Arlington Man Sues Uber — An Arlington man is suing Uber, the online car service reservation company, after he says a driver verbally abused him, spit on him and kicked him out of the car last year. The driver allegedly told the man that he “hates Americans and homosexuals.” [WTOP]
Parents Speak Out Against Boundary Plan — Parents spoke out against proposed elementary school boundary changes at a meeting organized by Arlington Public Schools last night. Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy is expected to present his boundary change recommendation to the School Board on March 21. [Patch]
D.C. Area High on Home ‘Affordability’ — Homes in the D.C. area are more affordable than the national average, according to new figures from the National Association of Home Builders. Of the homes sold in the last quarter of 2012, 78.7 percent could be considered “affordable” to those making the area median income of $105,700, compared to the national average of 74.1 percent. [Sun Gazette]
WWII Spy to Be Buried at ANC — A highly decorated, Swiss-born World War II spy will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery later this month. The family of Rene Joyeuse was initially denied a burial at the cemetery, but the military reversed its decision after a letter-writing campaign by intelligence service veterans. [WJLA, NY Daily News]
A sewage backup that flooded an Arlington Harris Teeter store last May is still causing a stink in the backrooms of county government.
The Harris Teeter at 3600 S. Glebe Road, near Potomac Yard, remains closed with no reopening date in sight. The grocery store was flooded with raw sewage on May 11, 2012, due to a clog at the nearby Arlington County Water Pollution Control Plan.
Earlier this month, Arlington County spokeswoman Mary Curtius told ARLnow.com that “no civil lawsuits have been filed” against the county as a result of the sewage incident. But at its Tuesday meeting the County Board adjourned to closed session to discuss, as County Board Chair Walter Tejada put it, “two matters requiring consultation with the County Attorney and staff concerning pending claims made by Harris Teeter and others, arising from an incident on May 11, 2012.”
It’s unclear what “claims” are being made. Asked about the behind-closed-doors session, Curtius declined further comment.
Harris Teeter says they’re “actively working with both the county and our landlord to discuss solutions to make sure that which happened does not happen again,” but a company rep declined to give additional specifics.
The closed session was not the only hush-hush County Board action to take place on Tuesday. The Washington Post reports that the Board unanimously approved 5 to 10 percent raises for three top county officials at the end of the public meeting. The raises come as the county faces a $25 to 50 million budget gap for the upcoming fiscal year.
(Updated at 1:05 p.m.) Ray’s Hell Burger and Ray’s Hell Burger Too (1713 & 1725 Wilson Blvd) has closed in Rosslyn.
The closure is the result of a landlord-tenant dispute between restaurateur Michael Landrum and his landlord, the historic Colonial Village Shopping Center. Court records show that Landrum filed a lawsuit against the shopping center on Nov. 16. Yesterday afternoon, the shopping center locked Landrum and his staff out of both storefronts.
“Landlord has changed the locks,” said signs on the door. “Do not unlock this door under penalty of damages.”
Handwritten signs in the window, posted by Landrum, direct customers across the street to Ray’s to the Third (1650 Wilson Blvd).
“Please visit us at Ray’s to the Third while we take a quick break,” said one of the signs. “Please do not leave your car in this lot if you come across the street… towing is very likely.”
Reached via phone, Landrum declined to elaborate on his complaint against the landlord, citing ongoing litigation. He did, however, vow to continue to serve his famous burgers, which in 2010 drew President Obama and Russian president Dmitry Medvedev to Rosslyn eatery.
“We continue to serve the Original Hell-Burger and all of our famous signature items, at Ray’s To Third, which has been temporarily reformatted to allow for counter service and to go for convenience and extra value, as well as full-service, sit-down table service,” he told ARLnow.com. “And yes, credit cards are accepted.”
“We’re fighting to the last man and cooking to the last burger… nothing’s going to stop us from doing that,” a defiant Landrum added. “This is a very minor blip.”
In an emailed statement, Landrum spoke generally about the relationship between landlords and tenants.
I am not saying this is the case here, but landlords abuse their power and violate the rights of tenants with near-total impunity all the time, because tenants rarely have the means or the ability to defend their rights This is something all of us, or very nearly all of us, have experienced. What often times gets me labeled as a “firebrand” (or worse) is simply my refusal to allow my rights to be violated, my insistence on fair treatment, and my willingness to suffer and challenge the consequences when those things are violated.
