The Council Connection
your connection to City Council by: 
Vice Mayor Justin M. Wilson
Alexandria, Virginia
March 1, 2016
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St. Patrick's Day Parade

The Alexandria tradition steps off at 12:30 PM in Old Town. 

The festivities begin in the morning with the Classic Car Show and Fun Dog Show. 

Check here for the full route. I'll see you there! 
Making up for the Snow

The recent weather-related closures of our schools has exhausted the available buffer in the calendar. 

Help Make College A Reality For Our Kids

The Scholarship Fund of Alexandria is looking for volunteers to review applications.

The annual "Reading Day" is scheduled for Saturday, March 12, 2016 from 8 AM until 12 PM at T. C. Williams High School (3330 King Street). 

Time For Kindergarten

If you have a child who will be five years of age by September 30th, it's time to register for Kindergarten! 

All Alexandria City Public Schools will begin Kindergarten registration on Wednesday,  March 9th, from 3 PM until 7 PM. 

Help Plan The New Metro

There is one more day to provide input on the Potomac Yard Park design.

The park is being redesigned to accommodate the new Metro. 

Salute Great Women! 

The Alexandria Commission on Women holds their annual Salute to Women Awards on Monday, March 28th at 6 PM. The event will again be held at the US Patent & Trademark Office and benefits the Alexandria Sexual Assault Center.

The Commission is still accepting nominations for their annual awards between now and their deadline at noon on Friday.

Council Portrait
A few minutes ago, the polls opened for Virginia's Democratic and Republican Presidential Primaries. 

As someone who grew up in Virginia, it's still a bit foreign to me to have Virginia playing an actual role in the selection of the major party nominees for President, but I think I can get used to it. 

Polls will be open until 7 PM throughout the City. Both the Democratic and Republican Sample Ballots are available for download.

Council Initiatives
Pay Now Or Pay Later

In school, most students learn sooner or later that procrastination doesn't typically yield good results (it certainly took me a while). The same rule holds true for the maintenance of infrastructure. 

The City recently began a multi-year effort to assess the condition of City facilities. Rather than rely on anecdotes and intuition, the assessment is designed to provide objective data to guide City investment decisions. 

The City currently has 123 facilities. These facilities have an average age of 57 years old. Of those, 12 of them are over 100 years old, and five of them are over 200 years old. 

Rather than go through all 123 at the same time, the Department of General Services assessed 36 of the facilities in the first phase of the effort. Each facility was assigned a score of A through F. 

Included in the assessment were cost estimates to bring these facilities up to standard. If we were to "throw caution to the wind" and bring all 36 facilities up to an A score this year, it would require an additional $133 million. 

To achieve this same result over the next 10 years would require an additional $216 million during this time frame.  

To merely get to a grade of C on all facilities over the next decade would require another $101 million over that period. 

When we are discussing such significant amounts of new investment, I believe that we would be irresponsible not to have a full deliberation as to alternatives and trade-offs. 

With the election behind us, I'm hopeful that reasoned decision making is now possible. The significant need for investment in this infrastructure also creates opportunities for the City. We have the ability to assess collocation with other City (and non-City) services, more balanced geographic delivery of City services, and relative service prioritization. 

At my request, the annual Interdepartmental Long Range Planning Work Program, which was approved by the Council last month, now includes a new City Facilities Master Plan effort. The City Manager's proposed budget includes new funding to execute the effort. 

Investing in our municipal infrastructure is vital. Leveraging those important investments to improve efficiency and effectiveness is an opportunity we should not squander. 
The Water We Drink

Given the recent horrifying situation in Flint, Michigan, there has been significant interest in the quality of our nation's water supply. 

In Alexandria, our water is provided by a private company, the Virginia American Water Company. Virginia American purchases the water that they supply Alexandrians from Fairfax Water. Fairfax Water's supply is sourced from two different locations, one on the Potomac River and one from the Occoquan Reservoir.

Virginia American Water has again applied to the State Corporation Commission for a rate increase. Last year, the City, along with other jurisdictions, successfully opposed the creation of new fee structure. 

