A proposed childcare center on Lee Highway that has irked neighbors for months is now on track to open in the next few months.
The County Board unanimously signed off on a permit Tuesday to let Little Ambassadors’ Academy move ahead with plans to open a third location at 5801 and 5901 Lee Highway. The childcare center is now on course to open by February or March of next year.
The daycare company has hoped for just over a year now to remodel two existing buildings on the property and create space for as many as 155 children, but people living nearby have repeatedly raised concerns about how the facility’s addition would impact traffic in the area.
Two people living behind the site even filed a lawsuit to block the daycare center’s construction after the Board lent its initial approval last September, though a judge tossed out that case in January. The Leeway Overlee Civic Association has raised concerns about the project as well, urging the Board to restrict the number of children allowed at the facility in a bid to ease traffic in the area.
All the while, Little Ambassadors has worked to open up the new center — but the process has dragged on so long that the permit the Board issued last year came up for review, even though the daycare has yet open.
As Sara Mariska, an attorney for Little Ambassadors, told the Board: “There has been no change in circumstances since we were here a year ago.”
Nevertheless, neighborhood concerns linger. Adam Watson, a staffer in the county’s planning division, said he’s heard from a variety of people in the area concerned that the daycare will snarl an already-busy section of Lee Highway. The original District Taco location sits just down the block, and a new 711 is on the way nearby at 5747 Lee Highway as well.
“[Our] initial expression of general support for [the company’s] application was based on the understanding that the child care center would operate with no more than 135 children,” Leeway Overlee Civic Association President Jack Grimaldi wrote to the Board. “More children, in other words, raises the likelihood of more vehicles being needed to get them to and from the center.”
But Joanne Gabor, who works with county’s Department of Environmental Services, assured the Board that staff believe Little Amabassdors’ strategy for managing traffic in the area “is a good plan and it’s workable.” And without any real-world examples of the childcare facility’s impact on the local traffic, the Board wasn’t inclined to change its original decision.
“A lot of the concerns that people had when this use permit was approved originally, we haven’t had a chance to see if any mitigating or corrective actions will be needed,” said Vice Chair Christian Dorsey. “I can’t find a way to mitigate something that hasn’t happened. It may seem like a callous approach to safety, but we have to see how the network responds.”
Board member Libby Garvey added that Little Ambassadors’ track record at its other Lee Highway locations, at 5232 Lee Highway and 3565 Lee Highway, also gives the Board confidence.
“We have a lot of background coming to us on this,” Garvey said. “I don’t want people to think we’re just winging this.”
The Board will review the daycare center’s use permit once more in September 2019, when it will have a chance to assess any potential traffic impact.
A new restaurant could be on the way along Lee Highway, taking the place of the Nook Play Space.
The indoor play area, once located at 5649 Lee Highway in the Leeway-Overlee neighborhood, is picking up and moving to the new Ballston Quarter development.
The space currently sits empty, but it’s unlikely to remain that way for long — a chef at a Turkish restaurant in East Falls Church appears to be eyeing the location for an expansion.
Imam Gozubuyuk has applied for a permit at the location, using the business name “Maya Bistro,” county records show. Gozubuyuk currently cooks up food at the Yayla Bistro, located at 2201 N. Westmoreland Street, with his brother, Abuzer.
Managers at Yayla Bistro did not immediately respond to a request for comment on plans for the Lee Highway space. Maria Vogelei, Nook’s owner, said she didn’t have any information on what might take her business’s place in the small shopping center.
Nook is set to re-open in Ballston Quarter sometime this fall.
H/t Chris Slatt
Firefighters extinguished a blaze in a home in the Leeway-Overlee neighborhood this afternoon (Wednesday).
County first responders were called to the 62oo block of 22nd Road N. to put out the fire. The fire was mostly concentrated in the attic, according to scanner traffic.
The home’s occupants managed to leave without incident after the fire started, according to a tweet from the fire department.
Video of 22nd Rd pic.twitter.com/LoTh9sa8HW
— Arlington Fire (@ArlingtonVaFD) July 11, 2018
Crews are going through #Decon immediately after exiting the structure. This is to try to keep as many of the harmful carcinogens off our gear as possible and keep us safer. #FirefighterHealth pic.twitter.com/aX673qV1E7
— Arlington Fire (@ArlingtonVaFD) July 11, 2018
(Updated at 6:35 p.m.) Encore Recovery Solutions, a rehabilitation center for young adults trying to overcome “substance use and co-occurring behavioral health disorders,” is expanding.
