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by ARLnow.com — November 3, 2016 at 2:30 pm 0

County Board member Libby Garvey

Last week we asked the two candidates for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the November 8 election.

Here is the unedited response from incumbent Libby Garvey (D):

“What an exciting time to be in Arlington!” I said at our January meeting. Ten months on, my excitement about our community’s future has only grown. We have highly educated and incredibly talented people; diversity, which brings much of the world’s experience together in just 26 square miles; beautiful and safe neighborhoods; an outstanding school system; a strong safety net to protect the most vulnerable; and a committed and talented business community.

With our resources, we can solve just about any problem we face. And we’ve solved many. It has been a real privilege to serve you on the County Board for the past four-and-a-half years, and on the School Board for fifteen years before that. This is a wonderful community, but we have challenges. I am running for reelection to the County Board because I know that together we will continue to meet our challenges, and I want to help Arlington achieve our potential.

We must make sure our services work well for residents. We have taken steps this year, such as e-filing of building permit applications, but there is more to do. We must embrace new tools, but innovation and service delivery isn’t only about technology. I will continue to encourage our staff to try new processes to make using public services simple and straightforward.

I will continue my work to help us get around. The Transit Development Plan we approved this summer was a start toward realizing premium bus service on Columbia Pike and throughout the county, but we need to continue to update our transit services so they get riders where they want to go. The crisis with Metro reminds us that we must also deepen our cooperation around the region. I will continue to work with leaders around the region both to improve Metro and to build new regional transit options.

We must make sure that every Arlingtonian can participate in our community processes. We made a good start this year by webcasting and recording County Board work sessions and meetings of the Planning and Transportation Commissions, but we need to expand these webcasts to all commission meetings. I will continue to push for more online tools that both inform residents about what’s happening and allow them to provide feedback to their government. Traditional, time-intensive methods, which often don’t account for family and work commitments, cannot be a bar to resident participation in our community and government.

Arlington must be a place where everyone feels that she or he can contribute. This year, I helped bring people together on different sides of issues like Fire Station 8 and the Stratford school driveway to discuss the options openly before moving forward. Everyone can’t have his or her preferred outcome, and I did not have mine on every issue. But when we have an open dialogue and focus on speaking with – and listening to – each other, we make sure that everyone can contribute to the ultimate decision in some way.

We still need a strategic plan to unify all of our issue-specific master plans. Coming up with an overall strategic plan will take time and must include the whole community so that we hear everyone’s voice. We started down this path this year, and I look forward to building on it in my next term.

Arlington County is a place where residents, business, and government all work to bring out the best in our community. I ask for your vote on Tuesday to continue serving you as we work together to realize our full potential.

by ARLnow.com — November 3, 2016 at 2:00 pm 0

Audrey Clement

Last week we asked the two candidates for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the November 8 election.

Here is the unedited response from Audrey Clement (I):

Millions of people are turned off by this year’s presidential election. In fact so unhappy is the public with the major party presidential candidates that psychologists have come up with a new diagnosis–Election Stress Disorder (ESD)–characterized by anxiety over the prospect of electing them! If you’re an Arlington resident suffering from ESD, a cure is in sight. No. I’m not running for President. But as an Independent candidate for Arlington County Board, I offer local voters a change from business as usual to real reform.

Never have Arlington residents been more in need of this remedy. Consider that when I recently complained to County Board about some questionable numbers that appear in Arlington Public Schools’ (APS) 2017-2026 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) documents, I was told by my opponent, County Board Chair Libby Garvey, that County Board couldn’t address the issue. I should direct my complaint to the School Board instead.

Come again? County Board is responsible for approving not only the School Board’s operating budget, but also its CIP. That responsibility includes reviewing the School Board’s budget documents. By insisting that it has no such responsibility, Arlington County Board is abdicating its duty to oversight the School Board budget. Why is this important? At $565 million, the School Board operating budget accounts for 36% of Arlington government annual expenditures and almost 50 percent of local tax revenue. At $510 million, APS outlays account for 15% of Arlington’s ten year capital budget.

