April 2024 Ashton Heights Newsletter


The April 2024 newsletter is linked below. If you have any comments or questions, email editor@ashtonheights.org.

Spring has Sprung and Ashton Heights is Amazing!
By Scott Sklar, President, AHCA 

I have been around a broad swath of Ashton Heights admiring the great trees and flowers in everyone’s yards. Camellia trees and cherry trees in bloom. Lenten Roses, daffodils, crocuses – all in flower!

My bird houses have young birds chirping, and the squirrels are plentiful. You can smell the beginning of Spring and it is invigorating.

Brooke Alexander leads Ashton Heights’ effort to protect tree canopy and native plants. As Arlington loses tree canopy, this is the season to replant, repair, and replenish our plant life. Brooke is listed on the inside page under our Committee Chairs if you need to reach out to her.

Spring is our rainy season, and as you know, our rains are becoming more frequent and at greater intensity. Water runoff is an issue and trees and ground cover are the best remedy. This year we begin to be taxed on our runoff, and remedial actions like rain barrels and pervious payments allow some tax forgiveness. Chris Lewicki is our AHCA lead on stormwater, please reach out if you need assistance.

I am getting contacted on noise mostly from lawnmower and leaf blowers being an issue. A personal ask is to make sure whether you do your own work or hire yard workers, they start after 10 a.m. Consumer Reports rates leaf blowers on noise, battery length, and durability. And Consumer Reports also has an article on the Best & Worst Battery Lawn Mowers.

These issues and actions directly impact the quality of life in our neighborhoods.

When everything starts blooming and growing, we have had numerous conversations on the AHCA listserv about branches that block stop signs and make it difficult to see at intersections in our residential neighborhood for walkers, bicycle riders and automobile drivers. Please trim your branches and politely cajole your neighbors to do so. Say “AHCA President Scott Sklar asked me to” and show them this newsletter article.

As a teenager, I hate when my parents would say this, but “while you’re at it,” working outside on your yards, lawns and gardens — look around for flower pots, pails, tires, and other items that collect water and become breeding grounds for mosquitoes. This is the time to begin mosquito prevention early. 

I also have bird baths and I change my water every other day. Mosquito eggs hatch in 48 hours and one female mosquito lays over 200 eggs at a time. Also mosquito dunks for birdbaths last for 30 days, and most contain BTI, a bacteria that is only toxic to mosquito larvae. BTI is harmless to people, plants, pets, birds, beneficial insects and ONLY hurts mosquitoes.

While a few of us in Ashton Heights have solar-battery systems, where we never lose electric power, everyone else needs to have their tress trimmed so that in these times of heavy winds or heavy rains they do not break the electric lines running from the pole to your house, or your cable or telephone line connections. Intense winds and heavy rains are occurring more frequently. While the electric company has crews trimming along high-voltage electric lines (something you should NOT do), lower voltage wires for electricity, cable and telephone/Wifi that run onto your property needs preventive protection.

So the arrival of spring is just a great time, but we all have some planning and work to do. I know you’ll enjoy it. And I wish you an exhilarating and wonderful Spring 2024!

March 2024 Ashton Heights Newsletter


The March 2024 newsletter is linked below. If you have any comments or questions, email editor@ashtonheights.org.

Looking at the End Game
by Scott Sklar, President, AHCA

I usually contribute very upbeat President columns.

I am very upbeat on this community and on the civic association. I am very upbeat on all of you I meet in our neighborhoods. And many of you who know me, know that I love teaching at the university, truly enjoy my 23 year-old global sustainability business, and giving weekly tours to engineers, architects and international visitors at my two self-powered buildings on N. Ivy Street, where I have lived now for 40 years.

I am starting off this way, because I am going to be grouchy, but not because I am unhappy. I feel very blessed, but am unhappy on some external and internal issues that are impacting our lives here in Arlington. And I want to articulate it, mostly to spur positive dialogue and discussion. I am not lobbying for anything.

