The Arlington Commission for the Arts recommended approval for $215,810 worth of grants that are to be allocated among 17 organizations and three individual artists. These grants, specified in a County Board agenda item, are a part of county funding set aside for Arlington’s support of the arts in the county’s Fiscal Year 2016.
The total amount of the grants is $16,710 more than was allocated to the arts in fiscal year 2015.
The following organizations are the recommended recipients for the proposed cultural grants, in descending order by amount:
- Synetic Theater — $32,529.00
- Arlington Arts Center — $31,927.00
- Bowen McCauley Dance — $23,962.00
- BalletNova Center for Dance — $18,162.00
- Washington Shakespeare Company — $14,194.00
- Encore Stage and Studio — $13,571.00
- No Rules Theatre Company — $12,980.00
- Teatro de la Luna — $11,284.00
- UrbanArias, Inc. — $9,638.00
- EducationalTheatre Company — $5,802.00
- Arlington Artists’ Alliance — $5,316.00
- The Arlington Players — $5,152.00
- Washington Balalaika Society — $5,012.00
- National Chamber Ensemble — $3,799.00
- Jane Franklin Dance — $3,061.00
- Indian Dance Educators Association — $2,546.00
- Dominion Stage — $1,875.00
Three individual artists, Kate Fleming, Melanie Kehoss and Sushmita Mazumbar have been recommended by the Commission to each receive $5,000 “Spotlight Grants.”
Additionally, 26 organizations have been recommended to receive non-monetary support in the form of space and services:
ACW Dances, The Metropolitan Chorus, Alma Boliviana, Old Dominion Cloggers, Arlington Philharmonic Association, Opera NOVA, The Arlingtones, Peter’s Alley Theatre Productions, Bangladesh Center for Community Development Inc., Potomac Harmony Chorus, Cambodian American Heritage, Inc., Prio Bangla, Inc., Centro Cultural Peru, Inc., The ProBolivan Committee, Dance Asia, Requiebros Spanish Dance Group, El Tayrona, Shristee Nrittyangon, Inc., Festival Argentino, Signature Theatre, Inc., First Draft, Sultanas Troupe, Hālau O’Aulani, Tinkus Tiataco USA, Los Quetzales Mexican Dance Ensemble, Vietnamese Cultural Society of Metropolitan Washington.
Arlington County plans to ask its state legislative delegation to sponsor a bill that would rename Jefferson Davis Highway, the Washington Post reports.
While the likelihood of such a bill passing is slim, County Board Chair Mary Hynes said the county has received “a flurry of letters from residents” asking that the Confederate leader’s name be removed from the highway, also known as Route 1.
(County Board Vice Chair Walter Tejada did not respond to an inquiry from ARLnow.com last month, asking whether a name change resolution for Jefferson Davis Highway was a possibility.)
In 2012, the county renamed the stretch of road formerly known as Old Jefferson Davis Highway “Long Bridge Drive.” This time around, talk of renaming the highway comes amid a national conversation about the Confederate flag and whether it’s more a symbol of southern heritage — or slavery and racism. Last week, South Carolina’s legislature voted to remove the flag from the grounds of the state capitol.
Do you think Jefferson Davis Highway should be renamed?
Photo via Google Maps
Last month the newly-minted University of Virginia graduate and long-time ultimate frisbee player was presented with the Callahan Award, issued annually to the most valuable collegiate men’s and women’s players in the sport.
In recognition of her award and her engagement with the local ultimate community, the Arlington County Board issued a proclamation praising Johnston at a meeting earlier this month.
To receive a Callahan Award, a player is evaluated on their offensive and defensive abilities as well as their sportsmanship. Likewise, Chair Mary Hynes explained that the Board’s June 16 proclamation was meant to highlight both Johnston’s formidable athleticism and her extraordinary leadership skills.
“We are here today to recognize the extraordinary achievements of Alika Johnston both on and off the ultimate frisbee field,” Hynes said.
According to the website Ultiworld, which also named her its 2015 Women’s Player of the Year, Johnston has been a core member of the UVA’s ultimate team (the Hydras) since her freshman year in 2011, and was instrumental in the team’s development into an “elite contender.”