The drug rehab center has been in business for just over a year and recently moved to larger offices in Ballston. The Ballston facility hosts an outpatient treatment program, according to Tom Walker, Encore’s director of community relations.
In February, Encore announced via Facebook that it had also purchased a residential property at 5805 26th Street N. in the Leeway-Overlee neighborhood, for use as a “sober living environment for young adults.” The house has been approved as “legally non-conforming use by Arlington County,” Walker said.
Some people who live near the home have expressed concerns about its new use.
“We have communicated with several of the neighborhood residents individually, and attended the Open Door Monday meeting yesterday evening where we discussed our plans with other neighborhood residents,” Walker said via email. Some residents are “very much in opposition,” he acknowledged, while others are either “openly supportive of Encore’s efforts” or “willing to engage in discussing best practices.”
Between 2015-2017, Arlington saw a 245 percent increase in patients seeking treatment for opioid addiction and related disorders. The number of patients went up from 100 in 2015 to 345 in 2017, according to the county.
Photo via Encore Recovery Solutions/Facebook
A major road construction project in Leeway-Overlee has drawn the ire of some nearby residents, who say there appears to be “no end in sight.”
The project by the county’s Department of Environmental Services involves adding a new sidewalk, curb and gutter to 24th Street N. between N. Illinois and N. Kensington streets, as well as new pipes to help with stormwater management. At the same time, similar work is being done on N. Illinois Street from 22nd Street N. to Lee Highway.
According to a preliminary construction schedule, completion had been scheduled for Friday, July 28.
But when an ARLnow reporter dropped by this morning (Wednesday), the new sidewalk was only partially installed, with numerous sections of pipe standing nearby waiting to be added. And the 5500 block of 24th Street N. was still closed to all traffic except residents.
One anonymous tipster said the work has been “going on for four months with no end in sight.” Another tipster who lives on the street said even worse things have been happening during construction.
“There has been flooding in neighbors’ yards,” the tipster wrote. “Toilets blown up and sewer drains put on people’s property without even giving them a courtesy heads up… Damaged cars. Houses full of mud. Flat tires and the list goes on.”
A DES spokeswoman disputed the claim that construction caused the flooding issues. Instead, she blamed a “high-intensity storm” on August 15 that “overwhelmed the drainage system in the neighborhood.”
“This is a low-lying area that has experienced flooding issues in the past,” the spokeswoman said. “The benefit of this Neighborhood Conservation Project is that we are improving the drainage system and providing additional capacity, which will reduce the likelihood of flooding in the future.”
Residents claimed the project has been put on hold in part due to budget overruns and in part because the project manager recently passed away. But the DES spokeswoman said the hold up stems from crews coming across underground utility lines.
“The county’s project manager did pass away recently, but this has not stopped construction,” she said. “We have encountered unexpected underground utility lines, which is a very common construction risk in urban environments such as Arlington, as most utility lines were installed more than 50 years ago (and some are privately-owned), so records are not always accurate.”
Neighbors said they are looking at retaining legal counsel to try and force some reimbursement from the county for the inconvenience.
The DES spokeswoman said county staff will meet with neighbors on Friday to discuss progress, and that work should be done “by the end of the year.”
It’s been an anxious couple of weeks for one Arlington resident who had three family members in the path of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Pat Shapiro, who lives in the Leeway Overlee neighborhood, has one son, Josh, in Houston; another son, Aaron, living in Miami; and her 89-year-old mother is a resident of Naples, Fla. All three were impacted to some degree.
“It’s like we’re a hurricane magnet,” said Shapiro, a 10-year library assistant at an Arlington public library.
Harvey slammed Texas and Louisiana in the United States, leaving more than 300,000 people without power, killing more than 60 people and causing billions of dollars in damage.
The still-active although weakened Irma hammered Florida, and has caused flooding as far north as Charleston, S.C. and Savannah, Ga. More than 2.6 million homes were without power at one stage in Florida.
