Federation delegates asked a number of questions about the status of certain bills, and inquired about the elected representatives views on various issues. This discussion included a question from BVSCA President Ragland on the County's authority to adopt an ordinance against aggressive panhandling in Arlington, which our Association members have overwhelming supported the past two years.
Civic Federation Delegate Ragland: "Ernie Ragland, delegate from the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association. My question deals with the Arlington County Board's request for enabling legislation to authorize the County to adopt an ordinance against begging and panhandling in an aggressive manner, which is consistent with the City of Alexandria's ordinance against aggressive panhandling. I'd like to know what the Arlington delegation did this year to help the County Board in its request for this enabling legislation?"
State Senator Patsy Ticer: "I don't know."
Delegate Judy Connally: "I don't think that was a bill that was proposed."
State Senator Janet Howell: "It was not in the Virginia Senate."
Arlington County Legislative Aid Mike Edwards: "The bill was not introduced this year. There was no legislation introduced dealing with any localities on panhandling this year. And it was the second year it was not. It was last introduced three years ago and the initiative was carried over and then died a slow death, three years ago."
Civic Federation Delegate Ragland: "But it was in the legislative package for the County Board for the past two years and the Civic Federation's Legislative package. So I would hope that in the future you would address this."
Delegate Judy Connally: "Mr. Ragland, there are probably sixty or seventy to eighty legislative items in the legislative package and depending on what committees we serve on, we try to divide up those that we can. But each year we cannot carry all the legislative package, because there's just too many different items and we just have to make certain priorities. I don't serve on any of the appropriate committees for that bill and; therefore, I wouldn't have been the best person anyhow. But, I'm sure it will be considered, if it's in the package on a subsequent year."
Civic Federation President Scott McGeary: "I might add that a member of the delegation, two members, most recently involved in that were Senator Holland, when he introduced the bill several years ago; and then Delegate Darner, as some members here know, had expressed some concerns about it and it was largely her negotiations that I recall--that it was carried over. I think the recollection is correct in terms of it being at least in the initial County Board package, at the request I believe of Mr. Winslow and Mr. Eisenberg, but it did not advance to final adoption this year. But I would suggest that if the Federation wishes to continue its position, it can do that certainly as the Federation develops its legislative program for next year and suggest that issue to the County Board be pursued. Anybody who wants anything in the County Board package, it's never too early. I think its very safe to speak up and the delegation will then thoughtfully consider that."
State Senator Patsy Ticer: "Mr. Ragland, may I suggest to you, I apologize for not knowing the level of detail of this in the City of Alexandria. But it could be with a liberal interpretation by your County Attorney, that you may already have the authority to do such an ordinance, and I would suggest that you call our City Attorney and see if it might not be possible."
Civic Federation Delegate Ragland: "Senator Ticer, your opinion is consistent with Senator Ed Holland, who has expressed the same opinion. But year after year, we're told by the County Board, we're going to need special enabling legislation and if you look at the ordinance in Prince William County, it's very consistent with your city. And I think you're correct and I think Ed Holland is correct. So I would hope that we could clarify this."
Senator Patsy Ticer: "We need some persuasion to the County Board, sounds like. We'll work on it."
Civic Federation Delegate Ragland: "Thank you very much."
Civic Federation President Scott McGeary: "Our County Attorney does take a view that if there's any doubt that there's a clear authority and I think the delegation would agree that her recommendation and her predecessor was to always go to Richmond. Sometimes the City Attorney in Alexandria has taken a different point of view, often successfully." Senator Patsy Ticer: "I agree. Yes, because you did. You had a bill, Mary Margaret carried a bill for the County this year regulating lighting. And we've had a lighting plan for the city for about eight years because I sponsored it."
Civic Federation President Scott McGeary: "That's helpful to know that as well as the County of Fairfax and the County of Loudoun also have lighting ordinances that were not pursuant to specific legislation. But on a similar recommendation, you could go ahead and do it and that matter will be heard by the County Board later this year."
