Two residents have launched a petition to try to change the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance after the Board of Zoning Appeals denied their plan to add a story to their home.
John and Gina Quirk, who live on 20th Road N. in the North Highlands neighborhood north of Rosslyn, had an application to convert an unused attic at their duplex home (pictured above) into a third-story bedroom rejected by the BZA late last year.
John Quirk said the “minimal” addition to make more room for their expanding family had the support of all their neighbors. It also had the support of some BZA members, who said at their December meeting that the fact that it stayed within the property was laudable.
“I think this is a really wonderful attempt to gain more space without increasing the footprint, and if we don’t grant these kinds of variances, then we’re faced with variances where they want to expand with the footprint,” said BZA member Charles Smith. “I think this gives developers and builders a [really] good model on how you can gain more with less.”
But the BZA voted down the proposal by a 3-2 margin on the grounds that the R2-7 zone for the property, a residential zone for townhouses and two-family homes, does not allow for such expansions by homes that were built before the Zoning Ordinance took effect. This home was built in 1939.
Such extensions are allowed for homes in other, similar residential zones, but in the Quirks’ zone it requires a special exception from the BZA.
In denying the extension, BZA members urged the Quirks to petition the County Board to change the Zoning Ordinance to allow the extensions in the zone where their home is.
“There’s hundreds like you, so maybe it could be a worthwhile community project for you to be the poster child for,” said BZA member Peter Owen, who also said the Zoning Ordinance is “broken.”
So the Quirks have done just that, and launched an online petition that has 91 supporters so far. The pair said their efforts could help the county address its lack of affordable housing and help people not be priced out of the county when they need more space.
“New county initiatives champion Missing Middle Housing as a strategy to support walkable, urban neighborhoods,” they wrote. “Duplexes are a perfect example of Missing Middle Housing if they can be improved to be compatible in scale to single family homes.”
Image via John and Gina Quirk
A section of N. Cleveland Street off Lee Highway will be closed until this afternoon as crews make emergency repairs to a water main.
A spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Environmental Services said the repairs on the 1900 block of N. Cleveland Street in the North Highlands neighborhood are being made to a six-inch water main. The spokeswoman said the water for between 50 and 100 customers will be affected.
Repairs are expected to be completed by 3 p.m. The street is closed in the area, with a detour in place.
Photo via John B.
The crime happened around 1:30 a.m. in the North Highlands neighborhood.
The suspect reportedly fled on foot after robbing the victim of his or her belongings.
More from this week’s Arlington County Police Department crime report:
ARMED ROBBERY, 2017-08130022, 2100 block of N. Scott Street. At approximately 1:30 a.m. on August 13, police responded to the report of a robbery. Upon arrival, it was determined an unknown suspect approached a delivery person from behind, produced a handgun and demanded the victim’s belongings. The suspect then fled the scene on foot. The suspect is described as a black male, approximately 6’2″ with an average build. The suspect was wearing a black sweatshirt with the hood covering his face at the time of the incident. The investigation is ongoing.
The rest of this past week’s crime report highlights, including some that we’ve already reported, after the jump.
The Reading Connection, which has offices at 1501 Lee Highway near Rosslyn, will close its doors on Friday, August 11. It will hold its last “Read-Aloud,” where volunteers read to children at shelters and community centers, on Wednesday, August 9.
The nonprofit is dedicated to providing low-income children and their families with opportunities to read and be read to, as well as giving them free books when they might otherwise not have any.
Its volunteers held Read-Alouds at over a dozen locations — mostly apartment complexes — across the D.C. metropolitan area, including at Columbia Grove, New Hope Housing, The Shelton, The Springs, Sullivan House, Virginia Gardens and Woodbury Park in Arlington. Other locations are in Alexandria, Annandale, Bethesda and D.C.
The nonprofit’s director of program operations Stephanie Berman Hopkins announced the closure earlier today in an email to volunteers, which was obtained by ARLnow.com.
“I am so proud of the work we have done together and all of the children we have inspired to love reading,” Berman Hopkins wrote. “The impact our programs have had will continue to live on. Thank you for your dedication to this organization, the Read-Aloud program and the kids and families we serve. It has been an honor and a pleasure to work with you all. Our programs would not have been as strong as they have been without all of your efforts.”
In the email, Berman Hopkins said The Reading Connection’s board of directors reviewed the organization and determined it is not financially viable. TRC’s annual budget was $600,000, according to its website.
Berman Hopkins and The Reading Connection’s executive director, Catherine Keightley, declined to comment on the review, citing privacy considerations for those involved, but Keightley said finding continued funding would have been too difficult.
