A bit of planning history may be useful at this point. The core of the Ballston area of our neighborhood is zoned C-O-A, which stands for commercial-office-apartment. That zoning covers the area that is bounded by North Fairfax Drive and Wilson Boulevard on the north and south, respectively, and Glebe Road and North Quincy Street on the west and east, respectively. An Arlington County planning document called the Ballston Sector Plan describes the C-O-A district as follows: "Designed for a coordinated mixed-use development of office, apartment and hotel use. Height and density vary according to use and site area. By site plan approval density ranges from 1.0 FAR [floor area ratio] to 6.0 FAR; only half of the total density may be developed as office, hotel and commercial with the remainder developed as residential. The residential development height limit is 151 to 216 feet. The office and hotel development height limit is 100 to 170 feet."
In order for a commercial or office project to secure the highest density level available under the C-O-A designation, the C-O-A zoning ordinance requires that 50% of the project be residential. Projects that are solely residential may qualify for the highest C-O-A density level, available under the zoning ordinance, without anoffice or commercial component. The mixed-use requirement for a site insures that there will be activity in the area during the business day as well as during the evening. This mixed-use has enlivened what could have become a dense, foreboding night-time urban ghost-town like Rosslyn.
In February 1994 County staff held a work session with the County Board on staff recommended changes to the C-O-A mixed- use district. During that work session, staff indicated that their urban design review for purposes of preparing a Concept Plan Amendment to the Ballston Sector Plan had, at that time, been going on for two years. The most recent efforts to secure a change in the C-O-A mixed-use district was the staff's encouragement of, and assistance to, the applicant who submitted the site plan for the 600,000 square foot all office building for the SEC that would have been located to the west of the Jefferson at Glebe Road and Fairfax Drive.
In response to applications by developers, the County staff will continue to seek ways to have larger all commercial buildings approved for the C-O-A mixed-use district. The interpretation of the zoning ordinance that the staff is attempting to convince the County Board to adopt is that the 50% mixed-use requirement may be applied to the entire C-O-A district rather than on a site-by-site basis.
Our Civic Association has been vigorously opposed to any change in the C-O-A designations or requirements. It has been the BVSCA's position that the mixed-use requirement must be met on a site-by-site basis and that the mixed-use blocks have worked well. Further, the BVSCA does not support any changes to the General Land Use Plan categories that underlie the C-O-A mixed-use district. We have pointed out in public testimony, and in correspondence, that many residents have purchased their condominium units in buildings in the C-O-A district based on the expectation that the blocks would be mixed-use, and that any changes now would adversely affect these residents. Changing to larger all commercial office projects would also alter anticipated traffic timing and patterns and could adversely affect the townhouse portion of our neighborhood which is north of 11th Street North.
Within the coordinated mixed-use development district, there are however parcels of land that are zoned C-O-A but which are essentially leftover parcels of a block, or that are not large enough in site size to be developed at C-O-A density levels. For example, the old Dodge site at the corner of North Quincy Street and North Fairfax Drive, and the site of the brick apartment building on 9th Street North at N. Randolph Street, next to the Navy office building. What is to become of those sites? Do their designations need to be changed? What are the chances that they will ever be re-developed? Should they be redeveloped?
Should County staff pursue a comprehensive re-examination of the C-O-A coordinated mixed use development district? How should the Civic Association be involved in the process? So far, we have been placed in a position of reacting to site plans and amendments to previously approved site plans.
Mr. Jim Snyder, Supervisor of Current Planning, in the County's Planning Division, will attend our March 29th Membership Meeting. He will make a brief presentation beginning at 8:15 p.m. on the status of staff activities relative to the mixed-use district and hear our comments and answer questions.
Please plan to attend this important meeting. If a member is unable to attend, but you would like comments conveyed to the County staff, you may write a letter or memo addressed to the Civic Association's Secretary and fax it to (703) 525-4276. Alternatively you may send an Internet electronic mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a voice message in message box 1 of the Member Information Line at (703) 528-1887. (See details on page 3 on how to call the Member Information Line, a.k.a. MILTN.) Members will need to identify themselves by name and street address for your comments or correspondence to be passed along.
