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County Details Possible Zoning, Permit Changes Designed to Make Childcare More Accessible

Arlington officials are outlining more details about potential changes on the way for the county’s childcare policies, raising the possibility that Arlington could soon allow more children in small daycare centers, cut back on the permitting and zoning requirements for daycares and reduce the number of staff required for each center to operate.

County leaders have spent years studying what they could do to make childcare more accessible and affordable for Arlington parents, signing off on some broad goals with a “Childcare Action Plan” this summer. But the County Board is also hoping to make some more specific tweaks to its childcare ordinances, and a survey released this week reveals some of the proposals officials could consider before the year is up.

The Board has already agreed to set up a new subsidy to defray childcare costs for families that don’t qualify for state assistance, and plans to streamline some of its online resources for parents looking to find childcare options. Yet, after holding a community forum on the topic this month, the Board could endorse a dozen or more separate policy changes this December.

The new survey looks to collect yet more opinions on the proposed changes. Chiefly, the county could soon allow up to 12 children in small, family daycare homes, up from the current limit of nine. That change would match state law, which permits up to 12 kids in such a setting.

The Board could also do away with its requirement that anyone looking to open a new family childcare center first secure separate “use permits” from the county, making the process “by-right” instead to speed the proliferation of those daycare facilities. Additionally, the Board could eliminate limits on operating hours for those centers, or allow them to open earlier or stay open later to better accommodate working parents.

Another option the Board could consider would be changing its zoning ordinance to set more uniform standards for daycares, in order to help compensate for a lack of permit reviews. New guidelines could include limits on the hours of outdoor playtime for kids or requirements surrounding screening and buffering for playgrounds.

As for larger daycare centers, the Board may also allow them to bump up classroom sizes across kids of various age ranges. For instance, the county currently caps daycares at 10 children per class for two-year-olds, 16 per class for three-year-olds, and 25 per class for kids ranging from 6 to 14.

The Board could choose to adopt state standards instead, including a limit of 24 kids for age 2 and 30 for age three, with no cap on the number of kids per class above the age of six.

Finally, the Board could reduce the number of caregivers each daycare is required to have on staff, or change up its educational requirements for daycare staffers. The county currently stipulates that daycare providers should have two years of college experience, with evidence of childcare-focused coursework — the Board could move instead to state standards, which require a high school diploma and a set amount of relevant experience and training.

The survey on childcare changes is set to close by Friday (Oct. 12).

Photo via Arlington County

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Darna Lounge Poised to Finally Resolve Permit Problems

After months of back-and-forth with county inspectors, Darna Restaurant and Lounge looks to be out of the woods.

The Virginia Square bar, located at 946 N. Jackson Street, is now in line to win a key permit renewal from the County Board this weekend. County staff say Darna successfully resolved its outstanding code violations last month, and they’re recommending that the Board allow the lounge to stay open, at least for the next year.

Arlington briefly shut down Darna earlier this year, citing a variety of health and safety code violations at the site, though it did manage to resolve enough of those to re-open in April and attract some attention from both Tristan Thompson and TMZ.

But the county found more issues at the restaurant this summer, and even charged owner Ahmad Ayyad with a misdemeanor for his failure to secure the proper building permit for doing some work on the property. By Aug. 17, however, county staff wrote in a Board report that Ayyad had “resolved all violations” at the restaurant, and earned a new “certificate of occupancy.”

Staff noted in the report that Darna still ran into a few problems over the past few months — on July 27, the fire marshal’s office cited the restaurant for being over capacity by several dozen people.

Even still, the county staff is recommending that the Board renew Darna’s use permit through September 2019. The Board will take up the matter on Saturday (Sept. 22) as part of its consent agenda, which is largely designed for non-controversial items to be approved all at once.

The county’s case against Ayyad and his Maaj Corporation remains active, however. He’s set for an adjudicatory hearing in Arlington General District Court on Sept. 27, per court records.

File photo

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County Seeks Feedback About Residential Parking Permit Changes

Should Arlington open up more of its on-street parking to shoppers, commuters and other visitors, or continue to use a permit system to protect neighborhood parking spots?

