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Mike Cantwell is seeking an Arlington County Board seat.

Arlington’s elections office confirmed Wednesday morning that Cantwell indicated by email his intention to run but hadn’t yet filed paperwork.

Cantwell told ARLnow.com that he’s running as an independent.

A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he’s held positions with the federal government and currently works for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency as a branch chief. He has two graduate degrees, including one from the U.S. Naval War College.

Cantwell said he wants to “end one-party rule” in Arlington, focus on core services, curb rapid urbanization, support small businesses by lowering taxes, and better fund the county auditor’s office.

He will face the Democratic nominee, either County Board incumbent Takis Karantonis or challenger Chanda Choun, as well as independent Audrey Clement, a frequent candidate for local office.

Democrats will choose their nominee through a June 8 primary. Arlington Republicans have until June 13 to nominate a candidate for the general election.

Cantwell and his wife have three children, ages 21, 19 and 16.

Among his numerous activities within the community, he’s the president of the Yorktown Civic Association and former board member of the Lee Highway Alliance that’s sought to revitalize the corridor to benefit businesses and neighborhoods.

Cantwell has been active with the nonprofit Arlington County Civic Federation, but resigned from his position on the federation’s board last month to pursue a run for County Board. He is also the vice president of FairVote Virginia, an organization seeking election reform, particularly with ranked-choice voting.

The five-person County Board, whose members serve four-year terms, currently consists entirely of Democrats. The last time an independent candidate won a seat there was John Vihstadt in 2014.

Karantonis secured a partial term to the seat in a July 2020 special election, following the death of former Board member Erik Gutshall.

Cantwell and the other three candidates are set to appear together via Zoom for the Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s annual County Board Candidate Forum this coming Tuesday, May 25.

Photo courtesy Mike Cantwell

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A new combination veterinarian service, dog daycare and grooming business is being unveiled at the Ballston Quarter.

Heart + Paw’s grand opening is this Saturday, at 700 N. Randolph Street, marking the company’s first location in Virginia. Company co-founder George Melillo said the spot was a natural choice.

“Our vision has been to create a destination that has multiple pet care services in one location, led by the most trusted partner in animal care, the veterinarian,” Melillo, who is also the company’s chief veterinary officer, said in an email.

People and their leashed pets are invited to check out the new facility and meet the staff there from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Reservations are required, and $50 discounts and other rewards are available, including a grand prize worth $500 for your pet.

“We are looking forward to offering our services at the vibrant, pet-friendly Ballston Quarter,” Dr. Noon Kampani, the location’s partner doctor, said in a news release. “As families transition back to normalcy and return to the office, Heart + Paw is here to be a part of making sure your pet is well cared for.”

The location was slated to open in 2020, but the business delayed the debut so people could see the new center firsthand.

“Throughout the pandemic, Heart + Paw has continued to grow,” Melillo told ARLnow.com, noting that “we slowed down our expansion in order to assure that we were balancing the needs of existing essential care providers: keeping our people safe, the public safe and serving the pet care needs of our communities.”

The location is next to LensCrafters on the first floor of the retail center’s open-air row of shops. Hours will be 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Photo courtesy Heart + Paw

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A blank canvas awaits artists next to a busy Metro entrance.

The National Landing Business Improvement District is looking for designs for a Crystal City Metro station project: creating a mural on a blank retaining wall to greet travelers.

The winner will have a space about 115 feet long and 20 feet high for their artwork.

The art project comes amid an overhaul of the station plaza with new seating, a more open layout and other changes to the landscape and area planned for this year, according to the BID.

Other imminent changes slated for the area include a second entrance for the Metro station closer to Crystal Drive as well as the ongoing construction of Amazon’s HQ2 several blocks away.

“As more residents, workers and visitors engage with our community in the coming months, our hope is that this mural, along with the BID’s other art initiatives and creative programming, reflect the exciting and welcoming environment that we are fostering in National Landing,” said BID president Tracy Sayegh Gabriel.

Formerly known as the Crystal City BID, the business improvement district has placed an emphasis on art over the years. In 2020, it held a #LoveNationalLanding art campaign and also sponsored a mural contest in 2019 that transformed the Synetic Theater.

The new mural project calls for “iconic imagery,” providing an Instagram-worthy moment to passersby, and being welcoming to all, according to the project’s request for proposals.

An artist or team of artists must submit a proposal along with an application for consideration by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 1. Finalists will be interviewed and receive a stipend for designs.

