Arlington officials are pledging to take a fresh look at how they manage local historic districts, after one neighborhood’s design standards is forcing a Maywood family to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a roof repair.
Brendan and Jody Devine have spent more than a year working with county officials to get permission to use asphalt shingles when overhauling the roof of their home along the 3500 block of 21st Avenue N. But the county’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board, known as the HALRB, blocked that request because the home is located in the Maywood Neighborhood Historic District, and the board feared replacing its current stamped tin shingle roof with a more modern style of roof would leave it out of step with the rest of the neighborhood.
The Devines appealed that decision to the County Board, but members voted unanimously yesterday (Tuesday) to uphold the HALRB’s decision.
Board members, however, expressed a great deal of remorse over that vote, lamenting that the county code obligated them to side against the Devines, even if they agreed with their concerns about the tin roof’s cost.
“We’re ending up on the wrong side of justice if we don’t provide a way to promote the architectural compatibility with the neighborhood, while at the same time accounting for real life circumstances,” said Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey. “I think we can figure out a way to do better.”
Brendan Devine noted at the meeting that the tin shingles would likely cost as much as $30,000, compared to $5,000-6,000 for the asphalt option, and that that is only for a portion of the roof. He argued that the county would be effectively making the neighborhood an “enclave” for the wealthy if the Board forced homeowners to embrace such expensive options.
In general, Board members agreed with that sentiment, though they felt there was little they could do to make a difference in this particular case.
County Attorney Steve MacIsaac cautioned that members had little choice but to side with the HALRB’s ruling unless the Devines could prove that board made some sort of “arbitrary and capricious” decision. The Board took heed of his opinion, but with some communities around the county trying to pursue historic districts in order to protect affordable housing options, several members expressed a willingness to revisit the county’s policies on the matter.
“This is a cautionary tale,” Chair Katie Cristol said. “We’ve had members of our community who have sought to use a historic designation overlay as a tool to protect affordability… but to the extent we’re looking to protect either garden apartments or single family homes, it can sometimes work at cross purposes.”
Board members were particularly interested in finding a way to get the HALRB to consider the cost of a change like this as a central part of their deliberations. Joan Lawrence, the HALRB’s chair, told the Board that her group did indeed take the expense of the tin shingles into account, but ultimately felt making an exception in this case could lead to a slippery slope.
“A defining feature of this historic district is this particular roof,” Lawrence said. “We’re dealing with a situation of death by a thousand cuts… I don’t think being good stewards of a historic neighborhood, a historic house, is making it an enclave.”
More Water Infrastructure Repairs — Work to replace a collapsed 18-inch stormwater pipe on Arlington Ridge Road is expected to continue through the weekend, prompting detours on Arlington Ridge between 23rd Street S. and S. Glebe Road. Also today, crews from the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services are working to fix a broken water main, affecting 50-100 water customers, on the 1600 block of N. Jackson Street in Lyon Village. [Twitter, Twitter]
History of the Namesake of Hall’s Hill — The historically African-American neighborhood of Hall’s Hill in Arlington is named after an “infamous” 19th century slaveowner named Basil Hall who once shot a slave in a fit of “bravado.” In 1866 his land was sold to form the neighborhood. Hall had a sister, a downtown brothel keeper named Mary Ann, whose land in Arlington later became Marymount University. [Falls Church News-Press]
Local Kids Pen Hamilton Book — Just in time for Hamilton, the wildly popular musical, to arrive at the Kennedy Center, two Arlington kids (and their dad) have self-published a 50-page book “about the Washington-area sites related to Alexander Hamilton, his wife Eliza, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and other Founding Fathers.” [Amazon]
Photo courtesy John Sonderman
Arlington’s Black Heritage Museum, once only a virtual museum, opened a physical, though temporary, location today (May 1).
A bit sparse, the museum’s exhibits and decor are still in the works; at least one exhibit room still needs to be filled. Though it opened in 1996, the museum has only had an online presence.
It’s a relatively bare-bones space, nestled on the top floor above the Sun Trust bank at 3108 Columbia Pike. It’s intended to be temporary until a suitable, permanent home for the collection can be located.
