Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

It’s Veterans Day — “Arlington County Government offices, courts, libraries & facilities will be closed Mon., Nov. 11, 2019, on Veterans Day.” Also, ARLnow will be on a limited publishing schedule. [Arlington County]

Fracture in Ranks of Arlington Dems — “Longtime Democratic volunteer John Richardson removed his name from the roster of ‘poll greeters,’ bemoaning party ‘orthodoxy.’ After last May’s divisive primary for commonwealth’s attorney, Richardson went public with criticisms of the successful outside-funded Parisa Deghani-Tafti campaign against incumbent Theo Stamos. That led party officials, he said, to ‘disinvite’ him from being a greeter.” [Falls Church News-Press]

County Releases Flood History Map — “Working toward a more Flood Resilient Arlington, the County continues to add to its array of stormwater management resources for the public. Challenges and the Path Forward, a just-published, visually rich Story Map, illustrates how Arlington’s peak 20th century development took place amid few standards for stormwater — and the ramifications for today’s more frequent, intense rain storms lasting very short periods of time.” [Arlington County]

Nearby: Skyline Complex Acquired — “A New York-based commercial real estate firm has acquired the aging Skyline office complex in Baileys Crossroads for about $215 million with plans to revitalize the 1970s-era property Vornado Realty Trust (NYSE: VNO) relinquished ownership of nearly three years ago.” [Washington Business Journal]

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Arlington is hosting three events next week focused on flood mitigation and safety efforts.

The free events — which were planned in conjunction with the county’s new Flood Resilient Arlington program — come in the aftermath of July’s flash floods, which caused nearly $6 million in damage to county-owned property alone. Among the aims: to answer questions and provide tools for homes and businesses to minimize future flood damages.

“Recent localized flooding from intense short periods of rainfall now challenge parts of our stormwater system due to issues of capacity and limited overland relief,” the county wrote on its webpage dedicated to flooding information and the new resilience events. “Arlington is working toward flooding resilience through defining balance between private and public responsibility; scaling levels of flood protection and mitigation; and needs based investment.”

Two of the events are workshops for homeowners and business owners, addressing questions about who was eligible for flood insurance, what damages the policies cover and what kind of damage the county covers.

The first workshop will be held on Thursday, October 24, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) and the second will be on Saturday, October 26 from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. at George Mason University (3351 Fairfax Drive).

“The goal of the workshops is for homeowners and business owners to learn how to reduce their risk of flooding by hearing from experts in design, hazard mitigation and insurance,” said Peter Golkin, spokesman for Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services.

A third workshop called “How to Navigate Disaster in Business” will be held for business owners responding to a range of crises, including flooding as well as active shooters or fires. That event is scheduled on Wednesday, October 23, 2019 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Arlington Economic Development (1100 N. Glebe Road).

“There will be more to come following these initial sessions,” added Golkin.

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Arlington County has made progress in repairing infrastructure damaged in the July 8 flash flood emergency.

Last week Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services reopened a portion of the Four Mile Run Trail that runs under Wilson Blvd. The underpass was partially washed out by the force of the raging flood waters.

Crews “completed the work to repair the bike trail underpass by replacing the curb that was undermined by the stream and placing new concrete slab on the sidewalk surface,” DES spokeswoman Jessica Baxter tells ARLnow. “We also painted the curb on the outer perimeter towards the stream. Overall, it took about two weeks to complete.”

Arlington reported around $6 million in damage to county infrastructure from the flooding. Baxter said DES has completely most of its repairs, though some work remains to be done.

“In terms of repairs, we have substantially completed our tasks — we have minor items to address, such as catch basin repairs,” she said.

A number of footbridges were swept away by floodwaters. At least one, near 38th Street N. in the Old Glebe neighborhood, was recently replaced. Arlington’s parks department is currently evaluating the replacement of others.

“As of Oct. 2, County contractors have removed bridges that were destroyed by the storm, including the bridges at 38th St. N. and N. Chesterfield Street, Bon Air, Glencarlyn and Gulf Branch. Lubber Run will follow,” parks spokeswoman Susan Kalish said. “All bridges and fords damaged in the storm are being assessed for safety and next steps.”

Photo (1) courtesy Dennis Dimick, (3) courtesy @btj/Twitter

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Following weeks of fallout from the July 8 storm, Arlington officials are discussing a new program for tackling future floods.

During Tuesday’s County Board meeting, County Manager Mark Schwartz introduced “Flood Resilient Arlington,” to be considered during the spring budget planning.