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Approved in May of 2015 by the City Council, the Capital Improvement Program included $5.6 million of funding during Fiscal Year 2016 (July 1, 2015 - June 30, 2016) for street reconstruction and road resurfacing. This was a 25% increase over Fiscal Year 2014. 

The City has 560 lane miles of roads for which it is responsible. The current budget will allow the City to resurface approximately 50 lane miles of road. 

The budget that was presented to the City Council last month includes $5.3 million of funding for Fiscal Year 2017 (July 1, 2016 - June 30, 2017). 

Periodically, our Transportation and Environmental Services Department assesses every street in the City assigning each a Pavement Condition Inventory (PCI) score. Based on that score and available resources, our paving plan for each year is formulated. We will be conducting a new assessment citywide this year.  

If the currently proposed funding level is approved, we are scheduled to resurface the following roads next year:

  • E./ W. Myrtle St. Entire Length
  • Dawes Ave. from King St. to Seminary Rd.
  • Cambridge Rd. from Duke St. to Janney's Ln
  • St. Stephens Rd Entire Length
  • Colonel Ellis Ave. Entire Length
  • Russell Rd. from Mt. Vernon Ave. to Masonic View Ave.
  • Circle Hill Dr. Entire Length
  • Fontaine St. from Woodland Terr. to Ridge Road Dr.
  • Tennessee Ave. from Old Dominion Blvd. to Valley Dr.
  • Halcyon Dr. from Tennessee Ave. to N. Overlook Dr.
  • Leslie Ave. from Randolph Ave. to Duncan Ave.
  • W. Glebe Rd. from Commonwealth Ave to Old Dominion BV
  • Kenwood Dr. from King St. to Crestwood Dr.
  • Crestwood Dr. Entire Length
  • Cameron St. from Union St. to Buchannan St.
  • Mt. Vernon Ave. from Braddock Rd. to Hume Ave.
  • E./W. Windsor Ave from Russell Rd to Jefferson Davis Hwy
  • Randolph Ave. Entire Length
  • N. Pickett from Polk Ave. to Dead End
  • N./ S. Henry St. from Slater's Ln. to Franklin St.
  • Prince St. from Dangerfield Rd. to S. Columbus St.
  • Ft. Williams Pkwy Entire Length 

For Fiscal Year 2018 (July 1, 2017 - June 30, 2018), we are scheduled to resurface the following roads:

  • N/S Alfred St. from First St. to Church St.
  • N. Owen St. Entire Length
  • Raymond Ave. Entire Length
  • Kennedy St./ Landover Rd. Entire Length
  • Grandview Dr from Cameron Mills Rd to S Overlook Dr
  • Sycamore St from Uhler Terr to Dead End
  • Martha Custis Dr from W Glebe Rd to Valley Dr
  • Chambliss St. Length in City
  • W. Timber Branch Pkwy. From Braddock Rd. to Dead End
  • Taney Ave. from N. Early St. to N. Gordon St.
  • Scroggins Rd. from Braddock Rd. to King St.
  • Wilkes St. from Patrick St. to the dead end
  • Cathedral St. Entire Length
  • Bryan St. from W. Taylor Run Pkwy. To Dead End
  • Francis Hammond Pkwy Entire Length
  • Hume Ave. from Commonwealth Ave. to Jefferson Davis Hwy.
  • Duke St. from Jordan St. to S. Walker St.
  • Gunston Road from Valley Dr to Martha Custis Dr
  • Seminary Rd from N Quaker Ln to 395
  • Wilkes St from S Columbus to S Lee St

For Fiscal Year 2019 (July 1, 2018 - June 30, 2019), we are scheduled to resurface the following roads:

