Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Track Team Denied Trip to State Tourney — “High-school track and field competitors from across the commonwealth’s largest jurisdictions will descend on Virginia Beach March 1 for the Virginia High School League’s Class 6 boys and girls indoor state-championship meets. But Arlington athletes will not be among them. County school leaders have denied permission for teams to make the trip, citing health concerns about the ongoing high level of COVID infection in that part of Virginia and other factors.” [InsideNova]

County Employees Getting Vaccinated — “Arlington government leaders have decided that the entire county-government workforce qualifies as essential for ‘continuity of government,’ which bumps them ahead of several other groups as well as the general public in COVID-vaccination priority. County-government officials last week confirmed to the Sun Gazette that its entire workforce will be part of Virginia’s ‘Group 1b,’ placing them ahead of approximately 50 percent of the state’s population.” [Sun Gazette]

HQ2 Sparks Park Debate — “[Nearby residents] worry even the large parks Amazon is promising will feel more like playgrounds for the company’s workers than community assets, pressing Arlington County officials to invest and ensure public ownership of green space in the area. And in a section of Arlington where some neighborhood groups have raised persistent complaints about a lack of community parks over the years, the issue seems certain to dominate debates about development for the foreseeable future.” [Washington Business Journal]

Local Food Biz Profiled — From the Ballston Business Improvement District: “After years of learning and cooking with their families, Andrea and Bryant created Bee J’s Cookies in April 2020 to share their gift with others.” [Twitter]

Arlington Org Helped Thousands with Food Needs — “AHC Inc., a premier provider of affordable housing communities in metro D.C., sprang into action last spring to help residents suffering from the effects of the pandemic. In 2020, AHC’s Resident Services team with support from the property management arm, AHC Management, has provided substantial food and financial assistance to more than 3,000 families in Maryland and Virginia.” [AHC Inc.]

‘Cyber Flashing’ Bill Killed — “Fear not, creepy Virginia dudes — you can still legally send an unsolicited picture of your genitals to people. For now, at least. A bill that would ban cyber-flashing in Virginia was killed last Wednesday. Cyber-flashing is when someone sends unsolicited explicit photos to another person, and the bill proposed to make it a misdemeanor.” [Washingtonian, Virginia Mercury]

0 Comments

Arlington County officials say names of people pre-registered to receive a coronavirus vaccine are still migrating into the state’s new Vaccinate Virginia system.

It has been more than one week since Arlington County shut down its pre-registration platform to send 41,000 names to the Virginia Department of Health’s new statewide platform. The delay means that for now, some pre-registered individuals may not see their registration status. But that does not mean the pre-registrations have gone missing, county spokeswoman Cara O’Donnell said in an email.

“At no time were any lists ‘lost,'” O’Donnell said. “All data still exists, and the County is in the process of rolling out vaccine scheduling notification to residents 65+.”

This applies to about 10,000 pre-registered individuals 65 and older, she said.

Many pre-registrations have not merged due to formatting problems, state health department spokesperson Logan Anderson said. For example, some data fields were case sensitive, which he said has been addressed.

“Data cleanup is an ongoing process, and they may show up in the system,” he said. “There were also 1.6 million entries transferred in total. After cleanup and de-duplication, that number dropped to about 1.2 million.”

Arlington County shut down its pre-registration system at 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 12 to start sending its names to VDH, O’Donnell said.

“As we’ve seen, that migration process is taking longer than anticipated, and we are in constant communication with VDH about the migration,” she said.

She said county officials are hearing that one feature of the state system in particular, called “Check the List,” is not working for many lookups.

“This is not an indication that these people are not in the system,” she said. “Many actually are, but the checking the list feature is still experiencing difficulties.”

While some ARLnow readers report that their registration has yet to transfer, others say their problems last week were resolved, or that they re-registered.

One woman who could not find her three family members’ statuses last week told ARLnow that “all three family members registered as 1B with Arlington in mid-January now appear with VDH as ‘This user is registered.'”

Another woman who spoke with ARLnow last week confirmed that after she and her husband decided to re-register.

“Since then we show up in the system, but we have no real way of knowing whether our original Jan. 9 registration with Arlington County is part of the consolidated list, or whether we moved to the back of the line,” she said.

