JUST IN: Firefighters Battle House Fire in Arlington Mill

Firefighters extinguished a garage fire that spread to an adjacent house in the Arlington Mill neighborhood Sunday afternoon.

The fire broke out around 2:30 p.m. on the 5600 block of 7th Place S. Photos from the scene, below, show significant flames and smoke visible from the street.

The fire was reported out around 3 p.m. and there were no injuries, according to the Arlington County Fire Department. Fire marshals are now investigating the cause of the blaze.

Map via Google Maps

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Legal Experts Fear County Has Strayed Onto ‘Thin Ice’ With Arlington Mill Internet Project

Residents of an affordable housing complex in Arlington Mill could soon get access to free wi-fi, thanks to the county’s own fiber optic network — but is that legal?

It’s a question that vexes broadband experts and legal observers alike, who see the county potentially running afoul of some restrictive state laws, even though the project happens to be in service of a good cause.

The county’s plans for this “Digital Inclusion Initiative” over at the Arlington Mill Residences have attracted new scrutiny as local officials and a team of independent experts have begun studying the “ConnectArlington” dark fiber network.

That group identified a whole host of problems with the county’s management of the program, which was designed to build on Arlington’s existing fiber network to provide high-speed internet to local businesses. The county already uses the network to link its facilities together, and expanded it in 2015.

The experts did not identify any issues with the Arlington Mill project, specifically, in a report they prepared for county staff, but some members of that “Broadband Advisory Committee” told ARLnow that they harbor deep concerns about it. And a survey of other lawyers specializing in telecommunications policy reveals that it’s entirely unclear whether the project’s structure is actually legal under state law.

Arlington officials and attorneys believe they’re perfectly within the bounds of the law with their efforts, and the county held a community celebration to kick off the installation of some internet equipment last month.

Thus far, county leaders have billed it as a pilot project, which could inform other efforts to connect communities that lack access to low-cost internet. Officials are particularly enthusiastic about its potential to connect students living at Arlington Mill with the internet, closing the “homework gap” and helping kids get online and keep up with their increasingly high tech studies.

But, at the very least, experts fear this means that the county has wandered into a confusing legal gray area that could invite future court challenges.

“They’re doing it for the right reasons, and I don’t fault them for it,” said Chris Rozycki, a member of the county’s Broadband Advisory Committee with 30 years of telecom regulatory experience. “But I think they know they’re tiptoeing onto thin ice here.”

Finding an alternative

When the county first rolled out the “Digital Inclusion” project in December 2017, it looked a bit different than it does now.

The County Board agreed to hand over $94,500 in grant money to the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, which manages the Arlington Mill complex. The nonprofit, commonly known as APAH, would then use that money to contract with an internet service provider to “light” the county’s dark fiber, which already connects to the nearby Arlington Mill Community Center.

In essence, that means the ISP would facilitate internet service for the complex, something that state law currently bars localities from doing on their own.

Rozycki’s company, a local ISP known as “Potomac Fiber,” initially worked to strike a deal with APAH and the county to light the fiber.

However, that’s where Rozycki ran into many of the problems the committee identified in its report on ConnectArlington. Potomac Fiber would need to lease some strands of the fiber network from the county to make the project work, but Rozycki found many of the terms the county’s lawyers demanded quite onerous.

Much like the rest of the panel of experts that studied ConnectArlington, Rozycki believed that the proposed terms of the deal pushed all of the risk onto his company, while avoiding any for Arlington. For instance, he felt the contract’s five-year term wasn’t long enough to give his investors confidence, and he was deeply concerned about a provision that would’ve let the county revoke Potomac Fiber’s access to the network infrastructure with only limited notice.

“I would’ve lost my investors if I’d signed it,” Rozycki said. “I had to walk away.”

APAH went about searching for another ISP to light the fiber instead, but didn’t have much luck. The broadband commission believes that the structure of the ConnectArlington program effectively scares away any company from leasing the fiber network, and officials concede that many of those problems were evident in the Arlington Mill effort.

“We had to find another way to make it happen,” said Jack Belcher, the county’s chief information officer and head of its Department of Technology Services.