Not only has the current County Board given the School Board carte blanche to adopt whatever budgets it wants, it also routinely rubberstamps major development projects, ignoring their impacts on streets, schools, parks and public safety.

Consider the Rosslyn Plaza Phased Development Site Plan (PDSP) between Kent Street and Arlington Ridge Road that will house 500 new housing units, 200 new hotel rooms, 1.8 million square feet of office space and 2,168 parking spaces. In approving the PDSP, not only did County Board ignore the impact of additional traffic on the Rosslyn community, it also ignored the joint appeal of the Metropolitan Washington Airlines Committee, Airports Authority, American Airlines, Airlines for America, and the Airline Pilots Association to defer approval of the Rosslyn Plaza project until FAA has decided whether to amend its regulations to consider the hazard of constructing office towers so close to White House prohibited airspace. This project will not only further congest Rosslyn, it will also jeopardize the safety of Rosslyn residents.

If elected, I plan to seek a fiscal impact analysis of every major site plan development to assure that the project actually benefits the County and that its impacts are adequately addressed. In addition, I plan to:

  • Seek tax relief for residents and businesses and stop the exodus of federal agencies from Arlington.
  • Preserve green space and emphasize basic services like: streets, schools, libraries and public safety.
  • Promote transparency by requiring publication of official documents at least 72 hours before board and commission meetings.
  • Provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers.

As a 12-year Westover resident and long-time civic activist–with a Ph.D. in political science and service as a Congressional Fellow–I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.

To find out more about my campaign, visit:
www.AudreyClement.com [http://www.AudreyClement.com]

You can make a difference! Boost my campaign for Arlington County Board by:

  • volunteering for an hour at your polling place on Election Day;
  • donating time or money;
  • planting a yard sign in your yard or window;
  • spreading the word via your PTA, civic association, listserv or blog.

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

Sincerely,
Audrey Clement, Ph.D.
Independent Candidate, Arlington County Board
www.AudreyClement.com [http://www.audreyclement.com]

by ARLnow.com — November 3, 2016 at 11:10 am 0

Robert Ball graveyard in Ballston

Members of the Ball family, for which Ballston is named, would like to see their small family graveyard along Fairfax Drive preserved and not moved for a redevelopment.

An attorney representing four descendants of Robert Ball Sr. sent a letter (below) stating the family members’ position to the Arlington County Board earlier this week.

The family members “fully support” an item on this Saturday’s County Board agenda that would be a first step to designating the graveyard a local historic district, according to the letter .

The attorney, Alexander Berger, said family members do not want to prevent the planned redevelopment of the church, but they do want the church to honor its century-old commitment — made after the family granted the church the land on which it sits — to preserve the graveyard.

“This is a situation where everyone involved can certainly find agreement,” Berger said. The family members have “no desire to stand in the way of the church and the development, provided they honor the history of the county and the family.”

The church, meanwhile, is pursuing two different methods of trying to get approval to move the graveyard. First, it has applied for a permit with the Virginia Dept. of Historic Resources. Additionally, it has filed suit against members of the Ball family in Arlington Circuit Court in order to have the graveyard declared abandoned, which would then allow it to be moved.

“It is not a lawsuit in the sense anybody is suing anybody,” explained Tad Lunger, the attorney for the church.  “There are basically two ways to allow for the relocation of human remains in Virginia, the first being through the DHR permit process, and the second being to get a court order to allow the relocations to occur.”

“The DHR permit is more of a passive notice process, whereas for the court process we cast a wider net and actually have to do genealogical research to locate any potential descendants and proactively go out and notify them,” Lunger continued. “Because we wanted as much opportunity for descendants to know we might find human remains at this site, and we wanted to know directly from them what they felt was most appropriate to do with any remains if they were found, we decided to do both processes to get as much involvement as possible.”

Berger, who was hired by family members after they were served with the lawsuit, said that the church “didn’t go about this in the right way.”