Photos (1) and (3) via Google Maps, (2) courtesy of National Landing BID

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A fire station project in Arlington is getting an additional $2.88 million to add environmental-friendly upgrades and more.

The County Board approved the budget increase Saturday, bringing the total project cost — including contingencies — to $27.92 million. It covers the new Fire Station No. 8 at 4845 Lee Highway, in the Hall’s Hill area, and a temporary facility to allow firefighting operations to continue during construction.

“The new total project budget is $27.92 million which includes: $19.98 million in hard construction costs; $1.21 million for furniture, fixtures and equipment (FF&E); $3.26M in soft costs (design and construction administration fees, County staff time, and permits and inspections); $2.51 million in land acquisitions, and $0.96 million for contingencies,” notes a county staff report.

The fire station will be the first county building to have a “green” (vegetated) roof and solar power, thanks to panels atop the building.

The budget increase approved by the Board covers the solar panels for the 20,522 square-foot facility, placing utilities underground in front of the station along Lee Highway, and other additions, Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Peter Golkin said in an email.

The additional cost will be covered by a 2020 bond premium, the county said.

To rein in costs, a value engineering process found savings to the tune of $1.43 million, according to the county. A Public Facilities Review Committee meeting in November detailed those changes, which included reducing the amount of glass used and other adjustments.

Golkin said groundbreaking on the new facility is slated for this fall after the temporary facility is complete.

Photos via Arlington County

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Arlington police officers are getting bonuses with the help of state money.

The County Board approved $229,961 for the one-time bonuses on Saturday from funding through the 2020 state budget bill signed into law in November. It’s part of approximately $7.5 million distributed to police departments across Virginia.

“The purpose of this bonus is to focus on the retention of qualified employees along with acknowledging the outstanding work these sworn personnel perform for the residents of Arlington County,” a county staff report said, echoing comments from the state Department of Criminal Justice Services director.

The money, which will help fund a previously-approved $900 bonus for each officer, is to be paid out by June 30 to all sworn employees of the Arlington County Police Department. As of May 5, the department had 336 employees eligible for the bonus, according to the staff report.

Sheriff’s Office personnel received a similar bonus in December.

In proposing the bonus funding, state lawmakers said it would show support to officers amid police reforms and the pandemic.

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A pot of money for free tree plantings could soon branch out to another use.

Arlington County’s Tree Canopy Fund helps people, places of worship and others get free trees, but there’s been little money made available for maintaining trees due to stringent requirements — so stringent that only three trees in Arlington are currently eligible.

The County Board is slated to adjust those restrictions at its Saturday meeting.

“This will be a huge win for our tree canopy because we want to plant more trees but also maintain more trees,” said Elenor Hodges, executive director of the nonprofit EcoAction Arlington, which helps to administer the program for the county.

Hodges said the maintenance could help with issues ranging from pruning to pest control.

The fund was started in 2007 as a way for developers that were unable to meet tree planting requirements to make a financial contribution instead. Over 2,000 trees have been planted through the program.

As of December, the fund had about $693,000 in it, according to a county staff report.

“While Arlington County staff regularly receive requests for assistance in the maintenance of large mature trees, the stringent eligibility criteria for the Tree Canopy Fund has only allowed for support of three trees in the County,” the report said. “To date, only two maintenance applications have been awarded funding: a Champion Green Ash in Lyon Park and a Champion Southern Red Oak on private property.”

If approved by the Board, 10 trees — selected by a committee — would be eligible for up to $5,000 in maintenance, as part of “an exploratory project.”

The measure also calls for 1% of the fund to be set aside for possible marketing and advertising efforts each year.

“Proper tree maintenance can add decades to the life of a large canopy tree, and all the environmental services it provides,” county staff wrote, explaining the rationale for the project. “However, tree maintenance can be expensive, and even homeowners who would like to care of their trees may not have the resources available to do so, or may choose to remove a tree to avoid longer-term maintenance costs.”

“A Tree Canopy Fund Maintenance Program would be an opportunity to conserve existing canopy while still planting future canopy trees,” the reports adds. “The County is looking to invest in mature canopy trees that are going to survive for many years to come.”

For individuals and groups seeking free trees through the existing planting program, the deadline for applications is June 25.

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Arlington County is planning to buy a vacant home in East Falls Church that was damaged in the July 2019 flash flooding.