But by summer 2018, Belcher and the county’s technical staff managed to find what they believed was a workaround. The county would use its dark fiber to provide “switched access connectivity” between the complex and another internet service provider, allowing APAH to contract with an ISP out near Ashburn, the Loudoun County suburb that acts as a hub for the majority of all internet traffic across the globe.

Essentially, Belcher says the county is setting aside a few strands of its fiber to act as a “conduit” for APAH, helping the nonprofit buy high-speed internet at a significantly lower price than they might find from a local ISP.

“When you get out there, all of a sudden, you’re dealing with the wholesalers of the internet,” Belcher said. “What that does is gets them out there, they negotiate their own deal. We’re sort of a carriage out there.”

After the Board signed off on the arrangement in July, APAH was able to have much more success in finding an ISP partner. Nathaniel Root, a data analyst and systems architect for APAH, says the nonprofit now has a contract with Crown Castle to provide a 1 gigabit per second connection to the complex.

Crown Castle was founded in Houston, but now operates in communities including Baltimore, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Palo Alto, California, according to its website.

“We’re not selling services,” Belcher said. “All we’re doing is carrying the services out to somebody else who is providing the services for them.”

A ‘gobblygoop’ explanation?

But that distinction is where things get a bit complicated for the county.

Rozycki puts it quite bluntly — when presented with Belcher’s explanation of the technical arrangement at Arlington Mill, he quipped “the word ‘gobblygoop’ comes to mind.” He believes that the county’s mention of “switched access connectivity” is merely a “made-up term” designed to obscure the project’s purpose.

“What they’re doing is, in essence, being an ISP,” Rozycki said. “From the explanation, I have no idea what they are doing, but it sure sounds to me like they are providing internet service. The law does not allow them to be a service provider, but I am not a lawyer.”

Rozycki is leaning on his years of work as director of telecommunications for the South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff, which has oversight of broadband issues, to make such a judgement. And others with law degrees themselves have come to much the same conclusion.

Part of the problem for Arlington is that Virginia telecom law is restrictive. Like many other states, Virginia bars localities themselves from using their fiber networks to provide internet service — the influence of major telecom companies to close off government-funded competition is a key point of tension for many community broadband advocates.

In some cases, state law does allow for communities to form publicly owned cooperatives that can build networks and offer internet service. However, attorneys note that the law is extremely restrictive, making it very difficult for localities to form those networks in the first place.

“It’s kind of absurd, but that’s the law they’re confronted with,” said Doug Jarrett, an attorney specializing in broadband and telecom law at the D.C.-based Keller and Heckman, LLP. “I don’t know how they get around that.”

Jarrett feels it’s a “tough call” whether the county’s arrangement is legal, but the unusual setup and the strictures of Virginia’s laws give him great pause about how it might stand up in court.

David Reischer, an attorney specializing in business law in New York and the CEO of legaladvice.com, is similarly skeptical of the project. He expects that the arrangement could work, but he fears the county could run into trouble if Arlington Mill residents experience any “service interruptions” and the county has to take responsibility for resolving those.

“Providing ‘switched access connectivity’ is a temporary solution because there are so many other issues that Virginia state law contemplated to operate as an ISP, including handling of personal data and general protection of user privacy,” Reischer said. “This middle ground solution of ‘switched access connectivity’ by the county will certainly get tested.”

Deputy County Attorney MinhChau Corr believes the Arlington Mill project is perfectly legal, noting that the ISP that APAH hired provides an “extra layer” between the apartment complex and the county. In her office’s view, the county is clearly not acting as an ISP, but merely giving the nonprofit “a gift” to enable this internet service.

“We gave them access to the dark fiber and then gave them money, and since they’re a nonprofit, they’re eligible to receive that kind of gift from us,” Corr said.

Who decides what’s legal?

Jarrett expects that a simple way to resolve any question about this project’s legality would be seeking some input from the state.

Both Jarrett and Rozycki assumed that the most logical entity to tackle this debate would be the State Corporation Commission, a regulatory agency that (among other functions) reviews utility and telephone rates. The SCC is similar to the agency in South Carolina that Rozycki once worked in, and has oversight over many telecom policies in the state.

