42°Clear

Bluemont Residents to Debate Development Plans

by ARLnow.com June 22, 2011 at 4:17 pm 6,462 117 Comments

A controversial development plan will be debated at the Bluemont Civic Association meeting tonight.

The plan, which we reported on in April, envisions a “Bluemont Village Center,” featuring new mixed-use developments along a stretch of Wilson Boulevard (west of Ballston) currently flanked by single-story shops, restaurants and an older Safeway supermarket. The plan was generated by the Bluemont Civic Association, with the volunteer help of a Virginia Tech graduate student, as part of its Neighborhood Conservation plan process.

The plan is only intended to guide future development along Wilson Boulevard, but its renderings of imagined 4 to 5 story buildings has elicited a strong response from residents who object to the potential increase in density.

“Is this your ‘vision’ of Bluemont?” asks a flyer (after the jump) that has been widely distributed in the neighborhood. The flyer argues that the plan could result in the displacement of existing small businesses (like Two Chefs, Pupatella and Body Dynamics), the addition of 100 to 200 apartments, greater competition for on-street parking and “at least 200 more cars flooding neighborhood streets each morning and evening.”

The flyer also cites a Bluemont Civic Association survey, which found that 54.5 percent of respondents objected to building heights over 3 stories. The same survey, however, found that 69.7 percent of respondents favored a “‘village center’ type development” — defined as “a mix of retail, office, residential, and cultural uses in a compact, pedestrian-oriented center.”

On its web site, the civic association defends its actions and encourages residents to “get the facts” tonight.

There’s been quite a bit of misinformation swirling about Bluemont lately! Strongly-worded flyers delivered about the neighborhood are spreading fear and uncertainty about BCA’s activities. The truth is this: BCA is working for you! We represent the interests of the neighborhood and its residents. We always have, and we’ll continue to do so.

In an “FAQ” released this month, the civic association says that the plan “grew from community input… and was intended to provide a community-backed vision when — not if — development would occur.”

Tonight’s civic association meeting will take place at 7:30 p.m. at Arlington Traditional School (855 N. Edison Street). In addition to the debate over future development, the meeting will include the annual election of the association’s officers and representatives.

  • Paco

    The Safeway That Time Forgot MUST remain intact as a tribute to the Reagan presidency.

    • Josh S

      The 80s? No, I’m guessing that Safeway dates from the Nixon presidency.

      • Bluemontsince1961

        Josh, there was a Safeway at that location when my family moved from Ashton Heights to Bluemont in 1961. The current layout is vintange early-mid 1970s. The older version’s front doors used to face Wilson Blvd. I wasn’t much to write home about even back then.

      • Westover

        At least they are starting to keep the place stocked again, during the late 90’s and early years of this millenium, it was the couter-point to the “Social Safeway” in Georgetown, we had the Socialist Safeway of Wilson Blvd, bare shelves looked like the old USSR in there. While it is still not up to par with other grocerys in the county, it has improved a tad bit.

  • Rebecca

    They are so pressed for that safeway

  • Jack

    They should knock that Safeway down and make it a Wegmans. Done and Done.

    • Bluemont Susan

      +1 (except for the traffic and parking headaches. hmmm.)

    • kilo

      F*ck Wegmann’s….over priced foo foo “depot” for anal retentive 20 to 30 somethings who need to quit worrying about gourmet food and start worrying about creating jobs other than taxpayer funded, no rush to get anything done jobs

  • Suburban Not Urban

    Another step in the plan to connect EFC to Ballston over objections of residents inbetween.

  • pg

    All Safeways should be knocked down and made into Wegmans.

  • PW

    Most residents favored “village center” development – but since when do villages have multi storey shopping malls and office spaces in the middle of them?

    • barbara wien

      I totally agree. Amen.

  • Most of the fruit, veggies, etc… look like they’ve been sitting in the Safeway since the early 1980s

    • othersideoftheriver

      +1

  • The Native

    I think everyone is missing the point. It will be redeveloped. Why not try and have some input and guide the direction rather then wait for it to be done by others outside the community. It is called a vision which is not necessarily a reality.

    • Here’s one Bluemont resident that agrees with you.

      • G::TheNativeArlingtonian

        This is the first I’ve heard of this idea. Sprucing up is a good idea. Four stories and added density… you can keep it and all the extra headaches that go with it. Consider me not in favor… As for that Safeway… its tired for sure. I’ve heard rumor that it was going to be closed down anyway.

  • John

    Hopefully Shalom Baranes will be the architect for a future proposal. What they did at the former Sears & Roebuck in Tenleytown was genius. Or any Columbia architecture grad student will also suffice. No more pseudo craftsman/colonial junk.

    • Lou

      What about one from Yale? Would that be acceptable to you?

      • John

        Maybe. But YSOA is just not as cutting edge. Zimmerman spoke about the need for stimulating, interesting, meaningful, “outside the box” architecture a few years ago. Let’s do it here, at the roughly geographic center of Arlington.

        • Lou

          Ok, cool. Just thought since you seem to like Shalom Baranes’ work you may have some appreciation for where he went to school.

          • John

            I am a fan of Shalom Baranes, I admit. But I’m not about to buy the monograph.

        • Josh S

          Actually, “outside the box” is probably just a recipe for the architect to stroke himself while designing a monstrosity that bears no relationship to the place or time.

          How about relevant, human-scaled, and reverent architecture that serves its purpose but also respects the community and reminds us of something greater.

          That said, just about anything would be better than the jumble of strip mall and franchise putridity that is there now.

          • Bluemontsince1961

            I agree, Josh.

  • Dot

    I’m all for knocking down Safeway and revitalizing our neighborhood. But first of all the meeting tonight is basically an annual election of the association’s officers and representatives. This is your chance to be a part of the future of our neighborhood. Second of all, this is not a plan, it is merely a concept meant for discussion.

