by ARLnow.com — October 29, 2015 at 2:30 pm 0

Katie Cristol

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 Katie Cristol:

Thank you, ARLnow readers, for your time spent reading about the candidates for Arlington County Board.

It’s an honor to offer my experience and perspective for consideration for one of two open seats on the Board. My community experience in Arlington’s commission process and as an appointee on the School Board’s Advisory Council on Instruction, as well as my professional experience as an education policy advisor, afford me the necessary background and insights to serve on the County Board. I believe I can pair this background with an ability to look at issues differently and a genuine openness to community ideas.

Across the past ten months of door-knocking, candidate nights and neighborhood coffees, I’ve heard a common theme: Responsibility. Arlington is unmistakably entering a period of difficult decisions regarding land use and expenditures. We’ll need County Board leaders who can demonstrate not just fiscal responsibility, but responsibility for the whole of Arlington and its long-term future.

I’m committed to bringing to the Board both good judgment and a critical eye towards major new expenditures, honed through my experience working with resource-challenged localities. But Arlington’s complex challenges cannot be met by a ‘back to basics’ ideology alone. Meeting the needs of more students and more seniors, for example, will require innovation in how we think about public facilities. For example, improving joint use agreements for recreational facilities between schools and County; building vertically and undergrounding parking to protect green space; and constructing facilities that can evolve in use over their multi-decade lifetimes. Economic redevelopment, too, will require adaptability, such as more flexibility in the permitting and signage processes that business interests cite as common barriers to locating in Arlington.The Board will need to foster a climate of experimentation — such as extending the terms of our interim use ordinance –as we transition from reliance on federal agencies to new sectors.

By contrast, Independent candidates in this race have promised appealing but less-than-responsible solutions: Cutting taxes on businesses while spending more on streets and parks, with few specifics about how to balance the remaining budget. Taking pledges on land use that will tie the Board’s hands in considering recommendations from the citizen task forces that study countywide needs.

Here is what I can — responsibly — promise: To approach Arlington’s challenges analytically, and with a fresh perspective. My approach to affordability is an example. I believe we need to look more expansively at land use solutions to affordability issues. Revisiting the restrictions around accessory dwelling units can unlock market rate affordable housing in single-family neighborhoods throughout the County, while enabling seniors to age in place with on-site caregivers or additional rental income. Pursuing childcare centers as first-floor retail-equivalent uses and negotiating with developers to commit affordable rent for childcare providers can help address the lack of childcare supply that so challenges our young families. Either way, deliberate planning for a diversity of earners is not “a nice to have” luxury that we put off for flush times. A diverse workforce is a precondition for Arlington’s economic competitiveness, which is why the recent Affordable Housing Master Plan was supported by Arlington’s Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Commission as well as all five current County Board members.

I am proud to have received the endorsement of theWashington Post, which described my policy positions as “clear and balanced” this week and my candidacy as “serious and substantive” in its primary endorsement, as well as that of the Sun Gazette. I’m also pleased to be supported by Arlington’s teachers, firefighters, and twenty of our elected leaders.

I hope you will join these community members and leaders in their support. I’d be honored to earn one of your two votes on November 3.

by ARLnow.com — October 29, 2015 at 2:00 pm 0

Christian DorseyLast 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 Christian Dorsey:

Arlington is at a crossroads. With challenges like a rapidly rising school enrollment and high commercial vacancy rates, we need leaders who can bring people together and get to work on day one. Serving on the County Board requires the ability to govern, paired with the temperament to provide leadership on a wide range of issues, from unsafe sidewalks to long-term capital investments. And now, perhaps more than ever, Board members must bring practical experience, strategic thinking, a commitment to inclusive decision-making, and thoughtful independence to realize what I believe is our shared vision–a strong and sustainable community.

