Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Red Flag Warning TodayUpdated at 8:45 a.m. — The D.C. region is under a Red Flag Warning this afternoon for strong winds and low humidity, which can lead to wildfires. In Arlington, fire weather like this typically results in small brush and mulch fires that are quickly extinguished. [Weather.gov]

Report on Old Dominion Site Coming Soon — “With a task force prepping its final report on uses for the government parcel at 26th Street North and Old Dominion Drive, what will happen next to the recommendations? For both procedural and financial reasons, don’t expect the county government to jump into development of the 7.6-acre site immediately.” [InsideNova]

Arlington Eateries Among Harper’s Favorite D.C. Memories — Former Rosslyn resident Bryce Harper shouted out Silver Diner and The Italian Store in his farewell to D.C. [Twitter]

Presidential Race May Post Logistical Challenge — “As Arlington’s elections office begins mulling how to handle the 2020 presidential vote, it could be space, rather than money, that proves the biggest challenge.” [InsideNova]

W-L Hockey Player Raising Money for Diabetes Research — “Ethan Rostker, a freshman defenseman for the Washington-Lee hockey team, doesn’t shy away from the tough stuff. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at just 20 months old. He wears an insulin pump while playing and completes a 100-mile bike trip yearly to raise money for diabetes research.” [WJLA]

Nearby: Bailey’s Crossroads Fire Update — “1,000 people are still displaced after two transformers burst into flames Monday morning– cutting off power to their Fairfax County apartments.” [WJLA]

Photo courtesy Jessica Hahn

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County planners are now kicking off work to chart out the future of the former home of Arlington’s “Salt Dome,” the site of so much community consternation this past summer.

A task force convened by the County Board to study the 7.6-acre property, at the intersection of 26th Street N. and Old Dominion Drive and adjacent to Marymount University’s campus, is planning a “community roundtable” on the matter Saturday (Jan. 12). The meeting will be held at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street), starting at 10 a.m.

For about 90 years, the property was home to a large metal “dome” storing road salt and served as the base of operations for salt trucks in the northern half of the county. But county staff discovered in July that the structure was on the verge of collapsing, and they took rapid steps to secure the Board’s permission to tear down the dome and build a temporary storage facility in its place.

The process took months to complete, but many neighbors still felt blindsided by changes that failed to follow Arlington’s notoriously extensive community engagement guidelines. In particular, some worry that the temporary facility would eventually become permanent, even though people living nearby had hoped for years to see the land transformed into a park or some sort of other community amenity.

County workers removed the old dome just last week, standing up a structure designed to hold about 4,500 tons of road salt in its place.

The Board has since issued a variety of mea culpas for its handling of the issue — new Chair Christian Dorsey even singled the process out as a “failure” during his Jan. 2 speech taking the Board’s gavel — and agreed to kick off a planning process for the property in part to rebuild trust in the community.

The “Master Planning Task Force” could eventually recommend one of all manner of new uses for the property, most of which sits empty. However, county staffers agree that they’ll need to maintain most of their existing operations on the site, from winter storm response to leaf and mulch storage.

As for the rest, there are plenty of possibilities being batted about. The county’s Joint Facilities Advisory Commission, a group dedicated to finding space for public facilities around Arlington, is recommending that some sort of park or other public space must be created or maintained on the site, according to November meeting documents.

JFAC is also suggesting that the property could have room for an “elementary or secondary school,” at a time when land for new schools is a particularly acute need for the county, or for vehicle storage for police or school bus drivers.

Additionally, Marymount University is pitching the prospect of striking a deal with the county to build a “multi-use” athletic field on the site for its sports teams, alongside a one-acre park and playground to meet the community’s wishes.

The task force is set to meet again on Thursday (Jan 10.) and hopes to eventually deliver a report to the County Board with recommendations for future sites uses by April.

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Arlington’s plans to demolish a roughly 90-year-old storage “dome” for road salt and build a temporary replacement are inching forward, even as some neighbors have cried foul about the county’s rushed public engagement process for the project.

