Arlington County appears ready to move forward with selling Rosslyn Highlands Park to a developer in exchange for a new fire station, and some residents are protesting the deal.
This Saturday, a new group called Friends of Rosslyn Highlands Park will host a rally at the park (1555 Wilson Blvd) to try to garner support and more signatures for its petition to the Arlington County Board. The rally will run from 10:00 a.m-noon and the group says it has invited all members of the County Board and the six announced candidates to attend and listen to park advocates’ concern.
Of particular concern to the group: the revelation that Arlington signed a letter of intent with developer Penzance to trade the piece of land for a new fire station in January 2013, six months before the Western Rosslyn Area Planning Study (WRAPS) was launched.
“Friends of Rosslyn Highlands Park, along with neighboring civic associations and countless citizens, are dismayed that a negotiation behind closed doors would threaten, and in effect predetermine the fate of, one of Arlington’s cherished neighborhood parks,” Katie Elmore, spokeswoman for Friends of Rosslyn Highlands Park, said in a press release. “Such action by the County Board corrodes public belief in the ‘Arlington Way’ and the viability of future public processes.”
The WRAPS Working Group was formed by the County Board to determine the best mix of uses for the area between 18th Street N., Wilson Blvd, N. Quinn Street and the edge of the 1555 Wilson Blvd office building. The WRAPS group has met regularly since the summer of 2013 and the County Board will vote on the area’s future next month.
The park currently includes a small playground, basketball court, parking lot and some open green space; a total of 30,182 square feet. It’s adjacent to a 45,000 square foot playing field behind the Wilson School that will stay in place when the site becomes the future home of H-B Woodlawn.
The proposal that county staff recommended to the Board earlier this month would reduce county park space to 11,500 square feet, but add a publicly-accessible plaza in between new high-rise, mixed-use office and residential buildings.
The proposal also calls for Penzance to construct a N. Pierce Street extension between Wilson and 18th, even though some residents said they preferred an extended N. Ode Street, slightly farther east. County staff say Ode Street would interfere with traffic from the new fire station and the new school.
While preserving open space and parkland has been a stated County Board priority, the panel has made it clear that it would be willing to sell the land in exchange for fulfilling other priorities. Residents say not only is the county selling one of the last remaining green spaces in Rosslyn, but it’s not even getting a good deal.
“This is trading a public good for private gain, the sale price of the land is significantly undervalued, the financial trade off is short-sighted and not ‘fiscally responsible,’ and the board has been deaf to the input of residents on this issue,” Elizabeth Schill, who lives nearby, told ARLnow.com in an email. “This is not a NIMBY issue, but rather one in which we are opposed to the sale of rare and irreplaceable parkland to a private, commercial developer at below-market rates for purely private gain.”
Some of county staff’s proposals for Rosslyn Highlands Park’s replacements include more urbanized versions of playgrounds, or basketball courts integrated with plaza seating like the new plaza on 19th Street N. But the Friends of Rosslyn Highlands Park say it just won’t be the same as the park they’ve been bringing their children to for years.
“The park is a second backyard, a friendly place,” Friends of Rosslyn Highlands Park leader Anna Duran said in an email. “The park for us is a place to relax, a place to nod in humanity at other humans, perhaps unknown at the time, but just a moment away from friendliness. There, we’ve gotten much further with making friends than in passing each other on the street — and much further than in passing through a jungle of tall business buildings.”
Photo, bottom, courtesy of Anna Duran
In that environment, a group of parents is petitioning Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy — for a new language program.
Following a largely successful parent campaign for foreign language classes in elementary schools, now some parents want APS to go one step further and introduce a French immersion program. There’s already two Spanish immersion programs, at Claremont Elementary and Key Elementary, and this group would like to see something similar for Français.
From a MoveOn.org petition the group has started:
Dear Arlington Residents,
We need to expand language opportunities in APS to serve a critical number of francophone residents. Bilingualism increases mental flexibility for children and allows them to perform better in math, problem-solving and logic skills. It helps build self-esteem, creativity, and get a head start in competition for universities and jobs.
Right now, families have to leave Arlington to McLean and MD for French immersion Programs.
So far, the petition has gathered 88 signatures.
In New York City, according to an article linked to on the group’s Facebook page, public schools have three dual-language programs — Spanish, Chinese and French — and the French programs are paid for in part by the French government.
