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Morning Notes

Reuben Tucker (@blurredriff) plays guitar in Long Bridge Park at sunset (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Decal Fee Officially Dead — “Arlington County Board members on May 14 followed through on a promise made last month and eliminated the ‘decal fee’ that has been imposed for decades as part of residents’ car-tax bills. And while the action will save residents a collective $6 million this year, it’s something of a rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul situation, as higher assessments on used vehicles in these inflationary times likely will eat up all the savings for some vehicle owners.” [Sun Gazette]

Wild Rosslyn Press Conference in the Works — “WHAT: Jack Burkman to give press conference from wheelchair, after losing more than 65 ibs, and all his hair. WHEN: Monday May 23, 2022 High Noon. WHERE… N Colonial Terrace, Arlington VA 22209.” [Twitter]

Free Fitness Class Tonight — “Join HUSTLE at Long Bridge Park in National Landing for a weekly sweaty and fun outdoor HIIT class. Arlington, VA has been named one of the fittest cities in the country, so get your heart pumping at an outdoor HIIT class with local fitness instructors.” [Twitter, National Landing BID]

Historical Marker for Eden Center — “The Virginia Historical Commission (VHC) has recognized Vietnamese Immigrants in Northern Virginia as a significant part of Virginia history by awarding it an Official Virginia Historical Marker… A dedication ceremony to commemorate the event will be held on May 24, 2022 at Eden Center at 3:30PM.” [City of Falls Church]

It’s Wednesday — Sunny during the day, with rain possible at night. High of 74 and low of 54. Sunrise at 5:55 am and sunset at 8:18 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Decal design competition presentation in 2018 (file photo)

Arlington County has not required a tax decal on cars since 2019, but that has not ended the annual $33 per-vehicle decal fee — yet.

Also known as a “motor vehicle license fee,” the yearly charge is assessed for all cars kept in Arlington regardless of their value, unlike another annual vehicle expense, the Vehicle Personal Property Tax. But the former is now on the way out.

The County Board is set to vote Saturday to eliminate the $33 fee, following the approval of the new Fiscal Year 2023 budget last month. The lost revenue is being offset by “a portion of the additional personal property tax revenue projected due to rising vehicle assessments,” according to a report to the Board.

More from the report:

The MVL fee was originally known as the decal fee due to the previous requirement to display a decal on the windshield of all vehicles having situs in Arlington County as proof of payment of the annual MVL fee. The fee was intended to help cover the cost of compliance efforts related to the filing and payment of vehicle personal property taxes. In FY 2008, the initial fee of $25 was increased to $33, the maximum amount allowed per Virginia Code. Due to the automation of compliance efforts in FY 2019, the decal requirement was repealed and the fee remained payable with vehicle personal property tax bills due each year on October 5th.

“Since this flat fee of $33 ($18 for motorcycles) is applied to all vehicles each year, households with cheaper and older cars are burdened the same as affluent households owning more expensive vehicles,” the report goes on to say. “The removal of this fee, with revenue offset by the more progressive tax (personal property tax), continues the County’s priority of more equitable tax burden in our community.”

Currently, Falls Church, Fairfax County and Prince William County each collect a $33 annual license fee, like Arlington, while Alexandria does not collect the fee.

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Arlington leaders have already decided to do with away with the county’s car decal program to track personal property tax payments, but they’re still looking to make the change a bit more official before it goes into effect this summer.

Starting July 1, county drivers will no longer need to display the brightly colored stickers on their cars to prove they’re paid up on their taxes. The County Board eliminated the program last year, though the annual fee previously attached to the decals will remain.

Now, the Board needs to make a few tweaks to its existing ordinances to eliminate any reference to the car decals. Members are set to take up the matter for the first time at their meeting Saturday (Feb. 23).

Proposed changes to the county code include the elimination of police officers’ authority to hand out fines for not displaying a valid “license tag.”

However, county workers will still be able to write $50 tickets if they discover drivers haven’t paid that motor vehicle fee, thanks to license plate reader technology increasingly embraced by the county treasurer’s office.

