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.
A gun store offering “the largest selection of firearms inside the D.C. Beltway” is planning to open next month in Lyon Park.
NOVA Armory is coming to the ground floor of 2300 N. Pershing Drive, near Route 50 and Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. Much of the store’s interior appears to already be built, based on a photo on NOVA Armory’s website.
The store says it expects to open in March, pending final licensing.
“NOVA Armory will provide D.C., Maryland and Virginia residents the lowest priced firearms guaranteed,” said a recorded announcement that plays when you call the store’s phone number. “With our one-of-a-kind showroom, you will be able to handle hundreds of firearms without the need for a salesperson.”
A county permit application indicates that the store has been granted a local business license and the land use go-ahead from Arlington’s planning department
“RETAIL-FIREARMS SHOP,” says the county staff comment on the permit application online. “PER ZA AND G. ACURIO IN COUNTY MANAGERS OFFICE TREAT AS ANY OTHER RETAIL SHOP.”
Last year an effort by a store called NOVA Firearms to open a location in Cherrydale resulted in a community outcry and national media attention. Eventually the store’s would-be landlord, facing community pressure and protests, cancelled the lease.
While similar in name, a Yelp listing for NOVA Armory (below) states that it’s not affiliated with Nova Firearms. The permit holder for the business, however, is listed as Dennis Pratte, a McLean gun dealer who at one point was reported to be the owner of Nova Firearms. A different man was said to be the owner of Nova Firearms during last year’s Cherrydale controversy.
The owners of NOVA Armory have been in the firearms industry for 20 years. They are active hunters and sporting arms enthusiasts that have decided to open a state-of-the-art showroom that allows customers to view and handle secured arms without the need of a sales person, thereby allowing you to shop in peace. While we will have consultants available to address your questions, we want to offer you a new and unique way to shop for your next firearm.
We will also offer free firearms transfers if we cannot provide you the same firearm for a cheaper price. We hope to be your go-to firearms resource.
Finally, while similar in name, we are not affiliated with any other firearms shops in the VA, DC or MD areas.
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.
Widening Critics Still Questioning I-66 Deal — “Widening the highway for four miles from Beltway to Ballston will not relieve traffic congestion, according to every expert I’ve spoken to,” writes WAMU transportation reporter Martin Di Caro, regarding the I-66 deal struck by Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D). Arlington County Board member Jay Fisette, meanwhile, says the overall plan for tolling I-66 is worth the compromise. [Twitter, WAMU]
Arlington Probably Won’t Sue Over I-395 HOT Lanes — After mounting an expensive legal battle over a plan by Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) administration to convert the HOV lanes on I-395 to High Occupancy Toll lanes, Arlington appears poised to accept a similar HOT lane plan by VDOT and the McAuliffe administration. There are some key differences between the two proposals, observers say. [Greater Greater Washington]
Arlington Man Arrested in D.C. Cold Case — Arlington resident Benito Valdez, 45, has been arrested and charged with an alleged accomplice in a 1991 triple homicide cold case in the District. [Associated Press]
Chamber Concert in Lyon Park This Weekend — On Saturday, IBIS Chamber Music will hold a free concert of chamber music in the newly-renovated Lyon Park Community Center (414 N. Fillmore Street). The concert will start at 7:30 p.m. and feature music by Schubert, Beethoven and Debussy. [ARLnow]
Local Resident’s Cat Story Appears in Book — A story by Arlington resident April Riser is featured in the new book, “Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Cat,” according to a PR rep for the publisher.
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey will face a primary challenge on her left this year.
Erik Gutshall, a small business owner and Arlington Planning Commission member, announced on New Year’s Day that he will be running against Garvey in the June Democratic primary. Garvey is nearing the end of her first four-year term on the Board.
Gutshall, who lives in Lyon Park and previously served as that community’s civic association president, said he intends to run a positive campaign against Garvey, who drew the ire of the local Democratic establishment after successfully campaigning against the Columbia Pike streetcar project and endorsing independent County Board member John Vihstadt in his two races against Democrat Alan Howze.
“Our county best meets the challenges we face when we are united behind our shared progressive values,” Gutshall said in a statement.
Gutshall is a home improvement contractor and owns Clarendon Home Services LLC. The full press release announcing Gutshall’s candidacy, after the jump.
Photo via Facebook
Thanksgiving festivities will begin bright and early tomorrow when more than 4,000 runners, joggers and walkers hit the streets for the 10th Annual Turkey Trot 5K.
This also means the holiday will begin with road closures around the course.
The race begins at 8 a.m. at the Christ Church of Arlington at 3020 N. Pershing Drive. Police are working with race directors to divert traffic and ensure the course is safe.
