Foxtrot in Rosslyn can now lawfully deliver you a magical charm crispy cake, thanks to County Board approval.
The Arlington County Board approved a use permit this past Saturday (May 13) to allow the upscale market, cafe, and convenience store to operate a delivery service from its 1771 N. Pierce Street location.
While it appears the market has already been offering deliveries since it opened earlier this year, it was being done under Covid-era rules that suspended enforcement of delivery-related ordinances.
The approved permit will essentially allow Foxtrot to continue to deliver anything from non-alcoholic sparkling wine to a tuna wrap beyond the expiration of the county’s Continuity of Government Operations (COGO) Ordinance on August 15.
“During the Covid-19 pandemic, Arlington County enacted a Continuity of Government Operations (COGO) Ordinance, which among other things put a stay on Zoning enforcement actions for food delivery services that are allowed primarily by use permit approval in most zoning districts,” reads the staff report. “This application, if approved, would permit Foxtrot Café to operate food delivery services legally following the expiration of the COGO.”
The report also notes that, with food delivery services growing in popularity during the pandemic, the county is in the midst of a study that explores “how food delivery services may be permitted in a manner different than what is currently provided for in the Zoning Ordinance.”
However, since that effort is ongoing and it’s not known when the study will be completed, the County Board went ahead and approved Foxtrot’s permit now.
The approval does come with a notable caveat, however.
Foxtrot initially proposed using a number of parking spots along N. Pierce Street as temporary parking for delivery drivers. The county was not too keen on this, with the report noting that staff observed delivery drivers and their vehicles blocking traffic a number of times.
“This presented issues with vehicles illegally standing and blocking traffic lanes along North Pierce Street… as on-street parking is limited to five (5) two-hour limited parking spaces,” said the report.
Foxtrot has since been able to come to an agreement with the owner and operator of a nearby underground parking garage to allow drivers to park in any available retail space for 15 minutes with validation.
With county staff agreeing that this arrangement will help “mitigate against further congestion and potential traffic violations on North Pierce Street,” the Board approved the permit with a review set for six months from now — which is November.
At that time, the Board will review the “effectiveness of the parking validation mitigation measures as well as the status of the Zoning Ordinance Amendment.”
Foxtrot provides delivery from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. most days, with the service being extended an extra hour or two on weekends. The company estimates that about 8% of its business comes from delivery.
Currently, in Arlington County, a podcasting studio would need to go through a county permitting process to inhabit an office building.
But that is likely changing.
A proposal to allow more “untraditional” uses in traditional office buildings is headed to the Arlington County Board this weekend.
On Saturday, the Board is set to consider revising the zoning ordinance to allow broadcasting studios and businesses in the audio-visual production field to occupy commercial space by right. It is also expanding what counts as research and development while allowing those uses by right, too.
Under the changes, entrepreneurs would no longer need a permit to outfit an office for podcasting and influencer studios — Instagram-ready backdrops for people to take photos and record content.
Arlington’s extensive roster of cybersecurity and artificial intelligence startups, meanwhile, would no longer need a permit to conduct research and development. Facilities doing technological, electronic, biological, scientific and engineering research would be able to lease a typical office building in the same way as any other office tenant.
These businesses could also engage in small-scale product design, development, prototyping and testing. The changes will not allow industrial scale production or manufacturing.
Arlington Economic Development says these are some emerging trends it is looking to pounce to tackle its office vacancy rate and remain competitive in a changing economic landscape. Otherwise, it may lose out to peer cities, such as Seattle and Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“In the past, [AED] has had prospects come through looking for flexible research and development space to locate their semiconductor and microchip, cyber and quantum computing, as well as artificial intelligence and machine learning companies,” according to a county report. “However, the AED team was not always readily able to accommodate those prospects due to zoning barriers.”
“The competition for attracting research and development investment is fierce, the market for these uses is strong, and technological advances have allowed these uses to fit seamlessly into existing business districts,” it continued.
This is the fourth zoning code update headed to the County Board in 13 months under the “Commercial Market Resiliency Strategy.”
Through this strategy, the county established a streamlined public engagement process that expedited the approval process for these changes. Some Planning Commissioners have balked at the shortened engagement period and the nuisances that may arise.
Despite these misgivings, the strategy has already been used to allow micro-fulfillment centers, urban agriculture, breweries and distilleries, and artisan workshops to operate in office buildings, without additional red tape.
Most recently, the County Board approved a broader definition of by-right indoor recreation use, meaning pickleball courts and ax-throwing could be coming to an office building near you.
