Arlington, VA

(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) Farmers markets in Arlington closed briefly by the coronavirus outbreak will be allowed to re-open this weekend, but with a catch: vendors can only offer food that’s been pre-ordered before the market.

The new rules are meant to bring local farmers markets in compliance with guidance from the state government. A similar policy was enacted for markets in Alexandria.

“To limit the exposure to COVID-19, vendors are not permitted to display food or on-site shopping,” Arlington County said in a press release. “This guidance enables markets to remain open giving Arlingtonians access to fresh, locally-grown food while promoting social distancing.”

While others will be opening later this spring, three Arlington farmers markets are currently in season and expected to reopen for order pickups:

Each of the markets will be limited to no more than ten customers at a time, and customers are being asked to comply with social distancing guidelines to prevent the person-to-person spread of the virus. Food orders will be boxed and the press release said customers are asked to avoid touching or inspecting their orders on-site.

Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish said that some of the vendors have options to place orders online, while others might have to be contacted directly by phone or email. While the process may be cumbersome for the first weekend, Kalish said that should be ironed out over the coming weeks.

The Columbia Pike Farmers Market announced today that it will be taking online orders for three vendors.

“To ensure we can continue to support our local farmers and provide the community with needed produce and goods while complying with state-wide guidance on distancing and gathering restrictions, we have temporarily moved our Farmers Market to the web,” said the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization. “Customers will now order from our vendors online and pick up their orders at the market on Sundays. We currently have 3 vendors prepared to take orders for pick-up THIS Sunday, March 29. Please note that orders MUST be placed in advance, unless otherwise noted. There will be no shopping at the market.”

The nearby Falls Church farmers market is also reopening this weekend with similar rules in place.

File photo

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Parents opposed to a proposed four-school swap, set for a School Board vote on Feb. 6, are ramping up pressure to scuttle the plan.

A new coalition calling itself “No School Moves” has gathered more than 1,700 signatures on a Change.org petition launched earlier this month, calling for the School Board to vote “no.”

The group opposes an Arlington Public Schools plan, endorsed by the interim superintendent, to move Key elementary students and staff to the Arlington Traditional School building, while moving Arlington Traditional students and staff to McKinley and McKinley students and staff to a new elementary school building in Westover. That would free up the Key school building near Courthouse, currently used by a Spanish immersion choice program, to become a neighborhood school as the elementary-aged population in that area continues to grow.

People who signed the petition, however, are not buying the APS rationale for the moves, which would reportedly result in more than 2,400 students moving to a new building.

“Moving schools is not creating more seats,” said one. “It’s a temporary bandaid and there is no data to support these moves.”

“These changes can have profound effects on students who get moved to new schools, and the current process is so flawed,” said another. “It could easily lead to even more rounds of redistricting in the near future.”

In addition to objections to the process, an alleged lack of supporting data, and inadequate communication from school staff, opponents say the moves would make diversity in the schools “more difficult to maintain.”

Per the petition:

The school move proposal exacerbates the county’s broader struggle with diversity. As in other communities, Arlington’s historic housing patterns have effectively segregated low-income and minority families, and its schools reflect those same patterns of segregation. Yet despite repeated requests from PTAs and parents across the county — and in the immediate aftermath of a recent settlement between Arlington Public Schools (APS) and the Justice Department over English language learners — APS staff has not performed any detailed analysis of how proposed school moves would affect the demographics of those school populations.

In a recent survey, more than 60% of Spanish-speaking families currently part of the Key Immersion school community have said they won’t be able to move with the program to its proposed new location. APS argues that Key Immersion would draw more native Spanish speakers if it were in a more central location — but their evidence for this is entirely anecdotal.

What’s more, moving the Arlington Traditional School and its VPI preschool program to the McKinley building would adversely affect low-income families who rely on public transit. Families trying to reach the school on a Metrobus could double their commute time. This would discourage enrollment for families without cars, negatively impacting the diversity of a school that has demonstrated results in closing the achievement gap for high-needs students.

Arlington Public Schools is planning to hold a public hearing on the plan on Thursday, Jan. 30, at the Syphax Education Center (2110 Washington Blvd) at 7 p.m., ahead of the scheduled Feb. 6 School Board vote.

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Firefighters battled a basement fire at a house in the Westover neighborhood over the weekend.

The fire broke out early Saturday morning on the 5900 block of Washington Blvd, a block from Westover’s main business district.

The fire was extinguished and no injuries were reported. County Fire Marshals are now investigating the cause.

