Arlington, VA

ARLnow Weekend Discussion

It’s the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, and everyone seems to be gearing up for the holiday weekend — assuming you’re not already out of town.

Unless you’re one of the thousands of residents who lost power during the storm, or suffered damage to your cars and houses. As of 3 p.m. Dominion was still reporting 4,019 customers out of power in Arlington.

The storm was also a somber affair for Arlington’s arbor amorists who lost one of the county’s most prized trees in the squall.

Memorial Day activities like the Arlington National Cemetery’s annual “Flag-In” and flower distribution are continuing nonetheless.

This weekend also marks the start Metro’s “summer shutdown” of six Blue and Yellow Line Metrorail stations until September, and the last Rolling Thunder parade.

But even aside from the storms, the holiday preparations and latest Metropocolypse, it’s been a busy week for Arlington. Here’s a few tidbits from around town you might have missed:

What are your plans for the weekend? Let us know, and feel free to discuss any other issues of local interest, in the comments below.

0 Comments

Arlington County may be moving forward with plans to build the long-awaited boathouse in Rosslyn, but some are wondering why a site at Gravelly Point wasn’t chosen instead.

National Park Service spokesman Aaron LaRocca tells ARLnow that Rosslyn was chosen because “it best meets the purpose and need statement in the [environmental assessment] to enhance waterfront access and provide a boathouse facility along the Virginia shore of the Potomac for non-motorized, water based recreation” better than Gravelly Point.

The County Board voted Tuesday to allow County Manager Mark Schwartz to sign a programmatic agreement that ends NPS’ environmental assessment of the decades-long project. This means NPS can now start start designing the boathouse in consultation with the county government and other local stakeholders, LaRocca said.

The environmental assessment examined several alternative sites for the boat house, including Gravelly Point, just north of Reagan National Airport.

Local activist Suzanne Smith Sundburg argued Gravelly Point should have been chosen instead in a letter to the Board before the vote, citing the trees on the Rosslyn site at 2105 N. Lynn Street (formerly known as 1101 Lee Highway) that would need to be cut down. Sundburg also cited the “highly destructive dredging of 52,000 square feet of precious Potomac River wetlands” also needed.

LaRocca said that the Gravelly Point site was unsuitable from an environmental perspective because it lies within a floodplain, whereas the Rosslyn site does not.

In addition to better access to public transit, he added that the Rosslyn site is also “the preferred alternative” because the water is calmer, which would improve boater safety and allow for more days on the river as compared to the Gravelly Point location.

Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement echoed Sundburg’s concerns Tuesday night, and added that the Rosslyn site would also require a parking lot and an access road to be built, whereas Gravelly Point already has parking and ready access to the GW Parkway.

“Gravelly Point was proposed to avoid potentially sensitive resources and reduce the amount of road infrastructure needed to access the site, compared to other locations along this part of the Potomac River,” says the NPS environmental assessment.

The 106-page study notes that Gravelly Point has turf grass, not trees, and existing parking facilities, but it also notes that wildlife like small rodents, fish, and birds were recorded in “statistically lower” amounts at the Rosslyn site than at Gravelly Point.

LaRocca said NPS recommended the Rosslyn site after weighing the environmental impact and service needs, along with other factors.

Board member Erik Gutshall said he expects improvements to the boathouse plan to be made in the next design phase, and that the current plan’s shortcomings were not a reason for the Board to reject “broad brush” of the project Tuesday night.

Image 1 via County Board, Image 2 via National Park Service

0 Comments

This weekend, volunteers are expected to adorn the graves of fallen soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery with thousands of flowers for Memorial Day.

The Memorial Day Flowers Foundation says it is donating 220,000 blooms for the annual event at the cemetery, and expects 1,200 volunteers will be on-site from around 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. to help place the flowers.

“Our primary goal for 2019 is to decorate all 300,000 headstones and niches at Arlington,” the foundation wrote on its website.

The foundation began decorating back in 2012, after part-Ecuadorean founder Ramiro Peñaherrera rustled up donations from Ecuador’s major rose growers for his and other family members buried at the cemetery.

Today, the flowers are donated from growers across the U.S., as well as Ecuador and Colombia, and the event is sponsored by several companies, including FedEx, Cisco, and TD Bank.

