TR Vermont Corporation, through the management company of Lincoln Properties Company, is currently requesting approval for a site plan proposal in our neighborhood. The intent of the company is to be able to respond to the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC's) call for alternative sites to its present D.C. location. However, according to the Arlington Journal in its January 20th article "West Ballston site dropped from SEC list" by Michelle J. Meyers, officials of the Securities Exchange Commission announced yesterday, that they have dropped Arlington off of its list of potential relocation sites for its headquarters office currently located in Washington, D.C. The article states that the SEC "winnowed down its list of bids from more than 10 sites around the Capital Beltway to five sites within the nation's capital." Ms. Meyers indicates, however, that Bill Hickey, Executive Vice President of Lincoln Properties Company, which bid the proposed Ballston site, said "he's not giving up." The request, as it currently stands, is for a 12 story, 660,835 square foot office building that would be located on the triangle of land bounded by Wilson Boulevard, North Glebe Road and Fairfax Drive. (This is the area next to the second lot owned by NRECA. The site is currently bisected by N. Vermont Street running between Fairfax Drive and Wilson Boulevard.) A building of this size would certainly be the largest highrise in Ballston, and would be about 25% larger than Stafford Place I, which currently houses the National Science Foundation. The building would have a height of 170 feet, which is permitted under the C-O-A zoning. There would be parking provided for 646 car in an underground garage. In addition to the usual office and computer space, the building would house the SEC's reference room. Currently, the SEC employs approximately 2,000 people at their D.C. facility. The application contains a number of requests for "special exceptions" and raises several questions:
Representatives of the applicant will make a presentation to our membership at the February 1st meeting.
It was originally planned that this project would be heard by the Planning Commission on February 21, 1995 and then by the County Board on Saturday, February 25, 1995. However, according to the above Journal article, "County planner Robert Klute said he got unofficial word yesterday that Lincoln will request a 30-day deferral on its site plan approval, probably pushing County Board action back until April." Representatives of the applicant, Lincoln Properties Company, will make a presentation to our membership at the February 1st meeting. What are the views of the civic association members regarding this proposed site plan? If you have any comments or questions about the proposed project, we invite you to bring them to the Wednesday, February 1st Membership meeting, to be held at the Costa Verde Restaurant, 946 North Jackson Street (across from the Merit Gas Station at the intersection of Wilson Boulevard, North 10th Street, and North Fairfax Drive).
There are now so many used car dealerships that they have reached what many in retailing refer to as the "critical mass", necessary to attract customers from afar. Prospective customers who may not want to travel far to shop at one or two facilities, will come to this used car paradise to "one-stop shop till they drop" for the used car of their dreams. And they are coming, from as far away as Maryland, further points in Virginia, and the District. Indeed, a large portion of the advertising budget of these used car dealers in our area is aimed not at our local community but at potential customers throughout the Metro area. I talked to one salesman who indicated to me that approximately 70% of his prospects are from outside of the County on any given day. In summary, our County both allows for the proliferation of these "lots" and offers a convenient, nearby and easily reached marketplace, especially via the Metro rail.
Its not unfair to reason that as many as 50 to 100 potential buyers may visit the typical lot each day. While not all 30 used car lots may attract that kind of business, even a conservative figure will suggest that this used car center is now attracting many thousands of people each week who were previously unfamiliar with our community. For the serious minded buyer, a least one test drive is probably in order and of course, our neighborhood becomes the test drive track for all of these rides around town. This adds to the traffic, and I will suggest, the safety concerns of our citizens as a lot of people who are unfamiliar with these vehicles and our traffic signals are not cruising our streets.
Furthermore, the used car business is a large cash business. Walk around these lots and you will find that these are not all inexpensive models--some go for $15,000 to $25,000 and more. According to a 1988 study by "Used Cars Today," a trade publication, the average used car dealership in the U.S. today grosses well above $1 million in revenues each year.
