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Virginia Politics
Posted at 06:08 PM ET, 07/20/2012

Arlington board faces many mighty issues

This story has been revised since it was first published.

Arlington residents who care about Columbia Pike housing and transit, a Long Bridge Park aquatics and fitness center, storm water and sewer issues, the future of signs countywide and the cost of all this would do well to watch the Arlington County Board over the next four days.

The board, in three sessions Saturday, Monday and Tuesday, is scheduled to vote on a raft of major issues that could cost taxpayers at least $153.4 million and signal how the county develops over the next decade or more.

First up will be adoption of the county’s $2.5 billion, 10-year capital improvement plan. The plan would designate $110.8 million for Metro, almost $200 million for a Columbia Pike streetcar system, $537.7 million for two new elementary schools and three school additions, street paving, parks maintenance and much more.

Advocates of both streetcars and the aquatics center have been lobbying board members, and the swimmers have turned up at previous board sessions to press their case.

Many of the capital projects, which also include the Long Bridge Park aquatics and fitness center, would be paid for with debt. Voters will be asked to agree on the Nov. 6 ballot to allow the county to issue bonds to cover those projects.

Arlington voters typically approve bond requests.

What would normally be a major focus of attention may be lost in the mix. A giant mixed-use development in Rosslyn, JBG Co.’s Rosslyn Gateway, is also up for a vote before the county board.

After the finance-heavy Saturday meeting, the County Board will reconvene Monday and is scheduled to vote on proposed changes to the neighborhoods along Columbia Pike and the proposed streetcar system on the pike.

The plan seeks to preserve affordable housing in the area while also transforming the area into a denser, more walkable community. Some residents are wary about the plan’s power to turn parts of the area into a concrete canyon, while others want to be able to sell older homes with zoning that would allow them to reap profits from escalating housing values.

The most contentious issue is likely to be over the staff recommendation supporting a streetcar system on Columbia Pike. Opinion of those who attended open houses on the issue in spring leaned against streetcars. In this heavily Democratic county, Republican and Green Party candidates for the County Board have spoken out against streetcars. And residents attending open houses on the issue have leaned against. The board, which has endorsed streetcars in the past, is re-voting because it’s required if it wants federal transit funds.

Finally, the board will hold a public hearing Tuesday on proposed changes to the county’s sign ordinance, which would ban new rooftop signs, among other changes.

Then, the board goes on summer vacation, not to return until their Sept. 15 meeting.

By  |  06:08 PM ET, 07/20/2012

 
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