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Arlington County government headquarters (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Arlington County has filed a response to the Missing Middle lawsuit against it.

Ten residents are suing the county, arguing that the recently-passed zoning changes known as Missing Middle were approved illegally and would allow development that harms their lives.

In a response shared with ARLnow, dated last Tuesday, May 23, the county argues that the plaintiffs did not prove they, in particular, will be harmed by any new development. It also disputes the claims that the county broke specific provisions in Virginia law related to zoning deliberations and meeting procedures.

Now that both sides have made their cases in writing, a hearing in the civil division of Arlington County Circuit Court is set for July 11 at 10 a.m. In other recent zoning battles in Virginia courts, the lower courts ruled in favor of the county government, while the state Supreme Court overturned those decisions.

The complaint against the county was filed in April, about a month after the Arlington County Board ratified zoning changes that allow the construction of 2-6 unit homes on lots previously zoned for single-family homes.

The plaintiffs complained their property values will be hurt and their quality of life diminished by any new “Expanded Housing Option” or EHO development.

They also said the Arlington County Board failed to properly advertise what was being considered and did not do the due diligence needed to understand the impact of increased density on the neighborhood level.

Arlington County is challenging the legitimacy of the lawsuit, asking the court to rule that the facts of the Missing Middle saga invalidate the claims and dismiss the case so it cannot come before the court again.

On substantive grounds, the county challenges the 10 residents, saying they failed to show the zoning changes will burden them such that the county must provide relief.

For instance, the plaintiffs predicted several negative impacts as a result of the change: increased flooding, sewage backups, school overcrowding and difficulty driving on narrow streets cramped with cars parked on the street. Arlington County says that is speculative at best.

“No property has been developed under the terms of the Zoning Amendment, and any allegations of harm are pure speculation,” the county said in its lawsuit. “The court cannot be asked to issue an advisory opinion based on hypothetical facts.”

The 10 residents also say the Arlington County Board did not consider a long list of societal impacts of which state code requires consideration prior to zoning code changes.

Just because it did not conduct the “special studies or investigations” the plaintiffs claimed were necessary does not mean the factors were not considered at all, Arlington County argues.

“The Board Report, the testimony of the County’s professional staff, and the testimony of the members of the County’s Planning Commission, Housing Commission, Transportation Commission and other advisory commissions and public speakers shows that the County Board adequately considered the factors in [state code],” the suit says.

The plaintiffs also claim the county exceeded its authority when it instituted tree canopy requirements tied to the number of units on a property. They said it violates the Dillon Rule to require more than what is required in the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance.

Arlington County sees it differently.

“The county amended its zoning ordinance to create an incentive for tree plantings in exchange for increased density, as permitted through its power to administer incentive zoning,” it says.

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Buy Nothing project banner (via Buy Nothing Arlington (Northwest), VA/Facebook)

Thursday morning, Marsea Nelson woke up to a foreboding text from a friend.

He told her “he didn’t have ‘My Buy Nothing Facebook group got too political’ on his 2023 Bingo card,” she tells ARLnow.

Arguing that a local Facebook group for giving and receiving free stuff had gotten too big to be effective, the page’s volunteer admins have embarked on a process to splinter into smaller, more neighborhood-specific groups. The group currently serves a number of northern Arlington neighborhoods, plus some just outside of Arlington’s borders.

Just as they were about to launch the new groups and archive the legacy one, the group founder, Kayla Owen, stepped in and put a stop to it. She revoked their admin privileges, alleging that they had silenced people who disagreed with the plan while intentionally excluded her from the decision making.

She muted other posts and created a poll: split up or stay together? The admins would be reinstated if a majority wanted to move forward with the breakup.

“I can picture reading this in ARLnow,” said a Dominion Hills participant, who requested anonymity. “I think this is the kind of drama the rest of Arlington should read.”

Buy Nothing is a worldwide movement to help people befriend their neighbors while giving away stuff that cannot be sold or donated to a nonprofit. There are thousands of neighborhood-specific Facebook groups and millions of members, including several groups in Arlington.

Buy Nothing Arlington (Northwest), VA” was experiencing growing pains. The 3,000-member group had boundaries spanning from north of Route 50, all the way to McLean and then over to I-66 and Glebe Road. Some felt that competing for and picking up free stuff was becoming too difficult and theorized that was why some had stopped participating altogether.