The Commonwealth is encouraging people to re-register online or call the Vaccinate Virginia call center at (877) VAX-IN-VA, Anderson said.

During a County Board work session last week, Board Member Christian Dorsey said the system’s issues are basic and should have been tested before the launch.

“It’s creating a really huge burden on the local districts to basically provide customer service and complaint feedback on the state’s site,” Dorsey said. “This is an implicit unfunded mandate to fix through customer service and other forms a state-mandated issue.”

Arlington Public Health Director Dr. Reuben Varghese said he and his colleagues across the state have been giving the state “more than an earful about the impact that this has been having.”

“It should have been working from the minute that it opened up,” he said.

Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said the county will continue to work with people worried about their status.

“If you’re pre-registered, take some days and up to a week before you do anything — take a breath,” de Ferranti said. “We have a committed staff and we will reach out.”

Read More

0 Comments

Paid, two-hour parking will not be included in Arlington’s updated Residential Permit Parking program.

The County Board unanimously approved significant changes to the program during its meeting on Saturday.

The new program expands RPP program eligibility to multi-family buildings — excluding those approved via site plan — and grants permits to households based on how much off-street parking they have. Residents will be charged for some previously free permits, which according to the county, will end support for the program from general tax funding.

The Board ended up nixing a county staff recommendation to allow those from outside a neighborhood to pay for limited-time parking in zoned areas.

“Removing the two-hour [paid parking] is the big change that we have done,” Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said. “I was reading 196 pages of letters. We listened, and I think that is a big important step. Folks should hear that that is the biggest change.”

A county report and public letters indicate many residents pushed back on this specific proposal, which also divided members of the Planning Commission. County Board members cited enforcement challenges, given that vehicles without permits may actually be parked legally.

“Enforcement is too difficult right now,” Board member Libby Garvey said. Visitors will still be able to park in zoned parking if given a pass from an eligible resident.

While two-hour visitor parking was removed, Board members drew attention to the expansion of eligibility to multi-family buildings.

“One of the major reasons to reevaluate and reenact this program in Arlington [is] because it discriminates on the basis of housing types,” Board member Katie Cristol said. “I do feel confident that these amendments are going to make this program [fairer] and more consistent with our values in Arlington.”

She said the changes will leave the county better off than when the County Board repealed a RPP zone to put an end to a years-long dispute between Forest Glen and Arlington Mill residents, which pitted apartment dwellers over single-family home owners in an area with limited street parking.

The vote comes after a three year review of the program, during which new RPP applications were suspended. The program was originally established in 1972 to regulate parking in residential neighborhoods near Metro stations and commercial centers. Although the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the program in 1977, the program has been criticized recently for excluding people who live in apartments and condos.

About 10% of Arlington households are in current RPP zones, according to the county.

Public forums set for last spring were canceled due to the pandemic. Rather than reschedule them virtually, county officials concluded the review, citing equity concerns. A new period of public engagement began as the county geared up to propose the changes to the County Board in January 2021.

In December, the County Board deferred a public hearing until February to allow residents more time to look at the proposal.

Under the newly adopted program, all housing types can petition. However, those who live in residential buildings approved via site plan — as well as certain other types of mixed-use developments, plus Form Based Code developments along Columbia Pike — will be ineligible to apply for permits or petition for the program.

The county will require 80% of neighbors on a block to support a RPP petition, up from 60%. The county no longer needs to find that at least one-quarter of on-street parking is occupied by people from outside the area. Instead, it would need to find that more than 85% of spots are occupied.

“It’s really hard to tell what is an out-of-area vehicle,” county transportation official Stephen Crim said. “This out-of-area test is what causes many petitions to fail.”

Households with off-street parking are eligible for two annual permits (down from four), and households without it can get four permits.

For one permit, households can stick with the annual permit or opt for a FlexPass — a dashboard placard that residents and their visitors can use. All households can get up to five short-term visitor passbooks, which provide up to 300 days of parking each year.

The county will be charging for the FlexPass and the first book of short-term visitor passes. The first vehicle-specific permit or FlexPass is $40. The second, third and fourth vehicle-specific permits will cost $55, $65, and $150 respectively.

