The board voted unanimously to advertise for a public hearing before the Planning Commission Dec. 2 and the full board Dec. 14. The proposal would allow large media screens — colloquially known as “jumbotrons” – to be approved through the use permit or site plan process on buildings in mixed-use neighborhoods and in some parks.
Deborah Albert, an Arlington County planner, said the proposed ordinance, if passed, would prevent the screens to be used for commercial purposes.
“Staff has envisioned the screens could be used show public information, news, or in emergencies,” Albert told ARLnow.com. “The intent is really to enable the opportunities to consider another such sign, but not necessarily to encourage them to proliferate, so we’ve crafted careful standards to allow them in certain places but not to allow and over-proliferation.”
County staff recommends that the “jumbotrons” be limited to heights below 40 feet, screen sizes of less than 750 square feet and to take into consideration surrounding residences. They would only be allowed, through special exception, within a quarter mile of transit stations and in so-called public service districts, like Long Bridge Park.
Board Member Mary Hynes suggested the screens could be used much like they are at stadiums at ballfields: next to the scoreboard, showing a simultaneous broadcast of the game for the benefit of spectators in a crowd.
The WJLA screen is the only large media screen in the county, and all other screens are currently prohibited by county sign regulations. Albert said the conversation over “jumbotrons” arose during community meetings when the county updated the sign regulations last year.
Looking at Campaign Sign Removal — Arlington County Board members may consider asking state transportation officials for authority to remove improperly placed campaign signs from state roads. Virginia law prohibits campaign signs from being placed on state roads, but it also prohibits anyone besides state officials from removing them unless the jurisdiction has a deal with the state. [Sun Gazette]
McAuliffe Adds to His Cabinet — Virginia Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe (D) made appointments yesterday for several of his key cabinet positions. He named Paul Reagan as chief of staff, Suzette Denslow as deputy chief of staff, Ric Brown as secretary of finance and Levar Stoney as secretary of the commonwealth. Reagan had previously served as chief of staff for Rep. Jim Moran (D) and Sen. Jim Webb (D). [Washington Post]
Library Displays Rare Kennedy Newspapers — The Arlington Central Library has put on a display a number of rare newspapers from when John F. Kennedy was president. Some of the papers highlight Kennedy’s assassination 50 years ago this month. The exhibit also includes papers from Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961 and his burial at Arlington National Cemetery. [Arlington Public Library]
How Ballston was Named — Do you know how the Ballston neighborhood got its name? It goes back to the Ball brothers who owned more than 250 acres of land in the area back in the 1700s. [Ghosts of DC]
IAFF: Only We Fight Fires in Arlington — IAFF Local 2800, Arlington’s firefighter union, wants residents to know that their members are the only ones who fight fires in Arlington. The union is trying to draw attention to a web page set up to clarify the differences between professional Arlington County firefighters and members of local volunteer firefighting organizations, who have been soliciting donations. “You may be wondering ‘are my fire and rescue services provided by volunteer firefighters?’” the union wrote. “The answer is no.” [IAFF Local 2800]
Wag More Dogs Gets New Mural — Wag More Dogs, the Shirlington dog grooming business that had to whitewash its doggy mural after losing a legal battle over signage restrictions with Arlington County, has a new mural that no one will interpret as a form of advertising this time around. The mural, painted by itinerant artists Zack Weaver and Rob Fogle, depicts two birds sitting in a hot tub on a tree. During the two weeks it took to create the mural, Weaver and Fogle lived in their truck (dubbed the “Art Cream Truck” and decorated with a painting of a well-endowed green-skinned woman) which they parked outside the dog park. [Huffington Post]
GOP Candidate Goes Against Chamber-Supported Tax — Republican County Board candidate Matt Wavro and Green Party candidate Audrey Clement have both come out against a 12.5 cent per $100 commercial property tax surcharge levied by Arlington County. The surcharge, which is used to fund transportation improvements, is supported by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. [Sun Gazette]
Post Endorses Kaine — The Washington Post editorial board has endorsed Democrat Tim Kaine over Republican George Allen in the race for U.S. Senate in Virginia. [Washington Post]
There’s a whale of a difference between the old and new murals at Smokey Shope III (554 23rd Street South) in Crystal City.