“If the SCC has to get involved, arguably they could say [to Arlington], ‘Go ahead and do what you need to,'” Jarrett said.

But the SCC has never reviewed the project in any capacity, said agency spokesman Ken Schrad. That’s because he doesn’t believe the SCC has the authority to have “any involvement” in this area.

“I am not aware of any state agency that would be involved,” Schrad said.

Rozycki’s only other guess for a resource at the state level would be Attorney General Mark Herring’s office. Herring’s lawyers frequently review legal disputes in localities, and can offer binding (or non-binding) opinions on those matters.

However, it would seem the state’s attorneys have yet to study the Arlington Mill project either.

“This doesn’t appear to be an issue that’s been on our radar,” said Michael Kelly, Herring’s spokesman.

That’s not to say that the dispute couldn’t find its way to Herring’s office at some point. Rozycki expects that a company upset about the project could file a complaint with the attorney general, or simply sue the county.

But, put simply, very few people who have examined the project have any idea how any challenge to it might proceed.

“I am not sure how this plays out,” Rozycki said. “The laws have not kept up with the changes in technology and the industry.”

Rozycki doesn’t think it’s overly likely that a smaller ISP would sue — as the CEO of one himself, he points out that they generally “don’t have the time or the money” to litigate such an issue.

But larger telecom giants, who pushed for many of the provisions limiting state-run networks in the first place, might not be so charitable.

“I have some empathy for the outcome they’re trying to get to here,” Jarrett said. “But the law they have to dance around is terribly unfortunate, particularly where Verizon and Comcast can use it to deal with any competition anywhere.”

Photo via Google Maps

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CPRO Releases Schedule for Outdoor Movie Nights on Columbia Pike This Summer

Summer may feel pretty far off these days, as temperatures dip into the 20s, but there’s already a full slate of outdoor movie nights scheduled along Columbia Pike.

The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) announced the schedule for its annual movie series last week, with screenings set to start in mid-June.

The theme of this year’s series is “Heroes and Sheroes: Movies with a Mission.”

On Fridays, screenings will be held at the Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street). On Saturdays, movies will be shown at the Penrose Square development (2501 9th Road S.).

The full schedule is as follows:

Arlington Mill

June 14: Moana (PG)
June 21: On the Basis of Sex (PG-13)
June 28: A Wrinkle in Time (PG)
July 5: Hidden Figures (PG)
July 12: Aquaman (PG-13)
July 19: First Man (PG-13)
July 26: The Incredibles (PG)
August 2: Mulan (G)
August 9: Brave (PG)
August 16: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (PG)
August 23: Won’t You Be My Neighbor (PG-13)

Penrose Square

June 15: Black Panther (PG-13)
June 22: Wonder Woman (PG-13)
June 29: The Post (PG-13)
July 6: Apollo 13 (PG)
July 13: Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (PG)
July 20: Akeelah and the Bee (PG)
July 27: Selma (PG-13)
August 3: Norma Rae (PG)
August 10: A League of Their Own (PG)
August 17: Life in the Doghouse (NR)
August 24: Won’t You Be My Neighbor (PG-13)

CPRO says it’s still looking for businesses to sponsor the movie series. Anyone interested can apply on the organization’s website.

Photo via Facebook

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County Repeals Controversial Parking Restrictions in Forest Glen, Arlington Mill Neighborhoods

(Updated at 9:55 a.m.) The Arlington County Board has done away with parking restrictions on a handful of streets in two South Arlington neighborhoods, putting to rest a contentious dispute that has dragged on for years between Forest Glen and Arlington Mill residents.

The Board voted unanimously Saturday (Jan. 26) to end zoned parking on eight streets in the area. As part of the county’s “Residential Parking Program,” the county previously barred anyone without a permit from parking on the roads from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. each day.

