Scooters, a Trail, Next Year’s Budget

Though our November meeting did not have many agenda items, many people came to speak.

We’ve heard from lots of folks about scooters ever since they first appeared about 2 years ago. This topic was discussed at the October and November meetings. In October, we advertised our proposed regulations on shared mobility devices (which includes shared scooters, bikes, skateboards, and whatever new devices appear next). Although the regulations apply to all of these devices, this month our focus was on scooters. The major issues for our regulations were whether they should be allowed on sidewalks or not, speed limits, and enforcement. We decided that scooters cannot be ridden on sidewalks if there are protected bike lanes available, or on sidewalks determined to be inappropriate for scooters by the Manager because of the volume of pedestrian traffic.

Pedestrians should have priority on sidewalks, but if a sidewalk is relatively unused and the roadway is dangerous, then we decided that people could use scooters on sidewalks. Though they can go 15 mph on the roadway or bike lane, they should not go over 6 mph on sidewalks. Most people are comfortable with these restrictions, but not comfortable assuming people will obey them if they are not enforced. Staff is looking at ways to provide enforcement that do not depend on police presence. We simply do not have enough police to monitor scooter use effectively everywhere in the County.

Confusion over how funding from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) works led to many people coming to speak concerned about the lack of clear plans for how the Northern Virginia Parks Authority (NovaParks) would be widening the W&OD bike trail. People were understandably concerned about cutting down trees and vegetation to widen the trail, and the effect of more impermeable surfaces on stormwater. And, they were upset that they had not had a chance to evaluate and comment on the plans. I asked a few questions so that we could all be clear that we were not voting on the project itself, but to support the parks authority applying for a grant from the NVTA to design and build the trail.

Should NovaParks receive the grant, THEN they would begin to design the project and engage the public. When they have the project design completed, they will come before the Board a second for approval of the project itself. We voted to support their efforts to gain the funding and be able to start the design process.

Each fall the Board gives direction to the Manager as he begins to prepare the next year’s budget. This year our commercial vacancy rate continues to decline, which means our revenue forecast is better than it has been for some time. We directed the Manager to include no real estate tax rate increase in his proposed budget; to increase funding for affordable housing; and to provide us with alternative funding approaches for our stormwater programs. Next spring we will be voting on our next Capital Improvement Plan and that is certain to include more resources for our stormwater management as we adjust the County to a future of much more intense rain events, like the storm of July 8 this year.

The power of water is awesome. That was frighteningly clear on July 8 and in the recent rupture of the large water main at Glebe Road and Chain Bridge. We heard a vivid description of the break and what it took to repair it and restore service to the County. I was very pleased to see — and be able to thank directly — many of the people whose skill and hard work restored our water service. I highly recommend watching that portion of the Manager’s report to us on Tuesday. Staff describes the quick-thinking, good preparation and skilled, hard work needed to stop a leak of water that had 64 tons of pressure, blasted away a portion of the road and made the ground shake with its power.

This Thanksgiving I am once again grateful for the wonderful people who keep our County running.

I wish everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Nov, 26, 2019