Arlington officials are gearing up to loosen some of the zoning rules governing community swimming pools, in a bid to make it easier for organizations to build or renovate pools across the county.
The Planning Commission is set to hold a public hearing on the zoning tweaks this coming Wednesday (Oct. 10), with the County Board considering the changes soon afterward.
Primarily, the changes would give the Board more latitude to hand out “use permits” for the pools, giving officials the chance to review standards for things like fencing and setbacks on a case-by-case basis, rather than subjecting every pool to the same rigid standard.
The county doesn’t currently boast a large number of community pools, by any stretch of the imagination — there are just five pools around Arlington that aren’t owned by the county or restricted for a specific neighborhood or development’s use — but the zoning changes have sped through the county’s engagement process, nonetheless.
That’s largely due to the fact that the Macedonia Baptist Church is currently hoping to redevelop a former YMCA community center in Nauck, located at 3440 22nd Street S., into a community pool, and has been pressing the county for changes to the zoning standards.
Most of those documents haven’t changed since the mid-1950s, according to a county staff report, when many of the original community pools were first built. Staff notes that those standards “were originally intended to buffer residential communities adjacent to community swimming pools from the impacts of the use, and to ensure that the pool provided ample parking on site that did not congest nearby on street parking or other off-site parking facilities.”
But as Arlington has urbanized over the years, staff believes those standards have become increasingly out of date.
For instance, the zoning ordinance currently requires pools to be built with a 100-foot setback from a residential street, a standard designed to “minimize the audible and visual impacts of the pool on nearby neighbors,” staff wrote. But with space in Arlington increasingly at a premium, county officials believe “a combination of opaque fencing and landscaping” can accomplish the same goal without requiring quite so many design headaches.
County staff don’t want to see the Board do away with that sort of limit entirely, noting that there could be plenty of future instances where the “100-foot setback requirement could be warranted to prevent mechanical equipment, storage buildings, and other pool-related facilities from being located too close to an adjacent neighborhood or property.”
By changing zoning rules to give the Board the chance to review future community pool designs, however, staffers believe members would be able to examine each application on its own and evaluate “the specific circumstances of individual properties,” making the whole process a bit less rigid.
After the Planning Commission gets a chance to offer a recommendation on the zoning changes next week, the Board is set to consider them at its Oct. 20 meeting.
Flickr pool photo by Alves Family
The fifth annual Arlington Youth Triathlon will kick off next Sunday, June 10, at the Washington-Lee High School pool.
The public event hosted by the Arlington Triathlon Club will feature swimming, running and biking among children ages 7-15 and will start at 7:30 a.m. The Arlington Youth Triathlon is a part of the USA Triathlon Mideast Region Youth Triathlon Series, where young triathletes from Ohio to Tennessee will come to Arlington to participate.
The triathlon will include a pool swim, a bike ride on closed streets around the school and a track finish. Each event features short distances to include kids of all abilities.
This year’s triathlon will be held in honor of Anne Viviani, an Arlington resident who died April 9 in a car crash striking a deer on I-85 in South Carolina. Viviani, 68, was a world champion triathlete and coach.
Registration for the Arlington Youth Triathlon is open until June 9. It costs $75 to register before May 15, and $85 afterward.
Photo Courtesy Arlington Triathlon Club
The possibility of including a swimming pool in Career Center site planning arose at a joint Arlington County Board/Arlington Public Schools work session last week.
Kristi Sawert, who presented Career Center site considerations for programming and amenities during the work session, said that the pool possibility was “one of the more lively discussions” that the working group has had. Sawert listed several reasons for being pro-pool, including what she called a long-standing APS and School Board policy that aquatics education is essential.
“The main reason I hear that we don’t need a pool at the Career Center site is that those students could be bused to Long Bridge Pool when it opens,” said Sawert.
Sawert said that after having consulted with county staff, she believes that busing students isn’t feasible at the high school level because of the lack of free elective periods that students would need for off-campus travel. Busing, Sawert said, would only be a realistic option if students chose to give up core instructional time.