Berger said he believes the church is working on a plan for building the new development around the graveyard, which family members would likely support, but those plans have not yet been shared with him or the family.

by ARLnow.com — November 1, 2016 at 2:40 pm 0

A towing standoff outside Ray's Hell BurgerA set of proposed changes to Arlington’s trespass towing ordinance would remove the requirement that tow truck drivers photograph the condition of a vehicle before towing it.

The Arlington County Board is set to consider an advertisement of the changes at its meeting this coming Saturday.

The proposal would not change the requirement that tow truck drivers obtain photographic or video evidence “clearly showing the location of the vehicle, substantiating the reason for its removal.” Instead, it removes a provision calling for any existing damage to the vehicle be documented.

Brian Stout, the county’s legislative liaison, says the change won’t have much practical impact, as photographing the condition of the vehicle was more of a best practice guideline than an enforceable law.

“Originally envisioned as a way to protect vehicle owners in the event of damage to their vehicle resulting from the tow, the County’s ordinance was amended in 2012 to require the tower to document the condition of the vehicle,” Stout told ARLnow.com. “Recognizing that the County has no role in damage claims, language was included stating that failure to meet this requirement does not result in a violation of the ordinance. This requirement has led to confusion among all parties regarding what is required to satisfy this provision and has led many vehicle owners to believe that the County has a role to play in such damage claims, which we do not.”

“While the County maintains that it is good practice for the towing and recovery operator to document the condition of the vehicle prior to its removal,” Stout added, “we believe removal of this provision will provide clarity to all parties while also not decreasing protections to vehicle owners.”

Other proposed towing changes include:

  • Requiring additional signs on the interior of a parking facility to supplement signs at the entrances and “identify additional parking restrictions should they exist.”
  • Adding an additional $25 fee for tows on weekends, holidays and between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. on weekdays, as required by a new state law.
  • Allowing the towing storage facility to be 3.25 miles away from the county line rather than the existing 3 mile requirement, thus allowing additional towing companies to compete for business in Arlington.
  • Clarifying that nothing in the ordinance “shall release tow truck drivers from liability for failure to use reasonable care while towing a vehicle.”
  • Clarifying existing language that prohibits the towing of federal, state or local public safety vehicles.

The changes were all discussed by the county’s Trespass Towing Advisory Board, the voting members of which are three towing company operators, three representatives from the Arlington County Police Department and one local resident, Nancy Iacomini, who chairs the board.

Iacomini tried to introduce amendments that would keep the requirement to photograph the condition of towed vehicles, but the amendments failed.

Separately, the county is hoping to obtain permission to allow it to add more local residents to the towing board.

The county’s draft set of legislative priorities for 2017, which is to be voted upon by the County Board next month, includes an item seeking a law that would “permit localities to add an equal number of voting members of the general public to their towing advisory board as there are representatives of local law-enforcement agencies and representatives of licensed towing and recovery operators.”

“The composition of voting members of local trespass towing advisory boards is a matter that is controlled by Virginia State Code Section 46.2-1233.2,” Stout said. “The County’s request would allow for localities that have a local ordinance and advisory board to allow for equal voting representation from the general public if they chose to do so. As these issues affect the general public in a substantial way, we believe that localities should have the ability to allow for equal representation.”

by ARLnow.com — November 1, 2016 at 9:05 am 0

Giant Meteor campaign sign

Garvey Wants to Nix New Year’s Day Meeting — Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey has proposed moving the Board’s traditional New Year’s Day meeting (this year it would otherwise be held on Jan. 2, the federal observance of the New Year holiday) to the next business day: Tuesday, Jan. 3. [Washington Post]

Neighbors Upset About Sex Offender’s Halloween Decorations — A 57-year-old registered sex offender says he did nothing wrong in putting up Halloween decorations in front of his Arlington house. But nearby residents don’t agree: they called the police and local TV stations, saying the display is “inappropriate” since it might “entice” children. One concerned resident said, “we are within our rights as taxpayers and longtime members of this community to protect the children in our community.” [Fox 5]

Higher Meal Tax Possible? — If state lawmakers act to provide counties with the same taxing powers as Virginia cities, as Arlington County is asking for again this year, it could eventually mean an increase in the meals tax at local restaurants. [InsideNova]

It’s November — Today is the first day of November. In a week, it’s finally Election Day. In three weeks and two days, it’s Thanksgiving. The weather forecast for the next two days, however: highs of 75 and 79 on Wednesday and Thursday.

by ARLnow.com — October 27, 2016 at 10:00 am 0

Audrey ClementAudrey Clement is running for Arlington County Board, again.

