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by ARLnow.com November 28, 2017 at 8:00 am 0

County Board Approves Affordable Housing Loan — At its meeting last night, the Arlington County Board approved a loan that will help preserve the 294-unit Park Shirlington Apartments as affordable housing. The $6 million loan from the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund will allow a pair of developers to buy the complex, rehabilitate it and preserve as much affordable housing as possible. [Arlington County]

Ten Die in Va. Thanksgiving Weekend Crashes — “With overall traffic fatalities already on the increase, the 2017 Thanksgiving holiday weekend proved to be a deadly one… on Virginia’s highways. During the holiday… traffic crashes claimed the lives of eight drivers, one passenger and a pedestrian.” [Virginia State Police]

Video Shows Helicopter Search of Crane — A video, posted by a Pentagon City resident, shows the Fairfax County Police helicopter using its spotlight to search a construction crane Sunday night, as part of a death investigation that was still ongoing as of Monday evening. [YouTube]

FCC Chair Reports Harassing Signs —  FCC chairman and Arlington resident Ajit Pai is again being targeted at his home by activists who oppose changes to net neutrality and media ownership rules. This time, signs outside Pai’s home have reportedly referenced his children. The Arlington County Republican Committee called the alleged harassment “disgusting.” [Washington Post, Twitter]

Education Tech Company Sets Up Clarendon Studios — “Higher education is getting the star treatment… in Clarendon. Headquartered in Lanham, Maryland, [education technology firm] 2U recently revamped the former Henninger Media space off Wilson Boulevard to create a satellite office with eight TV studios, where visiting professors can spend a whirlwind three to four days taping lectures and other multimedia course materials designed to supplement live classroom chats and streaming video.” [Arlington Magazine]

Flickr pool photo by Chris Guyton

by Chris Teale November 27, 2017 at 9:45 am 0

Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz is recommending a “simple and efficient” design for the Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center.

Schwartz recommended late last week that the county hire Coakley & Williams Construction, Inc. for the project, one of four contenders for the design and construction of the revamped center at 475 Long Bridge Drive.

The new facility will have a 50-meter pool, diving towers and a family pool as well as spaces for health and fitness and public events among others. The construction contract is worth $54.7 million, with $5.3 million in contingency funding in case of overruns.

“I think the community will be very pleased, possibly amazed, with the recommended design for the facility and park expansion,” Schwartz said in a statement. “We had four very good options from extremely talented firms, but the Coakley proposal excelled in meeting the county’s design criteria that impacted operations, long-term maintenance and durability.”

County staff said Coakley’s design “is simple and efficient with quality architecture and a strong connection to the Esplanade. It provides all of the elements required by the county without sacrificing core mechanical equipment, material choices and energy efficiency. It also includes an additional community room (at no additional expense).”

The design received the backing of the Friends of Long Bridge Park, a local group that looks to support and improve the park.

In an email, group president Eric Cassel said the County Board should approve the plan for the following reasons:

  1. It is needed. The Long Bridge Advisory Design Committee and County staff completed several studies that showed the needs of Arlington County are not being met. For example, currently all elementary and middle school students must learn swimming at one of the high school pools. The amount of teaching time is limited.
  2. If you have limited means and wish to swim, you have limited options, as all outdoor bodies of water like the Potomac River are unsafe to swim.
  3. The Esplanade needs to be extended to provide a longer place for walking/running and general passive activities. Over 20,000 people live within walking distance to the park and with the office and hotel populations, the demand for simple recreation is high.
  4. The cost of the project is capped. The design/build method specifically provides a budget and any overages are the responsibility of the contractor.
  5. While the design of Phase 2 has focused on meeting the needs of Arlington County residents, there is a benefit to office buildings, hotels and tourists. All of these produce taxes that pay for schools and other amenities. For example, one hotel has already created ads to come to Arlington because of the Fitness and Aquatics center. In addition, more than one office tenant has signed a lease because of Long Bridge Park.  A facility like this is required to attract top talent. Arlington cannot afford to ignore the infrastructure that is necessary to attract office tenants.

