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by ARLnow.com — January 4, 2016 at 9:05 am 0

Crane from JBG's Central Place development in Rosslyn

Garvey Named 2016 Arlington County Board Chair — Libby Garvey, who is facing a challenge in this year’s Democratic primary, has been named the Chair of the Arlington County Board. Articles to follow.

Update: Family Given Lease Extension — An Arlington family with a disabled son has been given a 30-day lease extension, after they went to the media to protest the landlord’s reported refusal to renew their lease. The family said the manager of Columbia Pike apartment complex complained about them making too much noise. [Washington Post]

Dorsey to Serve on Metro Board — Christian Dorsey, who along with Katie Cristol began his first County Board term on Jan. 1, has been chosen to serve as Arlington’s non-voting representative on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board of directors. [InsideNova]

Reminder: Arlington Is the Smallest Governing County — Arlington County is the smallest self-governing county in the United States. Kalawao County in Hawaii, New York County in Manhattan and Bristol County in Rhode Island are smaller, but don’t have their own separate county governments. [Arlington County]

Favola Proposes Allowing Cigarette Tax Hike — State Sen. Barbara Favola (D) has proposed a bill that would allow Arlington and Fairfax counties to double local cigarette taxes. The extra funds would be used to support education. [InsideNova]

Free Breakfast at Northside Social — It’s unclear whether the promotion is still going on as of publication time, but Northside Social this morning was giving away free breakfasts and coffee courtesy of the new CBS show Angel from Hell, starring Jane Lynch. [Twitter, Twitter]

Christmas Tree Collection Starts Today — Christmas tree collection in Arlington County starts today and runs through Friday, Jan. 15. Trees will be collected curbside on regular trash collection days. Those who live in apartments or condos without county trash collection can bring their trees to the Solid Waste Bureau near Shirlington. [ARLnow]

by ARLnow.com — December 30, 2015 at 9:00 am 0

Fog on the Potomac near Roosevelt Island and Rosslyn (Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick)

Family: We’re Being Evicted Because Our Disabled Son Is Too Loud — A family of a disabled boy says they’re being evicted from the Oakland Apartments on Columbia Pike because the 10-year-old boy makes too much noise. Local tenant advocates Bravo and Bu-Gata have taken up the cause of the Diaz family and held a press conference yesterday. [Washington Post, NBC Washington]

Arlington County Ready for Winter Weather — While there’s been little evidence of winter so far, given the procession of record warm temperatures, Arlington County says it’s ready to do battle with snow and ice when the time comes. The county says it has reviewed its operations, reinforced its training and acquired an additional 1,200 tons of salt compared to last year. [Arlington County]

View of Rosslyn Skyline in 1964 — The Key Bridge looked pretty much the same, but downtown Rosslyn looked a lot different in 1964. A historical photo shows only a handful of mid-rise office buildings and at least one of the River Place co-op buildings — but none of the towering buildings that characterize the modern Rosslyn skyline. [Twitter]

Webb Books Clinton’s Spiritual Advisor — Mike Webb, the Republican who hopes to challenge Rep. Don Beyer in next year’s election, says he’s booked Bill Clinton’s former spiritual advisor to speak at a campaign-sponsored prayer breakfast next month. The press release also pokes fun at Beyer’s Taylor Swift ticket fundraiser and notes that “earlier press releases from Webb published in ARL Now were met with derision.” [PDF]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

by Jennifer Currier — December 1, 2015 at 11:30 am 0

A long-vacant Cherrydale strip mall storefront, once slated to become a gun store, has been brought to life as a pop-up vintage gift shop.

NOVA Firearms cancelled its lease and its plans to add a location at 2105 N. Pollard Street this summer, following an uproar that pitted concerned residents against both local and national gun enthusiasts.

This holiday season, however, what was once an ideological battleground is now a temporary shop.

POP Vintage opened this past Friday as a vintage shop, featuring collected, donated, estate sale and consigned items, ranging in price from $2 to $20,000. It will be open every day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. now until Christmas Eve.

“This is a place where people can sell, barter and trade their items openly and safely, they just have to do it by Christmas,” owner Olympia Hantzopoulos said.

The store is the Rosslyn resident’s first time operating a pop-up. It’s also her first time dealing with a space with such a heated history.

Hantzopoulos said she doesn’t go a day without hearing about what the store could’ve been.