Demetra McBride, who heads the Department of Environmental Services (DES) Sustainability and Environmental Management bureau, said Flood Resilient Arlington will include educational forums, site visits, and a potential flood-resilience incentive program to help the county prepare for increasingly extreme weather caused by climate change.

The program “builds upon” the 2014 Stormwater Master Plan, which outlined improvements to Arlington’s stormwater management systems, streams, and watersheds over the next 20 years, according to DES Chief Operating Officer Mike Moon.

“We hear about climate change, and it always seems to be somewhere else,” said Vice Board Chair Libby Garvey. “People tend to think and accuse the government of not doing something right, they don’t buy the climate change reason, so we have a level of education we [owe].”

Funding for Flood Resilient Arlington will not be established for “eight to nine months,” said Moon.

The next steps include approximately 80 visits from Board members beginning this month to sites deemed a “high risk” for flooding, or homes that received more than four feet of water during the July 8 storm. During the Tuesday presentation, McBride listed several neighborhoods — such as Waverley Hills, Westover, and Rock Spring — as high risk for future flooding based on past data. She highlighted steps homeowners can take to stay dry.

“I realize this is emotional for people, your home is a big investment,” McBride said. “They have families and children and they’re concerned for their safety.”

Two public forums to discuss the program are planned: one on Thursday, October 24 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street), and another on Saturday, October 26 from 10 a.m.- 12 p.m. at George Mason University’s Arlington campus (3351 Fairfax Drive.)

During the meetings, the public can expect to:

  • Hear from experts on flood-proof design
  • Learn about flood insurance options and coverage
  • Learn about how to flood-proof your house

McBride stressed homeowners need to educate themselves on flood insurance policies, also noting the county needs to step in with educational resources.

Several residents told ARLnow in the flood’s aftermath they had received conflicting information about their eligibility for flood insurance and were left fearing they would have to bear tens of thousands of dollars in repair costs.

During the disaster, dozens of residents fled their homes, a few beloved Arlington businesses closed for repairs, six pedestrian bridges were washed away, and thousands of dollars were raised on platforms such as GoFundMe. The county stated days later it would not cover any sewage overflow damage caused by the flood, telling ARLnow it would violate state law.

Since then, residents have applied for over $2.1 million in U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loans, Schwartz shared, and Arlington businesses have applied for more than $100,000 in loans. Applicants can still file for a loan by Monday, October 7.

“During a majority of the 1,100 damage reports [this summer], people had insurance and thought they were protected, and then they realized there were exemptions and exclusions,” said McBride. “That’s a gap we would help to close.”

In addition to damage to private property, Arlington County reported $5.8 million in damage to county property and Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall reported damage to 26 buildings.

McBride said Arlington will have to slowly overhaul its public infrastructure through several long-term projects — like upgrading the stormwater pipes, developing large tanks for water storage, and property acquisition — to help address the flood risk.

“These [will require] long-term disruption of neighborhoods,” she said. “I wish we could avoid that, but we’re simply not going to be able to and that’s going to be a partnership we need to have with the public.”

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Morning Notes

Shooting Suspect Arraigned — “The man charged with shooting a woman he knew in her Crystal City, Virginia, office on Aug. 28 has had his first court appearance in Arlington County District Court. Mumeet Muhammad was arraigned on three felony counts: aggravated malicious wounding; use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, 2nd offense; and being a violent felon in possession of a weapon.” [WTOP]

Coastal Flooding Discussion — “The Northern Virginia Coastal Storm Risk Management Study will focus on sites in Arlington County, the City of Alexandria, Fairfax County, northern Prince William County, and at the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority’s Reagan National Airport–as part of an effort to reduce coastal flood risk to people, properties, and infrastructure.” [MWCOG]

ACPD Wins State Award — “The Arlington County Police Department received top honors in the Municipal 5: 301-600 Officers Category in the 2019 Virginia Law Enforcement Challenge Awards.” [Arlington County]

Arlington’s Lonely Turkey Vulture — “Hallmark doesn’t have a card for it – yet – but the first Saturday of September nonetheless is celebrated as International Vulture Awareness Day. And in Arlington, that means a visit to Long Branch Nature Center and Tippy the resident turkey vulture.” [InsideNova]

Nearby: Falls Church Sheriff Vehicle Burns — “At approximately 6 a.m., City of Falls Church Police and the Arlington Fire Department responded to a call for a vehicle fire at City Hall… The vehicle was a marked Sheriff’s cruiser and was totaled in the blaze. An officer near the scene stopped a suspicious person for questioning, and subsequently arrested him.” [City of Falls Church]

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It’s been a tumultuous road to recovery for two Westover stores devastated by this summer’s record-breaking floods.