That’s the sort of question county officials are asking as they collect feedback on how Arlington’s residential permit parking system is working. County staff are about halfway through a two-year review of Arlington’s residential parking practices, and they’ve opened up an online survey on the subject through July 16.

The zoned parking program is intended to ensure that residents can park near their houses in neighborhoods near business districts, employment centers and Metro stations. Residents were previously able to petition the county to have their street zoned, pending an analysis by county staff.

The County Board is planning to hold a work session on residential parking in the coming months and establish a working group to study the matter, after voting last August to put a moratorium on any additions or changes to the county’s 24 zones where parking permits are required.

The moratorium sparked complaints from some residents. There were 16 active petitions at the time from people looking to add new permit parking zones or change existing ones.

Among those worried about changes to the program is Penrose Neighborhood Association co-president Pete Durgan, who thinks the survey is tilted toward the goal of scaling back parking restrictions.

“Can you imagine what would happen to the single family areas near Ballston, Clarendon and Columbia Pike?” she asked, in an email to ARLnow.com.

County staff last reviewed Arlington’s parking program back in 2003, and the Board has since wrestled with the question of how to balance the concerns of residents looking to keep cars off their crowded streets with the frustrations of people hoping to find a place to park near the county’s burgeoning business districts.

The Board has also increasingly encouraged developers to move away from building off-street parking options in Metro corridors, in favor of adding new bike or car-sharing options, a policy change some worry will push residents to park on the street instead.

The survey asks respondents to rank the importance of the availability of on-street parking versus other factors, like the availability of public transit and open public space. The county also wants to hear what people think about how easy it should be for commuters or other visitors to park in their neighborhoods, and to evaluate whether “parking on public streets is a shared resource that should be open to all.”

The county first started its residential permit program in 1973 to keep commuters to Crystal City and D.C. out of residential areas. A series of court challenges to the program ultimately advanced to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the justices unanimously upheld the program’s legality in a 1977 decision.

County staff are hoping to wrap up this latest review of the program by the summer of 2019, when they could once again start considering petitions for changes to permit zones.

File photo

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County Board to Consider Permit Renewal for Darna Lounge

A Virginia Square lounge and restaurant may have a permit renewed at tomorrow’s Arlington County Board meeting despite outstanding code violations.

Darna Lounge was closed in February due to “numerous violations of the Building, Fire, Zoning and Environmental Health codes, affecting the health, safety and welfare of the public.” The structure was deemed unfit for habitation but has since reopened.

According to a county report, most of the violations have been corrected and the applicant is “diligently pursuing resolution of the outstanding issues.” But some still remain, per a county staff report.

The establishment was allowed to reopen after correcting the major violations that were identified during the coordinated inspection. The applicant was granted an extension to April 1, 2018 to come into full compliance. A building permit to correct the outstanding violations was submitted on March 12, 2018, for the purpose of addressing unapproved alterations to the building. However, the applicant was not able to meet the April 1, 2018 deadline. The Inspection Services Division (ISD) has provided comments to the applicant that require revisions to the drawings associated with the building permit. The applicant is in the process of addressing the comments and resubmitting the revised drawings.

Despite the building concerns, the County Manager’s office is recommending that the Board approve a renewal of Darna’s live entertainment and dancing permit, with an administrative review in three months.

“Staff finds that at this time the applicant is reasonably working to resolve the outstanding violations, which are not deemed to be of a life, health or safety concern,” the report said, “Therefore, staff recommends renewal of the subject use permit with a three (3) month County Board review (July 2018).”

Staff also notes that police reported no recent issues with the business and that Darna reps “attended the Arlington Restaurant Initiative training on April 7, 2018 conducted by ACPD officers.”

The lounge recently gained some national notoriety as the location where Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson was caught on camera cheating on his pregnant, reality TV star girlfriend, Khloe Kardashian.

Darna, at 946 N. Jackson Street, opened back in 2012.

File photo

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Construction on New Clarendon Japanese Restaurant Underway

(Updated at 2:15 p.m.) A Japanese chain restaurant may be a few steps closer to opening its doors in Clarendon.

Interior work has finally started on the restaurant, which first announced that it was “coming soon” to the former Brixx Pizza space at 1119 N. Hudson Street last May. The restaurant has an active commercial tenant buildout permit.

