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by Chris Teale September 18, 2017 at 1:15 pm 0

The Arlington County Board pushed back a decision on lighting athletic fields near Williamsburg Middle School, so plans can be studied further by county staff.

The Board’s unanimous 5-0 vote came after almost six hours of public testimony and discussion by opponents and proponents of the lights, with many opponents wearing matching green shirts. It means any decision on lights will be delayed to next year.

Instead of following staff’s initial recommendation to fund lighting the fields, Board members voted for County Manager Mark Schwartz to further study ways to increase the county’s stock of athletic fields, including through the use of synthetic turf and lights.

The study will include drawing on a section of the Williamsburg Field Working Group Final Report that concerns how to evaluate potential field lighting.

Schwartz announced in June he is recommending lights for the fields near Williamsburg Middle School and Discovery Elementary School in Rock Spring. He recommended that the two fields be lit with shielded LED lights that could be dimmed during evening play, and that lights be left on no later than 9:45 p.m. He suggested 84 lights installed on six 80-foot poles.

Board vice chair Katie Cristol said further study should take into account field usage and impacts on neighborhoods (referred to as “externalities”), as well as the usage of fields by those who live nearby.

“It seems appropriate to me that those who derive the benefits should also look to bear the externalities,” Cristol said. “I think it is appropriate that we bring both the benefits and the externalities, such as they are, to the users where they are.”

But the moods of some Board members began to fray towards the end of the discussion. John Vihstadt tried to add language to avoid what he described as the “singling out” of Williamsburg Middle School and give the study a broader context. But Cristol and others objected.

“To me the question is, what do we do with five years of community input, with countless hours of staff work, hundreds of thousands of dollars in analyses spent?” Cristol asked. “We’re simply going to throw that out and start with a new process? The question becomes: what more info does this Board need to make a decision on the question before us?”

The Board also directed Schwartz to study amending the county’s Zoning Ordinance to allow lights above the current maximum height of 68 feet, thus not requiring a special approval process. Board member Christian Dorsey expressed some reservations about directing “a study that already determines an outcome,” but the study will proceed.

“The whole idea that we would direct at the moment that we’re going to have a study with an outcome really doesn’t give it a whole lot of credence,” he said.

Divisions on the topic were apparent in both public testimony and the slew of letters about the project submitted by county commissions both in support and against. Opponents say lights are incompatible with the residential neighborhood, would create more traffic and light pollution while damaging wildlife and trees.

Dorsey said it was not so simple as to term opponents as “NIMBY” neighbors and supporters as youth sports advocates. He noted that there are no “neat boxes” on an issue like this.

“I think it would be a mistake to go away from this process thinking only that the people who oppose lights are NIMBYs, and the people who favor lights don’t care about neighborhoods,” Dorsey said.

Board chair Jay Fisette and colleague Libby Garvey expressed a willingness to vote for lighting the fields, citing the work at Wakefield High School to mitigate the lights shining on nearby houses as proof the technology has evolved.

Fisette noted “disappointment in the room” from all: opponents who wanted the lights plan nixed altogether and proponents who wanted them approved that day. The direction for further study means any decision will not be made until next year.

“We’ll all be back again, someday,” Vihstadt said. “And hopefully we’ll all find a better place.”

by Chris Teale September 13, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

A battle between residents and youth sports advocates will go before the Arlington County Board on Saturday (September 16) as Board members discuss adding lights to two synthetic turf fields.

County Manager Mark Schwartz announced in June he is recommending lights for the fields near Williamsburg Middle School and Discovery Elementary School in Rock Spring.

Schwartz recommended that the two fields be lit with shielded LED lights that could be dimmed during evening play, and that lights be left on no later than 9:45 p.m. Eighty-four lights would be installed on six 80-foot poles to light the fields.

And county staff is recommending the Board move his plan along, saying that it would allow for extended usage and neighbors’ worries can be mitigated.

Opponents say lights are incompatible with the residential neighborhood, would create more traffic and light pollution while damaging wildlife and trees.

