Arlington Funeral Home at 3901 N. Fairfax Drive in Virginia Square was demolished last June in anticipation of the construction of a new mixed use development. For now, the site instead serves as a temporary surface parking lot.
The County Board approved the development’s site plan at its meeting on January 21, 2012. The idea is to build a 10-story building with three levels of underground parking. The development would contain office space, ground floor retail and a black box theater.
Per the site plan, the developer may use the land as a surface parking lot for a period of three years, which would end in January 2015. After that, the developer does have the option to ask the county for an extension on the site plan if a building permit has not yet been applied for and approved. That would keep the parking lot there for an amount of time agreed upon in the extension.
The site sat empty for months, but in the past couple of weeks workers from Mercedes-Benz of Arlington (585 N. Glebe Road) have been spotted dropping off dozens of vehicles in the 85 space Virginia Square parking lot. An employee at the dealership confirmed that the business is leasing parking space from the developer.
This location is reportedly one of several lots Mercedes-Benz of Arlington uses for such purposes. Apparently, strong sales have prompted an increase in the volume of cars the dealership keeps on hand, and it doesn’t have enough space to keep all the vehicles on its own lot. The employee said leasing parking space is not an ideal situation in the long-term and Mercedes continues to be on the lookout for spaces suitable for permanent expansion.
As part of the agreement for a parking lot, the developer is required to abide by a number of conditions laid out in the approved site plan. For example, the property must be kept in good condition, hedges must be installed as screening from headlights and no new driveways may be added.
So far there’s no definite word on how long the parking lot will remain before construction begins on the new development. County staff confirms, however, that the developer has applied for two permits — one for shoring and sheeting, and one for building.
Arlington’s food trucks may have an easier time adhering to the law if the County Board adopts changes to an ordinance this weekend. The parking issues that have been plaguing food truck vendors and resulted in legal battles in recent months will come up at Saturday’s board meeting.
Proposed ordinance changes include extending the amount of time food trucks can park in one space from one hour to two hours. Currently, food trucks must move after one hour, but the ordinance wording is vague and doesn’t specify how far the vehicle must move, causing problems with enforcement. That’s another issue board members will examine on Saturday.
Food truck vendors have argued that the 60 minute rule hurts business because they were often forced to move in the middle of a lunch rush, or else face a citation. County staff appears to agree, based on the following excerpt from the staff report:
This time limitation is challenging for vendors and customers when typical lunch hours are between 12:00 noon and 2:00 p.m. A vendor is not able to adequately serve customers and patrons are unable to purchase lunch if their hours don’t correspond. Further, the overwhelming majority (approximately 90 percent) of parking meters within the Metro Station Areas are for at least two (2) hours.
Under the proposed ordinance amendments, the two hour limit would only cover time when vendors are actively selling to customers, not food prep time or clean up time. After a vendor’s time expires, sales would be required to stop and the vehicle would need to be moved to another marked parking space. If the parking area does not have metered spaces, the vehicle would need to be moved at least 25 feet.
Last month, a representative for the Food Truck Association of Metropolitan Washington told ARLnow.com that the organization supports the county’s proposed ordinance changes.
