Arlington, VA

Four community improvement projects are on this weekend’s Arlington County Board agenda.

The Board is expected to approve the $3 million slate of projects as part of its Neighborhood Conservation program. The somewhat controversial program, previously on the budgetary chopping block, awards funding to modest infrastructure improvement projects requested by local community groups.

The projects set for funding this fall include:

  • Street improvements in the Glencarlyn neighborhood along 4th Street S., from Kensington to Illinois streets ($1.3 million)
  • Pedestrian safety and intersection improvements in the Dominion Hills neighborhood at N. Larrimore Street and 9th Street N. ($1.2 million)
  • Intersection improvements in the Highland Park-Overlee Knolls neighborhood at 14th Street N. and N. Ohio Street ($0.5 million)
  • Landscaping and beautification in the Old Dominion neighborhood at 24th Street N. and Old Dominion Drive ($28,125)

Photo via Google Maps

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Next week, county officials will present details and ask for feedback on a long-awaited project to restore a pond along the W&OD Trail.

On Tuesday, October 1, Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services will present a draft plan for digging the Swallow Pond in Glencarlyn Park deeper, and restoring some of the wild habitat in and around the pond.

People interested in learning more about the designs can attend the meeting at the Long Branch Nature Center (625 S. Carlin Springs Road) from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Officials are also welcoming feedback from community members.

“The project goal is to restore the pond to the original depth by removing sediment, add a sediment collection forebay to allow easier maintenance and sediment removal, maximize water quality benefits, and restore habitat,” the county wrote on the project webpage.

Officials hope that clearing sediment means clearer water will flow from the pond to Four Mile Run — making this project one of several the county is hoping can cut down on pollution and clouding downstream in the Chesapeake Bay.

Sparrow Pond was man made in 2001 and has been slowly filling up with sediment ever since.

Sparrow Pond in 2018 after years of sediment build up, filling in the manmade waterway (Image via Arlington County)

Sediment was first cleared out of the pond 2007, per a county presentation. The pond was due for another clean-up in 2012, but the work was delayed. Several studies later, the pond is now slated for a full restoration project.

During a March community meeting, residents expressed concerns that construction could introduce invasive plants like Japanese knotweed via machinery that’s worked in places already seeded with the fast-growing shrub. Residents also requested crews do the work outside of the sparrow breeding cycle (roughly March to August) to protect the pond’s namesake avian inhabitants.

Image 1 via Flickr Pool/Dennis Dimick, others via Arlington County

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Virginia Hospital Center executives celebrated when they finally earned permission to expand the hospital’s North Arlington campus and execute a long-planned land swap with the county — but one of the consequences of the deal has some employees and parents feeling blindsided.

VHC is gearing up to send Arlington its property at 601 S. Carlin Springs Road in Glencarlyn, in exchange for gaining control over a piece of land at 1800 N. Edison Street. The latter property is adjacent to its existing facilities along N. George Mason Drive, and will be a key part of the hospital’s hotly debated expansion plans.

Of course, that’s going to prompt some big changes at the Carlin Springs Road site as the county takes over. Among them is the impending closure of a childcare center that the hospital operated on the property in tandem with Bright Horizons, serving VHC employees and local parents alike.

The daycare facility is now set to close on July 26, according to letters from both VHC and Bright Horizons provided to ARLnow. Though that deadline may be a full four months away, parents with kids at the daycare say they’re now scrambling to find alternative options.

The county is currently facing a childcare crunch, with local leaders currently weighing strategies to bring down the cost of daycare options in Arlington, and VHC parents say those conditions have only exacerbated the shock they felt about the childcare center’s closing.

“I was feeling reassured that finally Arlington realized that there’s more demand than supply when it comes to childcare, and now this happens,” said one parent, who declined to be identified. “It’s ironic that in Arlington, where there’s supposed to be some attention to how challenging it is to find childcare centers, instead of opening a new place we’re closing one of the big ones down and forcing families and employees to figure things out on their own.”

