Rosslyn Residents Get a New WRAP

In justifying its decision to put a temporary fire station on the Wilson School playing field, the County claims that the plan for the WRAPS site was “developed through an extensive community planning process with broad participation from County commissions, civic associations and other stakeholders. . .”

Yet it is now known that the deal to redevelop the WRAPS site was cut with Penzance in a secret Letter of Intent (LOI) in January 2013, the existence of which was withheld from the community until almost a year later.

Characterizing the WRAPS planning process as transparent is a cruel joke to Rosslyn civic leaders, who were already upset when they penned the following in a letter to County Board on June 16, 2015:

“Furthermore, the [WRAPS] proposal fails to meet long acknowledged open space needs of the Rosslyn neighborhood, which lacks sufficient parkland for its substantial and growing population. In fact, the plan actually decreases rather than increases parkland. The population at the WRAPS site will increased by a projected 80 percent . . .; yet the community is losing at least 30 percent of the existing open space. In addition, access to the Wilson School field which has a common use area for many years, will now necessarily be limited during school hours, further reducing open space available to the community.”

Were it not for the vocal opposition of the same civic leaders who showed up at the July 16, County Board meeting, the County might have approved a deal that would have deprived Rosslyn residents of much of its remaining green space for another five years.

As a result of their opposition, County Board has delayed a decision on where to locate the temporary fire station till September. In the meantime, County Board promises to involve the community in exploring two other sites–Rhodeside Green Park, and a lot near Rosslyn Holiday Inn.

In March, 2015 Rosslyn neighbors rallied to save Rosslyn Highlands. At the time, other than the aforementioned civic leaders, few expressed concern about the planned demolition of historic Wilson School next door as part of the WRAPs project. The sentiment was that if sacrificing the school would save the park then that was okay.

Now we see that the decision to demolish the school has only whetted the County’s appetite to inflict more unwanted outcomes on Rosslyn neighbors. What’s worse, the controversy spawned over relocating the fire station highlights the unworkability of a plan that shoehorns residential and mixed use development, a major secondary school, a fire station and a public park all within about six acres.

Supermarket at Mazda Site a Bad Idea

750 N. Glebe is a 12 story mid-rise mixed use development project consisting of 491 luxury apartments, 733 park spaces and 62,000 square feet of retail space including a supermarket.

The fact that virtually none of the units except 22 CAFs designated as “affordable” will be affordable to most Arlington residents is cause for concern. The impact of adding almost 500 additional units in the immediate vicinity of Ballston Mall, which has already absorbed 1,500 newly constructed or soon to be constructed units is cause for even greater concern. But inclusion in this project of a grocery store that will generate 4,800 car trips on week days and 7,700 trips on Saturdays gives pause. Continue reading

Arlington Fraud, Waste and Abuse Hotline Needs to Go Public

Recently the County removed an agenda item consisting of a report by the County Manager on the Board of the Employee Financial Fraud, Waste and Abuse hotline’s first year of operation. The County Manager, who attended the meeting, said the report was postponed to give the newly appointed County Auditor, Jessica Tucker, time to review it. Continue reading

PRESS RELEASE: County Board Candidate Audrey Clement Calls for County Government to Accelerate Street Paving

I’m Audrey Clement, Independent Candidate for Arlington County Board in the 2016 General Election.

As a long-time bicyclist and patron of public transit who doesn’t own car,  I ask Arlington County Government to accelerate street repair operations across the County.

There are way too many pot holes and cracked and broken pavements for Arlington residents to drive or walk safely to work, school, or shopping centers—let alone to bike. Moreover, Arlington residents in the mobility-disabled community tell me that they are afraid of deteriorated sidewalks and crosswalks.

Even after a major street repaving effort last November right before the election, major arteries like Clarendon and Wilson Blvds. have deteriorated badly over the winter. Arlington needs to maintain its streets not just before the election but all year round.

When elected to County Board, I will make basic infrastructure maintenance and upgrades my first, not my last priority. Isn’t it time we had a County Board member who works for YOUR needs, not for vanity wants like a $20 million gondola and a $40 million swimming pool? It’s time for corporations, non-profits, and special interests to fund vanity programs and projects, not demand more from already-stressed taxpayers.

Please visit my Web site at: www.AudreyClement.com.  Let me help you make Arlington County a better place to live. A greener Arlington is a better Arlington, and that’s my pledge to you, the citizens of Arlington County.

Comments to NVTC on Widening I-66 Inside the Beltway

Comments to Northern Virginia Transportation Commission  (NVTC) on Widening I-66 Inside the Beltway on May 5, 2016.