It’s the First Day of Spring — At 7:02 this morning, astronomical winter ended and spring officially began. Spring also means longer days. Currently, we’re gaining about two and a half minutes of daylight per day. [Capital Weather Gang]
EFC Has Fullest Metro Parking Lot — East Falls Church has the fullest parking lot in the Metro system, with a 120 percent usage rate. Demand for the lot is only expected to increase when the Silver Line opens. [Washington Examiner]
Playground Coming to Long Bridge Park — The Arlington County Board yesterday approved $186,000 in funding for a new playground at Long Bridge Park, near Crystal City. [Sun Gazette]
La Tagliatella to Open in Shirlington — La Tagliatella, which is starting to wrap up work on its new restaurant in Clarendon, will be opening a second Arlington restaurant in the former Extra Virgin space in Shirlington. La Tagliatella is a global, European-based Italian restaurant chain. The Arlington restaurants will be the company’s third and fourth locations in the U.S. [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Board Approves Neighborhood Projects — As expected, the County Board yesterday approved $2.5 million in funding for five Neighborhood Conservation projects. The funds will come from bonds approved by Arlington voters. [Arlington County]
Water Change Underway — The annual, temporary switch from chloramine to chlorine as the tap water disinfectant is beginning, as part of a flush of the water system. During this time, Arlington residents may notice a change in the taste and smell of their drinking water. The water system’s “spring cleaning” is scheduled to run through April 29. [Arlington County]
Ballston Garage to Get $3.5 Million in Repairs — The Arlington County Board on Saturday awarded a contract of up to $3.5 million for structural repairs to the eighth level of the Ballston Public Parking Garage. The eighth level of the garage was added in 2006, but the concrete was found to be deficient for long-term use — prompting claims that resulted in the county settling with the original contractor for an undisclosed sum. Kettler Capitals Iceplex, which is located on the top level of the garage, will remain open during the construction, which is expected to take 5-6 months. [Sun Gazette]
Spring Yard Waste Collection Begins – Updated at 12:20 p.m. — Arlington’s annual spring yard waste collection began Monday. During the collection, which runs through April 26, residents can get paper bags full of yard waste picked up the next business day after their regular trash collection day. [Arlington County]
Pentagon Row Ice Rink Closes — Yesterday (Monday) was the last day of the season for ice skating at Pentagon Row. The Pentagon Row ice rink is now being dismantled. Skating is expected to resume in November. [Pentagon Row]
Under the current ordinance, known as Chapter 30, food trucks are only allowed to remain parked for up to one hour. After that, they must move — but the current ordinance is vague and doesn’t specifically say how far they must move. Also, the ordinance contains contradictory language that can be interpreted as suggesting there is no time limit.
Food truck owners argue that the 60 minute limit hurts their business, as it can force them to shut down and move in the midst of the breakfast or lunch rush, even when customers are lined up. Since the trucks frequent busy Rosslyn, Ballston and Crystal City, that often means spending valuable sales time searching for a new parking space.
Food truck owners, fed up with getting ticketed for loitering when they refused to move, recently started mounting legal challenges against the ordinance, attacking the vague language. Last month they succeeded in getting prosecutors to drop loitering charges against one truck that was ticketed after police said it didn’t move “far enough.”
At the time, county officials acknowledged that the ordinance caused challenges for food vendors.
“We realize that the 60-minute time limit is challenging for vendors and for customers, and we are working to change it,” Arlington County spokeswoman Mary Curtius told ARLnow.com.
True to that promise, county staff is now proposing that the food truck parking limit be raised to “the lesser of two (2) hours or the lawful time limit prescribed for the respective parking meter zone.” After that, the a food truck must only move to another marked parking space or 25 feet in the absence of marked spaces.
The County Board is set to vote to advertise a hearing on the proposed ordinance change on Saturday. After the hearing, to be held on April 20, the Board would then vote on whether to actually change the ordinance.
The one hour street vending limit was set in 2008, after the County Board voted to raise the limit from 5 minutes. From the county staff report:
Since those changes in 2008, there has been continued growth in vendors — mobile food trucks, carts and tables have increased in populated areas of Arlington. Social media has assisted with marketing for vendors, and customers have flocked to them. Today, Arlington has approximately 100 licensed mobile food vendors. The increased popularity of the mobile food vendors has raised questions about the regulations, including the amount of time permitted for vending, appropriate locations for vending, and the overall enforcement of Chapter 30.
Chapter 30’s current language has made it difficult for vendors, does not accommodate customers appropriately, and creates an enforcement challenge. Enforcement is time consuming and the ordinance does not provide clear-cut specificity. Additionally, a thorough reading of the ordinance highlighted an issue in which the construct of the language in Section 30-9 allows for a departure from the original intent of a time limitation for vending to a permissive allowance of vending anywhere, with no time limitation, so long as the vending occurs between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.
“This interim amendment addresses several inconsistencies and is just one element of the comprehensive updates that will benefit all of Arlington’s businesses and customers,” said Arlington Economic Development spokeswoman Cara O’Donnell. “As we move forward in the process, we’ll be having conversations with all stakeholders for input.”
An association of local food truck owners say they’re happy with the county’s proposal.
