Flash Flooding Hits Arlington — Yesterday’s rain closed a series of roads around the county. First responders had to pull 40 people from 25 stranded vehicles on the G.W. Parkway, which was closed for several hours due to standing water. [Twitter]
How to Beat the I-66 Tolls Inside the Beltway — A new study suggests the best way to save some cash on I-66 is to leave home early, particularly before 6:30 a.m. [WTOP]
Zoning Problems Bedevil Carlin Springs Daycare — The Bright Horizons Child Care and Education Center, located on the county-owned Carlin Springs Road property, could be bound for demolition, even though the county doesn’t have enough money to pursue long-term plans at the site. [Arlington Connection]
Tree Activists Blast the County Board — Local conservationists took the Board to task on a variety of tree canopy issues Saturday, including the fate of the large dawn redwood tree set to be cut down in Williamsburg. However, Board members lamented there’s not much they can do to meet the activists’ demands. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo via Dennis Dimick
Conservationists and neighbors are teaming up to push back against plans to chop down a 114-foot-tall dawn redwood tree in Northwest Arlington.
A developer is currently hoping to demolish a single-family home along the 3200 block of N. Ohio Street, subdivide the lot and build two homes in its place, according to county permit applications.
As part of that process, Richmond Custom Homes could eventually remove several trees in the area, including the large dawn redwood tree in the center of the Williamsburg property.
But an online petition to protect the tree has already garnered more than 800 signatures, and the neighborhood’s civic association is pleading with county leaders to protect the redwood. Not only is the tree recognized as one of the largest of its species by both county and state officials, but it sits within a “Resource Protection Area,” giving the county the chance to scrutinize these construction plans quite closely.
“The tree is stately, thriving and establishes a sense of place and continuity in a rapidly changing county,” Ruth Shearer, the president of the Williamsburg Civic Association, wrote in a letter to the County Board. “The loss of such a prized and recognized tree would be a tragedy, not only to this community but also to Arlington and to Virginia.”
The developer didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on its plans for the property. But Shearer points out in her letter that county and state law generally prevents the removal of large trees in Resource Protection Areas, zones near streams that feed into the Chesapeake Bay.
She argues that Richmond Custom Homes likely won’t be able to prove that their plans meet the narrow exceptions allowing the removal of trees in these areas, a claim echoed by the advocates with the Arlington Tree Action Group.
“Both this tree and this RPA are important for protecting the air and water quality not just of the immediate neighborhood and Arlington County at large, but of the Bay watershed,” the group wrote in a news release. “The loss of either would call into question the enforcement of the [Chesapeake Bay Protection Ordinance].”
The action group added that this tree is likely one of the largest dawn redwoods in the entire country, and could live to be up to 600 years old if left undisturbed.
Jessica Baxter, a spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Environmental Services, noted that the redwood is not necessarily guaranteed protection under Arlington’s tree ordinance, however. She points out that the tree would need to be designated as a “specimen or heritage tree,” a designation the county can only grant following a request from the property’s owner, and the homeowners have yet to ask for such a change.
“The county is reviewing the [developer’s permit] applications and its options for preserving the tree,” Baxter told ARLnow via email. “We’ll keep the community informed of the outcome.”
Read the entire statement on the redwood from the tree action group, after the jump.
AT RISK: STATE CHAMPION TREE IN RESOURCE PROTECTION AREA
Arlington, Virginia – June 25, 2018. A Commonwealth of Virginia State Champion Tree – very likely one of the oldest Dawn Redwoods in the United States – is at risk of being cut down. As Arlington County acknowledges, the Dawn Redwood is located in a Resource Protection Area (RPA); the Chesapeake Bay Protection Ordinance (CBPO) requires RPAs to be designated near Arlington streams because those waters flow into the Bay. Thus, both this tree and this RPA are important for protecting the air and water quality not just of the immediate neighborhood and Arlington County at large, but of the Bay watershed. Other single-property homes in this RPA have observed the restrictions placed on building in a RPA.
This has the makings of a landmark case. A Champion Tree and the RPA in which it is located are at stake; the loss of either would call into question the enforcement of the CBPO, not to mention the County processes used to designate Champion Trees and RPAs.
