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by Chris Teale — June 7, 2017 at 2:45 pm 0

(Updated at 3:20 p.m.) Arlington County just announced that it has joined other counties, cities, businesses and colleges in signing an open letter pledging to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

President Trump announced last week he will withdraw the United States from the pact to help preserve American jobs and avoid placing heavy burdens on the country’s taxpayers. The decision brought swift condemnation from local elected officials.

County leaders joined on Monday (June 5) an open letter to the international community and parties to the Paris Agreement entitled, “We Are Still In.” The letter promises that efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will continue, regardless of federal policy.

“Arlington stands with communities across our nation and around the globe who recognize that climate change is real and that we must, both on the local and on the global level, meet its adverse effects with strong, effective action,” said County Board chair Jay Fisette in a statement. “Just as we joined the Compact of Mayors in 2015 and agreed to set goals for reductions in greenhouse gases, so do we join the effort today of local communities that are pledging to uphold the Paris Agreement, even if the federal government does not.”

The District of Columbia has also signed on to the pact and Virginia joined a similar state effort this week.

In light of President Trump’s decision, the County Board will consider a resolution at its June 17 meeting reaffirming Arlington’s commitment to combating climate change.

In a press release, the county touted its efforts already in the fight against climate change:

Arlington County adopted a forward-thinking Community Energy Plan (CEP) in June 2013, as an element of our Comprehensive Plan. The award-winning plan is a long-term vision for transforming how Arlington generates, uses and distributes energy. Its goal-setting and methods of achievement are consistent with the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda and the Paris Accord. Arlington’s CEP aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent by 2050, and greenhouse gas emissions already have fallen 18 percent in Arlington between 2007 and 2015.

In 2015, Arlington signed the Global Covenant of Mayors for Energy and Climate, sponsored by the Compact of Mayors – open to any city or town in the world willing to meet a series of requirements culminating in the creation of a full climate action and adaptation plan.

In 2012, Arlington exceeded our goal of reducing government-wide energy usage by 10 percent, using the year 2000 as a baseline. Currently, we’re competing in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge to reduce municipal building energy usage by 20 percent by 2020.

Our Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy (AIRE) helps our community make smart decisions about energy and supports individual actions that improve and sustain Arlington’s quality of life. County government buys more than 30 percent of its electricity as certified green power and buys carbon offsets against 100 percent of its natural gas use. Arlington is home to Discovery Elementary, the largest “net zero energy” elementary school east of the Mississippi River.

At its meeting in June, the County Board will consider a resolution reaffirming Arlington’s commitment to combating climate change and to the goals of our Community Energy Plan.

Arlington will continue to work to make our County more prosperous, healthful, safe and secure through its efforts to rethink energy and protect the environment.

For more information about Arlington’s environmental initiatives and efforts to reduce energy usage and energy costs, visit the County website.

by Chris Teale — May 31, 2017 at 11:15 am 0

County Manager Mark Schwartz said he has noticed more residents calling code enforcement with complaints about their neighbors.

At a County Board work session Tuesday with the code enforcement staff, which enforces the county’s noise ordinance, maintenance code and other regulations, Schwartz said that anecdotally, people call to complain as they are unaware of other ways to resolve their issues.

Schwartz said that too often, code enforcement is used as a “cudgel” by some residents unwilling to take their complaints directly to their neighbors. He said that the county must step up to help resolve disputes in a better way.

“There may be room for a more mediation, community relations approach by us as a county and civic associations,” Schwartz said. “There’s a void there in the community.”

Schwartz’s pronouncement came after County Board member Christian Dorsey asked about the extent to which the county’s bureaucracy is used to “litigate personal disputes or issues that are better suited to other realms than the power of the state to enforce things.”

It also comes hot on the heels of the Westover Beer Garden’s continued disputes with the county over its outdoor seating and live entertainment. In 2010, the county stopped music there altogether because of complaints from two neighbors, and is now considering a law change so it can add more patio seats.

But the county’s code enforcement staff said they may have some solutions to help ease the problem, including educating the community on what the department does and what it can help with.

