The Board largely took the recommendations of County Manager Mark Schwartz, who presented his proposed budget in February, and voted unanimously for the new, $1.2 billion FY 2017 budget.
Under the budget, the property tax rate will be reduced by half a cent, to $0.991 for every $100 in assessed value, while the overall property tax burden on the average homeowner will increase from $7,640 to $7,829. The increase is due to a 2.8 percent rise in residential property assessments.
The budget provides more money for Arlington Public Schools than APS asked for, in stark contrast to the budget battle in Fairfax County.
APS, which is continuing to grapple with a burgeoning student population, will get a $466.9 million budget transfer from the county, a 3.3 percent increase over the previous fiscal year. That includes “$1.1 million in one-time and ongoing funding above the School Board’s funding request.”
The budget includes the biggest boost to Arlington’s public safety funding in years, satisfying some long-sought requests.
The fire department will get eight additional firefighters to convert existing three-person fire units to the recommended safe staffing level of four per unit. ACFD will also get four additional firefighters to address persistent strains to medic unit staffing during peak times.
“A positive step forward for public safety,” the Arlington Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association said via Twitter.
The police department will get six new officers to help the department “meet its core mission responsibilities.” The Sheriff’s Office, which is facing a lawsuit over the alleged mistreatment of a deaf jail inmate, is getting five new positions to “improve safety and security at the Courthouse and the Detention Center, bolster its administrative staff and add a uniformed American with Disabilities Act coordinator.”
Other notable budget items include:
- An additional $1.5 million for Arlington Economic Development, “to focus on lowering the commercial vacancy rate.”
- $13.6 million for the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund, which is $1.1 million more than proposed by the manager.
- “Modest funding to continue the County’s open data efforts” and funding for livestreaming County Board work sessions and certain commission meetings.
- Merit pay increases for county employees.
- An increase in the living wage for county employees to $14.50 per hour, plus tuition reimbursement and continued funding for the Live Where You Work program.
“This is a good budget,” Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said in a statement. “Even as our population and school enrollment continue to grow, and our office vacancy rate remains high, the Board was able to put together a budget that preserves our community’s values, gives schools more funding than they requested, and adds funding for public safety, economic development and other key services – with a slight decrease in the tax rate.”
The budget is a complex document and the adopted budget is not yet online. Know of any other notable budget items not included here? Any quiet boosts or cuts in funding to a certain group or county department? Let us know in the comments.
Times Lauds Crystal City’s ‘Reboot’ — Arlington’s Crystal City community is “is quietly and persistently reinventing itself,” with tech startups and co-working spaces moving in and taking advantage of office space left vacant by departed federal and military tenants. Crystal City stakeholders are positioning it as a less expensive but still amenity-filled alternative to the District. “Think Brooklyn and Manhattan,” said Mitchell Schear, president of property owner Vornado/Charles E. Smith. [New York Times]
Ballston Named One of the Area’s ‘Hottest Neighborhoods’ — Ballston is among the top 5 “hottest neighborhoods in Washington,” according to Washingtonian. The magazine notes that Ballston’s median home price rose by nearby 10 percent last year, and that the forthcoming renovation of Ballston Common Mall will convert it into “an airy, downtown-like destination, akin to Fairfax’s Mosaic district.” The other four hot neighborhoods are Mount Pleasant, Trinidad, Shaw and Hyattsville. [Washingtonian]
Archaeological Dig Unearths History — An Arlington County-supervised archaeological dig at Dawson Terrace, near Rosslyn, has unearthed “243 ceramic objects, 1,603 glass objects, 74 metal objects and 13 others.” Most of the objects are believed to be from the 18th and 19th centuries. Dawson Terrace is Arlington’s oldest stone house, dating back to around the Revolutionary War. [Falls Church News-Press]
County Recognizes ‘Notable Trees’ — At yesterday’s Arlington County Board meeting, the county recognized this year’s batch of “notable trees.” Among the record 23 trees bestowed the honor for “their importance to our community, our environment and our sense of identity” was a Southern magnolia in Clarendon, planted in 1965 in honor of a fallen firefighter. [Arlington County, InsideNova]
Four Mile Run Initiative Advances — The County Board yesterday appointed a working group, charged with “providing advice, guidance and feedback to the Board and County staff on developing a comprehensive vision for Four Mile Run Valley.” The 95 acre area between Shirlington and Nauck, also known as Shirlington Crescent, is currently home to various light industrial businesses but may be ripe for redevelopment. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk
Yorktown High School is getting new synthetic turf for its stadium at Greenbrier Park.
