Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Transit Union Gets Its Money Back from Dorsey — “Union verifies (to me, 5 minutes ago) that it has received [embattled County Board member Christian Dorsey’s] repayment of $10,000 campaign donation.” [Twitter]

Board Advances Reeves Farmhouse Plan — “The [Reeves] farmhouse will be preserved and protected as a historic site, the parkland around the house will stay as parkland, and the County will get much needed housing for people with developmental disabilities without our taxpayers footing the bill. It’s a win-win-win.” [Arlington County]

Va. Legislature OKs Amazon Delivery Bots — “Amazon.com Inc. package delivery robots could soon hit Virginia’s sidewalks and roadways. The General Assembly has made quick work of a bill that would clear the way for Scout, Amazon’s six-wheeled delivery robot, to operate in the commonwealth.” [Washington Business Journal]

Airport Helper Service to Launch Tomorrow — “Goodbye, airport chaos… SkySquad is launching this week at Reagan Airport to improve the airport experience for anyone who needs an extra hand. Travel is stressful for most people, especially families with young kids; and senior citizens who need extra support.” [Press Release]

A Look at Arlington’s Oldest Families — A series of articles profiling long-time local families takes a look at the Parks, the Shreves, the Smiths, the Syphaxes, the Birches and the Thomases. [Arlington Magazine]

Sheriff’s Office Welcomes New K-9 — “The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office recently welcomed its newest K-9 officer – Logan, a one-and-a-half-year-old black Labrador retriever who is paired with handler Cpl. Matthew Camardi. The duo will work in narcotics detection and other specialized fields. [InsideNova]

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Three years after Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia (HabitatNOVA) first reached out to Arlington County with a plan to reuse the Reeves Farmhouse, the plan is scheduled for review by the Arlington County Board tonight.

The home, built in 1900, is a historic property that is currently vacant and owned by Arlington County. The Reevesland property it sits on is notable for being the last operating dairy farm in Arlington, operating through the Great Depression and World War II until 1955.

HabitatNOVA’s plan is to convert the house into a group home for developmentally disabled individuals. The organization would partner with a group called L’Arche Greater Washington, a group in D.C. that serves people with disabilities, as a fundraising partner and to provide residential support for four to five individuals.

Under the agreement between HabitatNOVA and Arlington County, the farmhouse would be preserved, operated and maintained with private funding, according to a staff presentation. The two-acres of parkland around it would remain a public use, including the historic milk shed, the sledding hill, and the Reevesland Learning Center gardens.

At the meeting tonight, the County Board is scheduled to decide whether or not to authorize County Manager Mark Schwartz to go forward with a letter of intent. If approved, the county would host two public meetings about the plan. HabitatNOVA would also start fundraising with the aim of reaching 25% of the $2.3 million required for the project.

Photo via Arlington County

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Local students, teachers and friends are invited to dine on Arlington-planted and grown lettuce at an event this week.

The Reevesland Learning Garden — part of the park that was split from the now-privately-owned Reevesland farmhouse — is planning a “Fiesta Salad-Bration” on Friday (June 7) from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Ashlawn Elementary School (5950 8th Road N.). The salad celebration is a twice-yearly program.

“Hundreds of Ashlawn Elementary students and neighbors have planted and grown a huge crop of luscious organic lettuces in the Reevesland Learning Garden and in three neighborhoods that will be served at the Fiesta Salad-Bration for more than 800 students, teachers and Arlington friends,” Joan Horwitt, president of the Reevesland Learning Center, said in an email.

Horwitt noted that the salad will also include a vinaigrette dressing made by Ashlawn neighbor and Reevesland volunteer Ron Battocchi.

Photo via Reevesland Learning Center/Facebook

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After years of debate over the future of the historic Reeves farmhouse in Bluemont, a solution that the community likes and does not require lots of taxpayer dollars may have been found.

County officials have worked up a plan to team up with Habitat for Humanity to transform the farmhouse into a group home for adults with developmental disabilities.

The Northern Virginia branch of the nonprofit is currently exploring the prospect of renovating the 118-year-old home, then turning it over to another group to manage it, Habitat director of real estate development Noemi Riveira told ARLnow.

The farmhouse sits on the 2.4-acre Reevesland dairy farm property (400 N. Manchester Street), which the county purchased in 2001. The County Board has long hoped to find some other use for the home, with community groups urging the county to transform it into a museum or learning center, but the high cost of renovating the house convinced the Board to move toward selling it instead.