The Board will vote on the project at its recessed meeting tomorrow (Tuesday).

by Chris Teale November 20, 2017 at 3:30 pm 0

The Arlington County Board will hold a public hearing next month on a plan to tighten regulations governing the study of whether new historic districts should be created.

Currently, the process to request a study on whether an area should be designated as a historic district is relatively informal. Anyone can file a designation request for any number of properties, without any background materials or forms required.

Staff said the goal of these changes would be to improve the process while still allowing the public to request a study of whether a site should be designated as a historic district.

The proposed amendments would change the timeframe required to inform a property owner of a study request, and tie such notification to the acceptance of a completed application. The amendment would create a uniform and predictable process for such requests.

Per a report by county staff, the proposed amendments would mean the following:

  • A request for local historic district designation must be made on a County application form.
  • The application form will require specific documentation, including narratives pertaining to physical descriptions and historical significance, plus photographs and bibliographical references. The application also will establish a multi-step internal review process prior to scheduling a public hearing with the HALRB.
  • For multi-property designation requests, the new amendment will limit who may apply for or request a historic preservation overlay district to: o Civic Associations, Home Owners Associations, or Condo Boards for properties within their own boundaries; or Petitioners with documented support of 25% of properties in a defined area. One property would count as one vote (so if four trustees owned a property, only one vote counts).
  • For individual properties, historic preservation overlay requests will be limited to Arlington residents or property owners.
  • The HALRB, Arlington Public Schools (APS), and the County Board retain authority to initiate studies and recommend designations as they can do now.
  • After adoption of the amendment, staff will finalize the application form. This form will be available on the County website and via paper copy in the HPP office.

The proposed changes come months after an application was filed to designate the Arlington Education Center and planetarium, next to Washington-Lee High School, as a historic district.

The designation, requested by Planning Commission member Nancy Iacomini, could have caused problems as the Ed Center was being considered as a site for new high school seats. Any renovations to help add the extra seats would have been scuttled if it were designated as a historic district, and it brought swift condemnation from those who thought it would hinder APS’ ability to keep up with the rising student population.

Staff recommended that proposal be denied, a request the County Board followed in May. The School Board then chose the Ed Center for 500-600 new high school seats and a renovation as a so-called “hybrid option” to add 1,300 countywide.

The County Board will discuss the proposed changes at its December 16 meeting and put it to a vote. The Planning Commission will also debate the changes at its December 4 meeting.

by Chris Teale November 20, 2017 at 9:45 am 0

The Arlington County Board unanimously approved a plan to allow new apartment and condo buildings near Metro stations to potentially provide less off-street parking.

Developers can now substitute car parking spaces at certain new apartment and condo buildings built in the Rosslyn-Ballston and Crystal City-Pentagon City Metro corridors for bike and car-sharing. Any tweaks will still be subject to Board approval on a case-by-case basis, and do not affect parking at existing buildings.

It also standardizes a practice that county staff said has evolved in recent years, of approving projects with less parking. Any reduction will only be supported if staff believe local transportation infrastructure can handle the extra demand on transit and parking, or if a project invests in new transportation options.

“These guidelines reflect the fact that the increase in transportation options in our Metro corridors means that some new developments will require less parking,” Board chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. “The guidelines will only apply in the Metro corridors, and only to new projects approved by special exception. They will have no impact at all on existing buildings. And it remains up to the Board, to approve the final parking ratio for each proposed project, based on the site-specific circumstances and the project’s characteristics.”

The new policy includes the following, per a county press release:

  • 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-percent-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.

The change, to encourage more use of transit, bicycles and other transportation, stemmed in part from a report released earlier this year by the county’s residential parking work group.

by ARLnow.com November 20, 2017 at 8:15 am 0

County HQ to Be Named After Bozman — “The Arlington County Board today voted unanimously to name the County Office Building at 2100 Clarendon Boulevard for Ellen M. Bozman, the six-time Board Chair who served on the Board through some of Arlington’s most transformative years, and who died in 2009.” [Arlington County]

Blue, Yellow Line Service Disruption — Metrorail service on the Blue and Yellow lines was suspended earlier this morning due to “fire department activity” at the Pentagon station. Arlington County Fire Department units investigated the incident and turned the scene back over to Metro around 6 a.m. Service has since been restored. [Twitter, Twitter, Fox 5]

