Morroy, O’Leary Join Call for Streetcar Referendum — The two elected officials directly responsible for managing the county’s money, Commissioner of the Revenue Ingrid Morroy and Treasurer Frank O’Leary, have joined Del. Patrick Hope and County Board candidate Alan Howze in support of a referendum on the Columbia Pike streetcar project. (Hope’s fellow congressional candidate, Mark Levine, has also called for a referendum.) “This issue has become too divisive to fester any longer,” Morroy said in a press release. [Blue Virginia]
‘Film Processing Kiosk’ to Be Removed from Zoning — In a sign of the times, “film processing kiosk” is being removed from Arlington County’s zoning classifications. The designation was determined to be “archaic,” a victim of the rapid rise of digital photography. [InsideNova]
Ball-Sellers House Tours — The Arlington Historical Society is giving tours of the historic Ball-Sellers house every Saturday through October. The log cabin was built in 1750 and is Arlington County’s oldest house. [Washington Post]
Murphy Named ‘Superintendent of the Year’ — Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy has been named Superintendent of the Year by the Virginia Association of School Superintendents. The group lauded Murphy’s “efforts to address school-crowding issues, improve graduation rates and address disparity in student achievement.” [InsideNova]
Follow-up: RaceDots Now Shipping — It’s been a long five months for Jason Berry and his company, RaceDots, since the company was profiled in our “Startup Monday” feature in December. Berry has spent long hours since then arranging for his product’s manufacture and shipment from China to the U.S. As of this week, the RaceDots — strong magnets used to hold race bibs in place instead of safety pins — finally arrived in his Harrisonburg warehouse. “The story behind getting the product here was an absolute struggle but we overcame the hurdles and are officially in business selling product from stock,” Berry told ARLnow.com. Berry tells the story on the company’s blog. [RaceDots]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
In January of this year, East Falls Church roommates Tony Pianta and Mike Dillon started serious planning to open a microbrewery in Arlington. Recently, however, it became apparent to them that there’s no place in Arlington for such an endeavor.
Roommates Brewery, as the venture was named, was planned as a production brewery with an in-house taproom. Although no final location has been set — Pianta expects that to happen in the next few weeks — Roommates Brewery will likely open in Alexandria.
“Arlington couldn’t match up better with the demographics for a brewery with a taproom,” Pianta said. “It’s just tough to open something that large in Arlington.”
Pianta and Dillon were targeting a 5,000 square foot space, which Pianta said is as large as they could afford in a high-density area with heavy foot traffic.
However, Arlington’s zoning laws — like many surrounding municipalities, including Alexandria — state a brewery must be located in an industrial or light industrial area. Those are few and far between in Arlington, Pianta said, and most of them won’t be available in the near future.
“The available spots weren’t in the places we wanted to be,” Pianta said. “We can justify the extra cost in rent if we can get enough people coming in the taproom and buying pints, but it was just getting too much to justify anymore.”
The locations in Alexandria they are now considering cost roughly the same amount for 10,000 square feet as for 5,000 square feet in Arlington, Pianta said.
Pianta and Dillon, who have lived together in Arlington for several years, are disappointed they won’t be able to bring the county its only production brewery. Pianta said it’s “the ideal market” for a business like the one they are planning, but unless the status quo of zoning laws and rental prices changes, other breweries are likely to look elsewhere as well.
Photo via Roommates Brewery
Plans for the new school have been in the works for some time, and the Arlington School Board unanimously approved a conceptual design in February. Although a number of concerns from the community have arisen during the planning process, county staff recommends Board approval for the use permit.
One issue that previously prompted a meeting is the traffic impact a new school would have on the surrounding area. A study indicates traffic impacts only occur during a 15 to 20 minute “peak” period during school arrival and departure times. It is therefore suggested that the two schools stagger their start/end times to reduce this traffic impact, with Williamsburg having an earlier start time than the new school. Staff believes the new school’s parking lot has been adequately designed to prevent long lines of waiting cars from spilling into the neighboring streets during drop off and pick up times.
Throughout the planning process, the Rock Spring Civic Association had joined other members of the community in expressing concern over the plan to use the neighborhood’s street parking near the schools. However, county staff still recommends reducing the number of on-site spaces for the entire campus from 258 to 209 due to the availability of on-street parking. This goes along with the County Board’s approval of changes to the Zoning Ordinance in February to allow schools and recreational facilities to reduce the number of on-site parking spaces.
