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A year into new stormwater requirements for single-family home projects, homebuilders and remodelers say even the improved process is laborious and expensive, costing homeowners extra money.

On the other hand, Arlington County says that permit review times have shortened and that the program will be evaluated for possible improvements.

Before September 2021, builders had to demonstrate that a given property had ways to reduce pollution in stormwater runoff to comply with state regulations aimed at cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.

Last year, the county began requiring projects that disturb at least 2,500 square feet of land to demonstrate the redeveloped property can retain at least 3 inches of stormwater during flash flooding events through features such as tanks, planters and permeable paver driveways. Builders must also refurbish the soil with soils that increase water retention.

Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Peter Golkin says improvements like these “are vital as we continue the work toward a flood resilient Arlington,” especially as “the pace of single family home construction in Arlington remains strong.”

But the regulations are fairly new and could change, Golkin said.

“The first projects in LDA 2.0 are now coming to construction, and the County is entering the phase of evaluation to identify potential adjustments and improvements,” he said. ”The County expects to have more information about any LDA 2.0 updates by mid-2023.”

The updates were intended to address increasing infill development and rainfall intensity, and the downstream effects of runoff and impacts to the county’s aging storm drains and local streams.

Builders and remodelers say the changes have caused new headaches and resulted in projects shrinking in size.

“It only gets more complicated, costs more, and takes longer,” says architect Trip DeFalco.

Andrew Moore, president of Arlington Designer Homes, said he’s avoided this process in many projects after telling the clients about the potential costs and permitting time.

“People are motivated to think, do I need that bump-out to be 14 feet? I can live with 12 feet,” he said. “It saves you $50,000 and 3 months.”

Despite the hassle, permit applications are still coming in at a clip of, on average, 20 per month.

Responding to redevelopment

In the wake of the destructive July 2019 flash flood, residents has discussed and voted on ways to address stormwater mitigation in Arlington, while the county has put more funding toward stormwater improvement projects.

The issue of runoff has figured into debates about how to protect streams and the impacts of allowing the construction of two- to eight-unit “Missing Middle” houses in Arlington, though such projects could only occupy the footprint currently allowed for single-family homes on a given property.

In the wake of the flash flooding, the county introduced new regulations for what it says is one of the biggest runoff contributors: new single-family homes.

“Ensuring more robust control of runoff from new single family homes, which create the majority of new impervious area from regulated development activity, remains a top County priority as part of the comprehensive Flood Resilient Arlington initiative,” Golkin said.

An average of 167 single-family homes have been built and an average of 155 torn down annually over the last 11 years, according to Arlington’s development tracker tool. Demolitions peaked in 2015 and completed projects in 2016.

Single-family detached demolitions and completed projects (via Arlington County)

A past of pollution

DeFalco, who spent a few years as a builder, too, says the “county’s hands are a little bit tied” on this issue because they have to meet state requirements aimed at curbing pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.

Runoff brought fertilizer into the bay, causing algae and plants to grow quickly and then die, sink to the bottom, where they decayed and used up oxygen, says civil engineer Roger Bohr.

“The state is pushing on the county and the federal government is pushing on the state,” DeFalco said. “But the implementation on the homeowner level is pretty onerous… I don’t think the residents have any idea what’s going in their side yards.”

Golkin compared the transition period right now to when new state stormwater management requirements took effect in 2014.

“Staff and the building and engineering community ultimately came up to speed,” he said.

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that highlights Arlington-based startups, founders, and local tech news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

A startup that bills itself as a “modern-day milkman” is deepening its reach in Arlington after securing $38 million in new funding.

The Rounds delivers home essentials, like cleaning supplies, and goods from local companies such as D.C.-based Compass Coffee and Seylou Bakery, in reusable or sustainable packaging. On the same day of each week, members swap their empty containers for replenished products.

After launching in Philadelphia in 2019, The Rounds expanded into D.C., Virginia and Miami over the last year. Today, it serves about 10,000 members, according to a blog post announcing the funding.

