” she says. “With what the family has said, we know that it would be hurtful for them. It would be hard for me to vote for that.”

Either way, HB 1854 — first introduced by Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48) — will allow the renaming, though it only applies to Route 29 in Arlington.

The bill notes that while the Virginia Department of Transportation will place and maintain the appropriate signage, the county has to pay for that signage.

Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said the legislation is a “shared priority” at yesterday’s Board meeting.

“We are enthusiastic about the success of Del. Sullivan’s bill, and the County continues to work with our regional partners to seek a regionally consistent name for Lee Highway,” de Ferranti wrote in a statement to ARLnow. “The legislature advancing this bill to the Governor is an important tool now available to Arlington County in the renaming of Lee Highway and we will continue to seek a common name with our neighboring jurisdictions.”

Cristol says the timeline for the change is being coordinated with neighboring jurisdictions that the east-west artery also runs through, including Falls Church, Fairfax City, and Fairfax County.

“We have a shared interest in settling on the same name, for obvious reasons,” she says.

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Arlington County is in a race against its own bureaucracy to preserve the Febrey-Lothrop House, an estate that has sat in one form or another at 6407 Wilson Blvd since before the Civil War.

The County is rushing through the local historic designation process for the the mid-19th century property. It voted on Tuesday to advertise hearings on the potential historic value of the property in April.

The process is accelerated by the owner’s applications in December and last month for permits to demolish the buildings on the property, and an apparent effort to front-run any historic designation. The 9+ acre estate is owned by a trust established by sportsman Randy Rouse, who passed away in 2017.

The permit is administrative — meaning outside of the need for County Board approval — and was approved. Cynthia Liccese-Torres, coordinator for Arlington County’s historic preservation program, said the demolition permit will be not actually be issued until approval of an associated land disturbing activity permit.

Parallel to this administrative approval, an application filed last year by an Arlington resident to give the estate a local historic designation was reviewed by the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) in November. The HALRB found that the home met eight of 11 criteria for the designation and recommended that the structure of the home and the surrounding property be designated as a local historic district overlay.

The property owners — who seek to demolish the building and sell the property for redevelopment — have repeatedly objected to this designation. Staff noted that despite having been in contact with the owners, they had not been given access to the property to research it, which has hamstrung efforts to make a more thorough report.

Meanwhile, in mid-January, workmen at the house started to demolish the roof until the County issued a stop work order.

“Staff made numerous good faith attempts to access property, [but] staff has still not been able to gain owner’s consent for time and date to view property,” said Richard Woodruff, chair of the Arlington Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board. “These issues taken by owners gave cause to believe that the house is at substantial risk of being damaged or destroyed.”

Woodruff said there is plenty of information on the property — even without an first-hand inspection — that says there is likely historic significance that could be lost if the area is demolished and redeveloped by-right.

“It was an upper middle class 19th century farm owned by prominent families,” Woodruff said. “We know Native Americans hunted on the hill and Civil War soldiers on both sides of war camped there. That land has not been disturbed and may contain artifacts, even pre-Columbian artifacts.”

Additionally, Woodruff noted the main house contains portions of the original 1855 structure, and key figures like Howard Hughes lived and stayed at the home in the 19th and 20th centuries.

“Anyone who has driven by property knows it represents uniquely pastoral image of Arlington,” Woodruff said. “What is there, known and unknown, could be lost forever. We know owners want to sell, but there are no immediate buyers. It would be premature and a complete disaster for these buildings to come down before any of that is known. If you agree this property is worthy of protection for future generations of Arlingtonians, if you believe some or all of it should be protected, then please figure out how to do it and don’t wait until it’s too late.”

Tom Colucci, from the law firm Walsh Colucci Lubeley & Walsh P.C., spoke on behalf of the owners and reiterated earlier objections to the historic classification.

“We request that the Board stop this runaway freight train to nowhere,” Colucci said. “What has happened is this was initiated by one individual who had no economic or other interest in the property and staff took the ball and ran with it. There have been a lot of things rushed with this because the owner has a desire to demolish these structures. These buildings are not in good condition, some are not in safe condition, and there are overriding policy decisions that have not been considered. Does the Board want to put itself in a position where it tries to thwart an otherwise legal act of a property owner by using this process?”