Another issue has been the proposal to re-construct the athletic fields on the campus, with two of them becoming synthetic turf fields with lighting. The idea prompted community members to create dueling petitions earlier this year. County staff recommends moving forward with the installation of the fields, but not with the lighting. Staff members recommend a County Board review of the use permit one year after the fields open (approximately September 2016) to see whether lighting is necessary.
The work will take place throughout Arlington, and is intended to extend the life of the county’s water infrastructure while forgoing the expense of a complete replacement.
From a county press release:
The Arlington County Board today authorized $1.8 million for the rehabilitation of water mains, many of which have been in service for more than 60 years. The work will take place in neighborhoods across the County and includes the cleaning and relining of aging distribution pipes using a process called Mechanical Cleaning and Cement-Mortar Lining.
“These rehabilitation projects help the County extend the life of water mains and lines, stretch tax dollars, and prevent expensive and disruptive main breaks,” said Arlington County Board Chairman J. Walter Tejada.
Rehabilitation at fraction of replacement cost
Instead of replacing an aging water main, it is possible to rehabilitate the pipe if it is still in good enough condition. Every year, the County selects water mains based on age, frequency of main breaks, and reduction in flow capacity for rehabilitation at a fraction of the cost of new construction and with minimal disruption to the community.
Trenchless rehabilitation means less disruption
Corrosion deposits, known as tubercles, build up naturally over time in older unlined, water main pipes made of iron. The build-up does not normally affect the quality of the water, but it does decrease the capacity of the pipes and can affect water pressure. The trenchless pipe rehabilitation method that Arlington uses involves opening the road at the ends of the pipe segment, instead of cutting the road open along the entire length of the water main, making it less disruptive to traffic near the work area.
Arlington County runs many maintenance programs, such as the water main lining project, to prolong the life and productivity of our infrastructure and facilities. Some other maintenance programs include a distribution valve maintenance program, large valve maintenance program, fire hydrant maintenance program, fire hydrant painting, and annual water main flushing.
The project the Board acted on is part of the Water Main Rehabilitation and Replacement program, which is included in Utilities portion of the FY 2013 – FY 2022 CIP, (Capital Investment Program). D.H.C. Corporation has been selected for the cleaning and cement-mortar lining of Arlington water mains.
When crews work in your neighborhood, you will receive a notice in advance of the project. Temporary service lines are put in service during the work, and flushing is performed to make sure that all water lines are free from any debris that may have entered the system. If you have any questions about your water service in general or as related to one of our maintenance programs, please call 703-228-6555.
The Ashlawn addition proved controversial thanks to opposition to a plan to create a loop road for student drop-off. In the end, the Board approved the addition with the loop road plan, but not before considerable debate and abstentions from Board members Chris Zimmerman and Mary Hynes, according to the Sun Gazette.
Separately, the Board also approved a technical update to reorganize the county’s Zoning Ordinance, as well as an amendment to the ordinance to allow outdoor cafes on private property to operate year-round.
Changes have been approved for parking regulations at the county’s schools and recreational facilities.
At its meeting on Saturday (February 23), the County Board voted unanimously to amend the Zoning Ordinance, which was necessary in order to modify parking regulations for elementary and middle schools and noncommercial recreational facilities. The amendments allow the Board to change the number of required parking spaces at the facilities, which it previously was not permitted to do.
The approved revisions reduce the number of spaces needed at elementary and middle schools. Additionally, the Board now has the ability to alter requirements at individual sites and to locate a portion of the parking spaces off-site.
County staff members have been looking into parking requirements since the issue arose during the public review process for the addition to Ashlawn Elementary School, the new school to be built on the Williamsburg Middle School campus and the planned aquatics facility at Long Bridge Park. Parking demand at all the sites in question was deemed less than what was required by the Zoning Ordinance.
“With APS expanding some facilities and adding new ones to keep up with growing enrollment, we needed to come up with a new approach to parking for our schools and public facilities,” said Arlington County Board Chairman Walter Tejada. “The changes the Board is making in the Zoning Ordinance will ensure that our schools provide for adequate, but not excessive, parking and have plans in place to reduce parking demand.”