The following is a brief summary of actions taken in recent years by our Association to help resolve this matter, as reported in our prior Newsletters.
November/December 1994 Newsletter. The Association reported "Growing concerns about affordable housing projects, homeless centers, and aggressive panhandling emerged as important issues on citizens' minds, according to a survey taken by the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association this month...an overwhelming number (86%) called for an aggressive panhandling ordinance."
January/February 1995 Newsletter. The Association reported that [former] Secretary Ragland represented the BVSCA's positions in support of an aggressive panhandling ordinance for Arlington County and Initiative and Referendum rights for Virginians at the Arlington County Board meeting of December 10, 1994 and the Arlington County Legislators' public meeting of January 4, 1995. At both meetings, Ernie Ragland discussed the BVSCA's survey results for the neighborhood survey conducted during a three week period ending October 15, 1994, and indicated that 86% of the 70 survey respondents responded "yes" in support of a law/ordinance against aggressive panhandling. Also, he noted that this percentage response was the highest percentage response to any of the 34 questions in the Association's survey questionnaire.
Ernie Ragland added, however, that he understood that Arlington County Delegate Karen Darner was opposed to the aggressive panhandling bill introduced last year, [Senate Bill 113, patroned by Senator Edward Holland (D-Arlington) and Senator Robert Calhoun (R-Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax County) which was adopted by the State Senate on January 28, 1994.] Because of Delegate Darner's previously expressed concerns about the 1994 proposed Senate bill on aggressive panhandling, Secretary Ragland suggested that the Arlington County delegation consider the aggressive panhandling ordinance adopted by the Sacramento City Council [on November 30, 1993] as a potential alternative.
March/April 1995 Newsletter. The Association reported on their follow-up of the status of the aggressive panhandling bill. Senator Holland apprised the Executive Committee that this did not "come up" in the 1995 General Assembly. Senator Holland indicated that he believed that Arlington County has the authority to adopt such an ordinance under its existing police powers and has encouraged the County Board to do so.
April/May 1995 Newsletter. The Association reported that the Montgomery County Council, Montgomery County, Maryland, on March 21, 1995, voted unanimously, with one abstention, to adopt a bill that will impose fees and jail time on panhandlers who "aggressively" solicit money or try to intimidate people to buy items they are selling. Doing so could cost the violator as much as $300 and 30 days in jail.
May/June 1995 Newsletter. The Association included in this Newsletter for our members consideration the complete text of the aggressive panhandling ordinances adopted by the County Council for Montgomery County, Maryland; the City Council of the City of Alexandria, Virginia; and the County Council for Prince William County, Virginia. Also, a discussion of these ordinances was on the Annual Membership Meeting Agenda as an action item.
August/September 1995 Newsletter. The Association reported that it voted unanimously at our last Membership Meeting to adopt the Prince William County Ordinance on Aggressive Panhandling, as BVSCA's recommended ordinance for adoption by the Board. Also, the members approved a motion to strengthen the penalty provisions of our recommended ordinance, if feasible, to require a fine of up to $300 and no more than 30 days in jail for violations of the aggressive panhandling ordinance, which is comparable to the class B violation penalty of Montgomery County, Maryland. Currently, violators of the Prince William County ordinance on aggressive panhandling are subject to a class 3 misdemeanor penalty, which provides only for a fine of up to $500 for violations of this ordinance. For additional details about these ordinances, see your May/June 1995 Newsletter or the electronic version of this Newsletter on the Internet (e.g., under the BVSCA home page located at "http://www2.dgsys.com/~bvsca/")
Further, the members instructed [newly elected] BVSCA President Ragland to ascertain whether it was feasible to recommend a stronger penalty than a class 3 misdemeanor penalty for violators of aggressive panhandling ordinances promulgated by local jurisdictions of the Commonwealth. To verify the feasibility of the Association's proposed ordinance on aggressive panhandling, President Ragland contacted Attorney General James S. Gilmore's office in Northern Virginia, located at 1033-B Democracy Lane, Fairfax, Virginia and was instructed to put the Association's inquiry in writing. On June 19, 1995, the President sent a letter to Attorney General Gilmore's new office requesting information on this matter.
