A group of Arlington residents held signs and sang before a County Board meeting to protest the decision to sell Reevesland farmhouse.
The residents were unhappy with the Board’s decision as well as what they described as a lack of transparency surrounding the hastily-called vote to sell.
“The Arlington community was not informed about the vote until only hours before it happened and thus there was zero public discussion of the issue before May 19. The sneaky, unresponsive vote by the Board majority was a complete slap in the face to thousands of Arlington residents,” said Sandra Kalscheur, the chair of the Reevesland Learning Center, during the public comment period on Saturday.
The County Board decided to sell the farmhouse in May after deciding it couldn’t find the projected $2-2.5 million it needed to restore the building for public use. Making the farmhouse available to the public would require a large restoration effort, including strengthening the floors, upgrading utilities and making it compliant with the American Disabilities Act, County Board Chair Mary Hynes said.
The county had been trying for three years to find a community group that could take over the farmhouse.
Protesters sang American classic “This Land is My Land” with words changed to make it “Reevesland is Your Land, Reevesland is My Land.” They also sang the “Ballad of Nelson Reeves” in the lobby before moving into the County Board meeting room.
The Reevesland Learning Center and some residents would like the County to turn the farmhouse into a community space where children could learn more about the farm’s history and healthy eating. It’s a vision that other members of the Arlington community share, Kalscheur said.
“We don’t want an unresponsive Board to sell off our history or sell out our kids,” she said.
The lack of transparency around the decision was another sore subject for the protesters. The five members of the Board acknowledged the problem, saying there would be a review of the process in the coming months.
“As a former government employee, I am surprised and disappointed in the three members whose recent action with no consultation or meaningful opportunity to comment and virtually no notice is a new low in transparency, community involvement and informed decision making. Even the few Arlingtonians that might agree with your outcome have universally condemned your methods,” said Arlington resident Ronald Battochi, who was a part of the protest group.
The Board’s May 19 decision was a 3-2 split of County Board members, with Hynes, Libby Garvey and John Vihsdaht voting to sell the building.
Hynes explained that the costs were too great for the county, but that the Board would be open to having the Reevesland Learning Center fundraise and work with private donors to fund the restoration. However, the group has been against private fundraising, Hynes said.
Despite the building’s sale, the public will still be able to access the lands around the house and see the historic sites, Hynes said. She was backed up by Garvey and Vihstadt, who pointed to the Arlington Arts Center, the Arlington Historical Society and the Arlington planetarium as examples of private groups that have partnered with the county and helped to preserve aging public facilities.
Vice Chair Walter Tejada voted against the sale and emphasized his displeasure with the Board’s decision and process.
“This is the last working farm in Arlington’s history,” he said. “That should mean something.”
Preservation Arlington, a group dedicated to protecting Arlington’s historic buildings, communities and landscapes, has released its “Most Endangered Historic Places” for 2015.
The annual list is used to promote awareness and advocacy of the historic sites and the preservation they need, according to the group’s website. Preservation Arlington also created a watch list for the 2015, which includes sites that are on the “verge of disappearing.”
The 2015 list, with excerpts from Preservation Arlington’s description of each:
- Dive bars — “Preservation Arlington raises a toast to our remaining dive bars, such as Forest Inn and Cowboy Cafe, and hope they continue to thrive. Preservation is also about the role that place plays in our community and not just the building or its architecture.”
- Garden Apartments in Westover — “While some garden apartments in Westover are listed in the National Register, these and others in fact have no long term protection from redevelopment.”
- Columbia Pike Commercial Buildings — “The unique small-scale retail buildings in the commercial nodes, as identified in the Pike’s unique zoning, will not be preserved without more focus on historic building style and design.”
- Lyon Village National Register Historic District — “Many of the changes [to Lyon Village] have not respected the historic character of the community and have dramatically altered many of the components that qualified the community for designation [on the National Register of Historic Places] in the first place.”
- Reevesland Farmhouse and Property — “The county hasn’t done anything to keep up this property in 15 years, letting the property deteriorate and the story of Arlington’s dairy farming history slowly and gradually disappear. Selling the property will permanently remove from public access and use a tangible connection to Arlington’s rural past and a fantastic opportunity to provide educational opportunities to current and future Arlington students and residents.”
The 2015 Watch list, with excerpts from Preservation Arlington’s description of each:
- Wilson School — “While not designated as a local historic district in 2015, the opportunity still exists for the Building Level Planning Committee of Arlington Public Schools to incorporate substantial portions of the building facade and/or materials in the modernist building being planned for the site.”
