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Salt Storage Dome Replacement Plans Move Ahead, Despite Some Community Complaints

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 Underway on Old Dominion Sidewalk Completion

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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With Salt Storage Facility Deemed Unusable, County Eyes Replacement

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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County Board To Consider Old Dominion Drive Sidewalk Contract

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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Tree Removal Begins Today Along Segment of Old Dominion Drive

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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BREAKING: Man Pinned Under Collapsed Wall

(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 Called After Girls Spot Pantless Man in Car

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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Utility Pole on Lorcom Lane Catches Fire

Telephone pole that caught fire on Lorcom Lane(Updated at 2:15 p.m.) Lorcom Lane was closed at Old Dominion Drive earlier today after a utility pole near the intersection caught on fire.

As of 1:15 p.m., Lorcom Lane had reopened to traffic, except for the right yield lane from Lee Highway. Crews were on scene fixing the pole.

The cause of the fire may have been a couple wires touching, said a Dominion worker. There were no flames when the worker arrived on scene, but wires can spark, he said.

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New Round of Road Construction Begins on Old Dominion Drive

(Updated on July 17 on 4:30 p.m.) Old Dominion Drive will undergo another round of road construction for the next 18-24 months as the county works to add sidewalks, street lights and traffic signals.

The roadwork will take place on Old Dominion between N. Glebe Road to 38th Street N., according to Jessica Baxter, a spokesperson for Arlington County’s Environmental Services.

One lane will remain open during construction, which will run from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday. No lanes will be closed during rush hour.

At the end of the project, Old Dominion Drive will be more pedestrian and cyclist friendly, Baxter said.

“Old Dominion Drive is the last arterial roadway located within an Arlington County neighborhood without sidewalks on either side,” Baxter said.

In addition to new sidewalks, the project will also add new street lights, updated curbs and gutters, a new stormwater system, updated traffic lights and updated transit stops. The total cost for the revamp of Old Dominion Drive is about $8.1 million, which is funded through a partnership with the Virginia Department of Transportation. Of the $8 million, $2.34 million will come from VDOT, Baxter said.

Construction started Monday and is expected to be completed fall of 2017, weather permitting. Orange construction signs are now in place along Old Dominion Drive.

This is the second phase of the county’s Old Dominion Project. The first phase, which cost about $1.24 million, consisted of similar road work from Lee Highway to N. Glebe Road and was finished in 2010.

Updates on the road project will be posted to the Arlington County website, and residents are encouraged to sign up for email alerts, which can be done on the webpage, Baxter said.

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Fire Station 8 Relocation to Be Discussed at Community Meetings

FS08_facadeTomorrow night (June 25) Arlington will hold the first of four planned meetings to discuss the relocation of Fire Station 8.

Last May, the county proposed a plan to move the fire station from Lee Highway to a county-owned green space near Marymount University on Old Dominion Drive. The Old Dominion Civic Association said it was “blind-sided” by the plan, and raised an outcry that prompted the county to reevaluate.

The Arlington County Fire Department wants to relocate Fire Station 8 further north in order to achieve their goal of four to six minute response times throughout the county. Arlington County studies conducted in 2000 and 2012 both indicated that while response times in most of the county met this goal, the northern part of the county was underserved and would benefit from having a fire station closer by.

At the meeting tomorrow night, residents will hear an overview of the issue from county staff, as well as the criteria and constraints for selecting a new fire station location. Residents will have the opportunity to give feedback.

“[The] process to select a site for the relocated FS8 will include dialogue with community stakeholders, including civic associations within the service area and other members of the public wishing to participate,” according to the county website. “The process will include a discussion of County needs; siting consideration and criteria; and evaluation of alternate sites within the service area.”

On Thursday, July 30, county staff plan to recap previous meeting results and provide another opportunity for community members to weigh in on alternative sites for the fire station. At this meeting, the county staff also plan to outline the process they will use to review the list of potential sites.

At the final meeting, currently scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 9, county staff will formulate a recommendation to be presented to the County Board.

The meeting tomorrow will be at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church (2609 N Glebe Rd) from 7-9 p.m. There will be a meeting at St. Mary’s at the same time on July 9 recapping the first for any who were unable to attend.

Photo via Arlington County Fire Department

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Old Dominion Residents ‘Blindsided’ by Planned Fire Station

The proposed site of Fire Station 8The Old Dominion Civic Association says it was “blindsided” by a plan to relocate a fire station to the neighborhood — a plan the association says amounts to the county “hijacking” green space.