  • S. Payne St. from Wilkes St. to Dead End
  • E. Oxford Ave Entire Length
  • Royal St. from King St. to Bashford 
  • W. Taylor Run Pkwy. From Janney's Ln. to Dead End 
  • Virginia Ave. Entire Length 
  • Uhler Terr from Russell Rd to Dead end 
  • Wolf St. Entire Length 
  • Dartmouth Rd. from Crown View to Dead End 
  • Seminary Rd. from Beauregard to City Limit 
  • Richenbacher Ave. from N. Van Dorn St. to N. Pickett St. 
  • Howard St. from Ormond Ave. to Raleigh Ave.
  • Farm Rd. from Wellington Rd. to Chalfonte Dr.
  • Pickett St. from Van Dorn St. to Valley Forge
  • Wythe St from West St to N Fairfax St
  • Preston Rd from N Quaker Ln to Valley Dr
  • E/W Abingdon St. from First St. to Dead End
  • Skyhill Rd. from Janney's Ln. to Dead End
  • Mansion Dr. Entire Length
  • E/W Linden St. Entire Length
  • Allison St. Entire Length
  • Malcolm Pl. Entire Length
  • Hume Ave. Entire Length
  • Holmes Run Pkwy. From Van Dorn to Dead End
  • Fillmore Ave. from Chambliss to Beauregard
  • Clifford Ave. from Commonwealth Ave. to Jefferson Davis Hwy.
  • Oakland Terr. Entire Length
  • Beverly Dr. from Old Dominion Blvd. to Wellingon
  • Oakcrest Dr. Entire Length
  • Pendleton St. Entire Length
  • East Howell Ave from Clyde Ave to Mt Vernon Ave
  • E & W Chapman St from Russell Rd to Wayne Street
  • Uline Ave from N Gordon St to N Furman St
  • N Gladden St & N Grayson St from Uline Ave to Uline Ave
  • Tulsa Place from N Gordon to Cul de sac
  • Taylor Ave from Va Ave to Woodlawn Terr
  • Tyler Pl & Jackson Pl from Taylor Ave to Woodlawn Terr
  • Underwood Place from Ingram St to Cul de sac
  • Jasper Place from S Jenkins St to Cul de sac
  • Rayburn Ave from N Beauregard St to Reading Ave
  • Reading Ave from Rayburn Ave To N Beauregard St
  • Princeton Blvd from Vassar Rd to Dartmouth Rd
  • Northview Terrace from W Rosemont Ave to Rucker Pl
  • Foster Ave & Fairbanks Ave from Seminary Rd to Cul de sac
  • North Rosser St from Echols Ave to Bradley Blvd

We are still playing catch up throughout the City from deferred road maintenance during the worst of the Recession. 

I'm hopeful we can continue (and hopefully increase) these investments in this very basic infrastructure. 
Opportunity Across the River

In 2006, National Harbor was preparing to open across the Potomac River from Alexandria. At the time, there was concern that its mere presence would be a threat to Alexandria. But for many, there was a realization that it presented a great opportunity. 

The City convened the Alexandria National Harbor Collaborative, which brought forward a series of recommendation designed to help Alexandria take advantage of the opportunities . Those recommendations brought us the King Street Trolley, ferry service across the Potomac River, new signage, aesthetic improvements to the waterfront, and more. 

Now, a decade later, the MGM National Harbor Casino is preparing to open across the Potomac River. The new casino is a $1.3 billion project projected to draw 9,000,000 visitors a year. This is roughly 2.5 times Alexandria's annual visitation. 

Again, this is an amazing opportunity for Alexandria. Last year we convened a similar group to prepare Alexandria for this new opportunity

We have now received the recommendations of this new group, and it is again time to prepare Alexandria to benefit from the visitors across the River who will be craving the unique experience offered in our City.

The task force recommended improvements to signage, in-resort advertising, new programming on the Waterfront, street banners, a job fair, the creation of a new Business Improvement District (BID), and more. 

These recommendations will shortly be docketed for Council review. I am confident that they will be discussed during this budget process. 

As we work to ease the burden on our residential taxpayers, this is an opportunity we cannot pass up. 
Public Private Partnerships

The City's protracted revenue challenges have led many of our residents to take matters into their own hands to make things happen. Community volunteer efforts have long existed and contributed greatly to the fabric of Alexandria. However, the efforts of late have grown to a larger scale than what we've seen before. 
Residents in Arlandria are continuing to work to raise money to plant new trees in Four Mile Run Park, and have used private donations to create the park plaza that hosts the Four Mile Farmers and Artisan Market  on recently acquired public space. 

