(Updated at 6:35 p.m.) Police are investigating what appears to be a murder-suicide at the Park Shirlington Apartments on the 4500 block of 31st Street South, near the Fairlington neighborhood.
Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck says it appears the man and woman, both 30-years-old, had some sort of relationship and lived together in the apartment where they were found. An adult female family member who also lived in the apartment found the bodies in a back bedroom and called 911 around 2:45 p.m.
One resident told ARLnow.com that the apartment was home to a couple with two children and a woman who also had a child. The children were all between the age of 7 and 9, she said.
“Nothing like this has happened here before,” said Cecilia Rodriguez. “I’ve lived here for 26 years and I’ve raised my kids here… It’s scary for me.”
Rodriguez said she believes a car police towed from the apartment’s parking lot belonged to the female half of the couple.
Police were seen taking items out of a dumpster near the apartment building, such as a rolled up rug and bags of trash. Initial reports suggests evidence might have been found in the dumpster.
The last homicide in Arlington County occurred on March 14, 2010, when a man was stabbed to death in the Lyon Park neighborhood.
County Manager Barbara Donnellan got the ball rolling by declaring a local emergency on June 30. Nearly 50 other Virginia localities did the same. Yesterday, Governor Bob McDonnell formally requested assistance for the state from the the Federal Emergency Management Agency, estimated at $27.5 million. Now it’s up to President Obama to either approve or deny the disaster funding.
Jack Brown, Director of the Arlington County Office of Emergency Management, explains that to be eligible for federal funds, the county must incur more than around $700,000 in expenses. So far, the bill from the June storm adds up to approximately $802,000, which includes costs for personnel, equipment and debris removal. The total could increase as more numbers are finalized.
Brown offers a reminder that there’s a lot of paperwork and a long review process involved, and that reimbursements filter in gradually once approved.
“They don’t just cut one check for the whole amount,” he said. “We went through this after the huge snowstorms of 2009 and 2010. It’s about a year long process.”
Arlington didn’t get all the funding it requested following those snowstorms, but it fared better than many surrounding jurisdictions, according to Brown. He credits all of the individual departments involved for collecting and sorting the receipts and data that had to be submitted. The county received a total of $1.6 million, covering one storm in December 2009 and two in February 2010.
Although receiving reimbursements often involves an arduous process, Brown said the end result makes up for it.
“Once we know there has been a federal declaration, then we would go through the process with FEMA and the state, and go through all those records,” said Brown. “But it’s worth it at the end of the day.”
For now, Brown said the county continues to calculate its expense requests from the derecho, while waiting for word from the President.
“Other areas of the country were hit harder than we were with different storms, so we’re all just waiting,” said Brown.
The County Board decided to approve the Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Area Plan during a meeting Monday night that stretched into the early hours this morning. The large scale plan aims to transform Columbia Pike into a more urban and walkable community, while maintaining affordable housing over the next 30 years.
The plan involves increasing density along the Pike — as many as 14,800 new apartments and condo units over the next 30 years — partially through allowing the construction of taller buildings. It also includes retaining approximately 4,500 affordable housing units, with all of them available at 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI). Those units are privately owned and operated, with the possibility of the county providing incentives for property owners. It also calls for the county, over the next 30 years, to develop 2,150 new rental units along the Pike that will be contractually committed to remain affordable.
“This is the most ambitious set of actions the county has ever adopted for preserving affordable housing as part of an area plan,” said Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes. “Our experience has taught us that if we do not plan for affordable housing from the outset, rising property values make maintaining our diversity in housing choices and rents very difficult.”
For about three hours, 47 residents addressed the Board, both in favor of and against the proposal. The Board spent an additional two hours debating various aspects of the overall plan, such as the amount of affordable housing and how to fund it.
Much debate ensued over the issue of how much affordable housing developers should be required to provide, using Form Based Code to increase density and receive incentives. County staff had recommended 20-25 percent of net new development be reserved for affordable housing. The Board voted in favor of increasing the number up to 35 percent.