While the admins decided four smaller groups were necessary, Owen’s poll found that 75% of respondents did not want to be divided up this way. Poll results in-hand, she decided “Buy Nothing Arlington (Northwest), VA” will remain and discussions of boundary changes will be shelved for now.

“After reading emotional outpourings from members about their sense of loss, I decided that I had to intervene so the community could determine its future direction,” Owen tells ARLnow.

Nelson says she respects this position but sympathizes with the admins, who worked hard on the smaller groups, called “sprouts.”

“It’s so sad, and so silly, that this community people held so dear got so ugly,” she said. “The majority of people wanted the group to stay together so they’re happy to ignore how this all went down.”

ARLnow reached out to some of the affected admins but did not hear back before deadline. Screenshots ARLnow reviewed indicate admins had supporters who criticised Owen’s maneuver and Owen herself for stepping in even though she left Arlington to move elsewhere in Northern Virginia. (For her part, she says Buy Nothing permits out-of-area admins as a “check” on the system.)

“I’m sure [the admins] are pissed,” the Dominion Hills member said. “They probably feel like there’s been a coup.”

On Facebook, one user said Owen’s tactics will turn off people from responding honestly.

“I think people who are turned off by drama will not respond,” the comment said. “Like others, the first word that came to mind was ‘coup.'”

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One person’s vacant building is another’s future pickleball facility.

Not to be topped by a County Board candidate’s suggestion to put pickleball facilities at the condemned Key Bridge Marriott, Board Vice-Chair Libbey Garvey mulled whether vacant office buildings could be retrofitted for courts.

“We’ve got these office buildings that are kind of empty, and we’re trying to figure out what to do with them,” she asked at the Board’s Tuesday meeting. “Is that a possibility?”

Already recognized in some rankings as a great place to play pickleball, Arlington County is looking to add more courts in response to the sport’s booming popularity. But it has found itself in a pickle, balancing pressure to add courts with pressure to address pickleball-related noise and land use concerns from some neighbors.

During the Arlington County Board conversation with the Dept. of Parks and Recreation, members took a diplomatic approach, in contrast to the threats of legal action, accusations of bullying and public urination, and late night TV lampooning that have characterized the ongoing local pickleball battle.

In addition to Garvey’s vision for pickleball taking over vacant office buildings, others floated nudging private clubs to get in on the fun. They said private courts could ease the burden on the local government to add facilities, mute the “pop” the paddles emit and help address the stubborn office vacancy rate.

Such possibilities would require working with Arlington Economic Development, said Dept. of Parks and Recreation Director Jane Rudolph.

“There’d have to be an evaluation with others who understand layouts of office building and warehouses and things and with [Arlington Economic Development] colleagues about what we could be doing in existing private spaces and if they could be built out,” she said.

Arlington Economic Development’s Director of Real Estate Development Marc McCauley told ARLnow that zoning changes the Arlington County Board approved on Saturday do open up opportunities for private pickleball facilities in vacant retail and commercial spaces.

“These private facilities, such as national operator Chicken N Pickle” — a sport, restaurant and event space — “are emerging concepts that could theoretically relieve some demand pressure on use of pickleball courts in public facilities,” McCauley said. “Challenges may include ceiling height, floor plate size and noise attenuation, but those issues would need to be studied by a property owner and potential tenant on a case by case basis.”

Another example is Kraken Kourts, with two locations in D.C. that offer pickleball, axe throwing, roller skating and a rage room — a place to break things to let off steam.

Board Chair Christian Dorsey asked whether DPR has considered how the the county could “encourage some operators to set up some pickleball facilities so that this doesn’t become solely a government responsibility.”

In communities known for their pickleball amenities, Dorsey observed there are major, private indoor-outdoor facilities which sometimes have “really substantial membership costs or drop-in fee costs.”

This includes, Board member Takis Karantonis noted, “some very private places with a lot of tennis courts — a lot of new tennis courts, actually.”

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A sign along Washington Blvd in Westover, in a neighborhood with duplexes (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 1:35 p.m. on 4/26/23) A group of residents has filed a lawsuit in Arlington Circuit Court alleging the zoning changes called Missing Middle are illegal.

