Main menu


How county commissioners say they support Arlington businesses

Arlington County Commission Candidates Adam Theo, Matt De Ferranti, and Audrey Clement at the Chamber Debate (Courtesy Arlington Chamber of Commerce)

Record-high office vacancy rates, along with onerous tax and permitting processes, are just a few hurdles for local businesses that the Arlington County Commission is committed to addressing.

Last night (Wednesday) at a debate hosted by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, incumbent Matt De Ferranti (Democrat) and his two independent opponents, Audrey Clement and Adam Teo, told an audience of 30 how explained how to reach out to area business.

Mr. Clement emphasized the conversion of offices to residences as a way to reduce office vacancy, which reached 20.8% last quarter, and said he would “address the housing crisis at the same time.”

“Converting from offices to residences is a smart approach that both Alexandria and the District of Columbia are implementing,” she said. “There are many reasons why this is a smart strategy, but Arlington’s Missing Middle is not.”

The office building is readily available, has more parking than most new apartments, and is closer to the metro, she said.

“Honestly, I don’t think there’s a disagreement that we should make our office a residence. That’s how we do it,” De Ferranti said. “We are already working on it, but we need to move faster.”

Seeing empty offices spread throughout the building, Teo said “conversion is not a silver bullet” and suggested that schools fill these vacancies.

“This is much easier to retrofit than a house and will help address the overcrowding in schools we will face in the next 10 to 20 years, giving young urban families more opportunities. will be available,” he said.

Currently, the county is considering more flexible zoning of offices, allowing for “light industrial” uses such as delivery staging areas, urban farms, breweries and small warehouses.

Meanwhile, all three said they would change the way businesses are taxed.

“Excessive taxation, especially property taxes, is a concern, but if we can start by reducing some of these business taxes, that’s fine,” Clement said.

Theo called for the removal of the business property tax. This is a tax on property used in a business that requires a business to keep records of almost every item of value it owns.

Arlington Personal Property Tax Income Over the Last 10 Years (via Arlington County)

According to the 2022-23 budget, the tangible tax assessment for businesses is expected to increase by 16% this year. But Teo said last year’s $40 million wasn’t worth the pressure on the less profitable support business.

“The county is sneezing and spending $40 million,” he quipped.

De Ferranti has advocated raising the threshold for the Business, Professional, and Occupational License (BPOL) tax, which accounts for about 5% of the county’s revenue this fiscal year, and has been steadily rising over the past decade.

Long criticized by both the right and the left, the tax leaves companies with revenues under $10,000 debt-free, those with revenues under $50,000 at $30, and those with revenues under $100,000. will be paid $50. Beyond that, most businesses pay $0.36 per $100 of gross revenue, regardless of whether the business is profitable or not. Some businesses, such as stores and restaurants, pay a lower rate, while others, such as printed newspapers, are exempt.

Increased Arlington Revenue from BPOL Tax (via Arlington County)

De Ferranti, however, resisted other tax cut proposals.

“But broad statements such as ‘We should cut taxes’ are, first and foremost, property tax rates the lowest in the region,” De Ferranti said. “Our property values ​​are so high that our total bills are higher than other regions. When our economy is challenged, we have to keep investing.”

When asked what could be improved, Theo and de Ferranti advocated more support for Arlington Economic Development, Constituent Services, and Permit Arlington, while Clement called the recently revised online permit system a “cat.” The cry of the ”, and only praised.

de Ferranti said: “I think we can increase our focus on customer service as a small business as a whole,” Patio Space.

Theo was even more critical, arguing that counties should reconsider their specific permit needs, continue to add permit types to their online system, and automate the backend to ensure permits are approved faster. said there is

While some local restaurateurs have tried to expand their temporary outdoor seating areas (TOSAs) during the pandemic, they’re frustrated with Arlington’s permitting process for managing outdoor tents and heaters.

“We need to encourage TOSA by making the environment more welcoming,” says Clement. “Upgrading our business and restaurant streets requires some coordinated effort with our planning department.”