(Updated at 1:15 p.m.) The Arlington County Board approved two of the new use permit requests from Westover Market last night (March 20).
The market and beer garden sought to expand its current 29 outdoor cafe seats to 102, which was approved unanimously, but with conditions. The requested, expanded “piped-in” music hours were also approved.
“Previously, the beer garden could not play a radio, recorded, or piped-in music in the outdoor cafe area unless it was during the same hours as the live music,” noted County Board Chair Katie Cristol. “Now, they’re free to do so any evening until 10 p.m. on weeknights or 11 p.m. on weekend nights.”
The County Manager’s staff had recommended approving the expanding seating and music hours. The business withdrew a request, not supported by county staff, to expand the permitted hours of outdoor live entertainment.
The Westover Market also asked for a code modification for outdoor fireplaces, which was denied due to “life and safety concerns.” However, other forms of outdoor heating are still permitted.
An amendment was added that Westover Market would be required to have a representative on site at all times to comply with the new regulations and handle complaints. Board members said their votes were in the interest of helping a local business serve its customers.
“We’re losing the uniqueness,” lamented Board Member John Vihstadt. He said Arlington was losing its “funky” character, citing the recent closure of Clarendon’s Iota Club and Cafe and explaining his view that the most desirable neighborhoods to live in in the county are those with more unique neighborhood amenities and going-out options.
A number of beer garden customers spoke in favor of the permit changes during the public comment period. David Calhoun, the market’s bar manager, told the Board that the beer garden is trying to be a good neighbor.
“We jumped through every hoop, every hurdle that we could,” he said. “We’re not asking for too much and we’re always willing to tone it down if there is a complaint.”
Though the new use permits were approved, some Board members acknowledged and echoed the concerns of those opposed to the market’s requests.
Board Chair Katie Cristol said any enforcement of the new use permits would be difficult and would require responding police officers to have very specific zoning law knowledge, such as knowing the difference between amplified, live, or piped in music permissions.
“All of these things somehow have to find a balance,” said Board Member Christian Dorsey, explaining the difficulty in determining how to limit what he said is the only outdoor cafe with live entertainment in the county.
The market at 5863 Washington Boulevard has become an entertainment and drinking destination, popular with local residents and families, but the county has struggled with how to regulate it given little existing precedent for a business of its kind.
Two residents have launched a petition to try to change the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance after the Board of Zoning Appeals denied their plan to add a story to their home.
John and Gina Quirk, who live on 20th Road N. in the North Highlands neighborhood north of Rosslyn, had an application to convert an unused attic at their duplex home (pictured above) into a third-story bedroom rejected by the BZA late last year.
John Quirk said the “minimal” addition to make more room for their expanding family had the support of all their neighbors. It also had the support of some BZA members, who said at their December meeting that the fact that it stayed within the property was laudable.
“I think this is a really wonderful attempt to gain more space without increasing the footprint, and if we don’t grant these kinds of variances, then we’re faced with variances where they want to expand with the footprint,” said BZA member Charles Smith. “I think this gives developers and builders a [really] good model on how you can gain more with less.”
But the BZA voted down the proposal by a 3-2 margin on the grounds that the R2-7 zone for the property, a residential zone for townhouses and two-family homes, does not allow for such expansions by homes that were built before the Zoning Ordinance took effect. This home was built in 1939.
Such extensions are allowed for homes in other, similar residential zones, but in the Quirks’ zone it requires a special exception from the BZA.
In denying the extension, BZA members urged the Quirks to petition the County Board to change the Zoning Ordinance to allow the extensions in the zone where their home is.
“There’s hundreds like you, so maybe it could be a worthwhile community project for you to be the poster child for,” said BZA member Peter Owen, who also said the Zoning Ordinance is “broken.”
So the Quirks have done just that, and launched an online petition that has 91 supporters so far. The pair said their efforts could help the county address its lack of affordable housing and help people not be priced out of the county when they need more space.
“New county initiatives champion Missing Middle Housing as a strategy to support walkable, urban neighborhoods,” they wrote. “Duplexes are a perfect example of Missing Middle Housing if they can be improved to be compatible in scale to single family homes.”
