New Rosslyn Food Hall Nears Opening — “American Real Estate Partners is nearly ready to take the wraps off Assembly, the food hall atop the Rosslyn Metro station, a project that’s been more than two years in the works and was thrown a curveball by the Covid-19 pandemic. Assembly at Rosslyn City Center, a 29,000-square-foot space spread over two levels at 1700 N. Moore St., is slated to open this week for a sneak peak for tenants and next week to the wider public.” [Washington Business Journal]
Northam Announcement in Arlington Today — “Gov. Northam will announce a ‘budget proposal for federal American Rescue Plan funding’ at the Arlington County offices in Sequoia Plaza on Wednesday afternoon, per a press release.” [Twitter]
Bonds Likely to Be on Ballot — “Arlington County Board members on July 20 formally requested the placement of four local-bond referendums on the Nov. 2 ballot, which if approved by voters – as seems likely – would lead to a further increase in the government’s debt-service payments… the following bonds will go to voters: $38.7 million for transportation and Metro. $23.01 million for schools. $17.035 million for community infrastructure. $6.8 million for local parks and recreation.” [Sun Gazette]
ART Buses Lifting Capacity Restrictions — “Starting August 1, rider capacity restrictions will be lifted on all ART buses. Seats inside the buses will no longer be blocked off.” [Twitter]
Ceremony Held for Urban Garden — “Project HUG revitalizes underused land at Virginia Highlands Park and illustrates how marginalized space in National Landing’s urban environment can be transformed into vibrant, sustainable, food producing ecosystems. This pilot project serves as a model of modern sustainable agricultural practices to demonstrate how community-driven farming can address food insecurity by leveraging partnerships across public, private, civic, and non-profit communities.” [Press Release]
Va. Unemployment System Struggling — “As the embattled Virginia Employment Commission has been scrambling to move through a massive backlog of unemployment claims, thousands more cases have been pouring in from jobless residents. Staff who review disputed claims have been leaving the agency, and the General Assembly’s watchdog has sounded alarms about measures being taken by the commission to hasten the process in response. Many unemployed Virginians say the commission’s unresponsive call center has stopped picking up the phone.” [Washington Post]
Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1812 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn.
When Arlington resident Michael Morgan suffered an anxiety attack, he had no idea that the source of his recovery would one day become a business.
The attack was a slow burn. Morgan started feeling unsteady on his feet and a few months later, he could not get out of bed.
After seeking therapy, he realized his physical state stemmed from business and personal troubles: smarting from two startups that sank, due to legal and financial missteps, and reeling from his father’s recent cancer diagnosis.
He said the attack “was 100% related to the entrepreneur life” while the diagnosis “hit me like a ton of bricks.”
Morgan, a biochemist, has a green thumb, and his first steps outside his house were to his backyard, where he healed through gardening. He did not intend to turn his hobby into a company but his friends saw his gift and spotted the business opportunity. This year, Morgan launched Shimo, an organic gardening kit for novices with a little space.
Sustainability runs like a vein through his three ventures. Morgan’s last two ventures included a sustainable phone and Everblume, a hydroponic appliance that nearly made it to the business-launching TV show Shark Tank.
But unlike these two, Shimo grew more organically, he said.
“Entrepreneurs will often start by creating a product and finding customers,” he said. “This time, it was the customer saying, ‘I think you have a good product.”
Shimo takes Morgan back to the root of gardening, too.
“When you think about growing food, it’s really that simple: soil, seed, water, sun,” the biochemist and entrepreneur said. “Why over-complicate it?”
The kit ($50-$60) ships to customers’ doors and includes 100% organic soil, seeds, plant food and a grow bag made from recycled material. Morgan said Shimo makes growing food less intimidating for newbies.
“People ask me, ‘Why is this unique?'” he said. “I tell them, ‘Go to Lowe’s or Home Depot one weekend, go to the Lawn and Garden Center, and then tell me where you’re going to start. There are thousands of seeds and fertilizers to choose from. Then, they get it.”
Families can grow delicious lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and more for as little as two dollars per harvest, which he said could be a boon to people who live in food deserts.
The bags and the soil will last several years and the recurring costs are just new seeds, fertilizer and an annual soil amendment, Morgan said.
“Shimo uses the concepts we’ve used for several thousands of years and puts a spin on it for an urban or suburban environment, where people don’t have space or access to land, but still are interested in growing their own fresh food,” he said.