Code enforcement chief Gary Greene said the department has continued to engage in community outreach like attending civic association meetings voluntarily.

Dorsey went further and suggested code enforcement lead “cleanup days” for some of the topics that receive the most complaints, including snow and overgrown plants and vegetation that obstruct sidewalks and streets.

He said the time is right for “those sorts of things that are causing better outcomes in our community, so that we get the sense that code enforcement isn’t the state putting its thumb on the scale.”

Board members seemed impressed by the new initiatives for code enforcement.

“I hadn’t thought of code enforcement as a way to build community, but now I do,” said Board member Libby Garvey.

Brooke Giles contributed reporting.

by Chris Teale — May 31, 2017 at 10:00 am 0

After significant community push-back, the County Board rejected plans to dramatically shrink the Shirlington Dog Park and urged further study.

At a work session last night of the Four Mile Run Valley Working Group, Board members said that staff must return with new options that would either keep the 109,000 square foot dog park the same size or reduce it slightly.

Previous alternatives put forward by staff would have cut the park’s size by as much as 75 percent to comply with stormwater management requirements in the area of Four Mile Run.

But County Board members said more study is required on other possible options to comply with stormwater management and not lose what vice chair Katie Cristol said is a “well-loved” dog park.

“There is more that we don’t know about alternatives,” Cristol said. “Perhaps [staff] feel confident that you know them. I do not yet feel confident enough to recommend or approve or direct such significant changes to such a well-loved community amenity without a better sense of the alternatives for stormwater remediation.”

There was unanimous agreement among Board members on how to move forward. John Vihstadt said he wants it to stay “substantially as-is for the longest possible time,” while Christian Dorsey argued for a “programmatic approach” that ensures a community amenity is protected while complying with stormwater needs.

In a letter to the County Board ahead of the meeting obtained by ARLnow, Shirlington Civic Association president Edith Wilson and vice president Richard Adler said the Four Mile Run Valley working group needs subcommittees to deal with a slew of issues including the dog park. Not all options have been explored, they said.

The pair, who both sit on the working group, said the dog park has an economic benefit to the neighborhood as well as community and environmental value.

“The [May 17] proposals are remarkably insensitive to the economic and marketing value of the dog park — how could the county possibly think to make public a proposal to reduce it from 109,000 square feet to 27,000?” the pair wrote. “How would we replace the jobs, businesses and real estate sales this would affect?”

After the meeting, supporters were jubilant, including on a Facebook page dedicated to saving the Shirlington Dog Park.

“Our advocacy clearly made a difference as the Arlington County board members were all convinced of how deeply we love our dog park and how impassioned we are about saving it,” wrote one supporter. “All of us should feel a great deal of pride today that we successfully mobilized to save our beloved dog park!”

by Chris Teale — May 24, 2017 at 4:20 pm 0

County residents will see their electricity and gas bills rise slightly as of July, while next month fares will increase on both Arlington Transit and Specialized Transportation for Arlington Residents.

And the County Board denied a request that the Education Center and adjacent planetarium be designated as a historic district, so that Arlington Public Schools can continue to keep the site as a contender for a fourth high school.

ART and STAR Fares To Go Up

Fares on ART and STAR will go up on June 25 to keep up with similar hikes for Metrobus and MetroAccess.

The ART adult bus fare will rise from $1.75 to $2 and the ART discount fare for seniors, students and people with disabilities goes from 85 cents to $1.

Local STAR trips will increase in cost from $3.50 to $4, while trips inside the Capital Beltway and trips beyond increase 50 cents each, from $5 to $5.50 and from $9 to $9.50, respectively.

ART’s iRide program offering discounts for teens would be extended to elementary school students, while the program allowing free use of ART by personal care attendants accompanying MetroAccess-certified riders would also be extended.

Board members said they have heard several complaints about the cleanliness and reliability of buses in the county, and urged transportation staff to keep on top of any problems. Board member Christian Dorsey, who also represents Arlington on Metro’s Board of Directors, drew a comparison between STAR and MetroAccess.

