McAuliffe to Sign Bills at Wakefield HS — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe will sign two pieces of school-related legislation during a visit to Wakefield High School Thursday morning. McAuliffe will sign SB 336/HB 895, which updates and modernizes high school graduation requirements, and SB 573/HB 279, which makes it easier for those in Career and Technical Education fields to become adjunct teachers.
Clement Calls for More Paving — Perennial candidate Audrey Clement, who is running as an independent for County Board, is calling for Arlington County to accelerate its street paving. “There are way too many potholes and cracked and broken pavements for Arlington residents to drive or walk safely to work, school, or shopping centers — let alone to bike,” Clement said. [Audrey Clement]
County Regroups After Crowdfunding Fail — Arlington County tried to raise $10,000 in donations to make the Glebe and Lang Street Community Garden accessible to those with disabilities. After raising only $465, the county is looking for matching funds in its budget to build a scaled-down version of its original plan. [Washington Post]
Basketball Star Selling Lyon Park Home — Trajan Langdon, who recently was named Assistant General Manager of the Brooklyn Nets, is selling his Lyon Park home for $2 million. Langdon was a first round draft pick who struggled in the NBA but went on to stardom in the Euroleague. The home includes a soda machine and a giant walk-in shoe closet. [Real House Life of Arlington]
Proposed CIP Doesn’t Include New High School — Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy’s proposed Capital Improvement Plan includes additions to Arlington’s three comprehensive high schools, which will add 800 seats, but does not include a plan for a new high school. Even with the additions, Arlington’s public high schools are expected to be overcapacity by the early 2020s. [InsideNova]
Update at 5:00 p.m. — A copy of the lawsuit can be downloaded here.
Nova Armory claims that opponents “conspired to destroy the business, harassed the owner and landlord and mailed death threats,” reports the Washington Post. The business is suing the 64 people in Richmond Circuit Court, seeking $2.1 million for “lost revenue and damages.”
The lawsuit makes good on threats the store made in March.
“The actions of these local crazies against our business is approaching the level of ‘tortious interference,'” the store said in a press release at the time.
Among those reportedly being sued are the seven state lawmakers who signed a letter of opposition to the store’s landlord, plus County Board member Christian Dorsey and School Board member Barbara Kanninen.
“We’ve told our lawyers to concentrate on any actions in which we are deprived of our civil liberties by these so-called public servants — they’ll regret any abuse of their authority,” the March press release said.
The Lyon Park Citizens Association tells ARLnow.com that neither it nor its attorney is aware of any legal action against the civic association, which held meetings and votes in response to residents’ concerns about the store.
This morning, before news of the lawsuit was confirmed, John Goldener, president of the civic association, called any such action “a flagrant abuse of the legal system.”
“Our focus is and has always been communication and community,” Goldener said. “If Mr. Pratte’s focus, however, is on generating frivolous lawsuits to frighten residents and artificial controversy to drive sales, then we have grossly misjudged his intentions and stated commitment to become a part of our community.”
Eleven homes on the 900 block of N. Daniel and Danville streets are connected to a failing sewer line that runs through their backyards. The line is believed to date back to the 1920s, when the first of the homes in the neighborhood were built.
As we reported in 2013, county workers had been clearing occasional blockages of the line, until the county determined that it did not actually own the line — it was privately constructed and the county had “no rights to operate or maintain this line.”
Facing steep plumbing and excavation costs for connecting to a public sewer line, homeowners threatened legal action. On Tuesday, the County Board settled the matter by voting unanimously to approve a compromise agreement with the homeowners.
Arlington will roughly split the cost of connecting all 11 homes — $253,980 plus a $50,000 contingency — and will advance the other half of the money to seven homeowners who asked for help financing the work. The seven homeowners will repay their share over seven years, at 2 percent interest, via the establishment of a “service district” that will levy a frontage assessment on their property.
Arlington County said the compromise was necessary because the private sewer line was failing and beyond repair, and a major sewage backup in the midst of a protracted legal dispute could have resulted in a significant public health hazard.
” The amount of time required to resolve the disagreement would delay the time when remedial action could be taken, thereby threatening the likelihood of a public health emergency, and would result in costly litigation for all involved,” notes the staff report. “In an effort to prevent further delay, the County and the property owners negotiated an agreement that would promptly address the looming public health concern.”