  • MC

    The area could use a face-lift, as the comments about Safeway reflect. But don’t mess with Pupatella: it’s someplace special, and makes wonderful use of an older strip storefront to create a funky, LA-like vibe. There are still single-story shops across from the Ballston metro, so no reason that Bluemont can’t have at least some single-story shops.

  • Sal Ferro

    It is unfortunate that what had been a smooth, open, 2+ year process in a smooth-running civic association has suddenly devolved into a fiasco inflamed by those who seem to fear any development at all — and disagree with the majority of their neighbors. Tonight’s meeting was not intended to be debate about Village Center Concept, but is turning into one as those opposed attempt to overthrow the long-time leaders who have worked hard to enhance our neighborhood by listening to what the community members want.

    • Suburban Not Urban

      Back these statements up with some proof. So when was the last time the current leadership got a majority of residents – not just a majority of their inner circle and hanger’s on(that show up for routine BCA meetings) – to approve their vision.

      • Dot

        Sounds like you’re not an active BCA member, otherwise you wouldn’t be asking such questions.

        • Suburban Not Urban

          You’re right but I’ve heard similar things from others involved in this kind of planning, where they bemoan people “gumming up the works” for voicing opinions from outside their closed circle.

          • John

            Sorry, but you’re out of touch and misinformed. The small group of BCA members who’ve been serving our neighborhood for years have done a fantastic job at trying to reach out, get more folks engaged, and solicit feedback. The newsletters, website, surveys, and hand-delivered flyers are proof positive. Until recently, they were ignored. Their service should be respected and I’m glad folks have finally gotten involved, albeit many in an under informed, less-than-constructive fashion.

            As has been said, the Safeway site will eventually be redeveloped and BCA has been working to get input and articulate a vision so we can be more effective stakeholders. For those fearing a swarm of density/traffic, I think that’s likely overblown given my assumption that the Safeway site is about the only parcel that’s sufficiently large and underdeveloped to merit serious attention from a developer. I’d be surprised if anything more than 3 (maybe 4) stories max height on Wilson, tapering to lower heights near single family homes would make sense given the character of the neighborhood (perhaps the 7-11/strip mall/gas station across the street, but I feel that’s a stretch)

            The meeting last night was about electing officers, not debating the NCP. Looking forward to further discussions!

          • Stu Pendus

            Well the Safeway site has a zoning classification and an allowable FAR by-right. You’re talking about a “vision” for the site and 3 or maybe 4 stories with tapering and such. You do realize someone can develop that site and do whatever they want as long as they meet the zoning, right? Or is the BCA seeking a zoning modification to restrict the future development to fit some “vision”?

          • snake pliskin

            This string of comments merely underscore why Arlington has lost its soul. Doofus, over-paid, over-educated transients moving in for a few years, bringing absolutely nothing of value to the community, ISO of the convenience that wipes away character.

            Why do you think Arlington has become a large mall? Yep. Your faves, sparky: Container Store, SBUX, Ch Factory, et. al. ad nauseum. Same as wherever it is that these label whores come from (male & female).

            Welcome to Long Island…..

          • Snake Pliskin

            Judah dal Cais & his robotic cabal have rammed through THEIR vision of re-development. Their drawings start at 4 stories, which is above the current zoning height restrictions in Bluemont. He has done this (handed over the drawings to JBG) without a mandate from the Bluemont community. The developers will demand more density – – and that will arrive in the form of higher buildings.

            Of course there will be more traffic. Who are you kidding? Putting up hundreds of thousands of sf of buildings in the form of retail, office & residential will absolutely bring more traffic, and more cut-throughs (at high speeds) through the residential neighborhoods.

            You can see the Ballston buildings from a half-mile away. When the Bluemont high-rises go up, it won’t be just the homeowners living close to the commerical area that will be affected. It will adversely affect every resident of Bluemont.

            Most of you just don’t comprehend how the County does things. If you would do some digging or, better yet, get involved in the process, you would understand.

            The County makes a show of saying that the parcels are zoned C-1. That means the parcels are zoned for certain limited density based upon a FAR ratio. However….the County frequently changes the zoning. They frequently re-zone parcels so that higher density buildings can be built. They do this because the developers, like JBG, demand it. The developers tell the County it’s just not profitable enough to build anything unless they get the density they need.

            The County falls in line. The County’s crack is the money that the developers provide for street & sidewalk & other improvements as they build the big buildings. The County, being in need of this money, quickly folds their cards & enables the developer to obtain more density through re-zoning.

            Think it won’t happen to you in Bluemont? You’re dead wrong. JBG has already made it quite clear that they can not build anything profitable that’s less than 5 stories in Bluemont. So, figure on 5 to 10 stories. 5 stories puts the buildings in Bluemont well above the height of a telephone pole, for example. The County, though, will grant them more than 5 stories. It will be Clarendon.

            The County wants tax base & revenue from sales taxes. That comes from big buildings it. Quality of life? Not a factor.

            You can say goodbye to Two Chefs & Pupatella. They won’t be able to sell enough food to meet the 4x higher overhead due to massively higher taxes & rents. What you WILL have is more chain operations like Cheesecake Factory, Pottery Barn, Container Store &, of course, another SBUX.

          • Thes

            @ Snake:

            “He has done this (handed over the drawings to JBG) without a mandate from the Bluemont community. ”

            Sounds like Judah’s re-election (and those of his “cabal”) have provided him with that mandate, now. Democracy in action, bro!

          • South Arlington

            The olds are so cute when they try to argue.

          • Stu Pendus

            Does JBG own any of the properties around there?

          • Westover

            Will the SBUX have a drive thru? 😀

          • AB

            Sweet, I LOVE Cheesecake Factory, Pottery Barn, Container Store & SBUX.