With his bounty, Morgan said he has pickled unripe cherry tomatoes to use in martinis instead of olives, made sage sticks and lavender oil, and is working with a D.C.-based mixologist to craft a cocktail using the flowers from mustard greens. He is compiling these ideas and other tips and tricks for his website’s blog.
Ultimately, Morgan aims to cultivate a community of micro-homesteaders around Shimo. He envisions people swapping knowledge, experiences, stories, as well as their own recipes and DIY ideas.
“I know it’s cliché, but when you think about agriculture, society, and history has been, it has always been community-driven,” he said.
Photos courtesy Shimo
A dazzling array of daffodils are now on display at Culpepper Garden.
The affordable senior living facility at 4435 N. Pershing Drive planted the flowers as part of the first phase of an ongoing restoration of its gardens. The garden now contains 28,000 daffodils of over seven varieties.
The daffodils’ official debut will be at a planned Spring Garden Walk on Saturday, April 10, from noon to 3 p.m. The Spring Garden Walk is the first in a series of events in the garden planned throughout this year, according to a press release.
The celebration also comes after a recent renovation to Culpepper Garden’s independent living building. The press release noted that apartments are available to people over the age of 62 living at less than 60% of area median income ($52,920).
“The Spring Garden Walk is the first in a series of interactive garden events planned throughout 2021,” the senior care organization said in a press release. “Sponsorships and funds generated through these events will be used to complete the full restoration of the historic gardens planted by Dr. Charles W. Culpepper, a scientist and botanist who worked for the Department of Agriculture.”
The daffodils commemorate the work of Culpepper, who sold the five-acre tract of land to non-profit Arlington Retirement Housing Corporation in 1973.
The gardens can be accessed via private, self-guided tours. There is no charge for the tours, but donations to Culpepper Garden are encouraged. A limited number of guided tours are also available, with advanced reservations available by contacting Jasmin Witcher at 703-528-0162 or emailing [email protected].
Garden space at Arlington Public Schools is being used to grow produce for local pantries.
Now, fresh produce like lettuce, peppers and tomatoes fill soil at Wakefield High School, Thomas Jefferson Middle School, Hoffman-Boston Elementary and Tuckahoe Elementary.
“The community response has been amazing,” Emily Landsman, an FOUA board member, said in a press release. “The garden coordinators and school communities wanted to continue growing even though the schools were closed. To date, we have recruited over 70 volunteers and several Master Gardeners to assist the APS Garden Coordinators, and have donated over 500 pounds of fresh produce.”
Local pantries have also received over 2,500 pounds of fresh produce from growing efforts in residential neighborhoods, churches and schools, according to FOUA.
For those who want to donate, Rock Spring Congregational church accepts produce donations on Mondays and Thursdays from noon-2 p.m. and Clarendon Presbyterian Church is holding a monthly food drive to help Arlington’s homeless population.
FOUA is currently seeking experienced volunteers to help in the gardens for one to four hours a week.
Photos via Arlington Friends of Urban Agriculture
When moving into a small living space, growing crops seems like a faraway possibility.
Local company Love & Carrots wants to prove otherwise.
As a part of Arlington’s “Urban Agriculture Month,” on Friday, October 11, Love & Carrots hosted a public tour of their ordinarily private rooftop garden at the Ten at Clarendon apartment complex, where they taught visitors how to successfully grow vegetables in their own homes or apartment buildings.
During the tour, Carly Mercer, director of garden programming for Love & Carrots, debunked common issues with urban farming, including a perception that it’s difficult to do well.
“A lot of it comes down to frequent watering, pest control, and maintaining a deep enough level of soil,” said Mercer.
Many urban gardeners who grow herbs out of their balcony, she said, plant them in shallow pots that, unbeknownst to most, require watering every one to two hours.
But growing plants on a rooftop also comes with its faults, Mercer added.
“We can’t grow crops on a trellis, so things like grapes are out of the question. And with heavier winds, we had to rule out heavier produce — a butternut squash once went flying off of a rooftop.”
Across the D.C. area, Love & Carrots creates garden spaces for schools, non-profits, residences, restaurants, and residential communities. Every other week, Love & Carrots gardener stops by to help maintain the plants. The company is growing as local interest in urban agriculture blooms.
Their space at Ten at Clarendon provides apartment residents with a monthly share of the produce, and every other week, a Love & Carrots farmer lays out fresh harvests in the lobby for all residents to enjoy.
Got a pesky boxwood that needs a bit of trimming or row of cabbages overdue for planting? Maybe it’s time to visit Arlington Public Library’s tool lending program “The Shed.”