“I do think it’s essential with STAR that Arlington not accept the mediocrity that Metro has dealt with with MetroAccess,” he said. “It was once considered a shining star in the paratransit world, it needs to continue to do so.”

Education Center Historic District Denied

The Board voted to deny designating the Education Center and the adjacent David M. Brown Planetarium at 1426 N. Quincy Street as a historic district, in agreement with staff’s recommendation.

The center is one of three remaining options for the county’s next public high school not counting a new option involving the center, floated by superintendent Patrick Murphy.

County Board member John Vihstadt said that while he appreciates the 1960s-era architecture, Arlington Public Schools should not have its options cut down when it faces capacity issues.

The board asked staff to work with their APS counterparts to look at possible adaptive reuses of buildings built in the “New Formalist” style, which the center is an example of.

“The school system, I believe, needs certainty and clarity now,” Vihstadt said. “If we defer, it leaves a cloud over the building, it leaves doubt, it leaves conjecture. If we recommend designation, it potentially hamstrings APS as to cost, as to timeframe, as to process.”

Gas and Electricity Bills Set For Slight Hike

Residents will see a slight uptick in their gas and electricity bills, a plan county staff said will generate more than $650,000.

The electricity tax rate will increase to $0.005115 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) from $0.00341 per kWh, with the first 400 kWh per month excluded from taxation. The natural gas tax rate will increase to $0.045 per 100 cubic feet (CCF) from $0.030 per CCF, with the first 20 CCF per month excluded from taxation. The hike will be most keenly felt by those residents who use a lot gas and electricity.

A staff report on the plan notes that Arlington’s would still be among the lowest utility tax rates in Northern Virginia.

From the extra revenue, factored into the FY 2018 budget approved in April by the County Board, the cost of a full-time staff member will shift from the county’s General Fund to the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy, consultant costs are covered and more than $400,000 will go towards energy efficiency in county and APS buildings.

County Board chair Jay Fisette said the extra tax money is “all to do good things to move the community energy plan forward and meet the goals of that master plan.”

by Chris Teale — May 24, 2017 at 11:00 am 0

Advocates for the Westover Beer Garden helped convince the County Board to try to change the local law governing outdoor seating at restaurants and bars.

At its meeting Tuesday, the Board directed County Manager Mark Schwartz to suggest revisions to County Code to provide more flexibility to those who wish to add more seats outside than inside.

Under current law, the beer garden at 5863 Washington Blvd cannot add to its outdoor seating, as county use permits expressly forbid having more outdoor seats than indoor seats.

That stands in contrast to the soon-to-open Continental Beer Garden in Rosslyn, which has many more seats outside than inside and can do so because it went through a site plan process, which requires County Board approval and is much more involved than a standard administrative permit process.

“We have recently heard from the owner and many patrons that they would like the opportunity to expand the outdoor seating at the Westover Beer Garden beyond the number currently permitted by law,” County Board chair Jay Fisette said. “As it turns out, the long-standing County Code places significant restrictions on outdoor seating for retail establishments – and specifically prohibits flexibility if governed through a use permit, while allowing more flexibility if sought through a site plan amendment.”

Supporters of the Westover Beer Garden showed up to Tuesday’s meeting to testify on the Continental Beer Garden and highlight the differences between the two. Westover has faced an ongoing battle with the county over its outdoor seating, as it applied recently to expand its currently-allowed 24 seats and its live music offerings.

Having exceeded that total and received a citation from the county, Westover must comply with its use permit by June 1. But owner Dave Hicks said sticking to 24 seats will cause problems for the business.

“If required on June 1 to reduce seating to 24 seats (a third of what we have now), Westover Market is not a viable business,” Hicks wrote on the “Save the Westover Beer Garden” Facebook page. “June is one of our busiest months. We have 22 employees and would have to reduce that number by half. But even that wouldn’t pay the rent, taxes, electricity and other fixed expenses.”

Fisette set the goal of the County Board taking action by October, after a review process that will involve the Zoning Ordinance Review Committee of the Planning Commission. Planning director Robert Duffy said staff will work “aggressively” to meet that goal.

