Good stuff by Arlington County‘s progressive, all-Democratic County Board, which earlier today authorized collective bargaining, adopted a prevailing wage provision, voted to rename Route 29 from “Lee Highway” to “Langston Boulevard, “approved an agreement with Amazon in which the company will donate a $40M parcel of undeveloped land on the Crystal House Apartments site to the County for the purpose of developing new affordable housing” and “approved a Solar Power Purchase Agreement contract to install solar panels on the Lubber Run Community Center.” Nice job; Democrats get good stuff done!
“Today’s Board actions help make our community inclusive,” said County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti. “From renaming a main County roadway to guaranteeing quality housing for more of our residents and ensuring our employees have a voice at the table when it comes to working conditions, today we are showing that Arlington is a place where everyone is valued and respected.”
County Board Authorizes Collective Bargaining
The Board voted 5-0 to allow collective bargaining, approving a balanced ordinance that will give eligible employees a voice in workplace discussions while also allowing the County Manager and staff to carry out the business of government. The Board action followed a public hearing and ongoing discussions between County leadership and representatives with employee associations to resolve several issues since the motion was first posted in June.
The practice of conferring on a range of topics with employees is in keeping with the practice of County management over many years; however, formalizing this process should promote greater satisfaction and stability in the workplace. Approximately two-thirds of County employees will be eligible to participate in collective bargaining, which is expected to be implemented beginning in Fiscal Year 2024.
Adoption of a Prevailing Wage
With a vote of 5-0, the Board adopted a prevailing wage provision to the Arlington County Purchasing Resolution for construction contracts of $250,000 or more, solicited on or after January 1, 2022. The contract amount was amended from the original proposed amount of $1.5M. Prevailing wage rates provide a level of wages that is required at a minimum on any project that falls under an ordinance. The Virginia Commissioner of Labor and Industry determines the rates based on applicable prevailing wage rate determinations by the U.S. Secretary of Labor under the Davis-Bacon Act provisions.
Return to Earn Grant Approved
The Board also approved a Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Return to Earn grant from the Virginia Community College System designed to help individuals transition back into the workforce. The grant, totaling more than $130,000, will match payments up to $500 from eligible small businesses located in Arlington County and Alexandria City for new hires to help cover the ongoing costs of childcare, transportation, or other barriers to re-employment. The program will be administered by the Alexandria/Arlington Regional Workforce Council.
Preserving Affordable and Accessible Housing Units
With a 5-0 vote, the Board allocated up to $22.76 Million for a loan from the Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF) for a large renovation project at the Park Shirlington Apartments. Additionally, the Board approved extending the existing $6M AHIF loan to the property from August 2021 to January 2022 and allocate an additional $124,000 in Tenant Assistance Funds for eligible existing residents at the Park Shirlington to offset rent increases because of these renovations.
Amazon Agreement to Facilitate Affordable Housing
Additionally, the Board approved an agreement with Amazon in which the company will donate a $40M parcel of undeveloped land on the Crystal House Apartments site to the County for the purpose of developing new affordable housing. More than 550 units are planned to be developed as affordable for moderate- to low-income households, of which a minimum of 148 of the residential units will be committed to households earning 50% or less of the area median income (AMI), and a minimum of 406 of the residential units will be committed to households earning 80% or less of the AMI on the site by January 1, 2028. Learn more.
Renaming Route 29
The Board voted unanimously to officially rename U.S. Route 29 to Langston Boulevard within the boundaries of Arlington County between North Lynn Street to the western border of Arlington County with the City of Falls Church. The renaming of Route 29, known as Lee Highway throughout the County, comes after the Lee Highway Alliance working group of residents and business owners underwent an effort to determine a name that better reflects Arlington County’s values, promotes equity, and is welcoming to all people who work on, live on, and/or visit the corridor.
The Working Group created an objective set of evaluation criteria to ensure that the public process of selecting a name was transparent, inclusive, and reflected a commitment to the values of public engagement in Arlington. With the new name of Langston Boulevard, costs for new signage are estimated at $300,000, subject to final design and determination by VDOT (Virginia Department of Transportation).
Investing to help Make Arlington More Sustainable
To help achieve some of the renewable energy commitments in the Community Energy Plan, the Board approved a Solar Power Purchase Agreement contract to install solar panels on the Lubber Run Community Center. This effort will provide renewable energy resourced power to the County for the next 30 years, bringing the building’s performance as close to zero-net-energy as currently practicable.