The Rounds will be expanding its reach first via pick-up at two locations in Arlington: Compass Coffee in Rosslyn (1201 Wilson Blvd) and Movement Crystal City (1235 S. Clark Street). Pick-up is also available from Alexandria’s Sportrock Climbing Centers (5308 Eisenhower Ave).

“Pickup locations are usually what we start out with in new zip codes where we’re still building up a Member base and setting up our refillment centers in that location, so we usually lean on them as we’re getting set up and then transition to at-door delivery when we can support it,” says Nikhita Prasanna, the chief of staff at The Rounds.

The Rounds is now offering a pick-up option for Arlington residents living in the 22202, 22211, 22213, 22214, 22203, 22204, 22205 and 22206 zip codes, Prasanna says. For now, it’s only delivering to residents in the 22201, 22207 and 22203 zip codes.

As for why The Rounds has chosen climbing gyms, she says that is because a lot of its target audience climbs recreationally.

“When we started doing events at climbing gyms, we noticed that people were super excited about The Rounds and regularly came to the climbing gym as part of their weekly routine,” she tells ARLnow. “So, we worked with our climbing gym partners to set up pickup spots so that when Members come to do their climbing, they can also get refilled. We’re not limited to climbing gyms as the only pick-up spots, but we’ve found that the climbing community tends to be mission-aligned and excited about our service.”

The chief of staff said her team hopes to begin at-door deliveries in these eight Arlington zip codes next year.

That effort could get a boost from an upcoming zoning change. Arlington County may soon allow micro-fulfillment centers as an alternative use for vacant office units, as a way to bring down its 20.8% office vacancy rate and meet an increasing delivery demand.

While Prasanna couldn’t speak to the work the operations team may be doing on this locally, she said that is likely “something we’re exploring to allow us to better serve Arlington residents.”

Meanwhile, The Rounds is looking for more apartment buildings with which to partner.

“We already work with a number building partners in Arlington, and we’re looking to expand partnerships,” she said. “If any reader is excited about our concept and lives in a building they think would be willing to partner, we would love any leads. We’re actively working on building partnerships right now.”

The startup is also planning to use the funding to improve the technology it uses to predict when customers need refills, or its “Psychic Home Manager.”

“We’re able to use technology to build a predictive engine that allows us to anticipate what you need before you run out,” said co-founder Alex Torrey in a statement.

Additionally, The Rounds announced that it is partnering with a tech startup started by General Motors, called BrightDrop, to test out delivery via electric vehicles.

The funding — led by private equity company Redpoint Ventures and venture capital company Andreesen Horowitz — follows a $4 million round of seed funding, per the blog post.

The Rounds co-founders, Alex Torrey and Byungwoo Ko
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An ART bus and driver (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Metrorail riders could soon enjoy free transfers to Arlington Transit (ART) buses.

The Arlington County Board this Saturday is set to consider covering bus trips for SmarTrip card users who start their one-way trips on the Metro.

This move is part of a broader effort by the county, the region and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to recover ridership rates, which plummeted during the pandemic.

Ordinarily, transfer trips cost $1.50 rather than the full $2. Individual jurisdictions get to decide whether to offer a discount.

“The WMATA Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 budget includes an increase of the rail to bus transfer discount from $0.50 to $2.00,” notes a staff report to the County Board. “If adopted by Arlington County, the increase in the discount would result in rail-to-bus transfer fare on ART of $0.00 and would align with the WMATA transfer discount.”

Arlington County Transit Bureau Chief Lynn Rivers tells ARLnow that her department supports these free rides because they are a “win-win” for the county, where users need a blend of rail and buses to navigate its Metro corridors and suburbs.

“The more that people are on rail, the better it is for us,” she said. “We really endorse people to use public transit other than single occupancy vehicles. This is another way of doing that — by making another portion free.”

Ridership in Arlington plummeted from 49.5 million bus and rail trips in the 2019-20 fiscal year to 16.1 million in the 2021-22 fiscal year, which ended in June, per the report. This year, Arlington launched two pilot programs to increase ridership while offering reduced rates to low-income riders and students.