The incident happened just before 11:30 a.m., in a low-slung commercial building on the 2700 block of Washington Blvd.
Police say a maintenance worker accidentally tumbled out of a second-floor window and landed on his head. He was transported to George Washington University Hospital with serious injuries.
Police and occupational safety authorities are investigating the accident.
Photo via Google Maps
On Saturday, March 26, 16-year-old Lauren Pratte took part in the grand opening of her new retail gun store, NOVA Armory, on Pershing Drive in the Lyon Park neighborhood.
The public turned out in big numbers to check out the inventory in Pratte’s store. Officials from the National Rifle Association, headquartered in Fairfax County, and the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a pro-gun organization, also showed up to celebrate the store’s opening.
The popularity of guns in the United States has never been stronger. More Americans own guns today than ever before. The strong demand for guns is excellent news for gun retailers like Pratte. Black Friday 2015 was the single biggest gun-purchasing day ever in U.S. history, with more than 185,000 background checks processed by the FBI.
Although only 16, Pratte had long considered the idea of owning her own business and controlling how it is run. Pratte chose to open a gun store largely due to her father’s experience as a gun store owner.
“When I brought up the idea to my dad, he was really supportive and he was all for it, willing to help me open this and run it. I’m very excited about the future for this,” Pratte said in an interview with ARLnow.
At the grand opening, Pratte stood near the front door, inviting people to check out the store’s inventory. The handguns on display cost anywhere from $249 to $999, while many of the shotguns, rifles and other firearms have much higher price tags. When she wasn’t greeting people at the door, Pratte was working behind the store’s counter answering questions about the shop’s merchandise.
Because she is only 16, Dennis Pratte, Lauren’s father, holds the federal firearms sales license for the store and applied for and signed the store’s certificate of occupancy. In an interview with the Washington Post, Dennis Pratte said NOVA Armory is “a family owned and operated business — and more specifically a female, minority-owned business.” Dennis Pratte’s wife, Yong OK Pratte, is listed on paperwork as an officer for one of Pratte’s previous gun businesses.
Dennis Pratte told ARLnow that Lauren, a junior in high school, wants to go to law school and eventually become a corporate attorney. “What a better way to learn about business than actually start a business,” Dennis Pratte said at the store’s grand opening. “From day one, she’s filed all the paperwork, and I signed it. That’s what we thought would be a great education for her.”
Lauren emphasized she will never be working at the store by herself. She will always have her father or another licensed gun seller with her when she is working at the store.
The gun store, the first in Arlington aside from a pawn shop at the corner of Lee Highway and Kirkwood Road that sells guns, has generated controversy over the past month as nearby residents and local politicians expressed concerns about a gun retailer opening in the neighborhood.
On March 2, state lawmakers who represent Arlington, sent a letter to the landlord who is leasing the space to NOVA Armory expressing their concerns about the gun store. “We strongly encourage you to reconsider your decision to grant a lease to NOVA Armory,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.
“It’s not appropriate for people, elected officials specifically, to treat legal business owners as they did,” Dennis Pratte said in the interview.
Police say a man was riding his moped down the street just after 2 a.m. on Sunday when he was struck on the helmet by an unknown object. The incident happened on N. Pershing Drive, near Lyon Park and the intersection with N. Fillmore Street.
While trying to flee the area the man lost control of his moped. Then, the victim told police, four people set upon him and began beating him. One of those suspects was known to the victim, said Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage.
“The victim advised four Hispanic males in dark clothing were involved in the assault,” Savage said. Police “canvased the area and were able to locate two suspects matching the victim’s description. Two suspects remain at large.”
From an ACPD crime report: “Byron Gamaliel Jimenez Vail, 26, of Arlington VA, was arrested and charged with assault by mob and drunk in public. Anacleto Perez Aguilar, 21, of Arlington VA, was arrested and charged with assault by mob and drunk in public. Both subjects are being held on a secured bond. The investigation is ongoing.”
