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by Ethan Rothstein — September 26, 2014 at 11:10 am 1,538 0

Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) is now lending gardening tools to Arlington residents, and all they need is a library card.

This morning, the library held a “vine cutting” to open the toolshed on its east plaza, next to its community garden. The shed, built from cedar for free by Case Design, will be open for lending from March through November on Wednesdays, 5:00-7:00 p.m., Fridays 3:00-5:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to noon. Borrowers must be residents of Arlington County and at least 18 years old.

“We want people to dig in and get their hands dirty,” Arlington Central Library Manager Margaret Brown said.

Brown was joined by Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette and Board member Libby Garvey at the toolshed’s unveiling. Brown said the library was inspired to develop the toolshed and its neighboring vegetable garden — with produce going to the Arlington Food Assistance Center — through Fisette’s sustainability initiative when he was Board chair in 2010. The plan and location for the shed was developed by the Urban Agriculture Task Force last year.

“I really think the library has done a great job of taking some of the big picture ideas the county has,” Fisette said, “and to find ways creatively… to further goals of the county and the [Urban Agriculture] Task Force.”

Fisette donated a shovel he was given from the groundbreaking of Virginia Hospital Center’s new wing in 2001. The other tools, available for borrowing immediately, are:

  • Bow rakes
  • Bow saw
  • Bulb planters
  • Dandelion puller
  • Four-tined soil turner
  • Flat blade shovel
  • Garden hose
  • Hand rakes
  • Hedge clippers
  • Hoes
  • Hook and ladder
  • Loppers
  • Long-handled shovel
  • Pick axes
  • Pitchforks
  • Post hole digger
  • Seed spreader
  • Trowel
  • Walk smoother
  • Wheelbarrow

by ARLnow.com — May 21, 2014 at 9:30 am 1,996 0

Flowers in bloom on a Rosslyn street corner

Beekeeping in Arlington — A number of Arlington residents keep bees in their Arlington backyards. These amateur beekeepers often bottle their honey and sell it to neighbors or to patrons at the Arlington County Fair. [Falls Church News-Press]

Protest Underway in Ballston — Several dozen protesters are demonstrating outside Ballston Common Mall this morning. They’re protesting a tenant in the adjacent office building, Arlington-based developer AvalonBay, for alleged construction safety violations and low wages. [Twitter]

Yorktown Student Places at Int’l Science Fair — Yorktown High School junior Margaret Doyle captured fourth place in the Animal Sciences category at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, held earlier this month in Los Angeles. Doyle is also a former ARLnow.com summer intern. [InsideNova]

New Tysons Tower Will Be Region’s Tallest — The new 384-foot tall office building at 1812 North Moore Street in Rosslyn won’t be the tallest tower in the region for long. On Friday, Fairfax County approved a 470-foot tall skyscraper, which will serve as the headquarters for Capital One. It will be the tallest building in the D.C. area, aside from the Washington Monument. [Greater Greater Washington]

by ARLnow.com — November 13, 2013 at 5:45 am 1,917 0

County Manager Barbara Donnellan presents her FY 2014 budget on Feb. 20, 2013Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan is recommending that the County Board take no action on the hot-button issue of urban hen raising.

At a work session with the Board last night (Tuesday), Donnellan and county staff presented their work thus far on the recommendations of Arlington’s Urban Agriculture Task Force.

While the task force made a total of 27 recommendations on various urban agriculture issues, the issue of whether to allow residents of single family homes to keep egg-laying hens in their backyards has garnered the most public attention. Donnellan told the Board that there are too many “unanswered questions” about hen raising in Arlington County and enforcement of new hen-related ordinances could prove to be a “drain on county resources.”

She recommended that the current county code on poultry — which requires that the poultry owner keep the animals so far from neighboring property lines that only 15 properties qualify countywide — be maintained. Should the Board decide to move forward with a more permissive ordinance, Donnellan recommended moving slowly — spending up to a year on a public process to try to achieve community consensus.