The residents say Arlington County ran afoul of state law by rushing through the changes without considering impacts on infrastructure and community resources — a frequent criticism of the years-long policy discussion.

Last month, the Arlington County Board approved changes to the zoning code allowing up to six-unit dwellings on lots previously zoned only for single-family homes. The Board did approve a set of limitations intended to control the pace and impact of development, including parking minimums, permit caps and tree planting requirements.

According to “Arlington Neighbors for Neighborhoods,” a group that issued a press release on behalf of the plaintiffs, that was not enough.

“State law requires that zoning ordinances consider needs for transportation, schools, parks, recreation, and public spaces, as well as the conservation of natural resources,” the statement said. “The law also requires consideration of a locality’s comprehensive plan, which addresses stormwater, sanitary sewer, water distribution and more.”

The group said the lawsuit claims Missing Middle — also referred to by the county as “Expanded Housing Options” or EHO — is “arbitrary and capricious and bears no reasonable relationship to public health, safety, morals or the general welfare, as required by state law.”

(In addition to issuing a press release, Arlington Neighbors for Neighborhoods “has raised funds to support the litigation,” an attorney for the plaintiffs told ARLnow.)

Their lawsuit says the county also violated state law the following ways:

  • The zoning amendment process was not initiated by a proper Planning Commission motion or County Board resolution
  • The zoning amendment was not properly advertised
  • The EHO cap is a special exception to the zoning regulations and requires County Board review of applications
  • The County Board failed to share with the public documents that were furnished to it about EHO
  • The county violated the Dillon rule by knowingly requiring a number of shade trees that exceeds what Virginia allows localities to impose

Their petition asks the Circuit Court to declare that the zoning amendments violate state law and prevent the county from issuing EHO permits.

The allegations that the County Board violated Virginia Freedom of Information Act laws may require a hearing in the coming days, said another anti-Missing Middle group, Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future (ASF), in an email newsletter today.

“There will likely be other hearings in the coming months,” ASF said. “Then, of course, there may be appeals. Any complaint in a lawsuit consists of allegations which must be proven in court, and challenging zoning is surely an uphill battle.”

ASF noted that the FOIA allegation resembles a successful lawsuit against Fairfax County that led to the overturn of zoning changes it made two years ago. Last month, the Virginia Supreme Court declared the county’s 2021 zoning modifications void because the new code was adopted at a mostly virtual meeting.

One of the Fairfax County plaintiffs even advised Arlington residents in a post on Nextdoor to file a lawsuit.

“Sue them,” she said in response to a post musing about recalling the Arlington County Board. “We just won our lawsuit… it took two years, but it was worth it.”

In response, two residents pointed out that her victory was on procedural grounds due to how the meeting was conducted.

“It will likely pass again, with in-person public hearings and votes,” said one Donaldson Run resident. “Congratulations, you’ve succeeded in wasting taxpayer dollars and time.”

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Demolition began this weekend on the 70-year-old Broyhill mansion in the Donaldson Run neighborhood.

The lengths to which some have gone to oppose it, including allegedly impersonating a photographer and stealing tile today (Monday), has left a bitter taste in the mouths of the owners.

The 10-bedroom home at 2561 N. Vermont, near the Washington Golf and Country Club, went on the market last November for $3.6 million after the previous owner died and the beneficiary, the Catholic Prelature of Opus Dei, decided to sell it to a residential buyer, the Falls Church News-Press reported.

As of Janury, the only interested buyers were husband-and-wife duo Mustaq Hamza and Amanda Maldonado. They purchased the home — described on Redfin as a “jewel [that] unfolds like a diamond necklace” — f0r more than $1 million under asking price, with the intention of knocking it down and building something more suitable for family life.

“The house was built for entertaining, not for raising a family,” Maldonado told ARLnow this morning.

Some however, are upset to see it go. On Saturday, Hamza said people shouted profanities and walked onto the property and demanded materials be set aside.

“That’s not what we expected when we were trying to plan,” he said, adding that now, he and his wife are doing some “soul-searching.”

“Our intention coming here to build the house for our family seems predicated on the fact that this was a nice neighborhood to raise our children in and stay forever,” he said. “It seems not to be the case, and disappointed as we are, we’re open to having been wrong.”

