The annual list of requests that Arlington would like to see considered in the upcoming General Assembly session has been adopted by the County Board, and a proposal to let the county lease land that it owns for a planned $150 million Court House Plaza development tops the list.
Just behind that item are pleas for continued funding of mass transit and highway needs during the next two-year budget cycle, a concern shared with the rest of Northern Virginia.
Arlington is asking that the 1986 Virginia legislature continue to fund the Metro transit system at $21 million in each year of the biennium, and consider raising needed highway funds through a statewide bond issue or an increased tax on gasoline.
The legislative wish list, adopted at the County Board's Nov. 19 meeting, contains an array of legislation that the county wants enacted, ranging from stiffer penalties for building code violations, running red-lights and evading taxess, to a measure that would allow the county to phase out all billboards.
A top priority is the Court House Plaza legislation that would clear the way for the Charles E. Smith Co. to develop a six-acre tract the county owns behind the courthouse for a residential, office and retail complex that will include a new government center.
The county plans to lease most of the land to the firm on a longterm basis, and sell the land where the condominiums are to be built, so that future owners will have clear titles.
But the Virginia Supreme Court upset years of planning for the project last April when, while reviewing a separate issue, it ruled that the county lacked authority to lease the land.
The court said the county could lease only "unused" land and noted that the property was used for an employe parking lot.
Arlington's state legislators said they do not anticipate any problems getting enabling legislation to allow a lease. Once that issue is resolved, the county must go back to the high court for a ruling on a central issue that the court did not address in April: whether the county could stand second in line to collect in the unlikely event that the Smith Co. went bankrupt and others businesses involved in the project's construction filed claims.
Elizabeth Gawron, the county's legislative liaison, said that the county also is exploring the possibility of requesting legislation to create a Court House Plaza Development Authority.
This would be an independent agency responsible for overseeing the project's development, and would probably consist of the County Board members. Such an authority would be empowered to acquire property and lease land, Gawron said. The purpose of establishing the agency would be to clarify the county's role in the project and give the county more explicit authority.