“Johnston’s play has spoken for itself all season long… a lot of breath and ink used in the act of praising her prolific and relentless performance,” the website said. “On both sides of the disc, she’s been a top producer and drastically influenced the fate of her team. Opponents have most been forced to submit to her, going with the ‘stopping six other people is more likely than stopping her’ strategy.”
Johnston has been playing ultimate since her days at H-B Woodlawn and credits the school with some of her success.
“I am so grateful to H-B Woodlawn’s program for introducing me to the sport and making all of this possible,” she said. “I’ve been moved by the outpouring of excitement and support from Arlington’s ultimate community.”
Johnston has also dedicated herself to introducing a new generation of athletes to the sport. She serves as USA Ultimate’s Virginia Girls State Youth Coordinator, and works to grow the sport through clinics, events and mentoring young players.
Arlington’s youth ultimate programs have grown rapidly in the past several years, as the sport becomes increasingly popular across the country. Opportunities to play can be found through the Youth Ultimate League of Arlington.
Photo courtesy Lawrence Cheng
Tomorrow night (June 25) Arlington will hold the first of four planned meetings to discuss the relocation of Fire Station 8.
Last May, the county proposed a plan to move the fire station from Lee Highway to a county-owned green space near Marymount University on Old Dominion Drive. The Old Dominion Civic Association said it was “blind-sided” by the plan, and raised an outcry that prompted the county to reevaluate.
The Arlington County Fire Department wants to relocate Fire Station 8 further north in order to achieve their goal of four to six minute response times throughout the county. Arlington County studies conducted in 2000 and 2012 both indicated that while response times in most of the county met this goal, the northern part of the county was underserved and would benefit from having a fire station closer by.
At the meeting tomorrow night, residents will hear an overview of the issue from county staff, as well as the criteria and constraints for selecting a new fire station location. Residents will have the opportunity to give feedback.
“[The] process to select a site for the relocated FS8 will include dialogue with community stakeholders, including civic associations within the service area and other members of the public wishing to participate,” according to the county website. “The process will include a discussion of County needs; siting consideration and criteria; and evaluation of alternate sites within the service area.”
On Thursday, July 30, county staff plan to recap previous meeting results and provide another opportunity for community members to weigh in on alternative sites for the fire station. At this meeting, the county staff also plan to outline the process they will use to review the list of potential sites.
At the final meeting, currently scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 9, county staff will formulate a recommendation to be presented to the County Board.
The meeting tomorrow will be at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church (2609 N Glebe Rd) from 7-9 p.m. There will be a meeting at St. Mary’s at the same time on July 9 recapping the first for any who were unable to attend.
Photo via Arlington County Fire Department
Arlington residents were invited to the neighborhood Wednesday to see the plans for the area as well as to take a walking tour that highlighted several large changes that could come as a result of the plan.
“I would hope this would be an area, unlike Rosslyn, Clarendon or Ballston, where people can come together and celebrate events in the heart of Arlington,” Jason Beske, the project manager for Envision Courthouse, told ARLnow.com.
Under the plan, multiple new buildings could be constructed some replacing existing structures and some with preserved facades. The vision for the area — which currently includes buildings, parking lots and some small green spaces — would be similar to that of a lively open town square under the new plan.
Before that vision can be realized, should the County Board approve the plan, the county will have to work with developers and building owners to come together and help implement it.
Among changes is a possible move for county government itself. The county office building at 2100 Clarendon Blvd is not currently owned by the county — it’s owned by Vornado — and when the lease is up, the county could choose to move to a building it owns outright, Beske said during the walking tour.
One possible location for this new building would be the new South Square, which is on the south end where the current public surface parking lot sits. Parking would be provided via underground lots, as the current public surface lot is set to be converted to mostly green space — the “square.”
The plan also calls for the transit plaza adjacent to the current county offices to be redone. The new plaza, dubbed Metro Plaza after the Metro entrance, would possibly feature an open Metro entrance similar to that planned in the Rosslyn Sector Plan.
The plaza would be “something that’s kind of lively, exciting,” Beske said.