The Columbia Forest Civic Association, Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (V.O.I.C.E.) and residents of the Carlyle House and Columbia Grove apartments have joined together to support the petition. They plan to be in attendance on Saturday morning to present the petition to the Arlington County Board.
A V.O.I.C.E. press release cites police data saying there have been 33 collisions at the intersection over the past five years, including four involving pedestrians and one involving a cyclist.
“A pedestrian-activated flashing yellow light was installed here several years ago but has proven inadequate as many drivers simply ignore it,” the press release states. “Many schoolchildren, seniors, and commuters need to cross here on foot every morning and afternoon. Cars pass through the intersection from 9 lanes and abutting driveways, and drivers attempting left turns are forced to protrude into the lanes. Even for careful drivers it is impossible to navigate safely.”
The petition has 219 signatures from residents of the neighborhood, and the petition says the traffic light now has the support of the county’s transportation staff and the intersection meets state traffic standards for a signal.
“All that remains is for the County Board to agree to expedite the release of the funding necessary — estimated at roughly $400,000 — to have the light installed,” according to the release.
Photo via Google Maps
The tree, according to an online petition the neighbors have launched, is more than 200 years old and is the largest Wildenow’s Oak — a natural hybrid of a black oak and southern red oak — in Virginia. It’s on Arlington’s list of “Champion Trees.”
“Local naturalists have examined it and found it to be in excellent health,” the petition states. “In its long life, the tree has survived the widespread felling of Arlington’s trees during the Civil War and the neighborhood’s transformation from farms to a suburb dotted with neat rows of brick colonials, Cape Cods and ramblers.”
The lot on which the tree sits is slated to be redeveloped by DS Homes, a small construction company based in Manassas. When reached by ARLnow.com, DS Homes employee Manny Carneiro said “the plan right now is to save the tree.”
Nonetheless, Carneiro pointed out that the tree is on the lot and things could change. At the very least, DS Homes will have to trim some of the massive tree’s branches during construction, when it tears down the current home, built in 1950, for a new one. DS Homes bought the property to redevelop last month, according to Arlington County property records.
The online petition has 324 signatures as of 10:55 a.m. The petition’s organizers have a goal of 400 signatures.
Photo via iPetitions
(Updated at 1:10 p.m.) One of the proposals on the table for Arlington Public Schools’ middle school seat expansion plan is moving the H-B Woodlawn program to the Reed School/Westover Library site, a proposal that has caught the ire of many Westover residents.
The Reed/Westover building currently houses the Children’s School — the early education program for young children of APS employees — and the Integration Station, which serves pre-K students with disabilities. The building underwent a $22.5 million renovation in 2009, by far the most recent project of any of the sites APS is considering for expansion.
A group called “Concerned Citizens of Westover” has launched a Change.org petition asking the Arlington School Board to not move the H-B Woodlawn program to the Reed/Westover building. The petition has amassed 973 supporters as of publication.
“The proposed new HB Woodlawn renovation, would build over the recent costly renovation, displacing The Children’s School, the Integration Station, impacting the current Westover Library and farmers market and would reduce/change the green space and fields in Westover,” the petition states.
Two of the options currently on the table would see H-B Woodlawn move to the building with more construction: one would see the Stratford building on Vacation Lane expanded into a 1,300-seat neighborhood middle school, and another would expand the Stratford building to 1,000 seats and build a 300-seat addition somewhere else.
Other options on the table include moving H-B Woodlawn to the Wilson School site and expanding the Stratford site, or building a 1,300-seat neighborhood middle school at the Wilson School site, an option members of the School Board are leaning against.
A recent APS staff presentation suggests that Reed is “underutilized” and may be a suitable location for H-B Woodlawn because it would allow the school to maintain its current size and provide more green space than the Wilson School site.
According to APS staff, the 2009 Reed/Westover renovations were done to allow the building to structurally support future expansion, but expansion was originally planned for an elementary school, considering that Swanson Middle School is about a third of a mile away. Concern about too many students in a two block area of Westover is listed as a “challenge.”
In addition to the petition, Westover residents created a video explaining why they oppose moving the H-B Woodlawn program to the building in their neighborhood. They have also created a video talking about how to “use Reed the right way” (below) — by using it as an elementary school instead of as a secondary school.
The School Board plans to vote on Dec. 18 on which middle school expansion plan to move forward with. The total budget for the 1,300-seat expansion is $126 million, and the Capital Improvement Plan the School Board passed this summer requires those seats to open by September 2019.
