The funding for the half-finished renovations to the Lyon Park Community Center may be in jeopardy.
In November of 2014, the Lyon Park Citizens Association voted to take out a $600,000 line of credit from Cardinal Bank to help fund the $1.2 million renovations. The vote was almost evenly split, with those who opposed the motion saying they were concerned about the park and community center being used as collateral to obtain the loan.
Now, the resulting legal wrangling over the loan has resulted in a ruling that will prevent it from being issued, at least as originally planned.
When the LPCA approved the motion to take out a line of credit, a group of seven residents referred to in court documents as the “Concerned Lyon Park Beneficiaries” opposed the petition in court. Their concerns were outlined in a flyer circulated to the community.
The opposition, filed Nov. 7 2014, states that the residents in question feel the Board encumbered the park “under imprudent conditions,” and that the residents “have reasonable and legal concerns regarding the ability of the community to re-pay this sizeable loan, and the resulting ramifications of a loan default.”
(Encumber is a legal term meaning that the property was placed in position where more than one party had a valid legal claim on it; if the park were used as collateral for a loan, both Cardinal Bank and the Lyon Park community would have valid claims.)
Another court document pertaining to the case dated July 30, 2014, states that “recently two trustees [of Lyon Park] resigned because each refused to sign documents pertaining to a $600,000 bank loan for a planned renovation of the community house. The appointment of successor trustees is far from a routine appointment.”
Since its inception in 1925, Lyon Park has had trustees appointed by the community to hold the deed to the park on behalf of all residents. When a loan is taken out for the park, the trustees have been the ones to sign the documents. Court documents also state that the park has been put up as collateral for a loan at least twice before, in 1925 for $2,500 and 1927 for $3,000.
Circuit Court judge Jonathan Thacher ruled last month that the latest loan was improperly filed. While the decision doesn’t prohibit the Board of Governors from using the park as collateral for a loan, that option is effectively closed to the community because at least one of the seven residents who challenged the Board’s decision in court indicated that he or she would also oppose any future filings, thus imposing burdensome legal costs, according to Lyon Park Community Center Chair Jeannette Wick.
“We are going to exclusively pursue options that don’t involve encumbering the park,” said Wick. “We’d like to go forward without further litigation — we could end up tied up in court forever.”
After the judge ruled, Wick said the Board came up with a table of options which included:
- Raising enough money that a loan would not be required.
- Working with Cardinal Bank to find a way to borrow without encumbering the park.
- Stopping construction completely.
According to Wick, with more than half a million dollars still required for renovations, the first option is unrealistic even with neighbors’ “incredible generosity.” The second option is still being explored, but is proving difficult because thus far Cardinal Bank has insisted on collateral. Wick described the third option as undesirable for several reasons.
“It would be bad for the neighborhood, it’s costly to stop construction and having an unfinished building on our property creates an attractive nuisance for thefts and squatters,” said Wick. “Right now, we’re searching for some sort of happy medium between option one and option three.”
Wick estimates residents have donated about $500,000 towards the project thus far, including roughly $85,000 since June 1.
“Everyone that I have talked to has been united in the view that ‘It’s halfway done, we need to move forward,'” said Wick. “If you look at the donation map, giving has been robust throughout the community — this isn’t a project where it’s a one-man show or only a few people want it.”
Kevin Baer, a resident who opposed putting the park up as collateral, said that he and other concerned residents “look forward to continuing to work together in the neighborhood to find a prudent way forward.”
The renovations to the center, currently in progress, include making the building ADA compliant, adding a sun room, and improving the kitchen and bathrooms.
A minor parking mishap attracted a crowd of restaurant owners in Courthouse yesterday.
Just before lunchtime, the “KBBQ Taco Box 2″ food truck accidentally struck the front bumper of a parked car on the 2000 block of Wilson Blvd, as the truck was trying to squeeze into a tight parallel parking space. There was no damage evident — but police were called and a citation issued, as a small crowd of restaurant owners and mangers gathered.
As it turns out, the car belonged to a delivery driver for the Afghan Kabob House across the street, and this was the latest skirmish in an ongoing battle between brick-and-mortar restaurants and food trucks in Courthouse.
The war started last month with the emergence of an unlikely leader on the restaurant side. Bar Concepts, a restaurant consulting company, had been brought in to operate the back bar area of the recently reopened Summers Restaurant. Though Summers is not exactly known as a haven for Courthouse office dwellers seeking a quick grab-and-go bite to eat, Alan Beal, COO of Bar Concepts, zeroed in on food trucks — at least those that parked along Wilson and Clarendon Blvds — as the enemy of local restaurants.
