The Arlington County Board voted unanimously yesterday to move forward with the sale of the historic Reeves farmhouse in Bluemont.
Despite a last push from a group that wants the farmhouse converted into a learning center for students, the county says that selling the farmhouse to a private buyer, who will be required to “maintain its historic integrity,” is the only economical way to preserve it for future generations.
“The County’s goal is to preserve the historic character of Reeves farmhouse and to preserve the site’s two acres of open space, the raised gardens, sledding hill and milk shed,” the county said in a press release.
“The County’s efforts to achieve the sort of successful partnership to restore the Reevesland farmhouse that it has achieved with other projects have been hampered by the estimated, and increasing, cost of renovating the farmhouse and bringing it up to code for public use, estimated to be in the range of $2.5 – $3 million, as well as an unspecified amount for ongoing maintenance and operating costs.”
The full press release, after the jump.
As the minutes tick down to the start of the Super Bowl, more than 3,100 Dominion customers are currently without power in Arlington.
Dominion’s website says the cause of the widespread outage, centered around the Ballston and Bluemont neighborhoods, is “pending investigation.” Restoration of power is estimated between 7-9 p.m.
As the lights and traffic signals went out around Ballston, the fire department was called to investigate a possible fire at the under-renovation Ballston Common Mall. In the end it was determined to be a false alarm, possibly prompted by smoke from the mall’s rooftop generators as they kicked in.
Photo courtesy Katie Pyzyk
The Arlington County Board on Wednesday approved a compromise plan for a baseball field renovation at Bluemont Park.
The $720,000 plan to renovate Athletic Field No. 3 at the park, which would have converted a run-down baseball diamond to a fenced-in field with new dugouts, bleachers and other furnishings, was met with opposition from some local residents.
To balance the desires of the opponents, who mostly objected to the fence, and the supporters, who say that the county needs more fields for youth sports, the new plan removed about 20 percent of the fencing from around the field.
“When games aren’t in play, you’ll be able to walk through the area,” said County Manager Mark Schwartz. “There’s still space for Frisbee, picnicking and walking your dog. But when a game is in play, you’ll get a good baseball experience.. and a safe one.”
Schwartz also noted in a press release that the controversy — opponents insisted that they were blindsided by the plan even though a public meeting about it had been held and it was approved by the County Board months before opponents organized — pointed to a need to reconsider Arlington’s public outreach on such projects.
Schwartz acknowledged that the County’s engagement process in planning for the renovations, which included a community meeting and digital communications, was not successful. The concerns of those opposed to the fence became known to staff and elected officials only after the County Board approved the construction contract in July 2016.
“We are working to improve the County’s processes for engaging the community across County government,” Schwartz said. “I’ve asked our new Assistant County Manager for Communications and Public Engagement, Bryna Helfer, to report back to me in early 2017 with recommendations.”
Construction of the new field is currently underway.
The full press release about the County Board’s action, after the jump.
The following Letter to the Editor was written by Sandra Spear, who lives near Bluemont Park and objects to the installation of a fence as part of the planned renovation of a baseball field in the park. Spear is responding to a Letter to the Editor in support of the fence, written on behalf of Arlington’s baseball community and published by ARLnow.com last week.
I am one of the many users of Bluemont Park who object to the County fencing off a quarter of its expansive open field for exclusive use by baseball players. This letter responds to John Foti’s October 20 letter to the editor at ARLnow in support of the fence, which both misunderstands the community’s opposition to the fence and makes our case for us.
The issue before the community is one of open space versus baseball field perfection. Fenced-off baseball fields are the “industry standard” for Little League baseball, but that “industry standard” was established in areas of the country where land costs thousands of dollars an acre, not millions an acre as it does in Arlington. Arlington must come up with its own baseball field standard that achieves most of the goals of a fence without incurring the costs of replacing open space.