Image via John and Gina Quirk
Arlington Chamber Seeking State Help — Possibly in response to the push for housing conservation districts, “the Arlington Chamber of Commerce is asking the General Assembly to ‘serve as a backstop and a safeguard’ against overreach by localities on planning and zoning matters.” [InsideNova]
Reminder: SmarTrip Change Next Week — As of Monday, Metro riders will no longer be able to run a negative balance on their SmarTrip cards. [WMATA]
‘Meet the Chair’ Scheduled — Arlington residents will be able to meet newly-minted Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol on the evening of Jan. 18, when the Leadership Center for Excellence holds its annual Meet the Chair event. [Leadership Center for Excellence]
SoberRide New Year’s Record — A record 1,225 people used the free safe ride service SoberRide on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Thanks to its new partnership with Lyft, SoberRide’s organizer says it “has removed well more than two times as many would-be drunk drivers from Greater Washington’s roadways as compared with the previous year.” [PDF]
District Taco Continues to Expand — Five Guys may be given a run for its money as the most successful Arlington-born restaurant chain. District Taco is now opening a location in the Center City section of Philadelphia. [Eater]
Snow Shovel Contest Winner — “This is Susan. She won our snow shovel, writing that her favorite phase of snow treatment/removal is Phase 1. Brine makes her giddy. Susan’s old shovel is from Nebraska and cracking. Way to go, Susan.” [Twitter]
Photo courtesy @BoccatoGelatos
After the recent fight over the Westover Beer Garden’s outdoor seating, the Arlington County Board will consider some changes at its meeting next month.
Under a plan put forward by staff, the County Board could review the seating capacity and hours of piped-in music in outdoor seats governed by a use permit, like the Westover Beer Garden, on a case-by-case basis. It would mean the Board can approve exceptions to the rules of a use permit individually.
Standards that cannot be modified under a use permit include parking requirements, the use of portable lights and furniture and tying their opening hours to the attached restaurant’s.
The beer garden at 5863 Washington Blvd ran into difficulties earlier this year when it tried to add to its outdoor seating as county use permits expressly forbid having more outdoor seats than indoor seats.
That stands in contrast to the just-open Continental Beer Garden in Rosslyn, which has many more seats outside than inside and can do so because it went through a site plan process, which requires County Board approval and is much more involved than a standard administrative permit process.
Similarly, the proposed beer garden known as “The Lot” in Clarendon would need to go through a site plan process to ensure it can have more seats outside than inside under the current rules.
Staff said outdoor seating cannot be considered as permanent seating for a restaurant, and must continue to be treated as an optional extra.
“Because it is an accessory use, an outdoor café is not considered a permanent expansion of a restaurant’s seating capacity, as it is a transitory use which provides patrons with additional seating options on days with pleasant weather,” staff wrote. “The accessory outdoor café also goes largely unused during periods of cold, snow, and rain.”
The County Board voted unanimously Saturday to hold a public hearing on the subject at its November meeting. Staff will make a recommendation on whether the Board should adopt the changes beforehand, with the Planning Commission also set to weigh in.
Photo via Facebook.
