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(Updated at 3:10 p.m.) Firefighters from Alexandria and Arlington battled a house fire in the North Ridge neighborhood this afternoon.

Dark smoke was seen coming from a home on the 2900 block of Mayer Place around 1:45 p.m. Arriving firefighters reported finding an active fire on the first floor of the split level home, prompting additional units to be dispatched to the scene.

As of 2 p.m. the fire was reported to be under control and firefighters were working to ventilate smoke from the structure.

Initial reports suggest a dog was found deceased inside the home. The family later arrived at the house and could be seen grieving over the dog, which was placed in a stretcher by firefighters.

Editor’s note: Readers may find some photos within the gallery mildly disturbing.

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Despite some concerns from neighbors, the Planning Commission unanimously gave the thumbs up a new 22,794 square-foot, gothic-style Presbyterian church, a couple of blocks north of T.C. Williams High School.

The new building will replace the existing 3,400 square foot Alexandria Presbyterian Church at 1300 W. Braddock Road, as well as a parking lot and an adjacent residence, but the congregation is larger than the church can contain. The congregation also has held worship services at Del Ray Baptist Church since 1999, but the new church will bring all of the members together under one roof.

The church’s parking lot will have 98 lots and bicycle parking. There is no open space requirement for the church, but 34 percent of the church will remain open space to meet the city’s stormwater requirements.

Most of the speakers at the event were members of the church who said they were excited to finally all be able to congregate together in one facility.

The church faced some gentle pushback from neighbors. While neighbors said they appreciated the mission and community work of the church, they had concerns about the traffic and stormwater impact of the new facility.

Neighbors cited concerns about traffic on Scroggins Road, a small, two-lane street navigation apps have turned into a cut-through corridor to avoid the crowded Braddock Road, Quaker Lane and King Street. Some said the gridlock on the street has made it difficult for residents to access their own homes.

The traffic study done by staff was also criticized for taking place during the government shutdown, giving an uncharacteristically low estimate of traffic on the street. Residents said crowding at T.C. Williams has led to more students parking on nearby residential streets.

The Planning Commission recognized the concerns from neighbors, but Commissioner Maria Wasowski said the church can’t be expected to single-handedly address the traffic, parking and stormwater problems on Scroggins Road.

Commissioners were also dubious that the church, which would likely see peak occupancy on Sundays, would have a noticeable impact on school parking and commuter cut-through traffic.

“There are four churches in Old Town that rely on on-street parking, and everyone seems to survive,” said Commissioner Mindy Lyle. “Churches enhance our community.”

The Planning Commission unanimously approved the project, which will not require City Council approval unless the Planning Commission’s decision is appealed.

Photo (top) via City of Alexandria, (below) via Google Maps

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