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by Katie Pyzyk — April 17, 2017 at 9:30 am 0

Candidates Largely Favor Land Swap — During a debate, Democratic County Board candidates generally indicated they want the county to move forward with a land swap agreement with Virginia Hospital Center. VHC has offered the county various pieces of land in exchange for a 5-acre parcel of county-owned land on N. Edison Street, just north of the VHC property. [InsideNova]

Impact of Pike Streetcar Cancellation — There’s speculation that the county’s 2014 cancellation of the Columbia Pike streetcar plan may have contributed to stalling revitalization efforts in the Bailey’s Crossroads area of Fairfax County. [Washington Post]

New Assistant County Manager — Arlington County has named Samia Byrd as a new assistant county manager. Byrd has more than 20 years of planning experience and will serve as a senior adviser to County Manager Mark Schwartz. [Arlington County]

Historic District Proposal — Next month the County Board will consider a proposal to designate “The Hermitage,” a home at 4025 N. Randolph Street, as a local historic district. [InsideNova]

by Katie Pyzyk — April 14, 2017 at 9:30 am 0

County Board Candidate Forum Recap — The four Democrats hoping to win Jay Fisette’s seat on the County Board addressed issues such as infrastructure and a real estate tax increase at a candidate forum Wednesday night. [InsideNova]

APS Principal, Teacher Finalists for Honors — An Arlington Public Schools principal and a teacher both are finalists for Washington Post awards. Swanson Middle School Principal Bridget Loft is a finalist for the Principal of the Year Award, and Wakefield High School Teacher Michelle Cottrell-Williams is a finalist for the Teacher of the Year Award. [Washington Post]

Local Student Serves as Speaker — Wakefield High School senior Wisam Mustafa served as the speaker for the 2017 Virginia Model General Assembly program. The three-day session in Richmond included 550 high school students from across the state. Mustafa got to meet Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) and House Speaker William Howell (R). [InsideNova]

Closings for Easter — Libraries will be closed on Sunday for the Easter holiday, as will county community centers. Parks will remain open.

by Chris Teale — April 13, 2017 at 10:15 am 0

A record number of people turned out for last night’s Democratic Party straw poll, where County Board candidate Erik Gutshall and School Board candidate Monique O’Grady were some of the victors.

Hosted at the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse by Del. Alfonso Lopez (D), more than 120 people cast ballots for Democratic candidates for Arlington County Board, Arlington School Board, lieutenant governor and governor. The attendance set a record for the event, now in its third year.

Lopez said the event raised around $12,500 from ticket sales, which he said will be funneled to Democratic candidates in other House of Delegates races across the commonwealth. Lopez added that getting people excited about the upcoming races was a big point of emphasis, as opposed to focusing purely on the straw poll results from a limited voter pool.

“I think what’s wonderful about it is people are so fired up,” he said in an interview. “They’re coming into the room fired up, excited about the campaigns, they’re excited about the candidacies, they’re excited about their friends running for office.”

Gutshall won the County Board poll with 38 percent of the vote, ahead of Vivek Patil with 30 percent, Peter Fallon with 22 percent and Kim Klingler with 10 percent.

Gutshall, who won the straw poll last year in his unsuccessful bid for a County Board seat, said creative thinking is required to solve problems like school overcrowding and housing affordability.

“We’ve got a wonderful county here that I’m proud to be a part of,” he said. “But we can’t stay the same.”

In her remarks, O’Grady cited her “experience keeping our school system strong,” as well as being co-chair of last year’s successful $138.83 million school bond campaign.

O’Grady won the School Board straw poll with 46 percent of the vote, ahead of incumbent James Lander with 36 percent and Maura McMahon with 18 percent.

In the statewide races, current Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam won the straw poll for the governor’s race against former Rep. Tom Perriello with 67.5 percent of the vote. Speaking on Northam’s behalf, state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) said Northam is a “fighter for our progressive values” and has advocated tirelessly for women, children and ethnic minorities.

“We can count on Ralph to be with us as the 73rd governor of Virginia,” Ebbin said.

