Reducing local helicopter noise while conducting missions safely may be difficult, the Pentagon says, but the military is willing to try, according to a new report.
The commitment and the recommendations conclude a Dept. of Defense report on the causes and effects of helicopter noise in the D.C. area. This document was completed as a result of Rep. Don Beyer’s amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which included noise mitigation recommendations that Beyer and other regional lawmakers have sought for years in response to constituent complaints.
“The recommendations in this report reflect priorities my constituents have sought for years to reduce helicopter noise in Northern Virginia, and would make a real difference across the region,” Beyer said. “In particular, the commitment from DoD to study the possibility of increasing altitudes of helicopter routes would be a real game changer.”
The other action items would help reduce noise and improve transparency and engagement with the community, he said.
“I thank the Department of Defense for undertaking and releasing this report, and urge the rapid implementation of these recommendations,” Beyer said.
Residents of certain Arlington neighborhoods have lived with helicopter noise for many years, and it is a thorny issue among them. Previous discussions around noise mitigation ended in a stalemate, as officials say agencies have to also consider safety, which includes avoiding the abundance of commercial airplanes in the region.
There are more than 50 helicopter operators in the area and the biggest contributor is the Army, followed by the Marine Corps. The Army, Marine Corps and Air Force combined conducted 21,863 operations — although that does not translate to 21,863 flights. About eight flights per day used the Pentagon helipad, which is limited to only DoD-directed exercises and three- and four-star executive –and civilian equivalent — travel.
This new report finds that the flights currently occurring at levels “considered acceptable” based on Army, DoD, and federal land use compatibility recommendations. It did acknowledge, however, that studies find helicopter noise is “much more variable and complex” than airplane noise.
The DoD pledged to take four broad steps toward possibly reducing noise.
One notable recommendation is that DoD will discuss the possibility of increasing altitudes of helicopter routes with the Federal Aviation Administration.
Currently, FAA assigns helicopters to lower airspace because the airways are dominated by large commercial passenger jets, namely those landing at Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport.
“The airspace within the [National Capital Region] is one of the busiest and most restrictive in the United States,” the report said. “The military helicopters that operate within the NCR are sharing airspace with three major commercial airports and are required to follow the helicopter routes and altitude restrictions established and enforced by FAA.”
And a majority of helicopter operators have expressed concern that changing the altitude could reduce safety for all aircrafts, saying that “establishing quiet or restricted zones would negatively affect their mission.”
Other recommendations include continuing to track and analyze helicopter noise complaints to identify potential trends as well as adjustments that the Army Aviation Brigade, 1st Helicopter Squadron and Marine Corps Helicopter Squadron 1 could make.
DoD said it will also work with FAA to obtain flight track data trends to look at compliance with local flight procedures and helicopter routes, and address any potential corrective actions. Finally, DoD said it will work with the Army and Marine Corps to ensure “fly neighborly” and “fly friendly” procedures are being reinforced and examine the procedures currently being used.
The average square footage of an Arlington apartment appears to be increasing, according to a new study from RENTCafé.
Among 92 cities and jurisdictions, more than one-third are building bigger apartments now than they did five to 10 years ago, according to the website, which follows trends in the apartment market. And Arlington County had the seventh largest jump in unit size between 2016 and 2021.
Compared to units completed between 2016-2020, in the second half of the last decade, those under construction as of May 2021 are 91 square feet bigger — “enough for a cozy home office or relaxation area,” RENTCafé spokeswoman Michelle Cretu said.
New projects in Arlington are embracing “renters’ living preferences following the pandemic,” she said. “After years of shrinking apartments, current projects… are on the track to give renters more square footage to better fit their new lifestyle.”
And the extra size is being added across one-, two- and three-bedroom units.
“The share of 2- and 3-bedroom apartments under construction is similar to the overall stock and is not driving the increase in average size,” Cretu said.
Out of the 664 units that were under construction as of May, 61% are one-bedroom apartments, RENTCafé’s analysis found. Arlington County historically has had a high share of one-bedroom apartments, Cretu said, which comprised 54% of units delivered between 2011-2015 and 63% of those delivered in the second half of the decade.
