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Army Navy Country Club Bike Path Still on Hold

by ARLnow.com — March 29, 2012 at 2:25 pm 4,416 67 Comments

Bicyclists hoping for a new way to get from Columbia Pike to Pentagon City without having to navigate the tricky eastern end of the Pike will have to keep waiting. A plan to build a bike and pedestrian path from the Arlington View neighborhood to Army Navy Drive is still on hold until additional engineering plans and project funding can be procured.

In June 2010, the Arlington County Board approved a plan for Army Navy County Club to build a new four-story clubhouse. As part of the approval process, the club agreed to grant the county an easement which would allow a 30-foot-wide emergency access road and bike/pedestrian path to be built from S. Queen Street, near Hoffman-Boston Elementary, to the I-395 underpass that leads from Army Navy Drive to the club.

The primary motivation for the new road, county officials emphasized, is a need for more north-south connections across I-395 for emergency vehicles.

“There are very few places along the 395 corridor in Arlington where we actually have an underpass, or a way to get from one site of the highway to another without going through an interchange,” says Arlington County Director of Transportation Dennis Leach. “So it’s incredibly valuable…. for emergency response purposes.”

As a side benefit, though, Leach said the path will be “a real benefit to the community” in terms of providing better access for cyclists and pedestrians.

Despite the positives, the project hasn’t gone very far. First, Leach says, more detailed engineering plans need to be drawn up. Then funding needs to be procured through the county’s Capital Improvement Plan and bond referendum process. An early engineering study, conducted in 2010, suggested that the project would require very high retaining walls to compensate for the steep hill the access facility must run along. The cost of such a construction project was expected to exceed $3 million, we’re told.

Leach declined to speculate as to when the access road might eventually be built. He also declined to comment about a 2010 lawsuit filed by disgruntled members of Army Navy Country Club who objected to a bike path being built along one of the holes at their golf course.

A call to Army Navy Country Club for comment was not returned. The club’s then-general manager, who wrote a letter to the editor in support of the emergency access and bike path in 2010, is no longer employed at the club, according to a woman who answered the phone there.

  • http://www.arlnow.com ARLnow.com

    To be clear, we’re not 100 percent sure what happened with regards to the lawsuit. But the County still has the access easement and the lawsuit doesn’t seem to be a factor that’s holding up the project.

  • What was that?

    Wasn’t there an article not too long ago (this morning) about the County extorting concessions from private owners / developers?

    Here we have the County demand that in order to get approval for a renovation of a privately owned clubhouse, the club must GIVE THE COUNTY SOME OF THEIR LAND (ok – I know it’s an easement, but it’s giving the County permanent possession, so for all intents and purposes it’s a gift). How is that not extortion? And there can’t be an argument that the redesign of the clubhouse causes public “damage” that needs to somehow be “mitigated” by a “concession.” It’s out-and-out extortion.

    Justify that, ArlCo.

    • Burger

      I know sometimes it is too easy.

    • Josh S

      No, there was an article this morning about some guy (writing in the Washington Times, for god’s sake) who, irresponsibly and contrary to standard usage of the word, accused Arlington of extorting developers.

      Extort – to obtain by coercive means, as threats or intimidation.

      extortion – illegal use of one’s official position or powers to obtain property, funds, or patronage.

      Neither fits.

      • What was that?

        Would you prefer “hostage taking”? Or maybe “demanding some form of payment other than the normal and customary zoning / engineering / permitting fees in order to grant approval for a renovation of a privately owned structure on privately owned land”? A bit cumbersome, no?

        • drax

          You’re not getting this.

          They aren’t simply granting approval, they are granting exceptions to the normal rules. Those rules are designed to benefit the public. If a developer wants to get out from under those rules, the county can and should get something for the public in return. And the developers are quite happy with this greater flexibility.

          • What was that?

            You’re not getting this. As part of the approval process for replacing an antiquated structure on your own property, requiring the applicant to give land to the County should appear to any reasonable person to be objectionable. Plans should be reviewed, and the review should be paid for according to the statutory fee schedule, not by the County demanding part of the applicant’s land. For, by the way, a non-feasible use, but that’s neither here nor there.

          • drax

            Sigh. You’re STILL not getting this.

            The applicant is asking for more than approval to do what he is already allowed to do. This isn’t just getting a building permit or something. This is the applicant asking for what is essentially a violation of the rules. To get that, he should give something to the community in exchange for getting out of rules designed to protect the community.

            Again, a county has the power to simply force the club to sell it the land if need be. Bargaining for it is certainly less intrusive than that.

        • Josh S

          Well, I guess if you consider using language to adequately express what you are trying to say cumbersome, then yes, it’s cumbersome. I don’t see any way around it, though.

          The country club certainly has recourse if they feel that Arlington is unfairly or illegally demanding things before granting their building permit. And it sounds as if someone has already tried it – a lawsuit. Governments do have considerable due process requirements. If Arlington has overstepped the bounds here, then they have overstepped the bounds. If not, then you can complain until you are blue in the face, but it won’t change anything.

