Arlington, VA

A pie shop owner says an ongoing county construction project has cost her tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

About six weeks ago, Heather Sheire arrived to work at Livin’ the Pie Life at 2166 N. Glebe Road to find bulldozers tearing up the pavement in front of the shop.

“That’s how much notice I got from the county that there was going to be a disruption,” owner Sheire tells ARLnow, who opened the shop in 2016. She is now seeking financial compensation from county.

The construction was due to the ongoing Lee Highway and Glebe Road intersection improvement project which isn’t set to be substantially completed until the fall.

“Our parking was getting blocked and, then, 21st Road [N.] was getting blocked and, then, the sidewalk was getting blocked,” Sheire says, frustration rising in her voice. “Then, I started to notice our sales were down.”

The shop relies on walk-ups, she says, with about 90% of sales coming from walk-in orders.

Sheire even bought one of those feather-like flags as a way to catch people’s eyes from the road, but it was removed by construction crews.

March 3 was a tipping point. Again, Sheire saw a construction truck parked across the entrance of the shop’s driveway. So, she finally reached out to the county.

“[They] were sympathetic, but I need more than sympathy and friendlessness,” Sheire says. “This was having a very substantial economic impact on my business.”

She tells ARLnow, after comparing numbers from years past, that she believes the business has lost “tens of thousands of dollars” as a result of this construction project.

“I have a historical record from [March] last year to this year… we went from being down 10% to 46%,” she says.

Eric Balliet, spokesperson for Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services, confirms that Sheire did reach out.

“Once we were made aware of the pie shop owner’s concerns, the project team responded by making every effort possible to accommodate the business during streetscape construction along their store frontage,” he writes to ARLnow.

According to Balliet, this included scheduling construction mostly on Mondays and Tuesdays (when the shop is closed), upgrading bike racks, installing a curb along parking spaces to prevent vehicles from damaging the building, and relocating street signs to improve visibility of the storefront.

Also, as part of the project, the county has upgraded the pie shop’s front walkway to concrete and expanded access to the store’s parking spaces for those driving northbound along N. Glebe Road.

Sheire agrees, for the most part, that the county has either already done the things promised or she believes they will — except for improving access to parking.

“It is trickier to get into the parking now than before. They added a short wall along the sidewalk on Glebe that now must be navigated to get into and out of the parking from Glebe,” she says. “It’s become a maze, a puzzle to get in there.”

But even fixing all of that will not change the financial damage that has already occurred to her business.

“[We] deserve some kind of financial compensation because they were literally blocking access to our business,” Sheire says. “It’s wrong for the county to initiate a project like this without taking into account the economic impact it has on a small business.”

In March, she received her business license tax bill from the county, which set her off.

“That was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” she says. “I felt like Arlington County had not given me value for my business license.”

She contacted the Arlington County Treasurer Carla de la Pava and other top local officials about waiving the tax, or offering some sort of compensation, but was told that could not be done.

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Responding to increasing storms, flooding and ongoing development, Arlington County will be changing its stormwater management regulations for single-family home construction projects.

The new requirements — and how they came about — have developers worried.

Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services will require developers to use tools such as water storage tanks to ensure new homes can retain at least 3 inches of rain, which will affect applications submitted after Sept. 13, 2021.

Currently, developers are only on the hook to improve the quality of water runoff, using rain gardens, planters, permeable driveways and tree cover.

DES staff tell ARLnow the new system will manage more water, protect downhill properties, reduce plan approval times, and give homeowners stormwater facilities that are feasible to maintain.

In a statement, staff said the change “reflects future-focused and balanced responsiveness to a diverse customer base that includes downhill neighbors, property owners, and builders.”

But some developers who work in Arlington County says the changes blindsided them and they want more input. They predict significant potential cost increases to homeowners and argue that this shifts the burden onto individuals, rather than placing responsibility with neighborhoods or the county itself.

“There is broad concern with the roll-out of this,” said Yuri Sagatov of Sagatov Homes. “There are just a lot of questions and there aren’t a lot of answers. We’re all waiting to get more information from the county to see how the changes might impact properties.”

Staff said these changes were precipitated by the increase in heavy rainfall, the growing intensity of storms, and a sense among residents that the county is not doing enough to protect properties — particularly those that are downhill from development, from the runoff caused by new homes.

A county study last summer found that the soil under new homes is 10 times less permeable than the soil under existing homes, staff said.