Buyers Found for Market Common — A pair of buyers has reportedly been found for the Market Common mixed-use development in Clarendon. Regency Centers and AvalonBay are said to be partnering to buy the shopping center and apartment complex for $410 million. [GlobeSt.com]
Lyon Park Gun Store Opens — After a month of controversy, Nova Armory opened its doors on Saturday, with dozens of gun enthusiasts showing up to support the store. In a rally nearby, local lawmakers urged residents to continue the fight against the store, but said that due to Virginia law there was nothing else they could legally do to prevent the shop from opening. [Washington Post]
Teen Employment Expo Scheduled — Teens seeking summer jobs and employers seeking seasonal help will be meeting next month at Arlington’s 2016 Teen Summer Expo. The expo, on April 23 at Wakefield High School, is expected to attract some 1,200 teens looking for summer jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities. [Arlington County]
Arlington Tech Event Tomorrow — There’s one day left before ARLnow.com’s Arlington Tech discussion and networking event. The event is taking place starting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Highline RxR (2010 Crystal Drive) in Crystal City. Food and a drink will be provided. [Eventbrite]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
The new gun store in Lyon Park is planning a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday morning. At the same time, opponents of the store will be holding some counter-programming: a “community celebration” in the park.
The grand opening for Nova Armory is scheduled for 9 a.m., at the store on 2300 N. Pershing Drive. Among those scheduled to be in attendance are Del. Rich Anderson (R-Prince William), Virginia Citizens Defense League President Philip Van Cleave and “distinguished members” of the National Rifle Association.
The event will feature a ribbon cutting ceremony, some free Nova Armory schwag, a “gun coupon give-away,” and free coffee and pastries, according to the store’s website.
The anti-gun store group Act4LyonPark, meanwhile, is planning to host a number of local lawmakers during their “family-focused event,” from 9-10:30 a.m. in Lyon Park (414 N. Fillmore Street).
Scheduled speakers at the event include a trio of Democratic state lawmakers who represent Arlington — Sen. Barbara Favola, Del. Alfonso Lopez and Del. Mark Levine — along with Rev. Dr. Linda Olson Peebles of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington.
The Lyon Park event will also feature children’s activities, refreshments and “ways to stay involved.” From an Act4LyonPark press release:
We are gathering in our community park to demonstrate what Lyon Park, Ashton Heights, and Arlington are all about. We are civic-minded, community-oriented, and family-focused and we choose to live and work in a region and county that is safe, friendly, and fun. This is a celebration of our home.
“As members of the community, we have the right to protect the well-being of our families and our recently revitalized business area,” says a member of Act4LyonPark. “A gun dealership close to schools, parks and residential homes does not add any value to our community. Our issue is not with the 2nd Amendment. If people choose to own guns, that’s their business. When people start carrying guns around our homes and children, that’s our business.”
The incident happened just before 11 p.m., at the Sheffield Court Apartments. The man fled before police could arrive. It’s unclear why he was filming them.
“Subject has not been taken into custody so a motive is unknown at this time,” said Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage.
From an ACPD crime report:
PEEPING TOM, 160323069, 800 block of N. Wayne Street. At approximately 10:45 p.m. on March 23, a male and female victim reported seeing a male subject recording them through a window. The subject fled the scene on foot. The suspect is described as a white male in his 30’s, with a slim build. He was wearing a light colored shirt.
Also on Wednesday, an argument between two men took a violent turn when one tried to stab the other.
The incident happened near the Shirlington Employment and Education Center, along Four Mile Run.
ATTEMPTED MALICIOUS WOUNDING, 160323045, 2700 block of S. Nelson Street. At approximately 5:57 p.m. on March 23, following a verbal altercation a male subject pulled out a knife and attempted to stab a male victim. Oscar Bermudes, 41, of Arlington VA, was arrested and charged with attempted malicious wounding. He is being held without bond.
Arlington County Police responded with lights and sirens blaring to a report of shots fired near the intersection of Route 50 and N. Pershing Drive this afternoon, only to figure out that it was almost certainly from a drill at the military base across the street.
Police responded around 2:15 p.m. for a report of a man firing shots at the Days Inn motel, as relayed by a caller who was driving by on Route 50.