Financing the preservation of affordable housing through means such as a tax increment finacing area (TIF) split the Board. Members Chris Zimmerman and Walter Tejada supported the idea of a TIF, which would give 50 percent of revenue from increased commercial property assessments along Columbia Pike back to affordable housing initiatives in the area.
Zimmerman said a TIF would ensure some value goes back to the community to help mitigate any harm the development plan would cause. He also noted that the Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF) would need more funding — an additional $200 million over 30 years, according to county staff — to meet the county’s goals. He believes a TIF would be an appropriate way to boost the fund.
“The fact of the matter is, we don’t have enough money going into AHIF now on an annual basis to meet the goals the county has set. There’s no way that we’re going to get what we need entirely, or probably not even mostly, out of new development,” Zimmerman said. “If we’re going to be serious about achieving the goal here, we have to do a lot more.”
Board member Jay Fisette said the TIF proposal was thrown at him just hours before the meeting. He said it is currently too unexplored and the Board hadn’t been given enough time to examine the concept.
“I cannot support this today. I don’t think it was expected that this was going to be part of the action today,” said Fisette.
Hynes agreed, saying there may be alternate ways to boost the AHIF.
“I do support making regular increases, progressive increases, in the AHIF fund,” said Hynes. “In my view, we’re just not ready to do it this way.”
Tejada clarified that the TIF would not be an additional tax, but would come from the extra money generated by the proposed higher density. He said it’s important if the county wants to ensure the future of small businesses on the Pike.
“Currently we have a lot of businesses in the Columbia Pike area that are very nervous whether they’re going to be able to stay there,” said Tejada. “It’s up to us to act now to protect them.”
In the end, the TIF proposal was struck down by a 3-2 vote. Following that vote, the Board approved a motion to study a TIF in the future.
Later in the night, the Board approved another aspect of the long term plan for the Pike — the construction of a streetcar.
A Severe Thunderstrom Watch has been issued for Arlington and the surrounding region through 8:00 p.m.
The National Weather Service says the potential exists for storms and damaging winds this evening.
A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH IS IN EFFECT UNTIL 800 PM EDT. SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS WILL CONTINUE TO DEVELOP THIS AFTERNOON ALONG AND SOUTH OF A SLOW-MOVING COLD FRONT. SOME STORMS WILL BECOME SEVERE AND WILL BE CAPABLE OF PRODUCING DAMAGING WIND GUSTS AND POSSIBLY LARGE HAIL.
Editor’s Note: This periodic sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty. Please submit follow-up questions in the comments section or via email.
Question: I am considering a new construction condo in Arlington and am wondering if you have any advice?
I love new homes as much as the next guy, but I can not stress enough to be careful during the buying process. The purchase of new construction can seem almost too easy at first. There is a charming salesperson ready to tour you through the gorgeous model homes. Next thing you know you have a contract in hand and are drafting a check for a 5-10% deposit.
Slow down. Even if it is the perfect home for you, please take time to read the entire contract at least once. I’ll save you the suspense by telling you now that it is a very one-sided contract. The developer holds most of the leverage. That said, you need to understand what you are agreeing to, what is expected from you and what is expected of the developer. There are certain benchmarks you both agree to meet and you need to be sure you are on top of these dates. Make sure you get all of your questions answered before signing and have all agreements in writing. You may want to have an attorney to review the contract for you.
You’ll also want to take your time reviewing the condominium disclosure package. This will include financial information and bylaws that pertain to the condo association. In Virginia you get a 10 day rescission period to review these documents if you are buying a new condo. You get three days if you are buying a house or townhouse that is part of an HOA. Believe me, I know how boring this information can be for some of you, but please read it thoroughly so you are not caught with any surprises.