Colucci said the historic overlay would significantly devalue the property and would cause concern among potential buyers. Colucci also noted that the property has an R-6 zoning — single family homes — and the owners are currently only interested in redeveloping it within that zoning.

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(Updated at 9:25 p.m.) Arlington, Virginia is hoping to avoid the infrastructure pitfalls in Arlington, Texas — and other parts of the Lone Star State.

At Saturday’s County Board meeting, the Board approved a 24 inch water main project stretching from Lorcom Lane to 25th Street N. in the Donaldson Run neighborhood. The Board authorized $3.1 million for the project, with $2.6 million as the project cost and just over a half-million dollars in contingency funding.

According to the project summary:

This contract is for the construction of 24-inch water transmission main in the right-of-way of North Taylor Street, Vacation Lane, North Vermont and North Vernon streets between Lorcom Lane and 25th Street North. This contract also includes installation of a new 8- inch water main to replace existing 6-inch water main along North Vernon Street between 25th Street North and North Vermont Street. The proposed water main will increase required system redundancy and transmission capacity.

The water main replacement is called Gravity One Phase II, a follow up on a water infrastructure project started in 2017. The new water main will serve as a backup to the existing 30-inch main from 1957 that feeds into nearby storage tanks and a pump station, allowing the county to move forward with a full assessment of the state of that pipe and perform maintenance.

“The project is expected to begin in April 2021,” the project website says. “The anticipated completion time is spring 2023.

“The contractor will limit noise-generating work to the hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.,” the website adds. “No weekend work is anticipated. Other tasks may be addressed during the hours immediately before and after that window. There may be water impacts to some customers throughout the project. Advance notice will be given to residents prior to any planned water shut offs.”

County Board chair Matt de Ferranti said the new pipe will hopefully help prevent future water main breaks and provide better water reliability.

“We hear from so many in the community that we must take care of infrastructure,” said de Ferranti. “There was a water main break at Chain Bridge. This was a continued priority before that and we are investing again in a contract of a little over $3 million for a water line transition main that will be a backup to help protect reliability, which we’ve seen just this week is an unthought of but critical item as we look at those in Texas without water.”

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Paid, two-hour parking will not be included in Arlington’s updated Residential Permit Parking program.

The County Board unanimously approved significant changes to the program during its meeting on Saturday.

The new program expands RPP program eligibility to multi-family buildings — excluding those approved via site plan — and grants permits to households based on how much off-street parking they have. Residents will be charged for some previously free permits, which according to the county, will end support for the program from general tax funding.

The Board ended up nixing a county staff recommendation to allow those from outside a neighborhood to pay for limited-time parking in zoned areas.

“Removing the two-hour [paid parking] is the big change that we have done,” Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said. “I was reading 196 pages of letters. We listened, and I think that is a big important step. Folks should hear that that is the biggest change.”

A county report and public letters indicate many residents pushed back on this specific proposal, which also divided members of the Planning Commission. County Board members cited enforcement challenges, given that vehicles without permits may actually be parked legally.

“Enforcement is too difficult right now,” Board member Libby Garvey said. Visitors will still be able to park in zoned parking if given a pass from an eligible resident.

While two-hour visitor parking was removed, Board members drew attention to the expansion of eligibility to multi-family buildings.

“One of the major reasons to reevaluate and reenact this program in Arlington [is] because it discriminates on the basis of housing types,” Board member Katie Cristol said. “I do feel confident that these amendments are going to make this program [fairer] and more consistent with our values in Arlington.”

She said the changes will leave the county better off than when the County Board repealed a RPP zone to put an end to a years-long dispute between Forest Glen and Arlington Mill residents, which pitted apartment dwellers over single-family home owners in an area with limited street parking.

The vote comes after a three year review of the program, during which new RPP applications were suspended. The program was originally established in 1972 to regulate parking in residential neighborhoods near Metro stations and commercial centers. Although the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the program in 1977, the program has been criticized recently for excluding people who live in apartments and condos.

About 10% of Arlington households are in current RPP zones, according to the county.

Public forums set for last spring were canceled due to the pandemic. Rather than reschedule them virtually, county officials concluded the review, citing equity concerns. A new period of public engagement began as the county geared up to propose the changes to the County Board in January 2021.

