A new petition is calling for Arlington Public Schools to discontinue its program of giving each elementary school student an iPad for educational use, but some parents are critical of the iPad critics.
The Change.org petition has just over 150 signatures as of Wednesday morning.
“Parents, teachers, pediatricians, librarians, art therapists, poets, doctors and taxpayers of Arlington County are asking that APS discontinue immediately the current 1:1 iPad program within APS elementary schools for grades K-5,” the petition says. “The 1:1/Digital Learning/Personalized programs, which put a personal iPads in the hand of elementary school children, over the past three years has not only cost millions for devices, staffing and infrastructure, but it has put children into a social experiment that is likely to harm their physical and social-emotional well-being.”
The petition calls for giving parents the ability to opt-out of iPads for their children and wants APS to send parents “a waiver to explicitly list the potential risks of iPad usage not limited to attention issues, screen addiction, blue light effects on eyesight, Wi-Fi radiation, and effects on reading acquisition.”
But some parents are pushing back against the petition, supporting the use of iPads and questioning the scientific basis of the “risks” listed in the petition. In one local neighborhood Facebook group, it has sparked a debate dozens of comments long, with most in favor of keeping the iPad program as-is.
“You [have] got to be kidding me! What are you using to post this?” a parent said in response to a post critical of student iPad use. “How do you expect your kids to be exposed to digital world and be prepared how to handle it when they are out of your wings. While I’m against screen time for my kids 24/7 some exposure is pretty useful if we want to keep up with the rest of the world.”
One parent called the iPads “extremely beneficial” to her child, while another said her kids — one labeled as gifted and the other as having learning disabilities — have both “been engaged in learning in exciting ways.”
Those in support of the iPad program are being asked to counter the voices against the program by providing positive feedback on the APS website.
The petition decries what it describes as a “high rise” development; a seven-story condo building and four story townhomes are proposed for the current Grace Community Church site at the 11th and N. Vermont streets.
The development, the petition says, will exacerbate traffic and school crowding issues. Supporters’ reasons for signing the petition also include “too much dense, high-rise development in Arlington already,” “harming the property values and diminishing the quality of life of those who already live here,” and “Arlington has become unaffordable.”
From the petition:
We request that you DENY the proposal for special use exception to change the zoning on 11th Street North and North Vermont Street from Low-Medium Residential to High-Medium Residential Mixed-Use to prevent several negative consequences to the immediately surrounding Ballston area and the broader Arlington communities.
Specifically, we ask that the zoning committee and county board not approve a deviation from the current zoning designations to a much higher density of development and instead maintain the current, well thought-out zoning plan to avoid:
- increasing the traffic problems in the already highly congested Ballston area (Glebe & Fairfax and proximate streets and main thorough fares),
- exacerbating the overcrowding in the Arlington Public Schools (Washington-Lee HS, etc.),
- clearly deviating from and frustrating the existing plan and layout of a graduated reduction in heights and density in transitioning from the metro rail stations, a detrimental precedent to establish for existing neighborhoods and residents, and
- introducing significant more disruption, potential physical damage, and nuisance to the closely surrounding residents that comes from heavy machinery, pile driving and heavy construction compared with the lighter construction associated with the current zoning.
Reston-based developer NVR describes the project as “a relatively modest in-fill development” that’s in keeping with the “urban townhouse” neighborhood that surrounds it.
The Arlington Planning Commission and County Board are expected to consider a site plan for the project later this year.
More than 130 people who live in and around Alcova Heights have signed a petition to save a walking trail from the proposed expansion of a nearby federal training facility.
The State Department’s National Foreign Affairs Training Center, which trains members of the nation’s foreign service, is seeking to expand its campus in Arlington to include a new training and classroom facility, childcare center and other buildings.
As planned, the expansion would extend the perimeter fence farther south, and, in the process, swallow up a pedestrian path that connects George Mason Drive and S. Quincy Street.
According to an assessment from the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), the agency in charge of managing federal buildings and facilities, the effects on walkability in the neighborhood would not be significant.
“While input from the public scoping process showed a concern to keep the pedestrian trail open to the public, the [expansion’s] impact on neighborhood connectivity would be minor,” the GSA wrote. “This determination is based on the limited number of individuals using the NFATC pedestrian trail, as well as the extensive walking network of sidewalks adjacent to campus that offer an alternative to the pedestrian trail.”
