Ten Things to Look For in 2006

Ten Things to Look For in 2006

<sh>County Expenditures Expected to Rise

<bt>In February, County Manager Ron Carlee will present his fiscal year 2007 budget to the County Board, which is expected to include an 8.4 percent rise in expenditures.

The board members directed Carlee in December to draft a budget that increases spending but will not provide for new projects or government workers.

“We want this budget to be fiscally responsible and sustainable,” said County Board member Barbara Favola. “This reflects the principles we have always governed Arlington by.”

Local tax revenues are projected to increase by almost 12 percent in fiscal 2007. The county’s general fund expenditures have risen by an average of 7.1 percent over the last six years.

Both the county board and Carlee will have to balance the competing interests of expanding county projects and providing tax relief to residents.

The average residential real estate assessment is projected to grow by more than 20 percent, the sixth straight year with a double digit increase. Therefore residents, who own increasingly valuable real estate, will pay more next year for county government and school initiatives.

Last year the average assessed value of a home increased by 24 percent. To help offset that, the county cut the real estate tax rate by 8 cents per $100 of assessed value.

With real estate assessments expected to slow in the future, many in the county are urging the board to restrain spending for fiscal 2007.

In a recent county manager’s report, Carlee called Arlington’s expenditure growth “unsustainable” because of the projected downturn in the real estate market.

<sh>Widening I-66 Back On Agenda

<bt>Gov.-elect Timothy Kaine identified widening I-66 as a priority during his campaign, and Gov. Mark Warner earmarked $7 million for the project in his end-of-the-year budget proposal.

In early 2006 transportation officials are set to begin design work on adding a third lane between Fairfax Drive and Sycamore Street, Washington Boulevard and the Dulles Access Road and Lee Highway and Glebe Road. In many sections a third lane could be added in the road’s right of way, transportation officials said.

Adding a third lane from Rosslyn to the Access Road could cost up to $233 million.

The Arlington County Board is vehemently opposed to widening I-66 unless the undertaking is done in concert with other, more sustainable, transportation projects. Alternatives include expanding Metro to Tysons Corner.

“If all we have ended up with after spending hundreds of millions of dollars is a three-lane traffic jam instead of a two-lane traffic jam, what have we accomplished,” said County Board Vice Chairman Chris Zimmerman.

<sh>Immigration Debate Set To Head Legislative Session

<bt>Republican members of the House of Delegates are planning to introduce an array of bills that would curtail the rights of undocumented immigrants, and place restrictions on county services and programs for those who are here unlawfully.

One bill would forbid publicly funded day-labor work centers, like the Shirlington Employment and Education Center, unless they require proof of legal residency.

Republican lawmakers also intend to re-introduce legislation that would bar undocumented immigrants from attending state universities and colleges, or at least require them to pay out-of-state tuition. Other planned bills include “scrubbing” Virginia’s voter roll to prevent undocumented workers from voting, fining businesses for employing undocumented immigrants and granting law enforcement officials the authority to charge illegal immigrants with trespassing.

Arlington Latino leaders and Democratic politicians have denounced these proposals and said they would exacerbate bigotry in the state.

“We can expect an antagonistic and negative environment in the General Assembly this year,” said County Board member Walter Tejada. “We will do our best to bring the facts forward and show there are a lot of benefits of having a big immigrant community in Virginia.”

<sh>New Plan Will Revamp Clarendon

<bt>A planning document that will guide future development in Clarendon is expected to go before the County Board in February.

The 2005 Clarendon Sector Plan seeks to balance preserving the unique, historic character of the neighborhood with the county’s desire to attract more mixed-use development.

“What we’re looking at is not just more density, new building and preserving historic ones, but creating a dynamic community that is as much a village as an urban place can be,” said Carrie Johnson, a member of the citizen-advisory Planning Commission.

The plan seeks to cluster medium-density mixed-use development around the Clarendon Metro station to provide a balance of residential, shopping and office buildings. It allows for lower-density buildings closer to neighborhoods and provides incentives to retain independently-owned businesses.

The Central Park area will be redesigned with more space for public gatherings and the Washington-Wilson-Clarendon intersection will be revamped to better align traffic and shorten pedestrian crossing distances.

One of the plan’s goals is to improve the pedestrian access between Clarendon and Virginia Square, county officials said.

On the west end of the intersection the county hopes to build a park with an enclosed market pavilion. Washington Boulevard, 13th Street and 10th Street will also undergo significant changes if the plan is approved as is.

<sh>Four Mile Run Restoration Moving Forward

<bt>The Four Mile Run Restoration project, a large-scale undertaking that should revitalize the stream and surrounding land, is expected to come before the County Board in the first few months of 2006.

The plan focuses on the “lower reach” of Four Mile Run, from Barcroft Park to the Potomac River, which forms the border between Arlington and Alexandria.

In the 1970s the Army Corps of Engineers constructed the channel to reduce regional flooding, but in the process much of the aesthetic beauty of the stream was lost. The current project hopes to restore the natural setting of the area, enhance the vitality of the stream and create more public recreation areas.

The county is collaborating with Alexandria, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency.

County officials are also exploring new uses for the land adjacent to the stream, both as preserved natural areas and for cultural facilities.

<sh>Shirlington Library and Signature Theatre Set to Open

<bt>The new Shirlington Library and Signature Theatre Complex are scheduled to open in the summer of 2006, creating what officials hope will be a dynamic and centralized cultural resource in the heart of Shirlington.

