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Nonprofit Could Transform Historic Reeves Farmhouse into Group Home

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.

Riveira says the home is currently zoned to house up to eight people, so she envisions the farmhouse someday offering rooms for five or six adults with disabilities, then a few live-in counselors as well.

While Habitat is generally focused on building new homes for low-income people, Riveira says the group does have some experience working with historic properties, and would look to enlist the help of experts in the field if it moves forward with the project.

Tighe says Habitat presented that vision for the farmhouse at the civic association’s meeting last Sunday (June 17), where it earned “unanimous approval.”

“We’re pretty confident this would be a phenomenal win-win for everybody,” Tighe said.

If all works out, the farmhouse’s future could be decided by the end of the year.

“Reasonably, I would hope that we’ll know within the next three to six months concretely if we’re moving forward on this,” 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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County Board Votes to Move Forward with Reeves Farmhouse Sale

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.

The Arlington County Board today authorized the County Manager to move forward with the sale of the historic Reeves farmhouse, as the County has not identified a financial partner in the farmhouse’s restoration and reuse. The Manager had asked the Board at the February 28 Board Meeting to direct him to move forward.

“After exploring numerous alternatives, this Board has decided that the best way to preserve this piece of Arlington’s history is to sell the Reeves farmhouse itself to a private buyer who will be required to maintain its historic integrity,” said Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette.

“We believe that the County Manager has found a solution that will both breathe new life into the farmhouse while preserving the vast majority of the land as parkland and allowing the continuation of the current public uses.”

The Board voted 5 to 0 to authorize the Manager to move forward with the sale of Reeves farmhouse. To read the staff report on this item, visit the County website. Scroll down to Item No. 24 on the agenda for the Tuesday, March 21 Recessed County Board Meeting.

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’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.

Several steps must be taken before the farmhouse parcel can be sold:

  • Certificate of Appropriateness (CoA) – the County must apply for and obtain a CoA from the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) before staff can prepare the farmhouse for sale. Proposed site improvements requiring HALRB approval include:
    • demolishing the non-historic garage
    • repaving the existing driveway from North Manchester Street
    • creating a parking pad as required by the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance
    • removing a tree and a bush
    • constructing a grass paver access driveway to the milk shed for County maintenance vehicles
  • Easements – a County access easement must be finalized, and a perpetual historic preservation easement must be developed to further protect the historic farmhouse
  • Appraisal, broker – the County must obtain an appraisal and engage the services of a qualified real estate broker with experience in marketing and selling historic properties
  • Negotiate – the County must negotiate the sale of the farmhouse lot and present it to County Board for final approval. The sale will require a public hearing per Va. Code §15.2-1800

Once the County Board approves an Agreement of Sale, staff will proceed to settlement with the purchaser and recordation of a Deed of Conveyance, (subject to the prior-recorded perpetual historic preservation easement). Staff estimates that it will take at least one year to accomplish these steps.

Both the farmhouse parcel and the public park parcel will remain under a County local historic district, so all exterior changes are subject to review by the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board.

The County purchased Reevesland, located at 400 North Manchester St., in 2001 to expand Bluemont Park. The parcel and 19th-century farmhouse, owned by one family for almost 100 years, is the remnant of Arlington’s last operating dairy farm. The entire property was designated as the Reevesland Local Historic District in 2004.

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Group Makes Last Push to Convince County Not to Sell Farmhouse

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

March 8, 2017

Dear Mr. Schwartz:

As longtime Arlington residents and taxpayers, we know that our County works best when our government officials listen to residents, respect them and are responsive to their ideas and requests for information.

Thus, your letter to us last week stating that the County intends to move forward to sell a portion of the Reeves parkland and the historic Reeves farmhouse is profoundly disappointing and troubling.