“Those lost hours would really add up,” she said, adding that this was a matter of equality between wealthy students who could afford private swim lessons and those who couldn’t.
High schoolers take at least eight swimming lessons per year in 80-minute blocks. Elementary and middle schoolers are required to take far fewer lessons, at just five swimming instructional hours annually.
Though County Board member John Vihstadt said that he thought a pool is appropriate and necessary, other board members had questions. County Board member Libby Garvey questioned why changes couldn’t be made to students’ schedules to accommodate activities like swimming.
“I appreciate the discussion of swimming and why we need swimming and pools, I totally believe that,” Garvey said. “But listening to the concerns and the difficulties, they all sit around schedules, and the same old block schedules, and the same old constrained day.”
Garvey suggested, as an example, a school schedule of 6 a.m.-11 p.m. for students, which she said would provide flexibility for students to go to Long Bridge to swim. Her intent with the example, she explained, was to highlight the importance of flexibility for students who need to take jobs, go to internships or do other activities that don’t conform well to the traditional school schedules.
“I totally agree with the need for swimming. I’m not sure we have to preserve the same schedule that we’ve had for a hundred years,” Garvey said.
Board member Erik Gutshall questioned how realistic it would be to have another pool in light of county-wide funding concerns.
“I’d want to know that if we’re going to build a pool, and if we agree it’s a great idea, that that pool is going to get absolute, full use and that all of our other pools that we have get full use,” he said. “Money is an object, and it’s going to be highly constrained in every decision [so] every recommendation has to be fully justified.”
Screenshot via Arlington County
Local Senior Completes Alcatraz Swim — Arlington resident Mary Schade, 71, completed the 1.5-mile Alcatraz Escape from the Rock swim in San Francisco, placing first in her age group. She was the second-oldest swimmer in the race, which featured choppy, 59-degree water and a stiff wind. [InsideNova]
Arlington History Books — “Our Man in Arlington” Charlie Clark has found a number of “out-of-the-mainstream histories of our fair county,” including one book, first published in 1957, that “summarizes two centuries of legal boundary changes” involving Arlington County or its geographic predecessors. [Falls Church News-Press]
Shirlington Apartment Building Bought, Rebranded — Waterton, a real estate investment firm, has acquired the 404-unit Windsor at Shirlington Village apartment complex and rebranded it as “The Citizen at Shirlington Village.” The purchase price for the apartment building at 3000 S. Randolph Street was a reported $144 million. The new Chicago-based owners plan to upgrade the apartment units, outdoor spaces and the fitness center. [Washington Business Journal, BusinessWire]
Teachers Explore New Commuting Options — With the encouragement of Arlington Public Schools, some teachers are switching from a solo driving commute to carpooling or biking, as seen in a new video from Arlington County’s Mobility Lab. [YouTube, Mobility Lab]
High Water Bills Prompt Questions — A number of Arlington residents say their quarterly water bills for the summer and fall spiked to inconceivably high levels, in some cases in excess of $2,000. The county government, however, says no systemic billing issues have been found and blames the high bills on hot and dry weather combined with homeowners irrigating their yards. [InsideNova]
News Photog Saved By Arlington Medic — WUSA9 photographer Dion Wiggins suffered a massive heart attack while shooting video of traffic along I-395 last month. It was an Arlington County paramedic, Chris Abrahams, who together with firefighter Jason Griffith revived Wiggins from cardiac arrest, stabilized him and transported him to George Washington University Hospital. Wiggins is now back at home and on the road to recovery. [WUSA9]
ACPD: Don’t DUI After the Super Bowl — Super Bowl Sunday is two days away and the Arlington County Police Department is reminding residents to designate a driver for the big game. The Super Bowl is one of the biggest days of the year for DUI, with a third of all U.S. traffic deaths due to drunk drivers. [Arlington County]
D.C. Metro Work This Weekend — Major scheduled track work will close six downtown D.C. Metro stations along the Blue, Orange and Silver lines this weekend. The Blue and Orange lines will be split in two and the Silver line will end at Ballston. “Customers traveling between Virginia and DC are encouraged to use the Yellow Line, if possible,” Metro says. [WMATA]
Kudos for Sheriff’s Office — “The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office has been awarded reaccreditation by the American Correctional Association Commission (ACA), whose standards are the national benchmark for the effective operation of correctional facilities in the United States.” [Arlington County]
WHS Swimmers in Regionals — “With three Wakefield swimmers heading off to regionals — the most in recent history — the Wakefield community is overflowing with enthusiasm and excitement in anticipation of a splashing victory.” [Wakefield Chieftain]
Obit: Mel Labat — Long-time Arlington tennis coach Mel Labat passed away last week. A memorial service will be held tomorrow (Saturday). A scholarship fund has been established, with the proceeds going to the Arlington Youth Tennis Program. [YMCA, Legacy]
Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok
A newly-released survey on recreational needs in Arlington may help the case for building an aquatics and fitness facility at Long Bridge Park.