Photo via Google Maps
Petition to Protect Thomas Jefferson Park — Some Arlington residents have started a petition to protect Thomas Jefferson Park from redevelopment. Last month, the county announced it had commissioned a working group to study the land around Thomas Jefferson Middle School, including TJ Park, for the site of a new elementary school. [WTOP]
Arlington Mill Residences Nominated for Award — Affordable Housing Finance Magazine has selected The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing’s (APAH) Arlington Mill Residences as one of 34 finalists in the annual Reader’s Choice Awards competition. It’s the only nominated property in the D.C. metro area. Readers can see the other finalists online and vote for the Arlington Mill Residences in the Best Overall Development category. [Affordable Housing Finance Magazine]
Rosebud Film Festival Accepting Entries — The Rosebud Film and Video Festival is accepting entries for the 2014 competition. The festival is open exclusively to Virginia, D.C. and Maryland film artists. A panel will select 20 nominees to have their work screened at Artisphere in January. Five winners will be chosen from that pool and will be announced at a gala at Clarendon Ballroom. [Arlington Independent Media]
Chili Cookoff Competitors Wanted — The Arlington County Democratic Committee is looking for people to compete in its annual chili cookoff. The event will take place on Labor Day (Sept. 1). [InsideNova]
A group of residents in North Arlington have launched a petition, aimed at county Director of Parks and Recreation Jane Rudolph, to protest the conditions of the softball field at Greenbrier Park.
Diamond #1 — which is the home field for the Yorktown High School varsity and JV softball teams and is used by the Arlington Girls Softball Association (AGSA) – has several patches of dirt in the outfield grass and the petitioners say the warning track between the grass and the outfield wall has drainage problems to the point that, after it rains, water “collects in deep pools several inches deep along the entire block wall in left field.”
“The $10 million renovation of Greenbrier Park which was completed in 2007 is a perfect example of what Arlington County can do when constructing new facilities. It was beautiful,” the petition, submitted by AGSA Vice President David Lansing, states. “It is also a perfect example of how Arlington County cannot seem to maintain these expensive, state of the art facilities to a level dictated by their initial expense. Focusing on the softball field, it has deteriorated in 7 short years from the pride of our softball community to an embarrassment.”
The petition says that, after the outfield grass deteriorated, the ACSA, Yorktown officials and the county hired an outside contractor to repair it. Since then, “[t]he grass turf is now in far worse condition than before this $20K project was started last fall.”
“It is overgrown with weeds and large clumps of un-mowed clover. It has large bare spots with no grass whatsoever and only dirt showing… Our non-profit organization has essentially thrown away thousands of dollars with nothing to show for it other than the worst high school level diamond field in all of Northern Virginia.”
Other issues the petition identifies are a lack of an adequate mix for the infield dirt, resulting in “sink holes,” and a lack of trash collection that allows trash cans to be “overflowing” with trash “before any attempt at removal occurs.”
The petition asks Rudolph to “direct the Field Maintenance crews under her authority to correct several major deficiencies that have gone unchecked at Greenbrier Park.”
Rudolph, who joined Arlington County as parks and rec director in January 2013, says the department is working on it.
“I’ve seen the petition and appreciate the community’s interest and concern,” Rudolph told ARLnow.com. “Staff is meeting with stakeholders next week at the site. We value this feedback and interest and will work with them to make sure that Greenbrier is a safe and enjoyable place to play ball.”
Nauck residents have started circulating a petition to the Arlington County Board protesting a potential gun store in their neighborhood.
The Nauck Civic Association sent out an email this week saying it heard from “reliable sources” that a gun shop was in lease negotiations with the owners of the Shirlington Heights Condominiums (2249 S. Shirlington Road).
“We, the members of the Nauck Civic Association Executive Committee are very concerned about locating this business in our community,” the email states. “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.”
The petition has 246 signatures as of 4:00 p.m. today with a stated goal of 1,000. The discussion on the petition page has only three comments, one of which suggests a coffee shop in the space, one, from Cara Schatz saying: “A gun shop is not needed, not welcome, and not in line with the priorities of our neighborhood. The residents of 22204 would prefer to see a business that can thrive and provide benefits to those of us who live here. Guns don’t build communities — guns tear them apart.”
One commenter showed that not all local residents are on board with the opposition to the gun store.
