Two residents have launched a petition to try to change the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance after the Board of Zoning Appeals denied their plan to add a story to their home.
John and Gina Quirk, who live on 20th Road N. in the North Highlands neighborhood north of Rosslyn, had an application to convert an unused attic at their duplex home (pictured above) into a third-story bedroom rejected by the BZA late last year.
John Quirk said the “minimal” addition to make more room for their expanding family had the support of all their neighbors. It also had the support of some BZA members, who said at their December meeting that the fact that it stayed within the property was laudable.
“I think this is a really wonderful attempt to gain more space without increasing the footprint, and if we don’t grant these kinds of variances, then we’re faced with variances where they want to expand with the footprint,” said BZA member Charles Smith. “I think this gives developers and builders a [really] good model on how you can gain more with less.”
But the BZA voted down the proposal by a 3-2 margin on the grounds that the R2-7 zone for the property, a residential zone for townhouses and two-family homes, does not allow for such expansions by homes that were built before the Zoning Ordinance took effect. This home was built in 1939.
Such extensions are allowed for homes in other, similar residential zones, but in the Quirks’ zone it requires a special exception from the BZA.
In denying the extension, BZA members urged the Quirks to petition the County Board to change the Zoning Ordinance to allow the extensions in the zone where their home is.
“There’s hundreds like you, so maybe it could be a worthwhile community project for you to be the poster child for,” said BZA member Peter Owen, who also said the Zoning Ordinance is “broken.”
So the Quirks have done just that, and launched an online petition that has 91 supporters so far. The pair said their efforts could help the county address its lack of affordable housing and help people not be priced out of the county when they need more space.
“New county initiatives champion Missing Middle Housing as a strategy to support walkable, urban neighborhoods,” they wrote. “Duplexes are a perfect example of Missing Middle Housing if they can be improved to be compatible in scale to single family homes.”
Image via John and Gina Quirk
The first Democrat has thrown his hat into the ring — or, at least, made a media announcement — for this year’s Arlington County Board race.
Attorney Matt de Ferranti filed the paperwork for his bid on Tuesday (January 2). He currently is legislative director for the National Indian Education Association and previously worked as a teacher in Houston.
He is the first declared candidate against incumbent John Vihstadt (I), who is running for re-election.
In a statement, de Ferranti said he is “running to expand opportunity for everyone in Arlington County.”
“Staying true to Arlington’s history and our shared values is the recipe for Arlington to continue to be a great place for everyone,” he said. “Our commitment to housing affordability, building the schools we need to educate every Arlington student, and maintaining our great transportation system are key. Investing in our parks and open spaces, working locally to address climate change and keeping our community safe and inclusive are sound investments in our future. We can — and must — make smart investments while also being fiscally responsible.”
de Ferranti has been on the county’s Housing Commission since 2014, and served on the Affordable Housing Study Working Group from 2014 through the adoption of the County’s Affordable Housing Master Plan in 2015.
He has also been a member of the Budget Advisory Council for Arlington Public Schools since 2014, and has served as chair since June 2017. He has also worked with Feeding America, Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together and the Education Trust.
“I’m running for the Arlington County Board because I know and love this community,” he said. “And because I know that, together, we can put our shared values into practice and expand opportunity for everyone in Arlington County.”
de Ferranti is expected to make his first speech as a candidate at the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s meeting on Wednesday, January 10. In the near future, ACDC will decide how it will choose its nominee: whether through a primary election, the preferred choice of Arlington Young Democrats and others, or a caucus like it used last year.
Outgoing ACDC chair Kip Malinosky said that “there are a couple other people interested in running, but no one [else] to my knowledge that has filed or ready to announce.”
Katie Cristol will serve as Arlington County Board chair for 2018, with Christian Dorsey nominated as vice chair alongside her.
Both were nominated and unanimously voted in at the County Board’s organizational meeting (video) last night (Tuesday), where members lay out their agendas for the year. This year’s meeting avoided the political wrangling of last year, when Cristol was elected vice chair.