To realize that vision, we must:

  • Make it easier for small businesses to thrive in Arlington and address our high commercial vacancy rate so that homeowners are not forced to bear a disproportionate tax burden;
  • Ensure adequate school capacity so that schools can focus on instruction;
  • Expand and protect our community’s open space;
  • Prioritize the nuts and bolts, like fixing potholes and sidewalks, and enhancing pedestrian safety;
  • Improve Arlington’s affordability to ensure that seniors can stay in their own homes and more first responders, teachers, and young families can afford to live here;
  • Foster a more inclusive, responsive, and transparent government, where community input isn’t seen as a box to be checked, but rather a critical step in the decision-making process;
  • Create opportunities for growth by improving and enhancing public transportation.

As a more than twenty-year Arlington resident, Arlington Public Schools parent, and appointee to the Tenant-Landlord and Planning Commissions, I understand the challenges we must confront as a County. I have also served on the boards of directors of several of our community organizations, like the Arlington Free Clinic, Arlington Committee of 100, A-SPAN, and Arlington Independent Media.

Professionally, I work as a macroeconomic policy expert. I develop budgets that promote broadly-shared prosperity while maximizing value to taxpayers. Previously, I have served as the CEO of several non-profits that: delivered literacy support for low-income children; pioneered a pop-up social services center in South Arlington; and developed a model diversity education and inclusion program for students.

Arlington’s future can be bright, but it will require hard work and smart choices in these changing times. It will require people to come together to address Arlington’s challenges, and someone to foster a spirit of collaboration and cooperation, rather than a culture of tear-down, divisive politics. That’s why I have earned the support of all five County Board Members–four Democrats and one Independent. Along with the Washington Post, Arlington Education Association, Firefighters and Paramedics, Realtors, and Working Families Coalition, all five board members believe I have the requisite experience, passion, commitment to service, and independence to build a better, stronger, more sustainable Arlington County.

I ask for your vote on November 3rd so that, together, we can take Arlington to new heights. For more information, please feel free to e-mail me at [email protected], or visit my website at www.christiandorsey.org.

by ARLnow.com — October 29, 2015 at 1:30 pm 0

Audrey Clement

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 Audrey Clement:

As an Independent candidate for the Arlington County Board, I, Audrey Clement, ask for your support in making Arlington County government more responsive and more accountable to the people it serves.

Having lived in Westover and worked alongside many other dedicated Arlingtonians for over 11 years, I have devoted significant time and energy to advancing fiscal responsibility, promoting a sustainable environment, and supporting fairness and equality in our community.

Today, we must confront serious challenges — ones that require independent and innovating thinking, reality-based planning, and a commitment to using limited resources wisely.

Free from partisan constraints and beholden to NO special interests or groups, I can meet these challenges and help put our county back on a more solid footing in the years ahead.

At over 20%, Arlington’s office vacancy rate remains stubbornly high. Each percentage represents millions in lost commercial revenue, which places a greater burden on homeowners. Several federal agencies — including the National Science Foundation, Fish and Wildlife Service and TSA — are relocating or have recently relocated due to escalating rents driven, in part, by higher taxes.

Our ongoing school enrollment crisis results from the County and School Boards’ failure to plan realistically for a future that appears to include relentless residential growth. In 2014, the School Board itself predicted a 2,500-classroom seat deficit even after approving a $450 million capital budget.

The County Board plans to fund the new Affordable Housing Master Plan — mandating 15,800 new committed affordable units (CAFs) in the next 25 years — but refused to insist that staff provide a thorough analysis of the plan’s costs and impacts on county services. Ultimately, no plan can be implemented successfully without a thorough understanding of the costs and how to pay for them.

Though the County pays lip service to the environment, it lags behind neighboring jurisdictions in installing renewable energy infrastructure in public buildings, and it enthusiastically supports development that increases impervious surfaces, reduces the mature tree canopy, and further degrades our environment.

The Arlington County Board talks a lot about the so-called Arlington Way while routinely ignoring citizen input and dismissing our concerns. For example, the County Board already had a signed, undisclosed letter of intent (LOI) in place with developer Penzance when it convened the West Rosslyn Area (WRAPS) citizen’s group — whose assigned task was to consider what should be built on the site.