We continue to witness more serious crime and now we are seeing another warning of ours begin to ring true--that the proliferation of used car lots in our area is beginning to contribute to the potential for crime. Two of the most recent gun crimes and carjackings occurred during used car test drives in our neighborhood. We believe that the influx of thousands of people to our neighborhood who come to test drive their cars through our neighborhoods, the very nature of cash transactions and poorly supervised used car lots pose a menace to our police and our citizens.
Regular law enforcement is not enough. We need to continue to send other signals to criminals that we will not tolerate crime in our community. So here is another idea -- with a growing budget deficit and impending higher taxes, it becomes necessary for all of us in Arlington County to look for other methods of cost savings and new sources of revenue. It is also imperative to demonstrate that all residents of our community are making a contribution toward society and not just in a position to drain the government's resources.
Yet, there is a group of citizens who live in a high-rise dwelling situated in one of the most popular and centrally located areas in Arlington, who don't pay a dime in taxes but are draining the taxpayers every day. They are the county jail residents and they are costing us plenty.
According to a County official, the final cost for the new jail at the Courthouse was $46,732,000. Based on amortizing these costs over 20 years (based on the life of the old County jail), plus the costs of 218 full-time-equivalents assigned to the facility, and the costs for three meals a day, laundry facilities, etc., we estimate that each inmate costs a minimum of $30,000 per year to incarcerate.
Attorney General Reno (in the opening day dedication ceremony) proudly proclaimed this to be a "model" prison because it had so many facilities that inmates "would have all of the responsibilities and normalcy of living, much akin to those of us who enjoy the freedoms of the outside world.
The truth is that this prison represents nothing more than a model of bankruptcy in the sense that it is another expensive program draining the taxpayers, and it is equally bankrupt in its attempt to deliver normalcy. Already after only months of operation, stories are coming out of a prison guard force that feels abused by the prisoners and of an overcrowded facility. No wonder when $46 million only buys 509 beds!
Well there is another alternative--charge the prisoners for their state of luxury! Five states and a number of municipalities across the country now charge their prison inmates each day for their incarceration and upkeep. In places like Leesport, Pennsylvania and Mocomb County, Michigan, officials collect anywhere from $30 to $60 a day from prisoners and gather hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Prisoners can pay out of existing funds or work debts and interest off after they leave our facility. I believe that we should implement the idea at once and advertise loudly to the outside world just how costly crime in our community will become for the contemplating criminal. Then we can use all of the revenue to either reduce our budget deficit or set up a program to assist the victims of all the criminal acts.
When I, as President, testified a the March 1995 Budget Hearings before the Arlington County Board, and suggested charging prisoners as a means to help recover some of these costs for Arlington taxpayers, Chairman Eisenberg responded, "You can't gets from them that ain't got." Well, I could say the same for Arlington County taxpayers; and I would remind our Chairman, that convicts would be welcome to partially pay off their debt to society after they leave the facility.
The next time that County, State and Federal officials want to spend millions of dollars on a facility, perhaps it should be for the sake of the victims instead of criminals.
It should be noted that three real estate tax rate motions were discussed before Board member Jim Hunter's motion to increase the tax rate by $0.43 per $100 of assessed value was approved by a vote of 4 - 1. The other motions included (1) Board member Mary Margaret Whipple's unsuccessful motion for a $0.05 increase to $0.947 to reduce the unfunded balance of the base budget for fiscal 1996 from $8.5 million to $6.8 million and to help fund "the Department of Human Services that finds more problems each year to address," and (2) Board member Ben Winslow's unsuccessful motion for a $0.023 increase to cover the costs of the current year's budget adjusted for inflation only).
According to Anton S. Gardner, County Manager, in his memorandum of recommendation, dated March 8, 1995, to adopt the calendar year 1995 real estate tax rate, the fiscal 1996 Proposed Budget included $18.4 million in "revenues needed" to fund the proposed base budget. In addition, the School Board has recommended a fiscal 1996 School Budget which would add $1.7 million to the "revenues needed" amount, increasing the initial $18.4 million to $20.1 million. The Board's adopted real estate tax rate of $0.94 per $100 of assessed value is projected to close the revenue budget gap by $11.6 million, leaving a residual gap of $8.5 million. In order to close this gap and balance the County's base budget for fiscal 1996, the Board will need to either increase personal property tax rates, identify other revenue sources, cut program spending, or use a combination of additional tax increases and cuts in program spending. The Board is scheduled to adopt the County's fiscal 1996 budget at the Board meeting of April 22, 1995.
