The Williamsburg Field Site Evaluation Workgroup, the citizen body charged with weighing in on the thorny issue of whether an athletic field near Williamsburg Middle School should have lights, is set to have its 21st meeting tonight (Wednesday).
The workgroup is preparing to write its draft report, which will be presented to county commissions next month and reviewed with the Arlington County Board in January before a final set of recommendations is presented to the Board in February.
Earlier this month the workgroup held an open house at which those on both sides — for and against lighting the artificial turf field — presented their case. ARLnow.com spoke to a number of people at the meeting.
“I’m for the fields,” said Chris Smith, a nearby resident. “I think it’s fantastic that we have the resources that we do in Arlington, and the utility of the turf fields is only expanded by having them lit at different times during the day. It gives us more time on the fields, particularly give the children more time on the fields, as the days get shorter, through the winter and I think that’s only a good thing.”
“I’m probably one of the four or five houses that are closest… whatever the effects could be I would probably feel them as much as anybody else,” Smith added. “But as a member of the local youth sports community and as a father of three children, two of whom are at Discovery [Elementary], I think it’s a better investment with the lights there.”
A number of supporters said their kids play soccer and having a lighted field closer to home — currently they must travel to Gunston Middle School or Long Bridge Part to play at night — would benefit far more residents than the lights would, potentially, negatively affect.
Opponents, however, said in their presentation that the area around the field is a “historically dark and quiet neighborhood” and lighting the field would be a slippery slope leading, perhaps, to turning “all of Arlington County into a big city with big-city traffic, noise and lights.”
“I live close to the field, my kids went to this school and we already lived through building Discovery school, the elementary school, which has been fine, actually,” said a lighting opponent who did not give her name. “But this will have games going at night, I don’t know how many nights a week, late at night. They already have games it seems, a lot, all day, all weekend. It seems like it’s just too much for the neighborhood and the lights will disturb everybody’s sleep and rest and just the peace and quiet of the neighborhood.”
“I just don’t think you have to play soccer 24/7,” the lighting opponent continued. “You know, enough is enough.”
County Board member Christian Dorsey attended the open house and said the lengthy community process — which started in September 2013 — is intended to give all residents plenty of opportunity to shape the county’s ultimate decision.
“We put together a workgroup because this is not an easy issue to decide or deliberate about,” Dorsey said. “The Board wanted to make sure we gave individuals from communities, affected communities who are also part of interest groups to really go deep into the issues so that they could give us all the perspectives that we needed to make a decision. So, this is kind of a — not the culmination — but it’s nearing the end of their work and this is really a useful way to take what they’ve learned and share it with the wider public.”
“We need to make an informed decision,” Dorsey concluded, “which is what I look forward to.”
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
(Updated at 10:20 p.m.) A fire broke out in the basement of a house in Arlington’s Williamsburg neighborhood tonight.
Firefighters were dispatched to the home, on the 6200 block of 30th Street N., shortly before 9 p.m. Fire was reported in the basement, with extension to the first floor of the house.
The fire was brought under control within about 15 minutes. There were no reports of injuries but extensive damage, including a collapsed floor, was reported.
— Arlington Fire (@ACFDPIO) August 31, 2016
— LincolnACFD (@LincolnACFD) August 31, 2016
*WORKING FIRE* 6200 BLK N. 30th St. E106 with heavy fire from a basement w/ extension to 1st floor.
— ACFD Firefighters (@IAFF2800) August 31, 2016
*UPDATE* 6200 BLK N. 30th St. Fire knocked. Searches negative. Extensive overhaul w/ floor collapses on #1 floor. #ACFD
— ACFD Firefighters (@IAFF2800) August 31, 2016
#Update: Fire has been knocked down and searches on all floors were negative. RIT Level 1 on scene.
— Arlington Fire (@ACFDPIO) August 31, 2016
Photos courtesy Andrew Pang, @LincolnACFD
Sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning, someone entered the United Bank in Arlington’s Williamsburg neighborhood through a hole in the wall, but nothing was stolen.
Police are investigating the break-in, in the Williamsburg Shopping Center. Investigators say the suspect was able to gain entry to a room behind the bank’s ATM, but not the main lobby of the bank. The hole was in a wall in a walkway between the bank and a barber shop, we’re told.
Some cuts were found on the ATM, but no money was stolen.
