(Updated at 10:25 a.m.) Last year it looked like Arlington County would soon be starting year-round yard waste collection. That is, until Arlington’s waste hauling contractors lost out on the yard waste contract and sued the county.
The year-round yard waste collection proposal has since been in limbo. With the lawsuits withdrawn, it is now on track again to becoming a reality — as soon as Spring 2016 — but only if it garners enough public support.
Arlington is conducting an online survey through Friday (Sept. 25) to gauge resident interest in the service.
“Results from the survey will be presented to the County Board this fall, who will then make the decision about whether to add year-round yard waste to the other waste collection services,” said Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jessica Baxter.
Adding the year-round collection would mean an optional third cart for residents to bring to the curb every week and a not-optional extra $33 per year added to their current $271 per year residential waste collection bill. The county says that even at $304 per year, Arlington’s rate would remain the lowest in the area.
Currently, Arlington conducts a seasonal yard waste collection: 10 weeks of leaf collection in the fall and 6 weeks of yard debris collection in the spring. The collected items are then composted. At all other times during the year, organic material is treated as trash and incinerated.
In addition to environmental benefits, “the logistics for handling year-round yard waste would be less demanding than turning the system on and off at points during the year,” according to a county press release.
Arlington has since dumped KMG Hauling and Bates Trucking, the contractors that filed suit, and is touting the benefits of its new contract with American Disposal Services. Among them:
- “Reduced pollution from compressed natural gas collection vehicles.”
- “$5.5 million savings on core services through the length of the 10-year contract.”
- “More responsive customer service through advanced collection vehicle and cart monitoring.”
Arlington, VHC Agree to Land Swap Terms — Arlington County and Virginia Hospital Center have preliminarily agreed to terms on a future land deal that would give the hospital extra room to expand. The deal would swap the county’s Edison Complex, next to the hospital, for hospital-owned property elsewhere and/or cash and other considerations. The County Board will vote on a proposed Letter of Intent on Sept. 24. [Arlington County]
Arlington Teen Mauled by Pit Bull — A 17-year-old was mauled by a pit bull in his home on 8th Street S., police said. The house was reportedly being used as a babysitting service for pit bulls and the boy suffered serious injuries after trying to break up a fight between two of the dogs. [NBC Washington]
Artisphere Still in County Hands — Arlington County and Monday Properties have not yet finalized a lease termination for the former Artisphere space in Rosslyn. While there has been some talk of a tech-related use for the massive, airy space — which costs $1 million per year just for heating, cooling and utilities — it’s as yet unclear what, if anything, will actually replace Artisphere. [DCist]
Arlington Loses Large Potential Tenant — Despite a push from Arlington County and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, The Advisory Board Co. will be staying in D.C. Local and state officials had hoped to woo the publicly traded company to the vacant 1812 N. Moore Street tower in Rosslyn, but in the end a $60 million incentive package offered by D.C. convinced the company to move to a New York Ave NW address near the convention center. [Washington Business Journal]
Tonight: E.T. Showing at the Planetarium — The Friends of Arlington’s Planetarium will kick off their fall fundraising festival this weekend with a movie screening tonight. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial will be showing at the planetarium starting at 7 p.m. tonight. Other events are planned for Saturday and Sunday. [Friends of Arlington’s Planetarium]
Fall Festival at Bluemont Park — On Saturday, Bluemont Park will host its free Fall Festival, featuring activities for all ages, including cornhole, bocce, a moon bounce, relay races and face painting. [Facebook]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Addressing “longer-term budget and service delivery issues” is a top priority of Acting County Manager Mark Schwartz, who says Arlington must think and act strategically as the county continues to grow and develop.
“Too often, we are so wrapped up in our day-to-day responsibilities that we lose sight of the importance of planning for the longer range,” Schwartz said in a press release that was sent out Friday. “These conversations will focus on what the future is for service delivery, staffing and management and how we make sure we are on the cutting edge of planning for that future.”
