Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

Two legislative actions this during the past week, one by the Arlington County Board and the other by the Virginia General Assembly, move me to comment – politely, I hope!

Last Monday, the Arlington County Board once again approved a housing project that will be built over and around the Church at Clarendon, formerly known as the First Baptist Church of Clarendon. The original approval some two years ago was thrown out in court as violating the county’s zoning laws. That technical problem has been corrected, and I expect this project will pass muster in the courts, though the neighbors are probably going to contest it once again.

This is not an easy issue, but I have to come down on the side of the county on this one. While the site plan does push the development envelope a bit, it does not do so egregiously, and the affordable housing units included in the development are desperately needed in a wealthy area where affordable housing is becoming scarcer by the minute.

I also fail to see that it will have the great negative impact on the neighborhood that the opponents are claiming. When one looks up Highland Street towards Wilson Boulevard the visual impact of urbanization in Arlington is already pretty substantial. This project will do little to change that.

Arlington has received much favorable national attention for its excellent Metro corridor master plan that calls for high density development directly over the Metro corridor, scaling down rapidly to single family neighborhoods.

This is a special case where the envelope needs to be stretched to help assure that Arlington remains the type of diverse community that most of us value.


Last Saturday evening, the General Assembly finally passed a major piece of transportation legislation that purports to solve Northern Virginia’s longstanding transportation problems. It does nothing of the sort.

I don’t even know where to start. The state really is committed to pay little for the road projects that are needed. The bulk of the payments would come from localities that would have to increase their local tax burdens, some quite substantially. Northern Virginia already sends huge amounts of tax money to Richmond, at least 40 percent of the General Fund, only a small percentage of which is returned to us in the form of infrastructure and programs.

Fairfax Delegate Vivian Watts ma an impassioned plea that now is the time to return more to Northern Virginia because of its critical transportation needs.  It is only fair and honorable to heed Delegate Watts’ plea.

And, of course, what little the state will be committed to pay for will come out of the general fund, thus endangering funding for other crucial programs, education being one of them. Most conservatives who cry for tax cuts never get around to addressing the question of which programs will have to be cut to achieve that goal without bankrupting the government. This is the height of irresponsibility.

As much as we may resist it, it is imperative that we find statewide tax funding for Northern Virginia’s transportation needs – most logically in the form of increased gasoline taxes.

Significant changes need to be made to the legislation during the April veto session of the General Assembly. And if that doesn’t happen, we need to mount a statewide effort to defeat the troglodyte members of the General Assembly who have brought about this unconscionable state of affairs. I think it can be done.