“The renter profile in Arlington has changed over the past several years,” said John Kusturiss, Senior Vice President of Development for Penzance. “Apartments are no longer just for recent college grads; folks of all ages want to have the accessibility of an urban area to walk to great shops, restaurants, and more.”
JBG Executive Vice President of Development Bryan Moll said the people seeking larger rental units fall into a few categories: first-time renters seeking units that fit roommates, those constrained by “the limited supply of affordable, for-sale housing,” and new or growing families.
Moll did say JBG Smith is responding to the pandemic-era need for home offices and individual and co-working spaces. He added, however, that the company has found renters are willing to settle for smaller units to be nearer to amenity-rich corridors in the area.
“Submarkets like National Landing continue to evolve into even more vibrant destinations with enhanced neighborhood amenities and new employment opportunities,” he said. “As a result, more renters will want to live there, even if that means living in slightly smaller units. We’ve seen this trend play out over the past decade in most of the amenity-dense areas across D.C.”
RENTCafé observed shrinking apartments across the river in D.C., meanwhile. Current units are 23 square feet smaller than they were five years ago, and new rentals will be 721 sq. ft. on average — among the smallest units under construction, Cretu said.
Arlington County’s Department of Community Planning, Housing, and Development — which tracks development trends in Arlington — last reported apartment size trends, which are calculated by dividing the building’s total square footage by the number of units, in 2018. That report show more modest fluctuations compared to RENTCafé’s findings.
“Based on the most recent findings (2018), the average square feet per unit has not shown a significant increase,” a CPHD spokeswoman said.
Wearing a clock as a necklace for turning papers in late. Carrying a hose stuffed with sand and rocks for losing a flag.
These were two “alternative learning opportunities” or ALOs that one instructor in Arlington County Fire Department’s Training Academy allegedly prescribed to former firefighter EMT recruit Brett Ahern in one week for mistakes that he made.
Two months ago, Ahern cited these ALOs as examples of how he was unfairly targeted by the instructor and set up to fail, according to an exclusive report by Hagerstown TV station WDVM. He told the news outlet that the way he was treated during the academy last year made him anxious and unfocused. Even after an investigation, he said the hazing continued until he failed two tests and was dismissed.
A 54-page Human Resources report, shared with ARLnow, indicates that the fire department investigated Ahern’s claims last summer. The heavily redacted report identified firefighters and recruits who observed that Ahern specifically was yelled at, taunted and tasked with ALOs that no other recruit was given. It also found that five other recruits were occasional targets of the same instructor.
ACFD told WDVM and repeated to ARLnow that it is committed to making changes to each subsequent class recruit class. At least one change has been made since Ahern — part of the 78th class — failed out of the academy. Recruit Class 79, which graduated in May, did not have alternative learning opportunities, according to Lt. Nate Hiner, the spokesman for the department.
“The Arlington County Fire Department makes improvements each Recruit Class, building off lessons learned from previous classes,” Hiner said. “The ACFD has discontinued the use of ALO’s, ensuring that any supplemental training focuses solely on refinement and reinforcement of proper skills, techniques, and procedures that recruits will utilize as firefighter/EMT’s protecting the community.”
Previously, Fire Chief David Povlitz told WDVM that if a recruit made a mistake during training, an instructor would make time for these so-called ALOs, which are “meant to reinforce learning and they have to be approved by high-ranking officers.”
But according to the newly-shared HR report, multiple witnesses who were interviewed during the investigation said that the two ALOs that Ahern was given during his “Hell Week” — wearing the clock and carrying the heavy hose — were beyond the pale.
One recruit said the hose in particular — punishment for losing a flag, or guidon — was “straight up bullying.”
“When [recruits] lost the guidon before, they were given the ‘ghetto guidon,'” one interviewee said, “but when Recruit Ahern lost the guidon, he was given” this heavy hose, which the speaker called “an impossible guidon.”