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A taxi driver was stabbed by a man in Westover earlier this week, according to Arlington County Police, in a seemingly random attack.

The alleged stabbing happened around 2 a.m. Tuesday, on the 1600 block of McKinley Road. Police say the assailant — the passenger in a cab — stabbed the driver after he completed his trip.

The victim brought himself to the hospital with “minor injuries.” The suspect fled the scene and is currently being sought by police.

Police told ARLnow last night that no arrests have been made so far. The crime is not believed to be connected to Sunday’s stabbing in the Westover area, a spokeswoman said.

More from ACPD:

MALICIOUS WOUNDING (late), 2019-12100133, 1600 block of McKinley Road. At approximately 1:08 p.m. on December 10, police were dispatched to the late report of a stabbing. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 2:06 a.m., the victim was operating as a taxi driver, completed a trip and parked his vehicle to allow the passenger to exit. Upon doing so, the passenger produced a knife, reached into the front seat and struck the victim multiple times, causing lacerations. A brief struggle ensued before the suspect fled the scene on foot. The victim sustained minor injuries and later sought treatment at an area hospital and subsequently reported the incident to police. The suspect is described as a white male, approximately 5’6″, 180-200 lbs., with curly black hair, wearing gray sweatshirt and khaki pants. The investigation is ongoing.

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Two restaurants in Westover Village were burglarized overnight.

A thief struck at Lost Dog Cafe and Grand Hunan Restaurant, both on the 5800 block of Washington Blvd, in the early morning hours, smashing glass and stealing items of value.

At Lost Dog Cafe, a safe was dragged through the restaurant and pushed through the smashed front door, ARLnow hears.

At Grand Hunan, the front glass door was also smashed and items on the front counter were found askew. A security camera appeared to be disconnected above the counter.

Arlington County Police are investigating both burglaries, the first of which was discovered around 2:30 a.m.

“At approximately 1:50 a.m., an unknown suspect forced entry to a business, causing damage, and stole an undisclosed amount of cash and items of value,” ACPD said in a crime report. “The suspect is described as a male, wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans and gloves. The investigation is ongoing.”

It has been a rough year for businesses in Westover, some of which were damaged by flash flooding this summer.

Jay Westcott contributed to this report.

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Arlington County Police are investigating a stabbing Sunday night in the Westover area.

Police say a man was stabbed multiple times during an altercation with a group of three men. The victim brought himself to the hospital, where the stabbing was then reported to police.

More from an ACPD crime report:

MALICIOUS WOUNDING (late), 2019-12080246, 1200 block of N. Kenilworth Street. At approximately 10:15 p.m. on December 8, police were dispatched to the late report of a stabbing. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 8:30 p.m., the victim was approached by three unknown male suspects. After a brief verbal exchange, one suspect displayed a knife. The victim and suspects became engaged in a physical altercation, during which the suspects assaulted him and stabbed him multiple times before fleeing the scene the scene. The victim sought assistance for non life threatening injuries at an area hospital, at which time police were contacted. The suspects are described as three white males. The investigation is ongoing.

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A fire Monday evening at an apartment building in the Westover area caused significant damage, displacing residents from six apartments.

The fire broke out shortly before 5:30 p.m. at a two-story garden apartment building on the 1100 block of N. Kensington Street. Arriving firefighters found flames shooting out of the rear of the building.

The blaze started in the living room of a first-floor apartment, but extensive smoke damage made five other apartments around it uninhabitable, according to Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Justin Tirelli.

The fire caused an estimated $1 million in damages, Tirelli said, adding that the cause is being investigating by the Fire Marshal’s Office. No injuries were reported.

The displaced residents are receiving assistance from the Red Cross.

At approximately 5:20pm units were dispatched for a garden apartment fire on the 1100 block of N Kensington St. Upon…

Posted by Arlington County Fire Department on Monday, December 2, 2019

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Morning Notes

Rep. Beyer Talks Impeachment — “Phones have been ringing all day with constituents calling to tell me they support impeachment, particularly following the President’s corrupt dealings with Ukraine. They are right.” [Twitter]

Westover School Project Moving Forward — “There will be no stay of execution for any of the trees on the chopping block as the Arlington school system moves forward with a new elementary school in Westover. School Board members on Sept. 19 voted to approve a construction contract for the $55 million project, which will drop a 725-student facility adjacent to Westover Library on North McKinley Road near Washington Boulevard.” [InsideNova]

