Tallula, EatBar Closing — Tallula and EatBar, which first opened in 2004 in Lyon Park, will be closing on Sunday, Oct. 26. The restaurants’ owner says they were “unable to reach an agreement with the landlord on renewing Tallula’s lease.” [Eater, Facebook]
Civ Fed Skeptical of Housing Effort — The Arlington County Civic Federation’s revenues-and-expenditures committee released a scathing critique of the county government’s “Public Lands for Public Good” affordable housing effort. The committee’s report said Arlington “couldn’t, and shouldn’t, try to solve all the region’s problems on its own.” It also said that “the county appears to be placing greater weight on the desires of non-residents who wish to move to Arlington ahead of the needs and wishes of its own citizens.” [InsideNova, PDF]
E-CARE This Weekend — Arlington County will hold its biannual Environmental Collection and Recycling Event (E-CARE) on Saturday, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The event allows residents to “safely dispose of household hazardous materials, bikes, small metal items, shoes, clothing and other recyclable items.” [Arlington County]
Pop-Up Dinners in D.C. for Ballston Restaurant — Before it officially opens in Ballston early next year, Pepita — a new “Mexican cantina” from former Top Chef contestant Mike Isabella — will be holding a series of “pop-up dinners” to test its menu. The dinners will held starting Oct. 30 be at Isabella’s G Sandwich restaurant at 2201 14th Street NW in D.C. [Washington Post]
Former County Controversy, Now Hardly a Blip — In 2008, Arlington was roiled by a long political fight over accessory-dwelling units, or “granny flats.” The County Board was considering whether to allow homeowners to build ADUs, which often house elderly family members. The Arlington Civic Federation opposed it, with critics warning that ADUs could turn quiet neighborhoods into overcrowded slums. The County Board ended up voting to allow ADUs by permit, but set a limit of 28 approvals per year. Since then, “less than a dozen” have been built. [InsideNova]
Roosevelt Bridge Inspections — The District Department of Transportation is conducting inspection work on the Roosevelt Bridge today and tomorrow. Route 50 drivers can expect some short-term lane closures during non-rush hour periods while the inspections are performed. Work vehicles associated with the inspections will be parked along the GW Parkway.
Flickr pool photo by Joseph Gruber
An alumni group is asking the Vatican to look into a slew of incidents they say has tarnished the private Catholic school’s reputation.
The group, led by former basketball player Brian Culhane, has sent a “fat package of allegations and grievances” to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which oversees issues of morality in the Roman Catholic Church, according to an investigative report by the sports gossip website Deadspin.
The allegations surround the varsity basketball team and its head coach, Joe Wootten.
Deadspin reports that Wootten sought the transfer of Congolese basketball player Junior Etou, who was the key figure on the team’s 2013 Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship. The site found that Etou was very likely 21 years old when he played for O’Connell, two years too old to be eligible for high school play.
Etou, who was living with Malone at the time, produced a passport and visa that said he was born in 1994. While he was living in the Congo, however, he had earlier provided a birth certificate to basketball’s governing body stating he was born in 1992.
The report also alleges a cover-up by school officials after two basketball players allegedly filmed a sex act with a female student at the school. The players transferred before the last school year. Via Deadspin:
The talk was that Wootten’s latest exiles had left under an ugly cloud — that one of the players had shot a video in which a female student performed oral sex on the other player inside the school, then, according to an O’Connell employee, “posted his work on Instagram.” All of those alleged to be involved were juveniles and underclassmen.
Students found to have committed what is described in memos from O’Connell alumni to school and local Catholic officials as “a sexually immoral act” on campus are generally expelled, Culhane says; however, according to the rumors, the two boys were allowed to leave without any formal finding, while the girl alleged to have been involved remained enrolled at O’Connell. Culhane says alums who inquired about the incident were told by school administrators that she faced no punishment because “the [sex] act was not consensual.” Yet no charges were ever filed.
The Arlington County Police Department investigated the video, but spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said no charges were filed and the identity of the subjects could not be revealed because they were minors.
The confluence of events – without a satisfactory response from O’Connell administration of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington – prompted Culhane and his alumni to request Pope Francis step in. If the CDF and the Vatican decide it’s worth pursuing, according to Deadspin, it will compel Bishop Paul Loverde to investigate the school and the program.
O’Connell administration has not responded to a request for comment.
