The three-way race for two seats on the Arlington County Board that will be decided Tuesday has largely focused on the county’s relationship with developers.
A large part of that is thanks to Green Party candidate Audrey Clement, who faces incumbent Democratic board members Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada. Hynes and Tejada are better funded and refer to one another as running mate.
Clement has worked to make her belief that the board “is in bed with developers” a constant campaign refrain.
“Well, we’re not,” Hynes said flatly in a phone interview.
Hynes and Tejada both cited the county’s comprehensive plan, adopted in the early 1960s, which states development should be concentrated in Arlington’s two Metro corridors – roughly 11 percent of the land here – in order to preserve residential neighborhoods in the rest of the county.
“Development is part of what’s made this community the cool place that it is,” she said.
“It requires conversations all the time between the neighborhoods, the county board and the people who want to build bigger, taller buildings… That’s part of what the county board’s job is – to balance that out, and try to keep it in a healthy tension that provides tax revenue, the services that our residences want, and great retail. All of those things happen because of this redevelopment, this constant reinvestment in the community.”
In a phone interview, Tejada chuckled at the accusation and said on the other hand he also hears from developers and their supporters that he focuses too much on “anti-development.”
“It’s a good thing when you have both sides saying (that),” Tejada said. “What I’ve tried to do is strike a balance, where you do get community benefits for a development that may go up. We are a very desirable place to live or set up new offices or new condos… So, my job is to try to strike a balance, to see what is needed to absorb new density and how we can focus on paying for new amenities.”
Both incumbents also listed having affordable housing here as among their top priorities.
But Clement won’t hear it.
New development brings more people, and more people make the streets busier and cause home and rental costs to rise, she said.
Because of the county’s policy of regulation through zoning, many developers end up negotiating with the county to get approval for what they want to build.
In that, Clement said the county should look at what is allowed, compare that to what the developers want, and literally put a price tag on the difference in order to make sure developers are paying their fair share.
“Basically, we're accelerating the rate of population growth of this county without making corresponding investments in streets, schools and mass transit,” Clement said in a phone interview.
“Let's put it this way: Developers are going to keep on making demands… as long as they don't have to pay their fair share of the cost.”