According to Arlington County, policymakers will discuss:
- How Arlington’s growing population and changing demographics impact service delivery
- How service delivery choices and investments can help meet the county’s economic development goals
- The impact of technology on how county government delivers services
- Opportunities to achieve efficiencies while improving service delivery
“While no formal action is expected by the County Board at these sessions, the discussions will help inform future budget and Capital Improvement Plan discussions,” the county said.
The first County Board work session will be held at 3 p.m. today, in the County Board Room at 2100 Clarendon Blvd, and will discuss Arlington’s public libraries. Other work sessions are scheduled for Oct. 13, Nov. 10 and Dec. 8.
Most Arlington County government offices will be closed this coming Monday, Sept. 7, for the Labor Day holiday.
Libraries, courts, nature centers and administrative offices will be closed on Monday in observance of the holiday.
Parks will be open, and county pools will operate on a modified schedule. The Washington-Lee pool will be open from noon to 4 p.m., the Wakefield High School pool is open from noon to 6 p.m., and the Yorktown pool will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
ART will run on a holiday schedule, meaning the 41, 51 and 87 buses will operate on Sunday times. All other routes will not run on Labor Day. Metro will run on a Sunday schedule and will operate from 7 a.m. to midnight.
Trash and recycling will be collected as normal.
Arlington County’s public art program is seeking a new “Public Art Project Manager.”
Project managers are responsible for developing and managing public art projects for the county, as well as advising on county requests for art and design enhancements. They also help educate residents and county staff about the importance of art in Arlington.
“The work entails communication and project-related activities to publicize, advocate for, support and elevate the profile of public art and design enhancements in the County,” according to the job listing.
“The work also includes collection maintenance oversight for Arlington’s collection of permanent public art and portable works, the associated database and website, and supports the work of the Public Art Committee of the Arlington Commission of the Arts.
Project managers work under Angela Adams, the public art administrator.
The position became available after one of the former project managers moved to a different department to take a part-time job, said Jim Byers, marketing director for Arlington Cultural Affairs. Byers could not say who moved from the department because it’s a personnel matter, he said.
The public art department website currently lists Deirdre Ehlen and Aliza Schiff as project managers.
Those wishing to apply need to have a bachelor’s degree in an art or design-related field, such as fine arts, art history or urban planning. Candidates also need two years experience in arts administration, public arts or a design-related field.
The application is available online.
(Updated at 5:00 p.m.) Arlington County and VDOT are considering building a bus maintenance facility on the east end of Columbia Pike, according to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
The powerful Arizona Senator sent a letter to Secretary of the Army John McHugh on Wednesday urging him to oppose a planned realignment of Columbia Pike that’s being sought by the county. McCain said the alignment would allow construction of the bus facility but would reduce the number of potential interment spaces available to Arlington National Cemetery as it expands to include the former Navy Annex site.
“We should instead pursue an alignment that maximizes the number of interment sites and places restrictions on the remaining property that ensure whatever is built reflects the solemnity of this national cemetery,” McCain wrote. “It would be shameful to have to tell the family of a fallen American hero that there is no space available at Arlington National Cemetery, because rather than expand its grounds, Arlington County and the Virginia Department of Transportation decided to build a bus maintenance facility.”
Brian Stout, the county’s federal government liaison, said late Friday afternoon that a bus facility is just one use that’s being considered for the land along a realigned Columbia Pike. There are no concrete plans for such a facility, and a formal planning process will not begin until the land swap takes place, he said.
An Arlington County heritage center and parking for the Air Force Memorial are among the other potential uses for the land, said Stout.
Stout said Arlington County, VDOT and the U.S. Army reached a “verbal agreement” on July 16, outlining a swap that would give the Army 38 acres of interment space for Arlington National Cemetery north of a realigned Columbia Pike.
According to Stout, that that represents a 250 percent increase in burial space provided to the cemetery compared to space that would be available without a land swap. The swap would reduce the footprint of the road network from 23 to 9 acres, and would provide Arlington County with 7.5 acres of land south of the Pike for county use, Stout said.
Stout said it’s incorrect to say that the county is “planning” to build a bus facility on the land, though it is a potential use. He denied that discussion of a bus facility has “stalled” talks with the Army, as McCain claims.
