Arlington, VA

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.

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A petition calling for Amazon to halt construction on its $2.5 billion HQ2 project in Pentagon City due to noise has attracted a raft of local media coverage.

The Change.org petition, which as of noon Friday had just over 275 signatures, says the massive construction project should stop as long as a stay-at-home order is in effect in Virginia.

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.

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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.

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Morning Notes

Biden Wins Virginia — “Virginia voters have overwhelmingly given former Vice President Joe Biden a sizable win over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in Tuesday’s primary election. According to unofficial state election returns, Biden has been called the winner of the state with 53.3 percent of what was a record primary turnout, and will capture the largest share of its 99 delegates.” [Patch, Washington Post]

Bernie Underperforms 2016 — In the two-way race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in 2016, Sanders captured 33% of the vote in Arlington. Yesterday, he received 19% of the vote, a close third to Elizabeth Warren at 20%.

FAA Taking Comments on DCA Noise — “After changing the routes for planes taking off from Reagan National Airport, in Arlington, Virginia, the Federal Aviation Administration is holding a public comment period. The comment period closes March 30. In an email, Libby Garvey, chair of the Arlington County Board, said that even if people in the community submitted earlier complaints, the FAA will not be officially considering them.” [WTOP]

Tafti Defends Changes at Prosecutor’s Office — “There’s this false critique that these reforms are making our communities less safe. We’ve been fed a story for decades that we have to incarcerate and have zero tolerance in order to be safe. More and more we are finding that harm reduction — for drug use, mental illness treatment, restorative justice — is more effective.” [Arlington Magazine]

Police: Two Arrested in Stolen Vehicle — “At approximately 2:40 p.m. on March 1, officers [in Pentagon City] were alerted to a license plate reader hit on a vehicle previously reported stolen out of Washington D.C. Officers observed two subjects walking away from the parked vehicle and conducted surveillance in the area. The subjects were taken into custody without incident as they returned to the vehicle… A search of the vehicle located suspected narcotics.” [Arlington County]

Chamber Cheers Tourism Tax Bill — “The Arlington Chamber of Commerce celebrates the General Assembly’s establishment of permanent funding for tourism promotion in Arlington. This 0.25 percent Transient Occupancy Tax surcharge on hotel rooms is used exclusively by Arlington Convention and Visitors Service… to grow travel and tourism in Arlington. Previously, the tax surcharge was enacted with a July 1, 2021 sunset” provision. [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

Bill Could Boost N. Va. Metro Funding — “Northern Virginia localities could soon have the ability to spend more money on Metro service increases after state lawmakers approved a bill that tinkers with the dedicated funding agreement for the transit agency… Virginia’s total financial contribution to Metro can’t increase by more than 3% each year, a condition designed to impose fiscal discipline on the agency. The bill from Del. Vivian Watts, D-Annandale would exempt any costs associated with service increases from that cap.” [Washington Business Journal]

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Opposition is taking flight against new route changes proposed at Reagan National Airport as residents and multiple members of Congress raise concerns.

The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) earlier this year announced plans to adjust National Airport flight paths to avoid parts of the federal no-fly zone around D.C., to “address Secret Service concerns.” But Congressman Don Beyer (D-Va.) says the new paths means more noise.

“I hear from constituents on airplane noise issues consistently,” Beyer told ARLnow.com this weekend. “On this issue and in general, my constituents are frustrated that their concerns are not being heard and their interests not considered meaningfully by FAA, and rightly so. We must ensure that the community is involved in these decisions, which is exactly why the Community Working Group was created to begin with.”

The changes would adjust northbound departing planes at DCA’s Runway 19 to fly further westward. This would push more planes over land in Arlington — a plan residents fiercely criticized when it was first proposed three years ago, echoing long-standing concerns about the sound shaking homes and interrupting sleep as airlines switched to new navigation techniques to optimize routes, resulting in more flights early in the morning and late at night.

The FAA presented the same proposal again this past June, announcing the changes would go into effect in August to quell concerns from the Secret Service about planes zooming too close to the Lincoln Memorial and the White House. However, Beyer says the agency failed to consult the Reagan National Community Noise Working Group about the idea.

