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ART buses move through the Quincy site in the Virginia Square neighborhood (via BVSCA)

There is a new twist in the stand-off between Arlington County and neighbors over bus parking on a county site in North Arlington.

Arlington County recently dropped litigation against three neighbors and the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association, who tried to use the Board of Zoning Appeals process to block the county from parking 29 Arlington Transit (ART) buses on a county lot near Washington-Liberty High School.

The parking is a temporary arrangement while a new ART bus facility is built in Green Valley. The Arlington County Board allowed this when it approved a special exception use permit in the spring of 2022.

Nearly two years ago, the county zoning administrator determined the Dept. of Environmental Services could park the buses on the site — a requisite step for obtaining a use permit. One resident appealed the decision but a county staff member rejected it. A week later, the county sued him, his wife, a third resident and the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association, alleging he used the BZA process improperly to block the parking use.

The defendants say the county sued them preemptively and that the bus activity would seriously undercut their property values and quality of life.

“This could and should become a case study in how not to run a county government and then considering your role you and not considering your unique role as owners of the site and how your actions may affect neighbors,” said Maurya Meiers during public comment on Saturday, when the Arlington County Board reviewed the special exception permit for the site.

A BZA appeal had been filed on Meiers’ behalf two years ago and she is named in the lawsuit, per meeting materials and court documents.

Some residents came to the defense of their neighbors and their legal plight.

“It’s a SLAPP [Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation] suit: a use of superior resources to haul citizens into court wear them down and demoralize them, perhaps even beggar them lest they become too vociferous and their concerns about pollution, noise and other avoidable nuisances, such as those which this permit enables,” said neighbor Thomas Viles. “So far your lawsuit has accomplished nothing expensive as it was it proved insufficient to shut these voters up.”

Indeed, Arlington County says it dropped its suit because the BZA is now set to hear the appeal case built by neighbors who live in homes overlooking the parking lot. The hearing will determine whether the county zoning administrator acted properly or if her decision runs afoul of zoning ordinances, a site plan and a 1985 deed of covenant.

Viles says the BZA agreed to take up the appeal after hearing about the suit in ARLnow.

“When they did learn, however, the BZA repudiated [county government] for having kept them in the dark,” he said.

This fracas is obliquely referenced in a resolution the BZA passed last September, directing the zoning administrator to avoid this situation again by sharing all appeals with members regardless of their merit.

“The BZA has never authorized any person to decline to accept an appeal on the BZA’s behalf,” the resolution says. “County staff did not consult the entire membership of the BZA before declining to accept any appeals of a zoning administrator determination, nor did County staff inform the BZA of its communications and actions in regards to any appeals filed between March 7, 2022 and the date of the adoption of this resolution.”

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Metro 29 Diner (staff photo by James Jarvis)

Metro 29 Diner says it is reopening today (Friday) following a closure that lasted several weeks due to plumbing issues.

Earlier this week, ARLnow reported the restaurant could remain shuttered for up to a month, as it awaited a permit to repair a clogged sewer line located along N. Albemarle Street, adjacent to the restaurant.

The local staple at 4711 Langston Blvd was forced to close after the plumbing issue caused grease and other liquids to flood the parking lot from the restaurant’s grease trap, creating a health hazard.

Arlington’s planning department granted the necessary permit on Tuesday, within hours of ARLnow’s initial story publishing, Metro 29 Diner owner Peter Bota told us.

Construction started Thursday morning and concluded by 1 p.m. Bota said the restaurant has been “given the green light to reopen by the health department.”

“I want to thank the county for their prompt attention and I’d like to thank our loyal patrons and staff for their patience, understanding and well wishes while we were closed,” Bota said.


Metro 29 Diner will remain closed for at least another week, and possibly upwards of a month, due to a serious plumbing problem.

Peter Bota, the owner of the nostalgic New York-style diner, says it all started a few weeks ago after the restaurant’s grease trap — a plumbing device that separates grease, oil and excess food from wastewater — started malfunctioning.

