Arlington County Police are closing the investigation into the fatal pedestrian crash that occurred in front of Nottingham Elementary School on Feb. 24.
After a month-and-a-half accident investigation, police have charged 33-year-old Manassas resident Marvin Valladres with “failure to pay full time and attention,” a traffic infraction. He will not face more serious criminal charges, like negligence or involuntary manslaughter.
Valladres had just left a nearby construction site and was driving his dump truck down N. Little Falls Road around 11:30 a.m. when a passenger side step caught the open rear sliding door on 39-year-old Jennifer Lawson’s minivan, according to investigators. Lawson had just finished putting her young child in a car seat and was standing next to the driver’s side door when the truck drove by, ripping the sliding door off the minivan and fatally injuring her, police said.
Following the crash, neighbors in the Williamsburg neighborhood held a community meeting, with many calling for answers and accountability. Investigators, however, believe this is a case of a tragic accident.
Valladres was “very cooperative” during the investigation, there was “no indication of any driver distraction or alcohol involved” in the accident, and there was also “no indication of any speeding violation,” according to ACPD Dep. Chief Daniel J. Murray.
(Updated at 11:05 a.m.) Dozens of students who will be attending the new elementary school at Williamsburg Middle School’s campus participated in the new school’s groundbreaking yesterday afternoon.
The approximately 97,000-square-foot elementary school is planned to open before the 2015 school year. The school is planned to be one of the few schools in the country to be energy neutral, meaning the energy it generates with solar panels and other sources will be enough to completely power the school.
“We won’t be relying on Dominion Power,” Arlington Public Schools Director of Facilities Planning Scott Prisco said during the groundbreaking ceremony, held in the Williamsburg gymnasium. “It’s important to show the idea of sustainable design… can look absolutely stellar.”
The new school doesn’t have a name yet — APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said that will come after a principal is hired and there is community outreach to settle on the proper name — but Superintendent Patrick Murphy tried to imbue upon the future students that they were becoming a part of history.
“When you’re my age or even older, you can reflect on that you were a part of this groundbreaking for this school,” he said to the dozens of children in attendance.
The construction is expected to cost about $35 million, for a total school cost of $46.5 million. Prisco said yesterday that the project is within budget so far. School Board Chair Abby Raphael beamed when discussing the process of getting the school built and approved.
“It was a really positive boundary process, and that doesn’t happen very often,” she said. “The school is not just a building, it’s a community.”
(Updated at 2:10 p.m.) About 100 residents packed the auditorium at Nottingham Elementary School last night, less than three weeks after a mother placing a child in her minivan was killed by a dump truck in front of the school.
Arlington County Police Chief Doug Scott gave members of the Williamsburg Civic Association updates on the investigation into the death of 39-year-old Jennifer Lawson, and he took questions from more than 20 residents, most of whom demanded action to increase pedestrian safety in the area.
Scott said the driver of the truck was neither speeding nor distracted when his vehicle struck Lawson’s minivan.
“The driver has been very cooperative with the investigation,” Scott said. “We’ve done a forensic exam of his cell phone and that was not an issue… This was not a cut-through traffic situation. This gentleman was doing contract work in your neighborhood. He had been in and out of the neighborhood a couple of times that day.”
“It was a matter of inches,” he said.
Speakers said the police presence in the area for a few days after the collision has since disappeared, leading many to criticize the police’s presence along Lee Highway nearby, where cars are frequently stationed for hours. Scott said that squad cars are placed where there are the most complaints, but even if they were in the residential neighborhood, “a majority of the tickets we write are to people who live in those communities.”
Julie Monticello, a mother of six who lives on N. Ohio Street across from the school, said members of the community have to also look inward after the accident.
“I couldn’t sleep that night not only because of Jen, but also because of that dump truck driver, because it could have been any of us,” she said, while fighting back tears. “I know that’s so hard to say. That man is not a murderer, everyone should say a prayer for that man, because he’s not a murderer.”
Monticello was not the only person to get emotional while speaking on the microphone. Richard Sheehey, who lives on N. Kensington Street, choked up several times during his plea for speed bumps and a lower speed limit on his street and throughout the neighborhood. There had been a traffic calming committee a few years ago, Sheehey said, but they were one vote from approving changes and the committee has since been disbanded.
“I get very emotional about this,” he said. “I don’t want to see what happened to Jen happen to any one of our kids… Nobody likes speed bumps, but it’s the No. 1 way to slow traffic down. If a car hits a child at 25 mph, that child has a good chance of survival. If a car hits a child at 35 mph, that kid’s going to die. So please help us.”
Del. Patrick Hope (D) was in attendance, and told the civic association that he plans to introduce a bill in the House of Delegates next year that would allow localities to lower their speed limits below the state minimum of 25 mph to 20 mph. A majority of the speakers agreed that even 20 mph was too fast for the streets in the area.