Responding officers quickly determined that the shots were almost certainly from what was described as “a 21-gun salute” drill at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, and that the woman who called had heard the shots echoing off the hotel, according to scanner traffic. The woman also reported a suspicious-looking man walking down the highway at the time.
No evidence of gunfire was found at the hotel.
As of 2:30 p.m., police were clearing the call. The incident happened as a gun store prepares to open on N. Pershing Drive, just down the block from the motel, prompting safety concerns from community groups.
Major Rosslyn Development Approved — A sweeping five-phase redevelopment of 7.65 acres of prime Rosslyn real estate was approved unanimously by the Arlington County Board on Saturday. The Board approved the framework for the development, though final approval will be necessary for each phase. Developers Vornado and Gould Property Company expect to complete the project over the course of 25 years. [Arlington County]
Gun Store Saga Continues — Who owns NOVA Armory, the gun store that’s planning to open in Lyon Park despite community opposition? The man who speaks on behalf of the business and holds its federal firearms sales license isn’t saying, exactly. Dennis Pratte declined further questions after describing it as “a female, minority-owned business” and stating “I may or may not be the owner.” Meanwhile, county leaders say there’s nothing they can legally do to prevent the store from opening. NOVA Armory is planning to a grand opening on March 26. [Washington Post, InsideNova]
Teen Tourist Scammed at Pentagon City Mall — A California teenager on a school trip to Washington was reportedly scammed out of $97 by an armed man at the Pentagon City mall. The man compelled the teen to give him $97 in exchange for what turned out to be a counterfeit $100 bill. [NBC Washington]
Arlington Natives Live Blog Day at Ballston Common Mall — Two friends who grew up in Arlington’s Bluemont neighborhood decided to spend all of Saturday at Ballston Common Mall, ahead of its imminent demise, and live-blog their experience. The blog mixes nostalgia for time spent shopping and working at the mall with observations about the current mix of largely chain restaurants and small, quirky stores. [Things Remembered: A Day at Ballston]
Other County Board Action — On Saturday, the Arlington County Board approved a Memorandum of Understanding to partner with Virginia Tech and join the national MetroLab Network, and voted to accept $731,813 in state funding to support the county’s permanent supportive housing program. [Arlington County, Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
NOVA Armory, the controversial planned gun store in Lyon Park, says it will hold a grand opening at 9 a.m. on Saturday, March 26.
The store, at 2300 N. Pershing Drive, says it has all applicable permits needed to open. The grand opening will feature a ribbon-cutting ceremony with “several VIPs,” the store’s website says.
The Lyon Park Citizens Association, however, is still discussing the store and has planned a membership vote on whether the association should take an official stance on NOVA Armory. It’s unclear what stance the association would take, though many residents have expressed concerns about the store and its proximity to a nearby preschool.
John Goldener, president of the civic association, confirmed the vote was to take place at some point this week. It comes after NOVA Armory, in a press release issued Friday, threatened to sue opponents and “local crazies.”
“The Association will not… respond favorably to any threats to our residents or to free speech in our meetings, our online forums, or on individual members’ social media pages, as appeared in NOVA Armory’s own March 4 press release to this and other media outlets,” Goldener said Monday. “We assume that the business owner is a proud and responsible gun owner, as are many residents of Lyon Park and members of the LPCA. He should understand better than most that the Constitution is not a buffet, and your cannot infringe upon individuals’ First Amendment rights in order to defend those in the Second.”
“We remain wholly committed to productive and constructive dialogue on this any any other issue of interest or concern to our residents,” Goldener added.
On Friday NOVA Armory said on its website — in a post that has since been removed — that is cancelled a planned private meeting with the citizens association and would only meet with residents at the store. Since then, the stance of NOVA Armory’s owner appears to have softened a bit.
“Dennis Pratte and I have been in touch today, and we are working together to find a new time for him to meet with the Association,” Goldener told ARLnow.com Tuesday.
Pratte, meanwhile says his business is legal and wants Lyon Park residents to stop by the store to clear up “misinformation floating around the internet” before voting.
“NOVA Armory’s application for zoning was approved and all the inspections were passed by the county,” Pratte wrote. “The business received an occupancy permit. And, every inspector, and every law enforcement official that has visited the shop has left confident knowing that they have met all the requirements to operate this business, and to operate it safely from this location. So, before the committee votes, I would hope they take this information into account, or at least stop by the business before casting their vote so they can make an informed decision.”