It was business as usual at the bank as of Wednesday afternoon. No holes were visible in the wall, which appeared to be recently plastered over.
From the Arlington County Police Department’s crime report:
BURGLARY, 160214018, 6400 block of N. Williamsburg Boulevard. Between 5:20 p.m. on February 13 and 9:15 a.m. on February 14, an unknown subject(s) forced entry through a hole in the wall of United Bank. No money was stolen and no damage was made other than cuts made to the ATM. There is no suspect(s) description.
Traffic delays are expected on Williamsburg Blvd as the county builds a new water main under the road.
“The County is building new water mains and modifying pipes to the Minor Hill Reservoir site and its four underground storage tanks. The projects will improve the water system’s reliability and redundancy at our most critical and largest water storage area,” said county spokeswoman Jessica Baxter.
Construction is scheduled to start today on southbound Williamsburg Blvd. at N. Sycamore Street, Baxter said.
There are potential traffic delays, as the county will be narrowing the existing travel lane to allow for the water main installation. Southbound traffic will be affected for eight to 12 weeks, according to a press release.
The county will also be closing a gap in the water main that runs under westbound Williamsburg Blvd between N. Frederick and N. Harrison Streets.
The westbound lane will be closed to traffic until summer of 2016 while crews work on the water main, according to the county. Cars will be routed around the construction using a part of the eastbound lane on Williamsburg Blvd.
There is no set date for when the county will start working on the main line under the westbound lane, Baxter said.
“Earliest anticipated start date would be Sept. 21, but we’ll update the community when a date is confirmed,” she said.
The water main project will cost $4.1 million and will come from the county’s utility fund, according to the press release. Once the water main line construction is completed, water will be able to flow through storage tanks easier, resulting in fresher water from the tap, the county said.
“The projects will boost the water system’s reliability and redundancy by providing a backup main to our most critical and largest water storage area,” said the press release.
Photos via Google Maps
(Updated at 3:50 p.m.) Arlington brothers Henry and Karl Neff spent last Saturday morning doing something that will sound unappealing to most: pedaling up a really steep in hill in Howard County, Maryland.
The two Williamsburg kids were riding in the Highway to Heaven Hill Climb Time Trial as cyclists on the National Capital Velo Club/United Healthcare team, the largest cycling club on the East Coast, according to the club’s site.
The time trial is an individual event, where each rider is trying to complete a course in the fastest time. What made Saturday’s race challenging is that the 0.8 mile-course is majorly uphill at an 18 percent grade.
Despite the hill’s steepness, the race was “not as bad as I thought it would be,” 9-year-old Henry said. He placed ninth in his age group, with a time of six minutes, 24.25 seconds.
For 12-year-old Karl, the race was easier than he expected, he said. His coaches told him it would be mostly uphill but there were more flat areas than he expected. He placed seventh in the 9-14 age group, with a time of 5 minutes, 49.45 seconds.
Karl has been cycling for three years, he said. Henry started last year, following in his brother’s footsteps.
“We first got into cycling because our mom biked to work,” Karl said.
Henry’s favorite part about cycling is winning, and he’s won a couple of races, he said. For Karl, it is the speed.
“The wind going past my face,” he said. “The accomplishment of how I went up this big hill.”
The two attend practices every Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30 p.m. where they learn different parts of racing. Some days they will work on drafting in the pack, sometimes they work on corners, Karl said.
During the school year, the boys fit in homework between school, practice and races. The cycling season can last until the middle of December and then picks up again March. The two spent this season racing all over Maryland and Virginia, competing in over 25 races, many during the school year.
Henry attends Drew Model School in the Montessori program. Karl attends Williamsburg Middle School, which lets out at 2:30 p.m., giving him around three hours to finish schoolwork before practice starts.
“I don’t have anything until 5:30 p.m. so that’s usually enough time to get my homework done,” Karl said.
N. Lexington Street was closed for 45 minutes today after a dump truck caught on fire, causing it to leak hydraulic fluid.
The fire ignited in the truck’s engine compartment around noon, near the intersection of N. Lexington Street and Little Falls Road.
The dump truck leaked about three to five gallons of fluid, said Battalion Chief Matt Herbert, of the Arlington County Fire Department. The fire was started by a mechanical issue, he said.