But neighbors and other locals who use the path disagree with the government’s view.
Alcova Heights resident Danielle Arigoni, who yesterday launched a petition urging the government to reconsider eliminating the path, said the assessment is “outrageous.”
“The fact that the existing path is being eliminated is insulting,” Arigoni told ARLnow.com.
Eliminating the path would deprive pedestrians of a safe and easy way to walk from one part of the neighborhood to the other, Arigoni said.
“The NFATC site is so enormous… that it bifurcates Alcova Heights,” she said. Other than the pedestrian path “there are no east-west pathways that are viable alternatives.”
Others, like local resident Beth Smith, called the path a “great asset” for the surrounding neighborhood.
“I walk that way every day to pick my boys up and we walk back from school,” she said. “If they take this away and they don’t offer us an alternative, we’re either going to walk along Route 50, which is really frightening, or have to go down to 8th Street, which is really not convenient.”
One possible solution, said neighbor Rodrigo Abela, is limit the perimeter expansion to 10-15 feet instead of the planned 20 feet.
“Connectivity does not require more than 10-15 feet to allow people that move along the fence line, and looking at the site plan, it is easily achievable without compromising the safety of the compound,” he said.
Arigoni’s petition urges the GSA to, among other requests, “build a perimeter trail connecting 3rd St. S to the existing trail at Quincy at 6th St. S,” a suggestion that would require a permanent public access easement. In theory, Arigoni writes, Arlington County could then build a perimeter trail connecting 3rd St. S to the existing trail at Quincy at 6th St. S.
Regardless of the solution, she said she simply wants to the GSA to take stock of the community’s needs.
“I think the point is that we want to be good neighbors with GSA and with the feds,” she said. “I understand the need for these kind of facilities, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of safe bike and pedestrian access in our neighborhood.”
Alcova Heights residents interested in submitting public comments can do so on the GSA website through Jan. 15.
(Updated at 6:30 p.m.) More than 250 people have signed a petition calling for Arlington County to provide retirement benefits and paid time off to year-round gymnastics program employees currently classified as “temporary” workers.
The petition says that only two out of 50 gymnastics staff members are classified as permanent employees, while the rest are considered temporary, “making it harder to recruit and retain qualified staff.”
“While a temporary classification is appropriate for staff who truly are temporary, we do not believe it is appropriate for those who work year-round coaching the team and teaching classes,” the petition says.
Both the Arlington Aerials Parents Association and Arlington Tigers Parents Association are supporting the petition.
“Gymnastics is a fully self-supporting program: the fees paid by those in the program fully offset its costs,” the petition notes. “All additional costs of fairly compensating the coaches would be absorbed within the gymnastics cost center, and borne by the families whose children participate in the program.”
The full text of the petition is below.
Arlington County’s Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) employs on average 50 staff members each session in its gymnastics program. Of these, only two are classified as permanent employees. The remainder is designated as temporary and denied the full package of benefits given to permanent County staff, making it harder to recruit and retain qualified staff. The Arlington Aerials Parents Association and Arlington Tigers Parents Association strongly believe the safety, well-being and success of the gymnastics program is a direct function of the program’s ability to attract and retain the best coaches.
While a temporary classification is appropriate for staff who truly are temporary, we do not believe it is appropriate for those who work year-round coaching the team and teaching classes. Many of these staff have been employed by the County for many years, and work year-round with few breaks in their schedule. Ten of the gymnastics staff have worked for the County for seven or more years. Yet because of their temporary designation they are ineligible to receive retirement benefits or paid vacation days or holidays. They also lack job security–unlike permanent staff, temporary employees can be terminated at any time, for any reason.
In the last year alone, three long-tenured staff have left their positions, citing among their primary reasons the lack of benefits. One of these staff members said: “I adored teaching gymnastics for Arlington, but couldn’t keep working a job that didn’t recognize my efforts. Being newly married I had to consider not only myself but my husband and our desires for a family one day. The need for benefits had to outweigh my love for the job. Not having the option of maternity leave or paid time off and not getting paid in the winter every day the County was closed became too costly.”