Update at 4:20 p.m. – The Catholic Diocese of Arlington has provided ARLnow.com with the following statement:
The Diocese of Arlington regrets that concerns about the basketball program at Bishop O’Connell remain a source of frustration for some members of the school community.
As stated previously in 2013, Bishop O’Connell received official documentation regarding the age of former student Junior Etou, confirming his eligibility to participate in athletics during the 2012-13 academic year.
With regard to any allegations involving other students, the Diocese of Arlington cannot comment on individual disciplinary matters. As a matter of policy and practice if a school has reason to believe a student’s actions have violated the law, the proper law enforcement agency is contacted.
Photo via Facebook
Arlington County is receiving some pushback over its “Public Land for Public Good” affordable housing and school capacity initiative.
Specifically, the identification of the Lubber Run Community Center (300 N. Park Drive) as a site for potential affordable housing has drawn the ire of the 76-unit townhouse community Cathcart Springs, across N. George Mason Drive from Lubber Run.
Arlington is expected to begin studying Lubber Run, the “salt dome” along Old Dominion Drive and land adjacent to Jennie Dean Park in Shirlington as county-owned land that could be developed or redeveloped into affordable housing. The community planning portions for those sites, if approved by the Arlington County Board, would begin next spring.
The county is already accepting online comments on the proposed sites, and recently extended its deadline to receive those comments by a month, until Oct. 31. The association is passing out flyers to its residents, encouraging them to send this comment to the county:
“Using park and recreation facilities should be preserved for future generations and should NOT be considered for conversion to alternative uses. Once beautiful parkland is gone, it is gone forever. Preserve LRCC as a recreation/community center only.”
So far, the county has received about 70 comments, according to the county’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development.
“Many of the comments suggest revisions to improve the proposed site evaluation guidelines,” CPHD spokeswoman Jessica Margarit told ARLnow.com today. “Other comments range from concerns about preserving parkland to ensuring that affordable housing locations are balanced across the entire county.”
Cathcart Springs Homeowners Association President Sandy First told ARLnow.com that she’s not opposed to affordable housing — far from it — but that site should not be considered. She also said Cathcart Springs has teamed up with the Arlington Forest Civic Association to rally against the proposal.
“I’m not against affordable housing at all, it’s just that most of it is [in the 22203 ZIP code],” she said. “Across the street at Lubber Run you’ve got an opportunity over there. With the community center, playground and amphitheater, it could play into an incredible array of programs.”
The opposition to Lubber Run’s redevelopment joins opposition from the Old Dominion Civic Association to plans to redevelop the “salt dome” site, for which adjacent green space had originally been slated for a new fire station and emergency management headquarters. That plan has been scaled back since as the county mulls its options, but the County Board approved $28 million to redevelop Lubber Run.
Photo via Arlington County
Some parents of Barcroft Elementary School students are concerned about Arlington Public Schools’ plan to expand the school if a controversial plan to build a new elementary school next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School falls through.
The School Board says it’s their preference to build a new school adjacent to Thomas Jefferson, at 125 S. Old Glebe Road. Amid protests from those who want to preserve the parkland next to the school, the School Board has appointed a working group to determine the feasibility of that plan. The group will present its findings to the School Board in January.
If the TJ site cannot be developed, APS’ backup plan is to expand Barcroft and Randolph elementary schools. Barcroft (625 S. Wakefield Street) is currently at a 460-seat capacity and the expansion would add 265 seats. Randolph (1306 S. Quincy Street) has a 484-seat capacity and would expand to seat 725 students.
While APS struggles to keep up with rising school enrollment, county and school officials have warned that there’s precious little open land left in Arlington to build new schools.
Some Barcroft parents, however, are crying foul over being targeted for expansion. They’re worried about the effect it would have on the surrounding community and how the school would be able to adjust to the influx of space and students.
“Barcroft has tireless, dedicated administrators and teachers, but they face serious challenges,” one parent, Sarah Freitas Waldman, told ARLnow.com in an email. “I feel the top issue is whether it is fair for the community and the students and whether it is responsible policy for APS to propose a plan that places the entire burden of South Arlington’s overcrowding on two small schools with ongoing issues of student performance.”
Barcroft’s performance on the state Standard of Learning exams has been dwindling in recent years, culminating in only 71 percent of students passing the English reading exam and 68 passing math, compared to the state average of 74 percent for each subject and the Arlington-wide average of 81 percent in reading and 83 percent in math. Randolph performed about the same as Barcroft, with 61 percent passing English reading and 70 percent passing in math.
