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by ARLnow.com — October 16, 2012 at 5:05 pm 7,548 109 Comments

If the Arlington County Board goes along with a new set of recommendations from County Manager Barbara Donnellan, Arlington could soon be served by a fleet of 40 all-electric cabs equipped with 4G WiFi hotspots and iPads for passenger use.

As part of this year’s taxicab certificate allocation process, Donnellan is recommending that a total of 65 additional taxis be added to the county’s existing licensed fleet of 765 cabs. Among the companies receiving a recommended allocation from Donnellan is an Arlington-based upstart, EV Taxicabs.

The company is set to get permits to operate 40 cabs in Arlington under Donnellan’s recommendation. According to EV Taxicabs’ website and Facebook page, the cabs will be all-electric Nissan Leafs, a five-door hatchback that gets the equivalent of 99 miles per gallon.

In addition to being all-electric, the cabs will be equipped with a high-speed 4G WiFi hotspot and an Apple iPad, both for passenger use. The cabs will be dispatched using what’s described as a “state-of-the-art cloud-based dispatch solution… running on Samsung Galaxy 7 tablet.” Passengers will be able to book the cabs via smart phone or the company’s website.

In addition to the cabs, the company has pledged to install more than 50 electric vehicle chargers around Arlington.

Donnellan writes that based on a scale that considers various factors — including environmental impact, customer service, business feasibility and employee treatment — EV Taxicabs received the highest rating of any cab applicant. (Ten companies applied this year.)

Based on the rating system, EV Taxicab was rated the highest of all applicants. It will be installing a number of quick charge stations throughout the County that will be available to the general public as well as their drivers. This will encourage additional usage of zero emission vehicles, helping Arlington County to be a pioneer in this new technology.

The EV Taxicab applicant is a current Arlington County taxi driver. He is bringing his experience and wants to address and cooperate with County staff to improve the drivers’ profession. He proposes to provide training, two week annual vacation, health and fitness club membership, financial management training, customer service training, assistance with legal representation and is looking into providing life insurance for drivers. The EV Taxicab application impressed County staff through its use of technology and its apparent commitment to fair treatment for its drivers.

EV Taxicabs is not the only non-traditional cab company set to benefit from Donnellan’s recommendation. The “carbon-negative” EnviroCab company is set to receive 10 additional cab allocations. Separately, the company recently announced plans to add one all-electric Nissan Leaf to its current fleet of 49 hybrids.

Under the County Manager’s recommendations, Friendly Cab, Blue Top Cab and Red Top Cab will each be allowed to add five additional taxis to their fleet. The recommendations specify that Blue Top and Red Top are to add only wheelchair-accessible vehicles.

Donnellan’s recommendations will be considered by the County Board at its Nov. 17 meeting.

by ARLnow.com — October 16, 2012 at 3:05 pm 4,316 6 Comments

Police are investigating the death of an 87-year-old resident of Arlington’s Old Glebe neighborhood.

From a police press release:

The Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit is investigating the suspicious death of an Arlington County resident.

The body was discovered at 10:17 a.m. on October 13, 2012 inside his residence in the 3700 block of N. Wakefield Street by a family member. The investigation is ongoing at this time.

The man has been identified as Mack L. Wood, 87, of Arlington, VA.

As of 9:00 a.m., Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck told ARLnow.com that he did not have any additional information about the incident.

by ARLnow.com — October 16, 2012 at 2:15 pm 5,999 59 Comments

Updated at 3:10 p.m. — Columbia Pike has reopened to traffic, according to scanner reports.

(Updated at 2:45 p.m.) Columbia Pike has been shut down between Walter Reed Drive and S. Courthouse Road as a result of a working fire at a restaurant.

Firefighters arrived on scene at 2520 Columbia Pike around 2:10 p.m., for a fire in the kitchen of the Top’s China takeout restaurant. As of 2:45 p.m., the fire was extinguished and firefighters were checking for remaining hot spots, according to ACFD spokesman Capt. Gregg Karl.

The numerous shops in the strip shopping center in which Top’s is located have been evacuated, Karl said.

Photos courtesy @taylorcarson, @cmags44, @kochimom

by ARLnow.com — October 16, 2012 at 2:00 pm 9,378 145 Comments

Mass resignations. Emergency votes. Back-and-forth accusations. FOIA requests. Email flame wars featuring words like “duplicity,” “acrimony” and “gang-rape.”