Justin Fairfax took victory in the straw poll for lieutenant governor with 64 percent of the vote, ahead of Susan Platt with 20 percent and Gene Rossi with 16 percent. County Board member Christian Dorsey, who spoke on Fairfax’s behalf, praised his grueling campaign schedule and his long-term view on solving problems.

“The question is, who has the skill and the will and will fight for you?” Dorsey said. “In this regard, I am so impressed with Justin Fairfax.”

The Arlington County Democratic Committee holds its caucus for County Board nominee and School Board endorsement on May 9, 11 and 13. Statewide primary elections will be held on June 13.

by ARLnow.com — March 30, 2017 at 11:15 am 0

The following letter was sent to members of the County Board, ARLnow.com and other community organizations by Bluemont resident and local activist Suzanne Smith Sundburg, who says the proposed tax rate hike is regressive and unnecessary. Arlington County is in the midst of its annual budget process.

Dear Chair Fisette and members of the Arlington County Board,

Meaningful discussion of revenue (the real estate tax rate) without any discussion of expenditures (the budget) makes little sense, as these two items are inextricably linked.

For FY18, the effective advertised real estate tax-rate (assessment increase + 2-cent rate increase) is equivalent to a 4-cent hike in the real estate tax rate. Over the past decade, Arlington County homeowners, commercial property owners, and renters have been asked to shoulder ongoing increases in the tax and fee burden.

With a 2-cent increase, the average homeowner would see the tax and fee burden rise from $8,305 in calendar year (CY) 2016 to $8,613 in CY 2017 — a 4% increase, or about $492 — and will have absorbed a cumulative, 5-year increase of $1,613 in additional taxes and fees (CY 2013-CY 2017).

Commercial property owners (and the businesses that rent from them) face an even greater burden with the 12.5-cent transportation surcharge and (where applicable) BID assessment.

At a March 9 budget work session with the commissions, the manager agreed that real estate tax increases are passed through to commercial office tenants and that taxes are one driver of the county’s stubbornly high vacancy rate. However, he could point to no specific data or recent analysis predicting the impact of a 4-cent (or lesser) effective tax-rate increase on Arlington’s vacancy rate.

Likewise, in answer to another question on March 9, the manager also agreed that raising the real estate tax rate would increase the cost of housing for the county’s affordable housing community — even as the county is simultaneously subsidizing this cost. Increases in Arlington’s tax and fee burden makes housing less affordable for all Arlingtonians, and this burden disproportionately affects those living on lower and fixed incomes, including elderly and disabled residents.

Given the large amount of cash on hand, as outlined below, it would seem highly likely that the manager could (with Board concurrence) cover all new proposed spending by reallocating a small portion of these funds to cover limited-duration and nonrecurring expenditures in the general fund budget rather than raising the tax rate for FY2018.

Using cash already on hand, the manager’s proposed budget could be funded without any spending cuts or a tax-rate increase. I therefore urge the Board not to increase the tax rate and to ask the manager to identify expenditures that are appropriate for alternative cash funding and to trim any unnecessary spending, using public money efficiently and effectively to minimize the need for future tax increases (or spending cuts). Below the list of several sources of cash on hand, I have identified a few cost savings and efficiencies as well.

CASH ON HAND

  • $191.2 million — Fund Balance. (See Exhibit 3, FY16 CAFR.) I am not asking the board to tap the county’s 5% operating reserve of $58 million or similar required reserves. There is a great deal of money in the fund balance beyond required reserves. Since FY09, the county has been carrying an unspent fund balance of at least $100 million. (See Exhibit 5, FY09-FY16 CAFRs.) Since FY06, the fund balance has generated a net positive surplus, even at the height of the real estate crash when revenues were $72 million less than expenditures.

Thus, over the last decade the county historically and consistently has taken in more money than it has spent. FY18 will likely continue this trend as the manager has presented a “balanced budget that continues the current level of service within existing tax rate” of $0.991 per $100 of assessed value.

