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by ARLnow.com August 17, 2017 at 5:25 pm 0

(Updated at 5:35 p.m.) Arlington is thinking about renaming two state highways named after Confederate leaders, but needs authorization from the state legislature to do so, according to a statement released by the Arlington County Board late Thursday afternoon.

In the statement, County Board Chair Jay Fisette says the county is “united against racism and bigotry” in the wake of the events in Charlottesville this past weekend.

“Arlington rejects the hateful speech and actions of the KKK, white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the alt-right movement,” the statement says. “We will not allow a resurgent hate movement that distorts history and threatens our future to take us backward.”

The statement goes on to say that the county is seeking legislative authority to rename Jefferson Davis Highway (Route 1) and Lee Highway.

“Arlington is committed to seeking the authority from the General Assembly to rename both Jefferson Davis and Lee highways within our boundaries,” said the statement. “Our legislative delegation is committed to putting legislation forward on Jefferson Davis Highway. Arlington believes that local governments should have the authority to name any roadways within our borders.”

Arlington’s ability to actually get the authority, however, is in serious doubt due to Republican majorities in both the House of Delegates and state Senate. Arlington has previously placed authority for renaming Jefferson Davis Highway on its list of legislative priorities, to no avail.

Fisette notes that the renaming of Washington-Lee High School is also under consideration, but falls under the jurisdiction of the School Board.

The full statement is below.

The tragedy that unfolded in Charlottesville, where three people lost their lives, has shaken the conscience of our community and of our nation.

The Arlington County Board condemns the act of domestic terrorism that cost Heather Heyer her life, and mourns her death and the deaths of the two Virginia State Police troopers, H. Jay Cullen and Berke M.M. Bates, who died in the line of duty. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families, and with the many who were injured that day.

As many yard signs across Arlington proclaim: “hate has no home here.”

It is appropriate, in the wake of the Charlottesville events, that our community and many others are reconsidering the public memorialization of Confederate leaders. This Board has received numerous letters from concerned residents pleading that these leaders of rebellion against the Union not be publicly memorialized – particularly noting Jefferson Davis Highway, Lee Highway and Washington-Lee High School.

Because we are a county, Arlington currently does not have the authority to rename state highways such as Jefferson Davis Highway and Lee Highway. We do have the authority to name local roads, and we exercised it in 2012 to rename Old Jefferson Davis Highway as Long Bridge Drive.

Arlington is committed to seeking the authority from the General Assembly to rename both Jefferson Davis and Lee highways within our boundaries. Our legislative delegation is committed to putting legislation forward on Jefferson Davis Highway. Arlington believes that local governments should have the authority to name any roadways within our borders.

Because it is a city, neighboring Alexandria controls all roadways within its borders. The City Council voted in September 2016 to rename its stretch of Jefferson Davis Highway, and graciously included two Arlington residents in the advisory panel it formed to seek suggestions from the public for a new name. That panel will make a recommendation this fall, and the Alexandria City Council will act.

We expect that the name Alexandria selects will be suitable for our section of Jefferson Davis Highway as well. Anyone in Arlington who wants to suggest a new name for Jefferson Davis Highway can do so on the City of Alexandria’s website through September 25.

While we are not aware of any Confederate statues on County-owned land in Arlington, we support Governor McAuliffe’s recent proposal that all Virginia localities relocate Confederate statues in Virginia to museums, and be given the legal authority to do so.

Finally, the name of Washington-Lee High School and all other public schools in Arlington falls under the authority of the School Board. We know that the School Board will be speaking to this issue in the near future.

Although this is a painful time for us all, ultimately, Arlington’s story is an inspiring one of racial and social progress, of moving forward and overcoming the deep wounds inflicted by slavery, the Civil War, Jim Crow and the legacy of  segregation. Our past can never be erased, but we can and will continue to learn from it.

Arlington today is a vibrant, diverse and inclusive community that treats each individual with respect and champions human and civil rights.