“Fifteen miles-per-hour just tells people that there are people crossing the street,” Monticello said. “When there’s children crossing the street constantly, the speed limit has to be 15. Twenty-five doesn’t send the message.” (more…)
If passed, the motion would fund $781,082 for street improvements on 24th Street N. from Illinois Street to Kensington Street; $159,751 for new streetlights on S. Edison Street from George Mason Drive to 11th Street; and $521,409 for median and striping improvements on N. Sycamore Street from 26th Street to Williamsburg Blvd.
The three projects were recommended by the Neighborhood Conservation Action Committee. The money would come from the Neighborhood Conservation Program, an $11 million pot of money used for relatively small citizen-initiated projects. The three projects would be the third installment of the latest Neighborhood Conservation fund, approved by referendum last year. Four projects were funded last fall and five were funded this spring. If approved, the program would have $4,866,407 in funding left for future projects.
The projects were selected on a points-based system. They were the three highest-scoring projects out of the 25 proposals the NCAC reviews. County staff supported the NCAC’s recommendations in its report..
The item is on the Board’s consent agenda, which means unless a Board member or a citizen decides it warrants further analysis at the Board’s Tuesday meeting, it should pass without additional discussion on Saturday.
Lisa Aneiva, of FITLoose Health and Fitness, says she’s using Zumba to improve the social development of children ages 0-3. Aneiva said the program, called Zumbini, is “unique in its design to build positive associations with living a musical lifestyle at the earliest possible age.”
Children and their caregivers can sign up for six- or 12-week sessions, which take place at Jung Do Kwan Martial Arts, at 6408 Williamsburg Blvd, in the Williamsburg neighborhood.
“One of the goals of Zumbini is to build collective consciousness, experience, and memory for the children, much as some traditional societies do in their music and dance ritual,” Aneiva said. “Value rests in the bonding and social learning, which occurs uniquely in a multiage, communal setting.”
The classes consist of the instructor leading the dances and caregivers following along with their children. Included in a session are “structured dances, some seated songs with small movement and finger play, a dance with scarves, a structured instrument song, and a free instrument ‘jam session’ when participants choose their favorite percussion instruments to play to the beat,” according to Aneiva.
Classes include songs in different languages and the original music is provided by Zumba Fitness, which launched the Zumbini program this fall. Formerly Zumba of North Arlington, FITLoose is one of the first Zumbini programs in the area, Aneiva said. Those interested in the classes can enroll here.
Photo via FITLoose
An officer responded to the 3500 block of N. Nottingham Street around 9:40 p.m. on Saturday, April 27, for a report of a loud party, according to police. Upon arriving, the officer approached the house and observed a large number of young people.
“Numerous” party-goers then began fleeing from the home by jumping over fences into nearby yards, while others started throwing beer cans and bottles at the officer, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
Backup units arrived on scene and the remaining partyers were rounded up. In all, 43 people between the ages of 15 and 18 were charged with underage consumption of alcohol.
“Many of them were rude and uncooperative,” Sternbeck said. Another 16 juveniles were released into the custody of their parents without charges after a voluntary breath test revealed no traces of alcohol, Sternbeck said.
“Let’s just say there were a lot of unhappy parents responding to the 3500 block of N. Nottingham Street that night,” said Sternbeck.
No charges have been filed against the homeowner, who was not present at the time of the party but was later reached by police via phone. Police were unable to locate the suspects who threw the cans and bottles at the officer, Sternbeck said.
Update on 4/4/13 — The store is expected to hold a grand opening April 5 and 6. The store is owned by Bill and Kasi Hansen. Bill is a Yorktown High School graduate and “longtime local resident,” according to a press release. Zinga will be open from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
According to the shop’s Facebook page, the goal is to open next week. Photos have been popping up on the page highlighting the store’s construction progress, such as the new outdoor sign and the arrival of the froyo machines. Customers are encouraged to “like” the page for special deals that will only be available to fans.
Zinga! will be the newest shop to cash in on the froyo trend by featuring machines that allow customers to serve themselves and then pay for the product by weight. There will be three dozen rotating flavors and 50 toppings to choose from.
The Facebook page also encourages anyone interested in working at the new location to contact Drew Hafer at email@example.com.
Another Zinga! Frozen Yogurt is expected to open in Falls Church in late May.
Photos via Facebook
According to its website, national chain Zinga Frozen Yogurt plans to move into the vacant space at 2914 Sycamore Street, which used to house Garden City Florist.
Like many of the froyo stores popping up around the county, Zinga allows customers to serve themselves one of the three dozen rotating frozen yogurt flavors. There are more than 50 toppings to choose from, and the finished product is sold by weight.
Zinga sets itself apart from similar establishments with its freshly baked “bottomz” — such as waffle bowls, brownies and vanilla cake — which customers can use as a base on which to build their frozen creations.
So far there has not be an announcement about when construction will begin or when the store is expected to open.
