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Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com February 10, 2012 at 9:00 am 3,532 41 Comments

Chopper Called in for Suspect Search — The U.S. Park Police Eagle 2 helicopter hovered over the Claremont neighborhood — near Wakefield High School — for about half an hour last night while assisting Arlington County Police in a search for several armed robbery suspects. The chopper assisted police and K-9 units on the ground in the search for the suspects in a armed robbery on the 1000 block of S. Frederick Street, in the Columbia Forest neighborhood, according to ACPD spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. Police eventually arrested three men in connection with the crime, according to police radio traffic.

Board to Consider ‘Pipestem’ Lot — The County Board is expected to decide this weekend on a controversial development proposal in the Leeway Overlee neighborhood. A developer wants to build a large new home on a parcel of land set back from the street and only connected to the street via only a thin driveway strip known as a “pipestem.” Neighbors have been fighting the plan, but to some degree state law — which emphasizes the rights of property owners — prevents the Board from completely blocking development on the lot. [Sun Gazette]

Pregnant Inmate Shackling Bill Fails Again — Del. Patrick Hope tried again this year to pass legislation restricting the use of shackles on inmates while they’re giving birth. A House of Delegates subcommittee tabled the bill on Thursday, however, prompting Hope to pledge to introduce the bill again next year. Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur presented an alternative viewpoint when she told a reporter that legislation is not the proper way to deal with the issue — state regulatory changes are. [Associated Press]

Venus Stereos Closes — Venus Stereos, a quirky electronics/soccer jersey/music store at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive, has closed. A sign in the window say the storefront, directly adjacent to the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse, is available for lease. [Pike Spotter]

  • Elle

    Thank you for getting some information on the helicopters over South Arlington. It was way, way longer than half an hour though. (Unscientifically… my Facebook post about it spans three hours where people refer to it happening.) Was grateful that @ArlNowDOTcom and one eyewitness had any information about it on Twitter last night.

    • Cate

      It was definitely a few hours – it was flying around when I got home around 9, and finally went away around 1, I think? Definitely loud enough to keep me awake. I was wondering what the deal was, I was glad for the twitter updates as well.

      • Ren

        Glad to know there was a reason behind all that noise last night. By my count, it finally stopped at 12:45 give or take a few minutes. I like to get a few hours of shuteye before being woken up each morning by the construction noise at the super high Army Navy Country Clubhouse.

    • BoredHouseWife

      yes it was longer and late. I tried listening to a scanner to see what it was about. glad they caught the robbers.

  • North Pershing Drive

    So that’s what that chopper was doing. He kept coming over our house in Ashton Heights. I even waved at him with my flashlight.

  • I find it ironic that the board is trying to stop development. Maybe they have their eyes set on a mixed use highrise for the spot.

    • Deez

      The board gets flustered when someone does something by-right and does not have to come before them on bended knee with offerings.

    • Bluemontsince1961

      It sure makes someone wonder, that’s for sure.

    • Haupt

      Did you read the linked article? It says “County staff have been generally supportive of the developer’s plan for the parcel, but neighborhood residents have voiced concerns about setbacks and the overall girth of the home.”

    • dk

      We have a “pipestem” property behind our house. Originally it was a long lot with one house on it fronting N. Quebec St. Then the owner built not one, but two houses behind the original house, all in a row. It’s a good-sized lot, as is my own lot, so the houses aren’t right on top of each other. They are both rental properties and the tenants are good neighbors. All peachy, yes? Except from the time that third house was built directly behind my house, the previous owner of my house began having water problems in his backyard and basement, problems that we (knowingly) took on when we purchased the house and that we’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars combating. If another of my neighbors proposed doing this, I’d be more than a little unhappy about it.

    • drax

      Nowhere does it say the Board is trying to stop that development though.