We will not allow a resurgent hate movement that distorts history and threatens our future to take us backward. Together, we will continue to strengthen the bonds that unite us.

Jay Fisette
Arlington County Board Chair, on behalf of the County Board

by Chris Teale August 14, 2017 at 2:45 pm 0

Independent Arlington County Board candidate Audrey Clement criticized the recent demolitions of more garden apartments in Westover to make way for townhomes.

Clement, a frequent candidate for public office, said the demolition of two more apartment buildings in the neighborhood shows that not enough is being done to protect affordable housing, especially as they are replaced by what she described as “luxury townhomes.”

Much of Westover is currently designated as a national historic district, but that hasn’t prevented redevelopment of some properties. Last year, crews tore down a garden apartment building and replaced it with townhouses in by-right development, meaning County Board approval was not required.

At the time, the Arlington Greens called for the Westover apartments to be designated as a local historic district, something the County Board directed staff to study last year. Since 2013, nine garden apartment buildings have been demolished, Clement said.

Clement criticized developers for razing the properties and the county for cashing in thanks to increased property taxes.

“County records indicate that the sale price of the three Westover garden apartments demolished in 2013 was $4 million,” Clement said. “The total sale price of the 20 luxury town homes that replaced them was $16.8 million dollars or more than 4 times the value of the original properties.”

An advertisement for the Arlington Row townhomes that ran on ARLnow.com earlier this year advertised the homes as being priced in the “mid-$800s.” The townhomes feature up to four bedrooms and four baths, plus private garages and “timeless brick architecture.” The first phase of the development quickly sold out.

Clement said designating the units as a local historic district is the “only way” to save the remaining apartments, but she criticized the Arlington Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board for not moving faster on a petition to do so that was submitted last year.

She added that the demolition of affordable housing units in the county causes numerous problems:

For one thing, there’s a fairness issue. A lot of longstanding, hardworking, responsible tenants are now facing long commutes as a result of displacement from Arlington County.

For another thing, there’s a public health issue. The most recent demolitions were put on hold when it was determined that both buildings were insulated with asbestos, making demolition hazardous for anyone in the nearby.

And there’s an economic issue. While the speculative prices commanded by the developers of Westover Village might be attractive to high income wage earners, they drive up assessments overall, spelling hardship and possible foreclosure for people on fixed incomes, single heads of households, and those who find themselves out of work.

In a fact sheet produced last year, the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing said it made some headway in 2016 by purchasing 68 Westover apartments in five buildings. But APAH noted that since the county adopted its Affordable Housing Master Plan in 2015, 60 apartments have been demolished for redevelopment.

Clement promised to speed up approval of historic districts to protect affordable housing if she wins a seat on the County Board in November.

“If elected, I am going to call upon AHALRB to expedite consideration of petitions for local historic designation to preserve Arlington’s remaining affordable housing and stabilize Arlington’s housing market,” Clement said.

Clement is one of three candidates on the ballot for County Board this fall, alongside Democratic nominee Erik Gutshall and fellow independent Charles McCullough II.

by Chris Teale August 3, 2017 at 10:15 am 0

Millennials in Arlington appear most concerned about adding more transit options, removing on-street parking and finding new locations for public meetings, at least according to a county-run online forum.

The findings come from the county’s Engage Arlington website, which launched a millennial-focused forum about county issues earlier this summer.

The forum is part of a wider push by the county to get more millennials involved in local government and civic life. Arlington was named the best city for millennials in the U.S. by the website Niche, with the millennial generation making up between 30-40 percent of the county’s population of just over 220,000.

The most popular suggestion on the forum — as determined by a Reddit-style up-voting system —  is to expand transit options in North Arlington, which has nine “likes.”

I’d love to embrace “Millennialism” and be car-free, but the inconsistency in transit options in parts of North Arlington is difficult — there is minimal bus service and a lack of bikeshare stations, even near Marymount University. Adding bikeshare locations along the northern portion of Glebe Road from Lee Highway up to Chain Bridge would be helpful in continuing to connect this area with other parts of the County!

