Homeowners could be notified in future tax assessments if their property is subject to any special circumstances that would prevent tearing down and rebuilding their house without County Board approval.
Such special circumstances would include homes on so-called pipe-stem lots, which have a narrow “stem” that runs from the street and does not meet requirements for minimum lot width, and in Resource Protection Areas, which help protect environmentally sensitive lands near streams.
If homes are subject to those circumstances, anyone wishing to tear down the current house and build a new one on the same property must go to the Arlington County Board for approval. Projects not hindered by such issues are permitted by right under zoning rules, so long as the new home continues to conform.
Board member Libby Garvey said she has spoken to County Manager Mark Schwartz about including a note to property owners in their tax assessments, which are mailed each year and outline the property tax bill due to the county.
“That’s one piece of paper that pretty much everyone in the county looks at,” Garvey told ARLnow last week. “So that seems like a really good place to put information like that with an asterisk or note, but we have to see if we can actually do that.”
Garvey and colleague John Vihstadt suggested the change at the July 15 County Board meeting, after a plan to build a new home in Ashton Heights ran into difficulties in June because of its location on a pipe-stem lot. The family that owns the N. Kenmore Street property did not realize it would require special approval to build a new house, a costly process in terms of time and expense.
After community meetings and some modifications to the proposed new house between June and July’s meetings, the Board unanimously approved the plan. Vihstadt said the county must make such issues more understandable for county residents, including on the designated web page for pipe-stem lots, which he said must be “a better information source.”
“Despite the happy ending, it would have been much simpler had the family known from the start that they faced this extra challenge,” Garvey said last week in an email to constituents. “We need to find a simple way for residents to know when their current or potential homes have some special situation that could affect their ability to build.”
Schwartz said at the July 15 meeting that while the county is committed to simplifying its permitting process, he warned that applicants must also do the necessary leg-work for such projects.
“I think people need to be aware there is still a requirement on their part to do their due diligence,” he said. “If they were to somehow rely on a notation on a website from us, it’s hard to believe but sometimes we make mistakes, and due diligence is required on the part of the applicant to do their research through the appropriate legal means.”
County Attorney Steve MacIsaac agreed, and noted that from a legal standpoint, the county can only help in so many ways.
“It’s incumbent on anyone who’s buying anything to be sure they know what they’re buying,” he said. “The ‘buyer beware’ phrase definitely applies to land, and you’ve got to know what you can do with it before you buy it.”
Image via county presentation
Neighborhoods across the county are getting ready for Neighborhood Day, set to take place Saturday and feature a wide range of events and activities.
The day looks to bring together neighbors to strengthen bonds on blocks and across the county.
This year’s events are:
Jennie Dean Park Historical Markers Unveiling Ceremony
At noon, the park’s new historical markers will be unveiled, followed by a tour of Arlington Food Assistance Center’s new office at 2708 S Nelson Street.
Seventh Annual Turtle Trot 5K Race
A chip-timed 5K race at Bluemont Park on a certified course. The race begins at 10 a.m.
International Migratory Bird Day Festival
From 9-11 a.m., celebrate International Migratory Bird Day by learning about migratory birds such as hummingbirds and osprey with hands-on activities, games, crafts, bird walks and more. Meet at Lacey Woods Park Picnic Shelter, 1200 N. George Mason Drive.
Tuckahoe Home and Garden Tour
The self-guided Tuckahoe Home & Garden Tour showcases recently renovated Arlington homes that solve common space and design challenges through creative remodeling.
Fairlington Home and Garden Tour
Tour a variety of renovated homes and gardens in Fairlington Village. Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased in advance or on the day.
Remove Invasive Plants
Increase native species diversity by helping with the return of ferns and wildflowers, and the animals that depend on them, in areas once covered in destructive invasive plants. The Gulf Branch Nature Center will host the event from 2-4 p.m.
Tara-Leeway Heights Community Day
From 1-3 p.m. at Big Walnut Park, the Tara-Leeway Heights community will host an event complete with food vendors, games and more.