Unwanted visitors — flouting signs saying “private property” and “danger” — continued on Monday afternoon, when ARLnow photographer Jay Westcott was taking photos of the demolition.

When Westcott arrived, he met a man impersonating a photographer, who announced he was “here to take the pictures.” In addition to a camera, he wore a fluorescent vest, a hard hat and a K95 mask, and left in his red Prius with, Hamza says, historically unremarkable tiles and air filters. He says he is considering filing a police report.

The couple insists that the home is not the historical marvel it has been made out to be. They have preserved items inside and given them away if people requested them, the couple said.

“There’s nothing architecturally stunning about the house — it’s a 1950s replica,” Maldonado said. “There’s nothing in the house that can’t be purchased today. We looked to see if there was anything worth preserving and anything that there was, we saved.”

Northern Virginia home builder Marvin T. Broyhill Sr. built the mansion in 1950 after making his fortune building the classic 3-bedroom brick homes that could be bought for $20,000 during the post-World War II housing boom, according to the neighborhood conservation plan for Donaldson Run.

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Men’s restroom sign at Sequoia Plaza (staff photo)

A controversial decision by Arlington Public Schools to change staff bathrooms so they do not lock from the outside has incited backlash from a number of teachers.

APS is embarking on a “lock and key” project to maintain the safety and security of buildings and “improve the key inventory process” at its 42 school buildings, per an email sent from Washington-Liberty High School Principal Antonio Hall to staff, shared with ARLnow.

As part of that work, single-occupancy staff bathrooms would be changed to only lock from the inside, granting access to students and staff who previously could not use these facilities.

Bathrooms within classrooms and clinics would have no locking mechanism at all, and for these facilities, “it is encouraged that signage be created if desired,” per an FAQ document prepared for staff, also shared with ARLnow.

The changes will “ensure all staff including maintenance, bus drivers, etc. have access without access to a key. In addition, this conversion ensures that all students have access to a single use bathroom regardless of the reason,” the document said.

Staff were informed of these changes on Wednesday and told they would be happening over spring break, which starts after school lets out today (Friday), teachers say. APS was not able to return a request for comment before deadline.

Teachers, some of whom shared comments to ARLnow under the condition of anonymity, say they feel disrespected by administrators. They are also frustrated that administrators made the decision without consulting any of the three teacher committees, according to Josh Folb, a leader within the teachers union Arlington Education Association.

The teachers who spoke to ARLnow said a number of staff restrooms have already been converted into single-use restrooms accessible to all students, prompting concerns that this will give students another place to use drugs.

Here is what one high school teacher had to say:

It is dumbfounding that less than two months after the death of a student due to overdose and countless more incidents of drug usage and risk assessments, the school district [is] determined to apply an overwhelming mandate that increases student risk (not safety) without any input, thought of execution, within a minimal timeline, and what would be assumed as an astronomical cost. All of this on top of the fact that it would now wholly remove any location for teachers to access a private restroom consistently during the already limited time that we do have.

My imagination runs wild at this notion considering we find new Instagram accounts every year created by students where pictures of teachers are unknowingly taken and posted on social media. This move would allow students to do so with literally our pants down.

A Washington-Liberty High School teacher with 25 years of experience told the School Board in a letter, shared with ARLnow, that he was “surprised and dismayed” by the decision.

“The currently shared single-use restrooms are already busy, and teachers have limited time for access, mainly between classes,” he said. “This decision represents a major change in my working conditions and environment… As a professional, do I also have reasonable access to a single-use restroom without having to use a group restroom with high school boys?”

During a speech to the School Board last night, Folb said the safe and orderly operation of the schools depends on teachers having a private place to respond to nature’s call and students not having a lockable space to consume drugs.

“Have we learned nothing?” he asked.

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(Updated at 11:10 a.m.) Last night, the Arlington County Board took a landmark step to allow the by-right development of 2-6 unit buildings throughout the county.

After the unanimous vote around 6:45 p.m., and additional statements by Board members, the room erupted in cheers from supporters, who shook hands and hugged and high-fived each other. There were, reportedly, a few teary eyes.

A slow trickle of opponents left the room as the meeting wore on, but many remained, swapping their yellow signs against upzoning for blue headstones mourning the burial of the “Arlington Way,” the name for the pathways citizens have for influencing policy-making.

