Home Local Politics Arlington County Board Unanimously Asks Gov. Northam to Veto Tim Hugo’s “Dangerous”...

Arlington County Board Unanimously Asks Gov. Northam to Veto Tim Hugo’s “Dangerous” Country Club Bill


Good to see the Arlington County Board – including Republican John Vihstadt – unanimous on this one.  For more on why Gov. Northam absolutely should veto this absurd tax-breaks-for-wealthy-country-clubs-while-screwing-Arlington bill by “anti-tax hardliner” Del. Tim Hugo (R-Fairfax), see Godawful Del. Tim Hugo (R) Bill Would Screw Arlington, Lavish Big $$$ on Super-Rich People, Weaken Local Autonomy vs State AND Set a Horrible Precedent – VETO! and The Arlington Country Clubs Tim Hugo Wants to Help Are Doing Just Fine, Thank You Very Much! As the following letter from all five Arlington County Board members explains (bolding added by me for emphasis):

  • In an effort to provide preferential tax treatment to two golf clubs in Arlington, the bill conflicts with the Constitution and Code of Virginia, sets a dangerous precedent for real property tax assessment decisions to be made in Richmond instead of at the local level, and undermines state laws related to the preservation of open space.”
  • Enacting this legislation is a dangerous intrusion into the local real estate assessment process which has traditionally been the sole province of local decision making, and sets a dangerous precedent…”
  • this legislated tax relief solely for two golf clubs has a substantial budgetary impact on Arlington County at the expense of schools, public safety, public services, public health, and transportation…”

In sum, this one should be a super-easy call for Gov. Northam – VETO!

h/t: ArlNow

UPDATE Wednesday 11 am: Can anyone figure out what Gov. Northam said about what he’s going to do with the country clubs bill? Sounded like a veto, but then the more he talked…maybe not?

  • DCStrangler

    Of course they would

  • dave schutz

    “Good to see the Arlington County Board – including Republican John Vihstadt – unanimous on this one. ”
    You are really doing your god damnedest to hang the Reep albatross around John Vihstadt’s neck. It’s a difficult sell, since he has been operating as an Independent since election and has publicly stated that he did NOT vote for Trump.

    • Vihstadt is a lifelong Republican, even won an award from the Arlington Republicans for his fine service to their party, whatever he calls himself now for cynical, calculated political reasons.

      • dave schutz

        Suit yourself. Your confidence that you can assess his motives is … breathtaking.

        • Actually, what is breathtaking is your denial of Vihstadt being a Republcan despite being a Republican his entire life, donating beaucoup bucks to Republicans, etc

          • dave schutz

            It certainly took some remarkable political malpractice on the part of the then Board members to set up a situation in which Arlington voters were willing to elect John Vihstadt. It also helped that he had been a fixture in community organizations for twenty years and had a thousand friends.

          • I completely agree with you that: a) the Board members DID set up that situation by being insular/arrogant/non-communicative; b) the Board members also didn’t react strongly, aggressively, smartly, etc. to the rising threat posed by the anti-streetcar forces; c) Vihstadt was heavily involved in Arlington, knew a ton of people and I’m sure had lots of friends. I’d also add that the candidacy of Alan Howze, as likable a guy as he is, was not nearly forceful enough…

          • Excellent comment by you on ArlNow, btw: “We should initiate eminent domain with the purpose of acquiring the courses for park, school, and playing field use. It’s ridiculous to have so nonintensive a use within the boundaries of this more and more urban area.”

          • ANCC gets plenty of intensive use, very crowded, especially on weekends, sometimes even the dreaded 5 hour rounds. You can’t pave paradise and put up a parking lot on every square meter in Arlington and Fairfax counties. Trees and greenery are needed to breathe.

          • dave schutz


          • DCStrangler

            I’d laugh if the ACB tried. They would get sued and voted out of office while it was tied up in court. Do you think the neighbors would want that land developed and their property values lowered? Not to mention Arlington would have to fork over a crap ton of money. If Zimmerman and Fisette were still around, they would have the gall to want to pay on the Open Space valuation.