And Saturday’s meeting could see neighborhood opponents come up against those in the youth sports community who say the lights will increase usage of the fields.

Neighbors of the fields delivered a petition with more than 550 signatures against lights on the fields to the County Board before Schwartz’s announcement. Several also sat on the Williamsburg Field Site Evaluation Work Group to study the effects of lights and propose options.

In their report, county staffers note that the group “did not come to a consensus” on lighting the fields.

“The neighborhood civic association has stressed going back to at least 2009 or before that, its intention to try to preserve the neighborhood in its natural condition, to minimize traffic, to protect wildlife habitat and the tree canopy,” Gail Harrison, a member of the work group and a neighborhood opponent of lighting the fields, said at the time of Schwartz’s announcement. “The proposal would be inconsistent with all of those neighborhood goals.”

But youth sports boosters said the lights will be necessary as participation has increased, and fields in Arlington are growing overcrowded and struggling to keep pace with demand. According to county data, youth participation in sports has increased by 56 percent in the past five years, from just over 15,000 in 2011 to just over 24,000 in 2017.

By sport, soccer, baseball, softball, flag football, lacrosse and ultimate Frisbee all saw large increases in participation from 2011 to 2016, according to an infographic sent by a coalition of local youth sports organizations.

Soccer leads the way with more than 16,000 who play in the county, followed by baseball with just over 4,000. Those in favor of the lights are likely to have a strong presence too on Saturday.

“I suspect Arlington Soccer Association will have folks there and I plan to be there for Arlington Babe Ruth [baseball], as all youth sports leagues face the same problem: increased participation… and a limited number of fields,” said George Thompson of the Arlington Babe Ruth baseball organization. “Lighting will add hundreds of hours of annual playing time for the teams that use these fields for practice and games.”

Schwartz’s plan is not yet permitted under the site’s current zoning, nor is funding available for the lights. Staff recommended the Board approve funding new lights as part of the FY 2019 capital budget, and that Schwartz initiate studies on amending the county’s Zoning Ordinance to permit light poles above their current limit of 68 feet. Staff also recommended amending the site’s use permit to allow light poles to be installed.

by Chris Teale June 30, 2017 at 3:45 pm 0

County Manager Mark Schwartz announced Friday he is recommending lights for two synthetic turf fields near Williamsburg Middle School and Discovery Elementary School.

Schwartz recommended that the two fields be lit with shielded LED lights that could be dimmed during evening play, and that lights be left on no later than 9:45 p.m. Eighty-four lights would be installed on six 80-foot poles to light the fields.

Schwartz said in a statement:

I appreciate the hard work that the Williamsburg Fields Evaluation Work Group put into assessing the risks and benefits of lighting the Williamsburg fields. Their thoughtful evaluation formed the foundation of my recommendation.

This was not an easy call, but the county’s policy is that we light synthetic turf fields, and I am convinced, by our experience in lighting other fields in residential neighborhoods, that we can mitigate whatever adverse impacts lights might have. Our entire community will benefit from providing more playing time for our growing number of young people who are playing field sports.

The recommendation has brought a strong reaction from local residents, who delivered a petition with more than 550 signatures against lights on the fields to the County Board.

The Board previously appointed the Williamsburg Field Site Evaluation Work Group to study the effects of lights and propose options, but Gail Harrison, a member of the group, said it was not presented with the plan Schwartz has advanced until a few days before its last meeting.

Harrison said the “11th-hour proposal” by lighting company Musco was a “fundamental breach of the public process.” Harrison said adding lights is not appropriate for the Rock Spring neighborhood.

“The [Rock Spring] Civic Association surrounding the fields has taken a strong and consistent position over many years that field lights at this location are incompatible with the character of the neighborhood,” Harrison told ARLnow on Friday afternoon. “The neighborhood civic association has stressed going back to at least 2009 or before that, its intention to try to preserve the neighborhood in its natural condition, to minimize traffic, to protect wildlife habitat and the tree canopy. The proposal would be inconsistent with all of those neighborhood goals.”

