Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Arlington Waiving Affordable Housing Loan Payments — “The Board approved allowing borrowers of County Multifamily Revolving Loan Funds the option of waiving their 2020 loan payments if they commit to using the money to address rent and vacancy losses and emergency needs that are associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.” [Arlington County]

County Delaying Purchase of Property Near Shirlington — “In order to keep their options open, the Arlington County Board will make another $175,000 payment to hold open the possibility of acquiring two parcels adjacent to the Arlington Cultural Affairs facility in the Four Mile Run corridor.” [InsideNova]

Masks Required at County Courthouse — “Beginning May 22, 2020, cloth facial coverings will be available for all people who do not have one as they enter the Arlington County Courthouse, Sheriff Beth Arthur announced. This comes after the Honorable Judge Newman, Arlington County Chief Judge, ordered that all patrons who enter the Courthouse will be required to wear a cloth face covering or face mask.” [Arlington County]

Chamber Supports Extra Outdoor Dining Space — “Allowing restaurants to use parking lots and street parking spaces for additional outdoor capacity, similar to how they have been allowed to reserve parking space for carryout patrons, will provide additional flexibility for socially distanced service. We also encourage the County to consider block closures where restaurants may set up tables on a pedestrianized right of way to expand overall capacity.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

Pair in Stolen SUV Crash into Parked Cars — “The victim’s Ford F-150 was parked when he observed the unknown suspect enter it and and drive away. An officer en route to the call for service observed the F-150 and a Toyota Land Cruiser in the area travelling at high rates of speed. The officer attempted to effect a traffic stop on the F-150, however, it the driver refused to stop and fled onto I-395 NB. The Land Cruiser, which had previously been reported stolen out of Arlington, was later located, unoccupied, after it crashed into multiple parked vehicles.” [Arlington County]

Fund Established for Gutshall’s Kids — “A memorial fund to support the education of the late County Board member Erik Gutshall’s children has been established… The fund was established by a ‘generous donor who wishes to remain anonymous.'” [InsideNova]

Nearby: Fairfax Parks Reopening — “The Park Authority has begun reopening of parking lots and parks in the park system to be open for the Memorial Day weekend. Park Authority staff will begin the process of clearing barricades and opening parking lots at all 427 parks for our community on Wednesday, May 20 through Friday, May 22. These parks will reopen for limited use in accordance with COVID-19 safety guidelines.” [Fairfax County]

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Jane Green writes a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

On May 6, a select group of Arlington Democrats voted to endorse Takis Karantonis as their candidate in the special election to fill the seat vacated due to the tragic illness and death of Erik Gutshall.

(Full disclosure: My husband was a member of the closed caucus and I serve with Takis Karantonis on the board of the Alliance for Housing Solutions.)

Erik was an advocate for Missing Middle housing during his campaign for the County Board in 2017. Following that race was what first brought me into local politics as a relatively new Arlingtonian. Erik also clearly understood the connection between housing and other zoning regulations and transportation policy, such as the role of residential parking requirements.

As Arlington’s population grows in the urban corridors, both those along Metro lines, but also along Columbia Pike and Lee Highway, the County Board will benefit from Takis’s direct experience with economic development in Arlington. (Although I am personally disappointed that we won’t have a renter on the Board.)

In their endorsement, Greater Greater Washington acknowledged Karantonis’s “long record of fighting for less fortunate people and an area of the county that has not gotten the planning or transportation investments it needs.” (I no longer work for Greater Greater Washington and I had no role in making the endorsement.)

In answering the candidate questionnaire released by the Alliance for Housing Solutions, Takis emphasized the specific, practical tools that he sees available for the County to expand the diversity of our housing options, while also creating affordable homes for low-income residents.

Takis recognizes that many types of housing are “compatible with the gentle transition from our commercial corridors to our established neighborhoods.” He sees the Form-Based Code model is a good way to provide a “level of predictability” for adding “missing middle” housing types into residential areas that border commercial zones – including micro-units, stacked flats, duplexes and triplexes.