In her remarks after being elected chair, Cristol said she would focus on protecting and adding affordable housing and work to help Metro return to a “sound footing” financially. The Washington Post noted her relative youth — 32 — and said she is the first millennial to lead a county dominated by those in the 20-34 age group.
One of Cristol’s other priorities is to continue work on the county’s nascent childcare initiative, which began this year and is looking to expand options and the quality of child care available in Arlington.
“Child care accessibility similarly speaks to the foundational values of Arlington County,” Cristol said. “The idea that this place is a place for young families is part of our ‘old story,’ at least since an influx of veteran families in the postwar years made Arlington a ground zero for the Baby Boom.”
Dorsey called on the county to establish its own consumer protection bureau to educate businesses and residents about their rights and settle disputes between the two. Like Cristol, he also said affordable housing and Metro will be key priorities this year. The Board last year hiked property taxes to help, in part, to pay for increased Metro costs.
Dorsey said the consumer protection bureau could be a crucial addition, which he said “does not require substantial new funding.”
“We frequently hear complaints involving predatory towing, billing and service issues with cable and telecommunications companies, predatory lenders, identity theft, hired transportation, rental housing, and general contract enforcement,” he said. “I believe there are beneficial outcomes in dispute resolution and prevention that a consumer protection bureau can promote.”
Libby Garvey, now the longest-serving County Board member after the retirement of Jay Fisette last year, said she wants to work on public discussions and ensuring they remain civil. She urged residents to give feedback on a draft guide on Civic Engagement, which will be finalized this year.
It’s a new year and, at the Arlington County Board’s annual organizational meeting tonight, Board members will set a new(-ish) direction for 2018.
The Board now has a new member — Erik Gutshall — who prevailed in the Democratic caucus and then the general election last year. He replaces long-time Board member Jay Fisette, who declined to run for another term, while Libby Garvey has become the longest-serving Board member.
With a new County Board and a new year of civic life to contemplate, we wanted to know what your New year’s resolutions are for Arlington.
We’ve taken a bunch of things we often hear from readers and put them the poll below. Select your top 3 from the list, and let us know in the comments if you have any others.
A “high adventure” ropes course that allows users to swing at the same level as treetops is one of several improvements set for Upton Hill Regional Park.
The park (6060 Wilson Blvd) in Seven Corners, will add a ropes course near its pool. The courses typically have sections constructed in trees or made of utility poles, and are designed to be a challenging activity. The park already has batting cages, mini golf, pools and trails.
In a presentation to the Arlington County Board last month, executive director Paul Gilbert of the Northern Virginia Regional Parks Authority, which manages Upton Hill, said the “high adventure course” has been a priority of people surveyed in the park for two years.
“You’ll be able to go all the way up, essentially, to the tree line and get a stunning view out over Arlington from there,” he told the Board. “We’re really excited. We think this will be a signature feature, something that in Visit Arlington promotions, you’ll probably have pictures of people up there and the wonderful views.”
In addition, that area of the park near the existing swimming pool is set for a new building to handle ticket sales for the course and the batting cages, with a section of that new structure available to rent for private events. The area would also get new outdoor seating and 91 new parking spaces.
Meanwhile, the area of the park near its entrance from Wilson Blvd is also set for a revamp. Gilbert said NOVA Parks will add a “high-end” playground, renovate the bathroom building and add new trails, seating areas and game tables.
Gilbert added that the authority is looking to add more lighting, and build a new entrance off Wilson Blvd with a small parking lot at its base, with the current driveway changed for trail use.
“It will be a very dynamic, interesting area,” Gilbert said, noting the authority’s desire to make that part of the park “sort of more of an urban place to hang out.”
But the $3 million plan has already come in for criticism from some quarters. Local activist Suzanne Smith Sundberg said not enough has been done to assess the impact on the park’s trees, planning for transportation needs has been inadequate, and there is a lack of transparency in the way NOVA Parks collected its survey data.
“By adding a new driveway, with an additional curb cut on Wilson Blvd, plus nearly an acre of paved parking, NVRPA will degrade one of the few remaining natural areas in Arlington County,” she wrote.