“It is what it is,” said Portia Clark, the museum’s volunteer office manager and the Nauck Civic Association’s president.
“For now, we just need a presence, so we don’t have a preference,” Clark added.
While additional exhibits are lined up, those currently available provide a glimpse into what Clark calls the rich history of the three predominantly African American communities in Arlington — Nauck, Hall’s Hill and Johnson’s Hill (now Arlington View).
In one area of the musuem, a visitor can learn about the life of prominent African-American Arlingtonian John Robinson; in another, the history of how black Arlingtonians never could truly say that they were born in the county since black families had to go to Washington to give birth, according to Clark.
“There are so many stories to be told,” she said. “There’s a number of stories that we’re still collecting to tell.”
Volunteer staff are still planning fundraising events, and Clark said that the museum hoped to raise much-needed funds at a Founders Day event, as well as at a possible art show and a book signing later in the summer.
The Black Heritage Museum is currently open on Tuesdays from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., on Thursdays from 3 p.m.-6 p.m., and on Saturdays from 1 p.m.-4 p.m., but different exhibit viewing times can be arranged by calling ahead and making a request.
The legacy of Arlington’s Fire Station No. 8, and how to honor it, will be the subject of a community discussion this weekend.
The event is scheduled from 3-4:45 p.m. on Saturday (April 14) at the Arlington Central Library auditorium (1015 N. Quincy Street).
During segregation Fire Station No. 8 was the only Arlington station staffed by African Americans.
The Fire Station 8 History and Legacy working group is hosting the discussion, “to share memories, perspectives and ideas on how to recognize, emphasize and honor the history and legacy of the Hall’s Hill/High View Park Volunteer Fire Department and Fire Station No. 8,” according to an Eventbrite page.
The group is due to submit recommendations for ways to honor the fire station’s legacy by late May.
A new, four-bay station is set to be built at 4845 Lee Highway, where the existing Fire Station No. 8 stands. The design process is scheduled to begin this summer.
Photo via Arlington County
Northam Talks Golf Course Bill — Speaking on WTOP’s “Ask the Governor” program, Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) addressed the country club tax bill that Arlington officials want him to veto. Northam said the taxation of Army Navy Country Club, which counts numerous veterans among its members, particularly “needs to be addressed” and that if negotiations are not successful he will “step in and take action,” though the exact action he would take is unclear. [WTOP]
How Arlington Almost Was Home to the Nationals — Boosters of baseball in Arlington almost succeeded in bringing a Major League Baseball team to the county. The Nationals, before landing near Navy Yard in D.C., were considering a stadium site in Pentagon City, but a series of unfortunate events nixed it. [Arlington Magazine]
ART Bus Turns into Sauna — From a Twitter user yesterday: “@ART_Alert my bus driver just begged me to contact you and ask to get his bus fixed. The heat is stuck on the bus and it must be 95 degrees inside.” [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
(Updated 2:35 p.m.) The Arlington Public Library’s Center for Local History has unveiled a new digital profile collection of women who influenced Arlington’s development through their “quiet but not silent” persistence.
The collection seeks to bring up the names of those women who “were frequently hidden in the background” but “were nonetheless ground breakers and trailblazers” who fought for better education, libraries, conservation, and health care in a modernizing county.
Focusing on women from 1900-1975, the center is seeking community donations and oral histories of little known facets of Arlington history to add to the their collection.
The center “will follow their journey as it is revealed through [the] archival collections and oral histories” over the next year, according to the collection’s website.
One subject of the in-progress collection is Dr. Phoebe Hall Knipling, who was responsible for bringing an annual science fair to Arlington Public Schools and was the first APS science supervisor — and the first in Virginia. Dr. Knipling, finding that there were few pristine natural spaces in the fast developing county, took three years to track down an outdoor lab in Fauquier County for her students to experience and work in nature.
Margarite Syphax, a U.S.O. entertainer turned prominent African-American businesswoman and real estate developer, was also featured. The archive entry on her life stated that after World War II, she and her husband had a difficult time finding adequate housing in still segregated Northern Virginia.