“I’m a resident, homeowner, taxpayer, business owner, churchgoer, philanthropist, and community member in South Arlington,” writes Sean Steele, who said his business has been open since 2005. “I’m also a gun owner. And a hunter. And a concealed carry permit holder. All here in the neighborhood. The last time I checked guns were legal here in Arlington, and in Virginia. And, indeed, in the entire country.”
“Until and unless we get past the indefensible, knee-jerk, non-fact-based assertions… we’ll never improve our collective lot,” he continued. “This is a shameful, hysterical petition. It’s sad to see it gain such unthinking support from otherwise intelligent South Arlingtonians.”
Photo via Nauck Civic Association
Arlington Public Schools is planning to sell the school and its grounds to developer Penzance, with the proceeds being used to help fund the school system’s ongoing expansion. The school would be torn down, as would the adjacent fire station. In turn, Penzance would construct a new mixed-use development with affordable housing, a new fire station and a 1.5 acre park.
The Wilson School was built in 1910 and is in need of extensive, costly renovations. School officials say its grounds are not big enough for the construction of a new elementary school.
Preservation Arlington argues that the Wilson School is “an important part of the character and urban fabric of Arlington” that provides a “sense of place to the community” and a “break from high density.” It wants to see the school retained and restored for continued educational use.
“Help us save the Wilson School from being turned into another high rise,” the petition page says. “Let’s take back our neighborhood.”
As of 8:00 a.m., the petition had collected 96 online signatures.
Photo courtesy Preservation Arlington
A group of residents is organizing to oppose a proposed cut to child care regulation in Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s proposed budget.
Donnellan’s budget, which is under consideration by the County Board, cuts the county’s Child Care Office, which regulates local daycare centers. Three full time positions would be eliminated, saving $250,000 annually.
If the cut were made, a local ordinance regulating daycare providers would be eliminated, and oversight of such daycare centers would be returned to the Commonwealth of Virginia, which opponents say has weaker standards than the county. In addition, family daycare centers with up to 5 children are not regulated by the state and would instead go unregulated.
“The County Code and Child Care Office PROTECT our children by requiring small home daycares to be licensed and by requiring SIGNIFICANTLY higher standards for all settings,” says the petition page. “Investing in early childhood is SMART ECOMONICS: research has shown high quality early care and education significantly decreases major social and economonic problems such as crime, teenage pregnancy, dropping out of high school and adverse health conditions.”
The petition was started by Sandra Redmore, director of the Clarendon Child Care Center.
In addition to eliminating local oversight of the county’s dozens of licensed daycare providers, the closure of the Child Care Office would eliminate professional development programs run by the office.
Child Care Office supporters are being asked to register today to speak at the upcoming March 26 public budget hearing.
Photo via Arlington County
Two H-B Woodlawn students have created a petition calling on Congress to pass stronger gun control laws in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut.
The online petition has gathered 133 signatures already and resulted in 336 letters and emails being sent to Congress. Seventh graders Nicole and Daniel created the children-driven petition with the hopes that it will garner student support beyond Arlington.
“We are representing the children of the United States who do not want to wake up every morning with a thought that someone close to us, or even ourselves, might die that day,” they said in the petition. “We do not want to see our friends or loved ones die in schools or movie theaters or malls any more.”
“Please help us stop the killings and the murders and the massacres by enacting legislation that will ban assault weapons and require a special license, a strict application process with a background investigation and a mental check for every person wanting to acquire a gun,” the petition said.
This morning, the National Rifle Association held a press conference in which the organization blamed the media, the entertainment industry and video games for a culture of violence, and called for armed security guards in every American school.
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” said NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre. “If we truly cherish our kids more than our money… we must give them the greatest protection possible. And that protection is only available with properly-armed good guys.”
Nicole and Daniel’s father, Arlington resident Michael Getter, said that arming more citizens is not the answer.
“The time has come to take meaningful steps in preventing mass executions that have become practically a commonplace in our county,” Getter said. “There seems to be very little evidence that ease of access and proliferation of dangerous weaponry among US population is making this county any safer for its citizens.”
Photo via Arlington Public Schools
Bluemont residents will vote tonight on a petition (below) that calls for the county parks department to build and pay for a Petanque-Bocce court in the neighborhood.
The vote will take place at tonight’s Bluemont Civic Association meeting. Supporters say the court would “foster community spirit in a fun way for all ages.”