It’s Rabies Awareness Week — “September 23-29 is Rabies Awareness Week in Virginia. Follow these five tips to help ensure you and your family are protected. 1. Get Pets Vaccinated… 2. Stay Away from Wild Animals… 3. Keep Pets Leashed… 4. Seek Medical Care Immediately if Bitten… 5. Report Animal Bites and Strange Behavior.” [Arlington County]

ARLnow Reporters Splashed — “A large pleasure boat flying a Trump flag and operating at what appeared to be higher-than-permitted speed came so close to a water taxi bound for the Wharf Sunday that many passengers were soaked when the water taxi crossed its wake. A representative for the Potomac RiverBoat Company was not able to confirm the incident over the phone but, this is Washington, and there were at least two reporters aboard the water taxi.” [Washingtonian]

‘Candi-dating’ Forum Planned — “The League of Women Voters of Arlington is partnering with a number of other organizations on a “candi-dating” forum. The event, to be held on Sunday, Oct. 6 at Walter Reed Community Center, is akin to speed-dating: Attendees will have 10 minutes to meet with candidates running for office from Arlington and Alexandria.” [InsideNova]

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Over forty trees are planned to be removed to make way for a new elementary school in Westover, but Arlington Public Schools is hosting one last meeting about potential tree-saving solutions before construction starts.

A discussion is scheduled with neighbors on Monday (Sept. 16) at the edge of the grove will involve discussion of whether any of the trees can be saved. The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the basketball court on the Reed site (1644 N. McKinley Road).

The current plans call for the removal of roughly 42 trees to facilitate construction that will add to the building that houses the Westover Library and, soon, a new neighborhood elementary school.

Residents have expressed concerns about the removal of the grove, which includes a variety of maple, cedar and mulberry trees. A presentation on the project noted that an inventory of the trees was prepared by a certified arborist and tree removal was recommended.

According to the presentation:

Decisions on tree removal balanced: Building location and required excavation, site improvements (play areas, universally accessible walkways, etc.) and underground utilities (sanitary, storm, geothermal, etc.).

The designs for the site include adding 82 replacement trees, well above the 49 trees required to be planted according to county regulations.

But the plans have drawn some criticism from neighbors and local environmentalists. County Board candidate Audrey Clement specifically addressed the County Board’s approval of the project for its destruction of the trees at a debate this past Monday  (Sept. 9). Many of the trees are larger, like a silver maple tree 4.5 feet wide.

At the meeting next Monday, the presentation says neighbors will be invited to discuss the removal with an arborist and county staff.

But any moving of the remaining trees will have to occur quickly: construction of the new school is scheduled to start by the end of September.

The Westover neighborhood suffered extensive damage from flooding this summer, but school officials said the new school will include updated stormwater protections.

“Stormwater structures and basins are much enhanced from what exists on-site now as per current state stormwater requirements,” said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia.

Map via Arlington Public Schools

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Arlington County Board incumbents fought to hold their ground against independents over Amazon incentives and housing topics at a debate Monday evening.

At the Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s candidate forum at U.Group in Crystal City (2231 Crystal Drive), Democratic incumbents Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol faced off against independent challengers Audrey Clement and Arron O’Dell.

One of the moments of back-and-forth criticism among the candidates came over the redevelopment of a number of market-rate affordable housing complexes in the Westover neighborhood. Clement has frequently criticized the County Board for what she said was the “preventable demolition” of the Westover garden apartments.

The redevelopment was by-right, meaning the developer did not need County Board approval. But Clement said the County Board could have designated the apartments part of a historic district and preserved the homes.

Overall, Clement argued that development drives up costs to build housing and that even dedicated affordable housing units come at a steep cost.

“The average cost of a new [Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing] unit is in excess of $400,000,” Clement said. “Most of the units are not affordable. Because the units are not affordable, the income-qualified people who move in, 30 percent of them have to have rent subsidies to pay the nominal amount of rent that they do pay. The taxpayers are hit twice, they have to pay their own rent and their own mortgage and they have to pay someone else’s because the cost of building that unit was astronomical.”

Dorsey fired back that rather than use the historic district designation, the County Board is working to change the regulations to protect affordable communities from redevelopment.

“In the Westover reference that Ms. Clement talked about, while she thinks the Board has done nothing, what we did do was take a courageous stand… and stopped the perverse incentive that led people to take affordable communities and turn them into by-right townhouses,” Dorsey said. “We paused that option and put it into the special exemption process so that we created options to preserve that housing.”

