BSCL met on March 7, 2019 for its monthly meeting.
The meeting was called to order at 7:30pm by Chris Siple, President. The minutes of the February 7 meeting were approved.
The 7th St NCAC project is nearly done, except for some additional plantings.
The 9th St project design meeting was held recently.
Alcova Heights Park work will start in the 4th quarter of this year.
NEW BUSINESS: None.
We discussed the prospective improvements to the County parcel surrounding Grandma’s Creek. (For reference, see the illustration below, at end of minutes.):
Many concerns and aspirations were aired for this effort, which the BSCL endorsed at an earlier meeting.
Barcroft is to work with the County to remove invasive plant species, which include English Ivy, bamboo (in at least three large stands), kudzu, tree of heaven, and more.
Of particular interest is the part of this parcel at the bend of Buchanan, just South of the Dominion area. It is flat and might be improved to the point where it could be enjoyed by residents.
It is very likely that some PCB contamination lingers at the Dominion site and there has certainly been some leaching of PCBs into groundwater, and washing of PCBs into the watershed through Grandma’s Creek and Four Mile Run. There is little prospect of testing the County land at this time, but we can ask.
Plantings could do a better job of hiding the surpassingly ugly Dominion bare patch, which went from dense growth to clear-cut in the past couple years. There are some shrubs between the fence and the street now, but we aren’t sure what they are.
Informal footpaths have been worn through the parcel, but creek crossings are difficult. Passage from the dead end 5th and 6th streets to Buchanan might be useful to residents. It is possible (but not trivially easy) to walk from the North end to the South end along the creek all the way to the bike path. It’s a lovely old-growth forest area inside Barcroft that could be made accessible to pedestrians. The County has not signed on to this, and care needs to be taken that the natural landscape is left as undisturbed as possible. The work on the 7th St trail connector has made it somewhat easier already to walk from the gorge to the bike path.
No consensus was arrived at, and no motions were made, but interest was piqued in joining in the volunteer group that will work with the County to make this natural resource more accessible to Barcrofters.
SPECIAL PRESENTATION: . Arlington County Board member Erik Gutshall (EG) reviewed issues related to the Amazon HQ move to Arlington and answered questions. He explained that:
The Arlington incentives consist primarily of a payment to Amazon of 15% of the increase in the hotel tax over the next 15 years. ( See the draft agreement here.)
In addition, Arlington will accelerate infrastructure improvements (like the second Metro entrance at Crystal City and the walkway to National Airport) that it had already planned.
State money will be applied to these infrastructure improvements as a result of the incentive package.
Arlington lost 34,000 jobs in recent decades due to BRAC and several other office closures. Much of this was from the very area Amazon is (they say) moving their 25,000 jobs into.
There are educational investments the State of Virginia will fund that are presumably of benefit to residents.
A lively and civil exchange followed the presentation. The following is an attempt to convey the gist of each question and answer:
Q: Bus service on Columbia Pike (CP) is poor. A: Transit stops are being built out that may help; no width for a dedicated rapid transit lane.
Q: What about no left turns on CP? Or lane reversals at rush hour? A: Too much two-way traffic for lane reversals; local residents need to turn left.
Q: Shouldn’t Arlington take more time to discuss this? A: No, we’ve known about it for months.
Q: FOIA request issue, and why isn’t Amazon here? A: Amazon has met with civic associations in the area they’re moving to, but they’ve met with some incivility in New York and are avoiding that. elsewhere. The FOIA thing seems to be something covered in state law.
Q: What about ICE and deportations? A: This is a totally different issue.
Q: Home assessments will go up, making it unaffordable for some. A: This has been happening for a long time. Gentrification and displacement can’t be stopped, but may be ameliorated with the additional revenue Amazon is expected to bring in. Affordable housing Master Plan needs to be followed; we got behind on that due to lack of resources. [Technical discussion on vacancy rates affecting commercial property values.]
Q: What about people with disabilities and their housing needs? A: :EG will ask about Amazon’s hiring policies in this regard. There will always be waiting lists for affordable housing; Arlington is behind on this. More revenue will help.
Q: What about the Project Labor Agreement? A: It’s there, and is meant to guard against wage theft and substandard construction. Not just about unions. Amazon is stalling on signing this now.
Q: Congratulations to the Board on negotiating this (other Barcrofters echoed that sentiment) What about Tech Zone tax break? A: EG says the credit goes to the State of Virginia and Arlington County Economic Development Director Victor Hodgkins, not the Board. It is not clear that Amazon qualifies for the Tech Zone 50% break on the business license fee. Commissioner of Revenue Ingrid Morroy will work it out with them.
Q: Why vote on incentive before vote on budget? A: There’s no effect on this year’s budget.
Q: How will schools be affected? A: We’ll need more schools anyway, but Amazon revenue will help. The expectation is that up to 100 students would be added each year as the 20% of Amazon employees who’ll live here move in.
Q: The state is incentivizing jobs, and the County square footage, right? A: Yes, because the state collects income tax and the County collects real estate tax.
Q: Could Amazon sublet space and still get subsidy? A: EG will check.
Q: More observations on CP bus service. A: Yes, it’s gotten bad. Thinks things will improve.
Q: Loves Arlington. How much of the County part of increased hotel tax goes to the schools? A: Just about half.
Q: More congratulations on Arlington’s proposal. A: Arlington was told by Amazon it had the best proposal in the nation.
Meeting adjourned at 9:30.