The changes would also clarify that the “motor vehicle license fee” will still be collected alongside property tax payments, even though it’s no longer attached to any decals.

The Board would also stipulate that the annual license fee is “not to be prorated” and is only refundable “when proof is provided that the fee was paid in error” under the proposed alterations.

In order to make the changes official, the Board plans to call for an April 2 public hearing on the matter, then hold a final vote immediately afterward.

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Morning Notes

Restaurant Owners Eye Crystal City — “Andrew Dana, owner of Parkview bagel sensation Call Your Mother and lauded Petworth pizza spot Timber Pizza Co., texted his business partner Jeff Zients on Tuesday night with one question: ‘How do we get into Amazon HQ2?’ It’s a question many restaurant and bar owners will likely be asking in the coming months as Crystal City and Pentagon City prepare to host parts of Amazon.com Inc.’s HQ2 and its eventual 25,000 employees.” [Washington Business Journal]

Last Vehicle Decal Deadline is Tomorrow — “Nov. 16 is the deadline for owners of vehicles garaged in Arlington to display the 2018-19 county vehicle decal. Decals, which signify payment of vehicle taxes, should be placed adjacent to the state-inspection sticker on the driver’s side of the windshield.” [InsideNova]

Columnist: Ban Cars in National Landing — “It seems pretty obvious what Arlington, Amazon, and JBG Smith (Amazon’s future landlord) absolutely need to do: Take the dramatic but wholly necessary step of banning cars and closing all the parking lots throughout National Landing.” [Washington City Paper]

Home Sales Down, Prices Up — “The arrival of Amazon may change things over the long haul, but for now, the Arlington real estate market seems to be moving through a dormant period, sales-wise – with few signs of improvement on the near horizon. But while sales were down, the average sales price was up slightly and prices of single-family properties averaged more than $1 million during the month, according to new figures.” [InsideNova]

First Word of HQ2 Win Received in Wendy’s Parking Lot — “Virginia learned it had won the biggest economic development contest in U.S. history when a low-profile state official got a phone call in the parking lot of a Wendy’s restaurant in the Shenandoah Valley at 2 p.m. Monday.” [Washington Post]

Tips for Thanksgiving Travel at DCA — “Construction delays and big holiday crowds mean you’ll have to add extra time to fly in or out of the D.C. region’s airports for much of the next month and a half.” [WTOP, MWAA]

Flickr pool photo by Lisa Novak

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Starting next year, Arlington drivers won’t need to display a car decal on their vehicles for the first time in decades.

The County Board voted unanimously yesterday (Tuesday) to end the requirement that owners of vehicles parked in Arlington use a sticker to prove they’ve paid personal property taxes.

The “motor vehicle license fee” associated with the decal, which helps the county pull in about $5 million each year, will remain under the Board’s plan. But starting July 1, 2019, the county will now rely entirely on license plate readers to track whether drivers are up to date on their taxes.

“This is truly the end of an era for Arlington,” County Board Chair Katie Cristol said in a statement. “The decal is going the way of the horse-and-buggy.”

The county first began requiring drivers to display a metal tag on license plates all the way back in 1949, moving to a decal system in 1967. Yet, as other localities across the state have increasingly abandoned similar decals, pressure on the county to follow suit mounted.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Board member John Vihstadt said at the meeting Tuesday. “We’re not getting rid of the fee, it’s important to our tax base and enforcement of motor vehicle regulations and so forth. But this will eliminate the nuisance of having a decal.”

County treasurer Carla de la Pava remains confident that Arlington will be able to maintain its low tax delinquency rate even with this change, though it will also mark the end of her office’s annual design competition for the decal, which featured art from local high school students.