- Arlington Presbyterian Church — “While denied listing as a local historic district in 2014, the opportunity still exists for the story of the existing building and congregation to be incorporated into the planned future development.”
- Webb Building — “An excellent example of our quickly disappearing mid-century modernist building stock, the Webb Building is not protected.”
- Key Boulevard Apartments — “One of Arlington’s best preserved garden apartments, which has already had its density move to an adjacent luxury condo, this complex was under threat in 2014.”
The 2014 list included the Wilson School, Arlington Presbyterian Church, family graveyards and mid-century Arlington architecture.
GOP Offers Support to Gun Store Owner — A Change.org petition against a planned gun store in Cherrydale has reached more than 1,900 signatures. The store’s landlord now says he’s trying to figure out ways to legally break the lease. Countering the backlash, the Arlington Falls Church Young Republicans have launched a petition in support of the store and its owner, 28-year-old Marine Corps veteran James Gates. “We can’t remain silent while Arlington liberals push their radical anti-gun agenda,” the petition says. [AFCYR]
Hynes Fires Back at Reevesland Sale Critics — Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes is firing back at criticism of the Board’s 3-2 decision to sell the historic Reeves farmhouse to a private owner. Critics charge that the sale was hastily added to the Board agenda the day before the vote and that citizen groups should have had more time to propose alternatives. Hynes said the house would have needed $2.5 million in work to be brought up to code for public use and noted that interested groups have had 5 years to suggest better alternatives for using the house. [InsideNova]
Arlington’s Outdoor School in Fauquier County — Every year thousands of Arlington Public Schools visit the APS-operated Outdoor Lab in Fauquier County, experiencing nature and wildlife first hand. The property was purchased with private funds for school use and is beloved by students. However, some worry that a proposal to increase summer use of the 225 acre site may overtax the lab and its ecology. [Falls Church News-Press]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Survey Says: Resident Satisfaction High — Resident satisfaction with Arlington County is high, according to Arlington County. The county’s fourth Resident Satisfaction Survey, conducted by an outside research firm, suggested an 89 percent overall satisfaction rate with the quality of county services. “Just two percent of residents were dissatisfied with the overall quality of County services,” said a press release. One notable area for improvement: maintenance of county streets, with a satisfaction level of only 42 percent. [Arlington County]
Peak Memorial Day Traffic Expected Thursday — Contrary to conventional wisdom, the worst Memorial Day holiday traffic in the D.C. area will be Thursday evening, not Friday. According to an analysis of average travel speeds, drivers hoping to escape local holiday traffic should leave at night, around lunchtime Wednesday or Thursday, or Friday morning. [Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments]
Split Board Approves Reeves Farmhouse Sale — The Arlington County Board voted 3-2 last night to sell the historic Reeves farmhouse. “The County worked with the community for six years to find a way to retain public ownership of the house, or to create a public-private partnership to restore the house and open it to the public, but we were unable to achieve such a partnership, and the cost of restoring the property and bringing it up to code for public use was prohibitively expensive,” said County Board Chair Mary Hynes. Much of the land around the house will remain publicly-owned. [Arlington County]
County to Outsource Volunteer Program — The County Board also last night voted 3-2 to outsource Volunteer Arlington, the county’s volunteer management program. The county will now seek a nonprofit with which to form a public-private partnership. [Arlington County]
Three years after unsuccessfully seeking proposals for use of the historic, county-owned Reeves Farmhouse, the Arlington County Board tonight will consider a proposal to sell it.
County Manager Barbara Donnellan is recommending that the Board approve putting the house and a portion of the surrounding property, adjacent to Bluemont Park, on the market for sale to a private buyer. The proposal was added to today’s County Board agenda on Monday.
Even after being sold to a private party, the house — which dates back to 1899 — would remain a local historic district and would be protected from changes that would hurt its historical integrity.
The Reevesland property was the last operating dairy farm in Arlington County. The county purchased the house and its 2.5 acres of land from the Reeves family in 2001 for $1.8 million.
The county has been struggling to find an entity with a viable proposal for an “adaptive reuse” of the farmhouse. Cost has been a factor. In 2012 it was said that the house needed more than $1 million in work. Now, the county says it would cost $2.5 million to bring the house “up to code for public use,” not including ongoing maintenance costs.
