Ashton Heights Civic Association Meting Minutes or 02/17/2021 via Zoom

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Scott Sklar, AHCA President, brought the meeting to order at 7:34 pm.  

Scott thanked Jim Richardson, for enlisting AHCA meeting speakers and  Emmi Lou Olson and Chris Armstrong for setting up the meeting ZOOM meetings, and specifically to Chris Armstrong for taking over Carmen’s position covering ads for our newsletter.  Martha Casey has stepped up to provide the latest vaccine and pandemic information on our list serve and the newsletter.  He also thanked our newsletter editor Amy Miller and the newsletter distribution team.

Doug Williams and Patrick Lueb have been focused on the county review of our residential parking situation.  Doug has attended and testified, on our behalf, at county meetings about this issue and want to ensure our current parking parameters and permit requirements remain the same on our streets.  Six civic associations in our area are focused on this issue and maintaining the current requirements.  We want to keep our finger on the pulse of how this dialogue is going.

Christina Schultz and Matt Hall of our Housing Committee are focused on the county dialogue on the loss of middle housing in our area.  At our next meeting in March, they will have three speakers for us on this issue.

Dave Phillips and Jack Spilsbury of our Development Committee just posted on our list serve a first draft response for Ashton Heights on the  current update of the 2006 Clarendon Sector Plan presented in February.  They would like input from everyone by Feb 22 to meet the deadline for county input.  Submit your comments to davidphillips1@msn.com or spilsburyj@gmail.com.

Also if you would like to review the presentations about the Clarendon Sector Plan yourself, below is the link to the Arlington LRPC/Planning Commission website, as well as a direct link to the survey they have posted for input on the Clarendon Sector Plan with a deadline of February 22 for input. Included at this site are links to two Planning Staff presentations (on Youtube) regarding key issues for the Clarendon Sector Plan review that was launched last November and will continue through fall 2021.  One presentation focus on building design and zoning requirements, while the second discusses public/green space issue in the study area (Clarendon West End including 10th St/Wilson Blvd triangle as well as the segment of Fairfax drive between Clarendon Circle and Kirkland).  

Brooke Alexander expressed concerns that we need to stick to what we agreed to in the 2006 Sector Plan.  There was talk that the fire station would be going away and replaced with a green space.  Why not keep the fire station to better support our neighborhood?  Dave Phillips mentioned that he is under the impression that the plan with the county is for the fire station to remain.  He went on to mention how there is a proposal by the county to create green space near St. Charles Catholic Church turning a parking area between the church and Northside Social Club into a park.  On one hand it is a good thing to create more green space, however, why give up this very active parking area that is needed which will not doubt contribute to our current parking problem.

Brooke also mentioned that she attending the LRPC Meeting regarding the development between Clarendon and Courthouse areas where some hight density is being proposed.  She was concerned that the area of density seems to be expanding, which could create a precedent, which will encourage high-density to continue.

Julie Mangis agreed that this is something that we need to keep an eye on. These county proposals could allow the “urban village” idea to slowly disappear.

Cole Deines has noticed that so much time and effort has been done by our community members to provide input on what our vision is to be, but over time instead of these plans being allowed to remain adhered to, he is finding that they are challenged more and more.

Jack Spilsbury mentioned the idea of Sector Plans for areas of the county not being budgeted for more recently.  Maybe this is another thing to keep an eye on.

Corporal Wallace with Arlington County Police went over recent crime statistics for Arlington County.  Nothing out of the ordinary.

2 stolen vehicles – keys left in the cars while engines still running

1 peeping tom at Life Fitness – suspect hiding above the ceiling tiles attempting to get over to the women’s locker room – he fell through to the floor.

2 car jackings in Crystal City and Pentagon City

1 rape in our area – can not share any info yet.

There have also been a series or burglaries of small businesses around the county.