“It was such a difficult issue for both sides,” she said. “Just this Saturday two women got in an argument in the store, which was full of customers, disagreeing over whether this space should be a gun store or not.”

Despite some leftover bitterness from the gun store debate, it hasn’t stopped customers from shopping. Hantzopoulos said her first weekend open was quite busy and the experience has been a positive one so far.

“I’m overwhelmed by the community support,” she said. “I think being here and having something here is doing a lot of good for the neighborhood.”

This also isn’t Hantzopoulos’ first time working with vintage and collectible items. She also owns Miracles in the City, a hair salon in Rosslyn that’s been open for nearly 20 years. The salon also has a small boutique where Hantzopoulos sells vintage jewelry, and all profits from jewelry sales are donated to charity.

She’s adopted the same charitable model for POP Vintage — any proceeds taken in beyond what’s needed to pay the lease will be donated to charities that support women and children in the United States and around the world.

One organization Hantzopoulos plans to support sends donations to an orphanage in Afghanistan, and another provides school supplies for local students. Hantzopoulos said helping in any way she can has always been a priority.

“Thinking about the reality of how little some people have just makes me miserable,” she said. “But you can’t dwell on that, you have to just do what you can do and trust it’s helping.”

From jewelry, to paintings by D.C. artists, to chandeliers, to one-of-a-kind rugs handmade in the Middle East, to tea sets and much more, Hantzopoulos has collected enough items to offer a little bit of everything for holiday shoppers. She knows where they came from, who they belonged to and why, in her opinion, they’re valuable.

“That’s the thing about vintage,” she said. “Everything has a story. It just so happens this space does, too.”

by ARLnow.com — November 20, 2015 at 1:45 pm 0

Rosslyn Heights and Rosslyn Vue dog run (photo courtesy Jace Bauer)

(Updated at 3:50 p.m.) Arlington County officials have reportedly shut down a popular fenced-in “dog run” outside of a Rosslyn apartment community.

In a memo to residents of the Rosslyn Heights and Rosslyn Vue apartments on N. Quinn Street, building managers say that they’ve been ordered to remove the fence around the dog play area.

The decision, managers say in the memo, came from new Arlington Acting Zoning Administrator Arlova Vonhm, who decreed that a permit for building the fence around the nearly two-year-old dog run should never have been approved by the county.

Jace Bauer, a local resident, said that the dog run is “convenient and much enjoyed.” Via email, Bauer said the loss of the area is a blow for residents and for dogs.

“I recently moved to Arlington and have found this small, fenced in area to be a great spot in our community,” Bauer said. “I have met so many wonderful people in my first few months here while taking my one year old border collie mix out for a game of fetch. The nearest dog park (Clarendon) is a 30 minute walk, which is not practical for a quick morning or evening outing.”

The memo from building management, which suggests legal action may follow, is below.

Dear Residents of Rosslyn Heights and Rosslyn Vue,

A few months ago Arlington County received a complaint from our neighbors regarding the dog walk area by the leasing office. We have been attempting to work with Arlington County Zoning officials to comply with their requirements and appease our neighbors. Although this area has existed for almost two years, the Zoning Administrator, Ms. Arlova Vonhm, has decreed that the approved permit should not have been approved. Her decision is that the fence violates Arlington County Zoning ordinance and must be removed or we will be subject to fines and legal action for noncompliance. Ms. Vonhm has also been presented with multiple plans to relocate the dog walk to other areas of our property, all of which have been denied.

As such, tomorrow, November 20th, we will be removing the fence to comply with their order. Rosslyn Heights and Rosslyn Vue have always been pet loving communities and it gives us great displeasure to have to do this. Please take some comfort that we do not consider this matter closed. We will be obtaining legal counsel to bring this issue to the attention of the Arlington County Board (http://countyboard.arlingtonva.us/county-board-members) and County Manager, Mark Schwartz.

The next scheduled Arlington County Board Meeting is scheduled for Saturday, January 24th at 8:30am at 2100 Clarendon Blvd., Room 307.

Thank you for choosing Rosslyn Heights and Rosslyn Vue as your home and for your patience and understanding as we work through this situation.

Sincerely,

Rosslyn Heights Team

In an email Vonhm, the Acting Zoning Administrator, confirmed to ARLnow.com that today was the deadline for the apartment’s property manager to remove the fence, after it was determined that the county had mistakenly issued a permit for its construction contrary to the property’s approved site plan.