Hazmat crews had already been to the scene as of 1:15 p.m. They put absorbent on the fluid, which prevented it from going into the storm drains, Herbert said. Most of the fluid was on the right side of the road against the edge.
“The absorbent picks it [hydraulic fluid] up and the company cleans it up and takes it to an authorized dump,” he said.
A hazmat crew and other members of the fire department, including the fire marshal, were still on scene waiting for the contractor to come pick up the absorbent. N. Lexington Street is open, but one lane remains blocked off.
The hydraulic fluid and absorbent are not dangerous to residents Herbert said.
Williamsburg Boulevard is scheduled for a construction project this fall as the county works to add rain gardens, more trees and new pedestrian crosswalks to the street.
A date for construction has not been set, but it should start in the fall and last three to five months, said Jessica Baxter, a spokeswoman for Arlington County.
The county may also hold off on some landscaping, tree planting and final paving until spring 2016 if the weather is bad in the fall, she said.
The road will remain open in both ways during construction, but the bicycle lanes will be closed. Pedestrians crosses will still be available.
The stretch of Williamsburg Boulevard is in a residential area, and the construction will only occur between 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays in order to reduce the noise level, Baxter said.
Once construction is completed, a newly paved Williamsburg Boulevard will have new curbs where it intersects with 33rd Road N. and 35th Street N., new crosswalks that are compliant with the American Disabilities Act and more canopy trees between 34th Street N. and 35th Street N.
The street will also have two rain gardens, which will help clean polluted runoff.
Canopy trees will also be added to the stretch of Williamsburg Boulevard between Old Dominion Drive and 33rd Road N.
Old Dominion Drive is currently under construction and the two projects are being coordinated to keep traffic delays to a minimum, Baxter said.
“Construction activities between the two projects will be coordinated to reduce traffic delays as much as possible. Drivers may experience some delays trying to access North Glebe Road from Williamsburg Boulevard, particularly after 9 a.m.,” she said.
Baxter said the exact cost of the project has not been determined.
“Construction plans are still being finalized, and the specific contracting mechanism for the bioretention component is still being determined,” she said. “At this time, the construction cost estimate for the project ranges from $600k to $700k. The County is fully funding the project with the majority of the funding coming from the Stormwater Fund.”
Proactive shoppers can get a head start on next season’s holiday shopping at specialty gift store Two the Moon’s (6501 29th St. N) upcoming Christmas in July sale.
Two the Moon, which opened last year, sells an eclectic selection of primarily local merchandise, ranging from pottery to greeting cards to baby clothes. During the one-day Christmas in July sale, owner Johanna Braden says all holiday items in the store will be 40 percent off, including holiday merchandise for the upcoming seasons of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. All other store items will be 10 percent off.
The bulk of Two the Moon’s offerings are made in Arlington or, barring that, somewhere in the USA. The shop currently carries goods from about 25 different Arlington artisans, including headbands and bows, jewelry, handmade cards and canvas tote-bags. Braden also works to hire locally and says she has given both neighborhood mothers and kids jobs at the store.
Braden opened the store on Sept. 2, 2014 after ending her 35-year career in nursing. Owning a local gift shop had long been a dream of hers, and because she knew that nothing like it existed in the Williamsburg neighborhood where she lived, she decided to give it a shot.
Braden says that business has been “phenomenal” ever since she opened up shop last year.
“Just the other day, someone came in and told me that on the last day of school this year, all the kids came in with gifts for their teachers, and they were all Two the Moon bags!,” said Braden. “It’s great — that’s just so great to hear.”
The Christmas in July sale is scheduled for July 18 from 10 a.m.-7 p.m., with a “rain date” of July 19. Regular store hours are Sunday 12 p.m.-5 p.m. and Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Arlington County plans to make permanent repairs to a sinkhole on Williamsburg Blvd in the coming weeks.
The sinkhole first appeared in February due to a water main break which created a small geyser near the corner of Williamsburg Blvd and Sycamore Street.
The temporary repairs, now several months old, allowed the road to reopen but are not a permanent solution. A large indentation in the road is “still there and getting worse,” with some cars having to swerve onto the median to avoid the hazard, according to resident Joe Keeley.
Permanent patching is scheduled for the “trouble spot” sometime within the next two weeks, according to Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jessica Baxter.
Baxter said that the repairs in February were indeed temporary, and that final repairs had not taken place yet partially because hot mix asphalt — the material needed for permanent repairs — is not typically available in the winter months.