The following streets, once part of the county’s “Zone 24” and stretching into sections of both Forest Glen and Arlington Mill, are now open for parking around the clock:

  • 6th Place S.
  • 7th Street S.
  • 7th Road S.
  • S. Florida Street
  • S. Greenbrier Street
  • S. Harrison Street (north of 7th Street S.)
  • S. Illinois Street
  • S. Jefferson Street

Arlington officials first zoned the streets off in 2016, largely due to Forest Glen residents arguing that too many drivers from outside the area were occupying the neighborhood’s limited parking spots. But residents of Arlington Mill said they started to feel the squeeze instead once that change was made, as it cut off street parking near the many apartment complexes in the neighborhood.

“Street parking in Arlington Mill became so scarce that it was rare to find a parking spot anywhere after 7 p.m.,” Austin McNair, an Arlington Mill resident who fought for the change, told ARLnow via email. “Anyone not working a traditional 9 to 5 job was now faced with the extra task of finding parking more than a mile away from their home. I can promise that this is the story for many families.”

Ordinarily, the county likely wouldn’t have waded into such a dispute — the Board put a two-year moratorium on any parking zone changes as it reviews the efficacy of the entire program, a process that isn’t set to wrap up until sometime early next year.

Yet the Board subsequently determined that county staff didn’t follow their usual process for setting up the zoned parking in the area, convincing officials that the parking restrictions both weren’t working well and that they were likely set up improperly in the first place.

“This was not a decision that we take lightly or came to easily… but the status quo is not acceptable,” said Board member Erik Gutshall. “What this is all about, for me, is the efficient allocation of a public resource, which is on-street parking. I’m sorry that this is the least objectionable of lots of other bad options.”

Board members stressed that they’d urged staff to work out some sort of compromise position between the two neighborhoods over the past few months, perhaps by putting restrictions on one side of each street but freeing up the other side. But they could never quite find an acceptable solution to all sides, or manage to find one that county lawyers thought would hold up in court — the county’s parking restrictions were challenged all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1977, and officials have since been careful to limit the parking zones to the narrow intent of keeping commuters out of residential areas.

“While the neighborhood has grown in density, it has never been and is still not a destination for commercial customers or commuters who would be parking their cars to access public transportation,” McNair said.

The dispute has also turned a bit ugly in recent weeks. A community meeting the Board convened to discuss the matter drew plenty of raised voices, with some in Forest Glen arguing that the parking restrictions were necessary to prevent speeding, littering and other criminal activity in the neighborhood. Others in Arlington Mill, particularly some advocates for Latino residents, claimed those concerns were based in some deep-seated racial stereotypes.

That divide was evident at the Board’s gathering as well. Danny Cendejas, an activist on variety of local issues, told the Board that the current parking restriction “has discriminated against our neighbors,” while Forest Glen residents argued that reversing the restriction would harm their quality of life.

“I had to place trash cans in the middle of the street to slow down people who were racing to find parking while my three young children were riding their bicycles,” Brent Newton, a six-year resident of the neighborhood, told the Board. “When we were granted the [Residential Parking Program designation], our neighborhood became quiet, clean and tranquil. With utmost certainty, it will return to what it was before the RPP: speeding cars, trash and noise.”

While Board members sympathized with those concerns, they didn’t believe changing the parking restriction would make a difference on those fronts. Board member Libby Garvey suggested that they may be “related,” but she would rather see police step up enforcement in the area to address those worries.

Gutshall pointed out that his own neighborhood, near Clarendon, has parking restrictions in place, but still deals with its own share of littering issues as people flock to the area to reach nearby bars and restaurants. For him, and the rest of the Board, the parking staff’s missteps in evaluating the neighborhood for earning zone restrictions were more important to address.

Stephen Crim, the manager of the county’s parking program, told the Board that his staff discovered that they didn’t check license plates on the affected streets against records maintained by the county’s Commissioner of the Revenue, which tracks tax payments on property like vehicles. That means that staff didn’t necessarily have a full picture of how many people from outside the county were actually parking in the neighborhoods.

He added that staff didn’t examine conditions on a “block-by-block” basis, giving them an incomplete look at actual conditions in the area.