“The Shed houses 157 garden tools and generates close to 700 checkouts each growing season,” APL spokesman Henrik Sundqvist told ARLnow. “We have made strides each year to reach more residents as we continue our outreach efforts in the community.”
The Central, Glencarlyn, and Westover branch libraries also care for flower gardens and organic vegetable gardens, with some of the vegetables being donated to the Arlington Food Assistance Center’s food bank system.
The lending program allows library patrons to check out a variety of tools from the Central Library branch at 1015 N. Quincy Street. All patrons need to do to check out the tools for free is sign a waiver, have a library card, and show proof the patron is 18 or older.
“The idea for a garden tool lending program came as a natural evolution in the library’s continuing efforts to support the county on issues of community sustainability and particularly urban gardening,” Sundqvist said of the 2014 founding of The Shed.
“Library staff participated in the county’s Urban Agriculture Task Force and suggested a garden tool lending collection as one way of encouraging and facilitating urban gardening and healthy living,” he said.
Today, The Shed is open three days a week: on Wednesdays from 5-7 p.m., Fridays from 3-5 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Sundqvist said hedge shears, tree pruners, and pruning saws are the garden tools patrons check out most frequently from The Shed.
The tool library is part of APL’s non-book collections, which also includes equipment for testing energy efficiency in your home. APL also opened a free makerspace in April where patrons can access a range of tools for woodworking, sewing, coding, and 3D printing projects.
This unusual collection is part of a bigger movement nationwide building “Libraries of Things” that serve communities by allowing patrons to borrow everything from neck ties to GoPros to musical instruments.
Arlington County is turning trash into treasure by growing thousands of pounds of fresh produce for a local food bank using compost from residents.
Last February, Arlington’s Solid Waste Bureau began a pilot program to create compost from residents’ food scraps. Now some of that compost is coming full circle and being used in some of the local gardens that supply fresh produce for Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC).
AFAC is a nonprofit that receives around a million and a half pounds of food donations annually. The goods comes from several sources: grocery stores, private food drives, farmers markets and farms, and gardens around the region, according to spokesman Jeremiah Huston. Part of that comes from its “Plot Against Hunger” program, which cultivates the fresh produce.
AFAC staffer Puwen Lee manages this program, which she helped grow back in 2007 after noticing the food bank distributed frozen vegetables even in the summer months.
“And I thought, ‘This is really strange because I got so many vegetables in my garden,'” she said. After mentioning it to the nonprofit’s leadership, Lee said the director dropped off 600 packs of seeds on her desk and left it up to her.
Since then, Lee, who grew up gardening in Michigan, estimates the program has received over 600,000 pounds of fresh produce and has grown to include gardens from the Arlington Central Library, schools, and senior centers — and now it’s experimenting with using waste from residents themselves.
Trading trash for treasure
The Solid Waste Bureau collects food waste in two green barrels behind a rosebush by its headquarters in the Trades Center in Shirlington. The waste is then dumped into a 10-foot-high, 31-foot-long earth flow composting stem that cooks the materials under a glass roof and generates 33 cubic yards of compost in about two weeks.
When Solid Waste Bureau Chief Erik Grabowsky opens the doors to the machine, the heady smell of wine wafts out, revealing a giant auger slowly whirring through the blackened bed, turning the composting food.
Grabowsky said the final mix is cut with wood chips — something not always ideal for most vegetable gardens. But Grabowksy says it’s an “evolving” mixture that the department will tweak over time and which he plans to test in the department’s own garden next to the machine.
After the wood chips, the mix is shifted through a hulking “trammel screen” and distributed to AFAC and the Department of Parks and Recreation.
On a recent weekday, workers Travis Haddock and Lee Carrig were busy in Bobcats shuffling dirt off the paved plaza Grabowksy says will host the department’s first open house next Saturday, June 8 to show how the recycling system works. Normally, they manage repairs to the auger and the flow of compost in and out of the machine.
(When asked what their favorite part of the job was, they joked it was when the auger “stops in the middle and you got to climb in there.”)
The department’s free June event, called “Rock-and-Recycle,” will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the department’s lot in the Trades Center and will feature music and food trucks. Attendees will also be able to check out the compost for themselves, as well as the nearby Rock Crusher and Tub Grinder.
From farm to food bank
AFAC is currently experimenting with using the compost for one of its gardens. The nonprofit also makes its own mix using plant scraps and weeds pulled up from the beds.