The store — which sells various types of gifts and smoking paraphernalia – had run into trouble with the county over a mural on the side of the building depicting a man smoking a cigar. The painting was viewed as an advertisement for products inside, thus constituting an illegal sign.
To remedy the situation, owner Atta Amin arranged for the cigar portion of the mural to be painted over, replacing it with a whale. He said the colorful, billowing cigar smoke just happens to look similar to the waves of the ocean.
The change satisfied the county’s zoning office, and it also smoothed over things with Amin’s landlord, who at first objected to the mural. According to Amin, the building owner has allowed him to keep the mural up through the end of his lease. He’s currently four months into the five year lease.
Since the whale first appeared last month, Amin said he’s received no complaints about the mural from neighbors or customers.
“Hopefully people will be happy with it,” he said.
Amin said he spent a considerable amount of money to fix up the inside of the once-vacant building, located along the 23rd Street strip of restaurants and small shops. With the mural troubles out of the way, he’s now focused on attracting more customers.
“So far business is okay. Hopefully we can get the upper hand and see the hard work paid off,” Amin said. “Time is on our side.”
Yom Kippur in Arlington — Today is Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. Considered the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur is traditionally observed with 25 hours of fasting and prayer. Arlington’s only synagogue, Etz Hayim Congregation on Arlington Boulevard, has sold out of its Yom Kippur service tickets.
Illegal Dog Mural Whitewashed — Wag More Dogs, the doggy daycare in Shirlington, has surrendered in its legal battle to keep a colorful dog-themed mural on its outside wall. Yesterday, workers removed the tarp covering the large mural — in place since 2010 — and painted over it. The painters — the same pair who painted an eyebrow-raising mural outside the Smokey Shope III store in Crystal City — are now planning to replace the mural with an “urban landscape” mural that, since it won’t feature dogs or anything connected to the business, shouldn’t constitute an illegal sign in the eyes of Arlington County. [Washington Post, WTOP]
Arlington Seeks Human Rights Award Nominations — Arlington County is seeking nominations for the 14th annual James B. Hunter Human Rights Awards. The nominations are due by Nov. 14. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by BrianMKA
A new store in Crystal City found that out the hard way recently when a new mural got a thumbs down from county zoning officials.
Smokey Shope III opened three months ago at 554 23rd Street S. in Crystal City. The store is a head shop — it sells paraphernalia that’s ostensibly intended for the smoking of tobacco. Merchandise includes bowls, water pipes, hookahs, cigars, cigarettes, shisha, gifts and a type of Afghan jewelry known as lapis lazuli. One employee described the store as “a place where people can unite… and have positive energy.”
About two weeks ago, Smokey Shope’s manager said, the store paid $1,000 to a traveling band of artists to paint a mural on the front of the store. Salim Amin, the manager, said the intent was to create a work of art that would beautify the block. The finished product was a man, smoking a cigar, with colorful and decorative smoke emanating from the cigar.
Just two days after the mural was complete, however, zoning officials stopped by with some instructions: the cigar had to go up in smoke, so to speak, as it’s a product being sold by the business and thus an illegal sign according to the county’s zoning ordinance. The situation mirrored that of Wag More Dogs, an Arlington dog grooming and boarding business that has (unsuccessfully) fought in federal court to have its mural of playful pups deemed art instead of advertising.
“We have not received complaints, but we have investigated the mural,” Norma Cozart, Arlington County’s Zoning Administrator, told ARLnow.com. “We have spoken to the shop owner and the cigar must go; then the mural can stay. Without the cigar, it is not a sign and staying or leaving is up to the landlord.”
The shop, which is directly across from Freddie’s Beach Bar and other 23rd Street restaurants, says other merchants on the block have signed on to a statement of support for the mural. But Amin says they’re nonetheless exploring ways to remove or paint over the cigar without destroying the mural. One idea is to repaint it into some sort of hot, steaming food — perhaps a falafel.
A final decision will likely have to wait until the store’s owner, Atta ”Smokey” Amin, returns from a vacation in Jamaica next week. In the meantime, the store is continuing to market its wares to the local community, a marketing effort that has included placing colorful handout flyers on car windshields throughout the Crystal City area.
Smokey Shope has two other locations, in Fairfax and Manassas, and is hoping to open a third in D.C. in the near future.
As part of its recommendations for revising the county sign ordinance, the Arlington Planning Commission is recommending a ban on new signs placed higher than 40 feet on building walls, according to the Arlington Mercury.