As for committed affordable housing, Takis wants to use tools such as the recent zoning amendment “to incentivize the creation of more onsite affordable units on the land being developed.” Recognizing that our high housing costs are due to the high cost of land, he would explore land banking, Transfer of Development Rights, Tax Increment Financing, and Transit-Oriented Affordable Housing as opportunities to produce more affordable units. I am looking forward to learning more about his policies in the next two months.

Currently, two other candidates have stepped forward for the July 7 special election. Susan Cunningham also wants to emphasize planning in Arlington’s non-Metro corridors. Based on her candidate statement, she is interested in “selective upzoning to enhance business viability and housing choice and affordability.” She emphasized “long-term planning” to balance growth with facilities investment, open space, and County spending.

The Arlington Republican Party has also announced a candidate. While Bob Cambridge does not have a campaign website at the time of this writing, the Arlington GOP platform states a commitment “to maintain an ample supply of market-rate affordable housing, to avoid the need for housing subsidies.” Additionally, they support job creation in the County and “fair and reasonable zoning” — although what that means specifically remains to be seen.

It will be impossible to fill Erik Gutshall’s shoes, and it will be up to Arlington voters if they want an equally passionate advocate for diverse and affordable housing on the County Board when we vote on July 7. Regardless, the election will shape our County during this critical time, when we can look outward and be welcoming of new residents, or be insular and closed off. I hope everyone follows the campaigns and makes their voice heard. You can request an absentee ballot online here.

Jane Fiegen Green, an Arlington resident since 2015, proudly rents an apartment in Pentagon City with her family. By day, she is the Membership Director for Food and Water Watch and by night she tries to navigate the Arlington Way. Opinions here are her own.

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Morning Notes

Northam Announces COVID Changes — Gov. Ralph Northam announced Wednesdays that, starting today, Virginia residents can start having nonemergency surgeries and dental procedures again. The governor also announced that the state Dept. of Health will soon start releasing ZIP code-level coronavirus case data. [WTOP, @kamamasters/Twitter]

County Announces New Housing Director — “Arlington County has selected Anne Venezia to be the County’s new Housing Director… She most recently served six months as the Acting Housing Director and was the Housing Finance Manager for four years prior. Venezia joined Arlington County in 2008.” [Arlington County]

Arlington Pushing for More Census Participation — “Arlington government officials say the county’s census-response rate has passed 60 percent, and local efforts will now be made to reach out to low-response hotspots across the community… the 2010 response rate of 74 percent [was] slightly below the overall Virginia average that year.” [InsideNova]

County’s Memorial Page for Erik Gutshall — Arlington County has established a “Remembering Erik” page on its website, memorializing the late County Board member Erik Gutshall, who passed away earlier this month from brain cancer. [Arlington County]

Library Seeks Material for New Archive — “Arlington Public Library announces the COVID-19 Archives project, designed to create a comprehensive picture of Arlington during an extraordinary period in our history. The Center for Local History (CLH) seeks donations of journals, photos, and objects to help document this time of difficulty and struggle, but also of resilience and hope.” [Arlington County]

Overnight Crash on Carlin Springs RoadUpdated at 9:10 a.m. — “Video appears to show a car crash took down electric lines on Carlin Springs Rd near 7th St. S.” [@statter911/Twitter]

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(Updated at 5:40 p.m.) Arlington residents will select a new County Board member on July 7, following the resignation of the late Erik Gutshall.

Gutshall resigned from the Board just 10 days before passing away from brain cancer on Thursday, April 16.

Earlier this afternoon, Arlington Circuit Court Chief Judge William T. Newman, Jr. set Tuesday, July 7 as the special election date for Gutshall’s successor, who serve out the rest of his term through the end of 2021.

State law “provides that the special election shall be held not less than sixty days and not more than eighty days after the occurrence of the vacancy,” Newman noted in his decision. It cannot be held “within the fifty-five days prior to a general or primary election.” The statewide Virginia non-presidential primary this year is scheduled for June 23.

Late Friday afternoon, in an emergency meeting, Arlington’s Electoral Board set a candidate filing deadline of Friday, May 8.

Following the selection of the filing deadline, the Arlington County Democratic Committee announced that it would be holding a closed caucus among its Steering Committee and County Committee members, unless Gov. Ralph Northam and the state legislature act to push the special election date back.