Landrum said he’s currently planning an inauguration-related
event special at Ray’s to the Third. He’s not currently looking for a new space for Ray’s Hell Burger.
Kaine Coming to Arlington — Former Virginia governor and current U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine (D) will be in Arlington this afternoon. Kaine is scheduled to have an economic discussion with local Latino business and community leaders at 4:00 p.m. The closed event is taking place at The Salsa Room (2619 Columbia Pike).
Cancer Charity Event This Weekend — The second annual Erica Paul Fabulous event will be held at the Clarendon Ballroom (3185 Wilson Blvd) on Saturday. The fundraiser runs from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. and benefits the Chris4Life Colon Cancer Foundation. The ‘Fabulous’ event also celebrates the life of Erica Paul, who died last year, at the age of 29, from metastatic colon cancer. [Clarendon Nights]
Ham Operators to Have a ‘Field Day’ — Arlington County will host its annual “Field Day” exercise for amateur radio operators this weekend. The exercise, held at Minor Hill Park (3400 N. Powhatan Street), is described as part of a nationwide event “during which thousands of Hams across the United States and Canada will operate portable radios and antennas to contact each other, simulating emergency conditions.” [Arlington County]
HOT Lanes Suit Costs County Transportation Funds –Virginia is contributing more than $16.5 million to Arlington’s road maintenance and construction budget for fiscal year 2013, which starts on July 1. But that figure is $100,000 less than it otherwise could have been. The Commonwealth Transportation Board has stripped $100,000 from Arlington’s allocation as retribution for the county’s costly lawsuit against the proposed I-395 HOT lanes project. The money will be used to help pay the legal bills of a former state transportation official who was sued by Arlington as part of its fight against the project. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington resident Bruce Shuttleworth, who is challenging incumbent Rep. Jim Moran for the Eighth District Democratic congressional nomination, has withdrawn a lawsuit he filed after initially being told he did not qualify for the ballot.
Shuttleworth was eventually allowed on the June 12 primary ballot, but only after he filed the lawsuit. That led him to accuse local Democratic officials of “corruption.” (A charge the state Democratic party vehemently disputed.)
In withdrawing the lawsuit, Shuttleworth says he still “intends to hold the party fully accountable for its practices regarding ballot access.”
The campaign issued the following statement last night.
Democratic Congressional Candidate, Bruce Shuttleworth today has voluntarily dismissed his lawsuit against Brian Moran and several Democratic operatives after being certified for the Virginia District 8 Democratic primary ballot.
Bruce Shuttleworth stated, “the convenient turnaround when faced with a Federal lawsuit does not provide answers to how petitions in a Congressional race in America can simply go missing. We were forced to file suit when the Virginia Democratic Party proved unresponsive, at great personal expense. It is disappointing that I was required to invest so much time and money to fight for our inalienable right for an honest democratic process.”
Candidate Shuttleworth has reached out repeatedly to the party and to Jim Moran to attempt to remove the pall over the party’s ballot access process without the need for court review, but was rebuffed. In the interest of ceasing further deployment of resources, which the VA Democratic Party has not yet offered to repay, the case is being voluntarily dismissed. Notwithstanding today’s dismissal, Bruce Shuttleworth intends to hold the party fully accountable for its practices regarding ballot access. His dismissal of this case does not prejudice him from bringing further claims related to the irregularities of the party’s signature review process.
Bruce Shuttleworth is focused on providing ethical and practical solutions for the people of Virginia’s 8th Congressional District. Candidate Shuttleworth understands the power of free markets but is committed to people first and understands the real needs of his community. Lip service and fake compassion while cosying up to big business is not his style. Bruce Shuttleworth believes public service is his duty, not a career option.
This year there is an alternative to Jim Moran, a 22 year incumbent. This year a challenger has squeezed through to the ballot. This year, the people of VA-8 can choose a real progressive by voting for Bruce Shuttleworth on June 12th, not an opportunist who is a Blue Dog one day (DLC–Democratic Leadership Council) and a progressive the next. Bruce Shuttleworth has served his country with passion and integrity. While he is the underdog against the Moran machine, Bruce believes in the power of the grassroots movement.
