VDOT has a new plan for High Occupancy Toll lanes on I-395, the Washington Post reported late Friday.
The news comes nearly five years after the state scrapped plans to build HOT lanes on I-395, following a legal battle with Arlington County. In a lawsuit, the county argued that HOT lanes, as then planned, would exacerbate pollution from and congestion on I-395, negatively impacting Arlington residents.
Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Lane told the Post that the new plan comes with guaranteed funding for carpooling and transit from private partner Transurban. Construction could start as soon as 2017 and would involve adding a third lanes to the existing HOV lanes while keeping the highway’s overall footprint mostly the same, the Post reports.
No word yet on a reaction from local officials.
Meanwhile, Arlington County has given its endorsement to a controversial plan for adding tolls to I-66 inside the Beltway during peak travel times. By a vote of 3-2 — John Vihstadt and Libby Garvey voted against it — the County Board adopted a resolution supporting the “Transform 66” project.
Last month Fairfax County offered conditional support for the plan, while calling for the widening of I-66. Loudoun County officials oppose the plan, which has faced heavy criticism from suburban commuters.
The plan calls for changing HOV rules on I-66 from requiring at least two people per vehicle during rush hour (HOV-2) to giving drivers the option of either having three people in a car (HOV-3) or paying a toll during peak hours.
In their endorsement, County Board members said they hoped that the changes would prevent the possible widening of I-66 inside the Beltway. The county wants VDOT to at least commit to not considering widening from two to three lanes in each direction through Arlington until 2025 at the earliest.
Lane has previously been quoted as saying the widening of I-66 through Arlington is inevitable.
After the jump, the press release from Arlington County on the I-66 project endorsement.
Members of the County Board were at odds at its Tuesday night meeting over a resolution that would support the federal government’s efforts to address responsible use of antibiotics in health care and food production.
The primary goal of the resolution is to “establish a tiebreaker preference in County procurement policies for the purchase of meat and poultry that has been raised according to responsible antibiotic use policies.”
The resolution also calls for working with Arlington Public Schools on a similar antibiotic policy, which would — other things being equal — prefer the purchase of responsibly produced meats for school lunch programs.
“Although Arlington County has few meat and poultry food contracts and does not purchase large quantities of these products, the preference created today signals to the marketplace the County’s desire to join the national effort to drive changes in food production practices that will create healthier alternatives and support public health,” the county said in a press release.
Board member John Vihstadt, however, opposed a specific paragraph of the resolution that said:
“Supports legislative efforts to prevent the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics in food production, such as S. 621, the Preventing Antibiotic Resistance Act of 2015 and H.R. 1552, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2015…”
Vihstadt made a motion to strike the citations of specific federal legislation from the resolution, citing no Virginia senators nor members of Congress who are co-sponsors of either bill.
“We haven’t been briefed on this legislation, we have not seen the bills, and we haven’t — at least I have not — had any communication with our congressional delegation on these pieces of legislation,” he said at the meeting.
The motion to strike the citations failed, though Board member Libby Garvey also voted in favor of it.
“I don’t think we as a Board should be going on record supporting two specific pieces of federal regulation at this stage,” Vihstadt added. “There may be a time when we ought to do that, but I don’t think so at this stage.”
Board member Jay Fisette, who proposed the resolution, said the measures have been under consideration at least the past six months.
“We have done this before, and it’s not breaking new ground to identify a piece of legislation that this County, with its values, stands behind,” Fisette said.
The majority of the Board agreed, saying this would be an opportunity for Arlington to be bold and show local support for federal action before state legislators or other regional governments.
“This is about our health and our kids’ health,” Fisette added. “It’s making a statement and hoping to build and establish partnerships that allow the purchasing power of our government to help address a serious public health issue.”
The resolution passed, in its entirety, with a vote of 4-0-1. Vihstadt abstained.
“I would be supporting this for all the reasons Mr. Fisette and others have said,” he said before the vote, “were it not for the endorsement of two specific pieces of federal legislation.”
The Arlington County Board unanimously approved the redevelopment of Ballston Common Mall at its meeting last night.