On June 24, 1995, President Ragland received a response on behalf of the Attorney General from James W. Hopper, the Senior Assistant Attorney General, Chief, Opinions Section. In his response, Chief Hopper stated that "Section 2.1-118 of the Code of Virginia authorizes the Attorney General of Virginia to render an opinion only to certain state and local officials specifically enumerated in that statue, [which excludes the President, BVSCA]. In addition, this Office has traditionally declined to render opinions on matters of purely local concern.
Next, President Ragland contacted the office of the Arlington County Attorney, Barbara Drake, for information. The County Attorney's office advised President Ragland that our Civic Association was not on the list of County Board appointed commissions or County organizations and, therefore, could not directly communicate with our Association. Instead, the County Attorney's office instructed the President to contact the staff of the Arlington County Board to discuss the Association's proposed recommendation on aggressive panhandling.
During the month of July 1995, President Ragland coordinated the Association's recommended proposal on aggressive panhandling with County Board staff, who helped the Association coordinate our recommendations with the Board. In response, the President received a letter from Chairman Eisenberg dated July 31, 1995, indicating that he appreciates the President's sharing with [him] the Association's interest in having the County adopt an aggressive panhandling ordinance. Chairman Eisenberg indicated that he is currently looking into the issues that the Association has raised. Also, Chairman Eisenberg stated that "The ambiguity of the law is something I felt needed to be addressed by the County Attorney. I have now been advised that in this instance the ambiguity about our authority to enact an ordinance on our own is sufficient to demand that any action in this regard begin with clarifying state legislation. In the meantime, I have asked staff to examine the specific issues [the President] has raised. Based on that review, we will then consider the issue once again as part of the state legislative package discussion."
October/November 1995 Newsletter. The Association reported the results of the October 1995 Survey which showed that 86.9% of the total 65 responses received indicated support for a law/ordinance against aggressive panhandling. The Association noted that the results were similar to the results of our neighborhood survey from the prior year. Again, the survey results for 1995 showed that this item received the highest percentage of support from our membership than any other item in our survey questionnaire. Several members provided narrative comments on this item. For example, one member stated "Aggressive panhandling is a critical problem adversely affecting our local businesses. I personally will not stop at local businesses if I see aggressive panhandling activity. This has happened one too many times!"
December 1995 Newsletter. The Association reported that BVSCA President Ragland testified at the County Board meeting of November 18, 1995, Agenda Item 10, the County Board's first of two public hearings on the County's 1996 legislative package. President Ragland recommended that the Arlington County Board request enabling legislation to adopt an ordinance to make it unlawful for any person to panhandle in an aggressive manner. Also, at the Arlington County Civic Federation legislative meeting of November 14, 1995, members representing 68 non-partisan organizations from Arlington County voted to request the County Board to adopt such an ordinance against aggressive panhandling.
On behalf of our membership and concerned citizens against aggressive panhandling in Arlington County, the Association will continue in the future to coordinate with our elected representatives and seek final resolution of this matter. We thank our members for their understanding and patience on this issue.
SUMMARY: The Urban Forestry Commission in conjunction with County staff has undertaken the task of creating a tree ordinance. Various tree ordinances from different localities were compared and a list of suggested components was developed. Based on the list, it was determined that several sections of the Arlington County Code could be modified to create a tree ordinance. The changes would apply to Chapters 10, 17, and 22. Modifications to Chapter 10 would cover trees on private property that affect the health and safety of the public domain; those changes to Chapter 17 would prohibit attaching signs to trees on public property. A wording change to Chapter 22 would define a standard for trees to be planted. An existing ordinance, Chapter 30, addresses the concerns expressed over substandard tree work done by persons soliciting door to door. The basic tree ordinance can be created within the existing County Code without the need for enabling legislation.