  • Zoning Victim

    What does the County Board have to do with the pipe-stem building proposal? They’ve put together a ridiculous set of zoning regulations, which the builder wants some type of variance or special use permit to circumvent; that’s the domain of the Board of Zoning Appeals, not the County Board.

    • drax

      Maybe the Board of Zoning Appeals is for appeals of zoning decisions.

      • Zoning Victim

        I know exactly what the BZA is for; I’m wondering why the County Board is having a vote on this. Unless they’re considering one off legislation to allow this one house, I don’t get why the BZA isn’t hearing this instead of the ACB.

        • drax

          Maybe it’s not a zoning issue.

          Lots of maybes.

        • em

          If you know exactly what the BZA is for, you should know that special use permits are decided by the County Board, not the BZA.

          • Zoning Victim

            Yeah, my mistake; I just read the regulations on that, again (it’s been a while). They changed this after the state decided that the BZA can’t give variances on zoning regulations unless there is a true hardship that isn’t shared by most, which meant that all McMansion building on tiny lots was going to be shutdown. After that the county came up with the construct of the Special Use Permit. It’s surprising to me that the state lets this go on. They should be forced to put some sensible (and understandable) rules in place for everybody and make everybody stick to them instead of letting the county treat everybody differently.

          • drax

            I tried to warn you.

          • Zoning Victim

            Haha, so you did, but you didn’t answer my question. It is still a zoning issue. Again, I don’ t get why the state is allowing this. The law on this is clearly designed so that the county sets zoning ordinances and the BZA’s grant variances. The county has completely circumvented that in certain cases and has seemingly decided that they can grant anything they want.

          • Paco Wellington III

            Agree with “Zoning Victim” that the special use permit system is a standardless process. The whim of whomever is reviewing the application is not a process — this criticism includes the Board’s standardless decisions in granting special use permits. Many of the special use permits that come before the Board involve set-back problems, but neither the Staff’s reports nor the Board’s decisions provide any reasoning other than “okay” for this one.

            I wonder if a later in time Board can revoke the “special use permit” or fail to renew it? What would happen then? Would a home owner need to remove 2 feet of his/her home to comply with the zoning rules that got bypassed with the special use permit?

            Although the zoning rules’ inability to grant variances seems harsh, the arbitrary special use permit process is no better.

          • NorthThomas

            Speaking of just a specific type of use permit, I know some of the live entertainment permits do get scrutinized if there have been perceived or reported problems with the establishments. So they definitely are at risk of being pulled anytime they are up for re-review.

    • Josh S

      Somebody whose screen name is Zoning Victim, probably doesn’t have a lot of credibility to make criticisms of whether or not existing zoning regulations are “ridiculous” or not, don’t you think?

      • Zoning Victim

        No, having gone through a lot of them and comparing them to state law, I have a lot of credibility on the subject. Since the ridiculousness of something is basically an opinion on the part of the person making the statement, there really isn’t any credibility needed. Besides, I’m far from the only person on here who thinks our zoning regulations need a lot of work.

      • Kim Tax-il

        Josh, had you taken my advice yesterday you’d be better informed on this subject as well.

        Here’s today’s tip. Go to the library and get of copy of Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style.”

        Were you kidding about having been a teacher?

        • Josh S

          You should open your own tip service or something like that. I bet you’re really good at it.

  • t

    I lived near Wakefield in the early 90’s and back then police helicopters searching for criminals was a regular occurrence.

    Also, isn’t a “Pipestem” a driveway that has more than one house on it? This just sounds like a long driveway. I wouldn’t be thrilled about having a house built behind mine, but unless I wanted to buy that lot I don’t think I’d have any basis to complain.

    • Bk

      I’ve lived in the Wakefield neighborhood since the early 90’s and I don’t recall the “regular occurrences” of police helicopters.

      Last night was way longer than a half an hour, I’m glad they found who they where lookin for at least. If you have anymore updates on the armed robbery I’d love to hear it.