It’s not a battle over the federal budget or abortion or any other hot-button topic of national, state or regional consequence. It’s the rancor over a proposal to build a single bocce court in Arlington’s Bluemont neighborhood.

On one side of the fracas is former Bluemont Civic Association President Judah dal Cais and his supporters. On the other side is a group of civic association members critical of dal Cais’ leadership and his bocce court proposal.

The Bluemont bocce/petanque court idea has been in the works since dal Cais first brought it up in 2010. While members of the Bluemont Civic Association voted, narrowly, in April 2012 to approve the idea of a bocce court somewhere in the neighborhood, the exact location of the court has remained controversial.

Dal Cais has insisted that the only viable location is along the Bluemont Junction Trail, between N. Emerson and Illinois Street — a central location that he says will serve as a meeting place for neighbors and ensure that the court is well cared for by residents. Many opponents of the bocce court say they don’t oppose the idea of a court, just the location; the green space around that section of the trail is narrow, they say, and the court would necessarily be located close to the yards of adjacent homes.

Opponents have cited parking, traffic, noise, litter and other concerns when arguing against the bocce court. Some also believe the court will attract outsiders and, perhaps, organized play by local bocce leagues.

“There were and continue to be significant concerns from neighbors at large and adjacent to the sites Judah proposes that a Bocce Court will be a destination for folks outside of the neighborhood,” said Maura Quinn, who has helped to lead opposition to the court. “Parking, trash, noise, lack of restroom facilities, and proximity to homes were all brought up over many months at BCA meetings. Many also believe that a cinder Bocce Court will cause significant dust/grime issues and will be unsightly in what is now lovely green space.  There are Bocce leagues that play on grass throughout Arlington County calling into question the need for tearing out green space and replacing it with cinder.”

Dal Cais said all would be free to use the court, but doubted that it would be a suitable location for bocce leagues, especially with plans in the works to build multiple bocce courts in nearby Metro-accessible Ballston. He also cast doubt on fears of excess noise, traffic and littering, given that no more than 8 people can play bocce at one time and given that he predicts it will be played mostly by older adults who live in the neighborhood.

Opponents have suggested a number of alternative locations, including Fields Park, the area around Fire Station No. 2, the empty behind the Arlington Forest pool or the open space near the red caboose in Bluemont Parks. Dal Cais, who lives within walking distance of his preferred bocce court location, says the court will not be utilized and maintained properly (volunteers are to take care of the court, not the county) if it’s not in a central, “high visibility” location. He said the property owner closest to his preferred location has singed a letter of support in favor of the court.

The issue came to a head in September when it was revealed in the neighborhood newsletter that dal Cais was planning to submit an Arlington County Parks Enhancement Grant (PEG) application — asking for $15,000 to cover a contractor’s fee for building the court — as a private citizen. Opponents of the bocce court said dal Cais would not release a draft of the grant application to them — so they filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with Arlington County, which was eventually granted.

By this time, a petition opposing the proposed bocce court location was circulating among neighbors. Organizers say some 50-100 residents signed it. Opponents also say two people resigned from the Bluemont Civic Association’s bocce task force in protest of dal Cais’ private grant application. Then, on Sept. 27, the intrigue reached its height.

At a general membership meeting of the civic association, Dal Cais relinquished the chair in order to present a brief report on his grant application. Bocce supporters then describe an “ambush” of “hostile” questioning followed by a unadvertised motion and vote to send a letter to Arlington County opposing the bocce court location. The motion was allowed by the acting chair, passed and a letter was sent to County Board Chair Mary Hynes and several parks department officials.

In response, dal Cais’ supporters called an emergency meeting of the BCA Executive Board on Wednesday, Oct. 10 to “examine the unadvertised motion” and discuss the “tone and the lack of civility the audience directed at [dal Cais].” The meeting apparently did not go as hoped. Afterward, dal Cais, along with the civic association’s treasurer, webmaster, and parks and recreation liaison, all announced their resignations.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com — October 16, 2012 at 12:00 pm 5,642 3 Comments

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’m wondering if you know who is responsible for a collapsing retaining wall between two homes?

I have asked Arianna Gleckel to answer this question. She is a local Arlington-based attorney I highly regard.