Right now, Bluemont Park contains the largest contiguous open space in the entire County, a space that is unique and irreplaceable at any cost. The proposed Bluemont fence would eliminate an acre of that open space by fencing it off for the exclusive use of baseball players 24/7 year round, irrespective of the fact that baseball is a seasonal, late afternoon and weekend sport played at most 20% of daylight hours in a year. The issue then is not that baseball players don’t use the field more; it’s that other people of all ages use it now during the 80% of the time baseball does not use it. It is that use that the fence would eliminate or seriously impede. Continuing to accommodate that use would require replacing the open space.
The proposed fence would close off roughly 40,000 square feet. Replacement land near Bluemont Park costs over $100 per square foot, so true cost accounting would place the cost of that fence at over four million dollars. Is the baseball community willing to raise more than $40,000 per player (using Mr. Foti’s estimate of 1,000 players) to achieve baseball field perfection? Because asking taxpayers to fund baseball field perfection for a scant half a percent of the population is a tough sell.
This is a policy question for the County. If baseball fields are to be fenced off County wide, it could become an incredibly expensive sport, because much of that open space would have to be replaced. Those 1,000 players may be playing on up to ten fields during the year, so the baseball community is actually asking taxpayers to replace $40 million worth of land – at a cost of $400,000 per player.
It turns out that fences aren’t actually necessary for baseball played by 8- to 12-year-olds.
First, the baseball community argues that the fence is necessary to mitigate costs of repairing damage to the field caused by non-baseball users. If users are damaging the field now it is because the field has poor drainage and, paradoxically, no irrigation, conditions shared by most athletic fields in the County. Both conditions are to be addressed with the proposed upgrade to the Bluemont field, obviating most maintenance issues. But even if other users do harm the field, maintenance is incredibly cheap compared to the cost of replacing lost open space.
Second, the baseball community argues that a fence delineates the field for other park users to warn them to stay out during practices and games. But having held out for baseball perfection in the form of permanent or even seasonal fencing, they have not explored less expensive and intrusive means of marking the field. Signs and paint can do wonders once one has ruled out metal and concrete.
Third, the baseball community claims that safety demands a fence, yet they can cite not a single incident where a passer-by was injured by a budding Bryce Harper. Since Virginia is a contributory-negligence state, adequate warning signs can again come to the rescue.
Finally, fence proponents have argued that baseball fields should be treated like tennis courts. Their argument is misplaced: Tennis is played from dawn to past dusk and by players from 5 to 95 years of age. The problem with a fenced-off baseball field is not the time when baseball is actually being played; it’s that baseball can actually be played so little of the time, but a fence closes it off all of the time.
Mr. Foti closes his letter by reference to the several thousand kids who play baseball in Arlington. Unless the families of those kids plan to raise the millions it would cost to replace the fenced off open space, perhaps the baseball community should consider the interests of the 220,000 other Arlingtonians who use and pay for the parks before demanding perfection for the one percent and exclusion of the other 99 percent.
6th Street North
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters may be edited for content and brevity.
Undeterred by the fact that the Arlington County Board already approved a contract for the project earlier this summer, a group of Bluemont and Boulevard Manor residents are continuing to fight the planned construction of a baseball and softball field in Bluemont Park.
Opponents of the project faced off with youth baseball and softball boosters — who support the new field and say it’s necessary to meet demand — at a community meeting Wednesday night. The “listening session” was organized by Arlington County, in response to opposition to the field that has been building since late summer.
A primary concern of the opponents: that the field will be fenced in, thus precluding other uses of what’s currently a poorly maintained but open baseball diamond. A temporary construction fence is already up at the site.
In a presentation during the meeting, county staff said the renovation will bring the field to “County and industry standards and address accessibility, safety and stormwater requirements.”
A county spokeswoman, meanwhile, said the discussion from the meeting and other community feedback will be considered by county staff and the County Board.
“The community is invited to share additional feedback on the website through October 14,” said Bryna Helfer, Arlington’s newly-appointed Director of Communications and Public Engagement. “The County Manager will update the Board at the November 10, 2016 County Board recessed meeting.”
Baseball field opponents said the meeting did not change any minds or clear up the process going forward.
“It was the usual dog-and-pony show,” said local activist Suzanne Sundburg.
