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Arlington County Board Chair's 'State of the County' Speech

In a speech on Wednesday, June 24, the Chairman of the Arlington County Board gave what was billed as her "State of the County" speech to the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. As reported yesterday by Scott McCaffrey for the Arlington Sun Gazette, Board Chairman Mary Hynes told those attending the Chamber event that "Arlington must confront ‘multi-dimensional’ challenges."

McCaffrey began his reporting of the "State of the County" speech, writing:

"Prioritizing economic development while keeping focus on issues ranging from affordable housing to siting of public facilities – and not losing sight of community input – are the challenges for current and future Arlington leaders, County Board Chairman Mary Hynes told the business community on June 24.

"“We have decades of strategic investment to build on,” Hynes said at the annual “State of the County” address, sponsored by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Crystal City.

"The goal for current and future leaders is to develop “the second generation of smart-growth – learn from what we did before and apply it to new circumstances,” Hynes said.

“Our challenges are real and they are multi-dimensional,” Hynes said. “Those incredible ‘ups’ that we had [during the years when development around Metro stations brought major growth] are not going to come Arlington’s way again.”

"Facing record-setting office-vacancy rates that top 20 percent countywide and surpass 30 percent in some corridors, the county government has put additional resources into economic-development efforts.

“The team [at Arlington Economic Development] is out there,” Hynes said, noting recent forays to conventions featuring retailers and entrepreneurs. She added that the county government, which for years offered little in the way of financial incentives for businesses to relocate in the county, has re-evaluated that policy – although it remains a work in progress, she said."

We growled about the challenges of economic development faced by county government in an extensive Growls on March 13, 2015. We growled after the county's new chief of economic development proposed a costly "Way Forward" plan. That Growls eventually became the basis of a report on Arlington Economic Development, which the Arlington County Civic Federation's Revenues & Expenditures committee presented to Civic Federation delegates at the June 2, 2015 monthly meeting. (the report has not yet been posted to the Federation's webpage; see the Growls update below if it has).

Arlington economic development was the topic of the June 10, 2015 meeting of the Arlington Committee of 100 (but the You Tube video of the meeting has not been posted).

The county's spinmeisters also released a press release yesterday, and included three bullet points:

  • A fundamental questioning of ourselves”
  • Opportunity to be leading edge of 2nd generation Smart Growth
  • Must honor the values that have guided us for decades

The entire press release is worth reading, especially the paragraph that talks of Arlington's "good bones," i.e.:

"What Hynes called the County’s “bones” — its location on the doorstep of the nation’s capital, its airport, the Pentagon, its excellent public schools, its “smart, thoughtful, strategic-thinking residents,”  and its transportation networks “continue to be incredibly strong,” she said. 'We have decades of strategic investment to build on.'"

While so-called Smart Growth may have benefited Arlington's economic development in the past, that is no assurance it will do so in the future, and, unfortunately, there seems to be no indication it will be studied to ensure it's the proper path to the future. Nor is there any indication the new course forward will include an annual evaluation of economic development, as suggested in R&E's AED paper, which could possibly have identified a rising commercial/office vacancy rate much sooner.

Instead, the County Board should be looking at streamlining taxes to incentivize developers and entrepreneurs as well as eliminating some of the environmental demands placed on developers, e.g., questionable LEED standards. The Board should also look to streamline the bureaucracy to reduce the time needed to obtain permits and site plans. For example, in our June 23, 2015 Growls, we noted the site plan for a renovated Ballston mall has now been sitting in the "belly of the bureaucracy" for 11 months rather than a more normal 60 days.

Growls readers are urged to contact the Arlington County Board if you have comments or concerns about Arlington County's 'state of the union." You can reach the Board by clicking-on the link below, or call them:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130

And tell them ACTA sent you.

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