The D.C. area is a bit on edge, and the sounds of howitzers firing this afternoon probably won’t help. But it’s necessary to prep for next week’s inauguration.
Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall said today (Thursday) that the U.S. Army’s Presidential Salute Battery will be conducting “blank fire drills” this afternoon in preparation for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.
The drills are held as practice for “ceremonies in honor of the President of the United States, for visiting foreign dignitaries, during official government ceremonies, regional celebrations… and while rendering honors during the funeral services of our nation’s fallen service members and veterans,” a base spokeswoman previously told ARLnow.
Please be advised the @USArmyOldGuard, Presidential Salute Battery, will conduct blank fire drills in preparation for the 59th Presidential Inauguration this afternoon and tomorrow on the Fort Myer portion of the Joint Base. @MDW_USARMY pic.twitter.com/bCSBcgmo1F
— JBM-HH (@JBMHH) January 14, 2021
Photo by Sgt. Jose A. Torres Jr courtesy of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall
Complaints over helicopter noise in Arlington are likely to soon be better tracked by the federal government.
On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a veto-proof version of the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act, and it includes a provision directing the Secretary of Defense to “develop a process to receive, track, and analyze complaints of military rotary wing aircraft noise in the National Capital Region that are registered on the noise inquiry websites of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Dulles International Airport.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says that the NDAA will be approved before the end of the year, while questions remain if President Trump will attempt to veto it.
Congressman Don Beyer tweeted that the addition of the language to the NDAA and its passage is a win for the region. Helicopter noise has long been a topic that he’s worked on, and over the summer Beyer wrote in an email to ALXnow that his office consistently receives a high volume of helicopter noise complaints.
“We get calls about airplanes on approach and departure to and from DCA, and increasingly about military helicopters across the region, many of which fly in and out of Fort Belvoir,” Beyer wrote. “I had a town hall on the issue a few years ago in Fairlington, which has been particularly affected, and it was clear that people wanted ways to track and report noise complaints, and to have a forum for ongoing discussion about ways to mitigate that noise which would include input from the local community.”
The NDAA we just passed in the House gives the troops a raise, renames bases formerly named after Confederates, and does a lot more.
There's also a section with a win on something I've been pushing on for my constituents– addressing helicopter noise in the capital region: pic.twitter.com/yNQ4WtqRUz
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) December 9, 2020
Beyer recently joined a number of D.C.-area lawmakers in asking for the Defense Department to study helicopter noise in the area.
The noise issue has been a growing concern for years. Last year, the U.S. Army revealed one reason for some extra noise: it was conducting a secret operation that required the use of Blackhawk helicopters.
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
County Lauded for LGBTQ Inclusiveness — “Arlington scored 100 points out of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s 9th annual Municipal Equality Index for its high standards of inclusiveness and protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities. While Arlington has been a top-ranked community in the past, this year it was recognized for adding gender identity/expression protections to its Human Rights ordinance and providing all-gender bathrooms in County-owned offices and facilities.” [Arlington County]
Traffic Cam Feeds Back On — After a few weeks of Arlington’s web-based traffic camera feeds being off due to technical issues, the feeds are back on. The traffic cameras can also now be viewed on the My Arlington mobile app. [Twitter]
Traffic Cam Policy Still in Place? — Some cold water on the traffic camera news, from local public safety watchdog Dave Statter: “Cutting cameras during @ArlingtonVaPD incidents is a bad look for the department… Giving a government employee the power to censor what’s in public view based on their own whims and/or a vague county standard sure gives the impression that 1A is not that important to @ArlingtonVA.” [Twitter]
CivFed to Get Aircraft Noise Briefing — “Arlington County government officials and their consultants will update delegates to the Arlington County Civic Federation on the ongoing noise study related to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport at the federation’s Dec. 15 meeting.” [InsideNova]
Audit Committee Seeking Members — “The Audit Committee is seeking new member applications for a two-year term beginning February 1, 2021. The committee advises the County Board on County government’s exposure to financial, operational, and reputational risks.” [Arlington County]
