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Neighborhood may see ART-bus storage over long haul

County manager doesn't rule out using N. Quincy St. site in perpetuity

Residents already angered by the temporary storage of Arlington Transit (ART) buses on the county-government site on North Quincy Street couldn’t have reacted well to what was a verbal aside – but potentially a big deal – delivered by County Manager Mark Schwartz.

Speaking at a Jan. 20 hearing on the parcel’s continued use for storing more than two dozen transit buses over the next year, Schwartz dropped a bombshell.

The county government’s new operations facility in South Arlington will not be able to house all ART buses if the system converts to an electric fleet, he said.

“We will have to be looking at other places in the county,” Schwartz said. “This site [on North Quincy Street] could be a potential location.”

The county government purchased the 6.1-acre site in 2017 from a private owner, and in 2018 allowed the school system to park its vehicles there. The 2022 decision to store ART buses was a bridge too far for the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association and some neighbors, who criticized both the plan itself – and what some saw as bullying tactics of the county government, including the use of litigation and reportedly a questionable staff maneuver that prevented the Board of Zoning Appeals from weighing in on the matter.

The lawsuit by the county government against residents and a civic association was quietly dropped in recent months, but certainly has left a rancid taste in the mouths of good-government supporters.

“What further legal retaliation awaits these citizens?” mused Thomas Viles, who spoke at the Jan. 20 hearing. “Certainly the insults [against them] didn’t stop.”

James Rosen, president of the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association, said future use of the parcel needs to be determined only after a robust community process that provides “a predictable path forward.”

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Was that a little “shade” thrown at a new Arlington County Board member from a somewhat more veteran counterpart, or just an effort to be of assistance?

During discussion of the county government’s use of a parcel on North Quincy Street to house Arlington Transit (ART) buses, new-for-2024 board member Susan Cunningham suggested three changes to the staff recommendation, including reducing from 12 months to six the time for the next County Board review.

Her colleague Matt de Ferranti then gently suggested – but not so gently it went completely under the radar – that it is helpful if other board members are given advance knowledge of any proposed changes that are known ahead of time.

Cunningham did not respond, and given that she’s not generally seen as the type to tell a colleague to, as it is known colloquially, go perform an anatomical impossibility on himself, perhaps she thought nothing of the matter.

Contacted by the GazetteLeader, de Ferranti said no offense was intended.

“My thoughts on Saturday on Ms. Cunnigham’s amendment were truly only meant to be helpful,” he said. “Her amendment was and is part of the value she brings to the board in terms of transparency and additional consideration of the reasonable concerns neighbors have in this case. I was happy to support it, and genuinely appreciate her leadership on it.”

Cunningham and Maureen Coffey were elected in November to four-year County Board seats. De Ferranti is in the second year of his second four-year term and is second in seniority to Libby Garvey on the five-member body.