Monday, December 22, 2008

HeraldTrib Today: Dec. 22, 2008

Have happy holidays (some of which I know are underway). I have a couple things before I go, and I have a pretty big story that I hope to get to while I take some time away from the blog over the next week or so.

Police notes will return after the holiday.

Santa Came and I Missed It…

I am such a bone-head sometimes. I mentioned in my coverage of Santa at Lubber Run two weeks ago that he would come again for more kids (two weeks ago he visited with Arlington Forest young-uns). Well, he came alright on Friday; I had it on my schedule; my family knew I had that plan. Somewhere between leaving work and heading off for that, I forgot.

Pat “Santa” Hope, the Buckingham Community Civic Association president, said it was a huge turnout, maybe more than ever, and I missed it. My apologies to the people involved. I wanted to be there, and I should have been.

Unfortunately, too, there are no pictures to share, at least not yet.

“The event did have a big turnout and we were so busy with all our delighted guests that we actually forgot to take pictures!” Yvana Cordova, an event organizer, wrote in an email yesterday. She wrote that she hopes some families might share a few. If so, I’ll let everyone know.

Public input will be sought for mini-golf site…

I met with Scott McPartlin of the parks department over a cup of coffee last week. We discussed the county’s research on the potential mini-golf site adjacent to the Ballston Common Mall parking garage.

Two weeks ago I wrote piece that said planners weren’t talking about what they were researching. They still aren’t discussing details, but Mr. McPartlin said they have a few ideas that staff is pursuing and that mini-golf is still on the table.

They plan on preparing their ideas for release during the first half of 2009, and they will allow for full public input on these ideas once they are completed.

A priority for the planners is to find ideas that will bring life to the park and that will be economically sustainable. Any decision will reflect the current economic reality, he said.

The Week’s Headlines…
As always, you can scroll down to see all the recent stories, or simply click the links below (if the link doesn't work, scroll down to find the story, and email to tell me what's busted: --Steve Thurston).

Today's Headlines:

  • For more on mini-golf, click here, and scroll down. Also, Dan Redmond's letter about the mini-golf site has a couple comments worth reading, I think.
  • HALRB Still Questions Center's Redevelopment

  • Headlines from Earlier in the Week:

  • Baseball Slugger Is a Hit with the Kids
  • Grant Takes the Fight Out-of-Turn
  • Labels: , ,

    HALRB Still Questions Center's Redevelopment

    It’s still too tall. And too close to Glebe Road. And Pershing Drive. And the police might not like their substation. And the project is 110 parking spaces short. And no one wants you to pave over grass on AHC property. And is there enough landscaping on the sidewalks?

    Buckingham’s own Bernie Berne set that last question in motion at the Historical Affairs and Landmarks Review Board meeting Wednesday night, Dec. 17. The HALRB discussed the possible development of the Buckingham Shopping Center at the intersection of N. Glebe Road at N. Pershing Drive in which the commercial buildings on the CVS and Glebe Market corners would be razed and replaced.

    Mr. Berne stood before the group and said that the zoning variance the developer, Georgetown Strategic Capital, is asking for regarding the placement of landscaping should be denied. The developer has asked to move some of the street-level landscaping onto a second floor terrace as part of a “green roof” for that level of the project.

    Last month, Mr. Berne cajoled the Buckingham Community Civic Association into drafting a letter to the county board asking that they deny the change in zoning.

    “It’s just not neighborhood friendly,” Mr. Berne said at Wednesday’s meeting. “I hope staff recognizes this.”

    But the comments around the table indicated that people either didn’t know of, or did not notice the request.

    “I don’t think we’ve heard that,” HALRB Chair Isabel Kaldenbach-Montemayor said. “I’m pretty sure that we’ve never heard that a portion of the open space would be on the second floor.”

    “To be fair to you all, they [details of the landscaping] weren’t in any drawing but this,” said the architect, Scott Matties at another point. He indicated a plan from months ago, “But they were in this.”

    In the other major hurdle to come up Wednesday evening, Jennifer Fioretti from the county’s transportation department said the project is 110 parking spaces short and she discussed some changes that could be made on the east side of Glebe, such as using the space behind the post office more efficiently, to make up some of the difference.