In December, the County Board deferred a public hearing until February to allow residents more time to look at the proposal.

Under the newly adopted program, all housing types can petition. However, those who live in residential buildings approved via site plan — as well as certain other types of mixed-use developments, plus Form Based Code developments along Columbia Pike — will be ineligible to apply for permits or petition for the program.

The county will require 80% of neighbors on a block to support a RPP petition, up from 60%. The county no longer needs to find that at least one-quarter of on-street parking is occupied by people from outside the area. Instead, it would need to find that more than 85% of spots are occupied.

“It’s really hard to tell what is an out-of-area vehicle,” county transportation official Stephen Crim said. “This out-of-area test is what causes many petitions to fail.”

Households with off-street parking are eligible for two annual permits (down from four), and households without it can get four permits.

For one permit, households can stick with the annual permit or opt for a FlexPass — a dashboard placard that residents and their visitors can use. All households can get up to five short-term visitor passbooks, which provide up to 300 days of parking each year.

The county will be charging for the FlexPass and the first book of short-term visitor passes. The first vehicle-specific permit or FlexPass is $40. The second, third and fourth vehicle-specific permits will cost $55, $65, and $150 respectively.

Low-income households that qualify for state and federal assistance programs will receive a 50% discount on passes.

Photos via Arlington County

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Morning Notes

Board Advertises Property Tax Rates — “The Arlington County Board today voted unanimously to advertise no increase in the Calendar Year 2021 base real estate property tax rate, citing the toll the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is taking on residents. The Board also voted to advertise a proposed Stormwater tax rate of 1.7 cents per $100 of assessed real property value to fund the full cost of operations and planned capital improvements to the County’s stormwater infrastructure and flood mitigation… The estimated annual impact for the average household with an assessed home value of $724,400 is $123.” [Arlington County]

Snow Falling in ArlingtonUpdated at 9:10 a.m. — Snow is falling in Arlington, which is just outside of a newly-expanded expanded Winter Weather Advisory. Be careful out there! [Twitter]

Business Owners Talk About Burglaries — “Metry describes the Bluemont neighborhood where his business was burglarized as safe. He doesn’t understand why his business was targeted. ‘The whole register, the iPad, the square scan, all of this was missing,’ Metry said. Surveillance footage captured at neighboring restaurant La Union shows the burglars wearing dark clothing, hoodies, masks and gloves. Jose Zelaya has owned the Mexican restaurant La Union for 21 years. Aside from a random car break-in, he said he’s never experienced any crime like this.” [WUSA 9]

St. Patrick’s Pie at Clarendon Pizzeria — “Colony Grill, Clarendon’s new family-friendly tavern, known for its gracious hospitality and famous ‘hot oil’ bar-style pizzas, will serve a special corned beef & cabbage “Bar Pie”… [f]rom Friday, March 12 through Wednesday, March 17.” [Press Release]

Reminder: Trash Collection Delayed a Day — Due to ice and snow last week, Friday’s residential waste collection will be completed today, shifting this week’s collection schedule by one day. [ARLnow]

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Arlington County is looking to overhaul the reversible lanes and the triangle-shaped intersection at Washington Blvd and 13th Street N., near Clarendon.

Washington Blvd would be widened to create a four-lane road between Clarendon Circle and N. Kirkwood Road, while 13th Street N. would be realigned to form a “T” intersection with Washington Blvd, according to a county staff report.

“The project will improve pedestrian safety and accessibility along Washington Boulevard and 13th Street North to provide a safe, and practical pedestrian route,” staff said.

The County Board is slated to hear proposed changes to the traffic patterns and pedestrian infrastructure at this intersection — which staff call a “porkchop” — during its regular meeting on Saturday.

As a part of the project, utilities would be moved underground, and revamped sidewalks, Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant ramps, and other streetscape elements will be constructed to match improvements at Clarendon Circle.

The county’s Washington Blvd plans, made in conjunction with the Clarendon Circle work and the redevelopment of the nearby Red Top Cab properties, were delayed by more than a year.

“[The project] required coordination with Dominion Power on the utility undergrounding part of the project and staff work to improve the plans for walking pathways during construction, to make it safer for people walking around the construction area,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet tells ARLnow. “Both of these items have been worked on for over a year, and needed to be completed before we issued the construction contract for bid in December.”

