At a town hall meeting last Sunday, most City Council members said — in no uncertain terms — that they are opposed to a ward system in Alexandra.
Currently, all City Council leaders are elected in an at-large system. Each Council member represents the city as a whole. D.C., on the other hand, had a City Council that’s a mix of at-large members and ward members — representatives of specific areas of the city.
City Council members said switching to a ward system would give leaders less appreciation for city-wide issues, would make it harder to address neighborhood-specific issues like flooding, and would make it harder for Council members from less affluent areas to fundraise.
“I, for one, am not a fan of the ward system,” Vice Mayor Amy Jackson said. “I like to know all the puzzle pieces in the puzzle and I would be concerned to have different people trying to vie for funding on the Council in a really big area like Del Ray vs a small area in the West End.”
The driving criticism of a ward system from city leaders was that it would create sharper divisions between neighborhoods, which would make it more difficult to secure funding for certain programs.
“I would not be supportive of returning to wards,” said City Council member Kirk McPike. “Wards tend to foster competition and division between parts of our city. A lot of challenges we face need to be a whole city effort to address them, not one part or another bearing more of the weight. Under the current system, we can take a broad view on issues such as some of the flooding issues that affect a small geographic area but are incredibly expensive to address.”
McPike also noted that the current at-large system already represents a broad swath of the city, with four Council members living west of Quaker Lane. City Council members Sarah Bagley and Canek Aguirre both said they supported the current at-large system over a ward system.
While City Council member John Chapman said he opposed switching to a ward system, citing competition between neighborhoods over transportation and infrastructure issues, he did say more could be done to represent specific neighborhoods.
“I’ve been very interested in D.C.’s Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners [ANCs],” Chapman said, “so that every neighborhood has someone who can talk about hyperlocalized issues. That might solve some of the issues I hear folks talking about with wards.”
At a meeting with the City Council yesterday, city leaders joked that the last time the Alexandria Police Department revisited the ‘sectors’ map that helps shape policing, the current Commonwealth Attorney and Sheriff were still in high school and the Potomac Yard neighborhood didn’t exist yet.
But behind that joke about the outdated map were real frustrations that the Alexandria Police Department (APD) follows a sector map that’s decades out of date.
A presentation (item 5) to the Council broke down incidents like “shots fired” by sectors that, as discussed in another story today, lumps the dense and highly populated neighborhoods across the West End into one immense Sector 3 while Old Town is Sector 1 and Del Ray, Rosemont and Arlandria are all part of Sector 2.
City Council member John Chapman argued that the sector map was so general and vague that it provided no useful information for knowing where crime occurs.
Alexandria Police Chief Don Hayes said APD is currently starting a process to study demographics and density to reassess how APD handles its patrol beats and more.
“We are in the process, with the approval of the manager, of doing a staffing study, which is going to include a beat study,” Hayes said. “[We’re] looking at demographics, density… When all is said and done, we’ll have the information we need to restructure our beats, because our beats haven’t been restructured in years and we’ve head a lot of development in the city.”
Hayes didn’t have the exact year that marked the last time APD reviewed its sector map, but said Potomac Yard didn’t exist as a neighborhood at the time.
“We’re getting all that done this year,” Hayes said. “The study should be done in April.”
APD leadership came under fire from City Council members for taking so long to get the study off the ground.
“I know we were up here joking about it, but honestly, it’s not really acceptable,” said City Council member Canek Aguirre. “I don’t want to be up here [being] overly grouchy, but I remember talking about this six to eight years ago with Chief Brown. I’m very frustrated we’re at this point and haven’t done it.”
When a new map does come forward, Vice Mayor Amy Jackson said it would be useful to see the monolithic Sector 3 broken up into smaller sections to help address problems in specific neighborhoods.
“I’m assuming the thing about the beats is they’re spread out into three sectors right now,” Jackson said. “When we start dissecting the West End into different sectors, this also goes to staffing and retaining, which also goes into all the neighborhoods and making people feel safe.”
The Art League is scheduled to get City Council authorization tonight (Tuesday) for a funding mechanism that should help the nonprofit set up a new headquarters at 800 Slaters Lane. The Slaters Lane location will be one of three Art League facilities, with another coming into the Muse development and the other being the Torpedo Factory.
The funding is part of the Council’s consent calendar, meaning it’s almost certain to be quickly approved, but behind the scenes: the funding is a first-of-its-kind use of a half-century-old Industrial Development Authority (IDA).
While the lease hasn’t been signed yet so nothing if finalized, it looks likely that the Art League will set up in the old ABC Imaging shop on Slaters Lane. The lease on the current space in the Montgomery Center has been extended to July 1, 2024, with a move to the new headquarters sometime that summer.