    The plan had called for some extra street-level parking to come from Gates of Ballston property adjacent to the Glebe Market. However, that was shot down Wednesday, too.

    “Planning staff cannot support this off-site parking,” said a county staffer at the meeting, especially given that some space has been freed up with the removal of the CVS and their requested drive-thru window.

    County staff and the citizen board members also brought up issues with the height of the buildings which will have ground floor retail and apartments above. The buildings are still four-storey, flat roofed buildings, but the fourth floors have been pulled back, taking up space only at the centers of the buildings to avoid being quite so visible from the street. Some board members called for pulling the buildings even further back from the street.

    Bob Moore, of Georgetown Strategic wondered aloud how they could pull back the buildings from the streets farther and make more parking.

    “There’s only so much space,” he said.

    In a story two weeks ago, Mr. Moore said his company was close to the breaking point on this project, that the changes were paring back the project so much it becomes economically unfeasible.

    “We’d rather know now and pursue other things,” Mr. Moore said Wednesday. “If it’s [the project is] too problematic…we’d rather have a quick bullet than swing in the wind.”

    Moments later he added, “We’ll try. We’ll come back and we’ll see what we can do about the green space.”

    However, in a quick interview after the meeting, he did not wish to comment on whether they would return.

    Related stories…
  • For a whole mess of related stories, click here, and scroll down through them.

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  • Wednesday, December 17, 2008

    Baseball Slugger Is a Hit with the Kids

    Michael Cuddyer reads to students at Barrett's library night. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    Minnesota Twins slugger Michael Cuddyer read books, answered questions and signed autographs at K.W. Barrett Elementary School’s Library Night Tuesday, Dec. 16.

    His message to the kids: stay in school and do what you love. He said it was very important to stay in school and get good grades so they could go to college, maybe even get a scholarship offer from a school as he did.

    One child, no doubt a budding journalist, asked if he actually went to college.

    Well, no, Mr. Cuddyer answered, but having a scholarship offer from Florida State University allowed him to negotiate a better contract with the Twins, which includes tuition coverage for him whenever his baseball career ends. His current contract is $24 million over three years.

    Each student made "baseball card" about themselves which Mr. Cuddyer signed.

    He is the brother-in-law to Barrett Kindergarten teacher Elizabeth Rente. Mr. Cuddyer (pronounced Cuddy-er) arrived with his wife Claudia and their infant son.

    This post was modified to reflect the correction found in the comment. --ST

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    Tuesday, December 16, 2008

    Grant Takes the Fight Out-of-Turn

    Trying to get a jump on the party leadership and show, before the year is out, that he has the backing to be a serious contender for a spot in the Virginia House of Delegates, Miles Grant last night addressed a crowd of about 40 people at his campaign kick-off event at Piola, the upscale pizza restaurant in Rosslyn.

    Miles Grant. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    The crowd was a mix of Mr. Grant’s supporters and supporters of Raising Kaine, the left-leaning political blog that helped propel the election of Gov. Tim Kaine, Senator Jim Webb, and helped turn Virginia solidly Democratic in November. Lowell Feld and Eric Grim will stop the blog at year’s end.

    Mr. Grant, 31, may face an uphill battle for the 47th district seat currently held by Al Eisenberg, 62. Both men are Democrats, but Mr. Eisenberg has not said if he plans to run again.

    The primary fight for Mr. Grant this spring focused last night on the idea that Mr. Grant is not waiting his turn for the Arlington Democratic Party machinery to choose him, but to show the party that he should be chosen, especially if he can show good fund-raising numbers by year’s end. The official tally on the Act Blue web site where tickets for the event were sold shows that 39 people gave Mr. Grant nearly $2,900 for the event which included free pizza and some drinks.

    The campaign's official numbers came out after I posted this morning. The campaign says about 70 people gave $4,000. The numbers would include pre-paid registrations and receipts at the door. --ST

    Lowell Feld. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    “This is a solidly blue district,” that does not have any chance of going to the Republicans, Mr. Feld said in his remarks. “It’s an opportunity to elect a strong candidate like Miles.”

    Ben Tribbett, the lightning-rod blogger of Not Larry Sabato, said, “This is a wake-up call for these elected officials.”