LBCCA Celebration and Movie Night Series Kick-Off
The Long Branch Creek Civic Association will bring the community together to celebrate from 5-9 p.m. at Troy Park. The event will include a moon bounce, games and activities, potluck dinner, snacks, beverages and an outdoor movie screening.
Ashton Heights Neighborhood Yard Sale
From 8 a.m.-noon, visit the Ashton Heights neighborhood for a community-wide yard sale.
On a calm summer night a few months ago, just after the Fourth of July, a big, century-old tree toppled over, blocking a street and knocking out power to much of the Ashton Heights neighborhood.
Fast forward to today and something cool has come from the tree’s unfortunate demise.
Local chainsaw artist Andrew Mallon has turned part of the big tree — the stump of which remains horizontal in a front yard along the 500 block of N. Lincoln Street — into a sculpture of a two-headed dragon.
The sculpture has captured the neighborhood’s imagination and is clearly an object of fascination for the homeowners’ young son, who was outside admiring it with a caretaker when ARLnow.com stopped by yesterday afternoon.
Mallon, who grew up two blocks from the home, says the family was “disappointed” that the tree fell down, but specifically asked whether it could be kept for posterity, in dragon form.
“They asked if a dragon with a horn was a possibility,” Mallon said. “They wanted a carving the kids could play on that also included a bench for the adults to enjoy. I thought it was a great idea and quickly started thinking of different ways to incorporate all the elements the family wanted.”
“This carving has really been an amazing piece to work on and I couldn’t be happier it is living at a great home, with a fun loving family, in my old neighborhood,” continued Mallon. “I have to be honest the 10 year old in me is a little jealous I didn’t have a dragon to play on as a child.”
Before the carving could begin, Mallon said, a crane had to be brought into remove the four-ton tree from the street. After that, the design was finalized: a dragon with two heads and a kid-friendly saddle.
“To fit the design in the log I had to start the carving by leveling out the bottom and removing about 1,000 pounds from it,” said Mallon. “After being properly leveled, I used my largest saw to block out the heads, body, and tail. Once the general shape was there I was able to switch to a smaller saw to begin working on the details. This includes the playful faces, tail, saddle, etc.”
“I still have some details like the scales to complete, but will be waiting to finish them until we can put the dragon in its permanent location,” he added. “Once the carving is finished I will burn it to add depth and color. This will be followed by a nice sanding, to prevent splinters, and finished with an outdoor sealer to protect the carving from the elements so it lasts for years to come.”
The Staples store at 3804 Wilson Blvd in Virginia Square is slated for redevelopment, though the plans are still in the early stages.
Schupp Companies presented a plan to build a hotel on the site to the Ashton Heights Civic Association last month.
“My understanding is that the redevelopment would also replace the apartments on that side of N. Oakland [Street],” said a resident who was in attendance.
Ray Schupp said the exact details are still fluid and that his company will be working with residents to craft the plan.
“We have not decided exactly what we’ll do with the site,” Schupp told ARLnow.com. “We are exploring several options including a hotel. That being said we have been extremely pleased with the reception of the community to our new Hyatt hotel at Courthouse.”
“We will be working with the County staff and the neighbors on solutions to the Staples site,” Schupp continued. “Just as we developed a close relationship with Lyon Village homeowners and reached a win-win solution to the Courthouse site… we will work with the community and staff on this.”
Plans should begin to firm up within 3-4 months, said Schupp.
(Updated at 2:40 p.m.) A construction vehicle is currently draped with downed power lines near Virginia Square.
The incident occurred shortly before noon at 3700 6th Road N. as the truck was being hauled through the Ashton Heights neighborhood.
Firefighters and police were called to the scene and currently have the sidewalk and the road closed for safety, as the lines were believed to be live electrical lines.
No injures were reported, but at least one neighboring home was reportedly damaged.
— William Ponds (@wponds) July 26, 2016
(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) A downed tree in the Ashton Heights neighborhood is leading to a call to the county ombudsman’s office.
The big tree, said to be more than a century old, fell last night near the intersection of N. Lincoln Street and 5th Street N., knocking out power to the area.
