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Resident Calls Police on Children’s Karaoke Party in Fairlington

An outdoor karaoke party for kids in the Fairlington neighborhood prompted a call to police Friday night.

Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage confirmed that police were dispatched at 9:49 p.m. to the 4200 block of 35th Street S. “for a report of a loud party.”

Via social media, residents described the gathering as a karaoke party for toddlers, held by parents in a condo parking lot. Two police cars arrived but no action was taken by officers, residents said.

The call to police prompted widespread indignation on a Facebook page for Fairlington residents, with many calling it “ridiculous.”

“Whichever of you suggested to call the police on a karaoke party before 10 p.m. on a Friday during [Memorial Day weekend], you must be a pleasure at parties,” said one.

“Sorry my child likes to play outside,” said another. “Thank you for calling the cops on us instead of walking over and asking us to turn down the volume on a kids’ ‘fashion show,’ cowardly neighbor. You’re a peach.”

“You’re a joke,” said yet another. “Say hi to your cats.”

The posts were later taken down by a page administrator, who urged greater civility among its thousands of members.

In an earlier post, which was also taken down after attracting numerous replies, a resident complained about noise from the party. (It’s unclear if the poster was the same resident who called police.)

“Appreciate it’s a Friday night, but our neighbors have decided to have a (loud) party (complete with karaoke) in our common court area outside,” she said. “Are there rules for noise at this hour? I’ve never had neighbors like this in Fairlington and we’ve lived here for 14 years.”

No citations were issued by police and the officers who arrived on scene did not even file a report, according to Savage.

“The minor incident was resolved and no police report was filed,” she said.

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Honking Metro Trains Irking Residents Along I-66

If you live near I-66, between the East Falls Church and Ballston Metro stations, the rumbling of Metro trains is a noise you’re probably used to.

But at least one person who lives in that area has taken to social media to comment on what she says is a recent escalation in noise: the constant, loud honking by trains as they roll by.

Video uploaded to Twitter indeed seems to show jarringly loud honking for a residential neighborhood.

The resident posted that she has lived at that location for 13 years and that this is a new neighborhood problem.

The social media complaints go as far back as January 22, and regular Twitter posts indicate that the honking hasn’t ceased or abated, and occurs after rush hour as well as on the weekends.

Though WMATA officials haven’t yet answered an ARLnow request for comment, Metro replied to the resident on Wednesday via Twitter and said that the honking is a safety measure.

“Thank you for contacting us about the frequent honking near your home,” the transit agency wrote. “At times trains may come across animals or unauthorized people near or on the tracks resulting in the operator to blow the train horn. Your tweet was shared with the Rail Division for review.”

That explanation, the resident replied, seems unlikely given the frequency of the honking.

“Thank you for responding, however this is a constant occurrence… All day every single day,” she said. “This is new and extremely intrusive to anyone who has a home nearby.”

Update at 2:15 p.m. — The resident who first contacted ARLnow.com about the honking says it has stopped since the publication of this article. Also via Twitter, some say that the honks may have to do with workers on or near the tracks.

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Morning Notes

Crystal City Development Plan Filed — Developer JBG Smith has filed a site plan application for what it’s calling “North District” — a multi-block redevelopment in Crystal City that will include a new movie theater, grocery store and Metro station entrance. The residential-heavy development is bounded by Crystal Drive, Route 1, 15th Street and 18th Street S. [Washington Business Journal]

Chamber Backs Staff’s VRE Recommendation — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce says county staff is right to recommend the placement of a revamped Crystal City VRE station closer to Metro. The staff recommendation “best positions Crystal City and greater Arlington County as a regional multi-modal transit hub,” as compared to a placement option preferred by local condo residents who are concerned about train noise. [InsideNova]

DCA Noise Complaints — A total of 36,653 noise complaints were filed in 2016 regarding arrivals to and departures from Reagan National Airport, according to recently-released stats from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. The complaints were filed by 836 individuals in 762 households, including one individual who filed 17,273 noise complaints. [MWAA]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Morning Notes

Complaint Begets No Parking Signs Begets Complaints — Residents of a dead-end street in the Woodmont neighborhood are complaining after Arlington took eight street parking spaces away, and WaPo is on it. The no parking signs went up in response to a resident’s complaint about the street being too narrow. [Washington Post]