“What lots of reports are telling us is that funding is going to become more challenging, I think locally and regionally,” she said in a brief interview. “There may be a shift in funding priorities given some of the actions with the new [presidential] administration.”
Prior to its closing The Reading Connection will hold a book and supply sale from Monday, August 7 until Wednesday, August 9.
The email to The Reading Connection volunteers is below, after the jump.
(Updated at 2:45 p.m.) Arlington County firefighters are on the scene of an apartment fire in the North Highlands neighborhood, near Rosslyn.
The fire was reported on the 1600 block of 21st Street N., in the living room of a second floor apartment, just before 1:45 p.m.
The blaze was quickly extinguished. Firefighters located a dog that had been in the apartment and attempted CPR, but the dog was later pronounced dead, we’re told.
No person was inside the apartment at the time and no injuries were reported. Firefighters are currently ventilating smoke from the building and investigating the cause of the fire.
#Update Fire has been extinguished & contained to one apt. No injuries. Units remaining on scene to check for hot spots and clean up.
— Arlington Fire (@ACFDPIO) January 23, 2017
UPDATE: command requesting animal control to respond to the scene, for one dog.
— LincolnACFD (@LincolnACFD) January 23, 2017
The following letter to the editor was submitted by Mary McCutcheon, a North Highlands resident.
What is a “weed?” I posed this question to two of the inspectors in Arlington’s Code Enforcement office and was told by both that their definition comes from Webster’s dictionary. Before you continue reading, you should look it up and see for yourself if this venerable old lexicon provides any clear standard. O.K. Are you finished? So now that we know what we’re up against, I want to say that this vague and subjective definition is the basis for Arlington’s property maintenance code and people are getting citations that can incur very material and costly, not to mention invasive, penalties for those who are defiant.
I have a vacant piece of land where I am about to build a new house. Over the summer it became covered with multiple species dominated by Conyza canadensis and bristlegrass, both native meadow species, as well as Tradescantia virginiana, perennial lilies, and Monarda which had all begun to look droopy as their flowering season came to an end. Until construction begins, I thought the land was better off with a cover of vegetation, especially these species which attract birds and pollinators. When I got a notice that I had violated the weed ordinance, I was hurt and ashamed and a little indignant all at once.
I phoned the inspector who had issued me the citation and asked what a weed was. That is when I learned that Webster’s dictionary is the botanical reference book that Arlington County uses (per directions of one of Arlington’s attorneys, I learned). I then asked this inspector if Joe Pye weed, Butterfly weed, and Milkweed were “weeds” and, after a painful pause, he blurted “Ma’am, I’m not an arborist.”
In the meantime, the people promoting native plants and rain gardens are explicitly encouraging Arlington citizens to plant more and more of these “weeds.” Let’s make sure the code is consistent with the policy and protect the residents, as well as the flustered inspectors, from confusion.
Responding to my objection that code enforcement is mostly complaint-driven, the inspector replied that citations mainly result from routine drive-by surveys. When I pointed out that a property only a block away from my property had poison ivy tumbling into the road and porcelain berry and other invasive vines growing all over the chainlink fence and it’s barbed wire top, the inspector replied: “Well, if you want something done about it, you should file a complaint.”
Why do we have such codes in the first place? It is not to keep up an aesthetic standard in neighborhoods, as you might have thought; it is, according to the code itself, only to address health and public safety threats. And, according to the inspectors, “weeds” are more often associated with insects, rats and snakes than non-weeds. The truth is that scorched earth clearing and exposed pools of standing water are most often associated with mosquito larvae; vegetable gardens, bird feeders and exposed food waste are most often associated with rats; and the rocky edges of streams such as Four Mile Run are havens for copperhead snakes.
Home owners should not be denied their property rights without compelling public interest. The remote suspicion that one might possibly imagine that there may conceivably be a non-zero probability that a mosquito, a rat, or a snake lives on someone’s land doesn’t cut it.
Photo by Mary McCutcheon
The incident happened just before noon on the 2100 block of N. Scott Street, in the North Highlands neighborhood. A resident called police, reporting a man dressed in camouflage in the woods of Dawson Terrace Park. The man was pointing a shotgun at something, the caller said.
Officers located the man, ordered him to drop the weapon and then took him into custody. Upon further questioning, officers determined that the man was an Art Institute student videotaping himself for a school project, according to Arlington County Police Department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
The man was informed that possessing a firearm is prohibited in county parks, then released without charges.
“He was not aware that he was in the wrong,” Sternbeck said. “No charges were filed. He just packed up his truck and left.”