Hotel Palomar For Sale? — Connecticut-based HEI Hospitality LLC is in talks to buy Hotel Palomar (1121 19th Street N.) in Rosslyn for a reported $45 million, or nearly $300,000 per room. The high-end hotel is currently owned by JBG Cos. and operated by Kimpton Hotels. [Bloomberg]
Redistricting Lawsuit Could Delay Primaries — Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has requested that the state delay the June 12 congressional primaries by two months, following a decision by the Virginia Supreme Court to allow a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state’s recent redistricting process to proceed. [Washington Post]
Planetarium Renovations On Track — Renovations to Arlington’s David M. Brown Planetarium are underway and on schedule. The modernized planetarium is expected to reopen this fall, perhaps as early as September. A citizen-formed nonprofit group, the Friends of Arlington’s Planetarium, helped to raise more than $400,000 for the renovations. [Sun Gazette]
Yorktown Band Seeks Donations — The Yorktown Band Boosters are seeking donations of used musical instruments and cases. The 501(c)3 nonprofit asks that those with questions about donating call 703-228-5370.
Rosslyn Exxon Robbed at Gunpoint — The Exxon at 1824 Wilson Boulevard, in the Rosslyn area, was robbed early Wednesday morning. Police say two men robbed the gas station at gunpoint around 2:50 a.m. “The suspects were both African American men in their 30’s, around 5’10,” Arlington County Police said in the department’s daily crime report. “One subject was wearing a ski mask; the other had a medium complexion and a small mustache.”
Wag More Dogs Case Heading Back to Court — In a newspaper op-ed entitled “Arlington County Scrooges Need Bigger Hearts,” Wag More Dogs owner Kim Houghton says the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to hear her case early next year. Houghton, with the assistance of the Arlington-based Institute for Justice, is suing Arlington County over a dog mural painted on the side of her Shirlington doggie daycare business. The county has deemed the mural an illegal sign, while Houghton argues that it’s a work of art. [Washington Times]
D.C. Area Cars Are Getting Older — The average age of vehicles on Washington area roadways continues to rise. The average age of a car in the D.C. area is now 9.25 years — a one year increase since 2005. “It is likely that the recession has had a strong influence on people’s interest in and ability to purchase new cars,” according to Arlington’s CommuterPage Blog. The blog also notes that the older car fleet has a “negative impact” on local air quality. [CommuterPage Blog]
Flickr pool photo by mj*laflaca
Last night the paper published a piece by Local Opinion Editor Barbara Hollingsworth entitled “Federal judge should hear Arlington CPS case.” The article accuses Arlington’s Child Protective Services department of improperly taking away a baby girl from her birth parents and placing her into foster care. According to Hollingsworth’s account, the baby was taken from her parents in 2005 amid unfounded accusations of neglect and starvation.
Citing two different cases of children separated from their parents, Hollingsworth has been making the case that “thieves disguised as Arlington County social workers and judges” have been “tearing families apart” in child abuse and neglect cases.
The Examiner reports that a lawsuit was recently filed in Alexandria federal court on behalf of eight children who have been placed in foster care by Arlington County. According to Hollingsworth:
The list of serious accusations contained in the lawsuit against DJR Judges George Varoutsos and Esther Wiggins, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jason McCandless, and various Arlington CPS officials is long: perjury, RICO violations of civil rights, fraud upon the court, obstruction of justice, unconstitutional “ex parte” hearings, court orders that were never served, depriving parents of their due process rights, “missing” court orders, illegal searches and seizures, and felony removal of documents from court files, to name just a few.
Though Arlington County is prohibited from saying much of anything about child welfare cases, Department of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick said the county is committed to helping children.
“Due to the potential for litigation and our obligation to protect the privacy of children and families within the child welfare system, I am not able to comment on Ms. Hollingsworth’s Nov. 15 opinion piece,” Larrick said in an email. “I can say that Arlington County takes seriously its responsibility to ensure the health, safety and well-being of children, and we are proud to offer a broad range of services and supports that preserve and strengthen families.”
As Hollingsworth wrote to conclude her latest article: “Stay tuned.”
There was more bad blood over the shuttering of Courthouse-area Irish pub Kitty O’Shea’s (2403 Wilson Blvd) this afternoon.
The pub closed over the weekend, the culmination of a long legal battle between owner Danny McFadden and landlord Ray Schupp over McFadden’s lease. Today, just after 3:00 p.m., police were called to Kitty O’Shea’s for a dispute.
McFadden told ARLnow.com that he was moving items out of the building and got into a disagreement with the landlord over what belonged to whom. Police told the two parties to resolve the issue amongst themselves, McFadden said.