County Board Sets Stage for Va. Square Redevelopment — The Arlington County Board on Saturday took a first step towards the redevelopment of several properties at the corner of Washington Blvd and N. Kirkwood Road. New apartments and upgrades to the YMCA have been proposed for the site. The Board approved a General Land Use Plan Study and Concept Plan that will “serve as a long-range planning guide for potential redevelopment.” [Arlington County]

Arlingtonian Among Rhodes Scholars — Arlington native Matthew Chun, a senior at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been named one of 32 Rhodes scholars in the U.S. Chun, who is also captain of the school’s wrestling team, is one of two Virginians among the latest group of Rhodes scholars. [Associated Press, MIT News]

Juvenile Hospitalized After Nauck Hit and Run — An individual under the age of 18 was reportedly struck by a car on the 2400 block of Shirlington Road, in the Nauck area, over the weekend. The car’s driver drove off after hitting the juvenile, who suffered non-life threatening injuries. [WJLA]

Nestle Lease Lauded in Commercial RE Awards — The lease of 1812 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn to serve as Nestle’s new U.S. headquarters was given the “Award of Excellence” in the Real Estate Transaction category at the 2017 NAIOP Northern Virginia commercial real estate awards. It was among six Arlington-related winners at the awards ceremony, including the new Marymount University Ballston Center development. [NAIOP]

Flickr pool photo by Chris Guyton

by ARLnow.com November 17, 2017 at 7:00 pm 0

For the latest 26 Square Miles podcast, we spoke with County Board member John Vihstadt about last week’s elections in Virginia, his reelection bid next year and various issues facing Arlington County, including budget pressures and development.

We also asked Vihstadt about the possibility of Arlington landing Amazon’s second corporate headquarters.

Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

by ARLnow.com November 14, 2017 at 8:00 am 0

Local Entrepreneur Scores on Shark Tank — “Sharmi Albrechtsen, founder and CEO of Arlington-based tech toy company SmartGurlz, landed an investment from FUBU founder Daymond John on Sunday’s “Shark Tank” episode: $200,000 for 25 percent of the business.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Year’s Meeting Nixed Again — For the second year in a row, what was once the traditional New Year’s Day organizational meeting of the Arlington County Board will not be held on Jan. 1. The meeting is instead expected to be held on Jan. 2, according to a draft 2018 County Board calendar. [InsideNova]

ACPD Holding Toy Drive — The Arlington County Police Department is holding its third annual Fill the Cruiser Holiday Toy Drive for children in need in Arlington. Officers will be collecting toys on the evenings of Tuesday, Nov. 28 and Tuesday, Dec. 5 in various locations around the county. [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Bekah Richards

by Chris Teale November 7, 2017 at 7:00 pm 0

(Updated 9:50 p.m.) Arlington Democrats celebrated a triumphant election night for its candidates for Arlington County Board and School Board, as well as all members of the state-level Democratic ticket.

With all precincts reporting, Democratic nominee Erik Gutshall won the race for County Board with 62.82 percent of the vote. Monique O’Grady, the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s endorsee for School Board, took 70.56 percent.

Gutshall took 46,319 votes, ahead of independent Audrey Clement with 17,415 and fellow independent Charles McCullough‘s 8,753. O’Grady won 50,677 votes, ahead of Mike Webb with 12,642 and Alison Dough with 7,271 to succeed James Lander.

In the races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, the Democratic candidates all won Arlington County’s 55 precincts by big margins to help deliver what looked set to be a clean sweep for the party in Virginia.

Governor-Elect Ralph Northam (D) took 68,315 votes in Arlington, ahead of Republican Ed Gillespie with 16,160. Justin Fairfax (D) garnered 66,687 votes in Arlington in the race for lieutenant governor ahead of state Sen. Jill Vogel’s 17,594, and Attorney General Mark Herring (D) won re-election with 67,111 votes ahead of John Adams’ 17,366 votes.

At the ACDC’s watch party at The Salsa Room on Columbia Pike, great cheers went up when the television networks projected Northam as the winner, as more than 100 attendees celebrated Democrats’ triumph across Virginia.