The Arlington County Board on Saturday voted 5-0 to approve a $674,000 contract with Fieldturf USA for the project, which is described as a “total makeover” of the field, which is “worn beyond reasonable repair.”
The Greenbrier Park field is used for school events and sports like football, soccer, lacrosse and field hockey, in addition to use by the community. Arlington Public Schools will pay half of the field replacement cost.
“Improvements to the Greenbrier Park/Yorktown High School field will consist of replacement of the synthetic turf surfacing, inlaid game field markings (including mid-field logo and end zone lettering), replacement of corner flags, combination football/soccer goals, and discus cage, as well as necessary repairs to the field base,” notes the project website.
The new turf will utilize an alternative infill, EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer), instead of crumb rubber from recycled tires. Some have raised concerns about a possible cancer risk from crumb rubber, though in a press release the county said the decision to use EPDM was about athlete safety and turf durability.
“The product is softer than crumb rubber and is less abrasive on turf fibers than rubber,” notes the county. A shock-absorbing pad is also being installed under the turf, to improve safety and reduce concussions among youth athletes.
Construction is expected to take place during the summer, wrapping up in time for the new school year. The total project cost, including design and project management, is pegged at $1.6 million.
The full press release about the project, after the jump.
Arlington residents getting displaced from their apartments due to redevelopment, renovations or other work will be getting a bigger payout from their landlords starting July 1.
The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved the county’s first increase in tenant relocation payments since 2004.
The change applies only to those living in unfurnished apartments. County staff say that moving costs have increased substantially since 2004, and the hike in relocation payments will help cover those costs.
Households that qualify as Very Low Income under Dept. of Housing and Urban Development guidelines will receive a payment 50 percent higher than the standard payment.
Residents living in furnished apartments also are eligible for relocation assistance, but those rates are lower — there’s ostensibly no furniture to move, after all — and will not change.
“Tenant displacements result in personal hardship for those directly affected and also impact the surrounding neighborhoods and other communities within the County,” notes a county staff report. “The fundamental goal of the County’s relocation policy is to enable displaced tenants to move directly to decent, structurally safe and affordable replacement housing convenient to their place of employment and/or education.”
The payments are voluntarily for owners of by-right developments, but are required if a development is a site plan project or receiving a form of financial assistance from the county.
The press release from Arlington County, after the jump.
The Board will consider tax rates and the annual county budget on Tuesday. A staff report published in advance of the meeting suggests that the Board has settled upon a tax rate reduction.
“After a lengthy public review process that included work sessions, public hearings, input from residents, employees, boards and commissions, and updated revenue forecasts based on FY 2016 mid-year and third-quarter updates, the County Board, after deliberations, has approved an FY 2017 budget that is balanced at the real estate tax rate of $0.978 per $100 of assessed property value,” the report says.
That will bring the residential tax rate to $0.991 per $100 in assessed value, including the $0.013 stormwater rate.
Despite the rate reduction, the average Arlington homeowner will be paying more in taxes, thanks to a 2.8 percent rise in residential real estate assessments.
“The average Arlington homeowner would pay $5,981 per year in real estate taxes, a $133 or 2.3 percent increase over CY 2015,” county staff writes.
Commercial property assessments this year were deemed flat, “with only 0.7 percent growth from CY 2015 to CY 2016, primarily fueled by a slight decrease in vacancy rates.”