“Barcroft consistently underperforms the County in terms of student achievement on the Virginia SOLs,” Waldman wrote. “Is it wise educational policy to expand a program by 50 percent when it is already struggling to meet the needs of its students?”
Waldman said parents were distributing flyers in the neighborhood this past weekend, including bilingual flyers, to notify residents and other parents of APS’ plans. APS facilities staff will be conducting a meeting tonight at 7:00 p.m. Barcroft to inform parents of the process to address the district’s capacity crisis. For those who can’t make it, there will be another meeting at 7:00 p.m. on Sept. 22.
(Updated at 2:05 p.m.) A Ballston hot yoga studio sparked outrage Thursday by promoting a Sept. 11-themed sale and referencing conspiracy theories.
“9+11 = 20% OFF! PATRIOT DAY SALE on Bikram Yoga,” Bikram Arlington, located four miles from the Pentagon at 4509 5th Road N., tweeted Thursday morning.
Twitter users told the company they were appalled by the reference to the tragedy.
“Kind of disgusting to promote shop sales with a Sept. 11 discount. Shame on you, @bikramarlington,” user @Melissaeweiss wrote.
Courthouse resident Angela Herrick, 32, said a Facebook post from the yoga studio about the sale appeared alongside a post remembering her friend’s father, who was killed in the Pentagon.
“A tragedy like this should never be used to promote a business, period,” Herrick told ARLnow.com, noting she had frequented the studio since 2011. “I will not be returning, ever.”
Bikram Arlington then tweeted, “The goal was to point out what date it was and associate to patriotism and to remember it. Its [sic] a shame some of you go to the negative.”
“Apologies to anyone who is upset by it!” another tweet from the company said.
That tweet was was quickly followed by a suggestion to search 9/11 “truther” conspiracy theories.
“If you want to be upset, research the term ’911 building 7′ and check the news because they are hearing ‘chatter’ about us getting hit again.”
The studio’s promotion page added more color on the deal: “Freedom Isn’t Free — And we intend to honor those patriots who have died for our country and morn [sic] the loss of freedom of speech and other rights that died day.”
Studio owner Zahra Vaezi, whose husband, Frank, wrote the tweet, told The Washington Post that she “didn’t realize people would be so ‘roar,’ you know?” over the promotion.
“It’s like that man who punched his wife,” she told the Post, referring to ex-Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. “I mean, that’s upsetting. But I think it kind of gets blown out of proportion.”
Multiple calls to the studio went unreturned.
@bikramarlington You demonstrate an incomprehensible lack of compassion—in the town of the Pentagon, no less. Hoping you learn & improve.
— David Panarelli (@dpan) September 11, 2014
— Ken Nisbet (@KenNisbet) September 11, 2014
Never forget! Or pay retail! Like Al Qaeda, our prices are insane!! MT @bikramarlington: 9+11 = 20% OFF! PATRIOT DAY SALE on Bikram Yoga
— Jason Stanford (@JasStanford) September 11, 2014
Maybe they are right. Maybe Arlington actually has no soul. pic.twitter.com/6kUrbhLfBs
— ᴩᴀɢᴇ (@DannyPage) September 11, 2014
(Updated 2:25 p.m.) The issues with nannies, childcare workers and parents letting children urinate and defecate at Penrose Park (2200 6th Street S.) were caught on camera by FOX 5 D.C. yesterday, just minutes after the news crew arrived at the scene.
“Our FOX 5 crew had only been at Penrose Park for a few minutes when we saw a girl going to the bathroom behind a tree. And then a little boy did too,” reporter Alexandra Limon wrote. “We purposely blurred the video and did not tape the girl behind the tree. But it appeared from the kids and nanny’s reaction that this was a normal thing for them.”
Limon’s account corroborates what many parents have said, both in the comments of ARLnow.com’s initial story and in an anonymous interview. FOX 5 also interviewed an ARLnow reporter during its morning show on the topic.
“This has been going on for a very long time at the park,” one parent said, in a phone conversation after the initial story was published. “The worst I saw was one parent dropping the kid’s underpants inside the fenced-in area” where the playground is.