When Amazon opens the first phase of its second headquarters in June, it is preparing to debut a new farmers market, too.
This farmers market is set to pop up four Saturdays a month starting June 24. It will be located inside the $14 million public park Amazon renovated as part of the Metropolitan Park or “Met Park” first phase of HQ2, at the corner of 13th Street S. and S. Eads Street.
Loudoun County-based EatLoco is set to operate the market within the park, which features meandering paths and public art.
The organization’s founder and CEO Dan Hine says it will be its first outside of Loudoun County and his “rock star” location, with at least 80 vendors and possibly live entertainment.
“When Amazon approached us back in August 2022 with this idea, we stepped up to the challenge by promising only the Best-of-the-Best Farmers, Food producers and Crafters for this one-of-a-kind, spacious venue,” Hine said in a statement on the EatLoco website. “This game-changer location has a neighboring dog park, children’s park and plenty of table seating for eating and relaxing provided by our Sponsors.”
Hine says he is working on plans for on-site entertainment “to keep customers coming and staying longer.”
“As always, we will do this the ‘EatLoco’ way,” he said. “Well marketed, professionally managed, and of course extremely well attended.”
This weekend, the Arlington County Board is set to consider a use permit allowing EatLoco to operate four Saturdays a month from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., March through November. It will be located at a green space to the east of a meandering path users can access from 13th and 14th Street S. and S. Fair Street.
EatLoco’s website says the market will run through Nov. 18.
As part of the agreement, the county is requiring EatLoco to work with the Aurora Highlands Civic Association and the county regarding signage, parking locations and noise restrictions.
Meanwhile, work on Met Park is almost complete, according to Clark Construction, which has overseen the project for the last three-and-a-half years.
Last week, it published the following construction update on its website:
After years of planning, and 40 months of construction, we’ve reached the final chapter in Metropolitan Park’s delivery. As our team puts the finishing touches on our work on site, we wanted to thank you — our neighbors and community partners — for your inquiries, engagement, and, most importantly, your patience and support over the last three years.
Soon the children’s park, edible garden and forest walk will be open and accessible to all. Soon, local businesses will activate new retail spaces, serving up new amenities and flavors that will further enhance this community. Soon, Metropolitan Park’s two 22-stories towers will be filled with new people and ideas.
While the physical structures our team will leave behind fill us with a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment, we are equally proud of the significant economic impact this project has created. From contracting opportunities for local, small, and diverse companies, to apprenticeships, to unique learning experiences for our craft workforce and project management team, Metropolitan Park’s construction has served as a platform for growth. We are honored to deliver this important asset that has and will continue to invigorate the Arlington community for decades to come.
Several local businesses will be moving into the 65,000 square feet of street-level retail, including a daycare and a spa, Arlington’s second Conte’s Bike Shop, District Dogs and an outpost of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) Arlington.
There will also be a slew of restaurants and cafés, including Westover-based Toby’s Homemade Ice Cream and D.C.-based Taqueria Xochi, which were announced last month.
Residents will have to wait until May to apply for a permit to use on-street parking in their neighborhood.
Two weeks ago Monday, Arlington County opened up applications for its Residential Permit Parking program. RPP restricts parking in certain residential areas near commercial corridors, typically allowing residents and their guests to park during the day while those without permits have to look elsewhere.
Some one hundred applications were processed, but within hours some residents began experiencing issues.
A few reached out to ARLnow, frustrated about the platform timing out and otherwise not handling their requests.
The county informed RPP households on Wednesday, April 5 that it would be pushing back the start of the application season to the week of April 10, which was last week. Yesterday (Monday), the county told ARLnow it now aims to resume the online application process on the first of May.
“We are still working with our vendor to resolve technical issues with the online permit application system,” Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Katie O’Brien said. “Due to these unresolved issues, we are now targeting the week of May 1 to have our RPP renewal applications available online.”
The vendor is Conduent, she said. The New Jersey-based company was previously a unit of Xerox.
“We apologize for the continued delay but want to make sure that the system functions correctly for our customers,” O’Brien said, noting that customers will be receiving an update as well.
Normally, the county would begin checking for updated parking permit stickers for the 2023-24 season on July 1. With the delays, enforcement will be pushed back to Aug. 1 “to ensure that RPP materials will get to customers well ahead of when they’re needed.”
Last year, some residents reported not getting their materials ahead of the start of enforcement. They were worried they would be ticketed for not having documentation, though they said they had applied and paid for the stickers. Arlington County issued some temporary tags that people could use until their materials came.