Nearby: School Names to Change in F.C. — “After six months of a lengthy and often contentious debate involving the entire City of Falls Church community, the Falls Church School Board voted unanimously tonight to change the names of two of its five schools, ones named for U.S. founding fathers who famously owned slaves, George Mason and Thomas Jefferson.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Real Estate Market Remains Hot — “A total of 264 properties went to closing in October, up 25.7 percent from the 210 transactions a year before… The Arlington-wide average sales price of $757,378 recorded in October was up 14.5 percent from $661,447, with a 16.7-percent increase in the average sales price of single-family homes (to $1,148,445) and a 2.7-percent increase for attached homes, such as townhouses and rowhouses (to $537,547).” [InsideNova]
Investment for Arlington Tech Firm — “The Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) today announced that Virginia Founders Fund (VFF) has invested in Rosslyn, Va.-based Mesh Intelligence, developer of a proactive food safety and supply chain solution to predict upcoming and evolving risks and disruptions globally to help organizations plan and act faster.” [GlobeNewswire via Potomac Tech Wire]
A-SPAN Gets New CEO — “The Board of Directors of A-SPAN, a nonprofit organization that provides life-saving supportive services for vulnerable people, has announced the appointment of Betsy Frantz to the position of President/CEO on a permanent basis.” [Press Release]
Outdoor Music Prompts Complaints in F.C. — “Live music has been a major draw for Falls Church Distillers over the past few months, which has moved outdoors due to Covid-19 concerns. However, residential neighbors in nearby apartment complexes haven’t taken to the adaptation as well.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Arlington, MoCo Hire Consultant — “Montgomery and Arlington counties have hired a consultant to develop alternatives to the flight paths at Reagan National Airport that have led to dramatic increases in noise complaints from residents across the region. ‘This will be a game changer,; said Ken Hartman… Montgomery County’s point person on the airplane noise issue.” [Washington Post]
Biden Breaks 100K Mark in Arlington — “It likely won’t be the highlight of his political career, but Joe Biden will go down in history as the first presidential candidate to win more than 100,000 votes in Arlington. Biden garnered 102,510 of them, according to unofficial tallies reported immediately after the election… Trump’s performance, both in total votes and in percentage of the vote, slightly outperformed his 2016 tally in Arlington.” [InsideNova]
What the School Bond Will Fund — “The $52.65 million will be used for the following projects: $24.3 million for planning and design to meet 10-year projected capacity needs at all school levels; $15.4 million for major infrastructure projects such as HVAC replacement for schools; $7.65 million for building refreshes and kitchen renovations at ATS, Key and McKinley; $5.30 million for security entrances at Taylor, Gunston, Jefferson, Williamsburg, Wakefield.” [Arlington Public Schools, InsideNova]
Firefighter Follows in Fallen Father’s Footsteps — “The son of a Washington, D.C. fallen firefighter is following in his dad’s footsteps. When Anthony Phillips Jr.’s father died in the line of duty on May 30, 1999, he never thought he would do that work that took the life of his father 21 years ago. But, never say never… Phillips just graduated from the Arlington Fire Academy Recruit Class 78.” [WJLA]
Some Fog This Morning — Updated at 8:55 a.m. — From a National Weather Service tweet last night: “Some patchy dense #fog is developing over portions of central and northern Virginia. Remain alert if traveling overnight, as visibility could quickly fall to a quarter mile or less.” A Dense Fog Advisory is in effect until 10 a.m. [Twitter, Twitter]
Nearby: Downtown D.C. in Trouble — “Now,empty streets are the norm. The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the District’s once-thriving downtown area into a ghost town over the past nearly eight months… Downtown D.C.s’ economy has been crushed by the pandemic, though it has made a slight recovery since the BID issued its last report in July.” [DCist]
DCA Noise Study Launched — “In a partnership that stretches across the Potomac River, Arlington and Montgomery counties have launched a joint study to mitigate aircraft noise from nearby Reagan National Airport. A team of technical experts representing the suburban Virginia and Maryland counties will study flight procedures, consult residents and propose to the Federal Aviation Administration ways to reduce noise pollution.” [WTOP]
Amazon Doubling Down on Offices — Amazon “is expanding its physical offices in six U.S. cities and adding thousands of corporate jobs in those areas, an indication the tech giant is making long-term plans around office work even as other companies embrace lasting remote employment. Amazon is preparing to add 3,500 corporate jobs across hubs in New York, Phoenix, San Diego, Denver, Detroit and Dallas.” [Wall Street Journal]