NOVA Armory’s plan to open this month at 2300 N. Pershing Drive has raised the ire of many residents and, in turn, has attracted scrutiny from elected officials. A petition against the store now has more than 3,000 signatures. On Wednesday, seven Democratic state lawmakers who represent Arlington sent a letter to the store’s landlord.
“We strongly encourage you to reconsider your decision to grant a lease to NOVA Armory,” the letter concludes.
The gun shop’s press release — which states the “owner-in-training” of the store is a 16-year-old girl named Lauren Pratte — first targets those lawmakers.
“We’ve given up on fact-checking all their false statements,” Pratte is quoted as saying. “Instead we’ve told our lawyers to concentrate on any actions in which we are deprived of our civil liberties by these so-called public servants — they’ll regret any abuse of their authority.”
The press release then targets local residents who have posted to Facebook, made calls or otherwise spoken out online against the store.
Besides concerns with civil rights, Pratte said their team of attorneys are keeping a watchful eye on local officials and local activists who are trying to harm the business, particularly the relationship between NOVA Armory and its landlord.
“As if infringing on my Second Amendment rights is not bad enough, the actions of these local crazies against our business is approaching the level of “tortious interference.” Pratte said she and the landlord have received threats, including calls for a boycott of unrelated business tenants of the landlord.
Pratte explained how the culprits could find themselves libel for any injury she or the landlord suffers, “If you’ve posted on Facebook, agitated people on the local community’s online forum, made harassing phone calls, or sent angry emails designed to interfere with our business relationship with our landlord, you are on my attorneys’ list. So if you don’t see NOVA Armory open for business, you better worry about seeing us in court.”
Pratte is pictured in the press release holding a shotgun. Her father is Dennis Pratte, a gun dealer who reportedly owned the now-closed My Gun Factory in Falls Church.
The full press release is below.
Gun Shop Fires Back at Critics
NOVA Armory Issues Failing Grades to Arlington Politicians; Warns Local Agitators of Lawsuit
March 4, 2016, ARLINGTON, VA — The gun shop planning to open in Arlington, Virginia this month has responded to a letter local politicians sent to its landlord. In response, NOVA Armory has issued report cards with failing grades for each of the seven elected officials who signed the letter to the landlord. Additionally, NOVA Armory warned the politicians and the local anti-Second Amendment activists they could find themselves in court if the gun shop fails to open.
On March 2, NOVA Armory’s landlord received the letter signed by various Virginia office-holders representing Arlington. They were Senator Barbara Favola, Senator Janet Howell, Senator Adam Ebbin, Delegate Patrick Hope, Delegate Alfonso Lopez, Delegate Richard Sullivan, and Delegate Mark Levine.
“The authors released the letter publicly on the official letterhead of the Virginia legislature, yet their letter contained a typo, it confused our gun shop with an unrelated business, and it relied on numerous false premises,” explained NOVA Armory’s owner-in training, Lauren Pratte. “When I see such a poorly written letter in the business world, I take my business elsewhere,” Pratte continued. “Unfortunately tax payers don’t have that choice, and we must suffer under this sort of incompetence.”
In the letter, printed on official letterhead of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the politicians said they “strongly urge” the landlord to cancel the lease with NOVA Armory. The letter made its arguments by claiming a disconnect between the “nature” of NOVA’s business with the “character” of the neighborhood. The letter also suggested NOVA Armory would give rise to a “black market” and “drug dealing” because of its accessibility to residents of the District of Columbia.
“These wild statements sound like what some call dog whistle politics. If these politicians are in the market for dog whistles, they need to know we don’t deal in that garbage,” said Pratte.
Several authors of the letter attended a private meeting for residents of Lyon Park on February 27. A person who attended that meeting alleged that Arlington County Police Chief Jay Farr said the presence of a gun shop does not increase crime.
(Updated at 12:25 p.m.) Members of the media were denied access to a Lyon Park community meeting about the controversial plan to open a gun shop in the neighborhood Sunday night.