BACKGROUND: The Urban Forestry Commission in conjunction with County staff has researched issues surrounding legislation and policy development at the state and local level. One of the key issues has been the desire to create a tree ordinance that has as its objective health and safety of the public from hazardous trees, and protection of trees from substandard maintenance being performed on them by unqualified persons. In 1992, the Commission was supported by the local delegate to the General Assembly in an attempt to try and obtain enabling legislation to create a broad tree ordinance encompassing many components, among them being the ability to control tree removal on projects being developed by right. Controlling tree removal on by right development projects created controversy to such an extent that the proposed bill was killed. The Urban Forestry Commission then undertook the charge to develop a tree ordinance for Arlington County that would accomplish a broad range of objectives but would not need enabling legislation. Staff assisted the Commission in researching, recommending, and developing components for an ordinance.
Based on comparisons with ordinances in other jurisdictions, as well as recommendations from a model tree ordinance published by the National Arbor Day Foundation, the Commission developed a list of items it deemed important for inclusion into a tree ordinance. Among the proposed components are the ability to eliminate hazardous conditions on private property that threaten the public domain; the right of appeal of the property owner; the authority for the County to correct such conditions should the property owner refuse to do so; the prohibition of posting signs on trees; penalties for failure to comply; and the licensing of tree service firms doing business in the County.
The County can adopt language modifying existing Arlington County Code creating a tree ordinance that addresses the above issues. Additionally, two existing state laws would allow the County to adopt certain local ordinances. The first addresses the amount of tree canopy required for development projects and specifies the percent canopy coverage after ten years based on property zoning; the other addresses "Historic and Specimen Trees". Arlington currently has, through it's site plan review process, rules specifying the amount of tree canopy. Under these rules, more tree canopy is obtained than what existing state law requires, thus making the creation of an ordinance based on the existing state law unnecessary. The second law allows certain private trees to be designated as historic or specimen based on specific criteria. If this results in property being taken for a public purpose or use, the property owner must be compensated. Due to the impacts of such a ordinance being created, both from the fiscal and community support standpoint, the Commission did not support the establishment of an ordinance at this time based on the state law.
The Commission expressed interest in licensing tree service firms beyond obtaining the required County business license. This is due to the fact that a number of out of County person(s) possessing minimal equipment and lacking proper training and expertise go door to door soliciting work and represent themselves as tree care professionals. The resulting work is more often than not substandard and the trees health and ability to survive are compromised. Communities nationwide have adopted licensing requirements for companies/individuals that provide tree care service for hire. This can require extensive staff time to administer the necessary licensing examination and probably would not have the desired effect of controlling the substandard tree work performed by unqualified person(s). Rather than attempting to obtain the needed enabling legislation, the Commission supports the enforcement of Chapter 30 of the Code entitled "Peddlers, Vendors and Canvassers" as it relates to the services offered by the person(s) mentioned above. By enforcing this ordinance, the established reputable professional tree service firms and professional are not unduly burdened by regulation while those engaged in less than acceptable work and solicit door to door would be subject to the provisions of this ordinance.
No changes in Chapter 30 are needed and door to door solicitation for tree care services would fall under the provisions of this ordinance. Enforcement of the provisions of this ordinance as it pertains to this type of solicitation would hopefully curtail the practices of poor quality tree work.
Arlington does not have to obtain enabling legislation to revise existing ordinances to include the provisions for trees as recommended in the previous discussion. It addresses the day to day issues that are prevalent in the community in the routine maintenance of urban trees most notably when those efforts involve privately owned trees that are encroaching onto the public domain. It would also allow the County to influence tree maintenance activities with citizen cooperation on private property with the goal of improving the health and vigor of Arlington's urban forest.
Modifications to the Arlington County Code allowing the County better management of its urban forest resources are proposed for Chapter 10, "Garbage, Refuse and Weeds", Chapter 17, "Miscellaneous Offenses and Provisions", and Chapter 22, "Street Development and Construction".