Arlington County has selected Sagres Construction — which bid just over $2.5 million, to which the county is adding $500,000 for contingency — as the contractor.

Taking the utilities underground means the project will take about 18 months, a timeline that, according to the county, concerned some stakeholders.

Still, “there is a general understanding of the technical difficulties associated with the undergrounding of utilities along Washington Boulevard” and “members of the community have expressed full support for the project,” staff said in the report.

This project is a part of the 2006 Clarendon Sector Plan. In the intervening years, Arlington County said it has acquired three lots at Washington Boulevard and N. Johnson Street needed to make the intersection a “T.”

These changes are moving forward amid a county-led review of the Clarendon Sector Plan to accommodate a handful of major redevelopment projects. One such project is to update the St. Charles Church campus, which also includes changes to the walking and biking experience along Fairfax Drive between Clarendon Circle and Kirkwood Road.

Images via Google Maps

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Last year started out as “a good budget year” for County Manager Mark Schwartz. But nearly a year after the pandemic hit Arlington, Schwartz’s new budget proposal is more austere.

Schwartz calls the upcoming Fiscal Year 2022 budget, which is being presented to the County Board Thursday afternoon, a “transition budget.” While modestly increasing spending, his proposal reflects big pandemic-era declines in some key revenue sources.

“This budget provides us a path forward, ensuring we have a strong, resilient County government when we emerge from this pandemic,” he said after a press briefing earlier today.

For starters, the proposed $1.36 billion budget — representing a 1.4% increase in spending — includes a $17.5 million coronavirus contingency fund. This will fund vaccine distribution and testing, eviction prevention, food assistance, and will go toward supporting local businesses.

Meanwhile, Schwartz has identified $16.4 million in cuts to help close what the county describes as a budget shortfall of $26 million, down from what was initially estimated last fall to be a $50 million shortfall. The rest will be made up through one-time funding sources, he said.

The bulk of the cuts come from eliminating 56 vacant positions, which resulted from a voluntary retirement package offered in January and a continuing hiring freeze from last year.

Schwartz proposes keeping the $1.013 per $100 property tax rate flat, as he did last year. Still, the average homeowner will see a tax bill that is 5-6% higher due to rising property values, Schwartz said. Commercial property assessments, by contrast, declined this year.

Homeowners will see an average increase of $29 in stormwater taxes, reflecting a rate hike of 1.3 to 1.7 cents per $100 in property value. The increase will help generate $15.1 million earmarked for stormwater improvements. Eventually, the county plans to eliminate the stormwater tax completely in favor of a fee based on how much impervious surface covers a given property, Schwartz said.

Schools will receive 47% of the tax revenue, or $529.7 million, an increase of $5.1 million over last year.

(Updated on 2/23/21) The pandemic has saved the county money through remote work and online services, which Schwartz said will help fund other programs and services. His budget includes a one-time, $500 bonus for county employees, who will be foregoing merit-based raises.

“Our employees have gone without raises — or a vacation day — for an entire year,” Schwartz said.

After the County Manager submits his proposed budget, the Arlington County Board will vote on an advertised tax rate this Saturday. The Board will be able to ultimately adopt a property tax rate equal to or less than, but not above, the advertised rate.

The Board will then review the budget proposal and conduct a series of work sessions with each county department beginning in March.

There will be two public hearings: Tuesday, April 6, and Thursday, April 8. The final vote on the FY 2022 operating budget is scheduled for Saturday, April 17.

Certain parts of the budget may be revisited, Schwartz said, should additional federal funding become available.

Other highlights from the budget proposal include:

  • More racial equity training, money for a Restorative Justice initiative, and more funding for probation, parole and the Public Defender’s Office.
  • About $1.5 million to implement several recommendations from the Police Practices Group, especially in transitioning mental health-related work from police officers to clinicians.
  • Allowing firefighters to work a shorter week, adding transportation safety officers to the police department, and multiple positions to support the new body-worn camera program.
  • The county elections office is proposed to receive additional staff to support mail-in ballots and absentee voting.
  • Funding for the opening of the Long Bridge Park Aquatics and Fitness Center and the Lubber Run Community Center
  • Increasing the lowest base pay for county employees from $15 to $17 per hour
  • Adding Juneteenth as a County holiday
  • Delayed re-opening of Cherrydale and Glencarlyn libraries, saving $881,000
  • An additional $2.6 million in housing grants, plus $21 million in housing choice vouchers and $8.9 million for the Affordable Housing Investment Fund.