The free rides would cost the county $242,000, but Rivers said the tradeoff is that the program could generate more paying Metro customers.

The free transfers, if approved, would go into effect on Oct. 1.

The transfer discount is not the only opportunity for free rides on ART buses this fall. Arlington’s transit service has started testing out zero-emission buses (ZEBs) from several manufacturers as part of a pilot program, and is offering free fares to those who happen to board.

The battery-powered buses will tackle some of ART’s most challenging, hilly routes. The pilot program started Monday and is expected to continue into early 2023.

“The pilot will allow ART to collect data and assess vehicle performance during actual operation in the County,” according to a press release from the county. “Operators will drive ZEBs to test battery performance, range and response to Arlington’s geographic features including steep hills.”

A battery-powered bus by GILLIG (via Arlington County)

In-service test buses will have signs indicating the route and the free fare. Passengers are able to provide online feedback on their ridership experience on these battery-powered buses.

The schedule for this month’s test rides is as follows:

A schedule of free bus rides via a pilot program during September (via Arlington County)

On Friday, the GILLIG battery electric bus will be parked on the 2100 block of 15th Street N. from 1-3 p.m. so people can see it, ask questions and learn more about the pilot program.

Arlington will repeat these pilot rides with two to three additional manufacturers this fall and winter.

Transitioning to zero-emission buses would help the county meet its goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, the press release says. Arlington is also working to use renewable electricity for all of its government operations by 2025.

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Four Mile Run near Shirlington (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

We now know the likely culprit that killed nearly 100 fish in Four Mile Run last week: pool water.

“Investigators say flawed seasonal pool care involving chlorine and overflow led to last week’s fish kill in Four Mile Run,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Peter Golkin tells ARLnow. “Recent rains have now cleared the stream. Reminder: No filters on our storm drains. Please be careful.”

Golkin said overflow from the pool at a “multi-family property swimming pool” — in other words, an apartment or condo complex — “got into the storm drain” and made its way to the stream, between S. Walter Reed Drive and S. Taylor Street.

Pool water, it turns out, is deadly.

“Swimming pool and spa water can have devastating effects on the health of our streams if not disposed of properly,” the county’s website says. “The chlorine, bromine, algaecides, cleaning chemicals and low oxygen levels can kill fish and other aquatic life in streams.”

“Only freshwater that is dechlorinated, pH neutral, chemical-free and clean may be slowly discharged into the storm drain system,” says the website. Otherwise, pool water must go into the sewer system.

Golkin noted that the county’s rules around swimming pool drainage are “especially timely as this is prime season for closing out pools for the year.”

It is illegal to drain untreated pool water directly or indirectly into storm drains, though it’s not clear whether anyone will face any fines or other consequences in this case.

“It was not a malicious act,” Golkin said. “It was a multi-family property swimming pool. The owners and their service people have been very cooperative with the investigation and in making follow-up improvements so such an incident isn’t repeated.”

Another pool-related drainage issue that comes up around this time each year: pool drainage that flows into neighboring properties, flooding yards, killing grass and sparking neighborhood disputes. The county considers such disputes to be out of its regulatory control.

More from the county website:

Chapter 26-7 makes it unlawful for any person to discharge directly or indirectly into the storm sewer system or state waters, any substance likely, in the opinion of the County Manager, to have an adverse effect on the storm sewer system or state waters. Failure to comply with code requirements may result in enforcement action, including the issuance of civil penalties as outlined in Chapter 26-10 of the Arlington County Code. Enforcement action may also be taken by state and federal authorities in the event of a fish kill. Please share this information with pool service companies. You may be held responsible for the results of their actions.

If pool or spa water is to be released over-land, the release should be:

  • At least 10 feet from the property line
  • Monitored and controlled to prevent flooding or erosion of neighboring properties

Conflicts between neighbors that arise due to the release of pool or spa water are considered civil in nature. The Property Drainage webpage contains further information about residential drainage concerns and the potential conflicts that can arise.

For more information on swimming pools and how to properly manage pool water discharge, call 703-228-4488.