  • $77.7 million — APS reserves. APS has its own $77.7 million cash reserves (on top of county reserves), which are defined/described in the superintendent’s FY18 proposed budget. The superintendent has set aside approximately $24 million in cash for “future budget years,” $19 million of which is unallocated and presumably will be carried over into FY19.
  • $157 million — Transportation Capital Fund. (See Exhibit X, FY16 CAFR.) The TCF is expected to generate another +/-$26 million in revenue in FY18. On March 9, the manager confirmed to me that at least some of the 1-cent proposed increase for Metro could alternately be funded by TCF dollars. When we know that borrowing costs are likely to rise, why would we want to float more new bonds than strictly necessary, particularly when we have so much unspent money in the TCF?

Surely out of a $1.24 billion budget, the county can find $14.8 million in limited-duration and nonrecurring expenditures that could be otherwise funded from cash already on hand. If it’s a choice between making cuts and finding expenditures that qualify for an alternative funding source(s), my guess is that the county’s departments will be able to provide a list of items that would qualify.

(more…)

by Chris Teale — March 29, 2017 at 3:30 pm 0

Numerous Arlington residents spoke out last night against the County Manager’s “optional” proposed cuts to lessen a planned tax increase.

The County Board’s public hearing Tuesday saw opposition to suggested cuts to the Lee Highway Planning Initiative, snow removal from trails and the Glencarlyn Library among other programs.

County Manager Mark Schwartz proposed a $1.2 billion budget for FY 2018 that includes a tax increase of 2 cents per $100 of assessed value. One cent apiece would go towards Arlington Public Schools and Metro’s increased funding needs.

After direction from County Board members, Schwartz produced a version that would only have a 1-cent increase and cuts elsewhere to make up the difference.

But the suggested cut to funding Lee Highway planning — which would shelve the project until further notice — brought strong opposition from residents and business owners. Under the $500,000 budget cut, the Lee Highway Alliance, a grassroots partnership that looks to improve the quality of life along the corridor, would lose all $60,000 of its county funding, according to speakers.

“The Lee Highway Alliance is the Arlington way: it’s a grassroots effort that sprung up as we realized the need for planning in this corridor,” said Karen Kumm Morris, a representative of the Rock Spring Civic Association.

“A good idea is meaningless without the courage to act,” agreed Sandi Chesrown, an executive board member on the Waverly Hills Civic Association.

Also coming under fire was the plan to cut the Glencarlyn Branch Library’s days of operation from six to two, but it brought one of the two-hour hearing’s lighter moments.

Jeffrey Liteman, representing the Glencarlyn Civic Association, first unfurled a 20-foot petition signed in opposition to the planned cuts. He then sang and played guitar in support of the library, backed by other attendees holding signs behind him.

“It’s the heart of the community, two days are not enough,” he sang.

Members of the county’s Community Services Board advocated for various budget requests, including new case managers for those with developmental disabilities, six placements in a mental health group home and a $75,000 study to determine services for young adults on the autism spectrum.

Among the other topics discussed Tuesday night:

  • Arlington Public Schools and the need to fill the approximately $13 million funding gap between Schwartz’s plan and Superintendent Patrick Murphy’s proposed $617 million budget.
  • Various solutions to increase the county’s affordable housing stock, including more funding for housing grants and a higher zoning fee for apartment developers.
  • Funding for the county’s streetlight repair program, which is in line to receive a big boost under Schwartz’s proposed budget but not under his optional cuts.
  • Opposition to an optional cut to the $50,000 program that removes snow from local trails with the same priority as street snow removal.
  • The financial literacy program within the Virginia Cooperative Extension and permanent county funding for the financial education program associate position to run it.

Earlier this month, opinion columnist Mark Kelly suggested that Schwartz’s optional cuts were purposefully unpalatable, “designed to make taxpayers believe there are few desirable options when it comes to trimming the budget.” Schwartz, in a statement, said making budget cut recommendations “is always difficult, particularly given the growing demands and potential impacts on our community.’

The County Board will return for another public hearing tomorrow night, this time about the proposed tax rate and fee hikes. The budget is slated for final adoption on April 22.

by Chris Teale — March 27, 2017 at 3:45 pm 0

Local Democrats’ decision to choose a County Board nominee by caucus not primary has drawn the ire of some of its younger members.

At the Virginia Young Democrats’ annual convention earlier this month, the Arlington Young Democrats spearheaded a resolution to encourage the use of primary elections in local and statewide races.