“We’re studying ways that can be better purposed to provide long term, market-based affordable housing,” Dorsey added. So you have to figure out where you’re doing harm and stop doing harm to create new options to preserve affordability both through direct subsidies and through the market.”

O’Dell, meanwhile, said the County should do more to accommodate for “tiny apartments” aimed at people moving to Arlington immediately after college, who may need an affordable place to live but not a lot of space.

“When you talk about housing affordability, you need to have a variety of types of units,” O’Dell said. “We should look at the lower incomes that fall into the 60 percent bracket and give them opportunities to possibly move in and look at places to live.”

Cristol said the County should work to open the door to other types of housing, pointing to the recent legalization of detached accessory dwelling units as an example and noting the large amount of land in Arlington zoned for only single-family housing.

“One of the most important things we can do is legalizing alternative forms,” said Cristol. “There are so many housing forms that could offer folks not only an opportunity to rent but [also to] buy and it’s literally illegal to build them in huge swaths of the county… There’s room for creative ideas, this is an area where we need partnership in the private sector, particularly for those who develop housing.”

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It’s been a tumultuous road to recovery for two Westover stores devastated by this summer’s record-breaking floods.

Ayers Variety and Hardware and Westover Market and Beer Garden are local institutions that were unfortunately placed directly in the path of floodwaters. Waters flooded both stores and knocked out power to the block.

“Every week it gets better,” said Devin Hicks, manager of Westover Market. “This place has never looked so clean and the community support has been tremendous.”

As Westover Market approaches its ten-year anniversary, Hicks said he’s feeling optimistic.

“It’s been a fight the entire time,” Hicks said. “But everyone’s been remarking that they’re happy to see us persevere. It’s been a rough two months, but it gets better every day.”

Next door, however, recovery has not been as easy for Ayers. The local store has been in business for 70 years selling everything from gardening supplies to plastic toys. But Kristy Peterkin, a manager for the store, said the business was already hard-hit by recent tariffs from the ongoing trade war with China.

“At the same time as the flood, one tier of the China trade tariff hit,” Peterkin said. “Now the second tier is starting to take effect. That’s a big hit.”

Peterkin says the company tries to buy American, but most of the stock they sell is almost exclusively manufactured overseas.

“Probably about 75 percent of what we sell is not American-made,” Peterkin said, “and we’ve seen a 25 percent increase in the prices. Walmart absorbs that price, but we can’t.”

The flood heavily exacerbated what was already a not-so-great situation. Water poured into the Ayers basement, ruining thousands of dollars in merchandise and leaving the store with nowhere to put overstocked goods. Today, half of the basement remains unusable.

“Until that’s fixed, we have nowhere to store additional [stock] that comes in,” Peterkin said. “We’re out of money to spend paying people to fix things, so repairs are on us now, which takes a lot longer. My husband and I work evenings trying to clear the basement.”

The basement flooding has left the store with limited inventory, as Peterkin said they have to be more careful about what they purchase because there’s no room to store surplus and they can’t afford to take a risk on items that they aren’t sure will sell.

“We’re kind of in a rough place right now,” Peterkin said. “I don’t know how that will look in the long run. We’re taking it one step at a time.”

Both stores said a GoFundMe campaign set up to support Westover retailers was a tremendous boon at a time of dire need. Hicks said Westover Market received roughly $30,000 and was particularly thankful to Whitlow’s On Wilson in Clarendon, which hosted a fundraiser event for the Westover stores.

“The event at Whitlow’s was great,” Hicks said. “It had a great turnout, there was great music, and everyone really rallied.”

Ayers received roughly $32,000 and Peterkin said the funding took a chunk out of the estimated $250,000 in lost sales and merchandise.

Peterkin also said there was an initial uptick in sales after the flood where members of the community came out to support the store, but since then numbers have dwindled back down and revenue is flat.

“In business, flat basically means down,” Peterkin said. “If business is flat, everything else still goes up, like rent and payroll and insurance. But to stay competitive, we can’t raise prices to accommodate.”

With winter on the way and a heating unit still out of service from the floods, Peterkin said there are still more costs looming on the horizon and no clear way to afford to pay for them.

There are also concerns that if heavy storms sweep through the area again, the same damage will happen all over. During the floods, Hicks said he saw the sewage pipes in the area become almost immediately overwhelmed and start spewing the water back up into the streets.

“The county needs to address this,” Hicks said. “They need to clean the sewage drains. They have to address it county-wide because it’s only going to get worse.”

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