This Dawn Redwood, given its size, is likely one of the oldest in this country. It was identified by American Forests, the Virginia Urban Forest Council, the Virginia Forestry Association, and Arlington County as both an Arlington Champion Tree and a State Champion Tree. When last measured by Arlington’s Urban Forester, it was found to be 114 feet high, with a crown of 60 feet and a circumference of 185 inches.
A Resource to Protect
Generally speaking, the removal of large trees (more than 3 inches in diameter) is not permitted in RPAs, although there are exceptions where, for example, the application of the buffer would prevent the achievement of a “minimum buildable area.” The exceptions require the submission of water quality impact assessment data, a tree preservation and protection plan, sediment and erosion control plans, and other materials. The county website describes RPAs as “…stream or wetland buffers [that] help protect water quality by: filtering out pollutants from storm water runoff; reducing the volume of storm water runoff; minimizing erosion, and; providing wildlife habitat. A fully vegetated stream buffer can help protect private property by preventing erosion along a water body. Steep slopes (25 percent or greater) that are adjacent to buffers are also part of the RPA because of the potential for erosion in these areas. In RPAs, existing trees and other vegetation are protected and building projects are regulated to protect water quality.”
The Dawn Redwood lies within the Williamsburg Civic Association (WCA); the WCA 2017 Neighborhood Conservation Plan, like that of many civic associations, identified the loss of mature trees through development as one of the biggest concerns of residents. A key goal of the Civic Association is to promote efforts to stem “the decline in the tree canopy occasioned by residential development and tear-downs.”
The Dawn Redwood is an unusual tree. Throughout most of modern history Dawn Redwoods were known only from the fossil record. The living tree was discovered in China in the early 1940s and seeds were imported into the United States in the late 1940s. The trees are considered endangered in the wild but have adapted to urban settings because of their tolerance for urban air pollution and wet sites. It’s one of the few deciduous evergreens, losing its needles in the fall and replacing them in the spring. They can live up to 600 years.
A petition launched by neighbors recognized that this beautiful, healthy tree is on a lot large enough to keep the tree and build new homes, just set farther back on the lot. The petition quickly garnered nearly 800 signatures. An article in Arlington Connection (6/13/18) quoted a resident who reviewed the notes to the permit database in April and found building in the RPA had been rejected “…because of failure in the grading plan, the water quality impact assessment, the erosion and sediment control plan and the tree preservation and protection plan.”
Civic Association Plea
In a June 22 letter to the Arlington County Board, the President of the Williamsburg Civic Association lamented that razing the tree “will jeopardize important environmental protection goals embodied in the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, Arlington’s Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance (Chapter 61), and Arlington’s Stormwater Manual.” Ruth Shearer added that “state and local law generally prohibit the removal of trees in Resource Protection Areas,” and concluded that the “loss of such a prized and recognized tree would be a tragedy, not only to this community, but also to Arlington and to Virginia!”
The Champion Dawn Redwood and the RPA in which it stands provide benefits to all residents, including: capturing carbon and purifying the air, filtering water (ending up in the Bay), giving shade and saving energy, supporting wildlife, mitigating climate change (by removing carbon from the air), and adding to the beauty, ambiance, and history of the neighborhood and county. Both deserve protection.
