County Board Member’s Yard Featured in ‘Southern Living’

by ARLnow.com May 6, 2011 at 11:17 am 7,399 39 Comments

An Ashton Heights resident’s lush, well-designed front yard was just featured in Southern Living Magazine. And that resident happens to be none other than County Board member Jay Fisette.

The editors of Southern Living were so impressed by the transformation of Fisette’s yard from bland to beautiful that they featured it in a three-page spread in their April issue. Per the magazine’s folksy style, the language used in the article was — colorful.

“Jay Fisette and Bob Rosen have a nice house, but their front yard was as exciting as watching a frozen turkey thaw,” the article said. “A nearly featureless lawn bisected by a skinny front walk stretched between the Arlington, Virginia house and the street. It was, shall we say, a royal snoozer.”

Luckily, Fisette was approached one day by a neighbor, landscape designer Tom Mannion, who wanted to help him spruce the yard up.

“By addressing a few basic issues, Tom created a colorful, welcoming space that has easy access and stands out from its environs like a Bolshoi ballerina in a mattress store,” said the article.

Among the changes made: A “parking court” just off the driveway, a wider front walk, and plenty of colorful plants.

Fisette said that he’s heard from about a dozen people who have stumbled upon the article (it’s not available on the internet) including his mother and Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur. While downplaying the significance of the publicity — Jay wouldn’t go so far as saying the article was “an honor” — he did say the article was an enjoyable experience for himself and Rosen.

“It was fun for us,” Fisette said. “We were impressed by the article ourselves.”

  • Brock

    Could be wrong, but didn’t his assessment stay flat or decline, like the those of the other board members? (Despite a rise in the assessment for nearly everyone else?)

    Normally the county assesses you for more if you do almost anything to beautify your property–certainly if you add a parking court, whatever that is.

    I smell a rat. Someone should get the Atty Gen to look into this assessment thing.

    • PhilL

      Hey, look at this shiny Artisphere over here…..

    • Max

      a lot of people’s assessments stayed flat, and some board members’ assessments changed. Good job trying to change the truth though. That’s how rumors get started.

      • Burger

        Someone posted a link to the tax assessments of the county board members. I think only 1 went up and 4 went down or marginally different. If you don’t think the RE assessors don’t know where CB members live, you are crazy.

        • dynaroo

          If you think RE assessors routinely fudge assessments for political purposes and risk going to jail for it…

          • Burger

            I’m guessing you are more than willing to just follow along with whatever the board says.

            I guarantee you they know where the CB live – just like maintenance, garbage, snow plowing, etc knows where they live. They would be stupid to not know and keep them happy but the rest of the taxpayers in Arlington aren’t nearly as lucky.

            You can easily fudge a RE assessment because it is so squishy and would always have a valid argument if someone questioned you on it. All you have to do is play around with the breakdown between land and improvement assessments.

          • dynaroo

            “I’m guessing you are more than willing to just follow along with whatever the board says.”

            Well, no. That’s a straw man.

            Unlike plowing a street early, fudging an assessment for political reasons is likely illegal. Anyone, even you, can just go making up conspiracies about government. People do it all the time.

        • Max

          So there you go. 1 went up. Argument invalid.

          This is the County Board. Not the Mafia. Get a grip on reality for once.

          • Burger

            Um..when most assessments went up?

        • gringo

          So if I am not thinking that the assessors do know where the CF members do not live, am I not crazy?

    • Barbin

      Well, we live in a pretty nice part of Arlington, but our assessment went down $90K and we don’t know any important people in Arl Cty govt. I don’t know how this stuff gets figured.

      • Bringmetheyuppies

        Well, we live in a dumpy part of arlington. We built a garage and the county bumped our assessment 80 grand. AND our house looks like crap because we are about to renovate so really it should have gone down imho.

    • From an earlier report: Jay Fisette’s residential value decreased this year again, as it has over the past three years despite the installation of a new pool in 2009. On average, in-ground pools add 7.7% to the value of a home, according to the National Association of Realtors.

  • Joseph

    This is how rumors start. You probably still think Obama wasn’t born in the United States.

    • RosRes

      @ Joseph +1 The yard looks great. I hope even more Arlingtonians will follow suit and beautify their yards.

      • Elizabeth

        Where can I get a yard beautification subsidy? Last time I got a quote it was a little under 10k and that was not including my walkway and driveway. So, if you’d like my yard prettier, as I would, please donate!

        A pool would be nice too…

        • 4Arl

          I don’t see where it said the design services were donated or subsidized. Is that in the article?