The injustice led the couple to eventually form W.T. Syphax Real Estate Company, a property development and construction business focused on minority affordable housing.
Other notable Arlington women in the collection include the members of an interracial, interdenominational women’s group focused on community building and social justice, as well as several groups of women who either founded or contributed to the creation of several Arlington libraries.
Photos via Center for Local History
Social Media Threats Against Arlington Schools — “There is an increased police presence at a middle school and high school in Arlington Friday after authorities say they were the targets of social media threats Thursday night. Arlington County Police say ‘threats of violence’ were made to Williamsburg Middle School and Yorktown High School… police have identified a person in connection with the incident.” [WJLA, Twitter]
Cannonball Found Near the Run — “A remnant of the most turbulent period in Arlington’s history was unearthed during the recent renovation of the Arlington Food Assistance Center’s warehouse space in the Four Mile Run corridor. A 24-pound spherical shell was found during the construction period.” [InsideNova]
Snow Showers Dust Area — Winter is not over yet. A brief period of snow showers left some white patches on lawns this morning. Meanwhile, a potential snowstorm looms for next week. [Twitter, Capital Weather Gang]
Eligibility Changes Proposed for Cemetery — “With Arlington National Cemetery set to run out of space in the coming years, restrictions on who can be buried there need to be considered, officials said Thursday.” [WTOP, Army Times]
Emergency Metro Repairs Next Weekend — Emergency repairs will mean reduced service on Metro’s Silver Line and some changes to Blue Line service next weekend, during St. Patrick’s Day and peak cherry blossom season. [Fox 5]
ACPD Conducts DUI Education Event — To discourage driving under the influence, Arlington County Police and the Washington Regional Alcohol Program conducted an anti-drunk driving event during Saturday’s Shamrock Crawl. Among other activities, attendees were invited to try to shoot basketballs into trash bins while wearing impaired vision goggles. [WTOP, Twitter]
Video Project Keeps Iota’s Memory Alive — A video series called The Iota Chair is “an oral history project on Facebook with musicians who frequented Iota Club & Cafe,” which closed last year. [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Local Journalist Pens History Book — “Arlington resident Michael Doyle recounts the life and times of a 19th century morality crusader who campaigned against an infamous ‘free-love’ commune, in a new book entitled ‘The Ministers’ War: John W. Mears, the Oneida Community and the Crusade for Public Morality.'” [Amazon]
DHS Official Charged With Beating Wife in Arlington — A “senior career official with the Department of Homeland Security who… handles a ‘high volume’ of classified information in his role as an intelligence briefer,” served jail time after a 2016 incident in Arlington in which he was charged with assaulting his wife, breaking two ribs and causing bruising around her neck. [Washington Post]
Anti-DUI Event at Shamrock Crawl Tomorrow — The Arlington County Police Department will hold a St. Patrick’s Day-themed anti-DUI event dubbed “Don’t Press Your Luck” in Clarendon tomorrow (Saturday). The event will coincide with the planned Shamrock Crawl bar crawl. [Arlington County]
More on Wakefield’s Championship Run — But for a great defensive play by Varina, the Wakefield High School boys basketball team might have emerged victorious from yesterday’s state championship game in Richmond. [Washington Post]
Arlington to Co-Star in Travel Video — Arlington County has received grant funding that will help pay for its share of a new Virginia tourism video that will also feature Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Loudoun County, Richmond and Staunton. [Arlington County]
Long Branch Creek Profiled — “A mostly residential section of south Arlington, Long Branch Creek is a diverse community where almost 75 percent of residents are renters. In addition, there are condominium buildings, townhouses, duplexes and one single-family home.” [Washington Post]
Fire Station History to Be Recognized — Last month Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz established a “Fire Station No. 8 History and Legacy (FS8HL) Working Group,” to record and celebrate the history of the first Arlington fire station staffed by African Americans. [Arlington County]
Kanninen Gets Democratic School Board Nod — “An Arlington County Democratic Committee School Board caucus? Fuggedaboutit. Incumbent School Board Chairman Barbara Kanninen was the lone candidate to file to run in the caucus, which had been slated for several days in May. With no opposition bubbling up, the caucus was nixed.” [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Rex Block
County Board Approves Bike Boulevard Contract — The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved a half-million dollar contract for safety improvements to the intersection of S. Walter Reed Drive and 12th Street S. Per a county press release: “The project, one of several designed to make the Columbia Pike bike boulevards safer and more comfortable, will provide traffic calming and pedestrian improvements at the intersection.” [Arlington County]
Wakefield Boys Win Basketball Tourney — “The Wakefield Warriors won the 2018 boys Northern Region 5C Tournament basketball championship on their home court Feb. 23. The region crown was the 10th in program history for the high school team and second since 2014.” [InsideNova]
Hearing on Historic District Fee — The County Board will hold a public hearing in April to discuss an application fee for those seeking a local historic district. The fee, between $250-1,000 per request, would only partially reimburse the county for staff time spent researching each request, but could serve as a deterrent against frivolous requests. [InsideNova]
ICYMI: Weekend Articles — ARLnow published two articles of note over the weekend: first, a recap of the County Board’s decision to not raise the property tax rate this budget season, and second, a developing story about state legislation that could cost the county’s coffers around $2 million while slashing the tax bills of Arlington’s two country clubs.