The meeting was attended by County Board Chair Libby Garvey, Vice Chair Jay Fisette, County Manager Mark Schwartz, Police Chief Jay Farr and Del. Patrick Hope. The owner of the planned gun store at 2300 N. Pershing Drive, Nova Armory, was reportedly out of town and unable to attend.
An ARLnow.com reporter who tried to attend the event, at the privately-owned Lyon Park Community Center, was not allowed in the building. A community member shut the door when the reporter tried to ask about the prohibition on media. Those working the door at the event checked IDs and only allowed Lyon Park and Ashton Heights residents inside.
A short time after seeking access, the reporter and almost a dozen other non-community members — an Arlington resident who runs an anti-gun-store Facebook page and several members of the pro-gun Virginia Citizens Defense League — were removed from the Lyon Park property by police upon a neighborhood representative’s request.
Initially, on Friday, the meeting was advertised as a public County Board meeting, as required by law when a majority of the County Board is planning to attend. On Saturday, that public notice was rescinded.
“Notice is hearby given that the County Board of Arlington County, Virginia, will NOT meet on Sunday, February 28, 2016 in the Lyon Park Community Center, 414 North Fillmore Street., at 7:00 P.M. or as soon thereafter for the purpose of attending a Lyon Park Community meeting to discuss NOVA Armory’s plans to open a firearms store at 2300 Pershing Dr,” the public notice read.
ARLnow.com reached out to the elected officials who attended the meeting, asking about what was discussed, but thus far none has responded on the record. On Friday, Arlington County issued a statement saying that due to state law, the county “does not have the authority to prohibit these sales or businesses.”
(Also in attendance at the meeting: Lyon Park resident, Planning Commission member and Democratic County Board challenger Erik Gutshall, who has said he’s “deeply concerned” with plans for the store.)
John Goldener, president of the Lyon Park Citizens Association, spoke to ARLnow.com after the meeting, which ran from 7-9 p.m. and was attended by about 140 residents, he said.
Goldener declined to provide details about the discussion, saying that the civic association purposely excluded outsiders because the meeting was intended to be a safe space for community members to discuss the gun store.
“All I can tell you is what the meeting was about,” Goldener said. “This was an opportunity for people in the community to have a safe, civil discussion.”
“The civic association’s role here is to be a facilitator,” Goldener added. “We don’t take a stance on this particular issue.”
(Updated on 2/29/16) A petition against a planned gun store in Lyon Park has already picked up more than 1,400 supporters.
The petition, launched after ARLnow.com first reported about plans for the NOVA Armory store at 2300 N. Pershing Drive, calls for the store and its landlord to cancel plans for the store opening.
“This small strip mall along Pershing Drive and Route 50 is in a residential location and literally next door to a day care/after-care school, the Merit School of Arlington,” the petition states. “It is also within blocks of Long Branch Elementary, and less than a mile from Key Elementary and Thomas Jefferson Middle School.”
In an era of ever-increasing gun violence, it is unconscionable to locate a gun shop anywhere in the vicinity of schools, both private and public, with young children in close proximity. The fear of armed intruders in schools is extremely prevalent in our schools, and placing a shop that sells guns and/or ammunition within immediate distance of schools sends a confusing signal to students and could certainly spark fears of access to them and their families.
We call on the owner of the building and the gun shop to exercise concern for the community, and most particularly its youngest and most vulnerable residents, and cease any action that would allow a gun shop to occupy this space.
“If the shop was not right for Cherrydale, what makes it right for Lyon Park?” the petition asks.
The County Board has sent emails to concerned residents explaining that the county cannot legally prevent the gun store from opening. A county staff comment on the store’s zoning application notes that the county must treat the store “as any other retail shop.”
In just over a day, the controversy over the shop has even entered the world of local partisan politics.
A local business across the street from the store, Smitten Boutique Salon, is encouraging customers to sign the petition against it. In response, the Arlington Falls Church Young Republicans sent an email decrying “evil corporate political speech.”
“How dare a local business use corporate resources to attempt to subvert our political and public policy process,” wrote AFCYR Chairman Emeritus Matthew Hurtt. “Democrats claim to want to protect our fragile democracy, and — if so — they must condemn this egregious act without hesitation.”
NOVA Armory says it is planning to open in March.