Near AFAC’s Shirlington headquarters, volunteers run a garden that donates all its yield to the food bank. Boy Scouts originally built the raised beds that now make up 550 square feet of gardening space, and grow lettuce, beets, spinach, green beans, kale, tomatoes, and radishes, on a plot near a water pump station along S. Walter Reed Drive.
Plot Against Hunger manager Lee said the space was originally planned as a “nomadic garden” in 2013, but thanks to the neighboring Fort Barnard Community and the Department of Water and Sewer, it became a permanent fixture on Walter Reed Drive.
Certified Master Gardener Catherine Connor has managed the organic garden for the last three years. She says she’s helped set up the rain barrels and irrigation system that waters the beds in addition to supervising the planting. Now the beds are thick with greens and bumblebees hum between the flowers of the spinach plants that have gone to seed.
“Last year, we had just an incredible growing season,” Lee said. “From the farmers markets alone we picked up something like 90,000 pounds [of food.]”
Arlington Agenda is a listing of interesting events for the week ahead in Arlington County. If you’d like to see your event featured, fill out the event submission form.
Also, be sure to check out our event calendar.
Tuesday, Feb. 13
Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper
St. John’s Episcopal Church (415 S. Lexington Street)
Time: 6-7:30 p.m.
Join the Shrove Tuesday celebration with the traditional pancake feasting prior to the Lenten fasting. Adults pay $5 each and $3 each for kids 6-12. Younger children are free.
Clarendon Mardi Gras Parade
Wilson Boulevard from Barton to Irving Streets
Time: 7-11 p.m.
A family-friendly parade with marchers, bands, and the occasional dressed up dog or pony. Expect lots of costumes and beads thrown from parade floats.
Wednesday, Feb. 14
St. Agnes Ash Wednesday Mass
St. Agnes Catholic Church (1910 N. Randolph Street)
Time: 6:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Worshipers can attend Ash Wednesday Masses throughout the day, from early morning until mid-evening, to celebrate the beginning of Lent and receive their ashes.
Thursday, Feb. 15
Archives of American Gardens: Capturing Garden History
Little Falls Presbyterian Church (6025 Little Falls Road)
Time: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
The Smithsonian Gardens’ horticulture collections manager, Cindy Brown, will discuss American garden history conservation with photographs and documents. An optional lunch is $5.
Friday, Feb. 16
Creative Coffee: Mark Making
Connection: Crystal City (2100 Crystal Drive)
Time: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
A casual weekly creative meet-up for artists to experiment and improve their work in a social setting. Bring your own materials to this adult-friendly gathering.
Sound Check: Music Bingo
Mister Days Sports Rock Cafe (3100 Clarendon Blvd)
Time: 6 – 8 p.m.
Test your musical trivia knowledge with an aurally-inspired bingo game. You’ll have 30 seconds to figure out a song and match it to your bingo card. Prizes after every round and happy hour pricing.
Chinese New Year Celebration
Long Branch Nature Center (625 S Carlin Springs Road)
Time: 6 – 7:30 p.m.
Celebrate the Chinese New Year with the naturalists at Long Branch Nature Center. There will be live animals, dragon crafts, and a short hike holiday-themed hike.
St. Agnes Soup Supper
St. Agnes Catholic Church (1910 N. Randolph Street)
Time: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
The church will offer meatless soups and a noodle dish, and more every Friday during the Lenten holiday. Guests are invited to stay for confession and the stations of the cross afterwards.
Sarah Colonna Live
Arlington Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike)
Time: 10 p.m.
Comedian, author, and Chelsea Lately roundtable regular Sarah Colonna performs at the Arlington Drafthouse with three performances over two nights,
Saturday, Feb. 17
USA-Russia Olympic Hockey Watch Party Brunch
Quinn’s On The Corner (1776 Wilson Boulevard)
Time: 6:45 a.m. – 5 p.m.
The Courthouse sports bar is opening very early for an Olympic USA versus Russia hockey watch party, with $1 champagne flutes and brunch until 5 p.m.
Hamiltunes: An American Singalong
Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street)
Time: 12 – 4 p.m.
Sing along to the music of “Hamilton: An American Musical.” Revolutionary War-era costumes encouraged and appreciated. A costume contest will be held during intermission.
Studio Xfinity’s Lunar New Year
Studio Xfinity (3601 Fairfax Drive)
Time: 1 – 5 p.m.
A free celebration at Studio Xfinity for the Year of the Dog, with dragon dancers, calligraphy, a fortune cookie bar, and more activities.
Conversation: Poets Jodie Hollander and Robert Mezey
One More Page Books (2200 N. Westmoreland Street)
Time: 6 – 7 p.m.