The current AMC movie theater may be redeveloped into an office building or a building with primary entertainment and retail uses. A rooftop terrace be added to the building, with a view of D.C. and the monuments. Also set for redevelopment: the small, aging Courthouse Square West office building that currently houses county emergency management offices.
The street that currently runs next to the main county office building, 15th Street N., would become a low-speed, pedestrian-centric street. It would feature plenty of street trees, widened sidewalks and possibly granite pavers.
“We want to see this street become an extension of open space,” he said. On the other side of the public parking lot, 14th Street N. would receive a similar “shared street” treatment.
Another other big open space would be the “Memorial Grove.” The large space would have a grove in one of its corners and a possible underground parking lot under it. Memorial Grove would be located in what is now part of the parking lot, across the street from the current emergency winter homeless shelter. A large open lawn area would run from Memorial Grove down to the South Square.
To the south of South Square, in what is currently a public plaza next to the Verizon building and across from Ragtime restaurant, the Envision Courthouse envisions a new building, for public use, county use or both. The building, labeled Verizon Plaza, is one of four buildings — including the aging Courthouse Square West office building, South Square and the AMC Theater site,
Outside of the Courthouse Metro entrance near the Cosi building, meanwhile, is the potential site of a promenade with wider sidewalks, which could possibly extend from Clarendon Boulevard to 14th Street. Across the street, near Ireland’s Four Courts, the county plans for main street feel, with wider sidewalks, more retail lining the street and a possible tree canopy.
While the county is looking to the future with Envision Courthouse, Beske and his team is also trying to capture the past. There are preservation elements to the plan, mostly centered around the strip of older buildings known as Lawyers’ Row. The facades of the buildings housing the emergency winter shelter, Cosi, Jerry’s Subs and Boston Market are all singled out for preservation. A new building could be on top of the existing facades, but a full preservation is also possible, particularly for Cosi building, which used to be a bank.
The county will weigh the historic value of each building in considering its redevelopment, Beske said.
The County Board is expected to consider the plan for approval at its September meeting. Some of the planned changes may be implemented in the next few years, but many of the goals are classified as long term, taking five or more years to implement, often with the cooperation of private developers.
The county is considering trading part of the tiny park to a developer in exchange for a new fire station as part of its Western Rosslyn Area Plan Study (WRAPS). Board members unanimously approved the advertisement of public hearings on the plan during the meeting.
“Once this land is gone, it’s gone. The land will always be worth more than the fire station. So let’s hold onto the land and do what is right for the community,” said Michael McMenamin, an independent candidate for County Board. Independent candidate Audrey Clement also spoke out against the plan.
McMenamin was joined by more than a half dozen people who live near the park, including Washington Lee High School junior Johanna Klein and 12-year-old Jim Sharkey. Even more people signed up to speak during the public comment on the plan but left as the clock ticked close to 10:00 p.m. before the item was heard.
Sharkey, who was inspired to research park space in Arlington after learning of the park’s possible sale, said Arlington fares poorly in terms of park land when compared to neighboring Fairfax County.
The park holds many memories for Sharkey and Klein, who both say they grew using it. Sharkey’s family is considering moving and he said he believes that the end of the park will only encourage his family to move.
“Rosslyn Highlands Park is not just a part of a number on a graph,” he said. “I believe that parks are important because they’re a good place for people to have fun and bond together.”
In addition to the fire station, the WRAPS plan deals with the replacement of the Wilson School, which will house the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program starting in 2019, the replacement of an aging office building with a new mixed-use development, and a new affordable housing development.
Most of the discussion, however, revolved around the park and what many said was an opaque process of deciding to trade part of it to a developer. Caroline Haynes, a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission, called the process frustrating.
“I guess from our perspective, given that residents do feel like they sacrificed something in this and the density is going to be greatly increased in this area, we believe that is going to be absolutely critical to make sure this park is outstanding,” she said. “That what we have there is going to be an oasis in the midst of very high density. And that we really need to dedicate the resources to make this an incredible destination park both for residents and for our community.”
Members of the working group also voiced similar concerns saying that the group and community did not have enough say in the drafted plan.