In a presentation, county staff expressed concern over a number of issues requiring, in their words, further “eggsploration.” Those included:

  • How to dispose of dead or dying hens
  • What to do with abandoned hens
  • How to best enforce hen-related laws and how to find the funding for that enforcement
  • The potential of overstressing the Animal Welfare League of Arlington and its animal control officers
  • Health and pest concerns
  • Virginia laws authorizing hen owners to kill dogs that chase or kill their poultry

Donnellan said a pilot program for urban hens is not possible under the current zoning ordinance. She cautioned that pushing through the hen issue now would require additional county resources at a time when Arlington is facing a $10 million budget gap for Fiscal Year 2015.

In response to Donnellan’s recommendation, the two chicken-related advocacy organizations in Arlington weighed in with dueling statements. Backyards Not Barnyards, which opposes hen-raising in Arlington, wrote the following.

Obviously, we are hugely in agreement with the County Manager… We agree that there are higher priorities for this county than figuring out how make hens to “lay an egg” or two.  The benefits don’t come close to the setup and enforcement costs, environmental impacts, health issues and likely neighbor vs. neighbor conflicts.  Let’s hope the County Board has the same priorities.

The Arlington Egg Project, which has been promoting the idea of backyard hens for nearly 3 years, said it is confident that the Board will overrule Donnellan’s recommendation.

Thankfully, the County Manager works for the County Board, not the other way around. Chairman Tejada has been clear and persuasive in calling for new efforts on urban agriculture, including those related to restoring our freedom to keep small numbers of backyard hens. We are looking forward to moving ahead under the leadership of Chairman Tejada and his colleagues.

We know that writing clear and enforceable regulations on backyard hens is achievable because hundreds of urban communities have done so — including some that started and completed that process since the Urban Agriculture Task Force was commissioned.

Three County Board members — Jay Fisette, Walter Tejada and Chris Zimmerman — expressed support for allowing urban hen-raising during the work session. Libby Garvey and Mary Hynes said they would rather put the issue aside indefinitely and focus on other priorities.

(more…)

by Ethan Rothstein — October 23, 2013 at 3:30 pm 1,063 0

Chicken (file photo)The next step in the county’s process toward establishing new urban agriculture policies — most notably the possibility of allowing backyard hen raising – will come next month.

County Manager Barbara Donnellan will present the county staff’s response to the Urban Agriculture Task Force’s recommendations during a work session Nov. 12.

The task force’s recommendations were presented to the County Board in June, and included these suggestions for backyard chickens:

  • Maximum of 4 hens
  • No roosters
  • Set back at least 20 feet from property lines
  • Must file plans for coop and its placement
  • Majority of adjacent property holders (within 50 feet of the coop) must consent
  • Coop inspection required before occupancy

UATF staff liaison Kimberly Haun said she is unsure when the County Board may take action on the Food Action Plan. Residents are encouraged to attend the public work session but will not be able to participate. Haun said additional specifics about the staff response would not be made available before the meeting.

The task force also made several other, less controversial recommendations:

  • Appoint a standing Commission on Urban Agriculture
  • Integrate urban agriculture into county planning documents
  • Create new community gardens and urban farms, utilizing rooftops and fallow land awaiting development if possible
  • Permitting federal SNAP benefits (food stamps) at all Arlington famers markets (currently only a couple accept SNAP)
  • Encourage the establishment of a “local food hub” to match up residential food producers with distributors and consumers
  • Encourage the creation of additional Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs
  • Support additional healthy eating and urban agriculture education in schools and libraries
  • Repurpose the historic Reeves farmhouse as a center for urban agriculture education for Arlington school students
  • Establish a municipal composting system

File photo

by ARLnow.com — October 8, 2013 at 8:30 am 2,286 0

Sunset on Oct. 7, 2013 (photo courtesy @BrianWohlert)

Development Proposed to Replace Courthouse Wendy’s — Developer Carr Properties is planning to propose an office building to be built at 2038 Wilson Blvd in Courthouse, replacing the Wendy’s. The building will be similar to Carr’s planned office building at 2311 Wilson Blvd, which was approved by the Arlington County Board in December. [Washington Post]

Questions Remain As Staff Works on Urban Ag Report — County Board Chairman Walter Tejada is pressing county staff to move faster on a report on urban agriculture. The report is expected to recommend a course of action on the controversial issue of urban hen raising, an issue for which many questions remain. [Sun Gazette]

Free Tropical Plants Today – Ferns, palms, ficus trees and banana plants will be given away for free this afternoon at the Crystal City farmers market. Used to decorate outdoor areas of Crystal City during the summer, the plants would otherwise be composted in advance of winter. [Crystal City BID]

Crystal City BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser. Photo courtesy @BrianWohlert.

by ARLnow.com — June 26, 2013 at 9:35 am 530 0

Goat (photo by Armin Kubelbeck via Wikimedia)Why should Arlington County stop at backyard hens?

