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by Chris Teale July 19, 2017 at 2:00 pm 0

The Arlington County Board deferred a vote Tuesday on the design of the new Lubber Run Community Center after confusion over the timing of meetings on the project.

But the Board did agree, by a 3-2 vote, to a $37 million contract to replace the center, out of a total project budget of $47.8 million.

The new center will replace the one built in 1956 at 300 N. Park Drive, Arlington’s first purpose-built community center.

The building will provide programs for youth, adults and seniors including a preschool, senior center, gymnasium and fitness center and several multipurpose rooms. It also will house about 70 employees in the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation. Construction could begin as early as next fall.

A meeting is scheduled for today (July 19) at Barrett Elementary School for residents to give feedback on the new building’s design. That meeting coming a day after the Board’s scheduled design vote left some members perturbed, as they wanted to see the community engagement process play out before taking action.

Before the start of deliberations, County Manager Mark Schwartz apologized for any communications that caused “confusion or anxiety” in the community.

A timeline in May provided by local resident Michael Thomas had the Board likely voting on the design in September. But Jane Rudolph, director of the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation, said the plan was moved up after staff found they could have the construction contract ready for July’s meeting and advertised on July 7. She also apologized for any confusion

“This is really, I think, close to a smoking gun,” said Board member John Vihstadt. “I don’t understand why we couldn’t defer to September to realize and fulfill the original intention of staff to have the board meeting after the next concept presentation and another PFRC meeting as well.”

Vihstadt was joined in voting to defer, while simultaneously approving the construction contract, by chair Jay Fisette and Christian Dorsey. The trio emphasized that no “fundamental changes” should be made to the plan during the review.

Board member Libby Garvey and vice chair Katie Cristol voted against the plan. Cristol said that the consensus on the Board that no major changes should be made, coupled with the support of many in the community for the new center, should be enough to proceed.

Of those who testified on the project, many had concerns around the project’s impact on the environment, including the need to cut down some trees and possible erosion. Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement, reading remarks on behalf of local activist Suzanne Smith Sundburg, said people wanted more open green space and more trees, rather than more pavement and buildings.

“Staff’s perception of the community’s feedback on this project continues to be at odds with the public’s perception of what it has asked for,” Clement said.

Community engagement for the project took a more modern approach than similar efforts in the past. The engagement used more technology like online surveys and looked to reach out to previously under-represented communities like the Spanish-speaking population in the county.

While Board members and staff recognized the foul-up with the timeline, some residents said the majority of community outreach was done well.

“This is textbook on how to do community engagement,” said Nathan Zee, an Arlington Forest resident. “You went above and beyond what would be reasonably expected, and should be commended. The outstanding design reflects this hard work.”

Images via county presentation

by Chris Teale July 12, 2017 at 10:05 am 0

(Updated at 10:20 a.m.) Homeowners could find it considerably easier to add an “accessory dwelling unit” to their property under changes set to be made to the ordinance in the fall.

Only 20 ADUs — defined as a second living space with a kitchen, a bathroom and a separate entrance — have been approved in Arlington since the ordinance first came into effect in 2009. Advocates have said they can help ease the county’s lack of affordable housing.

Staff is recommending that the Board allow detached ADUs, set back from the main house, and bump up the maximum occupancy from two to three. Currently in Arlington ADUs are only allowed within a single-family home.

At a work session Tuesday with county staff, Arlington County Board members debated various other recommendations, focusing in on a few.

Board members discussed staff’s recommendation of maintaining the current cap of ADU approvals at 28 a year countywide. Chair Jay Fisette and member Christian Dorsey suggested removing the cap altogether.

“Even at the likely installation rates, we’re not talking about a big impact on our community,” said Dorsey. “And who’s to say that if the 29th application is really the ideal, textbook accessory dwelling location and circumstance, we have to say no because we’re going to cap it? … It just really seems insane.”

But others were not so sure about removing the cap. Board member John Vihstadt suggested looking into capping new ADUs by civic association or neighborhood to prevent a concentration in one place, something others were happy to go along with in lieu of abolishing the cap altogether.

Joel Franklin, a housing planner at the county department of Community, Planning, Housing and Development, added that staff will undertake an annual survey to try and find any issues that may arise.

The Board also explored raising the maximum number of people allowed to live in an ADU. The current maximum is two, with staff recommending that be increased to three, but several wanted more work to be done to explore whether that limit could be raised further.