A spokesperson for the hospital would only confirm that the center is closing sometime this year, saying that “the details of the closing are still being worked out,” but otherwise would not comment on the situation.

Mike Malone, VHC’s vice president for administrative services and chief human resources officer, wrote in a letter to parents that it was his “great disappointment” to have to close the center. He said “the county will be repurposing the land on the Carlin Springs campus and demolishing the building,” prompting the closure — VHC leaders previously told ARLnow that the land swap would be finalized by May or June at the latest.

Malone added that Bright Horizons is “committed to helping every current family find care in another Bright Horizons center or [helping] you transition into another center of your choosing.”

In a letter of their own, Bright Horizons executives pointed to the “over two dozen centers spread across the metro area” that the company operates as options for parents. They also noted that they have “resources available to facilitate your child’s transition,” and said they plan to help staff at the center find jobs at other Bright Horizons locations.

Parents at the center told ARLnow that help is appreciated, but they fear it isn’t enough to manage the transition.

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Arlington transportation planners’ latest attempt at crafting the future of the county’s cycling infrastructure has left neighbors, bicyclists and environmental advocates both pleased and disappointed.

The first draft of the 5o-page document, known as the bicycle element of the county’s Master Transportation Plan, originally included 26 cycling infrastructure projects including new trails and on-street bikeways. Since then, county staff has cut a few bike trails from the document, including two major projects: the Arlington Hall trail in Alcova Heights and another connecting the former Northern Virginia Community Hospital in Glencarlyn to Forest Hills, which were chopped after outcry from neighbors and environmentalists.

Still, bike advocates expressed broad support for the plan, but some think the latest draft doesn’t go far enough to ensure pedestrian safety and combat climate change.

“We made a number of changes in response to what we heard,” said Richard Viola, the project manager for updating the plan at the transportation division of the Department of Environmental Services (DES) told ARLnow Thursday. “I don’t think it negatively affects the overall plan, but it certainly shows a little more consideration of our natural resources.”

The plan is a sort of guiding “wish list” for the county, which some refer to as the “Master Bike Plan.” Viola’s group has been revising the document for more than a year, with the final version expected to be adopted later this spring. The latest edition will be posted publicly next week, he said.

During this latest revision, the county dropped its proposal for an off-street, half-mile trail connecting 6th Street S. to S. Quincy Street in the Alcova neighborhood at S. Oakland Street. The trail became a point of controversy because it could mean 6th Street residents lose some backyard privacy, and the county would cut down some important trees.

“We heard from a number of people from that Alcova Heights neighborhood that they did not want to see the trail built,” said Viola. “And then later we heard from a number of people in the neighborhood who want to see the trail build.” Ultimately, his working group shelved the Alcova trail idea for another time.

Another nixed idea was to extend the Four Mile Run Trail a half mile to connect with Claremont Elementary and Wakefield High. The Audubon Society wrote a letter in January warning that the proposal could cause “potential harm” to the rare magnolia ecosystem in the area.

“It’s a useful connection,” Viola said of the proposed trail. “People walk it today. But it would not be a suitable bike route when we thought about it because of the steepness [of the trail] and the proximity to this magnolia bog natural preserve.”

Another plan that became bogged down was a Glencarlyn/Hospital Trail connecting Glencarlyn and Forest Hills neighborhoods via the old site of the Northern Virginia Community Hospital. The half-mile project was envisioned by Viola’s team as a “low-stress route” between Arlington Boulevard and Columbia Pike because it could link up with other bikeways on S. Lexington Street, S. Carlin Springs Road, and 5th Road S.

The Audubon Society wrote that a trail passing through the old hospital site would “destroy valuable natural resources” in the conservation area that protects Long Branch Creek.

As a compromise, Viola’s team suggested instead widening the sidewalk on the east side of Carlyn Springs Road, so bikes and pedestrians can share.