Shapiro’s 65th birthday celebrations on August 25 meant Josh was in Arlington when Hurricane Harvey started to batter Houston, and forced him to stay put for a week. Unfortunately, Josh had just closed on a house in Houston the week before. When he returned, it was ruined by flood damage.
Thankfully, Shapiro said he had not moved in any of his furniture or other personal belongings, but the house itself needed to be gutted, and he cannot move in for between nine months and a year while it is repaired.
Josh needed to get to work when he returned to his home in Houston and rip out all the units and floorboards and also drill holes in the walls to let out moisture. And after his real estate agent, who lives nearby, posted on Facebook that he needed help, a group of volunteers intervened.
“He said all of a sudden, at 9:30 a.m., all these trucks and cars pull up and a group of about 30 people walked in his house and said, ‘We’re here to help,'” Shapiro said. “They worked until 9:30 p.m., they ripped out all the floors, they helped him get the carpet out, they helped him put holes in the walls because it had to start drying. He was flabbergasted.”
Shapiro’s other son, Aaron, escaped the worst of the storm. His condo building in the Brickell neighborhood of Miami managed to keep its power on, after management said they would be turning off the elevators and air conditioning and locking the doors to prepare for Hurricane Irma.
After evacuating his building, Aaron stayed with a friend in the nearby city of Coral Gables, where they lost power and saw significant wind damage to trees. The pair then were preparing to go out and do rescue work once the storm had subsided.
Across the state in Naples, Shapiro’s 89-year-old mother was put under mandatory evacuation orders from her home, just three blocks from the Gulf of Mexico. Her house, too, escaped the worst of the storm, although she had to move locations twice. She first went to Tallahassee, then went further north into North Carolina to stay with Shapiro’s sister after Irma’s path shifted.
Shapiro said that other friends of hers in the Naples area who stayed put had to take emergency shelter due to the high winds.
“They said it was very scary,” Shapiro said. “They said the winds were horrible, and they ended up spending the night in a closet they were so scared, because the wind was so bad.”
The experience left Shapiro worried for her family’s safety, but grateful that nothing worse happened to anyone.
“It was very nerve-wracking,” she said. “[It’s] been a one-two-three whammy. First the Houston thing, which I was terribly worried about, then this hurricane [Irma]. But all in all, my family came through in such good shape compared to so many others.”
Arlington resident Jeff Spugnardi’s interest in woodworking began with skateboard ramps he built in grammar school. Decades later, after retiring from a career in the Marine Corps, he turned his hobby into a business in his Leeway Overlee home.
Since 2008, the 46-year-old craftsman has sold wood chairs, tables and other furniture he’s designed and built in his personal workshop.
“So many people can’t believe that someone builds something in Arlington because it seems like everybody is a professional and going to D.C., and here I am building things,” Spugnardi said. “I take ugly slabs and turn it into this stuff.”
Spugnardi only uses walnut, maple and cherry wood to make his furniture, including chairs that range in price fromAll the wood is from a Northern Virginia supplier.
Spugnardi said he focuses on making comfortable furniture with character. He often adds special touches, like glow-in-the dark features, to his works. For his chairs, which take 80 hours to build, he puts in flexible back braces that are designed to conform to sitters’ backs. A 6-foot-11 man once commented on how comfy the chairs were and how he couldn’t find similar furniture for his size, Spugnardi said.
“Everything is custom-sized, so I have a bunch of templates based on your height and your arms,” he said. “Everything is proportionate to the legs and where your knees are. We custom fit everything.”
Spugnardi said most of his customers are locals. His work has appeared at art shows in Reston and D.C. and regularly catches the eye of people in his neighborhood.
“I’ll often do a lot of sculpting and grinding in the driveway,” Spugnardi said. “I used to be in the Marines so I will wear my flight suit. People will come by [and ask], ‘What are you doing or what type of wood is this?’ And so I’ll get some people who will [ask if I can] build them a table or if I can see their dining room.”
Firefighters battled a house fire in the Leeway Overlee neighborhood last night.
The fire was reported just before 6:30 p.m., on the 2200 block of N. Nottingham Street. The blaze started in the home’s basement and spread to the first floor, but was quickly extinguished once firefighters arrived on scene, authorities said.
No injuries were reported. The county’s fire marshal is investigating the cause.