Happy Trails to Barry Trotz — Arlington resident and Stanley Cup winning coach Barry Trotz is stepping down as head coach of the Washington Capitals. (A number of Caps coaches and players call Arlington home, given that the team’s home base is the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston.) [Washington Post, WJLA]
Crash Closes Departures Roadway at DCA — A vehicle crash and the subsequent cleanup effort closed the departure level roadway for an extended period of time yesterday. “A car with three occupants accidentally ended up on a jersey wall and rode along it for approximately 100 yards before coming back down,” an Arlington County Fire Department spokesman told ARLnow.com. “One occupant had minor injuries, but none were transported.” [Twitter, Twitter]
Neighborhood Battles to Save Tree — “Another development-preservation battle is gearing up in Arlington, this one focused on the fate of a dawn redwood on Ohio Street… A petition was recently initiated by Todd Murdock who lives several houses away from the tree. In a day the petition had 500 signatures and by June 10 the number of signatures had grown to more than 700.” [Arlington Connection]
Kaine on Housing Affordability, Amazon — U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) swung by Clarendon on Monday to speak at a forum on housing affordability. He believes localities like Arlington that are dealing with skyrocketing rents need help from the federal government, but he lamented that the Trump administration’s policies could be actively making the problem worse. Afterwards, he told a reporter that rush hour traffic may be a significant detriment to Northern Virginia’s bid for Amazon’s HQ2. [Twitter, Washington Business Journal]
Nearby: Wawa Coming to Georgetown — Rosslyn residents and workers may be able to walk — or take a gondola? — to the next D.C. Wawa. The convenience store chain plans to open in the former Restoration Hardware space on Wisconsin Avenue NW. [Washington Business Journal]
Photo courtesy @NineTiger
Apple Eying Arlington, N. Va. — It’s not just Amazon — Apple is also looking to establish a large new office, potentially in Northern Virginia. Crystal City and the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor are among the sites the world’s most valuable company is considering for a new campus that would bring 20,000 jobs to the area. [Washington Post, Washington Business Journal]
Flood Watch Today — A Flood Watch is in effect today, starting this afternoon and running through Friday night. Heavy rain — 3 to 5 inches — is expected through Friday evening. [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter]
W-L Alums Against Name Change — Hundreds of Washington-Lee High School alumni have signed on to oppose the removal of “Lee” from the school’s name. A decision on the name could come later this year. [Falls Church News-Press]
ACPD Detective Honored — Det. Rosa Ortiz has been named Law Enforcement Officer of the Year by Arlington County Crime Solvers. Ortiz’s dogged work on cold cases “demonstrates our commitment to pursue cases, no matter how much time has passed,” said Arlington County Police. [Facebook]
Students Plant Trees Along GW Parkway — “Students from the Children’s International School in Rosslyn recently joined their parents and community volunteers in planting 32 trees in a previously weedy area along the southbound George Washington Memorial Parkway ramp to Key Bridge.” [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk
Yorktown Grad Chosen in NFL Draft — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers chose Yorktown High School graduate M.J. Stewart in the 2018 NFL draft. Stewart was working with his youth foundation at Langston-Brown Community Center when he learned that he was the 21st pick in the second round of the draft. [InsideNova, Twitter]
Amazon Speculation Boosts JBG Stock — JBG Smith Properties’ stock is up 13 percent in the past month on speculation that Amazon could build its second headquarters in the D.C. metro area. Many of the company’s holdings are based in Crystal City, which is seen as a contender for the site of Amazon’s new HQ2. [Washington Business Journal]
Drug Take-Back Day Numbers Up — Arlington police collected nearly one-third more prescription drugs at Saturday’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day than at last spring’s event. Residents handed over 744 pounds of prescription drugs to police on Saturday, compared with 562 pounds last April. [Twitter]
Arlington Recognized for Tourism Event — The Virginia Association of Destination Marketing Organizations presented the Arlington Convention and Visitors Service with an award for its June 2017 Monumental Views IPW Travel Trade Reception, which showcased Arlington to international travel trade and media during the U.S. Travel Association’s IPW 2017 event in Washington, D.C. [Arlington County]
Rosslyn Circle Beautification — Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol was among the volunteers with the Tree Stewards of Arlington and Alexandria and the Children’s International School to team up with the National Park Service to beautify Rosslyn Circle on Sunday (photo above). They planted 32 trees and plan to add more later this year.
