After the recent fight over the Westover Beer Garden’s outdoor seating, the Arlington County Board will consider some changes at its meeting next month.
Under a plan put forward by staff, the County Board could review the seating capacity and hours of piped-in music in outdoor seats governed by a use permit, like the Westover Beer Garden, on a case-by-case basis. It would mean the Board can approve exceptions to the rules of a use permit individually.
Standards that cannot be modified under a use permit include parking requirements, the use of portable lights and furniture and tying their opening hours to the attached restaurant’s.
The beer garden at 5863 Washington Blvd ran into difficulties earlier this year when it tried to add to its outdoor seating as county use permits expressly forbid having more outdoor seats than indoor seats.
That stands in contrast to the just-open Continental Beer Garden in Rosslyn, which has many more seats outside than inside and can do so because it went through a site plan process, which requires County Board approval and is much more involved than a standard administrative permit process.
Similarly, the proposed beer garden known as “The Lot” in Clarendon would need to go through a site plan process to ensure it can have more seats outside than inside under the current rules.
Staff said outdoor seating cannot be considered as permanent seating for a restaurant, and must continue to be treated as an optional extra.
“Because it is an accessory use, an outdoor café is not considered a permanent expansion of a restaurant’s seating capacity, as it is a transitory use which provides patrons with additional seating options on days with pleasant weather,” staff wrote. “The accessory outdoor café also goes largely unused during periods of cold, snow, and rain.”
The County Board voted unanimously Saturday to hold a public hearing on the subject at its November meeting. Staff will make a recommendation on whether the Board should adopt the changes beforehand, with the Planning Commission also set to weigh in.
Photo via Facebook.
County staff said $11.1 million is left over, 1.4 percent of the county’s FY 2017 General Fund budget, excluding money appropriated to Arlington Public Schools.
The county collected just over $1.022 billion in revenue from property, business, sales taxes and other sources, having projected in April it would collect just over $1.004 billion. That is 1.8 percent more than projected.
“It is the lowest as a percent of total budget in recent years; in FY 2016, available funds totaled $17.8 million, or 2.4 percent, and in FY 2015 available funds totaled $21.8 million,” staff wrote. “This reflects diligent focus on executing the adopted FY 2017 budget.”
Schwartz is recommending the Arlington County Board use the leftover funds in the following ways:
- Affordable Housing Investment Fund: $5.2 million in one-time funding to be set aside for the FY 2019 budget.
- Critical Life Safety Needs: $2 million for unanticipated security system upgrades to the county’s Justice Center in Courthouse.
- Employee Compensation: $1.75 million to reflect changes in federal law on several position classes in public safety.
- County Manager Operating Contingent: $1.25 million to address “unforeseen needs that arise during the fiscal year without reprioritizing or cutting other programs.”
- Facility Studies: $900,000 to primarily fund additional site analysis at the Buck and Carlin Springs sites, as directed by the Board.
“As was started with housing grants as part of the FY 2018 budget, it is important to move to a higher level of ongoing funding for AHIF in the future,” staff wrote. “This transition to a higher amount could take several years, and the transition can be eased with reliance on available one-time funding.”
Certain community members and some County Board candidates have criticized the closeout practice in Arlington, and instead suggested the extra money should be given back to residents and businesses as tax relief, or at least applied to the next year’s budget.
The County Board will consider its options at its recessed meeting tomorrow (October 24), although numbers are preliminary until the county’s independent auditors complete their work at the end of the month.
Phone2Action is a software-as-a-service company that creates software for organizations to launch campaigns on public policy. That includes helping connect advocates with lawmakers and other decision-makers. It has more than 300 clients.
The firm was originally located at 1401 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, but chose to relocate to 1500 Wilson Blvd in the same neighborhood after outgrowing its previous office space.
The county convinced it to stay through an incentive-based Gazelle Grant, which encourages businesses to move into or stay in Arlington.
Under the terms of the grant, Phone2Action would receive $50,000 in return for leasing at least 13,400 square feet of office space, maintaining its existing 50 full-time jobs and adding another 170 new full-time jobs.
If Phone2Action does not reach 90 percent of its office space target, and has not created at least 50 percent of the new jobs by September 30, 2020, it will have to pay back some or all of the grant. It will use the money to build out its new office, and to defray the costs related to hiring new employees and relocating.
“The company raised $4.6 million in July 2016 and is currently operating within two growth industries: the advocacy industry (growing at 12 percent annually) and the social media/CRM industry (growing at 17 percent annually),” staff wrote. “For all of these reasons, Phone2Action has a large market opportunity for the long term.”
The Arlington County Board will vote on the grant at its meeting tomorrow (Saturday).