Residents need to apply in advance to allow for enough time for the materials to be printed and sent out, but some were impacted by a delayed printing order, ARLnow was told at the time. Last year, the application process was also delayed, to allow extra time to fine tune what was then new software.
For those wishing to place orders immediately, in-person application and renewal services are available in Room 214 at the county government headquarters, located at 2100 Clarendon Blvd, O’Brien said. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
(Updated 4:45 p.m. on 3/14/23) Builders and entrepreneurs tell ARLnow they are waiting up to twice as long as they used to for Arlington County to issue permits, costing them thousands — if not hundreds of thousands — of dollars.
Permits that used to be issued the same day now take 1-3 weeks while those that took 2-3 months take double that time, they say. Meanwhile, the Arlington Permit Office’s limited hours of operation compound the delays and the high permitting fees exacerbate the costs incurred from waiting.
The apparent degradation of the county’s permit operation — corroborated by a number of sources, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals — follows the years-long development of a new online permitting system dubbed Permit Arlington.
The online system was touted by the county as a solution for long-standing problems with the former, more antiquated paper system.
“They have completely destroyed the system. They are slowing progress. The new system still doesn’t work nearly two years later,” a local custom home builder said. “Builders’ and developers’ holding costs are staggering.”
The Arlington Chamber of Commerce concurs.
“Some of our members may accept paying more for a quality permit service, but the timeframe and process must improve in order to justify the costs,” spokesman John Musso said. “We encourage the County to continue to recognize businesses as customers seeking a service, in this case permits.”
The complaints come as Arlington County continues transferring all permitting processes to its online system. The county has tied delays to the migration of permits into the system but has maintained that the overall wait time has not changed.
“With the phased launches of Permit Arlington, we are moving from a system with 1990 technology to a modern system,” said Dept. of Community Housing, Planning and Development spokeswoman Erika Moore. “This type of technological transition is complex and presents a learning curve for both staff and customers as all users adjust to using a new system.”
As part of the migration process, which started in 2019, Certificate of Occupancy permits moved online last week and last summer, nearly 10,000 active applications for building, trade and land disturbing activity permits moved online.
In response to customer inquiries, Moore said the Permit Arlington team is actively working through issues, has increased the size of the help desk team, has added numerous “how-to” documents and is making permanent fixes to prevent issues that caused earlier delays.
“The team will continue to work through these fixes until all the issues are resolved,” she said.
She says the Permit Arlington team applied lessons learned from the launch last summer to improve the implementation process for Certificates of Occupancy, “which launched smoothly two weeks ago.”
Musso counters there were still some issues.
“We have had several members note pain points with the transition of Certificates of Occupancy to Permit Arlington, resulting in confusion and uncertainty,” he said.
Concurrently, the county is requesting feedback about the permit process from recent applicants.
“We have heard from 250 people, but we want to provide enough time for people to respond,” Moore said. “Once it is closed, we will analyze the feedback and identify any potential action items.”
Meanwhile, the feedback was rolling into ARLnow.
Another home designer and builder was frustrated with office hours, which are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday. Every third Thursday, the office closes at noon. The Permit Office re-opened for in-person service in September after being completely virtual due to the pandemic.
“I would be willing to say that the eight hours a week are just not enough and that the threat of Covid is no longer there,” said home designer and builder Leonard Matthews. “How odd it is that Arlington County Schools are [fully] open but the permit office is not?”
Nearly all land development permits that Arlington County issues are now online.
Following the launch of the online Permit Arlington in 2019 with 18 digitized permits, county staff have since added others. The last batch of land development permits — Certificate of Occupancy applications — are set to launch the week of Feb. 27.
Most recently, over last summer, the county migrated the building, trade and land-disturbing activity permits, which are “some of our highest volume permits,” says Dept. of Community Housing, Planning and Development spokeswoman Erika Moore.
“We issue about 16,000 building and trades permits and conduct about 60,000 inspections, annually,” she said.
Making this move caused some technical difficulties for both the county and users. There was an initial delay with issuing permits right after moving to the new system, but overall, “the processing time for permits has not increased,” she said.
“The work associated with these types of permits [has] a higher level of complexity due to the nature of construction projects,” Moore said. “Therefore, there was a large number of active permit applications that needed to be migrated to the new system, which presented technological challenges. Additionally, many applicants were new and not familiar with the system, which generated a high volume of requests for assistance.”
She says the Permit Arlington team has been working through issues submitted by customers. It has led to an increase in the size of the help desk team and, in response to customer inquiries, has added “how-to” documents to navigate the new system.