Schwartz said he made his recommendation based on the need for more playing time on Arlington’s fields. He will bring his recommendations to the County Board’s September meeting for further discussion.

More from a county press release after the jump:

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by Katherine Berko June 20, 2017 at 3:30 pm 0

A local teen is trying to make a difference by lobbying for safety improvements to a crash-prone intersection.

At 13 years old, Williamsburg Middle School student Andy Nogas is too young to vote, but not too young to email the Arlington County Board and ask for members’ help.

He emailed them a few weeks ago to request a stoplight be placed at the intersection of Old Dominion Drive and Little Falls Road in the Rock Spring neighborhood.

“I have seen more than 15 crashes and many near misses [at this intersection and] I am writing to ask you to do something about this,” Nogas wrote.

Nogas said in an interview he has seen everything from serious crashes to fender-benders at the intersection, and he and his family have almost been involved in multiple accidents there themselves. Last year, as Nogas was coming home from an after-school event, he witnessed a particularly brutal crash.

“The car was upside-down and all the windows were shattered open,” Nogas said. “I saw the flipped car and a couple of ambulances.”

After this experience, Nogas knew he needed to do something. He spoke to his parents and told them he wanted to contact somebody about the intersection. After they gave him an explanation of how local government works, he decided his best bet was to contact the County Board.

“He was off to the races,” said Holly Scott, Nogas’ mother. “He was very excited to be able to send a message to the county about an issue that’s important to him, his friends and some of our other friends who live in the community.”

“Here is a possible solution that I hope you could look into: a stoplight,” Nogas wrote. “There are many ways you could program it, such as time it with the stoplight at Williamsburg Blvd and Old Dominion Drive, use it only during rush hour and use flashing lights at other times or use it like the stoplight at Yorktown Blvd and Little Falls Road. When one car approaches, the light will change. I hope you will please consider this option to improve safety on our roads.”

A reply from the Board promised they would assign staff to study the intersection.

Nogas said he was happy with the response and hopes the Board will take action, as the intersection is not far from Williamsburg Middle School.

“There are a lot of kids near there. They go to the same middle school as me and I know they have to cross [that intersection],” Nogas said.

Nogas’ mother said she has never reached out to the county herself, so she is particularly impressed by her son’s actions.

“I’m very proud,” she said. “I’m pleasantly surprised at the traction that his letter has gained… it’s definitely been very heartwarming and it certainly is encouraging him to think about what other things he can do to be helpful in his community.”

And while one would think Nogas aspires to work in the government or in law, he actually wants to be an artist. He just happens to care about the safety of those around him.

Map (top) via Google Maps

by ARLnow.com November 15, 2016 at 11:15 am 0

The driver of an Arlington Transit bus has been cited by police after a crash in north Arlington this morning.

The crash happened just after 8:30 a.m. near the intersection of Little Falls Road, Yorktown Blvd and N. Kensington Street.

“The ART bus veered off the roadway and struck two vehicles,” said Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “The driver was cited with failure to maintain proper control.”

There were several people on board the bus at the time but no injuries were reported, Savage said. The two cars that were struck were parked at the time.

Photos by Samantha Moore

by ARLnow.com October 24, 2016 at 12:25 pm 0

Eli Check (photo courtesy Arlington County Police Department)Update at 1:20 p.m. — The missing boy was found around 1 p.m., according to police. He was located on the roof of Williamsburg Middle School.

Earlier: Arlington County Police are calling in resources from Virginia State Police to help search for a missing 12-year-old boy.

Police say Eli Check, 12, was last seen early this morning at his home on the 3400 block of N. Emerson Street, near Williamsburg Middle School in the Rock Spring neighborhood.

Check, who is transgender and identifies as male, was last seen dying his hair black, according to police.

“We’re worried about his safety,” said ACPD spokesman Capt. Bruce Benson.

At least one K-9 unit is involved in the search of the neighborhood around the boy’s home, Benson confirmed. Police are also asking for the public’s help.

From a press release issued shortly after noon today:

The Arlington County Police Department is asking for the public’s assistance in locating a 12 year old boy. Eli Check of Arlington, was last seen at his home in the 3400 block of N. Emerson St. at 2 a.m. on Monday, October 24, 2016.