“Our expectation is that it will probably take three months to get through drawings, engineering and approval process for the construction aspect of the project,” said Suzanne Bethel, the Art League’s executive director, “and another three months for construction.”
Bethel said the new location is “a unicorn” that fits nearly all the changing needs of The Art League. The nonprofit has seen an uptick in community members looking to use large-scale equipment, the kind of things that can’t be done online and most individuals can’t afford to do at home.
“We’re seeing interest in those classes because hands-on training with equipment, using large-scale equipment average person can’t invest in — we’re seeing a lot of enrollment in those areas,” Bethel said. “We were delighted to identify a local warehouse space… The venting, size, and square footage to accommodate that is important. [The Slaters Lane location] is a unicorn.”
Launching a new headquarters is costly, which was where the IDA came in.
Industrial Development Authorities were first implemented as part of the New Deal during the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The idea was to use them to help jurisdictions rebuild and put investment into specific areas. They can issue tax-exempt bonds to borrow at lower interest rates and fund improvements.
Jennifer Atkins, chair of the IDA of Alexandria, said supporting the Art League as it resettles in a new home is the first time the IDA has flexed that side of its authority in the organization’s 60-year history.
“The IDA has been around in Alexandria for a very long time,” Atkins said. “It was set up in the 1960s. In Alexandria, it was only ever used a small number of statutory powers, like bond financing. That was how we used it for a long time.” Read More
Hundreds solemnly gathered outside Police Headquarters this morning to dedicate the Alexandria Police Department Suicide Memorial.
The names of officers Jason Kline, who died in 2004, and his best friend, Steven Pagach IV, who died in 2011, are etched in the memorial.
The memorial is reportedly the second in the United States to honor police officers who have died by suicide, after the Boston Police Officer Suicide Memorial Wall. It is next to the APD memorial for officers who died in the line of duty.
APD Lieutenant Tara May came up with the idea after graduating from the National FBI Academy last year.
“Jason and Steven’s loss was devastating to the department,” May said. “My fear is, you know, do we have more of Jason and Steven’s we don’t know about walking around the hallways. I’m hoping that this will remind people that there is hope, and there’s help when it’s needed.”
Police Chief Don Hayes is also a pastor and gave the invocation.
“We pray that this memorial will always be a reminder and a remembrance to those who are now wearing this uniform that care,” Hayes said. “And that we don’t want to see anybody else’s name on this memorial.”
Retired Sheriff Dana Lawhorne, an APD veteran, is the chair of the chairman of the board of Ivy Hill Cemetery, which donated the granite slabs used in the memorial.
“It recognizes these two men for their sacrifices in a respectful and dignified way,” Lawhorne said. “This dancing slate of granite will forever whisper the names of Jason and Steve, that they are not forgotten.”
Retired Police Chief David Baker donated the funds for the inscription on the memorial.
“We miss their enormous presence in our lives,” Baker said of Kline and Pagach. “We miss their contributions and commitment to public safety and we salute their excellence in bravery in service to others. Make no mistake, they are and will always be our brothers and blue.”
Above the officers’ names, the memorial states: “In darkness, there is light. In honor and memory of the officers we have lost to suicide. Thank you for your dedication and service.”
Retired Deputy Chief Hassan Aden said that APD must confront the stigma of mental health in policing.
“Policing is a profession that demands unwavering dedication, sacrifice and resilience,” Aden said. “Every day officers put on their uniforms, not knowing what challenges they will face what dangers they will encounter, or how deeply those experiences will impact their lives. The weight of the badge is not just physical, it’s emotional, and mental.”
May said the department has work to do to address mental health challenges of its officers.
“In our collective bargaining negotiations, we asked for an improvement in the department’s mental health programs,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
(Updated 4:15 p.m.) A conversation around a hair salon’s paint job forced Alexandria leaders to confront the question: should Old Town stay a red brick town?
At a meeting on Saturday, the City Council voted to overturn an earlier Board of Architectural Review (BAR) decision and will allow Glynn Jones Salon (720 King Street) to keep its painted yellow exterior.
While the original building goes back to sometime between 1891 and 1896, the brick facade painted over was constructed in 1967. Anthony Hughes, the appellant, said he didn’t realize he had to get the BAR’s permission before painting the building.
“We didn’t realize we had to go to the BAR,” Hughes said. “We looked at the block: most of King Street was painted. I thought the BAR was more for construction, like knocking walls down. It was our mistake. We painted without knowing.”
James Spencer, chair of the BAR, told the City Council that city guidelines generally take a dim view of painting masonry.
“We try to greatly discourage painting of masonry, old or new,” Spencer said. “At this one particular building, with just one swath of brick, it’s the only defining architectural character that the Board felt was worth keeping… When you paint brick, it loses its character.”