It’s true, Clement may be a perennial candidate, but she has dedicated supporters and, more importantly, she goes to the trouble of running for local office when other serious challengers to the Democratic candidate are often nowhere to be found. It’s hard to view that as anything other than a positive in our democratic system.

Clement’s ideas may seem a bit incongruous — she bikes everywhere but doesn’t like bike races, she is in favor of affordable housing but generally against new development — but she is consistent in her views.

On this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast, we asked Clement about her opposition to those bike races; her opposition to development, particularly recent development in Westover; her support of renewable energy; and her desire to lessen the tax burden on Arlington residents.

Listen below or, better yet, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Google PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

by ARLnow.com — October 26, 2016 at 9:40 am 0

Creek and trees near Rosslyn

Board Holds Pike Transit Station Meeting — Updated at 10:45 a.m. — More than three-and-a-half years after it was first revealed by ARLnow.com that a prototype bus stop on Columbia Pike cost more than $1 million, the discussion of less expensive bus stop alternatives continues. The County Board last night held a work session with staff to discuss the current status of Pike transit station planning, ultimately voting to approve the County Manager’s design recommendations. [Arlington County]

APS High School Boundary Refinements — The next step in what promises to be a contentious process of adjusting Arlington’s high school boundaries will take place tomorrow. A community meeting is planned at the Washington-Lee High School cafeteria starting at 7 p.m. Thursday. [Arlington Public Schools]

Cemetery Bike Ban Starts Today — Starting today, only loved ones visiting a grave or niche will be allowed to ride a bike in Arlington National Cemetery. That nixes a commuter route through the cemetery that some cyclists used to avoid busy roads elsewhere in the county. [ARLnow]

Clement Attacks Pay Raise Proposal — Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey’s pay raise suggestion is opening her up to attacks from challenger Audrey Clement. “The problem is [the] County Board doesn’t do much work, unless you consider rubber-stamping done deals ‘work,'” Clement told supporters via email. Clement also is criticizing a plan to add an extra high-occupancy lane to I-395 and, in response to local noise complaints, calling on NASA to develop quieter helicopters. [InsideNova, Audrey Clement]

Stalled Cab Company May Retain Permits — Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz is recommending the County Board give All Access Taxi, which specializes in providing wheelchair-accessible transportation, two more years to get its service off the ground. Currently, the company has only one cab — and 49 unused permits. [Washington Post]

Local Ghost Stories — ‘Our Man in Arlington’ columnist Charlie Clark has received recent reports of ghostly encounters from “reliable sources” at several local places: at Arlington Hall, along George Mason Drive; at the Overlee swim club and a nearby home; and at an 18th century home in McLean that was torn down last month. [Falls Church News-Press]

Pamplona May Open in December — Pamplona, a new Spanish restaurant in the former SoBe space in Clarendon, is hoping to open “by the end of the year.” James Martin, a 29-year-old rising culinary star, will be the restaurant’s executive chef. He hopes Pamplona will win the kind of critical acclaim that can “put Clarendon on the map.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

by ARLnow.com — October 25, 2016 at 6:00 pm 0

Arlington County joint facilities presentation

(Updated at 6:25 p.m.) Arlington County is in desperate need of more land for schools and for county government operations. But a plan to acquire an office park across the street from Washington-Lee High School and use it for school bus parking is meeting with community opposition.

The county is planning to spend $30 million acquiring the Quincy Street Technology Center, also known as the Buck property, a 6.1 acre office park zoned primarily for commercial and light industrial uses. Located adjacent to N. Quincy Street and I-66 in the Virginia Square area, the property also partially borders a residential neighborhood.