“There are other comments they did not address in their plan,” said Audubon Society member Connie Ericson, referring to the organization’s January letter. “But we are pleased that they took some of our suggestions.”

However, members of the Arlington County Transportation Commission were “not wild” about the sidewalk idea, according to Commission Chair Chris Slatt.

Slatt told ARLnow Friday morning that members felt a paved, woodsy trail was too rare an opportunity pass up.

“There aren’t a lot of places where you could jog or bike without cars next to you,” he said. “It would seem like a shame to give up on that.”

In general, the plan drew praise from Ericson, and other advocates like D.C.-based Wash Cycle who said they couldn’t “spot any holes in the plans” in a January blog post.

Bruce Deming, who runs the Law Offices of Bruce S. Deming, Esq. and is known as the “Bicycle Lawyer,” also praised the Master Bike Plan for being “very thorough” and having a “cohesive strategy.” But he also told ARLnow in a phone call that, when it comes to safety, the “sense of urgency should be greater” in the latest draft.

The plan contains no mention of speed cameras — something Deming admitted is “politically unpopular” but reduces the injury and mortality rates in crashes with pedestrians and cyclists.

Deming also critiqued the plan for not prioritizing more bike lanes protected from cars, something 64 percent of respondents surveyed by the county wish for according to the Master Plan.

“According to the latest version of the plan, we’ve got 29 miles of bike lanes and 10 percent are the protected bike lanes,” said Deming. “I’d like to see that percentage increase substantially.”

Viola told ARLnow that the plan has been updated to language about “traffic safety education.”

The updates to Arlington’s Master Bike Plan are the first in 10 years, and according to Viola, the county doesn’t expect to undergo the process again for another decade. This comes a few months after the U.N.’s report indicating humans have 12 years to cut emissions before global warming causes permanent ecological damage, and reducing trips by car is one way to do this.

The Master Bike Plan acknowledges this, writing that improving the county’s pledges to improve air quality and reduce its emissions “depend greatly on shifting more travel to energy-efficient travel modes such as bicycling and walking.”

For Slatt, this means ensuring the infrastructure is so good it makes people want to ditch cars for bikes — something that would be easier to figure out how to do if the county allocated more resources and invested in high-end data analysis.

“People don’t people pick their transportation option because it saves the planet,” he said. “People pick their transportation option because it works for them because it’s faster or cheaper or makes them happy.”

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Police car (file photo)An alert Arlington County police officer may have prevented a repeat convenience store robber from striking again.

Police say the officer saw a vehicle driving with its lights off just before 1 a.m. this morning (Thursday) in Lyon Park. The officer then saw a man running from the 7-Eleven parking lot at 2704 Washington Blvd, toward the car. The man was stopped and a black ski mask was found in his possession.

Police believe the man, 21-year-old Arlington resident Camron Richards, was about to rob the 7-Eleven when another car pulled into the parking lot, spooking him. He was charged with attempted robbery in connection with the incident.

Arlington police have also charged Richards with the robbery of a 7-Eleven on S. Carlin Springs Road, near Kenmore Middle School, on Tuesday afternoon. During that robbery, a suspect wearing a black ski mask used force to steal cash.

Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage said there have been a series of 7-Eleven robberies across Northern Virginia recently, prompting an FBI investigation.

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Police car lightsA man was stabbed in the chest and slashed across the face while trying to stop a purse snatching near Kenmore Middle School early Saturday morning.

The incident happened around 12:40 a.m., on the 5900 block of Arlington Blvd. Police say a 48-year-old woman was walking down the street when a man came up to her and tried to steal her purse.

A male friend of the victim, who was walking in front of her, intervened and tried to stop the robbery. A second suspect then stepped in and stabbed the 53-year-old man in the chest and slashed him across the face with a knife, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.

After the suspects ran off, the victims managed to flag down a passerby, who called 911.

