19°Partly Cloudy

by Andrew Ramonas — February 10, 2016 at 1:15 pm 0

Snow piled in front of a stop sign during the January 2016 blizzard (photo via Arlington County)Arlington residents unhappy with the county’s snow removal efforts during last month’s blizzard are getting an opportunity to share their frustration with local officials.

The county is set to host a public “Snow Forum” at Key Elementary (2300 Key Blvd) in two weeks on Wednesday, Feb. 24. The discussion is scheduled to run from 7 to 9 p.m.

“We’re asking people to tell us about their experiences during and after Snowzilla, and to offer suggestions for how we can improve our efforts to quickly recover from snow and ice events,” Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a statement.

Those who were happy with the snow removal effort can, of course, also weigh in.

In addition to the event, the county is also asking locals to fill out its online snow survey by next Friday, Feb. 19. Officials will share results from the questionnaire at the meeting.

Residents can register for the forum online.

Photo via Arlington County

by ARLnow.com — February 10, 2016 at 12:15 pm 0

This week’s Arlington Pet of the Week is Hank, a nine- or 10-year-old dog who likes chasing motorcycles.

Originally from Georgia, Hank now lives in Clarendon with his owner, Patty.

Hank has been a resident of Arlington for a little over a year. He’s adapted well enough to apartment life. He had two houses in Georgia before moving here … one in the city and one on a lake. (Lucky dog!) He had been rescued from the side of I-40 in Nashville by friends Andy and Melanie, who fostered him for a couple of weeks before my husband and I adopted him.

Andy and Melanie saw him trotting down the shoulder of the road, with skinny flanks and bright green chewing gum stuck onto his hind end. During their two weeks fostering him, they discovered he was a lovable, athletic and curious little guy. Given they’re from Nashville, they named him Hank Williams; I renamed him Highway Hank.

He has a problem with motorcycles, we learned a few months after adopting him: he chases them. We figure that’s how he made his way onto I-40. He probably chased one onto the freeway entrance ramp and it outran him.

Now he is a mellow old dude of maybe nine or ten. Very chill. Not a big fan of other medium-size to large male dogs, so the dog park is out of the question. Instead, Hank prefers people, and especially little children. And food. As a once-homeless young pup, he must have forever been on the hunt for chow. He still snorts around every corner of every door front and bus stop on our walks around Clarendon, hoping against hope for chicken bones or goldfish that have spilled out of kids’ strollers.

Expressive eyes and a happy spirit make him a target of many kind smiles and sweet comments and ear rubs.The snow is a joy for him. He happily bounces into it and across it and eats it. The salt on the sidewalks is quite another story. It is abrasive to his gnarly old pads. He’s quite happy with his socks and boots on, though … which always elicit the sweetest comments, especially from kids and old people.

I work from home and don’t know what I would do without him.

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 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.

by ARLnow.com — February 10, 2016 at 11:25 am 0

Multimodal transportation along I-66Eastbound I-66 will be widened to three lanes inside the Beltway to Ballston, under a compromise agreement announced by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) this morning.

The compromise is intended to appease lawmakers from outside the Beltway, many of whom opposed the idea of tolling I-66 without adding capacity to the often clogged highway. It’s likely to rankle some residents in Arlington, where in the 1970s a citizens group formed to oppose the construction of I-66 in the first place. That group now advocates for a “wiser, not wider” I-66.

According to various news reports, the compromise calls for eastbound I-66 to be widened to three through lanes between the Dulles Connector Road the Fairfax Drive/Glebe Road exit, within the existing highway right-of-way.

Outside-the-Beltway lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, were calling for I-66 to be widened before being tolled. The McAuliffe administration’s plan for converting I-66 to high-occupancy toll lanes inside the Beltway during rush hour — tolls for vehicles with 1-2 occupants, free to those with 3 or more occupants — was in danger of being blocked in the Virginia General Assembly without the compromise. The plan originally called for widening to be considered as a last resort, after studying the efficacy of the HOT lanes in improving traffic congestion.

“If we don’t take this deal now, it’s not going to happen for a generation,” state Sen. Barbara Favola said, as quoted by NBC 4.

The deal will allow tolling on I-66 to begin in 2017 and the new lane to be in place by 2020, at a construction cost of $140 million, according to WTOP.

Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey released a statement on the plan shortly after it was announced, expressing disappointment.

We are disappointed with the news of the amended plan for I-66, which will immediately widen I-66. We respect that Governor McAuliffe and his administration worked hard to protect the earlier plan, which delayed the widening of I-66 until we had several years’ worth of experience with multimodal solutions. We appreciate that — aside from the decision to widen immediately — many of the original elements remain intact:

  • Toll revenue is dedicated to multimodal improvements;
  • NVTC (our region’s transit agency) receives the toll revenue;
  • Local governments retain the authority to spend these funds on local projects; and
  • Any widening occurs within existing right-of-way.

As the new plan moves forward, Arlington will be vigilant, working to ensure that appropriate environmental analyses are completed efficiently and comprehensively. We will do all we can to mitigate harm from the widening, and we will explore possible improvements to accompany the widening. As always. Arlington will be working to promote improved regional transit. We need frequent, reliable, and comfortable transit systems along the east-west corridor that get people quickly to where they want to go.

Update at 3:00 p.m. — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) has weighed in with an interesting statement, suggesting that Arlington County’s opposition to a partial I-66 widening, as proposed, may not be too strong.

Arlington County had a longstanding agreement that I-66 would not be widened inside the Beltway.  Today’s announcement by Governor McAuliffe changes that understanding, and with no public input so far.

My initial reaction is one of concern for Northern Virginians who have worked – many of them for decades – for an alternative approach to big highways.  But I continue to learn details of the proposal and to listen to constituents on all sides of this issue.

Early conversations with elected officials who represent Arlington County indicate that Arlington is more open to this partial I-66 widening than in the past, and that the potential benefits from I-66 tolls will bring important transit and multi-modal benefits to the surrounding corridor.  I remain dubious about additional asphalt, and await input from my Arlington and other constituents about today’s proposal.

Update at 11:55 a.m. — After the jump, the press release from Gov. McAuliffe’s office.

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by ARLnow.com — February 10, 2016 at 10:00 am 0

Voting at the Walter Reed Recreation Center (file photo)Update at 10:30 a.m. — Jeb Bush’s name was accidentally left off the GOP poll for about 20 minutes after publication. It has since been added. ARLnow.com regrets the omission. 

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders were the big winners in yesterday’s New Hampshire primary.

How will “outsider” candidates Trump and Sanders fare in Arlington, when the Virginia presidential primary takes place on Super Tuesday, March 1? Let’s find out.

The following polls reflect the Virginia presidential ballot as approved in December. If you’re planning to vote, let us know who you’re planning to vote for on March 1.

by ARLnow.com — February 10, 2016 at 9:15 am 0

Winter berries (Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley)

Four File to Run for School Board — It looks like there are four candidates running for two Arlington School Board seats this year. Incumbent Nancy Van Doren is running for reelection, while School Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez is retiring. First-time candidates Tannia Talento and Michael Shea are seeking the Democratic endorsement for School Board, while Realtor Chaz Crismon has filed papers to run without seeking the endorsement. [InsideNova]

More on Complete Streets Plan — The Arlington County Board approved a new Neighborhood Complete Streets program last month. The program ranks road projects by “points” earned by problems like speeding issues, frequent crashes, poor lighting and a lack of sidewalks, plus proximity to schools and transit. Some residents, however, are unhappy that the program doesn’t allow neighbors to directly vote on projects in their community. [Arlington Connection]

Arlington May Get Its Tourism Tax Back — Five years after having its ability to impose a 0.25 percent hotel tax surcharge stripped by the Virginia General Assembly, as retribution for the county’s I-395 HOT lanes lawsuit, the state legislature may be poised to finally give Arlington its tax authority back. Revenue from the hotel tax funds the county’s tourism promotion efforts and is supported by the local tourism industry. [InsideNova]

It’s Ash Wednesday — Among the churches placing ashes on the foreheads of commuters at local Metro stations for Ash Wednesday this morning was Calvary United Methodist Church in Aurora Highlands, which greeted commuters at the Pentagon City Metro station. [Facebook]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — February 10, 2016 at 6:00 am 0

Just Reduced banner

Each week, “Just Reduced” spotlights properties in Arlington County whose price have been cut over the previous week. The market summary is crafted by licensed broker Aaron Seekford of Arlington Realty, Inc. GET MORE out of your real estate investment with Aaron and his team by visiting www.MrArlington.com or calling 703-836-6116 today!