“From the beginning, the working group expressed a clear goal that open space be a prime directive of the process and not simply residual of what’s left over,” Erik Gutshall, an at-large member of the working group said.
Members of the public will have another chance to weigh in on the Western Rosslyn Area Plan in July. A public hearing will be held before the Planning Commission on July 6 and before the County Board meeting later in July.
“The proposed plan seeks to balance the need for open space in Western Rosslyn with the need for a new school with associated gym and playing field accessible to residents, a new fire station and more affordable housing in collaboration with commercial redevelopment,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement.
In a somewhat unexpected move, the County Board has voted 4-1 against the creation of a connector path from the Washington and Old Dominion trail to N. Carlin Springs Road.
County Manager Barbara Donnellan and her staff had recommended the Board approve the connection, which would link N. Carlin Springs Road with the W&OD rail trail.
The proposed connector would have been an eight-foot-wide, 220-foot-long trail that could be used by pedestrians and cyclists to reach the W&OD from N. Carlin Springs Road. The county was seeking the permit as part of a partnership with Northern Virginia Regional Parks Authority.
The path is currently what County Board member Jay Fisette called a “cow path,” meaning it is a dirt path stomped down by trail users going to and from Carlin Springs Road.
However, Fisette, who is an avid cyclist, said that paving the path would be unnecessary and encourage cyclists to cross Carlin Springs Road, he said is more dangerous than using an already-established path that’s not too far away.
“I’m going to argue, unless you tell me I’m missing something, that this proposed connector is essentially unnecessary to be paved,” Fisette said.
People can still use the path as a walking path, Fisette said, but he did not see the need to pave it for cyclists.
Board members were not the only Arlington residents against by the potential paved trail. Residents attended the meeting to speak out against paving the path due to environmental concerns.
Buckingham Community Civic Association President Bernie Berne told the Board that paving the proposed path would harm the plant life that existed in the meadow where the pavement would go.
The county had placed chains around the meadow where the footpath was created to block residents from cutting across it and harming the native plants as well as to prevent the county from mowing it too often. If the county had approved the trail, it would have been undoing the county’s efforts to restore the meadow, Berne said.
“The proposed connector trail is a waste of county money,” Berne said.
Instead, the county could use the money to place signs to encourage people away from the meadow and to the existing path, Board Vice Chairman Walter Tejada said.
Tejada, a self-described bicycle fanatic, also failed to see the reason to pave the path because it was so close to the already established connection from Four Mile Run.
“If we are looking for access for both the east and west side of Carlin Springs, we already have it,” Tejada said, calling the proposed path “redundant.”
The distance between the already-established connection from Four Mile Run under Carlin Springs Road and the proposed trail is a short distance, especially for someone on a bike, Tejada said. Cyclists can easily go a little longer to use the established connection.
“If it’s a matter of convenience, I don’t buy it,” Tejada said. “Because it’s just a matter of going around and you are already there.”
Via Twitter, however, former Arlington County Commuter Services Bureau Chief Chris Hamilton criticized the decision, suggesting that the County Board gave in too easily to a few vocal opponents.
Board votes against W&OD Trail Connector, saves "Meadow" http://t.co/JvccbqTQU6 Elected leaders must back up their DOTs and resist NIMBYS!
— Chris Hamilton (@ChrisRHamilton) June 17, 2015
Arlington residents will be able to weigh in on the county’s proposal for more affordable housing before the County Board votes on the ambitious plan.
Arlington County will hold the hearings on Sept. 8 with the Planning Commission and Sept. 19 with the County Board.
“Ensuring that Arlington has housing affordable to folks at all incomes in all stages of life is one of the most important challenges facing our community,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said. “Whether we are seeking to attract businesses, helping Arlingtonians age in place or ensuring that residents who rent have the opportunity to grow roots, the preservation and creation of affordable housing is a necessary component of our long-term sustainability and vibrancy.”
The county’s plan includes the creation of 15,800 additional affordable housing units by 2040, bringing the total to 22,800 units or 17.7 percent of the total housing stock in Arlington.
