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Morning Notes

Effort Returns $68K to Arlington Residents — Staff from the Virginia Dept. of the Treasury were on hand at county government headquarters in Courthouse earlier this month to encourage those coming to pay their local taxes at the deadline to see if they have any unclaimed cash or property being held by the state. In all, the officials were able to return about $68,000 to people who stopped by. [InsideNova]

Population Growth Outstripping New Housing — A potential major worry should Amazon bring its HQ2 to the D.C. area is what it will do to the cost of housing. The region has fallen significantly short of housing production since 2010, according to a new report: “While the inner region’s population increased 7 percent, the number of housing units increased only 3 percent.” [Urban Institute]

County Defends Using Bonds for Artificial Turf — Despite suggestions otherwise, Arlington County Board members said Saturday that the county only uses bonds to fund artificial turf project when the lifespan of the bond equals or is less than the expected lifespan of the turf. [InsideNova]

Signature Partners with Yale — “[Signature Theatre] announced Monday a pioneering partnership to bolster musical-theater writing talent at the college level — a fairly underdeveloped avenue for professional American theaters. With financial backing from longtime Signature supporters Ted and Mary Jo Shen… Signature will produce one graduating Yale senior’s musical-in-progress annually in a three-week workshop, beginning next summer.” [Washington Post]

Mea Culpa — Yesterday, ARLnow sent a promotional email for a townhouse community with the pithy subject line, “So many reasons to move to Chantilly, VA.” While we didn’t get any complaints, this subject line does not reflect our commitment to serving the Arlington community and sending it as-is was a mistake for which we apologize.

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Arlington Not Planning to Join Class Action Lawsuit Against Synthetic Turf Installer

Arlington County is not currently planning to join the class action lawsuit against FieldTurf USA Inc., the company that installed turf at several county fields.

Several school districts and local governments across the country have accused the company of installing defective turf.

“At this time we have not experienced our turf failing, we have not had that experience,” said Robert Capper, Arlington Parks & Recreation’s capital assets manager.

One of the turf fields at Long Bridge Park is scheduled to be replaced beginning in late March, a process that will take three months and cost just over $400,000. FieldTurf USA was outbid by GTR Turf, Inc. for the replacement contract.

The fields, which are under warranty until early 2019, will be replaced early so that all three Long Bridge Park fields will not be replaced simultaneously.

Fields come with an eight year warranty, and are generally replaced eight or nine years after installation, according to Lisa Grandle, Arlington County Parks & Recreation’s park development division chief.

The warranty for one of the Long Bridge Park’s synthetic turf fields covers defective material or installation workmanship problems, but doesn’t cover what Grandle called normal wear and tear or heavy usage.

“Like tires on your car, the more hours you’re on them, the more the fields wear down,” said Grandle.

The county has not completed a cost comparison between synthetic turf and natural grass because synthetic field allows more options for playing and lasts longer than natural grass, she said.

Natural grass can sustain about 900 hours of playtime before it is considered degraded. Synthetic turf can last for approximately 2,100 hours of playtime prior to degradation, according to county officials.

File photos

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Long Bridge Park to Get New Synthetic Turf

After nearly seven years of heavy use, Long Bridge Park is getting new synthetic turf.

County Manager Mark Schwartz has recommended awarding a $425,329 synthetic turf contract to GTR Turf Inc., a Canadian commercial and residential synthetic turf and artificial grass installation company.

The contract will cover the synthetic turf replacement at Long Bridge Park’s field three. Construction is expected to begin March 2018, continuing through “the second quarter of this year,” according to a County Board agenda item, scheduled to be considered at the Board’s Saturday meeting.

Arlington intends to replace two to three turf fields per year across the county as part of its capital improvement program for 2017-2026. Long Bridge Park’s two other fields are slotted for replacement in 2019.

The synthetic turf fields were installed seven years ago, when the park opened in 2011, but are “now worn and beyond reasonable repair,” according to the recommendation to the County Board.

Seven companies were listed as contract bidders, six of which were American companies bidding between $437,645 and $663,650 for the project. There is a $42,532.90 contingency for change orders built into the proposed contract.