The plan, to relocate Fire Station 8 from Lee Highway to a county-owned parcel of land on Old Dominion Drive near Marymount University, was included in Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s recommended Capital Improvement Plan. The plan (see pp. C-86 and C-88) also calls for the county’s Emergency Operations Center to be relocated from Courthouse to the new fire station site, and for an adjacent salt and mulch storage yard to be replaced and modernized.

The existing Emergency Operation Center is located in a building that’s set to be torn down to make way for the county’s Courthouse Square project and the salt storage yard, which serves snow removal crews in North Arlington, is past its useful life, according to the CIP. The fire station is set to be relocated from 4845 Lee Highway following a 2013 study that suggested the Old Dominion location would improve fire department response times in the area.

The 'Salt Dome' at the proposed site of Fire Station 8The Civic Association, however, is not pleased with the planned facilities, which they say will utilize a piece of currently unused land that they want to be turned into a park.

“When Arlington County published their Proposed FY 2015-2024 Capital Improvement Plan on May 13th, the residents of the Old Dominion and Donaldson Run Civic Associations, did not have a clue as to the green space ‘hijacking’ the County had in store for their residential neighborhoods,” an Old Dominion Civic Association representative told ARLnow.com via email.

A flyer is being sent to local residents, encouraging them to speak out in opposition to the plan.

“STOP THE DESTRUCTION OF OUR GREEN SPACE!” the flyer reads. “The proposed CIP calls for leveling of all the county-owned green space from 25th Street through the corner of 26th Street and Old Dominion… OPPOSE THE APPROVAL OF THE 25th/26th STREET OFFICE PARK AND FIRE STATION AND MAKE YOUR VOICES HEARD!”

Richard Lolich, president of the Old Dominion Citizens Association, said that there are lots of families with young children in the neighborhood.

“Because of this there is a real need for good park space for these children and families,” he said. “The County’s proposed location for the relocated fire station is on property that is ideal for a park in the neighborhood — the only neighborhood in Arlington currently without a dedicated park. We strongly feel that the County should address this issue before destroying green space in the middle of our neighborhood.”

The proposed site is within 2 miles of Potomac Overlook Regional Park and 1 mile of Greenbrier Park.

Anne Wilson, president of the adjacent Donaldson Run Civic Association, said her association doesn’t have a formal position on the county plan yet. Wilson said she has been aware of the county’s desire to build a fire station on the lot for more than a decade, and said planning funds were included in the CIP two years ago.

“The county never initiated the process with the neighborhood to discuss it further,” she said. “It seems to be more on the front burner than it was two years ago.”

Wilson agrees that many families in the neighborhood would like to see a playground or tot lot built in the area. She said she’s hopeful that a dialogue with the county will prove fruitful.

“This is a good example of something that’s going to take a long time under the Arlington Way,” she said. “It’s not always going to be pleasant, but the end result I’ve found is usually accepted by most folks, and that makes it worthwhile.”

The Old Dominion Civic Association, however, says it was “blind sided” by the plan.

“The majority of the civic association members present at our May 22nd meeting expressed great concern that the County had not reached out to the neighborhood and received input into this planned fire house and OEM relocation,” Lolich told ARLnow.com. “Most of those present felt that, although the Civic Association had been asking the County for several years to consider developing a park in our neighborhood, it seemed rather odd that they would now consider relocating the fire house and the OEM headquarters to a parcel of land that has been green space for several years.”

A public hearing on Donellan’s recommended Capital Improvement Plan is scheduled for June 10. Lolich said he’s encouraging residents to attend and speak out. A final County Board vote is scheduled for July 19.

Should it be approved by the County Board, the CIP calls for a public input and design process for the new facilities to start in January 2015 and continue for at least a year. Construction on the salt facility is projected to start in July 2016 and end June 2017. Construction for the fire station and the Emergency Operations Center is projected to take place from fall 2017 to winter 2019.

The total cost of the facilities is estimated at $27.5 million, which will be funded entirely through county bonds. The buildings will total about 50,000 square feet of space and, combined with a staff parking lot, will occupy several acres of land.

Following the relocation of Fire Station 8, its site on Lee Highway may be used for affordable housing.

“The County will conduct a collaborative planning process for the land currently occupied by Fire Station 8 to potentially include affordable housing as envisioned in the Public Land for Public Good direction provided by the County Board,” the CIP says.

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