If you think that this used car lot phenomenon has always been with us and its no big deal, I say you are wrong--this phenomenon is growing and could get much bigger. New used car dealerships are still arriving and squeezing into spaces that you never expected--just in the last two months we have seen two new additions (on Glebe and 10th Street) almost spring forth and fill with cars overnight, ready for business. And there is no reason to expect it will cease. There are afterall, over 250 models of both domestic and imported cars in the U.S., a few dozen car rental companies who must sell fleets of used cars each year and we haven't even touched the minivans, utility vehicles and pick- up trucks which have become such popular new models in recent years. "Leasing lots" could also arise. There's no shortage of extra lots in the community, and with a County policy which seems to encourage the proliferation of these used car dealerships--no end in sight if you ask me.
But, you may ask, what about all this talk about preserving the Metro corridor for mixed use, quality residential, office and retail development? Right out the window it seems, when it comes to controlling the "used car kings". Or perhaps this is the County's Economic Development Commission's idea of economic growth? Now some misguided souls (even in our Civic Association) defend the rights of used car dealers and suggests that this is a good development for our neighborhood. But its my belief that this is exactly the wrong kind of business that we should be attracting and promoting here. On the whole, many of these used car lots are eyesores with advertising, lighting, and signage that convey the opposite of a quality residential/retail image. And don't take my word nor the word of other residents who live here--instead ask nearby business owners and operators what they think from clothing stores, dry cleaners, and restaurants.
No, I'm not suggesting that we run present used car dealers out of town, but could it be that we have made it too good for them? Could we find a way to control their proliferation, or put limits on their ability to assume entire neighborhood blocks. We must do something before Ballston/Virginia Square becomes known throughout the land as one big used car lot.
The Executive Committee met and heard a presentation of the staff's proposed N. Quincy Street Concept Plan at our September 1994 meeting. The staff made a presentation of the proposed Concept Plan at our October 1994 membership meeting. We followed up that presentation with a written survey of our 238 dues paid members.
We received 70 responses to our written Membership survey. Of our responding members, 62% opposed the proposed plan.
The most often stated reason for opposition to the proposed plan was the potential for an overall increase in density and heights in the area between the west side of the N. Quincy Street extension and the east side of N. Randolph Street, and the spill over impacts that will be felt in our neighborhood. Our members expressed support for the view that the tallest buildings, in the area covered by the Concept Plan, should front on the east and west side of the N. Quincy Street extension. Extending potential building heights to 12 stories along the east side of N. Randolph Street is not supported as the structures immediately across, on the west side, of N. Randolph Street are three and four stories tall.
Consistent with and extrapolated from the membership comments, the following two detailed points are expressed by the Executive Committee. First, with respect to the "Note 14. Development of this area shall be consistent with the North Quincy Street Concept Plan," which is stated in the staff's November 17, 1994 draft report on this matter, the Executive Committee believes this to be a mistake and the source for future controversy between the County and the development community and other land owners. The reason is simply that zoning sets development rights and property owners believe that that is the legal authority that they need to look to, not a "Concept Plan." While there have been a proliferation of so called "Concept" plans over the recent planning time frame, it has always been our Civic Association's view that the concept planning for the two Metro station areas within our neighborhood were to be properly reflected in the Ballston Sector Plan, and in the Virginia Square Sector Plan. Thus, there is no need for this proposed Concept Plan. Should there be a genuine need for these proposals, the Executive Committee believes the proper process is to follow the procedures for amendment to the two Sector Plans, not to graft onto them in this ad hoc and confusing manner.
Second, with respect to the proposed amendment to the General Land Use Plan to add a triangle symbol to indicate the general location of open space to be bounded by the extended N. Quincy Street, Wilson Boulevard, North Pollard Street and 5th Street North, the Executive Committee does not support concentrating all of the open space on the east side of the extended North Quincy Street. As one of the neighborhoods that will be most severely affected by the flow through effects of the future development to occur in that area, the concentration of the open space, in the location proposed in the staff report, serves to more severely burden our neighborhood. At a minimum, a portion of the proposed open space should also be located on the west side of the extended N. Quincy Street. This, more equitable approach, would serve to moderate some of the density effects that would be more directly felt by the Ballston-Virginia Square neighborhoods. Our position on the proposed North Quincy Street Concept Plan was provided to the Arlington County Planning Commission for their meeting of January 25, 1995.
The complete text of what was presented for the Arlington County Planning Commission's Agenda schedule for January 25th, item 14, follows for your consideration.