Before negotiating the price and concessions, find out what other buyers have paid for similar units. Sales prices for closed sales are available online on the Arlington County real estate assessment web page. If sales have not closed yet, you are at the mercy of the sales person and whether they will provide you with the most recent sales and concessions. I find that many of them are forthcoming with this information.
One thing that drives me crazy about new construction is how the the developer will try to strong arm you into using their preferred lenders and title company. In most cases it is to your advantage to be able to shop for your lender and title company on the open market. Therefore, I usually try to negotiate for my clients to be able to receive seller concessions without them being tied to the developers preferred lender and title company.
If the developer is requiring you to use their preferred lenders to receive closing cost dollars or some other incentive, make sure you are comparing apples to apples when considering the preferred lender versus an outside lender. Sometimes the $10,000 you are receiving in closing cost help will be nullified by an origination fee charged by the preferred lender at closing.
Virginia clearly gives all home buyers the right to choose their own title company, but watch out for penalties that the developer will stick you with in the form of “document review” should you actually want to exercise your right to choose your own title company. One local developer charges a $1,000 document review fee! It aggravates me just writing about this.
One last piece of advice is to hire a home inspector. If you are going to have the opportunity to conduct a pre-drywall and pre-closing walk through – hire a home inspector to inspect the property at both of these opportunities. Some salespeople will discourage you from doing so because you are going to receive a home warranty. Don’t listen to them. You are spending too much money to not want your home in as perfect condition as humanly possible by the time you take ownership.
I hope this helps and you enjoy your new home for many years to come.
The existing restaurant closed earlier this month and will be demolished. An entirely new McDonald’s will be built on the site (5009 Wilson Blvd).
The interior will include the traditional booths and chairs, but a new lounge type of area will be added, as will new community tables. The different styles of seating are designed to give customers a variety of dining options to fit their lifestyles — from meeting new people at the communal seating to enjoying a quiet cup of coffee in the lounge. Plasma screen TVs and free Wi-Fi will also be available.
“This construction is a part of McDonald’s focus to modernize and elevate the restaurant experience through upgrading to a more modern exterior design and providing upscale and contemporary interior décor,” said local McDonald’s franchisee Kyu Rhee.
Plans for the exterior are said to be consistent with the McDonald’s brand, while still allowing for flexibility with color and design materials to adapt to the neighborhood. There will be new landscaping and an easily identifiable drive through.
The construction is intended to show McDonald’s customers that the company can change with the times and with customer needs, while retaining the brand’s basic principles. The new restaurant is expected to open late in October.
Rep. Jim Moran (D) called for the renewal of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban and the closing of the “Gun Show Loophole” in an interview Monday afternoon on MSNBC.
Moran spoke with Martin Bashir guest-host Thomas Roberts about gun control laws in the wake of last week’s movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., in which 12 were killed and dozens were injured.
Moran referred to “more than 60 multiple shootings” nationwide after the Jan. 8, 2011 shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
“We shrug our shoulders and come up with all kinds of pious, remorseful rhetoric. We ought to do something,” Moran said. “And we haven’t done anything about this. To some extent, we are complicit in these crimes if we don’t stand up and speak out.”
Moran also said that lawmakers have been “politically castrated” by the National Rifle Association.
Boathouse Meeting Today — A public meeting regarding a proposed boathouse along Arlington’s Potomac River shoreline is being held tonight. The National Park Service is holding the meeting at Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford Street) from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Senor Pan Closes — After just 6 months in business, Columbia Pike-area cafe/bakery Senor Pan has apparently closed, according to the Pike Wire Twitter feed. Senor Pan was located at 922 S. Walter Reed Drive.
Student Production Plays at Fringe Fest — Mindset, a “surrealist rock opera” created, directed and choreographed by H-B Woodlawn students, is currently playing at the Capital Fringe Festival. The show originally featured all Woodlawn students, but now professional actors have been added to the cast. [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by Damiec
The Board followed county staff’s recommendation in endorsing the streetcar over enhanced or articulated bus service. Many speakers, including Pike residents plus Republican and Green Party members, urged the Board to consider enhanced or articulated bus service as a cheaper alternative to increasing transit capacity along the Pike.
