Changes to Stalled Ballston Development — “An Arlington homebuilder is reviving plans to redevelop a church in Ballston with a new proposal for a mix of townhomes and condos on the site… The site is currently home to the Portico Church, but the developer [BCN Homes] could someday replace it with 10 townhomes and 98 condo units.” [Washington Business Journal]
Beloved Former County Official Dies — “Ann Bisson, a long-time resident and former Deputy Commissioner of the Revenue for Arlington County, passed away peacefully on January 7, 2020… In addition to her work in the Commissioner’s office, Ann was very active in the community.” [Dignity Memorial]
History of Royal Visits to Arlington — “If Prince Harry and Meghan Markle ever decided to make their home in the DC area, they’d be in good company. Many members of the royal family have made their way to Arlington over the years.” [Arlington Public Library, Twitter]
Bill Proposes Funding for Local Cemeteries — “Three Arlington cemeteries would receive state funding under a program designed to preserve burial places of African-American Virginians. Del. Rip Sullivan (D-Fairfax-Arlington) has patroned legislation to add the three graveyards – at Calloway, Lomax and Mount Salvation churches – to the more than two dozen statewide that already receive support from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.” [InsideNova]
Development may be surging around the Ball Family Burial Grounds on N. Kirkwood Street, but the fate of the historic site remains uncertain.
The gravesite of the family who is the namesake for Ballston is located in the middle of Virginia Square’s newest development hub, which includes plans to rebuild the YMCA and repurpose American Legion Post 139 as mixed residential buildings.
The Arlington County Board is also set to vote Saturday to approve a third project in the area: a long-standing application by Eleventh Street Development LLC to redevelop the 1.726 acre site located at 1122 N. Kirkwood Road at Washington Boulevard, currently a mix of one-story retail and office uses, into a new 255-unit multifamily residential building.
But when it comes to the plan for the cemetery — which is adjacent to the new development — the county is at an impasse, according to Richard Woodruff, chairman of the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB). The county can’t legally access the land to maintain it or take actions to preserve it because it was deeded to the heirs of John Ball who founded it in the 1700s.
The problem? No one knows who those heirs are.
During a Thursday visit to the grounds, Woodruff pointed out how wild strawberries have overgrown the gravesites’ grass and a secret Samaritan has been mowing the plot.
“It’s sort of now a mystery as to who maintains it,” he said.
However, other site maintenance issues are piling up. Broken branches rest on the dozen mossy grave stones piled in the far corner of the burial ground where the grass grows higher and trash accumulates.
HALRB and the Arlington Planning Commission have asked the county to hire a genealogist to locate the Ball family heirs. They added that the county should also create a fund to maintain the land and study what could be buried in the cemetery because people have moved the graves over time.
These recommendations are not included in the list of actions for the Board members to review this weekend.
A staff report to the Board notes that one of the project’s goals is to “preserve, respect and enhance the historic integrity” of the gravesite. But aside from asking developers to follow protocols if they find artifacts or human remains during construction, the document is short on specifics.
Flyover Planned Today — A flyover of Arlington National Cemetery, in support of a funeral, is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. today. [Twitter]
More Buses for Rosslyn Commuters — “After initially providing no additional backup options for riders during the Blue Line shutdown and major Orange and Silver Line work that began Aug. 11, Metro is now making some changes… Without much fanfare or notification to riders, Metro said this week it will add four additional Route 5A buses between Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride and Rosslyn and L’Enfant Plaza each morning.” [WTOP]
Rep. Jim Jordan Coming to Arlington Fundraiser — Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) will be the special guest at a fundraiser for Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) in Arlington next month. The fundraiser is being held Sept. 7 at Washington Golf and Country Club. Jordan has been in the news this summer over accusations that he turned a blind eye to the sexual abuse of wrestlers while an assistant coach at Ohio State. [TrailBlazer]
Ballston Apartment Building Sold — “The Ballston Place transaction… has closed with Akelius Residential AB buying the 382-unit apartment complex for $170 million, or $445,026 per unit.” [Globe St.]
