Arlington County Board prepared to vote on Saturday to give Amazon $ 23 million and other incentives to build a headquarters in Crystal City, but only after hearing from more than 100 residents and lawyers witnesses for or against the project.
The five-member body began a hearing at 13 in a boardroom jammed with citizens. Many brought signs, with some promising Amazon for promising to create jobs, and others lambasting it to threaten house prices and encourage gentrification.
The board is expected to support the plan, which was announced opposite the hoopla on November 13. The proposed county authorities are part of an agreement where Amazon will occupy significant office space and bring at least 25,000 high paying jobs to Arlington in the coming years.
Opponents hope to postpone the vote after several public hearings, where they want representatives of the online store giant to answer questions directly from everyone in the community.
The first witness during the hearing was Christina Winn, a director of Arlington Economic Development, who said that direct financial subsidies to Amazon were needed to win the project due to "highly competitive national selection process."
Before the hearing opened, a couple of dozen demonstrators stood on the Ps of the county municipality. A smaller number demonstrated in favor of the project.
"We are fighting to ensure that people living here are not priced by wealthy people," said Danny Cendejas, an organizer of the "For Us, Not Amazon" coalition. .
Signs opposite Amazon read, "Affordable housing 1, not Amazon" and "Don't be the opposite of Robin Hood." Supporters had stickers that said, "Amazon is first-class for Arlington" "Crystal City accepts Arlington."
Because so many people signed up to speak, the chairman Christian Dorsey (D) reduced the time period per speaker from the normal three minutes for individuals to two minutes, and from the normal five minutes for people representing organizations for four minutes.
County representatives expected a vote no earlier than 18.00
In the four months since Arlington won a widely publicized nationwide competition to attract the facility known as HQ2, Arlington residents have been asking questions about its influence in their neighborhood and community.
People have seen the county's five online Q&A sessions 14,000 times, and around 400 attended community events to discuss the provisions of the Amazon agreement. Board members and county administrators also met many civil organizations, served on several panels and appeared on television, online and in news articles to discuss the agreement.
Both Amazon and the real estate company JBG, the main contractor for the project, have met with business groups, school leaders, 50 ideal groups and others. However, these sessions have not met the critics' call for an open public meeting for anyone who has questions or criticisms. (Amazon founder and CEO Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
Most Arlington, Northern Virginians and Washington region residents support Amazon's arrival, several investigations have found. Corporate organizations, universities and non-profit groups came out strongly for the deal.
But a small vocal group of activists has attempted to block the project and say that the county and commonwealth should not give any incentives to one of the world's most valuable companies. They also demanded housing and work security for existing residents.
These opponents – including leftist organizations and immigrant groups – felt empowered after Amazon interrupted plans last month to build a headquarters in New York City, including 25,000 jobs. The company withdrew after criticizing the plan from some selected leaders, unions and social activists.
In Virginia, however, such opposition was not getting fire among the wider public.
Officials estimate that the Amazon project's net fiscal impact on Arlington could be worth extra $ 162 million over 12 years and $ 392.5 million over 16 years.
The incentive agreement promises the world's largest online retailer cash support estimated at around $ 23 million if it occupies 6.05 million square feet of office space in Crystal City and Pentagon City through 2035.
The money comes from an expected increase in hotel, motel and lodging tax paid by visitors; Amazon will receive up to 15 percent of that increase, related to how much floor space is in active use by the company every year from 2020 to 2035.
Amazon's offices will be located within an already established special tax area where some of the property tax revenues go towards infrastructure improvements such as parks and wider pavements.
The incentive agreement states that half of any new district revenue that begins in 2021 will be particularly against improvements around the Amazon buildings over the next 10 years. That grant is worth an estimated $ 28 million, but the county says it's not a grant just for Amazon, because the improvements will have other companies in the neighborhood. Amazon will have a chance to express its opinion on how the county spends the money, even if the board will make the decision.
The county also offered Amazon the opportunity to use its fast fiber optic network connection, which would be the subject of a separate agreement if the company chose to use it.
It is not yet clear whether Amazon is paying the local business license fee because this fee is only imposed on certain types of businesses, and Amazon has not yet announced which of the business units will be based in Arlington. If the company pays the license fee, some of the business may be eligible for a rebate of up to 72 percent under an existing program designed to attract technology companies.
While Arlington pored over the details, the Virginia General Assembly passed and government Ralph Northam (D) signed a $ 750 million incentive package for Amazon.