Ayers Variety and Hardware and Westover Market and Beer Garden are local institutions that were unfortunately placed directly in the path of floodwaters. Waters flooded both stores and knocked out power to the block.

“Every week it gets better,” said Devin Hicks, manager of Westover Market. “This place has never looked so clean and the community support has been tremendous.”

As Westover Market approaches its ten-year anniversary, Hicks said he’s feeling optimistic.

“It’s been a fight the entire time,” Hicks said. “But everyone’s been remarking that they’re happy to see us persevere. It’s been a rough two months, but it gets better every day.”

Next door, however, recovery has not been as easy for Ayers. The local store has been in business for 70 years selling everything from gardening supplies to plastic toys. But Kristy Peterkin, a manager for the store, said the business was already hard-hit by recent tariffs from the ongoing trade war with China.

“At the same time as the flood, one tier of the China trade tariff hit,” Peterkin said. “Now the second tier is starting to take effect. That’s a big hit.”

Peterkin says the company tries to buy American, but most of the stock they sell is almost exclusively manufactured overseas.

“Probably about 75 percent of what we sell is not American-made,” Peterkin said, “and we’ve seen a 25 percent increase in the prices. Walmart absorbs that price, but we can’t.”

The flood heavily exacerbated what was already a not-so-great situation. Water poured into the Ayers basement, ruining thousands of dollars in merchandise and leaving the store with nowhere to put overstocked goods. Today, half of the basement remains unusable.

“Until that’s fixed, we have nowhere to store additional [stock] that comes in,” Peterkin said. “We’re out of money to spend paying people to fix things, so repairs are on us now, which takes a lot longer. My husband and I work evenings trying to clear the basement.”

The basement flooding has left the store with limited inventory, as Peterkin said they have to be more careful about what they purchase because there’s no room to store surplus and they can’t afford to take a risk on items that they aren’t sure will sell.

“We’re kind of in a rough place right now,” Peterkin said. “I don’t know how that will look in the long run. We’re taking it one step at a time.”

Both stores said a GoFundMe campaign set up to support Westover retailers was a tremendous boon at a time of dire need. Hicks said Westover Market received roughly $30,000 and was particularly thankful to Whitlow’s On Wilson in Clarendon, which hosted a fundraiser event for the Westover stores.

“The event at Whitlow’s was great,” Hicks said. “It had a great turnout, there was great music, and everyone really rallied.”

Ayers received roughly $32,000 and Peterkin said the funding took a chunk out of the estimated $250,000 in lost sales and merchandise.

Peterkin also said there was an initial uptick in sales after the flood where members of the community came out to support the store, but since then numbers have dwindled back down and revenue is flat.

“In business, flat basically means down,” Peterkin said. “If business is flat, everything else still goes up, like rent and payroll and insurance. But to stay competitive, we can’t raise prices to accommodate.”

With winter on the way and a heating unit still out of service from the floods, Peterkin said there are still more costs looming on the horizon and no clear way to afford to pay for them.

There are also concerns that if heavy storms sweep through the area again, the same damage will happen all over. During the floods, Hicks said he saw the sewage pipes in the area become almost immediately overwhelmed and start spewing the water back up into the streets.

“The county needs to address this,” Hicks said. “They need to clean the sewage drains. They have to address it county-wide because it’s only going to get worse.”

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As some Arlingtonians are still struggling to put their lives together after flash flooding in July, the county is continuing to work to repair flood-damaged public property.

Early estimates put damage to the county at $3.5 million, but Hannah Winant, a spokesperson for Arlington County Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management, said estimates for the damage to county property has swelled to $5.8 million. Those costs include debris cleanup, emergency protective measures, and repairs to County facilities like parks and community centers.

Winant said bridges in Lubber Run and Glencarlyn parks suffered the worst damage from the storms. A storage building at Bon Air park was also seriously damaged, as were other pedestrian bridges, playgrounds and more across Arlington. Additionally, the County is assessing the erosion to local waterways that could require long-term fixes.

Arlington has submitted its preliminary assessment to the state, but after the state receives the assessment it must be validated.

“This process can go on for a few weeks, as crews triage the damage and more information becomes available,” Winant said. “This is where we are now.”

Once the state completes its assessment, that information is submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), after which the agency portions out funding and technical support for public properties that have been damaged.

“Reimbursement is also being sought through the County’s insurance,” Winant said. “During this time, the County cleans up from the disaster, removing the debris and cleaning right-of-way, and tries to get back to normal operations for the community such as opening parks and other affected facilities. The recovery process can be a long one and we appreciate the community’s patience and support as we navigate the process of requesting aid.”