“The stuff that was in the grease trap, the liquid and the grease started flowing into our parking lot. Fortunately, as nasty as it was, it didn’t come back into the building,” Bota told ARLnow.

Since that incident, Bota says the diner’s been stuck in “a holding pattern,” waiting on the green light from Arlington’s planning department to replace the sewer line along N. Albemarle Street adjacent to the restaurant.

“We are just waiting for our permits to be approved so we can do the [construction],” he said. “There will be a road closure on the side street Albemarle, and then there’s excavation to get to the sewer line and replace it.”

Permits filed with Arlington County indicate the work is slated to take place over the course of three days and cost about $15,000. The construction zone is expected to stretch about 20 feet, resulting in partial closures of the roadway and sidewalk along N. Albemarle Street.

Until the sewer line is fixed, Bota emphasized he can’t reopen.

“There’s nothing that we can do… We’re not allowed to operate since everything that goes out of the business in terms of liquid… is going to come back towards the building,” he said.

As for when the county might approve his permit, Bota remains hopeful but uncertain.

“Everything’s been submitted and is in the review process,” Bota said. “So, hopefully, [the county will] fast-track us since we’re an existing business and allow us to get reopened as soon as possible.”

In addition to being a North Arlington dining staple, Metro 29 Diner has had some famous visitors over the years, including then-Vice President Biden in 2012 and Guy Fieri for a Diners, Drive-ins and Dives taping in 2010.

Smokecraft in Clarendon (via Google Maps)

Smokecraft Modern Barbecue will be able to keep its live entertainment permit after all.

The Arlington County Board approved a 10-month permit for the restaurant at 1051 N. Highland Street in Clarendon this Saturday.

For the last two months, the permit was renewed on a monthly basis while the county and the restaurant went back and forth on policies that would comply with the Arlington Restaurant Initiative, a program that intends to make participating alcohol-serving restaurants safer. Compliance is required for Clarendon restaurants and bars to maintain a live entertainment permit.

Smokecraft had initially balked at some of these requirements because, “per guidance received from their lawyers and insurance agents, the applicant believed that these written policies posed a liability threat to their establishment,” the county said in a report.

“We are a safe establishment. We have been a safe establishment. We continue to plan to do so. Adopting these specific written policies isn’t going to change our commitment,” owner and pitmaster Andrew Darneille told the Board last month.

Since then, however, the county says it has received and accepted written policies and procedures that bring Smokecraft into compliance with ARI.


(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) Eight permit applications for Missing Middle housing proposals have been accepted by Arlington County since Saturday, the first day for such filings.

Another seven are at various stages of completion, marked “application complete” or “awaiting plans and documents,” according to permit records, as of Wednesday afternoon.

There are several other placeholder permits — those that people have started but not yet finished.

Some were at the ready on Day 1 of the Missing Middle — also called Expanded Housing Options — permitting process. Nine permits were filed on July 1, while another two each have come in on Sunday, Monday and yesterday, per the records.

The homes proposed for redevelopment are typically concentrated in or near Metro areas, such as East Falls Church, Ballston, Virginia Square, Clarendon and Pentagon City, per the addresses associated with each permit.

So far, all eight accepted applications are located in R-5 and R-6 zoning districts, or those with 5,000 to 6,000-square-foot lots, respectively, Arlington County Dept. of Community Planning, Housing and Development spokeswoman Erika Moore said.

Specifically, three are in R-5 and five are in R-6 districts, according to the county. This means only four more permits can be issued for homes in R-5 districts this calendar year, as the county capped the permits for this zoning district at seven annually. Meanwhile, 30 total permits can be issued for R-6 districts in one year.

Another 21 permits are allowed annually across zones with 8, 10 or 20,000-square-foot lots (R-8, R-10 or R-20). None have been issued in these districts yet.

One-third of the permit applications so far are for 3-unit townhouses. Duplexes and six-plexes each comprise roughly one-quarter and the remaining two are quad-plexes.

As for off-street parking, five have one parking space per unit, four have more than one space per unit and six have less than one space per unit. Earlier this year, critics predicted (and some incorporated this into a lawsuit) that lower parking minimums — and thus greater reliance on on-street parking — would clog narrow streets.