All schools and public facilities must also submit a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan to ensure the sites do not build excessive amounts of parking, and that strategies to reduce the demand for parking are examined.
At its meeting on Saturday (January 26), the County Board is being asked to provide authorization for staff to advertise public hearings regarding the proposed amendments. The changes include revising parking standards for elementary and middle schools, permitting off-site vehicle parking at community swimming pools and allowing the County Board to modify parking standards.
The issue first arose during the public review process for the addition to Ashlawn Elementary School and the new school to be built on the Williamsburg campus. Arlington Public Schools felt that using the existing Zoning Ordinance for parking requirements would result in an excessive amount of parking. For instance, the addition to Ashlawn would require 228 parking spaces under the ordinance, when APS says it only needs about 100.
“That is way more than we need and it means we would lose open space and ball fields,” said John Chadwick, Director of Design and Construction for APS. “If we do that and we lose open space, ball fields and green space, that sort of counters what everyone is trying to do in Arlington.”
Another concern is that the ordinance requires all of the parking spaces to be on site. One of the proposed amendments would allow for off-site parking on the street or in other lots, like the lots of private swimming pools, which are typically open during the summer but closed during most of the school year. County staff offered the example of Ashlawn’s ongoing shared parking agreement with the Dominion Hills Pool.
Residents who live close to the affected schools haven’t all been supportive of the measure considering it would force more cars into neighborhood streets.
“We are having some push back from neighbors, but very few of our schools provide the number of spaces currently required under this ordinance,” Chadwick said.
The ordinance is not retroactive, so schools already in existence would not have to suddenly rework their parking situation; only new schools, such as at Williamsburg, or school expansions, such as Ashlawn, need to comply.
The changes would also alter the definition of “design capacity.” The new parking proposal suggests allotting one teacher parking spot for every 7.5 students, and one visitor spot for every 40 students.
“We’re very much in favor of the plan and the change and we’ve worked with them [the county] all the way. We really need to get this change approved so we can move forward with the Ashlawn campus and Williamsburg site,” Chadwick said. “This is all good from our point of view. I know it’s a bit complicated, but it actually makes sense.”
Similar parking issues have been identified with the county’s planned aquatics facility at Long Bridge Park. That prompted County Manager Barbara Donnellan to ask staff to examine not only regulations covering school parking, but county recreational facilities as well. As with the schools, parking demand at the aquatics center site was deemed lower than the existing requirements in the Zoning Ordinance.
While some of the amendments deal specifically with parking either at schools or recreational facilities, there are also general provisions covering both categories. County staff recommends that one of the general principles should be to base parking requirements on average daily use and not peak facility uses. Additionally, it recommends sites be examined individually to determine parking needs instead of forcing all facilities to conform to the same regulations. Such a recommendation would be fulfilled by the proposed amendment allowing the County Board to grant special parking exceptions, which it currently cannot do.
The public hearing with the Planning Commission is scheduled for February 11 and the one with the County Board is scheduled for February 23.
A new store in Crystal City found that out the hard way recently when a new mural got a thumbs down from county zoning officials.
Smokey Shope III opened three months ago at 554 23rd Street S. in Crystal City. The store is a head shop — it sells paraphernalia that’s ostensibly intended for the smoking of tobacco. Merchandise includes bowls, water pipes, hookahs, cigars, cigarettes, shisha, gifts and a type of Afghan jewelry known as lapis lazuli. One employee described the store as “a place where people can unite… and have positive energy.”
About two weeks ago, Smokey Shope’s manager said, the store paid $1,000 to a traveling band of artists to paint a mural on the front of the store. Salim Amin, the manager, said the intent was to create a work of art that would beautify the block. The finished product was a man, smoking a cigar, with colorful and decorative smoke emanating from the cigar.
Just two days after the mural was complete, however, zoning officials stopped by with some instructions: the cigar had to go up in smoke, so to speak, as it’s a product being sold by the business and thus an illegal sign according to the county’s zoning ordinance. The situation mirrored that of Wag More Dogs, an Arlington dog grooming and boarding business that has (unsuccessfully) fought in federal court to have its mural of playful pups deemed art instead of advertising.