The Executive Committee has reported in prior Newsletters the results of the written survey responses to eight issue areas of potential concern to the Ballston-Virginia Square neighborhoods, including general concerns about taxes. During the past two years, our survey results have consistently showed that the majority of BVSCA members do not agree with the County's position on taxes and budget priorities. For example, in the 1994 Neighborhood Survey which covered a three week period ending on October 15, 1994, 62% of the total 70 responses indicated that local real estate taxes was a concern (36%) or a critical problem (26%); 64% indicated that the local meals tax was a concern (29%) or critical problem (35%); and 65% indicated that the local personal property tax was a concern (34%) or critical problem (31%).
Many respondents suggested a change in budget priorities. For example, 68% of the total 70 responses indicated support for spending more on Public Safety and 52% supported increased spending on public parking. These were the only areas that the 70 respondents indicated support for increased spending in the County's budget.
In contrast, the majority of the respondents indicated opposition to increased spending on the following areas: County government staffing size (73%) transition homes (67%), County government management (64%), subsidized housing (64%), County government employee salaries (61%), Department of Human Services (58%), and homeless shelters (52%).
It should be noted that 40% of the respondents indicated support for increased spending on County schools, 32% indicated opposition to increased spending, and 27% indicated that the County should spend about the same. Also, it should be noted that 36% of the respondents indicated opposition to increased spending on County parks, 33% indicated that the County should spend about the same, and 31% indicated support for increased spending.
To provide additional insight into the County's spending priorities, Secretary Ragland conducted a trend analysis of Arlington County's "General Governmental Expenditures by Function," as reported on page 146 of the most recent issue of the Department of Management and Finance's "Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for Fiscal Year ended June 30, 1994." The analysis showed that the County's base level of expenditures increased 91.45%, nearly doubling from $220.13 million in fiscal 1985 to $421.44 million in fiscal 1994 -- even though the population only grew 14.71% (from 157,000 to 180,100 = 23,100). To put this in further perspective, the rate of increase in Arlington County spending exceeded the rate of increase in County per capita income by 34.47% and inflation by 53.13%.
Overall, the analysis shows that the level of spending for five functions increased at varying rates greater than the 91.45% base level increase and that the level of spending for six functions increased at varying rates slower than the base level rate increase. For example, the level of spending for Welfare increased by 307.78% from fiscal 1985 to 1994, or an increase of $32.11 million from $10.43 million in fiscal 1985 to $42.54 million in fiscal 1994. From another perspective, the rate of increase in Welfare spending was 236.54% greater than the 91.45% rate of increase for general growth.
General Government increased by 146.58% between fiscal 1995 and 1994, or an increase of $27.91 million from $19.04 million in fiscal 1985 to $46.95 million in fiscal 1994. The rate of increase in General Government spending was 60.27% greater than the rate of increase for general growth.
Two functional areas with spending levels that increased at a rate slower than the base level rate included Public Safety and Public Works. Public Safety increased by 72.52%, or $21.43 million from $29.55 million in fiscal 1985 to $50.98 million in fiscal 1994. The rate of increase in Public Safety spending was 20.70% slower than the 91.45% rate of increase for general growth.
Public Works increased by 40.18%, or an increase of $6.7 million from $16.70 million in fiscal 1985 to $23.40 million in fiscal 1994. The rate of increase in Public Works spending was 56.07% slower than the rate of increase for general growth.
Additionally, it should be noted that the function with the greatest amount of spending, Education, increased by 97.29% between fiscal 1985 and 1994, or an increase of $72.24 million from $74.25 million in fiscal 1985 to $146.49 million in fiscal 1994. However, Education suffered in comparison to the higher rates of spending increases for Welfare (236.54%) and General Governmental Spending (60.27%) compared to the rate of increase in general growth.