Arlington County has launched a web page with information about applying for an EHO permit, in addition to a page tracking these developments. The tracker includes the address and zoning district for each property, the number of units proposed, the permit number and submission date, among other information.

“The County has committed to tracking EHO permit submissions and approvals so both potential applicants and interested community members can see how many EHO projects are proposed — and where they are located,” per an Arlington County email newsletter.

“Work is underway on connecting permitting system data to the County’s Open Data Portal to create a user-friendly dashboard. Until that tool is available, County staff will post weekly updates on applications and their status online,” the email continued. “Tracking will begin on Friday, July 7.”

The tracker was updated almost two days early, on Wednesday evening.

Currently, the EHO permits issued do not authorize construction, according to the webpage. A separate county staff review is needed before builders can start construction.

There is no fee associated with this permit though one may be proposed next year.

The county recently published a how-to video, below, demonstrating the application process.

Photos 1, 2, 3 and 4 via Google Maps

Northside Social in Clarendon (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The makeshift outdoor dining areas that sprung up in the early days of Covid, and gradually took on a more permanent feel, could be here to stay.

On Tuesday, the Arlington County Board voted to hold hearings next month mulling zoning changes that would give most restaurants a way to add outdoor seating areas without special Board approval.

Restaurants were able to do this during the pandemic — adapting to social distancing and indoor gathering regulations — via a special county program that is ending on Aug. 15.

Under the proposed ordinances, temporary outdoor seating areas (TOSAs) that are on private property and on public sidewalks within rights-of-way would be approved administratively. Those on privately owned public spaces, like the patio outside the seafood spot Seamore’s in Clarendon, would require a County Board use permit.

How outdoor seating areas could be approved (via Arlington County)

Restaurants could go to the Board to have parking spots converted to outdoor dining space.

The proposed ordinance changes, which will be discussed in a Board meeting on July 15, have been under development for the last year. The county says the code changes support local businesses, about 100 of which have TOSAs, and account for livability concerns some residents raised.

“This is a huge body of work. A huge thanks to staff, who’ve been working on this comprehensively for a while,” Board Chair Christian Dorsey said. “I know it seems like a simple issue to some, but as you peel layers of the onion, you continue to find more complexity.”

The Board initially approved TOSAs early in the pandemic to help restaurants circumvent the typically lengthy process for getting an outdoor dining permit. These spaces were popular for offsetting revenue lost to closures and social distancing and for creating a safer dining experience.

As the pandemic wore on, the Board allowed TOSAs in common areas, such as plazas, and for restaurants to continue operating them at full capacity once the indoor capacity restrictions lifted.

“It was a life saver for our family and employees and continues to be a large part of our business,” Lebanese Taverna Executive Vice President Grace Shea said during a forum hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100 on Wednesday night.

Now, she says, it brings more people to the restaurant.

“Outdoor seating enhances the streetscape of where the restaurant is. It attracts people by creating a welcoming atmosphere,” she said. “It’s also additional revenue that we do not have to pay rent for.”

In 2021, Arlington County signaled plans to study early a dozen separate policies governing outdoor cafés to figure out how to make TOSAs permanent. That started in the fall of 2022, after a local Covid emergency order ended.

County staff say it heard both support and concerns from the community. One strong supporter is the Arlington Chamber of Commerce.

“The Chamber and the county both agree that we want to make this transition smooth for restaurant owners who want this outdoor dining,” said John Musso, the government affairs manager for the Chamber, at Wednesday’s forum. “We’re looking forward to continuing this conversation.”

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Smokecraft BBQ awards (courtesy photo)

A barbecue joint in Clarendon may have its occasional parties go up in smoke.

Arlington County says Smokecraft Modern Barbecue at 1051 N. Highland Street could lose its live entertainment permit because it does not comply with a local initiative requiring restaurants and bars to meet certain alcohol safety standards.

At issue: Since November, Clarendon venues with live entertainment permits need to comply with the Arlington Restaurant Initiative (ARI). One requirement is that establishments have certain written policies and procedures, which the award-winning, list-topping Smokecraft — which opened in 2020 — does not have.