Just below that is a proposal to remove on-street parking, to encourage more walking and biking in neighborhoods.

Along the major corridors we should remove subsidized on-street parking, to encourage walk-able and bike-able neighborhoods. Many of these on-street parking spots reduce visibility at cross walks and cause dooring and blocking situations for bike lanes, increasing danger and reducing foot traffic. Remove a few strategic parking spaces along the pike and Roslyn [sic] Ballston corridor and use that space to widen the sidewalks or add bike lanes.

Following that, two suggestions are tied for third with seven likes: requests to change the locations of public meetings to “places millennials frequent,” as opposed to always at community centers or schools, and to find a “transit solution” for Columbia Pike after the canceled streetcar project. (The Pike’s “Premium Transit Network” is set to launch next summer.)

A request to “figure out how to bring reasonably priced housing to Arlington” was among those with six up-votes.

A full list of suggestions and the number of likes they received, in parentheses, is below.

  • Expanding transit options (9)
  • Remove on-street parking (8)
  • Different public meeting locations (7)
  • A transit solution for Columbia Pike (7)
  • Reasonably priced housing market (6)
  • More multi-use properties (6)
  • Replacing the parking lot next to Whole Foods in Clarendon with a multi-story parking garage (6)
  • Affordable child care options (5)
  • More public art along Columbia Pike (5)
  • More programs for renters who want to be more energy efficient (4)
  • Programming for those aged 20-50 at county buildings (4)
  • Dedicated bike lane on Washington Blvd (4)
  • Engaging the county’s LGBTQ population (3)
  • Better advertisement of the county’s performing arts groups (2)
  • Expanding Arlington Alerts to include community news (2)
  • More transparent policing (2)
  • A dog park for Crystal City (2)
  • Bike paths on westbound Arlington Blvd (2)
  • A bridge on the Bluemont Trail at the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. George Mason Drive (1)
  • Add sidewalks to encourage more walking (1)
  • Reclaim some community centers to use as elementary schools (-1)

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

by Chris Teale July 27, 2017 at 10:45 am 0

A draft plan aims to build a clearer approach for county officials engaging Arlington residents on new projects.

Staff in the county’s Office of Communication and Public Engagement put together the plan over the past four months, with the goal of enhancing the engagement process, building more trust and getting a more diverse range of participants having their say.

They met with members of the community and took feedback on the public engagement process — sometimes referred to as the “Arlington Way” — particularly around new capital projects.

A survey is now open for county residents to share their concerns on how previous processes have gone and their priorities for how public engagement can be improved. Based on staff’s preliminary sessions with community leaders, concerns have been raised about communication around projects, how costs change and the impact on nearby neighbors and businesses.

That follows a number of instances in which residents complained about a botched engagement process for projects in their neighborhoods. Examples include opposition to new baseball and softball field at Bluemont Park, which was eventually built with little controversy after a compromise was reached, and stringent opposition to the proposed relocation of Fire Station 8, which was scrapped after neighbors of the current station and the proposed new site both spoke out against it and said they were “blindsided” by the plan.

As it stands now, the draft plan would develop a template for public engagement that would better lay out the details of a project early on while also identifying stakeholders like civic associations, residents and commissions.

Throughout, the county would look to use a range of tools to communicate “early and often” about a project, including on signs, its website, newsletters, emails and postcards among others. Staff would also make an effort to show how feedback from the community influenced a project, and show a wider range of opinions on a project, including when briefing the Arlington County Board.

The plan would also look to establish a “common set of ground rules” for in-person and online discussions, all to encourage “civil dialogue and respect.” An engagement boot camp is mooted for spring or summer next year for staff, civic associations and commissions.

To increase the diversity of participants that get involved in public dialogue about county projects, staff recommended partnering with organizations to engage with “hard to reach” communities, and establishing liaisons to help out. There will also be an effort to ensure diversity on county boards and commissions.