More from an email sent by the local party to members:

Arlington Democrats believe a vote-by-mail nomination caucus open to all Democratic registered voters in Arlington would best serve the interests of democracy and Arlington voters in this unprecedented time of public health crisis. But, in order to meet the aggressive timeline set by the laws of Virginia, it is impossible to facilitate a vote-by-mail nomination process. This leaves the Arlington Democrats with no option but to select the Democratic nominee through a closed virtual caucus, which involves a vote by the members of its Steering Committee and County Committee that will conclude by May 7.

Arlington Democrats is prepared to transform this virtual nomination process — which is detailed in the Arlington Democrats’ new special election webpage — into a vote-by-mail process open to all Democratic registered voters in Arlington if the nomination period is extended to encompass a two-month period. Arlington Democrats is actively exploring options to achieve this extension, including through consultation with multiple legal counsel.

Arlington Democrats also is asking Governor Northam and the General Assembly to move the special election date so that political parties have the ability to hold an open nomination process, while respecting necessary social distancing measures. Please help us to fight for the voting rights of Arlington voters by signing this petition — act today!

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Morning Notes

Board Members Remember Erik Gutshall — “The four remaining Arlington County Board members – Chair Libby Garvey, Christian Dorsey, Katie Cristol and Matt de Ferranti – spent several minutes each remembering former Vice Chair Erik Gutshall, who died on Thursday after an 8-week battle with brain cancer.” [Blue Virginia]

School Board Discusses Distance Learning — “There’s both positive and negative news as Arlington Public Schools has pivoted to distance-learning in an effort to squeeze in some education during the COVID-19 lockdown. The good news? At least things have not gone as badly as in neighboring Fairfax County, where that school system’s attempt to re-start instruction collapsed in a technical debacle and ensuing recriminations last week. The bad news? Arlington school officials acknowledge that their efforts are not going to be able to replicate what could be accomplished during more normal time.” [InsideNova]

APS Names Teacher, Principal of the Year — Arlington Career Center Culinary Arts Teacher Chef Renee Randolph is the 2020 Arlington Public Schools Teacher of the Year, while Campbell Elementary’s Maureen Nesselrode has been named Principal of the Year.

Beyer Blasts Trump Immigration Order — “From the beginning Trump has flailed about seeking someone to blame for his own failure… Immigration has nearly stopped and the US has far more cases than any other country. This is just xenophobic scapegoating.” [Twitter]

Legality of County Grant Criteria Questioned — “The Arlington County government announced that it will hand out grants to small businesses based on ‘considerations’ such as whether the business is ‘women and/or minority-owned.’ That ‘consideration’ of race and sex is unconstitutional.” [CNSNews]

VRE Train Strikes Man in D.C. Near Long Bridge — “A man was hit and killed by a train in Southwest D.C. Monday morning and train traffic in the area has been stopped.  The man was struck in the 1300 block of Maryland Avenue SW, the D.C. fire department said on Twitter at 7:30 a.m.” [NBC 4, Twitter]

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(Updated at 11:40 a.m.) Former Arlington County Board member Erik Gutshall has died after a battle with brain cancer.

Gutshall’s passing comes a month and a half after the initial word that he was hospitalized, and ten days after his sudden resignation from the County Board.

Gutshall’s wife Renee made the sad announcement on Facebook Thursday night.

It is with a broken heart that I share this news…. today the sweetest, most amazing man has lost his battle with brain cancer. It was only 8 weeks ago that Erik Gutshall received this diagnosis, leaving us too quickly but peacefully today surrounded in love by his family.

Erik Gutshall
April 28, 1970 – April 16, 2020

We’ll share information about a memorial service once we’re beyond the current COVID-19 crisis.

Gutshall was first elected to the Board in November 2017, after serving on the county’s Planning Commission and Transportation Commission.

“Mr. Gutshall has supported strong public engagement and thoughtful planning to ensure that private development contributes to residents’ quality of life and that any potential negative impacts of development are mitigated,” according to his official county biography.

Flags outside county government headquarters in Courthouse will fly half-mast for seven days in tribute to Gutshall, the county said Friday in a press release that also included tributes from his colleagues.

