Arlington County Board/Christian Dorsey

Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey. (Photo by Deb Kolt)

The Arlington government and local business community need to collaborate, where feasible, on issues ranging from affordable housing to economic development, County Board Chairman Christian Dorsey said at the annual “State of the County” presentation.

“We may not always see eye to eye – [but] we value the partnership,” Dorsey told members of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the June 18 event.

At the breakfast event, Dorsey announced that an initiative to improve the permitting process for new development is set to begin the test phase in July.

“We will take the customer experience to a new level,” he promised, saying the revamped system would be “efficient and user-friendly.”

The rollout of the effort has not been without hiccups, and is not seen as the final word on planned upgrades to permitting.

“We had to build it from scratch,” Dorsey said. “We know we have more to do.”

Dorsey, who was elected to office in 2015, is serving his first stint as County Board chairman, a post that traditionally rotates  annually among board members. Since the State of the County event was inaugurated in 2001, nine people have served as board chair.

Overall, “the state of our county is excellent and quite strong,” Dorsey said, pointing to satisfaction-survey results suggesting that 86 percent of Arlington residents are satisfied with the overall quality of life and 94 percent feel safe in local neighborhoods.

“This doesn’t happen by accident,” Dorsey said. “Arlington has proved resilient and resourceful.”

The State of the County event provides something of a mid-year check-in with each year’s board chair. Traditionally, board members set out their priorities during a “Meet the Chair” program sponsored by the Leadership Center for Excellence, held each January.

Many of the key issues did not change much from January to June:

• Dorsey reiterated calls for new approaches to affordable housing. “We have to engage people in a different way,” he said, pointing to a past cycle of momentary bursts of energy on affordable-housing planning followed by periods where “we back off.”

• Dorsey said the county government continues working to integrate the planned arrival of Amazon and its employees into the community.

• He addressed the need to find space for facilities to serve a growing student population, and asked the business community to be a partner in the effort.

• He promised a commitment to fiscal conservatism.

• Dorsey also added some little specificity to his past calls for “equity” in governmental decision-making.

State of the County is “one of the Chamber’s most important signature events,” Chamber president Kate Bates said. The event’s lead sponsor was Virginia Hospital Center.

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Meanwhile, about a dozen Arlington restaurants and retail will go out of business this month.

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