She added that more should have been done to engage with those who live in the nearby buildings like the Patrick Henry Apartments and the Seven Corners Apartments, among others.
“Whereas I sympathize with NVRPA’s need to generate more revenue, monetizing scarce natural land by converting it into developed land (particularly in an area that is already heavily developed) seems like a very high price to pay for a questionable gain,” Sundberg wrote in a lengthy email provided to ARLnow.com. “Without more precise information, it is difficult to see how this project makes sense from an environmental or economic standpoint as currently envisioned.”
For his part, Gilbert said the project will not interrupt natural resources already in the park. The plan still needs approval from the Virginia Department of Transportation — which controls Wilson Blvd near the park — as well as site plan approval from the county.
Images 1-3 via NOVA Parks presentation.
A long-vacant storefront on the first floor of a Clarendon apartment building will be used as a child care center.
The Arlington County Board on Tuesday (December 19) unanimously approved a proposal to use space at the Garfield Park building (925 N. Garfield Street) for a daycare facility called A+ Kids.
County staff said the space, Suite D, has never had a retail tenant since the building opened. It is around the corner and in the same building as the recently-opened Board Room.
The center will have space for up to 60 children, and comes after the official kick-off of the county’s Child Care Initiative to try and expand choices for daycare. A final number of children will be subject to review by the county’s Child Care Office and Inspection Services Division.
It would be open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and use the building’s on-site parking garage to provide the required one parking space per employee.
The center will use some on-street parking spaces on N. Fillmore Street as a drop-off and pick-up zone, and make use of several existing parks as outdoor play space.
Board vice chair Katie Cristol praised the partnership between the various county departments to make the new child care center a reality in a previously unused space.
“It’s nice to see an otherwise unoccupied retail space going for this use,” she said.
The Arlington County Board voted yesterday (Tuesday) to buy vacant property in Aurora Highlands to create space for new parkland in the neighborhood.
The Board voted 4-1 to buy a bungalow at 905 20th Street S. and the adjacent vacant lot for $1.23 million. Chair Jay Fisette voted against the proposal.
Under a plan put forward by county staff, the house would be demolished and the driveway removed to make room for a quarter-acre public park at the intersection of 20th Street S. and S. Ives Street.
Fisette raised concerns at some aspects of the process, and the precedent it might create. Members of the Aurora Highlands Civic Association told the county about the opportunity buy the lot, and Fisette said that might create an “out of hand” system where residents request the county buy land and create more parks.
“To me, the one universal reality that I’ve experienced, given the choice or an opportunity of a park, 95 percent of people will ask for, sign a petition and want a park. Everybody likes a park,” Fisette said. “In this case, it makes it harder for me, since I can’t really justify how to distinguish this very well from the next five or 10 or 20 or 30 requests that will come, that to me is where the focus should go: how you distinguish one opportunistic lot from another.”
Board vice chair Katie Cristol also had some misgivings given the popularity of parks and how other neighborhoods could start requesting the county buy land to accommodate them. She pushed staff to show that there is a need for this new park in Aurora Highlands.
“I think if we leave it to what we’re hearing from community members about the need in their neighborhood or about the relative use of the other parks, everyone will identify a need for more parks in their neighborhood,” she said. “It’s one of the more popular uses for land in the county.”
Someone currently rents the house, but earlier this month agreed with its owner to terminate the lease on February 1, 2018, with no rent due for January. The property’s assessed 2017 value is $1.068 million.
At this stage, county staff said they intend to turn the land into casual park space with no programming, and Board members were convinced that the acquisition is worth it.
“I do look at the strategic nature of the opportunity and the relative value with which it can be had, and that ultimately tips the balance in favor of thinking this is worthwhile,” Board member Christian Dorsey said.
