Arlington, VA

(Updated at 11:35 a.m.) Firefighters from Arlington and Fairfax County battled a blaze in a home’s detached garage this morning.

The fire broke out around 10:30 a.m. on the 5800 block of 2nd Street S., in the Glencarlyn neighborhood near Kenmore Middle School. It sent a plume of thick black smoke into the clear sky, which could be seen from a distance.

The fire spread to “other outdoor structures” nearby,” ACFD said, but firefighters were able to extinguish the fire before it further consumed the garage. No injuries were reported.

A vintage Volkswagen Beetle appears to have been destroyed inside the garage.

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If you’re looking to spice up your love life for Valentine’s Day, some Arlington residents have a very simple request: please don’t do it on 4th Street S. in the Glencarlyn neighborhood.

Used condoms and smutty doorbell camera footage are evidence of the dead-end street’s transformation into a defacto lover’s lane. It’s not the kind of crime that will make regional news, but at least one resident on 4th Street said it’s been frustrating for locals.

On the surface, 4th Street S. west of S. Carlin Springs Road seems to have all the hallmarks of a quiet car rendezvous spot. It’s a dead end road with a boarded-up house on one side at the end of the street, and the other’s view obscured by trees. Potential in-vehicle exhibitionists are warned, however, the end of the street is within a stone’s throw of Carlin Springs Elementary School.

The resident — we’re not using his name — said he suspects the most likely culprits are local high school students. A few days ago, his daughter was alarmed to step outside and catch a pair mid-coitus. The resident’s doorbell camera caught the lovers in action, and when he saw the car parked on the block again he confronted a male driver, who initially denied it but when told there was a video of his car, fled.

While police scanner traffic suggested that this has been an issue before, Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage said there’s only one call for service on record.

“At approximately 1:49 p.m. on January 28, the Emergency Communications Center received a report of a sex offense in the 5900 block of 4th Street S.,” Savage said in an email. “The caller reported two subjects allegedly having sex inside a parked vehicle. The vehicle and subjects had since left the scene. The reporting party was outside the County at the time of the call and advised to call back when he returned home.”

If a similar incident happens on your block, Savage said residents should report suspicious activity to police by calling the non-emergency line at 703-558-2222.

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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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