With the tanks, which appear to be above ground in photos, the goal is to retain rainwater during flash flooding events like that of July 8, 2019.

“Gravity detention tanks… promote a ‘slow it down and soak it in’ strategy to capture and release runoff slowly as a more robust and reliable way to handle intense rainfall,” says a DES memo.

It seems like a feasible alternative to more expensive underground systems, but the challenge will be blending them in aesthetically.

“They are talking about massive above ground cisterns,” the owner of one remodeling firm told ARLnow. “I would think neighbors would hate this. They’re going to be hideous.”

As for engaging developers during the process, county staff said enhancements to an existing program only require the county to consult with stakeholders. The county surveyed neighbors, home builders and engineers in 2019 and met with engineers early this year.

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(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) Arlington is preparing for what could be the most snow the county and the region has seen in more than two years.

The region is likely to see at least 4-8 inches, with snow starting to fall Sunday morning, according to Capital Weather Gang. This afternoon, the National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Watch for the region.

From NWS:

WINTER STORM WATCH IN EFFECT FROM LATE SATURDAY NIGHT THROUGH LATE SUNDAY NIGHT…

* WHAT…HEAVY SNOW POSSIBLE. POTENTIAL FOR 5 OR MORE INCHES OF SNOW.

* WHERE… THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, AND PORTIONS OF CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN MARYLAND, CENTRAL AND NORTHERN VIRGINIA, AND THE EASTERN PANHANDLE OF WEST VIRGINIA.

* WHEN…FROM LATE SATURDAY NIGHT THROUGH LATE SUNDAY NIGHT.

* IMPACTS…TRAVEL COULD BE VERY DIFFICULT.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

MONITOR THE LATEST FORECASTS FOR UPDATES ON THIS SITUATION.

State and county agencies have already started preparing the roads for the wintery weather.

Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services tells ARLnow that they began pre-treating streets with brine — a salt and water mixture — yesterday.

That pre-treatment process is continuing today. Full deployment of the county’s snow plow teams will start early Sunday, a DES spokesperson says, with 92 drivers and 46 trucks equipped with salt spreaders and plows.

There will be staggered shifts the operations center due to COVID-19 protocols.

DES is asking residents to re-familiarize themselves with snow removal processes, which includes plowing only after snow depth hits at least two inches. In addition, they are requesting residents who park on narrow roads to put vehicles elsewhere so that plows can make their way through.

In fact, they are making a competition out of it and are asking folks to post pictures of their creative parking skills.

 

A number of major Arlington roads are maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, including Lee Highway, Arlington Blvd, Glebe Road, and others.

VDOT spokesperson Ellen Kamilakis tells ARLnow that residents should be seeing brine tankers out right now. The current cold and clear conditions are perfect for spraying brine.

“The goal is for it to evaporate and leave the salt residue, those white brine lines,” she says. “Today is perfect to be doing it. People are going to be seeing them everywhere.”

She cautions that they often work in pairs, a tanker and a trailing vehicle, and move slowly. The crews make a lot of U-turns, she says, so drivers should avoid getting between them.

Kamilakis says that there are about 130 trucks deployed right now covering Arlington County and the interstates that cut through the county.

With the region having not seen snowfall like what is being predicted in a while, she says that residents may “not have their snow legs yet” and have forgotten what it’s like to drive in the snow.

Kamilakis cautions folks to monitor the forecast, drive carefully and slowly, and brake earlier. If VDOT puts out the call to stay off the roads, to do so.

“If we’re asking you to stay off the roads, it’s serious enough for us to ask that,” she said.

Another thing Arlington residents should take note of: the county’s snow removal ordinance, which requires that sidewalks be shoveled within 24 hours of the end of a snow event with six inches or less of accumulation, or 36 hours for storms that drop more than six inches.

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Morning Notes

Greens Want Tax Hike for New Initiative — “The Arlington Green Party is seeking a five-fold increase in one local tax in order to fund an environmental initiative. The party in late October promoted the idea of the county government giving owners of single-family properties in Arlington $1,000 credits to have energy audits conducted and then take cost-effective steps to improve efficiency…. The party wants to increase the existing utility tax from $3 per household per month to eventually hit $15 per household per month.” [InsideNova]

Looking On the Bright Side — “And the winner is: free paper yard waste bags. Available at five County sites during leaf season.” [@ArlingtonDES/Twitter, Arlington County]

Improvements Proposed in Seven Corners — “The Virginia Department of Transportation has provided another in a series of updates on potential improvements being studied along Route 50 (Arlington Boulevard) between Jaguar Trail and Wilson Boulevard in the Falls Church/Seven Corners area.” [InsideNova, VDOT]

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Arlington should consider glass-only curbside collection in order to boost its recycling rate, one of the companies that helps recycle the county’s bottles and jars says.

