(Updated at 12:25 p.m.) Summer may be fading in the rearview mirror, but there are still plenty of public pools open for anyone looking to hit the water around Arlington.
The county doesn’t operate any indoor pools on its own — something that will change when the Long Bridge Park aquatics center opens a few years from now — but three pools in Arlington high schools are open for public use.
Washington-Lee, Wakefield and Yorktown high schools all have pools open to swimmers of all ages. Anyone interested in swimming can buy a pass for a single session, or purchase monthly passes. Full information is available on the school system’s website.
Those pools are open seven days a week, though each one has slightly different hours of operation. (The 2018-2019 schedule is pictured here.)
As for the county’s private, community pools, all five of those have closed for the season. In case you’re already dreaming of next summer, those include:
- Arlington Forest Club
- Columbus Club of Arlington
- Dominion Hills Area Recreation Association
- Donaldson Run Recreation Association
- Overlee Community Association
File photo (top)
Arlington officials are gearing up to loosen some of the zoning rules governing community swimming pools, in a bid to make it easier for organizations to build or renovate pools across the county.
The Planning Commission is set to hold a public hearing on the zoning tweaks this coming Wednesday (Oct. 10), with the County Board considering the changes soon afterward.
Primarily, the changes would give the Board more latitude to hand out “use permits” for the pools, giving officials the chance to review standards for things like fencing and setbacks on a case-by-case basis, rather than subjecting every pool to the same rigid standard.
The county doesn’t currently boast a large number of community pools, by any stretch of the imagination — there are just five pools around Arlington that aren’t owned by the county or restricted for a specific neighborhood or development’s use — but the zoning changes have sped through the county’s engagement process, nonetheless.
That’s largely due to the fact that the Macedonia Baptist Church is currently hoping to redevelop a former YMCA community center in Nauck, located at 3440 22nd Street S., into a community pool, and has been pressing the county for changes to the zoning standards.
Most of those documents haven’t changed since the mid-1950s, according to a county staff report, when many of the original community pools were first built. Staff notes that those standards “were originally intended to buffer residential communities adjacent to community swimming pools from the impacts of the use, and to ensure that the pool provided ample parking on site that did not congest nearby on street parking or other off-site parking facilities.”
But as Arlington has urbanized over the years, staff believes those standards have become increasingly out of date.
For instance, the zoning ordinance currently requires pools to be built with a 100-foot setback from a residential street, a standard designed to “minimize the audible and visual impacts of the pool on nearby neighbors,” staff wrote. But with space in Arlington increasingly at a premium, county officials believe “a combination of opaque fencing and landscaping” can accomplish the same goal without requiring quite so many design headaches.
County staff don’t want to see the Board do away with that sort of limit entirely, noting that there could be plenty of future instances where the “100-foot setback requirement could be warranted to prevent mechanical equipment, storage buildings, and other pool-related facilities from being located too close to an adjacent neighborhood or property.”
By changing zoning rules to give the Board the chance to review future community pool designs, however, staffers believe members would be able to examine each application on its own and evaluate “the specific circumstances of individual properties,” making the whole process a bit less rigid.
After the Planning Commission gets a chance to offer a recommendation on the zoning changes next week, the Board is set to consider them at its Oct. 20 meeting.
Flickr pool photo by Alves Family
County officials haven’t given up hope that they might someday find corporate sponsors for the Long Bridge Park aquatics center, in order to offset some of the costs of the controversial project.
With work on the $60 million facility formally kicking off this week, the county is also moving closer to hiring a marketing firm to help it recruit potential partners for Long Bridge. Officials hope to start soliciting bids from companies before the year is out.
The project has had its fair share of financial challenges over the years, with substantial cost overruns prompting the County Board to postpone its construction in 2014. All throughout the process, however, county staff have kept hope alive that a naming rights sponsor or some other corporate partner might step in to help make the pool a bit more affordable for Arlington taxpayers moving forward.
The county initially hoped that the D.C. region might win the 2024 Summer Olympics, attracting plenty of private sector cash for Long Bridge in the process. That bid fizzled, and the Board subsequently oversaw a substantial rollback in the project’s scope and cost, yet officials have remained hopeful that businesses or even local universities might step up to cover some of the pool’s ongoing operating costs.