Hiring and replacing experienced coaching staff is not a simple matter–gymnastics is a demanding and highly technical sport, and staff must have experience to successfully and safely teach the sport. Staff must have in-depth knowledge of skills and techniques, and the ability to breakdown and teach progressions; an understanding of injury prevention and first aid; and skill working with youth. Advanced level and team coaches, in particular, need USA Gymnastics (USAG) certification to coach gymnasts and mentor lower- level coaches. Retaining highly qualified staff is mission critical for DPR in light of the significant enrollment in the gymnastics program, as well as the upcoming expansion of the Barcroft facility and accompanying increase in the number of gymnastics classes to meet the high demand for gymnastics instruction in the County. To remain competitive and successfully expand its gymnastics program, DPR needs to be in a strong position to attract and retain highly qualified staff.
Gymnastics is a fully self-supporting program: the fees paid by those in the program fully offset its costs. All additional costs of fairly compensating the coaches would be absorbed within the gymnastics cost center, and borne by the families whose children participate in the program. The changes could be phased in over time to allow for a more gradual escalation in fees.
Arlington County’s children have benefited greatly from DPR’s team of committed gymnastics staff. Over the years, they have taught our children persistence, flexibility, strength, discipline, and a love of the sport. We must ensure that this program is adequately staffed by well-qualified, fairly compensated employees who will be directly responsible for growing and sustaining an expanded and excellent gymnastics program. We urge the County to reclassify the Arlington County gymnastics coaches and instructors as permanent staff.
High School Boundary Change Petition — Matthew Herrity, the Washington-Lee student who penned a widely-shared open letter to the School Board regarding its recent high school boundary change decision, has now started an online petition. The petition, which calls for increasing diversity at Arlington’s high schools, has more than 1,000 signatures. [Change.org]
Community Center, Gymnastics Contracts Approved — At its meeting on Saturday the Arlington County Board approved a $3.9 million contract to plan and design a new four-story Lubber Run Community Center, with a gymnasium, playgrounds, offices and underground parking. In response to heavy program demand, the Board also approved a $1.7 million addition of a second gymnastics area at the Barcroft Sports and Fitness Center. [Arlington County]
Ebbin on Trump and Other Topics — “Trump is making me nostalgic for Reagan,” said state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) during a wide-ranging interview on the Kojo Nnamdi Show Friday. Ebbin also discussed casino gambling, with the opening of the new MGM casino in National Harbor, and Confederate monuments in Alexandria, among other topics. [Kojo Nnamdi Show]
D.C. Police Misconduct Story Has Arlington Connection — There’s an Arlington connection to one of the misconduct allegations against Sgt. Jessica Hawkins, the head of the D.C. police Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Transgender Liaison unit. Hawkins reportedly took two underage summer interns to Freddie’s, the LGBT bar in Crystal City, and laughed about one using a fake ID. She’s now facing possible disciplinary action for that and for allegedly showing the interns a homemade sex tape on her phone. [Fox 5, Fox 5]
Citing fatigue associated with a night of walking around and collecting free candy, more than 2,000 people — mostly students — have signed an online petition calling for a day off of school after Halloween.
The petition, directed to the Arlington County Board, says next Tuesday, the day after Halloween, should be an off day.
Here’s what the petition says:
The night after Halloween kids will be tired and not able to focus on school work. It would be a useless day of school that goes to waste on lethargic children. Middle and high school students already don’t get a ton of sleep, having school on November first would really kill 6th-12th grade students. Sign this to tell the county of Arlington about this problem that has such an easy solution. This may add another day of school at the end but I believe it is worth it to get this day off.
Signers of the petition have encouraged others to spread it to fellow students at Arlington’s middle and high schools.
“We need to let people know about this. Spread it like a wildfire. Share with kids at other schools,” said a petition signer who listed his name as “Spicy Boi.”
(Updated at 6:25 p.m.) Arlington County is in desperate need of more land for schools and for county government operations. But a plan to acquire an office park across the street from Washington-Lee High School and use it for school bus parking is meeting with community opposition.
The county is planning to spend $30 million acquiring the Quincy Street Technology Center, also known as the Buck property, a 6.1 acre office park zoned primarily for commercial and light industrial uses. Located adjacent to N. Quincy Street and I-66 in the Virginia Square area, the property also partially borders a residential neighborhood.
In a joint County Board-School Board work session earlier this month, Arlington County staff laid out the case for the moving the Arlington Public Schools school bus operations from the Trades Center near Shirlington to the Buck site.