          • Josh S

            Drive thru Starbucks! Awesome. I used to go out of my way to visit the drive thru coffee shack thingy in Falls Church. Of course, since it folded, I guess I was in the minority there….
            (it didn’t help that the coffee and food wasn’t that good and the teenagers who worked there weren’t exactly the most motivated employees I’ve ever seen….)

          • doodly

            It’s just a vision, dude. It’s not even a plan. It has no force of law. Chill out. Nice rant too.

      • doodly

        This is how the process works:

        1. A few dedicated, hard-working leaders try to get something done. They try to reach out to neighbors in many ways and ask for their involvement.

        2. Most neighbors do nothing.

        3. The leaders make a plan.

        4. Neighbors see the plan, freak out about change they didn’t know about, and go apeshit, claiming they had no input.

        Kind of like government.

    • Allen

      It’s cute to refer to a Bluemont Village Center, but it’s not really accurate. Bluemont is not a village. It’s a residential area within a town, with a smattering of commercial enterprises that serve primarily local residents. Those who want a “village center” should understand that they already have one– It’s called Ballston.

      • doodly

        No, Ballston is hardly a “village center.” Nor would this plan look anything like Ballston.

    • barbara wien

      Sal Ferro, how can you say after reading these blogs posts that the majority of your neighbors want high rise buildings and parking garages. You and Judah are not listening.

      Submitting Ryan Arnold’s drawings of large-scale buildings to JBG without the consent and approval of the Executive Committee or the membership is unethical and wrong. I was at the April membership meeting when Judah announced he had done so. Many people expressed consternation. Were you there? Are you listening?

  • ac

    The renderings you reported on in April were done by Ryan Arnold, a University of Michigan graduate with roots in Bluemont, and not, by “the Bluemont Civic Association, with the volunteer help of a Virginia Tech graduate student, as part of its Neighborhood Conservation plan process.” That plan is here: http://www.bluemontcivic.org/docs/JSK_Capstone_BCA.pdf

    Per the Bluemont Civic Association meeting minutes:
    http://www.bluemontcivic.org/index.php/bca_news/bca_meetings_at_a_glance2/
    Last General Meeting, 1/19
    At the January meeting, Ryan Arnold, a recent University of Michigan architecture school graduate, presented his architectural drawings of the Bluemont Village Center concept to guide the redevelopment of the Wilson Boulevard commercial corridor. Working with Judah dal Cais, Arnold expanded upon urban design student Jane Kim’s initial concepts that were prepared based on resident feedback gathered at last year’s Village Center forum and Neighborhood Conservation (NC) survey.
    Arnold’s suggested proposal includes mixed-use buildings (retail establishments on the ground level with apartments above) for the existing Safeway, Two Chefs, Super Pollo, and McDonald’s sites. A parking garage might be situated on the Federal Lock & Safe site. These designs are meant to be included in BCA’s revised NC Plan, and the ultimate goal of this vision is to attract a developer that will transform the Bluemont commercial sector into a walkable focal point for the neighborhood and a source of pride for the community.
    Arnold and dal Cais subsequently met with representatives of developer JBG. Their discussions focused primarily on redevelopment of the Safeway site, To review Arnold’s presentation and the results of the NC survey, please visit http://www.bluemontcivic.org.

  • TMP

    Just what Arlington needs, another high rise encroaching on neighborhoods bringing in more people into a smaller space. Isn’t this concept more appropriate for Ballston a couple of blocks over and not next to established businesses and single family homes?

    • Agent Michael Scarn

      One four-story building does not equal dozens of 20-something story buildings. This is far from apocalyptic.

  • Love the Wegman’s idea and wish there was one in Arlington but wouldn’t that bring a lot more traffic since it would be the only one nearby?!?

    I would like to see this area more pedestrian friendly with more places for the area residents to walk to but without drawing people driving from all over the county. Find a way to keep the local businesses like Pupatella, Layalina and Covet but perhaps they could be the ground floor of 2-3 story buildings.

  • dcbrewer

    I live almost across the street from Safeway and I am all in favor of developing that stretch of Wilson. I have no problem with 4 story buildings or increased density, either. What I would really like to see in any redevelopment is some plan to allow the businesses in the strip to stay in business. Although I wouldn’t be sad to see McDonalds and the gas station go, I frequent most of the other businesses there and can completely understand their unease about the whole idea.

    • Bluemont Susan

      I live down the the street on Abingdon and I agree. Four or five stories doesn’t bother me, but if it’s a huge problem they can limit the height to three stories. The drawings on the BCA website show the current local business in the new concept. I surely would miss Pupatella, 2 Chefs, Covet, etc. if they were forced to leave because they couldn’t afford the new rent or because construction would force them to shut down for too long, but it does seem that the concept is designed to include them.

  • Sal Ferro

    Results: Vindication of the Board (and IMHO) their work on NC and the BVC vision PROCESS! Details to come!

  • aptsguy

    Why stop at 5 stories? Go higher and fill in the gap between here and Ballston.

    • schmex

      For those of us who live in the gap between Ballston and George Mason Drive, that is a real fear.

      • The Truth

        That presents the question, “what’s in it for JBG?” Is it really the gap between Balston & George Mason Drive that is driving this interest in redevelopment on the Safeway lot?

    • doodly

      Nice slippery slope argument.

  • LIAM

    That Safeway really needs a makeover. The produce is very limited and many times at or past the expiration date, there is no seafood counter, no bakery, no gourmet or better quality meats. It’s no wonder the store is almost always nearly empty. I have never seen more than 2 check out counters open. It looks like they get their produce from a different supplier than the other 2 Safeways nearby. It’s OK if you are buying anything that comes in a bottle, box or can, but for anything fresh, I always go to another Safeway or Harris Teeter. I got tired of returning bread or produce that was past it’s expiration date. Now I always have to check the ex. date on everything in the store.