Beal swiftly organized a coalition of about a dozen Courthouse area restaurants who say that the trucks “are running amok” and having “a serious impact on these brick and mortar restaurants” by parking directly in front of their establishments. The collective effort was on display Thursday as owners took turns complaining about parking enforcement to police.
Food trucks, they said, were reserving precious street parking spots in front of restaurants by having workers park cars on the street as early as 6:00 a.m. Some weren’t even feeding the meter, they said.
There’s nothing illegal about reserving street parking spaces in such a manner, the cops said, though they did encourage the owners to call when they did spot a violation like an expired meter. There is also a two hour limit on parking, which is enforced, but there’s a loophole: trucks can simply pull into into another open space after two hours, provided it’s at least 25 feet away from their existing parking space.
With little recourse other than calling in the meter maids, the owners seemed to agree to double down on an unofficial group tactic: encouraging employees to park on the street, thus taking away available parking spaces from the trucks. One owner could be heard telling several employees to be sure to park on the street during their shifts. Another ran across the busy four-lane road when a spot opened up, driving his Mercedes from a small private lot behind his restaurant, making a U-turn and pulling into the open spot, thus boxing out the food truck hoard.
Beal — who was in D.C. during the fender bender fracas — insists that he doesn’t oppose food trucks, only their parking choices. He said trucks park directly in front of businesses, billowing smoke, creating crowds that block the sidewalk and taking away customers. He has been documenting the woes on a YouTube channel.
“No one opposes food trucks, they’re good for consumers and good for the economy,” he said via phone. “The problem is where they’re parked.”
Purposely blocking parking spots, for hours on end, only hurts restaurants by keeping the spots from potential customers, according to Beal. “It is kind of unethical,” he said of food trucks, or anyone else for that matter, reserving street parking spots for commercial gain.
Beal said he has been having constructive conversations with the county about solutions that could work for both restaurants and food trucks. That potential solution — which had until then not been revealed to the media — is creating and enforcing specific areas for food trucks to park in a given area.
Cara O’Donnell, spokeswoman for Arlington Economic Development, said the county is hoping to implement a “street vending zone” pilot program in Rosslyn within a few weeks.
A group of Arlington residents held signs and sang before a County Board meeting to protest the decision to sell Reevesland farmhouse.
The residents were unhappy with the Board’s decision as well as what they described as a lack of transparency surrounding the hastily-called vote to sell.
“The Arlington community was not informed about the vote until only hours before it happened and thus there was zero public discussion of the issue before May 19. The sneaky, unresponsive vote by the Board majority was a complete slap in the face to thousands of Arlington residents,” said Sandra Kalscheur, the chair of the Reevesland Learning Center, during the public comment period on Saturday.
The County Board decided to sell the farmhouse in May after deciding it couldn’t find the projected $2-2.5 million it needed to restore the building for public use. Making the farmhouse available to the public would require a large restoration effort, including strengthening the floors, upgrading utilities and making it compliant with the American Disabilities Act, County Board Chair Mary Hynes said.
The county had been trying for three years to find a community group that could take over the farmhouse.
Protesters sang American classic “This Land is My Land” with words changed to make it “Reevesland is Your Land, Reevesland is My Land.” They also sang the “Ballad of Nelson Reeves” in the lobby before moving into the County Board meeting room.
The Reevesland Learning Center and some residents would like the County to turn the farmhouse into a community space where children could learn more about the farm’s history and healthy eating. It’s a vision that other members of the Arlington community share, Kalscheur said.
“We don’t want an unresponsive Board to sell off our history or sell out our kids,” she said.
The lack of transparency around the decision was another sore subject for the protesters. The five members of the Board acknowledged the problem, saying there would be a review of the process in the coming months.
“As a former government employee, I am surprised and disappointed in the three members whose recent action with no consultation or meaningful opportunity to comment and virtually no notice is a new low in transparency, community involvement and informed decision making. Even the few Arlingtonians that might agree with your outcome have universally condemned your methods,” said Arlington resident Ronald Battochi, who was a part of the protest group.
The Board’s May 19 decision was a 3-2 split of County Board members, with Hynes, Libby Garvey and John Vihsdaht voting to sell the building.
Hynes explained that the costs were too great for the county, but that the Board would be open to having the Reevesland Learning Center fundraise and work with private donors to fund the restoration. However, the group has been against private fundraising, Hynes said.
