Arlington County is spending nearly $900,000 to buy and tear down a house along N. Harrison Street, to expand Chestnut Hills Park.
The County Board voted 5-0 yesterday to approve the purchase of 2833 N. Harrison Street for $820,000. The move comes just a few months after the county purchased an adjacent house for $728,000.
Chestnut Hills Park, near Yorktown High School, recently received a new pre-school playground. The park is said to be one of the most popular and most-used in the county.
Once the house is demolished, the county will expand the park and will “work with the community to enhance its features.” From an Arlington County press release:
For the second time in a year, Arlington County has agreed to buy land to expand the popular Chestnut Hills Park on N. Harrison Street in the Yorktown neighborhood.
The County Board today approved the purchase of a home and surrounding property at 2833 N. Harrison St., adjacent to the park. The agreed purchase price is $820,000 for the 10,405 square foot lot.
“Arlington is serious about looking for opportunities to add to our parkland and open space, and we plan for such purchases. We’re seeing real results for our commitment and planning,” said Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey.
The house on the lot the Board agreed to purchase today is a modest rambler, built in 1954, and has no remarkable individual architectural or historical significance. The County plans to deconstruct the house and restore the site as open space. The purchase price was obtained from a licensed Virginia real estate appraiser. The County estimates that closing costs will be about $5,000 and the deconstruction of the house and site restoration will cost about $50,000. The funds will be allocated from Park Land Acquisition funds.
The Board voted 5-0 to approve the acquisition. To read the staff report for this item, visit the County website. Scroll down to Item #21 on the Agenda for the Tuesday, March 15 County Board Meeting.
In the late 1990s, the County asked owners of certain properties along North Harrison Street whether they would be interested in selling their properties to the County to expand Chestnut Hills Park. Between 1996 and 1998, the owners of three properties along North Harrison Street sold their properties to the County. A fourth sold his property in 2015. The park was renovated in 2014. As the park grows, the County will continue to work with the community to enhance its features.
Arlington Asks for I-66 Corridor Grants — The Arlington County Board has selected five transportation projects for state potential grant funding. The county is seeking grants from a pool of $5 million allocated by VDOT for initial improvements along the I-66 corridor, ahead of the tolling of the highway. Among the projects Arlington is submitting for consideration: real-time transportation information screens along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, expanding certain bus routes, and a series of initiatives including vanpools and a travel planning app for smartphones. [Arlington County]
APS to Renovate Fenwick Center for High School Program — Arlington Public Schools will renovate the 50-year-old Fenwick Center along Columbia Pike for use by the soon-to-be-renamed Arlington Mill High School program. Moving the program will make room at the Arlington Career Center, next door from the Fenwick Center, for the new Arlington Tech initiative. [InsideNova]
Remembering James Kimsey — James Kimsey, the co-founder of AOL, died on March 1 at the age of 76. Kimsey spent his childhood in South Arlington and most recently lived at the very northern tip of Arlington, in a $30 million “castle” known as “The Falls,” which he built around the turn of the century. The house, one of the largest private residences in Virginia and one of the priciest properties in Arlington, was so big that it prompted Arlington County to build a new sewage line. [Falls Church News-Press]
Photo by Dennis Dimick
Vida Fitness Coming to Ballston? — D.C.-based Vida Fitness is reportedly planning a 30,000 square foot gym in Ballston. The plan depends on County Board approval of a site plan amendment for the as-yet-unbuilt final building in the Liberty Center development. Given the high office vacancy rate, local developer Shooshan Co. is proposing to reconfigure what would have been a 20-story office building into a 22-story building that mixes residential, office and retail space. [Washington Business Journal]
‘WeLive’ Close to Opening in Crystal City — WeWork recently opened its new coworking space at 2221 S. Clark Street in Crystal City. Now, the company is nearing an opening for “WeLive,” a communal living space in the same building. WeLive is opening “very soon” and the company is now giving tours to prospective tenants, we hear. A second WeLive location, in Manhattan, recently opened for “beta testing.” [Fast Company]
Rail Was Once Planned for Columbia Pike — In the 1950s planners envisioned Columbia Pike as a rail corridor. That plan was scrapped when Metro was built and the Blue and Yellow lines ran south instead of west. In 2014, of course, a planned streetcar system for the Pike was also nixed. [InsideNova]
County Board Campaign Gets Underway — County Board Chair Libby Garvey and her Democratic primary challenger, Erik Gutshall, both held campaign events on Columbia Pike over the weekend. Garvey said getting out the vote will be the key to victory in the June 14 primary. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Eric
Earlier: The Arlington County Board approved
a trio of two multi-million dollar contracts at its meeting on Saturday.