Earlier this year the Arlington County Board approved a $14.2 million project to expand and enhance its Arlington Transit bus facility along S. Eads Street and Route 1. Construction on the project is expected to begin this month and last 18 months.
Despite the large investment, the county notes on the project page that an additional ART facility is needed, especially in order to enhance bus service on Columbia Pike in the wake of the cancellation of the Pike streetcar project.
“The new bus facility will not be large enough to fully house the existing ART fleet, or current plans for fleet expansion, nor will it accommodate additional buses that may be necessary to enhance bus service along Columbia Pike and Crystal City-Pentagon City,” the county says. “Where to add bus maintenance and parking space is one of many County needs being examined by the Community Facilities Study, a broad-based, year-long planning effort launched in January 2015 by the Arlington County Board and the Arlington School Board.”
The full letter from Sen. McCain, after the jump.
Flickr pool photo (bottom) by Jeff Reardon
Schwartz was appointed by another Schwartz — Acting County Manager Mark Schwartz. The appointment is effective Sept. 8.
As Deputy County Manager, Schwartz will oversee the county’s public safety and emergency management agencies. ACFD Assistant Chief Joseph Reshetar will take over as the department’s acting chief after Schwartz departs.
The full Arlington County press release, after the jump.
Deal With Hospital Expected — Arlington County is expected to hold a public meeting next month to discuss a land deal with Virginia Hospital Center. The county is reportedly ready to sign a memorandum of understanding with the hospital for a five-acre, county-owned parcel of land adjacent to it, which would then allow the hospital to expand. Details of the deal were not yet available. [Washington Business Journal]
County History Survey — To help county leaders understand which aspects of local history are especially important to residents, Arlington is conducting an online survey, asking for “ideas on collecting, preserving, sharing our history.” An Arlington Historical Task Force will take the survey into account when presenting recommendations for historic preservation priorities later this year. [Arlington County, Preservation Arlington]
When the KKK Marched Through Arlington — In 1922 about 400 members of the Ku Klux Klan, including some prominent local citizens, marched through Arlington neighborhoods like Clarendon, Ballston, Cherrydale and Rosslyn. At the time, the Klan was a powerful organization that claimed 60,000 members in Northern Virginia, sponsored youth baseball teams and owned a field for cross burnings on what is now Ballston Common Mall. The Klan’s message was that of racism and intolerance, but it also advocated for law and order and against corruption in government and vices like drinking. [Falls Church News-Press, Our Redneck Past]
Theodore Roosevelt Island Profiled — USA Today has published a profile of Theodore Roosevelt Island, near Rosslyn. Included in the profile are notable facts about the island, including the fact that what now appears to be a natural forest was “clear-cut, trampled and even bombed by 1931.” [USA Today]
Recycling is being made easier in county offices and facilities.
The county is starting a new program that no longer requires residents and county staff to separate different recyclable items.
Instead, the county is introducing new recycling containers for all recyclable materials, including paper, glass and plastic. The new blue bins will be placed in all county facilities and offices over the next couple of weeks.
Here is what Acting County Manager Mark Schwartz said about the new recycling changes, in a memo to employees:
Good News. We are implementing a new recycling program in all County offices and facilities. Now all your recyclable items — plastic, metal, empty food and beverage containers, paper, cardboard and glass — can be placed in one recycling container, eliminating the need to separate materials for collection.
This is good news for you and for sustaining the environment. As you may know, one of the core values listed in our vision statement is sustainability. At the end of last year, the County Board was presented with the Environmentally Preferable Practices and Purchasing Work Plan to encourage sustainable practices County-wide. This plan was put together by a team of staff from various departments and is a great example of the kind of ideas that help us do a better job.
You may have noticed blue desk-side recycling bins at various County-owned or occupied buildings. If you haven’t received a blue bin yet, you will in the coming weeks. There will also be new co-located trash and mixed recycling containers used as sorting stations in shared areas, such as hallways and break rooms.
Be on the lookout for these new containers and instructions on how to properly use them in your building. I challenge you to actively participate in the County’s recycling effort and increase the facilities’ recycling rate by the end of the year. With everyone’s participation, I am confident that County staff can continue to lead by example in the area of sustainability. For help with your conservation efforts, please contact the Solid Waste Bureau.