That’s the question posed by the author of a letter to the editor in the Sun Gazette this week. Arlington Public Schools, writes local resident William Johnson, should start keeping goats on school grounds.

The goats could be milked for school breakfasts and lunches, could help the schools “save funds on lawn maintenance,” and could help educate children about animal husbandry.

“Assuming the School Board will approve this as a pilot program, I will consider funding the purchase of the first few goats — assuming I receive naming rights for the animals,” Johnson writes.

Putting aside whether the school system would ever approve such a plan, and assuming for the moment that the letter-writer is making a serious proposal, would you be in favor of raising goats at Arlington Public Schools?
 

Photo via Wikimedia

by ARLnow.com — June 12, 2013 at 12:55 pm 3,122 0

Members of the Urban Agriculture Task ForceArlington County’s Urban Agriculture Task Force presented its recommendations to the Arlington County Board on Tuesday night. Chief among them: allow backyard hens for residential egg production, but only in larger yards and with prior approval of neighbors and county inspectors.

The 18-person task force has labored for more than a year to create the recommendations, contained in a 74-page report. Along the way, the task force conducted extensive public outreach online, at farmers markets and at community meetings.

In the end, on the hot-button issue of hen raising, a majority of the task force recommended a course of action unlikely to fully satisfy those on either side of the argument. Backyard hens, the task force said, should be allowed under the following conditions:

  • Maximum of 4 hens
  • No roosters
  • Set back at least 20 feet from property lines
  • Must file plans for coop and its placement
  • Majority of adjacent property holders (within 50 feet of the coop) must consent
  • Coop inspection required before occupancy

Task force chairman John Vihstadt — who acknowledged that “this is a very emotional issue stirring strong feelings on both sides” – described the recommendation as a reasonable compromise between those who wanted less hen regulation and those who wanted backyard hens to be prohibited. Currently, Arlington residents are technically allowed to raise poultry, but only if the enclosure is a full 100 feet from property lines. Reducing that to 20 feet is intended to allow more residents to raise hens while keeping disruption to neighbors to a minimum.

County Board member Jay Fisette listening to a report from the Urban Agriculture Task ForceIn a minority report, several task force members argued that 20 feet “would actually allow very few properties in Arlington to keep hens.” The minority report suggested a 7 foot setback, and also suggested allowing residents to keep miniature goats on their properties.

Backyards Not Barnyards, a group formed to opposed backyard hen raising in Arlington, expressed skepticism about the task force’s recommendations. The group questioned which county agency would be responsible for “chicken checking,” and asked whether those who live next to hen coops will be expected to become the “poultry police.”

“What happens if hen-owners don’t follow the guidelines?” the group said in a statement. “Do they get their chicken licenses revoked? Who would revoke them? What happens to the chickens? What’s the fine for too much accumulated chicken poop?”

The County Board is not expected to take action on the the task force’s recommendations until later this fall.

The task force made a number of other recommendations to the Board on the topic of urban agriculture. Those recommendations included:

  • Appoint a standing Commission on Urban Agriculture
  • Integrate urban agriculture into county planning documents
  • Create new community gardens and urban farms, utilizing rooftops and fallow land awaiting development if possible
  • Permitting federal SNAP benefits (food stamps) at all Arlington famers markets (currently only a couple accept SNAP)
  • Encourage the establishment of a “local food hub” to match up residential food producers with distributors and consumers
  • Encourage the creation of additional Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs
  • Support additional healthy eating and urban agriculture education in schools and libraries
  • Repurpose the historic Reeves farmhouse as a center for urban agriculture education for Arlington school students
  • Establish a municipal composting system

Another recommendation was the creation of a year-round covered farmers market, like Eastern Market in D.C. and the Pike Place Market in Seattle. Such a market could also hold cooking and nutrition classes, a task force member said. While intrigued, some Board members seemed skeptical about finding the right location and the funding for such a market.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com — May 29, 2013 at 2:00 pm 3,331 0

Illustration from the Backyards, Not Barnyards websiteA new group has been formed to oppose backyard hens in Arlington.