The county Planning Commission unanimously lent its seal of approval last night (Thursday) to a series of zoning changes to let work on the salt dome move ahead, keeping the county on track to move about 4,500 tons of salt into a new shelter in time for the first threats of snow in late November.

Officials discovered this spring that the old dome, made out of a repurposed water tank and located on a piece of county property near the intersection of 25th Road N. and Old Dominion Drive, was on the verge of collapse. Considering that the dome was one of just two of the county’s facilities for road salt storage, staff wanted to take urgent action to commission a replacement.

The County Board agreed to kick off that process in July, but people living nearby were peeved that officials would push ahead with these changes on a considerably more expedited timeline than Arlington’s notoriously lengthy engagement guidelines might normally allow. Many neighbors were particularly concerned that the temporary replacement for the dome might become permanent, lending a considerably more industrial feel to the neighborhood, which is just near Marymount University.

“It will be the defining feature of the entrance of our neighborhood, and it will say ‘Welcome to Industrialville,'” Mike Hogan, president of the Old Dominion Citizens Association, told the commission. “Never have so many planning rules been violated in one proposal as this one.”

Arlington Department of Environmental Services Director Greg Emanuel stressed to the commission the rushed process is “clearly not how we prefer to do our work,” offering a mea culpa for his staff’s failure to identify the problem a bit earlier. But he also emphasized that the project was so important that it was worth speeding things along — should the dome fail, he expects the county would see its response time to a snowstorm increase anywhere from 30 to 40 percent.

“There should’ve been a public process, there’s no question about it,” Planning Commission Chair Jane Siegel told ARLnow. “Nobody’s trying to hide the ball here… but if there is no salt storage in the appropriate part of the county, we risk people getting injured.”

Siegel expects that county staffers managed to overlook the salt dome’s degrading status because the property was at one time slated to become the home of a replacement for Fire Station 8. When those plans fell apart, she suspects the salt dome got lost in the shuffle, as officials were initially expecting it to be removed.

Some neighbors, however, were not so convinced of the county’s good intentions.

“We’ve all known for a long time this is failing,” Jacqueline Smith, another Old Dominion resident, told the commission. “This is a really predictable crisis… and we’re being put under this pressure, saying we have no other options. And personally, I don’t see that.”

But Emanuel told the commission that staff did examine other options for the temporary salt dome, like a site the county uses for storing leaf removal and the Buck property, a piece of county land near Ballston eyed for all manner of uses over the years. Neither option, however, would quite fit the county’s needs, Emanuel said.

Even with the county stuck using the Old Dominion property, Siegel pointed out that vocal community scrutiny of the project managed to force some concessions from the county to make the effort a bit more tolerable. For instance, the county shrank the amount of land it plans to use for the project, and will save all but three trees it originally planned to cut down on the site.

“Even though it was not a full public process, the public did weigh in and get some wins out of this,” Siegel said.

Still, Old Dominion neighbors worry about the site’s future.

“We recognize this is intended to be temporary, but we’d like to know what temporary means,” Hogan said.

Manuel estimates that the temporary structure will stay in place for the next three to four years, until the county can build a new salt storage tank. And for any concerned neighbors, Siegel also points out that the County Board will soon convene a working group on a “master plan” for the property, a process she says might not have started for quite some time without the community’s interest in the salt dome.

“Temporary things become permanent if there’s no opposing group or force or idea, but here there obviously will be,” Siegel said. “There is a bulwark against the drift.”

The County Board will get a chance to weigh in on the salt dome zoning changes at its Sept. 22 and Sept. 25 meetings.

