The development, proposed by Safeway and local developer Mark Silverwood, would replace the current, aging Safeway and its large surface parking lot with a new store, and would build a 4-story, 160-unit apartment complex directly above that store.
Between the store and the apartments, plans call for about 400 parking spaces in an underground garage. From the Bluemont Civic Association newsletter:
The Safeway–Silverwood proposal calls for a building 65’ in height with a footprint that encompasses the entire site. This new “Lifestyle” Safeway, with a height of 20’, would occupy virtually the entire ground floor; four residential stories above the store would contain approximately 160 1-bedroom plus den and 2-bedroom apartments.
Below the store would be two levels of underground parking: the upper level with 190 parking spaces serving Safeway, the lower level with 212 spaces dedicated to apartment residents. Silverwood explained that approximately 10 of the apartments would qualify as affordable housing, and the building itself would qualify for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold level certification.
The new store would contain an upscale deli, service meat counter, and a bakery. Extra space would be dedicated to fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, and other perishable items. A Starbucks would be co-located in the store — with indoor and possible outdoor seating — along with a drycleaners.
Silverwood and Safeway told residents that the apartment development is necessary in order to pay for the new store. In order to build the project, however, the County Board must first approve a rezoning of the Safeway site from “C-1,” or low intensity retail, to “C-O-1.0,” or moderate intensity mixed use.
In a three-way vote, 56.6 percent of the 173 residents at Wednesday night’s standing-room-only meeting voted to oppose any rezoning of the site. Only 18.5 percent of residents voted in favor of the development, while 24.9 percent voted for a compromise resolution that would oppose rezoning “unless we have strong assurances that negative impacts to the neighborhood will not occur or will be mitigated.”
Most residents who spoke at the meeting spoke out against the development. Many expressed concern that allowing Safeway to develop the site would lead to more development.
“I worry that development will continue and destroy the residential character of our neighborhood,” said one resident. “This has consequences for the entire area. I don’t have any problem with the developer wanting to make money, but you really shouldn’t do that at the expense of our neighborhood.”
“This is not just NIMBY [Not In My Backyard],” said another resident. “This is the first step in our neighborhood, and it’s not going to be the last if we let it go. You say NIMBY, but nobody is going to look out for our backyards if we don’t do so ourselves.”
Others worried about traffic, noise, building heights, and parking issues.
Bluemont to Vote on Safeway Development — Members of the Bluemont Civic Association will vote tonight on a proposed mix-use development on the current Safeway site. The development includes a new Safeway store and a 160-unit apartment complex. Many residents have expressed concerns about the height of the development, but Bluemont resident Ryan Arnold writes that “the character of a neighborhood is not defined by the height of its buildings, but by the spirit of its people.” [Greater Greater Washington]
Arlington Runner Raises Money for Boston Victims — Frank Fumich, a local runner, ran a 19 hour 38 minute triple marathon along the Mt. Vernon Trail over the weekend in order to raise money for victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. Fumich raised more than $33,000 with the 78.6 mile run. [Washington Post]
Bill Thomas Awards Presented — The annual Bill Thomas Outstanding Park Service Volunteer Awards were presented at last night’s County Board meeting. This year’s winners are Steve Young, a “well-known figure for invasive plant removal at Long Branch Park,” and the Friend of the Gulf Branch Nature Center, a group that has fought the center’s closure and raised money for its operation. [Arlington County]
Chamber to Debut Business Blog — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce “is set to start an Internet blog” written by and about local business. The Sun Gazette reports: “All comments in response to specific articles will be moderated for content, so the Chamber blog does not spiral into the chaos of some online-news sites where anonymous cranks spew venom to little discernible purpose.” [Sun Gazette]
Katherine Heigl Tweets in Support of Moran — Actress Katherine Heigl has used her star power on Twitter to help promote a bill proposed by Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.). The bill would ban the use of gas chambers to euthanize shelter animals. “Please, please, please support Congressman Moran’s resolution,” the acress tweeted. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
A month after several leaders of the Bluemont Civic Association resigned after catching heat for their support of the bocce court, Arlington County staff is now being criticized by bocce opponents.