Consideration of NORTH QUINCY STREET CONCEPT PLAN providing guidelines for redevelopment of N. Quincy St. Land Use Study area for block surrounded by Wilson Blvd., N. Pollard St., N. 5th St., & N. Glebe Rd; consolidation of commercial uses on west block, consolidation of residential uses on east block, consolidation of heights and densities along N. Randolph St., and provision of open space and focal feature at corner of N. Glebe Rd. & new N. Quincy St.; and GENERAL LAND USE PLAN AMENDMENTS for area bounded by Wilson Blvd., N. Pollard St., N. 5th St., N. Glebe Rd., & N. Randolph St., including following alternatives, and to add Note 14 re consistency with N. Quincy St. Concept Plan & Urban Design Guidelines and relimiting base density allowed on west blocks planned for "Medium" Office-Apartment-Hotel and allow for additional density under certain circumstances; and add symbol indicating general location of open space on block bounded by N. Quincy St. extended, Wilson Blvd., N. Pollard St., & N. 5th St.: Alternative 1: Block bounded by Wilson Blvd., N. Randolph St., N. 5th St. & N. Quincy St. extended: from "General Commercial" (Shopper goods & other major mixed commercial uses, including offices; generally max. stories) to "Medium" Office-Apartment-Hotel (2.5 floor area ratio [FAR] Office; up to 115 units/acre Apartments; up to 180 units/acre Hotel); Alternative 2: Block bounded by Wilson Blvd., N. Randolph St., N. 5th St. & N. Quincy St. extended: from "General Commercial" (Shopper goods & other major mixed commercial uses, including offices; generally max. 7 stories) to 1/2 striped "Medium" Office-Apartment-Hotel (2.5 FAR Office; up to 115 units/acre Apartments; up to 180 units/acre Hotel) and 1/2 striped "Low" Office-Apartment-Hotel (1.5 FAR Office; up to 72 units/acre Apartments; up to 110 units/acre Hotel); Alternative 3: Two blocks area bounded by Wilson Blvd., N. Randolph St., N. 5th St. & N. Pollard St.: from "General Commercial" (Shopper goods & other major mixed commercial uses, including offices; generally max. 7 stories) and "Medium" Residential (37-72 units/acre) to 1/2 striped "Medium" Office-Apartment-Hotel (2.5 FAR Office; up to 115 units/acre Apartments; up to 180 units/acre Hotel) and 1/2 striped "Medium" Residential (37-72 units/acre).
The Arlington Blue Top Cab's owner, Mr. Farouq Massoud, indicated that the primary contributing factor to the Arlington Blue Top Cab's proposed project is the Quincy Street extension project, which will force their existing taxicab repair facility in the path of the street extension to be relocated. Because of limited capital, the owner stated that they plan to build the commercial component before the residential units are completed. This company has been an outstanding neighbor and has assisted our community in many ways by providing taxi-cab service; participating in the Neighborhood Watch Program vis-a-vis their taxi-cab drivers who routinely contact our local police if they see any suspicious activity; and limiting the number of taxis parked at their commercial facility. The members present at this Membership meeting voted strongly in support of this motion to support the Arlington Blue Top Cab project. Only one member voted in opposition to the project.
The civic association has formally recommended that the Site Plan Review Committee consider favorably the BVSCA's motion in support of the Arlington Blue Top Cab's proposed project and recommended that the Arlington County Planning Commission do the same. Also, we recommended that Arlington Blue Top Cab be granted an exception to the normal practice of developing the residential component first before the commercial and the normal residential commercial ratio for RC zoning, because of the hardship it would entail to rebuild the existing Arlington Blue Top Cab commercial building into a smaller facility to meet the current RC zoning ratio requirements. The Association encourages interested citizens to attend the County Board meeting of February 4th and speak in support of Arlington Blue Top Cab's proposed project.
Other concerns were described about the Home Depot project and its potential adverse effects on traffic and parking in this area and the potential spillover effects into our neighborhood. President Ecklund stated that the Courtlands Civic Association members do not agree with the traffic study done by the developer and believe that the traffic will be much higher than what is predicted in the traffic study. Also, he indicated that the proposed project is not consistent with what is called for in the General Land Use Plan (GLUP). The GLUP calls for a mixed use development of office buildings, residential housing, apartments, and stores. President Ecklund suggested that the proposed Home Depot project be located in County areas that already have warehouse type dwellings, such as the Pentagon City area where the Price Club is located.