“We can’t recreate what should’ve been done then, and there’s nothing we have now to suggest it was a fair procedure,” said County Board Chair Christian Dorsey. “What absolutely forced me to want to pursue action right away was the understanding that the designating of the RPP was not done according to policy.”

The Board “was simply unwilling to allow restrictions to the public right of way to continue in light of the fundamental discrepancies in establishing the eligibility of these streets for the RPP program,” Dorsey said.

With the Board deciding to rescind the restrictions, Crim says the county hopes to have refunds out to everyone in Forest Glen and Arlington Mill who paid for parking permits by the end of April.

Dorsey said he hopes the change will help the neighborhoods “begin to heal,” but Board members acknowledged that similar disputes are sure to crop up elsewhere around the county as Arlington gets increasingly crowded. With Amazon coming to town, Cristol said she’s well aware that the pressures of increasing density to meet the demand for new housing will likely be “biggest issue for the next three decades” for the county to address.

“We don’t have enough housing for people at all income levels to be able to live affordably in Arlington, but the act of adding housing creates concerns,” Cristol said. “So we’re constantly trying to work our way through these two tensions.”

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County Officials Could Soon End Forest Glen Parking Restrictions, Angering Some Residents

(Updated at 8:15 p.m.) Arlington officials are gearing up to erase parking restrictions on several streets in the Forest Glen neighborhood, angering some residents there but meeting the demands of others in nearby Arlington Mill.

The County Board is set to consider a resolution later this month ending zoned parking restrictions along the following the roads, per county spokeswoman Katie O’Brien:

  • 6th Place S.
  • 7th Street S.
  • 7th Road S.
  • S. Florida Street
  • S. Greenbrier Street
  • S. Harrison Street (north of 7th Street S.)
  • S. Illinois Street
  • S. Jefferson Street

All of those streets are currently covered under “Zone 24” of the county’s residential permit parking program, barring unauthorized cars from parking there between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. each day.

The Board has generally avoided any changes to the program recently, after declaring a moratorium on applications for new parking restrictions while members weigh potential reforms to the county’s entire zoned parking system. Board members and some community leaders have started to doubt that the current program, originally designed to keep commuters out of D.C.-adjacent neighborhoods, is working as intended.

But the Board could soon make these changes in Forest Glen all the same, given the loud complaints from people in Arlington Mill.

According to a letter sent to Forest Glen residents from the Board, and provided to ARLnow, people in the neighborhood have “experienced great difficult with curbside parking” since the parking restrictions went into effect a few years ago. County staff have worked for months to find an “interim solution” to the dispute, without success, pushing the Board to take this step.

It doesn’t help matters either that staff believe the parking restrictions “depart from the program’s original intent and place an undue burden” on surrounding streets, the letter reads. The Board has since concluded that “the determination for the restrictions deviated from standard staff practices, including data collection and verification,” spurring the need for the change.

“The County Board is unwilling to allow restrictions to the public right of way continue considering the fundamental discrepancies in establishing the eligibility of the above streets for the RPP program,” Board members wrote.

But one Forest Glen resident, who requested anonymity for this article, claimed that neighbors had “myriad reasons” for requesting the parking restrictions in the area. Those ranged from concerns over “out of county parkers, unregistered and abandoned vehicles” to “crime” and “blocked driveways,” all of which, this person believes, meet the standards of the county’s parking rules.

The Forest Glen resident further argues that the Board would be taking an “unprecedented and historic” step by removing the parking restriction, which will “put all other RPP areas in Arlington at risk of being removed.”

“The removal of Forest Glen’s zone parking represents an unprecedented intervention by the County Board into administrative decisions of county government,” they wrote in an email. “Additionally, every RPP area now faces the increased likelihood of removal.”

O’Brien stressed in an email, however, that the Board’s proposed resolution “only applies to these streets in zone 24 and will not impact any other neighborhoods or zones.”

The Board is set to consider the matter at its Jan. 26 meeting, and plans to hold a community meeting on the subject tonight (Tuesday) at 7 p.m. in the Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street).

Meanwhile, the county is hoping to wrap up its review of the parking program sometime by the end of the year, or in early 2020, according to county spokeswoman Jessica Baxter.