A application for Virginia ABC permit to serve wine and beer, meanwhile, was filed on Monday and is now pending. The permit suggests the restaurant will seat 101-150 people.

The restaurant’s interior was still in the buildout phase as of Tuesday afternoon, when a propped open front door showed construction material and unfinished fixtures within.

Gyu-Kak is a Japanese yakiniku restaurant chain with locations throughout the U.S., in addition to locations in Japan and other countries. This would be the chain’s first Virginia location, according to Gyu-Kaku’s website.

An email to Gyu-Kaku was not immediately returned, and a phone call to the number listed on a permit application had a full inbox and couldn’t accept a voicemail.

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L.A. Bar & Grill Temporarily Closed During License Renewal

Columbia Pike’s L.A. Bar & Grill has temporarily closed due to a state licensing issue.

The bar submitted its Virginia ABC license renewal application in the beginning of March, and the previous alcoholic beverage license expired at the end of March.

“We should have applied earlier, [but] hindsight is 20/20,” said Stephen Hubbard, the bar’s general manager.

The process is ongoing, and Hubbard anticipates that it will take “at least a couple of weeks,” though he isn’t sure.

In the meantime, the bar is taking advantage of the license renewal period and “doing some facelifting” in the form of painting and other tidying up efforts.

Back in 2016, L.A. Bar & Grill, at 2530 Columbia Pike, was ranked among UpOut’s top ten “ridiculously cool” D.C.-area dive bars.

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L.A. Bar & Grill Temporarily Closed During License Renewal

Columbia Pike’s L.A. Bar & Grill has temporarily closed due to a state licensing issue.

The bar submitted its Virginia ABC license renewal application in the beginning of March, and the previous alcoholic beverage license expired at the end of March.

“We should have applied earlier, [but] hindsight is 20/20,” said Stephen Hubbard, the bar’s general manager.

The process is ongoing, and Hubbard anticipates that it will take “at least a couple of weeks,” though he isn’t sure.

In the meantime, the bar is taking advantage of the license renewal period and “doing some facelifting” in the form of painting and other tidying up efforts.

Back in 2016, L.A. Bar & Grill, at 2530 Columbia Pike, was ranked among UpOut’s top ten “ridiculously cool” D.C.-area dive bars.

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Gallery Clarendon Opening Delayed Over Permit

The Clarendon Art Gallery opening has been delayed to early May.

Signs went up for Gallery Clarendon on March 9, and the nonprofit gallery intended to open this Sunday (April 1). However, it has not yet received its occupancy permit from the county.

Jane Coonce, Gallery Clarendon’s executive director, told ARLnow that she had applied before the signs had gone up for the occupancy permit. She expressed disappointment that it hadn’t come through yet, but was understanding.

Noting that the time of her permit application coincided with spring break, Coonce added that she’s “sure any employees who had kids probably had to stay home with the kids, so that might have put the county behind.”

Until a permanent commercial tenant is found, the gallery, built and developed by volunteers, will call the former Fuego Cocina y Taquileria space home, rent-free other than utilities costs.

The cavernous first floor space will host the gallery, while the second floor will accommodate artist studios and art classes for both children and adults.

Though Coonce said that equipment cannot be installed until the gallery has received its occupancy permit, the build out will be finished by the end of the day on Friday, and volunteers will have the space cleaned up by Saturday.

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Arlington: Great for Talent, Not So Good for Permitting

Arlington has a lot going for it, including a deep well of talented workers, but the county’s permitting office remains a constant source of business complaints.

Those were two of the major takeaways from the Future of Arlington County event held Thursday at Market Common Clarendon. Organized by online business publication Bisnow, the event brought together economic development officials, developers, attorneys and business owners.

Talent is what has drawn companies like Nestle to Arlington, and what may lure Amazon’s HQ2, said Arlington Economic Development Director Victor Hoskins. He noted that Amazon already has an “innovation center” in Ballston.

“We really want to be the innovation center of the United States,” he said of the county’s economic ambitions. “This is a talent rich target for innovative companies.”

Nestle, he said, had its employee retention rate far exceed expectations as it moved its corporate headquarters from Glendale, Calif. to Rosslyn. The company also received tens of thousands of job applicants for open positions after expecting only hundreds to apply, according to Hoskins.