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Board to Consider Neighbors vs. Sports Debate Over Williamsburg Field Lights

A battle between residents and youth sports advocates will go before the Arlington County Board on Saturday (September 16) as Board members discuss adding lights to two synthetic turf fields.

County Manager Mark Schwartz announced in June he is recommending lights for the fields near Williamsburg Middle School and Discovery Elementary School in Rock Spring.

Schwartz recommended that the two fields be lit with shielded LED lights that could be dimmed during evening play, and that lights be left on no later than 9:45 p.m. Eighty-four lights would be installed on six 80-foot poles to light the fields.

And county staff is recommending the Board move his plan along, saying that it would allow for extended usage and neighbors’ worries can be mitigated.

Opponents say lights are incompatible with the residential neighborhood, would create more traffic and light pollution while damaging wildlife and trees.

And Saturday’s meeting could see neighborhood opponents come up against those in the youth sports community who say the lights will increase usage of the fields.

Neighbors of the fields delivered a petition with more than 550 signatures against lights on the fields to the County Board before Schwartz’s announcement. Several also sat on the Williamsburg Field Site Evaluation Work Group to study the effects of lights and propose options.

In their report, county staffers note that the group “did not come to a consensus” on lighting the fields.

“The neighborhood civic association has stressed going back to at least 2009 or before that, its intention to try to preserve the neighborhood in its natural condition, to minimize traffic, to protect wildlife habitat and the tree canopy,” Gail Harrison, a member of the work group and a neighborhood opponent of lighting the fields, said at the time of Schwartz’s announcement. “The proposal would be inconsistent with all of those neighborhood goals.”

But youth sports boosters said the lights will be necessary as participation has increased, and fields in Arlington are growing overcrowded and struggling to keep pace with demand. According to county data, youth participation in sports has increased by 56 percent in the past five years, from just over 15,000 in 2011 to just over 24,000 in 2017.

By sport, soccer, baseball, softball, flag football, lacrosse and ultimate Frisbee all saw large increases in participation from 2011 to 2016, according to an infographic sent by a coalition of local youth sports organizations.

Soccer leads the way with more than 16,000 who play in the county, followed by baseball with just over 4,000. Those in favor of the lights are likely to have a strong presence too on Saturday.

“I suspect Arlington Soccer Association will have folks there and I plan to be there for Arlington Babe Ruth [baseball], as all youth sports leagues face the same problem: increased participation… and a limited number of fields,” said George Thompson of the Arlington Babe Ruth baseball organization. “Lighting will add hundreds of hours of annual playing time for the teams that use these fields for practice and games.”

Schwartz’s plan is not yet permitted under the site’s current zoning, nor is funding available for the lights. Staff recommended the Board approve funding new lights as part of the FY 2019 capital budget, and that Schwartz initiate studies on amending the county’s Zoning Ordinance to permit light poles above their current limit of 68 feet. Staff also recommended amending the site’s use permit to allow light poles to be installed.

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Morning Notes

Sycamore Street, Carlin Springs Projects Approved — At its Saturday meeting, the Arlington County Board approved a pair of major road projects. One, intended to improve pedestrian safety along N. Sycamore Street in the Williamsburg neighborhood, “will reduce travel lanes from four lanes to two lanes by adding raised medians planted with trees and grass,” at a cost of $1.4 million. The other will replace the Carlin Springs Road Bridge over North George Mason Drive at a cost of $7 million. [Arlington County, Arlington County]

Fox 5 Zip Trip Comes to Arlington — Fox 5 brought its “Zip Trip” morning news segment to Pentagon Row in Arlington on Friday, highlighting a variety of local organizations, businesses and leaders. Among those making an appearance on live local TV: Bayou Bakery, Commonwealth Joe Coffee Roasters, Homeward Trails Animal Rescue, District Taco, Lebanese Taverna, the Arlington County Fire Department and County Board member Katie Cristol. [Fox 5, Twitter, Twitter]

Park Improvements Approved — The Arlington County Board has approved a $2.1 million series of improvements to Stratford Park — including new, lighted tennis and basketball courts — and the replacement of the artificial turf at Thomas Jefferson Middle School. The turf replacement is expected to cost just under a half-million dollars. [Arlington County]

