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Extended Parking Meter Hours, Rate Hikes Take Effect Today

Keep an eye on the meter if you’re parking on the street in Arlington today — some changes to county meters just took effect.

You’ll now need to feed the meter from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, a two-hour extension of the old meter timeframe.

Prices are also jumping up a bit. Rates at meters set aside for short-term parking, or any parking less than four hours, is going up a quarter to $1.75 per hour. Any parking for more than four hours will now run you $1.50 per hour, up from $1.25.

Parking ticket fines will also rise a bit, jumping from $35 to $40 per offense.

The County Board signed off on these changes as part of its budget for fiscal year 2019, which meant they officially took effect yesterday (July 1), even though meters don’t run on Sundays.

In all, the county hopes to raise an additional $4 million each year through these changes, in order to help offset some of the financial pressure Arlington is feeling at the moment. County staff also envision these tweaks bringing the county a bit more in line with the higher parking prices of neighboring jurisdictions, as well as increasing parking turnover in high-demand corridors.

This change marks the first increase in Arlington’s parking meter fees since 2015.

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Morning Notes

Christmas tree on top of Lee Heights Shops

ACFD Food Drive Ends Friday — The Arlington County Fire Department’s food drive, which began on December 1, will end this Friday, December 21. So far, ACFD has collected more than 1,200 pounds of food for the Arlington Food Assistance Center. Non-perishable food can be donated at all Arlington and Falls Church fire departments, and at the county government building at 2100 Clarendon Blvd.

County Hopes Residents Remove Snow to Avoid Fines — Arlington officials are reminding residents that it could be another year that snow piles up and needs to be removed from sidewalks. The county hopes residents follow the snow removal ordinance that was put in place in 2010. Failure to remove snow is a civil infraction that holds fines of $50-100, and moving snow from private property into public areas (like streets) is a Class 4 misdemeanor. So far, no tickets have been issued under the ordinance. [Sun Gazette]

Sandy Hook School Fundraiser — Whitlow’s (2854 Wilson Blvd) is hosting a fundraiser tonight (December 19) to raise money for families affected by Friday’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. The effort was spearheaded by alumni from Virginia Tech who were students during that school’s deadly shooting in 2007. All proceeds from the event will go to the Sandy Hook School Support fund. There will also be a table set up for patrons to make cards to be sent to the community in Connecticut. [Hokies for Sandy Hook]

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Battle Brewing Over Westover Beer Garden Re-Opening

It’s been a contentious couple of weeks for the Westover Market and Beer Garden. Upon receiving a warning from Arlington County, it suddenly declared the beer garden would shut down until April 1. Today, the saga continues as management has decided to re-open the beer garden against the County’s wishes.

Owner Devin Hicks said he’s tried working with the county on the matter but his efforts have not been successful. Now he’s going to do what he believes Westover Market is entitled to do by law — operate a year-round patio area.

Bob Brosnan, Director of the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development, clarifies that Hicks did not receive an actual citation — as stated in a previous article — but rather a courtesy letter requesting compliance. A violation notice will likely be sent out on Monday and Westover Market will have 10 days to bring itself in compliance, or face fines, Brosnan said.

The goal is not to hinder businesses or to collect fines, it’s to keep businesses in compliance with county ordinances, according to Brosnan.

“We’ve been trying to work with them to make them understand how we can work with them legally, that is our goal,” he said. “Our goal in these cases is always compliance.”

Arlington County has developed a web page specifically relating to the beer garden at Westover Market. On the page, it states that establishments with outdoor patios must have ample parking for the number of people being served, but that parking requirement is reduced if the establishment is near a Metro stop. The County allows establishments to get around the parking rule by becoming “seasonal” and closing for three or more months each year.

Because the Westover beer garden isn’t deemed as having enough parking, it’s supposed to be seasonal. However, Hicks points out the rule is technically a “guideline” and not an actual “ordinance.” He believes the county has been enforcing a measure that was never officially put in the books.

The County’s web page for Westover Market links to another County page, titled “Guidelines for Outdoor Cafes.” On that document it states: “Unless otherwise required by the County Board, outdoor cafes shall be exempt from any parking requirement.” It goes on to say: “There is no explicit requirement in the Zoning Ordinance that requires them to be temporary or seasonal.”

Of his long-running trouble with the county, Hicks said relations have improved over the past year or so, but he believes he’s currently being unfairly targeted with the enforcement of the seasonal rule.

“We’re just going to go ahead and do what’s legally right,” Hicks said. “There’s nothing in the rules that says it has to be seasonal.”

Earlier this winter, Hicks had the tables, chairs and bar removed from the beer garden area in an attempt to comply with the county’s zoning enforcers. Still, patrons who bought beverages inside were allowed to take the drinks outside and congregate around the fire pits. Hicks says he was later told that no patrons were allowed in the beer garden regardless of circumstances, and that he would even have to turn the patio lights off at night. That’s when he decided enough was enough. As of today, all seating, televisions and fire pits are back, and an outdoor bar will be operational.

“No one’s winning from this,” said Hicks. “We’re both losing.”

Hicks is careful to note his issue is not with the members of the County Board. It’s strictly a problem with the county’s zoning enforcement.

“This is not reflective of  the County Board,” Hicks said. “The County Board probably has no idea of what’s happening, and probably has no idea of these rules.”