The new plan is scheduled to launch this fall.

by Chris Teale July 24, 2017 at 10:05 am 0

Homeowners could be notified in future tax assessments if their property is subject to any special circumstances that would prevent tearing down and rebuilding their house without County Board approval.

Such special circumstances would include homes on so-called pipe-stem lots, which have a narrow “stem” that runs from the street and does not meet requirements for minimum lot width, and in Resource Protection Areas, which help protect environmentally sensitive lands near streams.

If homes are subject to those circumstances, anyone wishing to tear down the current house and build a new one on the same property must go to the Arlington County Board for approval. Projects not hindered by such issues are permitted by right under zoning rules, so long as the new home continues to conform.

Board member Libby Garvey said she has spoken to County Manager Mark Schwartz about including a note to property owners in their tax assessments, which are mailed each year and outline the property tax bill due to the county.

“That’s one piece of paper that pretty much everyone in the county looks at,” Garvey told ARLnow last week. “So that seems like a really good place to put information like that with an asterisk or note, but we have to see if we can actually do that.”

Garvey and colleague John Vihstadt suggested the change at the July 15 County Board meeting, after a plan to build a new home in Ashton Heights ran into difficulties in June because of its location on a pipe-stem lot. The family that owns the N. Kenmore Street property did not realize it would require special approval to build a new house, a costly process in terms of time and expense.

After community meetings and some modifications to the proposed new house between June and July’s meetings, the Board unanimously approved the plan. Vihstadt said the county must make such issues more understandable for county residents, including on the designated web page for pipe-stem lots, which he said must be “a better information source.”

“Despite the happy ending, it would have been much simpler had the family known from the start that they faced this extra challenge,” Garvey said last week in an email to constituents. “We need to find a simple way for residents to know when their current or potential homes have some special situation that could affect their ability to build.”

Schwartz said at the July 15 meeting that while the county is committed to simplifying its permitting process, he warned that applicants must also do the necessary leg-work for such projects.

“I think people need to be aware there is still a requirement on their part to do their due diligence,” he said. “If they were to somehow rely on a notation on a website from us, it’s hard to believe but sometimes we make mistakes, and due diligence is required on the part of the applicant to do their research through the appropriate legal means.”

County Attorney Steve MacIsaac agreed, and noted that from a legal standpoint, the county can only help in so many ways.

“It’s incumbent on anyone who’s buying anything to be sure they know what they’re buying,” he said. “The ‘buyer beware’ phrase definitely applies to land, and you’ve got to know what you can do with it before you buy it.”

Image via county presentation

by Chris Teale July 21, 2017 at 10:00 am 0

Arlington County is the No. 1 “digital county” of its size in the nation for the second year in a row, according to The Center for Digital Government and the National Association of Counties.

The award recognizes the use of technology in areas of open government, transparency, citizen engagement, cyber security and operations. Arlington was the winner among counties with a population of 150,000-249,999 people.

Its open government program won recognition for its work using technology to make government transactions, planning and decision-making more accessible and transparent. The program introduced an app this year allowing access to the Arlington Public Library catalog, and helped establish an Open Data Advisory Group that uses data-driven analysis to inform policy.

The county also received credit for live-streaming County Board meetings, work sessions and some commission meetings as part of the open government program.

The award recognized the Department of Technology’s “Defining Arlington’s Digital Destiny Campaign,” which hosts a series of public discussions with residents, businesses and industry leaders to explore how Arlington can use technology to enhance the quality of life for all.

The county’s dark fiber network, ConnectArlington, also received credit for supporting government operations and links to Arlington Public Schools, along with its expansion to include Arlington businesses. The network initially linked all county and APS facilities with high-speed broadband.

“This award acknowledges not only the county’s commitment to open, accessible and transparent government and to encouraging engagement, but also the creativity and hard work of a county staff that is innovative in its approach to digital services,” Arlington County Board chair Jay Fisette said in a statement.