The restaurant and its attorneys say they believe such written policies could make the restaurant vulnerable to litigation, meaning an increase in insurance costs of upwards of $10,000 a year.

“We are a safe establishment. We have been a safe establishment. We continue to plan to do so. Adopting these specific written policies isn’t going to change our commitment,” owner and pitmaster Andrew Darneille told the Board last night (Tuesday).

Further, he said, the live entertainment permit is not actively in use, all alcohol-serving staff are trained in how to serve safely, the restaurant has a “perfect alcohol safety record,” and alcohol only comprises 15% of sales.

Without compliance, the Arlington County Board says it will eventually revoke the live entertainment permit. In May, the county allowed Smokecraft to keep the permit and revisit the issue in a month while the parties cook up a solution.

Last night, the Board was poised to revoke the permit but instead voted to punt on the issue for one more month because negotiations are headed in the right direction.

Still, the patience of Board members appears to be wearing thin. Some seemed annoyed the issue had gotten to this point, where other restaurants found ways to make it work.

“I think you can get there without realizing the apocalypse your representatives see,” Board Chair Christian Dorsey said. “For my purposes, each month that we continue in this dance is another month where you continue to enjoy a permit without adhering to ARI standards — a luxury that the other establishments haven’t had.”

Dorsey said Smokecraft has the flexibility to write policies that meet a “minimal bar for compliance” and work for the business.

“One of the beauties of this is that the policies are not proscriptive — they’re illustrative,” Dorsey said. “It’s not like it’s going to require you to upend your operations.”

In response to the argument that Smokecraft should be able to follow the lead of other businesses, Darneille said that is an unfair argument.

“I recognize 50 other restaurants signed onto this but I can’t speak to why they made decisions to do what they’ve done,” he continued. “We’ve raised a concern here that’s valid for us. We are working to try and resolve that concern.”

He shifted blame to the county for not promptly engaging with the restaurant when these concerns first were raised. Then, after a meeting last month, he said it took two weeks to receive responses from the county.

County Board members did not address this point. ARLnow has previously reported on restaurateurs and other business owners having trouble reaching staff in a timely manner.

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In another bid to encourage business growth, the Arlington County Board has made it easier to open shared kitchens and catering and food delivery operations.

On Saturday, the Board voted to amend the zoning ordinance to allow these uses by right in mixed-use, commercial and industrial zones throughout Arlington County. The changes streamline the regulatory approval process for several food-related uses, according to a county report.

“The outcomes of expanding food delivery to a by-right use support small business resilience by relieving businesses of unnecessary work,” the report said. That includes going before the County Board to seek approval for each use.

The changes are part of a flurry of approvals in the last 14 months to allow more uses by-right in these zoning districts. So far, the County Board has greenlit uses such as breweries, micro-fulfillment centers, podcasting studios, indoor pickleball and other emerging businesses to operate where they previously could not set up shop or needed special permission to do so.

All these updates happened in quick succession because County Manager Mark Schwartz debuted a faster zoning approval process that streamlined community engagement. The intent was to help Arlington respond quickly to changing market conditions and, ultimately, tackle the high office vacancy rate.

Food service was the next candidate for an update because, the report says, local regulations treated delivery operations like it was still 1988. (The iPhone debuted in 2007.)

Per the report, the zoning ordinance “does not account for the present-day popularity of modern food delivery services,” requiring food delivery not to exceed 20% of a restaurant’s sales.

Restaurants were relieved of that kind of provision — borne from a concern about delivery vehicle congestion — during the pandemic, the report said.

Food delivery has become a permanent part of how Arlingtonians eat, even after Covid dining restrictions lifted. This new way of doing business was under threat by the expiration of the Covid-era Continuity of Governance ordinance that relaxed delivery regulations.

The changes approved on Saturday, then, came in the knick of time for new and existing businesses, as the ordinance is set to expire in August — meaning the county would have reverted to 1988 delivery standards.