Photos via Phone2Action.
The four possible designs for the next phase of the Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center have been released.
The revamped center at 475 Long Bridge Drive will have a 50-meter pool; diving platforms from one, three and five meters up; a family pool; and health and fitness spaces. The contractor can then add extra features from a “menu” of potential options, so long as it stays within budget.
That “menu” could include advanced energy efficiency, a therapy pool, a 10-meter dive tower and more spectator seats, among other enhancements.
The project, plagued by a years-long delay caused by anticipated cost overruns has a scaled-down aquatics and fitness center from previous plans. The county will be using a design-build approach, which keeps costs down by establishing a budget at the start that the contractor must not exceed.
“We are incredibly excited about these designs,” County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a statement. “We’ve got four nationally recognized design and construction firms who are putting together their best ideas, based on their creativity and knowledge, for project options for Arlington. By using the Design-Build method, we can focus on the community’s needs while completing the project within budget.”
Links to videos showcasing the designs of the four bidders are below.
Members of the public can give feedback on the four design concepts in several ways between now and October 29:
- Attend a public event on Thursday, October 19 from 7-10 p.m. at 2011 Crystal Drive, 11th Floor. Watch the presentations, ask the firms questions and share feedback.
- Visit the Courthouse Plaza lobby (2100 Clarendon Blvd.) from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays (from October 19 to 29) to watch the videos of the designs, view schematic drawings and share feedback.
- Starting today, go online to watch the videos of the designs and share feedback.
Following community feedback, the park’s Selection Advisory Committee will recommend the contract award based on written proposals, interviews, review of concepts, public feedback and negotiations.
The firm that is awarded the contract will complete its design and construction documents next year, with construction set to start as early as next July.
The Arlington County Board will vote Saturday on a seven-year lease for an ART Bus maintenance facility in Fairfax County.
Currently, British transportation company National Express leases the space and has a contract to maintain ART buses at 6100-A and 6104 Farrington Ave., in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County. The space has a 10,000-square-foot building and a 32,833-square-foot parking area.
National Express’ contract with the county and its lease on the property both expire on June 30, 2018.
Under this plan, the county would control the facility for bus maintenance to, staff said, “promote more competition for the ART operations and maintenance contract, leading to more advantageous pricing for the county.”
The County Board voted last December to buy a maintenance site in Springfield for $4.65 million. But staff said that it will take at least five years to acquire the site and build it out, so this lease helps fill in the “gap years” until it is ready.
This new lease would begin on July 1, 2018, and expire on June 30, 2025. The initial base rent would be just under $180,000 a year, with an annual increase of 3 percent, which staff says would ultimately save the county money.
“The County’s new lease agreement cost of $178,345.80 for Fiscal Year 2019 is $16,483.32, which is 8.6% less than the amount National Express Transit would have paid,” the staff report says. “In the new ART operations contract, the payment to the contractor will be reduced accordingly.”
New residential buildings near Metro stations in Arlington County could have car parking spaces substituted for spots for bike and car-sharing.
The Arlington County Board is expected to advance an updated off-street parking policy for multi-family buildings at its meeting Saturday. It would allow developers to provide fewer car parking spaces for certain new apartment and condo buildings built in the Rosslyn-Ballston and Crystal City-Pentagon City Metro corridors.
The new policy would incldue the following, per a report by county staff:
- Minimum parking requirements for market-rate units ranging from 0.2 to 0.6 spaces per unit depending on distance from the nearest Metro station entrance (ranging from 1/8 to 3/4 of a mile).
- Minimum parking requirements for 60-percent-of-Area-Median-Income and 50-percent-of-AMI committed affordable units, and no minimum parking requirements for 40%-of-AMI units.
- Reductions of up to 50 percent of the minimum parking requirements in exchange for providing bike parking, bike share, or car-share amenities on site, in addition to those already required by the county.
- A separate visitor parking requirement of 0.05 spaces per unit for the first 200 units.
- Allowances for shared parking between different land uses in mixed-use projects, like offices, retail and residential.
- Allowances for meeting parking requirements through the dedication of spaces at existing garages located within 800 feet of the new building and in the Metro corridors.
- Mitigation requirements for parking in excess of 1.65 spaces per unit.
- Relief from minimum parking requirements for sites with physical constraints like size, historic structures that must be retained and more.
In their report, staff noted the potential for knock-on effects in neighborhoods where new buildings have lower parking requirements.
“Staff have heard concern from some stakeholders that low parking requirements will lead developers to seek permission to build less parking on-site than the buildings’ residents will need,” they wrote. “According to this line of thinking, some residents of those multi-family buildings will then park on neighboring streets, thereby increasing competition for on-street parking spaces, making parking less convenient.”