Eli was last seen in his home dying his hair black. He is white, weighing 85 lbs. and is 5’0″ tall.  He may be wearing light colored blue jeans with multiple, multi colored patches on the legs.

Eli is transgender, female to male, and it is possible he may present as a female. Eli’s legal name is Eliana Check.

Anyone who has information about Eli is asked to call the Arlington County Police Department immediately at 703-558-2222.

by Heather Mongilio October 7, 2015 at 4:55 pm 0

Gun violence memorial at First Presbyterian ChurchThere will be 155 t-shirts on display on the lawn outside of the Rock Spring Congregational United Church of Christ starting Sunday, a memorial to those lost to gun violence in the D.C. area.

Each t-shirt represents a victim of gun violence in the District, Maryland and Northern Virginia in 2014. Each will have a name, age and date of death on it.

“The display is set up to encourage people to walk among the shirts and reflect on those victims and their loved ones,” Rev. Kathy Dwyer said.

The T-Shirt Memorial to the Lost will remain in place from Oct. 11-24. It’s part of a project led by Heeding God’s Call, an organization that advocates for “common sense” gun laws. The church has asked its members to help it set up the display after morning services this Sunday.

“It seems like every time we turn around there’s another act of senseless violence,” Dwyer said.

There will be 75 white shirts for D.C., 23 yellow shirts for Northern Virginia and 57 blue shirts for Maryland. Outside of the District, the victims are from places like Arlington County, Alexandria, Culpepper and Woodbridge in Virginia and Laurel, Ellicott City, Columbia and Gaithersburg, Maryland. Baltimore, which has a high rate of gun violence, is not included.

This is the second time the t-shirt memorial has been erected in Arlington, Dwyer said. First Presbyterian Church held the memorial last year. This year there are 11 fewer shirts.

Dwyer will discuss gun violence as part of her sermons on Sunday, Oct. 18 at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Members of the congregation have told Dwyer they want to do more than pray for a solution to gun violence, she said, a call that sparked the church to hold the memorial.

“[We see people] really reacting to the violence we see with more violence, and we want to be part of a different path,” she said.

The church has included national issues in sermons and discussions before. The church previously had talks about the intertwining of race and religion, which concluded this past Sunday.

by ARLnow.com July 15, 2015 at 6:00 pm 1,467 0

Dominion crews on N. Utah Street near Fairfax DriveA power outage in the Rock Spring area of North Arlington has knocked out power to homes and traffic lights.

The outage is affecting homes around Jamestown Elementary and at least one traffic signal on Glebe Road, according to police scanner traffic.

More than 400 Dominion customers are without electricity in the area, according to Dominion’s power outage map. Across the border in McLean, another 1,300 homes are affected by the outage.

Dominion’s initial estimate is that power will be restored between 9-11 p.m.

This is at least the second time the neighborhood has lost power this week, according to one resident.

File photo

by Mariah Joyce June 15, 2015 at 10:30 am 2,054 0

Williamsburg Middle School (via Wikimedia)Update at 5:50 p.m. — The County Board’s action on the Williamsburg Field Site Evaluation Work Group Charge has now been deferred until July, according to an Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman.

The debate over lighting the fields at Williamsburg Middle School is making a comeback.

At its meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) in July, the County Board will charge a working group with leading a community process to evaluate whether or not to light the Williamsburg synthetic fields.

The issue first emerged in 2013 as neighbors battled soccer parents over whether Williamsburg’s fields should be lighted. The County Board ultimately deferred the lighting decision until 2015.

After the County Board decides on the working group’s exact tasks at tomorrow’s meeting, members will be appointed to the group next month. It is expected to make a recommendation to the Board in May 2016. The Board will then deliberate in June 2016.

Two synthetic fields are currently under construction as part of the Discovery Elementary School project, located on the Williamsburg campus, and are scheduled for completion at the end of the summer.

Arlington Public Schools split the cost of the fields with the County, according to Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish. Kalish said that APS paid for the cost of installing natural grass fields, and the County then funded the difference.