Driverless Van Update — Who or what is behind the driverless van spotted cruising around Clarendon yesterday evening? We still don’t know for sure, but a Virginia Tech spokeswoman offered “no comment” this morning in response to our inquiry. [ARLnow]

Route 110 Lane Closures — “Route 110 at the Route 27 interchange and local ramps will have nighttime closures from Monday, Aug. 7 to Thursday, Aug. 24 in order to install bridge beams, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.” [VDOT]

Yelp Says Nope to Arlington — Online review site Yelp has leased 52,000 square feet of office space near the Verizon Center in D.C. for a new East Coast hub. The company was also considering office space in Rosslyn but, despite its CEO’s Arlington connection, decided against it. [Washington Business Journal]

Photo courtesy Ed S.

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East Falls Church Residents Wary of Plan for Lee Highway Pedestrian Bridge

(Updated at 10:31 a.m.) A proposal to build a new pedestrian and cyclist bridge in East Falls Church has prompted complaints from some nearby residents.

The Virginia Dept. of Transportation has proposed building a new bridge over Lee Highway near the W&OD trail as part of its “Transform 66” interstate widening and tolling project.

If built, VDOT says the bridge would improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists. The trail currently crosses Lee Highway at the busy intersection with Fairfax Drive.

But the idea deserves more thought, according to the East Falls Church Civic Association. Residents voiced concern in a letter the group sent to local officials last week.

“This VDOT project, if not paused, will create problems for holistic future pedestrian and cyclist transit development in the area, as well as create negative impacts on the surrounding neighborhood in a way that a more thoughtful design would not,” the letter reads. “Pause this project so the neighborhood and the surrounding areas can fully consider the problems we are trying to address (both present and future).”

East Falls Church Civic Association president Kelly Alexis said locals first heard of the plan in October. Since then, Alexis said she’s received emails from more than two dozen East Falls Church residents, many opposing the idea.

The problem, Alexis explained, revolves around a lack of input from the community. Though VDOT has held a series of public meetings, she said the agency hasn’t adequately weighed the concerns of the people who live nearby the proposed site of the bridge.

Earlier this month, the association met with VDOT officials to discuss the plan and identified a number of concerns. Among them are questions about whether the bridge would disrupt design aspects of the 2011 East Falls Church Area Plan or “lock-in” the alignment of the W&OD trail, which residents say forces cyclists and pedestrians onto neighborhood streets near the East Falls Church Metro station.

The plan also needs more study regarding improving pedestrian access and safety along Lee Highway on the I-66 overpass and at the Fairfax Drive and Washington Blvd intersections, residents said at the meeting.

The association has suggested several alternatives to building the bridge, such as a trail realignment under Lee Highway or rerouting the trail across Fairfax Drive at the same intersection.

“It’s not a bad plan, it’s just the wrong plan,” Alexis said. “We recognize we’re in a transportation hub, but we want to work together to create a better solution.”

Gillian Burgess, chair of Arlington County’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, said she shares some of the neighborhood’s concerns. Still, a bridge is sorely needed to “allow people on two feet or two wheels to use the trail without worrying whether that red car is really going to stop at the light,” she said.

“The neighborhood does have legitimate concerns about the de facto routing of the trail through their neighborhood,” Burgess added. “But there’s no need to delay building this much-needed improvement to this important piece of our transportation network.”

The Arlington County Board is expected to further discuss the I-66 widening plan and the pedestrian bridge at its meeting tomorrow (Saturday).

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Fed-Up Residents Complain That Streetlight Repairs Weren’t Prioritized

Streetlights out near the West Village of Shirlington condo complex

Arlington County says it’s hoping to get a stretch of non-working streetlights near Shirlington switched back on by the end of the year, but residents are complaining that the repairs have taken too long.

The dark streetlights are located along the S. Four Mile Run Drive service road, in front of the West Village of Shirlington condo complex.

Last Thursday, condo management sent an email to residents, encouraging them to press the county to expedite repairs, saying that the lights “have been out for over a year now.”