    • Westover

      It is much better than it was 10 years ago…..

  • Thomas Quigley

    I live next to Bluemont. This stretch of Wilson Blvd is currently an eyesore that should not exist in Arlington. Many others agree.

    I know a couple of Bluemont residents who really like this 4 to 5 story rendering, as do I. This looks nothing like urban Ballston, but more like a “vilage”, and is a nice complement or buffer area between East Falls Church and the Ballston-Rosslyn corridor.

    Just be sure to keep Pupatella and a few of the other small businesses. Pupatella is amazing — the real deal and we’re so lucky to have a restaurant like that in our neighborhood.

    • Snake Pliskin

      Most of you just don’t comprehend how the County does things. If you would do some digging or, better yet, get involved in the process, you would understand.

      The County makes a show of saying that the parcels are zoned C-1. That means the parcels are zoned for certain limited density based upon a FAR ratio. However….the County frequently changes the zoning. They frequently re-zone parcels so that higher density buildings can be built. They do this because the developers, like JBG, demand it. Otherwaie, the developers tell the County it’s just not profitable enough to build anything unless they get the density they need.

      The County falls in line. The County’s crack is the money that the developers provide for street & sidewalk & other improvements as they build the big buildings. The County, being in need of this money, quickly folds their cards & enables the developer to obtain more density through re-zoning.

      Think it won’t happen to you in Bluemont? You’re dead wrong. JBG has already made it quite clear that they can not build anything profitable that’s less than 5 stories in Bluemont. So, figure on 5 to 10 stories. 5 stories puts the buildings in Bluemont well above the height of a telephone pole, for example. The County, though, will grant them more than 5 stories. It will be Clarendon.

      The County wants tax base & revenue from sales taxes. That comes from big buildings it. Quality of life? Not a factor.

      You can say goodbye to Two Chefs & Pupatella. They won’t be able to sell enough food to meet the 4x higher overhead due to massively higher taxes & rents. What you WILL have is more chain operations like Cheesecake Factory, Pottery Barn, Container Store &, of course, another SBUX

      • Suburban Not Urban

        +1

  • Bluemontsince1961

    I might be OK with low-rise development (say no more than three stories), but I’m wary – I don’t want Ballston-Clarendon sized high rises. Definitely support doing something with that poor, tired Safeway. I shop there once in a while if my list is short, but that’s about it. I guess everyone has their preferences about grocery stores, and Safeway has been a poor third to me for years compared to Harris Teeter and Giant. Maybe a Wegmans would be an idea worth considering.

  • Thomas

    I live in that area north of Wilson, east of George Mason…techincally Ballston, but the Blumont CA has adopted us.

    I really only use that safeway for emergency staples..usually in the middle of prepping food.

    What I really want to know is…is our new western Ballston metro entrance ever going to happen?

    • Lou

      Not until someone is willing to build a new building next to Arlington Gateway. The old office building on Fairfax is blocking the underground concourse connection to the street where the escalators will be.

    • Suburban Not Urban

      Not in the forseeable future- you are stuck(just like the EFC West Entrace is an empty promise) – federal and metro dollars are being contrainted and since the county can’t extort enough of a contribution from developers since citizens would never approve the world trade center sized development that would justify such a tithe.

  • Arlwhenever

    That’s right re-develop, increase density, crowd the boulevard to yield developers every conceivable inch of developable space, eliminate open parking and make such parking as exists dark, dingy and difficult to access and then replace retail that people actually use with vacant street-level ghost towns. Be my guest people. Enjoy!

    • anonymous coward

      In contrast, you’re advocating for keeping a crappy Safeway that’s an eyesore with a huge, under-utilized parking lot and negligible greenery? I know some quiver in fear of the prospect of walking, biking, or using a parking garage, but I’m pretty sure we as a community can do better – think a grocery store plus perhaps a few more local retailers, couple floors of apts (totaling 3, maybe 4 stories max), and some green space…nothing flashy, but that’d be nice in my opinion and perhaps make that area feel more like a central gathering place in Bluemont with a few more local options/services/businesses.

      Snake has a point – development WILL come whether we want it or not, and the developer will almost certainly advocate for more height and density than Bluemont is comfortable with. If posts are to be believed, Judah dal Cais has done us no favors thus far, but there’s still time – nothing is set in stone!

      That’s why we need to come together and figure out what the majority of the community wants so we can articulate a strong vision. Otherwise, as happened with Peck/Staples, a developer WILL come in, press for their by-right allotments which may already exceed what BCA would prefer, AND push for additional height/density using tokens including a few affordable housing units, LEED certification, improvements to sidewalk/curb/gutter, or a contribution to a community art fund. Bluemont will be caught flat-footed, and a much greater percentage of the community will be pissed off.

      I’ve fought it personally in far too many meetings, but BCA now has folks sufficiently familiar w/ the process now that we should be able to be a bit more savvy. Let’s get it together, folks.

  • ArlForester

    Am I the only person who has never considered this part of Bluemont?