“There were a number of speakers who supported the fencing, baseball-softball enthusiasts, naturally,” Sundburg said. “But they were evenly matched by the number of other park users in the community who do not want open space to be fenced off permanently for just a single sport that is played, at most 8 months a year.”
“Staff couldn’t answer any questions about the construction schedule,” she continued. “Nor could they provide any timetable or date for a follow-up meeting.”
Sundburg said that some county staffers “indicated that the plan was pretty much set and that only ‘tweaks’ would be possible at this late date,” while others “were more open to urging the board to consider ‘options.'”
One emailed county staff with “data… assembled and analyzed over the past 3 weeks,” arguing that baseball fields are used for only a portion of daylight hours during the year and that there are enough fields for existing baseball and softball games. Another argument: that the project is within a floodplain.
“No one wants to prevent the existing field from being used for baseball, though several people asked whether rehabbing this particular field (to the tune of $700K) made sense, given the existing drainage problems, proximity to a Chesapeake Bay Resource Protection Area, and the fact that this field lies in a FEMA floodplain,” the resident wrote.
The crime happened close to the entrance to the Bluemont Junction Trail. Attempts by police to find the suspect were unsuccessful.
From an Arlington County Police Department crime report:
ARMED ROBBERY, 161004036, 700 block of N. George Mason Drive. At approximately 6:00 p.m. on October 4, officers responded to the report of an armed robbery. When on scene it was determined that a male subject approached the victims, brandished a firearm, and demanded money. The suspect then fled the scene with an undisclosed amount of cash. A K-9 track was attempted with negative results due to the amount of pedestrian traffic in the area. The suspect is described as a black male in his twenties, approximately 6’0″ tall and weighed 225 lbs. He was wearing a blue t-shirt, dark pants, and had dreadlocks.
Also in this week’s crime report, a man with a gun was able to detain a suspect who allegedly broke into his Waverly Hills home and stole booze from his refrigerator.
BURGLARY, 160929016, 4300 block of N. Old Dominion Drive. At approximately 10:03 a.m. on September 29, officers responded to the report of a fight in progress involving a firearm. Upon arrival, it was determined that a male victim witnessed a male subject exit his apartment through a window. The victim retrieved his firearm, chased the subject and was able to hold down the subject until officers arrived on scene. The firearm was not discharged and there were no injuries. It was later learned that the suspect took alcohol from the victim’s fridge. Ben Houssen, 39, of no fixed address, was arrested and charged with burglary, grand larceny, and identity theft. He is being held without bond.
The suspicious meatballs found by a dog owner in Bluemont Park have been tested and all the tests for harmful substances came back negative, the Animal Welfare League of Arlington says.
“The lab tested for anticoagulants (which would cause massive internal bleeding) and organic chemicals including pesticides, therapeutic and illicit drugs, euthanasia agents and environmental contaminants,” said AWLA’s Susan Sherman. “All tests were negative.”
A dog owner found the meatballs along Four Mile Run earlier this month and took to an email listserv to warn fellow residents of a possible poisoning attempt. She said her dog ate at least one of the meatballs; she immediately took the dog to a vet to induce vomiting.
AWLA says it is still trying to figure out why the meatballs were placed along the stream. The organization is urging dog owners to stay vigilant.
“We still don’t know how the meat patties got there or what the intention was,” Sherman said. “We will be posting information on our website and on Facebook advising residents to keep their dogs on leash and to be aware of their environment to avoid a dog ingesting any unknown substance. If anyone finds something suspicious like the meat patties, call animal control at 703-931-9241.”
Originally founded as a food truck, Pupatella opened its current Bluemont location, at 5104 Wilson Blvd, in 2010. Co-owner Enzo Algarme is now teaming up with the partners behind Elevation Burger to expand via franchising.
“After a decade of perfecting their craft, the owners have joined forces with two of the founding partners of Elevation Burger to begin offering franchises,” said a PR rep.
Additional Pupatella locations may be in store for the D.C. area, according to a press release. Other potential expansion locations, should franchise owners sign on, include Philadelphia, Richmond, Virginia Beach, Raleigh-Durham, Chapel Hill, Wilmington and as far away as the Middle East.