If the recommendation is ultimately adopted by the County Board, it would effectively ban all new high-rise rooftop signs — popular with developers and businesses, especially in high-density commercial zones like Rosslyn and Crystal City.
Do you agree with the Planning Commission?
Flickr pool photo by Pderby
While the Board approved a request to replace the screen at 1100 Wilson Boulevard with a more modern, high definition video display, it also voted against a request that 8 percent of the screen space be used for a static commercial sponsorship message.
WJLA and landlord Monday Properties requested a sponsorship logo be allowed in order to help fund the new pricey new screen. The logo would have taken up 8 percent of the screen, while another 15 percent of the screen would have been used for community and cultural messages. As we reported last week, county staff recommended against the sponsorship request, saying it could set a bad precedent.
The county zoning ordinance states advertising for goods or services not available on site is forbidden, largely to avoid the proliferation of billboards. Jonathan Puvak, an attorney representing Monday Properties, argued at Saturday’s County Board meeting that thanks to specific restrictions proposed by the applicant, making an exception for the Jumbotron would not create a new precedent and wouldn’t spur billboards. The Board, however, still voted unanimously in favor of the county staff recommendation.
Monday Properties was seeking to replace the eight-year-old screen because it’s no longer capable of displaying the WJLA’s high definition broadcasts. At the moment, it can only display a weather map. Before the vote, Puvak said the Jumbotron may simply be taken down unless the sponsorship aspect was approved.
“Without the sponsorship element, it’s likely that the new screen will not be installed, and both the ticker and the Jumbotron will eventually come down, as they’re no longer maintainable,” Puvak said.
The 8-year-old “Jumbotron” screen outside the WJLA building in Rosslyn has “fallen into disrepair” and needs to be replaced, according to a staff report filed in advance of this Saturday’s Arlington County Board meeting.
WJLA is asking the County Board to approve a site plan amendment that would allow the station to install a new high definition screen in place of the existing standard definition Jumbotron. The new screen would be smaller: 164 square feet compared to the current screen’s 172 square feet. It would also have a rectangular 16:9 aspect ratio, as opposed to the more square 4:3 aspect ratio of the current screen.
County staff is recommending the Board approve the new screen, but deny a separate request from WJLA to dedicate a portion of the screen to “commercial sponsor messages” unrelated to the normal WJLA programming.
According to the staff report:
The applicant is proposing that the Jumbotron screen be redesigned to display the WJLA broadcast on the main portion of the screen, with static community/cultural messages occupying 15% of the screen and static commercial sponsor messages occupying 8% of the screen. Currently, the screen displays the WJLA broadcast and interrupts service periodically to display community/cultural messaging.
“Such a use is prohibited by the Zoning Ordinance and a modification to allow it would be unprecedented in the County,” county staff writes.
The applicant agreed to a condition prohibiting deliberate commercial messages on the screen when the Jumbotron was approved in 2003… The Sign Ordinance prohibits the advertising of goods and services not available on the lot in which it is advertized [sic] due to the potential deleterious impacts that would result from such signs, including the proliferation of “billboards,” and the potential for increased sign clutter. There is no precedent for the County Board to approve a modification to this regulation as staff is not aware of such signs having been approved under the current Sign Ordinance.
It’s unclear if WJLA will proceed with the screen replacement if the County Board does not approve the commercial message portion of their request. It’s also unclear what exactly is broken in the current screen. A representative of Allbritton Communications, the parent company of WJLA, did not reply to a request for comment.
No changes to the wrap-around news ticker on either side of the screen are included in the request.