Despite the building’s sale, the public will still be able to access the lands around the house and see the historic sites, Hynes said. She was backed up by Garvey and Vihstadt, who pointed to the Arlington Arts Center, the Arlington Historical Society and the Arlington planetarium as examples of private groups that have partnered with the county and helped to preserve aging public facilities.
Vice Chair Walter Tejada voted against the sale and emphasized his displeasure with the Board’s decision and process.
“This is the last working farm in Arlington’s history,” he said. “That should mean something.”
Artisphere hosted its final performances this past weekend, as it prepares to close for good at the end of the month. Supporters decry the closure as the county government prioritizing penny pinching over the arts. But Artisphere’s financial losses may have been secondary to another problem: lack of community engagement.
The cultural center in Rosslyn spent more than $1 million on marketing over four and a half years, largely targeting D.C. area arts aficionados with newspaper ads. The strategy paid off with sold-out niche concerts and events, but failed to attract the loyalty of many Arlington residents who have a more casual appreciation for the arts.
Instead of the original vision of a hub for local arts groups and a community hangout, complete with a WiFi cafe, Artisphere became more of a regional draw for one-off performances. Some 75 percent of its audience came from outside Arlington and 83 percent of its artists from outside Virginia, according to a 2014 report.
After hastily opening on the novelty date of 10/10/10, before an executive director or a marketing director could even be hired, Artisphere’s finances proved to be a fiasco. Wildly over-optimistic expectations gave way to the realization that the center would only make a quarter of its projected visitor revenue in the first year. That, in turn, sparked community criticism, set off backtracking by policymakers and led to a series of changes that watered down community participation.
It didn’t help that Artisphere’s multitude of performance venues were small and, as officials figured out after opening, couldn’t host simultaneous events due to noise bleed.
The relative lack of participation from taxpaying Arlington residents and artists, in the end, may have been Artisphere’s biggest downfall. When Artisphere hit the chopping block, few residents showed up at County Board meetings to speak in its defense.
“That’s exactly part of the issue,” said retiring Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan, in a May interview. “At some levels, it wasn’t reaching our community in such a way that won their support.”
Donnellan and the County Board faced criticism in the local arts world for the decision, with letters to the editor, the chair of the Arlington Commission for the Arts and even a Washington City Paper cover story implying that the Board was naive in closing Artisphere just because it was losing money.
“Artisphere’s closure is symptomatic of a much larger political view of culture in which the arts are important to community building, but funding them is not,” the City Paper wrote. It along with the Washington Post were the beneficiaries of 55 percent of Artisphere’s marketing budget.
But there was more that went into the decision to close than just dollars and cents. Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes said Artisphere was “able to create some wonderful shows” after “‘we got some of the right programming people in place,” but “there was a struggle in terms of what type of place [Artisphere] was going to be.”
“Within our Cultural Affairs department there was a real desire to be cutting edge and to fill a niche they perceived in the D.C. arts scene,” Hynes said. “So people on the way up” were booked, but “those are people who who are developing an audience, not those who have an audience.”
There was discussion of hosting “community Saturdays” — with performances from school groups and other community-driven activities — “where we get people familiar with coming here because their kid is performing here.”
“But that didn’t fit with the image of what people thought of as [Artisphere],” Hynes said. “So I do think that audience was pretty constrained in terms of all of Arlington.”
“In the end we collectively didn’t see as much of an opportunity for full community participation here than we see in some other things we do,” Hynes said of the decision to close Artisphere and send about half of its budget back into other arts programming around Arlington. “When a locality is putting its tax money into helping the production of art, we have some obligation to consider how we give as many people in our community as possible the opportunity to consume good art.”
Another big battle is brewing in Bluemont and this one is not about bocce.
Wilson Blvd was recently repaved and restriped between the Safeway and Bon Air Park, so that instead of four lanes of traffic, it is now has two lanes of traffic, a turn lane and two bike lanes. The change seems to have brought about two separate realities.
To hear one group of residents tell it, traffic is flowing as normal but families can finally walk down the narrow sidewalks along Wilson Blvd without the fear of imminent vehicle-induced death.
To hear the other group tell it, the loss of a lane in each direction is causing a traffic nightmare that’s adding 20-40 minutes to Wilson Blvd commutes during the morning and evening rush hours. Their tales of woe are relatively consistent.