Vice chair Katie Cristol said consistency is key, and that it becomes difficult when “governing the number of people in a bedroom.” But Vihstadt and Fisette were not so sure, and inclined to stick with the staff recommendation.

“It’s one thing to stay one or two nights in a crowded hotel room when you’re on vacation with the kids or friends or whatever,” Vihstadt said. “It’s another thing to have that crowded condition on a monthly or long-term basis.”

Staff suggested various rules for the units, including that their front doors can be on the same side as long as they do not face, and that exterior stairways must not face the street, among others.

Those rules are designed to protect the character of neighborhoods dominated by single-family homes. County staff members will continue to study the various policies governing aesthetics, they said.

“This is really a significant body of work. This is a use that I think we should be welcoming in our community while being cognizant of impacts on neighborhoods and protecting and planning against them,” said Cristol. “I would hate to lose this opportunity in any house or lot because somebody’s front door is placed in the wrong place.”

A slight change to the parking requirements for properties with ADUs has also been proposed.

Staff will compile the results of the survey on accessory dwellings this month, then finalize its recommendations. The Zoning and Housing Commissions will examine staff’s plans, with the Planning Commission and County Board expected to take final action in November.

by Chris Teale July 10, 2017 at 4:30 pm 0

A plan to reconfigure the shopping mall above the Rosslyn Metro station could bring more retail space and add a public plaza on its second level, but its approval is in doubt.

The proposal would add more than 17,000 square feet of additional space for retail at the three-story Rosslyn Metro Center, and redevelop its outside into a four-story building with a public plaza on the second level.

The mall and adjoining office building had been slated for a new 25-story tower directly above the Metro station, but the site plan amendment allowing the plan expired in 2007 before anything was built.

In a report recommending the Arlington County Board deny the project at its meeting Saturday (July 15), county staff said the plaza would “hinder achievement” of the plan to make 18th Street N. a new pedestrian priority corridor known as the 18th Street Corridor. The corridor would extend east to N. Arlington Ridge Road and have a pedestrian-only stretch to replace Rosslyn’s skywalk system.

Staff said the plaza and ground-floor retail would make it harder to access the Metro station from N. Moore Street, and that the extra retail space does not comply with the area’s current zoning. Staff also said the plaza’s 10-foot walkway, while allowing public access, is not wide enough and would create “narrowness and tunnel conditions.”

“The proposal will adversely impact access to Metro by increasing congestion at the North Moore Street frontage,” the report says.

Staff added that it does not conform with the Rosslyn Sector Plan‘s vision for the design and programming an open-air Metro station plaza after the site’s redevelopment.

“The proposed plaza width (approximately 60 feet on the North Moore Street side and approximately 20 feet on the North Fort Myer Drive side) and building mass proposed above the plaza will restrict connectivity and visibility along the 18th Street Corridor,” the report reads. “The plaza’s narrowness and tunnel conditions through the proposed building mass conflict with the Plan’s vision of a linear system of connected public spaces.”

Staff noted that the office building is “near fully leased for the medium term,” and that a timeline on any future development is uncertain.

Images via Arlington County

by Chris Teale June 28, 2017 at 3:30 pm 0

The Arlington County Board and school board agreed Tuesday night to further study three possible scenarios for the Buck and Virginia Hospital Center sites, as recommended by the county’s Joint Facilities Advisory Commission.

Of the options, whittled down from a list of 10, two could allow for a building to be used by Arlington Public Schools. They could also provide space for the Office of Emergency Management and other public safety agencies, while some offer bus parking for both APS and Arlington Transit (ART).

Two scenarios for the VHC property remain under consideration, while just one is now being examined for the Buck site.

JFAC also formally recommended that the county acquire both sites. The Buck property is located near Washington-Lee High School, while the VHC site is at 601 S. Carlin Springs Road, and the county holds options to either buy the land outright or swap for them.

During the further study on the three remaining options, JFAC will explore how best to make the bus parking fit in. But County Manager Mark Schwartz said his preference would be for Arlington to purchase the current ART bus parking area at 2629 Shirlington Road given that bus dispatch is run from that location. Schwartz and staff will assess their options on that site too in a separate process.

JFAC chair Ginger Brown said residents had raised concerns about using one of the two properties for bus parking due to extra noise, traffic impacts and the need for security lights.

“Thank goodness buses don’t have feelings,” joked County Board chair Jay Fisette. Fellow County Board member Christian Dorsey said bus parking is necessary, and it can work within a community.

