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by Katie Pyzyk — February 26, 2013 at 6:00 pm 3,594 58 Comments

Recommended plan for new school boundaries Alternative recommended plan for new school boundaries

The task of re-working the Arlington Public Schools boundaries is in the home stretch. The options have been whittled down to two, and tomorrow night (Wednesday) the public can get a detailed look at the final recommendations.

The School Board approved the creation of new boundaries to accommodate a new elementary school on the Williamsburg site and to help ease crowding at seven other elementary schools: Ashlawn, Glebe, Jamestown, McKinley, Nottingham, Taylor and Tuckahoe. Since the announcement last year, there have been numerous meetings and the public has submitted suggestions and concerns about the changes.

The two final options will be revealed to the community tomorrow at a 7:00 p.m. meeting at Williamsburg Middle School. The maps are largely similar to each other, with the main differences appearing along the Glebe/Taylor border and along the Glebe/McKinley border.

After the public gets a chance to discuss the choices at Wednesday’s meeting, staff will present their recommendations to APS Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy. He will review the options and decide which plan(s) he will present to the School Board at its meeting March 21.

by Katie Pyzyk — February 26, 2013 at 4:55 pm 327 20 Comments

Del. Alfonso Lopez, Sen. Janet Howell, gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe, Sen. Dick SaslawDemocratic Northern Virginia legislators joined gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe in spending part of the afternoon praising the state’s newly passed transportation bill and Republican Governor Bob McDonnell’s role in pushing it through.

State Sen. Dick Saslaw, Sen. Janet Howell and Del. Alfonso Lopez joined McAuliffe in discussing the bipartisanship and compromises needed for passing the legislation. Howell noted that nobody fully backed the bill but legislators had to put aside their difference to reach a compromise on the state’s first transportation funding plan in nearly three decades.

“We had very different views on what the ultimate solution should be. We had philosophical differences, we had regional differences, we had partisan differences. But we agreed on one crucial matter — doing nothing was no longer an option,” said Howell. “We’ve all disagreed with Governor McDonnell on certain issues, but this was a time when we came together. Like every compromise, no one got exactly what he or she wanted. In fact, there are parts of it that make me want to gag. But we made progress for Virginia.”

The press conference took place near the Washington Blvd bridge over Columbia Pike; speakers took turns referencing the bridge and how the new bill would fund similar infrastructure projects.

Construction on Washington Blvd bridge“We have needed this in South Arlington for literally decades. Because of the compromise that we were able to hash out in the General Assembly, there will be projects like this happening all across the Commonwealth,” Lopez said. “Literally, there have been pieces falling out of that bridge for decades and now we’re getting it fixed.”

Although he wasn’t directly a part of passing the legislation himself, McAuliffe said he spent hours on the phone with members of both parties, pushing them to find a compromise. The former Democratic National Committee chairman commended all legislators involved while alluding to more projects on failing infrastructure should he win the governor’s seat.

“We finally have some money to do what we need to do to keep the citizens safe,” said McAuliffe. “This was a bipartisan effort to deal with transportation. We are able to stand here today, where inaction has been happening for 27 years, and say something was done.”

McAuliffe did take time to blast Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who is expected to be his Republican rival for governor. He bashed Cuccinelli, as did the other officials in attendance, for acting as a roadblock to the transportation bill. He then turned his focus to another of his campaign issues — job creation.

“We need to be making sure that if we’re going to get cuts here, your next governor is focused on diversifying this economy, bringing in 21st century jobs. And you can only do that by a great transportation system, a great education system, workforce training,” said McAuliffe. “I can work with anybody, any time of the day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, anybody, anytime if you’re going to help me create jobs for the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

One of the issues in the transportation bill that has been controversial in Northern Virginia is the $100 annual tax for hybrid vehicle owners. Saslaw told ARLnow.com that he could potentially argue for either side of that issue, but it might be better for the governor in the long run if he performs a line item veto on that particular measure.

“The governor probably would be better off lining it out. You could say the squeeze ain’t worth the juice having it in there. It’s an awful lot of aggravation for $18 million out of an $800 million dollar thing,” Saslaw said. “It only takes a minute to look at it, I don’t know if he’ll do anything. And if he starts mucking with it too much, it’s going to start to get rejected.”

Saslaw said the issue will likely create more trouble than it’s worth because the number of hybrid drivers in the state is so small — only a little more than 1 percent of the total vehicle owners. He believes it might have made more sense to find another revenue boost, such as raising vehicle registration fees or imposing a tax based on a vehicle’s gas usage per gallon, not simply the fact that it’s hybrid. In the end, he reiterated that the bill was imperfect, but it needed to pass.

“I voted for the compromise, as did everyone else, because when that thing comes out of conference you either vote for it or you don’t vote for it,” said Saslaw. “As Senator Howell pointed out, [it] is not the ideal situation. In fact, when it becomes law, it’s going to have to be tweaked.”

by ARLnow.com — February 26, 2013 at 3:45 pm 2,588 21 Comments

The Commonwealth was once again the butt of jokes on The Daily Show last night. But this time around, a local Virginia legislator at least got some snarky kudos from Jon Stewart.

The Comedy Central show featured a mock-segment, alternately titled “Virginia Is Not For Lovers” and “19th Century News,” about the efforts of state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) to repeal the state’s long-standing law against an unmarried couple living together. Though rarely enforced, Virginia law classifies “lewd and lascivious cohabitation” as a Class 3 misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $500 fine.

Ebbin’s bill, SB 969, has passed the Virginia House of Delegates and state Senate and is now awaiting Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) signature.

by Peter Rousselot — February 26, 2013 at 2:20 pm 1,155 24 Comments

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column published on Tuesdays. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotEven Arlington can’t have it all.

How Arlington decides what it can afford says a lot about the realism of our leaders. Are they making the hard choices, or just struggling to preserve the illusion that some choices are unnecessary?

I’ve been thinking about this since I received a political fundraising letter earlier this month saying the following:

“Our goal should be to balance the short-term budget adjustments with the long-term needs of our community. We should ensure that our schools remain among the very best, that we maintain a strong social safety net, and that we continue to provide affordable housing options. We must also continue to make needed capital investments in transportation and infrastructure that will improve the quality of life and protect the future vitality of the community.”

It’s hard to argue that we shouldn’t:

  • balance short-term budget adjustments with long-term needs, or
  • ensure that our schools remain among the very best, or
  • maintain a strong social safety net, or
  • continue to provide affordable housing options, or
  • make needed capital investments in transportation and infrastructure

But, we need to move far, far beyond the framing of this particular fundraising letter and ask ourselves questions like these:

  • What’s a short-term budget adjustment and what’s the new normal?
  • In the new normal, what projects and services should be cancelled?
  • What’s a needed capital investment and by what criteria should need be measured?
  • What must be done to ensure that our schools remain among the very best?
  • When the only way to ensure that our schools remain among the very best is to do without other county services or capital investments, will our leaders step up and say so?

We must define or redefine what our core services are because those are the services that ought to be guaranteed funding. Some of the other services and projects must be placed in a “so sorry, no can do” category. We must take these steps because the likely rate of growth in the value of Arlington’s commercial real estate tax base will be flat or very low for many years compared to the past. This is the new normal.

As the budget season unfolds, I will use this framework to define which specific Arlington services and projects (or categories of services and projects) should be retained, and which should be set aside to adjust to the new normal.

Peter Rousselot is a member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

by Katie Pyzyk — February 26, 2013 at 1:15 pm 1,832 48 Comments

Treetop shelter similar to one proposed for Potomac Overlook Regional Park (photo via NVRPA)

Improvements have been proposed for Potomac Overlook Regional Park, and one of the suggestions is to add the park’s first actual “overlook.”

The park land is managed by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA), which held a meeting last night (Monday) to present the proposed improvement plans.

One of the ideas is to construct an overlook in the tree canopy where visitors could rent equipment and participate in educational programs. The site could also potentially be rented out for events.

Some of the other proposed improvements are:

    • Create bus drop off plaza/welcome area with information kiosk and covered area for up to 75 persons.
    • Relocate and/or improve park signage.
    • Move gate further down entrance road and add parking — can add approximately 20 head-in spaces in clearings on each side of road with minimal tree loss.
    • Add new asphalt cap to park roadway.
    • Expand area of amphitheater to hold larger events by trimming back the vegetation on the upper side of the bowl.
    • Add rock climbing, zip lines or large swings or similar features to attract groups, and help rent shelters.
    • Replace existing stage with a shelter that could be rented, or used as a stage when needed. This new shelter would use the existing solar panels on its roof. Improve the interpretation of the solar shelter.
    • Implement a small 2-acre urban farm or community garden, and develop interpretation of Donaldson farm and the historic foundations located near center of park, just off the paved path.
    • Renovate and expand the aging birds of prey facility — an extremely popular destination for school groups visiting the park.
    • Remove outdated and dilapidated elements such as “simple pleasures trellis,” solar fan bench and toddler terrace.
    • Add scout camping area in cleared area behind the Indian Garden.
    • Consider reestablishing a healthy orchard area to do a “pick your own” program.
    • Request long-term lease or gift of Marcey Park from Arlington County.

Site plan for Potomac Regional Overlook ParkIn addition to upgrading the existing facilities, the plan suggests revamping programs offered at the park. The ideas include the following:

      • Expand the number of weeks summer camps are offered.
      • Drop camps for older kids that do not fill.
      • Expand camps for younger kids that are in demand.
      • Offer half day camps.
      • Institute on-line registration process.
      • Use more summer seasonal staff, and reduce distance of field trips.
      • Offer merit badge programs with scout camping for a value-added experience.
      • Do fewer concerts with bigger names to improve returns.
      • “Yappy Hour” events using tennis courts on scheduled evenings.
      • Explore after school nature programs for area elementary schools.
      • Partner with external organization to operate the Urban Agriculture area.

Funding for the project would come from the NVRPA, with the possibility of some assistance from the Northern Virginia Regional Park Foundation.

So far no start date has been set for the beginning the work because the plans are preliminary. NVRPA is currently focusing on soliciting comments and suggestions from the community, which can be emailed to Potomac@NVRPA.Org. NVRPA will hold at least one more meeting with community members regarding finalized plans before renovations begin.

by Katie Pyzyk — February 26, 2013 at 11:30 am 1,455 29 Comments

Ashlawn Elementary School addition site plan Renderings of the future Long Bridge Park Aquatics, Health & Fitness Facility

Changes have been approved for parking regulations at the county’s schools and recreational facilities.

At its meeting on Saturday (February 23), the County Board voted unanimously to amend the Zoning Ordinance, which was necessary in order to modify parking regulations for elementary and middle schools and noncommercial recreational facilities. The amendments allow the Board to change the number of required parking spaces at the facilities, which it previously was not permitted to do.

The approved revisions reduce the number of spaces needed at elementary and middle schools. Additionally, the Board now has the ability to alter requirements at individual sites and to locate a portion of the parking spaces off-site.

County staff members have been looking into parking requirements since the issue arose during the public review process for the addition to Ashlawn Elementary School, the new school to be built on the Williamsburg Middle School campus and the planned aquatics facility at Long Bridge Park. Parking demand at all the sites in question was deemed less than what was required by the Zoning Ordinance.

“With APS expanding some facilities and adding new ones to keep up with growing enrollment, we needed to come up with a new approach to parking for our schools and public facilities,” said Arlington County Board Chairman Walter Tejada. “The changes the Board is making in the Zoning Ordinance will ensure that our schools provide for adequate, but not excessive, parking and have plans in place to reduce parking demand.”

All schools and public facilities must also submit a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan to ensure the sites do not build excessive amounts of parking, and that strategies to reduce the demand for parking are examined.

by Katie Pyzyk — February 26, 2013 at 10:45 am 376 2 Comments

Update at 3:35 p.m. — Although the weather remains rainy and windy, the National Weather Service has canceled the flood watch.

A flood watch has been issued for Arlington and the surrounding areas in light of the heavy rains that are predicted for this afternoon.

The National Weather Service issued the watch, which begins at 3:00 p.m. and remains in effect through the evening.

* A PERIOD OF MODERATE TO LOCALLY HEAVY RAINFALL IS EXPECTED
TUESDAY AFTERNOON AND EVENING. RAINFALL TOTALS BETWEEN ONE AND
TWO INCHES ARE EXPECTED.

* LOCALLY HEAVY RAINFALL MAY CAUSE SMALL STREAMS AND CREEKS TO
RISE OUT OF THEIR BANKS…OVERFLOWING LOW LYING AND URBAN
AREAS. DO NOT EVER DRIVE INTO FLOOD WATERS.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

A FLOOD WATCH MEANS THERE IS A POTENTIAL FOR FLOODING BASED ON
CURRENT FORECASTS.

YOU SHOULD MONITOR LATER FORECASTS AND BE ALERT FOR POSSIBLE
FLOOD WARNINGS. THOSE LIVING IN AREAS PRONE TO FLOODING SHOULD BE
PREPARED TO TAKE ACTION SHOULD FLOODING DEVELOP.

Although the rains should stop by tonight, the effects could be felt for several days. The NWS has also issued a Hazardous Weather Outlook for the area.

.DAY ONE…TODAY AND TONIGHT

HEAVY RAIN THIS AFTERNOON AND EVENING HAS THE POTENTIAL TO CAUSE
FLOODING OF STREAMS AND LOW AREAS IN THE WASHINGTON AND BALTIMORE
METRO AREAS. A FLOOD WATCH HAS BEEN ISSUED FOR THESE AREAS.

OVER THE WATERS…GUSTY WINDS ARE EXPECTED TODAY AND TONIGHT AND
A SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY HAS BEEN ISSUED.

TIDES WILL BE HIGHER THAN NORMAL DUE TO ONSHORE WINDS. FOR THOSE
ALONG THE WESTERN SHORE OF THE MARYLAND CHESAPEAKE BAY AND THE
SHORELINE OF THE TIDAL POTOMAC RIVER…MINOR TIDAL FLOODING IS
POSSIBLE DURING THE TIMES OF HIGH TIDE BETWEEN THIS AFTERNOON AND
WEDNESDAY MORNING.

.DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN…WEDNESDAY THROUGH MONDAY

OVER THE WATERS…GUSTY WINDS MAY REMAIN STRONG ENOUGH TO NEED A
SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY THROUGH WEDNESDAY NIGHT.

TIDES WILL BE HIGHER THAN NORMAL DUE TO ONSHORE WINDS. FOR THOSE
ALONG THE WESTERN SHORE OF THE MARYLAND CHESAPEAKE BAY AND THE
SHORELINE OF THE TIDAL POTOMAC RIVER…MINOR TIDAL FLOODING IS
POSSIBLE DURING THE TIMES OF HIGH TIDE WEDNESDAY MORNING.

RAIN OR SNOW SHOWERS ARE POSSIBLE WEDNESDAY NIGHT AND THURSDAY.

by Katie Pyzyk — February 26, 2013 at 9:45 am 10,732 110 Comments

Trolley Pub (photo via Trolley Pub Facebook page)While attention focused on the possibility of a Columbia Pike streetcar, another trolley project quietly sneaked its way into Arlington. The Trolley Pub is expected to arrive this spring.

The open-air, pedal-powered trolley lets riders mix drinking and exercising while taking in the Arlington sights. Up to 14 people can ride along on a tour, along with one certified Trolley Pub conductor in the captain’s seat.

The trolley already exists in cities like Raleigh, NC. Pricing is not yet listed for the Arlington trolley, but Raleigh’s charges $30 per person for up to six people on a two hour tour, or $350 to rent the entire 14 person pub for two hours.

Riders who want to drink on the ride have to bring their own alcoholic beverages, but are able to use the on-board ice chest. No hard alcohol or glass is allowed, and alcoholic beverages must remain on board at all times.

The tentative launch date is April 13, according to the Trolley Pub Arlington Facebook page.

by Katie Pyzyk — February 26, 2013 at 8:50 am 1,128 49 Comments

Gate at Bluemont Park

Pentagon City Mall Renovations — Coming on the heels of the news that Ballston Common Mall will be getting a revamp, the owners of Fashion Centre at Pentagon City announced plans to renovate that mall as well. Although no formal plan has been revealed, changes could include adding office space or apartments. Renovations for the 24-year-old mall would be paid for out of a pot of about $1 billion that Simon Property Group Inc. has set aside for updating its properties. [Washington Business Journal]

Fire Hydrant Color Meaning — Arlington doesn’t have one standard color for fire hydrants; instead, the county adopted a coloring system in the 1990s indicating the flow of water at each particular hydrant. Blue hydrants have water flow above 1,500 gallons per minute (gpm), green is between 1,000 and 1,500 gpm, orange is 500 to 1,000 gpm and red is below 500 gpm. The color scheme allows firefighters to quickly determine if one hydrant will be enough to fight a fire, or if a water relay system is necessary. [Washington Post]

More Signs Requested for Westover Market — Organizers of the Westover Market believe a drop in attendance occurred for the new winter market because of the county’s sign restrictions. There has been a drop of up to 90 percent, according to organizers, and they believe the attendance would be greater if they were allowed to post more signs advertising the market. The County Board asked County Manager Barbara Donnellan to investigate the issue. [Sun Gazette]

Library Hosts Croatian Ambassador — The Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) will host a celebration of Croatia tonight featuring music, food, cultural displays and a visit from Croatian Ambassador Joško Paro. The event begins at 7:00 p.m. [Arlington Public Library]

Hybrid Tax Petition — Virginia Senator Adam Ebbin and Delegate Scott Surovell launched a petition to get Gov. Bob McDonnell to eliminate the so-called hybrid tax in the newly passed transportation bill. Under the bill, drivers of hybrid vehicles would have to pay a $100 fee each year. McDonnell said he’d review that portion of the bill. [NBC 4]

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