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Morning Notes

Hurricane Florence Update — The Tomb Sentinels at Arlington National Cemetery will remain on guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as they have for 81 years, regardless of what happens with Hurricane Florence. However, according to forecasters, “there is no need to cancel outdoor plans, events, or travel in the Washington region this weekend” due to the hurricane. [Twitter, Capital Weather Gang]

DEA Lease Renewal Is Official — “The Drug Enforcement Administration will remain in its Pentagon City headquarters for at least 15 more years. The General Services Administration announced Wednesday it signed a 511,487 SF lease renewal for the DEA at 600-700 Army Navy Drive, two buildings owned by the California State Teachers Retirement System.” [Bisnow]

Neighbors Still Peeved Over Salt Dome Plan — “This is an emergency caused by rust. I know Neil Young says rust never sleeps but it doesn’t move that fast,” said Michael Hogan, president of the Old Dominion Citizens Association, regarding the “emergency” plan for a temporary salt storage facility next to the deteriorating salt dome near Marymount University. “This is just a terrible land-use decision.” [Washington Post]

Living in Arlington On a $80,000 Salary — Not much of interest happens in this millennial money diary, set in Arlington, but there is this discussion of tea vs. coffee: “I drink my third green tea. I’m trying to drink less coffee, so today I’m trying tea instead, but this is not cutting it. To all those people who say green tea gives them as much energy as coffee — I’m calling shenanigans.” [Refinery 29]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Construction is underway on an extension of the sidewalk along the south side of Old Dominion Drive to connect the Cherrydale Firehouse to N. Thomas Street.

Along with the new sidewalk, a series of storm drainage improvements are being constructed.

Construction will close the curbside travel lane along the eastbound Old Dominion Drive during work hours; Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. or until 2 p.m. on Fridays.

Undergrounding of the utilities was completed in June. The project is expected to be completed in spring 2019.

Photos via Arlington County

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As temperatures near 90 degrees, winter feels awfully far off these days — but Arlington officials are taking new steps to keep county roads clear of snow and ice, all the same.

County leaders are preparing to build a temporary replacement for the salt storage tank serving the northern half of the county, located near the intersection of 25th Road N. and Old Dominion Drive.

They believe the current tank, which was built back in the 1930s, has deteriorated over the years and is no longer safe for workers to use. The County Board is now set to consider plans today (Tuesday) to construct a tank for interim use on the site, ensuring that the county has a working facility by the time the winter arrives.

“The loss of a north side operational facility would have an immediate and apparent effect upon response time for every storm and would put the county at significant risk of exhausting salt supplies during an event,” county staff wrote in a Board report. “An expedited process is necessary as ice storms, which rely exclusively on salt, pose the most significant risk and can occur as early as November.”

Workers use the existing storage tank to hold about 4,500 tons of road salt, with another 1,500 tons stored under a tarp on the property. The county is planning to replace that with a “canvass-skinned structure 120-feet long by 85-feet wide, with a height of 47 feet” on the property, according to the report.

The site is owned by the county, and officials are pursuing a few zoning changes for parcels surrounding the old salt storage tank to clear the way for the construction of its temporary replacement, reasoning that “there is insufficient time to deconstruct and reconstruct the temporary facility on the existing site and be ready to meet the upcoming winter needs.”

Staff envision the new tank staying in place for the next three or four years, as officials draw up plans for a permanent storage tank on the property. They’re aiming to begin construction on that project by “the fall of 2021 or 2022,” and will use $2.4 million in previously approved bond funding to afford the effort.

The Board will vote today whether to hold public hearings on the plan for a temporary facility. Should it approve them, those gatherings would be scheduled for sometime in September, and county staff would hold extensive conversations with the nearby civic associations on their plans.

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The County Board is set to approve a construction contract that would install the final “missing link” of sidewalk along Old Dominion Drive.

Sidewalk installation would run along the eastbound side of Old Dominion Drive, between N. Thomas Street and Fire Station No. 3. The fire station is approximately 440 feet from Military Road.

Proposed sidewalk enhancements include “ADA curb ramps, crosswalks, and provisions for future streetlights.”

This is the last section of sidewalk installed on Old Dominion Drive east of 37th Street N. County documents note that the project has been coordinated with the nearby Stratford School Project.

Tree removal along Old Dominion Road began earlier this year in anticipation of sidewalk construction.

The County Manager’s office has recommended approving the $789,324 contract to the Capitol Heights, Md.-based Sagres Construction Corporation.