State Senators Support Redistricting Amendment — “The Arlington County Democratic Committee may have come out against the state constitutional amendment on redistricting that will be on Virginia’s Nov. 3 ballot. But the three members of Arlington’s state Senate delegation say they support it nonetheless. The amendment to create a redistricting commission represents ‘a big step forward,’ said Sen. Adam Ebbin. [InsideNova]
WWII Marker Replaced by Gun Violence Garden — “In 1952, a marker was unveiled in Arlington by the Gold Star Mothers of America… In June, a handsome new garden was dedicated in that space. It was created by the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia to honor Moms Demand Action, an organization dedicated to addressing gun violence.” [Washington Post]
Local BLM Protest Organizers Profiled — “In late May, as outrage over George Floyd’s killing in police custody roiled the nation, Anika and Yolande Kwinana decided they had to do something. Anika, 49, a program manager in the Kennedy Center’s education division, and Yolande, 28, a business development associate for Salesforce… decided to organize a smaller demonstration themselves, in Arlington.” [Arlington Magazine]
Local Beer Store Pivots to Delivery — “Les Shaver tells the story of The Brew Shop, a specialty wine and beer store in Arlington, Va., that has been exceptionally resilient despite the impact of Covid-19. In the article, How One Small Beer Shop Tapped Into Online Sales in Response to COVID-19, Shaver recounts how owners Julie Drews and Beth Helle have been able to stay ahead of the curve by quickly shifting their brick and mortar format to online and delivery services.” [Craft Brewing Business]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Va. Coronavirus Cases Skewing Younger — “Gov. Ralph Northam said during a press conference today that local health officials are pointing to a “significant shift” of people in their 20s or younger getting COVID-19.” [Tysons Reporter]
Northam Announces New Restrictions — “Gov. Ralph Northam is rolling back reopening in Hampton Roads as cases there surge but stopped short of doing so statewide. Gov. Northam’s announcement came after a private meeting Tuesday with Dr. Deborah Birx, the Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House. Virginia was her last stop on a five-state tour… she came to all of these states with the same message: put additional mitigation measures in place before things get worse.” [WAVY, InsideNova, Commonwealth of Virginia]
Bill May Tackle Local Helicopter Noise — “A local addition to the National Defense Authorization Act — a $740 billion bill approved through the House and Senate and headed to the White House — would require the Pentagon to establish a helicopter noise abatement group for the region… The amendment was sponsored by Rep. Don Beyer (D) would also require the Pentagon to establish a noise inquiry website.” [ALXnow]
County Wants to Become More ‘Age Friendly’ — “With AARP’s recent approval of Arlington’s Age Friendly Action Plan, Building an Age Friendly Community, the County is now entering a three-year process to achieve the plan’s goals and objectives — and enhance the County’s standing as a livable community for people all ages.” [Arlington County]
Nearby: Falls Church Unveils New Permit — “To help businesses and non-profits cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Falls Church Recreation and Parks Department has created the Temporary Outdoor Commercial Activity Permit. Certain parks and amenities can be rented for commercial activities like exercise classes and children’s entertainment.” [City of Falls Church]
Photo courtesy Geoff Collins
As promised last week, Clark Construction is wrapping up pile driving at the Amazon HQ2 site in Pentagon City today, two weeks ahead of schedule.
That’s good news for Amazon’s new neighbors. The noisy work drew protests from those sheltering at home in the apartment buildings around the S. Eads Street construction site, and TV news crews reporting on the complaints.
A spokesman for Clark, the general contractor building the first phase of Amazon’s permanent second headquarters, tells ARLnow that work is proceeding quickly.
“Clark is on track to complete pile driving operations later today, two weeks ahead of our initial projection,” said Marcel Goldstein. “Pile driving is by far the noisiest of all construction operations. Going forward, neighbors should expect to hear the typical noise of dump trucks and other construction equipment/activities occurring on site. We will continue to abide by Arlington County’s noise ordinance.”
The next round of work includes the excavation of nearly a half-million cubic yards of dirt, to make way for the 2.1 million square foot office-and-retail development.
“Crews will continue to advance mass excavation activities on site, which are anticipated to continue for the next 5 months,” the spokesman said. “Mass excavation entails removing 440,000 cubic yards of soil from the jobsite. The team has removed 75,000 cubic yards of soil to date, representing 17% of the total scope of work.”