If the Board moves the plan forward on Saturday, as staff recommends, a public hearing and final vote on the subject will be set for its November meeting.
Images via county presentation.
After being given three months to remedy its violations, county staff is recommending the Arlington County Board not extend the live entertainment permit for Chester’s Billiards, Bar & Grill.
Since the Board’s last review in June, staff said the Arlington County Police Department visited to help Chester’s staff correct outstanding violations, train security staff and conduct ABC compliance checks.
But during that period, police found three ABC violations and saw Chester’s hosting a dance party for between 40 and 50 people in August, despite being warned it was not allowed under its permit with the county.
Staff also said police were called five times, with four of those calls involving co-owner David Breedlove. No arrests were made.
The building’s unsafe elevator also remains an ongoing problem, with the property’s owner having been served a court summons and set for arraignment next month for violating the Virginia Maintenance Code. Staff said the elevator is, in the opinion of Code Enforcement, “dangerous to the health, safety and welfare of the building’s occupants.”
A property owner nearby also complained that Chester’s patrons used a parking lot on his property without permission.
In their report, staff noted that the Nauck Civic Association “had not come to a consensus” on whether the permit should be renewed. Staff added that the president of the Bowman’s Hill Homeowners Association, speaking for himself, said there had “not been much of an improvement” from Chester’s.
Staff were critical of Chester’s management, who they said had not worked hard enough to remedy the problems.
“Given the continued non-compliance with the use permit conditions, and a general lack of good-faith effort on behalf of both the applicant and the property owner to voluntarily comply with these conditions, staff recommends that the County Board not renew the subject use permit,” staff wrote.
Photo via Google Maps.
A plan to make it easier for homeowners to add an “accessory dwelling unit” to their property could be set for an Arlington County Board vote as early as next month.
The proposal has been under discussion since earlier this year as the county looks to encourage more ADUs, also known as “granny flats” or “mother-in-law suites.”
Only about 20 ADUs — defined as a second place to live on a property, with a kitchen, a bathroom and a separate entrance — have been approved in Arlington since the ordinance first came into effect in 2009. Local advocates have previously said that relaxing regulations could help ease the county’s lack of affordable housing.
“While accessory dwellings will not alone solve the housing affordability issue, as the Plan notes, it is another tool to provide a typically lower-priced housing alternative,” staff wrote in a report on the proposal.
Staff said they are proposing the following revisions to the ordinance on ADUs, “in order to increase opportunities for residents to add accessory dwellings, while maintaining the residential neighborhood character.”
- Allow for ADUs in detached buildings (like a garage)
- Increase ADUs’ maximum occupancy from two to three
- Increase the maximum square footage from 750 square feet to 1,000 square feet for a basement ADU
- Remove the minimum lot width requirement and area requirements
- Remove the requirement that a resident must live in a home for one year prior to applying for an ADU
- Remove the annual limit of 28 new ADUs in the county
Staff recommended that the following requirements remain largely unchanged:
- Owner occupancy requirement
- Parking requirements
- Compliance requirements
- Design requirements, although some revisions are proposed to allow for additional flexibility
On Saturday, the Board will decide whether advance the plan for public hearings at the Planning Commission on November 6 and a hearing and vote at its November 18 monthly meeting.
— ArlingtonVA (@ArlingtonVA) October 10, 2017
Funding for schools, Metro and public safety officials weigh heavily as Arlington County’s initial budget conversations continue.
In an infographic released yesterday (Tuesday) ahead of more public roundtables to discuss the FY 2019 budget, county staff highlighted how the county spends its money and the challenges ahead.
According to the data, the biggest expense in the county’s operating budget is Arlington Public Schools, which is allocated $490.2 million by the county, or 39 percent of its budget. Human services and public safety are second and third, around $140 million each, or 11 percent.
Among the challenges ahead, staff said APS enrollment has grown by 850 students a year for the last five years, and it takes up almost all of the $510 million raised from real estate taxes on homes, condos and apartments.
And with Metro needing more money and an office vacancy rate of 17.8 percent, which keeps commercial real estate revenue down, county leaders are expecting some tight fiscal times and hard budgetary decisions.
A number of groups will be looking to influence county leaders’ thinking during the budget discussion. Among them is IAFF Local 2800, the Arlington Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association.
In a tweet Tuesday, the group said firefighters, paramedics and police officers need a market adjustment to their salaries — a pay rise to keep up with inflation and the rising cost of living — to “remain competitive.” The last adjustment was in 2013.