The Arlington County Democratic Committee will use a so-called “firehouse primary” to choose a nominee to run to succeed retiring County Board chair Jay Fisette. Four candidates will be on the ballot: Peter Fallon, Erik Gutshall, Kim Klingler and Vivek Patil.

The unassembled caucus, in which any registered voter can show up, fill out a ballot and leave, will be held alongside the School Board caucus on May 9, 11 and 13 at Key Elementary School, Drew Model School and Washington-Lee High School, respectively. Candidates are ranked in order of preference by attendees.

But Maggie Davis, president of the Arlington Young Democrats, said such a system does not help more young voters get involved in the nomination process.

“It is incredibly difficult for a young person likely working multiple jobs with very little flexible free time to access the caucus,” Davis said. “There’s no in-person absentee voting, no absentee voting and the caucus only happens on certain times. And the Thursday night location [Drew Model School] is off the Metro corridor.”

ACDC chair Kip Malinosky said the decision to use a caucus instead of a primary would encourage candidates to move away from negative campaigning, especially as it uses a ranking system.

“The issue is that neither system is perfect,” Malinosky said. “Obviously, we always want to see more people vote and make it easier for people to vote. On the other hand, primaries, especially when it’s just plurality, can be very negative.”

The Arlington Young Democrats introduced their resolution at the national convention to some reluctance from smaller jurisdictions, worried about the financial burden of funding a primary. But Davis said the principle of allowing as many people to vote as possible and all precinct voting stations being open won the day.

“It was generally accepted that we should have more open and transparent electoral processes,” she said.

Davis said the addition of a third day for caucus voting was a good compromise by ACDC, but that the Young Democrats still wish to see some kind of absentee voting introduced to allow as many people as possible to vote if they wish, even if they are absent on polling day.

Malinosky rejected the idea that a caucus allows the local party to who is chosen as the eventual nominee, and emphasized the need for positive campaigning. He added that the use of a caucus this year does not set a precedent for future nominating contests.

“If you look at the literature on political turnout, negative campaigning can really sink political turnout,” he said. “What we want to do as a party to influence it is have positive campaigning. But I don’t think there’s an end-all, be-all perfect answer for caucuses vs. primaries.”

by ARLnow.com — March 24, 2017 at 9:15 am 0

Texas Jack's BBQ in Lyon Park (Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok)

Arlington Population Continues to Rise — The latest Census Bureau estimate of Arlington’s population is 230,050, a 0.9 percent rise over the previous year. [InsideNova]

LaHood to Review WMATA — Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been tapped by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) to conduct an independent review of Metro’s “operating, governance, and financial conditions.” The review will “develop recommendations for potential WMATA reforms, including mitigating growth in annual operating costs and sustainable funding.” [Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Washington Post]

Private Investigators Set Up Shop in Arlington — A group of private investigators is trying to solve the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich last July. The group, which does not have the support of Rich’s family, is working out of a “war room” in Arlington as it tries to piece together clues about the fatal shooting in D.C.’s Bloomingdale neighborhood. [DCist, WJLA]

County Board Hears Complaint About Poo — A resident’s complaint at a County Board meeting, about a homeless man “appropriating” a bus stop in Rosslyn, led to the following sentence in the Sun Gazette: “County-government spokesman Mary Curtius said it was ‘exceedingly rare’ to find human waste at bus stops.” [InsideNova]

Schaeffer’s Favorite Arlington Things — Eric Schaeffer, co-founder and artistic director of Shirlington’s Signature Theatre, recently shared some of his favorite local spots. Among them: French store Le Marche and Irish pub Samuel Beckett’s, both in Shirlington, along with Pupatella pizzeria in Bluemont and P.F. Chang’s in Ballston. [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok

by Chris Teale — March 22, 2017 at 5:00 pm 0

1812 N. Moore Street (photo via Monday Properties)

The Arlington County Board approved Tuesday a $12 million package of state and local grants for the relocation of Nestlé’s U.S. corporate headquarters to Rosslyn.

The food giant will receive $6 million in Commonwealth Opportunity Fund grant money from Virginia. COF money is incentive-based, and requires at least $36 million in capital investment and 748 new jobs with an average annual salary of $127,719.