The county intends to demolish the home at 6415 24th Street N. and use the property to make improvements “that would help alleviate or reduce the severity of localized flooding,” Stormwater Communications Manager Aileen Winquist tells ARLnow.

The county acknowledged it doesn’t have to buy the property to make the upgrades, but these kinds of purchases could give it flexibility with solutions.

After the July deluge, county staff evaluated flood-prone areas to find properties that the county could buy and use for stormwater infrastructure improvements, according to a staff report. This property, valued at $683,800, is one of the four high-priority locations that the county identified.

“The agreement is the first negotiated acquisition to be considered by the County Board as part of this program,” the report said.

The County Board is slated to approve the purchase from the home’s owners during its meeting this Saturday.

Winquist said the locations of the three other properties, whose owners were currently not interested in selling, are available via a public records request.

The Department of Environmental Services has not yet settled on the mitigation approach it will take on the 24th Street N. property, which has not been repaired since the flooding, Winquist said.

“The County is still analyzing projects to reduce flood risk in this watershed, which may include upgrading that section of pipe or storm drain,” she said. “The County is exploring the use of this property for infrastructure, detention, or overland relief as part of a larger-scale solution.”

During the 2019 storm, some nearby homes in the neighborhood experienced flooding, “but not to the extent of this property,” Winquist said.

The county will demolish the structure starting at least six months after the sale, expecting to spend some $200,000 to $250,000 to do so. The sellers plan to allow the nonprofit Second Chance to salvage materials from the home ahead of demolition.

Property owners can contact the county to have their property considered for the program, but the county will have to consider such acquisitions carefully given the complexity of the flood mitigation solutions, Winquist said.

Although voters approved a $50.8 million bond in November for various stormwater projects, the county said the money for the property purchase wouldn’t come from that.

Photo (3) via Google Maps

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No, that’s not a small rock — just a baby turtle trying to make its way across a thoroughfare.

Turtles are out and about this spring, sometimes crossing local trails and roads. In May and June, many are leaving their nests in search of water, says Alonso Abugattas, natural resources manager for Arlington County Parks.

That’s because many kinds of baby turtles can remain in their nest during the winter. In the spring, turtles can make wild breaks to get to water, Abugattas says.

Turtles typically lay their eggs in the spring or summer, and they hatch in the late summer or fall.

“Aquatic turtle species will travel quite far from water, up to a mile in some cases, to find a place to lay eggs,” state wildlife staff say, adding there’s nothing to be alarmed about and the turtles instinctively know which direction to go.

Common kinds here include the eastern painted turtle, red-eared slider, snapping turtle, woodland box turtle and, by the river, the northern red-bellied cooter.

Woodland box turtles in particular have been in decline in Virginia with construction wiping out a lot of their territory, Abugattas says.

“We’re lucky to still have turtles around,” he says.

While you can help them cross a road if you’re comfortable doing so, they can be defensive, and people are encouraged to leave them alone, he told ARLnow.

If you’re thinking about caring for one, Abugattas points out they require a lot of attention due to special diets and other factors. Special lamps can help their heating and lighting needs. But animal experts warn that without proper care, light deficiencies can cause metabolic bone disease and deformed shells.

“Turtles don’t make good pets,” Abugattas says, no matter what cultural images like “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” might suggest.

Photo courtesy Alonso Abugattas

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A Wakefield High School student’s digital photo titled “Shadows of Democracy” will be featured in the U.S. Capitol.

Charlie Williams, a senior, noted that he took the digital photo of a reflection in a puddle just weeks before rioters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.

“This is a reflection of the U.S. Capitol after a rainstorm,” Williams said, as quoted in a news release. “I was able to capture the detail in the Capitol Dome through the puddle and tried to convey the emotions in the image.”

Williams said his photo represents “an alternate reality which serves as a premonition of what the government can become if democracy falls.”

A panel with the National Art Education Association chose his artwork among dozens of entries for the Congressional Art Competition in Virginia’s 8th District, Rep. Don Beyer said in the same news release.

“Our nation is still grappling with the worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War, and many of the issues raised by the attack on the Capitol still remain unresolved,” Beyer said. “I hope ‘Shadows Of Democracy’ will remind my fellow Members of Congress that our nation continues to wrestle with what happened here, and that our votes and actions reverberate through history.”

It will be displayed in the Cannon House Office Building tunnel, Beyer said, also noting that Williams is the second winner in a row from Wakefield after Kidus Sebil’s photo won the competition in 2020.

Photo courtesy office of Rep. Don Beyer

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