Arlington County scrapped plans to build a Long Bridge Aquatics Center in 2014, after construction bids on what was supposed to be a $79 million project came in well over budget. Since then, the county has sought public input on community recreation needs and considered partnering with the City of Alexandria on a facility.
Survey respondents ranked a swimming pool and fitness equipment as the county’s two top indoor recreation needs. That corresponds to the county’s goals for a new indoor “Aquatic, Health and Fitness Facility” at Long Bridge Park.
Furthermore, the survey asked specifically about potential amenities at such a facility. Seventy percent of respondents said they had an interest in amenities at a Long Bridge Park facility, ranking their three “most important” amenities as:
- 50 meter pool,
- Health/fitness space with cardio/strength training
- Leisure pool with water slide, lazy river
County Board member Jay Fisette said he was “hopeful” the county could move forward on the Long Bridge Park facility.
“This seems to suggest to me that it validates the same or more interest in Long Bridge Park than we thought there was before,” he said. Fisette pointed out that in 2012 nearly two-thirds of Arlington residents approved a bond issue that was intended primarily to pay for the aquatics and fitness facility.
John Vihstadt, the lone non-Democrat on the Board, took a more restrained view.
“It really boils down to what sort of facilities and at what cost,” Vihstadt said. “I look forward to the discussion.”
Other survey findings include:
- Hiking trails, natural areas and paved multi-use trails are the top outdoor recreation priorities
- Nature, fitness and wellness programs, as well as special events and festivals, are the top parks and rec programming priorities
- Most people would support food and beverage — including, potentially, alcohol — options in local parks and public plazas
The full county press release about the survey results, after the jump.
Being active and enjoying time with friends and nature: that’s what Arlingtonians said loud and clear in a statistically-valid survey the County conducted as part of its update of the Public Spaces Master Plan. Last adopted in 2005, the plan provides a vision and strategies for all of Arlington’s park, natural resource and recreation needs.
“It’s no surprise – Arlingtonians love their parks,” said Jane Rudolph, director of the Department of Parks & Recreation. “The data we’ve received from this survey, along with the input from several large community engagement opportunities, will help us shape the future for our parks and programs.”
Key highlights from the survey:
- Hiking trails, natural areas and wildlife habitats, and paved multi-use trails are the top outdoor community recreation priorities.
- Swimming pools and exercise/fitness equipment are the top indoor community recreation priorities.
- Top activities and programs include nature, fitness/wellness and special events/festivals.
Planning for the future
Nature is of primary importance to Arlingtonians per the survey results. More than 60 percent said they had a need for nature programs, and many respondents also gave high ratings to outdoor amenities. Residents indicated their greatest needs are for trails (both hiking and biking) and natural areas. They also expressed strong interest in festivals and other events to enliven County parks. And the community wants options for additional food and beverage service in parks as well.