That state grant will be matched by the county’s Economic Development Incentive grant and related infrastructure improvements. The $4 million EDI grant has the same requirements as the state grant but also requires that at least 205,000 square feet of space be leased.

The additional $2 million in infrastructure improvements is already planned in the county’s Capital Improvement Plan, said Christina Winn of Arlington Economic Development.

Winn said those improvements include the Corridor of Light public art installation on N. Lynn Street, the Lynn Street Esplanade and Custis Trail Improvement project, and relocation of bus stops on N. Moore Street.

The combination of grants shows “everybody giving a little bit to get so much back,” Winn said. She added that such incentives help Arlington stay competitive against its regional rivals, and that such programs are only used 7 percent of the time, when AED looks to attract big companies like Grant Thornton.

Board vice chair Katie Cristol said that she has previously been “skeptical” of such incentive programs, but that she sees their value in cases like this. Nestlé is projected to bring $14.2 million in net tax benefit to Arlington, and will bring an anchor tenant to the previously empty skyscraper at 1812 N. Moore Street. The move is seen as a big economic development win for the county.

“The case has been well made about what this means for Arlington County and why this is a significant decision on the part of Nestlé,” Cristol said.

Photo courtesy Monday Properties

by Chris Teale — March 22, 2017 at 3:45 pm 0

After a brawl earlier this month outside A-Town Bar & Grill in which two men were tased by police, the bar will be subject to stricter county reviews.

The County Board approved a plan Tuesday for staff to review the bar’s permit for live entertainment and dancing in one month, then have the Board review it again in three months. Previously, the permit was up for Board review every six months.

Co-owner Mike Cordero said the two suspects — one of whom was dressed as Pikachu, according to police — were A-Town customers, but had been cut off and escorted out. Cordero said the incident took place two hours after they left, and not on their property.

Board members agreed A-Town must work with the county to fix the problems being caused by unruly patrons.

“I think what we have to come to grips with, regardless of whether you want to take responsibility or not, there’s a problem with this establishment in terms of what happens with the patrons when they leave, and what they do to the wider community,” Board member Christian Dorsey said.

A staff report found police responded to A-Town 38 times between September 20, 2016 and March 17, 2017. Board chairman Jay Fisette said the quantity of calls is less important than their content.

“The number doesn’t mean anything,” Fisette said. “It’s the nature of the call, and what can be prevented and what cannot be prevented.”

Cordero and fellow owner Scott Parker said things are improving at A-Town, after incidents in previous years and a strained relationship with the County Board and staff.

But neighbors of the bar in Ballston bemoaned the behavior of some of its patrons after they leave. Many incidents take place during A-Town’s popular “Sunday Funday” festivities.

“Enough is enough of this [neighborhood] degradation,” said Theodore Gebhard, a member of the Altavista/Berkeley Ad Hoc Committee of Concerned Homeowners. “It needs to be addressed by the county.”

Lee Austin, a resident at the Altavista condo building, decried an “irresponsible business model” where people who are already drunk are still served alcohol. He also read an email from a neighbor recounting who witnessed “egregious sexual behavior” on the patio, behavior he said is damaging to the neighborhood.

A meeting will be held tonight between A-Town management and Arlington police to discuss the brawl from earlier this month. Further discussions will be had with the fire marshal and Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control officers.

Photo (#3) via Google Maps

by Chris Teale — March 22, 2017 at 1:15 pm 0

2231 Crystal Drive SineWaveA venture capital fund seeking to help grow new technology businesses in Crystal City will receive economic development funds from Arlington County.

The County Board unanimously approved an incentive-based economic development grant for SineWave Ventures at its Tuesday meeting.

Up to $250,000 would be paid over five years to SineWave under the terms of the deal, depending on performance.

The agreement states that SineWave must attract five capital providers and partner companies to lease office space, and create at least 391 new full-time jobs. There are other goals for investment reviews and the provision of educational events for local entrepreneurs.