  • barbara wien

    BCA President Judah dal Cais, without advance notice or permission from the BCA membership, took it upon himself to have unemployed architect Ryan Arnold draw up redevelopment plans for the entire Wilson Blvd. commercial area. As BCA president, he then set up a private, face-to-face meeting (without advance notice to or authorization from the membership) in March 2011 with representatives of the megadeveloper JBG to show them the plans. Based upon JBG’s feedback, dal Cais then instructed Arnold to alter his original designs (3–4 stories) to meet JBG’s request for additional height and density (4–5 stories). These changes were made to the designs despite the fact that 54.5% of residents (who responded to the civic association’s 2010 survey) were willing to support a redeveloped village center of no more than 3 stories. On Friday June 10, dal Cais told BCA 1st VP Matt Fehling and two other members that JBG was performing “due diligence” on Arnold’s revised plans and that the developer planned to use those plans to pitch a development proposal to Safeway. Despite being asked to disclose these facts publicly in the newsletter, nothing about the negotiations with JBG was disclosed in the June BCA newsletter mailed on June 17, nor was it disclosed on the BCA Website, nor was it disclosed in the BCA direct-mail piece, its “FAQ” sheet that mailed/distributed to members on June 20. In fact, the June 22 elections were held in the absence of any disclosure of these material facts, and instead, members were told that there was no active plan being considered.

    In addition to failing to disclose pertinent information to members either before or during the June 22 Annual Meeting and election, the faction supporting dense development of the Wilson Blvd. commercial corridor distributed a printed voter’s guide in the meeting room and during the election process, advising all those present to vote for write-in candidate Judah dal Cais (who had previously stated that he would not run for a 9th term) for president.
    a

    • uncommonpatriot

      Try being involved in the civic association for more than just 2 weeks before the elections. If people sincerely cared about being a part of the conversation, they would have paid attention over the past two years while this village concept idea was being discussed. There would now be less misconceptions about the process so far and less rumors being spread among our community.

      • Suburban Not Urban

        Except they were probably told(just like we were over near EFC) not to worry – this was just pie in the sky dream planning and there would be plenty of time later for constructive criticism and decisions about commitment. Now all you get is where were you 2 years ago – same gaming of the process.

        • snake pliskin

          +1

      • Allen

        So the majority of us who just go about our daily business should stand quietly aside while a few saintly “involved” people make decisions about our neighborhood?

        • uncommonpatriot

          For some people being actively involved in their community is daily business. And spreading misconceptions and rumors when people don’t understand something or feel left out of the process does not help their point be heard and does not create a two-way discussion.

          • barbara wien

            I am deeply involved in Bluemont on a daily basis. I have been a BCA member since 2001 and have attended many meetings. I read the newsletter religiously. I have participated in Neighborhood Day, BCA barbeques, and the bell ringing ceremony next to the fire station on many federal holidays. I pull invasive vines, organize stream clean ups, and teach “Citizenship in the Community” merit badge classes for the Boy Scouts. I am ALSO the mother of 2 children, travel for my work internationally, and serve on the board of a college and two national nonprofits. I don’t think you can call me apathetic or unengaged.

            Because I oppose high rises and parking garages in my neighborhood does constitute misinformation. The information I have posted is based on my own eye-witness accounts and the direct experience of BCA Executive Committee members.

    • ZoneChick

      Tell JBG you will entertain their development ideas as soon as they give Bluemonters the western Ballston entrance they promised in exchange for all that extra density at Glebe and Fairfax.

      They own the Gateway complex and the INS building next to it that they refuse to develop, which is standing in the way of the new metro entry.

      They will promise anything to overbuild in your neighborhood, and turn their backs when it’s time to hold up their end of the contract.

      • snake pliskin

        +1
        +1

      • ArlingtonCountyTaxpayer

        That project will never get built.
        as for the subway entrance, well the County took the money JBG gave them and is currently using it in Rosslyn.
        sooooooooooooooo
        it is like one of those shell games on 42nd Street… which shell has the money under it, this one? this one? oh, no, none of them!!

    • Dot

      Lies and more lies. I must say you’re a menus to our wonderful community.

    • Dot

      Lies and more lies. I must say you’re a menus to our wonderful community.

      • MB

        Two shots at that, separated by hours, and you still screwed it up?

        Well done.

  • The Native

    What?! If that is what you heard you just were not paying attention. Like they say, those who show up get to make the rules. Looks like you didn’t show up.

    • snake pliskin

      And you got scammed, bubba.

  • Shelia

    Have you considered how this will increase our property values? That strip of Wilson is an eye-sore and is considered the “bad part” of North Arlington (although not justified) just from the sight of it. Those of us who want redevelopment do not want Pupatella, Two Chefs, Covet and the like to go away, we want MORE of it. We want more walkable options and more $$ coming to our area of Arlington.

    • AltaW

      +1

    • The Truth

      Shelia, those places will be driven out of business due to the rental fees. Once an establishment is purchased, the OWNER of that property decides who they rent to, and at what price, etc. not the community.

      Before voting, may said frases to the effect of “I will help keep Safeway”…what I’m hearing is we want a grocery store. But if Safeway sells, it is the OWNER of the property who decides who they rent to. Additionally, Safeway can place a clause that PROHIBITS ANY OTHER GROCERY STORE FROM OPENING UP IN THAT LOCATION. Something that was never said.

      We need to be respectful of each other first in our discussions. We need leaders who are going to tell us the truth. The whole truth. And not to just some people but to everyone.

      I believe when the survery was in the process of being done, most did not understand nor did they ever picture a “Village Center” being 5+ stories high. Once builder has the new zoning, he doesn’t have to stop at 5 stores, he can stretch it to the new maximum limits, which they have done on many recent occasions. For that matter, then can see about purchasing the homes around that area and change that zoning also.

      One side is only being heard and the other side is being held underwater until their voices are drown out. This is the issue.

      • uncommonpatriot

        From what I can tell, the voice of the “other side” seems to be pointing out what is negative, in their view, about the village concept and development in general, and not coming to the table to discuss what they actually want to see happening along that stretch of Wilson Blvd. Hopefully, once the BCA meetings start back up in Septmember, they will be more active.

      • AltaW

        Truth, there are many holes in your oversimplification of the zoning/GLUP process which you seem to be spinning to promote your point of view.

