After a very heavy agenda in November, December’s meetings were light, but significant for the transition they represent. There was one fairly controversial issue:
Housing Conservation Districts
We voted to change our zoning to require developers to go through a community process and receive Board approval to replace garden apartments with townhouses in 12 specific areas in Arlington. They still can build these developments; the change is that they now will have to come to the Board, whereas they used to be able to do so “by right.” The business community generally opposed our making this change now. They wanted to be more involved in designing incentives for owners to renovate their aging buildings—rather than tear them down—before we enacted any zoning change.
The Board very much wants the business community to be involved. But we wanted to ensure that we preserve the few market-rate affordable buildings left in these neighborhoods while we work on the redevelopment incentives. We stand to lose many affordable rental units, and also much green space and the distinct feel of these neighborhoods, if these buildings are torn down before the incentives are in place.
The zoning change will come back to us in phase II, when our staff proposes the redevelopment incentive program. Our staff will prepare these proposals after working with our business community and advisory commissions. We anticipate taking them up in late 2018 or early 2019.
December saw quite a transition in local government. The School Board is all new since I left it in 2012 and, with Jay Fisette’s retirement and Erik Gutshall’s election, the County Board is now also quite new with four members in their first full terms.
It was quite fitting that, as Jay chaired his final meeting, Arlington received a Green Building Council award marking us as the 1st LEED Platinum Community in the world. Jay has championed environmental issues throughout his tenure on the Board, and he has done much to improve our transportation and more while serving Arlington well for 20 years. I wish him all the best.
Overall, this is an exciting time to be in local government. The just-passed Federal tax bill will create new financial challenges for us, although it’s not clear yet what exactly all those will be, and it will take some time to figure it all out. There will be storms ahead for us to weather, but I am always impressed with the quality of our residents, businesses, and leadership.
Indeed, looking at both the County and School Boards and their professional staffs, I’m not sure I have ever seen a group this strong in my 21 years of elected service. There are many new faces, but our County leadership is a team of intelligent, talented, and caring people who bring a broad variety of skills and perspectives to their roles. It is a strong team. We are very blessed in Arlington, and we are ready to face the new year together.
I wish you and yours all the best for this holiday season and invite you to our organizational meeting on Tuesday, January 2nd at 6:00 pm. There will be light refreshments afterwards, just before our first meeting of the year with the Civic Federation at 7:30 pm.