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.
Pro-Change Group Forms in Bluemont — Fed up with neighbors who shot down a potential redevelopment of the Safeway site in Bluemont, a group of residents has formed a new organization called “Bluemont Forward.” The organization says it wants to see Wilson Boulevard become a more vibrant and walkable main street, with “an improved grocery store and other amenities for neighborhood residents.” The group might be too late to save the Safeway development, however; Greater Greater Washington reports that developer Silverwood may have “quietly backed out of the project.” [Bluemont Forward, Greater Greater Washington]
Layoffs at PBS NewsHour — PBS NewsHour, which is produced in Shirlington, has laid off a number of staff members in a reorganization. The production will also save money by streamlining and digitizing its technical processes. [TV Newser]
Ballston LaunchPad Finalists Revealed — Kylee Majkowski, the 8-year-old CEO of Tomorrow’s Lemonade Stand, is among the 10 semi-finalists in the Ballston LaunchPad Challenge. The entrepreneurial competition will pair the semi-finalists and their startup businesses with mentors. In November, three finalists will be chosen and will have a chance to pitch their business idea to venture capitalist and Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis. Competition organizer Ballston BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser. [Patch]
Wedding Planning Recommendations at the Library — With wedding season in full-swing, Arlington Public Library has published a list of books and movies that may be of interest to those planning a wedding. [Arlington Public Library]
Northam, Herring Prevail in Dem Primary -- Turnout was very light for Tuesday’s statewide Democratic primary. Ralph Northam, a state Senator, is the new Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, having defeated Arlington resident Aneesh Chopra. State Sen. Mark Herring captured the nomination for attorney general. [WJLA]
Funeral for Arlington Firefighter Injured on 9/11 — A funeral will be held today for an Arlington firefighter who was a first responder on 9/11. Phillip McKee III suffered a severe leg injury while battling fires at the Pentagon following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack. He also inhaled toxic dust and later suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. His family says McKee, 41, died from complications from those injuries. McKee, who held degrees from Yale and Harvard, was openly gay and is survived by his husband and partner of 15 years. [Washington Blade]
County Officials: No Subsidies for Gov’t Agencies — With the county still reeling from the impending loss of the National Science Foundation, Arlington officials are sticking to their guns and saying that offering tax breaks and other financial incentives to lure federal agencies is bad policy. Arlington Economic Development Director Terry Holzheimer is pushing for the General Services Administration to disclose additional information related to the decision to move the NSF to Alexandria by 2017. “None of it makes any sense,” Holzheimer said of the decision and its impact to other government tenants in Ballston. [Washington Business Journal]
Bluemont Trail Improvements – Arlington County crews will be widening a section of the Bluemont Trail between Buchanan Street and the Ballston Holiday Inn this month. Crews will also be removing obstructions and landscaping around the trail. [Bike Arlington]
SUPERNOVA Photos — Dozens of artists invaded public spaces in Rosslyn over the weekend for the SUPERNOVA Performance Art Festival. Some of the artists and their performances can be seen in a series of photos published the the Ode Street Tribune blog.
Democratic Primary Today — Democrats will go to the polls today in Virginia to vote in the primary for lieutenant governor and attorney general. Among the candidates is Arlington resident Aneesh Chopra, who’s running for lieutenant governor. Polls will remain open in Arlington from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. [Arlington County]
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.