Education's rate of spending increase over the past 10 years was only 6.38% faster than the rate of increase for general growth, which was less than the 8.42% rate increase in school population (from 14,805 to 16,051) during the same fiscal years.
Based on the County Board's recent vote to adopt a higher rate increase for real estate taxes for the fourth calendar year in a row, and the BVSCA's 1994 survey results, taxes and County expenditures have emerged as issues that are likely to continue to grow as among the greatest concern to our members. We have researched these issues in response to our members request for additional information.
If you have any questions about these issues, we invite you to bring them to the next Membership meeting on Wednesday, March 29, 1995, at the Arlington Renaissance Hotel, 2nd floor conference room. The Executive Committee has invited a representative from the County's Department of Management and Finance to make a presentation beginning at 7:45 p.m. on the County's fiscal 1996 budget.
The County Manager's memorandum of recommendation on the CY 1995 real estate tax to the County Board dated March 8, 1995 provides additional perspective about the adopted tax rate, the average assessment of a single-family residential dwelling, and the tax payment. Based on the 1995 assessment data released in January 1995, County Manager Gardner indicates that assessments for the average home have increased by 1.15%, from $184,250 in 1994 to $186,360 for 1995. It should be noted, however, that Attachment II to this memorandum, shows that 10 years ago, in CY 1986, the average home value was $113,173; the tax rate was $0.94, the same as the Board's adopted tax rate on March 18, 1995; and the tax payment was $1,064.
What this means is the tax payment for an average home in Arlington County in CY 1995 in comparison to CY 1986 has increased by 64.64% or $687.78 (tax payments in CY 1995 for an average home is $1,751.78 (tax rate of $0.94 times assessment for the average home ($186,360) equals $1,751.78) minus (tax payments of $1,064 for an average home in CY 1996) equals $687.78).
Members and friends of the Association have recently expressed concern about their assessments increasing dramatically over 10%. For example, Bob Atkins, President of the nearby Stonewall Jackson Civic Association, testified during the Public Comment period at the County Board meeting on Saturday, March 18th, that he had recently received a notice on his door that his house was being reassessed. Mr. Atkins indicated that he received this notice two working days after testifying before the Board on March 4th, and that it was an "interesting coincidence based on the fact that I'd been complaining about zoning officials at a prior meeting." Mr. Atkins stated that he had talked to people in his neighborhood, and that virtually all the homes are being reassessed upward based on what is called "error corrections" and "reaging." This kind of massive increase on the tax base is not reflected in the proposed budget, Mr. Atkins commented. Mr. Atkins indicated that his increase alone will be over 15%, and noted many other people received assessments that are over 17%. Further, Mr. Atkins stated that he "hoped someone would check into what is really happening with these assessments and why it isn't in the proposed budget.
County Board Chairman Al Eisenberg thanked Mr. Atkins for bringing this matter to his attention and responded that the Board has a double arm's length relationship with the assessor's office. "It's part of the checks and balance system, while we take ownership of the rates. We have no authority over the assessments themselves. We fund the assessor's office but we do not have any authority over the actual assessment themselves." Mr. Eisenberg asked that the Assessor's Office prepare a report for the Board and indicated that they would share the information with Mr. Atkins.
One of the primary contributing factors to the County's budget difficulties this year, and each year since 1991, is the continuing decline of commercial assessed values and the corresponding shift in tax burden to the residential property owers. Since 1991, commercial assessed values in Arlington County have had an aggregate decline of over $1 billion. Changes reported in the County's 1995 Real Estate Assessments show an additional 4.09% decline in commercial assessed values. Total assessments are approximately $20.7 billion, including Taxable real estate of $17.8 billion with residential comprising 53% and commercial comprising 47%. Tax-exempt real estate is valued at $2.9 billion.