Low-income households that qualify for state and federal assistance programs will receive a 50% discount on passes.

Photos via Arlington County

0 Comments

Arlington County is looking to overhaul the reversible lanes and the triangle-shaped intersection at Washington Blvd and 13th Street N., near Clarendon.

Washington Blvd would be widened to create a four-lane road between Clarendon Circle and N. Kirkwood Road, while 13th Street N. would be realigned to form a “T” intersection with Washington Blvd, according to a county staff report.

“The project will improve pedestrian safety and accessibility along Washington Boulevard and 13th Street North to provide a safe, and practical pedestrian route,” staff said.

The County Board is slated to hear proposed changes to the traffic patterns and pedestrian infrastructure at this intersection — which staff call a “porkchop” — during its regular meeting on Saturday.

As a part of the project, utilities would be moved underground, and revamped sidewalks, Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant ramps, and other streetscape elements will be constructed to match improvements at Clarendon Circle.

The county’s Washington Blvd plans, made in conjunction with the Clarendon Circle work and the redevelopment of the nearby Red Top Cab properties, were delayed by more than a year.

“[The project] required coordination with Dominion Power on the utility undergrounding part of the project and staff work to improve the plans for walking pathways during construction, to make it safer for people walking around the construction area,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet tells ARLnow. “Both of these items have been worked on for over a year, and needed to be completed before we issued the construction contract for bid in December.”

Arlington County has selected Sagres Construction — which bid just over $2.5 million, to which the county is adding $500,000 for contingency — as the contractor.

Taking the utilities underground means the project will take about 18 months, a timeline that, according to the county, concerned some stakeholders.

Still, “there is a general understanding of the technical difficulties associated with the undergrounding of utilities along Washington Boulevard” and “members of the community have expressed full support for the project,” staff said in the report.

This project is a part of the 2006 Clarendon Sector Plan. In the intervening years, Arlington County said it has acquired three lots at Washington Boulevard and N. Johnson Street needed to make the intersection a “T.”

These changes are moving forward amid a county-led review of the Clarendon Sector Plan to accommodate a handful of major redevelopment projects. One such project is to update the St. Charles Church campus, which also includes changes to the walking and biking experience along Fairfax Drive between Clarendon Circle and Kirkwood Road.

Images via Google Maps

0 Comments

Morning Notes

Distance Learning Only for APS — “Due to inclement weather… Level 1, in-person learning support, Level 2 Career & Technical Education students and staff supporting these programs will temporarily revert to distance learning.” [Arlington Public Schools]

County Government Open — “Arlington County Government offices, courts, & facilities are OPEN Friday, 02-19-2021. Courts will open at 10AM. All facilities will follow normal operating hours.” [Twitter]

Be Careful Out There — “Northern Virginia crews continue to clear and treat roads overnight, for both some additional wintry precipitation as well as refreeze from low temperatures. Drivers are asked to continue to limit travel if possible, or to use extreme caution and be aware of the potential for slick pavement, even where surfaces appear clear or were previously treated.” [VDOT]

Doses May Be Delayed — “Virginia is seeing delays in this week’s vaccine shipments due to severe winter weather in the Mid-Atlantic region and across the country. The Virginia Department of Health says the state will likely see a delay in the delivery of approximately 106,800 doses, due to distribution channels in the Midwest and elsewhere that are currently shut down.” [InsideNova]

Architectural Review of HQ2 Phase 2 — ” It very intentionally does not look like anything else in Pentagon City or Crystal City, or anywhere else in the region. The style, a populist, jazzy take on high-tech modernism, isn’t aimed at architecture critics, but at the public, which shows remarkable forbearance to the predations of large corporations so long as they have a reputation for being innovative and forward thinking.” [Washington Post]

County Board Members Endorse Candidate — “Alexandria City Council member Elizabeth Bennett-Parker has picked up the endorsement of two Arlington County Board members in her quest for the 45th District House of Delegates seat. Board members Libby Garvey and Katie Cristol endorsed the candidacy.” [InsideNova]

