(Updated at 3:45 p.m. on 02/22/22) A typo in a recent Notice of Public Hearing had wider implications for Arlington County.
The error – an incorrect date printed on posters across the city – also sparked a discussion from the County Council yesterday (Tuesday) about finding more effective ways to communicate with residents about upcoming hearings and plans .
It’s a recurring conversation for Council members, who have now criticized the county’s engagement processes for being neither penetrating nor inclusive enough.
Currently, the county is posting signs at and near the sites of future land use projects in accordance with its zoning ordinances. It also prints advertisements in the washington time newspaper to comply with state public notice laws.
The leaflets posted this time bore the wrong date: February 19, or this Saturday, instead of February 12, when the county council actually met.
As a result, most relevant hearing items – including plans to move a church to Ballston, a new daycare center near Clarendon and the opening of a private school in a church near Crystal City – will be postponed. at a meeting on Saturday 19 March.
A hearing for the Marbella Apartments, a future affordable housing project near Rosslyn, will be heard at a special meeting on Monday February 28 at 6.30pm so that the project can meet an early March deadline to receive tax credits from Virginia Housing. .
Those who spoke at Saturday’s meeting will have their comments entered and will not need to return, officials said.
“Unfortunately, [for] that mistake — that anyone can make a mistake like that — we had no redundancy, which we’re going to fix immediately,” County Executive Mark Schwartz said. “We will immediately improve our process to resolve this issue.”
Only one person reviewed the dates before the printed signs came out, he said. The newspaper ad, meanwhile, had the correct date, but county council members debated whether to publish legal notices in The Washington Times, a conservative daily with a circulation of around 50,000 copies in the DC area, is effective.
“It begs the question not only ‘What happened here? but ‘What could be better in the future?’ said Christian Dorsey, Vice Chairman of the Board. “Many have long decried our practice of advertising in The Washington Times, given its relatively low circulation in the county. Although it meets legal requirements, it does not necessarily meet the spirit of the general advice. »
In Arlington, said Board Chair Katie Cristol, the challenge is that the county can choose wide circulation and extra spending with The Washington Post or low prices with The Washington Times.
She said she would “love” to advertise with an online news source, but state law requires that such notices be placed in print publications.
“We have at least one where a lot of Arlingtonians get their news,” Cristol said. “We are compelled by state code to do this – and some very effective pressure from what I understand, it is the printing industry in Virginia, which is very interested in keeping this requirement unchanged.
Virginia Press Association Executive Director Betsy Edwards says the current system is “working very well for the majority of Commonwealth citizens”.
Legal notices are included in a newspaper’s print product and on the newspaper’s website as well as on a statewide website managed by the association, she said. A print ad provides an option for communities where there are disparities in internet access and helps publications meet the requirement to provide an affidavit certifying that the notice was posted when and how often it was supposed to be broadcast.
“We are supportive of the way it is, and we know it affects the most people,” she said. “A lot of important government actions are being taken and [newspapers] are the public’s window into what the government is doing or about to do.
Of the. Patrick Hope tells ARLnow that he wants jurisdictions to be able to place public notices with digital media groups, if they choose, so they reach a wider range of residents. (Disclosure: Such a change could benefit this publication financially.)
Hope is invoice to allow this failed in 2020 and the issue, for now, is on the back burner – until he can get more votes.
“The thing about the current law… [is] it goes against putting up notices in a place where people see them,” he said. “You know, people read other media, and they do it to comply with the law.”
Under legislation he previously proposed, jurisdictions would have to advertise with sites that have sufficiently high readership rates, revenue and posting frequencies.
“The future is online… If you look at this problem five to 10 years from now, it won’t be a problem anymore. That’s where the people are,” he said. “I’m going to do another round of this.”
Meanwhile, Anthony Fusarelli, Jr., director of Arlington’s Department of Community Planning, Housing, and Development Planning, said his staff will explore options for putting more eye-catching, illustrative signage on the streets. project sites.
“We could, and probably should, do better in terms of getting signage into the public domain to let more people understand what’s on offer for a property,” he said.