Gutshall said he was “very grateful” to win, and said he enjoyed hearing from residents as he vied for retiring Board chair Jay Fisette’s seat.

“It was a lot of hard work, a lot of great chances to have some really good conversations with folks in Arlington,” Gutshall said. “Even though it might appear from election results that we are a very blue community, there’s a lot of diversity of opinion within that blueness. It was a good experience for me to hear that diversity of viewpoints on all the different issues that are facing us.”

O’Grady said the campaign was a “humbling” experience, and said she intends to put the work in now to hit the ground running in January when she is officially sworn in.

“It’s what I’ve been trying to do, which is keep up with all the issues, continue to go to the meetings, continue to keep up with the community reactions to so many things on the table,” she said. “In January, there’s a lot of work to do, and so I want to ensure that I’m ready to go. Even though I won’t be sworn in until January, I’m already hard at work making sure I stay engaged.”

ACDC chair Kip Malinosky said it was rewarding to see so many people step up to volunteer in Arlington to help get out the vote. The county’s Elections Office said final turnout was 55 percent, the highest for a gubernatorial race since 1993.

“What feels so good is that so many people stepped up in a big way,” Malinosky said. “We helped out. It was really depressing after last year, but we came back so strong and people bounced back. They got involved, they made calls, knocked on doors, posted on social media. We went to every festival, every event and we got people engaged and said, ‘Look, we’ve got to compete.'”

With three of the county’s four members of the Virginia House of Delegates running unopposed, it was a relatively sedate affair for Dels. Patrick Hope, Mark Levine and Rip Sullivan in Districts 47, 45 and 48, respectively, as all won more than 90 percent of the vote in their districts.

Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49) was the only one to face a re-election challenge, from Republican Adam Roosevelt. But with all precincts reporting, Lopez won 18,536 votes to Roosevelt’s 4,202 in a district that includes neighborhoods along Columbia Pike, around Pentagon City and west to Bailey’s Crossroads and Seven Corners in Fairfax County.

Elsewhere, Democrats were on track to make significant gains in the House of Delegates, and Lopez said it will mean progress on a variety of issues the party’s followers hold dear.

“Everything we care about, every value we care about, every issue we cherish, it can start to happen: Sensible gun violence prevention legislation, passing Medicaid reform, dealing with how we fund our schools, actually protecting the environment in Virginia,” Lopez said in a speech.

Clement, who has run for office in Arlington unsuccessfully seven times, said she is open to running for election again. But in an interview after results were counted, she said she is reluctant to challenge County Board member John Vihstadt (I), who faces re-election next year.

“In my opinion, there are two key components to county government: one is the budget, two is how it deals with development,” Clement said. “Vihstadt and I diverge on the development issue, but we agree on the budget component. We’re both fiscal conservatives, so I would find it difficult to run against him on that account.”

In a statement on Twitter, McCullough congratulated Gutshall on his win and urged him to do more to “put people first.”

“The board can expect that I’ll be there to remind them of that often because I am committed to staying involved and engaging with this wonderful community as it tackles the big issues ahead,” McCullough wrote.

by Chris Teale November 7, 2017 at 3:50 pm 0

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management is warning that some voters are receiving calls falsely telling them their polling place has changed.

In a tweet this afternoon, VDEM said these calls are false, and that registered voters can confirm their polling place online.

The Arlington County elections office said it estimated turnout of 40 percent today at the polls, plus another 8 percent of registered voters voting absentee. That represents a slight slowdown from the noon estimate, when turnout was at about 31 percent at the polls.

Arlington County registrar Linda Lindberg told ARLnow earlier that the arrival of steady rain slowed turnout somewhat. But it still means Arlington is well on track to beat the final turnout of 49 percent in 2013, when Democrat Terry McAuliffe defeated Republican Ken Cuccinelli. Plus, a break in the steadier rain is expected as Northern Virginia residents start to leave work.

Earlier today, the candidates in today’s election hit the streets, making their final pitches to voters as they headed to the polls.

Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey tweeted a photo of her meeting voters alongside Erik Gutshall, the Democratic nominee for an open County Board seat and her one-time primary opponent.