The 68,000-square-foot building, adjacent to a new public plaza, will house a 15,000-square-foot library on the first floor. Offices and performance space for the renowned Signature Theatre will be located on the second and third floors.

The new library will contain 10 computers for public use, wireless Internet access and a multi-purpose room with equipment for teleconferences and distance learning.

The theatre will have two black box spaces, one with 299 seats and the other holding 99, three rehearsal rooms and a costume and props shop.

The county is paying for the construction of the building’s shell and infrastructure, and Signature, which has more than 4,400 subscribers, is supplying the necessary interior work. There will be an adjacent 750-space parking garage.

Arts advocates are also calling for the county to move ahead with plans for a cultural center in Courthouse Plaza.

“How can we be a world-class county if we don’t have a centrally-located, Metro-accessible arts center,” said Wendy Rahm, chair of the Arlington Commission for the Arts.


<pc>Photo by Stefan Cornibert

<cl>An inflatable hockey player towers over Ballston during a ceremony celebrating the new Ballston ice rink

<sh>Caps Coming to Ballston

<bt>Starting next August the sounds of skates and body-checking will echo off the gleaming glass canyons in Ballston.

The county is building two ice rinks on top of the Ballston Mall parking garage to house the Washington Capitals. The facility will open in time for training camp, and will also contain the hockey team’s entire corporate headquarters.

The 137,000-square-foot complex will hold two indoor rinks with seating for 1,200 spectators. There will also be a 20,000-square-foot training facility for the team.

The county owns the complex and will lease it to the Caps for 27 years, for an estimated $2.4 annually.

Residents and sports teams will be able to use the rinks when the Caps are not practicing, and county officials believe it will produce a boost for the local economy.

“The rinks are a real community asset,” said Tom Newman, a commercial development specialist with the Arlington Economic Development office. “The Caps will only use 400-500 hours of ice time a year, so the rest of the time will be for public skating and adult and youth hockey.”

--Additional reporting by Stefan Cornibert


<pc>Photo by Seth Rosen

<cl>Fire Station No. 3 was built in 1919 and no longer possesses the facilities required to adequately serve the community.

<sh>New Fire Station for Cherrydale

<bt>After years of negotiations, committee meetings and dashed hopes, work will begin in 2006 on a new fire station in Cherrydale.

In December the County Board unanimously approved a plan to place the new station along Old Dominion Drive, just west of Military Road and North Quincy Street. The site is currently occupied by two single-family homes and the Koons Toyota parking lot.

The existing fire station was built by the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department in 1919, and the red-brick structure is one of the historic landmarks of the neighborhood.

A committee was initially formed in 1990 to find a new location for the facility. Voters approved bonds for a new station in 1990 and 1994, but the project languished. In 2002 a second citizen task force came up with three possible locations in the neighborhood for the station, but the county opted for the Koons Toyota site despite the objections of residents.

“The facility we’ve been operating out of has been inadequate for some time,” said Fire Chief James Schwartz. “It’s unfortunate it has taken this long, but we are happy it has come to a resolution.”

The new station will have four bays and more amenities for the staff, including an exercise room. It will house up to six fire fighters or paramedics working 24-hour shifts.


<pc>Photo by Pam Brooks

<cl>Signs posted at the southern entrance to Zachary Taylor Park inform visitors of the upcoming stream improvements.

<sh>Donaldson Run Restoration Concludes

<bt>Severe erosion has stripped away part of the banks of Donaldson Run, depriving the stream of some of its natural beauty and causing sediment to flow into the Potomac River.

In August 2005, the county began a revitalization project to help preserve the stream, which is expected to be completed next year.

In the past, people have placed rocks or walls along the side of the stream to prevent the soil from eroding, but these attempts have mostly proved unsuccessful.

This restoration project will focus on changing the pattern of the stream, by creating bends, in order to slow it down and prevent future erosion. Though some trees will be removed during the restoration work, between 300 and 400 new trees will be planted to help bolster the stream with their roots system.

“The new channel design will be stable,” said Aileen Winquist, an environmental planner for the county. “We’re not going to have this problem again in 10 to 15 years.”

-Additional reporting by Ari Cetron

<cl>U.S. Rep Jim Moran

<cl> Mary Hynes

<cl> Election Madness

<bt>In November 2006, Congressman Jim Moran (D-8), along with every other member of the House of Representatives, will be up for re-election.

“The Congressman is doing his job for the constituents in the 8th district and looks forward to running again,” said spokesman Austin Durrer.

Democrat Jim Hurysz is mounting a challenge in the Democratic primary. Republican Tom O’Donoghue has already announced he is running for Moran’s seat, and three other individuals are considering entering the race, said Arlington County Republican Committee chairman Bill Lockhart said.

Chris Zimmerman, who will be County Board Chairman, is expected to seek another term. Lockhart said at least two Arlington Republicans are interested in running against Zimmerman.

“We’re looking forward to it and we have a bunch of great candidates to take on the Democrats and hopefully get a more fiscally conservative person on the county board and in Congress,” Lockhart said.

School Board member Mary Hynes has yet to decide whether she will run again. Hynes said she will most likely reach a decision by February.

Cecelia Espenoza, who had a strong showing in this year’s election despite not being endorsed by either political party, is also mulling another run for a school board seat.