        The presentation given at the meeting by the gentleman from the zoning board who happens to be an active BCA member was the best synopsis of the actual truth I have ever seen when it comes to zoning issues in the ARL. I’m glad there were so many Bluemont residents there to hear what he had to say.

        I (like most people) agree with your comment above that “We need to be respectful of each other first in our discussions.” This is exactly why I did not vote for the gentleman from Fed Lock last night. His actions at the May BCA meeting were anything but respectful toward those in attendance at the meeting especially board member Hynes. To have someone like him running BCA would have been a huge step back regardless of your position on redevelopment.

        The one good thing that I hope will come from all of this is more attendees at BCA meetings discussing development issues as they evolve from various visions into actual proposals.

        • The Truth

          Alta, I couldn’t agree with you more. From my perspective the gentleman from the zoning board did a great job. Believe the more we talk about and clarify any information regarding this, the more we move further with this process. For instance, did all the new people understand that it is one possibility that a grocery store could be moved out of our neighborhood? Another examples is, what is the reason behind making this 5 stories and changing the zoning? This one is one of the hot issues as I see it. Can we openly and respectfully discuss this and other matters? September is a long time away. There needs to be some common ground or meeting point. It seems that each side wants development but how much development is the key. Each side needs to really listen to the other and my hope it that the truth will be told so informed decissions can be made. Thank you for your reply AltaW.

          • Alexander McDougall

            The guy from the zoning board did NOT do a great job. wtf are you thinking ?!

            He was a smokescreen. A liar. He lulled the attendees into thinking that re-zoning takes years. It doesn’t. The County fast-tracks greater density, very aggressively so. It’s not even an opinion, County Board people are quoted in the Sun Gazette today! Tejada is the only one who is standing up to it.

            All that the zoning-boy did ? Was drone on & on about how the County Board doesn’t know anything about Bluemont development plans. They DO know. Zoning-boy kept saying that the parcels in Bluemont were zoned a certain way & that limited building height, density, et. al. Well, guess what: the County will re-zone the hell out of the Bluemont region as soon as JBG has their guns lined up.

            You’re looking at the complete elimination of all that open space in Bluemont within the next 3 – 5 years. There will be walls of stone & glass towering over the neighborhoods.

            The Board is merely awaiting more of the current BCA lap-dog rollover moves such as the defective & outmoded Bluemont NC plan that deliberately never got revised in the 8 years of dal Cais’s reign; the 4-story plans that were directly handed by dal Cais to JBG exceed the mandate from the community. JBG’s density push & money connections with the Board will get the Bluemont region done; you will see Bluemont sector @ 10 stories. Guaranteed.

            Judah dal Cais is a pawn of the ACDC & Kate Mesches. He’s let the fox into the coop & the damage will now be severe & unrepairable.

            There’s payoffs & corruption in Arlington County govt. It’s deep & it’s massive. JBG paid 25 million for Peck Staples. Turned around & got every single expansion of the original zoning that they wanted. People in govt are getting paid cash as well as receiving jobs for relatives.

            You want to know how it works…?

            Google the Orleans House restaurant & eminent domain. Do a little digging.

            1. Threat of eminent domain to force businesses/landowners to sell.
            2. The developer learns that they don’t have to spend market prices for properties because the County is forcing the businesses out by threat of eminent domain.
            3. Developer either pays a cut rate for the property & then develops it at huge profits.
            4. Or, developer pays the County for the property again at cut rates from market rates & develops it at huge profits.
            5. County has also re-zoned properties, thus forcing owners off the land, then turned around & re-zoned the property AGAIN & handed it off to the developers.

            Orleans House.
            The lot where the Qwest building is on Fairfax Drive.
            So many more locations this has happened in Arlington….

            Wake up, folks !

          • wookie

            Get a grip and confine your conspiracy theories to the grassy knoll. Bluemont isn’t going to see 10 stories of anything that isn’t within a quarter mile of the metro. Arlington cty board believes in transit oriented architecture, not insanity. Besides, there’s no market for such properties in Bluemont West of Carlin Springs (heck, West of Wakefield or Abingdon). Bluemont needs to get our act in gear to stave up up-GLUPping developers, but there’s still time.

          • mcDougall

            No, dude. YOU get a grip & start understanding how this County conducts business. YOU get a grip & do some learning about the history here.

            Those buildings over on Rt 50 across from Ft Myer gate, next to Days Inn: hello! Huge buildings (look at the size of the crane) for a residential neighborhood.

            You obviously don’t know that the County has zoned Wilson all the way down to Jefferson as commercial zoning. What does that tell you, Einstein ?

            There is a market for density & Arlington County pols make it happen.

            Do some work before you dismissively pop off at the babbling gash
            located just below your nose.

  • Allen

    Here’s why any proposal for updating the Bluemont Neighborhood Conservation (NC) plan should be voted down if the updated NC plan might lead to changing the existing C-1/low-density zoning at the Safeway site so as to permit higher density and height. Significantly higher density and height would threaten the current residents’ quality of life and would also pose a threat to the safety of school children.

    1. Safety: The fact that an elementary school is only a block away would raise safety issues should traffic in the area increase significantly. Although most children probably come by bus or car, there are likely some who walk or ride a bike. Whether kids arrive by bus or bike or on foot, they’re in close proximity to the street. Cars and kids don’t mix well.

    2. Isolated neighborhood: The neighborhood immediately behind Safeway is a small and isolated one. This is where I-66 comes closest to Wilson. The neighborhood behind Safeway (one-block long on 8th Road and one-block long on 9th Street, with Frederick and Edison Streets at the ends of 8th and 9th) is cut off on the north from surroundiing residential areas by I-66, on the south by Wilson and Safeway, and on the east by Arlington Traditional School and George Mason Drive. Only on the west is there an easy connection with the surrounding residential areas, and that connection is a narrow, poorly paved one. The nature of this small and isolated residential neighborhood would be radically altered if zoning is changed to permit multi-story housing for many newcomers.