County officials have been in touch with the Reevesland Learning Center, a group interested in using the farmhouse for educational purposes, but staff says the group doesn’t have the money needed to restore the house.
“The County has attempted several different ways to seek a partner for the adaptive reuse of the Reeves Farmhouse, but have not received responses from partners with the necessary financial resources to bridge the $2 – $2.5 million gap,” according to the staff report.
Under Donnellan’s proposal, the land around the farmhouse will be subdivided and the county will retain ownership of much of the property, including portions currently being used by the Reevesland Learning Center.
“The County will continue to own the rest of Reevesland, including the much-loved sledding slope and the historic milking shed, and will continue to maintain the recently expanded raised planting beds there,” according to a press release.
The Arlington County Board is likely to approve $87,950 at its meeting on Saturday for a contractor to come up with a plan for stabilizing the deteriorating house and to removing lead-based paint on the building’s exterior. The sole source contract is on the Board’s consent agenda, meaning it’s scheduled to be approved without discussion.
“This design services contract will provide the construction documents needed for the initial work to restore the Reeves farmhouse: to stabilize the foundation, provide a full depth basement and recommendations for the abatement of lead based paint on the farmhouse exterior and adjacent soil,” the staff report says.
The funds would come out of the county’s $500,000 budget for restoring the property. The restoration, however, would still not allow the farmhouse to be used as a public facility.
“Significant additional resources would be required to adapt the building to meet code requirements if it were used for either general assembly or education purposes,” the staff report said.
Work that would still need to be done includes installing code-ready heating and air conditioning, ensuring the floors can support at least 100 pounds per square foot, providing two means of safe egress from any public area and installing adequate toilet facilities, among other things. A 2012 estimate suggested that the house needs more than $1 million of repairs before it can accommodate visitors safely
A local group has committed to donating 3,000 hours of volunteer time to help restore the property if it means the Reeves Farmhouse can become an educational center, for teaching children about “the science and practice of growing and eating healthy foods and building relationships.”
The staff report states the building still does not have a designated future purpose, but that, whatever it is, it would come out of a public process.
Fisette Weds Long-Time Partner — Arlington County Board member Jay Fisette married long-time partner Bob Rosen last week. After 30 years together, the couple tied the knot in a low-key ceremony at All Souls Unitarian Church in the District. Fisette and Rosen’s union will not be recognized in Virginia, but Fisette said he thinks that same-sex marriage will be legalized in the Commonwealth within five years. [Sun Gazette]
Smash-and-Grab Lookout Sentenced — The man who served as a lookout in a series of smash-and-grab robberies in the D.C. area, including this robbery at the Tourneau store in Pentagon City, has been sentenced. Floyd Davis, 43, was sentenced to 7 years in prison for his role in the crimes. [Washington Post]
Reevesland Group Refines Proposal — A group that wants to convert the historic Reeves farmhouse into an agricultural learning center for school children has submitted a proposal to Arlington County. The group says its volunteers will lower the cost of necessary renovations to the building by 30 percent. It has offered to operate the center and make it available to Arlington Public Schools. In exchange, the group wants the county to pay for renovations (about $700,000), ongoing maintenance costs and utilities. [Sun Gazette]
Library Seeks Info on Mystery Football Photo — Arlington Public Library’s Center for Local History is seeking more information about a photograph found at a local home. The photo shows a group of men wearing early 20th century football equipment, posing in front of a school. [Arlington Public Library]
Flickr pool photo by BrianMKA
APS Announces Make-up Day Plan — Arlington Public Schools has lost three days this school year due to inclement weather, including the day lost as a result of the controversial decision to close this past Monday for what turned out to be mostly drizzle. APS has announced its make-up plan, though most schools will not actually have to make up any days due to additional hours built into the school calendar this year. Those impacted by the make-up plan are elementary schools with early release and the Stratford Program, which will see three abbreviated days turned into full days as part of the make-up plan. [Arlington Public Schools]
County to Explore More Options for Reeves Farmhouse — Arlington County is issuing a ‘request for information’ for the historic Reevesland farmhouse. The county is now seeking ideas from individuals and groups who want to use the farmhouse and its grounds but don’t have the nearly $1 million necessary for repairs to the property. That’s a win for one group of residents who have been pushing for the property to be used as a learning center. “We’re open to the idea of shared investment,” said County Manager Barbara Donnellan. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Judge to Retire — Arlington County General District Court judge Karen A. Henenberg is retiring. Henenberg and her husband plan to spend more time with their sons: Kenneth, a rock band guitarist, and Benjamin, a professional golfer. [Falls Church News-Press]
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
FCVFD Donating Ambulance to Sandy-Stricken Community — The Falls Church Volunteer Fire Department is donating its reserve ambulance to the community of Island Park, New York, which was hard-hit by Hurricane Sandy. Today, volunteer firefighters will be driving the 2002 Freightliner ambulance up to Island Park, where it will replace an ambulance lost by the Island Park Volunteer Fire Department during the storm.