“These really can fit very well, but I don’t want to give anyone the impression that we’re looking to dump anything in the Nauck or Shirlington area,” Dorsey said. “This is something that can fit in well with a revitalizing area with planned future development…It’s not an evil thing that is going to disrupt how people live their life.”

The possible swap of a swath of industrial land owned by Arcland Property Company in Shirlington remains on the table, and will be studied for possible long-term uses.

“Maybe there’s some negotiations, some things that can make people more comfortable, but we need that land in Shirlington,” said County Board member Libby Garvey.

Members of both boards agreed that the Buck and VHC sites could be used to help ease APS’ capacity needs, with enrollment set to keep growing.

School Board chair Nancy Van Doren asked that staff from the county and APS work together closely to plan for the sites’ futures. But several urged caution as the schools review their enrollment projections. All agreed on the urgent need to manage the enrollment growth and provide a seat for every student.

“We really need to come to grips with how we’re growing as a community, where we’re going and when we’re growing and the criteria we’re growing and what we’re getting in return,” said County Board member John Vihstadt.

JFAC will now evaluate the short list of three remaining options, develop some rough cost estimates and go into finer detail on what can be done there. That next phase is set to begin as early as next month.

by Chris Teale June 27, 2017 at 1:15 pm 0

(Updated at 9:35 a.m.) Neighbors of Virginia Highlands Park are accusing Arlington County of ignoring a proposal they put together for the park’s future.

Last year the Aurora Highlands Civic Association submitted a plan for the permit-only softball fields on the west side of the park at 1600 S. Hayes Street to be converted into open space, without any set programming.

“The fields are significantly underused relative to other facilities and especially to open space,” the proposal says, noting that use of the fields is seasonal. “Each field is used for approximately 600 hours per year out of a potential of 4,380 hours (12 hours a day), a total of less than 14% of the time.”

The county is at the beginning of what it says is a “community-wide conversation” about the park’s future and developing a comprehensive plan.

But some residents are critical of staff at the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation, saying that staff has not adequately considered their proposal nor communicated with them, despite an “extraordinary effort” on the part of community leaders “to ensure that there was little to no miscommunication in this process.”

“Attempting to develop a long-term plan for the park that fails to openly and honestly consider the needs of all park goers over existing facilities and their usage, as well intentioned as it may be, will just reshuffle that poor planning with some prettying around the edges,” the group Friends of Aurora Highlands Parks said in its latest newsletter.

ARLnow columnist Peter Rousselot wrote in a recent opinion piece that a member of DPR staff said the softball fields “are needed” and would not be removed.

A county spokeswoman, however, said that while there is no set timeline for planning for the park’s revamp, the civic association’s proposal is still on the table.

“The Aurora Highland Civic Association did provide a plan for the neighborhood’s vision for the park,” the spokeswoman said. “When the county begins the framework plan for the park, the civic association’s plan as well as other community-wide inputs will be considered. County staff is now working with the County Board to determine next steps.”

The softball fields at Virginia Highlands Park are used by a variety of leagues across age groups, from youth to adult.

The D.C. Fray adult league — formerly known as United Social Sports — begins a new eight-week season on July 7 at the fields. Founder and CEO Robert Kinsler said the league “strongly supports maintaining and expanding the fields available for organized sports in Arlington and specifically at Virginia Highlands.”

“We permit and use the parks as much as availability and DPR allows and often have to turn away players due to lack of field space in the area,” Kinsler said. “Any loss of the softball fields would be a huge lost for the activity community that lives in the area.”

by Katherine Berko June 27, 2017 at 10:00 am 0

Madison Manor Park is getting a face-lift.

Renovations at the park at 6225 12th Road N. in the Madison Manor neighborhood will include redesigning the playground, basketball court, picnic shelter, multi-use field, water fountain, park furniture, irrigation walkways, fences and landscaping. The park will also be brought up to current standards, including the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The county has been soliciting input from users of the park on its future with a chalkboard where people can write suggestions for what they would like to see and what they would not like to see.

The “information gathering” process for the upgrades is happening summer. The design process is set to begin in September and last until November.

Under a timeline proposed by staff, the Arlington County Board is projected to approve a contract for construction by fall 2018 so work can get underway soon after. The county hopes to have the renovation completed by summer 2019.