Arlington Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish told ARLnow.com in an email this morning that allowing children to pee or poop in the park is a violation, with the first offense resulting in a warning. Repeat offenders can be banned from a park, she said, but the parks department doesn’t “have records of anyone being banned.”
“In the past Penrose was checked by our Rovers and Rangers throughout the week,” Kalish said. “We are beefing that up now but we think that with all the attention to this, whomever was doing it before will stop and others won’t consider it. We’ve found that even homeless people are pretty embarrassed when they get caught. Defecating in public is not a first option for anyone.”
Video courtesy FOX 5 D.C.
A store selling civilian and military-grade weaponry and tactical gear is planning to move into the ground floor of a condominium building in the Nauck neighborhood.
SpecDive Tactical, which currently operates out of an apartment building on S. Abingdon Street in Fairlington, hopes to move into the ground floor of 2249 S. Shirlington Road, next door to Pizzoli Pizza. When contacted, SpecDive Tactical’s owner Gerald Rapp confirmed an agreement was in place to move into the space, but otherwise declined to comment on the record.
SpecDive’s initial building permit application was rejected, according to Arlington Community Planning, Housing and Development spokeswoman Helen Duong, “because there were no parking spaces available for the new retail.” CPHD has asked for a new plan with parking provided, Duong said.
The shop has been in business since 2012, according to the owner profile section of SpecDive’s Yelp page. It has a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Federal Firearm License, according to ATF records. On the Yelp page, Rapp says he was in the Marine Corps from 1985 to 1994 and a U.S. Navy deep sea diver after that.
“SpecDive, LLC., a veteran owned small business, was created in direct response to the need for the Military and federal law enforcement to partner effectively with private industries to meet the current and future needs of a citizen-centric government and world leader,” the Yelp page reads.
The shop was the subject of a petition from Nauck residents back in March, who were hoping to prevent it from moving in.
“We, the members of the Nauck Civic Association Executive Committee are very concerned about locating this business in our community,” an email announcing the petition stated. “Although, we are attempting to solicit businesses to locate within our community, we are not convinced that this type of business fits the description of what the residents seek.”
Reached for comment last week, Nauck Civic Association President Alfred Taylor said nothing has changed regarding the NCA’s position on the gun shop. He noted that Rapp is expected to attend the September NCA meeting.
“The position of the Association has not changed in that they would rather not have a facility of that sort at that location,” Taylor wrote in an email, “but realize it is a by-right retail business in accordance with all zoning regulations.”
Rapp has already met with representatives from the county and Arlington Public Schools and members of the community, including Drew Model School Parent Teacher Association President Evan Thomas. Thomas said the PTA has no formal position on SpecDive’s planned move, and may or may not take one when its membership reconvenes after the school year begins.
“The general tone of the meeting was pretty cordial,” Thomas told ARLnow.com today. “What Jerry spent most of his time discussing was their security protocols, what they do, their process for selling firearms, answered questions in regards to how a person could go about obtaining a firearm, what types of firearms they could purchase and the difference between the requirements for a shotgun or rifle or pistol. Those are the items you can buy off the street, assuming you can pass the background check they do.”
Thomas, speaking as a parent and resident of the area, said Rapp assuaged some of his trepidation about a gun dealer moving into the neighborhood.
“I have two kids who attend Drew… so you’re always concerned about the safety of the area where there school is,” Thomas said. “At the end of the meeting I felt as comfortable as you can with a business like that. He’s very cognizant of the perils, the need for security and the implications of what could happen to him in terms of losing his business, losing his license, facing potential jail time if he slips up. I felt comfortable with him as a business owner.”
The Ballston property manager that replaced planters to prevent people from sitting says benches will soon be installed in their place.
Stephen Gilbert, the vice president of marketing for Gates Hudson, the property manager of the building adjacent to the Ballston Metro station, said the company plans to install 15 benches near the station and next to the new planters by mid-August.
Additional “street furniture” is also planned for the busy bus stop.
“This is a cross promotion with the Ballston [Business Improvement District] and we are investing nearly $28,000 to improve the seating area,” Gilbert wrote in an email to ARLnow.com. “The bus shelters currently in place and managed by WMATA and Arlington County are not adequate in our opinion.”
Gates Hudson replaced the planters earlier this month because, as an employee told ARLnow.com, “they’re meant to be planters and that’s it… A lot of people were loitering there, damaging the plants and leaving trash.” Gilbert said that the new planters’ capstones “were only a small part” of Gates Hudson’s master plan for improving the space on N. Stuart Street.