Thank you for your support,
P.S. Some facts on the recycling:
- The County has a recycling rate goal of 47 percent; currently County facilities only recycle around 23 percent;
- Recyclables cost less to process than trash; therefore, increasing recycling and reducing waste helps lower the County’s operating costs;
- Nearly 70 percent of the materials disposed as trash in an office can actually be recycled; and
- Recycling helps preserve natural resources and reduces greenhouse gases.
Today is Donnellan’s last day as the top executive in Arlington County government, before her retirement, which was announced in March.
Deputy County Manager Mark Schwartz will serve as acting county manager while the county continues to conduct a nationwide search for Donnellan’s permanent replacement.
Donnellan sent the following goodbye memo to county staff this afternoon, after spending much of the morning walking around county government headquarters and saying goodbye to staffers in person.
Friends: I could not leave today without thanking you all for your hard work and your many contributions that have helped make Arlington a great community.
How quickly thirty-one-and-a-half years have flown by. It has been an amazing ride. Together, we have accomplished so much. For me, the most satisfying aspect of this job has been the opportunity to come to work each day and interact with such a talented group of people. But all great things must come to an end.
Tomorrow, I start a new chapter, and I’m looking forward to exploring new opportunities. Under Mark Schwartz’s able leadership, I know that you will continue to do great things.
Again, thank you for everything. It has been such a privilege.
All the best,
Also bidding adieu is Artisphere, which is set to permanently close its doors after today.
The staff of the cultural center in Rosslyn sounded a proud, defiant note in a goodbye message sent to its email list this afternoon. That note is below, after the jump.
A minor parking mishap attracted a crowd of restaurant owners in Courthouse yesterday.
Just before lunchtime, the “KBBQ Taco Box 2” food truck accidentally struck the front bumper of a parked car on the 2000 block of Wilson Blvd, as the truck was trying to squeeze into a tight parallel parking space. There was no damage evident — but police were called and a citation issued, as a small crowd of restaurant owners and mangers gathered.
As it turns out, the car belonged to a delivery driver for the Afghan Kabob House across the street, and this was the latest skirmish in an ongoing battle between brick-and-mortar restaurants and food trucks in Courthouse.
The war started last month with the emergence of an unlikely leader on the restaurant side. Bar Concepts, a restaurant consulting company, had been brought in to operate the back bar area of the recently reopened Summers Restaurant. Though Summers is not exactly known as a haven for Courthouse office dwellers seeking a quick grab-and-go bite to eat, Alan Beal, COO of Bar Concepts, zeroed in on food trucks — at least those that parked along Wilson and Clarendon Blvds — as the enemy of local restaurants.
Beal swiftly organized a coalition of about a dozen Courthouse area restaurants who say that the trucks “are running amok” and having “a serious impact on these brick and mortar restaurants” by parking directly in front of their establishments. The collective effort was on display Thursday as owners took turns complaining about parking enforcement to police.
Food trucks, they said, were reserving precious street parking spots in front of restaurants by having workers park cars on the street as early as 6:00 a.m. Some weren’t even feeding the meter, they said.
There’s nothing illegal about reserving street parking spaces in such a manner, the cops said, though they did encourage the owners to call when they did spot a violation like an expired meter. There is also a two hour limit on parking, which is enforced, but there’s a loophole: trucks can simply pull into into another open space after two hours, provided it’s at least 25 feet away from their existing parking space.
With little recourse other than calling in the meter maids, the owners seemed to agree to double down on an unofficial group tactic: encouraging employees to park on the street, thus taking away available parking spaces from the trucks. One owner could be heard telling several employees to be sure to park on the street during their shifts. Another ran across the busy four-lane road when a spot opened up, driving his Mercedes from a small private lot behind his restaurant, making a U-turn and pulling into the open spot, thus boxing out the food truck hoard.
Beal — who was in D.C. during the fender bender fracas — insists that he doesn’t oppose food trucks, only their parking choices. He said trucks park directly in front of businesses, billowing smoke, creating crowds that block the sidewalk and taking away customers. He has been documenting the woes on a YouTube channel.