“The Food Truck Association of Metropolitan Washington is extremely pleased that Arlington is continuing its efforts to make the County a place where small businesses like ours can grow,” said Doug Povich, owner of the Red Hook Lobster Pound truck. ”Of all the jurisdictions in the area, Arlington seems to understand best how manage the various interests of all stakeholders in a way that benefits everyone. We look forward to continuing our work with the County as it is moves into the next stage of its regulatory process.”
Changes have been approved for parking regulations at the county’s schools and recreational facilities.
At its meeting on Saturday (February 23), the County Board voted unanimously to amend the Zoning Ordinance, which was necessary in order to modify parking regulations for elementary and middle schools and noncommercial recreational facilities. The amendments allow the Board to change the number of required parking spaces at the facilities, which it previously was not permitted to do.
The approved revisions reduce the number of spaces needed at elementary and middle schools. Additionally, the Board now has the ability to alter requirements at individual sites and to locate a portion of the parking spaces off-site.
County staff members have been looking into parking requirements since the issue arose during the public review process for the addition to Ashlawn Elementary School, the new school to be built on the Williamsburg Middle School campus and the planned aquatics facility at Long Bridge Park. Parking demand at all the sites in question was deemed less than what was required by the Zoning Ordinance.
“With APS expanding some facilities and adding new ones to keep up with growing enrollment, we needed to come up with a new approach to parking for our schools and public facilities,” said Arlington County Board Chairman Walter Tejada. “The changes the Board is making in the Zoning Ordinance will ensure that our schools provide for adequate, but not excessive, parking and have plans in place to reduce parking demand.”
All schools and public facilities must also submit a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan to ensure the sites do not build excessive amounts of parking, and that strategies to reduce the demand for parking are examined.
At its meeting on Saturday (January 26), the County Board is being asked to provide authorization for staff to advertise public hearings regarding the proposed amendments. The changes include revising parking standards for elementary and middle schools, permitting off-site vehicle parking at community swimming pools and allowing the County Board to modify parking standards.
The issue first arose during the public review process for the addition to Ashlawn Elementary School and the new school to be built on the Williamsburg campus. Arlington Public Schools felt that using the existing Zoning Ordinance for parking requirements would result in an excessive amount of parking. For instance, the addition to Ashlawn would require 228 parking spaces under the ordinance, when APS says it only needs about 100.
“That is way more than we need and it means we would lose open space and ball fields,” said John Chadwick, Director of Design and Construction for APS. “If we do that and we lose open space, ball fields and green space, that sort of counters what everyone is trying to do in Arlington.”
Another concern is that the ordinance requires all of the parking spaces to be on site. One of the proposed amendments would allow for off-site parking on the street or in other lots, like the lots of private swimming pools, which are typically open during the summer but closed during most of the school year. County staff offered the example of Ashlawn’s ongoing shared parking agreement with the Dominion Hills Pool.
Residents who live close to the affected schools haven’t all been supportive of the measure considering it would force more cars into neighborhood streets.
“We are having some push back from neighbors, but very few of our schools provide the number of spaces currently required under this ordinance,” Chadwick said.
The ordinance is not retroactive, so schools already in existence would not have to suddenly rework their parking situation; only new schools, such as at Williamsburg, or school expansions, such as Ashlawn, need to comply.
The changes would also alter the definition of “design capacity.” The new parking proposal suggests allotting one teacher parking spot for every 7.5 students, and one visitor spot for every 40 students.
“We’re very much in favor of the plan and the change and we’ve worked with them [the county] all the way. We really need to get this change approved so we can move forward with the Ashlawn campus and Williamsburg site,” Chadwick said. “This is all good from our point of view. I know it’s a bit complicated, but it actually makes sense.”
Similar parking issues have been identified with the county’s planned aquatics facility at Long Bridge Park. That prompted County Manager Barbara Donnellan to ask staff to examine not only regulations covering school parking, but county recreational facilities as well. As with the schools, parking demand at the aquatics center site was deemed lower than the existing requirements in the Zoning Ordinance.
While some of the amendments deal specifically with parking either at schools or recreational facilities, there are also general provisions covering both categories. County staff recommends that one of the general principles should be to base parking requirements on average daily use and not peak facility uses. Additionally, it recommends sites be examined individually to determine parking needs instead of forcing all facilities to conform to the same regulations. Such a recommendation would be fulfilled by the proposed amendment allowing the County Board to grant special parking exceptions, which it currently cannot do.