The report said other interviewees “opined that this ALO, although warranted, was orchestrated by [the instructor] to ‘break’ Recruit Ahern.” They added that “the ALO would have been handled differently had it been assigned to another recruit.”
Aside from these ALOs, multiple independent witnesses said the instructor was vocal about his belief that Ahern did not deserve to be in the academy, and that he would yell — or at least would raise his voice — at Ahern in front of his peers.
Five witnesses confirmed that the instructor had Ahern accompany another recruit who asked to retrieve his sunglasses. On their return, the instructor said the recruits were two minutes late and the class had covered “a lot of material.” He told the recruits that he hoped their next test would cover this missed information, adding, “I hope you f— fail it!”
As COVID-19 cases surged in Arlington County last year, so did carjackings, assaults, trespassings and opioid overdoses, according to a new annual report from Arlington County Police Department.
Meanwhile, alcohol-related crimes and vehicle crashes saw significant decreases.
Overall, the report paints a mixed picture of a relatively flat crime rate for those against property and society, or “Group A Offenses,” compared to 2019. It also shows a drop in the number of arrests for less serious crimes such as trespassing, loitering and drunkenness, or “Group B Arrests.”
But the report highlights a few key crimes that rose or fell, partially due to the pandemic. It also addresses at length the rash of carjackings — which started ticking up in 2019 and have continued in 2021 — and ACPD’s response.
“Group A Offense Totals” and “Group B Arrests” rose to 7,990 and fell to 956, respectively, from 7,985 and 1,324 the year prior, according to the report.
While the Group A total stayed largely flat, “2020 was marked particularly by increases in vehicle-related property crimes including carjacking offenses, motor vehicle thefts, larcenies from auto and tamperings,” newly-appointed Police Chief Andy Penn wrote in the report.
Penn said these car thefts and tamperings are playing out across the D.C. area and nationwide. ACPD investigated 16 carjacking reports in 2020: eight were solved with arrests or with the identified suspect being held in another jurisdiction.
“Arlington detectives worked collaboratively with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to investigate cases, identify suspects and apprehend those responsible,” Penn said.
Most of the carjackings were concentrated in Crystal City and Pentagon City. In response, ACPD poured more resources into these neighborhoods last year and earlier this year, which the department said in March appears to be working.
Thieves tend to target unlocked vehicles in neighborhoods, Toyotas and Hondas (for their parts) in open-air parking lots and those left running unattended or parked with keys inside, according to the report.
Assaults, meanwhile, reached a sustained three-month high from July through September before declining. They were concentrated in populated areas and in transit corridors, the report said.
“This temporal pattern was similar to other offense types this year, likely related to COVID-19 closures,” according to the report. “Domestic assault and battery offenses against a family or household member increased by 38 cases (14.6%) compared to 2019 and were a significant contributor to the increase in simple assaults.”
Although ACPD’s report does not specifically link domestic assault to the pandemic, at least one study does.
While crimes against people have been increasing since 2018, Arlington’s violent crime rate continues to be less than half the statewide rate, the report said.
Lastly, ACPD investigated 20 fatal overdoses and 54 non-fatal overdoses in 2020 — more than any other year since it began actively tracking incidents involving opioids in 2014, the report said. The total, 74, matched the number reported at the peak of the opioid epidemic in 2017, and involved heroin and prescription painkillers mixed with fentanyl.
“While the investigation into these incidents revealed no direct evidence that the increases are fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely a factor given the timing, the loss of income and jobs and the isolation of stay-at-home orders,” the report said.
COVID-19 may partially explain the increases in assaults and thefts, but it may also have contributed to a sharp decline by 27% in “Group B” arrests. Leading that drop were drunkenness (42%), driving under the influence (13%) and liquor law violations (68%).
“These declines are likely indicative of COVID-19 business closures and reduced hours of operation, decreased public consumption of alcohol, success of increased enforcement, advocacy and better utilization of taxis, ridesharing and other transportation options in reducing DUI behavior,” the report said. “Alcohol-involved traffic collisions were reduced in 2020 to the lowest levels in recent years.”