Minor Charges for Man Who Ran from Cops — The man who ran from police Tuesday in Ballston did so, apparently, to avoid being charged with driving on a suspended license and improper registration. He’s now also facing eluding and failure to I.D. charges. The passenger in the car did not flee and is being charged with identity theft and possession of drug paraphernalia. [Arlington County]
I-395 HOT Lanes ‘Pretty Close to a Done Deal’ — A plan to convert the I-395 HOV lanes to High Occupancy Toll lanes appears to be proceeding. Thanks to promises to use toll revenue to enhance carpooling and express bus service, Arlington officials have been generally supportive of the plan so far. That, after the county sued to block a previous I-395 HOT lane plan. [Washington Post]
Arlington Names New Zoning Administrator — Arlova Vonhm, the county’s Acting Zoning Administrator, has been appointed to the position on a permanent basis. “Vonhm, who joined the County in 2012 as a principal planner, leads a team of 30 Zoning staff. Her team collaborates with Inspection Services and other County staff to process and approve building permits, while actively enforcing the County’s Zoning Ordinance,” notes a press release. In the past few years, Arlington’s zoning administrators have drawn the ire of many in the business community for a heavy-handed approach to enforcing Arlington’s zoning rules. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Zoning Board Rules in Favor of Gun Store — Arlington Board of Zoning Appeals has rejected a challenge to the Certificate of Occupancy for Nova Firearms, the gun store at 2300 N. Pershing Drive in Lyon Park. A group of residents filed the appeal, claiming that the store’s owner submitted false information to the county. [Daily Caller]
Complaints About Aircraft Noise in Barcroft — Residents of Arlington’s Barcroft neighborhood are organizing a working group to address the issue of aircraft noise, particularly noise from low-flying helicopters. [Chamandy.org]
Another IRS Phone Scam — Arlington residents are reporting yet another phone scam. If someone calls you out of the blue, says they’re from the IRS and tries to get you to reveal personal information, it’s probably a scam. [WJLA]
New Leader for Arlington Arts Center — Holly Koons McCullough has been named the new executive director of the Arlington Arts Center. Previously, McCullough served as director of the Greater Reston Arts Center. [Washington City Paper]
New Director of Transportation for APS — The Arlington School Board has approved the appointment of Angel Garcia-Ablanque as the school system’s new Director of Transportation. He was previously Assistant Director of Transportation for Montgomery County Public Schools. [Arlington Public Schools]
Fundraiser at Celtic House — Celtic House (2500 Columbia Pike) is holding a fundraiser for two veterans organizations today. The Irish pub, an ARLnow.com advertiser, will be donating a portion of all sales today to Wings for Warriors and Links to Freedom.
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Nova Armory, a firearms retailer, opened in March in Lyon Park amid local controversy. The store’s owner, Dennis Pratte, is now suing dozens of residents and lawmakers, accusing them of trying to interfere with his business.
Five local residents launched their own legal offensive when they filed an appeal to Arlington’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA), challenging the county’s decision to issue Nova Armory a Certificate of Occupancy, which is required for businesses with a physical location in Arlington.
Arlington County has previously said that there is nothing it can do legally to prevent a gun store from opening, as long as it follows zoning rules and files all the proper paperwork.
The appeal was submitted by residents Julia Young, Emily Hughes, Bernadette Brennan, Grace Chan and Nathan Guerrero on March 2, along with the $575.40 filing fee.
In a report to the BZA, Arlington’s Acting Zoning Administrator, Arlova Vonhm, recommends denying the appeal and upholding Nova Armory’s Certificate of Occupancy at 2300 N. Pershing Drive. Vonhm addressed each of the challenges made by the residents:
- Appeal: In a media interview, Dennis Pratte said his 16-year-old daughter was the store’s owner, and thus he erroneously listed himself as the owner on the application.
Staff position: “Mr. Pratte has clarified in subsequent media interviews that he is training his daughter to take over the business, but that he remains the principal on all leases, permits, and legal documents.”
- Appeal: The description of the store as a “retail” location is false because Nova Armory’s website describes “wholesale pricing.”
Staff position: “While the applicant’s website advertises wholesale pricing, this appears to be an advertisement of advantageous pricing to retail consumers, rather than a statement of intention to engage in wholesale trade.”
- Appeal: The store is called NOVA Armory, but the business name was listed as Broadstone Security, LLC on the application.
Staff position: “The Zoning Ordinance does not prohibit the use of fictitious trade names, which is a common practice for retail businesses.”
- Appeal: The Zoning Administrator who issued the Certificate of Occupancy “did not research whether or not the applicant was a valid holder of a Federal Firearms License.”
Staff position: “Given that the Zoning Administrator does not have the authority to enforce state or federal laws and regulations, the Zoning Office does not as a matter of general practice verify required compliance with state or federal licensure requirements for firearms store or any other type of business.”
- Appeal: The Certificate of Occupancy “should be revoked due to an inaccurate record of ownership of the premises.”