Schwartz’s budget proposal focuses affordable housing efforts on “eviction prevention and direct housing support,” but decreases county funding for Arlington’s affordable housing development fund, as the Washington Business Journal’s Alex Koma noted on Twitter (below).

“4.6% of the County’s operating budget is dedicated to housing and more than 15% is dedicated to safety net services and housing,” a slide from the budget presentation noted.

File photo

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The county is calling on the community to submit their ideas for a new county logo and seal.

The logo will phase out the depiction of Arlington House, also known as the Robert E. Lee Memorial, on all county communications and materials starting this summer. Over time, the new logo will appear on signage for county amenities such as parks, community centers and buildings, the submissions webpage said.

“We are writing a brighter chapter in Arlington’s story, one that aligns with the County’s important focus on racial equity,” the website said. Submissions are due by Sunday, March 14.

According to submission guidelines, artists only can submit one idea and it must be new and original. The art should “look good” in black and white and in color, and when it is printed on something as small as a pen and as large as a billboard. Designs in any media — from digital to crayon — are accepted.

Proposed design ideas have included dogwood trees, the Potomac River, the Rosslyn skyline, and the Pentagon, as well as abstract concepts like peace and diversity.

“As you create your design, think about the images, symbols and feelings unique to Arlington and shared by people across neighborhoods,” the county website said.

A submission form is available on the county website. It asks people to submit a .jpg, .png or .pdf version of their design, to share whether they are a current or former resident or have some “other” affiliation with Arlington, and to briefly describe the art and what it depicts or represents.

The move to update the emblem began with a push from the Arlington branch of the NAACP last summer, which decried the current logo as a “racist plantation symbol” that honors a slave-owning Confederate general. County Board members expressed their support in September and approved a process for replacing it in December.

County Manager Mark Schwartz previously told the board that the earliest instance of the logo’s use by the county was in 1974.

When the March deadline passes, a panel of community members picked by Schwartz will choose three to five top contenders. A professional graphic designer will further develop the concepts through April. The community will then rank their picks in May and the County Board is expected to choose one in June.

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Virginia-based immigrant rights organization La ColectiVA is calling on Arlington County officials to put a stop to information-sharing between local law enforcement and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

La ColectiVA said the effort comes after learning of multiple cases in which migrant community members have been arrested in Arlington and then transferred to ICE for deportation proceedings. Through public records requests, La ColectiVA found that the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office handed those in local law enforcement custody over to ICE more than 100 times in 22 months.

“This collaboration between violent state agencies violates the dignity of our loved ones and endangers our neighbors and families who are at risk,” the organization said in a statement.

From January 2019 to October 2020, the sheriff’s office — which runs the county jail — turned 104 inmates over to ICE, upon the federal agency’s request, while releasing 21 people despite an ICE detainer. In a fact sheet providing an overview of the data, the organization highlighted local policies governing work with ICE.

The Arlington County Police Department and the sheriff’s office confirmed La ColectiVA’s findings and data with ARLnow.

The sheriff’s office does not honor ICE requests — to detain a person for up to 48 hours — unless the detainer is signed by a judge, ACSO spokeswoman Maj. Tara Johnson said. Sheriff’s office employees are instructed to notify ICE when someone with a signed detainer request is being released from jail.

“If the individual has a release date, we can typically give [ICE] 48 hours notice of the person’s release,” Johnson said in an email. “In a bond situation, we would notify ICE that the person has posted bond and they have two hours to pick them up or they will be released.”

La ColectiVA said in one instance, one person was transferred from the Arlington jail to ICE after their family had already paid bail for their release.

Without knowing the specific case, Johnson said “it’s hard to answer but this [scenario] is possible,” She said the office is reviewing its policies, including its ICE policy, as part of an annual review.

The police department also transfers people to ICE custody, including an instance when an officer called the agency after “a fender bender,” La ColectiVA said.