To help the county continue to attract companies, particularly tech startups, Arlington Economic Development has been sending staff to large conferences, including this weekend’s South By Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas.

Other Arlington advantages cited by panelists include walkable, mixed-use communities like Crystal City where people can live and work, and a top notch public school system that helps keep residents with children from leaving the county.

Despite effusive praise for everything Arlington has to offer, there were some negatives. Arlington could use additional cultural amenities — “places people can interact and build community,” in the words of an AED tweet. That point was reinforced by event being held at Market Common Clarendon, adjacent to the vacant former Iota Club space.

Panelists also agreed that Arlington County has plenty of room to improve its permitting process. The process should be “easier and faster in order to attract the most innovative concepts in retails and restaurants,” though the ongoing issues with the permitting process extend from small restaurants to huge developments, panelists said.

One anecdote from a Bisnow recap of the discussion:

Developers, brokers and restaurateurs say the county’s lengthy permitting process has acted as a deterrent for some companies and needs to be improved if Arlington wants to keep up with D.C. and Fairfax County. JBG Smith, Arlington’s largest property owner, last year opened a beer garden in Rosslyn to create more buzz and activity around its properties. It took two years for the landlord to get the beer garden approved by the county, JBG Smith Executive Vice President Andy VanHorn said.

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County Board to Consider Expanding Seats, Live Music at Westover Beer Garden

The Westover beer garden will again be a topic of conversation before the Arlington County Board this weekend.

In the latest installment of the Westover Market’s saga to operate their outdoor beer garden as they see fit, County Manager Mark Schwartz has recommended that the County Board advertise a public hearing which will consider new use permits for the market and beer garden.

Westover Market wants to expand the current 29 outdoor cafe seats, as permitted by current county code, to 102. It also wants to be able to host live music more often, expand the days in which it can use amplifiers during live music performances and play background music when live music isn’t taking place.

Outdoor live entertainment is presently permitted at these times:

From April 1 through October 31

Wednesdays: 6 p.m. through 8 p.m.
Fridays: 6 p.m. through 10 p.m.
Saturdays: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The market has proposed the following hours to the county:

From April 1 through October 31

Wednesdays: 6 p.m. through 8 p.m.
Thursdays: 6 p.m. through 9 p.m.
Fridays: 6 p.m. through 10 p.m.
Saturdays: 5 p.m. through 9 p.m.
Sundays which precede a federal holiday: 5 p.m. through 9 p.m.

Zoning issues have dogged the business, which at one point had a two year amplified musical hiatus as it waited for county permission. Noise complaints have also weighed down the market’s efforts to expand its live music entertainment in the past.

Typically permit amendments cannot be reviewed by the County Board within 360 days of its last consideration. The exception is for the County Board to review the use permit application “on its own motion,” as the County Manager has recommended has recommended in this case.

Westover Market, originally a smaller grocery store that has evolved into a more drinking and entertainment focused establishment, is located at 5863 Washington Boulevard.

File photos

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Morning Notes

Bar Owner Trolled By ‘Catfish’ Account — Someone is impersonating Scott Parker, co-owner of A-Town, Don Tito, Barley Mac and G.O.A.T., on social media, in an apparent attempt to damage his reputation. The “catfish” recently sent a journalist a profanity-laced rant that encouraged her to kill herself. [Washingtonian, Twitter]

Columbia Pike Water Main Break — Crews are currently working to repair a water main break on the 5500 block of Columbia Pike. The street is partially blocked and some 50-100 water customers have their service affected by the break. [Twitter]

Local Mother Grapples With Son’s Mental Illness — “The night of March 31, 2017, he became so inconsolable, screaming and weeping, that she called the police and had him involuntarily hospitalized at an Arlington hospital. He stayed two weeks, but because he is an adult, and because a hospital must release people from involuntary care when it no longer believes they meet commitment standards, doctors discharged him.” [Washington Post]

Wardian Strikes Again — “A little over a week ago, [ultramarathoner Michael] Wardian pulled off one of his most challenging back-to-backs yet, running the Pikes Peak Marathon, featuring 7,815 feet of elevation gain and an equal amount of loss on a rugged mountain course that tops out at 14,115 feet – in 6 hours, 2 minutes and 55 seconds, mere hours after finishing tenth in the Leadville 100 in 20 hours, 18 minutes and 57 seconds.” [Medium]