When I moved here in 1980, I did so for several reasons. I wanted to be close to Washington, DC where I worked and socialized. I enjoyed DC’s museums, restaurants, and cultural offerings – and still do. So, I bought a house in an area with trees, littered with parks, and at the time, Clarendon had varied restaurants and small owner-owned shops. I was happy the Metro was opening in the corridor, and that there were lots of bicycle shops. I also enjoyed that the houses were old and varied – definitely not little boxes all looking alike. And I truly enjoyed people building onto their houses, as I did, as their families grew. Raising a daughter here was amazing, and aside from parks and great schools, there were fabulous families and lots to do both in Arlington and Washington, DC.

But as we leave the first quarter of the 21st century, some of this sheen is wearing off. Traffic is more congested, drivers are less patient and courteous, as are pedestrians and bicyclists plowing through in front of green lights. Loud horns and vehicle revs are more common in the middle of the night.

And now housing is getting bigger or multiple units cover the lots – old trees being dragged down, less lawns for kids to play and hold neighborhood barbecues. Aside from the market forces, I have been unnerved that County professionals have played into these trends of losing tree canopy and getting more congested. And then finally, I’m frustrated with the Arlington County Board, specifically the process of missing middle which morphed into EHO – it became clear “the Arlington Way” that many of us were most proud, had vaporized away.

Arlington has also set historic building goals, and I see moves to knock down historic buildings and not incentivize individual owners to keep our varied rich architecture. I am not talking about keeping the façade of Joyce Motors in a multi-story building, but rather stand-alone buildings of varied significance.

I am proud of Arlington’s quality education, adoption of a strong greenhouse gas emissions reduction and green energy CEP plan, but the transformation to electric buses and more EV charging stations is way too slow, which is a disappointment.

I have great concerns that Arlington is moving to super-density in Clarendon, more cement than trees and open spaces. My personal concern is that it will change the nature and quality of life of our neighborhoods. More noise, pollution, light, and people. We know there are solid options to mitigate these stressors. And I do believe our Civic Association is poised to face these challenges head-on.

Through all of these challenges, AHCA has stayed surprisingly consistent. We have a strong effort in County involvement in preserving tree canopy, stormwater education, promoting bicycle lanes and traffic calming. We have had a long-term positive relationship with the Arlington County Police. AHCA’s focus and organization around development, land-use planning, and project approval is strong, and top-of-the-line. And as issues come up, our committees on schools, housing, open spaces, and neighborhood conservation have strong leads who closely track on these issues.

To be clear, I feel we have some serious challenges on the array of issues we have identified as central to our community. But I am also confident that AHCA is structured to address them head on. And special thanks to the many who lead and staff our committees and follow these issues. Even more thanks to those who contribute to our newsletter and participate on our listserv. We have much to be thankful for, and we have some serious challenges. I look forward as we work together to face them, change them, and make our community the best it can be. Yes, “it takes a village”. Happy Spring!

February 2024 Ashton Heights Newsletter


The February 2024 newsletter is linked below. If you have any comments or questions, email editor@ashtonheights.org.

Crime, Development and Transportation
by Scott Sklar, President, AHCA

Issues rise and fall within the Ashton Heights Civic Association (AHCA) over the years, but these crime, development and transportation always appear at the top of the list. 

In planning for the Washington Metro and its corridor development, Washington, DC commuter traffic through Route 50, Langston Blvd-Lee Highway changes, and even Wilson Blvd, we have to address the commensurate crime issues that Metro, commuter traffic, and more densified development naturally bring along.

AHCA has worked with Arlington on bike lanes, more prominent signage and lighting for pedestrian walkways, bump-outs at intersections for shorter crosswalk distances, narrowing Wilson Blvd to reduce its use for rush hour commuters, and more prominent signage along Langston. All of this has had positive impacts, but there will still be more people commuting and housing density will increase, especially now after the County Board’s Expanded Housing Option (EHO) vote.