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Morning Notes

“DMV” painted in Ukrainian colors in Arlington Ridge (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Rent Keeps Going Up — “Arlington’s median apartment-rental rate remains highest in the metropolitan area and has fully rebounded from dropoffs during the early part of COVID, according to new data. With a median rental rate of $1,999 for a one-bedroom unit and $2,391 for two bedrooms in May, Arlington’s average rental… is now up just under 13 percent year-over-year.” [Sun Gazette]

Arlington Making Much Multifamily — From a spokesperson, about a new set of national rankings: “Multi-family units authorized in Arlington increased by 1,095.8% — a total addition of 2,838 units — between 2020 and 2021. Out of all midsize cities, Arlington experienced the 5th largest increase in multi-family home construction.” [Construction Coverage]

Group Decries Missing Middle ‘D-Day’ — From WAMU’s Ally Schweitzer: “With Arlington expected to enact zoning reforms allowing denser housing in more nabes, the group [Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future] is ramping up its rhetoric in opposition. The group’s latest blast calls the expected vote day ‘D-Day.’ They’ve said the county is ‘declaring war’ on single-family nabes.” [Twitter]

Parking Removed for Transitway Extension — From the National Landing BID: “Parking lanes along Crystal Drive and 12th Street South will be closed to make way for the Transitway Extension Project beginning Wednesday, June 15, 2022.” [Twitter]

Pedestrian Struck in Bluemont — From Dave Statter last night: “Report of a pedestrian struck at Wilson Blvd & George Mason Dr. Appears to be a bicyclist. There was also bicyclist struck last week a block away. @ArlingtonVaFD & @ArlingtonVaPD handling.” [Twitter]

Amazon Buys HQ2 Phase 2 Site — “Amazon.com Inc. has acquired the roughly 11 vacant acres in Pentagon City that will soon be developed as PenPlace, the massive second phase of HQ2. The $198 million deal with JBG Smith, as expected, follows Arlington County’s late April approval of PenPlace, a nearly 3.3 million-square-foot project slated to include three traditional office buildings, a spiral Helix tower, three retail pavilions, a central park and an underground parking garage.” [Washington Business Journal]

Environmental Finding on HQ2 Site — “Crude oil particles have been found in the soil at Amazon.com Inc.’s PenPlace, the site of the second phase of its second headquarters buildout in Arlington County, per a public notice published Monday in The Washington Post… The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality conducted a risk assessment for the particles, finding that the amount poses ‘no material risk to current or future site occupants,’ according to the notice.” [Washington Business Journal]

It’s Tuesday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day with some rain possible. High of 76 and low of 63. Sunrise at 5:45 am and sunset at 8:33 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Trees in Arlington (staff photo)

A new program seeks to increase equity in Arlington by planting more trees in certain neighborhoods.

The local non-profit EcoAction Arlington announced that it’s starting the “Tree Canopy Equity Program” with the goal of raising $1.5 million to fund planting at least 2,500 trees over the next five years in local neighborhoods that have too few.

Insufficient tree canopy is closely tied to heat and temperature increases. The reason certain areas of Arlington are hotter than others, like the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, is due in part to lack of trees, recent data shows.

“The neighborhoods most impacted by insufficient tree cover are communities with higher-than-average minority populations and communities with people living in poverty,” EcoAction Arlington said a press release. “The lack of trees has a real-world impact that can lead to poor physical and mental health outcomes, higher utility costs, and a lower quality of life.”

The ten civic associations and neighborhoods that the program will work with are below.

  • Arlington View
  • Aurora Highlands
  • Buckingham
  • Columbia Heights
  • Glebewood
  • Green Valley
  • John M. Langston Citizens Association (Halls Hill/High View Park)
  • Long Branch Creek
  • Penrose
  • Radnor/Fort Myer Heights

The current levels of tree cover in those neighborhoods is between 17% and 33%, according to EcoAction Arlington.

“The goal is to radically increase tree planting in the neighborhoods with the lowest tree cover to align with the average for other Arlington communities of approximately 40 percent,” the press release says.