Board member John Vihstadt said revising the County Code will mean “equitability in terms of our planning,” while Fisette said it is important to protect places like the Westover Beer Garden.

“Part of Arlington’s success has been in creating active public spaces and a vibrant pedestrian realm,” Fisette said. “We recognize the value of lively and safe community gathering spaces which bring people together and help knit the fabric of our various neighborhoods — places such as the Westover Beer Garden.”

Kalina Newman contributed reporting.

by ARLnow.com — May 24, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

Arlington Falls in Parks Ranking — Arlington and D.C. both fell in the annual ParkScore rankings of cities by The Trust for Public Land. Arlington was ranked sixth in the nation this year and D.C. ranked fourth, while last year they were ranked fourth and third respectively. [The Trust for Public Land, Washington Post]

Neighborhood Conservation Projects Approved — The Arlington County Board last night unanimously approved $5.5 million in neighborhood improvement projects, including “street improvements, streetlights, intersection improvements and a neighborhood sign.” [Arlington County]

How to Live in Arlington on $50,000 — A young woman who works as a case manager outlined her expenditures while living in Arlington on a $50,000 salary, as part of a “Money Diaries” feature. Eschewing the urban millennial stereotype of profligate spending, she manages to save $1,000 a month — although that is helped by her parents continuing to pay her cell phone bill. [Refinery 29]

County to Sell Millions in Bonds — The County Board has approved issuing up to $185 million in general obligation bonds to help fund various capital priorities, including: Metro, Neighborhood Conservation, paving, parks land acquisition, maintenance capital, Lubber Run Community Center planning, Nauck Village Center action plan and transportation. [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

by Chris Teale — May 23, 2017 at 10:00 am 0

A plan to designate one of the potential sites for a new public high school as a historic district will be discussed by the County Board tonight (Tuesday).

But the proposal has drawn skepticism from county and Arlington Public Schools staff, who want the Board to deny the request and instead help preserve flexibility for APS as it solves its capacity issues.

The Education Center at 1426 N. Quincy Street is one of three remaining options for the county’s next public high school — not counting a new option involving the center, floated by superintendent Patrick Murphy.

Under the plan for historic designation, the Education Center and the adjacent David M. Brown Planetarium would be saved from possible demolition and subject to a strict design review process for any changes to its exterior.

The request for historic designation came from local resident and Planning Commission member Nancy Iacomini, who described both 1960s-era buildings as “physical embodiments of the forward thinking of Arlington and our County’s hope for the future” in her nominating letter.

Preservation Arlington said in a blog post that the buildings are examples of “New Formalism,” which combined classical and more modern design elements. Both were completed in 1969, after being funded through a 1965 bond referendum.

But in their report on the plan, staff said the Education Center could help address school overcrowding and so designating it would prevent “maximum use (and reuse) of the public facilities we have.”

That is a view echoed by School Board chair Nancy Van Doren, who in a brief letter to County Board chair Jay Fisette expressed the School Board’s opposition to the plan.

“School Board members do not support pursuing historic designation of the building at this time as it would limit options to address the school division’s capacity needs at this site,” Van Doren wrote.

In a previous column, Peter Rousselot argued against the historic designation, and noted that APS is moving its administrative staff out of the building to new offices at Sequoia Plaza 2 on Washington Blvd. The School Board approved the move at its meeting last week.

Staff recommended finding that the site meet some of the criteria for historic designation but that further evaluation be shelved. They also proposed denying the request and collaborating in the future to see how the site can be reused.

by ARLnow.com — May 22, 2017 at 9:45 am 0

Public Hearings Set for Sign, Rosslyn Streetscape Changes — At its meeting Saturday, the Arlington County Board set public hearings for changes to the county sign ordinance related to mixed-use retail centers and industrial districts, which would allow for more blade signs in certain places. The Board also set hearings for a plan that “would establish a cohesive set of streetscape furnishings to strengthen Rosslyn’s character, and encourage more pedestrian use and vibrancy in Rosslyn’s core.” [Arlington County]