“With the phased launches of Permit Arlington, we are moving from a system with 1990 technology to a modern system,” Moore said. “We intentionally also made the decision to move all the data from the old system to the new system to have a full historical record of permits, rather than just focusing on active or new applications.”
Permit records are most up-to-date in Permit Arlington. The old permit search platform is only updated through June 27, 2022, when digitized building, trade and land-disturbing activity permits launched.
Ahead of the most recent Arlington County Board election, candidates praised Permit Arlington, adding that increasing the number of permits submitted through Permit Arlington and providing more funding for it would help local businesses.
There was a time when Arlington — Clarendon, in particular — was known for bar crawls.
There was Shamrock Crawl, the Clarendon Halloween Crawl, and Shirlington’s SantaCon. Thousands of mostly younger people attended. Along with the revelry, however, there were arrests, property damage, public intoxication, and nudity.
Then, in 2014, the Arlington County Board had enough and passed a number of regulations designed to allow local officials at least some control over how bar crawls operated in the county. It made event organizers apply for a special events permit, have insurance, and reimburse the county for any event-related expenses, like the cost of assigning extra police officers.
The regulations not only curtailed the number of incidents related to bar crawls but decreased the number of crawls in Arlington overall. From many people’s perspectives, the regulations worked.
Eight years later, the bar crawl scene in Arlington still hasn’t recovered.
Only 9 bar crawls have been issued special event permits since 2018, per data provided to ARLnow by the county’s Dept. Parks and Recreation (DPR), which manages the process.
“Pub crawls can draw a crowd and impact our community, so their organizers need to have a permit to hold a pub crawl,” DPR spokesperson Susan Kalish told ARLnow. “Special event organizers are required to pay any costs to the County due to their event, such as public safety, trash removal, and more.”
The upcoming crawls include an 80’s and 90’s themed crawl set for this Saturday (Sept. 17) in Clarendon. It’s being co-organized by local restaurateurs Christal and Mike Bramson.
There are two more bar crawl applications pending for this year as well.
While DPR said statistics are not available for permitted bar crawls prior to 2016, anecdotally and going through the ARLnow archives, it appears there are now far fewer bar crawls — especially those of the large, 1,000+ attendee variety — than prior to the enactment of regulations.
While the pandemic certainly impacted the last several years, 2018 and 2019 both only had 3 permitted crawls per year. That’s out of combined 401 permitted special events. With 2022 wrapping up, though, special events are returning to the level of the “before times,” including bar crawls.
“This fall we are pretty much back to pre-pandemic levels of applications,” said Kalish.
It takes a lot more to put on a bar crawl in Arlington today than it did in the free-wheeling days of the early 2010s.
“You’d be surprised how many people who are organizing a special event haven’t thought about all the specifics,” Kalish wrote. “Trash. Toilets. Noise. Flow. The [county’s] Special Events Committee helps them through a number of possible scenarios so they can have a successful event.”
How far in advance organizers need to submit their application, either 30 or 90 days, depends on a number of factors including the size of the crawl. Kalish noted crawls with only three or four establishments on the route usually require less time to process.
“The first year we had [permitted] pub crawls they were quite large, but recently they have gotten much smaller,” Kalish said.
A crawl or organizer “with a satisfactory history” of managing safe events also requires less processing time, as well as one that has a clear mapped route.
Because of these regulations, guidelines, and extra costs, though, some companies have decided to forgo organizing crawls in the county and instead stick to a place where the process is more straightforward and there’s no shortage of potential young and single attendees: the District.
A record-high office vacancy rate plus burdensome taxes and permit processes are just some hurdles for local businesses that Arlington County Board hopefuls are pledging to tackle.
During a debate hosted by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce last night (Wednesday), incumbent Matt de Ferranti (D) and his two independent opponents, Audrey Clement and Adam Theo, explained to a 30-person audience how they would extend a helping hand toward area businesses.
Clement emphasized office-to-residential conversions as a way of reducing the office vacancy rate, which reached 20.8% in the last quarter, and “deal with our housing crisis at the same time.”
“Office-to-residential conversion is a smart approach that both Alexandria and the District of Columbia are implementing,” she said. “There are many reasons this is a sensible strategy, and Arlington’s Missing Middle is not.”
Office buildings are readily available, have more parking than most new apartment buildings and are close to Metro, she said.
“I don’t believe honestly there’s disagreement that we should do office to residential. It’s how we do it,” de Ferranti said. “We are already working on that, but we need to move more quickly.”