Beyer, who represents parts of Alexandria and Arlington, wrote a letter last week saying he understood the need to prevent planes from flying into federally restricted airspace, but noted that he remained “concerned about the process — specifically, the failure to give meaningful consideration to community interests — involved in a decision that will further concentrate the airplane noise in Arlington, Virginia.”

Maryland Democrats Sen. Benjamin Cardin, Sen. Chris van Hollen, and Rep. Jamie Raskin also wrote a letter this summer saying the surprise proposal represented a “failure to give meaningful consideration to community interests, the absence of an environmental review, and the negative impact” on neighborhoods.

“I join my Maryland colleagues in urging the FAA to halt implementation of the proposed changes to DCA flight procedures (both approach and departure changes) until it can demonstrate a need for these changes, as well as considering the concerns of the affected communities per the standard environmental review process,” Beyer wrote in his letter last week.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) held a series of regional meetings in October to gather public feedback on the proposed flight paths. Arlington and Montgomery County also opened bidding for a contractor who can recommend the best ways to solve the noisy dispute — after teaming up last year to fund a study on aircraft noise.

The issue over which jurisdiction should bear the brunt of the airport’s noise has at times created a tug-of-war between Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. The issue re-surfaced as some residents worry Amazon’s arrival in Arlington and the airport’s expansion project mean more flights could be added to the airport. (Last year, officials denied they have plans for additional flights.)

Raskin and Beyer are both members of the Congressional Quiet Skies Coalition, which advocates for “meaningful solutions” to aircraft noise and has previously called for DCA to limit its growth and study the impact of the noise.

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Morning Notes

New Noise Enforcement Tools — “Arlington government officials have added new tools in an effort to address nighttime noise violations from restaurants and bars. The new policy is designed to target ‘the ones who consistently refuse to comply’ in resolving noise complaints, County Attorney Stephen MacIsaac told County Board members on Oct. 22.” [InsideNova]

Beyer on Aircraft Noise — “Today, Rep. Don Beyer (VA-08) sent a letter to the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration expressing concerns about its recent announcement to make changes to flight paths at DCA to accommodate Secret Service needs without giving meaningful consideration to community interests.” [Press Release]

Video: Amazon Truck Towed in Crystal City — “Can’t say we didn’t warn you… controversial Advanced Towing removes an @amazon truck from ‘National Landing.'” [Twitter]

Housing Supply Down, Prices Up — “The Arlington County, Virginia, housing market continues to get more expensive, and potential buyers continue to have fewer and fewer houses and condos to consider.” [WTOP]

What Goes Into an Arlington Nat’l Cemetery Burial — “If you live near Arlington, you may be familiar with the sound of cannon fire early in the morning. The Presidential Salute Battery fires cannons for military ceremonies in Washington and is the only unit of its kind in the Army. ” [WAMU]

Nearby: Nats World Series Scam — Per Fairfax County Police: “Our Detectives are investigating an increasing number of scams involving the sale of @Nationals World Series tickets. Please use caution when purchasing tickets from sources other than @MLB authorized dealers.” [Twitter, FCPD]

Courtesy photo

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(Updated 9:40 p.m.) A press conference on the front steps of a Rosslyn townhouse drew noisy protesters Monday afternoon, which in turn prompted a call to Arlington County Police.

Several ACPD officers responded to the 1500 block of N. Colonial Terrace for a noise complaint around 3 p.m. They arrived near the end of a press conference involving a trio of conservative provocateurs — Jack Burkman, Jacob Wohl and Milo Yiannopoulos — outside of Burkman’s home.

Burkman and Wohl have organized a recent series of press conferences, mostly to accuse prominent Democrats of sexual malfeasance. Today’s event focused on similarly lurid-but-lacking-in-evidence accusations against Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

The 2:30 p.m. press conference featured the claims against Cruz being read by the female accuser, while Burkman and Wohl stood nearby and Yiannopoulos sat to the side, checking his phone and smoking a cigarette.