“I ensure you that once you see what we have under construction you will see that we are creating a very convenient and comfortable space for commuters and pedestrians,” Gilbert wrote.
Several planters on the sidewalk of N. Stuart Street in Ballston, just outside the Ballston Metro station were recently rebuilt to stop people from taking a seat.
The planters were replaced by property manager Gates Hudson this month, and while the trees are still there, the flat surface around the soil has been converted into a sharply angled corner designed specifically to prevent people waiting for the buses from sitting down.
“They’re meant to be planters and that’s it,” a Gates Hudson employee told ARLnow.com. “There are many benches outside, and the goal was to have people sit there and not on the planters. A lot of people were loitering there, damaging the plants and leaving trash.”
In a letter to the Arlington County Board, Metrobus rider Jana Lynott said the property owners around the Metro station had “vitriol” for transit riders who are perceived as loiterers.
“As a regular Metrobus 1A rider, I was offended by the insinuation that we riders were viewed as dirty loiterers that bring down commercial property values,” Lynott wrote. “I’m not convinced that my fellow transit riders are a scourge upon society that need to be dealt with through exclusive design… Why in Arlington, VA, a community that invests millions of dollars a year into recruiting new riders to our world-class transit system, would we possibly embrace such a backward notion of transit accessibility? Please. Do not let this exclusive design become standard practice in our community.”
Photos courtesy Jana Lynott
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) has been banned from entering Russia, a Russian official announced this weekend.
Moran is one of 13 people banned from entering the country, all of whom, according to the Associated Press, are “connected with the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.”
In a press release, Moran countered by saying the ban is a result of his proposed amendment to a defense appropriations bill that would have stopped U.S. helicopter purchases from Rosoboronexport, the “sole state intermediary agency for Russia’s exports/imports of defense-related and dual use products, technologies and services.” Moran proposed the ban because of Rosoboronexport’s alleged supply of arms to Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria.
“While this does clarify my overseas travel plans,” Moran said in his statement, “it seems that the Putin regime would be better served by addressing the consequences of encouraging and enabling Donetsk separatists to perform such a heinous act of cold blooded cruelty or utter incompetence that resulted in the mass murder of nearly 300 innocent civilians.”
Moran was the only congressman on the blacklist. The others include Guantanamo commander Rear Adm. Richard Butler, Retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, retired Col. Janis Karpinsky and Gladys Kessler, “a federal judge who rejected a Guantanamo inmate’s complaint of being force-fed while on hunger strike,” according to the AP.
The bans were a tit-for-tat response to the U.S.’s ban Russian parliament member Adam Delimkhanov, according to a statement by Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich. Lukashevich said Moran was “repeatedly accused of financial misdeeds,” but didn’t give any specifics.
Moran’s office said the congressman, who is set to retire at the end of his term, “has no plans to travel to Russia.”
Earlier this week, Democratic blogger and former Arlington resident Ben Tribbett made national news when he resigned from the Redskins. The team hired him two weeks prior to support the public relations battle against sentiment that “Redskins” as a racial slur against Native Americans.
Tribbett, a supporter of the name, said he resigned because the debate got too personal — “things got too hot to handle” and became a distraction to the team.
Tribbett’s hiring came as pressure mounts on the Redskins and owner Dan Snyder to change the name. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last month revoked the trademark on “Redskins,” saying it is “disparaging of Native Americans.” For that same reason, media organizations from the Washington City Paper to the Seattle Times to a student newspaper in Pennsylvania have been banning the use of the team’s name in news coverage.
Tribbett, who now lives in Lorton, says he continues to support the Redskins and thinks news outlets should report, not moralize when it comes to the name.
“The reason I support the Redskins name is, I don’t think it’s a slur first of all,” Tribbett told ARLnow.com this morning. “Having grown up in this area, nothing brought the entire D.C. area together more than the Redskins, and the idea that it’s now a divisive issue really bothers me.”
“I don’t see why anyone would not publish the name, the name of the football team is the Washington Redskins,” Tribbett continued. “Until Dan Snyder or someone else says otherwise, i think journalists should report the news and not make it.”
Pub crawl organizers should have to obtain a permit for each crawl and reimburse the county for the cost of extra police on the street.