County Kicks Off Rosslyn Planning Process — Arlington County has begun an effort to create a comprehensive new long-range plan for Rosslyn. Dubbed “Realize Rosslyn,” the plan will seek to “transform this 1960s car-centric area to one of our region’s great urban centers.” Through a civic engagement process, the county will create “an enhanced urban design framework,” refine and improve transportation options, recommend a new “building heights strategy” and develop “a more cohesive, functional parks and open space network.” [Arlington County]
Officials: No Plan to Sell Reeves Farm — County officials say there’s no plan to sell the historic Reeves farm, despite reports on WAMU and in the Arlington Connection newspaper suggesting it might be heading to the auction block. “The board is not interested in selling the farmhouse at this point in time,” said County Board Chair Mary Hynes. [Sun Gazette]
Board Updates Special Events Policy — The Arlington County Board on Saturday voted unanimously to update the county’s special events and demonstrations policy. The new policy “encourages such events while ensuring that the County recovers its support costs,” the county said. [Arlington County]
Veterans Day Ceremony in Clarendon — Local VFW and American Legion posts jointly organized a Veterans Day ceremony at the Clarendon War Memorial on Sunday. At the annual remembrance ceremony a wreath was laid for Lance Cpl. Niall Coti-Sears, who was killed in Afghanistan this year. [MyFoxDC]
Reeves Farmhouse May Be Sold — The Arlington County Board is expected to decide whether to sell the historic Reeves farmhouse, at auction, for residential use. The county had been looking for ways to save the farmhouse for public use, but rejected a proposal to use it as a learning center, apparently due to the proposal not adequately providing for the high cost of needed repairs and renovations to the house. [WAMU]
Historic Status for Green Valley Pharmacy? –– Next month Arlington County Board members are scheduled to consider a proposal to designate the Green Valley Pharmacy a historic landmark business. The pharmacy opened in 1952 at 2415 Shirlington Road, in the neighborhood now known as Nauck. The county’s Historic Affairs and Landmarks Review Board supports the historic designation proposal. [Sun Gazette]
Shirlington Tree Lighting Two Weeks Away — Shirlington Village will hold its annual Christmas tree lighting event on Tuesday, Nov. 27. [Shirlington Village Blog Spot]
Flickr pool photo by Philliefan99
Voting Begins — Voting has begun in Arlington County and long lines are being reported at polling stations. This Election Day, Arlington voters will cast ballots for President of the United States, U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, County Board, School Board, proposed amendments to the Virginia constitution and four proposed county bond issues. The polls are open from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. A list of polling places can be found online or by calling 703-228-3456.
Perfect Season for Yorktown Football — The Yorktown High School football team ended the 2012 regular season with a perfect 10-0 record. The Patriots will face a first-round playoff game against Jefferson on Friday night. In other high school football action, Bishop O’Connell and Washington-Lee both finished the season 5-5. Wakefield finished the season winless at 0-10. [Sun Gazette]
On Election Eve, Moran Goes on TV With Son — On the eve of the election, Rep. Jim Moran (D) appeared on Fox 5’s 10 p.m. local newscast with his son, Patrick Moran, who’s currently the subject of a criminal investigation over a video that allegedly shows him giving advice to someone planning to commit voter fraud. The elder Moran called his son an “idealistic kid” who said something “stupid.” Said Rep. Moran: “I still love him and I’m proud of him.” Patrick Moran, meanwhile, explained that didn’t fully comprehend the scheme that the undercover video producer was explaining to him. [MyFoxDC, Associated Press]
Back to Drawing Board for Reeves Farm — Arlington County’s efforts to find a partner to help restore the historic Reeves farmhouse have been fruitless. County officials say they were unable to find a suitable partner, and will now likely “go in another direction.” A group that wants to transform the farmhouse and surrounding property into a “learning center” says it will continue to try to persuade the county to work with them. [Sun Gazette]