The Del Ray Citizens Association came forward to sponsor some park improvements in the pocket park at the corner of Commonwealth and E. Del Ray Avenue, which was recently renamed the Judy Lowe Memorial Park. 

Residents and businesses have partnered to make improvements at Ewald Park

Residents from around the City are working to raise money for new pools.

In adopting our budget last year, the City Council agreed to provide City funds to supplement the significant private fundraising that has occurred in support of the Maury Schoolyard Initiative

All of these efforts share a common element: committed residents dedicated to improving our City. Yet they also share a common element in that each followed a different path to partnering with the City. 

In approving the most recent Maury effort, I requested that our Staff work on developing a formal policy for consideration of these type of public private partnerships. 

In response, the proposed Capital Improvement Program includes a new "Community Matching Fund." The project is funded with $950,000 over the next decade.

As proposed, the new fund will award competitive matching funds up to $25,000 per project. 

I'm excited to see this concept come to fruition. These partnerships can achieve great results for our City. 
Justin Speaking At Town Hall
Host a Town Hall in Your Living Room!

My regular series of Town Hall Meetings continue! 

You supply the living room and a bunch of your friends and neighbors. I will supply a member of the Alexandria City Council (me) with the answers to any of your questions about our City. 

Just drop us a line and we'll get a Town Hall on the calendar! Thanks for the interest! 

Upcoming Issues
Budget Process Begins
The most important decision the City Council makes each year is the adoption of the annual operating budget and capital improvement program. The operating budget generally funds the ongoing costs of government (primarily personnel), while the capital budget funds one-time expenditures that provide the community with an asset (new schools, new roads, new playing fields, transit buses, etc). 

A week ago, the City Manager presented his proposed Fiscal Year 2017 budgets to the City Council and our budget process is now underway. 

The proposed general fund operating budget is $671.6 million, an increase of 3.46% from Fiscal Year 2016. With revenue growth in the low single digits, the City Manager included a proposed increase of one cent in the real estate tax rate.

At the proposed rate of $1.053 and including the impact of assessment increases, the average single family homeowner will pay an additional $238 during 2016. The average condominium homeowner will pay an additional $60.

To prepare his budget, the City Manager requested each department to provide 5% reduction scenarios. In presenting his budget, he accepted some of the proposed reductions and declined or modified others. All told, the City Manager included $8.3 million of savings and reductions in the proposed budget. Those reductions include:
  • Elimination of 25.6 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) positions (net reduction of 2.55 FTE)
  • Reductions to outside legal costs
  • Reduction of video services for community events
  • Reduction in regional advertising
  • Reduction in use of real estate consultants
  • Elimination of open recreation hours at Nannie J. Lee Memorial Recreation Center
  • Reductions to park maintenance
  • Reductions to mowing and landscaping for medians, rights-of-way and public grounds
  • Reduction in sidewalk maintenance
  • Reduction in fire hydrant preventative maintenance and painting

Yet, even in challenging revenue environments, the City must continue to invest in strategic initiatives. The City Manager has proposed a series of new investments for the Council's consideration. 

As with much of the past decade, the major driver in budgetary increases has been the enrollment increases within the Alexandria City Public Schools. With a projected 3.7% increase in student enrollment, the City Manager has proposed a $9.95 million of additional funds for the Alexandria City Public Schools. This includes new operating funds and capital funds for FY 2017. Approximately 75% of the new tax revenue growth has been allocated for school spending in the proposed budget. 

Additionally, the City Manager has proposed: 

  • Three new therapists to address emergency mental health services
  • A new position to manage implementation of the Children and Youth Master Plan 
  • Additional funding for gang prevention efforts within the Court Services Unit
  • New marketing efforts associated with the PBS "Mercy Street" show
  • Pay adjustments to bring firefighter and fire officer salaries up to the market average 
  • Funding for additional traffic enforcement
  • Restoration of the parking adjudication office
  • Funding for additional parking enforcement
  • Expanded recreation programs
  • Additional tree planting
  • City Marina and Fitzgerald Square Improvements
  • Waterfront public programming
  • Staffing for the creation of a new stormwater utility

We have just begun the budget process. We have a series of work sessions to dig through each portion of the budgetleading up to the formal adoption on Thursday, May 5th. 