The result? That neighborhood will lose public parkland even as its population doubles, and the historic Wilson School will be demolished.

The County also unilaterally decided to relocate historic Fire Station #8 and sell the historic Reeves farmhouse in Bluemont Park until neighbors rebelled. These are a few of the recent examples of County Board’s insular and autocratic decision-making style.

The Democratic candidates acknowledge a crisis of confidence in County government exists but continue passing the buck with platitudes and promises to do better. I have specific solutions. If elected with your support, I pledge to lobby the County Board to:

  • Reduce the Business/Professional/Occupational Licenses (BPOL) taxes on small businesses, streamline the business permitting process, and consult with the Governor to ask for help in filling the new 30-story office building near the Rosslyn Metro, which still has no tenant two years after construction.
  • Urge that support of County schools be given a greater weight in site plan negotiations with developers for community benefits.
  • Ask the School Board to reduce reliance on trailers by increasing secondary class size by one student per class (bringing Arlington’s student-teacher ratio in line with neighboring jurisdictions), utilize existing land and space more efficiently, and reduce costs.
  • Use housing funds to preserve the County’s remaining market-rate affordable apartment units and renovate them, which can be more cost-effective and environmentally sustainable over the long term than razing existing buildings to construct new units.
  • Encourage developers to incorporate on-site affordable housing into their projects to disperse the units more evenly countywide and reduce costs.
  • Strengthen the County’s efforts to enable disabled and retired citizens (who lived on fixed incomes) to age in place and remain in our community.
  • Install renewable energy on all newly constructed or renovated public buildings and recruit developers who will adopt the LEED Platinum standards and install on-site, solar-driven electric charging stations.
  • Adopt a transparency rule requiring online publication of official documents at least 72 hours before board and commission meetings to restore democracy to County government.

To make County government work better, I ask for your help. Please:

  • Visit www.AudreyClement.com to volunteer or donate.
  • Vote Clement  your Independent candidate — for Arlington County Board on Election Day, November 3, 2015.

Together, we can make the “Arlington Way” more than an empty phrase.

by ARLnow.com — October 29, 2015 at 9:30 am 0

Two dogs in Rosslyn who are ready for Halloween (Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk)

Sun Gazette Endorses Cristol — After endorsing Michael McMenamin last week, the Sun Gazette is endorsing Katie Cristol for the second open Arlington County Board seat. The paper opined that Cristol had one of the worst campaign kickoffs in Arlington Democratic history, but “very few candidates in recent memory have improved so quickly.” [InsideNova]

Board Candidates Agree on Accessory Dwellings — The candidates for County Board reportedly agreed on one thing at a recent candidate forum: the need to loosen Arlington’s restrictive rules on accessory dwellings, “so that more seniors and young people could afford living in residential areas.” Accessory dwellings are sometimes called “granny flats,” “in-law apartments” or “backyard cottages.” Currently, Arlington approves the construction of no more than 28 accessory dwellings per year. [Falls Church News-Press]

GGW on County Board Race — The urbanist blog Greater Greater Washington has a breakdown of the Arlington County Board race and the stances of candidates on I-66, bike lanes, transit and development. [Greater Greater Washington]

Reminder: E-CARE This Weekend — Arlington County will hold its biannual E-CARE recycling event on Saturday. The event was rescheduled to take place on Halloween due to bad weather earlier this month. [ARLnow]

Walking for Lung Cancer Research — An Arlington woman is walking in a lung cancer fundraiser Sunday in memory of her sister, a nonsmoker and recent mother who died from the disease earlier this year. The event, “Breathe Deep D.C.,” is being held on the National Mall and is raising money for lung cancer research. [Patch]

Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk

by ARLnow.com — October 28, 2015 at 9:05 am 0

Apples and cider at the Fairlington Farmers Market

Post Endorses Dorsey and Cristol — The Washington Post has endorsed Democrats Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol in the race for Arlington County Board. The paper writes of the pair’s opponents: “Both are serious candidates and have attacked what they consider Arlington’s profligate spending… Yet neither has advanced convincing proposals to trim spending or explained why enlarging the stock of affordable housing should not be a priority in a place where the supply of it has diminished rapidly with gentrification.” [Washington Post]