The county’s Capital Maintenance Fund will pay for this project. The fund is used for projects that bring existing parks up to current standards.

by Chris Teale June 19, 2017 at 2:00 pm 0

Neighbors of a former church in Ballston have mobilized against a plan that could allow more density at the site for future redevelopment.

The site at 1031 N. Vermont Street was home to the First Baptist Church of Ballston, which leased it to the Grace Community Church. Grace has since relocated its services to 125 S. Old Glebe Road. Full Circle Montessori School uses the space for classrooms, while there is also a parking lot and public children’s playground across 11th Street N. included.

But nearby residents in the north of the neighborhood spoke out Saturday against making the site denser, and cited an online petition with almost 500 signatures against any changes.

Local resident Dana Gerk said she started the petition to ask the Arlington County Board and planning staff to “protect us and our community.”

Under a plan advanced unanimously by the County Board at its Saturday meeting, the site could be rezoned to allow for approximately 115,000 square feet of mixed-use development, to include a multi-story residential building and townhomes. The new zone could allow up to 105 homes to be built.

Staff said the proposed amendment to the General Land Use Plan (GLUP) for the site — which calls for “high-medium residential mixed use” zoning with a tapering down in height toward the lower-density residential community —  would “more closely reflect the built conditions implemented through the County Board’s previous actions to approve numerous special exception site plans and rezonings since 1980.”

Board members said discussions around the planning principles for the site are separate from any new redevelopment plans, but one has already been submitted by a developer.

Earlier this year, Reston-based NVR submitted a preliminary application to turn the site into a seven-story building with 73 apartments and townhomes, and 13 townhomes on the north of 11th Street N.

County Board chair Jay Fisette emphasized the Board’s approval was not related to any potential development, but was instead about making broader plans for how a site may look in the future.

“I think today proved that if we can separate the planning issues from the particular building being proposed, we will have a better opportunity to shape what we want in that building when it comes forward,” Fisette said.

Opponents of upping the density on the site spoke against any changes. Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement bemoaned the approval of several under-construction projects in the area contributing to the “already-congested Ballston neighborhood,” and said neighbors might pursue legal action to prevent more development.

“The impact of these projects has not even been felt, these buildings have not yet been built,” she said. “Yet Ballston is already gridlocked.”

The Board’s approval means it will now hold public hearings on a potential GLUP amendment. Anthony Fusarelli, a staff member in the county’s Department of Community, Planning, Housing and Development, said such hearings could be held before the end of this year.

by Chris Teale June 7, 2017 at 10:00 am 0

Members of the Four Mile Run Valley Working Group sought to regroup Tuesday night and try to plot a new path forward on the future of the Shirlington Dog Park.

But the need to balance the park needing to manage stormwater while preserving a beloved community asset weighed heavily after a strong backlash against reducing its size.

That community anxiety about the park’s future helped result in the County Board directing staff late last month to go back to the drawing board. Plans drawn up by staff would have shrunk the 109,000 square foot park to as little as 27,000 square feet to accommodate stormwater management.

During their work session, Board members said there must be a better balance between environmental needs and community desires. But some working group members felt the environment was forced to take a back seat.

“I felt extremely distressed with the comments and presentation because it didn’t deal with the environment,” said group member Nora Palmatier.

Several group members also criticized staff for not presenting more options to deal with stormwater beyond a 35-foot buffer near the stream. And while at-large member Keith Fred said it was a “shame” there hadn’t been more conversations about environmental protection at the site a year ago, others said it was an opportunity to put forward new plans.

“We have been challenged as a group and staff as well to think outside the box and look at other alternatives to protect what is a very important economic driver for the Valley,” said group member Adam Henderson.

And Edie Wilson, a member of the working group representing the Shirlington Civic Association, said that despite the community’s strong opposition to any changes at the park, residents care about balancing it with any environmental needs.

Wilson said it is possible to “walk and chew gum at the same time,” and that with staff putting new options forward, she looks forward to seeing what can be done.

“We need to be very careful with the assumption that we don’t care about the environment,” she said. “We have a variety of ways to do both. There’s work to do.”

Later in the meeting, Wilson said more must be done to educate the community about what is being done in the area, and particularly to show them why changes may need to be made to the dog park.

“We really need some public education, and I mean public education in the most civil sense of the word,” she said. “People have a lot of questions.”

County staff said they will meet with County Manager Mark Schwartz later this week to chart a path forward for the park and other projects in the Four Mile Run Valley. No public speakers at the meeting addressed the dog park’s future.

by Chris Teale June 6, 2017 at 10:00 am 0

With the county’s Public Art Master Plan set for a revamp in the coming months, residents are being asked for their feedback on the various installations around Arlington.