In a joint County Board-School Board work session earlier this month, Arlington County staff laid out the case for the moving the Arlington Public Schools school bus operations from the Trades Center near Shirlington to the Buck site.

The Buck property is in a central location, near the school administrative building and has the space to accommodate current APS bus parking needs, unlike the increasingly crowded Trades Center, where growth has exceeded capacity. (Thanks to rising enrollment, APS has added 40 new school buses in the past 5 years.)

The Buck property would at first be used for temporary bus parking, then would be considered for a permanent APS bus parking, operations and dispatch center, with a new vehicle wash and fueling station, according to the staff presentation. Other potential uses of the property include temporary overflow parking for Washington-Lee, police and fire reserve vehicle storage, APS office use and a permanent Office of Emergency Management and Emergency Operations Center facility.

In response, some nearby residents have created a petition against the bus proposal. The petition, entitled “The Buck Stops Here,” has more than 100 signatures.

Here’s what the petition says:

Again, Arlington County is barreling ahead with a project impacting a neighborhood without consulting nearby residents. This is a disturbing trend that demands a strong voice from Arlington citizens.

The county is proceeding with a plan to purchase the Buck tract on N. Quincy Street for $30 million (more than $6 million over the 2016 tax assessment) and redevelop the property for, no doubt, tens of millions more – all for a bus parking lot and repair facility.

We do not object to the redevelopment of this ideally-located tract but the placement of an industrial site directly adjoining an existing residential neighborhood is unprecedented in Arlington and bodes ominously for other neighborhoods.

They have proceeded without consulting the adjacent neighborhood and have kept Arlington citizens at-large in the dark about their planning. We have repeatedly asked for a seat in their discussions but have been denied at every turn.

It’s time for Arlington citizens to demand a return to the “Arlington Way” and stop the Buck tract before your neighborhood is next.

The petition, we’re told, is also “‘trending’ across nine Arlington neighborhoods” via Nextdoor, an online social network.

“This is sadly reminiscent of the recent instances of Arlington citizens rising up against the planning without consultation with the [H-B Woodlawn] relocation, the TJ parking lot, the Lee Hwy firehouse, and plopping a temporary firehouse on the green grass of Rhodeside Green Park, along with a growing number of other attempts at action without consulting neighborhoods,” Dennis Whitehead, a resident who lives near the Buck site, told ARLnow.com.

Arlington County joint facilities presentationDespite the insistence that the county is “barreling ahead” with the project, the county’s acquisition of the Buck property may not close for another year, and the county says it’s committed to a community process prior to determining its permanent uses for the property.

The proposal may be discussed tonight (Tuesday) at a meeting in Courthouse. The public meeting, intended to review community input regarding a new joint county-schools facilities advisory committee that’s being planned, is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Navy League Building (2300 Wilson Blvd).

That committee, which will follow up on the Community Facilities Study that wrapped up around this time last year (but is still the subject of meetings), will also be considering uses for other county-owned or potentially county-owned properties, including:

  • A 11.5 acre Virginia Hospital Center property along S. Carlin Springs Road, which could potentially be used for police and fire vehicle logistics, a new police impound lot, material staging and for the Office of Emergency Management/Emergency Operations Center.
  • County-owned land at the intersection of 26th Street N. and Old Dominion Drive, across from Marymount University, which currently includes a park, a mulch pile and a salt dome. The park will be preserved but the county wants to replace the aging salt dome and use some of the land for snow clearing operations and material storage.
  • Madison Community Center, though no specific additional uses were presented.
  • Clarendon House, a vacant former rehabilitation center at the intersection of N. Irving Street and 10th Street N.

Another joint County Board-School Board meeting, on recommendations from the Community Facilities Study, is planned for Nov. 1 at 6 p.m.

by ARLnow.com — October 21, 2016 at 11:00 am 0

Arlington’s Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board has recommended designating a tiny Ballston graveyard a local historic district, potentially disrupting a church’s redevelopment plans.