    Mr. Grant, the environmentally-focused “Green Miles” blogger, outlined his tri-planked platform of civic life, civil liberties, and the environment.

    He said that he would like Virginia to more closely study the economic effects of immigration on the economy as he is sure it would show that immigrants pay into many more services than they use.

    As well, he would like to see more people integrated into community life, starting by bringing them together for happy hours or other mixers and from there encouraging volunteerism and finally getting them active in state and local politics.

    And he said it’s time for Virginia to turn away from coal and look for alternate, cleaner sources of energy as fuel costs skyrocket.

    He lives in the Historic Ballston Park Apartments in the Ashton Heights neighborhood.

    Before the Democratic primary (or caucus) in June, the district might just be called “The Fighting 47th” as the rumor-mill is churning out names of possible contenders by the bucket. The district covers central and southern Arlington County.

    Piola Restaurant, at 1550 N. Wilson Blvd. is in the 48th district.

    (Disclaimer: Mr. Grant gave me a free-drink token, but I abstained for weight-related reasons. –ST)

    Related sites…
  • Mr. Grant's Act Blue tally.

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  • Friday, December 12, 2008

    HeraldTrib Today: Dec. 12, 2008

    The CVS is gone, but a police substation is in the mix…

    Just when it looked like things in the Buckingham Shopping Center plans were coalescing, they are not.

    Recall these are the plans in which the Glebe Market, and El Paso/Popeye’s buildings would be razed and a four-storey mixed use building of ground floor retail and apartments would rise in its place.

    Call it a difference in philosophy, but elected county officials did not want a drop-off prescription window near the busy, urban intersection of N. Glebe Road at N. Pershing Drive, and the CVS pharmacy, which was to fill much of the ground floor of the new building at that corner, sees the store as suburban, and CVS’s suburban stores have drop-off windows.

    So the philosophy of urban development versus suburban killed plans for the CVS.

    “That space…will now be a multiple of stores,” said Bob Moore, a principal of the potential developer Georgetown Strategic Capital. They have been pursuing this project for well over a year.

    Although the HALRB will consider Georgetown Strategic’s certificate of appropriateness for that corner at the Wednesday Dec. 17 meeting, neither side is expecting much success.

    “Staff isn’t recommending approval of it at this point,” said Rebecca Ballo. “The ground level is really different than what we’ve been dealing with for the past year.”

    For his part, Mr. Moore said, “We’re not going in for a vote.” This is just continuing what has been a “collegial” discussion he said, adding, “What we’re trying to do is to update them on all these possibilities.”

    But his company, which has been drawing plans and adjusting them to try and fit the wishes of the HALRB, is near the point of pulling out altogether.

    “If [the HALRB] just really can’t adapt to this change, then we’re not going to want to pursue it any further,” Mr. Moore said. “I think they don’t know what they want.”

    Some of the changes include a police substation, slightly lower heights, and fewer apartments. Mr. Moore said he has been talking to Sam Chon owner of the Glebe Market, and it looks like he will return to the new building with a smaller store.

    One positive note: the poor economy has been driving down construction costs, especially for the underground parking.

    “It’s making it a bit more affordable,” Mr. Moore said.

    The current plan would rebuild the northwest corner of the intersection first and then wait for the CVS to run-out its lease before razing that building and redeveloping it.

    More about the mini-golf…

    The county is zipping their lips on alternative uses for the patch of green space outside the Ballston Commons Mall parking garage. Staff has been pursuing the idea that the triangle at the corner of N. Glebe Road and N. Randolph Street will house a “world-class” mini-golf course. The main reason staff has said is that it fits with the pedestrian nature of the area and is an activity that can be pursued much of the year and by people of all ages.

    File photo of the unimproved space outside the Ballston Common Mall parking garage. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    For months however, county staff from the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources; Arlington Economic Development; and Community Planning have been meeting to consider alternate uses for the 20,000 square foot site, especially after some citizens in the area voiced concerns about the lack of input from people early in the planning process.

    "We're still working internally to develop these [ideas],” said Scott McPartlin, the lead planner on this project. The committee that is researching will let the public know, “Hopefully really soon."

    Rich Dooley, a senior land use planner, said the different ideas are still going through internal vetting, but that the research and discussion is not necessarily tricky.