“I had the displeasure of commuting westbound on Wilson Blvd Thursday [May 28] at 6 p.m.,” driver Alexi Bustillo told ARLnow.com via email. “It took me 20 minutes from Glebe and Wilson to Manchester and Wilson (1 mile distance).”
“Morning traffic backs up from the light by Bon Air Park up the hill… with dangerous merging,” said Josh Laughner, via Twitter. It’s “dangerous [because you can’t] see traffic stopped at bottom of [the] hill. At night it’s pretty bad where the merging starts by Pupatella. I never had any backups morning/night when it was two lanes all the way through.”
“The message boards of [the Boulevard Manor and Dominion Hills neighborhoods, to the west of the restriping] are full of the comments,” a tipster said. “Many complaints about trip times during morning and evening rush hours taking 20-40 minutes on the stretch between George Mason and Manchester.”
ARLnow.com visited the stretch during a morning and evening rush hour this week and didn’t observe any abnormally heavy traffic. Supporters of the restriping say, essentially, that it’s the answer to their pedestrian prayers and they don’t know what the critics are talking about.
“We are so grateful to Arlington County for these improvements!” said Ed Fendley, co-chair of the Bluemont Civic Association Sidewalk Safety Task Force. “The restriped roadway is working great. Traffic is flowing really well. Fewer drivers are speeding. When I’m driving, it is now easier for me to turn left onto Wilson because I can use the center turn lane to stage my turn.”
“It feels so much safer to walk and bicycle,” Fendley continued. “For the time ever, my kids and I bicycled on Wilson Boulevard to go to La Union restaurant. The road is now safer and more accessible for everyone — just as we had hoped.”
“I just want to say that for the first time in the 23 years I’ve lived on Kensington Street, my family and I have been able to comfortably walk down Wilson Boulevard,” said Chris Healey, Fendley’s co-chair. “I can’t express how great it is to be able to walk to Safeway and the many great neighborhood restaurants and shops without worrying about being clipped by a passing car or bus. This is a giant step toward Bluemont becoming a true community. We look forward to phase two and we are confident that the momentum from the success of this project will take us there sooner rather than later.”
(Phase II of the project, which will take place should the county be satisfied with the flow of traffic and pedestrians on the reconfigured roadway, will include wider sidewalks and other improvements.)
“For the first time in two decades, kids can walk or bike safely to Ashlawn school and the pools on Wilson Blvd,” said Tom Carter, a 21-year Dominion Hills resident. “The walkable, bikeable stretch of Wilson should be extended from Seven Corners to Clarendon. Families should be able to walk and bike through the heart of Arlington.”
The debate over a gun store that’s opening in Cherrydale shows no sign of stopping as concerned residents and County Board candidates face off against the National Rifle Association and gun rights supporters.
On one side is a Change.org petition, started by a local resident, which has already amassed more than 2,400 signers who are urging the store’s landlord, Kostas Kapasouris, to cancel its lease. There’s also now a “Cherrydale Gun Store Opposition” Facebook page, which counts all six Democratic candidates for Arlington County Board as being opposed to the store.
On the other side is the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, which has started its own petition in support of the gun store. The NRA-ILA has also produced a video (above) and an article, calling residents who oppose the store “bigots” who are “ignorant” and employing “bullying tactics.”
“To the intolerant residents of Cherrydale who are raising a fuss, we thank you for portraying for the rest of the country the unreasonable and small-minded attitudes that permeate anti-gun culture,” the NRA article says. “It certainly is a telling display you’re putting on for everyone else. Nevertheless, were you to decide to put down your pitchforks and torches and sample the wares from NOVA Firearms, we would welcome you into the fold of gun owners without judgment or reservation.”
The petition against the gun store says it represents the true voice of the community. It lists a phone number for NOVA Firearms and encourages those who oppose it to “call and voice your view.”
“We have 2,350+ supporters of the petition, and more than 80% are from Arlington,” the petition says. “Support for this petition shows our community does not believe a gun shop is the right fit for the former Curves location in Cherrydale. Opposition has formed to our petition, but I wonder if they can claim 80% are from our community?”
Despite the opposition, and reports that Kapasouris may be trying to break the lease, NOVA Firearms says it’s still planning on opening later this summer.
(Kapasouris could not be reached for comment.)
Rachel Dresser, co-owner of the McLean-based store, said they have not heard from Kapasouris recently and have received no documents indicating that their lease is being canceled. She said the store has been working with the community to find some sort of a compromise, but they’ve invested too much in the new store to back out now.