County representatives will be presented with the award at the National Association of Counties’ annual conference on Saturday (July 22) in Columbus, Ohio.

by Kalina Newman July 19, 2017 at 5:45 pm 0

 The Arlington County Board voted to allocate over $200,000 to various art associations and individual artists for Fiscal Year 2018 at its meeting Saturday.

A total of 21 financial grants were distributed, totaling $215,810, with the majority of recipients also being granted the use of county facilities and technical services. Twelve other organizations were granted the use of county facilities and technical services under the so-called Space and Services Grant.

“The arts enrich our lives and enliven our community,” said County Board chair Jay Fisette in a statement. “The Arts Grants program supports a diverse arts community in Arlington.”

There was a rigorous application process to receive the grants, which total $215,810. According to a report by county staff, the Arlington Commission for the Arts Grant Recommendations used a two-step grant application process that also included a mandatory attendance at grant preparation workshops.

Of the 28 grant applications asking for financial support in FY 2018, the Commission received 21 from nonprofit art organizations and seven from individual artists. The county received 54 applications in total.

The commission allocated three different kinds of grants for artists:

  • Individual Artist Grants — direct financial support for an individual artist on a proposed work that they describe in their grant application
  • Project Grants — direct financial support for a specific project proposed by an organization
  • Space & Service Grants — grants for performance/rehearsal space and technical services for an organization.

The biggest organizations to receive grants include Washington Shakespeare Co., UrbanArias and the Arlington Arts Center.

The full list of grant recipients after the jump.

(more…)

by Chris Teale July 19, 2017 at 4:30 pm 0

Chester’s Billiards, Bar & Grill will have three months to remedy various violations after the Arlington County Board voted unanimously to grant a brief extension to its live entertainment permit.

The billiards hall and neighborhood bar at 2620 Shirlington Road had the annual review of its permit at the Board’s recessed meeting Tuesday (July 18), and county staff recommended an extension be denied after a slew of problems.

But the Board agreed to give Chester’s three months before having another review to correct various violations, which included 16 calls for service to the Arlington County Police Department as well as notices from the Fire Marshal, Code and Zoning Enforcement and Virginia ABC.

“I hope we’ve impressed on you all that this is not to be seen as an endorsement of the current state of affairs,” Board vice chair Katie Cristol said. “This is an opportunity to try to get it right.”

Rebecca Lewis, the agent for the building, promised that Chester’s will use the Arlington County Police Department’s after-hours service to employ off-duty officers as security on nights when it has live entertainment, and will ensure bartenders are trained in when to cut people off.

The live entertainment permit allows Chester’s to host “a variety of live entertainment types, including music, comedy and magicians.”

Lewis and Chester’s manager David Breedlove said the introduction of a fence around the property, which is as high as eight feet in some places, should help with security. Lewis added that after some management turmoil since the bar opened in 2015, they have been on a more even footing the past couple of months.

“We can’t change the neighborhood, but what’s happening inside Chester’s has changed,” Lewis said. “We’ve learned the lessons, and we have followed the rules that were laid out in the original use permit.”

Board member Christian Dorsey cautioned against rhetoric that may appear to blame the neighborhood for any problems. He also tried to determine the status of the building’s elevator, which is the subject of criminal proceedings.

“My overarching conversation,” Dorsey said, “is if the elevator makes it inappropriate for us to renew the use permit, should we have a business operating there at all?”

Chester’s representatives said the elevator has not operated since opening, and that they are applying to have it decommissioned. Adam Watson, a planner in the county’s Department of Community, Planning, Housing and Development, said the violation must be remedied, and that staff would work to determine how necessary a working elevator is for the business.

Lewis and Breedlove said many violations have come from being a relatively new business, including from Virginia ABC as their food sales are not as high as required for their liquor license. Both promised to do better.

“This is always really tough,” Dorsey said. “I hate to be in the business of hurting someone’s opportunity to earn a living and fulfill their creative and entrepreneurial dreams, but it also seems by your own admission…this has been a growing experience for you in terms of operating a business, finding out the right things to offer, the right things to work with.”