The site plan calls for only landscaping in the area where the dog run now is, Vonhm determined, after receiving complaints from neighbors. She noted that the property manager has the option of applying for a site plan amendment.

“The County’s position is that the fence changes the nature of how the space is used, and creates the problem of dogs running loose and creating excessive noise,” said Vonhm. “The option of applying for a site plan amendment is still open to the property manager, even after the fence is removed. The County has worked in good faith with the property manager to come up with a viable solution that addresses the neighbors’ concerns about noise from the dogs.”

Photo courtesy Jace Bauer

by ARLnow.com — October 30, 2015 at 3:00 pm 0

Christian DorseyWith only a few days to go until Tuesday’s election, the Arlington GOP and Democratic County Board candidate Christian Dorsey engaged in a press release skirmish Friday afternoon.

Arlington GOP Chairman Matt Wavro sent out the following press release just before 1:30 p.m., accusing Dorsey of trying to mislead Republican and independent voters with an erroneous automated phone call.

Today Matt Wavro, Chairman of the Arlington GOP filed a complaint with the State Board of Elections against Christian Dorsey and called on him to publicly apologize for misleading voters in telephone calls that hit voicemail inboxes and answering machines on Thursday.

A large number of Independent and Republican voters received a telephone call from Mr. Dorsey’s campaign reminding them to vote at their regular polling place “tomorrow” [October 30, 2015].  Election Day is Tuesday, November 3rd 2015.  “Misleading Independent and Republican voters, by asking them to vote on the wrong day of the election causes confusion, and ultimately can reduce voter turn-out,” said Wavro.

Chairman Wavro went on to add that “Christian Dorsey misleading Independent and Republican voters after supporting a frivolous complaint against one of his opponents at the direction of Democrat party bosses reached a new low in dirty politics and a new high in the amount of hypocrisy Democrats think voters will let them get away with.”  After all summarized Wavro, “Christian has run before and should know better.”

Voters should remember to vote for Independent Mike McMenamin on November 3rd at their regular voting place. Mike will do what is best for our neighborhoods and our community, not what party elites dictate.

Dorsey’s campaign responded with a statement of its own, acknowledging the erroneous robocall but saying it was the fault of a telecommunications vendor. Dorsey said, essentially, that Republicans were trying to gin up controversy about an honest and quickly corrected mistake.

“On the afternoon of Thursday, October 29th, an erroneous robocall was sent to a limited number of voters that included information about “tomorrow’s election.” The recording was mistakenly sent due to a software glitch from Robocent, Inc. They mistakenly used a recorded script set for Monday, rather than the script for Thursday. Their statement, taking full responsibility for this error, is attached.

“As soon as the error was brought to my attention, I immediately recorded a second call apologizing for the error, and clarifying that the election was on Tuesday, November 3rd. This apology and clarification call went to more phone numbers than those originally affected out of an abundance of caution to ensure we spread the message far and wide. The voice recording of this call can be found at the following link: https://api.twilio.com/2010-04-01/Accounts/AC2ba64a6ec3824a9da645efee9f7346d4/Recordings/RE0b9851617dca73a090d373c7811ea35b.mp3

“Furthermore, contrary to accusations made by the Republican Party, this call went to more than just Republicans. I believe that the job of County Board member involves representing all Arlingtonians, and not just those of a particular political party or set of beliefs. Unfortunately, the Arlington Republican Party seems to believe that elected officials should only talk to those who they always agree with. Voters should be cautious if this is what the Arlington GOP’s endorsed candidate, Mike McMenamin, also believes.

“Lastly, Republican GOP chair Matt Wavro claims that I did not respond to his email requesting an apology. Mr. Wavro’s email was sent to me at 1:23pm, and his press release accusing me of not responding was sent at 1:27pm. His accusation came only four minutes after he gave me the opportunity to respond. Matt Wavro and the Arlington Republican Party are the ones playing dirty, deceptive tricks in support of Mike McMenamin. I was in fact typing a response to Mr. Wavro when his press release was sent out.

“I strongly believe that our democracy functions best when more people participate. My entire campaign has been centered on the principles of responsiveness, inclusion, and transparency. That’s why I took quick, swift, and decisive action when a phone service company sent an erroneous call on my behalf. I apologize for any inconvenience that this caused the limited number of Arlington voters who received the original erroneous call.”