“No one opposes food trucks, they’re good for consumers and good for the economy,” he said via phone. “The problem is where they’re parked.”
Purposely blocking parking spots, for hours on end, only hurts restaurants by keeping the spots from potential customers, according to Beal. “It is kind of unethical,” he said of food trucks, or anyone else for that matter, reserving street parking spots for commercial gain.
Beal said he has been having constructive conversations with the county about solutions that could work for both restaurants and food trucks. That potential solution — which had until then not been revealed to the media — is creating and enforcing specific areas for food trucks to park in a given area.
Cara O’Donnell, spokeswoman for Arlington Economic Development, said the county is hoping to implement a “street vending zone” pilot program in Rosslyn within a few weeks.
The county’s Real Estate Bureau recently sent letters to home owners on N. Lincoln Street and 8th Street N., offering to buy homes for a “fair market value.”
“The County would be interested in purchasing your property for incorporation into the nearby Maury and Milliken parks,” the letter said. “If you are interested in selling your property, either now or in the future, please let me know as we would like to have the opportunity to make you an offer before the property is listed for sale with a real estate agent.”
“The benefits of selling the house directly to the County are that the house could be sold in ‘as is’ condition, without the necessity of making any repairs, at a time convenient for you, and without the payment of a sales commission, which would save you a significant amount of money,” the letter continues.
One property on the block — an immaculate 5 BR, 4.5 BA Colonial — is currently on the market for $1.75 million. “This home shows the pride of ownership,” the real estate listing says.
A homeowner on the block says he’s not sure the expense the county would have to go to in order to acquire the properties is worth it.
“I find the whole thing to be fiscally outrageous. I love my house and have made a massive investment in building the house where I want to raise my family in the neighborhood where I want to raise my family,” he said. “There is already a park there that hardly seems overused… it is unclear to me why the county is so hot to trot to spend $7-10 million of taxpayer money to build a park so close to Quincy [Park] and so many others.”
A county spokeswoman said the expansion of Maury Park — located next to the Arlington Arts Center and described as a “quaint one-acre park equipped with two tennis courts and an amazing play sculpture” — has been the goal of two County Board-adopted policies, the Public Spaces Master Plan and the Virginia Square Sector Plan, as well as the Ashton Heights Neighborhood Conservation Plan.
“The plan is to expand active and passive recreation,” said Arlington County Media Relations Manager Mary Curtius. “Up until the 2000’s, when the Maury Arts Center building and parking lot were expanded, the surrounding park included a popular playground and basketball court. Both had to be removed to make way for the expansion of the Arts Center.”
“The County has acquired two key parcels over the last decade, a single family home on N. Lincoln Street and a commercial property on Wilson Boulevard,” Curtius continued. “A park master plan will be developed in the future to address the new parcels that are being acquired over time as well as the joining of Maury and the adjacent smaller Herselle Milliken park.”
Artisphere hosted its final performances this past weekend, as it prepares to close for good at the end of the month. Supporters decry the closure as the county government prioritizing penny pinching over the arts. But Artisphere’s financial losses may have been secondary to another problem: lack of community engagement.
The cultural center in Rosslyn spent more than $1 million on marketing over four and a half years, largely targeting D.C. area arts aficionados with newspaper ads. The strategy paid off with sold-out niche concerts and events, but failed to attract the loyalty of many Arlington residents who have a more casual appreciation for the arts.
Instead of the original vision of a hub for local arts groups and a community hangout, complete with a WiFi cafe, Artisphere became more of a regional draw for one-off performances. Some 75 percent of its audience came from outside Arlington and 83 percent of its artists from outside Virginia, according to a 2014 report.
After hastily opening on the novelty date of 10/10/10, before an executive director or a marketing director could even be hired, Artisphere’s finances proved to be a fiasco. Wildly over-optimistic expectations gave way to the realization that the center would only make a quarter of its projected visitor revenue in the first year. That, in turn, sparked community criticism, set off backtracking by policymakers and led to a series of changes that watered down community participation.
It didn’t help that Artisphere’s multitude of performance venues were small and, as officials figured out after opening, couldn’t host simultaneous events due to noise bleed.