County Testing New ‘ePlan’ Payments — Arlington County is seeking users to test its new electronic payments system for those filing Building Permits, Land Disturbing Activity (LDA) Permits and Civil Engineering Plans (CEP) online. The system is likely to be seen as progress by those who have previously critiqued the county’s cumbersome permitting process. [Arlington County]

Last Call for Christmas Tree Recycling — Friday is the last day for recycling Christmas trees via curbside pickup in Arlington. ‘Recycled’ trees will be turned into mulch. [Arlington County]

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Staff Again Recommends Denying Chester’s Entertainment Permit

After being given three months to remedy its violations, county staff is recommending the Arlington County Board not extend the live entertainment permit for Chester’s Billiards, Bar & Grill.

In a report to the Board ahead of Saturday’s monthly meeting, staff said issues continue to plague the billiards hall and neighborhood bar at 2620 S. Shirlington Road in Nauck.

Since the Board’s last review in June, staff said the Arlington County Police Department visited to help Chester’s staff correct outstanding violations, train security staff and conduct ABC compliance checks.

But during that period, police found three ABC violations and saw Chester’s hosting a dance party for between 40 and 50 people in August, despite being warned it was not allowed under its permit with the county.

Staff also said police were called five times, with four of those calls involving co-owner David Breedlove. No arrests were made.

The building’s unsafe elevator also remains an ongoing problem, with the property’s owner having been served a court summons and set for arraignment next month for violating the Virginia Maintenance Code. Staff said the elevator is, in the opinion of Code Enforcement, “dangerous to the health, safety and welfare of the building’s occupants.”

A property owner nearby also complained that Chester’s patrons used a parking lot on his property without permission.

In their report, staff noted that the Nauck Civic Association “had not come to a consensus” on whether the permit should be renewed. Staff added that the president of the Bowman’s Hill Homeowners Association, speaking for himself, said there had “not been much of an improvement” from Chester’s.

Staff were critical of Chester’s management, who they said had not worked hard enough to remedy the problems.

“Given the continued non-compliance with the use permit conditions, and a general lack of good-faith effort on behalf of both the applicant and the property owner to voluntarily comply with these conditions, staff recommends that the County Board not renew the subject use permit,” staff wrote.

Photo via Google Maps.

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Chester’s Gets Three-Month Entertainment Permit Extension

Chester’s Billiards, Bar & Grill will have three months to remedy various violations after the Arlington County Board voted unanimously to grant a brief extension to its live entertainment permit.

The billiards hall and neighborhood bar at 2620 Shirlington Road had the annual review of its permit at the Board’s recessed meeting Tuesday (July 18), and county staff recommended an extension be denied after a slew of problems.

But the Board agreed to give Chester’s three months before having another review to correct various violations, which included 16 calls for service to the Arlington County Police Department as well as notices from the Fire Marshal, Code and Zoning Enforcement and Virginia ABC.

“I hope we’ve impressed on you all that this is not to be seen as an endorsement of the current state of affairs,” Board vice chair Katie Cristol said. “This is an opportunity to try to get it right.”

Rebecca Lewis, the agent for the building, promised that Chester’s will use the Arlington County Police Department’s after-hours service to employ off-duty officers as security on nights when it has live entertainment, and will ensure bartenders are trained in when to cut people off.

The live entertainment permit allows Chester’s to host “a variety of live entertainment types, including music, comedy and magicians.”

Lewis and Chester’s manager David Breedlove said the introduction of a fence around the property, which is as high as eight feet in some places, should help with security. Lewis added that after some management turmoil since the bar opened in 2015, they have been on a more even footing the past couple of months.

“We can’t change the neighborhood, but what’s happening inside Chester’s has changed,” Lewis said. “We’ve learned the lessons, and we have followed the rules that were laid out in the original use permit.”

Board member Christian Dorsey cautioned against rhetoric that may appear to blame the neighborhood for any problems. He also tried to determine the status of the building’s elevator, which is the subject of criminal proceedings.

“My overarching conversation,” Dorsey said, “is if the elevator makes it inappropriate for us to renew the use permit, should we have a business operating there at all?”