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Arlington Tree Canopy Increases — “Arlington’s tree canopy increased slightly from 2011 to 2016, according to new data, but remains below levels of a decade ago. A total of 41 percent of Arlington’s acreage was filled with tree canopy when evaluated last year, an improvement from the 40 percent from the last time it was studied.” [InsideNova]
Police: Drive Safely This Weekend –Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning and predicted six more weeks of winter, and the Patriots and Eagles will be facing off in Super Bowl LII on Sunday — both are occasions for the Arlington County Police Department to remind residents to drive safely. [Twitter, Twitter]
Thank You to Quantum — Staff from Clarendon-based recruiting firm Quantum Search Partners helped ARLnow’s team move some heavy furniture as we expanded into a new office yesterday. Thank you for lending a hand!
Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman
Map Tracks Water Main Breaks — A new map created by Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services shows the location of the dozens of water main breaks in Arlington County since Nov. 1. “It has been a particularly brutal winter season in Arlington,” DES said via Twitter. [Google Maps]
Local History Archives Closing Temporarily — “Beginning February 1, the Center for Local History’s off-site Community Archives, located at the Woodmont Community Center, will temporarily close for a renovation project.” The archives are not open to the public but are available to researchers on a by-request basis. [Arlington County]
County to Release Amazon Bid Details — Win or lose, after Amazon’s HQ2 process concludes Arlington County plans to release details of its bid for the tech and online retail giant. Arlington is now among those in the Top 20 for the second corporate headquarters. [InsideNova]
Fake ID Stat from ACPD — Bouncers caught 703 fake IDs in Clarendon last year, according to stats from the Arlington County Police Department. Extra vigilance from establishments like Don Tito and Whitlow’s helps “maintain Clarendon has a safe place to enjoy nightlife and entertainment,” says ACPD. [Twitter]
Nearby: DCA Noise Case in Federal Court — “The three-year battle between residents in Northwest Washington and the Federal Aviation Administration over noise from flights at Reagan National Airport is now in the hands of a federal appeals court… A ruling, which could take several months, will be closely watched by communities across the country grappling with similar issues tied to the FAA’s efforts to modernize the nation’s air traffic system.” [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Pentagon Looking into Helicopter Noise Reduction — After pressure from residents who live near the Pentagon, along with Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), “FOX 5 has learned the Department of Defense is researching ways to reduce helicopter noise and is ready to hear concerns from… neighboring residents.” [Fox 5]
Caiazzo is New ACDC Chair — The Arlington County Democratic Committee has elected Jill Caiazzo, a lawyer and policy advocate, as its new chair. She succeeds Kip Malinosky, who was lauded at last night’s ACDC meeting for his four years of service as chair. [Blue Virginia, Facebook]
Favola Pushes Highway Name Bill — In an effort to allow Arlington to change the name of its stretch of Jefferson Davis Highway, and perhaps even Lee Highway, state Sen. Barbara Favola “is patroning legislation that would allow any Virginia county, city or town to change the name of any highway in its environs, so long as the original name was put in place prior to 1965.” [InsideNova]
Homeless Shelter Busy During Cold Snap — Some 80 people a night were staying at Arlington’s homeless shelter in Courthouse during the recent extended blast of frigid temperatures. The shelter, which relocated to an office building next to Arlington police headquarters in 2015, can accommodate up to 90 people during sub-freezing weather. [Arlington Connection]
History of the Sun Gazette — In his latest column, “Our Man in Arlington” Charlie Clark recounts the history of Arlington’s Sun Gazette newspaper. [Falls Church News-Press]
Printing Business Offers Free Pizza — In a unique partnership, Ballston-area printing business ASAP Screen Printing is partnering with newly-renamed pizza restaurant Alto Fumo to offer customers who spend at least $100 a free pizza. [Press Release]
Flickr pool photo by Jim Harvard
The Arlington County Board will hold a public hearing next month on a plan to tighten regulations governing the study of whether new historic districts should be created.