The full press release from Pupatella is below.
Started as a food truck in 2007, today Pupatella is a favorite Neapolitan Pizzeria among Northern Virginians, winning loyal fans with its classic artisan Neapolitan pizza. Due to high demand, Pupatalla has decided to expand through corporate development and franchise opportunities. To accomplish this, Enzo Algarme, Pupatella’s founder and owner, has joined forces with founding partners of Elevation Burger who grew the country’s first organic burger chain from one to more than 50 restaurants worldwide. Pupatella is now seeking entrepreneurs and franchisees that have a passion for classic, artisan pizza to help grow the brand.
Born and raised in Naples, Italy, Algarme takes tremendous pride in Pupatella’s “back to the basics” philosophy. The restaurant proudly possesses aVPN certification, a designation given to qualifying pizzerias by the Naples-based Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. To obtain the VPN certification, the pizza is made according to the 200-year-old Neapolitan technique. Only wood-fired ovens are permitted; the dough is made of only four ingredients: 00 Italian flour, sea salt, fresh yeast and water. The toppings for the D.O.C. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) pizza may only include sauce made of San Marzano tomatoes grown in Italy, fresh cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella made with buffalo milk or fior di latte, sea salt, fresh basil and olive oil.
“I came to the U.S. for college and the one thing I missed the most was classic Neapolitan pizza that you could find on every corner in Naples,” said Algarme. “Cooking was a huge part of my upbringing in Italy and I felt a calling to start a business that was true to my roots. We’ve experienced tremendous success, with lines out the door everyday, and I feel confident that our pizza will be embraced around the world as we move forward with our expansion plans.”
Pupatella is consistently named as one of the country’s best pizzerias by media and has received accolades by Business Insider and Washington Post. Its current location has experienced solid growth and high profit, totaling nearly 2.5 million dollars in gross sales in 2015. Pupatella has a top rating from more than 1,200 reviewers on Yelp. In addition to its classic artisan food, Pupatella is also known for it’s fast and affordable format. From a family outing to a romantic date night, guests appreciate Pupatella’s commitment to simple, true Neapolitan pizza served in a casual atmosphere where all are welcome.
Pupatella is now seeking entrepreneurs to help expand the pizzeria in key markets across the United States and Middle East. The ideal franchise partner has restaurant experience and a passion for executing a proven system. Specific areas for U.S. expansion include Washington D.C Metro, Philadelphia Metro, Richmond, VA, Virginia Beach, VA, Raleigh-Durham, NC, Chapel Hill, NC, Newark, DE, and Wilmington, DE. Franchise opportunities are also available in the Middle East.
To learn more about franchise opportunities, visit pupatellafranchise.com to submit an online application or call 703.825.6334.
Arlington County Police are trying to figure out who is responsible for a series of racist and homophobic graffiti along the Bluemont Junction Trail and around the Boulevard Manor neighborhood.
The graffiti was first spotted last night along the trail, with the N-word and the F-word spray-painted on the trail and other graffiti on rocks and on a trampoline at a nearby property, according to scanner traffic. It was reported that a group of teenagers was responsible for the graffiti, but police were unable to locate the group at the time.
This morning, more graffiti was found around the Boulevard Manor neighborhood, immediately west of the trail.
“At approximately 5:30 a.m., an unknown suspect(s) vandalized numerous items in the Boulevard Manor neighborhood of Arlington,” wrote Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “The vandalism included destruction of property and graffiti.”
“This series is similar to the vandalism on the Bluemont trail yesterday and detectives are investigating whether or not these are linked,” Savage told ARLnow.com. “The graffiti included various derogatory terms to include swastikas, N-word and homosexual slangs. This is an ongoing and active investigation and will include determining if this could be a hate crime.”
The vandalism was widespread around the neighborhood, including properties on the following streets, according to police.
- 6000 block of 4th Street N.
- 100 block N. Nottingham Street
- Unit block of N. Montague Street (at Washington Blvd)
- 500 block of N. Montague Street
- 400 block N. Lombardy
- 200 block of N. Nottingham Street
- 500 block of N. Lombardy Street
Along the Bluemont trail, neighbors said the vandals damaged the trail and some neighborhood landmarks.