Going forward, Winant predicted recovery costs will continue to increase as weather changes become more severe.

“Weather is consistently increasing in its severity and frequency,” Winant said “Nationally, both insured and uninsured losses continue to grow — so costs from disasters are rising as disaster frequency also increases.”

For homeowners, businesses, and renters who were affected by the flooding, the Small Business Administration is offering low-interest loans. The filing deadline for physical property damage is Oct. 7, and the deadline for economic injury applications from business owners is May 7, 2020.

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(Updated at 10:15 p.m.) If you are someone whose home or business was damaged in the July 8 flooding, Arlington has launched a temporary Local Recovery Center (LRC) to help get your life back together.

The center helps connect residents with a variety of resources — like senior services or a table detailing what to do if you find mold in your home — but the main feature of the LRC is the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which is offering flexible, low-interest loans for those impacted by the floods.

The LRC is located on the second floor of the Arlington County Trades Center (2700 S. Taylor Street). The Center is scheduled to operate for the next week:

  • Today-Thursday: 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
  • Friday: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
  • Saturday: 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • Monday: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. (SBA loan center only)

A similar center will operate in the Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library (7584 Leesburg Pike) in Fairfax County.

Locals who experienced flood damage in Arlington, Alexandria or Fairfax County may be eligible for SBA loans.

“Our qualifications are not as stringent [as a bank loan],” said Julie Garrett, a public affairs specialist for the SBA. “You must demonstrate that you can pay back the loan, but it’s very flexible.”

There are three categories of loans available:

  • Business Physical Disaster Loans — These loans are for businesses to repair or replace disaster-damaged property, like merchandise and machinery, though the loans are also available for non-profit organizations. Businesses of any size can apply.
  • Economic Injury Disaster Loans — These loans are aimed at helping small businesses or agricultural cooperatives make up for lost revenue from days that they were closed. Garrett said these can be especially important for mom-and-pop businesses that operate on monthly or quarterly cycles that may have difficulty paying their bills.
  • Home Disaster Loans — These loans are for homeowners or renters to repair or replace flood-damaged homes or property, which can range from clothing to cars.

All applicants are required to have a credit history and must be able to show that they can repay all their loans. Garrett said there is no collateral required for loans under $25,000. If the loan is approved, Garrett said the applicants have 60 days to decide whether they want to accept it.

Many of those whose homes or businesses were impacted by flooding have already started work on repairing their property, and Garrett said loans can also be applied to damages paid for out-of-pocket. Those who have already paid to fix their damages are required to have receipts of their purchases and photos of the damage.

“We loan based on the amount of damage,” Garrett said. “Most insurance offers a depreciated value [for property], but we look at replacement value.”

The loans may also cover damages to fences, decks, garages, tree removal and property considered in the “immediate vicinity” of a house.

Aaron Miller, director of emergency management for Arlington County, said the County has received just over 1,000 reports of damages from people and businesses across Arlington. Garrett said only 26 individuals had applied for home disaster loans so far, but more are expected as people learn of and visit the LRC.

Applicants requesting a loan for physical damage are required to file by Oct. 7, while filings for economic injury have a deadline of May 7, 2020.

Meanwhile, Miller said the County is working through financing its own flood recovery — a process that could take months.

“We are continuing to go through assessments for public assistance,” Miller said. “That’s everything from emergency repairs to the longer recovery process.”

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Gov. Ralph Northam announced today (Thursday) that Virginia will help those impacted by July’s historic floods with low-interest loans to cover the cost of repairs.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will dole out federal loans of up to $200,000 for damage to people’s homes, or up to $2 million for damage to their businesses. Homeowners and renters are also eligible for loans of up to $40,000 covering the cost of the many personal possessions lost in the unusually strong storm.

Residents and small business owners in Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and Fairfax County are eligible to apply.

Residents will have until October 7, 2019 to request a loan to cover physical property damage, and businesses will have until May 7, 2020 to request a loan for economic damage.

“Applicants may be eligible for a loan amount increase up to 20 percent of their physical damages, as verified by the SBA for mitigation purposes,” the governor’s office and Virginia Department of Emergency Management wrote a joint press release. “Eligible mitigation improvements may include a safe room or storm shelter to help protect property and occupants from future damage caused by a similar disaster.”

The terms SBA sets for the loans will depend on the individual, officials say, but can last 30 years with interest rates around 4% for businesses, 2.75% for nonprofits, and 1.938% for homeowners.

“The SBA is strongly committed to providing the people of Virginia with the most effective and customer-focused response possible to assist businesses of all sizes, homeowners and renters with federal disaster loans,” said Acting Administrator Christopher Pilkerton.