Chester’s will be back before the Board for its review in October.

Photo via Google Maps.

by Chris Teale July 19, 2017 at 2:00 pm 0

The Arlington County Board deferred a vote Tuesday on the design of the new Lubber Run Community Center after confusion over the timing of meetings on the project.

But the Board did agree, by a 3-2 vote, to a $37 million contract to replace the center, out of a total project budget of $47.8 million.

The new center will replace the one built in 1956 at 300 N. Park Drive, Arlington’s first purpose-built community center.

The building will provide programs for youth, adults and seniors including a preschool, senior center, gymnasium and fitness center and several multipurpose rooms. It also will house about 70 employees in the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation. Construction could begin as early as next fall.

A meeting is scheduled for today (July 19) at Barrett Elementary School for residents to give feedback on the new building’s design. That meeting coming a day after the Board’s scheduled design vote left some members perturbed, as they wanted to see the community engagement process play out before taking action.

Before the start of deliberations, County Manager Mark Schwartz apologized for any communications that caused “confusion or anxiety” in the community.

A timeline in May provided by local resident Michael Thomas had the Board likely voting on the design in September. But Jane Rudolph, director of the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation, said the plan was moved up after staff found they could have the construction contract ready for July’s meeting and advertised on July 7. She also apologized for any confusion

“This is really, I think, close to a smoking gun,” said Board member John Vihstadt. “I don’t understand why we couldn’t defer to September to realize and fulfill the original intention of staff to have the board meeting after the next concept presentation and another PFRC meeting as well.”

Vihstadt was joined in voting to defer, while simultaneously approving the construction contract, by chair Jay Fisette and Christian Dorsey. The trio emphasized that no “fundamental changes” should be made to the plan during the review.

Board member Libby Garvey and vice chair Katie Cristol voted against the plan. Cristol said that the consensus on the Board that no major changes should be made, coupled with the support of many in the community for the new center, should be enough to proceed.

Of those who testified on the project, many had concerns around the project’s impact on the environment, including the need to cut down some trees and possible erosion. Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement, reading remarks on behalf of local activist Suzanne Smith Sundburg, said people wanted more open green space and more trees, rather than more pavement and buildings.

“Staff’s perception of the community’s feedback on this project continues to be at odds with the public’s perception of what it has asked for,” Clement said.

Community engagement for the project took a more modern approach than similar efforts in the past. The engagement used more technology like online surveys and looked to reach out to previously under-represented communities like the Spanish-speaking population in the county.

While Board members and staff recognized the foul-up with the timeline, some residents said the majority of community outreach was done well.

“This is textbook on how to do community engagement,” said Nathan Zee, an Arlington Forest resident. “You went above and beyond what would be reasonably expected, and should be commended. The outstanding design reflects this hard work.”

Images via county presentation

by Brooke Giles July 18, 2017 at 3:30 pm 0

The county’s sewage plant is set for repairs after the Arlington County Board approved a five-year contract at its meeting on Saturday.

The Water Pollution Control Plant’s concrete tanks at 3402 S. Glebe Road, near the Aurora Highlands and Arlington Ridge neighborhoods, are struggling with structural deterioration. They will be repaired with grouting, coating, crack injection, or by other means by an on-call contractor during the five-year contract.

The plant has 60 concrete sewage channels and tanks that help treat the county’s wastewater, and — despite recent upgrades — some of the tanks are over 65 years old.

The contract has a set cost of $1.25 million, with an additional $125,000 set aside as a contingency. In recommending the plan, county staff said scheduling repairs ahead of time rather than doing them on an emergency basis will reduce costs and risk to construction workers.

The County Board approved the contract as part of its consent agenda at its meeting Saturday (July 15).

by Kalina Newman July 17, 2017 at 6:30 pm 0

STAR, Arlington’s bus service for disabled residents, will move to a new call center on Columbia Pike after County Board approval of the plan at its meeting Saturday.