The county currently has 7,000 committed affordable units (CAFs), which are bound to keep rents lower thanks in part to federal and/or local government subsidies. Affordable housing programs account for about 5 percent of Arlington County’s overall budget, excluding school funds.
In Arlington, housing is typically considered “affordable” for households that make less than 60 percent of the area’s median income (AMI), or $64,480. According to a press release from the county, only 9 percent of housing in Arlington is currently affordable to that group of residents.
“There is insufficient affordable housing to meet the demand of renters” with incomes below 60 percent of AMI, the county says.
As part of its Affordable Housing Master Plan, the county also plans to incentivize the creation of 2,700 moderately-priced homes that would be affordable to buy for those to those who make between 80 to 120 percent of the area median income.
Moderate income renters will not, however, see an increase in housing opportunities under the plan.
“The County’s current rental stock sufficiently serves both families, and single-person households, who have incomes above 80 percent of AMI,” the plan concludes. It thus envisions trying to preserve existing 60-80 percent AMI committed units while focusing on creating new committed units for sub-60 percent AMI residents.
While the additional housing would help low-income households in Arlington, the county also identified renters over 65 years old, families and racial and ethnic minorities as the target population for these affordable units.
The need for committed units to replace disappearing market-rate affordable units is particularly acute. A county study found that market rate units affordable for those under 60 percent AMI in Arlington may all but disappear by 2020.
Support for affordable housing among county policymakers is strong. Arlington’s housing efforts are generally supported by all five County Board members and each of the four candidates for County Board have expressed support for affordable housing programs to varying degrees at one point or another.
Some critics, however, contend that the county’s new plan is unrealistically expensive and will require considerable additional housing density and school capacity.
County to Seek Ballston Mall Partnership — Arlington County is moving quickly to try to come up with a public-private partnership for the redevelopment of Ballston Common Mall. County Board members said Tuesday that they believe the redevelopment will bring important economic benefits. “To not reinvest is to watch the death, I think, of Ballston,” said County Board Chair Mary Hynes. [InsideNova, Arlington County]
Crash Near Kenmore Middle School — A five-vehicle crash occurred around 5:30 yesterday evening on S. Carlin Springs Road, just south of Kenmore Middle School. Scanner reports suggest a driver mistook the gas pedal for the brake at an intersection, leading to the multi-vehicle wreck. [Twitter]
Playground Contracts Awarded — The Arlington County Board has voted unanimously to award two contracts, together worth about $2 million, for new playgrounds at Long Bridge Park and Tyrol Hills Park. Construction on both is expected to begin later this summer and will take about four months. [Arlington County]
Panhandlers Stake Out Turf in Arlington — There’s “an ongoing turf war” among panhandlers in Arlington County, who seek to hold certain lucrative, traffic-laden roadsides and medians. The “war” has resulted in the occasional fist fight and accusations that rival panhandlers are making up their sob stories, which often revolve around being a veteran or losing a home. [Falls Church News-Press]
Free Chips and Guac at Cal Tor Today — California Tortilla locations, including the eatery in Courthouse, are offering free chips and guacamole to customers today. A purchase is required. [California Tortilla]
Flickr pool photo by airamangel
A mundane update to a long-standing Arlington ordinance went viral on the internet yesterday when news organizations started erroneously implying that the county was trying to crack down on public cursing.
As ARLnow.com previously reported, the County Board on Saturday considered — and approved — an update to its public drunkenness and profanity ordinance.
The update, meant to bring Arlington in line with a Virginia law that’s on the books throughout the Commonwealth, replaced “drunkenness” with “intoxication” so that police could charge someone who’s under the influence of drugs, rather than just alcohol. It also made the crime a Class 4 misdemeanor, upping the maximum fine for the first and second offense from $100 to $250, but reducing the maximum fine for each subsequent offense to $250 from $500.