That’s what Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan is expected to recommend to the County Board at its meeting later this month. Donnellan will recommend that pub crawls be classified as “special events,” subject to the county’s special events policy, according to county officials.
Arlington’s special events policy was last updated in 2012. The policy is designed to ensure that adequate resources are available for special events while allowing the county to recover its support costs.
Classifying pub crawls as a special event is seen as a compromise, somewhere in between the crawl participants who would like the events to continue unabated and residents who see the crawls as a nuisance and would like them curtailed. The events will continue, but in a more regulated environment, provided organizers can afford the extra costs.
“Organizers would have to get a special events permit and would be required to cover the costs of additional police, fire and trash services — above core services — generated by their event,” Arlington County spokeswoman Mary Curtius told ARLnow.com. “At this point, the Manager’s recommendation does not include any minimum or maximum allowed numbers of pub crawls — the applications will be reviewed as they come in and approved based on the availability of resources.”
Donnellan’s recommendation is coming less than a month after an attendee at the All American Bar Crawl (photos from the event, above) allegedly stripped naked and led police on a car chase that ended in a crash in Clarendon. In an email to a concerned constituent, County Board Chair Jay Fisette addressed the incident.
“I want you to know that we have no tolerance for this kind of behavior. At the same time I want to stress that this incident was highly unusual,” Fisette wrote. “Our top priority is safety. The Board has concerns about the impacts of pub crawls and in April asked the Manager to research options to address these impacts.”
Fisette went on to say that pub crawls can be regulated, but not banned.
Clarendon is one of our most vibrant and lively areas. We support the businesses there, and we welcome visitors who patronize our many great restaurants, shops and pubs. We want to keep it a great place to live, visit, dine, work and shop. It’s important to know that, under Virginia law, we can’t ban pub crawls. We can, however, regulate pub crawls to ensure that they are safe for all and effectively managed. Part of that regulation must include ways that the County can recover some of the costs associated with the stepped-up enforcement activities during the events, and trash and litter cleanup after the events. In the meantime, as part of the FY15 budget, the Board approved one-time funding ($42,000) for overtime costs in the Police department while a longer term strategy is developed to address the increasing frequency and cost associated with pub crawl events.
In addition to the June incident, a bar crawl attendee made the news in March when she allegedly showed up naked at the Arlington Magistrate’s Office and demanded that she be allowed to visit her husband, who was arrested earlier that day during a St. Patrick’s Day-themed pub crawl.
Both bar crawls were organized by Courthouse-based Project D.C. Events. According to the company, the two events attracted a combined 8,500-9,000 registered attendees.
“It’s two incidents out of thousands of people,” said Project D.C. Events co-owner Alex Lopez, who also pointed out that neither happened inside a bar. Lopez and fellow co-owner Mike Bramson said they work closely with Arlington County Police and with participating bars to ensure there’s plenty of security on hand.
Neither could explain why bar crawls in Arlington have resulted in high-profile incidents and controversy while D.C.-based crawls seem to go off without a hitch.
“We’ve taken the same steps in D.C. as we do in Arlington,” Bramson said.
“You don’t hear about bar crawls in D.C. because nothing happens at them,” said Lopez. “If you say, ‘oh everything was peaceful in the last bar crawl,’ well, no one is going to read that.”
Bramson and Lopez said they and other bar crawl organizers shouldn’t be on the hook for the cost of extra police staffing because the events are already generating thousands in extra tax revenue.
Arlington Fire Chief Jim Schwartz on Tuesday presented the County Board with recommendations from the county’s latest fire station location study, and the results are not without controversy.
A consultant has recommended that Arlington move Fire Station 8 further north, defying neighborhood protestations; close the “neighborhood treasure” Fire Station 7; and build a new fire station on the eastern portion of Columbia Pike.
Tuesday was the first time the Board had received a detailed public rundown of results in the TriData report from December 2012. The report assessed Arlington’s need for emergency services and how needs have changed. The last assessment of Arlington’s fire response needs had been nearly 13 years prior.
“Communities on a regular basis need to assess where their fire stations are,” said Schwartz. “Communities change a great deal, this one certainly has in the last couple of decades.”
Schwartz explained that 60 percent of Arlington County Fire Department’s activity comes from emergency medical calls, 30 percent from fire or hazmat calls and 10 percent are non-emergency public service calls, such as stuck elevators. The sections of Arlington County producing the most calls consistently coincide with the most densely populated areas. Fire Station No. 5, near Crystal City, is currently the busiest in Arlington.