During the press conference, a protester played a banjo while another shouted, blew an air horn and tossed donuts at the participants. A live stream of the event shows about two dozen people, including journalists, protesters and curious onlookers, in attendance.

Police responded to the area after receiving a report of disorderly protesters, arriving around 3 p.m.

“Is anybody in charge of the protest that wants to talk?” an officer asks. Attendees answered that there was no organized protest.

With police still on scene, a man who identified himself as a resident started to yell at the bystanders, complaining about the noise.

“I want all of you out of this f—ing neighborhood now,” he said. “You are bothering me.”

“Seriously, can you make them leave?” he asked police, who continued keeping watch near a street corner.

“This is such a s—show circus,” commented one of the people standing on the sidewalk.

Police could be seen starting to leave at the end of the livestream, as the attendees started to disperse. An ACPD spokeswoman told ARLnow the event “disbanded without incident.”

According to ACPD spokeswoman Kirby Clark:

At approximately 2:48 p.m. on October 21, police were dispatched to the report of loud noise and traffic obstructions in the area of North Colonial Terrace and North Ode Street related to an event being held in the area. Upon arrival, officers made contact with parties on scene and the event concluded without incident.

ACPD has not been made aware of community concerns regarding other similar events at this location. Residents who have specific community concerns regarding this event or others are advised to contact the Community Outreach Team for this area by email ([email protected] arlingtonva.us) or phone (703-228-4184).

Burkman was previously in the news locally after he was shot in the parking garage of the Key Bridge Marriott hotel in Rosslyn.

Screenshots via Ford Fischer/Twitter

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(Updated at 1:50 p.m.) Three out of four lanes of Wilson Blvd in Ballston were blocked by utility work Monday morning.

The work, at the intersection of Wilson and N. Randolph Street, near the mall, was to replace a blown electrical transformer in a utility vault that’s in the middle of the westbound lanes of Wilson. Crews from Dominion Energy were on scene, along with a large, mobile crane.

We’re told the transformer went out Sunday, knocking out power to an adjacent apartment building.

All westbound lanes of Wilson Blvd were blocked approaching Ballston Quarter mall, while only one eastbound lane was closed. The lane closures caused minor backups during this morning’s rush hour.

Residents in the area have been complaining for years about excessive noise caused by vehicles — particularly trucks — driving over the utility vaults.

“The plates have been there for years, but starting in October 2018, they began making absurdly loud noises whenever cars/buses/trucks drive over them,” one tipster said in July. “Dozens of complaints have been filed on the county’s ‘reporting tool’ website… The result of the noise is that local residents at Ava Ballston Square, Origin Ballston, and other apartments are disturbed through the day and awakened at night.”

Today’s work is not expected to alleviate the noise issue. A Dominion spokeswoman noted that the vault itself is maintained by the owner of the nearby building, not the utility company.

“The grates are not ours and the work has nothing to do with replacing them,” a Dominion spokeswoman told ARLnow. “The grates top our underground vaults containing our transformers that serve the buildings along the street… Normally, you will see our transformers sitting at ground level or up high on a utility pole. The developer wanted them underground.”

As of 1:30 p.m., all lanes had reportedly reopened.

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Morning Notes

HQ2 to Include Banana Stand, Local Businesses — “Schoettler said the outdoor areas will likely include elements from its Seattle headquarters, such as a community vegetable garden and a banana stand… Amazon’s in-house food program will only serve about one-quarter of the HQ2 workforce, encouraging the majority of the employees to each lunch at nearby businesses. And because Amazon will own the buildings, Schoettler said it will be able to curate the retail to focus on locally owned businesses.” [Bisnow, WAMU, Washington Business Journal]

County Again Recognized for Tech Savvy — “Arlington County is once again among the top ranked digital counties in the nation. The Center for Digital Government and National Association of Counties 2019 award designated Arlington second place in the 150,000-249,999 population category.” [Arlington County]

Legion Development a National Model? — “Post 139 and APAH’s partnership should serve as an example for addressing the issue of homeless veterans, said Darryl Vincent, chief operating officer of nonprofit U.S.VETS… In 2018, there were 12,806 American Legion posts across the country, a huge inventory of property that could be repurposed as affordable housing.” [Politico]