As mentioned earlier, our AHCA Safety and Security Committee chaired by Christina Schultz, keeps in contact with the Arlington County Police Department (ACPD), as well as our AHCA Transportation Committee chaired by Patrick Lueb on interfacing on traffic calming and data analysis and efforts with the community on North Jackson and North Kenmore Streets. The AHCA working group on bar/restaurant noise chaired by Martha Casey also talks routinely with ACPD. At our upcoming February AHCA monthly meeting, we will have an ACPD representative on security and crime along with a speaker from the local insurance industry on actions homeowners, condo owners and renters can do, to reduce certain types of crime and property loss or damage.

As mentioned in almost every newsletter, our most busy committee is the AHCA Development Committee co-chaired by Jack Spilsbury and Alexander Tuneski, which covers Clarendon redevelopment, a range of high-rise commercial and residential projects about to be built, tracking EHO policies and projects, and coordinating with other civic associations. I also have commandeered long-time AHCA ExCom member Ken Matzkin to work with the other civic associations on these issues.

As an aside, but very relevant, as you can see from our listserv traffic, we have various thought leaders within our community with different perspectives and visions on missing middle housing (MMH) that now has evolved into EHO Development (https://www.arlingtonva.us/Government/Programs/Building/Permits/EHO) allowing duplexes and other multiple housing approaches on residential lots. I do appreciate AHCA ExCom member David Phillips putting out ideas on “common ground” to begin a discussion on some AHCA consensus. I would like these efforts to continue, hopefully in parallel with our Lyon Park Citizens Association partners.

From my own perspective, I moved here as a missing middle single home buyer in 1984, purchasing a Sears kit bungalow before the Metro stops were fully opened, because it was affordable, close-in to Washington, DC where I worked, great tree-canopy and a plethora of local parks – and most importantly great people. As I had my family, the great school quality and amazing neighbors just added to this positive experience. And in my 70’s, all of the above – including access to high-quality health care, local vendors and restaurants just add that extra layer of pleasure.

I believe our conversations are healthy, as we build our common views, share concerns, and hopefully row in the same direction on how we guide the County Board, run with our sister civic associations – all with the same vision and goals, to sustain and evolve Arlington and especially our community into the great place where we all live.

Dialogue is healthy, different viewpoints are expected, but lastly I want to state that respect for diversity of viewpoints is welcome and required. So, let us agree in 2024, not to follow behaviors by the national politicians, and work on common goals, share perspectives, and move forward together with a common vision of attributes our community should encompass.

I am excited about the new year 2024. I appreciate all the work our ExCom, committees, special working groups, and our members put into the civic association and our community. It all matters. So again, Happy New Year, enjoy the snow and winter weather! 

January 2024 Ashton Heights Newsletter


The January 2024 newsletter is linked below. If you have any comments or questions, email editor@ashtonheights.org.

Welcome 2024 —Opportunities and Challenges for the New Year
by Scott Sklar, President, AHCA

A Happy New Year to all and a hope the holiday season gave us all a time to reflect how lucky we are.

I read The Richmond Times Dispatch, Virginia Mercury, and The Washington Post regularly. And while our area of Arlington has some stresses, we are so lucky to live in an area with tree canopy, relatively low crime, great neighborhood parks, fabulous schools, a trained and capable police force, and great neighborhood cohesion. It is a blessing.

I don’t see any serious changes to this scenario this coming year – but we have stressors that AHCA needs to deal with. 

Traffic is increasing, so we are seeing more accidents, pedestrian near misses, and speed in local neighborhoods. AHCA Transportation Chair Patrick Lueb, has developed some sophisticated analysis that he has shared with the county (and he will be happy to share with any of you that are interested) on the streets where Arlington police have set-up monitors. We have briefed Arlington County Board members and police staff, and we plan to sustain and increase this dialogue — looking at ways to calm traffic, redirect traffic, enhance visibility, and maintain dialogue with the on-going State of Virginia process regarding turnoffs from Route 50 and within Arlington at the County Board and Police department.

Development challenges on height, land coverage, density, EHO (formerly missing middle), Clarendon redevelopment are all high on our list. AHCA Development Committee co-chairs Jack Spilsbury and Alexander Tuneski attend meetings, participate in coalitions, and strategize on county input to maximize AHCA’s stated positions. Input from Ashton Heights residents is always welcome.