Washingtonian Spends Day in Crystal City — The staff from Washingtonian magazine spent Friday — Bike to Work Day — in Crystal City, filing stories about everything from quirky neighborhood fixtures like a reasonably-priced strip club and a long-time puppet store to WeLive, TechShop and other places driving Crystal City’s innovation economy. The goal was to report “stories of a place that’s creating a new future for itself in the ashes of one that didn’t quite work out the way everyone thought.” [Washingtonian]

Bike to Work Day Record — This year’s Bike to Work Day set a regional record, with 18,700 registrants at 85 D.C. area pit stops. [Twitter]

Beyer Calls for Expulsion of Turkish Ambassador — On Friday Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) urged the Trump administration to kick the ambassador of Turkey out of the country in response to a violent confrontation between protesters and bodyguards for the visiting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey, meanwhile, today summoned the U.S. ambassador to complain about police treatment of the bodyguards who were seen beating up protesters. [Rep. Don Beyer]

D.C. Man Is Big Arlington Thrive Donor — A retired ophthalmologist who lives in D.C. has donated more than $750,000 to the nonprofit Arlington Thrive over the past few years, after reading about it in a Washingtonian magazine article. Arlington Thrive, formerly known as Arlingtonians Meeting Emergency Needs, “delivers same-day emergency funds to our neighbors in crisis, so they can be secure in their jobs, health, and homes and thrive in a caring community.” [Washington Post]

Board Approves Intersection, Stormwater Projects — The Arlington County Board has approved more than $2.3 million in contracts to improve safety at the intersection of Arlington Blvd and N. Irving Street and construct a “green streets” stormwater management system along Williamsburg Blvd. [Arlington County]

Arlington Represented on Route 1 Renaming Group — The former president of the Arlington NAACP and former president of the Arlington Historical Society have been appointed to an “Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Renaming Jefferson Davis Highway” formed by the City of Alexandria. The city is moving forward with its effort to strip Route 1 of its confederate monicker, but wants to coordinate with Arlington in case the county decides to lobby Richmond to allow it to rename the road. [WTOP]

Columnist Blasts Website Comments — “Our Man in Arlington” columnist Charlie Clark says that reader comments about the candidates in the recent Democratic Arlington County Board caucus were “inflammatory” and “pea-brained.” He singled out ARLnow’s comment section and “the slightly-more-civil commenters in the Sun-Gazette.” Caucus winner Erik Gutshall, meanwhile, said he seldom reads the comments, opining that “some are thoughtful, but it’s like opening a horror show.” [Falls Church News-Press]

by Chris Teale — May 18, 2017 at 10:30 am 0

Fares for Arlington Transit and Specialized Transportation for Arlington Residents could increase next month, subject to County Board approval.

The plan would raise the ART adult bus fare from $1.75 to $2 and the ART discount fare for seniors, students and people with disabilities from 85 cents to $1.

Local STAR trips would increase in cost from $3.50 to $4, while trips inside the Capital Beltway and trips beyond would increase 50 cents each, from $5 to $5.50 and from $9 to $9.50, respectively.

All fare increases would go into effect on June 25.

Under the proposal, ART’s iRide program offering discounts for teens would be extended to elementary school students, while the program allowing free use of ART by personal care attendants accompanying MetroAccess-certified riders would also be extended. ART adult fare tokens would also be withdrawn from circulation, and could then be exchanged for Metrobus tokens or added to a SmarTrip card.

The fare rise would be in line with Metro’s decision to hike its Metrobus fares at the same level, and would offset increased operating costs of 6 percent for ART and 5 percent for STAR.

A report by county staff notes that other bus systems in the area like Fairfax Connector and Montgomery County’s RideOn have upped fares in line with any Metrobus increases.

Staff recommended the County Board adopt the proposed change at its recessed meeting on Tuesday.

by ARLnow.com — May 17, 2017 at 11:40 am 0

The Arlington County Board on Saturday is expected to consider five neighborhood improvement projects with a cumulative price tag of $5.3 million.