When asked, 70 percent of Arlington households had an interest in the amenities at the planned indoor Aquatic, Health and Fitness Facility at Long Bridge Park. The top amenities are a 50-meter pool, health/fitness training equipment and a family-friendly leisure pool. The survey also asked people how late in the day they want access to outdoor facilities. Sixty-four percent said they would use parks up until 9 p.m. on weekdays. An additional 24 percent would like them available until 10 p.m. Currently, County outdoor facilities are closed when dark, unless they are lighted.
Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz presented survey highlights to the County Board at its March 15 Recessed Meeting. To view the presentation; go to 01:22 on the video. Complete survey data will be posted online in April. To read more about the Public Spaces Master Plan update, “POPS: A Plan for Our Places and Spaces.”
Arlington hired ETC Institute to conduct the survey, which administered similar surveys for Arlington parks and recreation department in 2002 and 2008. ETC is a national leader in market research for local governments and has administered Arlington County’s four Resident Satisfaction Surveys.
A random sample of residents living in Arlington responded to the seven-page survey by mail, phone and online. ETC ensured that demographics of survey respondents accurately reflected the actual population of the County. This statistically-valid survey has a confidence level of 95 percent, +/- 2.5 percent. ETC received about twice as many survey responses as expected.
Fire Station Relocation May Go to Voters — A controversial plan to relocate Fire Station 8 from Lee Highway and the Hall’s Hill neighborhood to a locale further north, in order to improve response times, could be put to voters. Opponents may push for a stand-alone bond issue for construction of the new fire station, which would put it on the ballot. The idea was floated during a well-attended community meeting on the fire station relocation plan last night. [InsideNova]
North vs. South Swimming Pool Divide? — Swimming has always been a significant part of life in Arlington, but current pool options are tilted toward north Arlington, says Our Man in Arlington columnist Charlie Clark. Building the stalled Long Bridge Park aquatics center could help alleviate the divide, Clark reasons. [Falls Church News-Press]
Arlington Family Kicked off Flight — An Arlington family was kicked off a JetBlue flight from Boston to Baltimore on Monday, reportedly because of a squirming two year old and FAA regulations. [WUSA 9]
DCA Screeners Find Two Guns in Two Days — Screeners at Reagan National Airport found two guns in carry-on baggage over the course of two days this week. The two men who had the guns in their bags are now facing weapons charges. [WJLA]
I-395 Exit to Close Temporarily — The exit from northbound I-395 to Washington Blvd will close overnight Sunday and Monday for paving and lane striping, VDOT says. [Patch]
Arlington Expects ‘Speedy’ Election Returns — The Democratic primary for Arlington County Board and the 45th Virginia House of Delegates district is taking place today, utilizing Arlington County’s new optical scanners. The county issued a press release on Monday promising that “changes should result in speedier reporting of unofficial results on election night.” Polls close at 7:00 p.m. and the first results are expected to be reported on the county website around 7:30.
Reminder: Candidate Essays — If you haven’t cast your ballot yet, you can peruse the “why should you vote for me” essays written by the six Democratic County Board candidates: Andrew Schneider, Bruce Wiljanen, Katie Cristol, James Lander, Peter Fallon, Christian Dorsey.
Working Group to Discuss S. Arlington School Site — Following the County Board’s scuttling of plans for an elementary school next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School, the Arlington School Board has created a working group to help decide the location for a new South Arlington elementary school. Former School Board candidate Greg Greeley was appointed chairman of the group, which is charged with creating a final report by November. The School Board is expected to take action on the new school on Dec. 15. [InsideNova]
Swimming Fundraiser Planned — The swim teams from four private clubs are coming together for a fundraiser on Sunday, June 28. Teams from Arlington Forest Club, Donaldson Run, Overlee and Washington Golf and Country Club will swim laps to raise money for the Arlington-based Marjorie Hughes Fund for Children. The fund helps low-income children obtain medical care and medications. [GoFundMe]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Allen
(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) The Arlington County Board is scheduled to decide on Saturday whether to reduce the surcharge for non-residents who participate in gymnastics and swimming leagues that use county facilities.