Jim Nordmeyer, vice president of sustainability at bottle maker O-I Glass, said in an interview that while Arlington’s current drop-off containers for glass have been effective, a dedicated collection truck would further increase glass recycling levels amid a drop in glass supplies.

“[Arlington has] a premium stream of glass that comes back into the container industry,” Nordmeyer said. “We’d like to encourage a lot more…. The best way [to do this] is at the curb, glass-only collection.”

By Nordmeyer’s estimates, there is approximately 14 million pounds of glass available for recycling in Arlington annually. If 70% of residents, the national average for curbside recycling, participated in a curbside glass recycling, then nearly 10 million pounds of glass could be collected annually.

In the first year of Arlington’s drop-off glass program, the county says it collected 2 million pounds of glass.

Arlington currently has five drop-off sites, following the removal of glass last year from its curbside recycling list. A rise in the cost of single-stream recycling, where all recyclables are put in the blue bin, was largely behind the move.

Kathryn O’Brien, a spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Environmental Services, told ARLnow the county sees a dedicated curbside collection for glass as financially impractical.

“We have considered glass-only curbside collection and have determined that this option is cost prohibitive,” O’Brien said. “Our internal estimates are that adding curbside glass collection would increase the [Household Solid Waste Rate] by 15%-20%.”

The rate, which is paid by Arlington homeowners who receive curbside collection, is currently $26.58 a month. A 15-20% increase would add around an extra $5 per month, or $60 per year, to the bill.

Nordmeyer said the county can “offset the cost of that second [glass collection] truck with the savings they are getting from reduced fees at the material recovery facility and reduced fees in material going to the landfill.”

Boosting glass recycling levels is especially important after a sharp national decline at the start of the pandemic, Nordmeyer said.

With bars and restaurants shut down and material recovery centers closed to protect employees, glassmakers like O-I lost the recyclable material they rely on to make products. According to Nordmeyer, the average recycled content in each O-I container is around 35%.

O-I receives Arlington glass at its manufacturing plants in Danville and Toano, Virginia. The glass is first transported to Fairfax County from the drop-off bins, then it is taken by glass recycling company Strategic Materials. Once processed, the glass is sold to manufacturers like O-I.

Image via Arlington County

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You probably know that glass is no longer recycled in Arlington, but do you know that recycling placed in garbage bags is automatically thrown away at the processing plant?

We sent ten questions people might have about what can and cannot get recycled to Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services earlier this month. The answers from the experts at the county’s Solid Waste Bureau are below.

For more information on Arlington’s curbside waste collection service, see county’s trash and recycling page. If you have any other questions, let us know in the comments.

1. If you place your junk mail directly into the recycling, will that be recycled?

Your junk mail (e.g., catalogues, letters, envelopes) is what is known as “mixed paper” and will be recycled if placed in your recycling cart. One way to reduce junk mail intake: https://recycling.arlingtonva.us/catalog-choice/.

2. Do you need to remove the plastic tape from cardboard boxes in order for it to be recycled?

You do not need to remove the plastic tape from cardboard boxes prior to placing them in your bin. However, packing slips and their plastic envelopes should be removed. Also, please flatten all cardboard boxes and try to fit them all into the blue curbside recycling cart. If you have many such boxes, you can take them to the Quincy or Trade Centers recycling drop-off sites and place them inside the very large bins.

3. If there’s some food left on a container after rinsing it, can it still be recycled?

All materials should be clean, dry and empty before being placed in the recycling bin. Reducing food contamination in the recycling stream helps ensure that materials can be recycled into new products. Although you don’t need to scrub or run food containers through the dishwasher before placing them in the recycling cart, all food debris should be removed. A simple wash or wipe with a paper towel is usually sufficient.

4. Can soiled cardboard, like pizza boxes, be recycled?

Very soiled cardboard including pizza boxes cannot be recycled and should be placed in the trash. Relatively clean pizza boxes can be recycled.

5. Can you put recyclables right in the cart? Or should they all be bagged?

Recyclables should ALWAYS be placed loose and directly into the cart. They should NEVER be bagged. Recyclables in bags will be disposed of as trash at the recycling sorting facility. Even empty, plastic bags should never go in the recycling cart.