Despite the innocuous intent, news outlets both local and national saw something nefarious in the cursing portion of the law, which has been on the books for years. Among the headlines:
- “Arlington Cracks Down on Salty Language” — Washingtonian
- “Arlington raises the penalty for potty mouths” — WTOP
- “Cursing in Arlington could cost you $250″ — Washington Post
- “Cursing in Public Becomes Fineable Offense in Arlington County” — WNEW 99.1
- “There’s a racial history behind these types of laws” — The Atlantic CityLab
- “Having a potty mouth will cost you a pretty penny in Arlington, Va.” — New York Daily News
- “Arlington, Virginia, Seems to Think F-Bombs Are Actual Weapons” — Reason.com
- “Arlington, Virginia Has a New Law Against Swearing” — Break.com
How prevalent are the citations for public cursing? Of the 664 citations issued under Arlington’s public cursing and drunkenness ordinance in 2014, four — or 0.6 percent — were for “curse and abuse.”
Arlington County Police Department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said that in the rare instance an officer actually does issue a curse and abuse citation, it’s usually as a result of calls from residents about people cussing in front of children.
“It’s not like police are out there looking for people using profane language,” Sternbeck said. “It’s calls from members of the public who are concerned about subjects acting disorderly.”
Sternbeck was able to list the circumstances of three of the four cursing citations issued in 2014.
- A public argument between two parties in front of Ballston Common Mall
- A group of men cursing in Tyrol Hill Park in front of children, who then cursed at officers after being asked to stop
- A driver who repeatedly cursed at a police officer after receiving several traffic violations
“Police are not actively seeking out people using profane language,” Sternbeck repeated. “[The ordinance] was just updated to be in line with the state code.”
The County Board is considering adopting the Rosslyn Sector Plan, but first it is seeking out residents’ opinions.
The Rosslyn Sector Plan is the county’s long-term goal for the neighborhood, including a new Metro entrance, updated parks and a new pedestrian bridge. The County Board authorized two public hearings — one before the Planning Commission on July 6 and the other before the County Board meeting on July 18 — for residents to speak and ask about the new plan.
The county’s vision focuses on four key topics: parks and open space, transportation, building height and urban design.
“The vision that residents, developers, business leaders, property owners and County staff have worked together on for more than two years is truly transformational,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said. “Once adopted, we believe it will lead to realizing Rosslyn’s full potential. It will ensure that, as Rosslyn continues to grow and develop, it takes it rightful place as another great Arlington urban village – one where people work, live, learn and play.”
The plan comes out of efforts to move Rosslyn from a car-heavy, office-centric area to a walkable, mixed-use urban center, according to a county press release.
To do this, the planning staff have proposed a new 18th Street corridor, extending from N. Oak Street to Arlington Ridge Road. The plan follows the current recommendation to get rid of the skywalk system in Rosslyn, instead focusing pedestrian activity at ground level.
The new 18th Street corridor would be “a new central spine for Rosslyn that will improve linkages to Metro, the future Central Place plaza, and other public spaces and development,” according to the sector plan.
The plan calls for other significant traffic changes. N. Fort Myer Drive, N. Lynn Street and N. Kent Street, currently one-way roads, will be converted to two-way if the sector plan is approved. Also, the Fort Myer tunnel under Wilson Boulevard — which was intended to help the flow of traffic coming over the Key Bridge from D.C. — is to be removed, according to the plan.
“The tunnel’s promotion of high vehicle speeds, highway-oriented character, and incompatibility with a desirable crosswalk of 18th Street across Fort Myer Drive at the Metro station all lead to the recommendation to remove the tunnel and replace it with an at-grade signalized intersection,” according to the plan.
Rosslyn also is looking at a new Metro entrance. The current enclosed space could be transformed into an open air entrance, similar to the entrance at the Foggy Bottom or Van Ness Metro stations. The plaza outside the entrance would extend to Fort Myer Drive and N. Moore Street.
“The Rosslyn Metro Station is centrally positioned within this public space corridor and will serve as an important center of activity and retail concentration,” according to the plan.
While the plan focuses on making Rosslyn more walkable, it also looks to redesign Gateway and Freedom Parks to fit in with the more urban city plan.
Under the plan, the county would remove the current ramp structure at Gateway Park and turn it into a more typical green park setting, with multi-use courts, more lawn space and a playground. Freedom Park will be made more accessible with small-scale recreation areas and outdoor seating for restaurants.