Red Flag Warning Today — Northern Virginia is under a Red Flag Warning through 8 p.m. today, indicating a heightened danger of outdoor fires. “Dry and windy conditions will create an environment conducive for the rapid spread of wildfires,” the National Weather Service said. “All outdoor burning is discouraged today.” [Twitter]
Photo via Katie Cristol on Twitter
Roosevelt Island, Gravelly Point to Get Bikeshare — The County Board approved a deal with the National Park Service to allow Capital Bikeshare stations on Theodore Roosevelt Island and at Gravelly Point. Although the stations are on NPS land, the county will install and maintain them. [Arlington County]
Arlington, Falls Church Men Arrested in Drug Bust — Williamsburg police arrested 10 people at the College of William & Mary — including one student from Arlington, two from Falls Church and a professor — during a large drug bust during which they confiscated LSD, cocaine, mushrooms, opioids, amphetamines, steroids, hashish, marijuana and $14,000 in cash. Police launched a months-long investigation when they heard that increased drug use was causing unreported sexual assaults. [Richmond Times-Dispatch]
Tree Canopy Dispute Grows — Environmental activists have intensified their cries about the county providing misleading information on the size of Arlington’s tree canopy. Activists confronted County Board members at their Saturday meeting, armed with claims of “alternative facts” and a “war on science.” [Inside NoVa]
Outstanding Park Volunteers Honored — The County Board gave awards to Joanne Hutton, John Foti and Friends of Aurora Highlands Park for their efforts to support county parks and natural resources. The honorees have led service projects, helped to expand field use and promoted public open spaces. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
The Arlington County Board has approved a site plan that would bring 97 affordable housing units and two rows of townhouses to Buckingham.
The “100 percent affordable” multi-family building and townhouses will replace the former local Red Cross headquarters.
The approved development comes despite complaints from nearby residents about the proposal. The new development’s density, potentially increased traffic, and “the desecration of the tree canopy” were all cited as dealbreakers for some locals, though supporters asserted that the building was vacant, the affordable housing is “badly needed” and complaints were overblown.
A partial rezoning of the site was approved alongside the site plan at Saturday’s County Board meeting (April 21). There are currently two single family homes on the site, in addition to the former headquarters and an existing playground.
The townhouses will be built in the first phase of the project, with construction on the multi-family building, which is required to “achieve Earthcraft Gold or LEED v4 Homes and Multifamily Midrise Gold certification,” following in a second phase.
The developer, Wesley Housing Development Corporation, agreed to preserve the on-site apartments, known historically as the Windsor Apartments but now called the Whitefield Commons, which the county says were built in 1943. Unit incomes will average 80 percent of the average median income, and the building will average 60 percent of that figure.
Whitefield Commons’ interior will be reconfigured to add five units, bringing the total units inside that complex to 68. The multi-family building will have 97 units, and the townhouses will have 19.
There will be 187 parking spaces between the developments — 45 at Whitefield Commons, 88 at the multi-family building, and 42 for the townhouses. The townhouses have the highest parking ratio per unit, at 2.26 spots per unit plus four visitor spots.
Wesley Housing Development Corporation will be required to “encourage transportation alternatives.”
That will be done via a transportation management plan, which includes a provision to give “each new tenant in the multi-family building… a choice of a SmartTrip card preloaded with a $65 balance or a bikeshare or car share membership,” according to a county project website.
A Google Maps estimate shows that the site is approximately a 22 minute walk to the Ballston Metro station. The 3.95 acre parcel is bordered by N. Thomas and N. Trenton streets, 2nd Road N., and Arlington Boulevard.
Plans estimate that 60 trees will be removed, three of which are dead or dying and another 17 of which are located on top of or near an existing storm pipe.
An estimated 132 tree credits will be granted, according to the site plan. One credit is given for each planted shade tree or large evergreen tree, or for every three deciduous, ornamental, or small evergreen trees.
Map via Google Maps
Cemetery Flyover Planned Today — Expect to see a military flyover today around 1:45 p.m., in support of a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. [Twitter]
Grant to Pay for Reforestation — “Arlington County government officials will accept about $9,700 in federal funds to restore nearly four acres of riparian buffer along Four Mile Run. The grant will fund purchase of more than 1,000 tree and shrub seedlings to be planted in areas that have been treated for removal of invasive plants.” [InsideNova]
Arlington Man Convicted of Murder — “On Friday, April 13, 2018, a Charles County jury, after a 5 day trial, convicted Bryan Javier Aquice, 25, of Arlington, VA. of the First Degree Murder of Michael Beers.” [Southern Maryland News Net]
Disgusting Discovery Prompts Call to Police — A woman called police after she reportedly found a used condom on the hood of her car in Arlington’s Douglas Park neighborhood. [Twitter]
Nearby: New Company HQ in Falls Church — Investment firm Kiddar Capital will be relocating its headquarters to a new office building in the City of Falls Church. [Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
An Arlington environmental group is claiming that Arlington’s recent tree canopy assessment is misleading.