(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) Few office and retail spaces were approved or completed in the first three quarters of 2020, but Arlington officials say it is too early to attribute the drop to the pandemic or consider it a trend at all.
The 2020 third quarter report on retail, office, hotel and residential development appears to show that the rates at which projects are approved, buildings are demolished, and construction starts and ends have dropped off in 2020. Meanwhile, the demolition and redevelopment of single-family detached homes appears to remain consistent.
No hotel rooms have been approved or built so far in 2020 (though a former hotel was demolished in spectacular fashion on Sunday). About 120,000 square feet of retail has been completed this year, and 40,000 square feet approved, but rates exceeded both those sums in 2019. About 17,000 square feet of office space was approved this year, compared to 2 million last year thanks to Amazon’s HQ2.
“It would be easy to think because of COVID-19 that that might explain the tapering off of development, but it’s too early for us to know,” said county planner Emily Garrett, who led the Q3 Development Tracking Report. “It could be normal to have a slower couple of quarters following large projects.”
In the view of Marc McCauley, the director of real estate for the Arlington Economic Development office, the coronavirus has impacted existing properties more than future projects.
“If you’re in development and considering mixed-use, we haven’t heard a lot of projects significantly delayed or dropped because of concerns, but you may be concerned about getting a hotel financed,” he said. “It has not moved the needle one way or another in terms of development.”
Although these reports look back to the third quarter of 2015, that is not long enough in the scheme of big projects to determine if large-scale office, retail and mixed-use developments are actually slowing down, the two officials agreed.
Rather, such projects could be on four- to five-year cycles, which looks inconsistent compared to the 50 to 60 houses that are approved, demolished and rebuilt each quarter, like clockwork, Garrett said. Before Amazon was granted 2 million square feet in December 2019, the last time a comparable project came around was in the first quarter of 2016, she said.
As for retail, the change reflects the broader trend in Arlington’s development extending beyond the last five years. McCauley said. Retail clusters such as the Ballston Quarter explain the occasional retail spikes, but it is more common to have small amounts of ground-floor retail approved as part of a mixed-use project.
“There’s only so much retail clusters you can support,” he said. “Through long-term market cycles, they get repositioned because it’s about refreshing your concept to be able to compete for customers.”
Meanwhile, the housing development rates reflect the trajectory Arlington has been on for decades, Garrett said, with most new development focusing on denser housing near transit hubs.
“I would definitely say overall the way development trends aligns with the overall demographic trends of Arlington County for decades now,” she said.
The average household size shrank in 1970 and has been stable ever since, with more opting to live in smaller housing units, she said. The report shows that the number of apartment units is growing, while the number of single-family homes remain flat, with detached homes being replaced at a nearly one-to-one rate.
“We’re at that point where we’re looking at studies that have been completed and… seeing where there might be additional potential,” Garrett said.
Garrett said it “could be a year, or years” before the County sees the true impact of the pandemic on development. “We’ll just have to see.”
A new report released by three local civic associations says tenant protections, more housing options and community amenities would make the 22202 zip code livable.
But significant barriers — including a history of exclusionary zoning to a lack of political will from leaders — are holding the area back, the neighborhoods say.
The report was produced by Livability 22202, a coalition of the Arlington Ridge, Aurora Highlands, and Crystal City civic associations.
“We want to ensure our neighborhood reflects the vision of an inclusive community and that residents’ voices are heard in a rapidly changing environment,” the report’s authors wrote. “By learning from the past and planning for a realistic future, we can ensure our shared values and visions as a 22202 community hold a promise that all are welcome to find a home here.”
The report coincides with heavy redevelopment and the construction of Amazon’s permanent HQ2 in Pentagon City. It also comes as Arlington County studies the lack of “middle housing” — duplexes and other smaller-scale multifamily housing — and sponsors discussions on the effects of race-based policies in County’s past.
“We believe that the adoption of our policy solutions, together with other livability objectives, will contribute to making our neighborhood an even better and more inclusive community to live and work in,” said Susan English, of the Arlington Ridge Civic Association, in a statement.