Secretary Ragland inquired whether the developer's traffic study included any projections of increased traffic resulting from the major George Mason University Campus expansion in our neighborhood. President Ecklund indicated that he was not familiar with the details and the assumptions of the traffic study, but recalled that the assumptions about the potential traffic from Washington, D.C. should Home Depot be built appeared too low.
Representatives of the applicant will make a presentation to our membership at the February 1st meeting. What are the views of the civic association members regarding this proposed site plan? If you have any comments or questions about the proposed project, we invite you to bring them to the Wednesday, February 1st Membership meeting, to be held at the Costa Verde Restaurant, 946 North Jackson Street (across from the Merit Gas Station at the intersection of Wilson Boulevard, North 10th Street, and North Fairfax Drive).
The owners are requesting that the currently-required parking be reduced from 315 to 237 spaces, and that shared parking be used between Stafford Place I and II. This proposed reduction (which would result in 25% fewer spaces) would be accomplished by eliminating one level of parking. The reason cited for this request is that currently, the National Science Foundation, the occupant of Stafford Place I, is using very little of the parking in their building. The owners are conducting a study to determine exactly how much parking is going unused. They feel the number could be as high as 60%.
While some spaces in Stafford Place I are not currently being used, we need to remember that the National Science Foundation is a tenant of the building, not a permanent occupant. At some point a new tenant (or tenants) could occupy the building and need all of the building's parking, and perhaps more. The needs of the NSF could change, and they would need the parking. Also, we need to remember that within the next 10 to 15 years, the surface parking in Ballston will disappear due to the construction of already-planned buildings. The only parking available to residents, office workers, and retail customers will be underground in the garages of the site-planned buildings. In order to insure an adequate supply of this parking, we need to have all the required spaces constructed.
In NCAC Representative Iacomini's public testimony to the Arlington County Board, she indicated that the membership of the BVSCA is always concerned about the growing problem of lack of parking in our community. [Ms. Iacomini's statement has been confirmed by our survey results the past two years. For example in the October 1994 survey results, 76% of the 70 members responding indicated that on-street parking was a concern (39%) or a critical problem (37%).] And consistent with these survey results, NCAC Representative Iacomini stated that the [civic association] is opposed to the applicant's request to reduce the amount of parking for the unbuilt building at Stafford Place II. Just to reiterate to you some of the concerns that we raised at the December 19th Planning Commission meeting, Ms. Iacomini indicated that the applicant is requesting a 25% reduction in the number of parking spaces for this building--that's a rather large percentage when you can think of how our built up that area is becoming. "We need to remember that the Stafford Place II site is unbuilt and could be sold to another developer, who might not wish to honor the shared parking arrangement." It is equally possible that the building could be constructed as a residential building instead of commercial, as is currently planned. Either scenario could result in the need for more parking than is currently being requested by the owners.
NCAC Representative Iacomini stated that we think it's premature for the applicant to suspect that the parking spaces won't be necessary. Again, the parking spaces is what is required. The applicant is asking to take away what is the basic required amount. The applicant is also basing their request on the notion that the parking space in Stafford Place I are currently under-utilized by the tenant, National Science Foundation. And it is just that, a tenant with a 20 year lease. And the next tenant, if there's a next tenant, or if they continue, they may need the spaces that are now seemingly unused and not fully staffed. They could conceivably change their operations, move people in and out of that facility that would change the need for the parking.
Foremost, NCAC Representative Iacomini stated that there was a letter that was sent to the Zoning Administrator, Susan Ingraham, dated November 18th by the National Science Foundation; and they are adamantly opposed to the applicant's request from their viewpoint. As their letter states, they disagree on the number of unused spaces that the applicant says there are. They also say they might staff up. Furthermore, Ms. Iacomini commented that she spoke with someone from the National Science Foundation yesterday, who told her their position had not changed. In fact, it has become a little more firm because recently, Ms. Iacomini stated that Mr. Vaughn told her that either Colonial Parking or the owner of the building, he was unclear which, has contracted with a local auto dealer to lease the spaces in the parking area for the storage of this auto dealer's new cars, the stock for their business. So that's made them even more nervous that there is no extra parking.