“Erik was a visionary when it came to our community,” said Board Member Katie Cristol. “He understood how every neighborhood plan, park and bus route affected people’s lives and connected us to one another as fellow citizens. I feel so fortunate to have learned from and worked with Erik as a colleague and a friend and am devastated by the loss of an extraordinary Arlingtonian.”

As a County Board member, Gutshall served on the board of the Virginia Association of Counties and on the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Air Quality Committee.

Gutshall was a graduate of James Madison University and received a master’s degree from George Washington University. He was also the owner of a small local business, Clarendon Home Services, and the father of three daughters.

Earlier this year, Gutshall outlined his priorities for Arlington in 2020. He said that this was a year for Arlington to “level up” with the continued arrival of Amazon’s HQ2, a “pivotal, definitive event” in the county’s history. With it, however, would come challenges — like housing affordability — that need to be addressed for the benefit of all residents, he said.

“Today is proof that even a distant future will one day come to pass,” Gutshall said, in conclusion. “I’m honored to work on this next level with my amazing colleagues, talented Manager and his brilliant staff, and the passionate citizens who I know care about this community as much as each of us.”

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(Updated at 8:10 p.m.) Erik Gutshall, who was hospitalized with a brain tumor earlier this year, has resigned from the Arlington County Board.

Gutshall made the announcement Monday evening in a Facebook post. He has been absent from Board meetings for the past couple of months, and on March 1 revealed it was due to a brain tumor.

“As a result of this health issue, it saddens me deeply to announce my resignation from the Arlington County Board,” Gutshall wrote today.

The full post is below.

Friends,

Thank you for all the support that you’ve given me over the past month as I undergo treatment for brain cancer. My family and I really appreciate all the kind words and encouragement while I’ve been dealing with this sudden, difficult diagnosis. As a result of this health issue, it saddens me deeply to announce my resignation from the Arlington County Board.

I decided to run for elected office because I believe in the power of community voices to make a difference in our County. Serving Arlington for the past 2+ years as a Board Member and many years before that as a Planning Commissioner has been an incredibly rewarding experience. I’ve had the honor of working side-by-side with many Arlingtonians who always inspired me to work harder and to do more. I will miss working with my County Board colleagues, whom I hold in the highest regard. Even though this is a particularly difficult time for our County and country, I know that I’m leaving this position in very capable hands.

For now, I’m looking forward to quarantining at home with my wife Renee and our children.

I thank you all for putting your trust in me. It has truly been an honor to serve you.

With highest regards,
Erik Gutshall

Gutshall was elected to the County Board in 2017, after Chairing the Planning Commission, a county press release noted.

“The Board will consult with the County Attorney about the next steps, as required under Virginia law, for holding a special election to replace Gutshall on the County Board,” said the press release.

Local officials and community members have offered words of encouragement and sympathy for Gutshall since his initial announcement and after tonight’s word that he is resigning.

“We are deeply, deeply saddened by Erik’s resignation from the County Board this afternoon for health reasons,” County Board Chair Libby Garvey said, in a statement Monday night. “As they have been for the past weeks, our hearts continue to be with Erik and his family. Erik’s statement reflects who he is, identifying his belief in the power of our community and focusing on the critically difficult time we are in as a County and as a country. We have missed Erik’s presence with us at this critical moment in Arlington’s history, and we will continue to miss him. We ask that you join us in continuing to support Erik and his family during this difficult time and send messages of love and appreciation for his work and friendship.”

The County Board is accepting well wishes from the community and will pass along email to Gutshall and his family.

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Morning Notes

It’s Primary Day — Today is Super Tuesday, the presidential primary day in Virginia and 13 other states across the U.S. In Arlington, polls are open from 6 a.m.-7 p.m. Arlington public schools are closed to students today. [Arlington County, Twitter]

Beyer, Lopez Endorse Biden — Following his decisive victory in the South Carolina primary, former Vice President Joe Biden has picked up endorsements locally from Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Del. Alfonso Lopez (D). Lopez and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe were stuck in an elevator in Richmond for a half hour yesterday while heading to a Biden event. [Press Release, Twitter]