Medics found the man lying in the grass, suffering life threatening injuries, Sternbeck said. They managed to stabilize him and rush him to Inova Fairfax Hospital. The medics’ quick actions likely saved the man’s life, Sternbeck said — he’s expected to survive.

The woman whose purse was stolen, meanwhile, suffered a laceration to her hand during the robbery.

Police are searching for the two suspects, who remain at large.

“The first suspect is described as a Hispanic male, approximately 5’4″ tall, and wearing a black t-shirt and dark pants,” according to a police crime report. “The second suspect is described as a Hispanic male, approximately 5’6″ tall, and wearing a black t-shirt and dark pants.”

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Police car lightsA man and two boys were taken into custody after allegedly stealing alcohol from a local 7-Eleven store.

The incident happened at the 7-Eleven store on S. Carlin Springs Road across the street from Kenmore Middle School. Police say the trio entered the store late Monday night, stole some booze and shoved the clerk on their way out.

From this week’s Arlington County crime report:

ROBBERY, 150811004, unit block of S. Carlin Springs. At approximately 11:30 p.m. on August 10, two juvenile suspects and an adult suspect entered a 7-11 and stole alcohol. When confronted by a clerk they pushed him aside and fled. Richard William Shelton, 25, of Arlington VA, was arrested and charged with robbery and 6 counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The juveniles were released in the custody of their parents.

The rest of the crime report, after the jump.

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Police car (file photo)A woman was sexually assaulted near Kenmore Middle School last week.

The incident, which happened on the unit block of S. Carlin Springs Road in the Glencarlyn neighborhood, was reported around 2:00 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 2. The victim told police that a man blocked her way and insisted that she kiss him in order to get past.

“Becoming increasingly concerned, the victim attempted to kiss the suspect on the cheek to placate him when the suspect grabbed the victim’s head and forcing a mouth-to-mouth kiss,” Arlington County Police said in a crime report. “As the victim was leaving, she was chased by the suspect who grabbed her by the arms before she could enter her vehicle. The suspect then forced one of her hands onto his crotch.”

The woman was able to break free and drive off. So far, no arrests have been reported in the case.

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arlington-va-logoThe Arlington County Board could approve another round of neighborhood improvement projects at its meeting this Saturday.

Six projects are slated to receive $3.5 million in funding in the fourth and final round of appropriations from 2012’s $11 million Neighborhood Conservation Bond.

The projects are:

  • Street improvements to the 5700 block of 2nd Street S. and the 100 block of S. Kensington Street in Glencarlyn. Cost: $724,042. Expected completion date: June 2016.
  • A trail connector from the 4800 block of 7th Street S. to the W&OD trail in Barcroft. Cost: $135,317. Expected completion date: October 2015.
  • Pedestrian safety improvements to 19th Road N. between Woodstock Street and Upton Street in Waverly Hills. Cost: $753,845. Expected completion date: May 2016.
  • Street improvements to S. Lang Street between Arlington Ridge Road and 28th Street in Arlington Ridge. Cost: $713,003. Expected completion date: October 2015.
  • Streetlights and trail improvements on N. Ohio Street between 22nd Street and Washington Blvd in Highland Park Overlee Knolls. Cost: $380,369. Expected completion date: July 2015.
  • Park improvements to Woodlawn Park in Waycroft-Woodlawn. Cost: 795,000. Expected completion date: None given.

The projects were chosen based on a priority scale and approved for recommendation by the NCAC in December.

The projects given the highest priority were those in neighborhoods that have recently updated or completed new conservation plans and in neighborhoods that have waited for projects the longest. The county staff report has the full list of criteria.

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South Arlington parents protesting School Board capacity plansMore than 500 parents and residents have signed a petition asking the School Board to hold to its plans of building a new elementary school in South Arlington.

School Board Chair Abby Raphael sent a letter to community members last month notifying them that the Board was considering diverting $4.5 million in design funds — slated for a new elementary school next to Kenmore Middle School in Glencarlyn — to relieving middle school overcrowding in North Arlington.