Talk of a policy change like this dates back a decade and, for some Board members, was tied to tearful remembrances of conversations with the late County Board member, Erik Gutshall. After Amazon agreed to come to Arlington, the conversation picked up steam.

Arlington’s first step to increase housing stock was to allow accessory dwelling units. Its second step last night culminated more than two years of study that saw the proposal rebranded and modified to respond to some community concerns such as parking, tree canopy, and the pace of development.

There was lots of celebration on Twitter for the changes, which will go into effect on July 1 of this year.

A theme in the speeches County Board members made last night was that change is already here and county leaders have to respond to make sure the real estate market works for more people who want to live in Arlington.

In a statement from the advocacy group Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE), member Pat Findikoglu echoed this sentiment, noting that the county is already changing, with larger, more expensive single-family homes replacing more modest homes.

“Change in the housing market is inevitable,” she said. “How we shape it to meet new needs and still remain livable is the challenge. VOICE believes this Expanded Housing Options proposal does that.”

Board members made a few more compromises, removing a clause that would allow for fewer parking for homes close to certain bus networks, plus approving a five-year cap of 58 units per year and a method of dispersing allowable units by zoning district.

YIMBYs of Northern Virginia co-founder Jane Fiegen Green accepted these limitations on social media but still heralded the decision as a win. She said the limitations could result in “less housing than otherwise.”

“Our organization is concerned that limitations imposed on the policy will yield fewer homes, without any practical or political benefit,” YIMBYs of Northern Virginia said in a statement. “Yet beyond the zoning changes that will help end racial segregation in the County and bring forth more housing, the Missing Middle campaign has shown our neighbors that restrictions on density and growth damage their community’s ability to be welcoming, inclusive and forward-looking.”

One group opposed to the plan did not acknowledge the concessions in its colorful post-mortem.

“This County Board has plopped a half-baked cake on the table that Arlington residents must now eat,” said Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future’s Peter Rousselot. “Arlington County is flying blind on Missing Middle, but it’s Arlington residents who now are headed for a crash landing.”

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Today, Wednesday, could be the day that the Arlington County Board allows the by-right construction of 2-6 unit homes in the county’s lowest density neighborhoods.

The scheduled vote on proposed zoning amendments, known by the shorthand Missing Middle or Expanded Housing Options, would culminate nearly a year of intense discussion since a draft was published in May and updated in November, and before that, more than a year of study and public engagement.

Ahead of the Board’s vote, more than 250 people signed up to urge the Board to move forward with the most expansive options, build more consensus by making a few tweaks, or reject the proposal altogether. The long list of speakers led the County Board to dedicate its regular meeting Saturday and carryover meeting Tuesday to hearing public comment, pushing the vote to today.

On Saturday, about 200 people spoke during the marathon meeting that went from around 8:30 a.m. to just before 6 p.m.

Of the 204 speakers who took the podium on Saturday, some 57% were in favor of the zoning changes, according to a spokesman for YIMBYs of Northern Virginia, an advocacy group supporting the change. At the conclusion of Tuesday night, 226 people had spoken across the two days of hearings, of whom nearly 54% were in favor.

About 50 speakers in support outnumbered about 20 opponents during Planning Commission hearings earlier this month, per commissioner Daniel Weir.

Representatives from the Planning, Transportation and Housing commissions, as well as the Disability Advisory Commission, all voiced strong support for the proposal. By another metric, more than 6,000 people have signed a petition against the proposal as of Tuesday night.

On Saturday, a number of renters and homeowners shared their personal stories of saving — or trying to save– enough money to buy a home in Arlington to underscore the stakes of the changes.

Proponents said more people would have the option to stay in Arlington with Missing Middle housing allowed throughout the county. Opponents disputed how helpful it would be, with some predicting surging property values should the zoning changes be approved. Other opponents predicted the dwellings would deflate property values and jeopardize their long-term investments.

Through an interpreter, Héctor Herrera urged the Board to allow Missing Middle to give Hispanic residents more home-buying opportunities. He and his wife tried twice, unsuccessfully, to buy in 2010 and then in 2016, while working two jobs and even with the help of their adult children.

“Since I came to the U.S. — and I thank God for this wonderful country — I have worked this whole time in the construction industry in Arlington,” Herrera said. “I’ve seen how much it costs to build a house that costs more than $1 million. My community that represents 20% of Arlington cannot buy a house.”

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Update at 9:40 a.m. — The Saturday County Board meeting is underway and 248 people are signed up to speak about Missing Middle. The Board expects to hear speakers today and during its Tuesday meeting before deliberating and potentially voting on Wednesday, according to County Board Chair Christian Dorsey. The Wednesday meeting will start at 4 p.m.

Earlier: The Arlington County Board is set to vote Saturday on zoning changes intended to add housing by allowing greater density in single-family neighborhoods.

The vote is the culmination of nearly a decade of discussion by elected officials that picked up steam after Amazon agreed to come to Arlington.

Since then, the county has taken incremental steps toward increasing housing. First, it allowed accessory dwelling units. Then, in fall 2020, it kicked off the “Missing Middle” housing study.

After more than two years of grassroots advocacy, politicking and vigorous debate — some of it caustic, introspective and divisive — County Board members have a final vote on their weekend agenda. There are no indications, at least as of today, that the discussion will get moved to the Board’s traditional carryover meeting next Tuesday.

The rezoning plan known as Missing Middle has been rebranded and modified in response to some community concerns such as parking, tree canopy, and the pace of development. The county intends it to address the racial, socio-economic and environmental impacts of previous exclusionary housing practices, in addition to allowing more of the moderate density housing currently limited by zoning codes.

Ahead of the vote, a trio of current and former Planning Commissioners, including two architects, published a guidebook with 12 “fixes” they say will help the county meet its goals more effectively. They say the goals of the current proposal are understandable and laudable but they predict numerous problems once the plan is in place.

“We felt that it was important to… not just criticize what the county has, but study what other communities have done and put on the table proposals that address some of what we see as planners and architects as shortfalls in the county plan,” said architect and former commissioner Brian Harner in a meeting of the Arlington County Civic Federation housing committee Thursday night.

The “fixes” range from placing more limitations on height, lot coverage and density to allowing more accessory dwelling units — effectively creating cottage clusters — and building in tools to incentivize affordability and reuse of existing homes, rather than teardowns.

These may come too late, given the vote is set for tomorrow, but Harner chalks this up to the public engagement process once the county had a draft in October 2022.

“The process was teed up in such a way that there was no chance for adequate public discussion,” Harner tells ARLnow.

For instance, the Planning Commission had just over one week to read the document and prepare for three meetings in rapid succession around the Thanksgiving holiday.

“In response, we created the guidebook, hoping to chart a course to a more well-considered EHO,” he continued, using the abbreviation for “Expanded Housing Options,” another term used by the county for Missing Middle. “The Board should pause and improve its proposal before adoption, but if not, we hope our work provides a set of tools to help Arlington get to a better EHO through the follow-on work that will be essential for overall success.”

Specifically, they say the proposal allows buildings that are too tall, too big and too dense, while falling short on affordability, equity, environmental preservation and neighborhood character. The Missing Middle proposal limits multifamily structures on lots to what is currently allowed for single-family detached homes, which the guidebook authors suggested is too big.

“We don’t see it as a zero-sum game where density fights against other qualitative aspects,” Harner said in the CivFed meeting. “We think we can have them both.”

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Voting during the CivFed meeting on March 14, 2023 (via CivFed/Facebook)

A battle over how to improve public confidence in county government has driven a wedge between two large community organizations in Arlington.

The Arlington branch of the NAACP is leaving the Arlington County Civic Federation after a bitter battle over two resolutions intended to recommit the local government to the “Arlington Way.”

The clash came to a head last night (Wednesday) when delegates to the federation of civic groups voted 75-32 for a resolution, introduced by some former CivFed presidents, that included harsh criticism of county processes.

The NAACP had proposed a milder substitute resolution, focused on improving public engagement.

The tussle is downstream of two shifts in Arlington. The first occurred amid the racial reckoning of 2020, which resulted in CivFed pledging to be more diverse. The second occurred as Missing Middle, the proposal to allow greater density in single-family home neighborhoods, laid bare issues many residents say pervade civic engagement.