In its approval of the project — which is now referred to as Ballston Quarter — the Board also entered a Letter of Intent to pursue a public-private partnership with Forest City Enterprises, the company that currently owns and operates the mall and is spearheading the redevelopment effort.
“This is an important, exciting redevelopment in the heart of Ballston,” Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement. “The long-term benefits of a revitalized Ballston Quarter warrant a public-private partnership — a wise strategic investment for the public good.”
The partnership is primarily financial at this stage of the project. According to a press release, the county plans to contribute $10 million to the project, including parking and transportation improvements around the mall, and would issue a $45.4 million Community Development Authority bond to further finance the redevelopment.
At the meeting, Hynes said other details of the agreement are “not fully fleshed out.”
The entire project is expected to cost $317 million for interior, facade streetscape improvements to existing buildings at the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Glebe Road. It also includes new development, like a 22-story, 406-unit apartment building where the Macy’s Furniture Store currently is.
The redevelopment of the mall itself involves more than 323,000 square feet of retail space, an open-air plaza with vendor stalls, improvements to the parking garage and a new pedestrian bridge over Wilson Blvd.
Public testimony given at the meeting by Ballston residents, business owners and stakeholders was overwhelmingly positive, thanking the Board for their work and expressing support for the project moving forward.
“Ballston has continued to evolve and transform over the years,” Ballston BID CEO Tina Leone said. “This property has served as a huge economic generator in the past, and it is vital to Ballston’s sustainability and long-term competitiveness.”
Resident and small business owner Jennifer Galloway echoed the need to rethink the mall.
“There’s currently a void in Ballston for most of our daily needs,” she said. “The redevelopment of the mall helps to fill that void and truly bring a town center feel to the heart of the area.”
Some residents did raise concerns and asked the Board to reconsider a proposal to remove the median strip on Wilson Blvd and to maximize the amount of space made available to the public on the property.
Board members addressed those concerns and took note to consider them moving forward. Still, members had positive views of the future of the project and of Ballston.
“This is a unique experience for us, stepping up like this to partner in the way we’re proposing to do it,” Board member Jay Fisette said. “It’s a smart, strategic investment all the way around, both public and private. We’re doing it with a reliable, experienced partner. That’s no small part in this.”
Board member J. Walter Tejada also shared his excitement.
“Ballston has the dynamic where you have to like urban living because it almost has the pulse of a city,” he said. “You can almost feel it, and [the project] has so much potential to make it even greater.”
(Updated at 5:05 p.m.) Arlington officials are anticipating “moderate” revenue growth in 2017 due to increases in residential real estate assessments, as predicted earlier this fall.
The County Board will review these increases — as outlined in the County Manager’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget guidance — at its meeting this Thursday, kicking off the county’s annual budgetary process.
Increases in the real estate assessments for single-family homes, townhouses and condos will provide the county with most of its revenue growth. On average, such assessments are expected to rise 3 percent, causing tax bills for Arlington residents to increase by approximately $175 at current tax rates.
Assessments for commercial real estate, however, are expected to remain flat or turn slightly negative “due to vacancy rates in office buildings and the slowing demand in multi-family residential.” Commercial property taxes are half of Arlington County’s tax base, and by staying flat or going negative it will “shift the tax burden to the average homeowner.”
Overall, tax revenue is expected to increase between 1.9 and 2.4 percent in FY 2017. Aside from real estate taxes, the projected growth in other county tax revenue includes:
- Personal property/vehicle tax: +0.1 percent
- Sales tax: +1.9 percent
- Meals tax: +6.2 percent
- Transient occupancy/hotel tax: +7.9 percent
Revenue from taxes categorized in the budge guidance as “other” is also expected to increase 4.2 percent because of rising bank stock and residential utility tax rates. Cigarette taxes are expected to decrease, and all other taxes not specifically listed should remain flat.
Predicted expenditures will also be discussed on Thursday as part of the budget guidance. The county is expected to spend 1.8 percent more on personnel, including salaries and healthcare. It also expects to spend 3.3 percent more on the Metro and 3.2 percent more on debt service than last year.
The county shares 46.5 percent of all local tax revenue with Arlington Public Schools. Given that revenue split, current tax rates, planned one-time outlays and budgetary projections, county government is expected to face a $1-3 million funding gap during FY 2017, while schools may face a deficit of more than $12 million.