Staff position: “Property owner information was not material to the review of the proposed land use or the issuance of the permit to authorize said land use on the subject property, therefore it would not be a valid reason for the Zoning Administrator to revoke it.”
The BZA is slated to consider the appeal, along with a long slate of others, either Wednesday night or at a possible carryover meeting Thursday. The board is not required to follow the staff recommendation when making its decision.
Apparently misunderstanding the nature of the appeal — any citizen who says they’re “aggrieved” by a zoning decision can file an appeal — Nova Armory posted several messages on Twitter Tuesday decrying elected officials and an “abuse of power” by county government.
Arlington holds so-called public meeting to try & close gun shop but fails to tell owner or landlord- tomorrow 7pm pic.twitter.com/vkOluYWHBg
— NOVA Armory (@NOVAarmory) May 10, 2016
NOVA Armory will continue to fight this abuse of power and attempts to close us down. Anti's and elected's want to play hardball- game on!
— NOVA Armory (@NOVAarmory) May 10, 2016
(Updated at 3:50 p.m.) Arlington County officials have reportedly shut down a popular fenced-in “dog run” outside of a Rosslyn apartment community.
In a memo to residents of the Rosslyn Heights and Rosslyn Vue apartments on N. Quinn Street, building managers say that they’ve been ordered to remove the fence around the dog play area.
The decision, managers say in the memo, came from new Arlington Acting Zoning Administrator Arlova Vonhm, who decreed that a permit for building the fence around the nearly two-year-old dog run should never have been approved by the county.
Jace Bauer, a local resident, said that the dog run is “convenient and much enjoyed.” Via email, Bauer said the loss of the area is a blow for residents and for dogs.
“I recently moved to Arlington and have found this small, fenced in area to be a great spot in our community,” Bauer said. “I have met so many wonderful people in my first few months here while taking my one year old border collie mix out for a game of fetch. The nearest dog park (Clarendon) is a 30 minute walk, which is not practical for a quick morning or evening outing.”
The memo from building management, which suggests legal action may follow, is below.
Dear Residents of Rosslyn Heights and Rosslyn Vue,
A few months ago Arlington County received a complaint from our neighbors regarding the dog walk area by the leasing office. We have been attempting to work with Arlington County Zoning officials to comply with their requirements and appease our neighbors. Although this area has existed for almost two years, the Zoning Administrator, Ms. Arlova Vonhm, has decreed that the approved permit should not have been approved. Her decision is that the fence violates Arlington County Zoning ordinance and must be removed or we will be subject to fines and legal action for noncompliance. Ms. Vonhm has also been presented with multiple plans to relocate the dog walk to other areas of our property, all of which have been denied.
As such, tomorrow, November 20th, we will be removing the fence to comply with their order. Rosslyn Heights and Rosslyn Vue have always been pet loving communities and it gives us great displeasure to have to do this. Please take some comfort that we do not consider this matter closed. We will be obtaining legal counsel to bring this issue to the attention of the Arlington County Board (http://countyboard.arlingtonva.us/county-board-members) and County Manager, Mark Schwartz.
The next scheduled Arlington County Board Meeting is scheduled for Saturday, January 24th at 8:30am at 2100 Clarendon Blvd., Room 307.
Thank you for choosing Rosslyn Heights and Rosslyn Vue as your home and for your patience and understanding as we work through this situation.
Rosslyn Heights Team
In an email Vonhm, the Acting Zoning Administrator, confirmed to ARLnow.com that today was the deadline for the apartment’s property manager to remove the fence, after it was determined that the county had mistakenly issued a permit for its construction contrary to the property’s approved site plan.
The site plan calls for only landscaping in the area where the dog run now is, Vonhm determined, after receiving complaints from neighbors. She noted that the property manager has the option of applying for a site plan amendment.
“The County’s position is that the fence changes the nature of how the space is used, and creates the problem of dogs running loose and creating excessive noise,” said Vonhm. “The option of applying for a site plan amendment is still open to the property manager, even after the fence is removed. The County has worked in good faith with the property manager to come up with a viable solution that addresses the neighbors’ concerns about noise from the dogs.”
Photo courtesy Jace Bauer
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.