County Board Push Poll Criticized — A “push poll” in the Arlington County Board race is being criticized after two residents say the caller asked misleading questions and didn’t disclose who had paid for it. Board candidate Michael McMenamin said he commissioned a poll but the script explicitly said that it was paid for by his campaign. [Washington Post]

Tour of New 1776 Offices — The newly-refurbished office of tech incubator 1776 in Crystal City is being debuted this week. The office includes a full kitchen, and the incubator is seeking two chefs to cook for its members. [Washington Business Journal]

Kaine Speaking at GMU Arlington Campus — Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) will give a speech on Congress and war powers at George Mason University’s Arlington campus tonight at 7 p.m. “Kaine has been a leading voice urging the Obama administration to seek a specific authorization for U.S. military action against ISIL while pressing his congressional colleagues to debate and vote on the mission – one he believes goes well beyond the legal scope and intent of existing authorizations from 2001 and 2002,” a press release notes.

Drunk Man Calls 911 for Ride to Arlington — A drunk hotel guest in Vienna, Va. was arrested last week after twice calling 911 to request a ride to Arlington. [InsideNova]

by Jennifer Currier — October 26, 2015 at 4:45 pm 0

A white oak at 400 N. Manchester Street in Bluemont

Arlington County is preparing to make its list of 265 designated “notable trees” a bit longer.

The Department of Parks and Recreation is accepting nominations for its Notable Tree Program through Nov. 15. The program has identified the county’s most notable trees for nearly 30 years.

Last year, 16 trees were deemed worthy of the designation.

According to the nomination form, the purpose of the program is to “recognize and thank the citizens who maintain and care for the County’s most noteworthy trees.” It also hopes encourage other residents to appreciate and take better care of greenery on their property.

What exactly, then, makes a tree notable?

Size, age, historical interest, species uniqueness and special significance to a neighborhood are all factors that can earn a tree a spot on the county’s registry and a certificate or plaque.

The process to get there, though, can be complicated. First, nominators are encouraged to get consent from the tree’s owner before filling out the one-page application. A team of County staff and volunteers will then visit each tree to measure it and evaluate its condition.

That team will make a recommendation to the Urban Forestry Commission, who will decide whether or not to designate and register the tree.

The winners will receive their award at the County’s Arbor Day ceremony, which falls on April 29, 2016.

Photo via Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation

by Heather Mongilio — October 21, 2015 at 4:45 pm 0

Artisphere during the Silver Clouds exhibitA little more than five years after Artisphere opened, the doors are shutting for good on what was once touted to be Arlington’s cultural crown jewel.

Without any discussion, the County Board unanimously voted to end the county’s lease for the Rosslyn space formerly occupied by Artisphere during its meeting last night. Artisphere, which opened on Oct. 10, 2010, shut is doors in June 2015, following financial problems.

It will cost the county $447,436.24 in payments to break the lease, which will end on Oct, 31. The lease on the property was originally written with an expiration date in April 2023.

Negotiations with landlord Monday Properties resulted in about $100,000 in savings on the lease termination, county staff said. Utilities and maintenance for the space cost the county nearly $1 million per year.

At this time, the county has not calculated the final cost for closing the cultural center, county staff said.

by Heather Mongilio — October 21, 2015 at 2:35 pm 0

The County Board unanimously approved three new residential buildings for the western end of the Clarendon neighborhood last night.

The new buildings, developed by the Arlington-based Shooshan Company, will have up to 580 housing units and 3,477 square feet of retail space. The new development will sit on the site of the current Red Top Cab headquarters and two low-rise commercial buildings, which house a furniture repair shop and childcare center.

“This is an ambitious redevelopment that will transform the western end of Clarendon,” said Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes in a statement. “It continues and expands the vision set forth for the Clarendon Revitalization District, and brings a much-needed street realignment and improvements to the transportation network.”