      • t

        Maybe I was there earlier in the 90’s than you. I spent all of 1992 there and I often thought it felt like Los Angeles with the regular helicopter searches.

    • drax

      “isn’t a “Pipestem” a driveway that has more than one house on it? ”

      Apparently not.

      • t

        Dictionary result from Google:

        Pipestem Lot – A lot connected to a public street by a narrow strip of land. Usually several adjacent pipestems are combined to form one driveway with each owner having a mutual-reciprocal easement to use and maintain the driveway to the street.

        So the Sun Gazette and the County do have it right, but the second sentence explains why people in the exurbs often refer to their shared driveways as “pipestems”.

  • North A-Town Snob

    Keep YOUR laws off MY property!! If the neighbors of the parcel in question have such an issue with this, then maybe they should have done their due dillegence prior to buying those abutting properties to know that a house could be build on the vacant pipestem lot. Caveat emptor dude…buyer beware. It’s not the pipestem property’s owner’s problem that you didn’t do your homework, nor the responsibility of the prior owners of the abutting properties to inform the current owners during the sale. Don’t go crying to the County Board as it sounds like they will make the right decision to allow the porperty to be built on as long as it follows all the existing building codes.

    • drax

      You have no idea what the neighbor’s complaints are, do you?

      You just assume they want no home there, not that they have an issue that they might have with any other adjacent lot, with or without a home already there.

      You didn’t even read the link.

      Educate yourself before you spout off.

      • North A-Town Snob

        Actually, I did read the the linked article and it says what the owners complaints are about setbacks and girth of the house, and based on that article it also indicates that the developer of the pipestem lot and the County Board have reworked plans and that the County Board is supportive of those plans (which would seemingly indicate that those plans are within code) and it also said that the County Board was also “generally supportive” of the prior plans, which would also tend to imply that those were within code, but they have been trying to address the neighbors’ concerns anyway, as good neighbors do. So yes, from assessing what was presented in the article I came to my conclusion (which is what one does when presented with information…formulate a conclusion through analysis of the presented information), that the owners must not want something built there because they feel that a currently empty lot that would then have something built on it that follows the allowable code for the parcel would be an intrusion on their property due to setback and girth of the building.

        So educate your own pompous and self-rightous self before you spout off…though based on plenty of your other comments on this site, obviously educating yourself is way above your pay grade.

    • PeacePipe

      That’s all true, but the company that bought the pipestem lot also is under caveat emptor. He does not have a by-right option as far as I can tell. What he does have is the right to be treated fairly according to the zoning laws in getting the approvals that are required to build on this non-conforming lot. The provision that deals with pipestem is in


      • NorthThomas

        Granted, I just read that through quickly over lunch, but I did not see any part of the ordinance that said that negotiating with neighbors was part of the zoning requirements.

        Like to know who these “neighbors” are and who they know.

        • Zoning Victim

          Probably just every day people who don’t have any ties to anybody special. I know the BZA puts a ton of weight into what your neighbors have to say about a non-conforming project, as they should. I’m not so sure about the ACB’s stance on neighbor complaints since I keep seeing more McMansions being built and keep hearing complaints about them.

          • NorthThomas

            Ok, but the ordinance seems to say that if the pipestem lot was created/existed before the 2003 changes (which this one appears to have been), construction merely has to meet applicable zoning requirements.

  • South Awwwlington

    Attention South Arlingtonians – this is how the North gets what they want. I expect you all to take notes and start acting in the same manner when a new neighbor tries to do something we don’t like.

    Show up at the Board Meetings and raise your voices.

    • NorthThomas

      Bring signs and wear coordinating t-shirts too.

  • Driver

    The neighbors complaints are they don’t want a house built there.

  • Driver

    During the Board’s 2003 discussion on the matter they clearly stated that they would work with people that wanted to develop the property because they believe they have a vested right. Further during their most recent discussions of pipe stem lots they clearly state, as does the county attorney the developer has the right to build something there. They should support their rhetoric.


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