Gutshall also tweeted a photo alongside Arlington School Board Democratic endorsee Monique O’Grady, while fellow School Board candidate Alison Dough has rolled out yard signs made by her children to try and swing voters her way.

A few of my favorite signs hitting the roads today… art work courtesy of my children – even the baby added hand-art 💕

Posted by Alison Dough on Sunday, November 5, 2017

Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement was out in the Fairlington neighborhood near the Abingdon precinct this morning, sporting a rain jacket and an umbrella while she greeted voters and passed out flyers.

On social media, Independent County Board candidate Charles McCullough shared photos of him out meeting voters across the county.

And Attorney General Mark Herring visited Arlington this morning as his bid for re-election entered its final hours. Herring tweeted a photo of him meeting potential voters at Bob & Edith’s Diner on Columbia Pike, also part of the 49th House District, where Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) has faced a challenge from Republican Adam Roosevelt.

by ARLnow.com November 6, 2017 at 3:30 pm 0

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

Here is the unedited response from independent candidate Charles McCullough:

I’ve lived in South Arlington for over ten years. Drawn to Arlington’s safe, vibrant, and diverse environment, it felt like the right place to purchase a home. I’ve come to know all our neighborhoods as wonderful places to live, work, raise children, play, pray, and grow old. While living here I’ve started my own small business, volunteered on county and school committees, and chaired the board of the US Postal Service Federal Credit Union where I advocated for family-friendly lending.

I’m running because Arlington residents need a seat at the table.

I am a progressive independent running for office because I believe the “Arlington Way” is broken. Significant decisions impacting citizens are either predetermined or made without meaningful community consultation. Developers are running roughshod over affordable housing options, displacing people and open spaces. Commercial vacancy rates remain high as the county gives multimillion-dollar tax breaks to billion-dollar companies.

We won’t fix Arlington’s problems by continuing to elect party insiders with similar résumés and experiences. If elected, I will be an independent voice on the county board. I’ll look beyond party politics and focus on “Putting People First.”

“Putting People First” is my commitment to involving more viewpoints in a meaningful way.

Effectively addressing the issues facing Arlington requires county board members to go beyond staff recommendations and be more deeply and personally present in our neighborhoods. That is why I will serve as a full-time board member, working every day in our communities to be a voice you can trust on the Arlington County Board.
I will prioritize housing affordability, schools, local business development, transportation, and open spaces and do so with community input, before decisions are made.
As a progressive independent I promise to lead with an Arlington CAN attitude.

  • I will push for a multifaceted approach to housing affordability. Going beyond new construction, Arlington must grow certified affordable housing for those in need by making sure developers are paying their fair share to fund these programs. I will work to grow market rate affordable housing for the rest of us by encouraging cooperatives, co-living spaces, and community land trusts, all of which reduce rent, mortgage, and property tax costs.
  • I will seek to expand early childcare options in Arlington so students don’t start the first day of school with a learning deficit. Not only should we provide greater cost efficiency in building schools, but we should also make sure schools are resourced to educate the whole child through a Cradle to Career & College Pipeline.
  • I will help local businesses thrive by addressing one-size-fits-all regulation schemes that make it hard to open and grow local businesses.
  • I am proud to be the only candidate for Arlington County Board that is on record for saying NO to a new regional tax for Metro that would unfairly burden Northern Virginians. Metro should only get dedicated funding if it commits to greater accountability. We need multimodal transportation solutions that get individuals to work in an efficient and cost effective manner. I will also be an advocate for providing better bus service in places like Columbia Pike.
  • I will prioritize the preservation of existing parks, dog parks, and biking/jogging trails that make Arlington a great place to live. I will advocate for maximizing our limited land and public facilities through deeper government and schools partnerships as well as long-term planning for land acquisition.

To achieve these things I will demand that we budget in a way that reflects our vision for Arlington while preserving our bond rating. Having had previous responsibility for crafting multimillion-dollar budgets in the public and private sector, I know how to plan for growth in times of fiscal austerity. As you explore my full platform at http://votemccullough.com/issues, note that many of my plans save Arlington taxpayers and businesses money or generate revenue from new sources.
If you believe the county has fallen short in its commitment to our communities, taxpayers, businesses, or the environment, voting for Charles McCullough is the most powerful message you can send to the Arlington County Board that your voice matters. Together we can restore the “Arlington Way.”

by ARLnow.com November 6, 2017 at 3:00 pm 0

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

Here is the unedited response from Democratic candidate Erik Gutshall:

I’m Erik Gutshall, life-long Democrat, proud father of three wonderful girls, an award-winning small businessman, and the current chair of the Arlington County Planning Commission.  I am focused on the future, and I am asking for your support to be the next member of the Arlington County Board.