Arcing Insulator Causes Metro Delays — An arcing insulator in the tunnel between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom caused some Metrorail delays this morning. Arlington County firefighters responded to the track fire, which occurred around 6 a.m. [WUSA 9]
New Bus Lanes Open in Crystal City — A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Sunday for Arlington’s portion of the Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway, the region’s first bus rapid transit system. The system’s 1.5 miles of bus-only lanes that run through Crystal City are now open and serving riders. Cars that use the lanes during rush hour face a $200 ticket. [WTOP]
Gutshall Out-Raises Garvey, Speaks at Board Meeting — Erik Gutshall, who’s challenging incumbent Libby Garvey for the Democratic Arlington County Board nomination, raised almost $52,000 during the most recent quarter, while Garvey raised about $34,600. Garvey still maintains a cash on hand advantage, however. Gutshall, meanwhile, spoke at Saturday’s County Board meeting and called for the Board to do more to oppose the gun store in Lyon Park. [InsideNova, InsideNova]
Wardian Running Boston Marathon Today — Elite runner Michael Wardian is among the many Arlington residents competing in the Boston Marathon today. The 42-year-old, known for his prolific pace of race running, has been particularly prolific as of late — so much so that his international adventures recently prompted him to get his passport expanded. [Competitor]
Board Approves Car2Go, Google Proposals — The County Board on Saturday approved a proposal to allow the Car2Go car sharing program to operate seamlessly between Arlington and D.C. (approval is still needed from the District). The Board also voted to join Google’s Connected Citizens Program, which facilitates the sharing of traffic and road condition data. [Arlington County, Arlington County]
Van Doren, Talento Endorsed By Education Association — The political action committee of the Arlington Education Association, which represents local teachers, has endorsed incumbent Nancy Van Doren and newcomer Tannia Talento in the race for the Democratic School Board endorsement. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Arlington County is likely to join Google’s Connected Citizens Program, which shares road condition and traffic data gathered from its Waze app with localities across the country and around the world.
The County Board is expected to give its okay to joining the program at its meeting on Saturday.
“Launched by Google in October 2014, the Program exchanges transportation data with local law enforcement agencies, cities, state DOTs, and countries around the world,” wrote county staff.
It’s a two-way exchange — the County would be sharing road closure information while Waze would be sharing crash, traffic and road condition reports, as submitted by the app’s users.
“With the County sharing up-to-date disruptive event information with Waze, the County is contributing to the safety of drivers and easing traffic congestion by allowing drivers to re-route in real time,” county staff write. “The County intends to integrate the Waze reported incident data into the County’s My Arlington mobile app to provide enhanced real-time reporting of high impact traffic disruptions in Arlington.”
Car2Go launched in Arlington this past fall as a pilot program, but it only allows trips that start and end in Arlington. The Board is considering taking a first step to allowing cross-jurisdictional service between D.C. and Arlington.
After launching Oct. 22, Car2Go got off to slow start with customers, according to a county staff report. In response, Car2Go reduced its Arlington fleet from 95 cars to only 25 in January.
So far, 2,000 Arlington residents have joined as members, taking 6,600 trips, but the fleet reduction has resulted in “less availability overall and reduced usefulness to members,” said county staff.
The company has also had to contend with complaints about their cars being parked in one place for too long. In residential permit parking areas, the maximum idle time is 24 hours; it’s 36 hours everywhere else.
“Membership and vehicle use in the first couple months of the program was lower than anticipated and several complaints were received from residents reporting car2go vehicles that were idle/parked for longer-than-permitted durations,” said the staff report. “All of these relocation requests were resolved by car2go staff.”
With only 25 vehicles — up to 200 were authorized by the county — “the pilot does not indicate that an Arlington-only system is viable,” say county staff.
By allowing Car2Go to operate across state lines, it can “provide a more useful service to members in Arlington and D.C.,” “operate a fleet size sufficient for proper evaluation
of operational viability in Arlington” and “reduce vehicle idle times and rebalancing costs that have been a barrier thus far.”
Even though county staff says their D.C. counterparts support cross-jurisdictional service, approval by the County Board this weekend would not result in an immediate service change, Car2Go said.
“Approval from the Arlington County Board would be a very positive step toward cross-jurisdictional access, and we’re also working to gain support from DDOT,” said spokesman Brad Ducey. “As soon as we are able to get support from both jurisdictions, we would be able to implement quickly.”
“It has always been our goal to create a seamless regional carsharing solution, similar to what members of Capital Bikeshare experience,” Ducey added. “We know car2go members are eager for access between Washington D.C. and Arlington, and we’re continuing to work hard to make that a reality. We’ll be sure to keep our members informed since we know car2go is an important part of how they get around, and cross-jurisdictional access would make it even more convenient.”