BLUEMONT PETANQUE COURT PETITION
We, the undersigned Bluemont residents, support the petition to construct a 4-meter wide and 15 meters (13’ x 50’) long Petanque-Bocce court along the Bluemont Junction Trail. At the Bluemont Civic Association (BCA) general membership meeting on April 25, 2012, this petition will be submitted to the BCA for approval. Upon approval, the petition will be forwarded to the Arlington County Parks & Recreation Department to fund design and construction. We request the BCA to create a working group to coordinate with the Parks department, and homeowners residing along the Bluemont Trail to determine the site location between N. Illinois and N. Emerson Street.
Shawn D. Wilmoth was the president of Signature Masters, the company paid to collect signatures for the 2010 petition drive that sought to change Arlington County’s form of government. The initiative, which failed due to an insufficient number of valid signatures, was sponsored by Arlington’s police and fire unions and supported by the local Republican and Green parties.
Wilmoth was arrested this past April in Michigan and accused of instructing employees to fraudulently sign petition pages. He was extradited to Arlington in May and has been held without bond since. Today, Wilmoth pleaded guilty. A statement of facts entered as part of the plea reveals that Wilmoth hired two ex-cons, who were ineligible to collect petition signatures under state law, and asked them to not only collect signatures but to sign as a witness on dozens of petition sheets filled with signatures they did not collect.
As part of the plea deal, Wilmoth was given two concurrent 5 year sentences, with 4 years and 8 months suspended on the condition of good behavior and repayment of court and extradition costs, according to Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Andy Parker. Wilmoth was also sentenced to 3 years of supervised probation. Parker said he would likely be released from jail today after being credited with time served.
The two ex-cons hired by Wilmoth, Cheryl Simmons and William Cockerham, both pleaded guilty to voter fraud earlier this year.
Petition Contractor Waives Extradition — The man whose company was hired to collect signatures for a petition to change Arlington’s form of government is likely headed to the Arlington County lockup. Shawn D. Wilmoth, 24, was indicted last month on voter fraud charges. Yesterday he waived extradition in Macomb County, Mich. [Washington Post]
McLean Residents May Sue Over Redistricting ‘Insult’ — McLean residents are apparently none too pleased that their pristine ‘burb has had its state Senate representation split in two by redistricting. One of the new McLean districts is the 31st, which also includes most of North Arlington. One resident said it was an “insult” to have their neighborhood lumped in with Arlington. A McLean citizens group is contemplating a lawsuit over the redistricting outcome. [Sun Gazette]
Curious Grape to Hold Moving Sale — The Curious Grape will be closing its Shirlington location at the end of the month. To help prepare for the move to a new, thus-far-unannounced location, the store is holding a moving sale. Alexandria-based wine-and-cheese retailer Cheesetique will be taking over the store after Curious Grape moves out. [Shirlington Village Blog]
How to Score Free Coffee — Patch has come up with a comprehensive guide for scoring free coffee in and around Arlington. Among the tips: pretend like you’re interested in the espresso maker at Williams Sonoma and ask for a sample, go car shopping and ask for coffee, or get free samples at Whole Foods. [Patch]
Del. Bob Brink (D) has introduced two bills in the House of Delegates that attempt to “address the irregularities discovered during the signature gathering process” for last year’s failed effort to change Arlington’s form of government.
One bill, HB 1646, calls for the name and address of a petition signature gatherer to be present on both sides of the petition form. The bill is in response to “numerous reports where the description of the person who signed the forms as petition circulator didn’t match the description of the individual actually gathering the signatures.”
So far, HB 1646 is still awaiting a subcommittee vote.
Brink’s other bill, HB 1670, is broader piece of legislation. The bill addresses an alleged conflict of interest — that the campaign manager for the change-of-government effort was also the notary public that certified the now-disqualified petition sheets.
The bill, which passed a subcommittee on Monday, says that “a notary shall not perform any notarial act with respect to any document, writing, or electronic document that presents a conflict between his personal interest and his official duty.”
On Brink’s web site, at least one constituent worried that bill may be “over-inclusive” and could affect real estate transactions where an attorney is also acting as a notary.
Brink says the legislation is necessary to “improve the voter referendum petition process” and “prevent fraud.”
“Last year’s referendum effort in Arlington taught us valuable lessons about weaknesses in the petition signature gathering process,” Brink said in a statement. “Learning from that experience and passing this corrective legislation will help protect the integrity of voter referenda.”