    3. No grocery store: In addition to commotion during construction, should the Safeway site be redeveloped, the small and isolated neighborhood would be deprived of a local grocery store and pharmacy for at least several years (even assuming that a grocery store and pharmacy returned after construction). There are elderly people in the neighborhood who would be severely inconvenienced by the loss.

    4. Parking: If new multi-story residential construction is permitted, it presumably would include enough under-ground parking to (theoretically) accommodate the new residents. But with most multi-family developments in Arlington County, there has almost never been enough parking for residents and also for their guests, so the excess cars end up being parked on nearby streets. It is inevitable that the small and isolated neighborhood behind Safeway would be plagued by overflow parking. And, of course, the neighborhood would be swamped by cars and trucks during construction.

    5. Small businesses: Many of our small businesses have served this neighborhood faithfully for decades. Redevelopment typically triggers higher commercial real estate taxes and higher rents, which eventually squeeze existing small local businesses out of the area. If the Safeway site is re-zoned and re-developed, one of the first casualties would probably be our small businesses.

    6. A few years ago, another proposal that would have increased the height and density at the Safeway site was resoundingly defeated. Why are we revisiting this issue?

    7. Desirable alternatives exist: We could easily update our NC plan to include a wish-list of desirable amenities for Bluemont without re-development at the Safeway site. For example, how about installing a water fountain in the small park-like area near the bus stop at Wilson and George Mason? Do we need more street lights? Better sidewalks? There are numerous possibilities for improving Bluemont without endangering school children, adversely impacting residents of the small neighborhood behind Safeway, driving out small businesses, and increasing parking problems and traffic congestion.

    • Bluemontsince1961

      @Allen, Well said! These are the very things myself and quite of few of my neighbors noted in the BCA survey at the end of 2009/early 2010.

    • snake pliskin

      Well said. Community first. Not Tax Base Density Uber Alles

    • PhilL

      Re: #2 above, there are some very cool cottage style houses back in that neighborhood. The county should really consider maintaining the 1-story commercial buffer right next to that neighborhood.

    • uncommonpatriot

      I think I’ve seen this list before. Wasn’t it passed out at the election meeting last nite?

      • Allen

        It’s very similar to what I distributed at the meeting.

    • Westover

      On the first point, should they shut down Key Elementary? The school is already next to a drive thru McDonald’s, remove that from the equation it might actually be safer.

      If they do not build deeper than the current commercial foot print, the effect on the neighbors you mention will be minimal. If they do build bigger it will be due to some of those very residence selling out.

      Looking at Shirlington, and other area “town centers”, I would expect that a grocery has a better chance at staying(and improving on what is currently there) then we have with Safeway sticking around much longer in the current conditions.

      It should be insisted upon that adequate parking above and beyond what is predicted to be needed is provided by an underground lot.

      It is not too hard to get accommodations for existing business at existing rents to be included in any permit approvals.

      Wasn’t that “Few years ago” about 10-15 years ago now? Time flies as we age.

      A water fountain is at that corner would be like putting a band-aid on a compound fracture.

      • Suburban Not Urban

        Are you sure rent control on retail space can be part of site conditions – that doesn’t sound legal to me(eminent domain etc)

        • Westover

          Such things are often negotiated into the zoneing deal, although might take an active roll by the current land owner.

    • John

      @ Allen, if Safeway is in fact zoned C-1 it already permits heights of up to 35 (three stories)’. C-1 is probably appropriate, but we might want to discuss whether BCA should lobby for C-1-R which restricts the % of the area that can be developed (ratio of .6 to 1 for C-1-R vs. 1-1 for C-1) and doesn’t allow apts above the commercial structures (I think); check it out:

      http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/cphd/planning/zoning/cphdplanningzoningordinancecode.aspx

      Snake’s right in that the Safeway site WILL eventually be redeveloped and the developer WILL push for greater height/density (more profit) by dangling promises of a few affordable housing units, LEED certification, local curb/gutter/sidewalk improvements, contribution to an art fund, etc. while lobbying to minimize the parking provided. I and others now have personal experience w/ Peck/Staples that we can learn from.

      Judah’s been accused of doing BCA no favors by showing a plan inconsistent with survey feedback (more height/density) to a developer, in private w/ inadequate disclosure. Whether or not some version of that happened, in my experience he’s a fair individual who cares about his community. BCA hasn’t taken a formal position yet. We NEED to come to a consensus and articulate a strong, unified vision of what we’d like to see if we want to have a shot at influencing future development.

      The alternative is we do nothing or remain divided…in either case, a developer will catch BCA flat-footed, we’ll have much less of a voice in that process, and we probably won’t like the results.

      We’re one of the larger associations in Arlington, and can probably exert considerable sway on the planning commission and the board if we arrive at a deliberate, thoughtful, united vision of what the majority of the community wants.

      I’d personally like to see us retain a grocery store (Teeter and Giant really aren’t that far), plus a few other small local retailers/businesses, with one or two stories of apts (max of 4 stories total), more green space, and adequate underground parking. While this would be a change, I believe that something of this nature would be an improvement to services, quality of life, and property values while not drastically altering traffic, safety, or the tenor of the neighborhood.

      Agree there are other issues BCA should address – particularly the dangerous sidewalks between George Mason and Abingdon/Woodrow.