The public hearing with the Planning Commission is scheduled for February 11 and the one with the County Board is scheduled for February 23.
About 15 vehicles in the garage were broken in to Monday afternoon, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. The cars each had their door lock “punched,” allowing a thief to gain access to the inside of the vehicle. Valuables like wallets, purses, credit cards, cash, phones and GPS units were taken.
Sternbeck said the suspect or suspects moved from car to car, sometimes leaving items stolen from one vehicle in another vehicle. The thefts all took place between 12:30 and 1:30 p.m., Sternbeck said.
Thefts are fairly common in the Pentagon City mall parking garage, though a large series of thefts such as this doesn’t happen very often. In July, thieves struck at least 10 vehicles, including two police vehicles, in one afternoon.
“That’s one of the known hot spots for thieves due the the number of vehicles,” Sternbeck said of the parking garage. “[The mall is] typically a place where you leave valuables inside your vehicle. It’s easy pickins for these criminals.”
Police advise shoppers to keep valuables out of plain sight — perhaps locked in a trunk or a glove compartment — when parking one’s car in a public area.
A number of streets will be closed tomorrow (Saturday) for the annual Clarendon Day festival and race.
The Clarendon Day 10K, 5K and Kids Dash races will take place between 8:00 and 10:30 a.m. During that time, drivers should expect closures along Wilson Boulevard from N. Fillmore Street in Clarendon to Route 110 in Rosslyn. Parts of northbound Route 110 and N. Kent Street will also be closed.
A large central section of Clarendon will be off-limits to motorists for most of the day for the festival – which includes live music, entertainment, arts and craft, food and beer. Closures will be in place from 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. along the following streets:
- Wilson Blvd from Washington Blvd to N. Garfield Street
- Clarendon Blvd from Washington Blvd to N. Garfield Street
- N. Highland Street between N. 11th Street and N. Hartford Street
Street parking along the race routes and around the festival area will be restricted, and police are expected to tow cars that are still parked in the temporary no parking zone Saturday morning.
Disclosure: Clarendon Day is an ARLnow.com advertiser
A U.S. Postal Service mail delivery truck flipped on its side in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven store this afternoon.
The accident happened just after 1:00 p.m. outside the 7-Eleven at the corner of Old Dominion Drive and N. Vernon Street, across from the Lee Heights Shops. The mail carrier who was driving the truck told police he was trying to park when his foot somehow became stuck against the accelerator, causing the truck to hop the curb and do a 360 degree turn across the southbound lanes of Old Dominion Drive, before finally striking a parked sedan and flipping on its side.
The driver’s leg was pinned between the vehicle and the pavement, but a group of witnesses managed to lift the truck just enough to free him, according to police. He was then able to climb out of the truck on his own power.
The driver suffered lacerations to his leg and arm, but did not require transport to the hospital. In fact, he remained on scene to help workers transfer mail from the truck to other postal vehicles.
The postal carrier was given a citation by police for failure to maintain his vehicle.
Detectives are investigating 10 reports of car break-ins at the mall parking garage yesterday, including five reports of larcenies from auto (items stolen from inside the car) and five reports of attempted larcenies.
Police believe the incidents took place between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Two of the victim vehicles belonged to law enforcement agencies, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. Sternbeck wasn’t able to confirm which agencies were involved, except to say that the vehicles did not belong to Arlington County. ARLnow.com hears that at least one of the vehicles was an undercover Fairfax County police car.
Sternbeck said that mall-goers can help protect themselves from theft by making sure to lock their vehicles and by keeping valuables like iPods, GPS units and cash hidden in a locked glove box or trunk. Shoppers are also asked to report suspicious activity in such parking garages to police or mall security.