Sinewave graphicSineWave is aiming to develop a central hub of similar tech-focused venture capital firms at 2231 Crystal Drive, to invest in new companies. It will be in the same building as startup incubator 1776, and close to open-access workshop TechShop and coworking space Eastern Foundry.

A “sense of collaboration, advisement and mentorship” will come from the companies all being located in Crystal City, said Christina Winn, director of Arlington Economic Development’s Business Investment Group.

Board member John Vihstadt said such grants will help the county be less reliant on the federal government.

“This may seem like small potatoes to some, but frankly it’s part of the story where we really are working very hard to diversify Arlington’s economy away from federal contractors, away from the defense industry and towards really a 21st century economy, which is where the action hopefully is going to be,” he said.

Winn said AED spent two years developing the plan and ensuring there is little financial risk to the county. Board member Christian Dorsey said the requirement that SineWave repay the money if it fails to hit its targets is wise.

“These are not investments of the international high-risk equity variety,” he said. “These are of the safe variety, as if they don’t pan out we get our money back, which is the best investment to make because you can’t really lose.”

by ARLnow.com — March 22, 2017 at 10:35 am 0

Reeves farmhouse (image courtesy Arlington County)

The Arlington County Board voted unanimously yesterday to move forward with the sale of the historic Reeves farmhouse in Bluemont.

Despite a last push from a group that wants the farmhouse converted into a learning center for students, the county says that selling the farmhouse to a private buyer, who will be required to “maintain its historic integrity,” is the only economical way to preserve it for future generations.

“The County’s goal is to preserve the historic character of Reeves farmhouse and to preserve the site’s two acres of open space, the raised gardens, sledding hill and milk shed,” the county said in a press release.

“The County’s efforts to achieve the sort of successful partnership to restore the Reevesland farmhouse that it has achieved with other projects have been hampered by the estimated, and increasing, cost of renovating the farmhouse and bringing it up to code for public use, estimated to be in the range of $2.5 – $3 million, as well as an unspecified amount for ongoing maintenance and operating costs.”

The full press release, after the jump.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com — March 22, 2017 at 9:10 am 0

Sofar Sounds music performance by Chris Scholar in Crystal City 3/21/17

Metro PD Searching for Sexual Battery Suspect — Metro Transit Police are trying to identify a man who may have touched another rider inappropriately on an Orange Line train near the Clarendon station last week. [NBC Washington]

Local Tax Relief for Seniors — Last year 929 Arlington residents took advantage of the county’s real estate tax relief program for seniors, together saving $4.1 million in taxes. [Falls Church News-Press]

County Honors Transportation ‘Champions’ — “The Arlington County Board today honored 22 businesses as Platinum Level Champions for their commitment to operating and enhancing sustainable transportation programs for employees and tenants.” [Arlington County]

by Chris Teale — March 20, 2017 at 4:45 pm 0

The Stratford School building in Cherrydale will expand as it transitions to a middle school.

The County Board unanimously approved a plan Saturday to add 40,000 square feet to the school, which currently houses the H-B Woodlawn secondary program. The addition will include a new library, an auxiliary gym, classrooms, science labs and other teaching spaces and a new student common area.

A design for the 1,000-seat middle school was first approved last year by the County Board.

Also in 2016, the County Board designated the school as a local historic district. In 1959, when Stratford was previously a middle school, it was the first Virginia public school to be integrated.

“This plan ensures that Stratford School building, perhaps Arlington’s most significant local historic designation so far, will be preserved — and will be adapted to serve the changing needs of our growing student population,” County Board Chairman Jay Fisette said. “We have to meet our county’s current needs while remembering and honoring the important role Stratford played in 1959, when it became the first public school in the commonwealth to be integrated.”

Ben Bergen, assistant director of design and construction for schools, said Superintendent Patrick Murphy has formed a group to discuss an “interpretive experience” to recognize the school’s history.

The school’s athletic field will be re-graded and rebuilt. Arlington Public Schools staff agreed to try redesigning the field to meet Ultimate Frisbee requirements, as in current plans it is too short for that sport. H-B Woodlawn currently offers an Ultimate Frisbee program for its students.

The H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs are set relocate to the redeveloping Wilson School site in Rosslyn, starting in 2019.