Last week, county staff sent a letter in response to concerns about the proposed bocce court raised by Bluemont residents. The letter, below, attempts to answer nine specific specific concerns.
Some bocce opponents, however, were incensed by the county staff letter, and saw it as proof that the county is predisposed to approve the bocce court despite their objections.
(The bocce court was proposed by Bluemont resident and then-Bluemont Civic Association president Judah Dal Cais. It is being considered for an Arlington Park Enhancement Grant. The Parks and Recreation Commission has received 12 PEG applications and will make funding recommendations on Dec. 18, according to Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish. The County Board is expected to have the final say on the park grants early next year.)
An anonymous bocce court critic wrote the following critique after receiving the letter.
The Parks Department ignored the fact that the PEG application was applied for by Judah Dal Cais without the permission of the BCA and the BCA had submitted a letter stating that it did not support the application. The application was therefore a fraudulent misrepresentation. Diane Probus of the county delayed release of the PEG application under a FOIA request because she stated that Judah Dal Cais had requested that he be permitted to replace some submitted documents.
A letter of opposition by over 100 adjacent neighbors was also rejected by the county. The planned bocce court exceeds the allocated budget.
The attached letter from the county shows the clear bias of the Parks Department.
Below is the county staff letter in question. Kalish says the letter does not portend county approval of the bocce grant.
“There’s lots of misunderstanding going on in this issue so the more facts we can get to more people the better,” she said. “It is NOT a letter saying a decision has been made.”
Bocce/Petanque Court Petition in Opposition to the Bocce Court
November 20, 2012
Bluemont Junction Park Context
The Bluemont Junction Park has recreational facilities to serve the community and offers a balance of developed recreational features and undeveloped areas. The park has one rectangular field in it which is programmed for youth sports, a railroad caboose with interpretive exhibits, as well as a trail that connects from Bluemont Park to the Ballston area.
The petition submitted by the group of Bluemont residents who oppose the project listed nine objections to the project which are listed below. Staff has provided a response to each objection.
1. No Parking areas for people visiting the court, creating parking hazards and inconvenience in front of the neighbors’ home.
Response: The proposed bocce court would be a neighborhood facility and easily accessible for residents within a 5 – 10 minute walk. On street parking is available along public roads such as Bluemont Drive, and at the end of several of the cul-de-sacs bordering the park for those park users who drive. Since there would be only one court which would not be programmed for team use, the site is unlikely to attract bocce clubs who desire large spaces in urban settings to play.
2. Narrow area roads that cannot accommodate increased traffic from visitors.
Response: See response above.
3. Violation of privacy by players and observers lingering for prolonged periods directly in front of area homes.
Response: Bluemont Junction Park is a public park and is already utilized by the public for bike riding and for various recreational activities in the open space which can be noisy for short periods of time. Landscaping could be installed to create a buffer between nearby houses, if needed.
4. No public restrooms.
Response: A park recreational facility of this type and size does not qualify for a temporary or permanent restroom facility. A park must meet several criteria before the county will consider building a restroom facility in a park. A few of the criteria the county uses for determining the need for restroom facilities include:
- A park which will have a large number (150+) users at one time;
- The level of routine and scheduled use of the facility;
- The type of facility which, if not programmed, attracts a dense grouping of people
- A park with a dense grouping of facilities of a certain type.
5. Increase in trash and litter.
Response: Staff anticipates a minimal increase above what is found at the site currently from bicyclists and other activities in the park. Staff will adjust maintenance schedule should there be an increase in trash output at the site.
6. Use of scarce tax dollars for building and continual maintenance.
Response: The County Board allocates $100,000 per year towards the Park Enhancement Grant program to be used towards small park improvements such as is proposed in the application for the Bocce/Petanque court. The Commission and park staff evaluate the maintenance needed for each proposed project and factor that in when deciding on which project to recommend for funding. The applicant has committed to providing routine maintenance of the site.
7. Loss of green space, open space and multiple recreational uses at site of bocce court.
Response: A 13′ x 50′ (650 sq. ft.) court will remove less than .5% of open space in the 14.5 acre park. The court should be sited appropriately to minimize the loss of open space routinely used for informal recreation.
