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County Board set to get into the weeds of defining a ‘weed’ this week

A yard in the Forest Glen neighborhood in October 2016 (file photo)

Gardens with abundant native species could soon have an official definition in county code: “managed natural landscape.”

This definition would protect Arlingtonians who grow the kinds of native grasses, wildflowers and shrubs that make them prone to complaints from neighbors and visits from code enforcement.

While such gardens can “be perceived to be unmaintained or unintentional… they often involve as much intention and maintenance as more traditional landscaping” and bring “ecological, economic and aesthetic benefits,” per a county report.

The change would occur if the Arlington County Board approves the new wording in its carry-over meeting tomorrow (Tuesday). The Board was teed up to approve the changes on Saturday but the proposal was pulled from the agenda for more conversation — a move typically reserved for items deemed at least somewhat controversial.

In March, County Board members heard from local naturalists who urged them to adopt wording to shield residents from complaints that their gardens are unruly. The discussion arose when the Board considered, and approved, mechanisms to hold accountable commercial property owners for unchecked weeds.

The Board ultimately punted on redefining a “weed,” saying the proposed changes ought to be included in the forthcoming update to the Forestry and Natural Resources Plan.

Naturalists argued this prolongs conflict between county code and Arlington’s Chesapeake Bay Preservation Plan and Stormwater Utility Program, which both encourage residents to ditch manicured lawns for native species. They criticized the Board for furthering more than a decade of inaction.

“While we’ve been wringing our hands about this for the past 10-15 years, other jurisdictions have also adopted policies that promote native landscaping and conservation landscaping and have also managed to update their ordinance,” Caroline Haynes, a member of the county’s Forestry and Natural Resources Commission, said in March.

“Arlington hasn’t been able to do that,” she continued. “How difficult can this possibly be?”

After the meeting, county staff committed to prepare updated code language that distinguishes between “managed natural landscapes” and existing requirements to manage weeds on private property.

They also redefined “foreign growth,” “lawn area” and “weeds” and added language enabling county staff to “take action in cases where trees on private property present a risk to the community in the public right-of-way or other public lands.”

In keeping with the Board’s recommendation, Arlington’s parks and planning departments launched a public engagement process on the potential changes in concert with the update.

That included an online survey, in which 124 people participated and nearly two-thirds said they “were comfortable” with the proposed changes.

In July, the Board authorized hearing this month on the proposed changes, now set for tomorrow.

If the changes are made, county staff expect that enforcing the new ordinances will not be a tall order. Some five cases annually are estimated to escalate to the point of requiring one-time civil fines, resulting in $2,500 per year in county revenue, the report said.

Recent Stories

Good Friday evening, Arlington. Let’s take a look back at today’s stories and a look forward to tomorrow’s event calendar. 🕗 News recap The following articles were published earlier today…

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Children’s Weekday Program (CWP) is a non-profit preschool rooted in a play-based philosophy. We focus on developing a love of learning and exploration, cooperation, empathy, and independence.

Our caring and experienced educators create opportunities for children 16 months to 5 years old to play, learn, and grow in a nurturing environment of child-centered and developmentally appropriate experiences.

Initially established more than 50 years ago in South Arlington, CWP continues to be a lauded program in the Northern Virginia area. We are extremely proud to have been recognized as a Best Preschool in Northern Virginia Magazine for the last 4 years.

Located now in North Arlington at 2666 Military Road, CWP offers a part-time parents day out and preschool program with options to extend care both before and after school. We offer a supportive and inclusive school community for children and parents alike and welcome all families to join our school!

Read More

Submit your own Announcement here.

The Optimist Club of Arlington is holding its 77th annual Christmas tree sale!

This year, the tree sale will be held at the Knights of Columbus (5115 Little Falls Road). The lot opens for sales on November 24th. The Optimist Club is selling small and large trees ranging from tabletop size to 10 foot tall trees! Wreaths, garland, tree stands, and White House Christmas ornaments will also be for sale.

100% of all proceeds go towards helping Arlington County youth.

For more information, please visit the Arlington Optimists website at

Submit your own Announcement here.

Holiday Art Show

Holiday Art Show featuring artists: Peter Fitzgerald, Claire Plante, Alanna Rivera, and Suzy Scollon. At the Barcroft Community House, 800 South Buchanan St., Arlington, VA. Dec. 8 from, 2 PM to 8 PM and Dec. 9 from 10 AM to

Christmas Tree Sales

2023 Christmas Tree Sales Begin

Saturday, December 2

Get your holiday decorating off to the right start this year! We will be selling 150 Fraser firs, freshly cut and delivered from Sparta, North Carolina.

Sale Hours:

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