In an APS question and answer session about the construction project held in the fall of 2012, the County stated that if it funded an artificial field, “it would expect that the field be lighted in order to maximize their investment in the field.”

While Kalish confirmed that this is typically the County’s policy regarding turf fields, in this case the Rock Spring community pushed back.

“That’s why we’re having this work group,” said Kalish.

Design of new Williamsburg elementary school

Fifteen community members representing diverse interests will comprise the work group, including one representative from the Arlington Soccer Association and one from the Rock Spring Civic Association. The ASA and the RSCA disagreed vehemently on the construction and lighting of the field when the plan was first proposed in 2013, eventually launching dueling petitions.

President of the RSCA Carl Cunningham said that while he could not speak for all residents, most who live near the Williamsburg fields do not support the addition of lights because of concerns about potential light spillage into their homes.

Cunningham added that residents were concerned about evening noise and traffic from extended hours of play on the field, which might “fundamentally alter the basic character and their peaceful enjoyment of what has been a small, secluded and quiet neighborhood in the evenings.”

The ASA, on the other hand, stressed the need for a lit synthetic field.

“We have more children playing sports in Arlington every year, and the rate of field construction or redevelopment is not close to keeping pace, thus we have to squeeze what we can out of existing play spaces,” said ASA Executive Director Justin Wilt.

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by ARLnow.com August 7, 2014 at 10:30 am 3,388 0

Arlington police carPolice spent much of Wednesday night carrying out an investigation in the Rock Spring neighborhood where a construction worker died when he was crushed by a giant log.

Police responded to the 4800 block of Rock Spring Road just before 6:00 p.m. for reports of an accident at a residential construction site. Subcontractors at the site had been removing large trees from the property and were using a backhoe to load huge sections of the trees onto a flatbed truck.

The 30-year-old victim had been trying to secure the tree sections onto the truck when a log weighing in excess of a ton rolled off the flatbed and crushed him. Police say the two other workers at the site did not see the accident, but heard a large noise and rushed to assist the victim. The other workers managed to remove the log, but the victim is believed to have died instantly. Police and medics pronounced the man dead upon arriving at the scene.

The victim’s two co-workers remained on scene and provided statements to police. The site manager, owner of the trucking company and an OSHA representative all responded to the scene as well. The victim’s family has been notified.

“There was no reason to believe there was any suspicious activity, it just appears to be an absolutely tragic incident,” said Arlington County Police Department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.

by Morgan Fecto June 18, 2014 at 3:30 pm 1,368 0

The three winners out of 16 entries to Rock Spring Garden Club’s  2014″Garden of the Year” were announced last week. The winners, pictured above, mix natural beauty with sustainability in their backyard gardens.

“We are so thrilled to win!” first place gardener Mary Jennings told ARLnow.com. “I love that the garden gets some exposure and might encourage others to think of big ways to transform our Arlington outdoor living spaces to be enjoyable and conservation-minded.”

Jennings, a gardener for 20 years and art teacher at Salamander Resort in Middleburg, has an underground rain water collector in her garden. She said her husband installed the rain garden because it catches overflow from their koi pond and keeps water away from their home with a series of buried downspouts.

Susan Murnane, the second place winner and director of training for the AIG’s environmental division, also re-purposed items to create a greener garden. Murnane said she reused bulbs and stone slabs found in the lot undergoing construction behind her house.

“I remember as a little kid making clover tiaras or crowns and now we live in a world where you can’t step in the grass,” said Murnane, who plans to certify her garden as a monarch waystation.

Although none of the three winners are official Rock Spring Garden Club members, each said they appreciated the recognition and camaraderie.

“I might take one Thursday off a month and go to a meeting for people whose finger nails look like mine,” joked Murnane.

Judy and Raoul Wientzen, the third place winners, utilize rain water in their garden as well. The rain water collects in a re-purposed barrel from when Raoul made his own wine, and they use it to water their plants and vegetables, according to Judy.