Mixed Reaction to Electronic Textbooks — Electronic textbooks are getting mixed reviews from Arlington Public Schools students. Some say they appreciate the accessibility and update-ability of the electronic books, but others say the books can be glitch-y and are not easy to search. [Sun Gazette]
Topping Out for New Ballston Hotel — A “topping out ceremony” was held on Friday for the new Residence Inn hotel within the Founders Square development in Ballston. The ceremony was held to celebrate the last of the building’s 11 floors being built. The hotel is expected to open mid-2013. [CityBiz Real Estate]
Kenmore Students Donate Bags for Dog Dirt — This morning the 6th grade science classes at Kenmore Middle School are being recognized for their donation of about 10,000 used plastic bags to the group Arlington Dogs. The bags will be reused for pet waste disposal at Arlington County’s eight dog parks. By reducing the amount of pet waste in the park, the bag donation should also improve the water quality of Arlington’s streams.
Dogma May Close N. Arlington Store — Dogma Bakery’s store in the Lee Harrison Shopping Center is in financial jeopardy, according to owner Sheila Raebel. The gourmet dog bakery and boutique has reportedly been losing money for the past two years, and last year’s opening of a Petco store across the street likely hasn’t helped matters. Dogma’s Shirlington location, however, is expected to become profitable at some point this year. [Examiner.com]
Arlington Parking Meter Slogan, Explained — In case you were wondering, the slogan on Arlington County’s parking meters – ”All May Park. All Must Pay” — originated in 1994. The phrase was coined to succinctly describe a policy change: the county stopped allowing those with disabled placards to park for free, due to rampant abuse of the system by the non-disabled. [Washington Post]
Parking has been temporarily restricted along the side of Old Lee Highway due to a lane striping error.
The VDOT-owned street was recently repaved, but the crew that added the double yellow line apparently failed to take parking on the eastbound side of the road into account. As a result, eastbound traffic has to partially cross into the westbound lane to get around parked cars. Residents worried that this posed a grave danger to drivers.
“It’s only a matter of time before a serious accident occurs,” one resident said on the Cherrydale neighborhood listserv.
Arlington County has now put up temporary no parking signs between Taylor and Randolph Streets, while VDOT prepares to re-stripe the lanes. Arlington County Director of Transportation Dennis Leach told the Cherrydale listserv that the work may be performed over the weekend.
“Weather permitting, parking and striping should [be] normal by Tuesday,” Leach said Wednesday night.
May Day — It’s the first of May and, after a relatively cool April, the weather is finally expected to warm up today. [Capital Weather Gang]
Worries Over Westover Farmers Market Parking — As part of a compromise between the organizers of the new Westover Farmers Market and the Arlington County Board, the market will close at noon (instead of 1:00 p.m., as originally proposed) and will provide attendants to direct patrons to designated parking areas. Still, some businesses and residents are worried that market-goers may cause parking woes in the neighborhood. [Arlington Mercury]
Defense Contractor Relocating to Arlington — DRS Technologies, a military contractor, is relocating its corporate headquarters to Crystal City from New Jersey. The move is expected to bring at least 75 new jobs to Arlington, on top of the 26 employees who already work in an existing DRS office in Crystal City. Gov. Bob McDonnell reportedly initiated talks with DRS about moving to Virginia while attending an air show in England. [Washington Business Journal]
Photos: Children Reading to Dogs — The library has posted some photos from a recent Paws-to-Read session at Westover Branch Library. The Paws-to-Read program, which is now in four Arlington libraries, gives children an opportunity to practice reading aloud to a cuddly, non-judgmental audience. [Arlington Public Library]
Westover Farmers Market Approved — The County Board on Saturday unanimously approved a use permit for the proposed Westover Farmers Market. The market will operate on Sundays starting on May 6. [Arlington County]
Complaints About Parking Meters at New Park — The Arlington Soccer Association has raised concerns about parking meters at the recently-opened Long Bridge Park. It’s expensive for parents and referees to park their cars in the Long Bridge Park lot, Arlington County Board members were told over the weekend. Board members asked county staff to study the impacts of allowing free parking on Saturdays. [Sun Gazette]
‘Earth Day Every Day’ in Arlington – Sunday might have been the nationally-recognized environmental awareness day known as Earth Day, but to the county government “every day is Earth Day in Arlington.” In a press release, the county touted some recent environmental initiatives, including obtaining LEED Silver certification for Fire Station No. 3, reducing county government electric and natural gas use by 3 percent, and work in progress to install 153 energy-efficient LED streetlights along Columbia Pike. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Alex