Arlington has a storied tradition of meeting challenges with inclusive collaboration between the community, elected officials, county staff, and the private sector.  I have joined in this tradition as a civic association president, non-profit board member, and member of our Transportation and Planning Commissions.  Working side-by-side with you to solve complex challenges for the last 15 years has ingrained in me the Arlington values of inclusiveness, collaboration, and long-term vision.  While the successes of our past are remarkable, running a small business has taught me that if we don’t innovate, we will stagnate.  Our success has brought new challenges; and while our values haven’t changed, our solutions have to.  While some argue that our success is the problem and plot a course of retreat, I see the challenges of today as opportunities to remake our vision for the next generation, and I’m asking you to join me.

Our outdated zoning has created a difficult choice between increasingly unaffordable single-family homes and high-rise living, and many of our friends and neighbors have simply moved elsewhere.  We must not throw up our hands and accept this as inevitable. To keep Arlington affordable for the middle class, I will use my planning and zoning experience to create market-driven, neighborhood-scale  “Missing Middle” housing along our transportation corridors so that young families starting out, seniors aging in place, and everyone in-between can afford to live here.

Solving the school capacity crisis is critical to Arlington’s future.  The fact that more and more families are invested enough to put down roots here despite the high cost of housing speaks volumes about the community we have built, but pitting community needs against each other is a recipe for failure.  The School Board and County Board must work together to squeeze the most out of our limited space and dollars.  I will champion the work of the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission (JFAC) to find innovative solutions for the school and community facilities we need, while balancing the preservation and expansion of parks and open space.

As a small business owner, I passionately believe that the future of Arlington’s prosperity is in the hands of our entrepreneurs and innovators.  Our small businesses are the “heart and soul” of our community with deep roots as they hire locally and invest locally.  My first priority to restore Arlington’s reputation as a great place to start and grow a business will be to foster a “Get to Yes” culture of customer service so that our businesses can spend more time on their customers, and less time dealing with frustrating bureaucracy.

Inclusive, transparent, and collaborative problem-solving guided by progressive values yields innovative, durable solutions.  That is the secret sauce of Arlington’s success.  I’ve been working with you for the last 15 years, and with your support, I’ll be honored to do it for the next four as your board member.  For detailed issue statements on my focus on the future of Arlington, please visit Erik4Arlington.com.  Find your polling place and photo ID requirements at ARLVotes.com and please vote for me, Erik Gutshall, on Tuesday, November 7.

by ARLnow.com November 6, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

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

Here is the unedited response from independent candidate Audrey Clement:

 Arlington County needs new leadership. Here’s why.

Although it is one of the wealthiest counties in the U.S., Arlington is paying corporations millions in taxpayer subsidies to stay here, small businesses struggle, and too many longtime residents are being gentrified out of their homes.

At 18 percent, Arlington’s office vacancy rate is unacceptably high, as federal agencies move to cheaper digs elsewhere in Northern Virginia.

The County has recruited some high profile corporate tenants, and shaved a percentage off the vacancy rate. But small businesses are hurting and are likely to hurt even more should the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts go into effect.

In fact the George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis predicts that 10,000 federal sector jobs may be eliminated from Northern Virginia should Congress adopt the president’s budget.

http://www.loudountimes.com/news/article/economist_proposed_trump_budget_could_cost_northern_virginia_up_to_10000_jo

This could spell hardship for Arlington County, which depends on tax revenue generated from federal jobs.

County Board increased the property tax rate this year even as it estimated a surplus. That was unfortunate, since neither the government workers who live in the County nor the local businesses that rely on their patronage needed another tax grab while facing the prospect of an economic downturn.