Photo courtesy Patricia Kime
Metro Leaders Square Off with Union Over Strike Threat — The transit service is still negotiating with its largest union to avert a strike, though details remain murky. Virginia’s Republican lawmakers in Richmond are urging Gov. Ralph Northam to ask a federal court to intervene to prevent any work stoppage. [Washington Post]
County Board Approves Incentives for DoD Tenant — Arlington officials agreed to spend $8 million over the next decade to keep the Office of Naval Research in a Ballston office building. [InsideNova]
Landscapers Spruce Up Arlington National Cemetery — Roughly 400 landscapers from the National Association of Landscape Professionals for Renewal and Remembrance donated their time to work on the cemetery Monday. [WTOP]
“Evictions in Arlington” Forum Set for Tonight — The county and its Tenant Landlord Commission is hosting a panel discussion the issue at 6:30 p.m. at the Department of Human Services building (2100 Washington Blvd). The conversation will center on “resources and gaps, opportunities and challenges” in preventing evictions. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo via wolfkann
As remaining burial plots become more scarce, Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) has released a second public survey regarding its future.
If current burial eligibility policies remain in place, the cemetery will reach full capacity in 23 years, according to cemetery officials. In the first survey, conducted July of 2017, 93 percent of respondents said keeping that keeping ANC’s hallowed grounds open to burials long into the future was important to them.
The second survey specifically asks which veterans or active military members should be qualified for a burial, including questions relating to the eligibility of those with Purple Hearts, prisoners of war, elected officials once on active duty, and World War II veterans.
Results from the first survey showed that many respondents felt that eligibility should be given to those killed in action or on operational missions, Medal of Honor and other high award recipients, and former prisoners of war.
Current eligibility is currently more flexible, including prisoners of war and retired veterans who had served at least one day of active duty.
The survey notes that another cemetery expansion is expected to add additional burial plots, but it is not a long-term solution.
“The next possible expansion, into the area south of the cemetery (the Southern Expansion; around 40 acres) will add about 10-15 years of life to the cemetery – closing the cemetery to new burials by the mid-2050’s,” the survey says. “This does not achieve the objective or the desire of previous survey respondents to keep ANC open for new burials well into the future.”
It’s going to be an active weekend for military flyovers.
According to an advisory for the National Capital Region, the following flyovers will be conducted over or around Arlington.
- Friday at 2:04 p.m. — “Four (4) F-15E aircraft will be conducting a flyover of Arlington National Cemetery.”
- Saturday at 5:38 p.m. — “Four (4) E-2C aircraft will conduct a flyover of Washington Nationals Park (NLDS Game 2).”
- Sunday at 7:40 a.m. — “U.S. Army Golden Knights will be conducting a planned parachute jump at the Pentagon in support of the Army 10 miler race.”
- Sunday at 7:40 a.m. — “Four (4) UH-60 aircraft will be conducting a flyover of the Pentagon for the Army 10 Miler Race following the parachute jump.”
The advisory also lists a flyover planned for next week.
- Friday, October 13 at 9:45 a.m. — “Four (4) A-10 aircraft will be conducting a flyover of Arlington National Cemetery.”
(Updated at 4:17 p.m.) A historic graveyard could get a new lease on life thanks to newly updated plans to redevelop a Ballston church.
The graveyard is located next to Ballston’s Central United Methodist Church, which has filed a site plan application to redevelop its property at 4201 Fairfax Drive into an eight-story building with a new house of worship, 119 apartments (48 would be affordable units), a daycare and preschool facility and charitable facilities.
The site the developer wants to build on includes the Robert Ball Graveyard, the final resting place of some members of the family behind the Ballston name. The 150-year-old, 325-square foot burial ground includes several white headstones originally for members of the Ball family and may even contain some of their remains, though no one knows for sure whether the remains are still there or have been moved.
The plan to move the graveyard has ruffled some feathers. Residents urged the developer behind the project not to move the graveyard last October. The Arlington County Board has also considered granting the graveyard a special historic designation.
Members of the Ball family said that, although they do not want to prevent the redevelopment of the church, they do want the church to honor its century-old commitment to preserve the graveyard. In a Dec. 15 letter to the chair of Arlington’s Site Plan Review Committee, Ball family attorney Alexander Berger wrote that “further design evolution is required to preserve the historical integrity of the cemetery.”
The cemetery merits more “breathing room,” green space and separation from the building, Berger wrote.
Now, it looks as though the family might get their wish. Fairly recent renderings show the graveyard would be preserved next to the church inside a larger, fenced-in grassy area.