VDOT Holds HOT Lane Meeting — Last night VDOT gave the first formal public presentation of its plan to expand the I-395 HOV lanes and convert them to High Occupancy Toll lanes. The meeting was held at Wakefield High School and addressed issues from toll pricing to transit improvements to sound walls. [WTOP, Fox 5]
Bike-on-Bike Crashes Problematic for the Law — A new article asserts that Arlington County Police normally do not file reports for bike-on-bike crashes. “This is a bike accident. Life happens,” an officer reportedly told a victim after one recent incident. Incomplete or nonexistent police reports have frustrated victims and attorneys seeking legal redress — and led to the hiring of private investigators who try to gather evidence and find witnesses. [Washingtonian]
Disability Advocates Protest in Arlington — Disability rights advocates made their frustrations personal yesterday by protesting in front of the Arlington home of Vanita Gupta, head of the U.S. Justice Department Civil Rights Division. [Disability Scoop]
Proposal: Allow Older Cabs in Arlington — The Arlington County Board on Saturday is expected to consider a policy change that would allow older cabs on the road, among other changes. Currently, cabs entering service may be no older than two years old and then must be retired after reaching seven years old or 350,000 miles. Recognizing advances in vehicle reliability, the new policy would do away with the two year provision and set the maximum age of cabs at 10 years old. [Arlington County]
Free Donuts for Lawyers Today — It’s Be Kind to Lawyers Day and to mark the occasion Sugar Shack Donuts on Columbia Pike is offering a free “house donut” to lawyers today. Sugar Shack is also beginning a promotion that will give select customers free donuts to distribute to their favorite local teachers. “To participate, folks just need to use the hashtag #Treats4Teach to tell us on Facebook or Twitter why they should be picked to deliver donuts to their local school teachers and to which school,” said a press release.
Nice Weather at Last — After this morning’s rain, expect clearing skies and pleasant weather that should stretch into next week. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Deputy County Manager Carol Mitten discussed the change during last week’s Arlington County Board meeting. She said the problem isn’t county policy — which was updated in 2011 — it’s the application of that policy.
The county’s Master Transportation Plan calls for 4-5 foot wide sidewalks in residential neighborhoods, with the narrower sidewalk in areas where it would preserve mature trees, parking, slopes or structures.
County staff’s approach, however, has been to design and “start the conversation” with a five-foot-wide sidewalk, even in areas that would otherwise call for the four-foot-wide sidewalk. That led to conflicts and neighborhood consternation.
“There are important accommodations to preserve neighborhood character,” Mitten said. “We think that the policy the Board passed strikes the right balance, whereas our application of the policy perhaps has not.”
While “it is desirable to have a five foot minimum width where possible in order to comply with ADA regulations and for general ease and safe accessibility,” Mitten said, the new approach — of starting the conversation with a four-foot-wide sidewalk where appropriate — “maximizes the opportunity to provide sidewalks along streets where now there are none without compromising the integrity of the overall policy.”
County Board member Jay Fisette said the issue was first raised more than a year ago, after a five-foot-wide sidewalk plan led to the cancellation of some potential Neighborhood Conservation projects.
Libby Garvey, County Board chair, said the county shouldn’t let perfect be the enemy of good, especially in areas where there currently are no sidewalks.
“There are too many streets where to get the perfect sidewalk they’re getting no sidewalk, and that’s not safe for anybody,” she said.
The county has been soliciting resident feedback on its snow removal effort and there has been no shortage of opinions: some 3,000 constituents responded to an online survey alone.
In response, County Manager Mark Schwartz yesterday presented an initial report for the County Board, outlining a number of snow removal changes that are being considered.
Among the proposed changes:
- Plow both major roads and residential streets simultaneously during large snow storms, rather than only focusing on major roads and leaving residential streets snow-covered until after the storm.
- Adding “backup drivers” for large snow storms.
- Better utilizing staff and contractors “to minimize snow piling at intersections and sidewalks and reduce missed streets.”
- Improving training and oversight of contractors “to minimize obstructive snow piling.”
- “Improving technology used to track, monitor and communicate progress during snow and ice removal.”
- Better utilizing volunteers and coordinating with Arlington’s civic associations.
Longer term changes also being consider include:
- Adding a snow removal staging area in north Arlington and adding new equipment like backhoe plows and a new snow melter.
- Odd-even parking requirements, enforcement of snow emergency routes and opening parking garages during large snow events to reduce obstructions on residential streets for snow plows.
Schwartz is expected to present a more comprehensive report later this year.
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.