“Clark remains focused on building a positive relationship and ongoing dialogue with project neighbors,” Goldstein continued. “Community members can contact us and get the latest construction information by visiting our website: metpark678.com.”
The project website says that construction crews are taking measures to stay safe and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. It also notes that while crews abide by a work schedule set by the county, there’s another noise source that nearby residents may hear at all hours: generators working to drain water from the deepening construction pit.
“The project team is working in compliance with Arlington County’s noise ordinance and operates within the County’s permitted work hours of 7 AM to 9 PM (Mon-Fri) and 9 AM to 9 PM (Sat, Sun, and Holidays),” the website says. “Construction crews continue to utilize generators on site to support dewatering operations, which are running 24 hours a day,” the website says.
Phase 1 of HQ2 is expected to be completed in 2023. A second phase of nearly the same size is planned for the nearby Pen Place site, on the other side of 12th Street S.
Under ordinary times, the work by Clark Construction in Arlington County to build Amazon HQ2 can be considered excessive, unreasonable and unsafe.
These are not ordinary times — we are all grappling with the severe shock to our daily lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially as many are working from home, and many are with children juggling with competing demands. […]
In addition to the noise issues, there is neither oversight nor accountability in ensuring that Amazon and Clark Construction are maintaining public safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The petition attracted coverage from a number of local broadcast outlets this week. WJLA reported that it was started by a resident whose fourth floor apartment faces the construction site. WTOP and Fox 5 quoted County Board member Matt de Ferranti and chair Libby Garvey, who both expressed empathy for residents working at home amid the noise, but stopped short of promising action.
“Now that many people are home during the day, it is especially difficult for them to tolerate the noise and disruption of construction,” Garvey told Fox 5.
The primary noise generator thus far has been pile driving at the HQ2 site along S. Eads Street, for which contractor Clark Construction Group has offered residents of nearby highrises ear plugs.
Clark, meanwhile, said in a construction update that it “is taking every precaution to minimize the risk of infection on our jobsites… as part of our overall COVID-19 management plan.”
Amazon, which has seen its sales and stock soar during the coronavirus crisis, plans to eventually hire 25,000 employees for its second headquarters, and currently has more than 500 job listings in Arlington.
If you hear some explosions Tuesday morning, don’t worry — it’s just cannon fire practice for Arlington’s military neighbors.
The Presidential Salute Battery Platoon will be conducting ceremonial training Tuesday around 7 a.m., Arlington National Cemetery said on social media Monday night.
When the platoon has practiced in the past, different parts of Arlington have heard “booming” or “banging” sounds, depending on weather conditions.
As ARLnow previously reported, Presidential Salute Battery teams work together to fire howitzers and 21-gun volleys during the practice. The goal is to time the shots with a ceremony or song, but the guns were not always ceremonial, according to the platoon’s website.
The platoon is equipped with ten M5, 75mm antitank cannons mounted on the M6 howitzer carriage. Each gun weighs 5,775 pounds. The M5 cannon saw service in North Africa, Italy, and Northwest Europe from 1943 until the end of World War II. Today, the Presidential Salute Battery fires the 75mm blank ceremonial shell with 1.5 pounds of powder….
Ceremonies require a five-man staff and a two-man team for each gun. The staff consists of the Battery Commander, who initiates fire commands and ensures the proper number of rounds is fired; the Sergeant of the Watch, who marches the battery into position, controls the firing of the backup gun, and monitors the watchman and his assistant; the Watchman controls the timing between rounds and gives the command to fire; the more experienced Assistant Watchman ensures the Watchman stays in time; and the Counter, counts the rounds and signals the last round to the battery.
The platoon conducts the training in preparation for firing cannons “at ceremonies in honor of the President of the United States, for visiting foreign dignitaries, during official government ceremonies, regional celebrations… and while rendering honors during the funeral services of our nation’s fallen service members and veterans,” a spokeswoman said last year, noting that the training sessions end prior to Arlington National Cemetery’s visiting hours.
Arlington neighbors: the Presidential Salute Battery Platoon will be conducting ceremonial training for the salute battery tomorrow morning. The cannons will be going off around 7:00 a.m.
— Arlington National Cemetery (@ArlingtonNatl) April 27, 2020