As part of its ongoing campaign for additional fire department funding, Arlington’s firefighters association pointed out via Twitter that
Truck Tower 104, which was second due on the call, is “understaffed with only 3 [firefighters].”
Photo courtesy Arlington County Fire Department
The tree, according to an online petition the neighbors have launched, is more than 200 years old and is the largest Wildenow’s Oak — a natural hybrid of a black oak and southern red oak — in Virginia. It’s on Arlington’s list of “Champion Trees.”
“Local naturalists have examined it and found it to be in excellent health,” the petition states. “In its long life, the tree has survived the widespread felling of Arlington’s trees during the Civil War and the neighborhood’s transformation from farms to a suburb dotted with neat rows of brick colonials, Cape Cods and ramblers.”
The lot on which the tree sits is slated to be redeveloped by DS Homes, a small construction company based in Manassas. When reached by ARLnow.com, DS Homes employee Manny Carneiro said “the plan right now is to save the tree.”
Nonetheless, Carneiro pointed out that the tree is on the lot and things could change. At the very least, DS Homes will have to trim some of the massive tree’s branches during construction, when it tears down the current home, built in 1950, for a new one. DS Homes bought the property to redevelop last month, according to Arlington County property records.
The online petition has 324 signatures as of 10:55 a.m. The petition’s organizers have a goal of 400 signatures.
Photo via iPetitions
The mermaid carving along Lee Highway that drew national attention when it was put up for sale in 2011 has been cut down.
The statue had been up in the front yard of Leeway Overlee resident Paul Jackson since 2004. In 2011 Jackson hoped to sell the statue for $3,000, with the requirement of the buyer “slicing her off and returning her home.” He apparently didn’t find a buyer, as the statue, which was built out of a dying, 100+ year-old ash tree, remained in the yard.
Today, however, it is nowhere to be found. The only remnant is a stump beneath a sculpture of a turtle.
The statue was carved by Frederick, Md., artist Scott Dustin, and was described in the Washington Post as having “a shapely derriere and bare breasts that must be at least size DD.” The mermaid was nicknamed “Damaged Goods” or “D.G.” for short, and stirred up neighborhood controversy.
Jackson wasn’t home today to explain why the mermaid was removed, but a poster on the ARLnow.com Facebook page said it was “becoming too rotted and infested with ants.”
Hat tip to Michelle Fetig
(Updated at 4:50 p.m.) The retail space at the corner of Lee Highway and N. George Mason Drive that once housed a 7-Eleven store is now a location for a car title loan company.
TitleMax, which lets individuals with poor credit borrow against the title of their automobile, moved into the space a few weeks ago, according to representatives of Virginia Hospital Center, which owns the building.
The 7-Eleven closed Oct. 21 of last year after the convenience store chain’s corporate arm declined to continue its month-to-month lease. In the months between 7-Eleven’s closing and TitleMax opening, Virginia Hospital Center Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Adrian Stanton said there was little interest in the property.
“It’s an odd parcel in that it’s kind of at an angle,” Stanton told ARLnow.com. “It doesn’t allow for a lot of parking and the vehicular access is very limited. Retail operations are not interested in that space.”
Stanton said members of the nearby civic associations — the property is at the edges of the Leeway Overlee, John M. Langston and Tara-Leeway Heights neighborhoods — have been watching the property to see what business will go in there, and he plans to meet with representatives of some of the civic associations soon to explain why TitleMax moved in.
An ARLnow.com tipster questioned whether TitleMax’s location, on the edge of the Yorktown neighborhood, is “in keeping with the area.”
“TitleMax has locations around Northern Virginia in areas just like this,” Stanton said. “There’s obviously something TitleMax sees in the areas they place their services in.”
Old man winter is losing his grip on the area as spring-like temperatures have finally arrived.
Aside from the sunny, blue skies, the arrival of spring can perhaps best evident by looking at the remains of a formerly two-story snow fort.
The snow fort, built by a 19-year-old Leeway-Overlee resident, once stood 12 feet high. Now, it’s a small pile of “snow rubble,” surrounded by an area of brown grass about the size of the fort’s 11-foot-by-11-foot base.
Photo courtesy @StuNagurka
A 19-year-old Leeway-Overlee resident took advantage of Arlington’s especially snowy winter to build a massive snow fort in his front yard.