The projects have been advanced by a county committee via Arlington’s Neighborhood Conservation Program, which encourages neighborhoods to apply for funding for various types of local improvements.

The projects set for approval are:

  •  A new neighborhood sign for Long Branch Creek ($12,500)
  • Street improvements and new streetlights along 31st Street S. in Fairlington, between S. Randolph and Woodrow Streets ($1.7 million)
  • New streetlights on S. Oak, Ode and Orme Streets in Foxcroft Heights ($562,704)
  • Intersection improvements along 2nd Street S. at S. Wayne, Uhle and Wise Streets in Penrose ($1.6 million)
  • Street improvements along N. George Mason Drive between 11th Street N. and I-66 in Waycroft-Woodlawn ($1.4 million)

The County Board is expected to vote on the Neighborhood Conservation projects at its Saturday meeting. The measure also includes an additional $200,000 for the county’s “Missing Link Program,” which funds the construction of small stretches of new sidewalk to connect existing sidewalks.

by Chris Teale — May 15, 2017 at 4:40 pm 0

The intersection of Arlington Boulevard (Route 50) and N. Irving Street is set to undergo a major safety transformation.

The County Board due to award a contract for the work on Saturday. Upgraded traffic signals, improved sidewalk connectivity, new and more accessible bus stops and marked turn lanes are slated for the intersection.

There will also be better connections to the nearby Arlington Blvd trail, while pedestrians will get new push buttons to help them cross the street, countdown signals and technology to detect vehicles and cyclists in the street.

The project is close to Thomas Jefferson Middle School and Community Center and what will, in two years, be a new elementary school.

The County Board will vote on awarding a contract worth an initial $729,000, with an additional $109,000 as a contingency. A report by county staff on the project notes that it is administered by the Virginia Department of Transportation, with primary funding from the federal Highway Safety Improvement Program.

Under the current funding model, just over $650,000 will be covered by federal money, with the remaining $180,000 covered by the county’s Transportation Capital Fund, which allocates commercial tax revenues to transportation projects.

In their report, staff did not raise any issues with the project. It has already been presented to the Arlington Heights and Ashton Heights Civic Associations and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committees.

If approved by the County Board, construction is set to begin this fall. There are no road closures planned for the project.

Kalina Newman contributed reporting.

by Chris Teale — May 13, 2017 at 9:50 pm 0

(Updated 10:25 p.m.) Erik Gutshall and Monique O’Grady were victorious at the Arlington County Democratic Committee caucus, winning the County Board nominee and School Board endorsement, respectively.

The final turnout of 5,972 votes is a record for a Democratic caucus held in the county, beating the previous high of 4,951 in the 1993 caucus for County Board. Voters cast ballots across three days at Francis Scott Key Elementary School on Tuesday, Drew Model School on Thursday and Washington-Lee High School Saturday.

Gutshall earned 3,209 votes to finish ahead of Kim Klingler with 1,416, Vivek Patil with 1,189 and Peter Fallon with 945. O’Grady got 3,441 votes, ahead of seven-year incumbent School Board member James Lander’s 2,336 votes and Maura McMahon’s 965.

“I think Arlington is definitely ready to move forward and make sure that we’re focused on the future,” Gutshall said. “That’s what I ran on, and I look forward to fulfilling everything that we’ve talked about in this campaign.”

O’Grady said she wants to repay her supporters’ faith in the November general election and beyond, if she wins a seat on the School Board.

“I want them to know I’m going to work very hard to follow everything that I’ve laid out in this campaign,” she said. “I’ve heard them, I will continue to listen to them and will continue to work so hard for our students. I will listen to them, I will listen to our students, I will listen to our parents as we continue to try to figure out how to handle some of the issues we’re dealing with in Arlington.”

For Gutshall, who came into the three-day caucus with a slew of endorsements from current and former elected officials, it represents a redemption of sorts after he lost the 2016 primary to Libby Garvey.

Gutshall said despite the defeat, he was determined for his vision to be heard at the highest levels of county government.