Thursday’s meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the County Board Room at 2100 Clarendon Blvd, Room 307.
A joint Arlington County-APS public budget forum is scheduled from 6:30-9 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 7, at Washington-Lee High School.
The Arlington County Board is expected to decide on how to spend $21.8 million left over from last year’s budget at its meeting this Thursday.
The surplus must be allocated as part of the Board’s year-end budgeting process.
The County Manager has made recommendations for how the money should be spent, covering five different categories, including:
- $1 million for economic development, including incentives to attract new businesses to Arlington
- $7.8 million for land purchases and other capital investment, including schools
- $0.8 million for a “larger than anticipated” class of fire recruits
- $11.2 million to maintain investments in the Affordable Housing Investment Fund and housing grants
- $1 million for any unexpected needs or issues that may arise next year
The $7.8 million item includes $1.8 million to be put toward the purchase of a light industrial site along N. Quincy Street, across from Washington-Lee High School. It also includes another $1.8 million for other land acquisition, $1.7 million for maintenance and other capitol investment needs, plus $2.5 million for the county/schools joint contingency fund.
As in the past, the School Board is expected to contribute the same $2.5 million to the joint contingency fund when it takes on its own year-end budgeting process.
A majority of the surplus funds would go to the Affordable Housing Investment Fund and housing grants. This year’s anticipated $11.2 million investment is the same amount allocated for that purpose last year.
Thursday’s meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the County Board Room at 2100 Clarendon Blvd, Room 307.
Year-round yard waste collection is coming to Arlington
On Saturday, the Arlington County Board unanimously approved a measure that will provide curbside collection of yard waste year round for Arlington households.
The new service is expected to divert up to 9,000 tons of compostable materials from trash collection and raise the county’s recycling rate, which is already the highest in the region.
While Arlington’s solid waste rate remains the lowest in the region, the yard waste collection will ultimately cost homeowners an extra $47 per year.
Critics have said that the extra cost will hurt already-burdened Arlington homeowners. Critics also say that the extra trucks required to haul the yard waste may produce more greenhouse gasses than are saved by not sending the yard waste with other trash to a waste-to-energy plant, as is current practice.
The county’s press release about year-round yard waste collection, after the jump.
Murder Victim Feared Her Estranged Husband — Bonnie Black, who was found dead in her home in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood on April 17, feared her estranged husband, court documents show. After months of continuing to live in the neighborhood a free man during the investigation, David Black is now in jail, charged with murder. [NBC Washington]
Wakefield, W-L Fall in Football Playoffs — The playoff runs for the Wakefield and Washington-Lee high school football teams have ended early. Wakefield could’t hang on to a 6-0 lead at halftime, falling to Potomac Falls 21-6, while W-L lost 44-20 to Westfield. [InsideNova, Washington Post]
Arlington Wants I-66 Widening Delayed — This week the Arlington County Board is scheduled to decide its position on the plan for tolling on I-66. At its Saturday meeting the Board made clear that it wants to delay the widening of the highway as long as possible. Meanwhile, responding to questions from county officials, VDOT says it’s not able to fully enforce existing HOV restrictions on I-66 because the enforcement causes significant traffic delays. Nearly half of the clogged rush hour traffic on I-66 is believed to be HOV rule breakers. [WTOP, WTOP]
County May Ask for Paper, Plastic Bag Tax Authority — Despite failing efforts in previous years, Arlington County’s draft legislative agenda seeks to again ask the Virginia General Assembly for the authority to levy a small tax on single-use paper and plastic bags. The proposal may exempt bags for certain items, like newspapers, dry cleaning and prescription drugs. [InsideNova]
Historic House for Sale — A 145-year-old house known as “The Hill” is now for sale in Arlington’s Old Glebe neighborhood. Originally a summer home for a prominent D.C. family, the four-bedroom house is on the market for $1,568,000. [Preservation Arlington]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
The Arlington County Board is scheduled to consider a 12-unit townhouse development in Ballston this weekend.