We urge you to postpone indefinitely any steps or action to facilitate the sale of the Reeves parkland and farmhouse for the following reasons:  

  • The County needs to respond to the renovation-related questions we submitted four months ago with the assistance of our pro bono general contractor regarding various building codes and regulations pertinent to Reevesland. The information is essential to finalize our widely-supported plan for re-purposing the farmhouse and for a realistic budget.
  • There is a strong consensus in Arlington that our County should be acquiring parkland, not selling off the Reeves parkland nor any of our irreplaceable open spaces.
  • In the proposal we sent you four months ago, a key, distinctive part of our renovation plan is “the participation of Arlington Career Center apprentices which will enable Arlington’s young people to gain life-changing job skills and employment opportunities.” They deserve the County’s support.
  • More than 600 residents throughout Arlington signed an online petition urging the County not to sell the Reeves parkland and farmhouse and to use it instead as a Reevesland Learning Center for Arlington kids, teachers and other adults who can learn how to grow and prepare healthy food through environmentally sustainable practices.

Mr. Schwartz, in your letter, you write that “Unfortunately, the RLC proposal continues to rely on the County to fund the significant construction costs necessary to renovate and maintain the farmhouse.”  That’s inaccurate.  First, in our November 14th letter to you, we said that the Reevesland Learning Center “is prepared to raise additional resources in partnership with the County” . . . for the farmhouse renovation. Second, we said unequivocally that “when the renovation is completed, the Reevesland Learning Center is committed to staffing and managing the farmhouse  , , , at no cost to the County.”

In fact, the Reevesland Learning Center has already raised pledges of thousands of dollars of in-kind resources.  As we told you, “we have secured the participation of the highly-regarded president of Monarc Construction, John Bellingham, who is a past president of the DC Preservation League.  He has agreed to organize and manage the entire renovation process, utilizing Arlington Career Center students as apprentices.  Mr. Bellingham developed a list of questions for you and your colleagues about various County regulations and codes that may apply to the farmhouse renovation.  That was four months ago, and you never responded. There can be no realistic budget until those questions are answered.

It is troubling and inexplicable to us is that our County is even considering selling off precious parkland and the farmhouse.  As you know, the County is purchasing private property to expand its public footprint but now, in direct contravention of its stated policy, is seeking to sell off such property.  One of the high priority recommendations of the County’s Task Force on Urban Agriculture is to “Ensure that urban agriculture education focusing on Arlington schoolchildren is given top priority in any adaptive reuse or repurposing of Reeves historic farmhouse.”  That is our goal, too, and it is widely shared by Arlingtonians throughout the County.

Arlingtonians want to see the farmhouse and parkland remain in the public domain and the farmhouse used as a learning center.  As Juliet Hiznay wrote on the countywide petition: “We are losing green space and we need this asset for the health of the community.”  As APS teacher Joe Price said: “I have visited the Reevesland farmhouse with my students for the past five years.  It is a wonderful resource that provides much more than academic lessons.”   And Kate Mattos wrote: “Arlington has little public and green space. Reeves is an opportunity to reflect on our history as a community, to help students learn about nature, and to be a meeting place for community activities. This is an opportunity to serve all citizens, not just those who can afford to buy the space.”

Mr. Schwartz, on behalf of the Arlington community, we ask that you postpone indefinitely this ill-considered action to sell or facilitate the privatizing of Reeves parkland and the farmhouse.

As leaders of the Reevesland Learning Center, we agree with our fellow Arlingtonians about the value of preserving our parkland and the Reeves farmhouse.  We also believe strongly about the imperative of responsive, transparent government.  We hope that you do, too.

In adopting Arlington County’s $1.2 billion budget, Board Chair Libby Garvey noted that the budget “preserves our community’s values.” Preserving our values starts with preserving our history, preserving our sense of community, and preserving a belief that there is an Arlington way and government works for the people it represents when it listens to them and works with them. Preserving our values starts with investing in them. It starts at Reevesland.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely,

Sandra Kalscheur, Chair, The Reevesland Learning Center
Ron Battocchi, Vice-chair
Joan Horwitt, President

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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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County Board Splits Reevesland Into Farmhouse and Park

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.  