A spokeswoman for the foundation told ARLnow that family members interested in a flower for a loved one’s grave at the cemetery can request one by contacting the foundation at [email protected] and a volunteer will send a photo of the flower once it’s placed at the gravestone.

Yesterday, the Arlington National Cemetery also hosted its annual “Flags-In” tradition of placing American flags at the gravestones — despite the storm that felled trees and pelted rain and hail down in the area.

The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as the The Old Guard, returned later that day to reset the flags after the storm passed.

President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump attended the ceremony yesterday where 250,000 flags were placed at gravestones.

0 Comments

Arlington County Board members announced they were considering giving themselves a raise in the coming year, pending input from residents.

Vice Board Chair Libby Garvey broached the topic during the Tuesday night meeting, saying she’s “concerned increasingly about the level of salary” that the county currently offers to Board members, and she intends to ask the public what they think.

Garvey highlighted the dozens of local and regional group meetings that members attend, saying, “I talk to people about how we’re a five-member basketball team with no back-ups so we have to play the entire game all the time.”

Serving on the County Board is intended to be a part-time position, though in practicality the schedules of Board members leave little time for other jobs.

County Board members currently earn $55,147 annually, while the Board Chair earns $60,662. Garvey noted that was lower than the county’s actual salary cap of $57,337 for members and $63,071 for the Chair.

“At some point we’ll publicize very soon some mechanism to collect feedback from our community about raising County Board member salaries,” said Board Chair Christian Dorsey.

Board member Matt de Ferranti supported the idea. “To have a great community you need the ability for everyone to serve and it shouldn’t be that some folks can serve and others cannot,” he said, referencing current salary levels in relation to the local cost of living.

“It kind of boils down to what kind of County Board we should have,” said Garvey.

Garvey said Board members are required to wait to raise their pay caps until at least two members are running for re-election. This means members would have decide by July 1 of this year whether to give themselves a raise, or otherwise wait another four years.

During her presentation Tuesday night, Garvey shared a graph comparing County Board’s salaries with other neighboring jurisdictions.

Her graph stated that D.C. Council members earn the most in the area at $140,161 annually, but recent records indicate council members actually earn $141,282 and are currently allowed to work additional jobs, although recent scandals mean some are reconsidering that provision. The Council Chairman currently earns $210,000 annually.

The second highest pay rate is for Montgomery Council members, who earn between $139,119 and $153,031 a year, according to the most recent 2018 data.

Next is Fairfax County, where Board members earn $95,000, while the Chairman earns $100,000.

Garvey noted that Loudoun County and Alexandria both pay their local legislators less than Arlington.

Alexandria recently bumped City Council member’s pay from $27,500 to $37,500, and Loudoun increased pay two years ago to $50,000 for the Chair of the Board of Supervisors, $45,320 for the Vice Chair, and $41,200 for the other members, with more raises promised in 2020.

“It’s an uncomfortable thing, that we are the only ones who can increase Board member salaries,” said Board member Katie Cristol, who described asking the public about a salary bump as a “slightly awkward consideration.”

“Short of putting this formally to a vote of every single one of our 230,000 bosses, I think at least asking for folks’ input is an excellent idea,” she said.

0 Comments

This week’s honorary pet is Apple, an 11-year-old Golden Retriever who lives for people, according to her owner Lauren.

Here’s what Lauren has to say about the sporty pup some say is a good luck charm:

Apple joined our family when she was four, and has been a joyful addition ever since. Apple was born in Taiwan but was abandoned by her original owner. Fortunately for us and for her, a wonderful rescue group based in Delaware brought her to America so she could be adopted!

Apple is a fixture at local Arlington Babe Ruth and Arlington Little League baseball games. She loves hanging out at our local parks and getting lots of attention from the players and their families. Many players and teams have even said that Apple is a good luck charm!

Aside from watching baseball, Apple loves children, treats, snuggling, naps, and taking short walks around Lyon Village. Halloween is her favorite when she gets lots of visitors, even if she has to wear a silly costume!

Want your pet to be considered for the Arlington Pet of the Week? Email [email protected] with a 2-3 paragraph bio and at least 3-4 horizontally-oriented photos of your pet. Please don’t send vertical photos, they don’t fit in our photo galleries!