“We were delighted to win third place,” Judy Wientzen told ARLnow.com in an email. Wientzen, an interior designer for Bevacqua/Wientzen Associates, said she enjoys the seclusion of her garden created by the mature azaleas and oak trees. But she has more avant-garde plant life in mind for future competitions.

“All the plantings, while pretty, are pretty standard items,” said Wientzen of her garden. “We hope to add in some specimens that are a bit more unusual in the future.”

by ARLnow.com March 21, 2014 at 4:05 pm 3,785 0

A FedEx truck crashed into a preschool building in north Arlington this afternoon.

The accident happened on the 5000 block of N. Little Falls Road, in the Rock Spring neighborhood. The truck driver somehow lost control, sideswiped a minivan, jumped the curb and ran head-first into the Rock Spring Cooperative Preschool.

The building was unoccupied at the time and no one — including the driver — was hurt, according to Arlington County Fire Department spokeswoman Lt. Sarah-Maria Marchegiani.

A building inspector has been called to the scene to inspect the damage to the structure.

Photos courtesy ACFD, Jason Gropper

by Ethan Rothstein January 10, 2014 at 2:00 pm 1,272 0

The Arlington School Board approved the final design and budget for the $46.5 million elementary school adjacent to Williamsburg Middle School on Thursday.

The 28-classroom building, at the corner of N. Harrison Street and 36th Street, will have a 630-student capacity and is being built to help alleviate elementary school overcrowding in North Arlington.

The 97,000-square-foot elementary school is projected to open in September 2015. It will have a high-school-sized gym floor, three music spaces, two art rooms, a library, and, according to Arlington Public Schools “will be a net-zero energy ready building with a LEED silver or higher energy certification.”

The current design is slightly different than the one approved last February, which called for a 93,578 square foot building with 28 classrooms, although the capacity is unchanged from previous plans. There will be a synthetic turf field built as well, but the County Board won’t make a decision on lighting the field until 2015 after residents of the Rock Spring Civic Association protested installing the lights in the neighborhood.

School and county officials heralded the new school’s approval in statements issued Friday morning.

“The community should be proud of this school and what it represents,” said School Board Chair Abby Raphael. “It is the product of hard work and collaboration between APS, our County colleagues and the entire community, and will provide more seats for more students in a new and exciting learning environment.”

“The addition of new community facilities, such as an elementary school, is a once-in-a-generation opportunity and we are pleased that, through a collaborative process with APS, we were able to jointly fund a number of community amenities that will benefit students and residents of all ages,” said County Board Chair Jay Fisette. “The additional amenities include two synthetic turf fields, a larger gym, and emergency preparedness infrastructure, including enhanced public safety communications. “

by Ethan Rothstein September 25, 2013 at 1:05 pm 1,257 0

Rendering of new school on Williamsburg campusThe Arlington County Board unanimously approved the permit to build a $35 million elementary school on the Williamsburg Middle School campus last night (Tuesday).

In a separate vote, the board voted unanimously to delay a decision to install lighting until 2015, when it will form a working group of community members for a full discussion on the potential for lighting the synthetic turf fields.

The lighting on the turf fields was the sticking point for many of the two dozen speakers during Saturday’s board meeting. Several members of the Rock Spring Civic Association spoke against lighting the fields, and condemned the County Board for not following its own procedures in considering the lighting.

“I was always told, follow the process,” Sharon Levin said. “Come to the meetings, there will be county representatives there, everyone will have a chance to give their input, and this is what I did for a year. I attended over 20 meetings and now the county has not upheld their end of the bargain. You guys have changed at the last minute. We never had the discussion about these fields. It was never part of this program. We were told repeatedly that we were not going to have synthetic fields and lighting.”

The board approved the design with synthetic fields, but lights will not be installed on the fields, which members of the School Board and the community said would be more in line with their wishes. County Manager Barbara Donnellan said the decision to introduce the lighting late in the process came from staff hesitancy.

Williamsburg elementary school field plans

“The fact is we never had a conversation with the public about the lighting, and I think we should have a conversation with the public about the lighting,” she said Tuesday. “I do not think that staff completely understood that synthetic fields should be part of the conversation.”