Those interested can fill out an online survey, which includes questions on which current artworks people are familiar with; which they find memorable; and goals and approaches for public art.

The survey is open until 5 p.m. on June 19.

“Adopted in 2004, the PAMP outlines a strategy for how public art will improve the quality of Arlington’s public spaces and facilities,” the survey reads. “We invite you to help inform the update by filling out this questionnaire.”

The update is the plan’s first since 2004, and will look to take into account the findings from the 2016 Arlington Arts strategic planning process and other plans expected to be completed this year, including on public spaces, the Four Mile Run Valley and Lee Highway.

In addition to the questionnaire, public artist Graham Coreil-Allen has conducted a series of “County Wandering” walking tours to explore and reimagine local areas, while the county has a social media education campaign on public art using the hashtag #ARLPublicArt.

In recent years, the County Board approved the $1 million “Corridor of Light” public art project in Rosslyn, the installation of various pieces to the fence separating the Four Mile Run trail from the county’s sewage plant and a project by artist Linda Hesh for local people to say what the word “civic” means to them.

Other upcoming public art projects — which typically take several years to develop — include an installation at Columbia Pike’s western gateway, the design of the upcoming Nauck Town Square park, and a stainless steel sculpture that will be placed next to a new apartment building in Courthouse.

by Chris Teale May 31, 2017 at 10:00 am 0

After significant community push-back, the County Board rejected plans to dramatically shrink the Shirlington Dog Park and urged further study.

At a work session last night of the Four Mile Run Valley Working Group, Board members said that staff must return with new options that would either keep the 109,000 square foot dog park the same size or reduce it slightly.

Previous alternatives put forward by staff would have cut the park’s size by as much as 75 percent to comply with stormwater management requirements in the area of Four Mile Run.

But County Board members said more study is required on other possible options to comply with stormwater management and not lose what vice chair Katie Cristol said is a “well-loved” dog park.

“There is more that we don’t know about alternatives,” Cristol said. “Perhaps [staff] feel confident that you know them. I do not yet feel confident enough to recommend or approve or direct such significant changes to such a well-loved community amenity without a better sense of the alternatives for stormwater remediation.”

There was unanimous agreement among Board members on how to move forward. John Vihstadt said he wants it to stay “substantially as-is for the longest possible time,” while Christian Dorsey argued for a “programmatic approach” that ensures a community amenity is protected while complying with stormwater needs.

In a letter to the County Board ahead of the meeting obtained by ARLnow, Shirlington Civic Association president Edith Wilson and vice president Richard Adler said the Four Mile Run Valley working group needs subcommittees to deal with a slew of issues including the dog park. Not all options have been explored, they said.

The pair, who both sit on the working group, said the dog park has an economic benefit to the neighborhood as well as community and environmental value.

“The [May 17] proposals are remarkably insensitive to the economic and marketing value of the dog park — how could the county possibly think to make public a proposal to reduce it from 109,000 square feet to 27,000?” the pair wrote. “How would we replace the jobs, businesses and real estate sales this would affect?”

After the meeting, supporters were jubilant, including on a Facebook page dedicated to saving the Shirlington Dog Park.

“Our advocacy clearly made a difference as the Arlington County board members were all convinced of how deeply we love our dog park and how impassioned we are about saving it,” wrote one supporter. “All of us should feel a great deal of pride today that we successfully mobilized to save our beloved dog park!”

by Chris Teale May 23, 2017 at 4:35 pm 0

Space for police, fire and emergency management, swing space for government offices or Arlington Public Schools, bus storage or parkland might be coming to two sites the county is considering acquiring.

The Buck property off N. Quincy Street near Washington-Lee High School and the Virginia Hospital Center site at 601 S. Carlin Springs Road could both be acquired by the county, which has options to buy or swap for the land and has been going through a review process to determine best future uses for it.

Through that process, there are now five possible scenarios for each on how the county might make use of these sites. Staff outlined those scenarios in a presentation to the commission last week, and the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission (JFAC) will host an interactive public forum on the plans tomorrow (Wednesday).

Both sites are being tapped to potentially include space for the county’s Office of Emergency Management and police and fire departments. Some scenarios would include parking for ART or Arlington Public Schools buses on the site, with varying levels of open space for recreation and community gardens.

One scenario for VHC (Scenario C) would reserve a 130,000 square foot site as temporary swing space for either APS or the county during construction elsewhere. No plan would place permanent school space at the Buck property, something that had been called for by neighbors in the past.

Other neighbors, meanwhile, previously raised opposition to the county buying the Buck site, and accused the county of “barreling ahead” with the acquisition without listening to community feedback.

“JFAC, working with county and schools staff and with the community, has developed five scenarios for how the county might use each of these possible land acquisitions to meet some of our many pressing facility needs,” said JFAC chair Ginger Brown in a statement. “This forum is meant to put those scenarios before all Arlingtonians, to gather their feedback before JFAC makes recommendations to the County Board.”

The forum will be held in the Wakefield High School cafeteria (1325 S. Dinwiddie Street) from 7-10 p.m.

RSVPs are required for those planning to attend the forum. JFAC will also host an open house on Tuesday, May 30 to discuss the potential uses.

An online form will be available on the JFAC website for public feedback on specific use scenarios for the properties, starting on Thursday, May 25, according to a county press release.

by Chris Teale May 22, 2017 at 4:45 pm 0

The much-loved Shirlington Dog Park could get much smaller under plans being discussed by the Four Mile Run Valley Working Group.

Three alternatives have been put forward for the park along Four Mile Run, including one that would reduce it by 75 percent to approximately 27,000 square feet, known as Alternative 1. The park would be cut in half at the current S. Oxford Street entrance, with the area west of Oxford Street reforested and the park running between S. Oxford and Oakland Streets.

The other two proposals would have the park at around 55,000 square feet (Alternative 2A) or 47,000 square feet (Alternative 2B). Both incorporate a proposed, expanded portion of parkland along S. Oakland Street.

A spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation said that new plans are being explored for the dog park due to concerns around stormwater management. Jennie Dean Park and Shirlington Park are also being planned as part of the working group’s wider look at Four Mile Run’s future and a parks master planning process.

The possible reduction in size of the dog park is not quite as drastic a change as earlier rumors — that the county was planning to “move the dog park and make it much smaller, or do away with it” — had suggested. It has, however, sparked loud opposition from supporters of the dog park on social media, including on the park’s unofficial Facebook page.

“Just out of curiosity, what happened to the chorus of reassurances we got from the board reps just a couple of weeks or months ago about them not touching the park?” wrote one supporter. “I don’t know what bothers me more; the fact they continue to push initiatives that put the park at risk or that they misled supporters to believe the park was safe as-is.”

An online petition against the proposal has garnered more than 1,000 signatures.

“4 Mile Run Shirlington Dog Park is the best dog park in Northern Virginia,” wrote one signee. “One of the biggest reasons is its current layout. The small dog area, the water access, and the lengthy, open run area, as well as the seating, provide the best experience. Please do not alter this dog park!”

“It is an all too rare NOVA stress reliever that should be protected, not changed or reduced in size,” wrote another.

A separate Facebook group has also been started dedicated to saving the dog park and energizing supporters.

Parks department spokeswoman Martha Holland said there are no “short term” plans to change the park, but didn’t rule out longer-term changes due to state water runoff rules.

“Currently there is no immediate funding or intention on changing the configuration of the Shirlington Dog Park in the short term, however as capital renovations happen in the future or significant maintenance is needed in the parks, state mandated stormwater management standards will need to addressed,” she said. “County staff is working with the County-Board appointed Four Mile Run Valley Working Group on developing a plan for the park to meet state requirements and community interests.”

The County Board is set to have a work session on Four Mile Run Valley planning on May 30. Holland said that at no stage has removal of the park been on the table.

“The county recognizes that the Shirlington Dog Park, one of eight Arlington County dog parks that residents and their pets enjoy, is a tremendous and much-beloved resource for the county and there has never been any intention to remove it from the area,” she said.