Each week’s winner receives a sample of dog or cat treats from our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, along with $100 in Becky’s Bucks. Becky’s Pet Care is the winner of six consecutive Angie’s List Super Service Awards, the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters’ 2013 Business of the Year and a proud supporter of the Arlington County Pawsitively Prepared Campaign.

Becky’s Pet Care provides professional dog walking and pet sitting in Arlington and all of Northern Virginia, as well as PetPrep training courses for Pet Care, CPR and emergency preparedness.

0 Comments

Last night, the Arlington County Board denied developer Penzance permission to extend construction hours on a luxury condo project in Rosslyn.

The Board unanimously rejected the request to add an extra hour of work in the mornings, allowing crews to start at 6 a.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. on weekends, after dozens of residents testified about numerous problems they have already endured with the existing schedule.

Board member Katie Cristol introduced the motion denying the request during the Board’s Tuesday night meeting. While she appreciated Penzance’s desire to speed up its construction process, she couldn’t support “literally unprecedented” construction hours that would be, “an awfully extraordinary action given the resounding comments we’ve heard from the neighboring property owners.”

Cristol noted that the request would only shave a few weeks off the construction schedule, which is projected to wrap up in January 2020. Penzance is building a trio of high-rises on the 1500 block of Wilson Blvd — collectively dubbed The Highlands — with 884 luxury housing units and 40,000 square feet of retail space.

Dozens of residents of the Atrium Condominium building, which is located behind the development site, showed up to Tuesday’s meeting to voice their opposition to Penzance’s request.

“I apologize and thank the community on behalf of the county for what sounds like pure hell for some of you, and I can appreciate that that’s no fun,” said Board member Erik Gutshall, after listening to their testimony. “So stick with us. Nobody sell your unit. No one leave. We will get through this. It’s going to be a beautiful great place and I appreciate folks who can see past that.”

Susan Miller, a 30-year resident of the Atrium, said she has “never seen anything like the horror that this project has brought to this community that we are in,” citing noise and dust and dirt that permeate her balcony.

Another long time resident, Pendita Welch, said that the noise is so loud she has to take phone calls in her closet, and worried that vibrations could be causing her walls to crack.

“I live on the back of the building, and I am partially deaf,” said resident Kelly Davidson, who spoke through tears. “And I can tell you that the noise is loud enough, at nearly the top of the building, partially deaf, to wake me in a startle.”

Davidson told the Board she now has to take medication for frequent migraines.

Read More

0 Comments

The Arlington County Board voted last night to advance long-awaited plans for a new public boathouse in Rosslyn.

Members unanimously voted to allow County Manager Mark Schwartz to sign an agreement with the National Park Service, which will allow the federal agency to end its environmental assessment of the project and kick off the design phase.

Board Chair Christian Dorsey said the vote “sets the stage” for the next steps in the process, which will be “subject to further testing and analysis.”

The current design plans call for a 14,000-square-foot boathouse and a 300-foot-long dock along with lockers and bathrooms in another building with parking and road access.

Prior to the vote, several residents expressed concerns that building on the proposed site at 1101 Lee Highway would lead to trees being cut down, among other environmental impacts that NPS also initially feared. Three residents asked why Gravelly Point could not be considered as an alternative location, but officials did not directly respond to the question.

Board member Erik Gutshall said the future design process will wrestle with many of those details, so there was no reason not to move forward with the “broad brush” of the project Tuesday night.

Some residents also expressed concern that the boathouse could “turn Key Bridge into a traffic nightmare during rush hour,” as independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement put it.

Environmental & Energy Conservation Commission member Claire O’Dea said the commission did not have an official recommendation to offer, but that “because of the likelihood of significant environmental impact” the group urged the County Board to involve all stakeholders throughout the development process.

Erik Meyers, Arlington resident and president of the Arlington Boathouse Foundation, said the foundation has brainstormed ways to build the boathouse “to sit as lightly as possible on the land and with respect to the river.” He added that signing the agreement would help “a community that has been long separated from its historic shoreline.”

Another resident said she’s travelled to the Georgetown boathouse for the last 12 years to row and would welcome a facility on the Virginia side of the Potomac.

“It would be fantastic to have facilities in Rosslyn,” she said. “It gives Arlington County residents and high school rowing programs closer and safer access to the river.”