First, the Board was to consider a $4.85 million contract, with a $0.73 million contingency, to add a third level to the existing two-level parking garage at the Arlington Trades Center near Shirlington.
The Trades Center houses much of Arlington’s maintenance and vehicle fleet operations. According to a staff report, employment at the center has increased to 288 from 174 in 2010. The new garage level would add 155 parking spaces and will follow the increasingly in-vogue “build up, not out” philosophy.
Correction from earlier report: This contract was pulled from the Board’s consent agenda and will be considered at its Tuesday meeting.
Also on Saturday, however, the Board did approve two road paving contracts, together worth nearly $12 million. From a county press release:
“Road maintenance may not be exciting, but it affects everyone in the County,” said Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey. “The County is committed to investing in our roads — so that all drivers, walkers and cyclists can travel safely and comfortably.”
The Board voted 5-0 (part of Consent Agenda) to approve the asphalt contracts totaling just under $11.6 million to Finley Asphalt & Sealing and Fort Myer Construction Corporation.
It takes constant effort to maintain Arlington’s 974 lane miles of streets. Each year, the County identifies streets for paving based on pavement conditions, traffic volumes and planned construction by either the County or private developer. Since 2013, the County has averaged the paving of 75 lane miles per year.
Funding for the contracts comes from bonds approved by voters in 2014 and current year Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG), and was included in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 – FY 2024 Capital Improvement Plan.
Major Rosslyn Development Approved — A sweeping five-phase redevelopment of 7.65 acres of prime Rosslyn real estate was approved unanimously by the Arlington County Board on Saturday. The Board approved the framework for the development, though final approval will be necessary for each phase. Developers Vornado and Gould Property Company expect to complete the project over the course of 25 years. [Arlington County]
Gun Store Saga Continues — Who owns NOVA Armory, the gun store that’s planning to open in Lyon Park despite community opposition? The man who speaks on behalf of the business and holds its federal firearms sales license isn’t saying, exactly. Dennis Pratte declined further questions after describing it as “a female, minority-owned business” and stating “I may or may not be the owner.” Meanwhile, county leaders say there’s nothing they can legally do to prevent the store from opening. NOVA Armory is planning to a grand opening on March 26. [Washington Post, InsideNova]
Teen Tourist Scammed at Pentagon City Mall — A California teenager on a school trip to Washington was reportedly scammed out of $97 by an armed man at the Pentagon City mall. The man compelled the teen to give him $97 in exchange for what turned out to be a counterfeit $100 bill. [NBC Washington]
Arlington Natives Live Blog Day at Ballston Common Mall — Two friends who grew up in Arlington’s Bluemont neighborhood decided to spend all of Saturday at Ballston Common Mall, ahead of its imminent demise, and live-blog their experience. The blog mixes nostalgia for time spent shopping and working at the mall with observations about the current mix of largely chain restaurants and small, quirky stores. [Things Remembered: A Day at Ballston]
Other County Board Action — On Saturday, the Arlington County Board approved a Memorandum of Understanding to partner with Virginia Tech and join the national MetroLab Network, and voted to accept $731,813 in state funding to support the county’s permanent supportive housing program. [Arlington County, Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
The Arlington County Board this weekend is scheduled to consider a massive 7.65 acre redevelopment project that would reshape the Rosslyn skyline.
Developers Vornado and Gould Property Company are proposing a five-phase project that would eventually replace seven existing buildings — the Rosslyn Spectrum Theater, the London Apartments, the Normandy Apartments and four office buildings.