          • dave schutz

            Lowell, the factors you list are important, it was also crucial that the Pike Trolley was a truly dreadful project. Even the County’s estimates showed very little additional transit capacity over enhanced buses, those of us in opposition were able to hang the famous photo of multiple Spadina trolley cars hung up behind a fender bender in Toronto like an albatross around the necks of the proponents, and that included Alan Howze. The opposition prevailed because ours was the correct policy position, not because the Board failed to act vigorously against us. It certainly didn’t help Howze – good guy, thoughtful, spoke well, in any ordinary time a winning candidate – that Jay Fisette had identified the Howze-Vihstadt elections as constituting the referendum on the trolley which the Board had otherwise refused to entertain.

          • If the County Board members weren’t willing to fight – and fight HARD – for something they said they strongly believed was the right thing for Arlington (the Columbia Pike streetcar project), then they should have just announced then and there that they were bagging it. I mean, if they really believed it was as good as they argued, they should have gone all in for it. If not, then not. Pick one – go all out or don’t do it at all. Instead, they ended up with the worst of all worlds. Brilliant.

  • ANCC and Washington Golf pay more than the next 11 golf courses in the area, COMBINED. The issue is Arlington County wants to tax ANCC as “residential use” which is MUCH higher per square foot than “open space” ANCC has been open space use since Eisenhower was a Major in 1924. All ANCC wants is to be taxed as open space, just like Trump National is. This is an issue of tax fairness and equitable use, not a “tax cut for the wealthy” as so many have wrongly implied.

    • Chris Slatt

      Just like my backyard is taxed as open space. Oh wait, it’s not.

      • You’re a resident in your back yard. No one claims ANCC as residency, no one lives there, no one counts as a resident for census purposes. It is “open space” not residential, and should be taxed as “open space”.

        • Chris Slatt

          It should be taxed based on the value of the land. That land could be sold at anytime to someone who could then build a house on it. That’s the value of the land.

          Also, just as a point of clarification, I don’t live in my backyard.

          • Agreed; the value of that land is closely related to its “opportunity cost” – what else it could (and would) be used for if there weren’t a golf course there. Clearly, the land would be MUCH more valuable without the golf course, which gets right at the issue of whether the golf course is taxed “too high.”

          • An idealistic view, but that’s not what the law states. It was private property purchased in 1924 for its intended use, open space, NOT residential.

          • It also happens to be sitting on highly valuable land in a dense, urban county, surrounded by homes worth millions of $$$ each. Why shouldn’t Arlington take that into account when assessing and taxing the property?

          • DCStrangler

            Because that’s not the law. Those clubs are classified as Open Space, and should be taxed accordingly. There is a reason why this bill passed the legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support. Don’t expect the few votes that switched during the amendment phase to stay flipped. Northam is well aware this could happen too.

          • Chris Slatt

            1) To what law are you referring?
            2) Classified as Open Space by whom?

        • dave schutz

          Right, it’s not residential. It’s not Suzette Kelo’s little pink house. It’s not somebody’s home. We should compensate ANCC for their land and take it for higher public use.

          • Again, has Arlington County put an offer in front of ANCC for consideration? Annual Meeting is 1 Oct, plenty of time for the Board of Governors to put it to a vote.

    • Why are the other entities of similar use being taxed differently? Why is Trump’s organization taxed as open use whereas ANCC is taxed as residential? Treat them all the same.

      • dave schutz

        Arlington County is being evenhanded in its treatment of the golf courses within its jurisdiction. That the other jurisdictions nearby are run by starstruck golfer wannabees is not our problem.

        • Agreed; that’s a laughable “argument.”