The HALRB voted 8-2-2 Wednesday night for a local historic district designation of the Robert Ball Sr. Family Burial Ground, after hearing from 37 speakers both for and against the designation.

The County Board will now decide, as early as next month, whether to authorize an advertisement of public hearings before the Planning Commission and the Board. Following the hearings, the County Board could vote on the historic district as early as December.

The graveyard is located next to Ballston’s Central United Methodist Church, which has filed a site plan application to redevelop its property at 4201 Fairfax Drive into an eight-story building with a new house of worship, 132 apartments (55 would be committed as affordable units), a daycare and preschool facility and charitable facilities.

The 150-year-old, 325-square foot burial ground includes headstones for members of the Ball family, for which Ballston is named. Nobody knows for sure whether there are human remains buried in the graveyard or whether the remains were relocated elsewhere decades ago during any number of construction projects.

Historic preservation activists have pushed for a historic designation, which could scuttle or at least significantly alter the redevelopment plans.

The church and its members, on the other hand, want the development to proceed.

“This project… is excellent for the community as it will provide much needed affordable housing in Ballston, maintain a sacred space of a church in Ballston proper, continue a strong outreach by providing meals to those in need on Fridays, and provide expanded daycare and preschool options in Ballston conveniently located near the Metro for commuting parents,” said Kathy Sibert, a congregant who’s also the president and CEO of the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network.

“[The graveyard] was deeded to the church from the Ball Family in the 1920s,” said Sibert. “It is NOT an active grave site and the entire site has been heavily excavated for construction by the church and the County since that time so that virtually the entire site has been disturbed.

Sibert said the county officials have stopped processing its site plan application, “despite their prior commitment to us to hold our March 2017 tax credit application deadline.”

Update at 3:30 p.m. — The church’s pastor, Rev. Sarah Harrison-McQueen, tells ARLnow via email: “The local historic district boundaries recommended by county staff to the HALRB would have made our project infeasible. The HALRB voted to designate a smaller section of land than the staff proposed boundaries so we’ve asked our design team and engineers to evaluate the impact of this smaller section. I anticipate that we will have a better understanding of the potential ramifications sometime next week.”

She added: “Our current sanctuary is built within the boundaries of the former Ball family graveyard. The grave-markers do not appear to be in their original location. The church is seeking permission from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to investigate this further.”

by ARLnow.com — October 19, 2016 at 3:45 pm 0

County Board member Libby GarveyArlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey recently started a discussion about whether Board members should be better paid.

County Board members make just over $50,000 a year for what is considered part-time work. But in reality, Garvey says, Board members spend full-time hours studying and discussing the issues, attending community events and taking meetings, in addition to the long hours spent conducting County Board meetings and work sessions multiple times per month.

With Arlington’s high cost of living, a $50,000 a year salary may give otherwise qualified County Board candidates a strong economic disincentive to run.

(It should be noted that the earliest the County Board could enact a pay raise for themselves is 2020.)

On the other hand, some argue that there have been no shortage of candidates running for County Board and that the office does not necessarily have to be a full-time endeavor.

So what are County Board members spending their time on? A daily schedule for County Board members, obtained by an Arlington resident under the Freedom of Information Act and provided to ARLnow.com, provides a glimpse of Board members’ working schedules during the last three months of 2015.

by ARLnow.com — October 18, 2016 at 10:05 am 0

Arlington County revenue table(Updated at 12:35 p.m.) Arlington County has $17.8 million left over from its Fiscal Year 2016 budget, after a revenue split with Arlington Public Schools and contributions to reserve funds.

The County Board tonight (Tuesday) is expected to discuss what to do with the extra cash as part of its annual budget close-out process, which has previously been criticized for a lack of public input.

The public will have a month to weigh in on the draft recommendations before a final vote in November.