Reeves farmhouse (image courtesy Arlington County)

At the meeting, Sandra Spear spoke on behalf of the Reeves Farm Conservation Society, which incorporated just days before, on Sept. 16. The new organization grew out of a partnership between the Boulevard Manor Civic Association, Arlington Historical Society and Preservation Arlington but is independent of the three groups, Spear said.

“Our hope is to buy all three buildings on that property. And by restoring them to their condition in the early 20th century, we will be able to preserve them, we hope, in perpetuity, as the last operating dairy farm in Arlington. It turns out that the best way to preserve those buildings for public use and public access, is for them to go into private hands,” she said.  

The Society wants to restore and preserve the farmhouse as a working and teaching center, Spear said, adding she hopes that the Reevesland Learning Center will support this cause.

“We are hoping not just to restore the historic buildings for public use, but also to adapt the garage to be used as a teaching kitchen and to add a pavilion or other accessory building near the garage,” she said. “We hope to use the buildings separately and together for educational and community uses and for rental to pay ongoing expenses at the property.”

Joan Horwitt, president of Reevesland Learning Center, another group that wants the farmhouse preserved for public use, said she identified “multiple serious procedural and substantive deficiencies” in the residential proposal.

“We should not allow this tainted unresponsive process to continue,” Horwitt said. “We oppose the unwarranted sale of the Reevesland farmhouse and parkland from the county to a private owner… more than 600 concerned citizens have signed an online petition calling on the County Board to reverse its nontransparent undemocratic 3-2 vote.”

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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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New Proposal Forthcoming for Reevesland Farmhouse

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.

Hynes stopped Horwitt’s speech saying that the Board had already heard one speaker for the topic of Reevesland farmhouse. County Board rules say that there can only be one speaker per topic during the general public comment period.

Horwitt argued that she was speaking about the public process behind the vote, not the actual farmhouse.

“It didn’t sound like that in your beginning paragraph,” Hynes said to Horwitt. “Want to get to the part where you talk to us about public process?”

Hynes started the meeting’s public comment section by reminding all speakers of the Board’s rules for public comment, including that the Board would not hear comments about items that have already been decided on, items on the day’s agenda or items that were advertised for a public hearing.

The rules are not new and are adopted every January, Hynes said. Public comment is supposed to be used to allow people to bring new items to the Board’s attention, she told ARLnow.com.

“So I was basically trying to say that public comment is not to rehash a topic or give early testimony on a topic,” she said.

Hynes said she noticed that more people are attempting to talk about topics that are already decided, something that also happened during the prolonged debate about Columbia Pike streetcar project. When this happens, the Board and residents end up talking about the same thing every month, she said.

While some residents were upset after being prevented from speaking at the Saturday meeting, Hynes said public comment is not the only way people can interact with the Board.

“People can call us, people can reserve an appointment with us, people can contact us through mail, and they do,” she noted.

Farmhouse photo courtesy Peter Roof

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Group Protests Sale of Reevesland Farmhouse

A group of Arlington residents held signs and sang before a County Board meeting to protest the decision to sell Reevesland farmhouse.

The residents were unhappy with the Board’s decision as well as what they described as a lack of transparency surrounding the hastily-called vote to sell.

“The Arlington community was not informed about the vote until only hours before it happened and thus there was zero public discussion of the issue before May 19. The sneaky, unresponsive vote by the Board majority was a complete slap in the face to thousands of Arlington residents,” said Sandra Kalscheur, the chair of the Reevesland Learning Center, during the public comment period on Saturday.

The County Board decided to sell the farmhouse in May after deciding it couldn’t find the projected $2-2.5 million it needed to restore the building for public use. Making the farmhouse available to the public would require a large restoration effort, including strengthening the floors, upgrading utilities and making it compliant with the American Disabilities Act, County Board Chair Mary Hynes said.

The county had been trying for three years to find a community group that could take over the farmhouse.

Protesters sang American classic “This Land is My Land” with words changed to make it “Reevesland is Your Land, Reevesland is My Land.” They also sang the “Ballad of Nelson Reeves” in the lobby before moving into the County Board meeting room.