Arlington County also has a spending problem. County Board just voted to approve the design of a new Lubber Run Community Center with a whopping $47.9 million price tag. The new Wilson High School is currently estimated at $100 million.

By comparison, the town of Vienna recently completed renovating its community center for just $6.5 million, and the cost of a new high school under construction in Loudoun County is $81.7 million —- much less than the projected cost for Wilson High.

It’s obvious that Arlington taxpayers are paying a lot more for the same public services than elsewhere in Northern Virginia. This is not only wasteful, it may also prove to be unsustainable in the long run.

Clearly the current County Board is too complacent to change course now. It will continue to ignore the need for belt tightening. In the face of economic uncertainty, independent leadership is needed to constrain spending while optimizing services provided to County residents.

As an Independent candidate and long-time civic activist–with a Ph.D. in Political Science and service as a Congressional Fellow, I am qualified to fill that role.

As an independent voice on County Board I pledge to:

  • Seek tax relief for both residential and commercial taxpayers.
  • Save our parks, not pave them over.
  • Use bond money to fund schools–not Taj Mahals for some students and trailers for others.
  • Stop recycling garden apartments into luxury town homes and cutting down our precious tree canopy for more parking.
  • Stop the back room deals that too often govern the decisions made by County Board.

In addition, if elected, I will:

  • Require a fiscal impact analysis for every major site plan development project to assure that it actually benefits the County.
  • End the County’s pursuit of wasteful vanity projects.
  • Redirect funds to basic needs like streets, schools, libraries and public safety.
  • Consolidate housing programs and other public services.
  • Install renewable energy on County owned buildings.
  • Provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers.

I am a thirteen year Arlington resident with a ten year track of civic activism. With a Ph.D. in Political Science and experience on Capitol Hill, I have both the commitment and political know how to translate policy into practice.

Visit AudreyClement.com to find out more about my campaign for a better Arlington and donate to my campaign.

Let me know if you want to volunteer at the polls on Election Day and remember to vote for me, Audrey Clement, Independent, on November 7.

by Chris Teale November 3, 2017 at 2:00 pm 0

With one weekend left until Election Day, candidates and parties of all stripes are looking to get their messages out.

The statewide races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general continue to draw a lot of attention, and Arlington’s local Democratic and Republican parties will use this weekend for last-minute political activities.

Both will be out canvassing voters this weekend, both door-to-door and at the county’s farmers’ markets. The Arlington Young Democrats promised a “special” canvassing in south Arlington this weekend to support Del. Alfonso Lopez in his re-election bid against Republican Adam Roosevelt.

The Arlington County Democratic Committee has also made use of a social media campaign entitled, “#TURNOUT2017” to encourage its supporters to vote through Facebook and social media ads for candidate for governor Ralph Northam, lieutenant governor nominee Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring, who is running for re-election.

And Arlington County Republican Committee communications director Matthew Hurtt promised an “unprecedented” get-out-the-vote operation in an email to supporters to help elect governor nominee Ed Gillespie, lieutenant governor candidate Jill Vogel and attorney general nominee John Adams.

Arlington Young Democrats will host a get-out-the-vote rally of their own on Saturday at 5:30 p.m., headlined by U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), while both parties will have poll watchers at voting stations across the county to monitor what happens on Election Day.

Earlier this week, the Arlington Democrats hosted a rally alongside Northam, Fairfax, Herring and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) as well as local elected officials.

And on October 29, Gillespie and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) dropped by for a rally to coincide with a viewing party for the Washington Redskins vs. Dallas Cowboys NFL game.

And while the social media accounts and websites of the candidates for the local races of Arlington County Board and School Board, residents can expect to see them and their supporters out this weekend pushing for votes.

by Chris Teale October 31, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

Two neighbors of a planned child care center on Lee Highway filed a lawsuit in Arlington Circuit Court this month to try and stop it opening.

The suit, filed by N. McKinley Street residents Francisca Ferro and Cornelius James Coakley who live right behind the property, is against the proposed Little Ambassadors Academy, which is planning to open at 5801 and 5901 Lee Highway. The Arlington County Board approved the plan at its September meeting.

Little Ambassadors, which already operates two child care centers on Lee Highway, is planning to open another facility that would have space for up to 155 children aged 20 months to 5 years old.