“At this point we’re trying to move forward, but the community really wants us to leave but that’s not an option given the money we’ve already invested,” she said. “It’s not an ATM, I can’t just say cash out and move somewhere else. We did not expect this level of resistance so we’re really just trying to work with the community and take things one day at a time.”
GOP Offers Support to Gun Store Owner — A Change.org petition against a planned gun store in Cherrydale has reached more than 1,900 signatures. The store’s landlord now says he’s trying to figure out ways to legally break the lease. Countering the backlash, the Arlington Falls Church Young Republicans have launched a petition in support of the store and its owner, 28-year-old Marine Corps veteran James Gates. “We can’t remain silent while Arlington liberals push their radical anti-gun agenda,” the petition says. [AFCYR]
Hynes Fires Back at Reevesland Sale Critics — Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes is firing back at criticism of the Board’s 3-2 decision to sell the historic Reeves farmhouse to a private owner. Critics charge that the sale was hastily added to the Board agenda the day before the vote and that citizen groups should have had more time to propose alternatives. Hynes said the house would have needed $2.5 million in work to be brought up to code for public use and noted that interested groups have had 5 years to suggest better alternatives for using the house. [InsideNova]
Arlington’s Outdoor School in Fauquier County — Every year thousands of Arlington Public Schools visit the APS-operated Outdoor Lab in Fauquier County, experiencing nature and wildlife first hand. The property was purchased with private funds for school use and is beloved by students. However, some worry that a proposal to increase summer use of the 225 acre site may overtax the lab and its ecology. [Falls Church News-Press]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
The resolution was introduced by County Board member Walter Tejada, who said using the name Redskins as a reference to Native Americans is “objectionable to many Americans, Virginians and Arlingtonians.”
In introducing the resolution, Tejada noted that the team is in talks to move from its current home at FedEx Field, perhaps to Virginia. He also said that the issue is “personal for me” as a native of El Salvador with Mayan roots.
The resolution passed with the support of Tejada, Mary Hynes and Jay Fisette. John Vihstadt and Libby Garvey abstained, saying they agreed personally with changing the name but did not think the Board should take a position on the issue.
Tejada said that Arlington “has often ‘spoken out’ on issues ‘before it became popular, and it is time for us to do it again,'” according to a county press release.
The full text of the resolution, after the jump.
James Lander, the Chair of the Arlington School Board, has responded to public concerns about use of school facilities raised by the Arlington Girls Softball Association.
On Monday afternoon Lander wrote to Steve Severn, president of the 30+ year old organization, regarding use of Wakefield High School’s softball field, as well as proposed batting cages and sponsor signage at Arlington Traditional School.
Lander said that the Wakefield softball field is closed to all teams due to safety concerns, that the school system is willing to find a location and design for the ATS batting cage that doesn’t interfere with school operation and that AGSA may put up temporary sponsor signage around school fields but must then take it down after games.
Lander, a Democrat, is currently running for Arlington County Board.
The full letter is below.
Dear Mr. Severn:
I am writing to respond further to concerns that have been expressed about use of Arlington school facilities by the Arlington Girls Softball Association (AGSA).
The Wakefield softball field is not being used by any teams until some improvements have been made. The positioning and safety measures for the softball field at Washington-Lee High School are different and, as a result, decisions are made to meet the unique needs of each space. The safety inspector was concerned about the proximity of Wakefield’s field to the parking lot and walkway through the site, and so APS has agreed to install safety netting. Regarding Wakefield’s use of other fields in the community, today was the last day for practice or play by the Wakefield softball teams, and the Wakefield Varsity Softball tournament will take place at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County on Monday, May 18.
The AGSA has proposed building a batting cage at Arlington Traditional School. APS believes that the initially proposed location for the batting cage would be disruptive to the school’s program and that the specific design would not be appropriate on school property. The Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Operations, Mr. John Chadwick, has spoken to Mr. Severn about this issue and has explained that APS is willing to consider other potential placement of the batting cage at the school and an alternative design. We look forward to working with the County and community representatives on this measure to find a solution that meets the needs of all parties.
We understand the important role that the AGSA sponsors play in supporting this opportunity for young girls in our community. Regarding the issue of posting banners on the fence at Arlington Traditional, as noted in earlier replies, the School Board policies do not allow outside groups to post and leave signs in schools and on school grounds over an eight-week period. However, when community groups such as the Babe Ruth and Arlington Little League teams use our fields and local groups like churches and other community organizations use our schools, as part of their community use they regularly post signs and/or distribute flyers during their activity and then the signs and flyers are taken away at the end of the event. We hope that the Arlington Girls Softball Association will consider this option so that the girls softball sponsors can be recognized during your practices and games.