The County Manager’s budget close-out recommendations were posted online Monday morning. Among the recommendations:

  • $0.95 million for police equipment, replacement of emergency generators and other “critical life safety needs.”
  • $2.5 million for land acquisition and costs associated with temporary facilities for Fire Station 8 and Fire Station 10.
  • $1.0 million for expanding the use of a key rainy-day reserve fund to include “unanticipated expenditure requirements, such as weather events.”
  • $2.1 million for rent subsidies that benefit low income, elderly and disabled residents.
  • $7.0 million for the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund, which will provide much of the $9.4 million in one-time funding for the fund budgeted for FY 2017.
  • $1.7 million for various capital projects and maintenance.
  • $1.0 million for “unforeseen needs that arise during the current fiscal year.”
  • $1.6 million reserved for future allocations, to be considered as part of the FY 2018 budget process.

Overall county revenue was above projections for FY 2016. (See partial table, above.) The $17.8 million in close-out funding is a result of the extra revenue and conservative budgeting, county officials say, but it’s a lower percentage of the General Fund budget — 2.3 percent — than previous years.

“While this amount is significant in dollar terms, it is the lowest as a percent of total budget in recent years, reflecting increased expenditure levels due to the lifting of the hiring slowdown and the significant snow events of this past winter,” staff wrote.

The close-out allocations are intended to closely align with existing County Board policies and priorities.

It “expands on the approach taken last year where allocations of available funding are
focused on a few major categories of priorities consistent with County Board policies” and “moves away from the occasional past practice of providing initial funding for new
programs via close-out,” county staff wrote.

While some critics have suggested that the county deliberately over-budgets so that it can have a “slush fund” left over at the end of the year, county staff argue that its conservative budgeting is necessary to keep Arlington’s top-notch bond rating and smooth out budgetary “bumps” throughout the year.

“It is important to note that good financial management and retention of the triple-AAA bond ratings require that the County ends each year with a surplus (revenues in excess of projections or expenditures less than budget),” said the staff report. “The County’s historically conservative budgeting practices have allowed us to accommodate unanticipated events (snow, state / federal budget cuts) without having to go back to the County Board and community for mid-year service reductions and budget cuts.”

by ARLnow.com — October 17, 2016 at 11:00 am 0

The Arlington County Board has approved adding pedestrian-only streets and low-speed “shared streets” to its transportation repertoire.

The amendments to the county’s Master Transportation Plan were approved unanimously at the Board’s meeting on Saturday.

As we reported in September, the county’s long-term plan for Rosslyn includes a multi-block, pedestrian-only stretch of 18th Street to replace Rosslyn’s skywalk system. Additionally, sections of 14th and 15th streets in Courthouse are slated to become shared streets.

Before the Board’s vote on Saturday, the Master Transportation Plan did not permit either street type.

More information, from an Arlington County press release:

The Arlington County Board adopted today proposed amendments to the Master Transportation Plan Street Element, incorporating two innovative changes: a new pedestrian priority street type — a car-free street that provides pedestrians access to adjacent buildings — and “shared streets” — for pedestrians, bicyclists and low speed vehicular traffic. These amendments will accommodate street variations as envisioned in the Rosslyn and Courthouse Sector Plans and provide guidance for potential use in other parts of the County.

In the Rosslyn area, nine block-length pedestrian priority street segments are planned to replace the remaining skywalk segments, break up north-south blocks and enhance access to the Rosslyn Metro Station. Segments of 18th Street North (from North Lynn Street to North Oak Street) will accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists only, without regular motor vehicle access. Implementation of the pedestrian priority street segments are expected to occur over time as private properties on those blocks are redeveloped.

In the Courthouse Square area, segments of 14th and 15th Streets North (between North Uhle Street and Courthouse Road) will be prioritized as low-speed “shared streets,” emphasizing needs of both pedestrians and bicyclists through use of distinctive paving materials and level travel areas. These streets will be primarily intended for pedestrians, but open to slow-speed vehicle traffic.

“Arlington is a varied community that puts an emphasis on various modes of travel – be it walking, biking, taking transit or driving,” said Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey. “These street variations are very exciting and an important step in improving access and safety for the many residents, visitors and commuters that walk and bike around Arlington each and every day.”

The Board voted 5 to 0 to approve the amendments.