Riveira cautions that her group is still in the “very, very preliminary” phases of studying the property, and she isn’t sure yet whether this plan would involve Habitat buying the farmhouse from the county. Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey suggested that the nonprofit could end up purchasing it, then transferring ownership to whichever entity runs the group home, or simply lease the house from the county instead.

Regardless of the details, however, both Riveira and Dorsey are cautiously optimistic that this arrangement could prove to be the best possible outcome for the historic home.

“Any opportunity we have to serve anyone that needs a shelter, we’re happy to assist,” Riveira said. “It’s a bit outside of our normal program scope… but this is a demographic that needs homes, so we’re there to help.”

Riveira noted that the “community came to us” with this proposal. Specifically, Chris Tighe, president of the Boulevard Manor Civic Association, says he first floated the idea of reaching out to Habitat in a conversation with Dorsey roughly a year ago.

“A lot of nonprofits valiantly tried to save it over the years, but all of that just sort of petered out,” Tighe said. “So at one point I just said, ‘How come no one’s thought of [Habitat] before?'”

Tighe reached out to the nonprofit, and brokered a meeting with the group and Dorsey to work up an initial proposal.

Broadly, Habitat would agree to renovate the exterior of the house and select portions of the interior, as well as constructing an addition. The county estimates that renovating the home via contractors would cost anywhere from $2.5 million to $3 million, though at this stage Riveira is unsure how expensive the work would be with volunteer help.

“That was a lot of money for us… but they’re a nonprofit that can leverage volunteers, so it provides a great opportunity for a traditional renovation not paid for in traditional market ways,” Dorsey said.

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Morning Notes

Farmhouse Sale Not Certain — Arlington County officials are pretty sure the historic Reeves farmhouse in Bluemont will sell to a private buyer, but it’s not a given. The cost of fixing up the house may be more than it is worth. [InsideNova]

Arlington Healthcare Co. Considering Merger — Ballston-based Evolent Health is exploring a possible merger with D.C.-based Advisory Board Company, a healthcare consulting firm that helped to fund and launch Evolent. [Reuters]

VHC Land Swap Still in Progress — A proposed land swap that would give Virginia Hospital Center 5.5 acres of county government land next to its main campus, allowing it to expand, is continuing “to make its way through procedural steps.” The swap could happen as early as June 2018, with Arlington County getting some combination of land and/or cash in return, though it depends on some regional and state regulatory approvals. [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Reeves farmhouse (image courtesy Arlington County)

The Arlington County Board voted unanimously yesterday to move forward with the sale of the historic Reeves farmhouse in Bluemont.

Despite a last push from a group that wants the farmhouse converted into a learning center for students, the county says that selling the farmhouse to a private buyer, who will be required to “maintain its historic integrity,” is the only economical way to preserve it for future generations.

“The County’s goal is to preserve the historic character of Reeves farmhouse and to preserve the site’s two acres of open space, the raised gardens, sledding hill and milk shed,” the county said in a press release.

“The County’s efforts to achieve the sort of successful partnership to restore the Reevesland farmhouse that it has achieved with other projects have been hampered by the estimated, and increasing, cost of renovating the farmhouse and bringing it up to code for public use, estimated to be in the range of $2.5 – $3 million, as well as an unspecified amount for ongoing maintenance and operating costs.”

The full press release, after the jump.

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Reeves farmhouse (photo courtesy Peter Roof)A group that wants to use the Reevesland farmhouse as an educational center is making one last push to convince Arlington County not to sell it.

Members of the Reevesland Learning Center say Arlington should be seeking to add to, not subtract from, its parks and facilities. They’ve been fighting for several years to have the farmhouse, at 400 N. Manchester Street in the Boulevard Manor neighborhood, converted to a community space where children could learn about healthy eating and the history of the Reeves farm.

In 2015, Arlington County split the 2.5 acre Reevesland property, incorporating much of the open space into Bluemont Park while the house and the land around it was to be sold to a private buyer. On Feb. 28, Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz recommended the sale of the farmhouse move forward, asking for County Board direction at the board’s March meeting.

“Our efforts to work with the Reeves Farm Conservation Society, Inc. and Reevesland Learning Center have not resulted in a viable community proposal for the farmhouse,” Schwartz said in a statement.

In a letter sent Wednesday, members of the Reevesland Learning Center disputed the county’s assertion that renovating the farmhouse for public use would be too costly and challenging.

The full letter, after the jump.