“It’s knowing that the future of Arlington matters, and that we are this great progressive success story that I want to see continue,” he said. “I have roots here. I’ve got my business here, I’ve got my family here, this is where I’m meant to be and it’s a great place to be and a great community and I want to make sure we keep moving forward into the future.”

Defeated County Board candidates Klingler and Patil congratulated Gutshall on a positive campaign, and said they were positive about the county’s future direction.

“Hopefully some of my messaging and priorities resonated throughout the campaign, because that’s what’s important to me,” Klingler said. “I hope we will carry those messages forward.”

“What I’m really happy about is the amazing campaign we ran,” Patil said. “I’m very proud of the ideas we brought to the race, the stories we told. I’m going to do this. I said on my first day, if I’m going to lose, it doesn’t matter, because I have actually won a lot of faith and support in the community for our ideas and our vision.”

The high turnout, albeit lower than for primary elections in the past, gave Democratic leaders cause for optimism ahead of June’s primary elections and November’s votes for Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General and the House of Delegates.

“Turnout is high and people are excited, so it’s a win for the Democrats,” said School Board vice chair Barbara Kanninen.

by Chris Teale — May 9, 2017 at 1:00 pm 0

After hearing from residents and prospective providers, Arlington will formally explore ways to add child care options in the county.

Under the recently-approved fiscal year 2018 budget, a full-time employee will join the Dept. of Community, Planning, Housing and Development to suggest changes to Arlington’s zoning ordinance that would help child care centers open.

The County Board also directed $50,000 be spent on an independent study to determine gaps in child care offerings by age and location.

County Board vice chair Katie Cristol, an advocate for more child care options in Arlington, said zoning ordinance tweaks could be key in adding more centers.

“I am strongly of the opinion, having formed it from talking to a lot of providers or would-be providers, that our biggest obstacles are within the zoning ordinance in terms of the number of parking spaces required by childcare centers or the amount of indoor vs. outdoor space,” Cristol said. “It makes it very hard to find a space for rent in Arlington County that will actually meet the requirements.”

Cristol said the independent study, done in parallel to any work tweaking the zoning ordinance, should give more data on where the gaps in the market lie. WTOP reported in February that children outnumbered daycare and preschool openings by a ratio of roughly three-to-one in 2015.

“There are some things we know and there are some things that we don’t know, so we want to get a little bit more specific about where the geographic areas are where childcare is most lacking,” Cristol said. “We have some hypotheses about that but not as much data.”

The county’s child care ordinance could also be in for another examination, especially in light of Virginia’s statewide regulations not being revised upwards. Cristol said she had been hopeful of the Virginia Department of Social Services revamping its regulations around child care centers, and improving standards that she said could be “almost criminally low.”

Last year, Arlington dropped a proposed update to its own child care regulations after several County Board members, Cristol included, slammed the inclusion of certain controversial provisions, which were seen as overly-prescriptive. Cristol was also critical of adding to the regulatory burden of small daycare providers without a clear health or safety imperative.

State officials decided at the end of last year to leave Virginia’s regulations alone, and while Cristol said Arlington’s continue to be tougher, a fresh look led by the county’s Child Care Licensing Office could help.

“I think after the version you saw in early 2016, which was roundly understood and emphasized by myself and other Board members to be a huge overreach, there are opportunities to look afresh at what are the high expectations that we have and want to communicate, and what do we actually require as a condition of opening a childcare center,” Cristol said.

The study will begin sometime after the start of the fiscal year, on July 1, while Cristol said she anticipated any zoning ordinances changes will come before the community and County Board in around 18 months.

by ARLnow.com — May 8, 2017 at 10:05 am 0

A small meadow preserved by the Arlington County Board, which overruled a plan to build a connector trail from the W&OD Trail to Carlin Springs Road, has been clearcut as a result of invasive species control measures.

The meadow was the subject of a mini-controversy in 2015, which saw civic activist Bernie Berne and others argue that building a 220-foot connector trail would destroy natural plant life and increase runoff into Four Mile Run.