So that taxpayers can better weigh this information, the ACTA Watchdog reported that one should consider the property at 805 North Monroe (RPC 14036002), [which is in our Association's neighborhood]. According to the County's real estate database, the property contains 12,244 square feet, and it is currently used as a gravel lot for pay parking. In addition, the database shows the property was rezoned from C-2 to RC (Residential Commercial) on March 2, 1991. In January 1992, the land at 805 North Monroe was assessed for $785,100. Two appeals in 1992 -- first within the Department of Assessments and then again to the Board of Zoning Appeals for Real Estate Assessments -- reduced the assessed value to $671,700 for 1992. Arlington County then assessed the property for $633,200 in January 1993 and for $273,500 in January 1994, (e.g., $22.34 per square foot for the 1994 assessment). According to County officials, the ACTA review has resulted in the identification of a mistake made on a number of properties related to the above address. Apparently, "a site plan was missed" that affected 24 parcels in the sample, which resulted in a $3 million underassessment. ACTA's review resulted in approximately $56,000 of recovered revenue.
Taxpayers should have at least three concerns regarding real estate assessment process for commercial income-producing property. First, does the process promote fairness and tax equity? Can some property owners gain an inherent tax advantage if they hire attorneys who know the rules, saving their clients thousands of dollars, and earning hefty fees for themselves? Second, does the process provide economic incentives for commercial income-producing property owners to litigate their assessments? Third, is the County's system of internal controls over the assessment process adequate?
In the case in which the assessment for the old Sears properties in Clarendon was reduced by the Circuit Court, [ACTA reported that] Judge William L. Winston provided no documented rationale for reducing the assessed value on January 23, 1991. The final order merely read: "It is therefor, ordered that the original assessments for 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989 and 1990 are revised to the amounts shown above. "It is therefor, ordered that the (Arlington County) Treasurer, forthwith, by his check, disburse the sum of $176,558.46 payable to "Wilkes, Artis, Hedrick & Lane, counsel for the Petitioners in Law No. 88-1567."
Because of members' growing concerns about real estate assessments and the appeals process, the Executive Committee has invited Mac Page, Assistant Director, Arlington County Real Estate Assessment Office, to give a presentation and answer members' questions beginning at 9:00 p.m. at the March 29th Membership meeting at the Arlington Renaissance Hotel. Mr. Page will discuss the assessment process, the frequency of appraisals, and how appraisals are conducted. Real estate property owners have until April 14th to request the assessment office to review their assessments. Also, you have until May 15 to file an appeal to the Board of Equalization. Mr. Page will discuss the appeal process and the numbers of appeals made annually to the Department of Real Estate Assessments, the Board of Equalization, and the Arlington County Circuit Court.
The Barcroft School and Civic League sponsors neighborhood events ranging from an annual Fourth of July Parade to a Christmas visit from Santa Claus, meet-the-candidates nights before elections, spaghetti dinners and a coffeehouse to showcase neighborhood talent. These events retain the strong spirit of community existing here for over 90 years.
And Some More Things To Check Out:
Lets support our neighbors in Clarendon by attending the April 1st meeting and apprise the County Board of our views on the proposed project. The Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association encourages all members to attend this critically important meeting at the County Board meeting room on the third floor, 2100 Clarendon Boulevard.
New Directions is an alternative program that has been developed by the County to serve high school students who are too disruptive to be educated in a traditional classroom setting. New Directions will provide a more structured environment with closer supervision and a lower class size. It is thought that about half of the students will attend classes each weekday while the other half will work. The program is envisioned to serve a total of 30 students, but it is planned that only 10 students will be enrolled this year, with an eye towards increasing this number next year.
Ms. Suzanne Jimenez, the director of the program, has contacted us and would like to convene the advisory committee that was recommended when this use was approved. This council is envisioned to serve as a forum for members of the community, New Directions personnel, and relevant community agencies to exchange information and evaluate any impacts of the program on the neighborhood and wider Arlington community. If you would like to serve on this committee, please telephone the Member Information Line (703) 528-1887 and leave a message in Box 1.
If you would like more information about the program or the council, please contact Ms. Jimenez at 703-358-7655.
Funds are available for improvement in NCAC areas (which generally are the same as civic association areas) that have plans that have been approved the County. These plans discuss such things as sidewalks, street improvements, streetlights, parks, etc. The Ballston/Virginia Square NCAC plan was adopted in 1984, and many of the improvements noted in it have already been accomplished. However, now that the area has become more built- out, the plan may need to be updated.