The Reevesland Learning Center and some residents would like the County to turn the farmhouse into a community space where children could learn more about the farm’s history and healthy eating. It’s a vision that other members of the Arlington community share, Kalscheur said.

“We don’t want an unresponsive Board to sell off our history or sell out our kids,” she said.

The lack of transparency around the decision was another sore subject for the protesters. The five members of the Board acknowledged the problem, saying there would be a review of the process in the coming months.

“As a former government employee, I am surprised and disappointed in the three members whose recent action with no consultation or meaningful opportunity to comment and virtually no notice is a new low in transparency, community involvement and informed decision making. Even the few Arlingtonians that might agree with your outcome have universally condemned your methods,” said Arlington resident Ronald Battochi, who was a part of the protest group.

The Board’s May 19 decision was a 3-2 split of County Board members, with Hynes, Libby Garvey and John Vihsdaht voting to sell the building.

Hynes explained that the costs were too great for the county, but that the Board would be open to having the Reevesland Learning Center fundraise and work with private donors to fund the restoration. However, the group has been against private fundraising, Hynes said.

Despite the building’s sale, the public will still be able to access the lands around the house and see the historic sites, Hynes said. She was backed up by Garvey and Vihstadt, who pointed to the Arlington Arts Center, the Arlington Historical Society and the Arlington planetarium as examples of private groups that have partnered with the county and helped to preserve aging public facilities.

Vice Chair Walter Tejada voted against the sale and emphasized his displeasure with the Board’s decision and process.

“This is the last working farm in Arlington’s history,” he said. “That should mean something.”

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Arlington’s ‘Most Endangered Places’ Include Dive Bars, Reevesland Farmhouse

Preservation Arlington, a group dedicated to protecting Arlington’s historic buildings, communities and landscapes, has released its “Most Endangered Historic Places” for 2015.

The annual list is used to promote awareness and advocacy of the historic sites and the preservation they need, according to the group’s website. Preservation Arlington also created a watch list for the 2015, which includes sites that are on the “verge of disappearing.”

The 2015 list, with excerpts from Preservation Arlington’s description of each:

  • Dive bars — “Preservation Arlington raises a toast to our remaining dive bars, such as Forest Inn and Cowboy Cafe, and hope they continue to thrive. Preservation is also about the role that place plays in our community and not just the building or its architecture.”
  • Garden Apartments in Westover — “While some garden apartments in Westover are listed in the National Register, these and others in fact have no long term protection from redevelopment.”
  • Columbia Pike Commercial Buildings — “The unique small-scale retail buildings in the commercial nodes, as identified in the Pike’s unique zoning, will not be preserved without more focus on historic building style and design.”
  • Lyon Village National Register Historic District — “Many of the changes [to Lyon Village] have not respected the historic character of the community and have dramatically altered many of the components that qualified the community for designation [on the National Register of Historic Places] in the first place.”
  • Reevesland Farmhouse and Property — “The county hasn’t done anything to keep up this property in 15 years, letting the property deteriorate and the story of Arlington’s dairy farming history slowly and gradually disappear. Selling the property will permanently remove from public access and use a tangible connection to Arlington’s rural past and a fantastic opportunity to provide educational opportunities to current and future Arlington students and residents.”

The 2015 Watch list, with excerpts from Preservation Arlington’s description of each:

  • Wilson School — “While not designated as a local historic district in 2015, the opportunity still exists for the Building Level Planning Committee of Arlington Public Schools to incorporate substantial portions of the building facade and/or materials in the modernist building being planned for the site.”
  • Arlington Presbyterian Church — “While denied listing as a local historic district in 2014, the opportunity still exists for the story of the existing building and congregation to be incorporated into the planned future development.”
  • Webb Building — “An excellent example of our quickly disappearing mid-century modernist building stock, the Webb Building is not protected.”
  • Key Boulevard Apartments — “One of Arlington’s best preserved garden apartments, which has already had its density move to an adjacent luxury condo, this complex was under threat in 2014.”