Spencer said there’s a sort of domino theory for the preservation of aesthetics.
“Our position is we want to maintain the historic character of not only the 700 block but all of the King Street block,” Spencer said. “Once you paint so much of it, how much are you willing to give away to allow the flexibility of painting?”
Steve Milone, president of the Old Town Civic Association, pointed to the city’s zoning ordinance and design guidelines that discourage painting unpainted brick. Milone also said his concern was that, if the city approved the change, it would only encourage more leniency with building renovations in the city’s historic districts.
“The Board and staff and citizens have been dealing with a lot of people just making changes without going to the BAR,” Milone said. “Approving this sets a bad precedent for gaining after-the-fact approvals of work that should have been requested.”
Those concerns found little support from the City Council, however. City Council member Kirk McPike agreed there needs to be stronger public communications around BAR requirements, the City Council voted unanimously to support reversing the BAR decision and allowing the paint job to stay.
“This is not the historic structure,” said Vice Mayor Amy Jackson. “The brick that is underneath the brick they painted is historic brick, but the brick they painted is 1960s brick. I appreciate everyone’s voice in this because it is difficult and the policy needs to be updated for more clarity.”
City Council member Alyia Gaskins said the city has already made strides to approve non-historic features on King Street, like parklets, awnings, and outdoor tables.
“We get into a place where we could really hurt and damage our retail in a space if we’re so focused on the constraints that don’t allow them to thrive an adaptive environment that is changing around them, “Gaskins said.
At a meeting on Saturday, Diane Ruggiero, deputy director of the Alexandria Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities, talked the City Council through some of the changes. Among the changes to the special events policy are allowing large events (500+ people) on consecutive weekends and a requirement to file a notice of intent with the City Special Events Committee at least 180 days prior to the event.
Ruggiero said her office frequently is told that people didn’t know they needed a permit to hold an event and that the city is chasing people after the fact to get permits approved.
Special event permits are required when:
- Use of a city park is involved
- More than 500 people are expected to attend throughout the event
- Coordination between two or more permitting agencies is required
- Food is being sold/served to the public
- Public safety may be at risk
Those permits must be filed 180 days prior to the event, though that can be waived in “special and unusual circumstances” by the city manager, and then permits are sent to the City Special Events Committee for review and approval.
But City Council member John Chapman noted that some of the new changes could create as many headaches at they solve. Chapman, who hosted parties for screenings of both Black Panther and its slightly underrated sequel Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, said the change from notice of intent going from 90 days to 180 days is not feasible for many events.
“I’m concerned about the long lead time needed,” Chapman said. “We had over 500 people [at the screening] and at no time did I think, ‘I need to come to see our city to get a special event application and come before your committee.’ How do we get regular citizens, let alone policy-makers, to understand exactly what we want to see?”
In general, Chapman said he was a little underwhelmed by the outreach done for the new policy, saying there’s still confusion about the new policy and the city needs to do more to make the new policies understood by the general public.
“I’m a little underwhelmed,” Chapman said. “this does not show that the city is getting out there to spaces or for people who own facilities and saying ‘this is what you need to do.’ I don’t want us to rely on hopeful word of mouth.”
Despite some concerns, the City Council voted to approve the new policies.
Alexandria planning staff are recommending that City Council reverse a ruling by the Board of Architectural Review and allow a hair salon to keep an after-the-fact paint job on its exterior.
In May, the city was notified that the Glynn Jones Salon at 720 King Street painted a large portion of its exterior the color gray. On July 6, the Board of Architectural Review unanimously voted to deny the salon a certificate of appropriateness for the work.
While the salon is located in the Old Town Historic District, city staff do not believe the work has any adverse effect on the previously unpainted masonry.
“The Board found that painting the building’s yellow brick was not appropriate since yellow brick buildings are rare in Alexandria and the material can be considered a character defining,” city staff reported. “(S)taff does not believe that the after-the-fact work of partially painting previously unpainted masonry has an adverse effect on the building at 720 King Street, nor does it diminish the historic character of the historic district.”
Anthony Hughes is representing the salon, and said in the appeal that the facade of the building was constructed in the 1960s and is not historic.
“The brick used in the construction is not historically significant, as it is not part of the original structure,” Hughes said. “Therefore, any alterations to the exterior, including painting, should be evaluated based on the existing planning guidelines and not restricted by the historical context of the area, but on a case-by-case basis.”
According to the city:
The building at 720 King Street was built between 1891 and 1896. However, the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps show constant alterations and additions throughout the decades. The Sanborn Map of 1931 shows for the first time that the main building (front portion) was entirely made of brick. Therefore, the main building is considered an Early building (built before 1932) within the Old and Historic Alexandria District (Figure 2). However, the building underwent major renovations in 1967 (Permit # 24731) when the front/ north elevation was completely rebuilt, thus the front portion of the building is considered Late (built after 1931).
