Friday, March 20, 2009

HeraldTrib Today: March 21, 2009

Buckingham Shopping Center…

I’ve spoken with planners at the county about the Buckingham Shopping Center, and they tell me that they have not heard from Georgetown Strategic Capital, so they do not know if the company is still planning to redevelop the commercial buildings on the west side of the corner of N. Glebe Road at N. Pershing Drive. I’ve called Bob Moore, a principal with the company, and my principal contact, and have received no word on their plans.

This was a partial plan for the building where the Glebe Market now stands, presented in November 2008. (Click to enlarge the image.)

Last month, the county’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board largely killed the project when they voted down the latest plans from Georgetown Strategic.

However, the company has not written a letter withdrawing their application for the use permit, a step the company would take if it were to pull out completely, county planners said.

Last May the company applied for a Certificate of Appropriateness, and for a “Unified Commercial/Mixed-Use Development” use permit, which basically changes the zoning on that corner from strictly commercial to retail/residential buildings that had been planned.

Peter Schulz, a planner at the county, said that the county would expect at the least a quick letter from the company withdrawing their application for the use permit. The application, he said, is still open.

Mr. Schulz said that a missing withdrawal letter would not stop another company from attempting to redevelop the area. The owner of the property, the Jenco group (as usual, they have no comment on this), would have the right to look to other developers if they so choose.

Rebbecah Ballo, with the county’s neighborhood services division, said that she has not heard anything from Georgetown Strategic, either. She works with the HALRB which is concerned with the Certificate of Appropriateness. Georgetown Strategic is not required to send a letter withdrawing that application, she said,.

The buildings on that corner are zoned “C-2” which means a developer, even Georgetown Strategic if they chose, could redevelop the space “by right” into a commercial space, but any building, or change of current facades would still have to pass muster with the HALRB.

Related stories…

  • Application for the Certificate of Appropriateness and Use Permit. (June 2008)
  • Project Dies in HALRB Hands. (February 2009)

  • Adam Parkhomenko is my First Amendment Hero…

    I have to give a First Amendment shout-out (WOOT-WOOT!) to Adam Parkhomenko who is running for the 47th District in the House of Delegates--he is one of five Democratic candidates. I have seen his yard signs on public medians along N. George Mason Drive. That’s illegal according to Arlington County election rules. Those rules say that yard signs on public spaces can only go up 31 days before the election. Yet Adam is proud to thumb his nose at it. Here’s an email from Feb. 24:

    “Yard Signs Are Here

    “Three months before the primary election to replace retiring Delegate Al Eisenberg, Adam’s campaign became the first to have yard signs out on medians throughout the 47th district.”

    Did you see that? He wrote, “out on medians.”

    Now, all he needs is someone to sue him, and he can take it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and we’ll see what they have to say about this sort of thing. The highest court has never considered political signs on medians before. I’d love to know what they would do with it.

    In the past, I’ve advocated for two possible changes to Arlington's rules, changes I think would allow for a more equitable use of public space: 1, allow signs for two months before primaries and anytime after Labor Day for a general election in November; or 2, the candidate can choose any 31-day period he or she chooses. 31 days before the election is too late, and too strongly favors candidates who already have name recognition, especially incumbents.

    Related stories…

  • We Need More Yard Signs (click the link and then scroll down, November 2008).

  • Read the H&H Report…

    The kids saw "Race to Witch Mountain" last weekend. The review is here, on our companion site, "The H&H Report," just in time for your weekend viewing pleasure.

    I will admit to thinking this site would be up and running more strongly by now. As many of you know--especially those of you who say to me, "I can get my child to write for it,"--the kids will not take the time without a little extra prodding. I am re-dedicating myself to prodding my own; if you think of it, prod yours!

    I take submissions from any kid who might read the report. Grown-ups may type for them, but feel free to submit in the very child-based voice that they naturally write in.

    I LOVE the drawings that have come with the reviews in the past.

    Reviews and views on anything are welcome--movies, books, plays, etc. My next prodding will be aimed at my daughter, who I hope will pen a review of the Secret Benedict Society books (a new fave in the Thurston house--or, as we like to call it "Asgard").

    As well, I would happily take reviews from reviewers in the middle and high schools in Arlington.

    Police Notes are caught up…

    I let the police notes go for too long (about a month—sheesh!); they’re caught up, and I hope to keep them that way. See the link below.

    Jots and scribbles…

    I’m working on a couple larger stories that I hope to bring to you soon.