Instead, Baxter said that road crews used cold mix asphalt to perform temporary repairs and planned to return for final repairs when the weather warmed up.
In this case, Baxter said the road requires a full-depth repair, which involves installing a new sub-base layer of gravel and replacing both the base and top base layers of the road. Repairs are expected to cost approximately $3,500.
Reward Paid for Bank Robbery Tip — Arlington County Crime Solvers has paid a reward for a tip received that led to the arrest of a bank robbery suspect. The tipster called a 1-800 number to leave a tip after seeing a press release about the Dec. 6 robbery at Capital One Bank in Ballston Common Mall. [Arlington County]
Williamsburg Middle School Closed Monday — Williamsburg Middle School was closed Monday due to a pipe that burst over the weekend, damaging part of the school. [WUSA 9]
‘CoworkCafe’ Launches in Clarendon — A new coworking space concept called CoworkCafe has launched in the lounge next to Boccato Gelato in Clarendon. For $150-200 per month, those seeking to get work done can access the lounge as often as they like. They also get a $50 credit toward food and beverage. [Washington Business Journal]
Solar Co-Op Launching in Arlington — A group of Arlington residents is banding together to form a solar co-op, which will allow members to obtain bulk discounts on the purchase and installation of home solar power equipment. [Sun Gazette, Virginia Sun]
‘Soulless’ Tweeter Spotted in Arlington — Byron Tau, the Wall Street Journal reporter who asked last week if Arlington was the “most soulless place in the United States,” was photographed over the weekend smiling widely at Courthouse’s Fire Works Pizza. “No comment on the record,” Tau tweeted in response to the photo. [Twitter]
Reminder: Pothole, Water Main Break Reporting — As the freeze, thaw, refreeze cycle continues during the month of February, numerous water main breaks and large potholes have been reported around Arlington. If you spot one that needs to be fixed, you can quickly file a report about it via the following “report a problem” online form. [Arlington County]
A new gift shop, Two the Moon, is now open in the Williamsburg Shopping Center (6501 29th Street N.).
Two the Moon opened on Sept. 2 and is owned by Williamsburg resident Johanna Braden. Braden retired earlier this year as an end-of-life specialist with Virginia Hospital Center, where she had worked the past 10 years. She said she retired “for about a half a day, until the house was clean,” before she decided to get to work opening up a gift shop.
“The kids don’t need me anymore, so my husband asked me what I wanted to do,” she said in her Boston accent. “Who asks a 56-year-old woman what she wants to do?”
She said she knew immediately she wanted to open a gift shop in her neighborhood, so she leased the basement space in the strip mall, which had been vacant for seven years since Action Music moved out of the space. It was “in ruins” she said, but in six months she, her family and friends fixed it up and made it ready to use.
Now open, the shop features gifts and wares from about 20 Arlington vendors as well as people from the surrounding area and up and down the East Coast. Braden keeps a book with the stories of each artist or vendor sold in the shop, so she and her employees can give the full story to every customer.
“It’s a fun place,” she said as she waltzed around the store, proudly showing stationery with drawings of Westover landmarks, blankets made from recycled cotton and linens made by a cancer survivor that say “Fork Cancer.” “I think it’s going to be a hit. I really want it to be about community, because I live in the community and I care about the community.”
The store is open from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, from noon to 5:00 p.m. on Sundays and closed on Mondays. For one weekend a month, Braden is planning on holding a showcase for an Arlington artist and serving wine and cheese. This past weekend, the artist was Jessica Lee Designs, which specializes in handmade jewelry.
Arlington County Police are closing the investigation into the fatal pedestrian crash that occurred in front of Nottingham Elementary School on Feb. 24.
After a month-and-a-half accident investigation, police have charged 33-year-old Manassas resident Marvin Valladres with “failure to pay full time and attention,” a traffic infraction. He will not face more serious criminal charges, like negligence or involuntary manslaughter.
Valladres had just left a nearby construction site and was driving his dump truck down N. Little Falls Road around 11:30 a.m. when a passenger side step caught the open rear sliding door on 39-year-old Jennifer Lawson’s minivan, according to investigators. Lawson had just finished putting her young child in a car seat and was standing next to the driver’s side door when the truck drove by, ripping the sliding door off the minivan and fatally injuring her, police said.