Photo via Google Maps
Beyer Blasts GOP Tax Bill — Rep. Don Beyer is, to say the least, not a fan of the Republican tax bill that is expected to pass the House and be sent to the president’s desk later today. “At its core, this bill is an immoral redistribution of wealth towards the richest among us at a cost of trillions of dollars, and I believe that those who voted for this monstrosity will be held accountable,” Beyer said in a statement. [Rep. Don Beyer, Twitter]
Single Vote Swings Va. House — Thanks to a Democratic candidate in Newport News winning her race by a single vote, as determined in a recount, the Virginia House of Delegates is now evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, ending a majority the GOP has maintained since 2000. [Washington Post]
‘Dominion Pint’ Coming to Arlington — The owner of Meridian Pint (also Brookland Pint and Smoke & Barrel) in D.C. is planning to open a new craft beer-centric outpost somewhere in North Arlington. The location has not yet been announced, but it will be called “Dominion Pint.” [PoPville]
DESIGNArlington Winners Announced — The Arlington County Board on Tuesday recognized the ten 2017 DESIGNArlington award winners for “outstanding architectural or landscape design in the County.” Among the winners are the new Marymount University building in Ballston, the Tellus apartment building in Courthouse, “The Quill” public art project in Rosslyn and two private North Arlington residences. [Arlington County, Arlington County]
Gutshall Sworn In — The newest Arlington County Board member, Erik Gutshall, was sworn in at yesterday’s Board meeting, while outgoing County Board Chair Jay Fisette received a standing ovation. [Twitter]
Changes to Historic Preservation Process — The Arlington County Board voted unanimously last night to revise and further codify the process for requesting historic preservation studies. Until now, any single individual could request a “historic preservation overlay district” study, which requires significant county staff time to complete. Before the vote, such a study could even be requested without consulting property owners in the proposed district. [Arlington County]
Arlington Man Dies in Plane Crash — Paul Schuda, a National Transportation Safety Board official and Arlington resident, was among three people killed in the crash of a small plane in Indiana. [NPR, Legacy]
Photo courtesy Peter Golkin
County Aims to Fix Boring Columbia Pike Architecture — “Arlington County Board members on Dec. 16 approved amendments to the county’s zoning ordinance that revamps existing regulations for Pike properties that are built under the Form-Based Code, a 15-year-old process that aims to speed the development timeline but has had the unintended consequence of rendering architectural creativity persona-non-grata on the Pike.” [InsideNova]
McAuliffe Proposes Metro Funding Plan — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is proposing a $150-million-per-year state funding plan for Metro. The plan includes using a portion of Northern Virginia’s regional transportation sales tax and increasing three other regional taxes. [WTOP]
Gutshall to Be Sworn In Today — Erik Gutshall, the newest Arlington County Board member, will be sworn in today at 5 p.m. at county headquarters in Courthouse. [InsideNova]
Pentagon Had UFO Office — The truth is out there, in Arlington — at the Pentagon, specifically. It was revealed this past weekend that the Pentagon had a secretive program that investigated reports of Unidentified Flying Objects. The “Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program” officially ended in the 2012. [Politico, Washington Post]
Phoenix House Renovation and Expansion — “On time and on budget – and without a dollar of government funding – Phoenix House Mid-Atlantic on Dec. 12 unveiled new and updated facilities in Arlington aimed at giving an extra boost to patients moving through the addiction-recovery process.” [InsideNova]
The East Falls Church Metro station could get more bus stops in the future, if the Virginia Department of Transportation agrees to an Arlington County plan.
The Arlington County Board voted unanimously Saturday (December 16) to ask VDOT to redraw a limited access line for I-66 next to the Metro station’s park and ride lot, and make it parallel to the highway.
The highway’s limited access lines restrict uses on some of the land that surrounds it, which is intended to make the highway safer and easier to maintain. The land in question bounded by the line is currently used as a park and ride bus loop.
Metrobus and Fairfax Connector are planning more bus service connecting the station to Seven Corners, while Alexandria is exploring a bus rapid transit service to Tysons Corner, with a stop at the East Falls Church Metro station. Staff said the growth of bus service means this change is necessary.
“It is because of these myriad transit pressures, as well as ongoing coordination with VDOT related to moving more people more efficiently, that the County is requesting a change in the limited access line to allow for more land that can be used for purposes other than highway needs at the East Falls Church Metrorail Station,” staff wrote in a report. “By enacting this shift now, the County can feasibly plan, with its partners, for future bus-to-rail transfer capacity at the East Falls Church Metrorail station on land that is now used as a park and ride facility, and that will be used as a park and ride facility for the foreseeable future.”