Love is in the air and another Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.

And while chocolates and flowers are always lovely, few signs of love and commitment trump making a move together.

For some couples, it’s exploring a first apartment or starter home. For some, it’s about finding a home that will be suitable for a son and/or daughter that are on the way. For others, it may be a move across country.

While real estate may not seem like the most outwardly symbol of love, so many love stories have blossomed in the beautiful homes here in Arlington County. And, it’s been a true honor to work with so many wonderful couples over the years.

To everyone out there, happy Valentine’s Day! And, now, on to this week’s numbers…

This week, as of February 8, there are 154 detached homes, 32 townhouses and 244 apartments for sale throughout Arlington County. In total, 37 homes experienced a price reduction in the past week.

Here is this week’s selection of Just Reduced properties:

Please note that this is solely a selection of Just Reduced properties available in Arlington County. For a complete list of properties within your target budget and specifications, contact Aaron Seekford.

by ARLnow.com — February 9, 2016 at 5:15 pm 0

Rosslyn BID Executive Director Cecilia Cassidy at the 2011 Light Up Rosslyn CelebrationThe Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization has a new leader following the sudden resignation of former executive director Takis Karantonis last month.

Cecilia Cassidy has been tapped as the group’s interim executive director, effective immediately, CPRO announced today.

Cassidy was formerly the executive director of the Rosslyn Business Improvement District. She retired from that post in 2013.

In a press release, after the jump, CPRO notes that Cassidy is a longtime resident of Arlington Village, along the Pike.

(more…)

by Andrew Ramonas — February 9, 2016 at 4:45 pm 0

Eden Center Lunar New Year (Image via Eden Center)

Lion dances and other Lunar New Year customs are slated to take center stage at Eden Center and the Pentagon City mall this weekend as Northern Virginians mark the Year of the Monkey.

The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City (1100 S. Hayes Street) and Eden Center (6751 Wilson Blvd in Falls Church) both are scheduled to host Lunar New Year celebrations Saturday. But only Eden Center plans to keep the party going on Sunday.

At Pentagon City, visitors can catch lion and dragon dances, along with interactive games, Asian-inspired fashion shows and live music, according to a news release from the mall. The party is set to run from noon to 6 p.m. on the ground level of the Nordstrom wing.

As for Eden Center, the Vietnamese shopping destination will have lion dances, face painting, balloon animals and a magician, a Facebook post says. The festivities are slated to begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Image via Eden Center

by Andrew Ramonas — February 9, 2016 at 3:30 pm 0

2013 Clarendon Mardi Gras parade

Masked characters, dogs in costumes, marching bands and other Mardi Gras partiers are set to make their way through Clarendon tonight.

After dodging the threat of snow following two years of weather delays and cancellations, the 17th Annual Clarendon-Courthouse Mardi Gras Parade is slated to kick off at 7 p.m. on Wilson Boulevard, making its way from N. Barton Street to N. Irving Street.

After the parade, revelers then can head to the first-ever Clarendon Mardi Gras Ball at the Clarendon Ballroom (3185 Wilson Blvd.) The party is scheduled to run from 7 to 11 p.m.

More than 30 groups are expected to march in the parade, which is organized by the Clarendon Alliance. The non-profit organization has billed the parade as a “family-friendly event” that is “big fun.”

“Participating in the parade is a great way to have fun — participants can wear masks, dress completely inappropriately, and throw stuff at people,” the Clarendon Alliance says on its website. “What’s not to like?”

Except maybe traffic.

Some roads will shut down starting at 4:30 p.m. due to the parade. According to the Arlington County Police Department, the street closures include:

  • Wilson Blvd from Veitch Street to Barton Street will be closed from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.
  • Adams Street and Wayne Street, between Clarendon Blvd and Wilson Blvd, will be closed from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.
  • Wilson Blvd from Barton Street to Irving Street will be closed from 6:45 to 9:30 p.m.

Clarendon Ballroom will host the Yamomanem Jazz Band and the 8 Ohms Jazz Band and serve traditional Louisiana food, with wine, beer and punch, as part of the Clarendon Mardi Gras Ball.

Ball guests under the age of 21 are welcome to attend, but must have a parent or guardian with them. Tickets to the party cost $20 online and $25 at the door.