When the Board adopted the FY 2015 budget in April, it approved a 50 percent surcharge for participants not living in Arlington to participate in clubs like the Arlington Aerials, the Arlington Tigers and the Arlington Aquatics Club. According to the county, the surcharge resulted in annual fee increases for those clubs of between 12.9 and 30 percent.
The Board will deliberate over County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s recommendation to reduce that surcharge from 50 to 30 percent in FY 2015, with plans to increase the charge to 40 percent the following year and up to the adopted 50 percent in FY 2017.
“[The Department of Parks and Recreation] recognizes these increases may produce undue hardships on families with participants in these team programs,” the county staff report states. “The option of grandfathering current non-resident participants at former non-resident surcharge rates was considered and is not a viable option as it creates a preference that cannot be applied to all non-resident participants.”
Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish said the county received a fair amount letters and complaints about the adopted price increase, which led the staff to reconsider.
“Parks and rec staff met with a group to come together with options to move forward,” Kalish told ARLnow.com.
The reduced surcharge would bring the average change in season fee down from $886 to $326 for the Arlington Aerials, $870 to $378 for the Arlington Tigers and $171 to a decrease of $19 for the Arlington Aquatics Club.
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
The rain is coming down in buckets in Arlington — and should continue to do so until tomorrow — so while you’re holed up inside and dry, check out some of these opportunities around the county to bring some sunshine to those in need.
Starting this week, the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation is looking for swim instructors to help children with disabilities learn how to swim. Volunteers will be in the pool providing swimming assistance as well as support and encouragement, and, according to the volunteer announcement, “an important element of this class is building a relationship with ‘your’ class participant.”
Those interested, and free on either Wednesdays or Sundays, should call Kathryn Salyers at (703) 228-4738 or go online. Here are some other opportunities to get involved around the county (from Volunteer Arlington):
- Weekly Wednesday Food Distribution: The Arlington Career Center has over 1,000 students that walk through its doors. Out of all of those students, a number of them are in need of additional resources to help them succeed. One of those such resources is food. Every week on Wednesday afternoons, between 1:40 p.m. and 3:20 p.m., we distribute free groceries to our students at school. We are in need of individuals or groups who might be available one or more Wednesdays between 1:00 and 3:40 p.m. to help distribute groceries as well as to help with set up and breakdown. If individuals or groups are only available for half of the time, that also would work well. All volunteers who participate will be trained during their initial volunteer engagement. Volunteers who hope to volunteer regularly will also be required to complete a form for a required Arlington Public Schools background check on their first day of volunteerism. Contact: (703) 228-8694.
- In-School Tutor for Young Adults: Are you looking to make a difference in the lives of nontraditional students looking to obtain their high school diploma? Communities In Schools of Northern Virginia is seeking academic tutors at one of its high school sites to aide students in their English, reading, science or math skills. The individual must be able to commit to volunteering for 2-10 hours per week on site between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., Monday through Friday or for math specifically between 5 p.m. and 9:10 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Scheduling flexibility from week to week is definitely an option. More information can be found online. Contact: (703) 228-8694.
- Computer Skills Instructor: This is an opportunity to teach computer skills in using Microsoft Office applications, Social Media and any basic skills as needed to low- and moderate-income adults in Arlington at the Whitefield Commons Community Resource Center; many of whom are immigrants and have limited English. They need patient and sharing individuals like you to become involved. Volunteers must have proficiency using Microsoft Office, Social Media, Internet Explorer, and email accounts and an ability to patiently explain, in basic terms, how applications work and can be utilized. More information can be found online. Contact: (703) 465-5001.
(Updated at 1:55 p.m.) Saturday night at the Conference 6 swim championships at Yorktown High School, two Arlington high school swimmers proved what their coaches and teammates already knew: they can swim with anyone in the state.
Yorktown’s Suzanne Dolan captured titles in the girls’ 50- and 100-yard freestyle races and swam the anchor for two relay teams that qualified for the state championships. Washington-Lee’s Jay Delancey won the boys’ 200-yard freestyle, came in 3rd in the 100-yard butterfly and anchored the Generals’ first-place 400-yard relay team that surprised almost everyone in the pool with its win.