8. Neighbors along the trail severely impacted by noise and increased traffic from out-of-neighborhood visitors.
Response: See response to concerns #1 and #3 above.
9. Other bocce courts exist or are in development in easy access nearby, such as at Upton Park, Union Jack’s and Glebe-Randolph park.
Response: Union Jack’s in Ballston sets up a temporary indoor bocce court on Tuesday evenings for a bocce group to use. This bocce facility is private and has very limited availability. The Upton Park bocce courts are located in an isolated area of this park and have not been maintained adequately by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority to keep them usable. Two new bocce courts will be built at the Glebe and Randolph Park and they may be available for use by the community in late 2013.
The McDonald’s (5009 Wilson Blvd) in the Bluemont neighborhood that was razed in July has been rebuilt and should open next week.
A representative for McDonald’s said the rebuilt restaurant will help further the chain’s focus of modernizing and elevating the restaurant experience.
“McDonald’s wants to show customers that they can change with their times and needs, while retaining the basic principles that have made them the global iconic brand they are today,” a press release stated.
According to the representative, some of the new exterior features include landscaping, a clearly identifiable drive through and “a more defined and inviting entry into the restaurant.” Inside, features include plasma screen TVs, free wi-fi access and some lounge-style seating.
Although no exact day has been named, the re-opening is expected to occur “early next week.”
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.
Bluemont McDonald’s Demolition — Crews have been working to tear down the McDonald’s restaurant at 5009 Wilson Blvd in the Bluemont area. (See photo, above.) The building will be replaced with a new, more modern McDonald’s restaurant.
McGhee Gets GOP Nod for Special Election — Tim McGhee is the Republican nominee in the special election for the 45th District House of Delegates seat, which is being vacated by Del. David Englin. McGhee, who lost to Adam Ebbin in a state Senate race last year, will face either Democrat Karen Gautney or Rob Krupicka, depending on the outcome of a party caucus that got underway last night. [Patch, Sun Gazette]
The McDonald’s at the Corner of Wilson Blvd and George Mason Drive has suddenly closed, at least for now.
Although a couple of employees were spotted milling around inside, the restaurant is dark and the parking lot is taped off. A sign hanging in the window says the restaurant is closed for construction.
McDonald’s has not yet responded to our request for information about how long the Bluemont location will be closed and exactly what type of construction is taking place.
In response to a controversial mixed use development proposed for Wilson Boulevard, a number of Bluemont residents have banded together to form the “Safeway Task Force,” and will be holding a public meeting tomorrow.
The group is made up of members of the Bluemont Civic Association and aims to educate community members about the proposed development. Members say they want to ensure that the Bluemont community is able to help shape future changes at the Safeway site at 5101 Wilson Blvd.
Earlier this year, Safeway began soliciting bids from developers who may be interested in building a new grocery store, with residential property above it. The building would take up the entire block of Wilson Blvd from N. Frederick Street to N. Edison Street.
Last year, attendees at a Bluemont Civic Association meeting confronted County Board Chair Mary Hynes about the development. A number of residents voiced concerns about increased density along the stretch of Wilson Blvd in question, and also worried about how small businesses would fare.
The task force will be hosting a town hall meeting on Tuesday, July 10 (tomorrow), which is open to the public. It will be held at St. Ann’s Church (5300 N. 10th Street), starting at 7:00 p.m. Members of the county Planning Commission will be on hand to speak about issues related to the proposed development, such as zoning and by-right policies, and will answer residents’ questions.
In the coming months, the task force hopes to meet with Safeway representatives to discuss plans for the future. The task force’s charter states it plans to wrap up work by November 1, at which time it will be decided if it is needed any longer.
Photo (bottom) via Google Maps
According to a document sent to ARLnow.com and first reported on by the Arlington Mercury, Safeway is seeking bids from developers interested in building a new 58,000 to 65,000 square foot Safeway store on the ground floor, with a residential development on top of it. The project would take up the entire block between N. Frederick and Edison Streets, replacing the current, aging Bluemont Safeway and its surface parking lot. Parking — including at least 170 spaces reserved for the Safeway store, would be provided by an underground lot. Safeway is seeking a development that meets a minimum LEED Silver certification.