In addition, the plan calls for the future creation of an esplanade that would run along Rosslyn’s eastern edge, extending from Gateway Park to the River Place residential complex along I-66 and then to the Marine Corps Memorial. The esplanade would also overlook the Potomac River. From the esplanade, there would be a pedestrian/cycling bridge that would link it to the riverfront near Roosevelt Island.
While the main construction of the plan is focused on the ground level, the county is also looking to improve the overall look of Rosslyn by adjusting the current height limit to allow for variation in the skyline.
“In addition, the Rosslyn Sector Plan sets forth a new building heights policy for the RCRD that can more effectively achieve a place with great public spaces, views and view corridors, light and air between buildings, sensitive transitions, and a distinctive and dynamic skyline,” according to the plan.
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.”
Update at 5:50 p.m. — The County Board’s action on the Williamsburg Field Site Evaluation Work Group Charge has now been deferred until July, according to an Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman.
The debate over lighting the fields at Williamsburg Middle School is making a comeback.
At its meeting
tomorrow (Tuesday) in July, the County Board will charge a working group with leading a community process to evaluate whether or not to light the Williamsburg synthetic fields.
After the County Board decides on the working group’s exact tasks at tomorrow’s meeting, members will be appointed to the group next month. It is expected to make a recommendation to the Board in May 2016. The Board will then deliberate in June 2016.
Two synthetic fields are currently under construction as part of the Discovery Elementary School project, located on the Williamsburg campus, and are scheduled for completion at the end of the summer.
Arlington Public Schools split the cost of the fields with the County, according to Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish. Kalish said that APS paid for the cost of installing natural grass fields, and the County then funded the difference.
In an APS question and answer session about the construction project held in the fall of 2012, the County stated that if it funded an artificial field, “it would expect that the field be lighted in order to maximize their investment in the field.”
While Kalish confirmed that this is typically the County’s policy regarding turf fields, in this case the Rock Spring community pushed back.
“That’s why we’re having this work group,” said Kalish.
Fifteen community members representing diverse interests will comprise the work group, including one representative from the Arlington Soccer Association and one from the Rock Spring Civic Association. The ASA and the RSCA disagreed vehemently on the construction and lighting of the field when the plan was first proposed in 2013, eventually launching dueling petitions.
President of the RSCA Carl Cunningham said that while he could not speak for all residents, most who live near the Williamsburg fields do not support the addition of lights because of concerns about potential light spillage into their homes.
Cunningham added that residents were concerned about evening noise and traffic from extended hours of play on the field, which might “fundamentally alter the basic character and their peaceful enjoyment of what has been a small, secluded and quiet neighborhood in the evenings.”
The ASA, on the other hand, stressed the need for a lit synthetic field.
“We have more children playing sports in Arlington every year, and the rate of field construction or redevelopment is not close to keeping pace, thus we have to squeeze what we can out of existing play spaces,” said ASA Executive Director Justin Wilt.
The Bracket Room (1210 N. Garfield St.) is revisiting its plan to bring live music — and some nearby residents are not happy.
The sports bar applied for a live entertainment permit to have up to two acoustic music players in the bar from 8 p.m. to midnight Sunday to Thursday, according to the County Board agenda. County staff recommend that the permit be approved with a review in November.
Residents who live in the Lyon Place at Clarendon Center apartment building, which has rooms above the bar, and across the street at Station Square want the Board to deny the permit. Residents are claiming the additional live music will bring more guests and more noise, which is already a problem, neighbor Joe Morrell said.
Morrell lives in the Station Square building across the street, and while he does not hear noise from inside the bar, he says there are often swells of people outside the bar and there have been fights. Live entertainment will only add to the noise, he said.
Part of the problem is the bar’s location, Morrell said, which is “essentially located in a residential building.”
“It’s not like it’s something like Mad Rose [Tavern] or whatever else is in a commercial building or on its own,” he said.
Morrell plans to attend the board meeting on Saturday to speak out against the permit. He’s not the only one. Other residents at the Station Square will be speaking out, Station Square manager George Pace said.
Pace attributed most of the noise affecting Station Square to the alleged fights and the crowd that hangs outside of the bar. He predicts that live music will only make the already crowded bar more popular.