Businesses would have had to obtain County Board approval to continue delivery, had the Board voted down the zoning change. Some already did — Foxtrot in Rosslyn, for instance, went before the Board earlier this year to continue delivering beverages, ready-made food and grocery items.

Saturday’s vote also is helping another player in the app-based food delivery ecosystem: trailer-based ghost kitchens, the kind of which you might see in a parking lot between Clarendon and Courthouse. Ghost kitchen operators will no longer need certain permits to continue cooking.


Foxtrot in Rosslyn can now lawfully deliver you a magical charm crispy cake, thanks to County Board approval.

The Arlington County Board approved a use permit this past Saturday (May 13) to allow the upscale market, cafe, and convenience store to operate a delivery service from its 1771 N. Pierce Street location.

While it appears the market has already been offering deliveries since it opened earlier this year, it was being done under Covid-era rules that suspended enforcement of delivery-related ordinances.

The approved permit will essentially allow Foxtrot to continue to deliver anything from non-alcoholic sparkling wine to a tuna wrap beyond the expiration of the county’s Continuity of Government Operations (COGO) Ordinance on August 15.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, Arlington County enacted a Continuity of Government Operations (COGO) Ordinance, which among other things put a stay on Zoning enforcement actions for food delivery services that are allowed primarily by use permit approval in most zoning districts,” reads the staff report. “This application, if approved, would permit Foxtrot Café to operate food delivery services legally following the expiration of the COGO.”

The report also notes that, with food delivery services growing in popularity during the pandemic, the county is in the midst of a study that explores “how food delivery services may be permitted in a manner different than what is currently provided for in the Zoning Ordinance.”

However, since that effort is ongoing and it’s not known when the study will be completed, the County Board went ahead and approved Foxtrot’s permit now.

The approval does come with a notable caveat, however.

Foxtrot initially proposed using a number of parking spots along N. Pierce Street as temporary parking for delivery drivers. The county was not too keen on this, with the report noting that staff observed delivery drivers and their vehicles blocking traffic a number of times.

“This presented issues with vehicles illegally standing and blocking traffic lanes along North Pierce Street… as on-street parking is limited to five (5) two-hour limited parking spaces,” said the report.

Foxtrot has since been able to come to an agreement with the owner and operator of a nearby underground parking garage to allow drivers to park in any available retail space for 15 minutes with validation.

With county staff agreeing that this arrangement will help “mitigate against further congestion and potential traffic violations on North Pierce Street,” the Board approved the permit with a review set for six months from now — which is November.

At that time, the Board will review the “effectiveness of the parking validation mitigation measures as well as the status of the Zoning Ordinance Amendment.”

Foxtrot provides delivery from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. most days, with the service being extended an extra hour or two on weekends. The company estimates that about 8% of its business comes from delivery.

Chris Farley (center) of Pacers recording his Pace the Nation podcast (file photo)

Currently, in Arlington County, a podcasting studio would need to go through a county permitting process to inhabit an office building.

But that is likely changing.

A proposal to allow more “untraditional” uses in traditional office buildings is headed to the Arlington County Board this weekend.

On Saturday, the Board is set to consider revising the zoning ordinance to allow broadcasting studios and businesses in the audio-visual production field to occupy commercial space by right. It is also expanding what counts as research and development while allowing those uses by right, too.

Under the changes, entrepreneurs would no longer need a permit to outfit an office for podcasting and influencer studios — Instagram-ready backdrops for people to take photos and record content.

Arlington’s extensive roster of cybersecurity and artificial intelligence startups, meanwhile, would no longer need a permit to conduct research and development. Facilities doing technological, electronic, biological, scientific and engineering research would be able to lease a typical office building in the same way as any other office tenant.

These businesses could also engage in small-scale product design, development, prototyping and testing. The changes will not allow industrial scale production or manufacturing.

Arlington Economic Development says these are some emerging trends it is looking to pounce to tackle its office vacancy rate and remain competitive in a changing economic landscape. Otherwise, it may lose out to peer cities, such as Seattle and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“In the past, [AED] has had prospects come through looking for flexible research and development space to locate their semiconductor and microchip, cyber and quantum computing, as well as artificial intelligence and machine learning companies,” according to a county report. “However, the AED team was not always readily able to accommodate those prospects due to zoning barriers.”