“As the County embarks on a process to overhaul its policies and practices to fill the housing ‘missing middle,’ our report and its recommendations provide a comprehensive roadmap for change,” said Tarsi Dunlop, of the Crystal City Civic Association, in a statement.
The authors predict Amazon and the other commercial and residential development will displace existing residents, and recommend assistance and policies at the local and state level for renters and owners.
The Livability 22202 members said the group will now push for their recommendations to be adopted.
In a statement to ARLnow, Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said she appreciates the hard work and the recommendations, many of which are consistent with the County’s goals.
“The County, too, wants to avoid displacement, increase the housing supply, and diversify housing choices,” she said.
In response to the assertion in the report that the County lacks political will to remove housing barriers, Garvey said county staff and the County Board are working with the community to do so while avoiding political backlash that could set them back.
“We are building political will,” she said. “The Board sees increasing the housing supply and access to housing as critical to Arlington’s long term sustainability and success as a community.”
The report is the result of workshops with renters, homeowners, experts and historians, as well as a study of the history of zoning and land use in the area and current barriers to adequate housing.
In addition to housing-related recommendations, the report also makes recommendations aimed ad strengthening local community cohesion.
Those recommendations include “creating both physical and digital spaces for community building, including a full-scope community center,” and “developing policies and processes to better include renters in the community, particularly addressing barriers to information sharing with residents of high-rises.”
The Arlington County Board voted in June to extend the end date of the pilot program through December, prior to which the Board will need to make another decision on the future of so-called “shared mobility devices.”
The 102–page report says that scooters and e-bikes are a “viable complement to the County’s transportation ecosystem that increases mobility options and provides potential sustainability benefits.” However, it also lists eight recommendations to improve the program, including making sure scooters and e-bikes are more evenly deployed in upper as well as lower income areas.
The authors of the report noted that mapping neighborhood income levels over trip origin locations indicate that many people started scooter trips while in neighborhoods with incomes below the Arlington County’s median household income, “suggesting that [scooters and e-bikes] could be appealing to lower-income residents and promoting equity.”
Other improvement recommendations in the report included:
- Adding more infrastructure for cyclists and scooters, including protected bike lanes along the county’s main travel corridors — a plan outlined in the county’s recently updated Master Transportation Plan.
- Addressing complaints about improper parking by creating maps with approved spots as well as “no-go” areas.
- Addressing accessibility for lower-income scooter riders. The report notes the requirement users have a credit card can be burdensome.
“The pilot showed that shared scooters can significantly decrease car trips, which makes streets safer, our community happier and our air cleaner,” Bicycle Advisory Committee Chair Gillian Burgess told ARLnow of the report.
“But we’ve also learned that people are just not comfortable scooting on sidewalks or even our current non-protected bike lanes,” she said. “We want to leave sidewalks to people on two feet and those who are slow rolling.”
The county’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee (PAC) wrote a letter in September saying they were “generally supportive” of continuing the program, but remained “concerned about the impact these devices have on the pedestrian environment when they are ridden or parked on the clear zone of the sidewalk.”
The PAC wrote that more bike lanes would remove pedestrian-scooter conflicts, but other measures like barring e-bikes from some trails and capping the hours they can ridden (as one D.C. Councilmember attempted) are “unnecessary.”
The Arlington County Board is due to discuss the future of the pilot program at the end of December.
In April, a staff presentation to the County Board indicated riders tooks 313,166 trips on scooters since the program began with an unsanctioned deployment of Bird scooters last year. Between June 2018 and April 2019, users travelled 307,243 miles with an average length of 1 mile per trip.
But with more scooters came a flood of safety and littering complaints — which the report notes decreased over time as perhaps riders followed rules better, or because of officials responding to complaints by capping scooters’ speeds, installing parking corrals, and restricting users’ ability to ride on some public lands.