For the purpose of this article, the following words and terms shall have the meanings respectively ascribed:
Danger or hazard to public health or safety shall mean a condition, as determined by the county manager or his designee, in which it is reasonably certain or foreseeable that the healthful or sanitary condition or safety of the general body or people in the county is being or will be reduced or that the healthful or sanitary conditions or safety of persons whom it is in the general county interest to protect is being reduced. Dangers to health and safety may include, by way of illustration and not limitation, trees or parts thereof in danger of falling on the county right-of-way or other public lands, and conditions which may cause disease (including allergic reactions), harbor vermin and other animals, provide shelter or cover for unlawful activities, or be a source for the spread of litter or weeds to the property of others.
Section 10-13. Duty of property owner to cut grass, trees or parts thereof, weeds, maintain lawns, etc.
(a) It shall be the duty of each owner of vacant property to cut grass, weeds, and other foreign growth (which may include trees or parts thereof) on such property when such growth on such property creates a health or safety hazard.
Section 10-15. Duty of each property owner or occupant of property to cut back obstructing vegetation. It shall be the joint and several duty of each owner or occupant of property to cut back or remove trees or parts thereof, hedges, shrubs, vines and other vegetation which encroaches upon any sidewalk, alley, roadway, street or highway and which impairs or obstructs any pedestrian or vehicular traffic. Such growth higher than ten (10) feet above the surface of a walk or roadway need not be removed unless such growth creates a health or safety hazard.
Section 17.1 Display of signs, advertisements, etc., on county property.
It shall be unlawful for any person to display any sign, placard, political poster or other form of advertisement in any office, room, space, corridor, grounds or in any location whatsoever in or upon any land including on trees and other vegetation, and buildings under the control of the county board; provided, that there shall be excepted from the terms of this section the following:
Section 22-6. Acceptance of county streets.
No dedicated street . . . under the general provisions of the law. Interlocking concrete and brick pavers and trees and shrubbery as required by the approved plans and specification shall be warranted as follows for a period of one (1) year beyond the date of the approval of work as established in section 22-5, subsection (k):
Interlocking concrete and brick pavers against settlement which creates an unsafe or hazardous condition for pedestrians and is attributable to foundation failures or poor construction practices. Trees and shrubs shall be planted in conformity with standards set forth in the American National Standards Institutes (ANSI) publication, Z60.1-1990 except for those failures resulting from extreme weather conditions or abuse or destruction by others beyond the control of the permittee.
BACKGROUND: Agreement has been reached with WMATA which allows the County to go forward with the North Quincy Street Extension project. The exchange of land, and the anticipated site plan approvals, resolve a number of issues with the WMATA site. A payment of $749,454 is owed to the County for the lease of County property used for bus parking since 1980. The North Quincy Street Extension requires 26,952 square feet of WMATA land, and the Wilson Boulevard frontage needs an additional 4,210 square feet. The County will have an excess parcel of 6,257 square feet which will be conveyed to WMATA. WMATA will submit a site plan for the bus garage property with a request for additional density as consideration for the street right of way, in compliance with the North Quincy Street Plan. The North Quincy Street Plan calls for an allowance of additional density in return for implementing the concept plan, and/or developing community, cultural, or public facilities. If the additional density is not approved, the County would pay WMATA up to $744,906 as the balance owed for the street right of way.
The proposed WMATA rezoning and site plan will be submitted within nine months after the WMATA Board of Directors approves the Agreement. The site is designated for higher density development, with a base 1.5 FAR and a potential of up to 2.5 FAR if the objectives of the North Quincy Street Plan are met. Staff will be working with WMATA to encourage the development of the North Quincy Street Plan for this block.
The WMATA site, including the area of the street right of way, has been found to have been contaminated by hazardous materials in the groundwater. The site is the subject of a Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) case, and WMATA is actively working with the DEQ to institute a Corrective Action Plan for its remediation. The County will not inherit liability for the contamination, nor does it affect the road construction, as the groundwater level is below the limits of construction.