W-L Defeats Yorktown, Heads to Playoffs — The Washington-Lee Generals defeated cross-county rival Yorktown Friday night to advance to the football playoffs. W-L was trailing when senior quarterback Ricardo Mestre passed for a touchdown with just seconds remaining to clinch the win. [Washington Post]
Board Advertises Ballston Historic District — The Arlington County Board voted unanimously Saturday to advertise hearings on designating a small family graveyard in Ballston a local historic district, ahead of a planned redevelopment by the Central United Methodist Church. “The Board on Saturday received assurances from the church that it will not seek to remove any remains from the graveyard before the County has an opportunity to consider its historic designation,” according to a press release. [Arlington County]
Students: Adults Should Tone Down Boundary Rhetoric — Some adults have taken their rhetoric over the current Arlington Public Schools high school boundary refinement process too far, according to a pair of high school students who spoke at Thursday’s School Board meeting. “We honestly consider some of the comments made thus far to be an embarrassment,” said a Yorktown student. [InsideNova, InsideNova]
Arlington Smartphone App Updated — Arlington County has made a number of new upgrades to its My Arlington App for smartphones. The changes include a new home screen design, transit alerts and, just in time for Election Day, polling locations and a map of voter precincts. [Arlington County]
Library Director: Vote on Nov. 8 — From Arlington Public Library Director Diane Kresh’s blog: “Every election is important and every vote counts. And it’s a privilege that for people in many parts of the world is not enjoyed. On Tuesday, vote as if your life depends on it; it does.” [Arlington Public Library]
Free Home Buying Seminar Tonight — Sponsored — The Orange Line Living Team is hosting a Free Home Buying Seminar with a local lender and all attendees will receive two guarantees just for attending: 1) Buyer satisfaction — if you don’t love your new home they will buy it back or sell it for free for 12 months, and 2) $1,500 home purchase credit. See website for details and conditions. The event is being at 1600 Wilson Blvd #101 in Arlington, from 6-8 p.m. tonight, Nov. 7. [Orange Line Living]
Arlington’s Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board has recommended designating a tiny Ballston graveyard a local historic district, potentially disrupting a church’s redevelopment plans.
The HALRB voted 8-2-2 Wednesday night for a local historic district designation of the Robert Ball Sr. Family Burial Ground, after hearing from 37 speakers both for and against the designation.
The County Board will now decide, as early as next month, whether to authorize an advertisement of public hearings before the Planning Commission and the Board. Following the hearings, the County Board could vote on the historic district as early as December.
The graveyard is located next to Ballston’s Central United Methodist Church, which has filed a site plan application to redevelop its property at 4201 Fairfax Drive into an eight-story building with a new house of worship, 132 apartments (55 would be committed as affordable units), a daycare and preschool facility and charitable facilities.
The 150-year-old, 325-square foot burial ground includes headstones for members of the Ball family, for which Ballston is named. Nobody knows for sure whether there are human remains buried in the graveyard or whether the remains were relocated elsewhere decades ago during any number of construction projects.
Historic preservation activists have pushed for a historic designation, which could scuttle or at least significantly alter the redevelopment plans.
The church and its members, on the other hand, want the development to proceed.
“This project… is excellent for the community as it will provide much needed affordable housing in Ballston, maintain a sacred space of a church in Ballston proper, continue a strong outreach by providing meals to those in need on Fridays, and provide expanded daycare and preschool options in Ballston conveniently located near the Metro for commuting parents,” said Kathy Sibert, a congregant who’s also the president and CEO of the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network.
“[The graveyard] was deeded to the church from the Ball Family in the 1920s,” said Sibert. “It is NOT an active grave site and the entire site has been heavily excavated for construction by the church and the County since that time so that virtually the entire site has been disturbed.
Sibert said the county officials have stopped processing its site plan application, “despite their prior commitment to us to hold our March 2017 tax credit application deadline.”
Update at 3:30 p.m. — The church’s pastor, Rev. Sarah Harrison-McQueen, tells ARLnow via email: “The local historic district boundaries recommended by county staff to the HALRB would have made our project infeasible. The HALRB voted to designate a smaller section of land than the staff proposed boundaries so we’ve asked our design team and engineers to evaluate the impact of this smaller section. I anticipate that we will have a better understanding of the potential ramifications sometime next week.”