    • We fear change

      That is the biggest load of crap I have heard from this entire comment section. Sorry (not really) we live in an urban community. Deal with it. Your points are just an extended attempt at justifying your fear of… CHANGE.
      1. Safety?! That is why the guys in the orange vests are there at the intersections.
      2. Your ‘isolated neighborhood’ whatever that means would only benefit from re-development. It would give the county more options for reshaping the neighborhood streets.
      3. Harris Teeter is less than a mile away. Developers have and I am sure would continue to add shuttle service during construction. See Columbia Pike. Is there even a pharmacist at that store?
      4. Parking always an issue. Take it up with the Arlington County Board. Developers are willing, want to even add parking spaces. It is the board that continues to cut parking spaces with. They reason if they can’t park in their building they will not buy cars…
      5. As a small business owner I say bring it on. It would do nothing but benefit me and the community.
      6. A few years ago? Like 15, it seems some things have changed in the past 2 decades. Welcome to the 90s, wait… 2011.
      7. Who pays for those things you mentioned? New sidewalks developers, streets, developers. Etc.
      Quite your anti-change agenda and engage in the conversation. We live in an urban area where higher density MAKES SENSE. What is proposed is just a vision of what Bluemont could become, not what it will become. I can see you fear change, but with or without you it is coming. Your arguments are weak at best and disingenuous at best.

      • ZoneChick

        You sound afraid that he made a lot of good points.

        • The Native

          Doesn’t look like John makes much sense to me either. Seems like he had his mind made up before he even heard about redevelopment in Bluemont.

      • Suburban Not Urban

        What is so great about your vision for OVERHAULING the neighborhoods in Arlington?(and it is an overhaul not just controlling what can already be done by right) Most folks don’t resist these kinds of changes just for the sake of it, we resist them because WE LIKE THE WAY THE NEIGHBORHOODS ARE NOW. THIS is often why we bought our homes here and why we settled here. If I buy a home in a subdivision under-construction, it’s because I think I will like living in the neighborhood after the building’s done. When the high and mighty come into a existing neighborhoods and tear them all apart and change the feel, you’re darn right I’m going to resist you deciding for me that the rules need to change.

  • SoCo Resident

    A messy, but good process for this neighborhood to weigh all the probables with this redevelopment. Very much like the Pershing/ Rt. 50 – Lee Shopping Center -project in size. There was no opposition or concern from the Lyon Park Citizen Assocation, or any discussion of alternatives in that case. A bogus traffic report forcast no appreciable increase in traffic.

    “Mosaic of Clarendon” is the new name of the Lee Center project, a mile from Clarendon.

    • Lyon Parker

      Pershing/Rt.50 Lee Center: there was opposition in the neighborhood from the consistent whiners, including the fake architects of the neighborhood. However, the majority of people voted to support progress and did not think the whiners had an alternative plan. Some of the know-it-alls even wanted to demand that the developer abandoned two parcels of land worth at least $1 million for a pocket park. Luckily the developer and the County ignored the know-it-alls. These whiners show up all the time and whine and whine. Usually they are ignored or lose on issues, but occassionally they prevent progress. Unfortunately, these whiners cause most in the neighborhood to not be involved with the citizens association (which is dominated by the whiners who get nothing accomplished).

  • APSnumberone

    I think Westover works. It’s a nice, walkable, albeit old-fashioned looking strip of businesses, accompanied by several terrific small, non-chain restaurants. Parking is available. Why can’t the Safeway strip area be spruced up a little more like Westover, rather than some ridiculous four story “village?” That way we can keep our neighborhood businesses and perhaps add a few more, while still keeping it convenient for those of us in the neighborhood who want to walk or DRIVE OUR CARS there.

    • Suburban Not Urban

      +++++1 Finally a little sanity

    • AltaW

      APS#1

      If only it were that simple… I think redevelopment similar to what is in Westover would be grand and meet much less resistance.

      Unfortunately it is not financially feasible. Developers need the density to make the numbers work. Generally speaking a developer probably needs 2-3 stories to break even on a project and 4-5 to turn some sort of profit.

      I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone who would support anything over 5 stories and to suggest we are looking at 10+ is just fear mongering by the “No Development Camp.”

      Figuring out the sweet spot between 1-5 stories is going to be a long difficult process for all parties involved. The good that has come of this flare up is that people are talking and have become engaged. Lets just hope that once some tempers have cooled that a newly invigorated BCA can work to refine some of the visions put forth already into a new NCP. Then we can evaluate any true redevelopment plans that may or may not be put forth against that plan.

      The way I look at it we are fortunate to live in a community where developers are even considering spending some money on redevelopment. Has anyone been to Florida, Vegas, Ohio, or _____ (fill in the blank) lately. Pretty depressing when you look at block after block of empty buildings in various states of disrepair….

      • John

        +1

    • barbara wien

      I learned that Westover residents had to fight a high rise in their area not too long ago. The owner of the bike repair shop Papillion on Columbia Pike shared their experience with me yesterday.

  • mcDougall

    You want to know how it works…?

    Google the Orleans House restaurant & eminent domain. Do a little digging.

    1. Threat of eminent domain to force businesses/landowners to sell.
    2. The developer learns that they don’t have to spend market prices for properties because the County is forcing the businesses out by threat of eminent domain.
    3. Developer either pays a cut rate for the property & then develops it at huge profits.
    4. Or, developer pays the County for the property again at cut rates from market rates & develops it at huge profits.
    5. County has also re-zoned properties, thus forcing owners off the land, then turned around & re-zoned the property AGAIN & handed it off to the developers.

    Orleans House.
    The lot where the Qwest building is on Fairfax Drive.
    So many more locations this has happened in Arlington….

    Wake up, folks !

    • Thes

      Where has the County downzoned properties to force owners off the land?

      In the case of the Orleans house, the neighborhood really did want a park in that location. I believe it was in their NC plan.

  • The Truth

    That presents the question, “what’s in it for JBG?” Is it really the gap between Balston & George Mason Drive that is driving this interest in redevelopment on the Safeway lot?

×

Subscribe to our mailing list