    “There’s nothing unique about this” process, he said.

    For a just-posted letter on this subject, click here--ST

    Ashton Heights Sidewalk Improvements Coming...

    Ashton Heights readers may be interested to know that item #14 among the “consent items" on tomorrow’s county board meeting asks the board to accept two deeds that will allow sidewalk and storm water drainage work along N. 4th Street at its intersection with N. Irving Street. The board generally votes on consent items en masse, unless the item is removed from the consent list to be discussed at the recessed meeting next week.

    The Week’s Headlines…
    As always, you can scroll down to see all the recent stories, or simply click the links below (if the link doesn't work, scroll down to find the story, and email to tell me what's busted: --Steve Thurston).

    Today's Headlines:

  • Letter: Choose Gardens Over Mini-Golf (For a history of the Glebe/Randolph plans, click here, and scroll to see many stories.)
  • Police Notes

  • Headlines from Earlier in the Week:

  • Santa Visits Lubber Run!
  • Last Week's Police Notes
  • Summer Flashback: About Arlington with Deb Byrwa
  • Labels: , ,

    Letter: Choose Gardens Over Mini-Golf

    Dear Friends in Arlington,

    Having just learned about the proposal for a mini-golf course near my home in Ballston beside the Ballston Common Mall, I would like to make an alternative suggestion for use of the space.

    Knowing that such a visible and valuable plot of land probably has many options for development in the future, my proposal can make use of the space immediately, with future development an inexpensive enterprise.

    Instead of minuture golf, use the land for agriculture.

    My proposal for the lot includes community vegetable garden plots in raised beds surrounded by pine bark mulch.

    Community garden plots on public land have been gaining a great deal of attention in urban environments around the United States. The safety of our food supply chains has made headline news recently; our desire to eat local, sustainable and healthy food has become a movement gaining force throughout the country.

    Each vegetable bed can be sponsored by a church, community group (Girl Scouts, as an example), or schools. Demonstration beds and classes can teach Arlington residents how to grow their own food in their own yard.

    Surrounding the vegetable garden could be rose gardens and wildflower beds, similar in beauty to the Rose Garden in Bon Air Park. The view from outside the garden would be of beautiful flowers, maintained by the award-winning Arlington Master Gardeners program.

    The flowers would attract pollinators, such as bees and butterflies to the vegetable beds.

    Community gardening attracts young, old, wealthy and people of modest means; which describes the diversity of citizens in that community very well. While working in community gardens, diverse groups of people talk, share and learn from one another.

    The entire garden can be surrounded by the black, wrought-iron fencing that surrounds Westover Playground; high enough for children to be safe, but not so high to appear "gated".

    With reduced amounts of fresh produce being donated to AFAC from Giant grocery stores, a portion of the produce could be grown especially for them.

    As the garden beds would be raised, there would be little concern of contamination from existing soil.

    In a few years, when public will or private money is raised for mini-golf, the site can be developed without a large initial investment in the gardening project.

    Best regards,
    Dan Redmond
    Advocate for Regional Food systems and Renewable Energy

    Dan's letter, which he emailed to me for posting and to a few others in Arlington, has generated a little buzz. What follows are portions of the responses. Click "comments," below, to add your own two cents. --ST

    Hi, Dan.

    I really like your proposal. The garden you are envisioning will
    be a great community resource and contribute to Arlington's green movement.

    Rosa Briceno

    I strongly support your proposal for a sustainable, teachable, useful, community garden in Ballston with multiple sponsorship and opportunities for the community and individuals to come together to “grow a row” together.

    We find at Tuckahoe the more you improve your grounds, woods and gardens the better is your neighborhood kept clean and the greater is your sense pride in your place, the more it feels like a neighborhood to call home.


    Mary McLean
    Outdoor Learning Coordinator
    Tuckahoe Elementary School
    Arlington Public Schools

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    Police Notes: Dec. 5 to Dec. 11

    Covering the Buckingham, Ashton Heights and Arlington Forest neighborhoods.

    Dec. 5: Attempted Robbery, 200 block of S. Glebe Road. At 2 a.m., officers noticed a man that was bleeding from the head stumbling on a sidewalk. The man stated that three unknown men had assaulted him while trying to rob him. The suspects were described as three white Hispanic males. The victim’s story changed several times and he was intoxicated.