The controversy follows a Washington Post article that included allegations against Michael McMenamin, accusing his campaign of a commissioning a misleading telephone push poll.

Dorsey and McMenamin, along with Democrat Katie Cristol and independent Audrey Clement, are running for two open County Board seats.

by ARLnow.com — October 23, 2015 at 11:30 am 0

A new residential redevelopment is coming to Rosslyn, but it’s not without a measure of controversy.

Reston-based developer NVR, Inc., the parent company of homebuilder Ryan Homes, is proposing a townhouse and condominium development at 1411 Key Blvd. The proposal was heard by Arlington’s Site Plan Review Committee last night, and is expected to be heard by the Planning Commission next month.

NVR is proposing a total of 63 dwelling units in a six-story, 66-foot-tall building with 64 parking spaces. The developer is asking Arlington County for a change from “Low-Medium” to “Medium” residential zoning in the General Land Use plan in order to accomplish that. In return, NVR is promising LEED Silver sustainability certification and on-site affordable housing.

Located 2-3 blocks away from the Rosslyn Metro station, the new development would replace an aging but affordable building: the Metro Rosslyn Apartments.

Residents of the building were notified via a letter dated Oct. 1 that the building is being sold and they must vacate by Jan. 31, 2016. However, a sign placed on the door of the building says that the notice, which called the forced move an “inconvenience” and did not offer moving assistance, is being reviewed by Arlington’s Tenant Landlord Commission.

“All tenants are entitled to relocation assistance: monetary compensation and assistance in finding a new apartment,” the sign says. “The 120-day notice may be rescinded (recalled) by law.”

A second, smaller apartment building is also slated to be demolished to make room for the new development.

by ARLnow.com — September 30, 2015 at 11:00 am 0

Fire Station 8 (Courtesy of Arlington County Fire Department)The saga over the proposed relocation of Fire Station No. 8 continues.

Following resident outcry from those who didn’t want the Lee Highway fire station to move from their neighborhood, and from those who didn’t want it to move to theirs, last week the Arlington County Board approved the creation of a task force to study the issue and come up with a recommendation.

Now, the county is also conducting a survey of residents via its “Open Arlington” website. The survey, which closes on Oct. 6, is intended to “gather input on the proposed project criteria and the possible direction this task force may take.”

Those who argue in favor of relocating the fire station further north — including fire department officials — say it would improve fire response times to the northern reaches of Arlington, while allowing for a larger and more advanced fire station to be built within budget. Keeping the station where it is would require pricy renovations and potential land acquisition that would be more expensive than simply building the station new on exiting county land.

Those who argue against the station say that it’s a community fixture with an important history, and they like it where it is. Further, some residents around the proposed relocation site near Marymount University say the fire station would disrupt their quiet neighborhood.

We’re conducting our own survey this morning: do you think it’s a good idea to relocate Fire Station No. 8?

by Heather Mongilio — September 17, 2015 at 5:45 pm 0

The Lyon Park Community Center may be open by the end of October, despite some trouble securing a source of funding earlier this summer.

The renovations to the community center are set to wrap up on Oct. 31, but there is always the potential for construction delays, said Jeannette Wick, chair of the Lyon Park Community Center. Wick says she thinks residents will like what they see when the community center reopens.

“The building is absolutely beautiful,” she said.

The Lyon Park Citizen’s Association ran into some legal trouble after seven concerned citizens filed a petition in court against the group’s motion to get a line of credit with Cardinal Bank. Under the agreement with the bank, to get the $600,000 the association might need for renovations, the park was to be used as collateral.

A judge ruled in favor of the petition, saying that LPCA’s line of credit was improperly filed.

The legal problems are all resolved now, Wick said, adding that the association was able to secure a line of credit from First Virginia Community Bank without having to put the park up as collateral.

“They very quickly stepped up to the plates and helped us out,” Wick said.

LPCA is currently using money from fundraising to pay for the renovations, but “once we expend all of our available funds, we’ll have to draw on [the line of credit],” she said.

Fundraising for the community center has been “robust,” according to Wick, and LPCA raised approximately $85,000 for the park in a June fundraising push.

