The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is planning to re-locate its Four Mile Run office in Arlington to Barcroft Plaza in Mason District. According to DMV Commissioner Richard Holcomb, the Arlington site is slated for redevelopment in that county’s Comprehensive Plan, prompting the search for a new location. The new DMV Customer Service Center (CSC) will provide DMV-related services, but also include other state government transactions: Virginia birth certificates; marriage, divorce, and death records; hunting and fishing licenses; boat titling and registration; EZ Pass purchases; and voter registration services. The new center will not have a drive-thru window; DMV is phasing out that service in its new centers.
While the move may provide convenience for many Mason District customers, it also raises questions about traffic, transparency, and oversight. The Barcroft Plaza Shopping Center is zoned C-6 (Community Retail Commercial District), which permits a number of commercial and retail uses, including public uses, by right. The shopping center tenants include a Harris Teeter grocery store, ZIPS dry cleaners, a hair salon, a free-standing Starbucks with a popular drive-thru feature, and other retail businesses. The landlord is responsible for ensuring that tenants fit the business use for any space under lease. The new DMV center will occupy the former Han Sung Oak restaurant and adjacent units at the eastern end of the shopping center, for about 12,000 square feet, including 20 teller stations and 12 testing stations. Renovations currently are underway, and DMV staff indicate that the new center will open in spring 2016.
The selection of a new location was a surprise to nearly all, including state and local elected officials. According to DMV staff, it is neither DMV’s practice nor a state requirement to notify the public or local elected officials, and it does not hold public forums prior to relocating a customer service center. DMV conducted a ZIP Code study of customers served at the Arlington center, and determined that Barcroft Plaza is located in the area with the second highest total number of customers.
Although the Board of Supervisors has no role in the siting of state facilities, I raised several concerns with Commissioner Holcomb last week and asked for an onsite meeting with the landlord, state Facilities and DMV staff, Senator Dick Saslaw and Delegate Kaye Kory, and county staff, to review access, parking, and way-finding for the new facility. At present, some of the seven points of access to the shopping center have extremely chaotic turning movements, which are exacerbated when church services, youth sports leagues, and other activities nearby are taking place. Ingress, egress, interior stop signs, and way-finding must be addressed, as well as specifically designating DMV parking areas, if possible. The question is: how can DMV, and the landlord, address and mitigate those issues. Like everyone else, I look forward to the answers to those questions from the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at email@example.com.