“The decal competition was a great collaboration between art, teens, and local government, and I am sorry to see it end,” de la Pava said in a statement.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Arlington Youth Soccer Team Wins Nat’l Tourney — The Arlington Soccer Association’s U16 Boys team won the US Youth Soccer National Championship in Frisco, Texas over the weekend. The big win “is the first USYS Championship in the club’s history” and “caps off Arlington’s most successful year in its almost 50-year history with the U14 Girls team also advancing to the National Championships,” according to the association. [PDF, US Youth Soccer]

Officials Prep for Decal Decision — “If County Board members in September decide to kill off Arlington tax decals that have been a fixture on local windshields for a half-century, the two elected officials who will be tasked with implementing the decision say they can make it happen. The question that still hangs in the air, though, is whether eliminating the decal will make it more likely scofflaws will get away with cheating the tax man.” [InsideNova]

Arlington Theaters: A Tourist Attraction? — Arlington’s theater scene “is bigger and better than ever,” according to Arlington’s tourism promotion agency. [Stay Arlington]

Survey: Keep ANC Open to Burials As Long As Possible — “The vast majority of respondents to a Department of Defense survey favor keeping Arlington National Cemetery operational for as long as possible, even if it means tightening up on those who are deemed eligible for burial there.” [InsideNova]

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Arlington’s personal property tax car decals coon soon be a thing of the past, even as the tax associated with the tags looks set to stay.

The County Board is now considering eliminating the requirement that vehicles garaged in Arlington display a decal to demonstrate its owner has paid the necessary property tax on the car, effective July 1, 2019.

The county would instead rely entirely on workers using a license plate reading system to determine whether the owner of any given vehicle is up to date on their taxes. Vehicle owners will still need to pay the annual property tax, as well as the “motor vehicle license fee,” commonly known as the “decal fee.”

Commissioner of Revenue Ingrid Morroy’s staff will use the license plate reader technology, which the county first purchased back in 2004, “to more efficiently and effectively ensure personal property tax compliance without vehicle owners displaying a decal,” according to a county staff report prepared for the Board.

Staff also believe the change will “relieve an unnecessary burden on taxpayers,” ending a requirement that’s been in place in the county in one form or fashion since 1949. The move would also mark the end to the annual design competition for the decals, which has given high school students the chance to feature their artwork on the tag since 2005.

Arlington is one of 21 localities around the state to still require the car decals, according to the staff report, and Loudoun County recently eliminated its requirement for the tags.

A decision on the matter is still a ways off, however. The County Board will vote at its Saturday (July 14) meeting whether to call for a public hearing on the question, which would then be set for September 22.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Alexandria Absent from Short Bridge Park Plans — “While plans for the border-spanning park are underway on the Arlington side, one frustration expressed at the County Board was that Alexandria has no plans to develop its side of the park… ‘That’s a little disappointing,’ County Board member John Vihstadt said. ‘I am concerned we’re going to be spending significant amounts of money for improvements on the Alexandria side.'” [Arlington Connection]

Review of Columbia Pike’s BrickhausBrickhaus, which opened last year at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive, is like a miniature, “year-round, indoor beer garden [that] serves German-inspired fare.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Commuting Satisfaction in Arlington — According to data from Arlington County’s Mobility Lab, Arlington residents commute to work by means other than driving alone 60 percent of the time. Those who walk or bike have the highest rate of satisfaction with their commute, while those who take a train have the lowest satisfaction rate. [Mobility Lab]

Fmr. Clarendon Restaurant Owners Like Falls Church — David and Rebecca Tax, the founders behind classic Clarendon restaurants like Big Belly Deli, Lazy Sundae, Clare and Don’s and Mexicali Blues, are happy with their decision to move Lazy Sundae and Clare and Don’s to Falls Church more than a decade ago. “Falls Church is a lot like what Clarendon was like in 1996 when we opened Lazy Sundae,” said David, while Rebecca remembered the Clarendon of the mid-to-late 90s as “more family oriented, fewer singles.” [Eater]

Mobile Phones Could Be Banned at Pentagon — A military review of personal electronics policies, ordered by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, could result in non-military cell phones being banned at the Pentagon. About 30,000 servicemembers, civilians and contractors work at the Pentagon. [Stars and Stripes]

Japanese Embassy Lauds New Arlington Decal — Via a tweet from the Embassy of Japan in D.C.: “As this year’s @CherryBlossFest nears, we’re excited to hear that the blooming cherry trees along the Potomac River will soon be displayed on windshields in Arlington County. Congratulations to @OConnellHS’s Schuyler Workmaster for winning @ArlingtonVA’s decal contest!” [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Arlington County’s 2018-2019 vehicle decals will have a drawing of its skyline behind blossoming cherry trees.