“We did very well with fundraising… people were very generous,” she said.

by ARLnow.com — August 3, 2015 at 9:25 am 3,575 0

Sunny day in Glencarlyn Park (Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick)

Booing at Meeting About I-66 Tolling — VDOT representatives were booed by residents at a meeting about the plan to convert I-66 to high occupancy toll lanes inside the Beltway. VDOT wants to have the tolling in place by 2017. In addition to residents, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is skeptical of the plan, worried that it may discourage travel at Dulles International Airport. [InsideNova, WTOP]

Opera Troupe Leaving Arlington — Forced to find a new home due to the closure of Artisphere in Rosslyn, the opera troupe UrbanArias will perform at the Atlas Performing Arts Center on H Street NE in D.C. during its 2015-2016 season. [InsideNova]

Barbie Doll Convention Held in Crystal City — More than 1,000 collectors descended on Crystal City for the 2015 National Barbie Doll Collectors Convention last week. The event included auditions for a Barbie-themed Broadway production. [Daily Mail]

Marine Completes Hand-Cycle Journey to Arlington — Double amputee Marine veteran Toran Gaal completed his cross-country ride to Arlington National Cemetery this past weekend. Gaal made the more than 3,000 mile journey, which raised money for other wounded Marines, on a hand-cycle. [NBC Washington, Stars and Stripes]

Call For Entries at Arlington Film Fest — The call for entries is now open for the 2016 Rosebud Film Festival. The final deadline for submissions is Nov. 6. [YouTube, Arlington Independent Media]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

by ARLnow.com — July 31, 2015 at 9:30 am 2,328 0

Ballston as seen from the top floor of an office building

Fire Station Relocation May Go to Voters — A controversial plan to relocate Fire Station 8 from Lee Highway and the Hall’s Hill neighborhood to a locale further north, in order to improve response times, could be put to voters. Opponents may push for a stand-alone bond issue for construction of the new fire station, which would put it on the ballot. The idea was floated during a well-attended community meeting on the fire station relocation plan last night. [InsideNova]

North vs. South Swimming Pool Divide? — Swimming has always been a significant part of life in Arlington, but current pool options are tilted toward north Arlington, says Our Man in Arlington columnist Charlie Clark. Building the stalled Long Bridge Park aquatics center could help alleviate the divide, Clark reasons. [Falls Church News-Press]

Arlington Family Kicked off Flight — An Arlington family was kicked off a JetBlue flight from Boston to Baltimore on Monday, reportedly because of a squirming two year old and FAA regulations. [WUSA 9]

DCA Screeners Find Two Guns in Two Days — Screeners at Reagan National Airport found two guns in carry-on baggage over the course of two days this week. The two men who had the guns in their bags are now facing weapons charges. [WJLA]

I-395 Exit to Close Temporarily — The exit from northbound I-395 to Washington Blvd will close overnight Sunday and Monday for paving and lane striping, VDOT says. [Patch]

by ARLnow.com — July 21, 2015 at 9:20 am 1,588 0

Flowers in Arlington (Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley)

Community Pushes Back on Fire Station Plan — Arlington County Board members are hearing an earful from residents who live around Fire Station 8 on Lee Highway. The county is considering relocating the station to improve fire response times in far northern neighborhoods. However, residents say the fire station is historic because it was the first in Virginia to be staffed mostly by professional black firefighters, in the 1950s, and should not be moved. [InsideNova, WTOP]

Kojo and Kaine in Crystal City — WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi will host a “Kojo in the Community” discussion with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) tonight. “The discussion will focus on the ways in which the military and defense industry shape our region, ranging from jobs and the economy to infrastructure and traffic,” organizers say. The talk will take place at Synetic Theater in Crystal City. [ARLnow Events]

New Restaurant at DCA — Former “Top Chef” finalist Carla Hall has opened a new 110-seat restaurant in Reagan National Airport’s Terminal A. The menu features contemporary American cuisine with a Southern flair. [Eater, Washington Business Journal]

Now Showing: Shrek, the Musical — Arlington’s Encore Stage and Studio is currently performing Shrek, the Musical at Thomas Jefferson Community Theater. The family-friendly show runs through Sunday. [DC Metro Theater Arts]

Bunnies Galore Near Clarendon — There sure are a lot of bunnies around Clarendon these days, at least according to some concerned bunny spotters who have contacted us about it. Now, there’s some photographic proof. [Twitter]

by Mariah Joyce — June 23, 2015 at 2:15 pm 3,741 0

The funding for the half-finished renovations to the Lyon Park Community Center may be in jeopardy.