The center would be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and have its rear parking lot converted into an outdoor playground, while the loading area next to N. McKinley Street would be modified to have 20 parking spaces.

But in a complaint filed on October 18, the pair allege that the child care facility will negatively affect parking, traffic congestion and noise in the neighborhood, especially for local residents.

“The Special Use Permit materially impacts Petitioners in a way that is different from the impact on to the general public, by greatly increasing traffic and safety concerns in the vicinity of their residences as a result of the expanding the number of cars permitted to traverse and park in the area,” the complaint reads.

The complaint against the County Board and Little Ambassadors rests on four claims.

First, they allege that the Board did not give neighbors sufficient notice that a hearing on the planned child care facility would be taking place.

By law, those nearby must be given at least five days’ written notice, but Ferro and Coakley said they only heard about the hearing on September 14, two days before it was scheduled to be heard by the County Board.

Second, the pair argue that the County Board broke the Dillon Rule, which limits the power of local government by leaving it up to the state government to delegate powers to localities.

Third, the complaintants say that in having the county Department of Human Services decide on the maximum number of children that can attend, and by having the county Zoning Administrator approve the center’s parking plan, the County Board did not have the power to delegate those tasks and should have done it themselves.

Fourth, the pair also dinged the Board for an “unreasonable exercise of legislative function” in approving the center, meaning it should not have been approved, and said the center’s parking plan violates the county’s Zoning Ordinance.

Arlington zoning calls for one parking space on site for each staff member at a child care center, with one parking space also provided for every 10 children that attend. The complaint says the 20 on-site spaces and four off-site spaces do not add up to enough parking.

In May, the Board added a staff member to the Dept. of Community, Planning, Housing and Development to suggest changes to Arlington’s zoning ordinance to help child care centers open.

At the time, Board vice chair Katie Cristol told ARLnow that “our biggest obstacles are within the zoning ordinance in terms of the number of parking spaces required by childcare centers or the amount of indoor vs. outdoor space.”

No hearing date has yet been set for the case.

Photos No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 via Google Maps

by Chris Teale October 30, 2017 at 3:15 pm 0

Chester’s Billiards, Bar & Grill is no more after its landlord put its building in Nauck up for sale.

The billiards hall and neighborhood bar at 2620 Shirlington Road closed on Wednesday, October 25. Signs outside show the building, now abandoned, is up for sale. The Chester’s sign remains.

Chester’s had gone before the Arlington County Board on Tuesday, October 24 for a three-month review of its live entertainment permit. County staff had recommended before the meeting for a second time this year that the Board deny an extension of the permit.

But at the meeting, Rebecca Lewis, a managing member at Chester’s, said the building’s owner has decided to sell their property. Lewis said he did so because of the ongoing issues with the building’s elevator, which has led to criminal charges and will take more than $250,000 to fix.

Lewis also questioned staff’s data on calls to the Arlington County Police Department, as well as the violation of its ABC license. She said that several of the five police calls involved an employee who was caught embezzling funds and is now the subject of criminal proceedings, and said that there were people in the community who wanted to “sabotage the business.”

“It seems that there seems to have been, especially with the police department, a wanting to shut down this business,” Lewis said.

Adam Watson, a staffer at the county’s Department of Community, Planning, Housing and Development, also noted that Chester’s hosted two dance parties with 40-50 people despite not holding a permit to do so. In response, Lewis said that those events were music shows that did not qualify as dance events.

“It’s almost impossible to tell people when music is playing that they can’t move their bodies,” she said. “[We] never encouraged or had something that we called a dance event.”

In a brief statement to the Board, Chester’s manager David Breedlove stood by the bar’s arrest record, and said he was grateful to the police for their help.

“I want to thank the Arlington police department for setting me straight, but never, one time, was there an arrest at that bar,” he said. “Yes, there were problems down below.”

Board member Christian Dorsey said it is clearly “difficult” to run a business, but said he hoped the bar’s managers try again soon. In a unanimous vote, the Board denied an extension to the bar’s permit.

“Clearly this didn’t work out for you or the community, which is why we are where we are today,” Dorsey said. “But I certainly wish you luck in any future endeavors you are about to take.”

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