Hello Residents,

As many of you are aware, Management has made several attempts to have the county make repairs to the street lights on S. Four Mile Run Drive. Unfortunately, we have not been able to make any headway. The County representatives continue to advise us that these repairs are not a priority for them.

In our experience, it is usually helpful for (tax paying county) residents to contact the county. Fortunately, one of your neighbors has done so, and has provided the contact information below. So please bombard the County with your sincere concerns about the community’s safety. Please do remember to include the fact that these lights have been out for over a year now.

Residents say they are concerned about their safety.

“It is pitch black for those walking our pets or those walking to/from our cars,” said resident Chrissy Limetti. “How disappointing to read that resident safety is not a priority.”

The county, however, says that they’ve been working on the issue and expect the lights to be back on by the end of the year.

“Preliminary work on the streetlights in this area has occurred and crews will begin underground repairs in the next month,” Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Kathryn O’Brien tells ARLnow.com. “Repairs are expected to be completed by the end of December.”

The repairs are taking longer than usual because of the nature of what caused the outage in the first place.

“In this particular case, the outage is an underground issue caused by an old cable that will be replaced,” O’Brien said. “The complexity of the underground issue determines the response time which may take 45 days or longer. For an above ground issue (e.g., bulb replacement), repairs take about 14-21 days but more extensive equipment is required to repair an underground utility problem.”

O’Brien could not confirm whether a county employee actually said that the repairs weren’t a priority.

“To our knowledge, no one on our streetlights team told this person that their issue wasn’t a priority,” she said. “We are still investigating this to see if they may have spoken to someone else. Every outage is a priority and the type of outage and availability of crews and equipment determines the completion time.”

Streetlight outages can be reported to the county online.

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Car Overturns in Arlington Heights

Overturned car on S. Fenwick Street (courtesy photo)

A car overturned on a residential street in the Arlington Heights neighborhood this afternoon.

The incident happened around 1 p.m. on S. Fenwick Street, between 2nd Street S. and S. Fillmore Street, a few blocks from Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

According to witnesses, “the driver became distracted and rear ended a parked vehicle causing the car to flip.” The driver, we’re told, was able to walk away stunned but otherwise unscathed. Luckily, no one else was reported to be hurt.

A Fenwick Street resident said that neighbors refer to their windy stretch of road as the “raceway.”

“Many vehicles use this street as a cut through and the 25mph speed limit is ignored,” said Zelmira McCann. “As neighbors we’ve been trying to get the [County] Board’s attention about this street in particular. It’s a neighborhood street but people use it like a raceway.”

McCann said she has spent $250 of her own money to put up signs to “remind people that children and pets are at risk.” The signs, she said, have since been stolen.

Photo courtesy Zelmira McCann

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Arlington Mom: Swim Instructor’s Man Boobs Should Be Covered Around My Daughter

Yorktown pool (photo from Arlington Public Schools website)A local mom is making waves within the Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation’s aquatics program.

The mother, who goes by “Lynn” but didn’t want her last name used, to protect her daughter’s privacy, says a male swim instructor is showing too much skin — specifically, his chest — in the pool. She wants the man to wear a shirt when teaching her daughter (and other children) how to swim.

This morning, after a Parks and Rec staffer told her the department wouldn’t force the instructor to wear anything in the pool other than appropriate swim trunks, Lynn emailed numerous local reporters and news outlets with her complaint.

The biggest problem, she explained, is skin-to-skin contact, which she finds intolerable.

“I sit with my daughter every week watching her… and of course the instructors are touching and holding children the entire time!” she said in an email. (Lynn has had other complaints against the Parks and Rec department, but this is the most recent issue.)

Arlington County Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish told ARLnow.com that swim shirts are optional for instructors.

“All of the aquatic instructors that are employed by Arlington County are required to wear proper swim attire,” Kalish said via email. “For men, they must wear swim trunks. We provide instructors with a rash-guard shirt (worn in water), which is optional. The Department of Parks and Recreation received a complaint regarding staff attire from a customer on Wednesday, June 8. Staff responded promptly and offered to cancel the class enrollment and provide a full refund.”

The full exchange between Lynn, Parks and Rec staffers and the media, starting with Lynn’s email to the department, is below.