County Manager Mark Schwartz conceded in a July 10 work session that part of the reason the county’s struggled so much on this question is that this “is not an area where we have a lot of expertise or experience.”
The county does have a deal with Marymount University backing one field at Long Bridge Park itself, and another sponsorship arrangement with George Washington University at Barcroft Park, where the university’s baseball team plays its home games. But Lisa Grandle, the county’s park development division chief, points out that the county generally “does not have any major sponsorships for Long Bridge or any of our other parks.”
She says the county has spoken “with a variety of potential sponsors and partners” for Long Bridge over the years, and even previously worked with a consultant to find some takers for the pool. Yet with all of that effort for naught, she says the county feels putting out a request for proposals for “on-call partnership and consulting services” is the surest way to finally manage a breakthrough.
The exact form of a corporate sponsorship for Long Bridge remains up in the air until the county can find a marketing partner, but Grandle did say the county has some general ideas.
“In general, sponsorships take the form of cash contributions from corporate entities in exchange for ‘entitlements’ from the county, such as naming rights, identification on signage, acknowledgement on staff uniforms or publications such as class catalogs, use of a facility for a ‘corporate day,’ or discount entrance passes,” Grandle wrote in an email. “The cash contributions for sponsorships can be structured in various ways, such as a large lump sum payment up front with smaller payments agreed upon over a period of time or a small lump sum up front payment with larger payments over agreed upon period of time.”
Grandle added that any consultant would initially focus on finding sponsors for Long Bridge, but the firm could also seek partners for other county parks in the future.
While there’s no guarantee that this new effort will succeed at Long Bridge, Schwartz expects that the mere fact that the county’s actually started work on the project after years of debate has to help matters.
“It makes it easier for us to go to prospective sponsors and saying, ‘Here’s the plan, here’s the actual timeline,'” said Schwartz, noting that the facility is currently set to open in 2021. “The process had been bit inchoate and now, to the extent we’re ever optimistic, we’re slightly more optimistic.”
Very little about the effort to build an aquatics center at Long Bridge Park has ever been easy — and that includes the project’s long-awaited groundbreaking.
Mother Nature had one last obstacle in store for county leaders as they gathered to finally turn some dirt at Long Bridge, delivering a formidable deluge that thoroughly soaked the construction site ahead of Tuesday’s ceremonial start to construction.
Yet even as the rain turned the ground to mush and tested the limits of attendees’ umbrellas, Arlington officials pressed on with a celebration of a project that’s been decades in the making.
“This project has endured worse than a little rain,” joked County Board Chair Katie Cristol.
Voters approved funding for the project in a 2012 bond referendum, but major cost overruns prompted county leaders to delay the facility’s construction two years later, and it quickly became a hot-button issue in that year’s local elections.
After a lengthy process of scaling back the project’s scope, and reducing its cost, the Board signed off on its construction last fall — but even still, some in the community would rather see it pushed back once more as the county wrestles with a budget dilemma.
Those are all big reasons why Jay Fisette, who served on the Board for 20 years, compared the project to a church in Barcelona, Spain that’s been under construction since 1882. Toby Smith, a local activist who helped lead the Long Bridge Park planning process, added that he “can measure the project’s length by the height of my kids.”
“It’s fair to say I did have doubts over the years, even as the community was largely still behind it,” Fisette told ARLnow. “It wasn’t clear every moment that it was going to happen… but groundbreaking helps it become eminently real.”
Fisette remembers some delays prompted when planners working to design the park, which opened across from the Pentagon in 2011, decided to shift where the aquatics center would be located within Long Bridge. He also puts some of the blame for the project’s long timeline on himself, recalling his insistence that the facility meet the new energy efficiency standards he fought to impose for county buildings.
“It was never expected to happen quickly,” Fisette said. “Good things sometimes take a long time.”
Still, Cristol lamented that it was “bittersweet” that the county would break ground on the project without Carrie Johnson around to see it. As one of the county’s longest tenured planning commissioners, Johnson played a key role in shepherding the entire Long Bridge Park project through the process, but she passed away this May.
“Years down the road, we’ll all be thanking Carrie Johnson for this,” Smith said.