Presentations

Presentation by Officer Harley Guenther with the Arlington County Police

Preventing Fraud and Identity Theft – Downloaded from the Arlington County Police Website

CYBERSAFETY TIPS – INTERNET SAFETY

  • PASSWORDS & PRIVACY Use complex passwords (upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols) that are difficult to guess and avoid sharing your password.
  • DOWNLOADS Never download files from unverified sources or senders. Verify the sources of files and third-party applications before downloading.
  • OPERATING SYSTEMS Run updates regularly to keep operating systems and installed software current and protect your devices from viruses.
  • COMMUNICATION Always have open dialogue with family members about computer use and internet safety. Ensure children recognize risky situations online and know to alert an adult.

PROTECTING YOURSELF ON SOCIAL MEDIA

  • Limit the amount of personal information you post. Do not post information that makes you vulnerable, such as your address, or information about your daily routine or schedule.
  • The Internet is a public resource. Only post what you are comfortable with anyone seeing.
  • Be wary of strangers. It is easy for people to misrepresent their identities and motives on the internet. Avoid interacting with people you don’t know.
  • Be skeptical. Don’t believe everything you read online. People may post false or misleading information, and not always with malicious intent.
  • Evaluate your privacy settings. A site’s default settings may not offer the level of protection you desire and may change, so review your privacy settings regularly. Use third-party applications cautiously. Third-party applications may provide entertainment or functionality, but avoid enabling suspicious applications and limit the amount of personal information the application can access.
  • Use strong passwords. Protect your account with passwords that cannot be easily guessed. If your account is compromised, someone else may be able to access your information.
  • Read privacy policies. Some sites may share your information with other companies, which may lead to an increase in spam. Always read and understand referral policies.
  • Keep software up to date. Install software updates regularly, including updates to your web browser. This prevents attackers from taking advantage of known problems or vulnerabilities. When possible, enable automatic updates.
  • Use anti-virus software. When kept up-to-date, anti-virus software protects your computer against known viruses, and can detect and remove viruses before they do damage.

PROTECTING YOUR CHILD ON SOCIAL MEDIA

  • Be involved. Consider activities you and your child can work on together. This allows you to monitor your child’s computer habits while teaching safety skills. Set rules and warn about dangers. Set boundaries for internet usage. Make sure your child understands and recognizes suspicious activity and content, including cyber bullying.
  • Keep you computer in an open area. Keeping the computer in a high traffic area allows for easy monitoring of computer activity and acts as a deterrent to children who engage in risky activities on the computer.
  • Monitor computer activity. Know what your child is doing on the computer, including what websites they visit and have a sense of who they contact and interact with online.
  • Consider partitioning your computer into separate accounts. Most operating systems give you the option to create different accounts for each user. Create a separate account with controlled access and privileges for your child to use. Consider implementing parental controls. Some browsers and internet service providers allow you to block certain websites on your computer, or allow you to restrict access to those with a password.

More information about cyber safety is available on the Arlington County Police Department’s website on the Crime Prevention & Safety page (police.arlingtonva.us/prevention-safety).

General Tips

  • Be suspicious of:
    • Strangers who are overly friendly or who offer to share “just-found money”
    • Someone claiming to be a “bank examiner” who requests your help in catching a thief — a real bank official won’t ask you to take money out of your account for any reason
    • The well-dressed “bank official” or uniformed “guard” who offers to make your bank transactions for you
    • Phony debts after the death of a loved one — check it out before paying
    • Getting something for nothing and deals that sound too good to be true
    • “Free home inspection” offers or door-to-door solicitations for home improvements
  • Stop and think before you hand anybody any cash.
  • Read and understand anything you sign, especially the fine print.
  • Report to the police any crime, attempted crime or suspicious person or activity. If you have any doubts about something, report it — you may prevent a crime.

Credit Card Skimmers

Skimming devices have become more sophisticated. In most cases, the skimmers are being placed inside machines, such as gas pumps and ATMs, and are undetectable without opening the machine. Citizens can take the following crime prevention steps to avoid skimmers at gas stations:

  • Pay inside at the gas station, rather than at the pump.
  • Always pay using a credit card instead of a debit card. Credit cards have better fraud protection, and the money is not deducted immediately from an account.
  • If using a debit card at the pump, choose to run it as a credit card instead of putting a PIN number in. That way, the PIN number is safe.
  • Consider purchasing a refillable prepaid card to purchase gas at the pumps.
  • If you have not already switched to a chip reader on your credit card, do so.
  • Regularly check your bank statements and if you notice fraudulent activity, notify the bank so they can begin an investigation.