The new buildings may be as tall as 110 feet, but will “taper” from the single-family homes surrounding the buildings. The company is proposing to use three different colors of brick, keeping in mind the general look of the surrounding buildings.

“I think its a series of very striking buildings, architecturally. It’s going to continue the forward momentum of Clarendon,” County Board member John Vihstadt said.

Shooshan is proposing six committed affordable units in the complex, as a community benefit, in addition to meeting the zoning ordinance requirement for a development of its size as it pertains to affordable housing.

The ordinance gives Shooshan the option of a $1.8 million contribution to the county’s affordable housing fund, including 16 affordable units on site, or 23-31 off-site affordable units. That fits in with the county’s plan for more affordable housing, said County Board Vice Chair Walter Tejada.

“We’re looking at what we call the Metro corridor, so it’s not easy. And anything you can get in that site is great, and I’m not surprised that an effort was made by the applicant,” Tejada said.

The site plan also calls for a street realignment. Under the project, a portion of N. Ivy Street south of 13th Street N. will be deleted. 12th Street N. will be shifted to the east, providing a connection between N. Hudson Street and Washington Blvd. Shooshan will help the county with improvements to the streets around the development and with the construction of a new park.

“This is a traffic pinch point that we are going to be able to fix by doing what we’re doing together,” Hynes said.

Shooshan will paying for the changes to the streets and dedicating land for the new park.

“The developer will reimburse the county $3 million for costs associated with the improvements to Washington Blvd, 13th Street N., and N. Johnson Street. In addition, the developer will dedicate parcels to the county which eventually will be used to create the Clarendon Sector Plan’s recommended Washington Blvd/13th Street Park,” the county said in a press release.

Other community benefits include a public art contribution and sustainable building design elements that meet LEED specifications.

The proposed development was met with little public comment — only two members of the public chose to talk, activist Jim Hurysz and the lawyer for the furniture shop being sold to and demolished by the developer. The latter spoke in favor of the development, calling it a “win-win-win.”

“Although we started late, it’s pretty remarkable that something this significant has only two speakers, one of them who is our usual visitor,” Hynes said.

Board members also kept their comments brief, mostly praising the new development plan.

“There’s not much to dislike about it,” County Board member Jay Fisette said. “It’s a very attractive project.”

Construction on the project is slated to take place in two phases.

by ARLnow.com — October 21, 2015 at 11:30 am 0

Marine Corps Marathon setup near Rosslyn 10/20/15

Fire Station 8 Task Force — At its Tuesday meeting, the Arlington County Board approved a charge for its new Fire Station No. 8 task force. The task force will review viable sites for the fire station, will seek a location that will improve fire and EMS response signs, and will seek to balance costs with service needs. [Arlington County]

More Metro Delays This Morning — Delays and overcrowded trains made for “another miserable day” on the Orange Line during this morning’s commute. Metro says it’s hoping to have full service restored on the Silver, Orange and Blue lines by the end of the year, following a catastrophic fire at an electrical substation in D.C. [WMATA, Twitter, Twitter]

Old Growth Forest in Arlington Recognized — A 24-acre portion of Glencarlyn Park, just south of Route 50, has been recognized by the Old Growth Forest Network. The park has trees that were likely saplings while the British burned the White House across the river during the War of 1812. [Arlington County]

GW Parkway Repaving Nearly Complete — Crews are starting to wrap up a repaving project on the GW Parkway that has prompted lane and ramp closures over the past few weeks. The formerly pockmarked section of the Parkway north of Reagan National Airport now has a smooth coating of asphalt. [WTOP]

Lee Highway Streetlight Upgrade Approved — The Arlington County Board last night approved a $2.2 million project to replace 1.5 miles of aging streetlights along Lee Highway with new, energy efficient LED streetlights. Some residents have previously complained of an “ugly” blue tint from the county’s LED streetlights. [Arlington County]

Ballston IHOP is Turning 50 — The IHOP restaurant in Ballston will turn 50 years old early next year. Reportedly, it was the first Virginia location for the chain. [InsideNova]

Arlington Hosting Metro Safety Seminar Tonight — Officials from Arlington County and WMATA will be participating in a Metro Safety and Preparedness Seminar tonight in Ballston. A panel of officials will discuss Arlington’s response to Metro incidents and emergency preparedness tips for Metro riders. [Arlington County]

Photo by Justin Funkhouser

by Heather Mongilio — October 19, 2015 at 4:15 pm 1,439 0

The County Board unanimously approved the plans for a new six-story development on Glebe Road in Ballston during it meeting on Saturday.

The new building, to be located at 670 N. Glebe Road, will be developed by Penrose Group. It is planned to have 173 apartments, seven of which will be affordable housing units, two different retails spaces on the ground floor and an underground garage with 177 parking spaces and 70 bicycle spots.

The building, to be known as 672 Flats, will sit on the site of a current Exxon gas station, used sales lot and parking lot, which are across from the Ballston Commons Mall and a few blocks from the Ballston Metro station.

“672 Flats is part of the exciting redevelopment of the west side of Glebe Road in Ballston. Importantly, this new building is the last piece in the long-planned transition from the high rise mall to the site-plan townhome communities built nearly 25 years ago,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement.

Under the approved site plan for the development, the seven affordable housing units must stay affordable for 30 years. Penrose will be giving the county $75,000 for the public art fund and $12,000 toward a new bus shelter. The site plan also requires the developer to reimburse the county for the $7,000 needed to conduct transportation and parking performance studies.

The new development will provide a tapering of density from the the core of Ballston to the neighborhoods that surround it, the county said.

“The site, located between North Carlin Springs Road and Seventh Street North, will provide a transition from the high-density commercial core of Ballston to medium-density residential uses to the west,” said a press release. “Between 672 Flats and the abutting townhouses, The Townes of Ballston, a shared alley will have plantings and a special paving treatment to ease the transition between the new residential building and the existing townhouses.”

The County Board’s decision was met with little protest, with only three speakers talking about the development during public comment. Of the three, two spoke out against the site plan, while the third spoke on behalf of the Bluemont Civic Association in support of the new development.

“Some 40 homeowners were planning to attend today but given the positive report before you they decided to go about their normal activities. On behalf of them and Bluemont, we support, enthusiastically support, the site plan on the agenda today,” said Terry Serie, who led the civic association’s task force on the Glebe Road development.

Other Arlington residents raised concerns about a supposed lack of transparency surrounding the Board’s process and the possibility of extending street parking on N. Glebe Road.

Under the site plan, Penrose will have to work with the Virginia Department of Transportation to conduct a feasibility study of extended street parking on N. Glebe Road. The developer will also be required to help implement the new parking spaces and meters.

Local civic activist Bernie Berne criticized the decision to increase parking spaces on the Glebe Road, saying that it would cause the road to be even more dangerous to cyclists.

“Glebe Road is a major cycling route, even though its not dedicated as one. You put parking there, the card doors will open in the way of people on the bikes,” Berne said. “This is one of the biggest hazards of cycling. There’s no bike lanes there. There are no plans for a bike lane on Glebe Road. You put parking there, people are going to be on the sidewalks.”

by ARLnow.com — October 19, 2015 at 9:30 am 1,822 0

View of Courthouse in the background, seen from the Fort Myer Officers Club

Arlington K-9s to Retire With Handlers — The Arlington County Board on Saturday unanimously voted to officially sanction the transfer of ownership of retiring law enforcement K-9 officers to their handlers, thus allowing police dogs to live out their lives with their long-time partners. [NBC Washington, Arlington County]

Big Changes Coming to Crystal City Building — The U.S. Marshals Service is consolidating its offices into one Crystal City office building. That will leave another Crystal City office building, 1750 Crystal Drive, vacant. Owner Vornado is planning a big facelift for the building, with more glass and steel and less concrete on the outside. [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington, Falls Church Renew Service Agreement — Arlington County will continue to provide court, jail, fire department and other services to the City of Falls Church, under a new agreement approved by the Arlington County Board on Saturday. Fall Church will pay Arlington just over $1 million per year for the services. [Arlington County]

McAuliffe to Start Marine Corps Marathon — Next weekend’s Marine Corps Marathon will be officially started by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. [Twitter]

M.J. Stewart Suspended at UNC — Former Yorktown High School football standout M.J. Stewart has been suspended from the University of North Carolina football team after being charged with assault in connection to an off-campus altercation. Stewart, a sophomore, had been a starting cornerback on the team. [Associated Press]

Resident to County: Cover Sandboxes — A Shirlington resident spoke before the County Board on Saturday to raise concern about uncovered sandboxes. She urged county officials to keep sandboxes covered when not in use, to keep pets and disease out. [InsideNova]

by ARLnow.com — October 16, 2015 at 1:30 pm 0

The Arlington County Board marks up the budget, April 16, 2015The preliminary outlook for next year’s Arlington County budget could be described as partly cloudy.

Officials expect the local housing market to remain resilient, with 1-3 percent rises in residential property assessments. High office vacancy rates, however, are expected to result in flat to slightly lower commercial property assessments.

Commercial property taxes are half of Arlington County’s tax base. While the office vacancy rate is dropping — it’s down to 20.8 percent from 23.6 percent near the end of 2014 — it’s “expected to remain high” during fiscal year 2017, which begins July 2016.

The county’s population, meanwhile, continues to rise. County projections call for the population to rise by 66,300 residents through 2040, a 31 percent increase from the current population of around 220,000.

School enrollment is also expected to continue its upward trajectory, with annual growth rates between 2.7 and 3.5 percent over then next five years. While still rising, that’s down from 2.8-5.2 percent growth over the past five years.

An excerpt from a county press release on the budget projection and the county-school revenue sharing agreement, after the jump.


by Heather Mongilio — October 16, 2015 at 10:30 am 0

A working group tasked with analyzing sites for a new South Arlington elementary school is continuing to set its sights on the land surrounding Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

Working group chairman Greg Greeley presented the latest analysis to the County Board and Arlington School Board during a joint working session yesterday (Thursday). Arlington Public Schools is aiming to open a new school by 2019 in order to handle a 925 seat deficit.

The working group analyzed about 20 different locations, included those owned solely by Arlington Public Schools, solely by the county, jointly by APS and the County and privately owned. From there, the group narrowed it down to three finalists: Thomas Jefferson Middle School, Gunston Middle School/Oakridge Elementary School and Drew Model Elementary School.

With each site, the working group looked out how the new elementary school would fit on the property. Of the three sites, the working group preferred the Thomas Jefferson site.

In January, the County Board scuttled the school system’s plan to build an elementary school on the TJ site, following vocal protests from residents concerns about the impact to adjacent parkland.

County Board member John Vihstadt echoed those concerns, and brought up a proposal that he said could preserve the parkland while still getting the school built nearby.

Vihstadt introduced a letter from Snell Properties, which owns the Dominion Arms complex at 333 S. Glebe Road, offering APS land for a school free of charge, in exchange for the ability to build a new development with more density.

The Sun Gazette has more about the proposal and the mixed reaction to it.

“Without getting into the pros and cons, the merits and demerits of this potential new location, I, for one, am certainly interested in the pursuit of looking at this, completely scouring the pros and cons of whether this is an option or not. We are making a decision for 50 years,” Vihstadt said.

At the time of the working session between the two boards, not all members had read the letter, including School Board Chair Emma Violand-Sánchez and Superintendent Patrick Murphy, who voiced concerns about the potential for delaying the opening of a new school past 2019.

“Some of the concerns I think is we have a process in place and we have to respect the process. The South Arlington working group has done a fabulous job, and I would hate to see something new come into play and derail and delay given the 2019 timeline,” Murphy said.

Vihstadt asked the working group and School Board about possible alternatives to find at least 725 new seats, a request made previously by the County Board in January.

The School Board looked at additions to Barcroft and other elementary schools but they would not add enough seats, said Violand-Sánchez. School Board member Abby Raphael also raised concerns over the costs of additions versus a new school.

“Clearly additions are not as cost effective as  a new school. Given the limited funding that we have for capital. I would be very surprised if we had to go back to what we called plan B,” Raphael said. “And I kind of find it inconceivable that we’re not going to reach agreement on a new site for a school in south Arlington. We have to. We have to the seats in the fall of 2019.”

A full report from the working group on potential South Arlington school sites is due to the County Board in November.

by ARLnow.com — October 13, 2015 at 5:25 pm 2,407 0

The Arlington County Board next Tuesday will consider a major redevelopment of the western end of the Clarendon neighborhood.

Arlington-based developer The Shooshan Company is proposing to build three residential buildings with up to 580 units of housing and 3,477 square feet of retail space. The apartments or condos will be built on what is now mostly parking lots and offices for Red Top Cab, along Washington Blvd and 13th Street N. Two other aging, low-rise commercial buildings are also slated for demolition.

The proposed maximum building height is 110 feet, but the structures are designed to “taper up” away from the single family home neighborhood.

A county staff report for the final proposal has not yet been posted. At a July Site Plan Review Committee meeting, Shooshan proposed only 468 parking spaces for the project, or 0.8 spaces per dwelling unit, explaining that those who live in apartments near transit are “less likely to own automobiles and more likely to utilize alternative modes of transportation.”

Two phases of construction are being proposed. The first will be the building at the corner of Washington Blvd and 13th Street, on the current Red Top Cab communication center property. The second phase, which will be built “dependent upon market conditions,” will raze the Red Top headquarters property along N. Hudson Street.

Shooshan says benefits of the project include an improved Washington Blvd and 13th Street alignment, a new 12th Street N. to break up a large block, stoop entrances along 13th Street to improve street activity, a new Ivy Street pedestrian path and dedication of open space near the Washington and 13th intersection for a future park.

The County Board is scheduled to consider the development at its Tuesday night recessed meeting on Oct. 20.

Red Top Cab has said that it intends to move its headquarters to a new location in Arlington.

“Red Top Cab has served our community for over fifty years and plans to continue to do so,” Red Top Director of Sales and Marketing Von Pelot told ARLnow.com in March. “Over the years we have moved our offices from time to time to update our facilities and accommodate a growing staff. Each time careful planning has enabled us to make these moves without any interruption of service to our customers.”

by ARLnow.com — October 13, 2015 at 11:30 am 0

What is now a peculiar outdoor tribute to the fall of the Berlin Wall is slated to become a play area for children.

The Arlington County Board on Saturday will consider a site plan amendment that would allow the Rosslyn Children’s Center, a childcare facility at 1401 Wilson Blvd, to move down the street to the office building at 1101 Wilson Blvd. The Board will also consider a lease agreement that would lease a small parcel at the rear of the building, facing N. Kent Street, to the center.

The parcel is owned by the county and is currently leased to the Newseum, which closed its former location at 1101 Wilson Blvd in 2002. (Artisphere has since come and gone from the former Newseum space.) It’s considered part of Freedom Park, which was originally designed as a vehicle overpass but later converted to a park after significant engineering problems were discovered.

The parcel used to be an outdoor display of sections of the Berlin Wall — the largest display of the wall outside Germany. With the portions of wall having been moved to the new Newseum in D.C. in 2008, what stands today is a large mural behind a fenced-off and weed-filled lot. In front of the fence, exhibit labels are still largely intact, explaining the history of an exhibit that no longer exists.

Under the terms of the proposed 15-year lease, the Children’s Center will convert the space into an outdoor playground.

The site plan amendment calls for the Children’s Center to occupy 10,140 square feet of space at 1101 Wilson Blvd, including 8,800 square feet of former office space and 1,340 square feet of soon-to-be-former parking garage space. The center will serve up to 121 children.

Rosslyn Children’s Center is moving from its 1401 Wilson Blvd location due to a planned redevelopment of the office building.


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