The county has been in talks to build the boathouse for over 20 years. NPS’ environmental assessment began in 2012 but stalled soon after before being revived in 2016.

Images via Arlington County

0 Comments

Campaign endorsements are stacking up in the House of Delegates primary race between incumbent Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49th) and challenger Julius D. “JD” Spain, Sr.

Lopez has racked up support from several labor groups. The International Union of Painters & Allied Trades District Council 51 and the Mid-Atlantic Pipe Trades Association both announced their support last week. Food service union UNITE HERE Local 23 DC Chapter, which represents airport concession workers, food service workers and others, also joined the list of local unions supporting Lopez.

“While these endorsements are an excellent way of showing broad support from trusted voices — and the types of issues I look forward to enacting — the most important measure of support for the upcoming primary is the depth and breadth of our campaign’s robust volunteer operation,” Lopez said in a statement to ARLnow, noting that a team of volunteers knocked on over 1,000 doors for his campaign last weekend.

Lopez said earlier this month he was “honored” to have so many labor groups endorse his campaign and pledged to “continue our fight in the General Assembly” against policies like right-to-work, which he says hurts workers and families.

With less than a month to go before the June 11 primary, Spain does not boast as lengthy a list of endorsements as his opponent, but he has received support from at least one prominent progressive group as well as local community members and activists.

“I, along with my entire team, [am] excited to have received the endorsement of the progressive and nationally recognized political action organization Our Revolution Arlington yesterday and Our Revolution Northern Virginia a few weeks ago,” Spain said, in an email statement today. “Additionally, the endorsements of prominent African-American and Latino community activists such as Dr. Alfred O. Taylor, the Honorable Frank Wilson, Mr. Gabriela Rubalcava, and Ms. Ingrid Vaca, who represent THE PEOPLE at the grassroots level resonates with voters.”

Our Revolution originally formed as an outgrowth of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign before forming local chapters nationwide. The Arlington chapter repeatedly protested Amazon’s deal with the county for its second headquarters last year, and now is endorsing Spain’s candidacy.

Former School Board member Frank Wilson is among those endorsing Spain. He said in a statement that the former Marine “has a great deal of proven experience as a public servant” and is “honest, reliable and willing to work the long hours needed for a Delegate representing the people in District 49.”

“This campaign is built around inclusivity, believes in empowerment of others, transparency, and accountability,” Spain said. “I will always choose the working class over special interests and moneyed elites. Given the incumbent’s lack of transparency coupled with the events in Richmond this past February, I am confident voters in the 49th District are tired of the status-quo and ready for change.”

Campaign finance filings indicated that Spain had $6,364 left at the end of March in his coffers. He had poured more than $20,000 of his own money into the campaign to bolster his fundraising, which he restricted to donations from individuals.

Lopez, meanwhile, reported a war chest of $102,280 at the end of the first quarter, after raising money from clean energy groups and alcohol lobbyists, among others. All candidates running for election will release a new set of campaign finance reports next month.

Voters will choose between the two candidates for the Democratic nomination during the June 11 primary, and vote for their final choice during the November 5 general election.

Because no candidates from other parties are currently running for the 49th District seat, the primary could determine the result of the general election; however, independent or Republican candidates can still announce their intent to run after the primary.

Virginia residents can check both their voter registration status and the location of their polls online.

0 Comments

The School Board is expected to sign a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice over allegations that Arlington Public Schools has provided inadequate help for students learning English.

“In 2015-2016, a complaint was filed regarding service concerns for our English Learners at Jefferson,” said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia, referring to Thomas Jefferson Middle School (TJMS).

“The settlement provides specifics on actions that APS will continue to take to meet the needs of our English Learners,” he told ARLnow in an email Monday. “This settlement agreement provides a mutually agreed upon resolution in lieu of litigation.”

DOJ’s 19-page settlement gives APS 33 requirements to comply with, including that TJMS teachers and administrative officials be trained in English Learning (EL) program requirements. It also seeks to “ensure that ELs are not over-identified as needing special education services based on their language barriers in elementary schools and are not denied timely evaluations for suspected disabilities at TJMS.”

Bellavia said APS already has procedures in place to prevent English-learning being confused with special needs.

“For example, through the Arlington Tiered System of Support, all students are provided with core instruction and interventions based on their needs,” he said.