EcoAction Arlington executive director Elenor Hodges tells ARLnow that that the group has already begun to plant more trees. That includes American hornbeams, pin oaks, river birch, sugarberry, American sycamore, swamp white oak, and American linden.

The program needs about $150,000 a year to cover operations, marketing, staffing, and the actual planting of trees, Hodges says, with each tree costing about $500 to plant.

Amazon, an inaugural sponsor, has already contributed $50,000. The goal is to raise $1.5 million from other corporate and individual donors, while also obtaining funding from Arlington’s existing Tree Canopy Fund Program. This initiative allows neighborhood groups, owners of private property and developments, and places of worship to apply to have native plants or trees planted on their property.

Residents in neighborhoods lacking sufficient tree canopy note that the the problem is often tied to the construction of large, new homes and not prioritizing trees while building.

“As we lose trees due to infill development of large homes on lots in our neighborhood, they need to be replaced and even expanded,” John M. Langston Citizens Association president Wilma Jones tells ARLnow. “We all know that trees give off oxygen and they reduce stormwater runoff.

Natasha Atkins has been a resident of Aurora Highlands for nearly four decades and has “watched with alarm” the number of trees lost to homebuilding projects.

“With the County’s zoning code, requiring only very small setbacks for residential housing, it is questionable whether there will be much of a tree canopy in the future in the single-family neighborhoods that are being redeveloped,” she says. “Trees are an afterthought in planning and zoning. They should really be a driver.”

Hodges concedes that planting 2,500 more trees over the next five years will only “make a dent” and it will take tens of thousands of trees for all these neighborhoods to reach the 40% tree canopy threshold.

But the Tree Canopy Equity Program is just as much about what one can do today as what one can do tomorrow, says Hodges.

“It’s about behavioral change and teaching people about the importance of having a sufficient tree canopy in Arlington,” she said.

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The most scorching parts of Arlington are along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor and Reagan National Airport, according to a new study.

On a hot day last July, volunteers and Marymount University research students and staff recorded temperatures at morning, afternoon and evening throughout the county as part of the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges’ Heat Watch Campaign. Residents across the Commonwealth also contributed to the statewide data collection effort.

That data has since been compiled into heat maps, released this week, that cover more than 300 square miles of Virginia. Environmentalists say this information is helpful for targeting solutions to heat: planting more trees where possible and, where that is not possible, adding amenities like community gardens and planted walls.

Although Arlington County is compact, temperatures varied by up to 7 degrees depending on location. The Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, for example, recorded a temperature of 94.8 degrees at 3 p.m., and less than two miles away, neighborhoods near the Potomac Overlook Regional Park clocked in at 87.8 degrees.

Temperatures along Arlington’s roadways last July (via the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges)

Marymount University assistant biology professor Susan Agolini says highly populated areas like Ballston and Clarendon are often hotter because concrete and asphalt absorb heat and radiate it back into the environment, while the North Arlington neighborhoods closest to the Potomac River have trees and gardens to soak up that sunshine.

“I do not think there were any surprises here with regard to what areas were hotter,” Agolini said. “We know that locations with a lot of pavement and cement are going to be hotter than areas with a lot of trees and green space. The question is what do we do about that?”

Agolini says she will bring this data to conversations with county officials about urban planning and cooling solutions, such as planting trees and incentivizing the creation of community gardens around buildings and on their rooftops.

For example, 23% of the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association had tree canopy compared to 74% of the Bellevue Forest Civic Association, according to the most recent county tree canopy data, from 2016.

Heat maps of Arlington at different times of the day (via the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges)

“I find it really compelling that the benefits of and need for increased space for urban agriculture could actually serve multiple purposes,” Agolini said. “It would not only provide Arlington residents with the physical and mental health benefits of growing their own food, but it could also have the added benefit of decreasing the impact of heat disparities throughout the county.”

Elenor Hodges — the executive director of the community organization promoting environmental stewardship, EcoAction Arlington — helped collect temperature data last summer. She says the data provide “another way of looking at a known issue.”

