Our regular February Board meeting had two very different development projects up for approval.
Joyce Motor Site
The Joyce Motor site at 3201 10th St., N & N. Irving St. in Clarendon will become an 11-story residential site with retail shops on the ground floor. The original garage building will be moved to the front of the lot, and the historic façade will be preserved with its original lustron panels. The front of the tower building’s second story is set back from the old façade and will provide 241 units, including larger two- and three-bedroom units. Community benefits include 9 affordable units and LEED Gold certification, as well as monetary contributions to public space planning and transportation improvements. For a drawing of the new building with garage façade see p. 13-14: https://arlington.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=4202&meta_id=216457
3401 Columbia Pike Site
The 3401 Columbia Pike site redevelopment will be a six-story, mixed-use building with 250 multi-family dwelling units and approximately 5,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and commercial space. It was approved under the Form Based Code and, therefore, does not have many of the community benefits provided by the Joyce Motor project. The Form Based Code was created 20 years ago to help spur development along Columbia Pike. It is a much simpler approval process and does not require affordable housing, LEED certification or historic preservation. While the project is a good one, I think the difference between the two projects and what they bring to Arlington shows that we should be re-examining our Form Based Code. We should probably make it more like our other sector plans which require more of the builder to meet our housing, environmental and design goals.
Condition of Private Property Ordinance
At our Tuesday carryover meeting we heard several consent items that had been pulled on Saturday so there could be a public hearing on them. I do not usually pull consent items, but in the case of Item #23 which needed amendments to our Condition of Private Property Ordinance, I thought our Forestry and Natural Resources Commission brought up a good point that needed discussion. Now, the Board feels we need to modify our definitions of what constitutes a weed, a lawn needing maintenance and what valuable native species are good for insects and healing our environment. As I expected, we did not make the modifications to support native plants but, as I hoped, it became clear that these modifications should be looked at and put into our code soon.
Over the past several years I have become increasingly concerned about the collapse of the insect population and the associated effects. As a young person, I was used to seeing many butterflies and other insects. Now I rarely see a butterfly and there are many fewer bugs in general. When you think about how much our food chain depends on insects, this is disturbing indeed. I believe urban areas need to do a lot more to foster populations of insects and birds. Fossil fuels are not the only threat to our environment. I am hopeful the changes to encourage native plantings can come to us this summer.
Proposed FY’24 Budget & Tax Rate
Tuesday also saw the presentation of the Manager’s proposed FY’24 budget. We voted to advertise the tax rate (which we kept the same) and many fees. Our solid waste fee
for trash collection and recycling will be increasing by about 33%. The waste removal contract we had for many years has expired. We now need a new contract, which will reflect the current cost of labor and supplies that have gone up considerably since the beginning of the last contract.
While we are advertising the tax rate at the same level, people will see their real estate taxes go up because of increased home values if we do not lower the rate when we adopt the budget in April. Given the financial challenges we face, I doubt we will lower the rate. We now embark on a series of work sessions on the budget. These are broadcast live and recorded for later viewing. You can choose which are of interest to you to watch. The Board welcomes thoughts about the proposed budget. This infographic is a helpful summary.
The budget review timeline shown in the above graphic is:
• Feb. 18 – April 22: Budget work sessions w/ County depts.
• March 28: Public Hearing on Budget
• March 30: Public Hearing on Tax Rates
• April 22: FY 2024 Budget Adoption
• July 1: FY 2024 Budget begins
Recently, I have had the opportunity to attend a number of inspiring events. One was a screening of a PBS documentary on Arlington native, Roberta Flack. I highly recommend it both for the beautiful music and amazing life story of Ms. Flack, and for the Arlington connection. For someone of my generation, it brought back many memories.
I was also privileged to hear Bryan Stephenson, civil rights lawyer, activist and author of Just Mercy speak at the Swiss Embassy. He is an inspiration for his commitment, intelligence and generosity of spirit.
The Manager’s Excellence Awards were presented to outstanding teams from all our departments, some often in the public eye like the police, and some unseen like a crucial accounting team. The top winning team was our addiction prevention and recovery team. The opioid epidemic continues its tragic course, but overdose deaths went down over 40% in Arlington because of that team’s work.
As we know, Friday marked one year since Russia invaded Ukraine. We held a ceremony on the plaza where we raised the Ukrainian flag and heard remarks from the Ukrainian Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission and the Ivano-Frankivsk (Ukraine) Sister Cities chair, among others. Both the US and Ukrainian national anthems were sung. All of these events brought home the many connections we have and, despite the grim news these days, the many good people who are working every day to make Arlington and the world a better place. More about Ivano-Frankivsk Sister City: https://arlingtonsistercities.org/ivano-frankivsk/
2023 Local Office Races
Finally, I encourage my readers to pay attention to our local political races for School Board, County Board, Commonwealth’s Attorney and Sheriff. I am watching these races closely and choosing candidates to support. I will share my observations and opinions as we get closer to the May School Board Caucus and the June primaries for the other offices. These are very important positions for the future health of Arlington. As my readers know, in Arlington the primary nearly always determines who will win in November
As always, I welcome comments and suggestions from my readers.