The elementary school was originally supposed to open in Glencarlyn in 2017. The plans are not the only changes Arlington Public Schools facilities could be due for when the Capital Improvements Plan for 2015-2024 is adopted in June — a move or expansion for H-B Woodlawn is also on the table.

The list of options for the CIP won’t be narrowed until April or May after a long community involvement period, according to APS.

The $4.5 million was part of a bond Arlington voters approved by referendum in 2012. Glencarlyn neighbors protested the location of the school at the time, claiming the added traffic would be a hazard for the neighborhood. Raphael references their objections in her letter as a reason to reconsider the school.

Below is the Change.org petition, which has garnered 555 signatures as of 3:30 p.m. Thursday:

… we ask that you remain true to the original intention of the 2012 School Bond by moving forward with the design (and later construction) of a new South Arlington elementary school.

As busy residents of Arlington County and/or parents of young APS students, we may not have the ability to attend every… CIP stakeholder meeting — e.g. the Community Forum on Feb. 5th at Washington-Lee High School; however, we remain concerned citizens who want to ensure that our voices are heard on this issue. We voted for the 2012 School Bond based on a specific plan laid-out in the bond’s FAQ sheet (http://www.apsva.us/CIP), and we want to ensure that APS and its School Board follow-through on their original intention to alleviate imminent elementary school overcrowding south of Arlington Blvd., rather than re-directing those bond funds toward the design (and later construction) of a new North Arlington middle school.

Thank you!

Photo via Change.org

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New elementary school proposed for the Carlin Springs/Kenmore campus(Updated at 1:15 p.m.) The Arlington School Board is reconsidering the plan to build a 600-seat elementary school at the Kenmore Middle School site in Glencarlyn.

Despite voters approving $4.5 million in design costs for the school in a 2012 referendum, the Board is looking at diverting that investment to prepare for middle school overcrowding in the coming years, which is projected to be more serious than the capacity issues in elementary schools.

School Board Chair Abby Raphael, in a letter sent to parents and community members who have inquired about the issue, says its updated projections call for elementary schools in Arlington to be 3 percent over capacity in FY 2019, while middle schools are projected to be 16 percent over capacity in the same time period.

Raphael also referenced the objections from Glencarlyn residents from 2012 as a reason to re-evaluate building the school in the neighborhood, saying “the community raised significant concerns about the traffic and transportation issues” surrounding a new, 600-seat school in the area.

APS is revisiting the plan in advance of their next Capital Improvements Program for FY 2015-2024, which will be adopted in June. Raphael wrote that no decisions have been reached on what schools to build, if any, or if the School Board elects to construct additions onto existing schools.

Civic activist Monique O’Grady is trying to organize a campaign against the apparent backpedal. O’Grady said she’s disappointed that APS is considering abandoning its plans.

“The numbers still show that south Arlington will face more than an elementary school’s worth of overcrowding, so I believe the plan should move forward,” she wrote in an email. “I believe middle school should be addressed, but it shouldn’t come at a cost of 770 South Arlington elementary students being in trailers and with yet-to-be-mentioned programs being moved.”

O’Grady said the school should still be built while APS comes up with creative, cost-effective solutions to address anticipated middle school overcrowding.

“I worry that increased development in South Arlington, especially of apartment buildings and condos, will result in more students than currently projected and that South Arlington schools will become even more crowded than anticipated,” she said. “This is not a time to pull back from researched, planned and approved permanent elementary capacity in South Arlington. I think it is important for the South Arlington community to stand up and ask the school board not to turn South Arlington into a trailer park.”

APS acknowledges it does not have the finances to build capacity to accommodate 100 percent of the projected growth. No matter what comes out of the CIP, trailers will still be used as classrooms. The elementary school in Glencarlyn was originally slated to open in 2017.

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