Photo via Google Maps

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BREAKING: Police Arrest Arlington Woman in Connection with Fatal Stabbing on New Year’s Day

(Updated at 7:10 p.m.) Arlington police have arrested a woman in connection with a fatal stabbing in the Arlington Mill neighborhood on New Year’s Day.

Police announced tonight (Wednesday) that they’ve charged 60-year-old Linda Marie Snow with second degree murder, after she allegedly stabbed another woman along the 5100 block of 8th Road S. around 10 a.m. yesterday (Tuesday).

Investigators believe Snow began fighting with the victim, identified as 64-year-old Alice Carter of Arlington, inside a home in the area, leading to the stabbing.

Carter was rushed to an area hospital, where she soon died.

Snow is being held without bond at the Arlington County Detention Center. She’s set for a hearing in Arlington General District Court on March 28.

Photo courtesy of Arlington County Police Department

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BREAKING: Police Investigating Fatal Stabbing in Arlington Mill

A woman was killed in a reported stabbing in the Arlington Mill neighborhood Tuesday morning.

Police are investigating the New Year’s Day incident as a “suspicious death” but have released few other details. Officers were called to the scene on the 5100 block of 8th Road S. around 10 a.m.

“Based upon the preliminary investigation, this appears to be an isolated incident with no known threat to the community,” Arlington County Police said on Twitter. “Police remain on scene investigating.”

Map via Google Maps

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Police Investigate Man Spotted with Pants Unzipped

Police were called to the Arlington Mill neighborhood, north of Columbia Pike, over the weekend for a report of a man standing around with his pants unzipped.

According to Arlington County Police, a resident of the 800 block of S. Frederick Street spotted the man standing in the woods, staring with him, around 6 p.m. on Saturday. The man’s pants, according to the resident, were unzipped.

Ten minutes later, the same man was spotted “exhibiting the same suspicious behavior,” prompting the call to police. By the time officers arrived, the man had zipped out of the area and could not be located.

More from an ACPD crime report:

INDECENT EXPOSURE, 2018-10200181, 800 block of S. Frederick Street. At approximately 6:24 p.m. on October 20, police were dispatched to the report of a suspicious person. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was in the parking lot of his residence when he observed an unknown male suspect in a wooded area staring at him with his pants unzipped. When the victim returned approximately ten minutes later, he observed the same male exhibiting the same suspicious behavior and called police. Arriving officers observed the male in the area, however, he fled on foot. The area was canvased with negative results. The suspect is described as a white Hispanic male, in his 40’s, approximately 5’6″, with an average build, dark hair with a receding hairline, wearing jeans and a light grey and black sweatshirt. The investigation is ongoing.

Map via Google Maps

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Tyrol Hill Park Celebrates Grand Reopening

After two years of design and one year of construction, Tyrol Hill Park has finished the last phase of its construction and is open to the public.

Tyrol Hill Park is a two-acre park adjoining the Forest Glen and Arlington Mill Neighborhoods, with connections branching out into the nature trails of Glencarlyn Park.

Phase Four of the project finalized the park with a new restroom, picnic shelter, and paved plaza. Phase Four also added several furnishings to the site and added accessibility and stormwater management improvements. Earlier phases relocated and upgraded the Basketball and Volleyball Courts on the site, added a new gateway entrance, installed a new playground and added a picnic shelter.

The Tyrol Hill Master Plan was adopted by the County Board in 2003, but after years of inactivity the project was revisited in 2016 when a community survey conducted by Arlington County staff showed there was still support for adding a unisex bathroom to the site and that renovating the paths around the site was a top priority.

Photo via Arlington County Department of Parks & Recreation

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Improvements Underway on S. Walter Reed Drive, With More Changes to Come

S. Walter Reed Drive is slated for several changes that, among other alterations, are designed to make the roadway more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly.

Construction kicked off last month (July) between 11th Street S. and 13th Street S. That work is scheduled to be completed later this year and primarily targets S. Walter Reed Drive’s intersection with 12th Street S., improving crosswalks and building curb extensions and new ADA-compliant curb ramps.