County OKs Five Scooter Companies — “The lone applicant seeking to provide electric-bicycle service in Arlington has been rejected by county officials, but five operators of electric-scooter devices did make the grade, County Manager Mark Schwartz told County Board members on Feb. 25. The five e-scooter firms – Bird, Jump, Lime, Razor and Skip – were among eight that had sought permission to operate in the county. The other three were rejected for various reasons, including having no speedometers on their devices.” [InsideNova]

Cristol Encourages Volunteering for Erik — “As you may have seen in the news, our colleague and friend, Erik, is facing a tough health challenge…  here’s what we can do for him: Go to a civic association or commission meeting. Volunteer. Embody Erik’s example & make this place better by showing up. And take a picture, and tag it #HereForErik so we can share.” [Twitter]

I-66 Tolling Deemed a Success — “About 700 more people each day total are commuting along the Interstate 66 corridor inside the Capital Beltway now compared to before tolls for solo drivers and an expanded rush-hour period began, and there are also fewer car trips each morning… Virginia state officials have said the goal of the tolls has been to move more people in the corridor, and see the higher count of commuters as a sign the system is working.” [WTOP]

Coworking Space Coming to Courthouse — “Flexible workspace provider Venture X is making its first foray into the Washington, D.C., market, after reaching a deal to take the top floor of the Navy League Building in Arlington, Virginia.” [CoStar]

Cupid the Cat Now Up for Adoption — “Two weeks after undergoing emergency surgery to remove an arrow from his head, Cupid is ready to find a new home. The Animal Welfare League of Arlington’s veterinary director cleared Cupid on Monday, March 2, for adoption.” [Patch]

ACFD Assists With McLean FireUpdated at 8:25 a.m. — Arlington County firefighters helped Fairfax County’s fire department battle a massive house fire in McLean last night. [Twitter]

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Uncharacteristically, Arlington County Board Vice Chair Erik Gutshall did not attend this past month’s board meetings.

His absence, the reason for the five-member Board’s 4-0 vote on the county tax rate advertisement on Tuesday, is due to a serious health condition.

Gutshall’s wife broke the “heartbreakingly difficult” news on his Facebook account Sunday night, telling friends that he is “hospitalized and being treated for a brain tumor.”

“We hope that you will keep him in your thoughts and prayers as he goes through treatment over the coming weeks,” Renee Gutshall wrote. “Words cannot express how much your friendship, support and love mean to me, our children and Erik right now.”

Gutshall, who was first elected in 2017, is up for reelection in 2021.

“Our friend and colleague, Erik Gutshall, is dealing with a health crisis,” Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said in a brief statement Monday morning. “We miss him, and our thoughts are with him and his family.”

At the Board’s annual organizational meeting in January, Gutshall spoke of the progress the County has made in just the past few years on issues like housing, sustainability, and economic development. The county had “leveled up” with the arrival of Amazon, he said.

“Today is proof that even a distant future will one day come to pass,” Gutshall said. “I’m honored to work on this next level with my amazing colleagues, talented Manager and his brilliant staff, and the passionate citizens who I know care about this community as much as each of us.”

In addition to serving on the County Board, Gutshall is the president and owner of residential maintenance company Clarendon Home Services.

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Delivery trucks are a frequent topic of complaints from Arlington residents.

Aside from double parking issues, they’re noisy and polluting. When you live near a truck loading dock, you often dread early morning deliveries and the “beep beep beep” of a truck going in reverse. The county often requires that new developments limit loading dock hours, as a condition of approval.

But what if the noisy idling, shrill beeps and diesel fumes could be a thing of the past? That is a future that Arlington County Board member Erik Gutshall is seeking to hasten.

Electric trucks, which are poised to become an increasingly common sight on the roads over the course of the decade, are the solution to many of the current delivery truck complains. Gutshall says Arlington County should take proactive measure to encourage their adoption — “some extra oomph,” as he puts it.

Cautioning that “the idea is very conceptual at this point,” Gutshall said the general idea would be to give electric delivery trucks special privileges, via development site plans and other regulatory means, for things like longer loading dock hours and designated curbside loading spaces on public roads.

Rewarding electric truck owners, instead of punishing fossil fuel truck owners, should “stay within a legally defensible framework” when it comes to the Dillon Rule in Virginia, he said. And if it doesn’t, the now-Democratic controlled state legislature could also carve out permission for localities to pass such ordinances.