New Spanish Publication on the Pike — “As part of its increased business support efforts, the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) has launched a new publication dedicated to supporting the area’s Hispanic business community. The publication, Boletín, is a small booklet of resources and information specific to those Spanish speaking businesses serving Columbia Pike’s residents.” [CPRO]

Arlington Man Arrested for Armed Robberies — “An Arlington man was arrested last night and is facing charges in connection with a series of recent armed robberies. Detectives from our Major Crimes Bureau determined that in three of the four robberies, the suspect approached the victim, displayed a firearm and took their personal property. In the other case, the suspect took a victim’s purse by force.” [Fairfax County Police Department]

0 Comments

Last year started out as “a good budget year” for County Manager Mark Schwartz. But nearly a year after the pandemic hit Arlington, Schwartz’s new budget proposal is more austere.

Schwartz calls the upcoming Fiscal Year 2022 budget, which is being presented to the County Board Thursday afternoon, a “transition budget.” While modestly increasing spending, his proposal reflects big pandemic-era declines in some key revenue sources.

“This budget provides us a path forward, ensuring we have a strong, resilient County government when we emerge from this pandemic,” he said after a press briefing earlier today.

For starters, the proposed $1.36 billion budget — representing a 1.4% increase in spending — includes a $17.5 million coronavirus contingency fund. This will fund vaccine distribution and testing, eviction prevention, food assistance, and will go toward supporting local businesses.

Meanwhile, Schwartz has identified $16.4 million in cuts to help close what the county describes as a budget shortfall of $26 million, down from what was initially estimated last fall to be a $50 million shortfall. The rest will be made up through one-time funding sources, he said.

The bulk of the cuts come from eliminating 56 vacant positions, which resulted from a voluntary retirement package offered in January and a continuing hiring freeze from last year.

Schwartz proposes keeping the $1.013 per $100 property tax rate flat, as he did last year. Still, the average homeowner will see a tax bill that is 5-6% higher due to rising property values, Schwartz said. Commercial property assessments, by contrast, declined this year.

Homeowners will see an average increase of $29 in stormwater taxes, reflecting a rate hike of 1.3 to 1.7 cents per $100 in property value. The increase will help generate $15.1 million earmarked for stormwater improvements. Eventually, the county plans to eliminate the stormwater tax completely in favor of a fee based on how much impervious surface covers a given property, Schwartz said.

Schools will receive 47% of the tax revenue, or $529.7 million, an increase of $5.1 million over last year.

(Updated on 2/23/21) The pandemic has saved the county money through remote work and online services, which Schwartz said will help fund other programs and services. His budget includes a one-time, $500 bonus for county employees, who will be foregoing merit-based raises.

“Our employees have gone without raises — or a vacation day — for an entire year,” Schwartz said.

After the County Manager submits his proposed budget, the Arlington County Board will vote on an advertised tax rate this Saturday. The Board will be able to ultimately adopt a property tax rate equal to or less than, but not above, the advertised rate.

The Board will then review the budget proposal and conduct a series of work sessions with each county department beginning in March.

There will be two public hearings: Tuesday, April 6, and Thursday, April 8. The final vote on the FY 2022 operating budget is scheduled for Saturday, April 17.

Certain parts of the budget may be revisited, Schwartz said, should additional federal funding become available.

Other highlights from the budget proposal include:

  • More racial equity training, money for a Restorative Justice initiative, and more funding for probation, parole and the Public Defender’s Office.
  • About $1.5 million to implement several recommendations from the Police Practices Group, especially in transitioning mental health-related work from police officers to clinicians.
  • Allowing firefighters to work a shorter week, adding transportation safety officers to the police department, and multiple positions to support the new body-worn camera program.
  • The county elections office is proposed to receive additional staff to support mail-in ballots and absentee voting.
  • Funding for the opening of the Long Bridge Park Aquatics and Fitness Center and the Lubber Run Community Center
  • Increasing the lowest base pay for county employees from $15 to $17 per hour
  • Adding Juneteenth as a County holiday
  • Delayed re-opening of Cherrydale and Glencarlyn libraries, saving $881,000
  • An additional $2.6 million in housing grants, plus $21 million in housing choice vouchers and $8.9 million for the Affordable Housing Investment Fund.