Dolan led the Yorktown girls to a third-place finish in the first-ever Conference 6 championships with 323 team points, behind Langley High School (402.5) and McLean High School (377). Washington-Lee’s girls finished in fifth place with 225 points.
The meet was the first time the Arlington schools faced regional powers like Langley and James Madison High Schools in a conference — previously called the Liberty District — championship meet.
Delancey led the Generals’ boys to third place (293 points), behind Madison (428) and narrowly behind Langley (308). Yorktown’s boys finished in fourth place with 247 points.
“Moving into the new conference was eye-opening for the kids,” said Yorktown head swimming coach Claire DiCesare, “but we did really well.”
Generals head coach Kristina Dorville, an animated presence at poolside, was amiably jawing with the head coach of the Madison swim team before the 400-yard relay. When the Generals had a lead by the time Delancey — who’s deciding whether to swim for West Point or the U.S. Naval Academy — dove in the pool for the final leg, Dorville turned to Madison’s coach with a grin and said, “Oh, we’re not gonna win this?”
“Before the race, I said ‘just watch,'” Dorville said after the meet. “I have unending confidence in [Delancey]. I’d have to drag him out of the pool before he’d let us lose that race.”
Each school will send relay teams to state. The Yorktown girls 200-yard freestyle relay finished second in the closest race of the night. The winners, Langley, finished with a time of 1:41.06; Yorktown and McLean finished in 1:41.07. Dolan anchored that team and the 200-yard medley relay that finished third, both qualifying for states.
Dolan has been recovering all year from a wrist injury, and said she wasn’t swimming as fast as she believes she’s capable of.
However, she said, “I was still expecting to win the 50 free, but the 100 is a little harder.” She said the home atmosphere and the cheers of her teammates after the relays made it a special meet. “It’s really exhilarating. It feels really good helping my team do well.”
Next week, both schools will compete in the 6A North Region championships before they send sizable contingents to Richmond Feb. 21 and 22 for the state championships.
(Updated at 6:10 p.m.) Volunteers are needed for a variety of opportunities throughout Arlington, such as citizenship teachers and youth soccer coaches. More information about the opportunities listed below, in addition to a list of others, can be found online.
- The Arlington Soccer Association (ASA) seeks people who would like to volunteer as soccer coaches and assistant coaches for the fall season. Volunteers must enjoy working with kids ages 6-16. Soccer experience is helpful but not required. Coaches will be given training, and all necessary equipment is provided by ASA. Coaches must be available for games, typically on Saturdays, and for one or two practices per week on weeknights. Applicants can contact Justin Wilt at 703-527-0157.
- The Community Outreach Program is looking for volunteers to be citizenship class teachers. There’s no need to be a certified teacher, the instructors come from all different backgrounds and professions. Volunteers must just be able to go through an orientation class and use materials they are given to teach immigrants the information necessary to pass the U.S. citizenship exam. There’s particular need for an instructor on Tuesday evenings from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Thomas Jefferson Middle School (125 S. Old Glebe Road). There are also some positions open for weekday classes from 1:00-3:00 p.m. at the Clarendon Education Center (2801 Clarendon Blvd). Although it’s preferred that volunteers commit to at least three months, those who can’t make the full commitment are welcome to apply for substitute positions. Anyone interested in applying can contact Aaron McCready at 703-228-1397.
- The Department of Parks and Recreation needs volunteers to help children with disabilities learn to swim. Trained staff members will lead the classes and volunteers will be in the pool to offer assistance and encouragement to participants. Experience working with individuals with disabilities is a plus, but not required. Volunteers should be comfortable in the water and able to swim, and should be able to attend four sessions throughout the year (one for each season). The sessions will take place at the pool adjacent to Yorktown High School (5200 Yorktown Blvd). Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Shaeron King at 703-228-4731.