“I’ve lived here for 40-something years and when I saw the blue on the rocks down here, these rocks have been there forever,” said Debbie Cowell. “If I saw somebody doing it, I definitely would have said something.”
“I have no idea who did it, my guess is kids,” said William Pearson. “A couple years ago this wouldn’t have happened. I think because of the influx of families, my guess it that it’s teenagers being teenagers.”
Additional reporting and photos by Adrian Cruz and Jackie Friedman.
County Board Contenders Debate — The two Democratic contenders for Arlington County Board, incumbent Libby Garvey and challenger Erik Gutshall, debated who would be the most transparent and the best agent of change last night. Gutshall criticized Garvey for the lack of action on new transit options for Columbia Pike and for supporting the creation of a “blue ribbon panel” to study county priorities. [InsideNova, Washington Post]
Residents Concerned About Sex Offender — Some residents in the Bluemont neighborhood and the area around Bon Air Park are concerned about a registered sex offender who recently moved to the area. There have been reports of the man watching children’s soccer games and leaving balloons in the backyard of a family home. Police say they’re investigating. [Fox 5]
Vornado Attracting Millennials With Cool Restaurants — “Vornado has carefully curated its retail in Crystal City and Pentagon City to appeal to creative Millennials, bringing in tenants like DIY design and fabrication space TechShop and hip restaurants like We The Pizza, Sweetgreen and Taylor Gourmet, which just opened Monday. That’s not to mention the Whole Foods anchoring the retail section of Vornado’s The Bartlett, a trendy ‘city within a city’ with nearly 700 residential units.” [Bisnow]
Chinese News Agency Profiles Arlington’s Tech Scene — Xinhua, the state-run news agency that’s said to be the largest and most influential media organization in China, has published a feature story that discusses how Arlington has become a “hot spot for tech startups.” The story notes that in addition to a robust talent pool and the availability of investment capital, “government has also played a vital role in the development of startups in Arlington.” [Xinhua]
Outdoor Lab to Celebrate 50th Anniversary — The Arlington Outdoor Lab, a nonprofit facility that hosts more than 9,000 students annually for outdoor and environmental education, is celebrating its 50th anniversary with an event in Ballston next month. [Arlington Outdoor Lab]
Flickr pool photo by James L.
Arlington and Fairfax County firefighters are battling a house fire in the Bluemont neighborhood.
The blaze was reported just after 7 p.m., near the intersection of 6th Street and N. Kensington Street, in the attic of a home on 6th Street.
Firefighters are reporting that they have the flames under control. They’re also looking into the possibility that the fire started as the result of a lightning strike.
Update: Units have put out a fire on the 2nd floor and attic. Fire Marshall will be investigating.
— Arlington Fire (@ACFDPIO) May 2, 2016
— Arlington Fire (@ACFDPIO) May 3, 2016
Photos courtesy Steve Thurston
Yes, if you drive through Bluemont via Wilson Blvd during rush hour, your commute has lengthened since Arlington County reconfigured the road. But not by much.
According to a county traffic study, rush hour travel times have increased by only 3 to 15 seconds in each direction. Much of that can be attributed to buses stopping to pick up and drop off passengers, blocking what’s now the only through lane, county staff told residents at a community meeting Thursday night.
Last year, Wilson Blvd was repaved and restriped between the Safeway and Bon Air Park, so that instead of four lanes of traffic, it is now has two lanes of traffic (one in each direction), a turn lane and two bike lanes. Immediately after the changes, some residents said they loved the change, while others complained about a supposed traffic nightmare that they said added 20-40 minutes to their commute.
The lane restriping was largely billed as a safety improvement. Some of the numbers cited by country staff suggest a statistical mixed bag.
The number of vehicle crashes along the reconfigured section of roadway increased slightly, from 3 in the 9 months before the project to 4 in the 9 months after. The number of trips by bicyclists using the stretch of roadway over a 12 hour period increased from 14 to 72, but the number of pedestrians walking along Wilson decreased from 56 to 41 during the same period, according to the presentation given by county staff.
