News Briefs: June 15 — 21

Falls Church Forward Features Small Businesses

Falls Church Forward, a new civic organization in the Little City, held a panel in conjunction with the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce on the successes and challenges of small businesses. On the panel were Jennifer Gamboa of Body Dynamics, Matt Lee of Lee Design Studios, Jay Tran of TeaDM and Thomas Harvey of Harvey’s restaurant, which hosted the event. All of the panelists spoke about the advantage of conducting business in a small, tight-knit community and the positive impact of recent development projects.

However, they also raised concerns about permit transparency and tax rates in the city. Jay Tran, who is building a food hall at Eden Center, said the permitting process has been arduous. Matt Lee, an architect opening his firm’s first storefront office, echoed Tran’s comments and said his experience trying to open his office has presented a need for a more customer service oriented permitting process. 

Falls Church Forward plans to continue its regular meetings in the fall with a discussion on affordable housing. —Catherine Kane

Arlington Board Candidates Debate Ahead of Election

The six Democratic candidates vying for two seats on Arlington’s Board of Supervisors met at a candidate forum hosted by WJLA and the Arlington Chamber of Commerce to discuss economic development, commercial permitting and affordable housing. Arlington voters will decide who will replace Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey in the June 20 Democratic primary via a ranked-choice vote, the first in Virginia. 

Democrats Maureen Coffey, Susan Cunningham, Jonathan Dromgoole, Natalie Roy, Julius “J.D.” Spain and Tony Weaver, as well as Independent Audrey Clement, faced questions from WJLA’s Nick Minock about their plans to revitalize the county’s commercial sector and provide affordable housing to those working in the service and retail sectors. 

Though it did not dominate the conversation at the forum, the Board of Supervisors’ recent vote on missing middle zoning came up in questions on affordable housing and redevelopment along Langston Boulevard. Coffey, Dromgoole, Spain and Weaver support the board’s decision while Clement, Cunningham and Roy said they would have voted against it. 

Arlington’s office vacancy rate, 23 percent in the first quarter of 2023, was a key issue. Maureen Coffey, a policy researcher at the Center for American Progress, pointed to the county’s “reputation in the region” for having a difficult permitting process as a barrier to filling vacant office space. Natalie Roy, a realtor, proposed civic and historical organizations make use of the space. The candidates also considered converting vacant offices into housing. 

JD Spain, the former president of the Arlington NAACP, said in his closing remarks that the county didn’t roll out ranked choice voting effectively.

“We have not done enough to educate and inform our electorate on ranked choice voting,” Spain said at the forum. “There are still people showing up [to vote] that have no idea what’s going on.”

Ahead of the primary, the candidates have collectively raised nearly $370,000, according to most recent campaign finance reports. The top two candidates will advance to the November general election, where they are expected to win in the deep-blue county. –Catherine Kane