Specialized Transit for Arlington Residents will move to 2301 Columbia Pike, Suite 120, near Penrose Square, after the Board agreed to rent the property from the landlord.

STAR’s existing call center is located at 2300 9th Street S. in the same neighborhood. Its lease on the property expired on June 30, and while it can be renewed on a monthly basis, the landlord plans to redevelop the office building and no longer wanted a long-term tenant.

In a report on the project, county staff noted various positives for the move.

“It is accessible and near a major transit stop with weekend service,” staff wrote. “Because it has its own separately-powered HVAC system, the call center can operate on weekends without incurring the cost of heating and cooling the entire floor. This will yield significant savings for the County in comparison with conventional office space.”

STAR is a paratransit branch of the ART bus system and provides transportation options to the disabled and handicapped who are unable to use public transportation. Those who ride with STAR call ahead to make reservations to be picked up from their home. STAR then routes the ride to pick up other residents who use the system along the way.

The Board will rent 2,337 square foot property for an initial period of 10.5 years (126 months), with a base rent of $4,944.70 per month. That rent will be free for the first six months. Staff estimate it will take three months for the office to be built out and readied to be the call center, during which time STAR will stay in its current location.

The total cost of construction for the new property is estimated at $300,000, part of which will be paid for by the landlord.

by Chris Teale July 17, 2017 at 11:45 am 0

A 22-story apartment building has the go-ahead to start construction in Crystal City after the Arlington County Board unanimously approved the project at its Saturday meeting.

The building, with the address of 2351 Jefferson Davis Highway but located at the intersection of Crystal Drive and 23rd Street S., is set for 302 apartments on top of a podium of the existing two-story retail space. The building is part of the larger Century Center office and retail complex.

The existing ground-floor retail includes Buffalo Wild Wings and Mezeh Mediterranean Grill. The existing retail tenants are expected to stay in the property after the project is complete.

The building would have more than 330,000 square feet of floor space and be 270 feet tall, with a total of 242 parking spaces provided for residents. An existing shared garage with a nearby office building will provide another 100 spaces for retail customers.

“This is the sort of mixed-use project that has become an Arlington signature,” said County Board chair Jay Fisette in a statement. “This building will accomplish one of our key goals — to bring more residents to the heart of Crystal City and provide an even better balance of jobs and residents in this neighborhood. This is a very attractive building, putting state-of-the-art new apartments above upgraded retail space that will enhance the neighborhood’s vibrancy.”

And while the project itself received broad support among County Board members and local residents who testified at the meeting, several raised concerns at the effectiveness of the county’s Transportation Impact Analysis.

The TIA is a requirement for new projects that assesses how many new vehicles and users of public transportation will be added, but some residents said it failed to take into account the community’s traffic concerns.

In their own recommendations of the project in Crystal City, both the Planning Commission and Transportation Commission said said staff must engage in a “community conversation” and receive feedback on where TIA studies can be improved.

“What we’re asking is for staff to reach out broader and more deliberately to the community, because they’re currently not feeling heard,” said Planning Commission member Stephen Hughes at the meeting.

County transportation director Dennis Leach said staff in the county’s Department of Environmental Services are already looking at updating the TIA, and that they will look to the community for input on how it can be changed before presenting any updates at a public meeting, as well as to the Planning and Transportation Commissions.

Leach said the county already asks far more of developers to show impacts on traffic and transit than many other jurisdictions. In its announcement of the Board’s approval, county officials said the analysis for this project was more stringent than most:

The applicant conducted a more extensive traffic impact analysis than usually conducted for such a project. The analysis included the effects of the project on multiple modes of transportation, not just vehicle trips. It assessed the development’s projected impact on the adjacent street, sidewalk, transit, and bicycle network and took into account additional traffic generated by approved, but not yet built, projects within the study area, and their associated transportation network improvements. The analysis evaluated 14 intersections along Crystal Drive, South Clark Street, 23rd Street South and 26th Street South and concluded that future intersection level of service will remain the same regardless of the development, due to sufficient capacity within the existing Metrorail and bus system for the additional trips generated by the site, and a high-quality environment that exists adjacent to the site for pedestrians and bicyclists.

