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Group Makes Last Push to Convince County Not to Sell Farmhouse

Reeves farmhouse (photo courtesy Peter Roof)A group that wants to use the Reevesland farmhouse as an educational center is making one last push to convince Arlington County not to sell it.

Members of the Reevesland Learning Center say Arlington should be seeking to add to, not subtract from, its parks and facilities. They’ve been fighting for several years to have the farmhouse, at 400 N. Manchester Street in the Boulevard Manor neighborhood, converted to a community space where children could learn about healthy eating and the history of the Reeves farm.

In 2015, Arlington County split the 2.5 acre Reevesland property, incorporating much of the open space into Bluemont Park while the house and the land around it was to be sold to a private buyer. On Feb. 28, Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz recommended the sale of the farmhouse move forward, asking for County Board direction at the board’s March meeting.

“Our efforts to work with the Reeves Farm Conservation Society, Inc. and Reevesland Learning Center have not resulted in a viable community proposal for the farmhouse,” Schwartz said in a statement.

In a letter sent Wednesday, members of the Reevesland Learning Center disputed the county’s assertion that renovating the farmhouse for public use would be too costly and challenging.

The full letter, after the jump.

Photo courtesy Peter Roof

March 8, 2017

Dear Mr. Schwartz:

As longtime Arlington residents and taxpayers, we know that our County works best when our government officials listen to residents, respect them and are responsive to their ideas and requests for information.

Thus, your letter to us last week stating that the County intends to move forward to sell a portion of the Reeves parkland and the historic Reeves farmhouse is profoundly disappointing and troubling.

We urge you to postpone indefinitely any steps or action to facilitate the sale of the Reeves parkland and farmhouse for the following reasons:  

  • The County needs to respond to the renovation-related questions we submitted four months ago with the assistance of our pro bono general contractor regarding various building codes and regulations pertinent to Reevesland. The information is essential to finalize our widely-supported plan for re-purposing the farmhouse and for a realistic budget.
  • There is a strong consensus in Arlington that our County should be acquiring parkland, not selling off the Reeves parkland nor any of our irreplaceable open spaces.
  • In the proposal we sent you four months ago, a key, distinctive part of our renovation plan is “the participation of Arlington Career Center apprentices which will enable Arlington’s young people to gain life-changing job skills and employment opportunities.” They deserve the County’s support.
  • More than 600 residents throughout Arlington signed an online petition urging the County not to sell the Reeves parkland and farmhouse and to use it instead as a Reevesland Learning Center for Arlington kids, teachers and other adults who can learn how to grow and prepare healthy food through environmentally sustainable practices.

Mr. Schwartz, in your letter, you write that “Unfortunately, the RLC proposal continues to rely on the County to fund the significant construction costs necessary to renovate and maintain the farmhouse.”  That’s inaccurate.  First, in our November 14th letter to you, we said that the Reevesland Learning Center “is prepared to raise additional resources in partnership with the County” . . . for the farmhouse renovation. Second, we said unequivocally that “when the renovation is completed, the Reevesland Learning Center is committed to staffing and managing the farmhouse  , , , at no cost to the County.”

In fact, the Reevesland Learning Center has already raised pledges of thousands of dollars of in-kind resources.  As we told you, “we have secured the participation of the highly-regarded president of Monarc Construction, John Bellingham, who is a past president of the DC Preservation League.  He has agreed to organize and manage the entire renovation process, utilizing Arlington Career Center students as apprentices.  Mr. Bellingham developed a list of questions for you and your colleagues about various County regulations and codes that may apply to the farmhouse renovation.  That was four months ago, and you never responded. There can be no realistic budget until those questions are answered.

It is troubling and inexplicable to us is that our County is even considering selling off precious parkland and the farmhouse.  As you know, the County is purchasing private property to expand its public footprint but now, in direct contravention of its stated policy, is seeking to sell off such property.  One of the high priority recommendations of the County’s Task Force on Urban Agriculture is to “Ensure that urban agriculture education focusing on Arlington schoolchildren is given top priority in any adaptive reuse or repurposing of Reeves historic farmhouse.”  That is our goal, too, and it is widely shared by Arlingtonians throughout the County.

Arlingtonians want to see the farmhouse and parkland remain in the public domain and the farmhouse used as a learning center.  As Juliet Hiznay wrote on the countywide petition: “We are losing green space and we need this asset for the health of the community.”  As APS teacher Joe Price said: “I have visited the Reevesland farmhouse with my students for the past five years.  It is a wonderful resource that provides much more than academic lessons.”   And Kate Mattos wrote: “Arlington has little public and green space. Reeves is an opportunity to reflect on our history as a community, to help students learn about nature, and to be a meeting place for community activities. This is an opportunity to serve all citizens, not just those who can afford to buy the space.”

Mr. Schwartz, on behalf of the Arlington community, we ask that you postpone indefinitely this ill-considered action to sell or facilitate the privatizing of Reeves parkland and the farmhouse.

As leaders of the Reevesland Learning Center, we agree with our fellow Arlingtonians about the value of preserving our parkland and the Reeves farmhouse.  We also believe strongly about the imperative of responsive, transparent government.  We hope that you do, too.

In adopting Arlington County’s $1.2 billion budget, Board Chair Libby Garvey noted that the budget “preserves our community’s values.” Preserving our values starts with preserving our history, preserving our sense of community, and preserving a belief that there is an Arlington way and government works for the people it represents when it listens to them and works with them. Preserving our values starts with investing in them. It starts at Reevesland.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely,

Sandra Kalscheur, Chair, The Reevesland Learning Center
Ron Battocchi, Vice-chair
Joan Horwitt, President

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