According to figures provided to ARLnow.com by IAFF Local 2800, starting pay for county firefighters is 20 percent below the regional average and only $2 more per hour than the county’s minimum wage.
Since the last “market adjustment,” the group said, inflation in the region is up almost 5 percent, the cost of family HMO health insurance for county employees has increased over 45 percent, and the cost for HMO coverage for retirees and their spouses has increased over 55 percent.
Local 2800 added that new firefighters will earn 12 percent less per hour over a 20-year career compared to their peers in Fairfax, Prince William, Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties, the City of Alexandria and D.C.
“Arlington invests a tremendous amount of money in hiring, training and developing its firefighters,” said Brian Lynch, President of Local 2800. “Every time a firefighter leaves the department for another opportunity or does not complete their probationary period, we consider this a loss of an investment in human capital. If the department’s physical capital, vehicles, tools etc. were being lost the way we are losing our people, it would be considered common sense to try to stop the losses. There is not only a moral imperative to fairly compensate those who risk their lives to protect the community, there is also a fiscal imperative.”
Fisette Has To-Do List for Final Months — Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette has a number of items left on his to-do list as he nears retirement from the Board at the end of the year. Among the items with some momentum is a plan to name the county government headquarters after long-serving Board member Ellen Bozman. [InsideNova, InsideNova]
Purple Ribbons on ACPD Cruisers — “During the month of October a purple ribbon, donated by [local nonprofit Doorways for Women and Families], will be displayed on many Arlington County Police Department vehicles in support of the efforts to reduce the incidence and severity of domestic violence in our community.” [Arlington County]
Beyer Gets Press for Security Clearance Letter — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is getting some national media attention for his continued push — alongside Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) — for the Trump administration to revoke the security clearances of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. [CNN]
History of Sushi Zen — Sushi Zen, a Japanese restaurant on N. Harrison Street, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year by holding 20 fundraisers for local nonprofits. But the path to success for the sushi spot was bumpy. The family-owned restaurant struggled in its early years and enlisted the help of Georgetown MBA students to help turn things around. [Connection Newspapers]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
As it has the past few years, Arlington is keeping most of its county offices open on Columbus Day.
State government-related offices will still close on Monday, as will Arlington Public Schools. Though county government offices will remain open, parking meters will not be enforced.
More from a county press release:
Arlington County government offices, libraries and other government services will be open on Monday, October 9, 2017. Virginia Commonwealth offices, including Arlington Courts, DMVs and Arlington Public Schools, will be closed in observance of Columbus Day. Trash and recycling services will operate on a normal schedule. Metered parking will not be enforced.
Photo via Wikipedia
According to a presentation at The Alliance for Housing Solutions’ annual affordable housing forum last month, the concept for a preservation district has been built off of ongoing work for affordable housing in Arlington.
In 2015, the county adopted the Affordable Housing Master Plan and earlier this year it released a report about preserving market-rate affordable housing (MARKs). The County Board held a work session on the topic in April, and since that time work has continued on developing an HCD study and framework.
Part of the ongoing analysis for a housing conservation district is to determine which sites should be included and what the boundaries would be. Numerous studies point to Arlington’s garden apartments as an affordable housing resource that’s disappearing as they’re increasingly being redeveloped into larger homes. The MARKs study released earlier this year indicates that the parts of Arlington most at risk of losing these types of units to redevelopment are Westover, Ballston and Rosslyn.
Nothing has been finalized yet, but the preliminary HCD goals are:
- Encourage the retention and renovation of existing rental affordable housing units.
- Provide opportunities for the creation of new affordable units when redevelopment occurs.
- Signal that a variety of tools are available to achieve the above.
Although they also haven’t been finalized, the preliminary HCD objectives are:
- Provide committed affordable housing (CAF) rental housing up to 60% of the area median income (AMI).
- Preserve MARKs up to 80% AMI.
- Provide ownership housing between 80% and 120% AMI.
- Preserve historic buildings.
- Incorporate sustainable building practices.
- Encourage renovation and infill development while accommodating redevelopment.
- Projects compatible to their surroundings.
- Any density changes recommended to be supported by community & transit.
- Encourage underrepresented housing forms.
Consultation with county commissions will continue through the fall and community outreach is expected to begin sometime this winter, as is a General Land Use Plan amendment. A Zoning Ordinance amendment is expected next year.
Photo via Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing
Arlington County is interested in purchasing property in Nauck that has been the subject of redevelopment talks for years.
At its meeting next month, the County Board will take up the issue of purchasing 2631 and 2633 Shirlington Road, according to a public notice the county released this week.