But for all the project’s long history, Cristol points out that many of Arlington’s new arrivals are only now learning about aquatics center. She feels Long Bridge is as much about the county’s future as its past, and she hopes the upcoming construction work “will give people a chance to learn about what will be coming here.”
Work is set to wrap up in 2021, with a 50-meter pool, diving towers, a family pool and a series of additional park improvements on tap for the area by the time it’s completed.
So even if the project required some long nights, a few headaches and one last morning in the rain, Fisette feels it was all worth the effort.
“This area used to be an invisible place,” Fisette said. “It was a wasteland, where you’d only come if your car got towed. This is going to transform it into a vibrant community amenity.”
Students Sue Over W-L Name Change Decision — Three current students at the school claim Arlington’s School Board didn’t follow proper procedure in voting to start the process of stripping Robert E. Lee’s name from the school earlier this summer. [WUSA]
Could Jeff Bezos Buy Crystal City’s Biggest Property Owner? — JBG Smith’s CEO isn’t sure, but he’s heard the rumors too. The company took over the ownership of the bulk of buildings in the neighborhood from Vornado/Charles E. Smith and is a key part of Crystal City’s bid for Amazon’s second headquarters. [Washington Business Journal]
County Board Considers Pool Zoning Rule Changes — After a Nauck church ran into trouble renovating a large pool, Arlington officials want to review how the county regulates those sorts of properties. They hope to wrap up work before the year is out. [InsideNova]
Metro Settles Legal Case Over L’Enfant Smoke Incident — The terms of the deal haven’t been made public, but the family of Carol Glover were seeking $50 million in damages from Metro. Glover died after smoke filled a tunnel near the L’Enfant Plaza station, an incident that sickened scores of other people. [Washington Post]
Nonprofit Raises $10,000 in Arlington Vet Tech’s Memory — Alexandria’s CEVA Animal Health raised the money to honor Chris Griffey, who once worked at the NOVA Cat Clinic in Arlington. The funds will go toward medical care for foster kittens. [WJLA]
Photo courtesy of @thelastfc
County Board member John Vihstadt is renewing his push to delay the construction of the Long Bridge Park aquatics center.
Vihstadt is waging a lonely battle against the oft-postponed project as the county’s budget picture grows increasingly grim. He says the $60 million the county’s set to spend on the new pool would be better spent on building new schools or buying additional park land, particularly considering that Arlington is feeling a financial squeeze at the moment.
Between sending more money to Metro and declining commercial tax revenues, the County Board is facing some challenging headwinds as it nears a final decision this weekend on a new, 10-year plan for construction spending. Vihstadt, the Board’s lone independent who is running for re-election this fall, thinks the 72,000-square-foot pool complex can wait a bit longer.
The project’s skyrocketing costs have convinced the Board to repeatedly adjust its plans it over the years, and Vihstadt made an effort to drive down its cost a key plank of his 2014 bid for office. But he still feels that even the facility’s reduced cost is too much for Arlington to take on right now.
“Times change, circumstances change, and I just don’t think it’s right to go forward on that project,” Vihstadt told ARLnow. “Schools have a higher priority. Parks have a higher priority.”
Yet, just as when he cast the lone vote against the project’s construction last December, Vihstadt appears to be in the minority on that position. His four colleagues on the Board all told ARLnow that they wouldn’t support any effort to postpone the Long Bridge project, even with the county’s money troubles in mind.
“Raising these issues when he first ran for election was an important contribution, because it shifted that narrative to value engineering,” said Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey. “That success is something John ought to feel he positively contributed to. Now, it’s the responsibility of the rest of us to follow through.”
The pro-pool Board members all point out that the project has been in the works for decades, with the community formally signing off on money for the aquatics center as part of a bond referendum back in 2004, and would fill a void for such a facility in the Crystal City area.
But they also stress that the process of unwinding the work the county’s already done would be so costly as to make the effort pointless. County Manager Mark Schwartz believes that cancelling the county’s existing contract to build the facility would prompt extensive litigation, with financial consequences to follow.