Poets Jodie Hollander and Robert Mezey will read from their works. Hollander will share from her collection, My Dark Horses. Poet and critic Mezey will share from his award-winning body of work.
Sunday, Feb. 18
President’s Day Celebration at Market Common
The Loop at Market Common (2800 Clarendon Boulevard)
Time: 12:30 – 3:30 p.m.
Don’t want to race yourself? Watch the Washington Nationals’ Presidents race around the Loop. Free Nicecream hot cocoa provided, and there will be a photo booth and prize wheel.
A homeowner in Arlington’s Forest Glen neighborhood says she plans to fight a county inspector’s order that the abundant plant life in her yard be dramatically trimmed.
Lori Brent says her front yard at 665 S. Harrison Street has been a certified wildlife habitat for well over a decade and is beloved by many of her neighbors.
But it was a complaint from a neighbor earlier this year that prompted a county inspector to pay her a visit.
“I found it really weird because I’ve lived here for 15 years and everyone loves my yard,” she said.
Acknowledging that her garden had become “a little overgrown” after she had been away for three weeks, Brent said a “very adversarial” inspector stopped by, called the yard “a jungle” and said “you’ll be getting a letter from us.”
According to Brent, the letter ordered her to trim all of the plant life, even bushes and trees (the county disputes that), to a height of 12 inches. A follow-up inspection, to ensure her compliance, is scheduled for tomorrow (Friday).
Brent, however, said she has trimmed all that she intends to trim, making the yard — which now include Halloween decorations — look “more like a proper garden,” even if it might not meet the letter of the law.
“I cut more than I’d like to… in good faith, to be a good neighbor,” Brent said. “It kills me to get rid of the food sources for the animals before the winter. We can’t have just grass, that’s horrible for wildlife.”
“I flat out refuse” to do more trimming, said Brent. “Frankly it’s against my religion, I’m Pagan. You can’t get me to rid our animal habits and put in cement or whatever they want.”
Arlington County officials, as you might imagine, have a bit of a different story.
“Although, it is not our practice to discuss the details of active enforcement cases, I’d like to provide clarity regarding the issues generated at this particular property,” said Gary Greene, Code Enforcement Section Chief for the county’s Inspection Services Division, via email.
“In 1988, the Commonwealth enabled localities to adopt an ordinance to deal with nuisance conditions like excessive vegetation overgrowth and vegetation that encroaches upon sidewalks and streets,” he wrote. “Where adopted, the legislation has been effective in reducing the nuisances and public health hazards created by biting, stinging and jumping insects, increased pollen litter and harborage for rodents and the vast number of predators that prey on them.”
“Arlington’s Condition of Private Property Ordinance limits the height of grass or lawn areas to not more than 12 inch height, a limit consistent with international standards used to control vector related pest issues,” Greene added. “Our investigation of the complaint at the address provided, affirmed overgrowth in excess of five feet, vegetation encroaching onto the sidewalk and even extended onto county property immediately adjacent to the private parcel.”
Long story short: Brent’s personal Garden of Eden could be an inviting home for a bunch of bad critters, and that’s why the county is on her case.
“The enforcement is not arbitrary or onerous, but it is equitable to ensure public health; and yes, there are considerations for cultivated areas,” said Greene. (Similar enforcement has taken place elsewhere in the county.)
“The County’s issue is public health, not manicured lawns,” he said.
Brent, for her part, is left to wonder why the enforcement is taking place now, even though her yard has been chock full of vegetation for a decade. As far as wildlife, she said the yard is primarily home to chipmunks, rabbits and birds — critters that aren’t going to harm humans.
“My neighbors are all up in arms, they’re so upset,” Brent said. “The situation has been surreal to say the least.”
Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.
“In the past few years, I got my Master Gardener certification and I began helping friends and family with their gardens,” Carpenter said. “At some point, people started telling me that I should do this for a living, and at first I just chuckled at the idea, but eventually I allowed the idea to percolate and I decided there was merit to it.”
And so Carpenter founded Sprout, an Arlington startup that helps other Arlingtonians realize their dreams of the perfect backyard garden. But simple gardening isn’t the only purpose on Carpenter’s radar.
“As a business woman who also strives to serve a higher purpose with my life, it was important to me to structure Sprout as a benefit corporation,” Carpenter said. “This means that we’re a for-profit business with a mission to make a positive social impact. We have a triple bottom line — that means that we measure our success not just by profit, but [also] by our impact on people and planet as well.”