Because VDOT owns the land, it has the final say on any line shifts.
Photo (top) via Arlington County, (bottom) courtesy Elvert Barnes
Arlington County has received a $25,000 federal grant to fund programming for its Art Truck.
The National Endowment for the Arts awarded the grant, which will be matched by $25,000 in county money for a total of $50,000 in funding, in June. The Arlington County Board voted unanimously Saturday (December 16) to receive the grant.
The grant will help with expenses, commission original artwork and hire artists for programming. The Art Truck is part of approximately 1,000 projects to receive federal money.
It travels to locations like farmers markets, neighborhood events, public libraries and after-school events, with its projects ranging from pop-up galleries to performances.
“The main goal of the Arlington Art Truck is to demystify the artmaking process, to tear down the four walls, turn it inside out and bring the ‘museum’ to the people,” Michelle Isabelle-Stark, director of Arlington Arts and Cultural Affairs, said in a statement earlier this year.
The total $50,000 funding help pay for artists’ fees, transportation and hotels ($26,130); vehicle costs ($8,455); technology needs ($4,027); printing, art and office supplies ($5,638); and marketing and advertising materials ($5,750).
Image via Arlington Cultural Affairs
Two local parks will receive extensive renovations under plans unanimously approved by the Arlington County Board at its meeting Saturday (December 16).
Benjamin Banneker (1680 N. Sycamore Street) and Fairlington (3308 S. Stafford Street) Parks will benefit. The former, near the East Falls Church Metro station, has expanded in recent years as the county has acquired more land.
For Benjamin Banneker Park, the Board approved a long-term vision for the park, which includes replacing its existing amenities and improving its trails. It will also give more protection to the Four Mile Run stream, a major feature of the 12.5-acre park.
Per a county press release, the long-term plans for the park include:
- Widening trails: Trails will be widened to 10 to 12 feet, following guidelines from the adopted Arlington Master Transportation Plan – Bicycle Element.
- Improving accessibility: A sidewalk connection from 16th Street N. to the parking lot will be added as well as a sidewalk around the parking lot perimeter, which will link internal sidewalks and trails with park amenities.
- Relocating playground: The playground will be shifted further from the stream along 18th Street N. The new location will be separated from trails and visible from the street. It will include new play equipment, more seating and tables.
- Parking lot improvements: The parking lot will be reconfigured and restriped to better accommodate up to 25 cars. The footprint of the lot will be reduced and made more efficient.
- Renovating Dog Park: The dog parks surface will be replenished and there will be new furnishings and play features.
“This plan will make Benjamin Banneker Park more accessible, provide more protection for Four Mile Run stream, which runs through the park, improve the park’s trails, and replace its playground equipment,” County Board chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. “We appreciate the great work that staff and the community did in crafting this well thought out plan.”
Separately, the Board approved a construction contract for the final phase of renovations at Fairlington Park.
The final phase will include replacing the park’s amphitheater with a playground for children in the 2-5 and 5-12 age groups. It will also add outdoor fitness equipment, a picnic area, improved ADA accessibility, furniture, landscaping, and improvements to drainage and stormwater management.
Board Votes for Housing Conservation District — The Arlington County Board on Saturday voted 4-1 in favor of the creation of Housing Conservations Districts, which will make it more difficult for property owners to convert multifamily buildings into single-family homes. The Board says there is an urgent need to preserve market-rate affordable apartments, though critics charged that the Board rushed a decision that will restrict the rights of private property owners. [Washington Post]
Volunteers Place 245K Wreaths at ANC — “The weather was chilly but that didn’t stop huge crowds from heading to Arlington National Cemetery to help out with the annual wreath laying Saturday. Traffic was jammed and sidewalks were packed with long lines of volunteers.” [WTOP, Twitter]
Doctor Charged With Spiking Drink with Abortion Pill — A doctor who had recently moved to Arlington was arrested in May and charged with spiking his pregnant girlfriend’s drink with an abortion pill, which then caused her to lose the baby. He’s currently being held at the Arlington County jail, awaiting trial. [Fox News]
Bridging the Biking Gender Gap in Arlington — “Despite overall growth in the number of people biking to work, there are still some challenges that need to be addressed by cities, organizations, and employers for more women to bike more often.” [BikeArlington]
Children Visit Incarcerated Parents — Children of inmates at the Arlington County Detention Facility in Courthouse were able to visit and play with their incarcerated parents during the jail’s annual holiday party. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Phil
The amphitheater at Fairlington Park is set to be replaced by a playground in the park’s final phase of renovations.