Iota Club (2832 Wilson Blvd), meanwhile, will be hosting its own Mardi Gras celebration starting at 8:00 p.m. The free event features a rock-blues band and $3 gumbo shots.

Photo courtesy Jason Dixson Photography

by Andrew Ramonas — February 9, 2016 at 2:15 pm 0

Walkway to Ballston Common Mall (photo by m01229)

Plans for a revamped pedestrian walkway over Wilson Boulevard in Ballston are up for discussion tonight.

Arlington County is scheduled to host a community meeting on the redesign of the pedestrian bridge at Ballston Common Mall (4328 Wilson Blvd) from 6:30 to 8 p.m. The gathering is slated to happen in the mall’s second floor retail area across from the Payless shoe store.

Attendees will have the opportunity to meet the walkway’s designer and give feedback on the project.

A new bridge is part of a $317 million plan to redevelop the mall, which is being rebranded as Ballston Quarter. The walkway provides an elevated, indoor pathway to the Ballston Metro station.

Final plans for bridge are expected to go to the county manager for consideration in late June.

Flickr photo by m01229

by ARLnow.com — February 9, 2016 at 1:15 pm 0

Publicly-traded energy tech firm Opower is staying in Arlington, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) announced at a press conference this morning, marking some good news for a county beset by the departures of large government agencies.

McAuliffe and County Board Chair Libby Garvey were among those making the announcement at Opower’s current headquarters at 1515 N. Courthouse Road in Courthouse, which President Obama visited in 2010, when the company was still a startup.

Opower will be moving down the street to a new office building at 2311 Wilson Blvd in Courthouse. The building — already approved by the County Board — is set to be constructed over the next two years, replacing a row of restaurants. Developer Carr Properties had been calling the 8-story building the “Clean Technology Center,” which seems consistent with Opower’s sustainability and energy conservation mission.

Virginia and Arlington County had been fighting to keep Opower, which was being courted by the District and by The Wharf, the massive new development on the Southwest D.C. waterfront.

“Keeping Opower in Arlington County has been a high priority of my administration,” McAuliffe said. “This high-profile energy software company is growing rapidly and making a major impact on global challenges, and we are committed to further strengthening this important corporate partnership. The technology industry is booming in Virginia, and wins like this expansion help us continue to build on the momentum in this important sector.”

“Arlington has watched Opower grow from a startup venture to a thriving leader not only in the region, but in the entire clean technology industry,” Garvey said. “Arlington’s highly-educated workforce and easy transportation access were things Opower was looking for as the company continues to grow, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with them for a long time to come.”

McAuliffe helped arrange a $1 million grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to help Arlington keep Opower.

“Arlington County will match the state funding with a performance-based local economic development incentive grant,” the county notes in a press release. “Arlington will provide an additional annual performance grant through the remaining years of the lease term subject to job and occupancy requirements. Funding and services to support the company’s employee training activities will be provided through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.”

Opower plans to invest about $10.5 million in its new, 63,000 square foot headquarters and expects to add 70 new employees within three years. The company will also retain 357 jobs that currently pay above the region’s prevailing wage.

“Opower has been with Arlington since the beginning,” said Victor Hoskins, Director of Arlington Economic Development. “The company is a model for the fast-growth technology companies we’re hoping to attract to Arlington, and we simply could not be more pleased that Opower has decided to continue to be a part of Arlington’s business community.”

The building at 2311 Wilson Blvd will have a total of 150,000 square feet of office space plus ground floor retail spaces when it’s completed.

by ARLnow.com — February 9, 2016 at 11:55 am 0

Trendy salad purveyor Sweetgreen will be opening the doors of its new Crystal City location (2200 Crystal Drive) this Thursday, Feb. 11.

The store will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., offering organic salads and seasonal bowls. During the grand opening, Sweetgreen will be donating 100 percent of the day’s proceeds to FRESHFARM Market’s Matching Dollars program.

Another popular and growing local fast casual restaurant chain, Taylor Gourmet, is expected to open next door later this winter.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — February 9, 2016 at 11:15 am 0

Ask Eli banner

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: I believe the value of my home has increased substantially. Can I leverage this to remove the (Private) Mortgage Insurance from my mortgage?