Within the past five minutes, police were called to the pub again after McFadden said the landlord had changed the locks.
Kitty O’Shea’s, the unpretentious Irish pub at 2403 Wilson Boulevard in Courthouse, will be closing this weekend, according to a note on the pub’s web site.
“Saturday, August 27, is our last day of operation,” the note says. “Feel free to express your displeasure with Schupp Companies – Park Street Development.”
Kitty O’Shea’s owner Danny McFadden has been engaged in a costly legal battle with his landlord, the Schupp Companies, over what McFadden says is an attempt to evict him so the property can be redeveloped. McFadden claims that he still has four more years on his lease, while landlord Ray Schupp says the lease ended in 2010.
“He’s been trying to force me out,” McFadden said in an interview last week. “I’ve spent hundreds of thousands fighting this case… I guess they think that I’m going to go away, that when my money runs out I’m going to close shop. As far as I’m concerned, my lease runs to 2015.”
When we talked last week, McFadden said he was appealing a court decision against him to the Virginia Supreme Court, with the hope that it would give him some additional time to look for a new space to lease in Arlington. Now, he says he’s being forced to move out despite the appeal. McFadden is considering transferring his employees to Murphy’s Law, a pub he owns in the Tenleytown neighborhood of D.C., while the appeal goes through the court system over the next 4-5 months.
Last year the state Supreme Court ruled against McFadden in his effort to appeal his eviction. McFadden said he was seeking a trial by a jury, but instead has been subject to early rulings by judges.
“I’ve asked for jury trials, I haven’t had a day in court,” he said. “Every case is a summary judgment for the landlord.”
It’s not clear what will replace Kitty O’Shea’s at this point. The entire block is currently subject to a rezoning request, which would convert it from a low-rise commercial zone to a higher density mixed-use residential zone. An earlier attempt by Schupp to rezone the block for use as a hotel was shot down in 2009.
County staff have voiced support for the current rezoning proposal, which would likely result in a new apartment complex being built on the site. But Schupp says that it could be 2-5 years before the necessary rezoning, financing and permitting process go through. In the meantime, he’s looking for a new business to lease the space on a short-term basis.
Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance has released a statement blaming Arlington for the loss of transit improvement funds that would have been generated by the HOT lanes. A key factor in scrapping the HOT lanes project was Arlington County’s lawsuit against the state. The county questioned turning over the project to a foreign company, said the project was poorly designed and said the plan could cause more traffic congestion.
NVTA says Arlington, not other communities which supported the HOT lanes proposal, should have to pay for future transit improvements. The group suggests dipping into the $60 million earmarked for Arlington highways and transit in the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Six-Year Improvement Plan. NTVA also put forth the idea of stripping funds from the county’s proposed streetcar line, which would run along Columbia Pike and Crystal Drive.
Arlington County withdrew its lawsuit in February, days after VDOT announced it would no longer pursue HOT lanes on the Arlington and Alexandria portions of I-395.
In February, a U.S. District Court Judge dismissed a lawsuit against Arlington County filed by Wag More Dogs (2606 S. Oxford Street). With the assistance of the the Institute for Justice, a Ballston-based libertarian public interest law firm, Wag More Dogs owner Kim Houghton had claimed that the county’s crackdown on the store’s colorful wall mural, which faced the Shirlington dog park, was unconstitutional.
Today, Houghton and the Institute for Justice announced that they have asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to take the case — which revolves around the method by which Arlington County decides what is ‘art’ and what is an impermissible commercial sign.
“The U.S. Constitution gives everyone the right to speak and the right to earn an honest living,” said Robert Frommer, the attorney who’s representing Wag More Dogs. “Kim is asking the U.S. Court of Appeals to vindicate both of these rights and let her share her artwork with the dog park once again.”
The appeals court will now decide whether to hear the case.
Update at 6:40 p.m. — Arlington County Attorney Steven MacIsaac has released a statement about the appeal.
In February, the U.S. District Court agreed with Arlington that this issue is about commercial sign regulation, and the judge found Arlington’s sign ordinance to be fair and reasonable. In her ruling, Judge Binkema said that the mural is a “classic form of branding and advertising,” and meets the definition of a sign , which is, therefore, subject to the County’s sign ordinance. The judge found that the County’s sign ordinance is a valid, content-neutral restriction on the size of signs in the M-1 zoning district, even noting that , by saying the ordinance was content-based, Wag More Dogs was “barking up the wrong tree.”