    • drax

      Considering that the county has the power to simply take the land (with compensation) for public use through eminent domain, and nobody goes around calling that “extortion,” I think you should think harder about this.

      The problem is that the club doesn’t have the right to renovate its clubhouse in the way it wanted to. That’s really what you’re upset about. If you think the zoning laws need more flexibility, feel free to suggest it. But the club must ask for permission from the county for it, and the county can ask for something in return.

      • FrenchyB

        +1. And “renovation” isn’t the word I’d use to describe erecting a brand-new four story building.

        • What was that?

          OK – so substitute “completely tearing down and replacing” for “renovating.” The point is the same.

          • HungryonLee

            It wasn’t just a replacement. ANCC wanted to build higher than allowed in the zoning. Had they stayed below it, they wouldn’t necessarily have been asked to concede something by the county. The Club ran into problems when they were seeking to have an exception to existing building rules.

          • Ballston Resident

            That happens all the time in my neighborhood. You see the notices posted on light poles, for special use permits and exceptions, variances for lot setbacks and stuff like that. The county never asks for part of the property in return as far as I know.

          • What was that?

            Exactly.

          • Far as I know…

            The county asks for things it believes the public will value all the time (affordable housing contributions, architectural modifications, green space, gyms/showers/bike lockers, public art, black box theaters, you name it). It rarely asks for easements or land because there generally isn’t a compelling case to do so, but it seems like facilitating travel of emergency vehicles + bike path are viable reasons.

          • drax

            Of course it doesn’t ask for give backs for piddly little additions on homes.

          • nerf

            @drax, you said “Of course it doesn’t ask for give backs for piddly little additions on homes.”

            But they could ask if they wanted to, right? Everything is negotiable seems to be what the supporters are saying.

      • South Awwwlington

        How would the update to Virginia Code affect their ability to do this?

        • PaulB

          If you are referring to the eminent domain changes, probably no effect at all. That restricts the state from taking property for the purposes of enhancing economic development. Such as Arlington’s reasoning behind taking the building on 14th street. The property taken must be for public use.

    • Always Right

      How about the crime rate on Columbia Pike!! Do we want easy access to our neighborhood?

  • G Clifford Prout

    I’m shocked, shocked I tell you. Right after the dedication ceremony they’ll conveniently forget about their promise. OR they’ll claim they can’t do it due to the threat of terrorists. It’s always about the terrorists.

    By the way has anyone seen how effin big the thing is?

    • Lee-n-Glebe

      Who will forget what promise to do what? The County? They already have the easement, they just haven’t gotten through the budgeting and engineering process yet. From what I understand they have misjudged, badly, the feasibility of using that land for a bike path, as evidenced by the need for more than $3 million in infrastructure work to fix the (apparently too) “steep hill.”

    • BlueSkies

      Yep, I see it every day., unfortunately. In return for having to look at it, I’d love the option of an additional bike path.

      • FrenchyB

        BlueSkies, I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of this excerpt from the county’s 2010 news release:

        “Only the topmost roof line and cupolas would be visible from the closest residential neighbors in the Fairway Village townhouses. The remainder of the building will be shielded from view by heavy vegetation and tall trees along the club’s property line.”

        • Cakes

          You can see the entire thing from S. 16th st. It looks like a castle overlooking its little kingdom. In any event, it’s not an eyesore, but it’s not shielded from view by any means.

        • BlueSkies

          Thanks, FrenchyB! Yeah…we need to get them county folk some eyeglasses! And leaves shield in summer, but that’s only part of the year.

    • Always Right

      “Let them eat Cake”

  • Josh S

    I’m getting dizzy just looking at that picture.

    • JamesE

      Is that the area of 395 where an accident happens every time it rains?

      • nom de guerre

        If I am not mistaken, I believe most of the rain related accidents around here occur in the vincinity of Donaldson Run.

        • JamesE

          It never stops raining there from what I hear.

  • db

    Forget about a bike path lets run the street car through there!

    • BlueSkies

      Love this idea! That has the kind of cachet I’d bet golfers would really appreciate.

    • Better yet

      Yes! The golfers could use transit instead of single occupant golf carts as they travel across the fairway!

  • Patrick

    “Then funding needs to be procured through the county’s Capital Improvement Plan and bond referendum process.”

    Can’t they just close the Artisphere and redirect those funds. It seems to me that another north-south route across 395 for emergency vehicles should be higher on the counties spending priorities then a place for CB members to have their occassional wine and cheese get togethers.

    • Sam

      Can we stop saying that closing the Artisphere will solve all of our problems? It’s almost as tiring as the Donaldson Run and brown flip flop comments.

      • Josh S

        +1

  • soarlslacker

    Maybe if the Cola PikeTrolley dies there will be some funds for this. In case of emergency a trolley is useless, a bus and a road can get you anywhere.

    • drax

      Um, really? A bus and road can get you anywhere?

      • Richard Cranium

        Well, and of course a jet pack. And a submarine. I’m pretty sure that covers it.

        • Josh S

          And a Saturn V rocket.