    Dec. 6: Burglary (Arrest), 4400 block of N. Henderson Road. At 3:30 a.m., a man entered an apartment through a bathroom window. He was confronted by the resident and fled. Police apprehended the suspect a short time later. David Orosco-Cabrera, 38, of Arlington, was charged with Burglary. He was held without bond.

    Dec. 6: Burglary, 700 block of N. Wakefield St. At 8:30 p.m., a man stated to police that someone broke into his apartment during a 30 minute time frame and stole his laptop. There is no suspect description.

    Click the "-" above to zoom out and see all the pushpins. Or, click here to view a larger map

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    Sunday, December 07, 2008

    What to my wondering eyes should appear, but a big fire engine and eight men to drive it!

    Away to the Lubber Run Center We Flew Like a Flash

    Santa Claus arrived on schedule (a guy who can hit billions of homes in a night really must be punctual, no?), at Lubber Run Center, Friday evening, Dec. 5.

    Arlington Foresters came out—a couple hundred anyway—on a very wintery night to see the man in red as he swooped into town aboard his red fire engine! Lights and sirens blaring, the jolly 'ol elf waved as his engine roared along N. George Mason Drive, with kids waving and chasing alongside and into the parking lot.

    In the warmth inside, the kids waited on line for photos, while parents talked, ate delicious desserts (who made that fudgy, moosey, chocolatey, cheesy cake, anyway? MMMmm-mmm!), and danced with their children to the carols of a jazz trio.

    Buckinghamsters are expected to catch sight of the man who makes you laugh in spite of yourself on Friday, Dec. 19, once again at Lubber Run Center.

    A few photos from the night, below:

    Andrew Rogers tells Santa his secret wishes... (Click to enlarge the image.)

    Tori Moyer listens as Santa speaks in her ear... (Click to enlarge the image.)

    Mariah Nissenson can't help but giggle... (Click to enlarge the image.)

    The Thurston kids, Harry above, Hazel below, asked for computers and watches and all sorts of stuff "Santa" can't afford! (Click to enlarge the image.)

    (Click to enlarge the image.)

    Sylvie Mortimer sports the latest holiday fashion with her husband Paul Cachion. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    The jazz trio: Tommy Greco (sax), Chris Bosch (bass), and Ken Schellenberg (piano). Their "Silent Night" drew a very loud applause. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    One fan rushed the stage! (Click to enlarge the image.)

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    Friday, December 05, 2008

    Police Notes Nov. 17 - Dec. 5, 2008

    Covering Buckingham, Arlington Forest and Ashton Heights. You may want to zoom out (use the minus button on the map) to see all the points.

    Dec. 2: Burglary, 800 block of N. Abingdon St. At 1:30 p.m., an unknown suspect attempted to break into a residence through the basement door window, but the homeowner was inside. Entry was not gained and the suspect fled the scene. There is no suspect description.

    Nov. 27: Attempted Burglary, 800 block of N. Emerson St. Between 3 p.m. and 11:30 p.m., an unknown suspect attempted to break into a residence through a window. There is no suspect description.

    Nov. 29: Malicious Wounding (Arrest), 400 block of N. Thomas St. At 3 a.m., a man and his roommate argued. One of the men was punched and hit in the head with a bottle. The suspect left the apartment through an open window. Carlos Mendez-Gomez, 21, of Arlington, was charged with Malicious Wounding. He was held on a $1,500 bond.

    Nov. 22: Commercial Burglary, 4200 block of N. Wilson Blvd. Between 9 p.m. on Nov. 22 and noon on Nov. 23, an unknown subject removed items from a locked mall kiosk. There is no suspect description.

    Nov. 17: Stolen Car, 400 block of N. Thomas St. License tag number: MD M786348. The car is a 1998, green, Acura SLX.

    Nov. 16: Receiving Stolen Property (Arrest), 200 block of N. Glebe Rd. On Nov. 16 at 1 p.m., a man called police because he found someone he did not know in possession of his stolen bicycle. Gregory Terry, 40, of Arlington, was charged with Receiving Stolen Property. He was released on an unsecured bond of $2,000.

    Use the minus button to zoom out and see all the points. View Larger Map

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