The 2014 list included the Wilson School, Arlington Presbyterian Church, family graveyards and mid-century Arlington architecture.

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Morning Notes

Bluemont Oak (Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick)

GOP Offers Support to Gun Store Owner — A Change.org petition against a planned gun store in Cherrydale has reached more than 1,900 signatures. The store’s landlord now says he’s trying to figure out ways to legally break the lease. Countering the backlash, the Arlington Falls Church Young Republicans have launched a petition in support of the store and its owner, 28-year-old Marine Corps veteran James Gates. “We can’t remain silent while Arlington liberals push their radical anti-gun agenda,” the petition says. [AFCYR]

Hynes Fires Back at Reevesland Sale Critics — Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes is firing back at criticism of the Board’s 3-2 decision to sell the historic Reeves farmhouse to a private owner. Critics charge that the sale was hastily added to the Board agenda the day before the vote and that citizen groups should have had more time to propose alternatives. Hynes said the house would have needed $2.5 million in work to be brought up to code for public use and noted that interested groups have had 5 years to suggest better alternatives for using the house. [InsideNova]

Arlington’s Outdoor School in Fauquier County — Every year thousands of Arlington Public Schools visit the APS-operated Outdoor Lab in Fauquier County, experiencing nature and wildlife first hand. The property was purchased with private funds for school use and is beloved by students. However, some worry that a proposal to increase summer use of the 225 acre site may overtax the lab and its ecology. [Falls Church News-Press]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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Morning Notes

View of the Potomac and Roosevelt Island from Rosslyn

Survey Says: Resident Satisfaction High — Resident satisfaction with Arlington County is high, according to Arlington County. The county’s fourth Resident Satisfaction Survey, conducted by an outside research firm, suggested an 89 percent overall satisfaction rate with the quality of county services. “Just two percent of residents were dissatisfied with the overall quality of County services,” said a press release. One notable area for improvement: maintenance of county streets, with a satisfaction level of only 42 percent. [Arlington County]

Peak Memorial Day Traffic Expected Thursday — Contrary to conventional wisdom, the worst Memorial Day holiday traffic in the D.C. area will be Thursday evening, not Friday. According to an analysis of average travel speeds, drivers hoping to escape local holiday traffic should leave at night, around lunchtime Wednesday or Thursday, or Friday morning. [Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments]

Split Board Approves Reeves Farmhouse Sale — The Arlington County Board voted 3-2 last night to sell the historic Reeves farmhouse. “The County worked with the community for six years to find a way to retain public ownership of the house, or to create a public-private partnership to restore the house and open it to the public, but we were unable to achieve such a partnership, and the cost of restoring the property and bringing it up to code for public use was prohibitively expensive,” said County Board Chair Mary Hynes. Much of the land around the house will remain publicly-owned. [Arlington County]

County to Outsource Volunteer Program — The County Board also last night voted 3-2 to outsource Volunteer Arlington, the county’s volunteer management program. The county will now seek a nonprofit with which to form a public-private partnership. [Arlington County]

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Board to Consider Selling Reeves Farmhouse

Reeves farmhouse (image courtesy Arlington County)Three years after unsuccessfully seeking proposals for use of the historic, county-owned Reeves Farmhouse, the Arlington County Board tonight will consider a proposal to sell it.

County Manager Barbara Donnellan is recommending that the Board approve putting the house and a portion of the surrounding property, adjacent to Bluemont Park, on the market for sale to a private buyer. The proposal was added to today’s County Board agenda on Monday.

Even after being sold to a private party, the house — which dates back to 1899 — would remain a local historic district and would be protected from changes that would hurt its historical integrity.

The Reevesland property was the last operating dairy farm in Arlington County. The county purchased the house and its 2.5 acres of land from the Reeves family in 2001 for $1.8 million.

