May 2024 Ashton Heights Newsletter


The May 2024 newsletter is linked below. If you have any comments or questions, email

As Arlington and Ashton Heights Evolve
By Scott Sklar, President, AHCA 

I was thinking about the issues we faced as a community in 1984 when I bought my home, and now. And while there are a few similarities, most are not the same.

Zoning, codes, and urbanization were the emerging issues back in 1984. In the 1960s, Arlington County leaders had successfully pushed for a Metro alignment that served the Wilson Blvd corridor and the Orange line opened in 1979, but a time traveler from 2024 would barely recognize anything above ground. Except for Tower Villas at Oakland and Wilson, no building was above four stories; 10th Street North was a row of used car lots; Ballston was a 1950s style strip mall called Parkington; Kann’s Department Store and Virginia Square Shopping Center was about to close to become FDIC and the nucleus of GMU’s Arlington campus, and Sears’ auto and tire center spanned the property that is now Clarendon Common Market. 

So, the world has changed, this region has changed, and our neighborhoods have changed. Arlington is lauded for the “smart growth” that has taken place along the Orange Line, and now the Ashton Heights Civic Association focuses on building heights, density, set-backs, tapering, native trees, parking requirements, roof top uses and noise. Urbanization – densification – has brought much good, but also much in the way of challenges to our local quality of life. Here are some:

Crime – while we are not a ‘high crime’ area. Crime is slowly edging up.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Climate Change – the County has adopted an ambitious plan and has a solid set of activities to significantly reduce GHG emissions that had risen with more buildings and traffic.

Leaf Blowers – with more buildings crowded together and more people, there are now more amped up professional gasoline-powered leaf blowers in early morning and dinner time. Moves to constrain allowable times, and promoting use of rakes and battery-powered leaf blowers are being adopted by more and more US municipalities.

Night Time Noise: Bars, Restaurant and Traffic – AHCA now has a noise committee dealing with night time music from restaurants and bars, and also many complaints from cars without mufflers in the middle of the night. More cement and hard surfaces make sounds echo, while tree canopy (which we are losing) muffles the sound, block light, and reduce pollution.

Parking – around metro stops we have neighborhood parking on weekdays, but as more rentals and duplexes are available, overly crowded streets are happening throughout the county. Moves by the county to reduce parking in buildings, also exacerbates this problem. We need places friends, family, service workers, and consumers coming from outside Arlington coming to our homes and to our restaurants and stores have a place to park.

Parks, Playgrounds and Pets – as we grow the quality of open places for children, adults and pets to play, we are threatened. Off-leash dogs have become a problem. We need to work together to expand, preserve and broker use of our open spaces, safely and equitably.

Pollution – buildings are the biggest users of energy followed second by transportation. What comes out of our chimneys and tailpipes cause a huge amount of pollution that have huge negative impact on our health and well-being. Pollution harms wildlife, plants, and buildings and car. Higher density exacerbates these problems.

Preservation – we have a large and varied building stock, many beautiful old trees, and other artifacts of our past worth preserving. On our National Archives is emblazoned “What is Past, is Prologue”. Ensuring preservation adds to our community identity.

School Crowding – it surprised the county some years back, but more than half the schools have out-buildings and trailers – as housing densifies, so will school attendance – more housing density will accelerate and exacerbate this problem.

Stormwater Management – significantly more construction and pavement leave higher-downpours of rain water with no place to go. Arlington has just established a new tax and some codes to help alleviate as well as and pushing trees and native plants to address the issue.

Traffic Calming and Pedestrian Safety – more cars = crowded roads, more pedestrian and bicycle accidents, and more noise. The county now bumps out sidewalks for shorter intersections crossings, and strobe lights for pedestrian crosswalks. A good start! But, new approaches to reduce traffic speeds and redirect large trucks away from residential neighborhoods is seriously needed.

Tree Canopy – Arlington is losing tree canopy – the bigger-taller buildings, bigger houses, and now duplexes are all contributing severely to this loss.

These twelve issues addressed above have intensified and have gotten worse directly due to densification. And, they may worsen, be moderated in the future, or stagnate. That is up to US.

I believe the goal of the Ashton Heights Civic Association and our other Arlington-based civic associations is to work to together to moderate, set boundaries, and interact with the county government, business community, and non-profits to ensure our quality of life, comfort, and safety & security of our families. It’s no easy job, and I appreciate everyone’s earnest efforts to steer us to a better future.

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