The final phase for the park at 3308 S. Stafford Street includes a playground for children in the 2-5 and 5-12 age groups, outdoor fitness equipment, a picnic area, improved ADA accessibility, furniture, landscaping, and improvements to drainage and stormwater management.
It marks the completion of a project that began in 2010 with the first round of renovations to the park. The Arlington County Board will vote on the final phase at its meeting tomorrow (Saturday).
During construction, the athletic field would be closed. County staff said they are “working with the Fairlington Creative Preschoolers Program and Fairlington Cooperative Playgroup to identify other spaces in the park that can be used for children’s play while the new playground is being constructed.”
“The outdoor amenities for Fairlington Park are past their life expectancy and are in need of replacement,” staff wrote in a report on the project. “Through meetings with program staff and feedback during the public engagement, it was determined that the existing amphitheater does not get much use. Rather than replace the amphitheater, it was determined that it will be removed as part of the project to make additional room for the playground.”
The Board will vote on whether to award a contract worth just over $1.9 million for the park renovations, with just over $190,000 in contingency for change orders. Staff recommended approval.
Chamber Calls for Pause on Housing Conservation District — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is calling for the Arlington County Board to pump the brakes on a proposed Housing Conservation District policy, set for a vote at tomorrow’s Board meeting. The Chamber says the policy would affect more than 450 privately-owned properties. “The County’s failure to provide any notice to property owners that would be affected by the Framework is inconsistent with Arlington’s established government process and the level of transparency the community has come to depend on,” said Chamber President Kate Bates. [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]
Carlin Springs Bridge Work to Resume — Demolition of the Carlin Springs Road Bridge over George Mason Drive was curtailed by winter weather last weekend, but is set to resume this weekend. Drivers should expect a number of detours in the area. [Twitter]
Fisette Tribute Packs Local Church — “A Dec. 13 tribute to departing Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette was about 90 percent heartfelt thanks for his 20 years of service in elected office. And about 10 percent celebrity roast.” The event was so well-attended that the parking lot of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington was filled to capacity by those whom Fisette has not yet convinced to take the Car-Free Diet. [InsideNova, InsideNova]
Gossip: Britt McHenry Back on Local Airwaves? — A noted local Twitter user who goes by the name “Clarendon Bros” shared some local TV gossip last night, claiming that Britt McHenry was seen auditioning for a job at Fox 5. McHenry at one point lived in Arlington — it is unclear if she still does — and had a well-publicized run-in with local towing company Advanced Towing. [Twitter]
Fox Leaves Crystal City BID — “After more than a decade running the Crystal City Business Improvement District, Angela Fox is stepping down. The BID’s board of directors announced Fox’s departure Thursday, but has not named a permanent replacement.” [Bisnow]
Local Homebuilder Getting Bigger — “Arlington-based homebuilder CalAtlantic Homes is purchasing Home South Communities, a privately held homebuilder based in the Atlanta area. CalAtlantic itself is in the midst of a $9.3 billion merger with Miami’s Lennar Corp. (NYSE: LEN), expected to close early next year.” [Washington Business Journal]
Realtor Group Extends Clothing and Food Drive — “Despite the weather, the first community wide drop off for the Arlington Realtors Care (ARC) initiative, held on Saturday, Dec. 9 was a great success. ARC is sponsoring a second community wide drop off date scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 16 at RGS Title.” [Press Release]