Since April, a single-family house at 3704 2nd Street S. has been operating as a low-barrier group home for four (4) adults with mental illnesses transitioning from homelessness. New Hope Housing, the Alexandria-based nonprofit that operates the dormitory, has been seeking a use permit to increase the maximum number of adults housed at the dormitory to six (6).
The use permit request drew criticism from neighbors at Saturday’s Arlington County Board meeting.
Residents told the Board that there was a lack of supervision and communication from the nonprofit for the first 4-5 months that the group home — called Susan’s Place — was in operation. Several neighbors described residents of the shelter cursing and spitting at them as they walked by, a resident who sat in a broken chair in the front yard talking to himself until midnight, and other disturbances. Residents and neighborhood representatives said neighbors were not notified that the group home would be opening, and didn’t know who to contact with concerns.
New Hope Housing Executive Director Pamela Michell told the Board that the problems went uncorrected for several months because a key staff member was on an extended personal leave, working on a master’s degree in social work. She said the organization typically doesn’t give neighbors a heads up when they open a new group home because of fair housing laws, but called that a mistake in retrospect.
“There was a lack of communication,” she admitted. “We did not come and talk to the neighborhood. That was obviously a mistake.”
Still, Michell said the organization was not aware of any problems during the first few months the group home was open. She said a staff person was on-site during that time, and disputed the assertion of neighbors that they made a reasonable effort to voice concerns about resident behavior.
“Frankly, no one knocked on our door and said there was a concern,” Michell said. “Since the staff person didn’t observe it and since nobody complained, we didn’t know there was something that needed to be addressed.”
In a letter to county staff, the Alcova Heights Citizens Association said they only obtained information about New Hope Housing when an attorney for the organization contacted them seeking support for expansion of the group home. The first meeting between neighbors and New Hope staff took place on Aug. 14.
“This appears to be a lapse in management,” County Board member Jay Fisette said to Michell. “You guys did something wrong.”
Fisette and other Board members were swayed, however, by accounts that problems with the group home have largely been corrected since that meeting. They were also supportive of conditions for the use permit agreed to by New Hope Housing, including 24-hour on-site supervision, a neighborhood liaison who can be reached by phone by residents, an administrative review after 5 months and a County Board review in 9 months.
“Because it has improved… I think this is going to work,” Fisette said. “Six people, five people or four doesn’t really matter. It’s the management issues around it.”
Fisette also noted that many of the residents who expressed concerns about the group home also expressed support for New Hope’s overall mission to help the homeless.
The Board approved the use permit by a 5-0 vote.
Board member Chris Zimmerman echoed Board Chair Mary Hynes in commending the “vital function in our community” that nonprofits like New Hope play in helping to combat homelessness.
Photo via Google Maps
VDOT will close the lane as soon as tomorrow as part of the ongoing Washington Boulevard bridge and interchange project. Drivers should expect new traffic patterns on eastbound Columbia Pike as a result.
“Motorists in the right lane must take the exit ramp to Washington Boulevard,” VDOT said in a press release. “Motorists on eastbound Columbia Pike can use the left lane to continue east or to access the ramp to Washington Boulevard.”
The closure is expected to be in place through 2014. The overall project is expected to be completed in the summer of 2015.
Photo via Google Maps
It’s not clear what started the brawl, but it quickly grew in size and prompted a large police response. Six people were arrested and several people were taken to Virginia Hospital Center for injuries. At least one police officer suffered minor injuries but did not require hospitalization, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
“A huge melee broke out and spread into the mall,” Sternbeck said of the early Wednesday morning incident. “Nobody wanted to cooperate with police.”
From the ACPD daily crime report:
MALICIOUS WOUNDING, 12/05/12, 4200 block of N. Wilson Boulevard. At 1:35 am on December 5, a large fight involving several subjects broke out. As a result of this large fight, six suspects were arrested for a variety of different charges. A few of the victims/subjects were taken to Virginia Hospital Center for treatment of injuries ranging from swelling to lacerations. Mitchell Thach Khlock, 22, of Springfield, Va. was arrested on charges of obstruction of justice, resisting arrest, malicious wounding, and assault and battery. Smeth Snguon, 33, of Sterling, Va. and Vireak Snguon, 30, of Arlington, Va. were arrested and charged with assault by mob. Saloeun Chea, 28, of Alexandria, Va. was arrested on charges of malicious wounding and assault by mob. Carlos Enrique Lopez, 23, of Alexandria, Va. and Ray Shawn Banks, 23, of Arlington, Va. were arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer and disorderly conduct. All suspects are currently being held without bond.
The Arlington County Board rebuffed the county’s Planning Commission Saturday afternoon, approving a new apartment development on Lee Highway after a strong showing of public support for the project.