“We cannot simply break the contract,” Board member Libby Garvey wrote in an email. “Likely there would be real financial penalties for us if we did, to say nothing of the damage to our reputation among builders. Companies bidding on our projects in the future would likely add extra cost because we could not be trusted to fulfill our contracts.”
The aquatic center’s proponents also see any move to reverse the Long Bridge decision as one that would send the wrong message to the community, or as an effort to “re-litigate the past,” as Board member Erik Gutshall puts it.
“If you can’t trust our word and the votes of the Board, it’s just inviting an endless cycle of pitting project against project right up to the point the ribbon is cut,” said Board Chair Katie Cristol.
But Vihstadt believes taxpayers would appreciate the Board’s willingness to re-examine its priorities as fiscal realities change. For instance, as debate about amenities to be built for high schoolers at the Career Center site heats up, Vihstadt suggested redirecting some of the Long Bridge money to add a pool at that location instead.
“A pool in a high school… makes more sense than an aquatics center, which is going to be used more heavily by folks outside of Arlington,” Vihstadt said.
Gutshall believes such an idea could’ve been viable if it was proposed “five or 10 years ago,” but he feels the county is too far down the current path to consider that sort of plan now.
“Where do we draw the line and say, ‘Enough is enough’ when it comes to replaying this sort of debate?” Gutshall said.
Democratic nominee Matt de Ferranti is eager to provide a contrasting view in that discussion as part of his bid against Vihstadt.
“We should not only study things forever,” de Ferranti said. “Eventually we have to act with courage and conviction to improve the community… and with a reduced cost, it’s the right thing to do to move forward.”
Yet Vihstadt argues that his obstinance on the subject is the just sort of thing that helped him win in the first place — and a clear demonstration of the independent streak he brings to the Board.
“We have to scour things, ask questions and, on occasion, say ‘No’ or hit the pause button and say ‘Not now,'” Vihstadt said. “I think a lot of people appreciate the constructive attitude I’ve had to ask questions and not just nod my head.”
The possibility of including a swimming pool in Career Center site planning arose at a joint Arlington County Board/Arlington Public Schools work session last week.
Kristi Sawert, who presented Career Center site considerations for programming and amenities during the work session, said that the pool possibility was “one of the more lively discussions” that the working group has had. Sawert listed several reasons for being pro-pool, including what she called a long-standing APS and School Board policy that aquatics education is essential.
“The main reason I hear that we don’t need a pool at the Career Center site is that those students could be bused to Long Bridge Pool when it opens,” said Sawert.
Sawert said that after having consulted with county staff, she believes that busing students isn’t feasible at the high school level because of the lack of free elective periods that students would need for off-campus travel. Busing, Sawert said, would only be a realistic option if students chose to give up core instructional time.
“Those lost hours would really add up,” she said, adding that this was a matter of equality between wealthy students who could afford private swim lessons and those who couldn’t.
High schoolers take at least eight swimming lessons per year in 80-minute blocks. Elementary and middle schoolers are required to take far fewer lessons, at just five swimming instructional hours annually.
Though County Board member John Vihstadt said that he thought a pool is appropriate and necessary, other board members had questions. County Board member Libby Garvey questioned why changes couldn’t be made to students’ schedules to accommodate activities like swimming.
“I appreciate the discussion of swimming and why we need swimming and pools, I totally believe that,” Garvey said. “But listening to the concerns and the difficulties, they all sit around schedules, and the same old block schedules, and the same old constrained day.”
Garvey suggested, as an example, a school schedule of 6 a.m.-11 p.m. for students, which she said would provide flexibility for students to go to Long Bridge to swim. Her intent with the example, she explained, was to highlight the importance of flexibility for students who need to take jobs, go to internships or do other activities that don’t conform well to the traditional school schedules.
“I totally agree with the need for swimming. I’m not sure we have to preserve the same schedule that we’ve had for a hundred years,” Garvey said.
Board member Erik Gutshall questioned how realistic it would be to have another pool in light of county-wide funding concerns.
“I’d want to know that if we’re going to build a pool, and if we agree it’s a great idea, that that pool is going to get absolute, full use and that all of our other pools that we have get full use,” he said. “Money is an object, and it’s going to be highly constrained in every decision [so] every recommendation has to be fully justified.”