Before responding, let me catch everybody up on some basics:

  • Jake Ryon of First Home Mortgage explains (P)MI simply as “an additional payment a borrower has to pay to offset risk to the lender when the down payment doesn’t equal 20% or more of the sales price or appraisal value, whichever is lower”
  • It’s included when the Loan-to-Value (LTV) is above 80%. LTV is the amount of your loan divided by its value. In other words, the value minus your down payment (80% LTV = 20% down payment). This is the basis for today’s question – if the value of a home increase, the LTV decreases (more owner equity), and may allow a borrower to remove (P)MI.
  • The monthly cost is based on factors that include LTV, credit score, and loan size. Generally monthly payments range from about .25%-2% of your loan balance, divided by twelve
  • Conventional loans = Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI); FHA loans = Mortgage Insurance (MI)

If you have PMI on a conventional loan…

Per Jake Ryon of First Home Mortgage, you can request that it be removed when the LTV hits 80% based on payments against the original value or the value of the home has increased enough to bring the LTV to 80% or less. For example, if the original value of your home was $500,000 and you currently have $450,000 left on the loan, a new appraised value of $562,500 would result in a new LTV of 80% and your loan servicer may agree to remove PMI. Some key points:

  • You cannot have a late payment within the last two years
  • The request must be made in writing to your servicer (who you make payments to)
  • If you’re making the case based on increased value, you’ll need the loan servicer to order a new appraisal, at your expense
  • It’s ultimately the loan servicer’s choice whether or not to remove the PMI

It will be automatically removed when:

  1. You reach 78% LTV on the original value of your home
  2. You reach the midway point of your loan and have not reached 78% LTV (e.g. 15 year mark on a 30 year loan)

If you have MI on an FHA loan…

If your FHA loan was created after June 3, 2013 and your original LTV was 90% or higher, your mortgage insurance cannot be removed at any point during the life of the loan and the only way to remove these payments is to refinance into a new loan once you can attain an LTV of 80% or less. If your mortgage was created before this date, your MI will be automatically removed at 78% LTV.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

by ARLnow.com — February 9, 2016 at 10:00 am 0

El Rancho Peruvian Chicken, at 3610 Columbia Pike, appears to have closed.

A neighboring business owner told ARLnow.com that the restaurant closed a couple of weeks ago and has not reopened since. Inside the eatery around noon yesterday, the doors were locked and chairs placed on top of the tables.

No explanation was given for the restaurant’s closure and no signs announcing the closure were posted on the windows at the time of ARLnow.com’s visit.

El Rancho has had its share of problems over the years — there were at least two notable fires there since 2012.

by ARLnow.com — February 9, 2016 at 9:00 am 0

Unmeasurable snow (Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf)

Snow Emergency Routes to Be Enforced — For future large snowstorms (not for today’s flurries) Arlington County will begin enforcing towing on snow emergency routes, after more than two decades of non-enforcement. County Board Chair Libby Garvey also said Arlington’s snow clearing effort can use a bit of improvement. “There are clearly some things we need to do better,” she said. [InsideNova]

Substance in Potomac Found to Be Fuel Oil — The oily sheen on the Potomac is fuel oil, tests have determined, ruling out that it’s jet fuel or fuel from a car. The U.S. Coast Guard and Arlington authorities are still trying to find the source of the leak. They spent much of Monday inspecting storm drains in Arlington. [WTOP, Washington Post]

Highline RxR Celebrating First Anniversary — Crystal City after-work watering hole Highline RxR is celebrating its first anniversary starting at 5 p.m today. The celebration will feature live music, food and drink specials and “some weird and rare craft beers on draft.” [Facebook]

Rock Climber Pleads Guilty in Arlington Man’s Death — Thirty-three year-old David DiPaolo of Bristow has pleaded guilty to the gruesome Dec. 28, 2013 killing of 68-year-old Arlington resident Geoffrey Farrar at the Carderock Recreation Area in Montgomery County. An argument in the parking lot led to an altercation while the two men were rock climbing, and during the struggle DiPaolo struck Farrar in the head with a claw hammer multiple times. Farrar died from massive head injuries. DiPaolo pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter. [NBC Washington]

Delivery of Yard Waste Carts Begins — Some 33,000 homes in Arlington will receive their new yard waste carts over the next 6-8 weeks. The county’s new yard waste collection program begins March 14. [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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