More housing types, a school from an office building, Public Works Week, and raising Board salaries

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) returned to our agenda on Saturday. As you may remember, last year we adopted zoning changes to give more flexibility to people wanting a separate dwelling area within the existing footprint of their home, and we allowed people to convert existing detached structures, like a garage, into an apartment. We asked staff for more study of zoning for new detached dwelling units. We were concerned about a number of issues, particularly the recommendation to allow them one foot from the property line (the current zoning for garages) and the possible consequences to our tree canopy. Staff changed the setback recommendation to 5 feet, which we adopted. We also made clear that variances from the required 8-foot separation from the main house could be requested, and we expected granted, for reasons such as the need to protect existing trees by placement closer to the house.

I asked for good data after a year to let us know both how many people build an ADU and also information like where they place it and whether trees are lost. Our intention is to preserve the single-family character of our neighborhoods but give people flexibility. We hope this will make it easier for people to live or stay in Arlington, and that it will increase the supply of lower-cost housing. Time will tell if we will achieve these goals. I do not anticipate lots of ADU’s being constructed, so we can review the effects of these changes and make further adjustments to the code if that seems warranted.

We amended the use permit for the former Ed Center site on Quincy Street to allow it to become a school building for students rather than an administrative center. I have spent many years in that building. It’s exciting to see it get a new life with this adaptive reuse. The school system will get about 600 new classroom seats for about $37M, which is far less than the cost of a new school. I believe this is the first time we have converted a building that had never been a school to classroom use. As we continue to grow in population but stay at 26 square miles, such adaptive reuse of non-school buildings is likely to play an important role in our community. We will see how this building works out, but it seems to be off to a very good start.

We had a request to allow a 6:00 AM construction work start time on the large construction site at 1555 Wilson Blvd. Although the staff thought there were no problems with the request, we heard from about 20 people living next door in The Atrium how difficult their lives have been with constant noise and dirt 7 days a week. The applicant said the earlier time would allow them to finish 2-3 weeks sooner in a 6-month time frame. It was clear that the 6:00 AM request was the last straw for the people living in The Atrium right next door. And understandably so. The Board denied the request.

We also deferred again a request to allow earlier loading dock hours at 900 N. Glebe. A number of people came from the Bluemont Civic Association saying that they wanted more time to look at the information about how the dock was functioning. They praised the work the applicant had done to mitigate the effect of deliveries to the site. The applicant has held several meetings with the community and said another month to let people study the report was fine with them. It was very nice to see the cooperation between a business and a neighborhood to make things work better for everyone.

This is Public Works Week. Our manager recognized many of the people who work 24/7 to keep our water running, waste treated, street lights working, roads paved and more. I always like to recognize the people who really keep Arlington running, and often in very uncomfortable conditions. Recognitions included the first ever all women’s water meter team pictured here. The pride and camaraderie were evident throughout the room.

We can only raise the cap on our salaries every 4th year. This is the year and we need to raise the cap by July 1 or wait until 2023. It has become increasingly clear to me that it is unreasonable to continue to expect the level of involvement, vision, and experience being an Arlington County Board member requires for a part time salary of $55,000. We are the center of an economic region that is the 7th largest economy in the world. We are responsible for a budget of $1.34B and for the health, safety, and good functioning of the County. I believe to continue to expect the kind of work our residents want and we want to provide, while needing a significant outside source of income, is not healthy either for Board members or for Arlington County. We are taking comments with a simple online survey or however you would like to provide them.

As always, I hope this is helpful.


Please join me in voting for Theo Stamos for Commonwealth’s Attorney. The long explanative email I sent previously is posted on my webpage. I appreciate the kind words many of you have shared about my support for Theo and especially appreciate how many of you are passing along my email to friends and neighbors.

Theo is part of the reason people feel safe in Arlington. She understands the difference between someone who needs help and someone who is a danger to those around them. She’s created innovative programs to keep many people out of jail and provide help with mental health, addictions, homelessness, etc. Perhaps most importantly, she respects the stability our constitutional system provides and works to keep everyone safe within the law. The same cannot be said of her challenger.

Voting is June 11 at your regular polling place from 6:00 AM-7:00 PM. Or, in person absentee at 2100 Clarendon Blvd M-F 8:00-5:00 or Sat June 8 from 8:00-5:30.

May, 24, 2019