Screenshot via Arlington County
The free block party is an effort the connect the community with police officers. One of the highlights of the event will be “Behind the Badge,” an activity that will give attendees the chance to simulate real-world police scenarios.
It includes brief training on police tactics and will allow participants to play the role of a police officer in two scenarios.
The event will also offer free vehicle VIN etching, demonstrations from police K-9s and motorcycle officers, a distracted driving course, free food and drink and more.
“It’s an opportunity for public safety to give back to our community and also for the community to enjoy entertainment while getting to know the men and women who serve and protect Arlington County,” said Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage.
To get the word out about the block party, the department is creating promotional videos that show another side of Arlington’s men and women in blue. An anonymous tipster spotted the filming of one such video in progress last week.
“Yesterday, I saw five or six ACPD officers filming some kind of video in the large swimming pool at the Dorchester Towers apartment complex off of Columbia Pike,” said the tipster. “Someone was filming the officers in what looked like full uniform — doing things like cannonballing into the pool and doing synchronized swimming routines!”
Savage said ACPD is filming “some creative videos” for the block party, and that those videos will be released closer to the event. She shared one still image from the filming, above.
Photo via Arlington County Police Department
Local pools could be at risk of indefinite closure due to visa processing issues for potential lifeguards.
According to a resident of the Barkley Condominiums (1016 S. Wayne Street), on Sunday a notice posted to the building’s bulletin board said the pool would be closed indefinitely, due to the pool service company having difficulty getting lifeguards into the country because of visa issues.
The notice also reportedly said the issues would hopefully be resolved within the next week, but that timing was unclear. Another source who lives in the building confirmed the pool’s closure. The condo’s property manager declined to comment.
Many local pools rely on young, foreign lifeguards who come to the U.S. during summer months through a non-immigrant visa program.
A press release on May 26 from the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals explained that pools in Mid-Atlantic states might experience delayed openings because of regulatory changes. The Mid-Atlantic is primarily affected because in this region, lifeguards must be present for most commercial or condo pools to be used.
“The pools affected are those run by pool management companies who recruit lifeguards from certain countries through the U.S. State Department’s J-1 Summer Work Travel Program,” the press release said.
In the meantime, the association is trying to recruit lifeguards from local high schools and colleges so that people can still cool off in the summer months.
Chris Teale contributed reporting. Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick.
Construction Accident in Rosslyn — An accident on the parking garage level of the construction site at the corner of Key Blvd and N. Nash Street in Rosslyn prompted a large fire department and police response this morning. A worker suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the accident, which occurred around 8 a.m., and needed to be carried via rescue basket to a waiting ambulance. The response closed lanes of Key Blvd and exacerbated traffic delays caused by construction nearby on Lee Highway.
Sex Assault Suspect May Have Tried Other Buildings — The suspect in a violent sexual assault in Rosslyn may have unsuccessfully tried to get into other Arlington apartment buildings before somehow entering The Atrium building, where the assault occurred, through the front entrance, NBC 4’s Jackie Bensen reports. The suspect then knocked on doors, claiming to be a maintenance worker, before the victim opened her door and a struggle and the sexual assault ensued. [NBC Washington]
Wakefield Senior Named Top Entrepreneur — “Wakefield High School senior Tasnim Alam was named one of the top six entrepreneurs in the country at the the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) Saunders Scholarship Competition in Rochester, N.Y. Tasnim is the founder and CEO of Heatless Hotness, a business that sells heat-free hair curlers that are convenient to use and create salon-like results, which she launched while participating in the Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s YEA! program.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]
When Do Pools Open in Arlington? — Patch has an answer to the question, “When Do Arlington Swimming Pools Open in 2017?” — and that answer is: Memorial Day weekend. More specifically: Saturday, May 27. Unless it’s an indoor pool, in which case it’s open year-round. [Patch]
The incident happened just after 5:00 p.m., at the private Dominion Hills Area Recreation Association pool at 6000 Wilson Blvd.
An 8 or 9 year old boy accidentally swallowed water while swimming and began struggling in the water, according to an Arlington County Fire Department spokesman. A lifeguard spotted the boy in distress and he was underwater by the time lifeguards reached him.