“A few years ago, the NAACP joined CivFed in a good faith attempt to assist the organization evolve, transform and grow; however, our organizational mission, vision, and values don’t seem to align well,” NAACP President Mike Hemminger said in an email shared with ARLnow. “We wish the CivFed the very best in the future.”

He said the NAACP has appreciated the chance to engage with members in recent years.

“Our sincere prayer is that your organization will one day accomplish the diversity, equity, inclusion and sense of belonging that so many are craving from leader organizations in the community,” he said.

CivFed President John Ford said he was disappointed to learn of the NAACP’s decision last night, especially after 98% of members voted for its admission to the federation in 2020.

“CivFed and NAACP continue to share many goals, and the many associations and warm, respectful relationships we have built with our NAACP colleagues will endure,” he said in a statement. “We hope they may seek to rejoin us in the future. And I am certain that the two organizations will continue to collaborate in many areas for the benefit of all Arlingtonians.”

While there is one overt reference to Missing Middle, long-standing criticisms of this zoning amendment permeate the text and its 100-plus footnotes, including one resolution.

It urges the County Board to adopt a policy “preventing implementation of plans, policies or projects (new major initiatives or revisions) in the absence of a thorough and data-supported analysis of the potential and cumulative impacts.”

The NAACP instead urged the county to invest “more resources in comprehensive planning and developing a more sophisticated, data-driven toolkit for anticipating, addressing, and communicating likely impacts from County policies.”

The original resolution ruffled feathers of other community groups, too, including YIMBYs of Northern Virginia, a group advocating for more housing that has been vocal in the push for Missing Middle housing in Arlington.

In its own statement, the group said an appendix to CivFed’s motion is a “100-page laundry list of personal attacks, vague accusations of dismissiveness by County staff and Board members, unfounded insinuations of conflicts of interest by Advisory Group appointees, plus multiple direct attacks on YIMBYs of Northern Virginia.”

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Pickleball under the lights at Lubber Run (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Ahh pickleball, the hottest thing going with senior citizens, Tom Brady’s retirement sport of choice, and an unlikely candidate for the second-most controversial story of the decade in Arlington.

As ARLnow was first to report last year, many neighbors of Arlington’s recently-established pickleball courts have come to vehemently oppose it, owing to the loud “pop” the ball makes when it hits a paddle. The percussive sound can be heard within nearby houses, at all hours of the day and — in the case of lighted courts — into the night.

It’s so infuriating to some neighbors, that there have been organized efforts against the pickleball courts, including threats of lawsuits, in at least two Arlington neighborhoods.

That culminated last month in a campaign of dueling pro- and anti-pickleball flyers and posters distributed around Penrose and the Walter Reed Community Center, where the county is planning to build a sizable cluster of dedicated pickleball courts.

From ARLnow’s Feb. 13 story:

In a flyer that’s now being disseminated around the neighborhood, opponents are leveling accusations of “bullying of our children by pickleball players,” “public urination on playground and sensory garden,” and causing “excessive continuous noise from dawn to 10 p.m. every day.”

If more pickleball courts are added, it will even be more of a “public nuisance” the flyer says. It does not go into greater detail about the accusations.

“Arlington County is giving away our rights to Walter Reed Community Center (WRCC) to build a dedicated Pickleball Cluster,” it reads. “Current issues will get worse with conversion of 3 tennis to 9 pickleball courts.”

The fracas was noted a few days ago by Axios, which led to a lampooning last night on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. (See 0:52)

Arlington is not alone in stirring up a full-blown pickleball controversy.

In the Boston ‘burb of Wellesley, Mass., news crews descended last week as townsfolk near pickleball courts rattled their sabres against the infernal pop, a matter of civic concern for at least a few months. Pitched pickleball opposition over in Cape Cod prompted the hiring of noise-control consultants and a Wall Street Journal article last summer.

Pickleball players, of course, are inclined to defend their sport, which is rocketing in popularity as a recreational activity and attracting the attention of celebrities, pro athletes and large companies. There are hopes that pickleball paddles and balls will evolve and become quieter. But that’s not going to stop people from playing and there’s an argument to be made that the noise isn’t that bad all the way across the street from a court.

For the time being, though, it’s undeniable that outdoor pickleball can be loud and annoying to at least some neighbors. Which side of the proverbial net are you on?

Hat tip to Flood Czar


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