January Meetings: Stepping back on parking, Moving forward on a pre-school and Amazon

I know that for many of you, as for me, the events of the past week in Richmond have been distressing and have taken up attention. Even so, our local government here in Arlington continues its work for our entire community. Our January meetings were relatively light, but covered some important topics.

Parking: One of our major items was rescinding the residential permit parking (RPP) restrictions on some streets in the Arlington Mill and Forest Glen neighborhoods. This has been a contentious issue. Christian Dorsey and I held a public forum on it at Arlington Mill earlier in the month. About 140 people came to it, and we had an energetic and contentious meeting with strong feelings on both sides. This session allowed everyone to express their views, and it was clear the Board knew those views.

Relatively new RPP restrictions which limited parking in Park Glen only to immediate neighbors were put in place about 2 years ago. These restrictions severely limited parking in the area and forced many in neighboring multifamily homes without street parking to walk long distances if they needed to park a car after about 4:00 PM. This created real hardship for many people. Meanwhile, Park Glen streets were virtually empty at night because everyone in that neighborhood has a driveway and garage.

In looking at residential permit parking (RPP) in general (the program has been in existence for decades), we found that as the program has grown it seems to be creating more problems than it solves. So, we have put a moratorium on new RPP zones while we study the program. We also learned that our own process was not completely followed for the recent RPP in Forest Glen. Finally, in listening to people talk about the program, it was clear that people in Park Glen were not really so concerned about parking as they were about trash, security, and noise. Those issues should be addressed, but not through RPP. The Board voted to rescind the RPP in the Forest Glen neighborhood until the study is completed, when Forest Glen can apply again if they would like.

Arlington Wallet: We had an interesting presentation from our Manager and staff on Arlington Wallet, which is a new online financial transparency tool making it easier to see and understand how Arlington County spends and receives money. This is part of our continuing effort to be transparent and makes it easier for people to understand what we spend money on and where we get our revenues. It’s quite user friendly with many graphs as well as charts, although, like any new program, I expect it will need some tweaks as people use it and give us feedback. I expect it may change our conversations with some residents as they have easier access to budget information.

Another Preschool: We approved a site plan amendment to allow Bright Horizons Pre-school to operate on Fairfax Drive in Ballston. This includes constructing an outdoor playground in a space that people in the adjoining condominium had been using and had come to consider their own. It is understandable that people accustomed to an amenity would be upset to find that they do not actually have control over it (nor does the County). However, Bright Horizons has a legal right to use their property, and they have been very willing to try to accommodate the neighbors with landscape buffers and access to the playground when children are not using it.

I am hopeful that the neighbors will find the daytime noise from children playing will be far less disruptive than they fear, and that they will come to realize it could be an asset for their building. It certainly should be far better for them than if a restaurant or bar had moved in and used the space for outdoor seating, a use which also would be permitted in that space and would have meant evening use and nighttime disruption.

Looking forward, I fully expect that we will see more such issues. As Arlington continues to grow, buildings will be renovated or built anew, tenants will change, and our community will have to adapt with the changes.

Amazon: Legislation to enable the state to support Amazon in Arlington with transportation improvements (which will benefit everyone here, not just Amazon) has passed the House and Senate in Richmond. The Commonwealth’s incentive package for the Amazon headquarters has been signed into law. There are still several more steps until the agreements with Amazon are final, including a Board vote on the local incentive package. The incentives that we have proposed from Arlington County will be based on an increase in the revenue Amazon creates.

I expect us to vote on the local Amazon incentives at our March meeting. Meanwhile, Board members are offering to attend civic association meetings to present information about the deal and to get feedback. If you’d like to have a Board member come to a meeting, please let me or our office know. There is lots of good information on our website and some helpful videos about particular aspects of the deal. I continue to think Amazon coming is a real benefit for our community.

As always, feel free to question or comment on anything in my summary or any other aspect of Arlington County government.

Feb, 12, 2019