The 2012-2013 school year is a big one for Arlington Public Schools, as it takes on the task of changing school boundaries and admissions policies. The first opportunity for the public to get involved is at a School Board work session tonight (Wednesday).
At the meeting, the School Board will review the current boundary policy and discuss the scope of the boundary changes to be considered. The work session will take place in room 101 of the Education Center (1426 N. Quincy Street) at 7:45 p.m.
The public is allowed to attend but not offer comments at the work session, which is considered a preliminary meeting to figure out the direction the boundary process will take in the coming months. Public engagement sessions will officially kick off late next month. At that time, residents may raise concerns and offer suggestions for boundary issues requiring further examination.
“We’re very interested in being transparent and engaged with the community in this process. We want people to be engaged because boundary changes will be a part of our future for many years,” said APS Director of Facilities Planning Alison Denton. “We want to establish a process that works and that is transparent.”
Policy requires this process for projects listed in the proposed APS Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) presented by Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy in May. The $538 million CIP includes funding for two new elementary schools and additions to three others to address the school system’s capacity issues.
“We’re seeing an influx of students to the point where we’re running out of space, especially at the elementary level,” said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia.
In preparation for the new schools and new additions, new school boundaries must be decided upon to better distribute students in the most overcrowded areas, such as the northwest portion of the county.
“This is just the beginning discussion. We don’t know yet how large the boundaries are going to be or how small they’re going to be,” Bellavia said.
So far, there’s no firm timetable for having a boundary plan completed. It could be finished by the end of this school year, but that’s still up in the air and should be discussed at tonight’s work session, according to Denton.
The Republican congressman is running for governor in his home state of Indiana. According to The Journal Gazette – a publication in Fort Wayne, Ind. — accusations are flying due to Pence’s house in the Williamsburg neigborhood.
His Democratic opponent, John Gregg, claims Pence spends too much time in the D.C. area and not enough time in Indiana. Gregg acknowledges that Pence is a legal resident of Indiana, but believes his time living in Arlington may have caused him to become out of touch with Indiana residents.
The article quotes Gregg as saying, “It’s a question of whether or not they’ve gone Washington with them being out there.”
Although he hasn’t offered a specific breakdown of how much time he spends in each location every year, it’s common knowledge in political circles that Pence’s family lives in Arlington while Congress is in session. His two younger children attend school in Arlington, and his oldest attends Purdue University in Indiana.
Pence, who has been in Congress since 2000, bought his house in Arlington in 2002 for almost $400,000. Currently, records show the property to be assessed at nearly $620,000.
Photo via Google Streetview
(Updated at 11:30 a.m.) Nearly
3,700 1,500 Dominion customers are without power in the northwest corner of Arlington.
The power outage is currently affecting the Yorktown, Williamsburg and East Falls Church neighborhoods. Homes, businesses, traffic lights and even Yorktown High School have lost power.
Dominion spokeswoman Le-Ha Anderson said a piece of equipment failed, causing about 1,500 customers to lose power. The company hopes to have power restored by 11:45 a.m.
County Board Candidates Debate — The three candidates for Arlington County Board — two incumbent Democrats and one Green Party challenger — answered questions at the Civic Federation candidates forum last night. The Democrats, Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada, spoke generally about the advantages of living in Arlington, while challenger Audrey Clement sharply criticized the County Board as being “in bed with developers.” [Sun Gazette]
Unopposed Candidate Roundup — Six Democrats who are running unopposed for local offices also spoke at last night’s candidates forum. [Sun Gazette]
7-Eleven Move Causes Disruptions — Who knew that one 7-Eleven store (out of 24 in Arlington) can have such a significant impact on a community? After a store in the Williamsburg Shopping Center moved closer to the East Falls Church Metro, daily routines were disrupted and other businesses in the shopping center withered. “7-11 may have a fine national strategy, but it sends ripples around localities, affecting livelihoods as well as routines beyond mere convenience,” writes columnist Charlie Clark. Luckily, the store is now moving back to Williamsburg. [Falls Church News-Press]
Redesign Suggestion for Dangerous Rosslyn Intersection — Greater Greater Washington proposes a possible way to enhance pedestrian safety at the dangerous intersection of Lynn Street and Lee Highway, while also (possibly) improving traffic flow. [Greater Greater Washington]
Update at 12:20 p.m. — Police have provided more details and this sounds more like mischief than malevolence. The suspect touched the girl’s rear end, then mooned her and her companion before running away, police say.
We’re hearing that police are investigating an attempted sex assault that occurred just before 1:00 last night in the Williamsburg neighborhood of north Arlington.
According to initial reports, a man in his late teens or early 20s dropped his pants and then grabbed the victim, a 17-year-old girl.
It happened at the intersection of North Tacoma Street and Williamsburg Blvd. A police K-9 was brought in to try to track the subject — no word yet on whether any arrests have been made.