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Bluemont Bocce Court Saga Continues As County Responds to Concerns

The controversy surrounding a 650 square foot bocce court proposed for the Bluemont neighborhood shows no sign of letting up.

A month after several leaders of the Bluemont Civic Association resigned after catching heat for their support of the bocce court, Arlington County staff is now being criticized by bocce opponents.

Last week, county staff sent a letter in response to concerns about the proposed bocce court raised by Bluemont residents. The letter, below, attempts to answer nine specific specific concerns.

Some bocce opponents, however, were incensed by the county staff letter, and saw it as proof that the county is predisposed to approve the bocce court despite their objections.

(The bocce court was proposed by Bluemont resident and then-Bluemont Civic Association president Judah Dal Cais. It is being considered for an Arlington Park Enhancement Grant. The Parks and Recreation Commission has received 12 PEG applications and will make funding recommendations on Dec. 18, according to Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish. The County Board is expected to have the final say on the park grants early next year.)

An anonymous bocce court critic wrote the following critique after receiving the letter.

The Parks Department ignored the fact that the PEG application was applied for by Judah Dal Cais without the permission of the BCA and the BCA had submitted a letter stating that it did not support the application. The application was therefore a fraudulent misrepresentation. Diane Probus of the county delayed release of the PEG application under a FOIA request because she stated that Judah Dal Cais had requested that he be permitted to replace some submitted documents.

A letter of opposition by over 100 adjacent neighbors was also rejected by the county.  The planned bocce court exceeds the allocated budget.

The attached letter from the county shows the clear bias of the Parks Department.

Below is the county staff letter in question. Kalish says the letter does not portend county approval of the bocce grant.

“There’s lots of misunderstanding going on in this issue so the more facts we can get to more people the better,” she said. “It is NOT a letter saying a decision has been made.”

Bocce/Petanque Court Petition in Opposition to the Bocce Court
Staff Response
November 20, 2012

Bluemont Junction Park Context

The Bluemont Junction Park has recreational facilities to serve the community and offers a balance of developed recreational features and undeveloped areas. The park has one rectangular field in it which is programmed for youth sports, a railroad caboose with interpretive exhibits, as well as a trail that connects from Bluemont Park to the Ballston area.

The petition submitted by the group of Bluemont residents who oppose the project listed nine objections to the project which are listed below. Staff has provided a response to each objection.

1. No Parking areas for people visiting the court, creating parking hazards and inconvenience in front of the neighbors’ home.

Response: The proposed bocce court would be a neighborhood facility and easily accessible for residents within a 5 – 10 minute walk. On street parking is available along public roads such as Bluemont Drive, and at the end of several of the cul-de-sacs bordering the park for those park users who drive. Since there would be only one court which would not be programmed for team use, the site is unlikely to attract bocce clubs who desire large spaces in urban settings to play.

2. Narrow area roads that cannot accommodate increased traffic from visitors.

Response: See response above.

3. Violation of privacy by players and observers lingering for prolonged periods directly in front of area homes.

Response: Bluemont Junction Park is a public park and is already utilized by the public for bike riding and for various recreational activities in the open space which can be noisy for short periods of time. Landscaping could be installed to create a buffer between nearby houses, if needed.

4. No public restrooms.

Response: A park recreational facility of this type and size does not qualify for a temporary or permanent restroom facility. A park must meet several criteria before the county will consider building a restroom facility in a park. A few of the criteria the county uses for determining the need for restroom facilities include:

  • A park which will have a large number (150+) users at one time;
  • The level of routine and scheduled use of the facility;
  • The type of facility which, if not programmed, attracts a dense grouping of people
  • A park with a dense grouping of facilities of a certain type.

5. Increase in trash and litter.

Response: Staff anticipates a minimal increase above what is found at the site currently from bicyclists and other activities in the park. Staff will adjust maintenance schedule should there be an increase in trash output at the site.

6. Use of scarce tax dollars for building and continual maintenance.

Response: The County Board allocates $100,000 per year towards the Park Enhancement Grant program to be used towards small park improvements such as is proposed in the application for the Bocce/Petanque court. The Commission and park staff evaluate the maintenance needed for each proposed project and factor that in when deciding on which project to recommend for funding. The applicant has committed to providing routine maintenance of the site.

7. Loss of green space, open space and multiple recreational uses at site of bocce court.

Response: A 13′ x 50′ (650 sq. ft.) court will remove less than .5% of open space in the 14.5 acre park. The court should be sited appropriately to minimize the loss of open space routinely used for informal recreation.

8. Neighbors along the trail severely impacted by noise and increased traffic from out-of-neighborhood visitors.

Response: See response to concerns #1 and #3 above.

9. Other bocce courts exist or are in development in easy access nearby, such as at Upton Park, Union Jack’s and Glebe-Randolph park.

Response: Union Jack’s in Ballston sets up a temporary indoor bocce court on Tuesday evenings for a bocce group to use. This bocce facility is private and has very limited availability. The Upton Park bocce courts are located in an isolated area of this park and have not been maintained adequately by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority to keep them usable. Two new bocce courts will be built at the Glebe and Randolph Park and they may be available for use by the community in late 2013.

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