Hello Crystal:

I took my daughter to this class yesterday. Unfortunately the male instructor’s breasts were flopping on the water and we felt extremely uncomfortable with her getting into the water skin-to-skin and in such close proximity to his intimate space. When I mentioned this to the Parks & Rec representative she told me that other parents had also complained; that he was asked to put a shirt on but refused.

To be in such close and intimate proximity to this man’s bare chest, breasts and public [chest] hair is unfathomable and I can not believe it is tolerated.

I’d like to switch my daughter’s class to an instructor who is more appropriate and does not make us feel uncomfortable.

The following email was sent Wednesday, by a Parks and Rec staffer.

Crystal forwarded your email to me, as she works in the Registration office.

To address your concern, all of the instructors teaching for DPR wear swim suits that are appropriate for swimming pools, active movement, both in and out of the swimming pool and for teaching swimming lessons. Swim shirts are provided to instructors to wear, typically for warmth but are not required. I am sorry that you feel uncomfortable, however, [the instructor] handles himself in a very professional manner in water with students. Your daughter is enrolled in a Fin 3 class, where typically, most of the swimming skills are taught through verbal directions and demonstration and are practiced independently, with some correction from the instructor. But some skills do require the instructor to have contact with the students.

I do not have another class to switch your daughter into for the session that you are currently enrolled. If you do not wish to continue, I can cancel her enrollment in the class.

Please let me know how you would like to proceed.

Warm Regards,

Trina Wood
Aquatics Coordinator

Lynn sent the following email to various local media outlets and reporters Wednesday evening, shortly after receiving the above email.

Hello Arlington County Newspapers, Radio and Media Corp:

Do you know how badly the Arlington County Parks & Recreation System sucks? Get back in touch with me and I’ll gladly share my experiences from over the years. It’s mostly due to responses like the one I received — it’s like everyone in the parks & rec system have undergone the exact same training: “How to be a Jerk”.

Today’s response is not the first of its nature. Again, I would be glad to share my experiences with you, you will be shocked. Please get back in touch with me.

Se habla espanol.

Thanks.

Based on the letters, do you think Lynn has a legitimate complaint? Or is this perhaps an example of inappropriate body shaming? (Via sources, we understand that the instructor has a pretty normal male physique.) Let us know in the comments.

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Neighbors Gather to Complain About Complaints, Gripe About Grumpy British Man

After months — maybe even years — of constant “harassment” from an anonymous neighbor, North Highlands resident Mary McCutcheon had enough, as did the rest of the community.

On Thursday, McCutcheon organized a neighborhood meeting in front of her house — in the small community just north of Rosslyn — to discuss a neighbor who was constantly calling Arlington County to report supposed violations of zoning codes in local yards. It was enough of an issue that even County Board Chair Libby Garvey showed up.

“The county enforces some of the property maintenance and zoning codes in response to complaints and almost never in a proactive way,” McCutcheon told ARLnow.com. “This wouldn’t be bad except it effectively deputizes the small number of complain-o-holics around town with a great deal of power.”

Over the last couple of years, McCutcheon has constantly battled Arlington County over her plants. The owner of three properties in the neighborhood, she has received numerous violation notices as a result of complaint-driven code enforcement. In a letter to the editor sent to ARLnow in 2014, McCutcheon described in detail an instance in which an Arlington County inspector deemed her in violation of a weed-related ordinance following a complaint.

And she’s not alone. Someone, it seems, does not like the aesthetics of other nearby properties, either. And neighbors are fed up with it.

“Finally there is a critical mass of people who have been complained about,” she said, of the meet. “We have approached the County Manager and the County Board and the higher-ups in zoning and code enforcement.””

Some 20 neighborhood residents attended the meeting, along with Garvey and the county’s new Resident Ombudsman, Robert Sharpe.

At the meeting, McCutcheon displayed the offending items including her overgrown rose bushes, a fence surrounding the property and a small library she kept in front of her home.

“I think that complaint-driven code enforcement has so many inherent evils that we must put an end to it,” said McCutcheon. “We must have codes in this county that are enforceable and will be enforced and are worthy of being enforced, otherwise rewrite them. When code is enforced capriciously like this, I hope the county stops accepting this type of complaint.”