The tree canopy study found that, from 2011-2016, the tree canopy increased one percent to 41 percent. The Arlington Tree Action Group claims that the two percent margin of error on the county’s study cancels out its findings.
A press release from the tree group also notes that the county failed “to emphasize a decrease from the 43 percent recorded in 2008.”
The press release from the Arlington Tree Action Group is below.
ATAG Challenges County’s Misleading Claims on Tree Canopy Study
Arlington, Virginia – April 12, 2018 – Arlington County is using an arsenal of its public outreach resources to present an overly optimistic picture of the health of the forest resources based on a 2017 tree canopy study according to the Arlington Tree Action Group (ATAG). The study concluded that the tree canopy increased by 1% between 2011 and 2016 but the County media push fails to emphasize a decrease from the 43% recorded in 2008. More alarming for 10 civic association neighborhoods is the scant recognition of the actual loss of more than 5% of their trees over just five years, with another 14 neighborhoods losing up to 5%. The County has instead declared that the trees are “on the rebound” based on the report.
After reviewing the report, Jarlath O’Neil-Dunne, Director, Spatial Analysis Laboratory, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, the University of Vermont, concluded that the accuracy of the data used was only 94% making the findings publicized by the County highly questionable. In keeping with the County initiative for more open data, ATAG is concerned that the information disseminated must be accurate.
The 2004 Arlington County Urban Forest Master Plan called for an increase in the tree canopy from the estimated 41% at that time. The Plan also called for extensive programs for the preservation and planting of trees. Arlington County does not have an inventory of the trees on public lands that many jurisdictions such as the District have established. The County currently has capital projects including stream restorations, community centers, and park developments, that will remove hundreds more trees in the next few years, dwarfing the public and private tree planting programs underway.
ATAG is concerned that the County outreach mischaracterizes the study results which could delay addressing serious environmental, health and economic challenges accompanying urban tree canopy loss. The outreach has included presentations to the County Board, the Urban Forestry Commission and other County commissions and civic associations, as well as articles in “The Citizen” newsletter to all residents, pages on the County website, and posters in parks.
ATAG is a group of concerned Arlington citizens working to preserve the sustainable urban forest, promote green infrastructure, and protect the environmental ambience that makes the community economically attractive. Working with individuals and established community organizations, the group seeks to highlight important issues facing Arlington’s urban forest and bring together resources to maximize their goals.
See here for a more complete discussion and links to relevant documents.
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
A small patch of trees and shrubs have been cut down on a traffic island near Washington-Lee High School but replacement plantings are planned.
The spot alongside the intersection at Washington Boulevard and N. Quincy Street previously had several trees, including an older tree and several shrubs.
Susan Kalish, an Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation spokesperson, told ARLnow that the greenery there was primarily non-native species, and “about 75 percent were diseased or dying.”
“Slowly but surely, as projects arise we look to enhance areas with native plants that will support our native species,” Kalish wrote.
County landscapers “looked at the space and decided to turn it into a forested grassy knoll,” and are in the process of replanting 15 flowering native trees and grass.
The tree removal and reinstatement at the plot directly across from Quincy Park comes weeks after Arlington officials cited stats that Arlington’s level of tree canopy coverage had slightly increased, although at least one local environmental activist has disputed that finding.
When a grand old oak tree died just prior to construction on an improvement project at Oakgrove Park, landscape architect Kathy von Bredow knew what she had to do.
She got in touch with prolific chainsaw artist Andrew Mallon, who’s responsible for a number of intriguing tree sculptures around Arlington, and asked him to do his magic. Now, as seen in the video above, that tree is a whimsical carving of forest animals having fun around a little house.
The carving is now a centerpiece at Oakgrove Park — or is it Oak Grove Park? — that all can enjoy. Other upgrades to the park include a new tot lot, play equipment for school-age children, picnic shelter and site furnishings.