The answer to your question may be as simple as finding and marking the property line. The property on which the retaining wall sits is responsible for maintaining the wall. If the wall is not on your property, you are not responsible for the upkeep, maintenance and repair of the retaining wall, even if it is for the benefit of your property. I would recommend getting a licensed surveyor to mark the property line for you along the retaining wall with stakes, and possibly having an engineer evaluate the structural condition of the wall and any remediation that may be needed, based on your description of its current condition. You also should check your deed description and plat to see if they clearly identify whether the retaining wall is on your property. If you have a fence installed already, there is a good chance that your fence abuts the property line and that the retaining wall is not on your property.

However, if the retaining wall straddles the property line, the answer may not be as simple. In Virginia, typically when a retaining wall has been constructed by a property owner to provide lateral support for the soil of a neighboring property, the owner of the neighboring property is not responsible for the upkeep of the retaining wall. So the answer would depend on which property is getting the support from the wall.

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by ARLnow.com — October 16, 2012 at 10:55 am 5,100 126 Comments

Despite statements to the contrary by each of the three candidates for Arlington County Board (see below), the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization says a modern streetcar system is a better option for Columbia Pike than a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.

Last night CPRO issued the following press release, explaining its support for the streetcar.

Recent publications suggest that Bus Rapid System would be superior to a Streetcar serving the transit needs of our area. The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization takes this opportunity to reaffirm support for a modern Streetcar.

In July 2012, the Arlington County Board and Fairfax County Board chose a modern Streetcar as the preferred transit alternative in our corridor.  This decision was correct and well informed.

The rationale in support of a BRT alternative has been exhaustively discussed during the many years of public process preceding the aforementioned decisions.

Among many other benefits, a modern streetcar system:

  • Commits the land use and economic development for decades to come. The sense of permanency and the corresponding growth dynamics that rail based transportation conveys to investors and businesses cannot be matched by a BRT system.
  • Serves important destinations that focuses on corridors, connectors and regional development nodes. By contrast, BRT would serve a constellation of ever changing destinations and routes, leaving the network design, scope and functionality at the whim of political and market changes.
  • Offers superior passenger capacity and superior economies of scale in the network both on Columbia Pike and on top-capacity corridors (like Route 1) where streetcar trains outperform BRT.
  • Provides superior comfort to passengers. Comfort is not an optional luxury. It is a critical parameter that determines the level of ridership.
  • Improves traffic safety in mixed traffic by keeping the largest vehicles on predictable tracks free from random lane-changes, which, combined with the narrower width of streetcars improves overall flow in a congested corridor.
  • Supports our community’s goal to preserve affordable housing by having the proven potential to create enough real estate value to cross-subsidize committed affordable units.

The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization applauds the Arlington County Board and the Fairfax County Board for upholding their commitment to the community’s long standing vision for Columbia Pike.

The decision has been made.  It is time to move forward.

Incumbent Democratic County Board candidate Libby Garvey, meanwhile, is doubling down on her support for a BRT system. In an email to supporters this morning, Garvey said BRT won out over the streetcar in a recent cost benefit analysis conducted by Peter Rousselot, former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com — October 16, 2012 at 9:45 am 2,984 47 Comments

IAFF: Only We Fight Fires in Arlington — IAFF Local 2800, Arlington’s firefighter union, wants residents to know that their members are the only ones who fight fires in Arlington. The union is trying to draw attention to a web page set up to clarify the differences between professional Arlington County firefighters and members of local volunteer firefighting organizations, who have been soliciting donations. “You may be wondering ‘are my fire and rescue services provided by volunteer firefighters?’” the union wrote. “The answer is no.” [IAFF Local 2800]

Wag More Dogs Gets New Mural — Wag More Dogs, the Shirlington dog grooming business that had to whitewash its doggy mural after losing a legal battle over signage restrictions with Arlington County, has a new mural that no one will interpret as a form of advertising this time around. The mural, painted by itinerant artists Zack Weaver and Rob Fogle, depicts two birds sitting in a hot tub on a tree. During the two weeks it took to create the mural, Weaver and Fogle lived in their truck (dubbed the “Art Cream Truck” and decorated with a painting of a well-endowed green-skinned woman) which they parked outside the dog park. [Huffington Post]

GOP Candidate Goes Against Chamber-Supported Tax — Republican County Board candidate Matt Wavro and Green Party candidate Audrey Clement have both come out against a 12.5 cent per $100 commercial property tax surcharge levied by Arlington County. The surcharge, which is used to fund transportation improvements, is supported by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. [Sun Gazette]

Post Endorses Kaine — The Washington Post editorial board has endorsed Democrat Tim Kaine over Republican George Allen in the race for U.S. Senate in Virginia. [Washington Post]

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