The settlement also stipulates that APS begin to translate copies of special education documents like Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and 504 plans for disabilities into the languages spoken by EL students’ families.

“As part of the settlement agreement, we will now translate the framework into the four major languages of our families (Spanish, Amharic, Arabic and Mongolian),” said Bellavia, who added that the IEP framework is now only translated into Spanish. “We will also let parents know that the full IEP or 504 will be available for translation if requested.”

“Except in an emergency, the District will not use students, family or friends of limited English proficient parents, or Google Translate for interpretation of District- or school-generated documents or for any other translation or interpreter services,” the settlement notes.

Nineteen percent of APS students in 2017 were enrolled in EL learning programs, according to the most recent reports shared by the School Board. Among students in Pre-K through high school that year, Spanish was the most common foreign language spoken (22.8 percent of students), followed by Amharic (2.4 percent), Arabic (2.2 percent), Mongolian (1.8 percent), and Bengali (1 percent).

Although the new federal settlement only names TJMS, it notes that the recommendations apply to all of APS’ EL programs.

The document is currently listed on the consent agenda for the School Board’s Thursday meeting, a place usually reserved for items expected to pass without debate.

The settlement will not be finalized until DOJ officials and School Board Chair Reid Goldstein sign it.

If Goldstein signs the document, APS would also agree to do the following:

  • Tracking each student’s progress in EL programs and record the information in their permanent record.
  • Reporting compliance updates to the DOJ for review starting this October and until July 2022.
  • Conducting a three-year “longitudinal analysis” of all its EL programs, due for DOJ review by August 2022.
  • Develop a plan to “actively recruit” English as a Second Language (ESL)-certified teachers within 90 days of signing the settlement.

Failure to comply could mean APS violates the 1974 Equal Educational Opportunities Act, which requires schools provide the same opportunities for all students regardless of race, gender, or language.

DOJ did not respond to a request for comment for more information about the settlement.

The agency has settled with dozens of school districts over similar complaints in recent years, including Prince William County in 2013.

Bellavia told ARLnow that compliance with the settlement would not affect APS’ budget for the next fiscal year.

0 Comments

The Arlington County Board voted to fund several transportation projects this weekend that officials had used to woo Amazon during the tech giant’s search for its second headquarters.

On Saturday, County Board members approved using $33,850,000 in state funds on the projects. The vote comes after Board members and state legislators pledged millions in transportation upgrades near Amazon’s HQ2 site as long as the company meets certain job creation and space occupancy benchmarks.

Per a staff report to the Board, the projects include:

  • $18,850,000 to expand the Crystal City-Potomac Yard Transitway to the Pentagon City, adding 1.1 miles of dedicated bus lanes. The state previously pledged $46.6 million for the project.
  • $10,000,000 for the Army-Navy Drive Complete Street project, which aims to redesign the roadway for easier bike and pedestrian access between the Pentagon, Pentagon City, and Crystal City.
  • $5,000,000 to help build an east entrance at Crystal City Metro station, a project the county has postponed before for lack of funds.

The Board’s vote authorizes the Department of Environmental Services to receive the $33,850,000 from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) and apply it to the county’s fund for transportation capital projects. The matter was passed as part of the Board’s consent agenda for the Saturday meeting.

Metro stations and transit featured prominently on the maps that developer JBG Smith used to pitch Arlington on building its headquarters in the area. Officials are hoping an eastern Metro entrance could also better connect passengers using the Crystal City VRE station, which itself is set for upgrades.

0 Comments

(Updated at 1:30 p.m.) Firefighters have extinguished a fire at a townhouse on the 1500 block of N. Colonial Terrace in Rosslyn.

Fire department spokesman Capt. Ben O’Bryant said the fire was under control around 1:10 p.m. and that no one was injured. He told ARLnow that the department is now investigating what sparked the flames.

Crews on scene began retracting the ladders and taking apart the hoses shortly afterwards.

At 12:55 p.m., first responders reported that the fire appeared to be contained to the building’s outdoor balcony, and that they were working on extinguishing it.

Crews entered the building at around 12:45 p.m. after firefighters reported seeing smoke upon arriving at the scene. A 911 caller, who O’Bryant said was a neighbor, described “flames coming out of a French window,” per scanner traffic.

Photo (1) via Arlington County Fire Department, (2) via Google Maps

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list