NCAC project money comes from bonds approved by the voters of Arlington. These funds are available through the NCAC for community improvement projects such as curb and gutter, sidewalks (including sidewalk repair), street lights (including upgrade of street lights), and park improvements -- any projects noted in the approved NCAC plans. NCAC representatives -- usually elected by the civic associations -- meet on the second Thursday of every month to discuss projects of community concern, review County policy initiatives, and exchange information. Two funding cycles occur each year, with projects being approved in June and December.
If you have any ideas for projects, or want to know more about the NCAC, please contact the Ballston/Virginia Square Representative, Nancy Iacomini, 703-525-7125.
George Mason University will be beginning the construction of their first phase of expansion this spring, and, as agreed to last summer, must provide alternate parking for its faculty, staff, students and visitors during this time. The leasing of these spaces is in response to that need. The contract tentatively states that GMU will have access to the spaces between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m.
Currently, Colonial Parking manages the garage at Stafford Place I, whose major tenant is the National Science Foundation. There is some question between the building's management and NSF as to how many spaces are actually available for GMU's use. NSF and other building tenants are not currently using all of the approximately 900 parking spaces available in the building's garage. However, there is concern on the part of NSF that they will need more spaces in the future, and that subletting the spaces to GMU would interfere with their future use of the spaces. The County is currently reviewing parking use surveys conducted by NSF, Colonial Parking, and the County Zoning Office. At the Board meeting, Mrs. Bozman asked the County Manager, who will have authority to approve the parking arrangement, to see that GMU has a plan in place that will ensure, to the extent practicable, that students and faculty will use the spaces in Stafford Place, and not try to park in the Giant lot, or crowd and block neighborhood streets. She also indicated that there should be shuttle bus service between GMU and Stafford Place.
This sharing of parking resources in the Ballston/Virginia Square area underscores why all parking that is required for a site planned building should be provided. When the Metro corridor is entirely built-out, most of our available surface parking lots will disappear and the community will have to rely upon the spaces in buildings' garages to support the mix of office, retail, residential, and educational uses in the Corridor.
As construction begins at GMU, please report any problems you might observe to the Civic Association (parking, use of residential streets by construction vehicles, etc.) in connection with this project. Please call the Member Information line (703) 528-1887, select menu option seven, and record your observations. Without disclosing personal information, we shall coordinate any problems with the GMU Joint Advisory Board and publish it in the next issue of the Newsletter.
The Executive Committee has followed-up on the status of the aggressive panhandling bill with Senator Holland, who recently indicated to Secretary Ragland that this did not "come up" in the 1995 General Assembly. Secretary Ragland inquired whether the Arlington County Board had removed the proposed aggressive panhandling bill from the County's legislative package. Senator Holland responded 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.
As reported in the January/February Newsletter, Initiative is the process by which voters may propose a law, constitutional amendment or ordinance and compel a vote of the electorate on its adoption. Referendum permits a designated percentage of the voters to place a law or ordinance enacted by a legislative body on the ballot for determination by the electorate whether it shouldo effect or be repealed. Currently, citizens of the Commonwealth do not have the authority to place initiatives and referendums on the ballot. Only the Virginia Legislature has this authority. In contrast, 25 other states and the District of Columbia have adopted initiative and referendum rights for its citizens.
The Executive Committee has followed-up on the status of three Initiative and Referendum bills, which were submitted this year at the 1995 General Assembly. Two of the bills, Senate Joint Resolution 364 and House Joint Resolution 646, featured a 10% signature requirement and the other bill, House Joint Resolution 504 patroned by Delegate Vincent Callahan featured a 5% signature requirement.
Although all three bills could not make it out of committee, the entrenched opposition in the Senate's Committee on Privileges and Elections (P & E) are finding it increasingly difficult to prevent the Initiative and Referendum bill from reaching the floor for a vote by the State Senate. Based on the Committee Roll Call and Voting documentation for Senate Joint Resolution 364, dated January 31, 1995, eight members voted to table the resolution ("Pass by Indefinitely") and seven members voted against tabling.