Background

In July 2015, the Board adopted an update to the Rosslyn Sector Plan that called for eventual development of several new street segments. In September 2015, the Board adopted the Courthouse Square sector plan update and its proposal of creating sections of shared streets.

The idea of new street types is the result of considerable public involvement. The two new street types were initially envisioned during the development of the sector plan updates, with the names and definitions further refined in hearings by the Arlington Planning and Transportation commissions.

Now that these changes have been accepted, the new street types can be applied elsewhere in the County when approved through a community planning process and action by the County Board.

by ARLnow.com — October 17, 2016 at 10:00 am 0

Arlington County Board on 9/27/16Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey is floating the idea that Arlington County Board members should be paid better.

Currently, County Board members are paid between about $51,500 and $56,500. The position is considered part-time, and three out of the five current members have other jobs, but in practice Board members end up working full-time hours in service of the county.

As reported by the Washington Post, Garvey wants to start a discussion about raising County Board member pay closer to the county’s median family income of $110,900, which would be more in line with what Fairfax and Montgomery counties pay their elected officials.

Board member John Vihstadt, a partner with a D.C. law firm, says he does not favor a pay raise and thinks it’s better for County Board members to have other jobs.

What do you think?

by ARLnow.com — October 14, 2016 at 11:30 am 0

The owner of a huge mansion in Lyon Park is asking for the county’s permission to use it as a bed and breakfast.

Yogi Dumera, the restaurateur behind Delhi Dhaba and Arlington Rooftop Bar and Grill in Courthouse, recently filed a bed and breakfast use permit application for his 13,700 square foot house at 3120 N. Pershing Drive.

The item is on the Arlington County Board’s agenda for this Saturday, but county staff is recommending it be deferred to December to give Dumera time to discuss the proposal with the Lyon Park community.

The palatial house was controversial when it was built a decade ago, attracting opposition from neighbors, who said its massive size — compared to other homes in the community — was “absurd.” Neighbors at the time also worried about the house being used for commercial purposes.

From a 2005 Washington Post article:

“Its scale is absurd,” said neighbor Alan Tober, who, along with others, worries that the house will be used for commercial purposes — namely weddings.

But property owner Yogi Dumera said he has no such plans. He is only taking advantage of his large lot, he said.

Dumera has been trying to sell the house for the past two years, records show, dropping the asking price well under the property’s $4 million assessed value. With no buyers to be found, the home is now off the market.

The next step for Dumera will be presenting his bed and breakfast plans to a Nov. 9 meeting of the Lyon Park Civic Association.

Said a tipster: “I bet the civic association meeting where he consults with the neighborhood will be popcorn-worthy.”

Screen shot (above) via Zillow

by ARLnow.com — October 13, 2016 at 9:55 am 0

Airbnb logoThe Arlington County Board on Saturday will consider taking a first step to enacting new regulations on Airbnb and other short-term housing rentals.

County staff is proposing regulations that would permit Airbnb rentals, which currently exist in a bit of a legal gray area in Arlington, while imposing some restrictions.

Among the proposed regulations:

  • Those who rent their home on Airbnb would need to apply for and obtain an “accessory
    homestay permit,” which would remain valid for two years.
  • County inspectors would be authorized to inspect the homes of anyone with such a permit “at least one time per year,” with proper notice.
  • The home being rented is required to be the owner’s primary residence, with the owner living there most days of the year.
  • A cap of no more than six guests at a time in any given rental.
  • The owner would not be allowed to “prepare or serve food or beverages to
    any overnight guests.”

There are a total of 21 proposed regulations listed, including more mundane safety regulations like requiring working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.`

Some of the regulations are said to be “an option” for consideration — such as requiring that owner provide at least one off-street parking space and limiting the number of short-term-rental-eligible apartments in a given multi-family building to no more than 25 percent of units.

The Board this weekend will consider advertising the proposed changes. If approved, public meetings on the regulations would be held in November, ahead of final Board consideration in December.

Nearly 1,000 properties in Arlington were listed on Airbnb in September, according to a county press release. The number was closer to 1,600 over the summer, said County Manager Mark Schwartz.

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