The Buck property is in a central location, near the school administrative building and has the space to accommodate current APS bus parking needs, unlike the increasingly crowded Trades Center, where growth has exceeded capacity. (Thanks to rising enrollment, APS has added 40 new school buses in the past 5 years.)
The Buck property would at first be used for temporary bus parking, then would be considered for a permanent APS bus parking, operations and dispatch center, with a new vehicle wash and fueling station, according to the staff presentation. Other potential uses of the property include temporary overflow parking for Washington-Lee, police and fire reserve vehicle storage, APS office use and a permanent Office of Emergency Management and Emergency Operations Center facility.
In response, some nearby residents have created a petition against the bus proposal. The petition, entitled “The Buck Stops Here,” has more than 100 signatures.
Here’s what the petition says:
Again, Arlington County is barreling ahead with a project impacting a neighborhood without consulting nearby residents. This is a disturbing trend that demands a strong voice from Arlington citizens.
The county is proceeding with a plan to purchase the Buck tract on N. Quincy Street for $30 million (more than $6 million over the 2016 tax assessment) and redevelop the property for, no doubt, tens of millions more – all for a bus parking lot and repair facility.
We do not object to the redevelopment of this ideally-located tract but the placement of an industrial site directly adjoining an existing residential neighborhood is unprecedented in Arlington and bodes ominously for other neighborhoods.
They have proceeded without consulting the adjacent neighborhood and have kept Arlington citizens at-large in the dark about their planning. We have repeatedly asked for a seat in their discussions but have been denied at every turn.
It’s time for Arlington citizens to demand a return to the “Arlington Way” and stop the Buck tract before your neighborhood is next.
The petition, we’re told, is also “‘trending’ across nine Arlington neighborhoods” via Nextdoor, an online social network.
“This is sadly reminiscent of the recent instances of Arlington citizens rising up against the planning without consultation with the [H-B Woodlawn] relocation, the TJ parking lot, the Lee Hwy firehouse, and plopping a temporary firehouse on the green grass of Rhodeside Green Park, along with a growing number of other attempts at action without consulting neighborhoods,” Dennis Whitehead, a resident who lives near the Buck site, told ARLnow.com.
Despite the insistence that the county is “barreling ahead” with the project, the county’s acquisition of the Buck property may not close for another year, and the county says it’s committed to a community process prior to determining its permanent uses for the property.
The proposal may be discussed tonight (Tuesday) at a meeting in Courthouse. The public meeting, intended to review community input regarding a new joint county-schools facilities advisory committee that’s being planned, is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Navy League Building (2300 Wilson Blvd).
That committee, which will follow up on the Community Facilities Study that wrapped up around this time last year (but is still the subject of meetings), will also be considering uses for other county-owned or potentially county-owned properties, including:
- A 11.5 acre Virginia Hospital Center property along S. Carlin Springs Road, which could potentially be used for police and fire vehicle logistics, a new police impound lot, material staging and for the Office of Emergency Management/Emergency Operations Center.
- County-owned land at the intersection of 26th Street N. and Old Dominion Drive, across from Marymount University, which currently includes a park, a mulch pile and a salt dome. The park will be preserved but the county wants to replace the aging salt dome and use some of the land for snow clearing operations and material storage.
- Madison Community Center, though no specific additional uses were presented.
- Clarendon House, a vacant former rehabilitation center at the intersection of N. Irving Street and 10th Street N.
Another joint County Board-School Board meeting, on recommendations from the Community Facilities Study, is planned for Nov. 1 at 6 p.m.
The graveyard, which contains headstones and perhaps the remains of members of the Ball family, for which Ballston is named, is being moved to make way for a redevelopment of the Ballston Central United Methodist Church site.
The development will consist of a new church, 132 apartments and a daycare and preschool facility.
The petition, which has more than 215 signatures as of publication time, says “to remove the graves is to remove the center of the city, the center of the history of the community, the center of Ballston.”
“The Robert Ball Family Cemetery does not need to be moved,” the petition concludes. The full text from the petition is below.
The Robert Ball Family Cemetery is threatened by development, which proposes to remove the human remains and markers to an off site location. The Robert Ball Family Cemetery was set aside in 1866 as a burial ground for his family, when his land was divided among his children and families.