When the boy was pulled from the water, he had a pulse but was unconscious and not breathing, the spokesman said. Lifeguards performed rescue breathing and were eventually able to revive the boy, we’re told.
Paramedics arrived and transported the boy to Virginia Hospital Center for evaluation.
John Aldonis, the pool’s manager, declined to identify the lifeguards who saved the boy’s life but said they are local high school and college students.
“They did a great job,” Aldonis said. “They did everything correctly and followed the Red Cross protocols.”
Aldonis said this was the first time in recent memory that paramedics had to be called to the Dominion Hills pool for a life-threatening emergency.
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Arlington County is asking for public input on a possible partnership with Alexandria to build the proposed Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility in Long Bridge Park, near Crystal City.
The county will reach out to residents this fall to see what they would like to see in an aquatic and fitness facility. Alexandria will also be surveying its residents.
If interests in both counties line up, the two will start to discuss costs and responsibility for the development of the pools and fitness area. The border between Alexandria and Arlington is roughly three miles from Long Bridge Park.
The possible partnership is the county’s latest plan to find the funds it needs to complete the second phase of the Long Bridge Park Project Plan.
“If the synergy is there, and both communities are interested, we will explore this further,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement. “Partnerships are just one of the many creative ways we are approaching the development of our facilities and programs.”
Phase Two includes building the aquatic and fitness facility, connecting an esplanade in Long Bridge Park to the building and the creation of public areas, trails, public art, walkways and signs for the park, according to the 2013 Long Bridge Park Master Plan.
The county has been planning a redesign of Long Bridge Park for more than 10 years, with the first phase completed in 2011. Higher-than-expected construction bids and operating costs prevented the county from choosing a contractor to complete phase two, pausing the project in 2014.
Once completed, the aquatic and fitness facility is planned to have a 50-meter pool for recreational, fitness and competitive swimming. There will also be a smaller pool for exercise and recreational program, a small hot-water therapy pool and a free-form water play area that will include a lazy river and slides, according to a 2013 design plan for the facility.
In addition to the aquatic elements, the facility will have a large fitness area and a community room, according to the plan. A “Multiple Activity Center,” which will have a climbing wall, a large indoor fitness space and an elevated track, is also planned.
The plans may change based on feedback from residents, Hynes said. The County Manager is scheduled to present recommendations to the County Board in January 2016.
“A lot has changed since that building was designed,” Hynes said. “The economy has changed. Many things in the region are different.”
While the county is waiting on the aquatic and fitness facility, it will continue to make improvements to the park. In June, the County Board unanimously approved the construction of playgrounds on the south end of the park. The $1.082 million contract includes play areas with cooling “fog” systems, tunnels, play structures, bridges, benches and fencing.
Photos via Arlington County
Arlington County police are asking for help identifying three suspects who allegedly stole credit cards and cell phones from from the locker rooms of two high school pools.
The suspects were caught on surveillance camera at a CVS in northwest Washington where police say they used their victims’ credit cards.
From an ACPD press release:
The Arlington County Police Department’s Burglary/Larceny Unit is asking for the public’s assistance in identifying three suspect that were involved in larcenies that took place in local aquatic center locker rooms.
On the morning of March 30, 2013, a victim was swimming at the Washington and Lee High School Aquatics Center and had his belongings stolen from his locker in the locker room. In this incident, the victim found that his lock had been cut, and also discovered that his iPhone 4 and credit cards were among the missing items. Later that same day, a victim was swimming at Yorktown High School Aquatics Center and had his wallet stolen from his locker room locker. The victim’s lock, Blackberry phone, cash, and credit cards were among the items stolen. Credit cards stolen from both aquatic centers were used at a CVS in NW, Washington, D.C. by the three suspects in the attached photographs.
Suspect one is described as a black female, wearing black pants, a blue jacket, and a baseball cap while using the credit cards. Suspect two is described as a black female, wearing dark pants, a red hooded sweatshirt, and had a short style haircut. Suspect three is described as a black male with glasses, wearing camouflage pants and a t-shirt with a unique graphic. These subjects have been seen together at the Wakefield High School Aquatics Center in recent weeks, but it is unknown if anything was stolen at that time.