        • It is unfair tax treatment of our men and women in uniform on fixed incomes, a greedy view by Arlington County (the 5th wealthiest county in the US) politicians, and inconsistent with land use principles. Hence the need for OVERWHELMING bi-partisan legislation which is sitting on the Governor’s desk for signature. Strongly recommend you reconsider your view of “Evenhanded”. ANCC contributes millions to Arlington County’s tax base, and asks for very little in return. Maybe a center turn lane on Glebe Road or widening of I66 in Arlington Co, but that’s about it.

          • Far from “overwhelming,” the legislation passed 58-37 in the House of Delegates, not even close to veto proof. Also not true that Arlington is “greedy” – if it were, it could try to raise the golf courses’ tax rates using a “highest and best use” approach. But Arlington hasn’t done that.

          • Bi-partisan 58-37 seems like a landslide victory no matter the contest. We’ve passed 1.5T taxcuts and implemented Obamacare on far less ratios. The will of the people should not be denied, and this is fair legislation that the Governor should sign without hesitation.

          • Yeah, “the will of the [rich] people [who own and operate golf courses].” LOL

          • A “rich” comment — considering Arlington is one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, and most members of ANCC are military folks or retirees on fixed income. Fleecing them with usurious tax rates from Arlington County only to see it wasted on things like failed street car programs or “pie-in-the-sky” gondola projects. Tax the residents who live in properties as residential, and tax open use per the code, and treat our military members fairly, JUST THE WAY all the other clubs in the area are treated. Do you really think ANCC should pay a tax rate 7 times that of Trump National?

          • dave schutz

            Hey! Gondola is a very sensible and cost-effective proposal! Far cheaper than most sorts of transit, and well suited to the need to cross the river.

          • John Doe

            That’s false. The bill officially passed 65-33-1 in the House. Unofficially, the vote was 67-32-1 due to recording errors. After the Senate amended the bill, some Democrats switched their votes after being heavily pressured by the Arlington delegation. But, it was obvious that those votes were not needed to pass the amendment, so you are reading too much into the meaning of the vote.

          • dave schutz

            When ANCC put in place, Arlington was semi-rural. Decades of development fever have made us very heavily populated, and made gold an inappropriate use. We should be getting ZERO taxes from the golf courses, because we should be acquiring them by eminent domain and putting schools and parks on the sites. ANCC should take the payment from Arlington and go buy some land in outer Loudoun, and play their golf games there.

          • “When” a few military members pooled their funds n the early 1920s. to buy the land ANCC now resides on. Has Arlington County made ANY valid financial proposal to acquire ANCC’s land and associated facilities your recommended usage? I doubt many of the men and women who serve in the Pentagon are going to buy land in outer Loudon county to exercise (golf, tennis, aquatics, fitness facilities) before or after their work shifts. As to eminent domain? Sic semper tyrannis.

          • It’s a ridiculous use of precious, valuable land in Arlington County, that’s for sure.

          • Rainier Wolfcastle

            “Yeah, well, you know, that’s just like, your opinion, man.”

  • Dave Arlington

    Arlington County’s budget is only slightly less than that of the entire state of Alaska. I’m all for everyone paying their fair share, but fair share doesn’t really gel with taxing an open space like a neighborhood. The county doesn’t provide infrastructure or maintain it there like a neighborhood, they don’t educate the imaginary children that don’t live there, they don’t send power or water out there to non-existent homes.

    This seems really common-sense, and I’m kind of disappointed in this blog for wasting time and energy fighting what seems to be a pretty easy fix to a greedy problem. Arlington has plenty of money, and plenty of homes to tax to get more money. Let the veterans play golf a little cheaper. They’ve certainly earned it.

    • As someone said on a Facebook forum dealing with Arlington education: “This is not open space. I can’t go use it as I am not a member.” As for the veterans, is there any evidence that if Arlington cut the taxes these country clubs pay even lower, that the country clubs would cut the fees for veterans? Also, I’d love to know what percentage of the veterans who belong to the country clubs are regular enlisted folks vs. high-ranking officers. Something tells me it’s a lot more the latter than the former…

      • Membership is open to civilians who wish to become paying members, just like everyone else. The bylaws stipulate that there is a ratio of active duty, to retirees, to civilians. It is private property, used as open space, and should be taxed as such, similar to all the other like use facilities in the area, including Trump National.