“These are only two examples of policies and practices that create a chilling effect on many community members, inflicting fear and deterring individuals from participating in many community and government functions,” the organization said.

Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage connected the incident LaColectiVA cited to one that occurred in August 2019. Police responded to a vehicle crash at Columbia Pike and S. Buchanan Street, where they found one of the drivers did not have a license. When he provided identifying documents, officers conducted a routine check because they suspected the documents looked fake, Savage said in an email.

The background check identified the person as a deported felon, so police contacted ICE and he was taken into custody, she said.

Police officers can only notify ICE of a possibly undocumented person under five circumstances, including if the department’s gang unit confirms the person is suspected of participating in criminal street gang activity, Savage said.

“We know that officers will abuse their discretion and put community members at risk,” La ColectiVA asserted.

In response, Savage said law enforcement “has not and will not monitor, detain, interview, or investigate a person solely for the purpose of determining their immigration status.” She said that the police department works with the community to ensure people know that they can utilize police services, including reporting crimes, without worrying about officers checking their immigration status.

In a statement, County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said that over the last year the Board has discussed individual cases causing “real concern” with La ColectiVA and other organizations and community leaders.

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Proposed changes to Arlington’s Residential Permit Parking program, including a pay-to-park option for short-term visitors, will go before the County Board next week — with a caveat.

On Monday members of the Planning Commission hammered out the kinds of changes to the program that they want the County Board to consider. The matter is set to be taken up during the Board’s meeting on Saturday, Feb. 20.

The commission recommended a case-by-case approach to paid, short-term parking in neighborhoods — currently not an option in places where parking is restricted to residents and their guests only during certain hours —  as members were divided on whether to include it at all. Some support it across all neighborhoods with RPP programs and others support the possibility of neighborhoods requesting it. A few oppose it full-stop.

“I can’t do this to my neighbors,” said Commissioner Denyse “Nia” Bagley, who opposes pay-to-park entirely.

Vice-Chair Daniel Weir said the two-hour parking meets “a whole host of needs” and unanticipated circumstances that “all fall under managing parking,” from when people go to nearby restaurants or visit friends. Short-term visitors would be able to legally park without a pass or permit and payments would be processed through the ParkMobile app or through the EasyPark device.

The RPP program was originally created as a response to commuters parking in residential neighborhoods near Arlington’s Metro stations and commercial centers. It survived a legal challenge that reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1977, and later expanded to numerous neighborhoods around the county. Neighborhoods must petition for RPP zones, but in many cases those who live in apartments and condos are excluded from receiving permits, raising equity concerns.

The commission also recommended allotting on-street parking permits to household units based on whether they have off-street parking, such as driveways or garages. Households with off-street options can get up to two permits, one of which could be swapped for a FlexPass, a dashboard placard that can be used by residents or their visitors.

Residents without off-street parking are eligible for up to four on-street permits, one of which could be swapped for a FlexPass.

According to a county staff report presented to the commission, the cap is higher than what was previously proposed, “in response to concerns that unrelated adults (who may have more vehicles than a family household) sharing a home without off-street parking in an RPP zone could face an unnecessary hardship.” Still, it’s lower for those with off-street parking than the current program.

“The current program allows for up to four (4) permits, one (1) FlexPass and three (3) vehicle specific permit decals,” a previous staff report said. “Many households already in the RPP program would not be able to obtain as many permits as they do today Lowering the cap encourages households with multiple vehicles to use their off-street parking, leaving space on the street for others.”

The commission did not tweak the expansion of parking options and permits to employees of K-12 schools and group homes. In response to concerns about enforcing paid parking, commissioners unanimously voted to include language stipulating that parking enforcement should be on par with metered parking elsewhere in the county.

These potential changes come three years after a moratorium was placed on new parking restrictions so a review of the program could be conducted. The review concluded last fall, kicking off a new period of public engagement as the changes wound through county processes.

The changes went before the County Board for the first time in December, when Board members decided to delay a public hearing to give the community more time to digest the changes.

At the time, the County Board approved an amendment allowing residents to buy a third or fourth parking pass at a higher cost, after hearing from families who suddenly had adult children come home due to the pandemic, in addition to homeowners who said the program would force them to widen their driveways.

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