She added: “Our current sanctuary is built within the boundaries of the former Ball family graveyard. The grave-markers do not appear to be in their original location. The church is seeking permission from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to investigate this further.”
Arlington Featured on MTP — Arlington County was featured in a Meet the Press segment on Sunday, comparing the level of support for Hillary Clinton here to support for Donald Trump in a rural Ohio county. The show interviewed residents in the Clarendon area. [NBC News]
Surge in Registration, Absentee Voting — Officials are anticipating about 43,000 absentee ballots in Arlington this year, up 50 percent compared to the last presidential election in 2012. Throughout the region and the state, absentee voting is on the rise, which is generally good news for Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, a surge in last-minute voter registrations yesterday and a statewide software slowdown has the county advising that it could take several days to process all of the applications. [Washington Post, WTOP, WTOP]
Vehicle Decal Design Contest Starts — The Treasurer’s Office Decal Design Competition is back for another year. Local high school students will compete to design the next Arlington County vehicle decal, which will appear on some 160,000 vehicles in the county. The submission deadline is Nov. 28. [Arlington County]
Pike Recycling Center May Move — Next month the Arlington County Board is expected to consider whether to relocate the recycling facility at the corner of Columbia Pike and Four Mile Run Drive to the Arlington Trades Center in Shirlington. County officials want to lower the level of illegal dumping that’s currently taking place. [InsideNova]
Historic Designation for Ballston Cemetery? — On Wednesday night Arlington’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board will discuss the merits of a proposed local historic district designation for the Ball cemetery in Ballston. The cemetery is currently slated to be relocated to make way for the redevelopment of a church. [Preservation Arlington]
Last Day at Fuego Cocina — Fuego Cocina y Tequileria in Clarendon served its final meals and margaritas Sunday. “We’re turning the light off now. Farewell,” the restaurant said via Twitter. [Twitter, Twitter]
The graveyard, which contains headstones and perhaps the remains of members of the Ball family, for which Ballston is named, is being moved to make way for a redevelopment of the Ballston Central United Methodist Church site.
The development will consist of a new church, 132 apartments and a daycare and preschool facility.
The petition, which has more than 215 signatures as of publication time, says “to remove the graves is to remove the center of the city, the center of the history of the community, the center of Ballston.”
“The Robert Ball Family Cemetery does not need to be moved,” the petition concludes. The full text from the petition is below.
The Robert Ball Family Cemetery is threatened by development, which proposes to remove the human remains and markers to an off site location. The Robert Ball Family Cemetery was set aside in 1866 as a burial ground for his family, when his land was divided among his children and families.
The town of Ballston was platted around 1900, entitled Central Ballston, with the graveyard in the exact center of the plat. The town was named for Robert Ball and his family. In 1906, a 1/4 acre of the original 11 acres was given to the Methodist Episcopal Church for use as a church, parsonage and such, and the church was to maintain the graves and markers accordingly. In 1922, the road was widened, but curved around the church and graveyard. The church and county considered the cemetery closed for additional burials.
The church has maintained the cemetery since 1906, now over 110 years. With development closing in from all sides, the church is under pressure to allow the removal of the graves, as the developer wants to build to the curb. The permit to remove the human remains filed with the Virginia Department of Human Resources states very clearly that even if relatives and concerned parties do not want the burials removed, the development can proceed without their permission because of the benefits to the public.
It is the very presence of the graves and graveyard in 1906 that allowed for the church site to receive the land from the Ball family. It is the land from the Ball family and their presence that the name Ballston was given to the community. The plat for the center of Ballston plotted the graveyard in the center of the plat for the Center of Ballston. Relatives still visit the site. To remove the graves is to remove the center of the city, the center of the history of the community, the center of Ballston.
No provision appears to have been made to incorporate the cemetery into the development design. The developers always thought they would move the graves. The cemetery is on the corner of the development and could be spared by simply building around it. A nice border wall already exists. The buildings could curve around the cemetery, and even curve or arch over it, allowing sunshine down. Signage could be added on how Ballston was formed and the pivotal role the graveyard and Robert Ball family had on the placement of the church and the community.
The Robert Ball Family Cemetery does not need to be moved.