Those members in support of tabling the resolution included: (1) Joseph V. Gartlan, Jr. (D), Chairman, P & E Committee, Mason Neck; (2) Hunter B. Andrews (D), Hampton; (3) Elmo Cross, Mechanicsville; (4) Stanley Walker (D), Norfolk; (5) Clarence A. Holland (D), Virginia Beach; (6) Richard J. Holland (D), Windsor; (7) Benjamin J. Lambert, III (D), Richmond; and (8) Madison E. Marye (D), Shawsville.
Those members in support of not tabling the resolution and bringing it to a vote on the floor of the State Senate included: (1) Charles L. Waddell (D), Sterling; (2) Kevin G. Miller (R), Harrisonburg; (3) Joseph B. Benedetti (R), Richmond; (4) Mark L. Earley (R), Chesapeake; (5) Robert L. Calhoun (R), Alexandria; (6)Charles R. Hawkins (R), Chatham; and (7) Edgar S. Robb (R), Charlottesville.
It is also interesting to note that Lt. Governor Don Beyer (D) and Governor George Allen (R) support Initiative and Referendum rights for Virginians.
Briefly, at the time of this hearing, the Arlington Planning Commission was considering a proposed ordinance to amend Section 1 (Definitions) of the Zoning Ordinance as contained in the Appendix to the County Code to make it consistent with a Virginia law that was approved on March 19, 1993 pertaining to Section 15.1-486.3 B. The County's proposed ordinance amendment would add "a group of not more than 8 aged, infirm, or disabled persons residing with one or more resident counselor(s) or other staff (person)s in a residential facility licensed by the Department of Social Services of the Commonwealth of Virginia "as a new category to the definition of "family."
A number of questions were presented to the Planning Commission and County staff at the meeting, who were unable to answer them. How many counties have adopted the county manager plan? Was this legislation only for Arlington? What was the public process? Who inspects these facilities? What are the inspection requirements? What about parking? Are there any opportunities for public participation in the licensing process? Is there some way they could prevent other homes from being "blown-out" or greatly enlarged for this purpose? And basically must Arlington comply?
The Arlington County Planning Commission, along with staff, were unable to answer many of the neighbors' questions. Several commission members appeared uneasy about taking action. For example, a deferral was recommended but the motion failed by an even vote 7-7. Finally the commission voted 8-6 in support of the ordinance.
More recently, the proposed County ordinance was considered by the Board at the Arlington County Board meeting of February 4, 1995, under Agenda Item #17. There was considerable discussion of this item between the County Board members, the County Attorney, County Staff, and the Chairman, Arlington County Planning Commission. Also, several of the neighbors from the December 1994 Planning Commission meeting provided thought- provoking public comments about certain ambiguities in the new law and its potential effects on the community.
Neighbor #1 expressed concern about the size of the building, which he described as approximately 48 ft. X 30 ft. by 50 ft. tall...."Every building inspector that has been out there has made the comment, I don't know how in the world zoning approved this, it sure doesn't fit. But what he is doing is in within the rules for an extension. It's legitimate! Even though it's 3 times as tall as his house. His house is a split foyer, Smith & Francis type--nice little place. This thing that he's put up has just blown the whole neighborhood out of whack completely." In response, Chairman Eisenberg generally responded to the speaker's concern by indicating..."that the size of the building has nothing to do with the family. It has everything to do with zoning ordinances and how large buildings can be, which is a totally separate issue. We're moving much more toward recognizing that different people with differing abilities are and should be treated equally in terms of how large or how small their families happen to be."
Neighbor #2 expressed the following concern. "I would like to address an issue that I do not believe the County has considered in [proposing] this ordinance, and that is the quality of care in such residential situations that might occur under this ordinance. I speak to this with some familiarity as my mother lives in an assisted living place, not a nursing home and it doesn't qualify for medicare and the other kinds of support but indeed is a very good facility here in Arlington. I am very grateful that we have it. They do not have 100% occupancy even now and I am concerned that the good quality places that we have access to may be very well put out of business by such mom and pop operations as the kind [her neighbor] is considering and the kinds that which would be enabled by the ordinance if you were to pass it."