In its place would be 2.5 million square feet of space across five buildings, including 1.8 million square feet of office, 550 residential units, 200 hotel rooms and 45,000 square feet of retail space. Also planned area new, nearly one acre Rosslyn Plaza Park, an Esplanade and two new east-west streets breaking up the super block between N. Kent Street and N. Arlington Ridge Road.
County staff is recommending approval of a Phased Development Site Plan and a rezoning for the project. Each of the five phases will still need its own final site plan approved by the Board.
“The applicant’s proposed redevelopment of the Rosslyn Plaza property will permit the redevelopment of a critical site in
Rosslyn and introduce new elements of public infrastructure identified in the Rosslyn Sector Plan,” wrote county staff, “including the construction of improvements to Wilson Boulevard and N. Kent Street along with two new streets to break up the superblock, creation of the Rosslyn Plaza Park and other public open space improvements, a reconfigured N. Arlington Ridge Road, and bicycle trail improvements including portions of the Esplanade.”
The developers are also proposing a public pedestrian and bicycle bridge over I-66 and the GW Parkway, connecting one of the new roads with the Mt. Vernon Trail.
“The Mount Vernon Trail is used by over 3,000 cyclists on an average day, and provides a trail exit and connection to Rosslyn at Lee Highway near North Lynn Street,” county staff wrote. “The PDSP envisions a pedestrian and bicycle connection to the Mount Vernon Trail, via a bridge at the end of 18th or 19th Street over Interstate 66 and the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Its feasibility has not been determined and will be discussed during future final site plan applications.”
Currently, the apartments in the Rosslyn Plaza site supply fewer than 10 students to Arlington Public Schools. County staff estimate that once completed, the new development will generate a total of 42 APS students — attending Key Elementary School or Arlington Science Focus Elementary School, Williamsburg Middle School and Yorktown High School.
The first phase of the project would demolish the London Apartments, the Spectrum Theater and one of the office buildings. County commissions and the Rosslyn Business Improvement District have been supportive of the project, although some local neighborhood groups have expressed concerns about the height of the proposed buildings and the impact on traffic.
The Board is set to consider the development plan at its meeting on Saturday.
I-66 Public Hearing at W-L — VDOT is holding a public hearing on the changes planned for I-66 tonight. The hearing is scheduled from 6-8 p.m. at Washington-Lee High School’s cafeteria. Meanwhile, one letter-writer is decrying the “whining” from Arlington residents who complain about the proposed partial widening of I-66 while using it to make a reverse commute to Fairfax County — and the protestations from Arlington policymakers who are more than happy to have large employers come to Ballston and other dense neighborhoods along I-66, thus increasing traffic on the highway. [VDOT, Washington Post]
Wakefield, Yorktown Victorious in Key Games — The Wakefield boys basketball squad defeated Deep Run 50-48 on Saturday to advance to the semifinals of the 5A state basketball tournament. This will be the Warriors’ third semifinal appearance in four seasons. Yorktown’s hockey team, meanwhile, defeated Washington-Lee 5-3 at Kettler Capitals Iceplex Friday night. [InsideNova, Twitter]
Abingdon Elementary Design Approved — On Thursday the Arlington School Board approved a final design for an addition and renovation to Abingdon Elementary School in Fairlington. The project will add 12 classrooms and 136 seats to the school, while renovating the gym, kitchen and media space. [Arlington Public Schools]
Retired Fire Officials Speak Out Against Station Move — Two retired Arlington County Fire Department officials say a proposed relocation of Fire Station 8 from Lee Highway to a county-owned location farther north does not make practical sense and would mostly benefit residents of Fairfax County. Residents around the current fire station and around its proposed new location have been protesting the planned move. [InsideNova]
Arlington Complying With Immigration Detainers — Arlington County law enforcement is complying with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests for jail inmates, but only if ICE reimburses the county for certain expenses and picks up the inmate within 48 hours. Fearing that some jurisdictions are not complying with federal detainers, Republicans in the Virginia General Assembly have proposed bills to make such requests mandatory. [Washington Post]
County Board to Meet With Commission Chairs — The Arlington County Board tonight is holding a meeting with the chairmen of the county’s advisory commissions. ARLnow.com hears that the Board has received complaints about certain commissions overstepping their bounds or operating inefficiently. The meeting will address diversity in commission membership, training for commission members and potential improvements to commission communication and community outreach. [Arlington County]
County Board Work Sessions to Be Broadcast — Arlington TV, the county government’s cable channel, will begin broadcasting County Board work sessions on cable and online this month. First up: the riveting County Board work session on the FY 2017 budget, scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday. [Arlington County]
Meal Delivery Startup Now Serving Part of Arlington — Galley, a D.C.-based meal delivery startup, says it just expanded its delivery area to include Rosslyn, Courthouse and Clarendon.
ACPD Focusing on Heroin Use and Addiction — The Arlington County Police Department is joining other law enforcement agencies around the region in an initiative to try to curb the distribution, possession and use of heroin. For those battling addiction, there are a number of treatment options in Arlington. [Arlington County]
Schneider to Lead Thrive — Former Democratic County Board candidate Andrew Schneider has been named the new Executive Director of Arlington Thrive, effective today. Thrive is a nonprofit that provides same-day financial assistance to residents in crisis.
Board Thanks Legislators for Hotel Tax Bill — The Arlington County Board is offering its thanks to the state legislators who successfully shepherded Arlington’s hotel tax surcharge reauthorization through the Virginia General Assembly. [Arlington County]
The County Board allocated $1.4 million for the community improvement projects, which were selected by the citizen-led Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Committee. The committee makes such funding recommendations to the Board twice a year.
Three of the projects were largely uncontroversial — a neighborhood sign for Shirlington, a beautification project for the historic Calloway United Methodist Church cemetery, and street improvements for the 4800 block of 9th Street S. The biggest recommendation, a $800,000 improvement project for Nelly Custis Park (701 24th Street S.), picked up some outspoken critics in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood.
The project would add new plantings, an ADA accessible walkway, improved storm water management and a small play area for school-aged children next to an existing playground. While supporters said most of the community was in favor of the project, a few critics launched a campaign against it, objecting mostly to the playground. Other concerns included the addition of extra pavement from the ADA pathway and “tricycle loop.”
“We heard a number of concerns from the community,” acknowledged Lisa Grandle, of Arlington’s parks and recreation department.
What’s usually an easy vote on the County Board’s “consent agenda” instead became a nearly hour-long discussion that centered around the Neighborhood Conservation process in general and the park project in particular. Board member John Vihstadt led the questioning, and attempted a motion to separate out the Nelly Custis project from the other three, for a vote in March. The motion failed.
The necessity of the conversation seemed to frustrate some Board members. “I‘m disappointed that we’re here tonight, but we’re here,” said Christian Dorsey.
In the end, the Board voted to approve the project as proposed. From a county press release:
The Arlington County Board today approved nearly $1.4 million in funding for four new Neighborhood Conservation projects. The approved projects include street improvements, neighborhood beautification, park improvements, and a neighborhood sign.
The projects, submitted by residents and endorsed by civic associations, are qualified by staff, then evaluated by the Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Committee (NCAC) before coming to the County Board for approval. The NCAC considered 31 projects at its Dec. 10, 2015 meeting and decided to recommend four of them to the County Board for funding.
The Board voted unanimously to approve funding for the four projects. To read the Staff Reporton this Item, visit the County website. Scroll down to Item #10 on the Agenda for the Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016 Regular County Board Agenda.
“We rely on residents to help us identify the best projects to make their neighborhoods safer, stronger and more attractive,” said County Board Chair Libby Garvey. “For more than 50 years, Arlington’s Neighborhood Conservation program has helped build community by funding projects identified by the people who live in the neighborhoods.”
The projects approved by the County Board today are funded by the voter-approved 2014 Neighborhood Conservation Bond. It is the third set of projects to be approved from the $12 million bond. The four approved projects are:
- $12,500 for Shirlington neighborhood sign – Location and design by the community with staff assistance. Sign fabrication, sign installation and landscaping.
- $798,222 for Aurora Highlands Park project – Improvements to Nelly Custis Park including storm water management to correct existing drainage problems; removal of invasive species; improving circulation for accessibility and park use; additional school-age play equipment; new site furnishings; and additional plantings for shade and beautification.
- $129,625 for Highview Park beautification project – Calloway United Methodist Church Cemetery improvements that include a perimeter fence, interpretive sign, a bench and trash receptacle. A public access easement over the local historic district will allow the public to visit the cemetery and interpret its history.
- $432,561 for Barcroft street improvement project – 4800 block of 9th Street S to W&OD Trail. Includes completion of missing concrete curb, gutter and sidewalk along the south side of 9th Street S, in the westerly half of the 4800 block, between S Buchanan St and the W&OD Trail. Street milling and paving as needed, including the trail connector between the street dead end and the W&OD Trail. Storm water drainage improvements and the addition of LED Carlyle-style streetlights are a part of the proposed project
The Board also approved the use of $228,000 in additional funds required for street improvements on South Fern Street (project previously approved by the NCAC at the fall 2011 funding session). This additional funding was reviewed and voted on by NCAC at its Jan. 14, 2016 meeting.
(Updated at 5:55 p.m.) Arlington County has taken a proposed update to its child care regulations off its website after County Board members called the inclusion of certain controversial provisions “troubling.”
As ARLnow.com first reported Monday, the most recent draft of the child care regulations would have required child care centers to encourage mothers to breastfeed and would have dictated what type of milk, juice and birthday treats could be fed to children, among other provisions.
That’s in addition to new staffing and employee education requirements that panicked the operators of small and part-time child care centers, who said such rules would put them out of business or at least drive up the cost of daycare and preschool programs.
“This situation, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that it’s really the most troubled roll-out of a county initiative since the ill-conceived and ill-fated Public Land for Public Good,” said County Board member John Vihstadt. “I really think that this is close to an unmitigated disaster. If our goal is to increase the supply and the affordability of child care throughout Arlington County, this in my view seems to do exactly the opposite.”
Anita Friedman, Director of Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services, said the creation of the new regulations is an “iterative” process that has been underway since 2014, with input from directors of child care centers and consultation from a Kentucky-based nonprofit association.
Despite what she described as a positive public outreach process, Friedman acknowledged that there has been “a lot” of negative feedback, particularly from owners of smaller child care centers and the parents who use them.
“There are some issues with the current version,” she told the Board. “In some places, I think, because some of the enthusiasm of the child care centers and our Arlington Way of striving for the best, we may have probably overreached in terms of the best practices that we want to incorporate in there, that don’t belong in the code.”
That didn’t satisfy new County Board member Katie Cristol, who included affordable child care as part of her policy platform. She called the inclusion of some of the provisions “silly season business.”
“At a time when we have young families leaving this county because it costs as much if not more to have your child in daycare as it does to pay rent… I think we have broader concerns than making sure kids have the absolute best environment,” Cristol said.
“This is really troubling to see this level of best practice conflated with code and with regulation,” she continued. “I am not comfortable inserting unbidden county government in encouraging anybody to tell a mother how to feed her child, whether that’s best practice or regulation.”
“Distraction is not a strong enough word for the real issue at play here. We have been hearing loud and clear from members of our community that this undermines trust in government. It exacerbates a sentiment that Arlington is hostile to child care centers and small businesses.”
“The goal of the new program is to engage more residents in the civic process who are not able or choose not to attend meetings,” the county said in a press release. “The goal is to increase awareness of County issues and ease participation for a more broad and diverse audience.
Meetings held in the County Board room will be broadcast using existing audio-visual equipment that’s used to air Board meetings. If the pilot program is successful, the county may expand the scope to include meetings held in other locations around Arlington.
A start date for the webcasts is expected to be announced soon.
In a second initiative announced Tuesday, the county has launched a new “Open Data Portal” that includes various spreadsheets, charts and maps of government data.
Among the info currently offered by the portal is a map of pothole and other service requests (pictured), restaurant health inspection records, real estate sale records, a map of car share locations, and a police incident log.
Some of the data is a bit dated — the real estate sale records, for instance, are only for 2015, and as of this writing the most recent crime records are from Feb. 17. On the plus side, there are also new tools for filtering, sorting and exporting data, along with an open API that may prove useful for analysis and for web and mobile application developers.
“New datasets from the County’s departments will be made available in the months ahead based on popular user requests and available resources,” the press release notes.
“Technology continues to improve our ability to share data and streamline processes for a more interactive and inclusive government,” County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a statement. “We will continue to seek out and implement tools like the data portal and web streaming that help us improve access to government and create a better overall user experience for our residents.”
“Our residents are busy people who cannot always make it to the County Board Room to sit through hours of discussion,” said Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey. “We want to make sure that they have another option – they can watch both Board work sessions and commission meetings on their computers, in the comfort of their homes, so that they can stay informed about important decisions that may affect their families and our community.”
“The County’s Open Government Program strives to achieve an open, accessible, efficient and transparent government,” said the press release. “The Open Data Portal and pilot webcast program are the latest efforts in serving and engaging the public more effectively.”
What do Arlington’s newest County Board members hope to accomplish in their new positions, why did they run and how do they plan to increase Millennial and minority participation in county government?
The full video from the event, via Arlington Independent Media, is above. Below are some of insights from the evening’s program, which included an audience question-and-answer session at the end.
Why did you want to run for County Board?
Cristol: “I decided to run because I thought Arlington could use some new perspectives. Everyone deserves representation.”
What are you hoping to accomplish year one?
Dorsey: “We’ve got a nearly 20 percent [office] vacancy rate, so I’m trying to get it down to 10 percent. We need to see some progress, each percent we can get rid of means $3 million in tax revenue that doesn’t have to be raised. That’s an extreme focus in this first year.”
How do you better include the input of Millennials and minorities in county government?
Cistol: “You start by listening to them, hearing what they have to say the obstacles are. When you talk to folks in the communities, people are generally willing to talk about them.”
Thoughts on the widening of I-66?
Cristol: “We are disappointed, I think widening is bad for the communities. We have tons of data that shows that widening is not wise. We are going to look very closely at environmental research that is required as a pre-requisite before the construction begins.”
What can you do to serve communities along Columbia Pike that have felt neglected since the cancellation of the streetcar project?
Dorsey: “These equity issues are decades long. I don’t see any Board preference in North Arlington. If we get the economic engines humming we have have a lot of potential. There’s also things that we can do to make South Arlington neighborhoods more appealing to investors.”
There are a lot of examples of local restaurants and businesses closing, even as many open. Is there anything the county can do about that?
Dorsey: “It’s our responsibility to make sure small businesses are able to thrive, instead of just recruiting the big ones. Going back to affordability, a reason small businesses aren’t able to thrive is because [owners] don’t have the money to.”
Thank you to our participants and to Mad Rose Tavern for hosting us. Details about the March ARLnow Presents event, which will be held in Crystal City and will focus on Arlington’s burgeoning tech scene, will be released soon.
Quotes compiled by Justin Funkhouser.
A big new development is coming to the corner of Columbia Pike and George Mason Drive.
The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved the redevelopment, which includes new six-story apartment building with 365 market-rate residential units, new retail spaces and a three-level parking garage.
The “Columbia Pike Village Center” development will close and demolish the Food Star grocery store, along with several small retail businesses. In its place will be a new 50,000 square foot grocery store, 31,530 square feet of new ground-floor retail space and a 22,150 square foot public square.
The public square will “serve residents of the apartment, and the community, as a place to sit, enjoy the surrounding, or hold small-scale events and gatherings,” a county press release notes. “A garden, public art and a water feature are planned for the square.”
In order to accommodate residents, park-goers and shoppers, the parking garage will have 604 vehicle spaces and 152 bike spaces. Additionally, developer Orr Partners will help build new six-foot wide sidewalks and will make streetscape improvements along the Pike and George Mason Drive.