FISCAL IMPACT: The County may be required to pay up to $744,906 for the street right of way if the additional density as specified in the Agreement is not granted under the site plan. Funds for the purchases are available in the North Quincy Street project budget and are subject to the cost sharing agreement with the Virginia Department of Transportation.
NOTIFICATION: Notification or advertisement for the disposition of public property is not required by the Code of Virginia. However, in accordance with administrative policy, the Ballston-Virginia Square, Ashton Heights, and Stonewall Jackson Civic Associations were notified by telephone and by mail. Advertisement was made in the April 4, 1996, Arlington Journal.
There was one public speaker on this item. The speaker was Robert Atkins, President, Stonewall Jackson Civic Association. His testimony was as follows.
Robert Atkins: "First of all, I would like to thank the staff on this matter. I was actually notified in advance of this and given a copy and actually had time to review it. So for once the notification process did work. However, after reviewing this, I do find a number of problems I'd like to bring to your attention. I would like to start back here on page 2 of the Actual Agreement of Sale and Exchange. You're setting down here on item 3, the parties agree that $24 per square foot of gross floor area is a reasonable value. This is the first time I've ever seen FAR have a dollar amount given to it. This sets a precedent for many, many other zoning matters in the County, especially in the Ballston-Rosslyn corridor, and I was surprised to see that the Planning Commission did not review this document and comment on that preferential dollar amount.
This sets a very interesting precedent that they need to consider for the entire rest of the Ballston area and in fact the entire corridor and not having that viewed as a problem. Also, going back here to page 1 of the draft agreement, the second whereas, where there was a joint contract for appraisal only for the period up to December 31, 1993. How was the value of the rent for 1994, 1995, and 1996 until such date that this is actually signed, calculated? Is any calculation for those two and fraction years apart of this $749,000 that's listed earlier as the long term lease amount? Also, it's unclear from the statement here to whether that calculation involves any implied interest for the period since 1980. Going back to the second page of the actual staff recommendation under fiscal impact, fiscal impact here does not include the $749,000 and or any other interest calculations separately mentioned. There is an impact that should have been mentioned.
Also, if you had $749,000 in accrued available rent, why wasn't this shown in any of the other earlier budget documents? Could this have been used instead of purchasing this land to reduce the amount of real estate assessment that had to be raised? By not showing this in the budget, there was a lack of transparency. On the paragraph above fiscal impact on the hazardous materials, it's the same thing that I and others raised in 1994. When you only talk about road construction for the ground water, you're eliminating the possibility for contamination when you building storm sewers, water and sewer lines, any utility undergrounding. Each of those items may cause additional costs that need to be considered when you are reviewing this lease.
In effect, there's much more than isn't shown here that needs to be reviewed for this kind of a proper trade off. A trade off like this will need to be made at some future point if you go ahead with the Quincy Street Extension. However, there are problems with this in terms of the background and the precedential value of the $24. I would ask you to defer to have further information on this. Thank you."
Chairman Hunter: "Are there immediate comments on some of these concerns?"
County Manager Gardner: "Well, I don't know if I can remember them all. First of all, on the issue of precedential value. We have entered into numerous agreements for a price specific based on the specific location of the values of that particular parcel of land. This was the amount that was negotiated and valued for this particular piece of land and I think stands."
Member Bozman: "I know that the value is calculated on the density. Has it ever been expressed before in terms of per square foot of buildable area?"
County Manager Gardner: "I know that we have certainly talked of it in that way and in some contracts that I'm aware of, there have been specific references to the cost or the price based on per square foot of FAR value because the final determination of the price was related to the FAR that was approved. So that, I know that we've done that in the past."
Chairman Hunter: "I've studied this before and I'm satisfied with this agreement. I move that the County Board ratify the agreement with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority for the exchange of property for the North Quincy Street Extension Project."
The County Board members had no further questions on this item and approved it 5 - 0.