The neighborhood listserv is now abuzz with talk of what might have caused the old tree to fall during calm weather. Paving work on the street, residents are speculating, may have had something to do with it.
“A massive road repaving project brought in heavily vibrating equipment — many thought unnecessarily vibrating — which, according to our neighborhood listserv buzz, may have contributed to the tree’s fall, given very wet soil conditions,” a resident told us. “I lack professional credentials to shed light on that one way or another.”
Whether rooted in fact or not, residents are not content to leave the issue alone. They’re barking up the tree of the county ombudsman, according to a listserv email.
“Scott Sklar is contacting the county ombudsman about this problem today and complaining on behalf of Ashton Heights,” the email says. “The tree was 125 years old. Very sad.”
Sklar, president of the Ashton Heights Civic Association, said residents felt as if there was an “earthquake” when the heavy equipment was in use. One resident even reported that her morning cup of coffee rolled off the kitchen counter and broke as a result of the pervasive vibrations.
There’s “no question” about what caused the tree to fall, he said.
“The County contractors are using percussion rollers to compress the road under-bed — which uses intense weight and sound rather than the usual heavy roller compression approach,” he told ARLnow.com. ” There is no question in my mind, that this new approach is what caused this old tree to fall after the heavy rain we just had.”
“Use of percussion rollers should not be used in areas where there are large trees and old homes (pre-2000),” Sklar said. “Manufacturer’s warnings on percussion rollers explicitly state they should not be used near large trees or old buildings
Meghan McMahon, spokeswoman for the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services, said in a statement that the county is “reviewing the matter.”
DES crews have been performing roadbed reclamation and paving on Lincoln Street over the past week. The roadbed reclamation process, which was completed on June 30, is more disruptive than normal paving or patching. This process uses a machine that churns and mixes the base of the road at a deeper level so more vibrations and disturbance may occur. This process is specifically used for underbuilt, lower volume roads like Lincoln Street. Our paving contractors use vibratory rollers and other heavy machinery during the roadbed reclamation process. These rollers are also used on every street during maintenance and repaving. Rollers are commonly used to gain better compaction in asphalt construction. Yesterday’s work on Lincoln Street was repaving.
We have used these processes for several years in this neighborhood and several others like it that have older trees and houses. This is the first we have heard of such impacts from this type of work. We are reviewing the matter to determine what caused the tree to fall.
As seen in the photos above, some paving equipment was underneath the tree when it fell.
“Two County vehicles were enclosed by the tree canopy when it fell, but neither were impacted or damaged,” said McMahon. “The storm drain was damaged, but we have already put in a work order to fix this. It will be prioritized based on other work we have and safety.”
Photos courtesy Elizabeth Lyon
Ashton Heights Takes Stance Against Gun Store — More than 100 members of the Ashton Heights Civic Association voted last night on whether or not to take a position against the planned gun store in nearby Lyon Park. Fully 93 percent of those voting said they supported the civic association expressing opposition to the store, according to the group Act4LyonPark.
Retiring School Board Chair Recognized — At last night’s Arlington School Board meeting, Del. Alfonso Lopez read the joint resolution passed in the state legislature commending Dr. Emma Violand-Sanchez, who’s retiring as School Board Chair at the end of her term this year. [Katch, Twitter]
Raccoon Checks Out Home’s Toilet, Leaves — A woman in the Columbia Forest neighborhood called police after finding animal footprints on a toilet seat. The responding animal control officer determined that a raccoon had come down the chimney, apparently traipsed around the toilet and left. [Twitter]
GOP Convention Delegate Selection Gets Interesting — The prospect of a contested convention has made the selection of three delegates to represent Virginia’s Eighth Congressional District more interesting. At a recent Arlington County Republican Committee meeting, would-be delegates were asked who they would support for president. A reporter present didn’t hear anyone say Donald Trump. [InsideNova, InsideNova]
Condo for Sale Has a Unique Map of D.C. — A one-bedroom condo for sale in Rosslyn has a custom-designed map of D.C. painted across one of the walls. The mural was created by one of the current owners, who happens to be a former cartographer. [Washington Post]
Ouli Gets Attention from Local Tech Scene — “First Look: Could ‘Ouli’ Be the Concierge App for DC?” asks a new headline from a D.C. tech publication. The app’s creator, a software development firm on Lee Highway that has up until now served just corporate clients, says for now the app is focused solely on serving the Arlington market. [DC Inno]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
The incident happened around 2:40 a.m. on the 700 block of N. Lincoln Street, not far from the Arlington Arts Center and the Virginia Square Metro station.