There is no specific timeline on when the TIA regulations will be updated and presented to the community, although Leach said it is already in staff’s work plan. Fisette said he hoped to see progress in the “near term,” possibly as early as September.

by Chris Teale July 14, 2017 at 10:00 am 0

Arlingtonians will be able to own non-venomous snakes regardless of size under the latest version of the proposed “wild and exotic” pets ban.

In the new text, there are no prohibitions on owning non-venomous snakes, a change from the previous iteration in March, which said that owners are limited to snakes that weigh 10 pounds or less.

County staff said they made that change, having also previously discussed to ban non-venomous snakes that measured more than 4 feet in length, after further community input and putting together regulations on enclosure, care and handling with residents, animal control officials and veterinarians.

Each snake must have a microchip and have an enclosure that prevents escape but allows freedom of movement within it. There are also stringent rules for any non-venomous snake weighing more than 25 pounds, while constricting snakes are still banned.

Elsewhere in the proposal, hedgehogs and gliders are allowed, while an ambiguity is removed as previous language could have suggested that owning birds or fish as companion animals was not allowed. Ownership of flightless birds like ostriches and emus is still specifically prohibited.

And those wishing to own harmless spiders, scorpions and centipedes are free to do so after more language tweaks, while prohibiting ownership of those that are, as staff put it “harmful and therefore unsuitable in Arlington homes.”

Certain county agencies would now be excluded, if they are using the wild and exotic animals for educational purposes, or for rescue or animal welfare. Arlington Public Schools, for example, would be able to operate an animal program, while zoological animal exhibitions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums are allowed too.

As proposed, the updated ordinance calls for fines of up to $250 a day for violations.

Staff noted that some members of the community said that circuses should not be allowed in the county, but they said that Arlington does not have the legal authority to ban such performances.

The Arlington County Board is set to vote Saturday on whether to advertise a public hearing on the proposed ban, which would be held in September.

File photo via Facebook/Animal Welfare League of Arlington

by Chris Teale July 13, 2017 at 11:00 am 0

Arlington Public Schools will look to temporarily add more space to try to cope with its rising enrollment by adding temporary classrooms and making interior adjustments at several schools.

The Arlington County Board is expected to vote on a slew of proposals across eight schools at the elementary, middle and high school levels at its meeting Saturday (July 15). The temporary solutions are all recommended for approval by county staff, as “student enrollment is growing at a faster rate than APS can provide new schools and classrooms.”

Some are looking to add more temporary, trailer classrooms — known in APS parlance as “relocatables” — while others will make interior adjustments to add more space.

The following schools are applying to add relocatables:

The following schools will look to make interior adjustments and modifications:

Photos Nos. 6, 7 and 8 via Google Maps

by Brooke Giles July 12, 2017 at 1:30 pm 0

The turf fields at Thomas Jefferson Middle School are set to be replaced in the next year.

The Arlington County Board will vote Saturday (July 15) on a plan to replace the fields with synthetic turf. Staff from the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation said in a report that the current fields are “worn beyond reasonable repair.”

For the past eight years, the turf fields at TJ have been used in the neighborhood and for scheduled use by affiliated sports leagues and school programs.

The upgrades at the field are part of the county’s Synthetic Turf Program, aimed at replacing heavily-used natural grass fields. Currently, there are 15 synthetic turf fields in Arlington, although the move to add more has come in for some criticism from some.

In addition to the new turf, the fields would get new corner flags and goals for soccer games, as well as new bleachers.

The upgrades would coincide with the construction of the county’s new elementary school on the west end of the site, and staff said Arlington Public Schools will plan out activities with the two projects in mind.

APS will share the cost of the upgrades with the county. Just under $475,000 would be spent on the new field, with an extra $47,000 held as a contingency.

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