And the solution — more trees and plantings — has benefits that bleed into other environmental and public health goals, she said.

“If you’re building in an area and you can think about having it be as green and plant-based green as possible then that makes the space cooler,” she said. “You can be happier in this space, healthier, and it helps with carbon and it reduces stormwater runoff.”

Hodges said EcoAction Arlington would like to see this data inform developments currently going through the county review processes so that the projects can reduce, rather than contribute to, Arlington’s heat zones.

This includes planting walls of plants, blending indoor and outdoor spaces, and adding trees and plantings to grass-covered parks, as grass doesn’t absorb as much heat.

The organization, which oversees a county program that plants trees on private property through developer contributions, will be launching a campaign to encourage planting in neighborhoods with less tree canopy that also have higher rates of poverty and substantial non-white populations.

For example, tree canopy levels are under 30% in the Arlington View, Buckingham and Green Valley neighborhoods, she said.

“Those are neighborhoods we are going to be looking at more carefully,” Hodges said.

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn.

Very good boys (and girls) can now eat food that’s good for the planet, from a Clarendon-based company called Chippin.

It all started when founder Haley Russell gave her goldendoodle a cricket to eat, and her dog enjoyed it.

“That initiated the journey of looking at how might we be able to give all-natural alternative protein sources to nourish four-legged family members and meet this totally unaddressed need, which is for pet parents to be able to give them great nutrition while aligning purchases the way they buy other things” — that is, with a focus on environmental impact, she tells ARLnow.

The company sells dog treats and dog food made from crickets, an invasive species of fish and a CO2-sucking algae called spirulina. Russell says Chippin enjoyed a successful 2021: it launched new products and hit the shelves of big-box pet supply store Petco, which aims to have sustainable food companies comprise half of the food brands it offers by 2025.

And this year, she’s focused on increasing distribution and finding new retail and wholesale partnerships. While Russell couldn’t divulge any more details, she said Chippin is looking to respond to the tremendous demand for cat food products later in 2022.

U.S. pets are the fifth-largest global meat consumers, according to Russell, so how pet owners choose to feed their companion animals has a significant impact on the environment. Production of traditional protein sources such as chicken, beef and pork releases methane and CO2 emissions, leads to water overconsumption and degrades water and air quality, among other consequences, she noted.

Haley Russell, founder of Chippin (courtesy photo)

But when Russell began looking for alternatives, she says she found “nothing on the market that was delivering on what I wanted: a high-quality, eco-friendly, tasty product.”

Her dog’s eager consumption of a cricket was not the only source of inspiration for Chippin. Russell, a graduate of Northwestern University, says she studied economics and global health and has always been interested in how food could be “an agent for change for health and the environment.”

Her years in the Great Lakes region prompted her to see if silver carp — an invasive species threatening the $7 billion Great Lakes fishing economy — could become another source of food for dogs. Her hunch was right.

“We created the first-of-its-kind dog food that solves for providing high-quality nutrition with a protein for dogs with allergies to beef and chicken and helps restore biodiversity in the Great Lakes while fishing for a fish we need to fish for,” she said.

Every product is vetted by veterinarians and researchers at the University of Illinois, who ensure these “planet-friendly proteins” are healthy and biologically appropriate for dogs, she said. They’re also more digestible than chicken.

The Maryland native says Clarendon, where she also lives, is the paw-fect fit for Chippin, which is “seeking to be agents for change in taking climate action in an industry that has totally been under-addressed.”

“It’s dog-friendly neighborhood and my team really enjoys engaging with the vibrant community of pet parents here,” she said.

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Today (Friday) marks the last day lawmakers can file legislation to be considered in the 2022 session.

Several of the bills Arlington County legislators introduced align with County Board priorities — from making permanent electronic participation in public meetings to increasing state funding for affordable housing and including race and ethnicity on driver’s licenses.

They’ve also introduced legislation to address issues that came up in the community last year.