Tree canopy, native plants, and Stormwater Management have also come to the forefront. Our AHCA Tree Canopy – Native Plants Committee Chair Brooke Alexander is an effective advocate, educator, and practitioner – always the vanguard on the benefits to the health and quality of life to our community.

Chris Lewicki who chairs the AHCA Stormwater Management effort represents us at the relevant meetings, also an advocate and educator, and guides input and involvement on Arlington’s new stormwater programs newly applied tax in 2024. Both chairs work together to further the mutual benefits of trees and stormwater management.

While the above issues are continually “front and center”, our other AHCA committee chairs and co-chairs are very active. They are listed on page 2 of the newsletter. Feel free to contact them, join the various AHCA committees, and guide strategy and response that so significantly impacts our community.

Our AHCA officers also put in much behind the scenes time but deserve continual acknowledgment on what they do for our association and community. 

Dave Schutz, our VP of Programs, is responsible for scheduling speakers for our AHCA monthly meetings. WE ARE ALWAYS looking for input. Please contact Dave with your ideas, contacts, and issues of interest. And “yes”, this is a homework assignment. 

Jim O’Brien, has been our longtime VP for Membership, soliciting members and collecting our tiny dues payments. Please log onto to our AHCA website (https://ashtonheights. org/about-ahca/join-ahca/) and submit the $15 annual family dues payment. Or contact Jim to inquire about your membership status. 

Doug Williams has been our AHCA Treasurer, a thankless task, but a long and capable volunteer for many years. 

Chris O’Brien, the AHCA Secretary, who you see taking minutes at our monthly AHCA meetings on the third Wednesday of every month in the Clarendon United Methodist Church social Hall. He also oversees our website in conjunction with our AHCA newsletter editor Amy Miller, who puts in a huge amount of time coordinating and laying out our AHCA monthly newsletter, hand delivered and posted to our website eight months during the year. 

On that note, please contact our Editor Amy Miller with ideas and articles for our monthly AHCA newsletter. And lastly ongoing thanks to Betsey Lyon who serves as our AHCA listserv moderator. A thankless job, but so essential for our association. 

As always, I apologize to many others I did not mention, but deserve our community praise. I promise to continue the public acknowledgment to everyone who gives their time to help our community. 

Thank you all, each and every one of you. 

And finally, thanks to everyone in our Ashton Heights community for your time, interest, and commitment in making Ashton Heights a vibrant place — a wonderful community to live, work, and play. Happy 2024! 



The November 2023 newsletter is linked below. If you have any comments or questions, email editor@ashtonheights.org.

End of Year in the Neighborhood
By Scott Sklar, President, AHCA

My end-of-year column, is really a “shout out” and I apologize for not being able to include everyone who deserves recognition. There are so many great volunteers within AHCA and our local neighborhoods.

On a practical note, kudos to our AHCA Executive Committee as well as committee and issue chairs. In particular:

  • Ken Matzkin who represents AHCA with a coalition of other civic associations on Missing Middle (now called EHO)
  • Chris Lewiscki who is AHCA’s lead on Stormwater Management meetings and policy
  • And as always, our untiring Brooke Alexander who is assisting on the greenway behind WBM, tree canopy and native plants discussions, and many Arlington County projects and issues, along with education within our neighborhood and sister civic associations. You deserve our thanks for the extra effort you are doing for our community.

I have two shout outs for neighborhood leaders this fall.

First, long time Jackson Street resident, Peter Joyce (pjoyce0@gmail.com), who has stepped up to fill a void on a range of issues both on Jackson Street and spreading to other Ashton Heights areas. See his update: “Circle Damage Quickly Repaired” below:

“Given our collective voices and recent conversations with ACPD and DES, we received a quick response to the truck damage to the 6th and Jackson St traffic circle signs. Halloween Street Closure: We submitted an application to close N. Jackson Street – between Wilson and Pershing – on Halloween. The committee is reviewing the application and wants to work with us. DES and ACPD Meeting. After many emails (some more forceful than others) we are scheduling a meeting between the N. Jackson Street Safety Coalition (under AHCA), ACPD, and DES. The Coalition. I am still hoping we can expand our coalition. The more consensus we have around safety ideas, the more likely we can support improvements.