          • WeiQiang

            The Saturn Vue was pretty nice … but I still wouldn’t have bought one.

  • John Fontain

    “The cost of such a construction project was expected to exceed $3 million.”

    Dat be lot of $ for short road.

    • South Awwwlington

      It’s for an alternative commute mode (biking). There is NO cost too high with our money…duh.

      • drax

        So neither of you managed to catch the part where it said the cost was due to the “very high retaining walls to compensate for the steep hill the access facility must run along,” huh?

        • Lee-n-Glebe

          How do you read that? I read it as Arlington got their easement and then discovered the grade was too steep for their planned use (whoopsies!!!). They have now determined that to lessen the grade to a useable level will require the construction of retaining walls that will cost around $3 million. As John said. “Dat be a lot of $ for a short road.”

          • Westover

            Funny how contours work that way.

            Just who were these geniuses doing the negotiating for the county? Sounds like some old retired full-birds got the better of them.

          • drax

            Here’s how I read it:

            “An early engineering study, conducted in 2010, suggested that the project would require very high retaining walls to compensate for the steep hill the access facility must run along. The cost of such a construction project was expected to exceed $3 million, we’re told.”

    • http://blacknell.net/dynamic/ MB

      Feel free to put in a smaller bid.

    • Noonan

      The engineer’s say $3 million. By the time the county planners make it a LEED Gold certified trail, add the spray park, dog park and homeless habitat, it will cost $6 million.

      • nom de guerre

        I think you may have omitted the environmental impact study, the golf ball impact study and making it ADA accessible. I’m sure there may be other requirements but they escape me now.

      • WeiQiang

        There’s no need to add a dog park … there’s the entire ANCC.

  • Ren

    The building is very big. The construction noise wakes me up frequently. Where a nice view onto a pseudo-natural viewscape once existed, there is now a very large building.

    I think what Arlington requested in return was a nice compromise and I’m very sorry to hear that it won’t happen anytime soon.

  • Seriously?

    If anyone wants to see the Taj Mahal of South Arlington, just drive up Barton St. from the Pike and look to your left by the poolwhen head up towards 16th. Nothing is shielding that bad boy from anyone’s view. ANCC pulled a good one on the County for this one.

  • MC

    Let’s get the bike access done. Once the trolley is built, I am sure the County Club will sell the land to a developer who will build posh homes here, just steps from the trolley.

  • Always Right

    Let’s not forget the crime we will be bringing in as well.

    • Jim

      Geez, you and your crime.

    • drax

      We must stop all development because crime.

  • Debbie

    Crime…best ask Georgetown about their folly in voting down a METRO station when they had the chance…

    Crime is a red herring used by people who just don’t want change…or..at least change they don’t agree with.

  • nerf

    I find it hilarious that the Club got its nice new clubhouse and the County got stuck with an expensive engineering fiasco that is practically unbuildable.

    • charles

      I don’t think it’s at all funny.

  • charles

    Quelle surprise – the rich elite fight to keep it for themselves. And the sheeple will let them do it. You woke me up for this?

    • V. Lenin

      Yeah, private property rights suck.

  • http://blacknell.net/dynamic/ MB

    There were at least a couple of people who came to the CaBi meeting last night who were under the impression that this story stated that there is some “delay” in this project.

    There isn’t a delay in the project because it never had a set timeline. As someone who would very much like to see better north/south connections for cyclists & pedestrians in Arlington, I’d like it to have been built yesterday. But no one was under the impression it was going to happen immediately after the easement was granted.

    And speaking of impressions – I don’t know where it’s coming from, but this idea that somehow the costs of the project are a surprise to anyone is completely unsupported. Anyone who’s walked the alignment of the path knows it’s not a simple matter of laying down some asphalt. It was discussed at length by County staff for years, in fact, before the easement was secured.

    At this point, the only obstacle to completion is funding. You want to see it happen? Let the County Board know.

  • Better yet

    From the air it looks like a perfect site for backyard hens and urban agriculture. First, we would need a county task force to design a process to ensure urbanista hens don’t mistakingly try to hatch lost golf balls. We could use the water hazards as an alternative spray playground. If we connect the site with world class transit, the orange line hipsters would be able to stumble down after happy hour in zcarendon to come and pick locally sourced organic produce. We could add a barista, trendy shops, and a beer garden with live entertainment to provide a vibrant place with cafe seating. As we displace the current residents, rats and birds, we could bemoan the gentrification and vow to preserve affordable housing. In reality we would do nothing but blame the state for tying our progressive hands. We could eliminate the existing parking lot since real Arlingtonians don’t own cars anyway. The residents of north Arlington would complain we were wasting tax dollars, but they would never travel to south Arlington anyway. Best of all, Donaldson Run would be sooooo jealous.

  • Jim Oliver

    Since APS is looking to do all of the new school construction in North Arlington to address crowding and just shift populations around in South Arlington, could we agree and support the necessity of completing this important link between two neighborhoods before we send kids “around the horn”? I will admit to climbing the fence and cutting across the golf course when my son was at Hoffman Boston Elementary – not ideal.

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