Now with this latest development, NCAC Representative Iacomini expressed her opinion that the leasing of the spaces indicates to her there is no reason for the applicant to not build the spaces that he is required to. Because at some point they will be used, they either would be used by Stafford Place II tenant, they could be used as storage places by the tenant, they could be leased to a commuter, or they could be leased to someone outside. In light of this, NCAC Representative commented to the Board that she hoped that they would move forward with denial instead of deferral. The County Board voted to defer this item to the March 4, 1995 County Board meeting.
Each unit will have a garage and the end-units will have double garages. The balance of the required parking spaces will be provided in the courtyard areas. Fencing and landscaping will surround the entire site.
Vice President Gillmore represented the civic association's position on the proposed project, which was formalized in a letter dated December 16, 1994 to the Arlington County Planning Commission. The civic association's letter reflected concerns expressed by members at the November 20th membership meeting that the proposed on-site parking was inadequate. Vice President Gillmore discussed the lack of adequate packing as one of the "greatest problems that our neighborhood faces."
In these townhouse projects on Vernon Street and Vermont Street, Vice President Gillmore stated there are a lot of unrelated singles living there, each with an automobile. In those areas where there is a minimum of 2 parking spaces required, it is not enough parking for the area. Vice President Gillmore discussed how the parking has gotten worse. He stated that parking is extending north across Washington Boulevard onto Vermont and Vernon Street. Also, he noted that frequently in the evenings people are parking part way across driveways and taking up street parking that sometimes are needed by the residents who live in the 1200 blocks of Vermont Street and Vernon Street.
Vice President Gillmore recommended that the project be deferred and that the applicant be asked to come back with a reconfigured design to provide at least a third on-site parking space for each of the units. Also, he suggested that the work be phased and that at least 72 hours advanced written notice be given to the homes in the area for any utility interruption expected by the project. After considerable discussion by the Arlington County Board and the applicant, Board member Jim Hunter motioned that the proposed 25 townhouse project be approved [with no additional parking requirements for guest parking] and Board member Ellen Bozman seconded the motion. The County Board voted unanimously to approve the project and asked the applicant, who agreed, to closely coordinate project developments with the affected neighborhood.
At both meetings, Secretary Ragland discussed the BVSCA's recent survey results for the neighborhood survey conducted during a three week period ending October 15, 1994. Secretary Ragland stated that the survey consisted of eight different issue areas. These included (1) Crime, (2) Land Use/Development, (3) Parking/Traffic, (4) GMU Campus Expansion, (5) Current Local Taxes, (6) County Government, (7) Quality of Life, and (8) TopicalIssues. Of the 70 dues paying members responding to the survey question on "aggressive panhandling," 67% responded that aggressive panhandling was considered a concern (54%) or a critical problem (13%). In addition, under the Topical issue area, question on support of an aggressive panhandling law/ordinance, Secretary Ragland indicated that 86% of the respondents responded "yes" in support of a law/ordinance. Secretary Ragland noted that this percentage response for an aggressive panhandling law/County ordinance was the highest percentage response to any of the 34 questions in our survey questionnaire.
Secretary 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.]
[The 1994 General Assembly Senate Bill 113 permits Arlington County to adopt an aggressive panhandling ordinance. However, at the request of the Chief Patron, Senator Holland, and the opposition of Delegate Karen (D-Arlington), the bill was carried-over to the 1995 General Assembly. The 1994 bill proposed that Arlington County may provide by ordinance for the regulation or prohibition of aggressive begging or panhandling on public property or on privately owned property which is open to the public. This bill included provision for permitting police officers to make arrests for violations of the ordinance not committed in their presence when any such arrest is based on probable cause upon reasonable complaint of the person who observed the alleged offense.
In response to the proposed bill, Delegate Darner indicated opposition for several reasons. She stated the concept of "aggressive panhandling" is open to many interpretations. Having lived in a country for two years that had many panhandlers/beggars everywhere, she indicated that her definition would be markedly different from most other people. In addition, Delegate Darner indicated that she had a great deal of difficulty with the way Senate Bill 113 isdrafted. Delegate Darner added the whole concept of "hearsay" is the foundation of the bill. She also believes that it can lead to many falsely founded charges, perhaps because someone looks, acts, or talks differently.]