Credit card skimming cases are typically reported to police as credit card fraud. Since credit and debit cards are accepted at most locations, the challenge is identifying the point of compromise. Turnaround time from point of compromise to first fraudulent use varies depending on how the suspects intend to use the stolen data. Police work closely with banking institutes who notify us when there is a trend with customers cards being compromised and they identify the location all the cards have in common. Citizens are encouraged to regularly review their bank statements and report fraudulent activity. 

Charitable Solicitations

When approached by a charitable solicitor, follow these practices:

  • Demand to see the solicitor’s proper identification.
  • Donate only to familiar causes and organizations.
  • Check an organization’s reliability by calling the Consumer Protection Hotline – Handled by the Office of the Attorney General, VA toll free at 800-552-9963 or at 804-786-2042.
  • To find out more about the charitable organization and how much your contribution will be used for charitable purposes, call the Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs (OCRP) within the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at 804-786-1343. All charitable organizations must be registered with OCRP.

Consumer Fraud

  • Beware of the smooth-talking salesman who comes to your home unannounced. Also, be weary of any phone call requesting a home appointment to give you something or asking you to participate in a survey.
  • Be on the alert for the operator who poses as an inspector. If you’re approached in this way, ask for the person’s credentials and call the agency represented or the Arlington County Police Department (ACPD) at 703-558-2222.
    • Watch out for bait-and-switch sales tactics. This is when a merchant advertises a product at a certain price or as possessing certain qualities, but when you attempt to buy it, you’re switched to a higher-priced or off-brand product.
  • Fight the temptation of referral selling. This scheme offers you the chance to make quick money by supplying your friends and relatives’ names as prospective customers.
  • Carefully investigate “free” or “bargain” offers. There is often a hidden trick or condition attached to the offer, which may result in you paying much more.
  • Don’t be rushed into signing any papers. Carefully read, examine and understand all conditions of any contract or agreements. Never sign a blank contract or a contract with blank spaces.
  • Don’t rely on verbal representations. Be sure that such promises can be found in the terms and conditions.
  • Ask questions. Know exactly what you’re buying and find out what the product or service will cost.
  • Know with whom you are dealing. Beware of the fly-by-night operator or the company without a local address. It’s safer to deal with a local merchant you know.
  • Don’t hesitate to shop around. You may find a better price for the same product elsewhere.

Contracts

  • When signing a contract, agree to the printed terms in the contract, not to verbal representations.
  • Always keep a copy of what you sign.
  • Have all the blanks in the contract filled in before you sign it.
  • Understand the contract before you sign it. Generally, there is no “buyer’s right to cancel” clause in contracts signed at a company’s place of business.
  • Be suspicious of anyone who won’t let you take a copy of a proposed contract or agreement to someone you trust before you sign.  Call the Consumer Protection Hotline – Handled by the Office of the Attorney General, VA toll free at 800-552-9963 or at 804-786-2042 for suggestions.
  • Don’t accept the seller’s word that any part of a contract doesn’t apply to you (unless that part is crossed out on all copies and initials) or that something not listed will be done unless it is written in before you sign.

Credit Cards

  • Never give your credit card number over the telephone to unsolicited callers.
  • Don’t put your account number on the outside of envelopes when making monthly payments.
  • Keep your credit card number confidential—it represents your money.
  • Report a lost or stolen credit card by calling the card issuer’s toll-free phone number. To limit your liability from unauthorized charges, follow the card issuer’s instructions explicitly.

Door-to-Door Sales

  • Be suspicious of a solicitor who says, “You’ve been selected …” or “I’m taking a survey.”
  • Ask to see the solicitor’s identification and company credentials, including a County Solicitor’s License. The County requires all door-to-door salespersons to be licensed and to show prospective customers a County-issued identification card on request.
  • Buy only if you need the item, not because you may feel sorry for the solicitor.
  • Insist on a written guarantee.
  • Take ample time to consider the purchase. Avoid any high-pressure tactics.
  • Never sign a contract unless you completely understand it and know the total cost.