County Can’t Halt Development — Despite the desires of some anti-development advocates, Arlington County does not have the legal authority to impose a moratorium on development, County Board members and the County Attorney told a speaker at Saturday’s Board meeting. [InsideNova]

Forest Inn Makes Dive Bar List — The Forest Inn in Westover has made the Washington Post’s list of the “best true dive bars in the D.C. area.” The Post’s Tim Carman and Fritz Hahn recommend ordering “a cold Budweiser, which was, for years, the only beer on tap.” [Washington Post]

Monday Properties Refinances 1812 N. Moore Street — Monday Properties has obtained fresh financing for its 1812 N. Moore Street tower in Rosslyn, which was once on uncertain financial ground as it sought its first tenant but is now set to be the U.S. headquarters of food giant Nestle. A portion of the new financing will be “used for tenant improvements and building upgrades featuring an expanded fitness center and new 12,000-square-foot conference facility on the building’s 24th floor.” [Washington Business Journal]

Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area Map Updated — The County Board has voted 5-0 to update its Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area map. “The more accurate map will help Arlington protect environmentally sensitive lands near streams and ensure that the County can comply with local and State regulations,” and “will allow the County to review development projects fairly and provide accurate information to residents and other stakeholders,” according to a press release. [Arlington County]

Photo courtesy Peter Golkin

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County Manager Recommends Lights For Williamsburg Turf Fields

County Manager Mark Schwartz announced Friday he is recommending lights for two synthetic turf fields near Williamsburg Middle School and Discovery Elementary School.

Schwartz recommended that the two fields be lit with shielded LED lights that could be dimmed during evening play, and that lights be left on no later than 9:45 p.m. Eighty-four lights would be installed on six 80-foot poles to light the fields.

Schwartz said in a statement:

I appreciate the hard work that the Williamsburg Fields Evaluation Work Group put into assessing the risks and benefits of lighting the Williamsburg fields. Their thoughtful evaluation formed the foundation of my recommendation.

This was not an easy call, but the county’s policy is that we light synthetic turf fields, and I am convinced, by our experience in lighting other fields in residential neighborhoods, that we can mitigate whatever adverse impacts lights might have. Our entire community will benefit from providing more playing time for our growing number of young people who are playing field sports.

The recommendation has brought a strong reaction from local residents, who delivered a petition with more than 550 signatures against lights on the fields to the County Board.

The Board previously appointed the Williamsburg Field Site Evaluation Work Group to study the effects of lights and propose options, but Gail Harrison, a member of the group, said it was not presented with the plan Schwartz has advanced until a few days before its last meeting.

Harrison said the “11th-hour proposal” by lighting company Musco was a “fundamental breach of the public process.” Harrison said adding lights is not appropriate for the Rock Spring neighborhood.

“The [Rock Spring] Civic Association surrounding the fields has taken a strong and consistent position over many years that field lights at this location are incompatible with the character of the neighborhood,” Harrison told ARLnow on Friday afternoon. “The neighborhood civic association has stressed going back to at least 2009 or before that, its intention to try to preserve the neighborhood in its natural condition, to minimize traffic, to protect wildlife habitat and the tree canopy. The proposal would be inconsistent with all of those neighborhood goals.”

Schwartz said he made his recommendation based on the need for more playing time on Arlington’s fields. He will bring his recommendations to the County Board’s September meeting for further discussion.

More from a county press release after the jump:

Youth outdoor sports in Arlington have grown from 15,033 participations in 2011 to 24,326 in 2017 – a 65 percent increase. Eighty percent of the County’s current youth outdoor sports participation is played on a rectangular field, where boys and girls play soccer, ultimate Frisbee, lacrosse, tackle football and flag football. The County expects participation in youth outdoor sports will continue to grow at an average rate of eight percent a year.

Schwartz’s recommendations call for installing six 4500K (Kelvin) lights with a dimming feature on 80-foot poles at the fields, located at 3600 Harrison St, on the Williamsburg Middle School-Discovery Elementary School site. For evening activities, the lights could be dimmed to reduce the impact of glare by 30 percent to 50 percent. The pole height would mitigate light pollution by allowing the fixtures to be aimed directly at the field. Installing 80-foot poles would require a Zoning Ordinance amendment and an amendment to the Use Permit for Williamsburg Middle School and Discovery Elementary Schools’ campus.