The town of Ballston was platted around 1900, entitled Central Ballston, with the graveyard in the exact center of the plat. The town was named for Robert Ball and his family. In 1906, a 1/4 acre of the original 11 acres was given to the Methodist Episcopal Church for use as a church, parsonage and such, and the church was to maintain the graves and markers accordingly. In 1922, the road was widened, but curved around the church and graveyard. The church and county considered the cemetery closed for additional burials.
The church has maintained the cemetery since 1906, now over 110 years. With development closing in from all sides, the church is under pressure to allow the removal of the graves, as the developer wants to build to the curb. The permit to remove the human remains filed with the Virginia Department of Human Resources states very clearly that even if relatives and concerned parties do not want the burials removed, the development can proceed without their permission because of the benefits to the public.
It is the very presence of the graves and graveyard in 1906 that allowed for the church site to receive the land from the Ball family. It is the land from the Ball family and their presence that the name Ballston was given to the community. The plat for the center of Ballston plotted the graveyard in the center of the plat for the Center of Ballston. Relatives still visit the site. To remove the graves is to remove the center of the city, the center of the history of the community, the center of Ballston.
No provision appears to have been made to incorporate the cemetery into the development design. The developers always thought they would move the graves. The cemetery is on the corner of the development and could be spared by simply building around it. A nice border wall already exists. The buildings could curve around the cemetery, and even curve or arch over it, allowing sunshine down. Signage could be added on how Ballston was formed and the pivotal role the graveyard and Robert Ball family had on the placement of the church and the community.
The Robert Ball Family Cemetery does not need to be moved.
A group of residents want to have Westover designated a local historic district.
Most of Westover — which was developed between 1938 and 1948 — is currently designated as a national historic district, but that hasn’t prevented redevelopment of some properties, most recently an aging garden apartment building that’s being torn down and replaced by townhouses.
The Arlington Green Party is pushing for a local historic designation, which would impose restrictions on tear-downs and renovations.
“This action occurs because developers have demolished about a dozen historic apartment buildings in Westover to build luxury townhouses,” wrote the Green Party’s John Reeder. “In the process, many old trees and green space was destroyed as well as over 60 moderate income rental apartments. These apartment buildings were built in 1940, and have housed moderate income renters in Westover for the past 75 years.”
“With local historic designation, building owners [would] be required to maintain the current building, and could not demolish it unless it was offered for sale for one year to another property owner who would maintain the building,” Reeder explained.
This summer Arlington County officials have participated in community meetings, explaining the process and what it would mean for the community. Cynthia Liccese-Torres, coordinator of Arlington County’s historic preservation program, says the county has not yet taken a stance on the designation.
“The local historic district designation process for Westover is still only in the very beginning stages,” she said. “The County did not initiate this designation request, but since a formal request was received on June 23 the County staff will facilitate the public process as detailed in Section 11.3.4 of the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance.”
Some in the neighborhood are not convinced of the virtue of a local historic designation. A anonymously-distributed flyer that recently wound up on Westover doorsteps warned of a loss of property rights with a historic designation.
“You and all future owners will permanently lose the right to change the exterior of your property, including demolishing it to build a new dream home,” the flyer said, calling a historic designation “a discriminatory action” and encouraging residents to petition the county to call off the process.
Liccese-Torres said a local historic designation does not preclude all changes to homes.
As we explained at the meeting, developing design guidelines will be a collaborative process with the community and involve many conversations with owners about what types of changes they would like to manage in their neighborhood. It does not mean that 1940s-era materials would be the only ones allowed to be used, nor does it mean that homes and buildings could never be changed. Rather, the design guidelines and the design review process itself help ensure that certain types of exterior changes respect the architectural character of what’s already there. Design guidelines are not one-size-fits-all but crafted to address the particular characteristics of each district and the desires of the property owners. We will rely on community input to help shape the draft guidelines.
Arlington’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) is expected to hold a public hearing on the Westover historic designation this fall. If the board votes to move the designation request forward, a study would officially begin. Ultimately, it will be up to the Arlington County Board as to whether to approve the request, its proposed design guidelines and the historic district boundaries.
“Overall, from start to finish, the local designation process will take many months to complete, including the updated architectural survey, continuous outreach with the property owners and community, and multiple public hearings with the HALRB, Planning Commission, and County Board,” Liccese-Torres said.
Photos by Jackie Friedman
More than 500 people have signed a petition calling for the Arlington County Board to take Rhodeside Green Park in Rosslyn off the list of potential locations for a temporary fire station.
As of 10:00 a.m. today, the Change.org petition titled “Save Rhodeside Green Park – No to Fire Station” has 550 signatures, over halfway to its goal of 1,000.
Arlington County originally proposed building the temporary fire station behind the future the H-B Woodlawn school in Rosslyn, but agreed to consider other locations after parents spoke out against the plan, citing concerns about student safety and the loss of open space.
The petition cites concerns about losing “one of the last green spaces we have” in the neighborhood and calls for the County Board to select an alternate location.
From the petition:
On Saturday, July 16, the Arlington County Board voted unanimously to consider the Rhodeside Green Park at the corner of Rhodes Street and Clarendon Blvd. as a location to construct a temporary fire station. This station location would remain in place for at least 3 years while a new fire station is constructed as part of the new school development on Wilson Blvd. next to what is currently Wilson School. The Board plans to take final action at a meeting scheduled for September 24th, 2016. The first time Radnor/Ft. Myer Heights Civic Association (RAFOM) heard Rhodeside Green Park was one of 3-4 possible sites was at the July 16 Board meeting. There was no notification or consultation with the residents of Bromptons Rosslyn Homeowners Association (BARHOA), residents living in apartments and condos near the park, or anyone else impacted. Rhodeside Green was created during development of BARHOA then turned over to Arlington County in 2002 as part of a deal to create green space for our area. We request the Board not stray from the original intent. Construction of a temporary fire station will displace one of the last green spaces we have in Ft. Myer Heights. We are grateful for the services provided by the Arlington County Fire Department, this in no way diminishes our support and gratitude for what they do for all of us every single day. This petition is about protecting a cherished park that serves as a place for children to play, residents to gather, and for a small part of nature to exist within our over developed neighborhood. We urge the Arlington County Board to remove Rhodeside Green from consideration and select one of the alternate locations under consideration.
Photo Courtesy of Arlington County
Students at Yorktown High School have released a petition seeking integrated recycling bins for the school’s hallways and classrooms.
Right now, the school uses a system of regular trash cans and blue recycling bins to sort its garbage.
“One would think that we already have an effective system as there are blue recycling bins in every single classroom,” said the petition. “However, these recycling bins are just treated as normal trash cans by a majority of students. This eliminates the whole purpose of the recycling bins and teaches students that the environment is not that important and can be overlooked or put aside.”
The new integrated recycling bins would streamline the recycling process into one large bin. One side is marked for recyclables such as paper, glass and plastic. The other side is labeled for landfill trash.
The petition has a goal of 1,000 signatures. As of Tuesday afternoon, it had received just over 150 signatures.
Petition for New High School — A petition urging Arlington Public Schools to build a new high school, rather than cramming more students into existing high schools, has nearly 1,000 signatures. The petition states that APS is considering “double shifts, online classes, and mandatory off-site internships” to help with the high school capacity crunch. [Change.org]
Hero Cab Passenger Saves the Day — A passenger in a Barwood taxi jumped into action, grabbed the steering wheel and steered the cab to safety after the driver passed out behind the wheel. The incident happened Thursday morning on the GW Parkway between Chain Bridge and Key Bridge. [WJLA]
No Quidditch in Arlington After All — Those hoping to see some elite-level quidditch playing this weekend will have to hop on their brooms and head to Annandale. Major League Quidditch was unable to conjure up an available field on which to play in Arlington. [ARLnow]
Del. Lopez on Trump — In an op-ed in El Tiempo Latino, Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington) writes: “It is rare to find bipartisanship in a presidential election year, but Trump’s bigoted comments about a Latino judge are so horrifying that many Republicans are joining Democrats in decrying them.” [El Tiempo Latino]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
A Change.org petition called “Help Save the Food Star Supermarket” had 1,817 supporters as of 11 a.m. today.
The petition is a response to the redevelopment of the Food Star strip mall site, which was approved by the Arlington County Board in February. The shopping center is slated to be torn down and replaced by a six-story apartment building with 365 market-rate units and, on the ground floor, an array of retail locations including a 50,000 square foot Harris Teeter store.
The petition paints a picture of Harris Teeter as a “high end” grocery store and Food Star as an affordable, unique neighborhood institution that should be preserved.