“We have not received complaints, but we have investigated the mural,” Norma Cozart, Arlington County’s Zoning Administrator, told ARLnow.com. “We have spoken to the shop owner and the cigar must go; then the mural can stay. Without the cigar, it is not a sign and staying or leaving is up to the landlord.”
The shop, which is directly across from Freddie’s Beach Bar and other 23rd Street restaurants, says other merchants on the block have signed on to a statement of support for the mural. But Amin says they’re nonetheless exploring ways to remove or paint over the cigar without destroying the mural. One idea is to repaint it into some sort of hot, steaming food — perhaps a falafel.
A final decision will likely have to wait until the store’s owner, Atta “Smokey” Amin, returns from a vacation in Jamaica next week. In the meantime, the store is continuing to market its wares to the local community, a marketing effort that has included placing colorful handout flyers on car windshields throughout the Crystal City area.
Smokey Shope has two other locations, in Fairfax and Manassas, and is hoping to open a third in D.C. in the near future.
Bike Meeting to Discuss Bollards — The Arlington County Bicycle Advisory Committee will discuss bollard installations and removals at its meeting tonight, June 4. The meeting is being held at 2100 Clarendon Blvd at 7:00 p.m. Bollards are posts put at the entrance to a trail to keep cars out; some believe they are a safety hazard to cyclists. [CommuterPage Blog]
A-Frame Sign Rules Enforced — Even though A-frame (sandwich board) signs are now allowed in Arlington, county zoning officials are beginning to enforce the the rules related to A-frame sign placement and size. [Arlington Mercury]
Froyo Store Coming to the Pike — Menchies Frozen Yogurt has signed a lease for a store at Penrose Square, along the 2500 block of Columbia Pike. The self-serve frozen yogurt chain currently has 185 locations worldwide. [CityBiz Real Estate]
Flickr pool photo by Divaknevil
At its meeting yesterday, May 22, the board voted unanimously to approve a rezoning and use permit for the property. The site, located at the southwest corner of Columbia Pike and Glebe Road, will be turned into a multi-family residential complex.
The plan includes construction of a six-story building with 245 apartments, 44 townhouses, 12 stacked flats and retail space on the ground floor. Renderings of the buildings were released in January. The development will be split into two blocks by a new road that has yet to be constructed.
Although the development is based on the Columbia Pike Form-Based Code, it required approval of a special use permit because the property exceeds 40,000 square feet.
“The Form-Based Code is beginning to make a real difference in the look and feel of Columbia Pike,” said Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes. “With this, the seventh Form-Based Code project approved by the Board for the Pike, our community’s vision of a revitalized, more vibrant, walkable Pike is becoming reality.”
Efforts will be made to be environmentally sensitive during construction, but the developer will not seek LEED sustainability certification. It was explained that as part of the Form-Based Code guidelines, LEED certification is not required in order to keep construction costs low. Board member Jay Fisette didn’t like that concept.
“I believe that as our standards change we need to simultaneously look at changing the Form-Based Code standards as it applies to that area,” Fisette said.
County staff reached out to residents in the neighborhood during the planning process to get feedback on the site plan. The overall response was positive, according to the county, although some concerns were raised about disruptions due to construction and potentially hazardous traffic patterns. Board members spent time addressing both topics.
As currently designed, residents of the complex won’t be able to make a left on Columbia Pike or Glebe Road. Some worry that problems that could arise from drivers making U-turns in order to go north on Glebe Road or west on Columbia Pike. The Board agreed that further investigation into safety and traffic patterns is necessary, and instructed county staff to tackle the issue.
Of lesser importance is the formal naming of the street that will be constructed through the property. It is supposed to start with an “L” and have two syllables, per county regulations. Some have begun tentatively calling it “Lincoln Street.”
Board member Chris Zimmerman said adhering to naming regulations sometimes seems absurd in an area where streets don’t follow an easy grid design. He suggested not naming the new road Lincoln to avoid confusion with the North Arlington street of the same name. Hynes agreed, but pointed out there’s plenty of time for discussion because the name doesn’t have to be assigned until the street is built.
Arlington County has named its new top zoning enforcer, and it’s none other than the woman who has served in the position on a temporary basis since August 2011.