Finally, the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation has contacted APS about these and other concerns, and our staffs will be working collaboratively over the coming months to develop a consistent framework for all athletics and community groups to follow when using county and school spaces so that we can avoid any future misunderstandings.
James Lander, Chair
Update on 5/20/15 — Nova Firearms has confirmed that it is indeed opening a store in Cherrydale.
The Maywood and Cherrydale neighborhood email listservs are abuzz today with talk of a gun store coming to the neighborhood.
The rumors surround the former Curves storefront at 2105 N. Pollard Street, in a small strip mall along Lee Highway. In a widely-circulated email, a neighbor says she’s spoken with the shopping center’s owner and he confirmed that a gun store will open there.
The property owner, Kostas Kapasouris, told ARLnow.com last week that an “expensive sporting goods” store has leased the space. He would not say who owns the store was or whether it would sell guns.
Listserv users have said they believe that the store may be linked with NOVA Firearms, a gun store in McLean. A man who answered the phone this afternoon said the owner of NOVA Firearms would call an ARLnow.com reporter back — but then quickly hung up before asking for a phone number.
Owners and employees of other stores in the shopping center said they heard the same rumors of a gun store or a high-end sporting goods store selling guns, but said they had not heard anything definitive from Kapasouris. Some expressed concerns about a gun store moving in, particularly given that there are several schools in the area.
Residents on the listservs expressed similar concerns.
“Wow! Was hoping for something a bit more family friendly,” one said. “I’m sure ‘walkable to gun shop’ will do wonders for our real estate values.”
“I am adamantly opposed to this!” another said. “If others feel the same way, can we petition the County to prevent this business in our neighborhood?”
It’s unlikely the county government has any legal standing to prevent a gun store that’s otherwise following Virginia law from opening. At least one resident privately told ARLnow.com that he’s not sure why there’s such an uproar.
“Note that the pawnshop on Lee Highway and Kirkwood (which used to go by National Pawnbrokers) also sells firearms, so I’m not sure what the big deal is,” he said.
Interior construction could be heard inside the store last week and workers could be seen coming and going. County officials told ARLnow.com that construction permits were not necessary because the work was minor. Inspectors responded to the location and found no code violations.
As of Tuesday afternoon, opaque plastic sheets covered the store’s windows and no other activity could be seen.
Police: Pair Stole Car, Shrimp, Underpants — (Updated at 2:00 p.m.) A man and a woman allegedly under the influence of crack cocaine and alcohol were arrested in Rosslyn Tuesday afternoon. Police say the pair had stolen a car, men’s underwear and a “large quantity of shrimp.” [MyFoxDC]
Playgroup Controversy in Fairlington — Members of a cooperative playgroup that uses the Fairlington Community Center say that Arlington County is attempting a “takeover of the group.” The parents say the county is trying to buy the playgroup’s toys, take over registration and raise the playgroup fee from $20 to $190. [Patch]
How One Teacher Is Using iPads — There’s some question about just how well Arlington Public Schools has trained its teachers on the use of technology in the classroom — particularly the individual iPads and MacBooks that are being assigned at certain grade levels. One teacher at Carlin Springs Elementary School, however, is taking advantage of the iPads in a big way, using them for various interactive lessons. That, officials say, is indicative of how such technology will increasingly be used in schools. [InsideNova]
ACFD Metro Training — Arlington firefighters are participating in department-wide Metro safety training this month. [Twitter]
(Updated at 3:55 p.m.) The Mothers of North Arlington group is reverting to Yahoo! after a maligned platform shift last year, but the splinter group formed in the wake of the original change isn’t going anywhere.
Yesterday, MONA Co-Presidents Morgan Chinoy and M.K. Yeargin sent an email to their membership group announcing that the group would resume using two Yahoo! Groups for communication after switching to a system called MemberFuse last October. The co-presidents said that, in a poll of 900 of the group’s roughly 2,000 members, a majority voted to go back to Yahoo!.
“In light of the challenges over the past year, we look forward to a revitalized member community on the Yahoo groups,” the co-presidents said in an email to members, which ARLnow.com was forwarded. “Over 900 people voted in the poll, and the sheer number of responses, regardless of preference, is a testament to how important the message boards are to the MONA community.”