Seeing as empty offices are spread throughout buildings, Theo said “conversions are not a silver bullet” and suggested filling these vacancies with schools.
“That is something that’s much easier to renovate for than residential and it helps to tackle our school overcrowding that we’ll be facing over the next decade or two,” and makes more opportunities available to young families in urban areas, he said.
Currently, the county is exploring more flexible zoning in offices to allow for “light industrial” uses such as delivery staging areas, urban farms, breweries and small warehouses.
All three, meanwhile, say they would change how businesses are taxed.
“I am concerned about excessive taxation, particularly real estate taxes, but if you can start with shaving off some of those business taxes, that would be just fine with me,” Clement said.
Theo called for removing the business tangible tax, a tax levied on property used in business that requires maintaining records of nearly every item of value that a business owns.
Business tangible tax assessments are expected to increase by 16% this fiscal year, according to the 2022-23 budget. But Theo said the $40 million it netted last year is not worth squeezing support businesses with thin margins.
“The county sneezes and it spends $40 million,” he quipped.
De Ferranti advocated for increasing the threshold for Business, Professional and Occupational License (BPOL) tax, which comprises about 5% of the county’s revenue for this fiscal year, and has been steadily rising over the last decade.
Under the tax — which has long had critics both on the right and the left — businesses with revenue of less than $10,000 owe nothing, while those grossing up to $50,000 pay $30 and those grossing up to $100,000 pay $50. Beyond that, most businesses pay $0.36 per $100 in gross receipts, regardless of whether the business is profitable or not. Some businesses, like stores and restaurants, pay a lower rate while others, like printed newspapers, are exempt.
De Ferranti, however, balked at other tax cut suggestions.
“But broad statements like, ‘We should cut’ — first, our real estate tax rate is the lowest in the region,” de Ferranti said. “Our property values are so high, so that’s why our total bills are higher than some other localities. We have to keep investing when there’s a challenge in our economy.”
Man Accidentally Shoots Self in Crystal City — “300 block of 23rd Street S. At approximately 7:45 p.m. on June 15, police were dispatched to the report of a discharge of a firearm. Upon arrival, it was determined that as the male subject was cleaning his firearm, it discharged resulting in a gunshot wound to his hand… No other injuries or property damage have been reported.” [ACPD]
Home Hunters Keep Housing Hot — “The regional and national real-estate markets may be cooling, but Arlington remains atop the pack in the Washington area when it comes to maintaining home-buyer interest. The county was the highest-scoring among 10 jurisdictions in the latest monthly Bright MLS T3 Home Demand Index.” [Sun Gazette]
More Motorist Mayhem on I-395 — From Dave Statter: “#caughtoncamera: Another 8C crash. This one at 5:50 this morning. It’s pretty much like all the other ones.” [Twitter]
More Permitting Now Online — “Arlington County is launching the third phase of Permit Arlington, its online permitting system, on Tuesday, June 28. Several additional permits and inspections will move into the Permit Arlington system.” [Arlington County]
AFAC Expanding Service — “The Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) is partnering with Homestretch, a nonprofit organization located in Falls Church, to provide free nutritious groceries to recently housed families on the path towards self-sufficiency. The new food distribution center will plan to operate weekly and will be AFAC’s first center serving residents outside of Arlington County.” [AFAC]
Cops Seeking Thief in ‘Space Jam’ Hat — “A man wearing a Bugs Bunny ‘Space Jam’ baseball cap is wanted for grand larceny by the City of Falls Church Police and other Northern Virginia jurisdictions. The man was captured on surveillance video by City of Falls Church businesses in February and June while stealing cash in two restaurants.” [City of Falls Church]
It’s Friday — Sunny and humid throughout the day. High of 90 and low of 75. Sunrise at 5:44 am and sunset at 8:37 pm. [Weather.gov]
It appears that Bowlero — an allegedly rowdy Crystal City bowling alley at the base of apartments — won’t be headed to the gutter this year.
The Arlington County Board this weekend is set to renew use permits for Bowlero (320 23rd Street S.) sparing it from closure, on the conditions that staff will review its operations next January, closely monitor the business in the meantime and review it again in 2025.
But the relationship between the bowling alley and the residents of The Buchanan apartments above it is uneasy. There have been dozens of reports to Arlington County Police Department of fights, drunk and loud patrons, indecent exposure and damaged property.
It reached a point where ACPD hosted an online town hall on March 31 last year to hear tenants’ concerns and discuss the work by officers and Bowlero staff to get crowds under control.