“Update the regulations to accommodate the reality of modern life,” he said.

Gutshall plans to raise the idea, which he tweeted about last month, with his colleagues on the County Board in the near future — perhaps during an upcoming discussion on curbside management. Should it prove politically feasible, the next steps would include a public engagement process and legal review.

Electric trucks will come with the added benefit of helping Arlington achieve some of its Community Energy Plan goals.

“This is not just an Arlington issue,” Gutshall told ARLnow. “There are lots of other communities developing climate action plans and everyone knows that vehicle emissions are a huge part of the overall emission profile.”

“Any boost we can give to push early adopters out of the nest,” Gutshall said, will “help get other jurisdictions to do the same.”

Photo via Tesla

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Libby Garvey was selected by her colleagues as Arlington County Board Chair for 2020, following a tradition of the Board member up for reelection serving as chair.

Garvey, who’s facing another primary challenge this year, outlined her priorities at the County Board’s annual organizational meeting last night, calling for a focus on “equity, innovation and resilience,” amid the growth of Amazon’s HQ2 and a continued challenges with affordable housing.

More from Garvey’s speech:

We’ve been managing change and growth for some time, and doing it well, but the arrival of Amazon has made the scope of our current challenge large and clear. We need to change a paradigm: the paradigm that the most vulnerable in a society are the first to suffer from change and the last to gain from it — if they ever gain at all. Economic change tends not to be equitable. That’s the old paradigm. We want a new one.

We want to be a model of progress and growth with equity. That’s a tall order. I think focusing on three areas in 2020 will help.

First, Equity. We must commit to an Arlington where progress benefits everyone, not just some. That especially includes our older residents, the people who built the Arlington we have today.

Second, Innovation. We need to double down on innovative thinking. We can’t always keep using the same solutions.

Third, Resilience. The solutions we find must not only be equitable, but they need to last over time.

So, as Board Chair, I will continue to focus on equity in 2020 like our Chair did in 2019. We have a lot of work to do. It is outlined in the resolution we adopted and includes 4 simple questions: Who benefits? Who is burdened? Who is missing? How do we know?

Specific policy focuses for 2020 include affordable housing, cooperation with neighboring jurisdictions, and stormwater management.

“Our July 8 storm showed clearly that our 20th-century infrastructure and approaches will not work well for 21st-century storms,” Garvey said. “When we begin work on our Capital Improvement Plan budget this spring we should see some very different solutions to stormwater management.”

Garvey, who faced a backlash from the local Democratic party after her vocal opposition to the proposed Columbia Pike streetcar and support for independent County Board member John Vihstadt, took a moment after her selection as chair to support another embattled County Board member: Christian Dorsey.

“Christian is a real asset to this board, to this community — we’re lucky to have you,” Garvey said of Dorsey, who last month told ARLnow that he regrets not informing the community that he had declared bankruptcy before the November election.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, Erik Gutshall — who is up for reelection in 2021 and is next year’s presumed chair — was selected as Vice Chair. The priorities Gutshall outlined include making changes to Arlington’s zoning ordinance so as to encourage the creation of additional homes.

More from a county press release:

Amazon’s arrival requires an increased focus, or “leveling up” by the County “how we grow matters.” Arlington’s next level of managed growth, he said, “will focus beyond first-order urban design principles of sidewalk widths, building heights, and traffic circulation, and instead level up to an essential focus on equity, infrastructure like schools and stormwater, and a broader definition of quality of life and livability.”

To achieve that sort of managed growing, Gutshall said, “will require new tools and a modernized zoning ordinance to expand our housing supply in a way that enhances the livability of our existing neighborhoods.” It also requires the development of a long-range, comprehensive Public Facilities Plan “to guide the collaborative, creative, timely and efficient siting and development of County and Schools facilities.” Gutshall said he looks forward to continuing to work with County and APS staff, and the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission to begin drafting the plan by July 2020 and looks forward to working with County staff to achieve the ambitious goals of the County’s updated Community Energy Plan and to conduct a campaign to highlight and profile small businesses.

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