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ArlingtonLease amendment brings county government a windfall

Lease amendment brings county government a windfall

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It was like pennies falling from heaven on April 12.

About a billion of them, in fact.

Arlington County Board members on that date voted 5-0 to support a change in technical aspects of the lease that guides the relationship between the county government, which owns substantial parcels in the Courthouse area, and the developer JBG Smith, which holds ground leases and owns the buildings on some of those very same parcels.

The technical intricacies of the deal appeared clearly above the pay grade of County Board members (and the media that covers them), but the upshot is this: By making the changes, which staff say carry little risk to the county government or taxpayers, the Arlington government coffers would receive somewhere in the area of $10 million to $12 million in a one-time payment from JBG Smith.

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“This is a very beneficial deal to us, a very fortunate turn of events definitely in the interest of taxpayers,” said County Board member Takis Karantonis, speaking during a specially convened County Board meeting held to discuss and vote on the matter.

(County Board members and most staff reverted to masking at the meeting. County Board member Matt de Ferranti, who recently tested positive for COVID, participated in the meeting from another location, as did board member Christian Dorsey.)

JBG Smith is selling the ground leases it holds on four parcels in the Clarendon Boulevard corridor to a consortium that includes itself and a partner. That sale triggered a provision in the lease that will end up with the county government getting the bonus bucks.

“We will absolutely have the money in hand” in relative short order, said County Manager Mark Schwartz. The funds will be available for use in the upcoming fiscal 2023 budget; County Board members could potentially use the funding to provide tax relief in the wake of massive increases in property values, but at the 30-minute meeting on April 12 did not suggest that as a possibility.

JBG Smith officials did not speak at the meeting. County staff said that, in the past, the firm had expressed interest in selling off the ground leases and departing the Courthouse area so it could focus on its substantial landholdings in the Crystal City area.

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