In response, Chairman Eisenberg indicated that "these individuals who form a home are themselves, not conducting a business." Also, County Attorney Drake commented on the portion of this law concerning residential facilities of this kind with one or more resident counselors. "It does say that the persons themselves with one or more resident counselors or staff persons. So I think you need to consider that unit collectively as the residents. I will preface all this, I haven't been posed that question and I'm reacting as we sit here. I think there is reason why that language was included in there that staff people and counselors were to be considered as residents." Also, County Attorney Drake indicated that [this type of group home] is being defined as a residential facility and not a home occupation or a business."
The Arlington County Board deferred the proposed ordinance to a subsequent date in order to revise the licensing authority language to make it consistent with the state code. According to County Attorney Drake, the language that is used in the state code, which is the language that should appear in the ordinance says for which the Department of Social Services is the licensing authority. It doesn't say which is "licensed by," it just says "for which is the licensing authority." I'll take this one step further because there is one more problem that we encountered. "Two different parts of our own advertisements, one said for which it is the licensing authority and the other said licensed by or which is licensed by. And what happened was that the exact language that should be in the ordinance became very hard to find when it was all said and done. And that was the reason why we suggested that it be pulled back and readvertised, not because there were issues about [whether] it should be adopted."
Secretary Ragland has researched the legislative initiatives that amended the Code of Virginia by adding in Title 15.1 a section numbered 15.1-486.3 and to repeal Section 15.1-486.2 of the Code of Virginia. Senate Bill No. 279, offered on January 23, 1990, was patroned by Senators: Gartlan, Miller, E.F., Andrews and Miller, Y.B.; and Delegates: Plum, Van Yahres, Melvin, Glasscock, Cunningham, J.W., Cooper, and Arlington Delegate Mary Marshall. House Bill No. 1640, amended and reenacted section numbered 15.1-486.3 of the Code of Virginia, relating to group homes for eight or fewer persons in areas zoned residential and established sub-sections A and B. This bill was patroned by Arlington Senator Ed Holland, Arlington Delegates Judy Connally, James Almand, and Karen Darner, and Delegates Hull, Keating, Puller, Scott, and Van Landingham. The following is House Bill No. 1640 that was approved March 19, 1993.
B. For the purposes of locally adopted zoning ordinances
[in counties having adopted the county manager plan of
government], a residential facility in which no more than eight
aged, infirm or disabled persons reside, with one or more
resident counselors or other staff persons, shall be considered
for all purposes residential occupancy by a single family. No
conditions more restrictive than those imposed on residences
occupied by persons related by blood, marriage, or adoption shall
be imposed on such facility. For purposes of this subsection,
"residential facility" means any group home or residential
facility in which aged, infirm or disabled persons reside with
one or more resident counselors or other staff persons and for
which the Department of Social Services is the licensing
authority pursuant to this Code.
Another interesting bill that was written for the county manager
plan of government, Arlington County, and approved by the
Virginia General Assembly was House Bill No. 73, offered January
8, 1992. This bill was sponsored by Arlington Senators: Ed
Holland and Janet Howell and Arlington Delegates: James Almand,
Judy Connally, and Karen Darner. A portion of this bill reads as
Neighborhood Crime Report
B. For the purposes of locally adopted zoning ordinances [in counties having adopted the county manager plan of government], a residential facility in which no more than eight aged, infirm or disabled persons reside, with one or more resident counselors or other staff persons, shall be considered for all purposes residential occupancy by a single family. No conditions more restrictive than those imposed on residences occupied by persons related by blood, marriage, or adoption shall be imposed on such facility. For purposes of this subsection, "residential facility" means any group home or residential facility in which aged, infirm or disabled persons reside with one or more resident counselors or other staff persons and for which the Department of Social Services is the licensing authority pursuant to this Code.
Another interesting bill that was written for the county manager plan of government, Arlington County, and approved by the Virginia General Assembly was House Bill No. 73, offered January 8, 1992. This bill was sponsored by Arlington Senators: Ed Holland and Janet Howell and Arlington Delegates: James Almand, Judy Connally, and Karen Darner. A portion of this bill reads as follows: