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Arlington Board OKs $2.7M for Neighborhood Improvements

Funding for projects contingent on voter approval next month.

The Arlington County Board on Tuesday unanimously approved $2.7 million for several projects under the Neighborhood Conservation Program.

The money — much of which will only be available if voters approve issuing bonds on Nov. 6 — will fund four new projects and provide additional funding for five ongoing projects. If the ballot measure fails, the projects will not be funded.

They include:

  • $522,400 for Butler Holmes Park improvements in the Penrose community
  • $750,000 for Rocky Run Park improvements in the Clarendon-Courthouse neighborhood
  • About $126,000 for streetlights in the Madison Manor neighborhood
  • About $572,000 for sidewalk, curb, gutter and other street improvements in Arlington Ridge.

More than $747,000 will pay for four streetlight projects and improvements to the Virginia Highlands Sprayground.

At board Chairwoman Mary Hynes' request, county staff delivered a lengthy presentation about the types of streetlights Arlington is using — LED lights that are replacing old high-pressure sodium lights.

The new lights are more energy efficient and can be dimmed late at night along neighborhood streets. They use about 60 percent less electricity, and the full conversion of the county's streetlights could save more than $2 million annually, county staff reported.

The LED lights installed in neighborhoods will have shields on one side to lessen the light shining into homes.

County staff have received some complaints about the color of the light — it's been equated to that of the sun — and the general aesthetics of the new lighting. Some neighborhoods have asked for more decorative streetlights.

"You're doing the right things with the shielding. You're doing the right thing with the dimming. I, for one, am not interested in neighborhoods having lights as decoration. If a neighborhood wants one for decoration, I'm not interested in paying for it," board member Jay Fisette told staff.

Republican board candidate Matt Wavro criticized the county for approving expenditures before voters have approved the sale of bonds necessary to fund those projects.

Wavro said he was "generally supportive" of neighborhood conservation projects by their nature, but the county "has given up all pretense of a democratic process."

"Public input is important," he said. "And no more important input is provided than in the voting booth."

Board member Chris Zimmerman said the early approval was necessary in order for the county to keep up with the number of neighborhood projects it has in line.

"This is one of the most participatory processes we have … when it comes to spending public money," he said.

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