Backyards, Not Barnyards,” as the group is called, is intended to be the answer to the Arlington Egg Project, which is strongly advocating for a change in zoning rules that would allow Arlington residents to raise egg-laying hens in their backyards.

Arlington County’s Urban Agriculture Task Force, established in 2012, is expected to make a set of recommendations to the County Board on Tuesday, June 11, including whether or not to allow backyard hen raising. Advocates for the change say that backyard hens are “a critical part of sustainable, small-scale home agriculture,” producing “eggs that are both superior in taste and nutrition” and “excellent fertilizer for your home garden and lawn.”

Jim Pebley, a former president of the Waycroft-Woodlawn Civic Association, helped to form Backyards, Not Barnyards with Darnell Carpenter, a former president of the Langston Brown Civic Association. Pebley says both he and Carpenter had unpleasant prior experiences with backyard chickens. They’re now hoping to attract “some grassroots opposition to this silliness.”

Backyard egg production, according the group, negatively impacts neighbors. Hens produce “excess animal waste runoff,” attract pests like insects and rats, and actually require more energy and resources than simply buying organic, sustainably-produced eggs at a local farmers market. Plus, they say, backyard hens are smelly and noisy.

The Arlington Egg Project has countered those points on its website, saying that hens are hygienic and won’t disturb neighbors.

Backyards, Not Barnyards also raises questions about regulation. If the zoning change only allows smaller-scale egg production, “Who would be in charge of counting [the chickens]?” the group asks.

Pebley has previously failed to get the Arlington County Civic Federation to adopt a resolution opposing backyard chickens, though he says he’s still trying to get the resolution through. With the new anti-chicken group, he’s hoping to gather online petition signatures to help sway the Arlington County Board before it considers any chicken-related zoning changes.

Backyards, Not Barnyards will be holding an organizational meeting tonight (Wednesday) at 7:00 p.m. at the Langston Brown Community Center (2121 N. Culpeper Street). Snacks — including deviled eggs — will be served.

by ARLnow.com — January 2, 2013 at 12:35 pm 4,125 62 Comments

Arlington County Board member Walter TejadaWalter Tejada, the new Arlington County Board Chair for 2013, says he will use his chairmanship to push for progress in four local policy areas: affordable housing, fitness and health, urban agriculture, and pedestrian and bicycle safety.

Tejada and other County Board members outlined their vision for the county at the Board’s traditional New Year’s Day meeting on Tuesday. As Chair, Tejada’s priorities will receive the sharpest focus.

In a seven-page speech, Tejada repeatedly called on the county to “move forward together… for all of Arlington.”

Tejada’s first major policy initiative is affordable housing. Tejada repeated a call he and Board member Chris Zimmerman previously made: for new affordable housing investment funded via adoption of Tax Increment Financing for Columbia Pike. The TIF would steer a percentage of taxes gained through increases in property values along Columbia Pike to the creation of new affordable housing, to bolster the county’s existing 6,585 committed affordable units.

“Already on Columbia Pike, market forces are threatening one of the County’s largest supplies of market-rate affordable housing,” Tejada said. “I have asked [County Manager Barbara Donnellan] to analyze and submit a recommendation by June 2013 for creating a transit oriented affordable housing fund on Columbia Pike through adoption of a TIF.”

“We need to house our healthcare workers and teacher aides, our cashiers and restaurant workers, our cleaning staff and small business employees, and other hard-working people so vital to our County’s economic health,” he continued. “We need to maintain the cultural and economic diversity that is so vital to Arlington’s soul, for all of Arlington.”

Tejada acknowledged that more affordable housing will not come cheap, but quoted former president John F. Kennedy in saying, “To those whom much is given, much is expected.”

An affordable housing TIF on the Pike wouldn’t be the county’s first use of the funding vehicle. A TIF is in place to fund infrastructure improvements in Crystal City, including a planned Crystal City streetcar.