Norma Cozart has been acting Zoning Administrator for the county since shortly after Melinda Artman stepped down from the post last summer. Today Cozart, who has been with the county for 23 years, was named the permanent new Zoning Administrator.
“Norma has done an excellent job providing leadership to the Zoning Office in the interim,” Director of Community Planning, Housing and Development Robert Brosnan said in a statement. “I have all the confidence in the world that she will make an excellent Zoning Administrator.”
Cozart has helped the county formulate policies on a number of hot-button zoning topics, according to an Arlington County press release:
She participated in the formulation of County policies on complex issues such as infill/pipestem lots, signs and sidewalk cafes. She also advised on zoning issues for the development of the Mary Marshall Assisted Living Facility, Artisphere, Marriott Hotels at Courthouse and Potomac Yard, the Jordon (Peck Site), and others.
As Zoning Administrator, Cozart will be responsible for interpreting the regulations within the county’s zoning ordinance, including “[which] buildings may be constructed on lots, the placements and height of structures, the land uses and density of development permitted the number of parking spaces required, the size and placement of sign, and other land use regulations.” She’ll be responsible for leading a team of 23 zoning staff members, who work with residents and businesses on zoning regulation issues.
Could Arlington’s insistence on preserving the single-family home communities along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor be the reason why it seems every new apartment building in the corridor is a “luxury” apartment building?
Last week Slate columnist Matthew Yglesais, author of The Rent Is Too Damn High, wrote about Arlington and suggested that the prevalence of expensive high-end rentals and condos stems from two factors: restrictions on building height and the width of the corridor itself, which is sometimes just 2-3 blocks wide, thanks to zoning restrictions intended to preserve the single family homes on either side of the corridor.
“What you see is a narrow thread of urbanism between Wilson Boulevard and Clarendon Boulevard, with a bit of a thicker blob of urbanism around the Metro station itself,” Yglesais writes. “I don’t really want to condemn this development paradigm because if you compare it to other suburban jurisdictions around the United States, what Arlington has done really stands out as practically best in class. But still the fact of the matter is that these single-family homes adjacent to the corridor of urbanism are sitting on some extremely expensive land.”
Yglesais suggests that opening up additional redevelopment along the R-B corridor would help bring cheaper market-rate housing options. Following up on our inconclusive poll from December — “Should Arlington Increase Density to Keep Housing Prices Down?” — should Arlington consider expanding the width of the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor?
If you were hoping to enjoy the nice weather with a beer outside at the Westover Beer Garden, you’re in for a disappointment. Westover Market and Beer Garden (5863 Washington Blvd) owner Devin Hicks says the beer garden has been shut down until April 1 due to county zoning rules.
Arlington County requires that certain outdoor cafes, like the beer garden, be closed for three months of the year due to the seasonal nature of the business. Hicks says he wasn’t serving beer outside, but was allowing customers to bring their beers to the garden (which has a fire pit) from his indoor bar area. That, he says, earned him a
citation warning letter from the county.
Until it reopens on April 1, the beer garden will be off-limits to customers. Hicks says he’s disappointed with the county’s strict enforcement.
“You would think they’d be on our side but apparently they’re doing everything to make our business less successful and less available to the community,” Hicks told ARLnow.com. “They’re not being business friendly. I don’t know why they keep picking on us.”
When it does reopen, however, music will finally return to the beer garden.
Under a compromise reached between Hicks, neighbors and the County Board, music will be allowed at the beer garden on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights. In April and May, only non-amplified music will be allowed. From June 1 to Oct 31, amplified music will be allowed on Saturdays.
Hicks says he’s in the process of booking bands now.
“It’s going to be a ton of fun for everybody, obviously everybody’s been waiting a long time for it,” he said.
Update at 11:40 a.m. on 2/24/12 — Via Facebook, the Westover Market says they will open the beer garden tonight (Friday) in defiance of the county’s orders:
“We tried to cooperate and follow the county’s imaginary rule about outdoor patios required to be seasonal; we took out the tables, chairs, tvs, bar. That apparently wasn’t enough. The county wanted to cripple our business even more so they told us to take out the stumps, turn off the lights, and not allow patrons to go outside. Enough is enough. WBG & Haus in Full Force open 11am-1:30am.”