The County Board is set to adopt the parks master plan for the three parks early next year. Public input on the draft concepts will be taken in July.

by ARLnow.com April 27, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

McAuliffe Visits New District Brewing — Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-Va.) made a “quick stop” at New District Brewing near Shirlington yesterday, touring the brewery and posing for photos. [Twitter, Twitter]

Caps Continue Playoff Fan Activities — For their Round 2 playoff matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Capitals are continuing a series of fan activities, including free yoga classes and viewings of team practices, at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston. [Washington Capitals]

County Gets Planning Award — Arlington County is one of a dozen recipients of the American Planning Association’s Gold 2017 National Planning Achievement Award. “County government and the community have together built Arlington into one of the nation’s best places to live, work or play,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. [Arlington County]

APS Pushes Solar Power — “Clearing a legal hurdle that may affect other Virginia school systems, Arlington Public Schools has created a new type of purchasing authority so it may enter into power purchase agreements (PPAs) for solar power.” [Blue Virginia]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

by ARLnow.com March 22, 2017 at 9:55 am 0

Claude Williamson (photo courtesy Arlington County)Following the departure of Steven Cover, Arlington County has named an Acting Director for Community Housing, Planning and Development.

Claude Williamson, who has been with the department for 20 years, will lead it on an interim basis as the acting planning director. Last week County Manager Mark Schwartz said that a search would be starting soon for a permanent replacement for Cover.

Williamson’s long tenure at CPHD contrasts with Cover’s attempts to shake up the department and streamline its processes, which have been the subject of grumbles from the business community. Cover was named CPHD director in 2015.

More on the appointment from a county press release:

Claude Williamson has been named Arlington County’s Acting Director for Community Housing, Planning and Development (CPHD).

Williamson joined CPHD in 1997 and has served as the Comprehensive Planning Supervisor for more than 11 years. His broad experience in planning, management and civic engagement has influenced a multitude of major planning initiatives and projects. He has been instrumental in the development and implementation of both sector and area plans across Arlington, and has provided significant leadership during zoning ordinance reviews and updates, inter-jurisdictional planning efforts and other key planning activities.

“Claude brings a wealth of experience and tremendous professionalism to the Acting Directorship of this critical County department,” said Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz. “He has a deep understanding of our community and of the planning principles that have successfully guided Arlington for decades.”

In his new role, Williamson will lead all the department’s efforts, including the development review process; comprehensive planning; neighborhood services; zoning administration; inspections and code enforcement and data analysis. The department is responsible for planning both in Arlington’s neighborhoods and in the densely developed, transit oriented Metro corridors. CPHD is the lead department in implementing the County’s Smart Growth planning vision.

Prior to joining Arlington County in 1997, Williamson worked for the New Orleans City Planning Commission on a variety of planning projects and initiatives. He holds a Master of Community Planning from the University of Maryland School of Architecture.  He also holds a Master of Public Administration and Bachelor of Science from Suffolk University in Boston.  Williamson is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners.  He lives in the Palisades neighborhood of Washington D.C. with his husband Michael and 11-year old son Evan.

by Chris Teale March 9, 2017 at 3:35 pm 0

Rumors of the Shirlington dog park’s demise appear to have been greatly exaggerated.

The latest round of drafts released by the county for the Four Mile Run Valley initiative include the park in the plans for Jennie Dean Park. Three alternatives put forward for a meeting of the Four Mile Run Valley Working Group held Tuesday night all include the dog park in some form.

The first option keeps the park as it is, while the second option proposed reconfiguring the dog park but keeping it the same size. The third alternative would also keep the dog park in place, but renovate it.

Notably, the second alternative would divide the dog park into two sections: one for larger animals and another for smaller.

The alternatives also make suggestions for programming to the west of South Nelson Street, which could include more arts and recreation space. It also suggests a number of amenities for the park in the site’s northeast corner, like sport courts, baseball fields, a playground and a trail. All three alternatives also propose adding to the site’s 136 existing parking spaces.

The park’s future had been the cause of some concern earlier this year on social media.

The unofficial Facebook page for the park said the county had a plan “to move the dog park and make it much smaller, or do away with it.”

The Shirlington Dog Park Page cited a presentation of early land use proposals generated in January as part of the Four Mile Run Valley planning process. However, the presentation appeared to show that the area of the dog park is being considered generally for “outdoor parks/rec/cultural” uses — which could include a dog park.

“The County recognizes the popularity and importance of the Shirlington Dog Park and does not plan to move it from the park or the park plan,” division chief Chikwe Njoku wrote in an email to a dog park page subscriber last month.

“As part of any planning effort we have to do our due diligence and evaluate the existing site in addition to making recommendations on potential alternatives that are based on a variety of factors such as environmental regulations, overall design/impact, usage, and other County standards, then make recommendations that are discussed with the 4MRV Working Group who also takes input from the community.”

The Four Mile Run Valley Working Group will meet again March 15 from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Park and Natural Resources Operations Building at 2700 S. Taylor St.

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