At the Arlington County Board’s meeting Tuesday (January 30), Treasurer Carla de la Pava announced that Schuyler Workmaster, a junior at Bishop O’Connell High School, won first place in the annual design competition over three other finalists.

Workmaster, in her third year as a finalist, said she chose to draw the design as she was inspired by the county’s mix of urban and natural settings.

“I chose to do this because it shows both the urban and nature aspect of Arlington,” she said at the meeting before her win was announced. “It just comes together in both pieces, and works together to create beauty. I think it represents Arlington because it’s very diverse, but it comes together to form something beautiful.”

Workmaster’s work was chosen among design finalists from three fellow student competitors: last year’s winner Amy Kohan, a junior at Wakefield High School; Washington-Lee junior Tom Bolles; and Yorktown High School junior Maddy Heinemann. Workmaster will receive a $750 cash prize from the Arlington Community Federal Credit Union and her design will be displayed on approximately 160,000 vehicles starting later this year.

A record 3,619 votes were cast in the competition, a figure de la Pava said is up 11 percent from last year. She said the interest in voting in the contest is huge across the county.

“The part that really tickles me is that it comes from all areas of Arlington,” de la Pava said. “All the nooks and crannies except for [Arlington National Cemetery]… it really represents how widespread the interest is in voting for this decal.”

Students are instructed to produce a design that represents Arlington. This year’s competition was widened to include anything that they felt represented World War I and the county’s participation in the war.

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Morning Notes

Former Clarendon Walgreens Building Purchased — JPMorgan Chase has bought the building that housed the former Walgreens in Clarendon for $25 million, perhaps for a new bank branch. [Washington Business Journal]

Local Man Shot and Killed in Philly — An Arlington man who “appeared to be intentionally trying to run down people” with his car was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer in South Philadelphia. The shooting is under investigation. [WPVI]

More Details on Arlington Vehicle Decals — “The 2017-18 Arlington car-tax decal may come with a new feature: personalization. The county treasurer’s office is working on a plan that would add each vehicle’s year, make and model onto the new decals, which will start being distributed over the summer.” [InsideNova]

ACPD Launches Super Bowl Sobriety Campaign — “The Arlington County Police Department and law enforcement agencies across the country are huddling up with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for a special Fans Don’t Let Fans Drive Drunk reminder to urge football fans across the nation not to drop the ball on this issue.” [Arlington County]

VHC Named Top Hospital for Nurses — Virginia Hospital Center is the top hospital for nurses in Virginia, according to new rankings from a nursing website. [Nurse.org]

Signs Up for Nestle in Rosslyn — A Nestle sign is now up on the company’s new headquarters at 1812 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn. [Twitter]

State Senate OKs Arlington Hotel Tax Bill — The Virginia state Senate has passed a bill to authorize Arlington to impose a 0.25 percent hotel tax surcharge, to fund tourism promotion. The county’s current authority to collect the surcharge expires July 1. [InsideNova]

Robert Parry Obituary — “Robert Parry, an investigative journalist who was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1985 for his Associated Press exclusives about the CIA’s production of an assassination manual for Nicaraguan rebels, died Jan. 27 in Arlington, Va. He was 68.” [Washington Post, Consortiumnews]

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Voting is underway in the contest to decide which vehicle decal design will wind up on on the windshields of more than 150,000 vehicles in Arlington County next year.

Arlington residents can each cast an online ballot on the county treasurer’s website through Monday, Jan. 15. This year, voters are being asked to rank each of the four finalists from 1 to 4, with 1 being their favorite and 4 their least favorite.

(As in previous years, the designs are submitted by local high school students.)

Go get a sense of which design might emerge victorious, we are conducting our own informal poll of Arlingtonians. Vote below for your favorite and we’ll compare our poll results to the final results, when the results are announced late next month.

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