After affordable housing, Tejada called for the county to “promote healthy living” through an initiative called FitArlington.

The new focus on fitness and health will include the creation of a “Arlington Healthy Community Action Team” (HCAT) comprised of local health and fitness providers, youth services providers, nutrition educators and urban agriculture enthusiasts. In addition to promoting physical fitness in general, the county will work in partnership with the HCAT and Arlington Public Schools to help reduce the rate of childhood obesity in Arlington.

The childhood obesity initiative will kick off with a community meeting from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 17 at the Fairlington Community Center (3308 S. Stafford Street).

Tejada also highlighted the work of the county’s Urban Agriculture Task Force, which was announced as an initiative at the 2012 New Year’s Day meeting. Among the issues being considered by the task force is the controversial proposal to allow Arlington residents to raise egg-laying hens in their backyards. Tejada said he expects the task force’s forthcoming recommendations to help promote healthy eating in Arlington.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com — September 7, 2012 at 10:10 am 4,413 31 Comments

David and Susan Wase of Alcova Heights tried their hand at growing sweet potatoes this year, and they succeeded well beyond their expectations.

The couple managed to grow what they said was a seven pound sweet potato. Asked his secret for growing the giant root vegetable, David explained that sunlight, not shade, was key to his urban agriculture endeavors. That and some good ol’ fashioned mulch.

“A client of mine and fellow gardener had given me a few sweet potato shoots to plant in spring… never grew them before,” he said via email. “They were grown in a raised bed, nothing special other than some Arlington municipal mulch.”

“Every spring, Arlington County makes a big ‘to-do’ about planting more trees as part of their formally adopted ‘Tree Canopy Policy,’” he added. “Tree canopy and the ability to grow vegetables are pretty much mutually-exclusive. I’m fortunate because my yard is not heavily shaded, thus I was able to grow the sweet potato among other veggies, but I know so many other folks can’t have a garden because of extensive shade.”

The Wases still have a long way to go if they ever want to set a world record. A recent edition of the Guinness Book of World Records lists the largest sweet potato on record as 81 pounds.

by ARLnow.com — August 22, 2012 at 9:00 am 2,698 95 Comments

Justice Dept. Upholds Va. Voter ID Law — A new Virginia law that expands the types of identification accepted at the polls while disallowing a rule that had allowed voting without an ID has been given a green light by the Justice Department, just in time for Election Day in November. [Washington Post]

Cars for Low-Income Families — The group Vehicles for Change has received a $1 million grant that will allow it to provide a couple dozen used cars to low-income families in Arlington, at low cost to the families. [Arlington Mercury]

Arlington Seeks Urban-Agriculture Feedback – Arlington is asking for the public’s thoughts on urban agriculture — including backyard chickens — in the county, via its Open Arlington website. One statement on the forum implores the county to “bring a Walmart to Arlington.” [Sun Gazette]

Cap City Hosting ‘Summer Farewell Party’ — Capitol City Brewing Company in Shirlington (4001 Campbell Avenue) is hosting a “Summer Farewell Party on the Patio” tonight. From 4:00 to 9:00 p.m., the restaurant will be offering $6 burgers, $6 brats, $5 margaritas and $3.50 beer pints. [Facebook]

Arlington Launches Mobile Tourism Site — Arlington Convention and Visitors Service has launched a mobile-optimized website for tourists. The site, which can be accessed via smartphone at www.StayArlington.com, features tools to discover and get directions to local dining, shopping, sight-seeing and entertainment options. [Arlington County]

Photo courtesy Pam C.

by Katie Pyzyk — July 18, 2012 at 2:50 pm 3,485 26 Comments

An Arlington catering company is boasting about being the first in the D.C. metro to use a non-traditional technology — aquaponics, a combination of hydroponics and aquaculture — to farm its own fish.

Main Event Caterers (3870 S. Four Mile Run Drive) recently began using the urban farming technique. Aquaponics is the practice of using a closed-loop ecological system to grow both fish and plants in one body of water. Water circulates through fish tanks, moves through filters and plant beds, then heads back to the fish tanks.

The catering company says the process benefits the business as well as the environment.