“We appreciate the Small Business Administration approving our request for financial assistance to help Virginians get back on their feet and move forward as quickly as possible,” Northam said in a statement. “We will continue working in close coordination with the affected communities to support their recovery.”

In the meantime, SBA is setting up a space in Arlington for residents to come with questions about the loan process. The space, dubbed the “Disaster Loan Outreach Center,” will be located in the Arlington Trades Center (2700 S. Taylor Street) and will open for about a week, starting next Tuesday.

The schedule, per the governor’s office:

  • Tuesday, August 13 — 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM
  • Wednesday, August 14 — 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM
  • Thursday, August 15 — 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM
  • Friday, August 16 — 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM
  • Saturday, August 17 — 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM
  • Sunday, August 18 — CLOSED
  • Monday, August 19 — 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM

In addition to online applications at DisasterLoan.sba.gov, paper applications can be mailed to the SBA’s Processing and Disbursement Center, located at 14925 Kingsport Road in Fort Worth, TX.

Residents can contact the SBA with questions by emailing [email protected]gov, or calling the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955 (or dialing 1-800-877-8339 a deaf-accessible line.)

Over 1,000 residents filed damage reports with the county and Arlington declared a state of emergency in the hopes of applying for state and federal aid. As repair costs mounted and the county said it wasn’t liable for sewer damageseveral businesses, neighborhoods, and homeowners said they were forced to set up online fundraising campaigns.

The July flash floods dealt an estimated $4.1 million worth of damage to county-owned property and damaged dozens of buildings on the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. These properties are not eligible for SBA loans.

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(Updated at 2 p.m.) Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall is assessing damage to two dozen different buildings on the base caused by last month’s disastrous flooding, per a spokesperson.

“The base is still assessing the damage sustained during the flooding and is working on a report to be forwarded to our higher headquarters at the Army’s Installation Management Command,” said JBMHH Spokeswoman Leah Rubalcaba.

“There were a total of 26 facilities across our three bases of Fort Myer, Henderson Hall and Fort McNair that sustained water damage,” Rubalcaba told ARLnow in an email yesterday (Thursday.) “Military organizations do not have insurance, but are allotted an annual budget for operations and maintenance. Then, based on the final assessment and funding availability, additional funds will be forwarded to JBM-HH for repairs.”

She said the base has had to move events, like a recent job fair, into the basketball court because the community center is currently unusable.

“Somehow water got under the flooring and the floor buckled so nobody can walk on it,” she said.

Additionally, one bus from Marine Corps Base Quantico was parked in the lower lot by Henderson Hall — part of the headquarters of the U.S. Marine Corps — when rain flooded the area, damaging the bus along with four cars and a forklift.

The Henderson Hall parking lot, dubbed the “lower flood lot,” is prone to flooding because of the landscape’s natural drainage. But in her 15 years of working on the base, Rubalcaba said she’s never seen flooding as high as during the storm on July 8.

“We know we’re going to get a little bit of rain there. But usually like an inch,” she said. “That’s why we don’t build anything there. People know that’s what happens and they stay away from it.” 

The unusually strong storm last month dumped 3-4 inches of water in an hour on Arlington. Roads, businesses and homes across the county were inundated with water and sewage with one stream swallowed whole by a broken pipe.

Countywide, the storm wrought an estimated $4 million in damages to publicly-owned property alone.

“We’re hoping to get some extra funding just to get everything repaired,” said Rubalcaba.

Courtesy photo

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Arlingtonians have a “can-do” attitude but the county is asking residents to refrain from cleaning up flood debris in local parks.

Residents have been taking matters into their own hands following the July 8 flooding, according to Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish, but it’s a job best left to the professionals.

The flooding caused $3.5 million in damage to county infrastructure, particularly in local parks, and the cleanup effort is still in progress. Officials are asking residents for patience while the work continues.

From the parks department website:

Let’s be careful out there! We sustained a lot of damage in the storm. Our crews have been out to evaluate and install protective barriers around impacted areas. For your safety, do not cross the fences or caution tape in our playgrounds, bridges, walking paths and park areas. While we appreciate Arlington’s “Can-Do” attitude, debris along streams and creeks will be cleaned up by Park staff and contractors, please do not attempt to move, play or handle such debris.

“Safety is our number one concern and we have seen signs in the parks of debris and things being moved,” Kalish told ARLnow. “We are being proactive in our messaging by posting that notice as we know how much our community cares about and uses our parks.”

“Parks and Recreation hasn’t received any reports of injuries,” Kalish added.

Photo courtesy @btj/Twitter

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