  • Rainier Wolfcastle

    Why is that those opposed to HB1204 are so quick to make this an argument over their “feelings” on socioeconomic assumptions rather than about equitable tax treatment of privately owned non-profit country clubs? Identity politics is so 2008. I’ve never seen so many unhinged and angry progressives willing to throw facts out the window in favor of their prejudices. No wait. I forgot about that march with all the pink kitty cat hats. Or whatever.

    • dave schutz

      I don’t buy your notion that equity requires uniform treatment between jurisdictions. Arlington had damn better treat WG&CC the same way as it treats A-NCC, and I think it does, but I don’t see any reason that has to be the same way as Loudoun treats its country clubs.

      • Bingo.

      • Rainier Wolfcastle

        But your fine with every other club in the commonwealth being treated that way. Just not the two clubs in arlington. Ok. Got it.

        • dave schutz

          Exactly. If I lived in Loudoun, I would be asking my Board of Supes to tax the country clubs there at an Arlington-type rate, but I don’t, and I think it’s the Loudounians’ business what they do.

          • Rainier Wolfcastle

            A spirited debate to be sure. We’ll see what the Governor decides but I suspect he’ll ask Arlington and the clubs to work it out. After all he is a reasonable politician unlike those on the county board. That means a win for the clubs. A forced negotiation rather than a one-sided “get lost” from Arlington. Happy Easter!

          • dave schutz

            Happy Easter back atcha. He is risen indeed! I have no strong idea what the governor will do – expect it will be fairly soon.

  • Rainier Wolfcastle

    Army Navy CC gave land to Arlington County located on the southeast corner of the property. Arlington County had asked for the unused portion of Army Navy CC property because the County wished to build a school on the land. No school was ever built. A gas station and convenience store was built however. Then years later, a multifamily apartment complex. Arlington County lied to the club then turned around and sold the land to developers. Arlington County has a track record of being disingenuous when dealing with ANCC and WG&CC over easements and tax issues. There’s a term for how Arlington County has treated these private non-profit clubs. I’ll refrain so as to not have too many heads reading this thread explode.

    • dave schutz

      This episode was one of the more mule-headed actions by our Board in recent memory, right up there with the Hot Lanes lawsuit and the plan for the Columbia Pike Trolley. Arlington, rather than covering itself with glory, covered itself with … mud … on this one, you are absolutely right.

      • Rainier Wolfcastle

        Dave- how would you suggest the county make good on this injustice?

        • dave schutz

          Rainier – I don’t see how the County can or will. It makes me think less of the people who were making decisions on the County side at the time, but, you know, my feelz here and $2.50 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks and actually you can get the coffee for the $2.50 all by itself. Bad decision making by the County over the last twenty years has resulted in a cost structure which is right at the limit of our taxing capacity and badly hurt by current office vacancies. More bad decision making has resulted in our being very short on space for the facilities needed for the increased population living in the projects the Board has been blithely approving while extracting stainless steel swirlies for our traffic islands and art galleries from the developers, instead of help on those facilities. There’s an extent to which the folks now on the Board feel (correctly) that they were elected to clean up the mess and (also correctly) that they are really not personally the ones who made it.
          All of that makes them urgent not to lose the tax revenue from the clubs and makes the enormous amount of land in a space-short County which the clubs occupy very conspicuous. Embarrassment over the activities of their decades-ago predecessors is not going to loom very large for them. All of which does not make the County look good, and makes the clubs’ decision to try and go over our heads to the legislature very understandable (and as is by now quite clear, I hope you fail!).

          • Rainier Wolfcastle

            Arlington will get significantly less tax revenue from WGCC and ANCC this year. How much less is yet to be determined.

          • dave schutz

            It does seem clear that we have gotten a ‘Children, you go away and settle this among yourselves’ from Governor Northam, who avoided saying what he was going to do on the bill.