Several years ago, a portion of the 153,000-square-foot industrial site near Shirlington was redeveloped into a self-storage facility, called CubeSmart. Prior to that, it was considered as a potential location for an urban Walmart, but the County Board quickly passed a measure that would require large-format retailers to get Board approval for building stores.
Arlington County is already leasing the parking lot next to the CubeSmart for ART buses and other needs.
The public notice indicates that the county might consider acquiring the land through eminent domain if the owner does not agree to sell.
Photo via Google Maps
Local nonprofit Phoenix Bikes will rent space in the Arlington Mill Community Center after the Arlington County Board unanimously approved a five-year lease Tuesday night.
Phoenix Bikes will lease just over 1,800 square feet of space for its bike repair shop on the center’s first floor at 909 S. Dinwiddie Street. It will also rent office space on the fourth floor and some storage space.
The nonprofit, which lists its mission as promoting bicycling, building community and educating young people, celebrated its 10th anniversary this year.
It moves into first-floor space that had been vacant since the center opened in 2013. Phoenix Bikes had previously planned to build an education center along S. Walter Reed Drive near the W&OD Trail, but ran into significant opposition from nearby residents concerned about tree removal, parking and unsavory people visiting the public restrooms.
“This is a great location for Phoenix Bikes and a great way for the county to fill vacant retail space at Arlington Mill,” County Board chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. “Phoenix Bikes’ award-winning program of mentoring youth through bicycle repairs and sales will thrive in this high-visibility location on the west end of [Columbia] Pike. We’re happy to have them.”
Phoenix Bikes has one year from the execution of its lease to build out its retail space, and 21 months to build out its office space. It will pay just under $9,000 a year in rent. It is estimated the build-out will cost $170,000.
Phoenix Bikes executive director Meg Rapelye said the new space will help the organization add to its programming and help serve more people.
“We are so grateful for Phoenix Bikes’ new home at Arlington Mill Community Center,” she said in a statement. “This move is the most significant event in Phoenix Bikes’ 10 years of existence and will dramatically increase our organization’s capacity to serve the community. We look forward to augmenting the afterschool and summer teen programming the Center currently provides and helping activate Columbia Pike’s West End.”
Arlington County residents are now prohibited from keeping various “wild and exotic” animals as pets, including alligators, squirrels and skunks, but can keep non-venomous snakes and hedgehogs.
Anyone who already owns a banned animal will be grandfathered in but must immediately contact the Animal Welfare League of Arlington to register their pet. Current owners will then be able to legally keep their pets through the registry.
The County Board voted unanimously on Tuesday for the new restrictions, which take effect immediately. Anyone found in violation of the new rules could be fined up to $500 a day.
The following animals are banned, according to Arlington County.
- Non-human primates (monkeys, chimpanzees, etc.)
- Wolves or wolf hybrids
- Wild cats including hybrids (like bobcats, lynx and caracals)
- Ratites (flightless birds)
- Venomous snakes, venomous reptiles
- Any other warm-blooded mammal that can normally be found in the wild state
- Scorpions other than those in the Pandinus group, which are permitted
- Centipedes of the Scolopendra group
- The following spider groups: Latrodectus (widow spiders); Loxosceles (recluse spiders); Dipluridae (funnel-web spiders); Phoneutria (banana spiders aka wandering spiders); Ctenizidae (trap-door spiders); Sicarius (sand spiders); and Theraphosidae (tarantulas), except for Theraphosids native to North and South America and Brachypelma smithi (Mexican redknee tarantula), which are not permitted
Non-venomous snakes are not banned, but the Board set standards for care, handling and enclosures for snakes that weigh more than 25 pounds. That is a change from the previous iteration of the ban in March, which had intended to ban ownership of non-venomous snakes weighing more than 10 pounds.
Each snake must have a microchip and have an enclosure that prevents escape but allows freedom of movement within it.
“What began as a seemingly straightforward effort to ban exotic pets in Arlington became much more complex and nuanced as the process evolved,” County Board chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. “Ultimately, through a lot of conversation with the community, we were able to adopt a Code amendment that reaches a practical balance of the input received from all sides and is enforceable.”
Rabbits, rats, mice, ferrets, hamsters, gerbils, chinchillas, hedgehogs, sugar gliders and guinea pigs bred in captivity are permitted as pets. Also allowed as pets are all domestically bred or legally imported birds — other than flightless ratites — plus non-venomous snakes, non-venomous reptiles, amphibians and fish.
County staff said the decision aligns county and state law, and now allows local animal control officers to take actions that previously could only have been taken by state officers.
Photo No. 1: File photo via Facebook/Animal Welfare League of Arlington. Photo No. 2 courtesy Kelly.