“It’s always packed,” he said.
The County has also received concerns from Lyon Place residents who live above the bar.
“As of the date of this report, staff has received several comments from residents of the apartment building who are concerned that there will be additional noise impacts caused by the proposed live entertainment. To address those concerns, the applicant has agreed to a condition limiting the proposed live entertainment to two (2) acoustical performers,” according to the agenda report.
According the report, The Bracket Room is aware of the concerns and agreed to making changes in order to reduce noise. Changes including limited performers to only two people and closing the doors and windows when there is live music.
The bar applied for a live entertainment permit in 2013 but withdrew after residents spoke out against it. At the time of the bar’s opening in 2013, the County received multiple noise complaints. However, they have only received one since March 2014, according to the staff report.
(ARLnow.com reached out twice to Jeff Greenberg, co-owner of The Bracket Room, but he did not respond.)
While staff recommended approving the permit, Pace said he does not believe the Board will allow live entertainment at The Bracket Room.
“I don’t think it’s going through again. I doubt it. I don’t know why the Board would change their minds after a year,” Pace said.
Both Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey, who received the Arlington County Democratic Committee nominations last night after a tight primary race, ran a campaign with it as one of their platforms.
ACDC Chair Kip Malinosky sees their nominations as a sign that housing affordability is becoming the trending topic in the county.
“It [Cristol and Dorsey’s nomination] really means voters were looking for a new generation of leadership,” Malinosky said, adding that school overcrowding and responsive government figure to be two other key pillars of the general election campaign.
Both candidates, who hail from South Arlington, also told ARLnow.com they would make housing affordability one of their top campaign priorities.
“It’s become a middle class issue, preserving the middle class,” Cristol said.
Arlington is one of the richest counties in the county, making housing out of reach for some who want to settle in the county. While housing affordability is often associated with subsidized housing and low-economic families, Cristol argues in her platform that it also applies to young families and millennials looking to place roots.
The vote reflected Arlington resident’s wish for more affordable housing, Dorsey said.
“I’m excited because I think Arlingtonians really, by their votes, I think more people are going to focus on making affordable housing a real priority,” Dorsey said. “Not just for one segment of people but really for all people because they recognize that it’s something that can benefit the whole community.”
But affordability is only one of the issues that Dorsey and Cristol plan to tackle while campaigning, they said.
“We absolutely have to get our commercial sector energized again,” Dorsey said.
In the general election, Dorsey will also be looking to promote filling empty office space, discuss school overcrowding and tackle transportation problems on Columbia Pike. Like Dorsey, Cristol will be campaigning with hopes of fixing transportation problems on Columbia Pike, which is her home. She will also look at livability in Arlington, such as issues with childcare, along wiht issues facing young people, which she said was part of her campaign strategy.
“You know a majority of Arlington County is under the age of 35 and we knew that we weren’t going to win by claiming to be the candidate of the under 35 majority,” she said. “We had to make the case that this growing population of Arlingtonians have a stake here and have something in common with our more established neighbors. And I think that’s what we saw people respond to.”
Local Democratic strategist Ben Tribbett said the primary result — and the recent election of independent County Board member John Vihstadt, driven by crossover Democratic votes — reflects a desire for a change among the Democratic electorate.
“The Arlington voters have clearly differentiated what they’ve been looking for in County Board candidates over the past two years,” Tribbett said. “They’ve been sending a message and I think the message is loud and clear that they want to have a different Board than what they had. I don’t think they wanted radical change… they just wanted to see something different than what was going on, some people who were a little more responsive.”
“Someone like Katie is a great example of that,” Tribbett continued. “She was energetic during the campaign, she went around everywhere. I don’t know how you can send a better message of ‘I’m going to be responsive as your elected official’ than what she did. It’s not by saying it, it’s the action that shows it.”
Tribbett says that precinct-level results from Tuesday night’s primary show that runners up Peter Fallon and Andrew Schneider largely split the vote in North Arlington — “they tended to vote for one and not the other” — whereas Cristol and Dorsey both made a strong showing in much of South Arlington while also picking up votes in North Arlington.