The presentation listed the following “pros” and “cons” of the project.
- Improved bicycle safety
- New buffer for existing sidewalks
- Less potential for speeding
- Less backup due to left turning vehicles
- More delay on side streets accessing Wilson Blvd
- More vehicular delay due to local bus activity
In its assessment, county staff says the project was a success. The county is now considering options for similar work along Wilson Blvd west of Manchester Street, between the Dominion Hills and Boulevard Manor neighborhoods. That and improvements to the narrow sidewalks along Wilson Blvd have been proposed and may be considered during the county’s upcoming Capital Improvement Plan process.
“There is currently no funding for a long-term project, however, we’ll continue to look for opportunities to extend the demonstration study,” said Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jessica Baxter. “We consider the study to be successful overall and have seen substantial improvements to pedestrian and bicycle safety.”
Arlington County firefighters battled a house fire in the Bluemont neighborhood tonight.
The fire broke out on the second floor of a home on the 800 block of N. Abingdon Street, near Ballston, just before 8 p.m. Sunday. It took about 20 minutes for the blaze to be extinguished.
No injuries were reported — no one was reported to be inside the house when firefighters arrived.
Breaking: Units on scene at 850 N Abingdon St. with smoke showing. RIT Level 1 requested. Battalion 212 has command. pic.twitter.com/KGOn2a7zas
— Arlington Fire (@ACFDPIO) March 7, 2016
Update: Fire is out, no extension found & all searches are negative. All units have rotated through rehab & will go in service when ready.
— Arlington Fire (@ACFDPIO) March 7, 2016
Photos via Facebook courtesy of Andrew Pang
County Apologizes for Political Facebook Post — Arlington County has taken down and apologized for a Facebook post that some called inappropriate. “No support or endorsement was intended” the county said of the post, which linked to an article about an Arlington County Democratic Committee resolution calling for a change to the Washington Redskins team name. [Facebook]
Arlington to Partner with Nextdoor — The Arlington County Police Department will be holding a press conference Wednesday afternoon to announce a partnership with Nextdoor, a private social network for neighborhoods. The partnership will help “build stronger, safer communities with the help of Arlington residents.” Nextdoor has been criticized recently for becoming “a bastion of racial profiling.”
Bluemont Residents Concerned About Big Ballston Development — The Bluemont Civic Association is expressing concern over a massive proposed development on the western side of the intersection of N. Glebe Road and Wilson Blvd. The development proposal calls for 483 apartments in a building with a grocery store and other ground floor retail. [Curbed]
Arlington-Built Satellite Blasts Off to Space Station — A tiny satellite built by elementary students at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington is part of the cargo of a rocket that launched into orbit Sunday, bound for the International Space Station. [CBS News, Space.com]
‘Arlington Tech’ School Proposal — The Arlington School Board has signaled that it’s ready to move forward with the establishment of “Arlington Tech,” a high-technology coursework initiative to be located at the Arlington Career Center. [InsideNova]
Anti-Hunger Effort Draws Big Crowd — More than 1,000 people gathered at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center gym over the weekend to put together 100,000 meals for starving children around the world. [NBC Washington]
Arlington’s Official Song Turns 45 — “Arlington,” the official song of Arlington County, recently turned 45 years old. The song was written by a local clergyman and adopted as the county’s official song in 1970 with the encouragement of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
The driver of an SUV accidentally rammed her vehicle into a Bluemont nail salon this morning.
No injuries were reported as a result of the crash, which occurred just before 11:00 a.m. The Acura MDX smashed through the front window of the Hollywood Nails Spa at 5510 Wilson Blvd, in a small shopping center next to Arlington Pharmacy.
Building inspectors are currently on scene assessing the damage, which included some smashed bricks and a broken front door. The nail salon — which is also home to a beauty academy — is roped off by caution tape.
One employee was inside the business at the time of the incident, near the back of the store, according to the salon’s owner. No word yet on when the store will reopen nor whether the driver, who appeared to be in her 30s, would face any charges.
“Remember, the brake is on the left,” Arlington County Police said, in a tweet.