Police say eight people were hanging out in a home recording studio when one went outside to smoke a cigarette. As that individual went back inside, two men entered the house and told the crowd that they were being robbed. The victims initially thought it was a joke, and that’s when one of the suspects fired a gunshot into the ceiling, according to Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage.
The victims were robbed of cash and electronics. Police believes they were targeted by the robbers.
“This appears to be a targeted incident and we do not believe there is a threat to the public at large,” Savage said.
“Suspect one is described as a black male in his twenties, approximately 5’9″ with a thin build wearing all black clothing with white scarf,” according to a crime report. “Suspect two is described as a black male in his twenties, approximately 5’8″ with a thin build wearing all black clothing. Investigation is ongoing.”
The KFC on N. Glebe Road in Buckingham appears to have temporarily stopped serving “finger-lickin’ good” fast food.
According to a notice posted on the restaurant’s drive-thru menu, the KFC at 70 N. Glebe Road is “currently closed due to maintenance.”
“We apologize for any inconvenience and we will re-open shortly,” the notice — which is signed from “KFC Management” — says. “Thank you for your patience and we value your patronage!”
Though maintenance is the explanation given for the closure, there’s no sign of such work happening inside the establishment at the moment. The notice also does not explain when it will reopen.
A representative from Yum! Brands — the company that owns KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell — could not be immediately reached to confirm this or provide more information. There was also no answer for the location’s provided telephone number and no answering machine.
The restaurant is near the intersection of N. Glebe Road and Arlington Blvd and is across the street from a McDonald’s.
Arlington is home to only one other KFC location, at 4901 Lee Highway. There’s also a KFC just outside the county on Columbia Pike in Bailey’s Crossroads.
Arlington Ridge Ramp Closure — The ramp from Arlington Ridge Road to Washington Blvd and I-395, and from Washington Blvd to Arlington Ridge, will be closed during nights and mornings this weekend, starting at 9 p.m. tonight. VDOT will be milling and paving the ramp as part of a $2.2 million project to repair the Arlington Ridge Road ramp bridges. Construction is scheduled to end by 11 a.m. Sunday. Detours will be in place during the closure. [VDOT, Google Maps]
Weenie Beenie Serves a Top Dog — The borderline historic Weenie Beenie stand near Shirlington is one of the “21 best hot dog joints in America,” says Thrillist.com, besting event Ben’s Chili Bowl. [Thrillist]
Another Endorsement for Cristol, Dorsey — The urbanist blog Greater Greater Washington says Democrats Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey are the best choices for Arlington County Board. GGW says Cristol is “great on transit” and “a pleasure to work with” and Dorsey is “clearly superior to the other two options, Audrey Clement and Mike McMenamin.” [Greater Greater Washington]
Ashton Heights Profiled — WaPo’s real estate section profiles the Ashton Heights neighborhood of Arlington, calling it “cozy” with “charming older homes, a child-friendly atmosphere and accessibility to the city.” [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by xmeeksx
The county’s Real Estate Bureau recently sent letters to home owners on N. Lincoln Street and 8th Street N., offering to buy homes for a “fair market value.”
“The County would be interested in purchasing your property for incorporation into the nearby Maury and Milliken parks,” the letter said. “If you are interested in selling your property, either now or in the future, please let me know as we would like to have the opportunity to make you an offer before the property is listed for sale with a real estate agent.”
“The benefits of selling the house directly to the County are that the house could be sold in ‘as is’ condition, without the necessity of making any repairs, at a time convenient for you, and without the payment of a sales commission, which would save you a significant amount of money,” the letter continues.