The Ballston Oak Townhomes development, between 1124 and 1138 N. Stuart, has been in the county’s Site Plan Review process for about a year. Originally slated for as many as 16 townhouses, the latest proposal calls for four separate buildings containing a total of 12 townhouses.
Each home will have a two-car garage, accessible via a shared concrete driveway with a single entrance to the street. Three visitor parking spaces are also proposed.
The development, which is adjacent to the Arlington Market on Washington Blvd, will replace four single family homes, each dating back to the 1920s or 1930s. One home, at 1124 N. Stuart Street, “is a stucco covered Apartment Bungalow that is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places,” according to a Site Plan Review document.
The County Board is set to consider a site plan for the development and an associated storm sewer easement-related item on Saturday. So far, the county staff report and recommendation for the items has not been posted online.
The Arlington County Board is considering amendments to the County Code’s section on taxicabs that would raise taxi fares and surcharges.
The proposed amendments include raising the initial charge on all taxi trips from $2.75 to $3 and raising the mileage and waiting charge from $0.35 to $0.36 for every one-sixth of a mile or 56 seconds.
The amendments also include a new $25 cleaning fee, “to be imposed when passengers dirty or foul a cab such that it needs to be removed from service for cleaning.”
One surcharge will be removed under the proposed changes: a special $2 fee for handling footlockers — small trunks often used by members of the military. The report from county staff notes that no other local jurisdiction charges such a fee.
At its meeting this coming Saturday, the Board could authorize advertisement of these changes, which would then be discussed and voted upon next month.
That meeting is scheduled for Dec. 12. If the Board votes to approve the amendments, they are expected to be placed in effect on Jan. 1, 2016.
About this time last year, the Board approved licenses for 60 wheelchair-accessible taxis, bringing the total number of licensed taxis in the county to 847.
Saturday’s meeting will begin at 9 a.m. in the Board Room at 2100 Clarendon Blvd. This month’s regular meeting was also extended to a third day due to the large number of agenda items, with recessed meetings scheduled for next Tuesday and Thursday.
(Updated at 12:40 p.m.) One of the most recognizable features of the former Artisphere cultural center in Rosslyn is not on the chopping block, after all.
On its Nov. 14 meeting agenda, the Arlington County Board is scheduled to consider a site plan amendment for 1101 Wilson Blvd, “relating to the demolition” of the Artisphere dome.
The county terminated its lease on the Artisphere space last month, five years after the center first opened. Previously used by the Newseum, when it was located in Rosslyn, the dome theater may narrow down the kind of tenants property owner Monday Properties can attract.
From a public notice about the site plan amendment:
SP# 89 1101 Wilson Owner, LLC to delete Condition #4 relating to demolition of dome structure on Wilson Boulevard; in C-O zoning district under ACZO §15.5. Property is approximately 60,700 sq. ft.; located at 1101 Wilson Blvd.; and is identified as RPC# 16-039-002; -003; -021. Applicable Policies: GLUP “High” Office-Apartment-Hotel; Rosslyn Sector Plan.
However, county officials now say that the dome is not in danger, at least for now.
From Helen Duong, the Chief Marketing Officer for Arlington’s Dept. of Community Planning, Housing and Development:
This condition currently requires that the Newseum Dome be demolished if the County moves forward with construction of the Loop Road in Rosslyn (the Dome is located partially within what would have been the right of way for the Loop Road). Given adoption of the new Rosslyn Sector Plan this past summer, in which the Loop Road concept was abandoned, there is no longer a need to demolish the dome, and therefore the property owner wants the condition requiring demolition removed. As is my understanding, Monday Properties does not want to demolish the dome, but would like to market the space without the encumbrances required by Cond. #4.
Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk
(Updated at 12:10 a.m.) There will be two new faces sitting on the County Board come January — Democrats Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey.
Dorsey led the race the entire night, taking approximately 36 percent of the total vote. Ticket mate Cristol followed closely, garnering about 34 percent of the votes. The two Democratic candidates effectively boxed out independent candidates Michael McMenamin and Audrey Clement.
Today’s election was a historic one for Arlington. For the first time in years, voters were asked to select two new County Board members after Board Chair Mary Hynes and Vice Chair Walter Tejada decided to retire. After electing independent John Vihstadt last year, Arlington residents resumed voting for Democrats by giving Cristol and Dorsey the two seats.