The relative lack of participation from taxpaying Arlington residents and artists, in the end, may have been Artisphere’s biggest downfall. When Artisphere hit the chopping block, few residents showed up at County Board meetings to speak in its defense.
“That’s exactly part of the issue,” said retiring Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan, in a May interview. “At some levels, it wasn’t reaching our community in such a way that won their support.”
Donnellan and the County Board faced criticism in the local arts world for the decision, with letters to the editor, the chair of the Arlington Commission for the Arts and even a Washington City Paper cover story implying that the Board was naive in closing Artisphere just because it was losing money.
“Artisphere’s closure is symptomatic of a much larger political view of culture in which the arts are important to community building, but funding them is not,” the City Paper wrote. It along with the Washington Post were the beneficiaries of 55 percent of Artisphere’s marketing budget.
But there was more that went into the decision to close than just dollars and cents. Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes said Artisphere was “able to create some wonderful shows” after “‘we got some of the right programming people in place,” but “there was a struggle in terms of what type of place [Artisphere] was going to be.”
“Within our Cultural Affairs department there was a real desire to be cutting edge and to fill a niche they perceived in the D.C. arts scene,” Hynes said. “So people on the way up” were booked, but “those are people who who are developing an audience, not those who have an audience.”
There was discussion of hosting “community Saturdays” — with performances from school groups and other community-driven activities — “where we get people familiar with coming here because their kid is performing here.”
“But that didn’t fit with the image of what people thought of as [Artisphere],” Hynes said. “So I do think that audience was pretty constrained in terms of all of Arlington.”
“In the end we collectively didn’t see as much of an opportunity for full community participation here than we see in some other things we do,” Hynes said of the decision to close Artisphere and send about half of its budget back into other arts programming around Arlington. “When a locality is putting its tax money into helping the production of art, we have some obligation to consider how we give as many people in our community as possible the opportunity to consume good art.”
The hotline was announced today by outgoing Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan. It will be run by an “experienced third-party provider” and will be “a confidential and secure way” to report suspected financial malfeasance, via phone or a secure website, the county said today.
Employees calling in or logging on to the 24/7 hotline may include their name or remain anonymous when reporting.
“By putting in place whistleblower protection and a fraud, waste, and abuse hotline, we are reinforcing County government’s deep commitment to good and ethical government,” Donnellan said in a press release.
The press release says the hotline is “part of the emphasis [Donnellan] has placed on high ethical standards during her tenure as County Manager.” Each report will be reviewed by a “County Review Committee, composed of staff appointed by the County Manager.”
Employees who do identify themselves in their reports will be protected by a new administrative whistleblower policy, the county said.
Survey Says: Resident Satisfaction High — Resident satisfaction with Arlington County is high, according to Arlington County. The county’s fourth Resident Satisfaction Survey, conducted by an outside research firm, suggested an 89 percent overall satisfaction rate with the quality of county services. “Just two percent of residents were dissatisfied with the overall quality of County services,” said a press release. One notable area for improvement: maintenance of county streets, with a satisfaction level of only 42 percent. [Arlington County]
Peak Memorial Day Traffic Expected Thursday — Contrary to conventional wisdom, the worst Memorial Day holiday traffic in the D.C. area will be Thursday evening, not Friday. According to an analysis of average travel speeds, drivers hoping to escape local holiday traffic should leave at night, around lunchtime Wednesday or Thursday, or Friday morning. [Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments]
Split Board Approves Reeves Farmhouse Sale — The Arlington County Board voted 3-2 last night to sell the historic Reeves farmhouse. “The County worked with the community for six years to find a way to retain public ownership of the house, or to create a public-private partnership to restore the house and open it to the public, but we were unable to achieve such a partnership, and the cost of restoring the property and bringing it up to code for public use was prohibitively expensive,” said County Board Chair Mary Hynes. Much of the land around the house will remain publicly-owned. [Arlington County]
County to Outsource Volunteer Program — The County Board also last night voted 3-2 to outsource Volunteer Arlington, the county’s volunteer management program. The county will now seek a nonprofit with which to form a public-private partnership. [Arlington County]