Also included in the project is the reconstruction of three raised medians to run along that portion of the roadway and alterations to an existing bike boulevard, which will be moved from 12th Street S. to 11th Street S. between S. Highland and S. Cleveland Streets.

Drivers should expect one travel lane to be closed from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays to accommodate construction. Pedestrians will see sidewalk detours and temporary crosswalks, and on-street parking will be restricted.

long-awaited set of changes to a different portion of S. Walter Reed Drive — from S. Arlington Mill Drive to S. Four Mile Run Drive — is set to get underway in mid-September.

That plan has been in the works for years, and the county awarded a $1.8 million contract for it in May. Construction aims to add ADA-compliant bus stops, new crosswalks and curb ramps, more street lighting and improved signals for drivers and pedestrians.

The project also intends to make travel between the Four Mile Run Trail and the Washington & Old Dominion Trail safer and to realign westbound S. Arlington Mill Drive in an effort to make the crossing more accessible to pedestrians and cyclists. The county has been piloting the realignment at the intersection of S. Walter Reed Drive and S. Arlington Mill Drive with a temporary installation since June 2017.

Additional changes to the designated portion of the roadway will include a slight widening of travel lanes and resurfacing.

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County Board Poised to Approve Construction of Shirlington Road Improvements

Some long-awaited improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians on S. Walter Reed Drive in Shirlington could soon move forward.

Arlington County has been hoping for years to add a series of new features to the road as it runs between S. Arlington Mill Drive to S. Four Mile Run Drive, and the County Board is poised to award a roughly $1.8 million contract for the construction this weekend.

County planners are looking to improve access to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail and the Four Mile Run Trail along the road, and the county is aiming to add new crosswalks and curb ramps, ADA-compliant bus stops, upgraded traffic and pedestrian signals and additional street lighting in the area.

The plans also call for a slight widening and resurfacing of S. Walter Reed Drive, and the elimination of a westbound turn lane on Arlington Mill Drive to improve the crossing for walkers and cyclists. County officials started testing the latter change last summer, briefly prompting a few traffic back-ups in the area. According to a report by county staff, transportation planners managed to resolve those problems by tweaking the timing of traffic signals around the end of 2017.

The Shirlington Civic Association is supportive of the project. Its president said in a letter that the association hopes, among other things, that the project will improve access to the western end of the Shirlington dog park.

The county is hoping to start construction sometime this spring or summer, pending the Board’s approval of the contract. The Board is set to vote to vote on the matter on Saturday (May 19), as part of its “consent agenda,” which is generally reserved for noncontroversial items that are approved all at once.

The total cost of all phases of the project, including the current contract, is listed as $2.8 million.

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ACPD Arrests Sexual Assault Suspect After Foot Chase in Courthouse

Arlington County Police have arrested a suspect in the attempted rape of a woman near Columbia Pike on Friday.

Police say Jermaine Johnson, a 30-year-old Arlington resident, broke into an apartment on the 800 block of S. Frederick Street, brandished a knife and tried to sexually assault the victim. She suffered minor injuries and was treated at a local hospital.

The perpetrator fled the scene of the crime, evading a police K-9 track and helicopter search, according to a police press release.

On Saturday police announced that Johnson was the suspect, “based on crime scene evidence collected and witness interviews.” Later that day, officers conducting surveillance in the Courthouse area saw him and gave chase. From ACPD:

While conducting surveillance in the 1700 block of N. Troy Street, officers observed the suspect flee from a residence. Following a foot pursuit, Jermaine Johnson was apprehended and taken into police custody. He has been charged with attempted rape and burglary and will be held in the Arlington County Detention Facility without bond.

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UPDATED: Police Release Description of Attempted Sexual Assault Suspect

Update at 1:40 p.m. — The Arlington County Police Department has released a description of the man that police say attempted to sexually assault a woman in the Arlington Mill neighborhood this morning.