According to the Arlington County Police Department, the following road closures will be in effect from 7-10 a.m. tomorrow:
- Pershing Drive from Washington Boulevard to N. Oxford Street
- N. Oxford Street from Pershing Drive to 5th Street N
- 5th Street N from N. Nelson Street to N. Oxford Street
- N. Nelson Street from Pershing Drive to 5th Street N
- Washington Blvd from 9th Street N to Arlington Blvd, eastbound lanes only
- N. Fillmore Street from 9th Street N to 3rd Street N
- 3rd Street N from N. Fillmore Street to Washington Blvd
- N. Bedford Street from Arlington Blvd to N. Brookside Drive
- N. Brookside Drive from N. Bedford Street to Washington Blvd
All roads west of N. Highland Street will close and reopen before those east, due to the direction participants will travel along the course. A detailed course map is available online.
Street parking will also be restricted in certain areas that morning, marked with temporary “No Parking” signs.
Photo courtesy of Arlington Turkey Trot
(Updated at 11:25 a.m.) A car slammed into the front porch of a house in Lyon Park Sunday afternoon.
The crash happened around 1:30 p.m., near the intersection of 4th Street N. and N. Irving Street.
According to a witness, a car was crossing Pershing Drive on Irving when it was T-boned by a car heading eastbound on Pershing. One of the vehicles, a four door Honda sedan, then hopped a curb and ran into the front right corner of the house.
No injuries were reported.
Firefighters worked for several hours to shore up the porch so the car could be removed, we’re told.
(Updated at 1:35 p.m.) The crew behind the new Texas Jack’s Barbecue plans to start serving diners near Clarendon on Dec. 7, giving them a comfortable place to eat while going beyond expected barbecue standards.
The restaurant occupies the former home of Tallula and EatBar at 2761 Washington Blvd in Lyon Park.
The space now is unrecognizable, combining both locations to create a dining room and bar, partially separated by a wall with two doorways and three large, open windows. Both rooms are filled with reclaimed wood and other locally-sourced materials that make up the chairs, tables, bar and wall panels.
“We wanted to just make sure no matter when people come into the space, they feel comfortable being here and really enjoy themselves,” co-owner Steve Roberts said. “We also obviously wanted to focus on outstanding barbecue, making creative choices with top-quality meats.”
This choice meat comes from throughout the United States, including locally. Roberts said it’s all hormone- and antibiotic-free and spends three to four hours in one of two massive smokers.
“It’s what I’ve always been interested in cooking, and that’s what I mainly do,” he said. “My idea is to elevate the dishes you typically see at barbecue restaurants and give people what they aren’t expecting.”
While the meats — including brisket, pulled pork, sausage and pork and beef ribs — will be fairly straightforward, Lang is putting his own twist on Mexican-American fare to create separate dining room and bar menus, though guests can order from either in both areas.
He also had advice for how diners should approach the menu.
“I’d like to encourage guests to share and have them understand the best way to do this is get a plate of barbecue with whatever sides you want and share,” he said.
Platters and meals with barbecue meats cost between $12 and $20. The menu, though it’s not finalized, will also have appetizers and sandwiches, prices ranging from $8 to $16.
Other restaurant amenities include an open kitchen, ADA-friendly tables, accommodations for large parties or communal dining, a room that can be rented for private events, valet parking during peak hours, a bar equipped with outlets and USB ports, and both beer and wine on tap.
The space is also environmentally-friendly, reducing waste by installing all LED lighting fixtures and serving food on traditional enamelware, unlike many barbecue places that serve on paper plates and in cardboard boats.
“Many times, you’ll go into a barbecue place and there’s a lot of waste,” Roberts said. “There’s nothing throwaway about anything we have here, and we’re trying to be as sensitive as we can as far as sustainability and what we’re doing to the environment.”
Texas Jack’s plans to be open seven days a week from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.
The robbery occurred just after 5 p.m., at the Blue Ridge Partners gas and service station on the 2700 block of N. Pershing Drive, at the intersection with Washington Blvd.
Initial reports suggest that two men robbed the store, with one man displaying a small chrome pistol. Then men took cash, an iPhone and Newport cigarette cartons, before fleeing on foot to a nearby black SUV with tinted windows and Maryland tags and then driving off.
Both suspects are described as black males in their 40s with average builds. The first suspect is described as 5’9″, wearing a Washington Redskins jacket. The second is described as 5’10” with a black jacket and a black ski cap.
No one was injured in the robbery.
The permit is for renovation of 850 square feet of office space into a “fast casual restaurant” serving meatless burgers and other alternative foods.
According to the restaurant’s nascent website, Alt’s is where “people go to eat tasty burgers without the guilt.” It lists the bacon “Altburger” with cheese as a menu item with less than 350 calories and 25 grams of protein.
The permit does not specify when the interior renovation of the space will begin.
Representatives for the restaurant could not be immediately reached for comment.
Hat tip to Martin L. Photo via Google Maps.