Chester’s representatives said the elevator has not operated since opening, and that they are applying to have it decommissioned. Adam Watson, a planner in the county’s Department of Community, Planning, Housing and Development, said the violation must be remedied, and that staff would work to determine how necessary a working elevator is for the business.

Lewis and Breedlove said many violations have come from being a relatively new business, including from Virginia ABC as their food sales are not as high as required for their liquor license. Both promised to do better.

“This is always really tough,” Dorsey said. “I hate to be in the business of hurting someone’s opportunity to earn a living and fulfill their creative and entrepreneurial dreams, but it also seems by your own admission…this has been a growing experience for you in terms of operating a business, finding out the right things to offer, the right things to work with.”

Chester’s will be back before the Board for its review in October.

Photo via Google Maps.

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Staff Recommends Denying Chester’s Entertainment Permit After Multiple Violations

With a criminal case pending and various code violations, county staff is recommending the Arlington County Board not extend the live entertainment permit for Chester’s Billiards, Bar & Grill.

The billiards hall and neighborhood bar at 2620 S. Shirlington Road in Nauck has the annual review of its permit for live entertainment and dancing at the recessed County Board meeting on Tuesday, July 18.

But staff said the Board should not grant a renewal after a slew of problems this past year, for the bar that opened in 2015. The Arlington County Police Department said they were called 16 times during the past year, including during the bar’s live entertainment hours.

The report said several police calls involved “violent altercations or assaults, including incidents directly involving Chester’s manager and co-owner,” including disputes with employees and an accusation of vandalism on the phone lines of another nearby restaurant.

The Fire Marshal, Code and Zoning Enforcement all issued violation notices, while staff had not received required TIPS training for serving alcohol. The Virginia ABC also has pending charges that could result in Chester’s liquor license being suspended due to inadequate food sales and false figures for alcohol purchases, the report says.

The building’s elevator is under “active criminal investigation” for being unsafe, after a violation notice was first issued last August, according to the report. Since then, staff said it has not been corrected, with their report describing the elevator as “dangerous to the health, safety, and welfare of the building’s occupants.”

The report notes that the president of the Nauck Civic Association said the group had no “issues or concerns” with Chester’s, while the president of the nearby Shirlington Crest Homeowners’ Association did not respond to requests for comment.

The live entertainment permit allows Chester’s to host “a variety of live entertainment types, including music, comedy, and magicians.” The staff report says the elevator issue may also prompt the county’s building maintenance official to “seek revocation of the Certificate of Occupancy for disregard and/or refusal to correct violation.”

Chester’s is located in the building that formerly was home to Lucy’s ARL and Champion Billiards.

Hat tip to Chris Slatt. Photo via Google Maps.

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County Approves Pub Crawl Under New Guidelines

Halloween_crawl_logo_drinkersArlington County has approved a permit for the 2014 Clarendon Halloween Crawl, making it the first such event approved under the county’s new pub crawl guidelines.

The Halloween Crawl is set to take place on Saturday (November 1). It’s the first bar crawl permit issued since the County Board decided in July that bar crawls will be classified as “special events” and require a permit.

“As the County Board has said, our goal is to manage these events in a way that ensures the safety of participants and residents of the surrounding neighborhoods and reimburses the County for crawl-related expenses,” said County Manager Barbara Donnellan in a written statement.

The county manager’s office confirmed that under the new regulations, Halloween Crawl organizer Project DC Events is required to reimburse the county for event-related personnel expenses, such as the need for extra police officers. The event organizers currently anticipate around 3,000 people will participate in the crawl, so the county assigned 30 police officers to the area. More police support will be requested should the number of event attendees increase. The county manager’s office estimates the police presence and potential EMT services will cost around $9,000-$15,000.

The county doesn’t foresee the need for additional trash collection services; instead, it’s moving up Clarendon’s regular Monday pickup to Sunday. Just like with the police estimate, more waste management services can be added if necessary.

It will likely take up to two weeks to calculate the final costs and then send Project DC Events a bill. Per the regulations, special events organizers must reimburse the county within 60 days of the issuance of an invoice.

“This is an Arlington-based company and we are very confident we will not have any issues with them,” said Assistant County Manager Wilfredo Calderon.

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