“Now it’s time to get to work fulfilling the promise of the campaign, which was bring Arlingtonians together to talk about issues,” Dorsey said.
Voter turnout was relatively low, following the trend of most off-year elections in Virginia. Arlington election officials estimate that around 27 percent of registered voters cast a ballot today, compared to 26 percent turnout in a comparable election four years ago.
The relatively low turnout is a sign that the county needs to do better with communicating how important local elections are, Cristol and Dorsey said.
“As much as I would love Arlington to be special and different, it’s tough when the County Board race is at the top of the ballot,” Dorsey said.
Cristol and Dorsey led the race for County Board with a large gap between them and the independent candidates. The unofficial results are:
- Audrey Clement: 10.08%
- Katie Cristol: 34.41%
- Christian Dorsey: 35.71%
- Mike McMenamin: 19.03%
Despite one of the most consequential and competitive County Board races in recent memory, relatively light turnout has been reported at the polls in Arlington so far today.
Linda Lindberg, Arlington County’s top elections official, said turnout was around 12 percent as of 12:45 p.m.
“It’s been pretty light,” Lindberg told ARLnow.com “Some precincts are doing quite well and others are very, very slow.”
Lindberg said turnout is similar to the 2011 election, when 26 percent of registered voters went to the polls. She expects the final turnout today to be around that figure. The number of absentee ballots submitted this election cycle — 2,200 — is also comparable to 2011.
“I would have thought that we would have done a little better this time, because we do have a more competitive County Board race,” Lindberg said.
No major problems have been reported at the polls, which opened at 6 a.m. and will close at 7 p.m. Arlington County is using paper ballots this year, a throw back to the mid-20th century. Most recently, Arlington had been using electronic voting machines that were later revealed to have serious security flaws.
Some voters who required assistance using the ballot reading machines have complained that poll workers could see who they voted for while demonstrating how to use the machines.
“We’re going to iron out those issues,” Lindberg said.
The Arlington County elections office will be tweeting County Board election results live tonight after polls close, via its @arlingtonvotes Twitter account.
Registered voters who have not yet cast ballots can find out more information about the candidates via the League of Women Voters voter guide.
Voter turnout is only about 10-12% so far. Come on, Arlington – we can do better, so get out to vote! Polls close at 7 pm.
— Arlington Elections (@ArlingtonVotes) November 3, 2015
The Arlington County Board is scheduled this month to hear a proposal to replace Ballston watering hole Carpool with a 22-story luxury apartment building.
Developer Penzance and a real estate investment firm acquired the Carpool property and an adjacent office building just under a year ago. In a site plan amendment, Penzance is proposing to build a 330,000 square foot, 330-unit residential building on the Carpool site at 4000 Fairfax Drive.
The 1960s-era, 10-story Webb Building next to Carpool, which was recently renovated and is being used on an interim basis by Marymount University during construction on its “Blue Goose” site, will remain “for the near future.”
The new residential building will have a 264-space parking garage, but 66 spaces will be made available to residents in the Webb Building’s garage, which has 286 spaces. The residential building will also have 8,400 square feet of ground floor retail space, and will be built to LEED Gold sustainability standards.
The Arlington Planning Commission heard testimony from the developer last night (Monday).
The County Board is expected to decide on final approval at its Nov. 14 or 17 meeting. A draft document indicates that county staff is recommending the site plan amendment be approved.
There’s no word yet on when Carpool will close nor when construction will start on the new building.
Update at 11/17/15: Consideration of this development was deferred to the County Board’s December meeting.
The latest skirmish involving a County Board candidate started when an automated call from Del. Rip Sullivan (D) started ringing in thousands of Arlington homes Sunday.
Sullivan’s recorded voice ripped into McMenamin for suggesting that he would support adding an extra lane to I-66 within the existing VDOT right of way in Arlington, tying that position into an issue near and dear to many Arlingtonians: parks.
Hi, this is Delegate Rip Sullivan. I have served on a Park Authority and Transportation Commission, and I’ve got an important message for you about the use of parks and green space in Arlington.