Hicks pointed out that spring officially starts on March 20, as does the kickoff for DC’s National Cherry Blossom Festival. Despite the warmer weather and springtime activities, he is upset the beer garden is supposed to remain closed until April.

“We have decorative apple trees, they’re beautiful in the spring,” Hicks said. “But for some reason this April 1 magic number is when we can start the beer garden.”

Brosnan said the County does not have a rule about April 1, the rule is simply to keep a business “seasonal.” Therefore, Westover Market’s beer garden, like other seasonal businesses, should be able to open the first day of spring as long as it had been non-operational for the required three months.

Last year Westover Market received a permit to provide live music starting on April 1. Hicks still plans to stick by the April 1 date for music.

Brosnan pointed out that for Hicks to receive the music permit, he had to review and agree to the County’s rules as laid out in a document called “Zoning Administrator Advice” from November 2010. Hicks had previously agreed to comply, and Brosnan says he isn’t sure what has changed to cause the current state of affairs.

Hicks is now anticipating a fine of some sort for his defiance of the county rules. When asked if he would pay such a fine, he said he’d address that if the time comes. Meanwhile, he and the other employees are focused on business as usual.

“We’re trying to run a business and trying to give people what they want while following rules of county, which we’ve done,” Hicks said.

Brosnan believes the overall fight may be an issue of wording in documents. That, he says, is for lawyers to hash out. Brosnan noted that once Hicks receives a citation for non-compliance, he has the option to appeal.

Photo (top) via Facebook

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Morning Notes

“A Date Which Will Live in Infamy” — On Dec. 7, 1941, the American naval base at Pearl Harbor was attacked suddenly and without warning, costing 2,402 lives and leading to the United States’ entry in World War II. More from Wikipedia.

Towing Fines Aren’t Enforced — Towing companies have been found to have violated Arlington’s towing laws more than a dozen times in the past two years. But so far, none have ever been fined. That’s despite the fact that the county’s towing ordinance allows fines of up to $1,000. More from TBD.

VDOT Aims for More Conscientious Plowing — After a blizzard of complaints last winter about snow piles on sidewalks and in bus shelters, VDOT is trying to clean up its act. The agency is asking its contractors to be more careful when plowing roads in the county. VDOT is responsible for plowing state-owned roads in Arlington, including Glebe Road and Washington Boulevard. More from the Sun Gazette.

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New Stickers on Farmer’s Market Parking Meters

Less than two weeks ago we warned you about the misleading parking meters in front of 1400 North Uhle Street, which seemed to suggest that you could park there on Saturday mornings. Which you can — until 5:00 a.m., when your car gets towed and you get fined (the result of parking restrictions for the Courthouse farmer’s market).

In any event, it seems that someone was listening. The meters have new stickers on them that indicate that parking is enforced Monday through Friday. The new stickers originally said there’s free parking on Saturday and Sunday, but the “SAT.” is crossed off.

Question: Is that enough? Or should there be a sticker on the meter itself indicating that parking is restricted and towing enforced on Saturday mornings (in addition to the “reserved for farmer’s market” signs on either side of the building)?

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Warning: Do Not Park Here Tonight

Do you want to get your car towed to a spot 50 feet away and get fined $50 for the privilege? Then by all means park in front of this office building in Courthouse overnight tonight.

The reason for the towing may not be a surprise to patrons of Saturday morning’s Courthouse farmers market. But it is a surprise to many people who park in the far southwest corner of the large county parking lot Friday night, not looking for the special farmers market parking notice on either side of the seven otherwise unremarkable metered spaces.

Nothing on the meters indicates that marking is restricted on Saturday. In fact, the meter indicates that parking is enforced from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Saturdays, when it is in fact reserved for the farmers market from 5:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Want to fight the ticket? Well, you can do that if you can get out of work for the better part of a weekday morning — and if you’re willing to pay $61 in court costs if you lose the appeal.

Do yourself a favor, avoid parking in front of 1400 North Uhle Street tonight.

Disclosure: Yes, this was written from first-hand experience. And yes, I’ve already paid the fine. This post was written in the hopes that others won’t make the same costly error. For the record, there were at least two other cars that suffered the same fate as mine on this particular weekend.


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Arlington’s Red Light Cameras Start Issuing Fines At Midnight

If you run the wrong red light after midnight tonight, you’ll be getting a $50 ticket in the mail.

Arlington’s new red light cameras, which have been issuing warnings for the past month, will now be issuing fines. The infraction will be treated as a civil offense, meaning it won’t go on your driving record.

The cameras are located at the following intersections:

  • Eastbound Lee Highway at North Lynn Street
  • Southbound Ft. Myer Drive at westbound Lee Highway
  • Westbound Lee Highway at Washington Boulevard
  • Northbound North Glebe Road at Fairfax Drive

If successful, the county has indicated that it may opt to install additional cameras. Under state law, the county is permitted to install up to 20 red light cameras.

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Parking Tickets Getting More Expensive Thursday

Get ready to pay more if you’re caught parking illegally in Arlington. Parking fines will increase on Thursday.

A ticket for parking at an expired meter is going up to $35. It was previously $25.

The fine for most other parking violations will increase from $40 to $50.

The county issued more than 225,000 parking tickets last year, bringing in $7.4 million, according to the Sun Gazette. The new fines are expected to generate an additional $1.5 million per year.

Also Thursday, ART bus fares and STAR transit fares will increase.

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