Schwartz’s budget proposal focuses affordable housing efforts on “eviction prevention and direct housing support,” but decreases county funding for Arlington’s affordable housing development fund, as the Washington Business Journal’s Alex Koma noted on Twitter (below).

“4.6% of the County’s operating budget is dedicated to housing and more than 15% is dedicated to safety net services and housing,” a slide from the budget presentation noted.

File photo

0 Comments

(Updated at 9 a.m.) What was supposed to be snow is actually falling as sleet this morning, but the change in precipitation is not dampening the jubilation of local students, who now have the day off.

Arlington Public Schools announced shortly after 5 a.m. that it’s a snow day, even for remote learning.

“In-person and distance learning are canceled for all students today, Thursday, Feb. 18, due to inclement weather,” the school system said. “APS school buildings and offices will be closed… All in-person learning support programs, athletic activities, team practices, in-person technology support and other activities in schools and on school grounds are canceled.”

Via social media, APS explained that it was following the lead of the federal government, which is also closed today, and taking into account the forecast for more sleet and freezing rain as the day goes on.

According to the officials National Weather Service measurement at Reagan National Airport, 0.3 inches of snow has fallen so far this morning.

Across the county, most main roads are mostly slushy, thanks to the efforts of snow clearing crews. Many side roads have not been treated and are treacherous. Residents are being urged to stay home or exercise extreme caution if driving today.

“Yet, again, Virginia State Police is encouraging folks to hold off on traveling until conditions improve,” state police said last night.

A number of crashes have been reported this morning, including one that closed a portion of Carlin Springs Road at N. Galveston Street after a car reportedly spun off the roadway and crashed, injuring the driver.

Dominion Energy says it is prepared to respond to power outages in Northern Virginia, should freezing rain cause trees and branches to fall and power lines to be knocked out.

Arlington County government facilities, meanwhile, are closed, though the local government is still operating on a virtual basis. Arlington County’s trash and recycling service is not running today, and will instead be delayed a day and will resume Friday, with Thursday’s routes.

Buses, including ART and Metro buses, are operating on modified schedules.

As of 8:25 a.m., sleet was continuing to fall, with some freezing rain mixing in. The frozen precipitation is expected to continue through Friday morning.

0 Comments

(Updated at 1:50 p.m.) The celebration of George Washington’s birthday may be a state and federal holiday, but it will not be observed on a county level in Arlington this year.

The holiday colloquially known as Presidents Day — technically a federal holiday called Washington’s Birthday and a Virginia state holiday called George Washington Day — will be a day just like any other for most Arlington County offices and personnel.

Because Election Day was deemed a county holiday and an off day for many rank-and-file county employees this year, this coming Monday, Feb. 15 was removed from Arlington’s closure calendar.

“Presidents Day/George Washington Day is not holiday this year,” county spokeswoman Jennifer K. Smith confirmed to ARLnow. “Instead, this year, Election Day was a holiday. Presidents Day expected to be back as a holiday in the next fiscal year.”

As it’s not a county holiday, county offices and facilities will remain open, with some exceptions — like the county permitting office, which will be closed. Contrary to what ARLnow was initially told by the county, parking meters will not be enforced.

“To maintain consistency with metered parking enforcement practices on Columbus Day (which is also a federal holiday, but not a county holiday), metered parking will not be enforced on Monday,” Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Kirby Clark said in an email Wednesday afternoon.

Courts and public schools, meanwhile, will be closed due to the state holiday, and Arlington Transit buses will operate on a reduced schedule.

Photo by Library of Congress on Unsplash

0 Comments

Morning Notes

Cell Service Now Available in All Metro Tunnels — “The nation’s major wireless carriers — AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon — and Metro today officially announced the final milestone, more than a decade in the making, to provide wireless service for those who use the Metrorail system… The latest activation brings the final three segments online between Dupont Circle in Downtown DC and White Flint in Maryland, the Yellow Line from L’Enfant Plaza to the Pentagon, and Silver Line in Tysons Corner.” [WMATA]