The open space around Williamsburg Middle School, which Rock Spring Civic Association Executive Board member Kevin Scott called “a center of our neighborhood,” will be reduced to make room for the 28-classroom, 96,805-square-foot elementary school.

“We like that open space, we know that’s going to be changed no matter what we do,” Scott said, “but we don’t want that to extend to after dark.”

In the spring, neighbors of the school and members of the Arlington Soccer Association launched dueling petitions regarding the lighting issue, with the ASA in favor of installing lights. ASA members contend that the lights’ impact could be greatly mitigated by shortening the hours they are turned on and installing plant buffers, among other strategies.

“The lighting isn’t a surprise issue… it was always foreseeable that the county could add that as a use permit condition,” said Ronald Molteni, the vice president of the ASA, at Saturday’s meeting. “Field turf is a necessity and…lights should go with it. Our young people need places to have positive outlets for the energy of use, especially during the evening hours.”

Arlington Public Schools has said it does not have room in the budget to install lighting around the fields, but, after the working groups in 2015, the County Board could decide to dip into its own budget to install lights.

The board also approved the reduction of parking spaces required for the school from 258 to 209; a strategy to try to reduce the traffic impacts to the community, but one that wasn’t met with unanimous community support.

“We’ve been told that reducing the number of parking spots is a good thing, but of course it’s pushing cars onto the neighborhood streets, and that’s problematic,” said Lincoln Oliphant, who lives on 36th Street N.

The school, which will be at the corner of N. Harrison and 36th Streets, will serve approximately 630 students. Construction is expected to begin January 2014 and the school is projected to open in time for the 2015-2016 school year.

by ARLnow.com May 15, 2013 at 2:00 pm 7,273 0

Design of new Williamsburg elementary schoolParents of Arlington youth soccer players and residents who live near Williamsburg Middle School have created dueling petitions — for and against a proposal to install lighting and new soccer fields at the school.

The field and lighting proposal was floated as an optional part of the Arlington Public Schools plan to build a new elementary school on the Williamsburg Middle School campus. The design of the school was approved in February and construction is expected to begin next year.

The proposal involves the construction of two synthetic turf fields next to the school, with lighting installed for the field farthest from the surrounding neighborhood. Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia says the school system currently doesn’t have the money necessary for the synthetic fields and lighting — about $2 million — so supporters are hoping to convince Arlington County to pay for the project.

A group of neighbors, however, has created a Change.org petition calling for the County Board to nix the field lighting component.

Williamsburg elementary school field plans“We, as registered voters in Arlington County, strongly oppose the installation of sport field lighting on any of the soccer fields on the Williamsburg Middle/Elementary school property,” the petition says. “The neighborhood surrounding Williamsburg will be heavily impacted by evening traffic, light intrusion, noise and parking impacts.”

So far, the neighbors’ petition has attracted 125 online signatures.

The Arlington Soccer Association, meanwhile, has created its own Change.org petition, which has gathered 1,085 signatures so far. The association says the fields, and the lighting, will help meet growing demand for youth soccer in Arlington.

“We, the undersigned, support placing a lighted synthetic rectangular athletic field on the grounds of Williamsburg Middle School,” the petition says. “The Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation estimates that a lighted synthetic field can sustain five times the overall use of an unlighted grass field.”

Williamsburg elementary school field plans“We are sensitive to the concerns of the local community,” the petition continues. “We believe that a lighted field at WMS should be limited to youth sports programming and have a curfew of 9:30 p.m.”

The fight is similar to the acrimonious battle over lighting proposed for the Bishop O’Connell High School baseball and football fields. After nearly 75 speakers weighed in on the O’Connell lighting proposal at a County Board meeting in 2011, the Board rejected the plan,

Before any possible County Board consideration, the Arlington Soccer Association is hoping to convince neighbors that a lighted field will not result in the light pollution, noise and traffic that many fear. The group wrote the following letter (after the jump) as a response to concerns expressed on the email listserv of a local civic association.

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