Last month, the Planning Commission voted against the project, which includes a 10-story apartment building and a retail and residential complex that will include a MOM’s Organic Market grocery store. The development will replace the aging Bergmann’s dry cleaning plant, at the corner of Lee Highway and N. Vietch Street, less than half a mile from the Courthouse Metro station. The Planning Commission voted ‘no’ due to concerns about building height and the precedent the project might set for development on Lee Highway.
The Lyon Village Civic Association, which represents residents across Lee Highway from the proposed development, agreed with the Planning Commission. Civic Association President James Lantelme told the Board that the association supports redevelopment of the Bergmann’s site in theory, but couldn’t support a building higher than 6-8 stories.
Lantelme worried that project approval could inspire other developers to propose higher buildings along Lee Highway. He said existing garden apartment buildings and the National Pawnbrokers building at the corner of Lee Highway and Kirkwood Road could be redeveloped in the near future, making the Bergmann’s development “a real live issue right now.”
Lantelme was in the minority at Saturday’s Board meeting, however. More than a dozen residents spoke in favor of the development, 10 stories and all — a fairly rare showing of support at Board meetings where proposals to construct high buildings are usually greeted with a chorus of disapproval from neighbors.
The North Highlands Citizens Association — which represents some 1,800 households and businesses north of Lee Highway, including the Bergmann’s site — voted 70 percent in favor of the project. Residents told the Board that the proposed development, especially the grocery store, is welcome in the neighborhood. Until the recent addition of the now-busy Burger 7 restaurant, the only retail store in North Highlands was a 7-Eleven.
“As a resident in the actual neighborhood, I think the positives would far outweigh the negatives,” said one resident. “High rises are just a fact of modern life in Arlington.”
“I think this will help us become a more cohesive community,” she said. “I would enjoy shopping there. I would enjoy neighbors living there… I love the building, it’s filled with light. This has an aesthetic appeal and a design that contributes to people getting to know each other.”
Anita Machhar, co-president of the North Highlands Citizens Association, criticized the Planning Commission’s stance that the county should produce a comprehensive development plan for Lee Highway before approving the Bergmann’s project.
“It is unfair to hold our community hostage while it takes years for a master plan to be developed,” she said. “We don’t want a rundown dry cleaner as our community landmark.”
Republican activist Robert Atkins, a frequent critic of the county at Board meetings, also spoke in favor of the development, urging the Planning Commission to “return from their parallel universe, return to planet Earth.”
In the end, the County Board voted 5-0 to approve the development.
FroZenYo was originally expected to open at 1735 N. Lynn Street, in the former “News and Necessities” space, this past summer. The froyo chain opened a location in Ballston in August, but the Rosslyn location has yet to materialize.
In a tweet this morning, the Rosslyn Business Improvement announced that FroZenYo is now expected to open at some point this spring.
FroZenYo lets customers pick any combination of yogurt flavors and toppings, as detailed in a press release earlier this year.
Fro.Zen.Yo’s frozen yogurt is low fat and low calorie. The Fro.Zen.Yo menu features 16 flavors of frozen yogurt and a variety of fresh fruit and candy toppings. Customers get to choose any combination of flavors and toppings. Fro.Zen.Yo offers free hot fudge and also offers Deer Park bottled water for $.29.
Chabad Lubavitch of Alexandria-Arlington held its annual Chanukah on Ice celebration at Pentagon Row Sunday night.
The event included ice skating, kosher hot dogs, hot latkes, a free raffle and a figure skating performance. There was also a ceremonial Menorah lighting.
Arlington County Fire Chief James Schwartz joined Rabbi Mordechai Newman for the lighting, which was hampered by a brief period of driving rain. Despite valiant efforts at keeping the Menorah lit, the flames were inevitably extinguished by the rain.
“This is what happens to fire when I’m around,” quipped Chief Schwartz.
Courthouse Office Building Approved — At its meeting on Saturday, the Arlington County Board unanimously approved a redevelopment plan for a new 8-story office building at 2311 Wilson Blvd in Courthouse. [Arlington County]
Goody’s Expansion Plan Foiled by the Fiscal Cliff? — Clarendon pizza restaurant Goody’s was featured on the Friday broadcast of NBC Nightly News. The owners of the restaurant say they’re only making a small profit and they’re worried about having to close due to the impact of the so-called fiscal cliff (primarily the increased taxes that could go into effect if no deal is reached). Goody’s owners were planning to expand next year, but have put those plans on hold, according to the broadcast. [NBC News]
First Streetcars, Then Spaceships — Trying to make the point that the County Board doesn’t have a hidden agenda when considering adoption of the Virginia Public-Private Transportation Act, Board member Walter Tejada said that public-private partnerships could be used for future projects, and not just for streetcars. “It could be used for spaceships down the line in the future,” he said. [Sun Gazette]
Winter Coats and Clothes Collected — The Rosslyn Business Improvement District collected 119 bags of winter clothing from area businesses and residents over the past month. The clothes will be donated to the homeless clients of the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network. The Nauck Community Service Center, meanwhile, collected more than 500 coats for distribution to Arlington residents in need.
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann