A developer is cutting down an oak tree thought to be more than 200 years old today in Bluemont, prompting outcries from some neighbors.
The large, willow oak tree, on the 5600 block of 8th Road N., is on a 12,000-square-foot lot that WSD Homes is in the process of redeveloping. According to nearby residents, the homebuilding company is planning on building two $1.2 million houses on the property — where now sits an unoccupied house ready to be torn down.
A request for comment from WSD Homes has not been returned. The tree was more than 100 feet tall and more than 23 feet around at chest height, neighbors said. WSD Homes had originally said it would try to preserve it, but its director of sales, Jon Ferris, changed his mind after talking with neighbors, they said.
“Ferris stated that even if the tree could be saved, people who would buy a nice $1.2 million home would not want such a tree in their front yard,” Mark Haynes, who has been one of the leaders of the campaign to save the tree, told ARLnow.com in an email this morning. “A petition asking WSD and the County to attempt to save the tree has been circulated and has well over 100 signatures including many from local tree experts and neighbors.
“Last week, when local representatives of the Arlington Tree Stewards group and others requested a meeting at the site to discuss how the tree might be saved (with WSD still able to make a profit), Ferris stated that WSD would hurry to cut the tree down to stop the discussion.”
Workers from The Care of Trees were at the house today, chopping the tree down with chainsaws and woodchippers. Several truckloads of tree chippings had already been hauled off site, with the majority of the trunk still firmly in the ground. It’s unclear what, if anything, will be left of the tree when the work is completed.
“This magnificent Willow Oak is estimated to be 180 to 250 years old and predates the American Civil War by at least 50 years,” Haynes said. “Willow Oaks are one of the more long-lived (up to 400 years) and hearty of the oaks. This particular tree was, in the view of a number of experts, very healthy and had many, many years left in it.”
Arlington keeps registries of “Champion Trees” and “Notable Trees,” but the willow oak does not appear to be on either list. Trees that are listed as “Specimen Trees” or in a Resource Protected Area have some protections on them that prevent them from being cut down. The Willow tree has no protections, said Arlington Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish.
“The County cannot stop a private landowner from taking down a tree on their property unless it is a Specimen Tree or in a Resource Protected Area and sadly this tree is neither,” Kalish said.
One of the residents who contacted ARLnow.com said it was the second-largest tree in the county, but ARLnow.com hasn’t been able to confirm its official height or how it compares to other trees in the county.
“To us, it was a magnificent tree no matter it’s ranking,” Kalish said.
The incident happened around 8:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 5. Police say the man gathered up the meat and then left the store without paying.
An employee tried to stop him, but the suspect punched the employee in the arm, yelled at him and took off westbound on Wilson, according to a crime report.
“The subject is described as a clean shaven black male, in his 40′s, 5’09″, 220 lbs, wearing a black knit cap, black leather jacket, grey sweatshirt, black jeans, and white/black sneakers,” the crime report states. “The store employee was not injured.”
Wilson Boulevard west of George Mason Drive will go from a four-lane road to two through lanes with a center turn lane this spring, and it’s a plan many residents who live nearby are happy with.
The plan will result in increased travel times for the stretch of Wilson that will be affected, from N. Manchester to N. Frederick Street. In addition to the lane reduction, the reconfiguration will also add bike lanes on either side of the road, which will serve a dual purpose as a buffer between the sidewalks and motor vehicles.
“Wilson Blvd is unacceptable and we all deserve better,” Chris Healey, the co-chair of the Bluemont Civic Association sidewalk safety task force, told the attendees. “That’s what we’re here to try and accomplish.”
The road restriping will occur in the spring, when that stretch of road is up in Arlington’s repaving schedule. The reconfiguration doesn’t make an impact on the county budget, but it also won’t help the state of the sidewalks, which residents and staff agreed are too narrow and too dangerous.
What will one day become Phase II of the reconfiguration will include sidewalk widening and other improvements, but Arlington Bureau Chief for Transportation and Operations Engineering Larry Marcus told ARLnow.com that those improvements are currently unfunded and have no timeline for construction.
“This isn’t a total solution, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Marcus said. “Phase II is why we’re here, to hear from people and to look over the winter and what needs to improve.”
Arlington Department of Environmental Services engineers predict that travel time will increase on the road, but only between five and 20 seconds between N. Manchester and Edison Streets each way during rush hour. The greatest concern about the change for some residents was turning off onto the cross streets. Staff predicts that those maneuvers will take as much as 35 seconds longer on some cross streets.
One resident who said he lived on N. Manchester Street, which is where the lane reduction will begin, said it will only make his street more dangerous.
“My opinion is you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul,” he said. “You’re adding a choke point to [Manchester] which is already a cut-through. My biggest concern is already having to worry about my kids because I’ve got cars screaming back and forth between 50 and Wilson. We’re putting higher-density living spaces on Wilson Blvd and we’re trying to increase businesses in Wilson Blvd, and we’re operating on the assumption that none of those people are going to drive, which is ridiculous.
Gillian Burgess, the chair of the county’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, attended the meeting and said she was still concerned about the bike lanes, since they will have no protection from cars, and since buses will be expected to pull into them when they pick up and drop off passengers.
“The entire Wilson Blvd corridor is a huge gap in the current bicycle network,” she said. “We appreciate that that’s being recognized. As we go forward, we appreciate that there will be more bicycling accommodations, but we really need to make sure that they’re safe.”
Ed Fendley, the other co-chair on the sidewalk task force, said after all of the residents were able to talk to staff individually, the reaction was generally positive.
“The report-outs from the tables highlighted that the great majority of the comments received were in the form of positive support and constructive suggestions for improvements,” he told ARLnow.com.
The change has been advocated by the Bluemont Civic Association (BCA) for years, and the neighborhood’s representatives have posited that the lane reduction, coupled with sidewalk expansion, will make the corridor more walkable without increasing traffic congestion.
The project, which Arlington County says is in design phase with reconfiguration set for spring 2015, will reduce westbound and eastbound traffic to one lane each, while adding a center lane for left turns and bike lanes on either side of the street. The plan also calls for consolidating bus stops in this stretch to reduce possible congestion.
Currently, there are no funded plans to expand the sidewalks.
County staff is holding a general community meeting on Nov. 20, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., at Arlington Traditional School (855 N. Edison Street), to discuss the plans. The county also plans for a “robust community notification process throughout the corridor,” before the restriping and repaving work begins.
The plans to reduce the lanes on Wilson Blvd was initially recommended by the BCA’s Sidewalk Safety Task Force and supported by the BCA in October 2012. Arlington decided to incorporate the plans when it made its restriping and repaving calendar for this year.
“We are grateful that Arlington County is listening to us and working to make our ‘Main Street’ a safer and more pleasant place for all residents and visitors,” BCA President John Lau said in a press release. “Working together, the efforts of neighborhood residents and county officials have led us to this long-awaited first step for improving our neighborhood and an important Arlington corridor.”
While the county approved the requested changes to Wilson Blvd’s lane configuration, the BCA’s requests to have the power lines — with poles located on Wilson Blvd’s sidewalks — moved underground was deemed prohibitively expensive by the county. The BCA is also hoping that the improvements be extended for all of Wilson Blvd west of N. Glebe Road, something county staff said it will continue to explore.
“This is a demonstration project that will be monitored further by the County to determine whether a complete streets project — currently unfunded — is viable along the entire section of Wilson Boulevard, west of North Glebe Road,” the project website reads. “If successful, staff will continue to work with the community to develop this future potential project.”
The plan, when it was being discussed last June, received some concern for businesses located along the corridor. The sidewalk task force reported businesses were “extremely concerned” that reducing the number of lanes would “gum up traffic to the point where they would lose business.”
The BCA cited the stretch of Washington Blvd west of N. Glebe Road, which goes from four lanes to two and has higher peak traffic volume, as an example of why the Wilson Blvd proposal won’t significantly worsen traffic.
Images via Arlington County
Three people were hurt in a rollover accident in Bluemont Monday night.
The two-vehicle crash happened around 10:00 p.m., at the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. George Mason Drive.
According to a witness, an elderly man in a Chevy Impala on Wilson Blvd ran a red light, broadsiding an SUV that was heading north on George Mason. The SUV flipped on its side and came to rest next to a street sign.
The SUV’s three occupants were able to get out of the vehicle on their own, we’re told.
Two children were taken to the hospital, according to the witness. Their injuries were reported to be minor.
The adult male driver was shaken but did not require medical treatment. He was driving the children home from a basketball practice at Kenmore Middle School, we’re told.
A passenger in the Impala was also taken to the hospital with apparently minor injuries, the witness said. The driver was evaluated by paramedics. Charges were “likely,” a police officer on the scene said.
A third vehicle was nearly involved in the accident. We’re told a convertible — whose driver was also returning from the basketball practice — was driving next to but just behind the SUV. The driver slammed on the brakes at the last second and managed to barely avoid the wreck.
A car ran into the front of a gas station in Bluemont this morning.
The incident happened around 9:30 a.m. The driver of a car somehow lost control and ran into the front of the clerk’s booth at the BP station at the corner of Wilson Blvd and George Mason Drive.
The car only dented the building and no one was injured. Despite the scare, the gas station has remained open to customers.
Wilson Blvd Sidewalk Improvements Delayed — Arlington County Board members were apologetic on Saturday after a resident complained about the state of sidewalks along Wilson Blvd in the Bluemont area. The first phase of an improvement project, which will only consist of repaving and restriping the road, is now not slated to take place until the spring. County leaders promised to try to implement the second phase, which will actually improve the sidewalks, sooner rather than later. [InsideNova]
Bar to the Rescue in Crystal City? — Crystal City property owner Vornado hopes Highline, a new bar coming to the neighborhood, will help its growing tech community there after work. Vornado is trying to restyle Crystal City — which has lost government tenants for millions of square feet of office space, as a result of BRAC — as a tech hub. [Washington Post]
Neighborhood Conservation Projects Approved — A $2.5 million slate of four neighborhood improvement projects was approved by the County Board on Saturday. The projects include three in north Arlington and one in south Arlington. [Arlington County]
Bank Robber Sentenced — A D.C. man who robbed two Wells Fargo banks in Arlington has been sentenced to 35 years in prison, federal prosecutors announced. James Link, 57, was accused of robbing a Wells Fargo branch on Nov. 25, 2013, injuring an elderly woman in the process, and a branch on Dec. 31, after which he and an alleged accomplice were arrested by FBI agents who were waiting outside. [U.S. Dept. of Justice]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
The incident happened around 12:55 a.m., on the 5000 and 5100 blocks of Wilson Blvd. Police say a man, who was “under the influence of narcotics” and not wearing clothing, jumped in front of a car traveling eastbound in the area of 7-Eleven and Pupatella restaurant.
The driver slammed on the brakes and the man “threw himself onto the front end of her vehicle,” said Arlington County Police Department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
After jumping on and off the hood of the car, the suspect ran up to a bystander on the sidewalk and tried to pick a fight, Sternbeck said. The suspect then ran off, but was quickly taken into custody by police. While being questioned, he got up and struck several officers, according to Sternbeck.
The suspect, 18-year-old Arlington resident Kevin Broderick, was charged with disorderly conduct and two counts of assault on a police officer.
Photo courtesy ACPD
Sultana Grill, a Moroccan restaurant at 5515 Wilson Blvd in Bluemont that closed at the end of last year, reopened this month.
New manager Mohamed Ahmed — who had been an employee under the former management — said the reason for the restaurant’s closing was the former manager’s health problems, which forced the restaurant to close some days unannounced.
“There’s basically nothing different,” Ahmed told ARLnow.com. “We’re still specializing in Moroccan food, but we’ve added some Middle Eastern menu items. Also we’ll be open seven days a week now, starting at 10:00 a.m.”
There had been speculation that the restaurant’s lack of an alcohol license had been the reason for its financial problems, but Ahmed dismissed those concerns, and said Sultana still will not be serving alcohol.
It appears Sultana Grill (5515 Wilson Blvd.) in the Bluemont neighborhood has closed down.
The restaurant had been open for a little more than a year. The restaurant’s phone number seems to be disconnected, based on the automated message ARLnow.com received when attempting to call.
A tipster who reported enjoying the restaurant’s Moroccan food said he asked what happened and restaurant staff reported the business had been hurt by the lack of having an alcohol license.
The tipster also was told that a hookah bar might open in the space.
Hat tip to Eric LaKuch
Bluemont Neighborhood Plan Approved – The Arlington County Board last night accepted an updated Bluemont Neighborhood Conservation Plan, which will “[allow] the Bluemont Civic Association to pursue funding to transform the neighborhood to a true ‘urban village’ with slower traffic, better sidewalks and revitalized commercial corridors.” The plan also calls for a grocery store to remain at the current Safeway site. [Arlington County]
APS Plans to Use ‘Big Data’ to Reduce Dropout Rate — Arlington Public Schools is launching a competition that will challenge teams of scientists to figure out a way to reduce the school system’s dropout rate by combing through 12 years of student data. The winning team will receive $10,000. [Washington Post]
SuperStop Makes ‘Wastebook’ — The $1 million Walter Reed SuperStop on Columbia Pike has made Republican Sen. Tom Coburn’s annual “Wastebook,” which highlights “100 examples of wasteful and low-priority spending.” The bus stop, which can be found on page 32 of the Wastebook, was partially paid for with federal funds. “This report speaks volumes about why confidence in government is at an all-time low,” Coburn said of his publication. [Wastebook 2013, ARLnow Forums]
Fisette to Serve as Board Chair — County Board Vice Chair Jay Fisette was sworn in to a fifth four-year term on Tuesday. He will serve as County Board chairman in 2014. [Arlington County]
Research Firm Moving to Arlington — Research firm Hanover Research is moving its main office from the District to 4401 Wilson Blvd in Ballston this month. “The company’s extremely skilled staff, 61% of which hold advanced degrees, will help Ballston grow its reputation as a knowledge hub and significantly contribute to the area’s entrepreneurial spirit,” Hanover said in a press release. Arlington Public Schools is one of the company’s clients. [Hanover Research]
Flickr pool photo by jordanhiggins
Safeway Seeks New Developer in Bluemont — Safeway is looking for a new developer to work with for the redevelopment of its Bluemont store at 5101 Wilson Blvd. Developer Mark Silverwood pulled out of a partnership to build a new Safeway store topped by 160 apartments after Bluemont residents rejected it, saying the proposed building was too tall and would generate too much traffic. [Washington Business Journal]
Arlington’s Recycling Rate Reaches New High — The recycling rate in Arlington hit a new all-time high in 2012. The county’s recycling rate was 51.1 percent in 2012, according to the Virginia Dept. of Environmental Quality. [Sun Gazette]
Wakefield Seniors Names Scholarship Semifinalists — Three Wakefield High School seniors have been named National Achievement Scholarship semifinalists. The scholarship program recognizes academic excellence among African American students. [Arlington Public Schools]
Affordable Housing Forum Tonight — Arlington County is holding a public forum on the topic of affordable housing tonight. Arlington residents are encouraged to attend and weigh in on the county’s affordable housing goals. The event is being held at the Navy League Building auditorium (2300 Wilson Blvd) from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Arlington’s annual dog show, Dogtober Day, will return to Lacey Woods Park (1200 N. George Mason Drive) next month.
The event will be held on Saturday, Oct. 5 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., and will feature doggy competitions for: best kisser, most colorful pup, pet tricks, most adorable dog, best tail wagger, cutest costume, fastest pooch and Best in Show.
Ribbons and prizes will be awarded in each category. Best in Show will be determined by audience applause.
There will be also special games for dogs and their owners, plus stands for local vendors and organizations, such as the Animal Welfare League of Arlington. Those interested in having their pet participate can print out a registration form, fill it out, and bring it on the day of the event.
Photo via Arlington County
A man on a bike exposed himself to a woman who was walking her dog in the area of the Bluemont Junction Trail, according to this week’s Arlington County crime report.
The incident happened at 4:20 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 4. From the crime report:
INDECENT EXPOSURE, 09/04/13, 700 block of N. Emerson Street. At 4:19 pm on September 4, a subject on a bicycle exposed himself to a victim while walking her dog. The suspect is described as a white or Hispanic male in his 20’s, approximately 5’7” tall, average build, and medium length dark brown hair. At the time of the incident the suspect was wearing a yellow shirt with a blue circle and writing in the center and black athletic shorts with a grey checkered pattern. The suspect’s bicycle was black with silver and white writing and thin tires.
The rest of the crime report, after the jump. All suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Arlington County is mulling a proposal to narrow Wilson Boulevard west of George Mason Drive from four lanes to two through lanes and a center turn lane.
The proposal was conceived and endorsed by the Bluemont Civic Association (BCA) last fall, as part a recommendation to widen the sidewalks along Wilson Boulevard in the neighborhood.
The association’s “Task Force on Arterial Road Sidewalks and Pedestrian Safety” came up with the plan after considering various ways to widen the narrow sidewalks to Americans With Disabilities Act standards.
Two possible options — undergrounding utilities (thus removing utility poles that partially block the sidewalk) and acquiring additional right-of-way from private property owners along Wilson Boulevard — were rejected as too expensive and otherwise infeasible.
The solution endorsed by the task force and the BCA membership instead calls for a two-phase project that, in the first phase, would halve the number of through-lanes west of George Mason Drive while adding a center turn lane and two bike lanes.
The second phase of the proposed project would widen the sidewalks to ADA standards, while relocating the utility poles.
“Two through lanes with a center turn lane typically provides a better line of sight and safer transitions for cars entering the traffic lanes,” the presentation said. “Speeding may be reduced while maintaining the same overall travel time. Reduced crash risks for all users are expected.”
The presentation compared the Bluemont stretch of Wilson Boulevard to nearby Washington Boulevard, which has only two lanes and higher peak traffic volumes.