In November of 2014, the Lyon Park Citizens Association voted to take out a $600,000 line of credit from Cardinal Bank to help fund the $1.2 million renovations. The vote was almost evenly split, with those who opposed the motion saying they were concerned about the park and community center being used as collateral to obtain the loan.

Now, the resulting legal wrangling over the loan has resulted in a ruling that will prevent it from being issued, at least as originally planned.

When the LPCA approved the motion to take out a line of credit, a group of seven residents referred to in court documents as the “Concerned Lyon Park Beneficiaries” opposed the petition in court. Their concerns were outlined in a flyer circulated to the community.

The opposition, filed Nov. 7 2014, states that the residents in question feel the Board encumbered the park “under imprudent conditions,” and that the residents “have reasonable and legal concerns regarding the ability of the community to re-pay this sizeable loan, and the resulting ramifications of a loan default.”

(Encumber is a legal term meaning that the property was placed in position where more than one party had a valid legal claim on it; if the park were used as collateral for a loan, both Cardinal Bank and the Lyon Park community would have valid claims.)

Another court document pertaining to the case dated July 30, 2014, states that “recently two trustees [of Lyon Park] resigned because each refused to sign documents pertaining to a $600,000 bank loan for a planned renovation of the community house. The appointment of successor trustees is far from a routine appointment.”

Since its inception in 1925, Lyon Park has had trustees appointed by the community to hold the deed to the park on behalf of all residents. When a loan is taken out for the park, the trustees have been the ones to sign the documents. Court documents also state that the park has been put up as collateral for a loan at least twice before, in 1925 for $2,500 and 1927 for $3,000.

Circuit Court judge Jonathan Thacher ruled last month that the latest loan was improperly filed. While the decision doesn’t prohibit the Board of Governors from using the park as collateral for a loan, that option is effectively closed to the community because at least one of the seven residents who challenged the Board’s decision in court indicated that he or she would also oppose any future filings, thus imposing burdensome legal costs, according to Lyon Park Community Center Chair Jeannette Wick.

“We are going to exclusively pursue options that don’t involve encumbering the park,” said Wick. “We’d like to go forward without further litigation — we could end up tied up in court forever.”

After the judge ruled, Wick said the Board came up with a table of options which included:

  • Raising enough money that a loan would not be required.
  • Working with Cardinal Bank to find a way to borrow without encumbering the park.
  • Stopping construction completely.

According to Wick, with more than half a million dollars still required for renovations, the first option is unrealistic even with neighbors’ “incredible generosity.” The second option is still being explored, but is proving difficult because thus far Cardinal Bank has insisted on collateral. Wick described the third option as undesirable for several reasons.

“It would be bad for the neighborhood, it’s costly to stop construction and having an unfinished building on our property creates an attractive nuisance for thefts and squatters,” said Wick. “Right now, we’re searching for some sort of happy medium between option one and option three.”

Wick estimates residents have donated about $500,000 towards the project thus far, including roughly $85,000 since June 1.

“Everyone that I have talked to has been united in the view that ‘It’s halfway done, we need to move forward,'” said Wick. “If you look at the donation map, giving has been robust throughout the community — this isn’t a project where it’s a one-man show or only a few people want it.”

Kevin Baer, a resident who opposed putting the park up as collateral, said that he and other concerned residents “look forward to continuing to work together in the neighborhood to find a prudent way forward.”

The renovations to the center, currently in progress, include making the building ADA compliant, adding a sun room, and improving the kitchen and bathrooms.

by ARLnow.com — June 19, 2015 at 1:15 pm 3,099 0

A minor parking mishap attracted a crowd of restaurant owners in Courthouse yesterday.

Just before lunchtime, the “KBBQ Taco Box 2” food truck accidentally struck the front bumper of a parked car on the 2000 block of Wilson Blvd, as the truck was trying to squeeze into a tight parallel parking space. There was no damage evident — but police were called and a citation issued, as a small crowd of restaurant owners and mangers gathered.

As it turns out, the car belonged to a delivery driver for the Afghan Kabob House across the street, and this was the latest skirmish in an ongoing battle between brick-and-mortar restaurants and food trucks in Courthouse.

The war started last month with the emergence of an unlikely leader on the restaurant side. Bar Concepts, a restaurant consulting company, had been brought in to operate the back bar area of the recently reopened Summers Restaurant. Though Summers is not exactly known as a haven for Courthouse office dwellers seeking a quick grab-and-go bite to eat, Alan Beal, COO of Bar Concepts, zeroed in on food trucks — at least those that parked along Wilson and Clarendon Blvds — as the enemy of local restaurants.