Data from the Arlington County Police Department indicated an increase in the number of reported crashes involving scooters from four in 2018 to eight this year so far. However, measuring the actual number of crashes is difficult as data from the ACPD only captures the incidents reported to the police, and the Dept. of Motor Vehicles did not yet have codes for tracking scooter-related incidents.
The new report also notes that scooters and e-bikes merit more short-term and long-term analysis from county planners. Examples of topics county staff want to study further include:
- Analyzing demographics of users and where they ride (especially late at night), as well as where complaints most often occur.
- Learning whether the parking corrals installed for scooters reduced complaints, and whether they created any problems for users.
- Measuring the impact that sharing sidewalks with scooters has on people with disabilities (for example, when illicitly-parked scooters block the way for people in wheelchairs)
Overall, the report’s recommendations mirror those recently issued in Alexandria, where City Councilmembers urged companies to deploy more scooters outside of the Old Town and Del Ray neighborhoods.
“I look forward to the County Board adopting a permanent shared micro-mobility program before the January deadline,” said Burgess. “I also am hopeful that the Board will fix some of their ableist policies that discriminate against e-bikes and will update their bike lane policies to be inclusive and current.”
Map and graph via Arlington County
The most successful women in the U.S. live in Arlington, according to a new study by the website SmartAsset.
The study looked at 100 cities in the U.S. and ranked them based on six factors: the percentage of women with a bachelor’s degree, full-time working women’s median earnings, the percent of female business owners, the female unemployment rate, full-time, working women’s housing-income ratio, and the percentage of working women with an income of at least $75,000.
Here’s what SmartAsset wrote about Arlington:
Arlington, Virginia takes the top spot. This city has the highest paid women in the study, according to Census Bureau data. The median full-time working woman in Arlington earns over $80,200 per year. In total nearly 57% of women here earn at least $75,000 per year. And Arlington women do more than earn large paychecks.
For one, they also make up 38.6% of people working in their own private businesses and just under 35% of women here have a bachelor’s degree. In fact, the only metric this city does not score in the top 10 for is housing cost as a percent of income. According to our data, if the average full-time working woman paid for the average home they would spend just around 30% of their income
Arlington’s neighbors, D.C. and Alexandria, also broke into the top ten, with Alexandria in a tie with San Francisco for fourth place and D.C. ranked No. 8.
SmartAsset also recently ranked Arlington as the number one “city” for runners.
A report has shown that areas of wealth and disadvantage exist very close together in Arlington, sometimes just blocks away from each other.
The report by the Northern Virginia Health Foundation, entitled “Getting Ahead: The Uneven Opportunity Landscape in Northern Virginia,” identifies what it calls 15 “islands of disadvantage,” where people face multiple serious challenges.
Those challenges include the levels of pre-school enrollment, teens out of high school, whether people have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, the level of English spoken in a household, unemployment rate, child poverty rate, health insurance rate and more.
Of those “islands,” three are either wholly or partly in Arlington: one near the county’s border with Bailey’s Crossroads and Seven Corners; another along Columbia Pike in the Douglas Park neighborhood; and another in the area of Buckingham and Fort Myer.
The report also found that neighborhoods separated by one thoroughfare can have very different demographics, housing and poverty levels.
“A striking example was near Ballston Common [Mall, rebranded as Ballston Quarter], where residents in two census tracts on either side of North Glebe Road — tracts 1019 and 1020.01 — faced very different living conditions,” the report reads. “In census tract 1019, east of N. Glebe Road, 85 percent of adults had a Bachelor’s degree or higher education and the median household income exceeded $160,000 per year.
“Just west of N. Glebe Road, in tract 1020.01, 30 percent of teens ages 15-17 years were not enrolled in school, only 38 percent of adults had a Bachelor’s degree and 48 percent of the population was uninsured.”
It also found that life expectancy can vary by as much as 10 years across the county, “from 78 years in the Buckingham area to 88 years in parts of Rosslyn and Aurora Highlands.”
To help improve conditions, the report recommended better access to health care, education and affordable housing.