Staff assessed potential impacts of lighting, including the impact on nearby homes; public health; traffic and trees.  Staff found that the risk of retinitis and glare could be mitigated with proper design and engineering, and that while circadian rhythm disruption is possible, it could be mitigated by initiating a good sleep routine. Staff also found that  lighting the fields will have minimal traffic impact – generating an expected 125-150 new vehicle trips each night spread over a 3.5-hour period between 7:30 p.m. and 11 p.m., and that a maximum of three trees could be impacted by the installation of lighting.

MOA with Rock Spring Civic Association recommended

Schwartz is recommending that the County enter into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Rock Spring Civic Association, in which the County would agree to:

  • appoint a standing committee to ensure ongoing communication to address operational and maintenance issues;
  • commit to lights remaining on no later than 9:45 p.m. – allowing about 2,000 hours of play per year;
  • commit to fields being lit only when they are scheduled, and other mitigation measures, while also reducing the number of projected vehicle trips that would occur had the fields been lit until the County 11 p.m. standard.

Schwartz’s recommendation come four months after the Williamsburg Fields Evaluation Work Group, made-up of residents, sports supporters and other stakeholders appointed by the Board in 2015 to study the issue, submitted its final recommendations. The group offered two views – one opposed to installing lights and the other open to light installation on the fields – but offered no single recommendation.

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New Yorktown Field Vandalized

A new county-owned synthetic turf field at Yorktown High School has been vandalized.

The $1.6 million turf replacement project just wrapped up last week. Over the weekend, a vandal or group of vandals spray-painted the field and the surrounding track and caused some other damage.

“At approximately 7:36 a.m. on August 7, police were dispatched to 2700 N. Greenbrier Street for the report of destruction and vandalism,” Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage told ARLnow.com via email. “An unknown subject(s) spray painted derogatory terms on the field, knocked over several trash cans and a portable restroom. The investigation is ongoing.”

The photos above, taken Monday afternoon, show the cleanup still in progress. Note that photo #3 contains an image that some may find offensive or not safe for work (NSFW).

Photos (top) by Jackie Friedman

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Op-Ed: Cancer Claims About Artificial Turf Fields Not Based on Science

Athletic field at Long Bridge Park

The following op-ed was written by Michael Peterson, a board-certified toxicologist at Gradient, an environmental and risk sciences consulting firm. He serves as scientific adviser to the Recycled Rubber Council

Given some concerns that have been raised over recycled rubber infill in artificial turf fields by your publication (“Time To Re-Examine Artificial Turf Fields,” 4/21/16), I wanted to lend a scientific perspective to the conversation to clear up some misconceptions.

Recycled rubber is the most commonly used infill — the shock absorbing layer — in artificial turf fields, and as the author states, recent reports have suggested it poses significant health risks. The actual science performed on the issue, however, shows that such fears are unfounded.

Based on the lack of citations, it is unclear if the evidence the author points to has been peer-reviewed by other scientists, a critical component in establishing scientific credibility.  The linked Change.org petition generally only cites news reports, and not reputable scientific journals or regulatory reports.  On the other hand, there have been more than 90 peer-reviewed studies, reports, and evaluations from academics, state health departments, and third-parties that have concluded that the best available evidence support that chemical exposures associated with recycled rubber are below levels associated with health effects.

So while it is certainly true the EPA (and two other federal agencies) are doing a comprehensive study of recycled rubber, many local and state governments have already weighed in, and among them, the Connecticut Department of Public Health in 2015 found “no scientific support for a finding of elevated cancer risk from inhalation or ingestion of chemicals derived from recycled tires used on artificial turf fields.” In short, the author’s suggestion that the federal government will conclude otherwise lacks any scientific basis — in particular since EPA’s preliminary study in 2008 did not find that chemical exposures were of concern.

Children’s safety should be placed above all else, but when making decisions about Arlington County’s fields, unsubstantiated fears shouldn’t undermine science. The best available science indicates recycled rubber does not pose health concerns.

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about issues of local interest. To submit a letter to the editor, please email it to [email protected] Letters may be edited for content and brevity.

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