More on Amazon’s Affordable Housing Commitment — “‘The biggest housing challenge Arlington faces is preserving and building affordable housing, and Amazon is helping by creating a lot of affordable housing,’ said Matt de Ferranti, Arlington County Board chair via email. ‘Our budget is hurting as we feel the pandemic economically, but our housing prices for homes and condos and any place to live in the area is still increasing as people think we are a good long term place to live in part due to Amazon. We need the housing right now to avoid displacement.'” [GGWash]

Arlington Scores Well for Fiscal Health — “A new report on the financial condition of the 75 most populous cities ranked Arlington no. 16 in the nation for fiscal health. The report is based on the cities’ 2019 comprehensive annual financial reports, which are not analyzed on this scale by any other organization.” [Patch]

New Book Set in Arlington — There’s a new book, set in Arlington during the COVID era, that “tells the story of a sportswriter and baseball pitcher who decide to enjoy a one-night stand, only to discover that their relationship is something more.” [Mindy Klasky]

Inside Virginia’s Vaccine Struggles — “The state is now apportioning vaccines to local health districts based on their share of the state’s population. Previously, allocations were based on district requests, which often depended on demand and how many doses local health departments thought they’d be able to administer.” [Virginia Mercury]

Nearby: Transportation Changes for Seven Corners — “The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) will hold two ‘virtual’ meetings next month to seek public input on planned transportation improvements at the Seven Corners interchange and nearby roads.” [InsideNova]

0 Comments

Arlington County is slated to receive nearly $2.3 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to support the distribution of coronavirus vaccines, Virginia’s U.S. Senators announced on Tuesday.

The money will go toward storage supplies, transportation support, staffing, personal protective equipment, and other equipment to ensure facilities align with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said a joint press release from Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.

“We’re glad to see these federal dollars go toward helping Arlington County effectively administer the COVID-19 vaccine,” the senators said in a joint statement. “We will keep working to ensure the Commonwealth has the resources it needs to best respond to this pandemic.”

News of the funding comes on the heels of announcements that local hospitals like Inova and Virginia Hospital Center will no longer be distribution sites, at least for now. Since then, county staff have worked to get 3,750 appointments from VHC transferred to the County’s vaccine management system, said Aaron Miller, the county’s emergency management director.

Despite this, Miller said Arlington County is prepared to vaccinate about 2,000 people daily. Unfortunately, he said, the county can only make 540 appointments a day because it is receiving 2,750 vaccines per week from the state.

“This funding demonstrates exactly how ready Arlington is,” Miller told ARLnow. “That the federal government would grant this type of advanced reimbursement based on our plans and capabilities — as quickly as supply can meet — demonstrates that we have the capability.”

The only thing standing in the county’s way, at this point, is the vaccine supply itself, he said.

“I can’t emphasize that enough,” he said.

Under Gov. Ralph Northam’s Major Disaster Declaration to help Virginia respond to COVID-19, localities can apply to FEMA for funding to support vaccine distribution, the release said. Arlington County is the first of the Commonwealth’s localities to apply for and receive the funding.

With the money, the County will purchase more cold storage for the vaccine doses, Miller said. Right now it has some smaller travel-sized unit, and additional upright, ultra-cold storage is supposed to be arriving in a week or so, Miller said. He said his department needs more cold storage to have the flexibility to set up additional vaccine clinics.

Miller’s department will also expand vaccine outreach and engagement efforts. He said more people are needed to handle calls from residents to schedule appointments and provide information about the vaccine distribution.

The latest COVID-19 relief package in Congress, supported by senators Warner and Kaine, included more than $19 billion for vaccines and therapeutics and an additional $8.75 billion to support vaccine distribution, particularly for states and localities, to slow the spread of the pandemic.

Last March, Kaine urged former President Donald Trump to consider any disaster declaration requests so states could use FEMA’s Public Assistance program to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Public Assistance is funded through the Disaster Relief Fund, to which Congress provided an additional $45 billion in the CARES Act.

In addition to the FEMA funding, Northern Virginia’s congressional representatives are pushing for a local mass vaccination site.

Today (Tuesday), Reps. Don Beyer, Gerald Connolly and Jennifer Wexton wrote to FEMA requesting that one of President Biden’s proposed 100 community mass vaccination sites be located in Northern Virginia, using Arlington County to make their case.

Read More

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list