Beal swiftly organized a coalition of about a dozen Courthouse area restaurants who say that the trucks “are running amok” and having “a serious impact on these brick and mortar restaurants” by parking directly in front of their establishments. The collective effort was on display Thursday as owners took turns complaining about parking enforcement to police.

Food trucks, they said, were reserving precious street parking spots in front of restaurants by having workers park cars on the street as early as 6:00 a.m. Some weren’t even feeding the meter, they said.

There’s nothing illegal about reserving street parking spaces in such a manner, the cops said, though they did encourage the owners to call when they did spot a violation like an expired meter. There is also a two hour limit on parking, which is enforced, but there’s a loophole: trucks can simply pull into into another open space after two hours, provided it’s at least 25 feet away from their existing parking space.

With little recourse other than calling in the meter maids, the owners seemed to agree to double down on an unofficial group tactic: encouraging employees to park on the street, thus taking away available parking spaces from the trucks. One owner could be heard telling several employees to be sure to park on the street during their shifts. Another ran across the busy four-lane road when a spot opened up, driving his Mercedes from a small private lot behind his restaurant, making a U-turn and pulling into the open spot, thus boxing out the food truck hoard.

Beal — who was in D.C. during the fender bender fracas — insists that he doesn’t oppose food trucks, only their parking choices. He said trucks park directly in front of businesses, billowing smoke, creating crowds that block the sidewalk and taking away customers. He has been documenting the woes on a YouTube channel.

“No one opposes food trucks, they’re good for consumers and good for the economy,” he said via phone. “The problem is where they’re parked.”

Purposely blocking parking spots, for hours on end, only hurts restaurants by keeping the spots from potential customers, according to Beal. “It is kind of unethical,” he said of food trucks, or anyone else for that matter, reserving street parking spots for commercial gain.

Beal said he has been having constructive conversations with the county about solutions that could work for both restaurants and food trucks. That potential solution — which had until then not been revealed to the media — is creating and enforcing specific areas for food trucks to park in a given area.

Cara O’Donnell, spokeswoman for Arlington Economic Development, said the county is hoping to implement a “street vending zone” pilot program in Rosslyn within a few weeks.

(more…)

by Heather Mongilio — June 15, 2015 at 11:45 am 2,287 0

A group of Arlington residents held signs and sang before a County Board meeting to protest the decision to sell Reevesland farmhouse.

The residents were unhappy with the Board’s decision as well as what they described as a lack of transparency surrounding the hastily-called vote to sell.

“The Arlington community was not informed about the vote until only hours before it happened and thus there was zero public discussion of the issue before May 19. The sneaky, unresponsive vote by the Board majority was a complete slap in the face to thousands of Arlington residents,” said Sandra Kalscheur, the chair of the Reevesland Learning Center, during the public comment period on Saturday.

The County Board decided to sell the farmhouse in May after deciding it couldn’t find the projected $2-2.5 million it needed to restore the building for public use. Making the farmhouse available to the public would require a large restoration effort, including strengthening the floors, upgrading utilities and making it compliant with the American Disabilities Act, County Board Chair Mary Hynes said.

The county had been trying for three years to find a community group that could take over the farmhouse.

Protesters sang American classic “This Land is My Land” with words changed to make it “Reevesland is Your Land, Reevesland is My Land.” They also sang the “Ballad of Nelson Reeves” in the lobby before moving into the County Board meeting room.

The Reevesland Learning Center and some residents would like the County to turn the farmhouse into a community space where children could learn more about the farm’s history and healthy eating. It’s a vision that other members of the Arlington community share, Kalscheur said.

“We don’t want an unresponsive Board to sell off our history or sell out our kids,” she said.

The lack of transparency around the decision was another sore subject for the protesters. The five members of the Board acknowledged the problem, saying there would be a review of the process in the coming months.

“As a former government employee, I am surprised and disappointed in the three members whose recent action with no consultation or meaningful opportunity to comment and virtually no notice is a new low in transparency, community involvement and informed decision making. Even the few Arlingtonians that might agree with your outcome have universally condemned your methods,” said Arlington resident Ronald Battochi, who was a part of the protest group.

The Board’s May 19 decision was a 3-2 split of County Board members, with Hynes, Libby Garvey and John Vihsdaht voting to sell the building.