On Monday, March 14th at 4 PM, the City Council will be holding a public hearing to accept testimony from residents on the proposed budget. 

Ramsey Roils
The most difficult issues on the City Council are when two valued policy areas end up in direct conflict with each other, forcing the Council to choose the one that is ultimately more important. 

Since September, the Council has been facing such an issue. The potential redevelopment of the Ramsey Homes public housing development is such a conflict, pitting the City's commitment to historic preservation against the City's commitment to the creation and preservation of affordable housing. When you add concerns regarding density and open space to the mix, the situation becomes a volatile issue. 

The Alexandria Redevelopment & Housing Authority (ARHA) is an independent entity, separate from the City, that utilizes Federal funding from the US Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) to provide housing to low-income residents of Alexandria. 

ARHA directly manages and controls 1,079 units of affordable housing. In addition, ARHA manages the City's Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, which utilizes Federal funding, to provide assistance for another 1,906 low-income families to reside in privately-owned housing units. This is approximately 4% of the City's housing stock.

At the federal level, we have seen dramatic changes in how public housing is managed and developed. In the past, the Federal Government had been a proactive participant in bringing about the redevelopment of public housing. This was demonstrated in Alexandria when the City utilized HOPE VI funding to redevelop 100 units of Public Housing into Chatham Square. This mixed-income development incorporated both market-rate and public housing. 

Now in 2016, the Federal Government is forcing changes in public housing with its inaction. Today, HUD only funds 73% of every dollar required to operate Alexandria Public Housing units. The balance of revenue that ARHA collects as rent is not sufficient for sustainable management of their properties, and with the effects of sequestration, this is likely to get worse. 

With aging properties sitting on valuable land, ARHA is now looking at the highest and best use of its land to preserve housing for low-income residents in our City. 

Over 30 years ago, the City Council adopted Resolution 830, which required the replacement of any public housing unit that was displaced by redevelopment. In past redevelopment efforts, replacement units have been obtained and created throughout our City. 

In 2008, the City Council adopted the Braddock East Master Plan, which called for redevelopment of several aging public housing properties. By allowing additional density near existing transit, it was designed to encourage private partnership in the redevelopment of this housing. 

Today, under this Plan, James Bland Homes have become Old Town Commons. This redevelopment activity has proven successful in providing a sustainable model for mixed-income housing in our City. 

In the fall of 2014, with these experiences and lessons behind us, 

As they have continued through the process, ARHA narrowed the number of properties down to five: Andrew Adkins, Samuel Madden, Hopkins Tancil, the ARHA Headquarters building and Cameron Valley.

Ramsey Homes was constructed beginning in 1941 and acquired by the Federal Government for defense housing. Maps from the time describe it specifically as a home for African-Americans. In 1953, ARHA purchased the property and it has been operated as public housing since that time.

The property is not in good condition and requires significant renovation to meet current standards. There is consensus that without replacement or renovation, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will no longer provide financial support for the units in the near term.  

Given that Ramsey Homes is in the Parker-Gray Historic District, any demolition applications are heard by the Parker-Gray Board of Architectural Review (BAR). In April of last year, the BAR heard the case and unanimously voted to deny the permit to demolish the existing homes.  

Obviously, without permission to demolish, the redevelopment can not proceed, and ARHA would either have to renovate or close down Ramsey Homes. 

As such, ARHA appealed the BAR's decision to the City Council. In September, the Council heard the case and voted to overturn the BAR by a vote of 5-2. In doing so, the Council requested that ARHA explore alternatives to full demolition. 

Since that vote, litigation was filed challenging the Council's decision to allow demolition. Additionally, City staff analyzed the ARHA proposal, as well as an alternative with a few less units and some preservation. 

Late last month, ARHA came back to the City Council with their original proposal of 53 units. The proposal consisted of a Development Special Use Permit, a rezoning, and a master plan amendment. 

Under the City's Charter and Zoning Code, neighbors of the Ramsey property signed a petition protesting the potential rezoning. With the protest deemed valid, the City Council is required to have six votes in order to pass the amendment to the master plan. 

