Wednesday, March 21, 2007

County Board Votes on Buckingham Villages

The "Grateful" Living in Buckingham
(What a long, strange trip it's been...)

What a difference a few years makes.

With none of the rancor, yelling, or protests which came with the reconstruction plans of Arna Valley last decade—plans that displaced hundreds of low-income people, razed affordable apartment buildings and put in new upscale living and shops at that site on South Glebe Road—
the county board voted last night to endorse the Buckingham Village preservation plan and to continue the discussion surrounding it at the April 21 board meeting.

County staff has been instructed to finish many details of the project by the next meeting including the Affordable Housing Plan and sale of Buckingham Village 3 to the county.

Since the county itself cannot buy apartment housing, the county plans to spend $32,130,000 either helping a low-income property management company to buy the property or by following some other options, the county attorney said.

“It’s routinely done,” he said.

It was almost a love-fest at the board meeting last night.

Of the 16 public speakers only Robert Atkins, who has been active in the Arlington County Civic Federation, warned board members that they were endorsing a project that would haunt them over the next 10 years. He believes that the county cannot buy the property and that county staff has done an insufficient job explaining where the money for the purchase, and for subsidies of other programs—estimated in total to reach about $60 million—will come from. It’s the largest affordable housing project the county has undertaken, board members said.

“This [county staff] report has no fiscal impact” statement, Mr. Atkins said. “You have been warned,” he added later.

Caridad Palerm, of the civic activist group BRAVO, said, “It’s not about giving money away, it’s about building assets.”

Buckingham citizens, commission members, board members, county staff and others could not stop thanking one another for the hard work that many people put into the plan. Even Paradigm Development Co., which owns the property, was thanked directly many times for being a “willing partner” in the process.

The process moved in earnest starting last summer when the county and Paradigm entered into a Memorandum of Understanding that mapped out four major goals of the redevelopment: preservation of the community, preservation of affordable housing and historical preservation of Buckingham Village 3, and money enough to the owner that would approximate unrestricted development.

The process followed “The Arlington Way” of forming committees and talking an issue to death to come to last night’s plan. It has been reported here many times. (See, the Feb. 28 and 14 posts; and the Dec. 10, 2006 post, to name just a few.)

Paradigm Development said that more than 10 scenarios for the property had been drafted. Number 8 won the night—it includes razing Village 1, nearest Culpepper Gardens, and replacing the buildings with two large buildings and townhouses. Village 3, on N. Pershing Drive between N. George Mason Drive and N. Thomas Street, will be protected under county historical statutes, and the plan is for the county to purchase it and turn it into a co-operative, condominium, or other affordable housing ownership project.

To get to this point, citizens, county staff, and Paradigm officials met at least 35 meetings since last summer.
As Patricia McCullough, a Village 3 resident, said, quoting the Grateful Dead: “What a long strange trip it’s been.” This became a theme, springing up in others’ remarks about the process, about how the “Arlington Way” actually worked this time—it does not always work, said County Board Member Jay Fisette.
The other theme of the night was home ownership.

“I’m hoping…home ownership will be available to us,” said Judith Sanchez, who also wants to make sure some larger, three-bedroom apartments for rent will also be available.

Anthony Mann who told the board he has lived throughout the region asked the board to explore home ownership options.

This was reflected in remarks by Buckinghamster Jose Meride, who said, “I think all of us want to live and purchase” in Buckingham.

The plan looks to move current residents into other apartments either in Buckingham Village or into other Buckingham neighborhood apartments while the new buildings are built.

Ms. Palerm of the civic activist group BRAVO and Lois Athey of the tenant association BU-GATA both said that maintaining the current buildings while the new ones are being built and giving enough help to displaced persons during relocation is paramount and the county must watch the process closely.

Police Notes for Buckingham
Apprehended Suspect May Be Boulevard Burglar
Officers with the Arlington County Police Department arrested a man who broke into a home in the Arlington Forest neighborhood on March 19.

Police report that at approximately 10 a.m., a woman returned to her residence and heard an intruder in the house. She saw a man run out of the back door of the house. She immediately called 911. Officers quickly set up a perimeter and the suspect was apprehended in the area.George Perez Levenberry, 45, of Arlington, was charged with Burglary and held without bond.

He was also wanted by the Sheriff’s Office for a probation violation stemming from a prior Burglary conviction.Detectives with the Police Department’s Burglary Unit say Levenberry is a suspect in close to 30 residential break-ins in Arlington since Aug. 24, 2006. Most of the burglaries occurred in North Arlington during daylight hours.

With one exception, the homes were unoccupied and the thief took jewelry, small electronic devices, televisions, cash and checkbooks. In January and February police stepped-up efforts to find the thief in those burglaries, sending out press releases which
warned the community, especially those houses around Arlington Boulevard, to be wary, and asking residents to watch over each others’ houses.

Detectives asked citizens to report any suspicious activity, and they credit the resident who interrupted Monday’s burglary with helping close the case.

March 20: Peeping Tom, 300 block of N. Oxford St. At approximately 12:58 a.m. officers observed a man peeping into the bedroom window of an apartment. Hector Antonio Herrerra-Roman, 18, of Arlington, was charged with Peeping Into an Occupied Dwelling and released on his own recognizance.
March 18,
Attempted Burglary, 300 block of N. Quebec St. At approximately 2:30 a.m. a man tried to enter an apartment by cutting a screen and prying open a bedroom window. He was unsuccessful and fled on foot. The suspect is described as a white Hispanic male, 5 feet 6 inches tall, 160 pounds, wearing a grey sweatshirt, blue pants, and white shoes.
March 15,
Robbery, 256 N. Glebe Rd. Between 11:54 a.m. and noon, a man entered the CVS Pharmacy, placed several items in two baskets and left without paying. As he was leaving he threatened a store employee.
March 14,
Felony Hit and Run, 300 block of N. Glebe Rd. At about 10:00 p.m., a pedestrian crossing the northbound lanes of N. Glebe Rd. was struck by a dark sedan which immediately left the scene. The striking vehicle has damage to the driver’s side mirror. The victim was transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries to the face, shoulder, arms, and legs.

Steve -
Thanks for coming out to the bloggers event last night. It was great meeting you! I've added your blog to my RSS feeds list so I can make sure and read regularly.

BTW - if you are interested in adding What's Up Arlington! to your Arlington blog lists, the link is

Hope to see you again.

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