Police were unable to find the suspect despite an extensive search. More from an ACPD press release:

At approximately 9:05 a.m. on April 20, Arlington County Police were dispatched to the report of a late assault in the 800 block of S. Frederick Street. Upon arrival, it was determined that between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m., an unknown male suspect forced entry into a residence, brandished a knife and attempted to sexually assault the female victim. The victim suffered minor physical injuries and was transported to a local hospital. The suspect fled the area prior to police arrival.

The suspect is described as a black male, 20-30 years old, approximately 5’7″ tall with short cropped hair. He was wearing a black shirt and black jeans at the time of the incident.

Detectives from the Special Victim’s Unit are actively investigating this incident. Responding officers established a perimeter, canvassed the area and spoke with possible witnesses. Arlington County canine units attempted a track of the suspect and the Fairfax County Police Helicopter Unit provided an aerial search with negative results. Officers will continue conducting extra patrols in the area.

If anyone has information on the identity of this individual or details surrounding this incident, please contact Detective J. Echenique of the Arlington County Police Department’s Special Victim’s Unit at 703.228.4241 or at [email protected] To report information anonymously, contact the Arlington County Crime Solvers at 866.411.TIPS (8477).

Earlier: Police are actively searching for a suspect following an attempted sexual assault this morning.

A man armed with a knife strangled and tried to sexually assault a woman in the Arlington Mill neighborhood, according to scanner traffic. A responding officer reportedly spotted a man matching the description of the suspect, but he was able to flee on foot.

Police officers, a K-9 unit and the Fairfax County Police Department helicopter are now searching the wooded area around Glencarlyn Park for the suspect.

Campbell Elementary School has been secured while the search is in progress.

Photo via Google Maps

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Free Resident Wi-Fi Coming to Arlington Mill Residences

Residents at the Arlington Mill Residences affordable housing complex could be set for free wireless internet access.

The Arlington County Board will consider a plan to offer the free service to tenants at 901 S. Dinwiddie Street as part of a new initiative called Arlington Digital Inclusion.

The initiative by the county’s Department of Technology Services and Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development, will use the county’s dedicated network of dark fiber to provide free broadband internet for three years.

“Currently, there are 122 committed affordable units at Arlington Mill Residences and 159 children are currently residing at the development,” county staff wrote in a report. “About half of all households (61) do not currently subscribe to an internet/data service. This program would provide free, in-unit high-speed Wi-Fi access to every unit. It would also help alleviate the cost of Internet/data service (which can range from $50-$75/month) for those households currently paying for the service.”

Staff said the initiative would particularly help the children that live there to close the “homework gap,” where students find it difficult to access online resources at home.

The total cost of the project over three years is just over $140,000, funded in part by $95,400 in grant money from the county through allocating Columbia Pike Tax Increment funds that help pay for affordable housing. The remaining cost of $44,809 is provided for free by service providers as what staff called a “goodwill contribution.”

The Board will vote on the plan at its meeting Saturday (December 16). Staff recommended approval.

Photo via Google Maps

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Arlington Mill Farmer’s Market Could Return Next Spring

Arlington Mill Community Center pre-opening Flickr photoA farmer’s market could return to the Arlington Mill Community Center next spring, with organizers planning to operate it on Saturdays.

The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization is proposing reviving the market at the center at 909 S. Dinwiddie Street, having decided to close it in 2014 due to a lack of customers. It would be open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and be one of two along Columbia Pike.

Originally, the Arlington County Board approved a permit for a market in July 2014, and it began the following month, opening each Wednesday from 3-7 p.m. But CPRO decided to close the market that October, citing a lack of sales, and “reassess the needs for a successful re-launch of the open-air/farmers market,” staff wrote in a report. Its permit expired in July 2016.

CPRO believes the new day and hours will attract more customers, and staff wrote it will benefit those along Arlington’s western end of Columbia Pike. They added that the Arlington Mill Civic Association, Columbia Forest Civic Association, Douglas Park Civic Association and Barcroft School and Civic League all expressed their support for the market.

“The proposed open-air market is strongly supported by the surrounding community and will provide a community amenity to the residents and this portion of Columbia Pike,” staff wrote.

Staff’s report on the plan recommends the County Board advertise a public hearing on the market for next month.

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