“I do not believe in the trolley because I just don’t think we have the money,” said resident Paulette Gray. “When you lose your income you don’t keep the cable and you don’t build the big addition.”
Other streetcar opponents said bus service would be more reliable, since it doesn’t rely on rails that could be blocked by accidents or electricity that would get cut off during storms.
“Can’t we come up with something much more inventive for our transportation, other than a trolley?” asked resident Antonios Perros, who recounted how streetcars in D.C. in the 1950s would get stranded during big storms. “It just doesn’t seem feasible that we should have a trolley in the 21st century.”
Other speakers, including residents, real estate developers, business boosters, and county transportation committee members, stated their support for the streetcar, saying it would bring needed development and revitalization to the Columbia Pike corridor.
“We think it is critical to expand Arlington’s core transit options for the future,” said Mitch Bonanno, an executive with Vornado/Charles E. Smith.
“Small businesses [along Columbia Pike] feel that what they are lacking today is enough customer traffic,” said Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization Executive Director Takis Karantonis, who argued the streetcar would bring additional restaurant and retail customers to the Pike.
In addition to the development potential of fixed rail infrastructure, other arguments for the streetcar include increased travel capacity, ease of boarding, and the regional connectivity to Fairfax County. The Pike streetcar line is expected to extend five miles from the Skyline area of Fairfax County in the west to the Pentagon City Metro station in the east.
Some streetcar skeptics weren’t convinced of the economic development potential of streetcars versus buses. Others weren’t convinced that new development was necessarily a good thing.
“It is clear that the County Board’s goal here is not to put efficient transit on the Pike, your goal is to completely and massively redevelop the Pike,” said perennial county government critic Jim Hurysz.
“News flash folks, we could CUT commercial property taxes to invigorate the local economy rather than pay for a trolley,” said former Republican County Board candidate Mark Kelly, on Twitter.
By our count, there were 11 speakers in favor of the streetcar, and 12 against. The speeches went into the early morning hours, and the Board’s ultimate vote on the matter didn’t take place until around 1:30 a.m.
The Board voted 4-0 in favor of the streetcar. Libby Garvey, who’s been on the Board for about 4 months following a special election earlier this year, abstained. In announcing her abstention — saying she “didn’t have enough time” to fully consider the matter – Garvey stated she had significant reservations about the streetcar.
“I cannot see how a streetcar is anything more than a bus with tracks and overhead wires,” she said. “At the moment my common sense is telling me modern bus transit systems are actually better.”
In the end, other Board members disagreed, and voted essentially the same way they did in 2006, when the Board first approved a streetcar system for Columbia Pike.
“I see the… streetcar as the next generation of a regional rail system,” said Jay Fisette. ”To me this is an investment.”
The streetcar project is expected to cost $250 million. Of those costs, Arlington County will be responsible for 80 percent, while Fairfax County will be on the hook for 20 percent. Of Arlington’s share, officials are hoping successful grant applications will result in 30 percent being paid for by the federal government, with another 14 percent being paid by the state. Arlington County commercial and industrial taxpayers are expected to pay 56 percent of the costs.
Annual operating costs are estimated at between $22 and $26 million.
County staff said the cost of the streetcar line could be recouped via additional tax revenues attributable to streetcar-fueled development along the Pike. A “conservative estimate” of the tax boost suggests the county could collect $291 million in additional revenue over 30 years.
The Board’s vote — to accept an Alternatives Analysis and Environmental Assessment and adopt the streetcar as the preferred alternative — will pave the way for the County Manager to apply for federal New Starts/Small Starts transit funding. The application process is expected to begin in September.
Before considering the streetcar, the Board approved the sweeping Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Area Plan, which is expected to bring more development and affordable housing to the Columbia Pike corridor.