First I want to express my regret that a deal worked out between NVTC and Governor McAuliffe last year to toll I-66 inside the Beltway first and widen it later only if necessary was scuttled in favor a plan to widen I-66 as soon as the tolls are in place. Continue reading

Westover Neighborhood Recycling In Progress

As many of you know, Evergreene Homes demolished three historic Westover garden apartment buildings in 2013 to make way for luxury townhouses. Developers are at it again. Soon four more 8-10 unit apartment buildings will be demolished to make way for another clutch of million dollar town homes between 11th Street and 11th Road off Washington Boulevard. Continue reading

Support a 1 Cent Tax Rate Cut

I support the recommendation of the Arlington County Civic Federation Revenues and Expenditures Committee to reduce the County’s FY 2017 real estate tax rate by 1 cent from 99.6 cents to 98.6 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Among the facts laid out in R&E’s resolution, are the following:

  • Arlington homeowners have seen a 5-year total increase of over $1,000 per year in additional taxes and fees.
  • Arlington County ranks 3rd in median property taxes out of 134 Virginia counties;
  • To realize the same amount of real estate tax revenue as last year, the County would have to cut taxes by 2 cents instead of the 1 cent tax reduction that R&E proposes.

In addition, the regional comparison in the Revenues section of the Budget Book shows that Arlington has the highest tax and fee burden of any county in Northern Virginia except the City of Falls Church. (Book 116, Web 124).

While R&E is seeking tax relief on behalf of residential taxpayers, the effect of a tax rate reduction would fall equally on commercial taxpayers, because commercial enterprises still comprise almost half the real estate tax base.

The County Manager touts the reduction in the commercial vacancy rate by 1.6 percent in the past year, with a concomitant increase in real estate revenue of $5.4 million.

To accomplish this Arlington Economic Development (AED) hired 4 additional staff for its Business Investment Group (BIG) to retain and recruit new commercial tenants at a cost of about $500,000. The Budget Book reports the retention or addition of 5,000 jobs in 2015 half of which were attributable to the retention of one large employer, Corporate Executive Board (web 673).

But at more the 20 percent the commercial vacancy rate is still double the historic average. To attract more commercial tenants, the County Manager proposes $1.5 million in one-time grants for small startup companies. But that is just a drop in the bucket compared to what neighboring jurisdictions are spending.

For example, the County Manager’s Message to the County indicates that PG County has a $50 million incentive fund that awards $7-$11 million per year to small and medium businesses. DC awards $1 million modernization grants along with a tax rebate program that provides up to $5 million in total incentives per eligible business (Book 26, Web 34).

The only way Arlington can compete with those giveaways is to reduce the tax rate to keep its commercial tax base.

Fully Fund Arlington Libraries

First, I want to applaud the County Manager for several initiatives outlined in his message to the County accompanying the FY17 proposed budget.  Among them are plans to consolidate recreation programs and web based services offered by both the County and APS.

Also under consideration are plans to scrap parking stickers and manage real estate records in one place. This is all good, as consolidation of services is the most efficient and least disruptive way to reduce costs.

Another proposed initiative, providing so-called library pop-up space, doesn’t fit that category. It would cost $250,000 while providing only temporary benefits to a limited number of county residents to be paid for out of one time funds (book 12, web 20).

Don’t get me wrong, I am a vocal supporter of Arlington Library. As someone who regularly petitions outside Central Library, I am constantly amazed at the steady stream of residents from other jurisdictions who patronize the facility. My guess is that half the people who frequent Central Library are from out of the County. Ditto for Shirlington Library.

Demand for Arlington library services is strong and growing. But the way to meet the demand is not to add yet another particularized benefit. A much better approach is to expand branch library hours.

Four branch libraries, including Aurora Hills, Glencarlyn, Westover and Cherrydale, are closed on Sundays. I urge the Board to open them seven days a week in FY17 and keep them open the following year if demand warrants it.

Establishing a new library even a temporary one requires additional overhead in the form of rent and administration. Extending existing hours does not. It’s time for the County to treat its library system as the invaluable asset it is instead of a neglected, four eyed step child. Seeking to expand services on the cheap will cost more in the long run.

VDOT Put the Cart Before the Horse Heading Westbound on I-66 in the A.M.

On October 2, 2015 months after Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) announced its decision to toll I-66 inside the Beltway, it published the results of a modeling study entitled: “I66 Multimodal Improvements: Future Conditions Traffic Technical Memorandum”, which assesses the impacts of tolling on I-66 and parallel arteries.

Based on the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) TDM Version 2.3, Build 57 regional model, the report indicates that while traffic volume in the a.m. and p.m. peak [traditional] direction will not change much either on I-66 or parallel arteries, non-peak [reverse commute] direction traffic will divert onto parallel roadways. Traffic operations at key locations along Routes 50 and 29 will be degraded as a result. Continue reading