Last year representatives of the Bluemont Civic Association released sketches of an envisioned “Bluemont Village Center” that included two to three stories of residential development on top of a new Safeway store. Created only as a theoretical planning exercise, it’s unclear whether the civic association’s vision would be adopted by the winning developer.
Real estate firm KLNB is marketing the air rights at 5101 Wilson Boulevard on behalf of Safeway. Bids are due on June 15.
Many residents spent this past Saturday taking part in the various Neighborhood Day events throughout Arlington.
The weather cooperated, providing warmth and sun for the outdoor activities. From yard sales to cook outs to petting zoos, residents came out to connect with their neighbors and partake in the festivities. As you can see, kids’ activities took center stage at most of the events.
Here’s a look at the festivities at Highland Park Overlee-Knolls Family Fun Day, Bluemont Neighborhood BBQ and Fairlington Day.
The alleged incident happened around 9:00 p.m., in front of a church on the 600 block of N. Vermont Street, in the Bluemont neighborhood near Ballston. Police say a woman noticed a man following her while she was out walking her dog. She tried to alter her route and at one point shouted “stop following me,” but the man then grabbed her from behind, fondled her, and tried to pull down her pants, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
During the attack the woman managed to knee or kick the suspect in the stomach, knocking him to the ground. She ran away and sought help, while the suspect was seen by a witness fleeing in the direction of Ballston Common Mall, according to Sternbeck.
After calling in a K-9 unit and establishing a perimeter, police found a man matching the suspect’s description trying to change his clothes in an alley outside Ballston Common Mall. The man was arrested and was positively identified by the victim, according to Sternbeck. Police also determined that the suspect had stolen the clothes he was trying to change into.
Nathanael Lovett, of no fixed address, has been charged with abduction with intent to defile, grand larceny and trespassing. Lovett, who’s in his late 20s, was also arrested in March after a police officer saw him allegedly masturbating outside the 7-Eleven store at 3510 Wilson Boulevard in Virginia Square.
The man was found around 1:00 a.m. on the 5300 block of Wilson Boulevard, in Bluemont, suffering from significant head trauma, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. It’s unknown at this time whether the injury was the result of a hit-and-run, a fight or a fall. The man still had his wallet with him, so robbery is not considered a likely motive if he was, in fact, attacked.
The man was taken to a local hospital where surgery was performed to stop bleeding in his brain, Sternbeck said. His injuries are considered life-threatening.
The man is described as a 38-year-old Arlington resident. No other details were available about the incident.
The Bluemont location of Castro’s Bakery is no more.
The family-owned bakery closed about a month ago, we’re told. Signs have been taken down from the storefront at 5515 Wilson Boulevard and all equipment has been removed from the interior.
An employee at Castro’s Seven Corners location (6276 Arlington Blvd, Falls Church) confirmed that that location has remained open. So far, there’s no official word on why the Arlington location closed.
‘Bookhouse’ in Bluemont Profiled — The Washington Post profiles the Bookhouse, a rare book business in Bluemont run by Natalie Hughes, 80, and her husband Edward, 91. The couple say they plan to close the business — which features a collection of about 30,000 volumes — in a year or two. [Washington Post]
Board Declines to Appoint Tie-Breaker — The Arlington County Board, down to four members since Barbara Favola resigned on Dec. 31 to start her new career as a state Senator, has opted not to appoint a designated tie-breaker, as permitted by state law. Instead, measures that garner a 2-2 tie vote will simply fail. [Sun Gazette]
A new set of traffic lights and pedestrian crossing signals are being installed at the intersection of Wilson Boulevard and N. Wakefield Street.
The traffic signals are located next to the Murphy Funeral Home and a new residential development, in the Bluemont neighborhood near Ballston. A developer agreed to pay for the traffic signals in 2008 as part of the development’s site plan process. At the time, county staff argued that increased traffic from the development would necessitate the installation of traffic signals.
No word yet on when the traffic lights might be switched on.