Photo courtesy Peter Roof

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Morning Notes

Train in Clarendon Metro station (Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin)

Sale of Reeves Farmhouse Moves Forward — From a press release following yesterday’s Arlington County Board meeting: “The Arlington County Manager today recommended that the County move forward with the sale of the historic Reeves farmhouse, and that the County not be a financial partner in the farmhouse’s restoration and reuse.” [Arlington County]

‘No Systemic Problem’ Led to High Water Bills — Arlington County says it has investigated resident complaints about unusually high water bills and found “no systemic problem.” Errors in billing or meter-reading were found in only five percent of complaints, the county said, adding that customer-side leaks and a hot and dry summer help to explain many of the remaining cases. [Arlington County]

Arlington Millennials Willing to Move — According to a new study, 77.5 percent of Millennials in Arlington say they would leave the region for the right job offer. That’s the highest response of any D.C. area jurisdiction surveyed. Millennials make up 35-40 percent of Arlington’s population, but real estate affordability remains a concern. Only 28 percent of Millennials in Arlington said they can afford to buy a home in the D.C. area. [Washington Business Journal]

Another Phone Scam Warning — Arlington residents are getting phone calls from scammers claiming to be Dominion Virginia Power technicians collecting unpaid electric bills. “In some cases, scammers have deliberately falsified the information transmitted to the victim’s Caller ID display to disguise their identity,” warns the Arlington County Police Department. [Arlington County]

Talk By Black Man Who Befriends KKK Members — Daryl Davis, a musician who befriends KKK members and convinces them to leave the organization, gave a talk in Arlington earlier this week. Of our current political climate, he said: “This is the best thing that has happened to this country because we have been so much in denial of racism in this country, xenophobia and all these kinds of things… Now we can no longer turn a blind eye to it.” [Fox 5]

Arlington’s ‘Cafe Urbanism’ — A new article in a publication written for state and local government officials asks poses the question: “Hip restaurants have helped revive cities. But is the boom fizzling out?” As a prime example, the article cites recent restaurant closures in Clarendon. [Governing]

Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin

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Joan HorwittThe two and a half acre of land where the Reevesland farmhouse sits was divided into two parcels — one which will contain the farmhouse and one that will become a public park.

The County Board’s decision allows the county to preserve the view of the farmhouse while still being able to sell it to a private party, Chair Mary Hynes said. The county also approved a permit to make the farmhouse a “unified residential development,” which makes it easier to sell, possibly as a single-family home.

Under the decision, the county manager cannot divide the land until directed by the Board, which extends the time for the county to hear proposals and decide what exactly to do with the farmhouse. The entire two and a half acre property will remain a local historic district, preventing major changes.

“The creation of a separate lot that includes the farmhouse would enable the County to market the house for sale to a private buyer willing to restore and maintain it,’ the county said in a press release. “The newly created lot is meant to give a potential owner privacy and the flexibility to expand the house with oversight by the county’s Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board.”

Board member Walter Tejada was the only vote against the division of the property. He also voted against the sale of the Reevesland farmhouse in May.

Tejada made a motion to include a direction to the county manager that the land could not be divided until a path to the “historic milk shed,” which would sit on the piece of land made into a park, was made compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. County staff said it might not be possible to have an ADA compliant path within the three years, and the motion failed.

The Board voted to sell the Reevesland farmhouse property after deciding it could not put up the $2-2.5 million it would cost to renovate the building for public use. In order to keep the building as county property, Arlington would have to rebuild parts of the farmhouse to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and modern safety codes, including strengthening the floors and updating the buildings utilities, Board Chair Mary Hynes said at a June board meeting.

Board member Jay Fisette voted against selling the parcel in May, saying he wanted more time to find a solution for the farmhouse.

“I will say that was primarily because I wanted more time to explore a nonprofit partnership that would allow continued public use. I have always been attracted to that idea and continue to be at that time,” Fisette said. “The proposal that we’re about to do today allows for that additional time, in fact, by not recording this subdivision plat until a later date.”

Separating the farmhouse and potentially allowing it to become a private residence allows the County Board to have a fall back plan, Hynes said.

“Here is this really unique [farmhouse], and we need to find a way to preserve that,” she said. “The view shed, the experience of seeing this farmhouse on the hill, to me, is the most important thing.”

Several citizens and neighbors spoke about their disapproval of the Board’s previous vote to sell the historic property, during the public comment portion of the Board meeting. They protested that the decision was too quickly made, and that before the land can be subdivided, the Board should return to that issue.  