Helicopter Noise Amendment Passes House — “The House of Representatives adopted a set of amendments to H.R. 2500, the National Defense Authorization Act, including two offered by Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) which would address helicopter noise in the National Capital Region.” [Press Release]

ACPD: Lock Your Car and House — “The Arlington County Police Department is joining law enforcement agencies throughout the country in a public safety campaign aimed at promoting crime prevention strategies to reduce and prevent thefts from vehicles and homes. The campaign, known as the 9 P.M. Routine, encourages residents to conduct security checks in their homes and vehicles each evening to ensure their property is secure.” [Arlington County]

APS Teacher Receives National Recognition — “Wilfredo Padilla Melendez, teacher at Claremont Immersion School, received Instructure’s 2019 Educator of the Year Award. Wilfredo was recognized as one of six educators who go above and beyond to redefine traditional classroom activities.” [Press Release]

Photo courtesy Arlington VA/Flickr

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(Updated at 10:50 a.m.) A meeting is planned for Wednesday, July 10 in Arlington to provide an update on the I-66 widening project.

Work is underway to add a third travel lane to eastbound I-66 between the Dulles Connector Road and Fairfax Drive, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) website.

The meeting, scheduled from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Yorktown High School (5200 Yorktown Blvd), will discuss a planned noise wall replacement, among other topics:

Work will begin in the coming months to add and replace noise walls in many locations along the project corridor as well as build a new ramp connection between two existing ramps at Route 7 to allow direct access from eastbound I-66 to the West Falls Church Metro Station. The open house will include a presentation and opportunity for attendees to view plans and talk with project team staff.

VDOT had previously announced plans to replace deteriorating sound walls along I-66 in Arlington as part of the widening project. A report in January noted that at least three segments of the wall were in a state of disrepair.

Photo (1) courtesy Del. Patrick Hope/Twitter, (2) via VDOT

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Morning Notes

Helicopter Complaints Continue  — “Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), one of the lawmakers who requested the study, said that helicopter noise is ‘our number one constituent complaint’ and that the number of complaints has risen steadily since he took office in 2015.” [Washington Post]

Early Morning Apartment Fire — “Units were called to 2400 blk 27th Ct S for fire in 4 story garden apt. On arrival crews found balcony #fire on floors 1 & 2 being controlled by #firesprinklers. Fire extinguished, no extension inside. No injuries.” [Twitter]

New Election Chief Sworn In — “When Gretchen Reinemeyer was sworn in as Arlington County’s general registrar, she became only the fifth person to hold the position since it was created in 1947. Reinemeyer is succeeding long-time registrar Linda Lindberg who is retiring at the end of the month after serving more than 25 years in the Arlington Voting and Elections Office–16 of them as general registrar. [Arlington County]

YHS Student Helps Improve Pedestrian Safety — “Pedestrians in Arlington, Virginia, may notice flashing yellow lights when crossing the street, thanks to one high schooler who’s working to make streets safer… Jake Smith, who graduated Yorktown High School on Thursday, interned with the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services to help them plan their beacon project and keep cars accountable.” [NBC 4, Arlington County]

Zoning Keeps Parts of Arlington Exclusive — “Arlington does have a decent amount of area zoned for multi-family housing, but it’s concentrated in the more southern parts of the county. This makes North Arlington completely inaccessible to many and is the source of the county’s geographical inequality.” [Blue Virginia]

Dozen New Arlington Police Officers — “The Arlington County Police Department welcomed 12 new officers this week, as Session 140 graduated from the Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Training Academy (NVCJA) and took their oath to serve and protect the residents and visitors of Arlington County.” [Arlington County]

Local Businessman Sentenced — “A prominent Northern Virginia businessman has been sentenced to more than six years in prison for multiple fraud schemes that cheated investors out of roughly $20 million. Todd Hitt, 54, of Arlington, Virginia, pleaded guilty earlier this year in federal court in Alexandria to soliciting investments in building projects as part of what amounted to a Ponzi scheme.” [Associated Press, Press Release]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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