After residents exposed poor living conditions at the Serrano Apartments to ARLnow, Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49) pre-filed a handful of bills aimed at strengthening tenant protections. Lopez also appears to have taken inspiration from the Advanced Towing saga with a bill that would make tow truck driver violations subject to the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.

Here’s a roundup of some other bills Arlington’s lawmakers put forward.

Policing

  • Independent policing auditor: This bill, House Bill 670, would allow Arlington County to appoint an independent policing auditor who will support the law enforcement Community Oversight Board that was created out of the Police Practices Group recommendations. Del. Patrick Hope (D-47) is chief patron of the bill.
  • Law-enforcement officers; conduct of investigation: HB 870, which Lopez introduced, would require an officer who was involved in a shooting to be interviewed within 24 hours of the incident.

Environmental issues

  • Beverage container deposit and redemption program: HB 826, introduced by Hope, would establish a beverage container deposit, refund and redemption program involving distributors, retailers and consumers. There would be an advisory committee, required reporting and civil and criminal penalties for violations.
  • Packaging Stewardship Program and Fund: The bill, HB 918, would allow the state Department of Environmental Quality to charge sellers in the commonwealth a fee for the amount of packaging their products use and if they’re easily recyclable. Those fees would be paid into a fund and used to reimburse participating localities for expenses related to recycling, invest in recycling infrastructure and education and pay the program’s administrative costs. Lopez introduced the bill.
  • Parking of vehicles; electric vehicle charging spots; civil penalties: Senate Bill 278 prohibits a person from parking non-electric vehicles in electric vehicle charging spots. It sets a civil penalty between $100 and $250 with the possibility the vehicle is towed or impounded. Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30) introduced the bill.
  • Driving Decarbonization Program and Fund. This legislation, HB 351, would establish a program and a fund that would assist developers with non-utility costs associated with installation of electric vehicle charging stations. It was introduced by Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48).

Health

  • Insurance; paid family leave: SB 15, introduced by Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31), would establish paid family leave as a class of insurance that would pay for the income an employee loses after the birth of a child or because the employee is caring for a child or family member.
  • Hospitals; financial assistance for uninsured patient, payment plans: This bill, SB 201, requires hospitals to screen every uninsured patient, determine if they’re eligible for financial assistance under the hospital’s plan and create a payment plan. The bill also prohibits certain collection actions. Favola introduced the bill.

Rights

  • Constitutional amendment; marriage; fundamental right to marry, same-sex marriage prohibition: This constitutional amendment, SJ 5, would repeal the constitutional provision defining marriage as only a union between one man and one woman as well as the related provisions that are no longer valid as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2015. Ebbin introduced the amendment.
  • Absentee voting; verification by social security or driver’s license number: SB 273, introduced by Ebbin, would make optional the current absentee ballot witness signature requirement. It would give the voter the option to provide either the last four digits of their social security number or the voter’s valid Virginia driver’s license number instead.
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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1812 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn.

A local agriculture-technology company is making it possible for people to buy pre-packaged goods based on how much carbon dioxide they save from entering the atmosphere.

EarthOptics, a startup with a significant Crystal City presence at 2461 S. Clark Street, uses artificial-intelligence to help farmers cheaply and efficiently map, report and verify how much carbon their farm land absorbs through the natural process of sequestration. This way, they can cash in on private- and public-sector incentives related to climate change mitigation.

Now, EarthOptics is using that data to let consumers support these farms more directly. With the labeling initiative, folks will be able to choose to buy products from food and beverage companies that source their ingredients from carbon-sequestering farms.

Consumers can expect to see the new label on certain products, especially from smaller food companies, in their grocery stores in 2023. The timeline will vary some depending on the growing season of particular crops.

“Consumers will be able to look at our Soil Carbon Project label and appreciate that the corn used to make their cornflakes took one pound of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and kept it in the soil, or the grain used to produce a six-pack of beer took 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere,” EarthOptics CEO Lars Dyrud said in a statement.

EarthOptics has already begun the verification process with some interested growers.

The CEO says most soil carbon-mapping methods are time-intensive and expensive, and only yield estimates. That makes it harder for farmers and the packaged goods companies that buy their crops to benefit financially from carbon sequestration.