Bergen said construction should begin early next year, with the major work being done in the summers of 2018 and 2019. H-B Woodlawn students will stay in the building during construction, while the Stratford program will move into temporary buildings.

School Board chairwoman Nancy Van Doren said once finished, the new Stratford School will be a facility everyone can be proud of.

“We broke so many new boundaries with this, and I think we’re going to end up with a fabulous, fabulous project,” she said.

by Chris Teale — March 20, 2017 at 3:45 pm 0

Hedgehog (photo courtesy Kelly)Arlington residents will be allowed to own hedgehogs under the latest draft of a plan to ban “wild and exotic” pets in the county.

The County Board voted unanimously Saturday to revisit the proposed ban, with some modifications, at its June 17 meeting after more public discussion.

A previous version of the proposal had included hedgehogs among the banned species. Lyn Hainge, assistant division chief of the county’s public health division, said she received feedback from several hundred people, many of them pro-hedgehog, after the ban plan was publicized.

Snake owners, however, might still run afoul of the new rules.

Hainge said the original plan to ban non-venomous snakes that measured more than 4 feet in length has been changed. Now, those that weigh more than 10 pounds would be banned.

But Jennifer Toussaint, the county’s chief animal control officer, said that switch did not take into account different snake species.

“It can be confusing for individuals as to what they can and cannot legally acquire,” she said. “We have snakes that would fall into that list that pose minimal risk to the public.”

Bonnie Keller, operator of Virginia Reptile Rescue, Inc., said she has previously brought snakes that are 14 feet long and weigh 175 pounds to birthday parties for 4- and 5-year-olds. She offered to help educate the public about any risks.

Board member John Vihstadt asked for statistics on injuries caused to first-responders by such pets. Hainge said they are still being compiled and will be available at the next public hearing.

Vihstadt also said he wanted to see a “stronger foundation” for the new rules, and asked staff if they had talked with neighboring jurisdictions who have done similar work, and those who have not.

“What is the real foundation for this?” Vihstadt asked. “What is the problem we’re trying to solve?”

Board member Libby Garvey asked if there can be greater flexibility in registering existing animals, like if people move to work for the State Department and bring a favorite pet with them.

“We can’t imagine all the different circumstances there are, and I would like to have some wiggle room if there’s a way of doing that,” Garvey said.

The code change will be revisited in June, after further public comment.

“This issue has stirred a great deal of public interest and valuable comments,” said County Board Chair Jay Fisette, in a statement. “Staff has incorporated enough changes into the proposed ordinance that it needs to be re-advertised and we need to give people an additional chance to provide feedback.”

Photo courtesy Kelly

by Chris Teale — March 14, 2017 at 10:45 am 0

2231 Crystal Drive SineWaveA venture capital fund could get a grant to set up an investment hub in Crystal City hub.

At its Saturday meeting, the Arlington County Board will consider a proposed agreement with SineWave Ventures for an incentive-based economic development grant.

Up to $250,000 would be paid over five years under the terms of the deal, depending on performance.

SineWave is aiming to develop a central hub of similar tech-focused venture capital firms, in an office building at 2231 Crystal Drive, to invest in new companies. SineWave provides early-stage investment in businesses that develop technology for potential use in the public sector, including in the fields of cybersecurity, data and networking.

The agreement stipulates that SineWave must attract five capital providers and partner companies to lease office space, and create at least 391 new full-time jobs. There are other goals for investment reviews and the provision of educational events for local entrepreneurs.

If SineWave has not achieved 90 percent of its targets, it will be required to pay the grant money back to the county. A staff report on the plan estimates Arlington will receive $430,000 gross tax benefit over 10 years; or $180,000 net tax benefit after the full grant is paid.

County staff wrote that the plan will help fill vacant office space in the area and attract new businesses.

“With respect to Arlington’s ongoing vacancy challenges, the Crystal City submarket continues to need companies and investment to diversify and rebuild its tenant base,” staff wrote. “The proposed partnership with SineWave aligns with the County’s economic development strategy to attract key co-working operators, business incubators/accelerators and venture funds; SineWave adds another critical piece to the budding technology ecosystem in Crystal City.”

Image via Vornado

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