If anyone has information on the whereabouts of this individual, please contact Detective James Stone of the Arlington County Police Department’s Burglary/Larceny Unit at 703.228.4245 or at [email protected] To report information anonymously, contact the Arlington County Crime Solvers at 866.411.TIPS (8477).
Photos courtesy ACPD
At its meeting on Saturday (January 26), the County Board is being asked to provide authorization for staff to advertise public hearings regarding the proposed amendments. The changes include revising parking standards for elementary and middle schools, permitting off-site vehicle parking at community swimming pools and allowing the County Board to modify parking standards.
The issue first arose during the public review process for the addition to Ashlawn Elementary School and the new school to be built on the Williamsburg campus. Arlington Public Schools felt that using the existing Zoning Ordinance for parking requirements would result in an excessive amount of parking. For instance, the addition to Ashlawn would require 228 parking spaces under the ordinance, when APS says it only needs about 100.
“That is way more than we need and it means we would lose open space and ball fields,” said John Chadwick, Director of Design and Construction for APS. “If we do that and we lose open space, ball fields and green space, that sort of counters what everyone is trying to do in Arlington.”
Another concern is that the ordinance requires all of the parking spaces to be on site. One of the proposed amendments would allow for off-site parking on the street or in other lots, like the lots of private swimming pools, which are typically open during the summer but closed during most of the school year. County staff offered the example of Ashlawn’s ongoing shared parking agreement with the Dominion Hills Pool.
Residents who live close to the affected schools haven’t all been supportive of the measure considering it would force more cars into neighborhood streets.
“We are having some push back from neighbors, but very few of our schools provide the number of spaces currently required under this ordinance,” Chadwick said.
The ordinance is not retroactive, so schools already in existence would not have to suddenly rework their parking situation; only new schools, such as at Williamsburg, or school expansions, such as Ashlawn, need to comply.
The changes would also alter the definition of “design capacity.” The new parking proposal suggests allotting one teacher parking spot for every 7.5 students, and one visitor spot for every 40 students.
“We’re very much in favor of the plan and the change and we’ve worked with them [the county] all the way. We really need to get this change approved so we can move forward with the Ashlawn campus and Williamsburg site,” Chadwick said. “This is all good from our point of view. I know it’s a bit complicated, but it actually makes sense.”
Similar parking issues have been identified with the county’s planned aquatics facility at Long Bridge Park. That prompted County Manager Barbara Donnellan to ask staff to examine not only regulations covering school parking, but county recreational facilities as well. As with the schools, parking demand at the aquatics center site was deemed lower than the existing requirements in the Zoning Ordinance.
While some of the amendments deal specifically with parking either at schools or recreational facilities, there are also general provisions covering both categories. County staff recommends that one of the general principles should be to base parking requirements on average daily use and not peak facility uses. Additionally, it recommends sites be examined individually to determine parking needs instead of forcing all facilities to conform to the same regulations. Such a recommendation would be fulfilled by the proposed amendment allowing the County Board to grant special parking exceptions, which it currently cannot do.
The public hearing with the Planning Commission is scheduled for February 11 and the one with the County Board is scheduled for February 23.
Power Outage Update — As of 8:30 a.m., there were 14,860 Dominion customers still without power in Arlington. That’s down from 27,586 outages as of 9:30 yesterday morning.
911 Now Accessible By Cell Phone — Arlington County says its 911 system is now properly receiving calls from cell phones. Problems were reported with the system yesterday afternoon.
Cancel Special Events on the Fourth? — Citing power outages and a dodgy 911 system, Arlington Office of Emergency Management Director Jack Brown says he’s not sure it’s the best idea for Arlington to host events for the Fourth of July tomorrow. He told the Washington Post yesterday: “I’m questioning having a special event during an emergency.” [Washington Post]
School Board Renews Murphy’s Contract — Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy had his contract renewed at Monday morning’s School Board meeting. The contract calls for Dr. Murphy to stay with the school system until the end of the 2015-2016 school year. He’ll be paid an annual salary of $209,976. [Washington Post]
Community Pools Busy — The indoor pools at Yorktown, Wakefield and Washington-Lee high schools were all busy this weekend, in the wake of Friday’s storms. [Sun Gazette]