The day before the hearing, ARHA requested deferral of the Development Special Use Permit, but still requested approval of the master plan amendment and the rezoning. 

However, that was not the end of the story. 

As the dust settled on the vote, my colleague Councilman Smedberg made a request at the next Council meeting to rescind the vote. That request passed unanimously, which now essentially wipes the slate clean. 

This week, the ARHA Redevelopment Work Group, which I serve on, will be meeting again, followed by meetings of the Council and the ARHA Board of Commissioners. On March 12th, the City Council will again hear this case. 

This has been a very unfortunate time for our City and for the City Council. I'm hopeful that we can work together to find a solution that makes good housing policy and good land use policy at the same time. I think it's possible. 

Let me know your thoughts! 

Measuring the Value
Nearly 60% of the costs of Alexandria's government come from residential and commercial real estate taxes. As such, the announcement of our annual real estate tax assessments is the most important indicator for the upcoming budget process. 

Last month, the City mailed assessment notices to each property owner and you may view valuations online.

Overall, the City's real property tax base increased by 2.82% to $38.20 billion. While still positive territory, it is one of the lowest rates of increase in recent years.

The residential tax base increased 2.44%. 

The average assessed value for a single family home increased 2.25% to $720,701. Of those properties, 67.6% of single family homes increased in value, 12% decreased, and 20.4% stayed the same. 

The average assessed value for a condominium increased 0.94% to $306,883. Of those properties, 39.1% of condominiums increased in value, 24.7% decreased, and 36.2% stayed the same. 

This year we began to see some signs of life in our commercial tax base. Overall, commercial properties increased 3.32%. In Virginia, multi-family residential housing is considered commercial and can dominate our assessment results and mask underlying weakness.

Multi-family rental properties grew by 5.81%, lead by 2.05% of new growth. A little over 1,500 new Class A rental apartments were delivered during 2015. Another 1,321 Class A rental apartments are scheduled to be delivered in 2016. 

The non-residential commercial property base grew at 3.28% with 0.99% of new growth. Most of the new growth was driven by the new National Science Foundation in Carlyle. 

Overall, new construction added $306.53 million to our tax base. Over the past five years, $1.42 billion of new growth has been added to the tax base. This is 3.77% of our overall tax base. 

Residential and multi-family development dropped significantly this year, while commercial development saw a slight increase.  

If you have concerns about your assessments, you have multiple options to have the assessment reviewed. First, contact the Real Estate Assessment office at 703-746-4646. Our staff is happy to discuss your specific assessment. 

Until March 16th, a resident can submit a request to have assessments reviewed for modification by the City Staff. Those requests can be submitted online.  

If the review process does not yield a satisfactory result, an appeal can be filed to be heard before the City's Board of Equalization and Assessment Review. Those requests must be filed prior to June 1st. 

A Shocking Proposal

Almost two years ago, I wrote about Dominion Virginia Power's proposal to construct a new 230 KV transmission line through the northeast corner of our City. 

In June of 2014, the City formed a community group to begin reviewing Dominion Virginia Power's proposal and offering feedback to the Council and directly to Dominion Virginia Power on their proposed routes. 

The most important occurrence at the first meeting was the release of Dominion Virginia Power's proposed routes. Each of these routes have negatives for our community. 

As this process concluded, Dominion believed that the urgency behind the proposed transmission line had subsided. The process was then delayed for some time to allow them to analyze their studies. 

Last month, Dominion again approached the City, with a timetable indicating that they will apply to the State Corporation Commission this summer. 

Ultimately, the decision about the necessity of this transmission line and its routing will be made by the State Corporation Commission. Yet the City and its residents will have some opportunity to help shape that decision. 

The City continues to have significant concerns about this proposal and the potential impacts on Alexandria. 

We will be reconvening our community group and bringing their recommendations to the Council shortly. 

We look forward to Dominion Virginia Power's filing with the State Corporation Commission so that we can work with both parties to minimize negative impacts on our community. 
Vice Mayor Justin M. Wilson 
Alexandria City Hall
301 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Paid for by Wilson For Council