Independent-Republican for County Board, Mike McMenamin, supports widening I-66, which would threaten the quality of our parks at Madison Manor, Bon Air, Thrifton Hills, McCoy, and other parklands across the County. It would also threaten the quality of the Custis Trail. To protect parkland throughout Arlington County from development, join me in supporting Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol. If protecting Arlington’s parks and green space is important to you, then vote on Tuesday, November 3rd for the two candidates committed to protecting parks and green space: Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol.
Paid for and authorized by Christian Dorsey for County Board and Katie Cristol for County Board.
McMenamin responded in turn by accusing the Democrats of tying to “hide their weakness on parks.” From a press release:
Mike McMenamin today accused Delegate Rip Sullivan of making an 11th-hour attack purposely distorting his position on I-66.
“It shows that the political establishment in Arlington is worried about losing,” said McMenamin, who is running as an Independent for the County Board.
In a robo-call to thousands of voters on Sunday, the Democratic delegate said that McMenamin’s support for widening the interstate freeway would threaten the quality of various county parks.
McMenamin countered that he would only tolerate widening the highway within the current right of way and no further. Such widening, he said, would not take away any parkland at all.
“My opponents have been unwilling to say that they won’t build affordable housing on parkland, a position they know is unpopular, so they are trying to muddy the waters with these dubious attacks,” McMenamin said. “In fact, I am the only candidate committed to not building on our parks.
The Independent candidate said he is committed to keeping parkland and trails intact. “If any VDOT proposal would negatively affect any parks in Arlington, I think I would be the most effective voice for the neighborhoods.”
“While I don’t like the idea of having to widen 66, I fear the State is inevitably going to do just that,” he said. “After all, VDOT owns the road. So, I have taken the position that Arlington must strike the best deal possible.”
McMenamin also opposes tolls for I-66, saying it will lead to more surface traffic in nearby neighborhoods.
Last week we asked the four Arlington County Board candidates to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them on Nov. 3. Two County Board seats are up for grabs this year.
Here is the unedited response from Mike McMenamin:
Somewhere along the journey, “the Arlington Way” got off track. A county once revered for its innovative but prudent growth let the spending spigot flow too freely at the expense of homeowners and businesses.
The County Board built a million-dollar bus stop. Then there was the “well-intentioned” but ill-fated Artisphere. Arlington was all set to build an extravagant streetcar for Columbia Pike. Another pool, this time for Long Bridge Park, turned out too be overly expensive.
Last year, Arlington voters came to their senses by selecting another Independent, John Vihstadt, and signaled that Arlington County was through with such excessive spending. Still, bloated projects come our way. Take the $350,000 the county just gave Dutch contractors for an art project on the fence of a county sewage plant.
As Civic Federation President, Maywood Community President and a member of the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission, I have seen where the county spends our money. Sure, some of these projects are nice ideas. But they crowd out other projects that I consider more important. We need to get back to basics and spend our tax dollars on core government services, such as paving our roads, updating our infrastructure, schools, and parks. We must properly fund neighborhood conservation, so that neighborhoods can build the projects they need, e.g. curb, gutter, sidewalks, and storm water drainage.
Too much of the burden of costly projects falls on homeowners in Arlington County. We need to proactively draw in more tax-paying companies by filling the vast amounts of vacant office space caused by overbuilding and the departure of government agencies. By doing so, it will provide the much needed tax relief for homeowners.
I am the only candidate who is a small business owner in Arlington, so I know firsthand how difficult and expensive it is to run a business in the county. Quite frankly, opening a new business in Arlington is a marathon process. It takes a great deal of time to navigate the byzantine permit process, which planning and zoning staff have not made easy. This needs to change.
A major issue for the next board is the growth in the school-age population. As parents of two children who have attended Taylor Elementary, Swanson Middle School, Washington & Lee High School and H.B. Woodlawn, my wife and I know just how good our schools are. The board must work with the school board to find cost-efficient solutions in locations that do not disrupt neighborhoods. For instance, we should look to expand our schools by building them up instead of out.
I feel that the time is ripe for another Independent on the county board. I am proud to have gotten the endorsement of John Vihstadt and the Arlington Sun Gazette, among others. So I ask for your vote on November 3rd.