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Arlington’s yard waste collection service has been suspended since May, and there’s still no word as to when it might resume.

There is a bit of a silver lining, though: those who receive curbside collection — mostly single-family homeowners — will be getting an account credit for the lack of service, once it resumes. The county made that announcement today.

The credit will only be enough to buy a couple of lattes from one’s favorite cafe, however: just under $3 per month.

Yard waste collection service was suspended due to increased trash collection volume and staffing issues experienced by the county’s contractor. During the suspension, the county has been offering free yard waste drop-off at two locations, as well as curbside brush and tree limb service.

The suspension has led to a bit of entrepreneurship: some local high school students have facilitating the drop-off of yard waste for a fee of $5 per bag or $20 per green bin, while advertising their services on local listservs and social networks.

More from Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services:

The County will be issuing a yard waste credit to the Household Solid Waste Rate once curbside collection is restored. Yard waste collection has been temporarily suspended since mid-May due to contractor staffing issues related to COVID-19. A date for service restoration is still unknown.

Yard waste collection and disposal accounts for $2.95 of the $26.58 (FY21) monthly Household Solid Waste Rate.

We know that suspension of yard waste collection,  especially during the spring and summer months, has been frustrating to many residents and appreciate your understanding during this challenging time. The County offers two yard waste drop-off centers for grass/leaves/vines, available Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. No appointment is necessary. Curbside collection of larger yard waste material  like brush and limbs remains available by appointment only.

Our Solid Waste crews have been working every day since the pandemic began to maintain essential trash and recycling service while dealing with the challenges we all are facing. We hope to return to normal service as soon as possible.

An update will be provided once we have restored yard waste service and the County is able to calculate the full credit amount and expenses.

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Arlington has been removing some parking spaces to facilitate the expansion of outdoor dining in two local neighborhoods.

The County Board approved a process for restaurants to apply for expanded, temporary outdoor dining areas in late May. Since then, county crews have blocked off street parking spots in six places to allow pedestrians to better get around the sidewalk cafes.

According to Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services, the repurposed parking spaces are located in the Shirlington and Clarendon areas, including:

  • Washington Boulevard between Wilson Blvd and 13th St N, about 2 parking spaces
  • Wilson Blvd between N Cleveland St and N Danville St, about 4 parking spaces
  • Wilson Blvd between N Hudson St and N Irving St, about 6 parking spaces
  • S Campbell St between S Arlington Mill Dr and S Quincy St, all on-street parking spaces
  • West side of S Randolph St immediately south of S Campbell St, a few spaces (exact number not available at this time)
  • West side of S Quincy St immediately south of S Campbell St (exact number not available at this time)

Crews were seen blocking off the Shirlington parkings areas Monday morning.

DES spokesman Peter Golkin said additional parking spaces may be repurposed as restaurants apply for Temporary Outdoor Seating Areas (TOSAs), though no additional, specific locations are currently planned.

“We are creating pedestrian space around outdoor seating as restaurants apply for outdoor seating,” Golkin said.

Jay Westcott contributed to this report

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Arlington County is apologizing for an “unfortunate situation” — ordering three Black employees to remove a girl’s Black Lives Matter chalk art from in front of her home on Juneteenth.

A neighbor complained about the chalk creations, which included quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, leading to the county response. Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services crews will remove any such markings, regardless of the message, upon receiving a complaint, the county said.

The county issued the following statement Friday night:

We apologize for this unfortunate situation, particularly on such an important day, Juneteenth. Our crews were following policy to remove markings, regardless of the message, on County right-of-way in response to a received complaint.  None of the markings were removed from private property.

We understand the deep feelings that are present in the community. Our mission is to deliver public services based on established policies in a consistent manner. We’re reviewing our policy. Our crews take great pride in keeping Arlington clean and safe.

The action drew widespread condemnation from residents and others after a neighbor wrote about it on social media and ARLnow subsequently published an article.

On Friday night, the neighborhood’s civic association condemned the removal of the chalk art and demanded answers from the county.

“These chalk drawings were expressions of solidarity with current racial justice protests done by African-American children, and whose father is a US Navy officer,” wrote the Boulevard Manor Civic Association. “The DES employees were ‘ordered’ to power wash the children’s chalk drawings as another resident in BMCA ‘complained.’ BMCA strongly condemns, is saddened, and is disappointed in the above action taken by DES.”