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Morning Notes

Rainbow over the Iwo Jima memorial (Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman)

Motorcycle Ride Arrives This Afternoon — The annual America’s 9/11 Ride will arrive in Arlington around 3 p.m. today. The ride is escorted by police and features hundreds of motorcyclists. The bikers are arriving at the DoubleTree Crystal City hotel and touring the Pentagon this afternoon, before departing for New York City at 7 a.m. tomorrow.

Arlington > D.C. in Home Prices — The median home sale price in Arlington is now more than $100,000 higher than in the District of Columbia. A year ago, the median sale price in Arlington was $490,500, compared to $499,900 in D.C. [Washington Business Journal]

Preservation Board Delays Reevesland Action — The Arlington Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board has deferred consideration of changes to the Reevesland farmhouse until November. Arlington County is seeking to make a couple of changes to prepare the house for sale. [InsideNova]

Tablet Changes Coming — We’ve heard your feedback and are making some changed to the ARLnow experience for tablet users. Chief among those changes: full articles will now once again be displayed on the homepage if you own an iPad or other tablet. That change is expected to take place within a few days.

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Karl VanNewkirk(Updated at 4:20 p.m.) A new proposal for the Reevesland farmhouse may be the compromise needed between the County Board and farmhouse supporters who don’t want the farmhouse to be sold to a private party.

Karl VanNewkirk, the president of the Arlington Historical Society, spoke at the Arlington County Board meeting on Saturday, informing the Board members that he has been working with the Boulevard Manor Civic Association to create a new plan for the farmhouse.

While VanNewkirk did not provide a detailed plan during his speaking time, he did say that the county’s estimate of $2-2.5 million in renovations costs was being driven by the need for a large parking lot and American Disabilities Act compliance. Under a private ownership, the farmhouse would not need the lot nor to be fully compliant with ADA.

“I would like to ask two things from you,” he said to the Board. “A: would you give us a little more time to develop a detailed plan that would meet with your approval and B: would you continue to allow staff, the county staff, to work with us?”

VanNewkirk told ARLnow.com that the Boulevard Manor Civic Association and Preservation Arlington are looking at options for the farmhouse. Arlington Historical Society will discuss whether it wants to join in the effort at a meeting of board directors on tonight, he said.

Reeves farmhouse (photo courtesy Peter Roof)

The bare bones of the plan is for a non-profit partner of the Boulevard Manor Civic Association, and other supporting groups, to buy the farmhouse from the county, said Sandra Spear, who is leading the working group on the farmhouse for the civic association.

The civic association is helping to raise funds through charitable donations to help with the costs of renovations, Spear said.

“Our plan is nascent at this time, but the barest bones are that we propose to purchase the house from the County for a nominal sum, lease the land on which it sits, raise money to restore it, and use it in some fashion as a museum to Arlington’s agricultural past. Each element of this plan differs from Reevesland Learning Center’s (RLC) proposal,” Spear said.

It would not be a full learning center, as the Reevesland Learning Center proposed, because of ADA and parking lot runoff concerns. However, the groups may incorporate some of those elements into its proposal, VanNewkirk said.

“Have we fleshed it [a proposal] out, not yet, but we are working on it,” VanNewkirk said.

Board member Libby Garvey told the other Board members that she had also met with the Boulevard Manor Civic Association and that she found its plan for Reevesland to be more responsible than the one proposed by the Reevesland Learning Center.

“What the Boulevard Manor folk are looking at is a different approach and much more responsible, and I’m pleased to see them doing that,” Garvey said.

VanNewkirk and the Boulevard Manor Civic Association have reached out to the Reevesland Learning Center but they have not responded yet, VanNewkirk told ARLnow.com.

Board member John Vihstadt was also in support of VanNewkirk and Boulevard Manor Civic Association’s work toward a plan for the farmhouse.

“This is really the first time that we have heard that there has been any effort by the supporters of Reevesland and the larger community to actually raise funds and I look forward to some sort of public-private partnership as opposed to just county tax dollars for this facility,” he said during the board meeting.

Despite the newfound potential steps forward for the farmhouse, members of the Reevesland Learning Center group are still upset over the Board’s May vote.

Joan Horwitt of the Reevesland Learning Center on Saturday asked Board members to reverse their vote on the sale of the farmhouse. Her public comment turned heated as Chair Mary Hynes and Horwitt argued, with both speaking over the other.

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