The Zoning Ordinance specifically prohibits painting previously unpainted masonry surfaces without BAR approval. However, the BAR does not regulate colors once buildings are already painted. The chosen color gray applied on the building’s storefront (without BAR approval) is subtle and does not subtract from or diminish the character of the building and/or the adjacent existing structures. Furthermore, the color gray has been historically appropriate to both Early and Late buildings within the historic districts.
Alexandria’s Eve Capps says she’s more surprised than anyone that she’s lived this long. The 100-year-old was born in Sacramento, California, in 1923, and with an acute memory fondly recalls her childhood during the Great Depression.
“My father worked for the railroad, and we went from living in a big house to a shack,” Capps told ALXnow. “But I was just a little girl and I thought it was fun.”
On Tuesday (Sept. 12), Capps and 26 Alexandria centenarians were recognized by city leaders at City Hall. This is the third year for the annual event in observance of National Centenarian’s Day.
Mayor Justin Wilson said that achieving a full century of living is impressive, although the celebration should not simply be about a number.
“It’s about the contributions that all of you have given to for so many years, so many decades, generations, to our community,” Wilson said. “It’s about the rich legacy that you all have created in our community. And that’s a legacy of family, some of which we see here. That a legacy of service, and accomplishment.”
Capps said that the secret to her longevity is staying active.
“I’ve always taken very good care of myself,” she said. “I don’t know why I’ve made it this long. I just keep going on and on, and I’m always surprised when I have a birthday.”
Centenarians in Alexandria
- Mary Addison — 102
- Ann Buxton — 100
- Dorothea G. Campbell — 100
- Eve Capps — 100
- Anita DuMars — 102
- Audrey Fenton — 101
- Lowell Fisher — 101
- Walter A. Hammersley — 101
- Margaret Johnson — 104
- Marjorie Knowlton — 100
- Daniel Krinsley — 101
- John Leeper — 101
- Pauline Lynch — 100
- Charlotte Neborak — 100
- Ada Nelson — 102
- Ann Samuel — 103
- Jane Sara — 103
- Alice Schmidt — 103
- Catherine Sevick — 106
- Helen Smith — 101
- Eva L. Sorenson — 100
- Edith Tillotson — 100
- Barbara Weadon — 100
- Frances Webb — 103
- Ruby Wells — 101
- Virginia Wirtz — 100
- Mildred Youso — 102
Alexandria and Arlington officials celebrated the ribbon cutting for the renovated West Glebe Road bridge today.
“For nearly 70 years, this bridge has played a critical role linking people to jobs, to resources, to emergency services and their loved ones that exist across boundaries in this Arlandria region of the National Capital Area,” Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said.
Dorsey continued, “And now with these improvements, we can look forward to another seven decades of this bridge, serving as both a metaphorical and an actual connecting of our two communities. And they will do so in a way that is much safer, much more accommodating of all modes.”
Mayor Justin Wilson said that the jurisdictions will need to come together to finish another connecting bridge between Alexandria and Arlington over the course of the next year — the Arlington Ridge Road/Mount Vernon Avenue Bridge.
“We look forward to coming back in a little while and celebrating the next one (bridge),” Wilson said. “I live close to both of these bridges, so I feel the pain that everyone is feeling. But we look forward to celebrating both of the bridges when they’re both done and in this great partnership between the two jurisdictions.”
Artist Vicki Scuri designed the arc and bubble patterns on the bridge.
“Enjoy the crossing, enjoy the moment and celebrate your communities,” Scuri said.
The Alexandria Fire Department wants to replace a 42-year-old burn building used for training in Old Town.
AFD’s proposal to demolish the three-story, 4,600-square-foot building with a new four-story, 6,400-square-foot building goes before the Planning Commission on Tuesday, Oct. 3 and City Council on October 14.
According to the special use permit application:
The building does not have HVAC systems, interior lighting, domestic plumbing, nor a dedicated sprinkler system. Defined as a ‘prop’ by the State of Virginia Department of Fire Programs, the purpose of the structure is to replicate built conditions and spatial arrangements fire fighters encounter in real life, local, fire fighting scenarios. This structure is intended for use solely by supervised training exercises of professional fire fighters and AFD trainees and is closed to the general public…
The frequency of training and the level of disturbance (smoke, sound, visibility) on the surrounding area are not expected to increase in the new facility. The additional fourth story will not host live fire drills and the added height should not incur an increased line of sight to the surrounding area.
Most training sessions are for up to 10 trainees, however there are instances where they can include up to 100 firefighting personnel, according to a special use permit application
AFD reports there have been no complaints from residents or neighboring AlexRenew for more than 40 years.