Garvey seemed sympathetic, agreeing that the code should have room for interpretation in situations where the perceived violation is not a threat to safety or other people’s property.

“There are situations where things should apply where they shouldn’t and there ought to be a way to exercise judgment,” said Garvey. “This property is beautiful but it doesn’t fit the narrow definitions of what we have had. I’m not sure what the solution is because I can’t say we’re not going to enforce our code but maybe there is a way of giving the code a little judgment or some situational awareness.”

McCutcheon was not the only one there who experienced the passive aggressive wrath of an anonymous resident.

One resident mentioned an incident where her babysitter received an threatening letter from an anonymous source due to her parking her car in the wrong location. The letter contained profanity and other threats and it was signed “The County Board.”

McCutcheon claimed the harassment began after she took down a white mulberry tree that was on public land near her house. The white mulberry is known to be an invasive species, crowding out native species. After removing the tree, McCutcheon says that a particular neighbor immediately became hostile, claiming that the tree was the only thing blocking his view of townhouses in front.

After the initial event, she described how this neighbor — a particularly grumpy British man — would become increasingly aggressive and rude to her in later encounters on the street. Soon after, she began receiving calls from county officials about the complaints, which she assumed came from the same person.

“One time I was walking my dogs and he was walking backwards just to scream at me. I was so scared I wrote a letter to Adult Protective Services but I never sent it,” said McCutcheon.

Other residents shared their own experiences, suggesting that the prickly Brit was the source of the complaints.

While she was describing the chronology of events, the neighbor in question exited his house and quickly became upset with the gathered group. He also began aggressively questioning the presence of a reporter, an ARLnow.com intern, and threatened to call the police after another resident tried to intervene.

Sharpe arrived soon after, temporarily defusing the situation as he took the man aside to discuss the issue.

After speaking with the man, Sharpe recommended that for the short term, McCutcheon comply with the directives to trim her rose bushes in order to avoid further conflict while the county comes up with a more permanent solution.

The mystery, however, deepened after the meeting adjourned.

In a later email, McCutcheon notified ARLnow that after speaking with Sharpe, it was confirmed that the neighbor was not, in fact, the source of the complaints.

[He] is still a nasty man,” McCutcheon said. “But it is someone else who is complaining.”

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Morning Notes

Bikes for sale in the Barcroft neighborhood (Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick)

Is Aircraft Noise Getting Worse? — Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak has taken up the issue of aircraft noise complaints in Arlington. Some residents say the noise has gotten worse recently, particularly with more helicopters and tilt-rotor V-22 Ospreys overhead. So far, the Dept. of Defense has not explained the purpose of the numerous Osprey flights. [Washington Post]

Amish Super PAC Has HQ in Clarendon — A political action committee that’s trying to convince the Amish to vote for Donald Trump this fall has its headquarters in Clarendon. [Quartz]

Arlington Honored as ‘Walk Friendly Community’ — Arlington has again been honored as a Gold-level Walk Friendly Community. Arlington is one of 15 communities nationwide to achieve the gold rating. [Arlington County]

‘Whimsical’ Old Victorian Farmhouse For Sale — A “whimsical” Queen Anne-style Victorian home that dates back to 1881 is on the market for $1.3 million. The home, in Arlington’s Waycroft-Woodlawn neighborhood, was the setting of a notable children’s novel, among other distinctions. [Washington Post]

InsideNova Implements New Ads? — InsideNova, the web home of the Arlington Sun Gazette, appears to be running 30 second video ads that cannot be closed with each new page view. That’s what ARLnow.com encountered this morning; it’s unclear if that is happening for every user. InsideNova content was previously placed behind a paywall, which has since been quietly removed. [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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Morning Notes

Tree blossoms in Lyon Park

Police Seek Witness in Pentagon City Investigation — Arlington County Police are trying to find a witness who rendered aid to an injured man found face down in the street in Pentagon City. The incident happened around 9:30 p.m. on February 25, on the 1200 block of S. Eads Street. The 65-year-old man remains in critical but stable condition. [Arlington County]

Group Forms to Oppose Gun StoreUpdated at 11:05 a.m. — A group called Act4LyonPark has formed to oppose NOVA Armory, the gun store that’s planning to open on March 26 at 2300 N. Pershing Drive. So far, Act4LyonPark has raised $6,300 to support its activities. The group says that in a recent vote, 88 percent of residents who responded voted for the Lyon Park Citizens Association to take an official stance against the gun shop.

Board to Consider Relaxed Historic Rules for Schools — The Arlington County Board is expected to vote Saturday on a proposal to make it easier for Arlington Public Schools to make changes to schools within local historic districts. The proposal would remove schools from the oversight of the county’s rigid Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board. Facing a school capacity crunch, APS says going through HALRB adds unnecessary delays and costs to projects. [InsideNova]

One Person Filed 6,500 Noise Complaints Against DCA — A single individual is responsible for 6,500 of the 8,670 noise complaints filed against Reagan National Airport last year, according to the airports authority. [WTOP]

Chamber Savors Hotel Tax Victory — With Arlington’s 0.25 percent hotel tax surcharge reinstated, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce is celebrating a long-awaited legislative victory. “Reinstating Arlington’s [Transient Occupancy Tax] was the Chamber’s top priority for the 2016 legislative session, with the funds generated by the additional TOT providing much needed support to ensure that Arlington remains competitive in attracting leisure and business travel,” said Chamber president and CEO Kate Roche. [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

Local Musician Wins Songwriting Award — Arlington’s Justin Jones has won the $10,000 grand prize from a local songwriting competition in Bethesda. [Instagram]

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Letters: Arlington Residents Complain About Slow Snow Cleanup, Other Things

Pedestrian walk sign next to a large snow bank (photo courtesy Dennis W.)It’s generally agreed that it would take awhile to recover and clean up from this past weekend’s historic blizzard, which dumped some two feet of the snow on Arlington. But that’s not stopping a myriad of complaints from rolling in.

Since the storm county crews and private contractors have been working in shifts around the clock to clear roads, sidewalks and parking lots. As expected, even today there are plenty of examples of places untouched or barely touched by snow crews.

Some Arlington residents — especially those along major arteries and Metro corridors — have had their street cleared to the point where it’s drive- or walk-able. Others, especially those in single-family home neighborhoods, have not been so lucky.

As of 1:30 this afternoon, Arlington County said half of all residential streets have been plowed. Snow crews have been working for 92 straight hours, the county said.

Some residents who remain snowed in are taking the “keep calm and carry on” approach. Others, however, are upset and are expressing their displeasure on TV, on social media and in emails to ARLnow.com.

After the jump: some of the letters — and photos — sent to ARLnow.com by local residents.

Dennis writes:

ArlNow should do a story on the horrific walking conditions in Arlington. While bike paths are scrubbed to the asphalt and streets are plowed multiple times, county-managed sidewalks remain untouched, making for extremely hazardous walking conditions.

Here’s a photo to illustrate the issue [above -ed.] – shot at 1425 N. Quincy Street where the county hasn’t cleared sidewalks across I-66, forcing pedestrians into the street, and a pile of snow dumped on the sidewalk and crosswalk at Quincy by Bill Buck’s plowers at 1425 N. Quincy.

image005 image010

Rick sent the photo above, of the 1500 block of 22nd Street N., and wrote the following:

We have a secondary road running through our neighborhood that provides access to hundreds of townhomes and apartments. Since the snow started, we have not seen a single plow. I have filed multiple snow issue forms and now they say on the snow plow map that the road has been cleared. Obviously, that is not true. Here are pictures.

Similarly, Kurt writes:

I would like to report that I live on 23rd Road North and the county ‘interactive’ plow tracker map is incorrect. Currently the map indicates my street has been plowed. Obviously Arlington County supervisors are not back checking work and now Arlington County thinks the street is plowed.

Hard to believe all the bordering streets to 23rd Road North have been plowed. We are one block from Lee Hwy.

How does Arlington prioritize what neighborhood / secondary roads get plowed first? Is there some Arlington County lottery snow removal signup our street missed?

Joan wrote the following, lengthy letter:

Once again, the Arlington County government has proven to be completely tone deaf when dealing with residents. The duality of hiding under the parasol of being a sleepy Southern town the government of which cannot properly plow after snow in a timely fashion while acting high handed to our needs reached new heights after the blizzard.

Just hours after the snow stopped falling this week, the county issued emergency text alerts and Facebook postings reminding residents that they had until Monday noon to clean off their sidewalks. Citing some ridiculous ordinance requiring they clear the entire width of sidewalks 36 hours after a snowfall of six inches or more, the county completely failed to take note that they had neither plowed or even looked at most neighborhood streets.

Unlike Mayor Bowser in Washington, D.C., Arlington officials neither waived this ordinance nor originally gave residents a few more days to comply. (After some outcry they did say they wouldn’t cite anyone until the 27th. I suppose we were to be thrilled with that.)

When challenged, the County tried to hide under the hard work of the emergency workers and plow truck operators asking for our patience with street clearing. Understanding the pressure the plow crews and emergency workers were under was not issue. These people are doing an incredible amount of work with apparently an inadequate supply of equipment and a lack of proper training. The issue is with the total lack of understanding, feeling or awareness on the part of those officials responsible for not only issuing such an absurd ordinance but for sending out warning notices even before plowing commenced in most neighborhoods.

If Arlington wishes to have a snow removal ordinance, here are some steps needed for improvement:

1. Give homeowners 36 hours from when the County does their job – that is removing snow and trash. Often when the trucks do come through they toss the snow back into the sidewalks making the residents’ work mute.
2. Purchase enough equipment to deal with our blizzards which we have with regularity.
3. Teach drivers how to maneuver in blizzard conditions to prevent them from being stuck and how to bank snow so it doesn’t fall back on sidewalks as much as it now does or block cleared driveways.
4. Work with neighborhood associations to identify elderly and disabled residents and establish an active and ongoing program to organize people to assist with their snow removal and other emergency needs.

Since raising taxes doesn’t seem to be an issue in the County, I am sure it can find money somewhere to accomplish these goals. At the very least, striking a sympathetic and apologetic cord while they figure out how to do their own job would be a nice start.

Instead of complaining about road conditions, Chris wrote to question Arlington Public Schools’ decision to close for at least three days this week:

I’m a big fan of the site, and I wanted to suggest a topic for an article. This week the Arlington Public Schools announced that schools will be closed due to snow Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I think many people are wondering why. The basic premise for the article would be to investigate what would be required for the Arlington schools to reopen sooner after it snows. Many parents I talk with in the county often wonder why schools in New York can open so soon after a snow storm, but Arlington County remains closed. Is it a question of money: do we not allocate enough to plows and trucks? (And if it is, isn’t Arlington County now reporting the streets will be plowed by the end of day Tuesday?) Is it a question of political coordination: do we need all the streets in surrounding jurisdictions to be plowed so that all the staff at the schools could safely travel to work? Is it something else entirely? I think it’d make for a great article, and spur good discussion and debate in the community.

Finally, Brian sent the following photo over the weekend of some snow writing on the athletic fields along S. Joyce Street, near Pentagon City. The snow writer’s beef was with the current Republican presidential frontrunner.

"Trump is Hitler" written in snow (courtesy photo)

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Yorktown to Offer Spring PSAT for Students With Disabilities Following Federal Complaint

Test Taking (file photo)Yorktown High School will offer the Preliminary SAT in the spring for students with disabilities as part of an agreement resolving a complaint made by a Yorktown parent to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

Typically taken by high school sophomores and juniors, the PSAT is a practice test for the SAT. Those with do exceptionally well could qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program and win college tuition money.

Michelle Buehlmann filed the federal complaint in early October after her daughter was unable to take the PSAT earlier this fall.

Her daughter is a sophomore with a 504 Plan, an education plan for students who have disabilities but do not require special education services. In order for her to take the test, special accommodations that followed her 504 would need to be approved by the College Board, which coordinates the PSAT.

Applying for those accommodations is typically a responsibility taken on by the schools.

Buehlmann said once she realized Yorktown hadn’t applied and hadn’t informed her or her husband they would have to apply themselves, she filed the complaint.

“When I became aware that the school made the decision just to not apply and not tell us, I told them it wasn’t right and decided to file,” she explained. “It really was an honest misunderstanding and I’m sure a lot of it was miscommunication, but now we’re making sure something is done.”