Michael Grieg, who lives on the 6000 block of 22nd Road N., built the fort “by himself using snow shovels, a wheelbarrow, two ladders and recycling bin for a snow block mold,” according to his mother, Cristina. The fort is 12 feet high with an 11-foot-by-11-foot base, she said.
“It was built to be a work of art, he doesn’t often have the opportunity,” Cristina Grieg wrote in an email to ARLnow.com “It took him about 40 hours starting with the first major snow storm.”
The above pictures were sent on Saturday, but the snow fort may not be around for much longer. Temperatures could jump into the 70s by tomorrow afternoon. Mild temperatures this weekend reduced the fort’s height by a foot, Grieg reported Monday morning.
“Still standing, about 11 feet now, but showing wear and tear,” she said.
Photos courtesy Cristina Grieg
If passed, the motion would fund $781,082 for street improvements on 24th Street N. from Illinois Street to Kensington Street; $159,751 for new streetlights on S. Edison Street from George Mason Drive to 11th Street; and $521,409 for median and striping improvements on N. Sycamore Street from 26th Street to Williamsburg Blvd.
The three projects were recommended by the Neighborhood Conservation Action Committee. The money would come from the Neighborhood Conservation Program, an $11 million pot of money used for relatively small citizen-initiated projects. The three projects would be the third installment of the latest Neighborhood Conservation fund, approved by referendum last year. Four projects were funded last fall and five were funded this spring. If approved, the program would have $4,866,407 in funding left for future projects.
The projects were selected on a points-based system. They were the three highest-scoring projects out of the 25 proposals the NCAC reviews. County staff supported the NCAC’s recommendations in its report..
The item is on the Board’s consent agenda, which means unless a Board member or a citizen decides it warrants further analysis at the Board’s Tuesday meeting, it should pass without additional discussion on Saturday.
A new green home, once the subject of a neighborhood controversy, is now up for sale.
The home at 2617 N. Nottingham Street, in the Leeway neighborhood, was built on a so-called pipestem lot — a parcel carved from the back of a larger lot, connected to the street only by a narrow “pipestem” driveway.
Plans for the home’s construction initially caused a neighborhood “uproar,” as reported by the Washington Post in February 2012. Existing residents strongly objected to the house being built behind their own homes. Ultimately, a compromise was reached following discussions between neighbors and home builder Arlington Designer Homes, and the controversy died down.
Now, with construction complete, Arlington Designer Homes is hosting an open house at 2617 N. Nottingham Street. The open house, for both prospective buyers and interested residents, is taking place on Sunday, April 7, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. The home’s asking price is $1.1 million.
In a press release, the company touts the building as “one of the greenest houses in the county.” Its green features include a “living green roof and an advanced storm water management system.”
The new 3,100 square foot, 4 bedroom, 3 ½ bath home, located at 2617 N. Nottingham St., is the first house built under Arlington County’s Use Permit process, established after the county changed its zoning ordinances for pipestem lots. The permit process included extensive collaboration among the builder, Arlington Designer Homes, county staff, neighbors and community members, and resulted in a green design that is truly one of a kind.
Responding to county and neighborhood priorities, Arlington Designer Homes committed to extensive storm water management techniques and practices. “Our new home showcases what in-fill construction of the future will look like,” said Andrew Moore, President of Arlington Designer Homes. “In fact, the lot will produce less storm water runoff post-construction than it did prior to development.”
“These storm water management techniques include multiple rain gardens, native plants and grasses, permeable pavers and a living green roof,” said Moore, a Certified Green Professional. “The Liveroof® system is a modular system where sedum plants that serve to absorb rain and protect the roof are grown in trays and then transported to the building site ready to go. The advantage to this system is that you can install a fully planted green roof in a day.”
The house also features an advanced insulation package including both cellulose and spray foam insulation, Energy Star Jeld-wen windows, a high-efficiency furnace with a heat pump, 1.28 gallon per flush toilets, pre-finished flooring and siding, and PVC trim for a low maintenance exterior. It will be certified under the Energy Star 3.0, Arlington County Green Home Choice, and Home Innovation NGBS Green Certified programs (expected).
Photos courtesy Arlington Designer Homes