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The curbside lane along eastbound Old Dominion Drive will be closed today, tomorrow and on Monday as the county removes trees to make way for a new sidewalk.

Closures will remain in effect from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and Monday and from 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. tomorrow. The “missing link” sidewalk project is anticipated to begin construction this spring/summer with completion expected in spring 2019.

Once trees are removed, utility adjustments will begin to complete the sidewalk from the south side of Old Dominion Drive from Cherrydale Firehouse to N. Thomas Street.

The county has allocated $1.15 million for the project, a spokeswoman said.

Photos via Arlington County

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(Updated 5:35 p.m.) A man was rescued by Arlington County firefighters after being pinned under a collapsed wall at a house on Old Dominion Drive this afternoon.

Crews responded around 2 p.m. Tuesday to a home on the 4700 block of Old Dominion Drive, where the man was pinned below his waist by a two-ton concrete slab. According to scanner traffic, he had been working on the wall when it gave way.

The man was conscious and being tended to by medics while a technical rescue team shored up the wall and removed the collapsed material. The man was extricated at approximately 2:55 p.m. and transported to the hospital.

Police closed Old Dominion Drive in both directions between Lee Highway and 23rd Street N. due to the emergency response. The road reopened shortly after 4 p.m.

According to scanner traffic, investigators from the police as well as the the state occupational safety agency will inspect the incident site.

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Morning Notes

Unusual trash day items (Photo courtesy Peter Golkin)

ACFD Battles Fire in Fairlington — Firefighters from Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax together helped to battle a kitchen fire in a Fairlington condominium this morning, preventing it from spreading further. S. Abingdon Street near Abingdon Elementary was blocked for part of the morning as a result of the emergency response. [Twitter, Twitter]

ACPD Cracks Down on Fake IDs — An Arlington County Police Department campaign to crack down on fake IDs, in partnership with Clarendon bars, has netted more than 450 fakes since May. At one point this summer, according to a manager, Don Tito collected about 20 fake IDs per week. [WJLA]

Metro Pulls 4000 Series Cars — Metro has removed all 4000-series railcars from service to due safety concerns. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said he asked the agency to prioritize 8-car train service on the Blue Line while the railcars are out of service. Metro’s general manager “assured me there’d be very little impact to BL riders,” Beyer tweeted. [WMATA, Twitter]

Sietsema Lauds Ambar — Ambar’s new Clarendon outpost not only lured the Washington Post’s Tom Sietsema west of the Potomac River, but it received 2.5 out of 3 stars from the restaurant critic. Sietsema’s main gripe: too much noise. “Surely the same folks who dispense so much good will and satisfying food can solve a problem like disquiet,” Sietsema wrote. [Washington Post]

Post Profiles Old Dominion Neighborhood — The Washington Post’s continued anthropological study of Arlington’s neighborhoods in the real estate section has this week brought it to the Old Dominion community. A pair of recent homebuyers said they liked that Old Dominion “had a neighborhood feel and was also walkable.” [Washington Post]

Big Wins for Arlington at NAIOP Awards — Arlington County fared well at the 2016 NAIOP Northern Virginia commercial real estate awards on Wednesday. Among the local projects being recognized were the Bartlett in Pentagon City, WeWork/WeLive in Crystal City, Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services building along Washington Blvd and Opower in Courthouse. [NAIOP]

Photo courtesy Peter Golkin

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Police car lightsPolice are looking for a man who exposed himself to two girls in Arlington’s Old Dominion neighborhood.

The juveniles were walking down the 4600 block of 24th Street N. Friday morning when they spotted an older man “inside his vehicle with his pants down and his genitals exposed,” according to Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage.

“They did not believe the suspect was looking at them,” Savage said.

From an ACPD crime report:

EXPOSURE, 160819020, 4600 block of N. 24th Street. At approximately 10:40 a.m. on August 19, two juvenile female victims walking in the area witnessed a male subject exposing himself inside of a vehicle. The male is described as a white male with brown hair. He was wearing a gray hoodie and driving a silver 4-door sedan.

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