“The competition for attracting research and development investment is fierce, the market for these uses is strong, and technological advances have allowed these uses to fit seamlessly into existing business districts,” it continued.

This is the fourth zoning code update headed to the County Board in 13 months under the “Commercial Market Resiliency Strategy.”

Through this strategy, the county established a streamlined public engagement process that expedited the approval process for these changes. Some Planning Commissioners have balked at the shortened engagement period and the nuisances that may arise.

Despite these misgivings, the strategy has already been used to allow micro-fulfillment centers, urban agriculture, breweries and distilleries, and artisan workshops to operate in office buildings, without additional red tape.

Most recently, the County Board approved a broader definition of by-right indoor recreation use, meaning pickleball courts and ax-throwing could be coming to an office building near you.

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When Amazon opens the first phase of its second headquarters in June, it is preparing to debut a new farmers market, too.

This farmers market is set to pop up four Saturdays a month starting June 24. It will be located inside the $14 million public park Amazon renovated as part of the Metropolitan Park or “Met Park” first phase of HQ2, at the corner of 13th Street S. and S. Eads Street.

Loudoun County-based EatLoco is set to operate the market within the park, which features meandering paths and public art.

The organization’s founder and CEO Dan Hine says it will be its first outside of Loudoun County and his “rock star” location, with at least 80 vendors and possibly live entertainment.

“When Amazon approached us back in August 2022 with this idea, we stepped up to the challenge by promising only the Best-of-the-Best Farmers, Food producers and Crafters for this one-of-a-kind, spacious venue,” Hine said in a statement on the EatLoco website. “This game-changer location has a neighboring dog park, children’s park and plenty of table seating for eating and relaxing provided by our Sponsors.”

Hine says he is working on plans for on-site entertainment “to keep customers coming and staying longer.”

“As always, we will do this the ‘EatLoco’ way,” he said. “Well marketed, professionally managed, and of course extremely well attended.”

This weekend, the Arlington County Board is set to consider a use permit allowing EatLoco to operate four Saturdays a month from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., March through November. It will be located at a green space to the east of a meandering path users can access from 13th and 14th Street S. and S. Fair Street.

Aerial view of the location for the proposed farmers market in Metropolitan Park (via Arlington County)

EatLoco’s website says the market will run through Nov. 18.

As part of the agreement, the county is requiring EatLoco to work with the Aurora Highlands Civic Association and the county regarding signage, parking locations and noise restrictions.

Meanwhile, work on Met Park is almost complete, according to Clark Construction, which has overseen the project for the last three-and-a-half years.

Last week, it published the following construction update on its website:

After years of planning, and 40 months of construction, we’ve reached the final chapter in Metropolitan Park’s delivery. As our team puts the finishing touches on our work on site, we wanted to thank you — our neighbors and community partners — for your inquiries, engagement, and, most importantly, your patience and support over the last three years.

Soon the children’s park, edible garden and forest walk will be open and accessible to all. Soon, local businesses will activate new retail spaces, serving up new amenities and flavors that will further enhance this community. Soon, Metropolitan Park’s two 22-stories towers will be filled with new people and ideas.

While the physical structures our team will leave behind fill us with a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment, we are equally proud of the significant economic impact this project has created. From contracting opportunities for local, small, and diverse companies, to apprenticeships, to unique learning experiences for our craft workforce and project management team, Metropolitan Park’s construction has served as a platform for growth. We are honored to deliver this important asset that has and will continue to invigorate the Arlington community for decades to come.

Several local businesses will be moving into the 65,000 square feet of street-level retail, including a daycare and a spa, Arlington’s second Conte’s Bike Shop, District Dogs and an outpost of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) Arlington.

There will also be a slew of restaurants and cafés, including Westover-based Toby’s Homemade Ice Cream and D.C.-based Taqueria Xochi, which were announced last month.

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