“In today’s knowledge economy, advancement requires better access to education — from preschool through college — and economic development to bring jobs with livable wages to disadvantaged areas,” it reads. “And it requires an investment in the infrastructure of neglected neighborhoods, to make the living environment healthier and safer, to provide transportation, and to improve public safety. What is good for our health is also good for the economy and will make Arlington County a stronger community for all of its residents.”
A recent report by a national nonprofit found that more than 6,000 people are employed by more than 600 businesses and organizations that support the arts in Arlington County.
In a report prepared by Americans For The Arts entitled, “The Creative Industries: Business & Employment,” 658 arts-related businesses were found to employ 6,124 people. Those arts-related businesses are defined as arts schools/services; design/publishing; film, radio and television; museum/collections; performing arts; and visual/photography.
The creative industries account for 5.1 percent of the total number of businesses located in Arlington County and 3 percent of the people they employ, according to the report.
“Arts businesses and the creative people they employ stimulate innovation, strengthen America’s competitiveness in the global marketplace, and play an important role in building and sustaining economic vibrancy,” the report reads. “In a global economy, the creative industries are durable and enduring local employers.”
The report’s findings brought praise from local group Embracing Arlington Arts, a citizen group that focuses on informing others about the importance of art in the Arlington community.
Chair Janet Kopenhaver said arts’ support of the economy goes beyond those directly employed in the creative industries, and contributes a great deal.
“When considering that, according to another economic study, over $18 million of economic activity in Arlington is derived from audience expenditures associated with arts events, including eating at restaurants, parking, ticket sales and other purchases made during their night out, these industries economically contribute so much to our county,” Kopenhaver said in a statement.
Images via Americans for the Arts.
The report, prepared by a committee of five group members over the summer, made various recommendations for the park’s short, medium and long-term future.
It looks to find ways to manage stormwater runoff into Four Mile Run from surfaces that do not absorb rainwater and to ensure the park remains well-used. The report was drafted after the Arlington County Board sent plans to reduce its size back to the drawing board.
The report said taking down two county-owned warehouses on S. Oakland Street, adjacent to the park, would help manage stormwater runoff and allow a connection between the dog park and a proposed arts district nearby.
“In addition to addressing some adjacent stormwater issues, this would serve an array of complementary objectives such as integrating this new park area and the dog park with the arts district, provide a flexible-use area for festivals and arts events, provide swing space for recreational functions as Jennie Dean Park is developed, and improve connectivity and open up the line of sight from South Four Mile Drive into the park,” the report reads.
But in suggesting those warehouses be taken down, some group members argued the committee exceeded the scope of its study.
“I felt as though the report spent a lot of time on issues that frankly were not in the group’s charge,” said group vice chair Robin Stombler. Others noted that a report on a potential arts district suggested using the warehouses as space for artists.
Longtime civic leader Carrie Johnson expressed her disappointment at what she described as a “disputed space problem,” and urged the group to find a compromise between the warehouses’ use in the arts district or removal for the dog park.
“I would have hoped to hear less fighting over acreage and more about how it could be used for everybody’s benefit,” she said.
In the short-term, the group recommended various small ways to help manage stormwater at the park, including no longer mowing the grass, protecting existing trees and limiting access to the stream.
But in the medium term, the report called on county government to show leadership in managing stormwater runoff from its buildings to help protect the park. They also urged an expansion of a program where businesses receive grants and other incentives to install ways to manage stormwater through green roofs, rain barrels and the like.
The area’s current zoning encourages making changes through redevelopment, as opposed to incentivizing existing businesses to make those environmentally-friendly tweaks.
“There seems to be no answer here, because the county seems unable to change anything for the existing businesses until they redevelop,” said Anne Inman, a group member.
The report noted that the need to balance stormwater with the park’s popularity is a “catch-22,” as “leaving the park in its current condition is not a viable long-term solution, but efforts to mitigate the environmental issues would trigger significant, costly and undesirable changes to the park.”
Group chair Charles Monson said they will not look to endorse any report prepared by a committee, but will instead use them to guide their thinking as planning the area’s future continues.
The report’s full recommendations are after the jump.