    I’ve been checking out Blue Virginia lately. It’s a newish blog run by Lowell Feld, who is much more famous for his role creating the Raising Kaine blog (it helped get Kaine and other Dems. elected). He has been covering the race for the “Fighting 47th” (the House of Delegates seat that five, count ‘em FIVE, Democrats are fighting for. No Republicans have yet to get on the primary ballot.) Good stuff.

    Make sure you check out the comments on the BCCA meeting. Pat Hope, the president of the group, has a couple interesting announcements (the next meeting is in May—since I won’t be teaching Monday nights, I’ll be able to go).

    Also, I’m still looking into the American Service Center. There’s good news for breathable air, from what I can tell so far, and I am trying to get more drawings to help people see their proposed redevelopment (I know how much HeraldTrib readers love drawings).

    Happy Spring! (You know it's around here someplace.) I have seen small batches of robins, but I have yet to see the big flock that usually comes through for a day or two on their way to New York (or somewhere else). Perhaps I missed the big flock. If so, alas.

    About Executive Bonuses…

    I can't help but think the 90 percent tax on executive bonuses is wrong. Why couldn't Congress just ask Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner to negotiate for some of the money. They probably would have gotten 50 or 60 percent of the money back, maybe more (if they threatened the 90 percent tax).

    I have a contract that said I should have gotten a cost-of-living adjustment to my salary. The Administration of my college contacted the faculty union and said, "Hey, we need to go back to the table." Were we annoyed? Sure, but that's the economic place the country is in. AIG and the government had a contract they had to uphold, but why not just go back to the people involved and say, "Hey, we need to go back to the table" and see what results you get.

    That said, Wall Street really must rethink this pay strategy that allows 40 to 60 percent of an executive's pay to be "bonus." It's not a bonus, really, if you get it no matter what, and the way it's structured now, they get it pretty much no matter what. Sure, the amount shifts, but it doesn't go from being 60 percent of a person's salary one year to 20 percent the next. And if they cannot adjust the bonus at the last minute to make room for something like, say, global economic meltdown, then what is the sense of calling it a bonus--call it what it is, "salary" and then pay them that. If there is money left over, give that as a real bonus.

    The Week’s Headlines…
    As always, you can scroll down to see all the recent stories, or simply click the links below (if the link doesn't work, scroll down to find the story, and email to tell me what's busted: --Steve Thurston).

    Headlines from Earlier in the Week:

  • Police Notes (covering the past month).
  • Police Looking for Impersonator/Thief (It happened in B'ham. No arrest yet, police say).
  • Meeting: BCCA Meets Tonight (Monday March 16--you missed the meeting, but the comments are worth a read)
  • Letter: Thefts At Kenmore Make Cameras Necessary
  • Letter: Heavy-hitting Dems. Support Tobar.
  • Public Announcement: Dems. Need Precinct Captatins in Forest, Heights.

  • On our companion site, the H&H Report…
  • Review: "Race to Witch Mountain"
  • Labels: , , ,

    It is an interesting question as to whether election signs are protected under the First Amendment (as freedom of speech). About 10 years ago, the Virginia General Assembly voted to amend the State's highway sign ordinance to permit the placement of election signs along state highway right-of-ways (such as Glebe Road) at any time. The signs were formerly illegal. However, members of the Assembly were concerned about the First Amendment question and whether the Assembly would prevail in Court if somebody challenged the law. That is one of the reasons that the Assembly changed the law.

    Arlington County amended its sign ordinance about seven years ago to permit political signs on the streets that it controls (such as George Mason Drive). I do not believe that anyone raised the First Amendment issue, even though the Virginia General Assembly had already addressed it.

    Whether the Supreme Court would decide that the First Amendment permits election signs on public right-of-ways is open to question. The Court would likely recognize that the First Amendment does not trump public safety. Thus, the Court would probably rule that a local jurisdiction has a right to remove election signs that block traffic signals and stop signs on the jurisdiction's right-of-ways. It's difficult to predict whether the Court would extend this to other situations.

    Bernie Berne
    More on illegal election signs:

    If anyone is concerned about illegal election signs on George Mason Drive and other County-owned right-of-ways they should file a complaint with the County's Code Enforcement Office at (703) 228-3232. The Code Enforcement Office is responsible for removing such illegal signs, which are public nuisances.

    Bernie Berne
    First Amendment issues aside, I would like to see all political signage disappear from our landscape. The majority of these signs end up as litter on our roads and open spaces (I'm still seeing too many from the November 2008 elections) and if a political candidate must rely upon a sign to get a vote, then he or she must not have much to say. I still like voting for the most qualified individual, not the one with the most or biggest signs. --Mr. Mike (formerly of Arlington)
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