Home Values Jump 14 Percent — Arlington County saw a big bump in the sale price of homes, at least according to one data set from January. Long & Foster says the median price of a home sold in Arlington last month was $590,000, up 14 percent from one year prior. [WTOP]
Caps Hold Fundraiser for Young Cancer Victim — The Washington Capitals held a fundraiser at Don Tito in Clarendon on Friday for the family of a three-year-old girl who just died of an inoperable brain tumor. The family has more than $100,000 in medical bills to pay and hopes to also raise money for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. [NBC Washington]
Problems Persist at Arlington National Cemetery — More than 5 years after major problems were revealed at Arlington National Cemetery, there’s word of new problems. The cemetery’s burial backlog has increased, it’s taking longer to get headstones approved and previously unenforced rules are now being enforced, frustrating some families, reports a local TV station. [WJLA]
Arlington Students Serving as White House Interns — Three college students who hail from Arlington are on the list of spring 2016 White House interns. The interns are: Jeremy Brown, who attends the University of Michigan; Ryan Cowdin, who attends George Washington University; and Caitlin O’Grady, who attends Pepperdine.
County Board Approves Rosslyn Changes — At a relatively uneventful meeting on Saturday, the Arlington County Board approved a series of land use, transportation and zoning changes as part of the Western Rosslyn Area Plan. The changes will allow a new school and new development. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
(Updated at 2:00 p.m.) More money for cops and firefighters, for economic development and for county employees — that’s the message from Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz, who presented his proposed budget to the County Board this morning.
The $1.19 billion budget benefits from a 3 percent increase in overall projected revenues, allowing Schwartz to boost funding to a number of priorities and propose a slight tax rate decrease.
The budget adds $1.6 million for the addition of 19 public safety employees. Among them: eight firefighters/EMTs, six police patrol officers, and four uniformed Sheriff’s positions.
The new firefighters will covert existing three-person fire units to the nationally-recommended staffing level of four per unit. The extra police officers will help reduce overtime and officer fatigue. The extra Sheriff’s positions will address staffing levels at the county jail.
Schwartz allocates $1.5 million in additional one-time funding for Arlington Economic Development’s efforts to bring down the county’s office vacancy rate. Another $400,000 will be used on infrastructure maintenance like streetlight repair and residential concrete maintenance.
One of the biggest proposals in terms of cost is $6.3 million to increase merit-based pay for county employees, boost the minimum wage for permanent employees to $14.50 per hour, boost the county’s Live-Where-You-Work program and replace grade and step plans with an “open range” salary plan.
Arlington Public Schools, which is dealing with a quickly-growing student population, will see an extra $13.2 million — for a total of $464.9 million — in Schwartz’s budget.
The budget includes separate proposals for an extra $6.2 million in projected revenue than originally expected. Among them is a proposal to decrease the county property tax rate by half a cent, to $0.991 per $100 in assessed value, saving taxpayers about $3.5 million — though many will face higher overall taxes thanks to rising assessments and a rising solid waste rate. Other proposals include adding an extra medic unit for the fire department, to address peak demand, and $100,000 to expand the online streaming of public meetings.
While Schwartz did not highlight any specific cuts in the budget, he did propose a “systematic evaluation of programs and services, with the goal of reducing or eliminating programs and staffing, and proposals to eliminate duplication and inefficiencies.”
Schwartz also expects to find hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings via a new early retirement package for county employees. In addition to saving money, the retirement incentives will serve to “renew the county workforce.”
(About 20 percent of county employees are currently of the Millennial generation, but the county workforce is expected to be majority Millennial by 2020, officials say.)
Despite a so-so macroeconomic environment, Arlington County isn’t being forced to make tough budgetary decisions this year, unlike our neighbors in Fairfax County. Schwartz credited Arlington’s business community — which makes up about half of the tax base — for helping to smooth out economic bumps.
“We’re benefitting from our 50-50 split between commercial and residential,” he said.
Schwartz will formally present his budget at the County Board’s upcoming February meeting. The Board will adopt a final Fiscal Year 2017 budget on April 17.
County Board Chair Libby Garvey said there’s still work to be done on the budget, but overall she’s pleased with the county’s direction under Schwartz, who last month was selected to be the county’s permanent County Manager.
“We’re in a good place,” Garvey said this morning. “We’re changing how we do things a bit. It’s exciting.”