Old Arlington Remembered — Long-time Arlington resident Judy Downs Tinelli recalls the Arlington of her childhood: Sycamore Street was a stream, her neighbor had a herd of cows, and those in the District considered her dad’s 20 minute commute (from what is now East Falls Church) excessive. [WAMU]
Moran Styrofoam Amendment Fails — A measure proposed by Rep. Jim Moran (D), which would have amended a legislative branch appropriations bill to ban polystyrene foam food and beverage containers from congressional cafeterias, failed in the House on Friday. Moran’s general election opponent, Republican Patrick Murray, issued a statement about Moran’s amendment. “Seriously, Jim?,” Murray asked. “Are you really willing to spend all of your time on Styrofoam instead of creating jobs?” [The Hill]
Pottery Barn Offers ‘Arlington’ Sign — Via Shirlington Village Blog Spot, we learn that Pottery Barn is currently offering a 66 inch by 12 inch wall sign that says “Arlington” in bold, black letters on a distressed cream-colored background. The sign is currently on sale for $119.00. [Pottery Barn]
Hotel Celebrates LEED Gold Certification — On Monday, the Renaissance Arlington Capital View hotel in Crystal City celebrated its recent award of LEED Gold environmental certification. Among those on hand at the celebration was David Marriott, grandson of Marriott International founder J.W. Marriott. The Renaissance chain of hotels is owned by Marriott.
Bike Meeting to Discuss Bollards — The Arlington County Bicycle Advisory Committee will discuss bollard installations and removals at its meeting tonight, June 4. The meeting is being held at 2100 Clarendon Blvd at 7:00 p.m. Bollards are posts put at the entrance to a trail to keep cars out; some believe they are a safety hazard to cyclists. [CommuterPage Blog]
A-Frame Sign Rules Enforced — Even though A-frame (sandwich board) signs are now allowed in Arlington, county zoning officials are beginning to enforce the the rules related to A-frame sign placement and size. [Arlington Mercury]
Froyo Store Coming to the Pike – Menchies Frozen Yogurt has signed a lease for a store at Penrose Square, along the 2500 block of Columbia Pike. The self-serve frozen yogurt chain currently has 185 locations worldwide. [CityBiz Real Estate]
Flickr pool photo by Divaknevil
Court Rules Against Doggie Daycare Mural — A federal appeals court has determined that Arlington County did not violate a business owner’s free speech by forcing her to cover up a mural that county code interpreted as a commercial sign. Wag More Dogs owner Kim Houghton had argued — unsuccessfully — that the mural was artwork and the county’s action violated her First Amendment rights. [Associated Press]
‘Leek American Bistro’ Coming to Ballston — A new American-style bistro is coming to Ballston. “Leek American Bistro” will feature “upscale” dishes in a casual atmosphere. Chef/owner Nathan Spittal says the new eatery, located in the former Thai Terrace space at 801 N. Quincy Street, will focus on locally-sourced ingredients and locally-sourced beer and wine. Spittal is the former owner of the BBQ Banditos food truck. [Washington Business Journal]
Board Approved Clarendon Metro Improvements — The Arlington County Board last night approved a $765,000 contract to transform the small park area around the Clarendon Metro station into a “more active, accessible, multi-use plaza.” Planned improvements include landscaping, paving, covered bike parking, seating walls and movable tables and chairs. [Arlington County]
Arlington Business Hall of Fame Inductees — Three men were inducted into the Arlington Business Hall of Fame during a ceremony yesterday morning, May 22. The ceremony also included the Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s annual ABBIEs business award presentation. [Sun Gazette, Arlington Mercury]
Flickr pool photo by Divaknevil
A road sign in North Arlington is wishing everyone who drives or walks by a “Happy 420.”
The greeting, on a day that is closely associated with cannabis culture, was likely the result of the same sort of electronic road sign hack that pranksters have used to warn of “Zombies Ahead” or “The British Are Coming.”
A tipster tells us the sign, which is located outside the Madison Community Center on Old Glebe Road, was originally advising drivers of road closures due to water main work nearby.
Photo courtesy James D.
Local Deer Population Growing — The local population of white-tailed deer is on the rise and having an impact on plant life in Arlington County, according to a county naturalist. “Shrubs like spicebush and pawpaw are becoming much more abundant at the expense of things like wild azaleas, oaks, cedars and American euonymus,” said naturalist Alonso Abugattas. [Sun Gazette]
New Trail Signs Installed — New “wayfinding” signs were recently installed along bike and pedestrian routes throughout the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. The signs are intended to make it easier to navigate to one’s destination, but sometimes can be unintentionally confusing. [Greater Greater Washington]
Arlington Civil War Shirts Available — The Arlington Plaza Library at 2100 Clarendon Boulevard in Courthouse is selling a t-shirt commemorating the Civil War sesquicentennial in Arlington. The Arlington Civil War 150 t-shirts are offered in three different colors for $10 apiece. [Arlington Public Library]
Flickr pool photo by Damiec
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