    • Brock

      Not true. In fact, I’m a strong supporter of the President. Nice attempt at an irrelevant ad hominem attack, however.

      It’s hard for me to understand how any home in an affluent area of Arlington County could decline in value in the last year–especially when so many other homes have risen in value.

      It would not require Mafia-level corruption in order for the assessements office to artificially undervalue the properties of board members. It’s not as if this kind of thing has never happened in other communities.

      If these four homes really did drop in fair-market value, then fine. But to me it’s at least worth an investigation.

      • dynaroo


        There are differences between individual properties and between neighborhoods. One neighborhood may have sales that indicate a substantial increase in value, while sales in another may not reflect any change at all. Different types of properties within the same neighborhoods may also show different value changes. For example, one story houses may be in larger demand than two story houses, or vice versa. Older home values might rise slower than newer homes.

        There are numerous factors to be considered by the assessor when reviewing property values, thus causing different areas and types of properties to change values at different rates.


  • G Clifford Prout

    Need to do something to spiff up Zimmerman’s yard!

  • 4Arl

    Unless a job results in a building permit being pulled I don’t think the assessor even looks at an individual property record for improvements.

    • Burger

      Of course, you could argue that a permit would need to be filed by county board member for one to look at to assess the RE tax.

  • CW

    Oh come on, give credit where credit’s due. Nice lawn, guys!

  • KalashniKEV

    This one went over my head, but left me curiously aroused…

    “…like a Bolshoi ballerina in a mattress store.”

    A certain factoid in this article put another brick in the wall of blatant corruption surrounding ArtisFAIL for me as well.

  • GetReal

    I’d be most interested in the size of the parking pad and driveway. If its above certain size there are Bay reg….

    • dynaroo

      I would bet their design is good for water quality and they they thought about this while designing it.

    • charlie

      agreed. they went from a beat up driveway,m aybe gravel, and PAVED more of their yard… where are the coverage-police when you need them.
      (i would not assume that what they did is good for the bay)
      But I would agree that as a wealthy politically and socially active gay couple, their yard has looked pretty, um, bad, for years.
      thank you for sprucing it up.

      • dynaroo

        I remember being pleasantly surprised to hear Jay Fisette talk about “impermeable surfaces” and water quality at a board hearing. He understands their impact. I would guess he accounted for it in his design. But I’m just assuming.

    • Tooth Fairy

      I’ve always been a fan of driveways with the two strips of concrete and a grassy strip in the middle. I was disappointed when friends in Lee Heights decided to get rid of their grassy strip driveway and replace it with something similar to what Jay Fisette did. The less pavement or paving stones, the better.

      • dynaroo

        Yeah, I like that too, for the old-fashioned look as well. In general, people do alot of things in their yards that are stupid, wrong, or ugly simply because they see other people doing it.

        If I see one more of those damn “gazing balls” I’m going to smash it.

        • charlie

          yeah, but my gazing ball will actually film you doing it. that is how we catch the dog poopers and the car ashtray-rifling people on my block.

          • dynaroo

            which is why I’ll smash it.

            P.S. I think you’re serious.

      • Burger

        I think those stripes look stupid and create much more work including the likelihood of their being just dirt (and mud with rain) on those strips.

        To each his own.

        • Tooth Fairy

          Yes, I agree. The two strips of concrete with the grass in the middle definitely involves more than paving over in order to prevent the grass from dying or creating a muddy mess, as you mention. And I think that’s why most people end up paving over these types of driveways or going from gravel to concrete/asphalt — to make their lives more hassle-free.

          Too much of the world is paved over, though, so I appreciate people who go don’t go wild with pavers or transforming their property into their own little concrete jungle. More green, less sheen.

  • TuesdaysChild

    yard looks better.

  • jjbug

    Landscaping was the focus of this article, but the better story of Fisette & Rosen’s property is their focus on water usage. That rear-yard lap-pool is solar-polared! Each downspout has a water barrel with hose connection to a designated area designed to absorb any heavy rainflow. Jay claims all rainwater exits below the soil on this lot: no rainwater flows to the sewe or street. The selection of plants to keep this beautiful and relatively free from weeds as well is awesome. Sorry that focus was not covered in the article: Southern Living must not be as awake to “Green” living choices. The pavement for car spaces is also part of this. jjbug

  • Dan

    The assessment process in Arlington is a complete crap shoot.

    To make matters worse, the Board of Equalization works for and is paid handsomely by the county….a fact that they are all aware of.

    There needs to be an advocate for home owners on the board.

    • 4Arl

      Item #19 on the “consent” agenda for the upcoming board meeting is adoption of changes to the board of equalization. Here’s a chance to have a say.


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