Eighteen months after opening, Arlington County is recommending the Board renew Bowlero’s permits with the one-year review to make sure community concerns about night-time nuisances are minimized. Since it opened in July 2020, there have been nearly 70 calls for service to ACPD.
The county says it supports renewing the permits because the quality-of-life problems caused by rowdy patrons are being addressed through the Arlington Restaurant Initiative (ARI), a partnership between ACPD and restaurants and bars to make Arlington a safe nightlife destination.
Otherwise, it says in a county report, staff found no other problems with the business operating there.
The police department supports the renewal because Bowlero maintains the restaurant initiative accreditation it earned in October 2020, per the report. The alley’s management plays an active role in involving police, ACPD said in the town hall, making half of the 52 calls for service between July 2020 and March 31.
“Bowlero has also implemented proper security measures and best practices, as recommended by Arlington County Police Department (ACPD), for calming and managing crowds, in addition to proactively responding to pending reports on site,” the report said. “The Police Department has not identified any outstanding public safety issues related to the continuation of the subject use.”
These security measures include scanning people with wands and checking bags, the report says. In addition, a neighborhood liaison has been appointed to address residents’ concerns.
Still, members of a nearby civic association have expressed their concerns “about reports of a high volume of late-night noise and potentially dangerous activity related to patrons of the establishment,” the report said.
One former resident, who moved away partially because of the nuisances downstairs, said metal detectors and police’s best practices are “treating the symptoms” but not addressing their root causes: alcohol, prices, promotions and hours.
The permits allow Bowlero to operate from 11 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Saturday through Sunday.
The former Buchanan resident said the calls to police detailed in the report — chiefly calls about fights and loud and drunk patrons — “seem typical of what I experienced.”
“They are absurd,” he said. “Gun issue? Street fights? Woman exposing herself? These are not just noise complaints, nor was this U Street [a street in D.C. known for its nightlife] prior to Bowlero opening. It was a calm and pretty safe street that turned into a place to actively avoid.”
Here’s the full list of what residents called for in 2021:
In a bid to bring more businesses to Columbia Pike, Arlington County staff are seeking to ease zoning regulations for the area.
The Pike could see a variety of light industry businesses, from animal boarding to breweries to indoor urban farms, if the County Board approves the changes, which are slated for a vote next Saturday, Nov. 13.
Development along Columbia Pike is governed by the Columbia Pike Form Based Code, which favors mid-rise mixed-use buildings with housing and ground-floor retail. The kinds of commercial operations the code currently allows by-right or with a use permit, however, are limited.
Permitted uses on the Pike were last revised in 2015 and, according to the county, “the nature of retail has since shifted,” warranting another update. After studying market conditions on the Pike in 2019, staff decided updating the code was the best way to encourage commercial activity.
“Increasing use flexibility through zoning and land use recommendation was identified as most efficient and impactful step to move work forward and permit wider range of uses,” county planner Ebony Dumas told the Planning Commission last night (Monday) during a meeting.
She noted business and community leaders have also advocated for greater retail flexibility to tackle the high vacancy and turnover rates for ground-floor retail and to eliminate use permits, which can be a substantial hurdle for new entrepreneurs.
“There’s a lot of support to update and consider new uses,” Dumas said, recapping the last year’s worth of community engagement on the proposal. “Most agree the existing use table over-utilizes use permits, and more uses should be by-right.”
Commissioner Stephen Hughes credited the last night’s proposal to community advocacy.
“Neighbors, business leaders and business owners all along the Pike have pretty much from day one said, ‘What we want is business, what we want are people, what we want is livelihoods,’ and with that, they want the maximum flexibility possible,” he said.
Arlington County staff propose allowing by-right more variety in office uses, such as recording studios, as well as museums, art galleries and studios. The proposal would allow uses typically seen in industrial districts but currently prohibited under the Pike code, including animal boarding, breweries, distilleries and cideries, artisan workshops, shared commercial kitchens and urban agriculture.
Of the new uses, staff proposed allowing shared kitchens and urban agriculture by-right, meaning business owners would not need a use permit, which makes them subject to certain conditions. Last night, the Planning Commission unanimously voted in favor of allowing beverage facilities and other artisan workshops by-right, too.
“We’re trying to encourage smaller businesses,” Commission Chair Jim Lantelme said. “From simply an economic development point of view, and trying to encourage small businesses, which do contribute to vitality of neighborhood, if wherever we can do it by-right, that’s the best way to go.”