Our October Board meetings had a number of issues that were satisfying for me because I felt we clearly were making the County better for people.
We approved site plan amendments for 1750 Crystal Drive, which will allow the building and area to be renovated, and will bring retail, a grocery store, a movie theater, and a park to the area along with a new Metro entrance. This will vastly improve an area that really has looked like an urban wasteland for many years.
We had a long discussion and hearing about Westover Beer Garden and its amplified, outdoor music. It was a classic issue of balancing different desires. Many people love the amplified music when they visit the Beer Garden from April to November, but a few people who live nearby do not because they want to enjoy quiet evenings outside their homes. The Beer Garden has to obey our noise ordinance, but it is hard to enforce and they had at least one noise violation.
Staff had recommended withdrawing the permit for amplified outdoor music for a year. The Board decided to allow the amplified music, but not to allow it past 9 p.m. and to require the Beer Garden to submit a noise abatement plan before the start of the next outdoor music season in April. Most importantly, if there are noise violations next year, the Board will again consider removing the permit in June.
A homeowner brought to our attention inconsistent and unreasonable zoning restrictions for some older duplex homes built before current zoning, which now make it almost impossible to improve these homes—inside or outside. Our staff worked quickly to make the zoning requirements more reasonable and consistent for these homes. We advertised the changes last month and adopted the changes this month. It was relatively quick and easy, with no opposition. These changes will allow a number of families to improve their homes and make it easier for them to continue to live in Arlington.
We also changed some of our zoning restrictions for community pools. A pool in Nauck has long been closed and everyone wants it to be open again and be available for anyone in Arlington, but especially for people living in Nauck. Macedonia Baptist Church wants to rebuild the pool and facility, but the existing setback requirements made that impossible. We adopted new regulations to permit flexibility in setbacks for community pools and voted to let the pool move forward. It will be a great addition to Nauck.
A different sort of issue was our closeout allocation of funds. Every year there is some money left over after we close out the budget for the previous year. For a number of years, the money left over had been in the double-digit millions, but in the last few years, the Board has asked the Manager to build the budget so that only what is needed for a reasonable cushion is left over. The Manager has done that and much less money has been left over in recent years. This year, however, department heads and others have been careful not to hire for some positions because we all anticipate a very tight budget next year, so there was a little more left over.
The Manager recommended that all the money left over, that is not already obligated, be set aside to help with our next budget. In the past, the Board has allocated much of the closeout to various needs, which I have often voted against because I think it is better fiscal management for closeout money to go through our next budget process before being spent. This year, the Board agreed. We all are working to prepare for what looks like a very difficult budget.
Finally, as we all know, the important mid-term elections are on November 6th. You can vote in-person absentee at the Ellen M. Bozman Government Center, 2100 Clarendon Boulevard in Courthouse from 8 a.m.-5 p.m any day this week (until 7 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday) or from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday, if you may be out of Arlington for any reason, or for any amount of time, on Election Day. I hope you will join me in voting to reelect Senator Tim Kaine, Congressman Don Beyer, my colleague John Vihstadt for County Board, and Barbara Kanninen for School Board, as well as for all the bond referenda.
Senator Kaine and Congressman Beyer will provide an important check on President Trump, and the future of our democracy and nation depend on that check. Here in Arlington, John Vihstadt is an outstanding Board member and a valuable member of our Board team. In this hyperpartisan time, it is wonderful to be able to vote for a true Independent. Balance among Board members is important and John is crucial to our Board’s balance.
I hope everyone has enjoyed the lovely fall weather we’ve had for a few days. As always, I enjoy hearing from my friends and readers, so feel free to share any thoughts you have about this newsletter or an issue in the County.