The county has been struggling to find an entity with a viable proposal for an “adaptive reuse” of the farmhouse. Cost has been a factor. In 2012 it was said that the house needed more than $1 million in work. Now, the county says it would cost $2.5 million to bring the house “up to code for public use,” not including ongoing maintenance costs.

County officials have been in touch with the Reevesland Learning Center, a group interested in using the farmhouse for educational purposes, but staff says the group doesn’t have the money needed to restore the house.

“The County has attempted several different ways to seek a partner for the adaptive reuse of the Reeves Farmhouse, but have not received responses from partners with the necessary financial resources to bridge the $2 – $2.5 million gap,” according to the staff report.

Under Donnellan’s proposal, the land around the farmhouse will be subdivided and the county will retain ownership of much of the property, including portions currently being used by the Reevesland Learning Center.

“The County will continue to own the rest of Reevesland, including the much-loved sledding slope and the historic milking shed, and will continue to maintain the recently expanded raised planting beds there,” according to a press release.

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County Mulls $88K for Farmhouse Repair Project

Reeves farmhouse (image courtesy Arlington County)Reeves Farmhouse, the house of Arlington’s last dairy farmer at 400 N. Manchester Street, is in line for the first step of a makeover.

The Arlington County Board is likely to approve $87,950 at its meeting on Saturday for a contractor to come up with a plan for stabilizing the deteriorating house and to removing lead-based paint on the building’s exterior. The sole source contract is on the Board’s consent agenda, meaning it’s scheduled to be approved without discussion.

“This design services contract will provide the construction documents needed for the initial work to restore the Reeves farmhouse: to stabilize the foundation, provide a full depth basement and recommendations for the abatement of lead based paint on the farmhouse exterior and adjacent soil,” the staff report says.

The funds would come out of the county’s $500,000 budget for restoring the property. The restoration, however, would still not allow the farmhouse to be used as a public facility.

“Significant additional resources would be required to adapt the building to meet code requirements if it were used for either general assembly or education purposes,” the staff report said.

Work that would still need to be done includes installing code-ready heating and air conditioning, ensuring the floors can support at least 100 pounds per square foot, providing two means of safe egress from any public area and installing adequate toilet facilities, among other things. A 2012 estimate suggested that the house needs more than $1 million of repairs before it can accommodate visitors safely

A local group has committed to donating 3,000 hours of volunteer time to help restore the property if it means the Reeves Farmhouse can become an educational center, for teaching children about “the science and practice of growing and eating healthy foods and building relationships.”

The staff report states the building still does not have a designated future purpose, but that, whatever it is, it would come out of a public process.

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Morning Notes

Sunset over the Potomac (Flickr pool photo by BrianMKA)

Fisette Weds Long-Time Partner — Arlington County Board member Jay Fisette married long-time partner Bob Rosen last week. After 30 years together, the couple tied the knot in a low-key ceremony at All Souls Unitarian Church in the District. Fisette and Rosen’s union will not be recognized in Virginia, but Fisette said he thinks that same-sex marriage will be legalized in the Commonwealth within five years. [Sun Gazette]

Smash-and-Grab Lookout Sentenced — The man who served as a lookout in a series of smash-and-grab robberies in the D.C. area, including this robbery at the Tourneau store in Pentagon City, has been sentenced. Floyd Davis, 43, was sentenced to 7 years in prison for his role in the crimes. [Washington Post]

Reevesland Group Refines Proposal — A group that wants to convert the historic Reeves farmhouse into an agricultural learning center for school children has submitted a proposal to Arlington County. The group says its volunteers will lower the cost of necessary renovations to the building by 30 percent. It has offered to operate the center and make it available to Arlington Public Schools. In exchange, the group wants the county to pay for renovations (about $700,000), ongoing maintenance costs and utilities. [Sun Gazette]

Library Seeks Info on Mystery Football Photo — Arlington Public Library’s Center for Local History is seeking more information about a photograph found at a local home. The photo shows a group of men wearing early 20th century football equipment, posing in front of a school. [Arlington Public Library]

Flickr pool photo by BrianMKA

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