Following the crash, neighbors in the Williamsburg neighborhood held a community meeting, with many calling for answers and accountability. Investigators, however, believe this is a case of a tragic accident.
Valladres was “very cooperative” during the investigation, there was “no indication of any driver distraction or alcohol involved” in the accident, and there was also “no indication of any speeding violation,” according to ACPD Dep. Chief Daniel J. Murray.
(Updated at 11:05 a.m.) Dozens of students who will be attending the new elementary school at Williamsburg Middle School’s campus participated in the new school’s groundbreaking yesterday afternoon.
The approximately 97,000-square-foot elementary school is planned to open before the 2015 school year. The school is planned to be one of the few schools in the country to be energy neutral, meaning the energy it generates with solar panels and other sources will be enough to completely power the school.
“We won’t be relying on Dominion Power,” Arlington Public Schools Director of Facilities Planning Scott Prisco said during the groundbreaking ceremony, held in the Williamsburg gymnasium. “It’s important to show the idea of sustainable design… can look absolutely stellar.”
The new school doesn’t have a name yet — APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said that will come after a principal is hired and there is community outreach to settle on the proper name — but Superintendent Patrick Murphy tried to imbue upon the future students that they were becoming a part of history.
“When you’re my age or even older, you can reflect on that you were a part of this groundbreaking for this school,” he said to the dozens of children in attendance.
The construction is expected to cost about $35 million, for a total school cost of $46.5 million. Prisco said yesterday that the project is within budget so far. School Board Chair Abby Raphael beamed when discussing the process of getting the school built and approved.
“It was a really positive boundary process, and that doesn’t happen very often,” she said. “The school is not just a building, it’s a community.”
(Updated at 2:10 p.m.) About 100 residents packed the auditorium at Nottingham Elementary School last night, less than three weeks after a mother placing a child in her minivan was killed by a dump truck in front of the school.
Arlington County Police Chief Doug Scott gave members of the Williamsburg Civic Association updates on the investigation into the death of 39-year-old Jennifer Lawson, and he took questions from more than 20 residents, most of whom demanded action to increase pedestrian safety in the area.
Scott said the driver of the truck was neither speeding nor distracted when his vehicle struck Lawson’s minivan.
“The driver has been very cooperative with the investigation,” Scott said. “We’ve done a forensic exam of his cell phone and that was not an issue… This was not a cut-through traffic situation. This gentleman was doing contract work in your neighborhood. He had been in and out of the neighborhood a couple of times that day.”
“It was a matter of inches,” he said.
Speakers said the police presence in the area for a few days after the collision has since disappeared, leading many to criticize the police’s presence along Lee Highway nearby, where cars are frequently stationed for hours. Scott said that squad cars are placed where there are the most complaints, but even if they were in the residential neighborhood, “a majority of the tickets we write are to people who live in those communities.”
Julie Monticello, a mother of six who lives on N. Ohio Street across from the school, said members of the community have to also look inward after the accident.
“I couldn’t sleep that night not only because of Jen, but also because of that dump truck driver, because it could have been any of us,” she said, while fighting back tears. “I know that’s so hard to say. That man is not a murderer, everyone should say a prayer for that man, because he’s not a murderer.”
Monticello was not the only person to get emotional while speaking on the microphone. Richard Sheehey, who lives on N. Kensington Street, choked up several times during his plea for speed bumps and a lower speed limit on his street and throughout the neighborhood. There had been a traffic calming committee a few years ago, Sheehey said, but they were one vote from approving changes and the committee has since been disbanded.
“I get very emotional about this,” he said. “I don’t want to see what happened to Jen happen to any one of our kids… Nobody likes speed bumps, but it’s the No. 1 way to slow traffic down. If a car hits a child at 25 mph, that child has a good chance of survival. If a car hits a child at 35 mph, that kid’s going to die. So please help us.”
Del. Patrick Hope (D) was in attendance, and told the civic association that he plans to introduce a bill in the House of Delegates next year that would allow localities to lower their speed limits below the state minimum of 25 mph to 20 mph. A majority of the speakers agreed that even 20 mph was too fast for the streets in the area.
“Fifteen miles-per-hour just tells people that there are people crossing the street,” Monticello said. “When there’s children crossing the street constantly, the speed limit has to be 15. Twenty-five doesn’t send the message.” (more…)