We are aware that the owner has filed an appeal to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, and has just now filed her brief. We will now file our response in accord with court rules.
HOT Lanes Firm May Walk – One of the two companies that was tapped to built High Occupancy Toll lanes on I-95/395 may walk away from the project if the federal environmental review lasts more than 12 months. The CEO of Melbourne-based Transurban told a newspaper that long delays, including delays caused by Arlington County’s lawsuit challenging the project, has prompted him to think about cutting his losses. [The Australian]
County to Designate ‘Essential’ Historic Properties — Arlington County is scheduled to designate 23 new “essential” historic properties, including garden apartment complexes, old shopping centers and the Arlington Cinema ‘n’ Drafthouse. The designation will do little by itself to protect buildings from development, however. [Sun Gazette]
The suit was filed in response to the County Board’s denial of a request by Bishop O’Connell high school to add lights to its athletic fields.
The Diocese issued the following statement tonight about its legal action.
“The Catholic Diocese of Arlington has filed an action in Arlington County Circuit Court challenging the Arlington County Board of Supervisors’ March 15, 2011, denial of a proposal to add lighting to existing athletic fields at Bishop J. O’Connell High School in Arlington – the addition of which would afford its students the same opportunities as public high schools in the region.
Arlington County had previously approved similar lights at its own public high schools which, like Bishop O’Connell, are located adjacent to residential neighborhoods. In fact, the fields of the public high schools – Washington-Lee, Yorktown and Wakefield – are close to a greater number of homes than those of Bishop O’Connell, as O’Connell’s football field is located across the street from a county elementary school and park.
As a matter of law and of fundamental fairness, there is no reasonable basis for the Board to treat Bishop O’Connell in a very different manner than the county treats its own high schools. The Diocese’s circuit court complaint, filed April 12, 2011, notes that “Bishop O’Connell and the County’s public high schools are similarly situated in all relevant respects with regard to lighted athletic fields. The Board’s denial treats Bishop O’Connell and the Diocese, religious institutions, on terms that are different from the public high schools.”
The Board’s denial of Bishop O’Connell’s application for a Use Permit amendment therefore was discriminatory, the complaint concludes, because “there is no basis, rational or otherwise, for the Board’s discrimination between such applications.”
“We want to continue to improve the school and continue to offer an excellent faith-based education to the citizens of Arlington who choose it for their children,” said diocesan Superintendent of Schools Sr. Bernadette McManigal, B.V.M. “Athletics are but one aspect of a total high school education, but it is an important one. Allowing us to improve the athletic fields helps us to continue to offer excellent faith-based education.”
The proposed lighting would benefit not only Bishop O’Connell students, but the whole community, as the proposal included use of the fields by Arlington County’s recreation department. The fields also could be used by Marymount University’s NCAA Division III track, field hockey and baseball teams.
Bishop O’Connell has been located on the same site on Little Falls Road in Arlington for 50 years. It is one of five Catholic schools in Arlington County – Bishop O’Connell and four parochial elementary/middle schools – with a combined enrollment of 2,140 students. Based upon the Arlington Public Schools’ expenditures per student, these five Catholic schools save the taxpayers over $41.7 million per year. Bishop O’Connell alone saves taxpayers over $21 million per year.”
Earlier this week county officials declined to comment about the suit.
HOT Lanes Lawsuit Bill Reaches $2 Million — The county emerged victorious in February when VDOT abandoned its plan to build High Occupancy Toll lanes on I-395. But the legal battle has proven costly. The lawsuit Arlington filed against the project has cost county taxpayers nearly $2 million. [Sun Gazette]
East Falls Church Dissent Goes Both Ways — Sometimes it can be hard to please everybody in Arlington. Charlie Clark reports that there were three different camps at Saturday’s County Board meeting with respect to the board’s vote on the East Falls Church development plan. One group wanted more development than was called for, another vocal group wanted less development, and the people who drafted the plan thought it struck a good balance. [Falls Church News-Press]
Spout Run Bald Eagle Killed –Remember the nesting bald eagles we reported on two months ago? Some jerk shot and ultimately killed the mother eagle with an arrow, according to Patch. (Scroll to the end of the article)
Editor’s Note: Patch has retracted part of the above article. (See comments)