Yesterday morning, Buehlmann and APS came to an early complaint resolution agreement in a meeting facilitated by the DOE. The agreement includes provisions for both Yorktown and the County to address this issue.

Not only will Yorktown administer the PSAT again in the spring for students with disabilities, but it also agreed to notify students and their parents about the test this week. In addition, the school will help them apply to the College Board for accommodations, a process that must be completed by Dec. 15.

In the long term, APS agreed to notify parents of 8th, 9th and 10th grade students with disabilities about the process to request accommodations by May 1 every year. They also agreed to train county school counseling staff on this application process.

Buehlmann said she was pleased with the complaint process overall and the final agreement they reached.

“Everyone handled the situation very well, and both agencies got their job done efficiently and effectively,” she said. “I think it’s a great example of how a large bureaucracy like the DOE and a big institution like APS can work well with parents to get a job done.”

An Arlington Public Schools spokesman declined to comment.

File photo

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Morning Poll: Too Much Complaining?

County Board budget hearingArlington is a famously civically-active community. It’s the “Arlington Way.” But do residents sometimes take their expectations for responsive governance and residential serenity too far?

Arlington residents — many of whom are government workers and, perhaps as a result, have high expectations for the way things ought to be here — are not shy about letting their opinions known. In the past week, we’ve seen complaints about a proposed fire station, local restaurants, and an article about a basketball player serving ice cream.

In the past, varying degrees of neighborhood controversy have erupted over new streetlights, a house with a “cornhole-friendly yard,” a small fence, a proposed bocce court, a proposed five-story apartment building and grocery store, an expansion of Arlington National Cemetery, outdoor restaurant seating, rooftop signs, boisterous bar-goers, and kids dancing in the street.

Do Arlington residents take their complaints too far at times, or is it just the sign of a healthy, active community?
 

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Bracket Room Nixes Live Entertainment Permit Request

The Bracket Room in ClarendonBracket Room (1210 N. Garfield Street) in Clarendon had wanted to offer its patrons live music, but an outcry from neighbors prompted a change of plans.

Bracket Room’s owners had applied for a live entertainment permit, but decided within the past couple of weeks to withdraw the application. They made the decision based on noise complaints from neighbors living in Lyon Place apartments — located directly above the sports bar — who say the existing music is too loud.

“We’ve had a lot of issues with the tenants in the building from the beginning,” said Co-owner Jeff Greenberg. “The residents were calling the police when we first opened, which I hear really happens to everybody. But we don’t want to upset the people in the building or the landlord.”

One month after the sports bar’s early September opening, police said they had received around three dozen complaints related to Bracket Room. County Zoning and Code Enforcement staff had also received more than 15 complaints. Last month, County Planner Sophia Fisher said county employees were looking into the issues. Staff members familiar with each permit request typically make a recommendation to the County Board about whether to grant or deny the permit.

“Zoning and Code Enforcement staff are both currently monitoring the use due to concerns raised by citizens related to noise,” Fisher said in October. “Because live entertainment has the potential to increase the impacts of a venue on the surrounding community, citizen concerns related to noise are taken very seriously by staff.”

Today, Fisher confirmed that the Bracket Room owners have withdrawn their application for the live entertainment permit.

Bracket Room customers might notice some changes implemented during the past two weeks to appease neighbors. First, owners decided to lower the music level to 85 decibels.

“They’re trying to keep [the music] as low as they can so people inside are having fun but other people aren’t disturbed by the noise,” said Greenberg. “When the people in the building are mad at you, what are you going to do?”

The owners also examined the sports bar’s closing time and decided to shut the doors earlier.

“The 1:00-2:00 a.m. crowd is usually smaller than at other hours of the day, but it’s rowdier,” Greenberg said. “We’re cutting our hours back and we’re not staying open until 2:00 a.m.”

Since implementing the changes about two weeks ago, the owners have not been notified of as many noise complaints.

Other ideas the owners continue to throw around include adding additional security, working with an architect to find some other form of noise insulation, and possibly turning down the music’s bass if necessary.

“We’re going to contain the noise, but we’re going to try to keep our restaurant full every night,” said Greenberg. “We’re going to try the best we can. We want to get along, we want to be loved.”

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