I am very concerned that the Food Star grocery store is being targeted for demolition. A well-known business that has been at the same location since 1984, Food Star has become a cultural hub for residents in Arlington County.
- It is centrally located (within walking distance of most of our residents) and caters to our culturally diverse population. Anywhere between fifteen – sixteen thousand residents (maybe even more) will purchase groceries from Food Star every month and even every week.
- It serves as a place of employment. Thirty – forty residents that live in the area work there full-time. The employees are friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable about the products that are being sold.
- It serves as a “home away from home” for many of its patrons. Food Star sells unique products from all over the world that caters to many different multiethnic groups. Most of these products cannot be found at any other grocery stores.
While it is understandable that Harris Teeter is looking to expand into Alcova Heights area (at the corner of Columbia Pike and George Mason Drive), it seems like a very unnecessary business practice that is driven purely by profit and not by necessity. A cursory search on Google Maps indicates that there are at least 7 other high-end grocery stores located within a ten mile radius of the Food Star grocery store. However, if Food Star were to be torn down, most of the residents in the area would not be able to afford the costs associated with traveling to or shopping at these stores.
For the residents of Alcova Heights (Arlington) and other patrons from Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland, The Food Star grocery store is more than just a grocery store. It serves as a cultural icon, valuable resource, and a place of employment. I firmly believe that it should stay open. I am calling on Harris Teeter to reconsider adding a new location at Food Star’s current address, and to cease any actions related building a new store.
Some Claremont Immersion Elementary School parents are mobilizing for improvements to the area around the school’s playgrounds.
The school yard, parents say, is dusty, rocky and potentially dangerous as a play area for students. A website has been set up to encourage parents to write to Arlington Public Schools administrators and demand change.
Here’s what one parent wrote on the website:
Last November (2014), I contacted APS Facilities about the horrible conditions in the Claremont Schoolyard. It didn’t go anywhere because it would “cost too much” to solve the problem.
As you can see, much of Claremont’s school yard is covered in small sharp rocks. Students often fall and get cut on these rocks. As a result, teachers and staff have to direct students to play in the field between the trailer and playground equipment. The over use of this field has caused the grass to vanish.
If APS is going to continue increasing the student population of Claremont, they need to increase the amount of usable SAFE outdoor space!
If you would like to express your concern over the rocky schoolyard, please see the list below to contact APS and the School Board!
(Updated on 2/29/16) A petition against a planned gun store in Lyon Park has already picked up more than 1,400 supporters.
The petition, launched after ARLnow.com first reported about plans for the NOVA Armory store at 2300 N. Pershing Drive, calls for the store and its landlord to cancel plans for the store opening.
“This small strip mall along Pershing Drive and Route 50 is in a residential location and literally next door to a day care/after-care school, the Merit School of Arlington,” the petition states. “It is also within blocks of Long Branch Elementary, and less than a mile from Key Elementary and Thomas Jefferson Middle School.”
In an era of ever-increasing gun violence, it is unconscionable to locate a gun shop anywhere in the vicinity of schools, both private and public, with young children in close proximity. The fear of armed intruders in schools is extremely prevalent in our schools, and placing a shop that sells guns and/or ammunition within immediate distance of schools sends a confusing signal to students and could certainly spark fears of access to them and their families.
We call on the owner of the building and the gun shop to exercise concern for the community, and most particularly its youngest and most vulnerable residents, and cease any action that would allow a gun shop to occupy this space.
“If the shop was not right for Cherrydale, what makes it right for Lyon Park?” the petition asks.
The County Board has sent emails to concerned residents explaining that the county cannot legally prevent the gun store from opening. A county staff comment on the store’s zoning application notes that the county must treat the store “as any other retail shop.”
In just over a day, the controversy over the shop has even entered the world of local partisan politics.
A local business across the street from the store, Smitten Boutique Salon, is encouraging customers to sign the petition against it. In response, the Arlington Falls Church Young Republicans sent an email decrying “evil corporate political speech.”
“How dare a local business use corporate resources to attempt to subvert our political and public policy process,” wrote AFCYR Chairman Emeritus Matthew Hurtt. “Democrats claim to want to protect our fragile democracy, and — if so — they must condemn this egregious act without hesitation.”
NOVA Armory says it is planning to open in March.