On Saturday the board unanimously approved a change to the county’s zoning ordinance that will require new “big box” retail stores to seek a Special Exception Use Permit. Before that, a large retailer could have theoretically built a store in certain areas on a “by right” basis, without the need to obtain board approval.
The amendment will apply to retail stores with a gross floor area of 50,000 square feet or more on any level, or stores with 200 more more dedicated parking spaces. Car dealerships were exempted from the rule.
“With the Board’s action, [large format retail] developments will only be built in Arlington after the community has an opportunity to review potential negative impacts and determine the appropriate conditions to mitigate those negative impacts,” Arlington County said in a press release.
ARLnow.com was the first to report that the board acted to make the zoning change after a developer, working on behalf of Walmart, started expressing interest in an industrial site near Shirlington. County staff warned that “big box” stores like Walmart could generate four times the amount of local road traffic as a similar-sized office building or hotel.
“This isn’t to impede someone from setting up shop if they want to do business here,” board member Walter Tejada said during Saturday’s board meeting. “It’s really saying that we should have a dialog, that there should be a process in which we can address any potential negative impacts to neighborhoods.
“By putting this in place we at least create for ourselves the opportunity to enter the conversation,” added County Board Vice Chair Mary Hynes.
Board member Jay Fisette noted that many other localities have similar rules already in place.
“We’re not breaking new ground,” he said. “This has been done all over the country, it has been done all over the region. We’re in fact the last major jurisdiction in Northern Virginia to take a similar action.”
Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman said economic conditions only recently started making Arlington attractive to large format retailers.
“I think perhaps the reason it came last here is because we don’t have as many of those big pieces of land — the targets of that sort of thing,” Zimmerman said.
“I didn’t mean a pun there, I promise,” he added.
More on Possible Shirlington Walmart — Three months after ARLnow.com reported exclusively that Walmart was eying a site for a possible store in Shirlington, County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman is acknowledging that the county is aware of Walmart’s interest in Shirlington. This weekend the County Board is expected to discuss changing the zoning ordinance in order to prevent “big box” stores like Walmart from being constructed without Board approval. When the ordinance change was first advertised, the word “Walmart” was never mentioned. [WTOP]
Fire Station Open Houses This Weekend — Arlington’s 10 fire stations will each be conducting an open house between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on Saturday. The kid-friendly event is organized as part of Fire Prevention Week 2011. [Arlington County]
Turnaround at AWLA — There’s a turnaround underway at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, which had been criticized for its relatively high euthanasia rate for dogs and cats. The shelter’s euthanasia rate during fiscal year 2011 was down 60 percent compared to the year before. The “positive outcome” rate for sheltered dogs rose to 91 percent from 80 percent one year prior. [Sun Gazette]
F.C., Arlington Police Investigate Burglaries — Arlington and Falls Church police are investigating a series of ten residential burglaries since the beginning of fall. The burglaries have occurred in the City of Falls Church and in Arlington’s East Falls Church neighborhood. Stolen items include laptops, iPods, guns, passports, bank checks and jewelry. [Falls Church News-Press]
Car on Fire on I-395 — A car caught fire on southbound I-395 near Boundary Channel around 9:30 last night. The car was fully-engulfed by the time firefighters arrived on scene. No injuries were reported
Sun Gazette: Thumbs Down to Board’s ‘Walmart’ Action — The County Board’s last-minute, unannounced vote at the end of its final meeting before the summer recess is getting a “thumbs down” in the opinion pages of the Sun Gazette. The Board voted to advertise hearings on a zoning ordinance amendment that would prevent large-format retailers like Walmart from building a store without prior Board approval. “County staff so far have been unable to explain what the rush is – they want to get this approved by the County Board later in the month – and exactly what problem they are trying to solve,” the paper opined. [Sun Gazette]
School Board Challenger Drops Out — Independent Green candidate for school board Andrea Ochoa has withdrawn from the race, according to Arlington elections officials. Incumbent Democrat Abby Raphael will now run unopposed.
Street Sign Mistakes — Typos happen, including on street signs in Arlington. Among the examples: “22rd Road,” “Chian Br. Road” and an unspecified misspelling of “school” on a parking sign. [Falls Church News-Press]
Photo courtesy of @cmags44