Sprout’s most popular offering is its backyard organic vegetable garden service.
“There are so many people who want to grow their own organic veggies and herbs, but they either don’t have the time or the know-how to do it themselves,” Carpenter said. This leads them to Sprout. “We build the beds, amend the soil, create a garden map, and sow the plants. We then come back once a month for six months to make sure the garden is thriving, and to transfer our knowledge to our clients.”
Each garden is custom-made, depending on the size, space and other factors. In addition, Carpenter said Sprout will work with clients to ensure that the services work within their budget. The company also offers coaching for people who want to do the labor themselves.
In fact, the company’s goal is to help customers feel comfortable growing their own produce, with the hope that they eventually become independent in their gardening endeavors, Carpenter said.
“We believe that the more people who grow and eat local organic produce, the healthier our community and the Earth will be,” she added.
Other services that Sprout offers include corporate services and cooking parties for individuals. And even more offerings are on the horizon.
“We’re testing several new revenue streams, which will help Sprout to grow beyond the DC area and to develop a national presence,” Carpenter said. “Our goal is to become the first national garden-to-kitchen consumer brand, so we’re actively and strategically pursuing options to make that happen,” including online education, mobile applications and products. “We’re very excited about the possibilities, and we’re looking forward to talking with potential partners and investors in the near future to help us scale the Sprout brand,” she added.
But as the company grows, Carpenter says it will continue to stay true to its roots.
“Arlington provides the perfect client base for Sprout — there is an intense clustering of people who understand the importance of healthy living, and they want to eat local/organic, but they don’t have a lot of space or time to grow their own organic food,” she said, adding, “This is our ideal audience, so we’ve found a wonderful base of clients here.
“I couldn’t imagine basing Sprout anywhere else, and I intend to keep Sprout headquartered in Arlington even as we grow to become a national brand.”
A garden in front of a Columbia Forest home is center of a debate between the county’s Department of Environmental Services and a local resident.
Maraea Harris created a Change.org petition to save her garden, which is planted on a hellstrip, the piece of land between a sidewalk and the road. It all started when a county official told Harris to remove the garden because it violated the county’s weed ordinance due to the plants’ heights, she said.
“Rather than work with me to create a workable solution while maintaining the environmental value and beauty of the space, the only option I was given was to make it grass or mulch,” Harris said on the petition.
Harris appealed the county’s decision. Yesterday, someone in the county manager’s office informed her that the county will postpone the removal of the garden until it can discuss the case internally, she said.
The county reached out to Harris after receiving a complaint that the garden made the sidewalk — located along a dead end portion of S. Buchanan Street — inaccessible for handicapped people, said Luis Araya, a county official with the Department of Environmental Services.
“A DES inspector contacted the owner of the residence and asked them to remove these items from the public street right-of-way as they created a hazard to public safety and were unauthorized use of the public right-of-way,” Araya said. “The county does not allow such uses to the public.”
According to the Arlington County Garbage, Refuse and Weed Ordinance, weeds and grass have to be one foot tall or less. The ordinance does not specifically mention whether flowers can be planted in the public right of way.
“The purpose of grass strips that exist between the curb and sidewalk on public streets are to accommodate street lights, water meters, street signs and other infrastructure-associated items maintained by the County and private utility companies,” Araya said.
Residents must also keep all vegetation off of sidewalk and the road in order to prevent safety hazards. Harris’ garden was becoming dangerous, Araya said.
“There are many potential safety hazards that the public can encounter in unauthorized landscaped areas in the public right-of-way such as tripping hazards, visibility issues for vehicles, narrower sidewalks limiting the width of ADA clearances for wheelchairs and, in this particular location, bee stings,” he said.
Harris said that she had no problem adjusting her garden to make the sidewalk more handicap accessible. However, she did not want to completely remove the garden, which brings butterflies and other insects to the neighborhood.
“It is a small space but there is more life in the 4 x 20 ft. space than all the neighborhood grass lawns combined,” she said on the petition.
Despite the one complaint from a neighbor, Harris said most people on S. Buchanan Street enjoy the garden. As of today, 53 people had signed the petition for the garden, including some of Harris’ neighbors.
“They like to have it because their kids walk by it to what’s in it and what’s growing,” she said.
As a gardener, Harris said it is frustrating that the county has many pollination and environmental efforts, but they want to mow over her garden hellstrip garden and others like it. Helping residents understand the guidelines and working toward a compromise over the hellstrips would be more beneficial, she said.
“Instead of coming after them, why not support them?” Harris said.