In response to last fall’s platform change, a separate Yahoo! Group formed: North Arlington Parents, or NAPping. MONA members disheartened by what they felt was a lack of consideration for the membership’s wishes splintered off, forming a free group — MONA costs $40 a year — with fewer restrictions.
NAPping isn’t going anywhere, its leaders told the group’s 766 members yesterday.
“The MONA board has repeatedly shown indifference to its members’ opinions,” NAPping moderators said in an email. “Therefore, we don’t see any reason to abandon NAP in favor of something that could once again be taken away without regard to the members’ objections.”
On March 5, MONA leaders sent out the poll to its membership, saying “notification outages” had led many of its members to “feel disconnected from MONA as a result.” An anonymous tipster told ARLnow.com that the outages were just one source of frustration — the new platform “was very difficult to read and scroll through, you had to click on each message if you wanted to read it, taking a lot of time.”
The NAPping group said it pledged to “continue to be free” and “will continue to use Yahoo Groups for discussions as long as that service continues to be available.” The splinter group doesn’t organize playgroups, host speakers or socials like dues-based MONA does.
Chinoy and Yeargin have not responded to requests for comment. After the jump, you can read the emails MONA and NAPping sent to their memberships yesterday.
Rosslyn Highlands Park — a narrow parcel of open space, a basketball court and a playground on Key Blvd — could be sold to a developer in exchange for a new fire station.
In a Nov. 8 presentation to the Western Rosslyn Area Planning Study (WRAPS) working group, Penzance, which owns the office building at 1555 Wilson Blvd, outlined a proposal that would redevelop the county-owned site — which includes Arlington Fire Station 10 — with three buildings and open space in the middle.
Last week, county staff released a draft plan to sell the site to Penzance, with the developer building a new fire station on the site, a landscaped public plaza and an extension of N. Pierce Street to 18th Street. On the property, Penzance proposes a 17-story office building fronting Wilson Blvd, a 24-story residential building along 18th Street N. and a 27-story residential building along the eastern edge of parcel.
The park is part of the area covered by the WRAPS group, a county-led commission discussing the future of the area in between 18th Street N., N. Quinn Street, Wilson Blvd and the 1555 Wilson Blvd property line. The development would replace Fire Station 10 and sit adjacent to the new H-B Woodlawn building at the Wilson School site, expected to be complete in September 2019.
The proposal is already drawing concern from some interested parties, including the county’s Parks and Recreation Commission and some members of the WRAPS working group. Paul Holland serves on both groups and spoke about his concern before the Arlington County Board Saturday morning, with several supporters dressed in green shirts — many recycled from the “Friends of TJ Park” group’s efforts — standing behind him.
Holland said that county staff’s presentation to the WRAPS group last week proposed selling the county’s land to Penzance to develop the plot.
“The only stakeholder getting what they want out of this process is the private developer, and this equates to public land for private good,” Holland said. “Selling parkland is a dangerous precedent that threatens publicly owned parks and open space throughout the county.”
Earlier this month, county staff released a resident feedback study about how best to use this parcel of land. Sixty-three percent of those surveyed preferred an option that keeps the Rosslyn Highlands Park footprint and shrinks Penzance’s proposal to the confines of its current plot of land.
“I attended our meeting [last] Thursday, hoping to see a proposal that captured the feedback of our community members: the desire for large, consolidated open space and ample park and recreation space that can serve this underserved community,” Holland said. “Unfortunately, this was not the case.”
“Instead, staff presented the working group with a plan that reduces the size of Rosslyn Highlands Park by more than two thirds,” he continued, “replaces cherishes green space with yet another paved plaza that supports a developer, and ignores the neighborhood’s significant open space needs.”
County staff said Fire Station 10 can’t be placed where the residents want it — on the property owned by the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, across 18th Street — because of conflicts with school traffic. Staff also said N. Pierce Street needs to be extended, not the resident-preferred plan of extending N. Ode Street to the east. Those factors prompted staff to recommend selling the land to Penzance.
The dispute appears similar — right down to the T-shirts — over the battle for open space next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School that left the School Board scrambling for alternatives. County Board members told Holland and his supporters on Saturday that they might have to sacrifice some open space for other county needs.
“We can do anything we want, but we can’t do everything,” Board member Libby Garvey said, according to InsideNova. “We all want different things — they’re all good things — but how is it going to balance? … We’ve got to figure it out. We’ve got to start setting priorities. It’s not going to be an easy conversation.”
Another notable figure is publicly calling Arlington “soulless.”
