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Monday, March 20, 2023
ArlingtonScars still linger in spring battle between residents, county government

Scars still linger in spring battle between residents, county government

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A seemingly pro-forma decision to remove a long-gone stretch of street from Arlington planning maps this month served as more proof that scars have not healed in a springtime battle between the County Board and one North Arlington neighborhood.

On the Dec. 20 agenda was a proposal to remove a stretch of the original North Quincy Street from planning maps. It was a cleanup that was 40 or 50 years in the making, as that stretch of the road – running roughly from Washington-Liberty High School north to Interstate 66 – had been straightened in the 1970s, the pavement torn up and carted off when Jimmy Carter (or perhaps Ronald Reagan) was in the White House.

The footprint of the old roadway is now grassy area and the entrance to a county-government parcel located across from the high school.

The old roadway is a “paper street – it leads to nowhere,” a county staffer told County Board members.


Staff told board members the procedural action was needed now in order eliminate a conflict related to the storage of Arlington Transit (ART) buses on the parcel:

• Federal law requires a minimum 7-foot fence around the storage lot for security purposes.

• While three of the four sides of the site have had such fencing installed, the side with the old roadway still on the books is limited to four feet tall because it sits close to the old road. Anything taller would violate an Arlington zoning ordinance.

Removing the old road from planning documents allowing the fourth side to be fenced in accordance with federal law, staff said.

As far as county staff and several advisory bodies were concerned, that was the extent of the matter. But the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association, which has been battling the county government over using the parcel in question for storage of ART buses, saw it as another affront to their neighborhood.

“The action could result in some bad, negative outcomes for the neighbors,” civic association president James Rosen said during a public hearing on the matter, saying the county staff had left out “a lot of relevant information” in its report on the matter.

The civic association requested a delay in a vote, and to buttress its case sent a 13-page letter to both the Planning Commission and County Board.

In the spring, County Board members, after a contentious public hearing, approved locating the ART buses there temporarily. The county government, civic association and some residents are now engaged in legal maneuvering on the issue.

County Board member Matt de Ferranti said he understood the community’s “frustration with the underlying issues,” but he and several board members said there were no surreptitious undertones to the procedural matter in front of them.

“There is no further implication here,” County Board member Christian Dorsey added. (Dorsey said it was the neighbors, not the county government, that started the legal wrangling.)

As for the broader issues between the county and its citizenry over future use of the parcel? “We will continue to have conversations in the community – and, perhaps, a court of law,” Dorsey said.

As the Planning Commission and Transportation Commission had before them, County Board members voted unanimously to make the change and remove the old roadway from planning documents.

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