Ashton Heights Civic Association Meeting Minutes for 01/20/2021

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Ashton Heights Civic Association Meeting Minutes for 01/20/2021 via Zoom

Scott Sklar, AHCA President, brought the meeting to order at 7:30 pm.  

Sklar advised AHCA that all the Committees are working at full swing. He quickly outlined AHCA Committee activities by Committee Chairs not on the ZOOM meeting.  Development Committee dealing primarily with development projects and County planning issues in the Clarendon area. Transportation Committee covering Pershing Drive plan and other traffic and vehicle/pedestrian safety issues. He then called on the present Committee Chairs for short reports.

Christina Schultz of our Safety and Security Committee mentioned that the Arlington County kick-off meeting for an affordable housing plan will be held tomorrow evening, January 21, 2021 from 6-8 pm.  There also will be a meeting about the missing middle housing problem on February 7, 2021 at 7:00 pm.  Both will be available via Zoom.  Go to the Arlington County Website to get details to join either one.

Scott Sklar mentioned that both Jim Richardson, our Vice President for Programs and Jodie Flakowicz our Secretary will, no longer be available to serve in these roles after our May meeting. Our Advertising position for our newsletter remains open as well.  If anyone has any questions about or has any interest in volunteering to serve inn any of these positions, please contact Scott at solarsklar@aol.com.

Brooke Alexander of our Tree Canopy and Native Plants Subcommittee mentioned that 14 trees were provided for our tree canopy by the county in December.  We have 10 more to plant, if you would like one please contact Brooke at brooke.alexander52@gmail.com.  She is also “collecting” the whereabouts of old trees that reside in our neighborhood, as part of the coming 100 Year Celebration for our community this year.  Please let her know if you have such a tree on your property, that you think should be included.  She is hoping to have a tour of these trees for our community members in the Fall.

Two Presentations:

1. COVID and Other topics – Mark Schwartz, Arlington County Manager

Scott mentioned our appreciation for the work Mark is doing on our behalf, while Mark responded that he feels we are well represented by Scott Sklar in his role as our President.

What we need to know about COVID – A lot of our county service employees are working at home, while approx 1500 are on the job in the offices and streets including our police, fire, environmental, park and library employees.  There is intense frustration regarding the availability of the vaccine.  He advised the State has contracts with CVS & Walgreens on vaccinations at nursing and old-age homes, and the County is not privvy to the number treated. He also mentioned VHC is dealing now primarily with healthcare works, first responders, and has not vaccinated a third of the teachers with their first doses.  Originally the county was asked to order amounts of vaccine for our 1a needs – Medical Professional  and Long-term Care residents & staff.  12 hours after that, the Governor announced that we should also start vaccinating the 1b needs as well.  This includes people aged 65+, people 16-64 with underlying medical conditions, people in correctional facilities and homeless shelters plus frontline essential workers.  For the first week we had requested 2000 doses and were given only 1400.  Mark Schwartz advised there is shortage of vaccine supply and notification of Arlington which makes it very hard for planning & distribution.

The budget for next year being proposed will be on 2/20/2021.  Obviously with the pandemic our revenue of funds has declined.  Hotel occupancy has been very low, except for the week of January 6th.  This will impact on the funds we will be able to spend next year.

In July 2019, the Arlington County Board adopted Vision Zero: a strategy to eliminate all transportation fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all people.

Clarendon Sector Plan

Mark was asked about what role The Virginia Hospital Center will play with the vaccines.  Mark understood they got vaccine doses to last one week.  They are set up to deliver more, but they don’t have more vaccine to administer.  The county is unaware of role of the Walgrens and CVS stores will be doing with distribution of the vaccine and how much they will distribute.  

Brooke Alexander wondered about how much influence our community has over development of areas along our borders. Specifically finding out what the plans are for the CVS opening up on the sight of the Highland Hotel.  We would like to provide input to the buffer they are proposing to protect the surrounding houses from lights and sounds from the new store.  Julie Mangis mentioned that the Neighborhood Conservation Plan for the area has included a “greenway” in this same buffer zone for at least the last 40 years.  Brooke wants to ensure we are able to provide input into the final plans.  Mark is going to look into a Point of Contact for Brooke for this project.

Concerns voiced about getting teachers vaccinated before kids are required to return to school.

Christina Schulz asked about the end of December findings of the analysis of some areas of the services that the police currently provide, that could be farmed out.  Four areas were determined that possibly could be done by someone else.  They are:

  1. mental health scenarios
  2. alternate ways to work with some kinds of disputes
  3. create a civilian review board
  4. traffic problem solvers – traffic control officers

There was also discussion of why there is so much racial disparity in traffic stops.  They hope to see this final report soon.

Mark was asked about what major areas of change does he think could happen in Arlington over the next 20 – 30 years.  Mark thinks that office buildings will not be so prevalent, so our revenue sources from properties will have to change.  He also wondered if we will be able to create the “missing middle” so not only rich people will be able to live in this area.

2) Sidewalk Inventory – Jeremy Hassan, P.E.; Chief Operating Engineer, Sewer & Streets; Arlington County Department of Environmental Services; Water, Sewer and Streets Bureau

Over the next six months, Arlington will be going under a sidewalk condition survey.  The last time there was such an analysis was back in the 1980s and it is long overdue.  This is to review all types of sidewalks – brick, asphalt and concrete to find any tripping hazards, obstructions and overgrowth of weeds.  In addition they will also be checking out all the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) ramps to ensure they are compliant and if there is a need for new ones and also the status of all our cross walks.

Scott mentioned that about 50% of the time he gets notifications from the county reps regarding any county activity in the neighborhood.  He’s appreciate that he be notified about the status of this project when it hits our neighborhood as well.

If anyone would like to report a problem with their sidewalks, pipes and snow removal one can contact his office on-line or via phone.  There also is a “Report a Problem” aspect to the the My Arlington app, that can be downloaded to your phone.  Once on your phone you can access the Report a Problem part of the My Arlington app and submitted anywhere  and anytime that you have your phone.

Also on the My Arlington Website you can go to the Projects page where there is a map of Arlington with blue highlights reflecting the status of various projects going on in the county.  This has been improved for context so it can be more easily read by residents.

Question about standards for sidewalks that cross driveways.  Jeremy confirmed that when the contractor applies for a permit, the standards are shared with contractor at that time.  If a resident would like, if they need their driveway/sidewalk repaired, the county can provide this service for them at a cost.

Question about the sidewalk survey impacting on taxes. Jeremy mentioned that his budget can run $300,000-$600,000 depending.  The contract for the sidewalk survey is running the county approximately $150,000 and will benefit the county for the next twenty years.  Once the assessment is done the county can strategize the priority areas that should get done first and over the next number of years spread out the cost and work of fixing the sidewalks throughout the county.

Scott mentioned that if there are issues that we are not addressing to please contact him at solarsklar@aol.com.  He wants to ensure that we are being vital to our residents needs.

The meeting adjourned around 8:45 pm.

Respectfully submitted by Jodie Flakowicz, January 23, 2021 

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