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 existing aggressive panhandling ordinance adopted by the Sacramento City Council [on November 30, 1993] as a potential alternative. [The Sacramento City ordinance reads as follows.
Legislative Findings and Statement of Purpose (Section 10.05.700)--The city council does hereby find that persons have been soliciting alms and/or other items of value in the city in such a manner as to cause citizens to fear for their safety. There have also been instances where individuals provide unsolicited services and then demand alms or something of value. The public safety necessitates the exercise of the police power of the city, through the enactment and enforcement of this chapter, for the purpose of preventing such activities within the city.
Section 10.05.701 Prohibited--(a) It shall be unlawful for any person to coerce, threaten, hound, or intimidate another person for the purpose os soliciting alms on any street or other place that is open to the public, whether publicly or privately owned. A violation of this section is an infraction. (b) It shall be unlawful and an infraction for any person to provide an unsolicited service and thereafter solicit or demand alms and/or other items of value.
Section 10.05.702 Definitions--For the purposes of this chapter, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings respectively ascribed to them by this section: (a) "soliciting alms" shall mean asking for money or something of value, whether by words, bodily gestures, signs, or other means. (b) "coerce, threaten, hound, or intimidate" shall mean that: (i) the solicitor's conduct causes a reasonable solicitee to fear for his/her safety; or (ii) the solicitor intentionally blocks the path of the solicitee; or (iii) the solicitor follows the solicitee while the solicitor demands money or something of value after the solicitee informs the solicitor by words or conduct that the solicitee does not want to give the solicitor money or some other thing of value.]
Secretary Ragland stated that the reason why this city adopted the above ordinance is that with the escalation in panhandling in Sacramento, there were reports of an increase in the number of individuals who were harassing or using strong-arm tactics to coerce people into giving them money or other items of value. Commonly called "aggressive panhandling" or "aggressive solicitation," this type of panhandling goes beyond the simple request for money. Victims may be pursued, badgered, threatened or physically assaulted by the panhandler. Concern over being confronted by aggressive panhandlers had led some people into avoiding major shopping areas in Sacramento and created a backlash against people peacefully seeking contributions.
The ordinance adopted by Sacramento attempts to remedy the local enforcement problem by specifically stating that coercing, threatening, intimidating, and hounding people for the purpose of collecting money or other things of value, is a violation of law. This part of the ordinance is patterned after ordinances adopted by the City and County of San Francisco and the Cities of Santa Barbara and Beverly Hills during 1992-93. Secretary Ragland recommended that the Arlington County Delegation consider the Sacramento ordinance as a reasonable alternative if needed to help resolve any human rights concerns. Also, Secretary Ragland indicated that he had previously contacted the City Manager's office [in April 1994] to inquire about the number of enforcement actions taken for violations of the City of Sacramento ordinance. In response, Secretary Ragland indicated he had been advised that although no enforcement actions had been taken by Sacramento, their ordinance was considered an effective deterrent simply by having it on the books. As a consequence, the number of reported aggressive panhandling incidents had been significantly reduced.
Secretary Ragland recommended that the Arlington County Delegation support Initiative and Referendum rights for the citizens of the Commonwealth; and noted that our civic association had voted to join the United Virginians for Initiative and Referendum in December 1993. Secretary Ragland added that the Arlington County Civic Federation had included I & R in both their 1994 and 1995 legislative packages.
At the January 4, 1995 meeting, Executive Committee member Dorothy Sticken expressed similar views on Initiative and Referendum before the Arlington County delegation. Dorothy Sticken spoke about BVSCA's support for Initiative and Referendum (known also as "I & R") and why it is needed for Arlington County. She cited the meals tax as an example because "it impacts heaviest on the elderly and especially those on a fixed income." Dorothy Sticken stated that the meals tax is also hard on the poor working class and noted that the Arlington County restaurants have enough trouble already." Further, Ms. Sticken stated, "Fairfax County has no meals tax and Prince William County has turned down the meals tax twice, resoundingly. Arlington County voters were given no choice in the matter. We need I & R. Twenty-five states now have I & R, it works. I hope Virginia will be the 26th!"