The Arlington branch of the NAACP said it “sent the County Board a communication” as well.

Earlier Friday, Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey called the removal “a mistake” and “wrong.”

“It was a mistake to prioritize responding to this call during a pandemic where our workers should not be deployed unnecessarily,” Dorsey told ARLnow. “Furthermore, removal of the chalk art from a driveway apron, widely known to be the responsibility of the resident, was wrong.”

“We apologize to the residents for erasing their expressions from their property and to our workers who were directed to do it,” Dorsey continued. “That this occurred as our County gathered to reflect on the unfulfilled promise of Black liberation on Juneteenth adds further insult, and compels us to confront the role of our government in perpetuating systemic inequities. We can, must, and will do better.”

Despite rain yesterday, residents came out to support the family whose drawings were removed, adding more chalk art and quotes to the street, sidewalk and driveway. More expressions of solidarity are expected today.

“We plan to go out again to line the streets and sidewalks with messages of solidarity and support for the Hamptons,” a tipster tells ARLnow.

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(Updated at 1:40 p.m.) Arlington County will be holding a virtual public meeting tonight to discuss a trio of road projects set for later this year.

The county plans to repave and re-stripe portions of Wilson Blvd in the Dominion Hills and Boulevard Manor neighborhoods, Potomac Avenue in Potomac Yard, and Clarendon Blvd in the Courthouse and Rosslyn neighborhoods. The work is expected to take place this summer and fall, following the current public engagement process.

Arlington has been using its regularly-planned street maintenance to re-stripe roads in an effort make them safer, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists. It often involves the addition or enhancement of bike lanes, sharrows and crosswalks.

At an online meeting tonight from 6:30-7:30 p.m., held via Microsoft Teams, county staff will present the concept plans for its three 2020 projects while seeking public feedback.

More from the event page:

The Master Transportation Plan identifies routine street maintenance as an opportunity to provide cost-effective and easy to implement measures to improve safety and access for all people using the street. Community engagement is a core value in Arlington, and we wanted to provide opportunities for community members to share their feedback on the concept plans for the 2020 Street Maintenance season.

Please join county staff for an online meeting on Thursday, June 4 from 6:30-7:30 pm to learn about the project, ask questions and share feedback on the design concepts for the three 2020 Resurfacing Projects for Complete Streets.

Staff will present concepts for:

  • Wilson Boulevard – N Larrimore Street to McKinley Road (Dominion Hills/Boulevard Manor)
  • Potomac Avenue – S Crystal Drive to Alexandria City Line (Potomac Yard)
  • Clarendon Boulevard – N Nash to N Oak Street (Clarendon-Courthouse/Radnor/Fort Myer Heights)

The country recently repaved and re-striped portions of Lorcom Lane and Military Road. The work was done in conjunction with construction on the new Dorothy Hamm Middle School.

An online open house in April discussed all four projects.

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(Updated at 8:45 p.m.) After abruptly announcing a suspension of residential yard waste collection Friday afternoon, effective Monday, the county is backtracking a bit and resuming it for a week.

“Arlington’s residential trash contractor has identified enough staff to offer curbside yard waste collection during regular routes tomorrow May 5, through next Monday, May 11,” the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services said in a tweet Monday afternoon. “The service will be temporarily suspended again beginning Tuesday, May 12.”

DES said last week that it was halting the weekly collection of grass clippings, twigs and other organic materials from local yards due to a sharp rise in residential trash volume during the pandemic. The county’s waste contractor is working to keep up with the increase in collection volume while dealing with staffing issues, DES spokesman Peter Golkin said today.

“American Disposal Services checked crew levels and wanted to get one more run of routes for yard waste before staffing numbers made that impossible,” Golkins told ARLnow. “The guys on the trucks are doing heroic work to protect Arlington’s health and well-being and as their numbers go down because of the coronavirus, ADS will concentrate on trash and recycling. The County is glad residents can get the green carts emptied before the suspension.”

Also starting Tuesday, the county is opening two yard waste drop-off locations for Arlington residents:

Beginning Tuesday, May 5, the County will offer two drop-off yard waste locations: the Earth Products Yard at the Trades Center, 4300 29th St. S. in Shirlington; and the North 26th Street and Yorktown Boulevard mulch pickup site, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Residents will be required to show identification. Landscapers must use official County paper yard waste bags available at 2100 N. Clarendon Blvd. and at 4300 29th. St. S.

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