Council Notebook

Council Notebook

Night Whistles

Alexandria has become a whistle stop town — in more ways than one. Trains have been a regular feature of life in the city since before the Civil War. But lately they’ve been making a ruckus. All over Alexandria, the sound of train whistles has been heard night and day — even during the recent presidential debate.

“It’s very annoying,” observed Mayor Bill Euille. “Especially at night.”

The reason for the hullabaloo is maintenance work. Florida-based CSX is conducting track work on its railroad track between Alexandria and Woodbridge. The horns are part of federal safety requirements for this work, which is being conducted Sunday though Thursday night between 8:30 p.m. and 4:30 a.m. City officials are quick to point out that Alexandria has no authority to alter or influence the sounding of the horns.

The project is set to end by the beginning of November.

West End Worries

For two years, tenants on the West End of Alexandria have been protesting rent and utility increases imposed by JBG Properties. The neighborhood, known by many as the Hamlets, has some of the last market-rate affordable housing units in Alexandria. Earlier this year, JBG was one of the property owners who worked with city officials to craft the controversial Beauregard small-area plan, which was opposed by dozens of speakers at a daylong public hearing before council members adopted the plan. Supporters praised the plan for setting aside dedicated units of affordable housing, while opponents criticized the lack of market-rate affordable housing.

Now JBG has been named “Developer of the Year” by the Commercial Real Estate Association.

“It’s not too late for JBG to show that it truly is the developer of the year,” said Hector Pineda, longtime resident of the West End.

Pineda and other are calling on JBG to reverse course and take steps to ensure that redevelopment in Beauregard preserves the existing community. As city officials move forward on rezoning the West End, Tenets and Workers United are advocating that the city and JBG roll back rents to 2010 rates and provide all current residents with affordable housing in the new development.

JBG did not respond to repeated requests for a response to Tenets and Workers.

Bad Faith

When Arlington County leaders decided against moving forward with an optional study for federal funding of a transit corridor along Route 1, Councilwoman Alicia Hughes accused the Arlington County Board of acting in “bad faith.” This week, she suggested that Alexandria withdraw a $320,000 allocation to reimburse Arlington for the development of preliminary information related to an environmental assessment of potentially converting the transitway to a streetcar. Now, Vice Mayor Kerry Donley is accusing Hughes of acting in bad faith.

“For us to now renege on an agreement that we had after Arlington has in good faith gone out and expended dollars based upon an agreement that was approved by both jurisdictions seems to be to be a little bit in bad faith,” said Donley.

“It really does carry forward with our credibility,” said Rich Baier, director of Transportation and Environmental Services.

Donley said that he wasn’t sure if he supported upgrading the transit corridor from bus-rapid transit to streetcar is a good idea because of the cost, although he said it was important for the city to live up to an agreement between the neighboring jurisdictions that was crafted earlier this year. Hughes said she didn’t support the agreement, adding that she voted against it. Hughes criticized Arlington for not moving forward with the optional study.

“Until this is publicly vetted, I will not support us spending any dollars,” said Hughes.

Hughes and Councilman Frank Fannon voted against the appropriation.