Yesterday, Wall Street Journal White House and politics reporter Byron Tau tweeted:
Is Arlington, Va. the most soulless place in the Washington area or the most soulless place in the United States? Discuss.
— Byron Tau (@ByronTau) February 19, 2015
Tau, a resident of the District, formerly worked for several years at Rosslyn-based Politico. At least two of Tau’s followers, including a current Politico reporter, jumped half-heartedly to Arlington’s defense.
— Bob King (@BKingDC) February 19, 2015
Tau later clarified that while he has not lived in Arlington, he’s “been all over Arlington by foot, car and bike. Columbia Pike, Courthouse, Clarendon, Virginia Square, etc, etc.”
Reached by ARLnow.com, Tau declined to elaborate on his views on the record. His comments come several months after New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand made headlines for calling Arlington a “soulless suburb” in her new book.
ARLnow.com first reported Gillibrand’s “soulless” snub, which prompted widespread indignation in Arlington and some nods of agreement in D.C. But it turns out that Tau beat Gillibrand to the punch by more than a year. He tweeted this in 2013.
NoMa: when you want to live in a place as soulless and bland as Arlington at a much higher price point.
— Byron Tau (@ByronTau) July 26, 2013
For the sake of discussion — is there anything you think Arlington should do to become less “soulless” in the eyes of some? Or should it stay just the way it is?
Last night, 265 Lyon Park residents attended a meeting of the Lyon Park Citizens Association — a record, according to LPCA President John Goldener — to vote on whether the community center should take out a $600,000 line of credit to help fund the renovation.
Put up as collateral for the bank: the park and community center itself.
After a spirited debate, 121 voted to let the Lyon Park Community Center Board of Governors take out the line of credit, with 114 voting to proceed with the renovations, funded only by donations. The LPCA has been fundraising for five years, according to treasurer Bill Anhut, but they have raised $450,000, far from the organization’s goal.
“It’s been apparent the costs were going to come in higher than we expected, and fundraising was lagging because the process was taking so long,” Anhut said. The LPCA has been discussing renovating the Lyon Park Community House, built in 1925, for more than a decade. “People were wondering if we were ever going to get to the point where we put the shovel in the ground.”
A group of residents has circulated a flyer in the last month asking residents to vote in the motion against taking out the line of credit. The flyer reads, in part:
“Repaying the loan will cost $680,000-$800,000, primarily from new donations, from YOU or else LYON PARK COULD BE LOST TO FORECLOSURE … the community center risks default and the bank could take over operations.”
Goldener said that scenario is “impossible.” In the deed to the park and community center — which is owned by the LPCA, meaning it’s owned by the residents of the neighborhood — it is stated that the property can only ever be a park and community center, Goldener said. Cardinal Bank, which approved the line of credit, knows that and has no intention of foreclosing.
Even if the LPCA can’t repay the loan, Anhut said, a few residents have volunteered to be guarantors on the loan, meaning if something changes with LPCA leadership and the association decides to stop making payments, the residents would step in to cover the expenses.
The only reason the bank asked for collateral, Anhut said, was to protect its investment and prevent the LPCA from getting more money from another bank.
“The bank proceeded with the loan and understands they can’t look to the property to satisfy any default,” Anhut said. “The bank knows that if they were to foreclose on this property, the deed has a stipulation that it will forever remain a park. It cannot be changed.”
The flyer passed out also suggests undergoing a more modest renovation with the cash on hand, asking “why can’t a sunroom be built in a second phase?”
Goldener dismissed the notion that the renovations are more than the facility needs.
“There’s a misperception that the cost of this is a gold-plated facility and it’s not,” he said. “The reason it’s expensive is because we have to do completely redo all the plumbing, electrical, ADA accessible entry, exits and handicapped bathrooms, and the kitchen’s a commercial kitchen, so all of the costs are essentially triple what they would be for a home renovation.”
Goldener said the community has run a number of financial models, and the LPCA anticipates “easily” paying back the sum of the loan, with interest, within 10 years. The citizens association will also continue to fundraise during the renovations, and the organization will only dip into the line of credit when it runs out of cash on hand, Anhut said. When the renovations are complete, donations and rental fees will combine to go toward paying back the credit.
Lyon Park is holding a groundbreaking ceremony for the renovations on Saturday, Nov. 22, at 4:00 p.m. The community center is located at 414 N. Fillmore Street. The renovations are expected be complete by next summer
Photo courtesy John Goldener