The County Board agreed and voted against the plan from county staff, which proposed a connector trail in response to demand from cyclists seeking a better way to access Carlin Springs Road. (The meadow had an existing “cow path” from frequent off-roading by trail users.)

Though preserved at the time, the meadow was recently mowed down and stripped of most plant life. A sign indicates that it was done by Dominion as part of its invasive species control measures along power line right-of-ways, like the W&OD Trail.

Photos (1-2) courtesy Chris Slatt

by ARLnow.com — May 4, 2017 at 1:30 pm 0

Last week we asked the four Democratic candidates for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the May 9, 11 and 13 caucus.

Here is the unedited response from Vivek Patil:

My name is Vivek Patil and I am an engineer, entrepreneur, and community builder. As a leader at a global life science company and founder of two biotech startups, I have consistently faced seemingly impossible ideas requiring innovative thinking and persistence to make a reality. I’ve put this perspective into practice since my appointment to Arlington’s Economic Development commission, where I lead an advisory group exploring innovative and disruptive economic development ideas with the potential to transform Arlington.

In my experience, an equitable economy cannot be built without buy-in from all stakeholders. That is one of the reasons why I co-founded Building Bridges, a community outreach group that has built meaningful relationships with communities across Arlington. Our mission has been to reintegrate the diverse voices and visions of community stakeholders into our political and community processes through persistent outreach, listening, and engagement. In conversation, I have heard wonderful things about our progressive values, our inclusive and welcoming community, and Arlington’s remarkable livability. However, I have also heard stories of fading economic opportunity and housing affordability, a growing divide in incomes as well as our community issues and interests. I felt compelled to run for County Board to incorporate these voices into our ‘Arlington Way,’ and facilitate civic engagement that seeks out our community’s broad range of perspectives and collectively addresses school capacity, housing affordability, transportation infrastructure, and the fostering of economic opportunity.

This campaign is about re-imagining a bold, new economic vision for Arlington; one that transforms our community by creating a green and clean tech innovation economy. While nurturing our current business infrastructure, Arlington possesses the ingredients to build a green energy innovation hub rivaling Boston’s biotech space or Silicon Valley’s information technology economy. This new economy emphasizes our region’s talent, expertise, geography, and financial and strategic resources and it speaks to our progressive values of compassionate capitalism, equitable economic opportunity, and environmental protection.

Constructing this economy will require a regional DMV-area partnership that leverages our globally competitive green tech anchor companies and federal energy expertise to attract new entrepreneurs and startups. It will require strengthening of our university consortium along Fairfax drive and creating high-tech incubators to house and nurture new technologies and innovators. Older buildings in Crystal City and the metro corridors could be redeveloped through creative financing and cooperative investment models to house new companies as well as future entrepreneurs, employees, and families.

The green and clean tech sector is unique in that it requires an innovate-build-manufacture economy, utilizing both skilled and unskilled labor at each step of the way. A skilled workforce of engineers can design the next generation batteries or solar panels and trained workers can build them in facilities in Arlington or across the Commonwealth. It creates an economic opportunity continuum, bridging divisions between Virginia’s counties by advancing prosperous yet equitable growth.

Our schools and universities are indispensable to this economic transformation. I propose stronger collaboration between the County and School Board focused on preparing our children to be globally competitive in this innovation economy. Programs like Arlington Tech that offer project-based learning can partner with universities and employers, providing an applied learning construct with career opportunities for our high-school, career center, community college, and four-year university graduates. After all, Arlington only succeeds when all Arlingtonians succeed.

If elected to the County Board, I will act expeditiously and decisively to facilitate this bold new vision, well aware that it will require strategic collaboration, community engagement, and patience. A more sustainable, equitable, and diversified economy will help us generate the wealth necessary to fund our 21st century multi-modal transportation system, develop globally competitive schools, nurture our burgeoning arts infrastructure, and create a more biophilic and energy-efficient urban infrastructure. Arlington is uniquely qualified to lead this sector and I stand ready to lead our community in meeting this challenge. I hope you join me in achieving this innovative vision and I ask for your vote at the Democratic caucus on May 9th, 11th or 13th.

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