When the country was founded, the only methods available for carrying out the will of the people were: (1) putting all significant decisions to direct votes of the electorate, a system suitable only to small jurisdictions, such as New England towns; and (2) electing representatives for fixed terms, which was the method adopted in Virginia and all larger jurisdictions. At times, election of representatives for fixed terms has proven unsatisfactory. Voters are often compelled to choose between candidates none of whom they are in full agreement with, and they need some way of expressing themselves effectively on specific issues.
For example, the 1991 General Assembly of Virginia prescribed that a public referendum was required before a tax on food and beverages (known also as the "meals tax") could be adopted by a local jurisdiction. At this General Assembly, the Arlington County representatives requested by floor amendment an exception to the public referendum requirement for the meals tax for the County Manager Plan of Government, Arlington County. This exception was approved and the bill was amended by the 1991 General Assembly to exclude Arlington County from the public referendum requirement if the Arlington County Board members voted unanimously to adopt such a tax and one public hearing was held. Unlike Fairfax County and Prince William County, as Dorothy Sticken indicated, who have held public referendums on the meals tax which were soundly defeated by the citizens, the Arlington County Board voted unanimously to adopt the tax.
Each of the current members of the Arlington County Board with the exception of Board member Ben Winslow, voted to adopt the meals tax and not allow the citizens of Arlington County to decide whether they supported such a tax. Board member Winslow was voted into office subsequent to the Arlington County Board's vote on the meals tax in the special election of April 1993. In his campaign for office in the special election, Ben Winslow ran on a platform in support of Initiative and Referendum rights and support of a public referendum to allow Arlington citizens to decide whether they wanted to continue or repeal the meals tax.
Since the 1979 General Assembly, Initiative and Referendum has been supported by members of both political parties in the Virginia General Assembly, but the House and Senate joint resolutions in support of Initiative and Referendum have not been able to get out of the powerful Privileges and Elections Committee for a vote. This is not surprising given that it took almost 25 years to get the legislature to allow the elected school boards issue to be put to a local vote. Virginia and its localities have a number of other long-standing issues which could be addressed through the initiative process, such as environment, education, transportation, and crime issues.
The United Virginians for Initiative and Referendum is a non-partisan statewide coalition of citizen organizations that is proposing an amendment to the Virginia Constitution to give the people the power to: (1) propose new laws by binding petition and the ballot process to accept or reject them as law; and (2) adopt or reject any law or section of a law enacted by the General Assembly. If the I & R amendment is approved by the 1995 Virginia General Assembly, citizens of Arlington County and other local jurisdictions will eventually have the authority to place both state-wide and local initiatives and referendums on the ballot.
Many leaders of the Democratic and Republican state parties of the Commonwealth of Virginia support Initiative and Referendum. For example, Lt. Governor Don Beyer, a Democrat; State Senator Charlie Waddell, a Democrat; State Senator Janet Howell, a Democrat; State Senator Robert Calhoun, a Republican; and House Delegate Vincent Callahan, a Republican support Initiative and Referendum for the citizens of the Commonwealth. It is also interesting to note that Governor Allen in his State of the Commonwealth Address on January 11, 1995 stated ... "These times have changed also challenges to reform our own fundamental law here in Virginia, our Constitutional Charter, so that you can have a direct voice in the management of affairs at the state level. If the General Assembly truly embraces this new vision of freedom, if they trust the people as I do, then they must understand that Initiative and Referendum is an idea who's time has come. It's time to give Virginians this basic right to direct the course of their government."
With the exception of Board member Winslow, the Arlington County Board has continued again this year not to support these basic and fundamental rights of initiative and referendum. If you are interested in supporting I & R, one way you can help is to call the Virginia General Assembly Constituent Services Hotline toll-free number at 1-800-889-0229 and let the House Rules Committee and/or the Privileges and Elections Committee know your views.
Although the "bag" was not hit, Professor Lowe and Co. made a hasty decent and from a historical standpoint, it may be said that Ball's Cross Roads (later, in the 1890's, to become known as Ballston) was the scene of the first combat use of aircraft by the armed forces of the United States and the first use of anti-aircraft artillery! President Sherretta proposes that we select a sight somewhere in the Ballston area to commemorate this significant historical event.