“Less water and fertilizer use, the ability to grow a large volume of crops in a small space, and the value of our clients knowing exactly where their food comes from are just a few of the benefits we’ve experienced,” said Joël Thévoz, CEO of Main Event Caterers.

Main Event Caterers has a history of operating a green business. In addition to the aquaponic farming, it uses compostable materials, wind and solar powered electricity and rain water reclamation.

“Our commitment to sustainable initiatives runs deep,” said Nancy Goodman, Co-Founder of Main Event Caterers. “Everything we do within our daily operations is motivated by our dedication to protect and preserve the environment while providing an entirely green experience to our clients.”

by ARLnow.com — May 20, 2011 at 8:30 am 2,546 36 Comments

A group dedicated to legalizing backyard chicken keeping in Arlington met in Fairlington last night to discuss their strategy for winning the support of fellow residents and, in turn, the county government.

An unscientific poll conducted on ARLnow.com last week found that most respondents were amenable to the idea of urban chicken ownership.

Below is the press release sent to us by the ‘Arlington Egg Project’ after last night’s meeting.

On Thursday, May 19, a committed group of Arlington residents gathered at the Fairlington Community Center for an organizational meeting to discuss methods for promoting community conversations about the benefits of backyard hens. Their group, dubbed the Arlington Egg Project, seeks for Arlington County officials to research the issue and, ultimately, revise local zoning ordinances to allow people living in Arlington neighborhoods to engage in small-scale, sustainable hen-raising.

Currently, Arlington County zoning ordinances require that poultry be kept at least one hundred feet from any street or lot line. This provision precludes virtually all Arlington households from keeping backyard hens.

“Backyard hens provide clean, healthful food and reduce dependence on environmentally harmful factory farming. Allowing responsible homeowners to have small numbers of backyard hens would be in the best tradition of Arlington’s values,” says Tycie Horsley, an Arlington resident and Arlington Egg Project member.

A recent morning poll in www.ArlNow.com indicated strong interest in allowing backyard chickens in Arlington, with 72% of respondents expressing support for or openness to revision of Arlington ordinances to allow more residents to keep chickens.

The positive participation of Arlington residents in the Arlington Egg Project is consistent with a growing urban agriculture movement in communities nationwide, as increasing numbers of people recognize the myriad benefits of raising small numbers of backyard hens and other sustainable urban agricultural practices. Many urban communities, including Portland, Seattle, Madison, Baltimore, Chicago, and New York, allow residents to keep hens, and many others are jumping on the band wagon as interest in sustainable, healthful living grows.

The May 19 meeting of the Arlington Egg Project featured guest speaker Kirsten Conrad Buhls of the Arlington office of the Virginia Cooperative Extension. Buhls, an expert on urban agriculture and natural resources, states, “The Sustainable Urban Agriculture education programs that are led by Virginia Cooperative Extension in Arlington County have been part of an effort to educate residents about land-use decision-making that goes beyond the natural resource conservation education efforts currently led by Virginia Cooperative Extension, and Arlington County government offices. To meet increased interest in programs about local foods, Extension is pleased to be able to help develop and support initiatives like the Sustainable Urban Agriculture Lecture Series, Local Foods Local Chef and the Arlington Egg Project, with research-based education that brings the experience and teaching of our state land grant colleges to Arlington County. Across the state, local Extension agents provide training on all aspects of poultry keeping and the office is pleased to be able to offer these services to residents of Arlington County.”

The members of the Arlington Egg Project will continue to plan and conduct educational efforts about the benefits of backyard hens, working toward a well-considered revision of Arlington ordinances. Models for such a revised ordinance are available in other urban communities, many of which place limits on the number of backyard hens, prohibit roosters, and ensure secure and proper housing for hens. Arlington Egg Project members believe such an approach, tailored for Arlington’s own interests and values, could promote sustainable and healthy lifestyles to the benefit of all of Arlington.

by ARLnow.com — May 13, 2011 at 9:45 am 6,680 168 Comments

Pike Wire reports that would-be chicken owners are organizing to try to convince the county to allow “small-scale backyard chicken-keeping in Arlington.”

Proponents say urban chicken ownership promotes sustainable, chemical-free egg production on a local level. Should Arlington follow the lead of Baltimore, Portland and Los Angeles in allowing homeowners to keep chickens in their backyards?

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