Hynes explained that the costs were too great for the county, but that the Board would be open to having the Reevesland Learning Center fundraise and work with private donors to fund the restoration. However, the group has been against private fundraising, Hynes said.

Despite the building’s sale, the public will still be able to access the lands around the house and see the historic sites, Hynes said. She was backed up by Garvey and Vihstadt, who pointed to the Arlington Arts Center, the Arlington Historical Society and the Arlington planetarium as examples of private groups that have partnered with the county and helped to preserve aging public facilities.

Vice Chair Walter Tejada voted against the sale and emphasized his displeasure with the Board’s decision and process.

“This is the last working farm in Arlington’s history,” he said. “That should mean something.”

by ARLnow.com — June 11, 2015 at 2:00 pm 1,942 0

Artisphere during the Silver Clouds exhibit

Artisphere hosted its final performances this past weekend, as it prepares to close for good at the end of the month. Supporters decry the closure as the county government prioritizing penny pinching over the arts. But Artisphere’s financial losses may have been secondary to another problem: lack of community engagement.

The cultural center in Rosslyn spent more than $1 million on marketing over four and a half years, largely targeting D.C. area arts aficionados with newspaper ads. The strategy paid off with sold-out niche concerts and events, but failed to attract the loyalty of many Arlington residents who have a more casual appreciation for the arts.

Our Lady of the Vanishing Arts, photo courtesy of ArtisphereInstead of the original vision of a hub for local arts groups and a community hangout, complete with a WiFi cafe, Artisphere became more of a regional draw for one-off performances. Some 75 percent of its audience came from outside Arlington and 83 percent of its artists from outside Virginia, according to a 2014 report.

After hastily opening on the novelty date of 10/10/10, before an executive director or a marketing director could even be hired, Artisphere’s finances proved to be a fiasco. Wildly over-optimistic expectations gave way to the realization that the center would only make a quarter of its projected visitor revenue in the first year. That, in turn, sparked community criticism, set off backtracking by policymakers and led to a series of changes that watered down community participation.

The cafe closed, Artisphere focused more on event rentals and a popular local theater company was booted out.

It didn’t help that Artisphere’s multitude of performance venues were small and, as officials figured out after opening, couldn’t host simultaneous events due to noise bleed.

The relative lack of participation from taxpaying Arlington residents and artists, in the end, may have been Artisphere’s biggest downfall. When Artisphere hit the chopping block, few residents showed up at County Board meetings to speak in its defense.

Artisphere visitors FY 2014“That’s exactly part of the issue,” said retiring Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan, in a May interview. “At some levels, it wasn’t reaching our community in such a way that won their support.”

(An online petition to save Artisphere gathered nearly the same number of signatures as a recent petition to save a large oak tree on N. Nottingham Street.)

Donnellan and the County Board faced criticism in the local arts world for the decision, with letters to the editor, the chair of the Arlington Commission for the Arts and even a Washington City Paper cover story implying that the Board was naive in closing Artisphere just because it was losing money.

“Artisphere’s closure is symptomatic of a much larger political view of culture in which the arts are important to community building, but funding them is not,” the City Paper wrote. It along with the Washington Post were the beneficiaries of 55 percent of Artisphere’s marketing budget.

But there was more that went into the decision to close than just dollars and cents. Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes said Artisphere was “able to create some wonderful shows” after “‘we got some of the right programming people in place,” but “there was a struggle in terms of what type of place [Artisphere] was going to be.”

Photo from the Here Cafe + Bar opening at Artisphere“Within our Cultural Affairs department there was a real desire to be cutting edge and to fill a niche they perceived in the D.C. arts scene,” Hynes said. “So people on the way up” were booked, but “those are people who who are developing an audience, not those who have an audience.”

There was discussion of hosting “community Saturdays” — with performances from school groups and other community-driven activities — “where we get people familiar with coming here because their kid is performing here.”

“But that didn’t fit with the image of what people thought of as [Artisphere],” Hynes said. “So I do think that audience was pretty constrained in terms of all of Arlington.”

“In the end we collectively didn’t see as much of an opportunity for full community participation here than we see in some other things we do,” Hynes said of the decision to close Artisphere and send about half of its budget back into other arts programming around Arlington. “When a locality is putting its tax money into helping the production of art, we have some obligation to consider how we give as many people in our community as possible the opportunity to consume good art.”

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