EarthOptics technology lowers the cost and improves the accuracy of the measurements, making it possible to launch a labeling system, he says.

“For a labeling initiative to be successful, it needs to be accurate and trustworthy,” Dyrud said. “Measuring soil carbon retention for food and other consumer goods historically has been a costly and time-intensive endeavor. What we’ve been able to do at EarthOptics is move the soil carbon needle from estimation to accurate, verifiable measurements.”

Doing so has a host of benefits, Dyrud previously told ARLnow. Farmers are able to contribute to climate-change mitigation through carbon credit marketplaces, where large corporations such as Google or Etsy offset their carbon footprint by supporting businesses that sequester the greenhouse gas.

EarthOptics engineers and researchers are also tinkering with the technology so that it can map more soil properties, such as nutrient and moisture levels, which would combat climate change while making food tastier and more nutritious.

The Earth’s soil naturally sequesters carbon but some human activity — particularly farming — can stymie that natural process. When the soil is too hard or tilled too often, the carbon can’t seep into the ground and instead is released into the atmosphere, where it can remain for thousands of years.

While certain agricultural practices contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, others can reduce them. Scientists estimate that soils, particularly farm soils, could sequester more than a billion tons of additional carbon each year, according to EarthOptics.

EarthOptics’ TillMapper helps farmers decide if, when, where and how deep to till (courtesy photo)
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(Updated at 10:50 a.m.) A three-story, county-owned group home in Douglas Park is set for demolition early next year.

In its place, Arlington County will oversee the construction of an environmentally friendly home for six adults with disabilities, at a total cost of more than $5 million.

Built in 1924, the house at 1212 S. Irving Street has undergone several renovations and has operated as a group home since the mid-1970s, according to a county report. Today, the 3,800-square foot, seven-bedroom house accommodates five individuals.

But the county says the house needs to be rebuilt.

“This existing residence is aged and in deteriorating condition and will be demolished and replaced with a new two-story family home of approximately 3,000 [square feet],” according to the project page.

The $4 million construction contract for the net-zero group home was approved by the County Board in October. Demolition could begin in January 2022, as could the installation of a geothermal well field that will power the home’s heating and cooling systems, says Claudia Pors, a Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman.

“Right now the contractor (MCN Build) doesn’t want to begin demolition of the current structure until they have materials to build the new home, and demolition isn’t anticipated to begin for another 6-8 weeks,” she said.

The new home will have six bedrooms, including accessible bathrooms and closets, an area for staff and accessible communal living spaces with built-in furnishings and appliances, per the county report. It will be equipped with various audio-visual technologies to support individuals with complex medical support needs.

“Upon completion, the new home will provide a primary and permanent residence for up to six adults with developmental disabilities,” the report said. “It will be constructed to meet the changing needs of the residents across their lifespans, regardless of physical and behavioral support needs.”

Arlington’s Department of Human Services will operate and maintain the house, while a contracted residential provider will have the primary responsibility for caring for residents.

The new 1212 S. Irving Street will be a net-zero energy residence, meaning it generates as much energy as it consumes. It will also be the county’s first Viridiant Net-Zero certified building, Pors said.

“Some of the construction features include an airtight building envelope and high-performance windows and doors that prevent outdoor air from coming in, or loss of conditioned air; less than 50% of impervious area on the property, so stormwater can be absorbed by the ground naturally; and landscaping with non-invasive species,” she said.

Solar panels and geothermal systems will power the building, while energy recovery ventilators will recover heat or cold air, she said. The interior will also feature LED lighting, low-flow plumbing features and Energy Star appliances.

The project is $900,000 over budget, according to the report.

“The total project budget for the 1212 S. Irving St. Group Home project is $5,205,735,” the report says. “This amount is $900,000 over budget, due to the current unstable market conditions, longer construction duration from lagging supply deliveries, and the addition of a sixth bedroom and a kitchenette to satisfy DHS current programming requirements. The construction cost was over a $1 million more than the independent cost estimate received in November 2020.”

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