Video via Arlington County
Arlington Tree Canopy Increases — “Arlington’s tree canopy increased slightly from 2011 to 2016, according to new data, but remains below levels of a decade ago. A total of 41 percent of Arlington’s acreage was filled with tree canopy when evaluated last year, an improvement from the 40 percent from the last time it was studied.” [InsideNova]
Police: Drive Safely This Weekend –Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning and predicted six more weeks of winter, and the Patriots and Eagles will be facing off in Super Bowl LII on Sunday — both are occasions for the Arlington County Police Department to remind residents to drive safely. [Twitter, Twitter]
Thank You to Quantum — Staff from Clarendon-based recruiting firm Quantum Search Partners helped ARLnow’s team move some heavy furniture as we expanded into a new office yesterday. Thank you for lending a hand!
Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman
The curbside lane along eastbound Old Dominion Drive will be closed today, tomorrow and on Monday as the county removes trees to make way for a new sidewalk.
Closures will remain in effect from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and Monday and from 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. tomorrow. The “missing link” sidewalk project is anticipated to begin construction this spring/summer with completion expected in spring 2019.
Once trees are removed, utility adjustments will begin to complete the sidewalk from the south side of Old Dominion Drive from Cherrydale Firehouse to N. Thomas Street.
The county has allocated $1.15 million for the project, a spokeswoman said.
Photos via Arlington County
Four trees have been designated for special protection as specimen trees by the Arlington County Board.
The trees, all on private property, are designated as an “outstanding example of [their] species,” according to a county press release over the weekend.
They were all offered protection under the county’s Tree Preservation Ordinance, and now are permanently protected from injury or removal.
The trees were nominated for the protected status by their owners.
The four new specimen trees are:
- Willow Oak at 2411 N. Monroe Street. The tree’s circumference is nearly 193 inches, and it stands 130 feet tall, with a crown spread of more than 80 feet.
- Blackgum at 3225 N. Albemarle Street. The tree boasts a circumference of nearly 74 inches, stands 60 feet tall and has a crown spread of 50 feet.
- American Beech, at 1600 N. Jackson Street. Its excellent condition earned the tree its protected status. Sixty feet tall, it has a circumference of nearly 106 inches and a crown spread of more than 55 feet.
- Southern Red Oak at 5220 11th Road N. The tree has a circumference of 192 inches and stands 120 feet tall, with an 80-foot-plus crown spread. It is currently the County Champion for the Southern Red Oak species.
“Our County is working on many fronts to preserve trees and to protect our tree canopy,” County Board chair Katie Cristol said in a statement. “Specimen trees are one piece of this puzzle. These are special trees, usually very old and deeply loved by their owners, that have been found to have such outstanding qualities that they merit special protections.”
The latter tree belongs to local activist Nora Palmatier, who chairs the county’s Urban Forestry Commission and is a recipient of the county’s Bill Thomas Outstanding Park Service Volunteer Award.
In a statement, Palmatier said:
Having a Specimen Tree in the yard is really important to us. First, there are the bragging rights so we can show photos when others show off grandkids. Second, this massive oak’s leaves keep the house shaded at all hours during the summer so our air conditioner rarely runs which saves money and is more relaxing with fresh air from open windows. Third, our tree is an apartment building for birds, squirrels and pollinators so we are constantly entertained by our neighbors’ antics.
Yet most important, designated Specimen Trees are officially listed on the real estate property deed. Whoever buys our old house in the future will want to replace it, and they’ll note the magnificent Southern Red Oak in the back requires special protections.
Oaks naturally live hundreds of years, and we hope simply by making this an extra step, our tree will continue benefitting the neighborhood another hundred years.
A tree set for removal outside an East Falls Church home has instead been turned into a castle.
The home, at the intersection of N. Underwood Street and 26th Street N. is near Bishop O’Connell High School and Tuckahoe Elementary School.
The homeowners did not respond to requests for comment, but a neighbor said the castle was carved by a local artist out of a tree that needed to be taken down.
It is approximately 7-8 feet tall, and the “detail involved is truly unbelievable,” the neighbor said. At first glance, it looks like the kind of castles found in Germany, where many castles sit among mountains.