ACFD aims to respond to all fire calls within four minutes of being dispatched, and respond to medical calls within eight minutes. However, those goals are not being met in the northern portion of the county, Schwartz noted. He said there is no fire station located in the northernmost part of the county, which causes response times there to be longer than in areas with better station coverage.
“We have not been physically located where we can get to the northernmost portion of the county in four minutes. So that has been a long term goal of the department, to move a facility into an area that physically enables us to get there as quickly as possible,” said Schwartz.
The need to offer better coverage in the northern part of the county prompted a recommendation in the TriData report to move Station No. 8 from its position on Lee Highway in the Hall’s Hill/Highview neighborhood to county-owned land at Old Dominion Drive and 26th Street N., near Marymount University.
That proposal rankled members of the Old Dominion Civic Association, who say the county did not reach out and allow residents to give feedback. Several residents of that neighborhood believe the land on which the new station would be built should instead be preserved as park space.
“I will acknowledge the report recommended as better sites from a response perspective, Williamsburg Blvd at Glebe Road, and Rock Spring Road at Glebe Road. Both areas where there is a lot of private property that I do not envision us taking. And so we said, what’s the next best alternative, and they focused back on the recommendation of 26th and Old Dominion,” said Schwartz.
Several County Board members echoed the community concern over a lack of explanation for building a fire station at the proposed site.
“We do need more information,” said Board member Walter Tejada. “I guess the concern people feel, the reason is they have been surprised or blindsided by it. I’m hoping those questions will be answered so we can pass them on to our residents who want to know how did this come about.”
Arlington is a famously civically-active community. It’s the “Arlington Way.” But do residents sometimes take their expectations for responsive governance and residential serenity too far?
Arlington residents — many of whom are government workers and, perhaps as a result, have high expectations for the way things ought to be here – are not shy about letting their opinions known. In the past week, we’ve seen complaints about a proposed fire station, local restaurants, and an article about a basketball player serving ice cream.
In the past, varying degrees of neighborhood controversy have erupted over new streetlights, a house with a “cornhole-friendly yard,” a small fence, a proposed bocce court, a proposed five-story apartment building and grocery store, an expansion of Arlington National Cemetery, outdoor restaurant seating, rooftop signs, boisterous bar-goers, and kids dancing in the street.
The plan, to relocate Fire Station 8 from Lee Highway to a county-owned parcel of land on Old Dominion Drive near Marymount University, was included in Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s recommended Capital Improvement Plan. The plan (see pp. C-86 and C-88) also calls for the county’s Emergency Operations Center to be relocated from Courthouse to the new fire station site, and for an adjacent salt and mulch storage yard to be replaced and modernized.
The existing Emergency Operation Center is located in a building that’s set to be torn down to make way for the county’s Courthouse Square project and the salt storage yard, which serves snow removal crews in North Arlington, is past its useful life, according to the CIP. The fire station is set to be relocated from 4845 Lee Highway following a 2013 study that suggested the Old Dominion location would improve fire department response times in the area.
“When Arlington County published their Proposed FY 2015-2024 Capital Improvement Plan on May 13th, the residents of the Old Dominion and Donaldson Run Civic Associations, did not have a clue as to the green space ‘hijacking’ the County had in store for their residential neighborhoods,” an Old Dominion Civic Association representative told ARLnow.com via email.
A flyer is being sent to local residents, encouraging them to speak out in opposition to the plan.
“STOP THE DESTRUCTION OF OUR GREEN SPACE!” the flyer reads. “The proposed CIP calls for leveling of all the county-owned green space from 25th Street through the corner of 26th Street and Old Dominion… OPPOSE THE APPROVAL OF THE 25th/26th STREET OFFICE PARK AND FIRE STATION AND MAKE YOUR VOICES HEARD!”
Richard Lolich, president of the Old Dominion Citizens Association, said that there are lots of families with young children in the neighborhood.
“Because of this there is a real need for good park space for these children and families,” he said. “The County’s proposed location for the relocated fire station is on property that is ideal for a park in the neighborhood — the only neighborhood in Arlington currently without a dedicated park. We strongly feel that the County should address this issue before destroying green space in the middle of our neighborhood.”
The proposed site is within 2 miles of Potomac Overlook Regional Park and 1 mile of Greenbrier Park.