Note: Virginia state law provides a buyer of most consumer goods and services with three days to cancel a home solicitation sale after a purchase. If a “Buyer’s Right to Cancel” clause is not included in the contract and the company won’t accept a written cancellation, call the Consumer Protection Hotline – Handled by the Office of the Attorney General, VA toll free at 800-552-9963 or at 804-786-2042.

Home Repairs

  • Shop around— get estimates from at least three contractors and check with people who had work performed by them. Call the Consumer Protection Hotline – Handled by the Office of the Attorney General, VA toll free at 800-552-9963 or at 804-786-2042 to determine if  there are any complaints against the contractors.
  • Before you sign the contract, make sure you understand the contract and that it includes the following information:
    • A description and total cost of the services to be performed
    • Types of materials to be used
    • Start and completion dates
    • Warranty information, if applicable
  • Be cautious of companies that require advanced payments.
  • Remember that the cheapest bid may not always be the best.
  • Learn more about the home repair/improvement permit process in Arlington by visiting the Building Arlington Website or call the Arlington County Building Inspection Division at 703-228-3800.

The County requires all home improvement contractors to be licensed and to show prospective customers a County-issued identification card on request. This includes installers of:

  • Aluminum or other siding
  • Concrete work
  • Structural changes
  • Doors
  • Fences
  • Fire damage repairs
  • Kitchen and bathroom remodeling
  • Masonry
  • Roofing
  • Swimming pools
  • Waterproofing

Note: This licensing requirement doesn’t apply to landscapers or painters (except when the paint is to be applied to a roof or asphalt paving), or to licensed electricians, gas fitters or plumbers (who are licensed under a different provision of the Code). For more information, call the Arlington County Building Inspection Division at 703-228-3800, or the Office of the Attorney General, VA Consumer Protection Hotline toll free at 800-552-9963 or at 804-786-2042.

Telemarketing

  • To avoid a telemarketing scheme, tell the caller you’re not interested and/or just hang up the phone.
  • Never give a telemarketer your credit card number, bank account number or Social Security Number, or authorize bank drafts.
  • When listening to a sales pitch, remember the federal government’s Telemarketing Sales Rules:
    • You must be told the name of the company, the fact that it’s a sales call and what’s being sold.
    • If there’s a prize offering, you must be told immediately that there’s no purchase necessary to win, and you can’t be asked to pay anything for it. You can’t even be required to pay shipping charges. If it’s a sweepstakes, the caller must tell you how to enter without making a purchase.
    • You can’t be asked to pay in advance for services such as cleansing your credit record, finding you a loan or acquiring a prize you’ve supposedly won. You pay for services only if they’ve been delivered.
    • You shouldn’t be called before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. If you tell telemarketers not to call again, they can’t. If they do, they’ve broken the law.
    • If you’re guaranteed a refund, the caller has to tell you all the limitations.
  • If you suspect fraud, call the National Fraud Information Center at 800-876-7060.

Outstanding Warrant and Jury Duty Scams

Periodically, residents have reported receiving unsolicited phone calls claiming they have failed to appear for jury duty and/or have an outstanding warrant for their arrest. The resident is provided with a phone number and instructed to call an individual the scammer claims to be a Lieutenant with the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office or other local law enforcement agencies. The scammer then demands immediate payment for an alleged fine. Through threats and intimidation, they attempt to convince residents to purchase prepaid credit cards and provide the identification numbers which allows the scammers to obtain the money from the cards.

If you receive a call of this nature, immediately hang up with the caller and verify the claim by calling the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office at 703.228.4460. Never use a phone number provided to you from the caller to verify their credibility.

As a reminder, the Arlington County Police Department and Sheriff’s Office will not call and ask for money over the phone.

Our second Presentation about the Virginia Hospital Center Rebuilding and Reorganization with Adrian Stanton VP/Business Development for VHC was a no show.

The meeting adjourned around 8:58 pm.

Respectfully submitted by Jodie Flakowicz, February 18, 2021. 

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