Currently, the process to request a study on whether an area should be designated as a historic district is relatively informal. Anyone can file a designation request for any number of properties, without any background materials or forms required.
Staff said the goal of these changes would be to improve the process while still allowing the public to request a study of whether a site should be designated as a historic district.
The proposed amendments would change the timeframe required to inform a property owner of a study request, and tie such notification to the acceptance of a completed application. The amendment would create a uniform and predictable process for such requests.
Per a report by county staff, the proposed amendments would mean the following:
- A request for local historic district designation must be made on a County application form.
- The application form will require specific documentation, including narratives pertaining to physical descriptions and historical significance, plus photographs and bibliographical references. The application also will establish a multi-step internal review process prior to scheduling a public hearing with the HALRB.
- For multi-property designation requests, the new amendment will limit who may apply for or request a historic preservation overlay district to: o Civic Associations, Home Owners Associations, or Condo Boards for properties within their own boundaries; or Petitioners with documented support of 25% of properties in a defined area. One property would count as one vote (so if four trustees owned a property, only one vote counts).
- For individual properties, historic preservation overlay requests will be limited to Arlington residents or property owners.
- The HALRB, Arlington Public Schools (APS), and the County Board retain authority to initiate studies and recommend designations as they can do now.
- After adoption of the amendment, staff will finalize the application form. This form will be available on the County website and via paper copy in the HPP office.
The proposed changes come months after an application was filed to designate the Arlington Education Center and planetarium, next to Washington-Lee High School, as a historic district.
The designation, requested by Planning Commission member Nancy Iacomini, could have caused problems as the Ed Center was being considered as a site for new high school seats. Any renovations to help add the extra seats would have been scuttled if it were designated as a historic district, and it brought swift condemnation from those who thought it would hinder APS’ ability to keep up with the rising student population.
Staff recommended that proposal be denied, a request the County Board followed in May. The School Board then chose the Ed Center for 500-600 new high school seats and a renovation as a so-called “hybrid option” to add 1,300 countywide.
The County Board will discuss the proposed changes at its December 16 meeting and put it to a vote. The Planning Commission will also debate the changes at its December 4 meeting.
ACPD Urges Caution on Roads As Days Get Shorter — “The days are getting shorter and there’s increased pedestrian and bicyclist traffic after dark,” the Arlington County Police Department said in a public service tweet last night. “Slow down, remain alert and proceed with care and caution.” [Twitter, Twitter]
History: Fort Myer During World War I — A Library of Congress collection includes 100-year-old photographs showing what life was like on Fort Myer during World War I. The photos show a visit from President Woodrow Wilson and the famous “Three Sisters” radio towers. [Pentagram]
Redskins Visit Fort Myer, Play Video Games — Former Washington Redskins players Santana Moss and Fred Smoot visited Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall and engaged in a Madden 18 video game tournament with some of the men and women in uniform. [WUSA 9]
Notable Tree Nomination Deadline Approaching — November 15 is the application deadline for submitting a tree for consideration as a 2018 Arlington County “notable tree.” [Arlington County]