One property on the block — an immaculate 5 BR, 4.5 BA Colonial — is currently on the market for $1.75 million. “This home shows the pride of ownership,” the real estate listing says.
A homeowner on the block says he’s not sure the expense the county would have to go to in order to acquire the properties is worth it.
“I find the whole thing to be fiscally outrageous. I love my house and have made a massive investment in building the house where I want to raise my family in the neighborhood where I want to raise my family,” he said. “There is already a park there that hardly seems overused… it is unclear to me why the county is so hot to trot to spend $7-10 million of taxpayer money to build a park so close to Quincy [Park] and so many others.”
A county spokeswoman said the expansion of Maury Park — located next to the Arlington Arts Center and described as a “quaint one-acre park equipped with two tennis courts and an amazing play sculpture” — has been the goal of two County Board-adopted policies, the Public Spaces Master Plan and the Virginia Square Sector Plan, as well as the Ashton Heights Neighborhood Conservation Plan.
“The plan is to expand active and passive recreation,” said Arlington County Media Relations Manager Mary Curtius. “Up until the 2000’s, when the Maury Arts Center building and parking lot were expanded, the surrounding park included a popular playground and basketball court. Both had to be removed to make way for the expansion of the Arts Center.”
“The County has acquired two key parcels over the last decade, a single family home on N. Lincoln Street and a commercial property on Wilson Boulevard,” Curtius continued. “A park master plan will be developed in the future to address the new parcels that are being acquired over time as well as the joining of Maury and the adjacent smaller Herselle Milliken park.”
The theft took place early on the morning of this past Saturday, May 23. Police say the kegs had been purchased on Friday for a wedding celebration on Saturday, and were being stored in the front yard of a house on the 600 block of N. Kenmore Street.
The homeowner’s daughter was the one getting married. Upon finding the kegs missing, the homeowner inquired with the future son-in-law and father-in-law, but found out that neither man had moved the kegs, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
Neighbors reported that they had heard a car pull up to the house around 3:00 a.m.
The kegs contained beer from Alexandria’s Port City brewery and had a total value of about $170, Sternbeck said.
File photo via Facebook
Police say a homeowner on the 700 block of N. Lincoln Street awoke around 2:00 a.m. Saturday, went downstairs to let his dog outside and discovered a man he did not known passed out on his dining room floor, covered in vomit.
The homeowner attempted, unsuccessfully, to wake the man up. He then called police.
“The subject was highly intoxicated and confused,” said Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. “He was unable to stand on his own.”
The man was transported to Virginia Hospital Center, then arrested upon being released. Matthew Needles, 22, was charged with unlawful entry and felony destruction of property — for allegedly destroying a rug worth more than $1,000.
Police say Needles admitted that he had been drinking at Mister Days the night before. He didn’t know how he got into the house, Sternbeck said.
El Encanto Grocery Store, which has doubled as a Colombian restaurant, closed three days ago but is planning to reopen.
Going in its place at 85 N. Glebe Road, according to workers at the storefront this afternoon, will be a Mexican and Salvadorian restaurant. A sign hanging where the El Encanto sign used to be says “Jarochita #2 Mexican Grill, Panadería & Carnecería Coming Soon.”
The new shop will still have a grocery store and is not changing ownership, the workers said. They could not provide an estimate as to when the storefront would reopen.
Hat tip @TheMadameMeow
Police say a group of people were drinking heavily inside a home on the 3500 block of 8th Street N. in Ashton Heights Sunday night. Around midnight, a verbal dispute escalated into a physical confrontation and a 25-year-old man was stabbed outside the house, suffering two puncture wounds to the chest and numerous slashes to the chest and back, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
The victim was transported to Virginia Hospital Center. His wounds are described as non-life-threatening.
Arlington resident Rafael Temaj-Jiguan, 30, was arrested by police officers who were executing a search warrant on the residence this morning. He has been charged with malicious wounding and is being held at the Arlington County jail.
Temaj-Jiguan was an acquaintance of the victim, Sternbeck said. He was previously arrested in Arlington last September and convicted on a charge of being drunk in public.
Photo courtesy Bill Colton