Peter’s take charge attitude, working with his neighbors and AHCA is just amazing and typifies what we can do to make our community safer and more livable. Thank you, Peter!

Second, Natalie U. Roy. After losing a close election for County Board as a staunch supporter of more effective and less disruptive alternatives to the Arlington County Board’s approach on Missing Middle Housing, Natalie now e-publishes “EHO Watch” Note: Facebook page links to past issues of EHO Watch are being posted on a private Facebook page. If you want access to the page, please shoot me an email. 

The publication includes additional information on EHO and EHO-related news. A website might be in the future, but in the interim, Facebook it is. EHO Watch previously known as Missing Middle, the County’s detensification program was re-branded as Expanded Housing Option (EHO) Development due to the goal no longer being about affordable housing, and will be sent out to highlight newsworthy developments. If you wish to subscribe to EHO Watch, email natalieuroy@gmail.com. Natalie, thanks for e-publishing this great information tool.

I know we are all busy with our families, jobs, household projects and various community activities, so it is hard to focus on community and neighborhood issues. But it is refreshing to see so many of you stepping up and making a serious dent in issues facing all of us.

I wish all of you in our Ashton Heights community a most wonderful holiday season with joy, health and peace.

October 2023 Newsletter


The October 2023 newsletter is linked below. If you have any comments or questions, email editor@ashtonheights.org.

The Small Stuff Matters
By Scott Sklar, President, AHCA 

The last few months have been interesting and somewhat out of the mainstream.

Peter Lynch and Kevin Sweeney gave AHCA September meeting attendees an update on traffic issues. Saying it’s “a long and winding road” is an understatement. Ironically, after the meeting, a truck sped over another traffic circle on N. Jackson St. where Arlington County just put-up new signs after the last truck event. AHCA’s Transportation Chair, Patrick Lueb is working on a response from AHCA — please contact him at jiffy64@me.com to contribute.

While The Washington Post in September covered the rat problem in the District, I am glad to say our effort near North 10th Street with Arlington County to reduce our rat population, appears to be working. Dunkin’ Donuts and All Plumbing are taking preventive actions more seriously – but if you see their trash bins open, please complain to them or to the county.

I have gotten some complaints that residents in corner lots have let some of their bushes or lower-level trees block the intersection views of traffic. And I just noticed my sidewalk trees and bushes are drooping low over the front sidewalk and need to be trimmed (which I will trim before you receive this newsletter). Reminder: it’s just the time to trim trees and bushes, and make all our sidewalks and intersection views safer.

Under leadership of our newsletter editor, Amy Miller, supported by a great committee, you will be getting a survey in this newsletter and is also available online. Please fill it out. We’re trying to see if we keep the status quo, move our newsletter to our website to access electronically or do a smaller hard-copy version and have the full version on the website. We will also survey our advertisers before the AHCA Executive Committee deliberates on options. Please share your feedback.

The October AHCA meeting will try to demystify Arlington County’s stormwater utility program. Chris Lewicki, Brooke Alexander and Margaret Beach have put in some time to review the county’s revamped residential stormwater fees and credit program to lower fees. Please come and ask your questions at our next AHCA meeting on October 18th.

Finally, the educational effort we put in last year to leave some leaves along the fence line so lightning bugs can lay their eggs, had some beneficial impact. As autumn approaches, please support native ground covers, leave some mulch and leaves – support our wildlife, along with our trees which makes Ashton Heights so special.

Happy Autumn to everyone and thank you for making Ashton Heights such a great place to live.

September 2023 Newsletter


The September 2023 newsletter is linked below. If you have any comments or questions, email editor@ashtonheights.org.

Off to a Busy Start
By Scott, Sklar, President, AHCA

I hope you enjoyed the summer – vacations, working in the yard, appreciating the extra rain (making up for our partial drought), and spending time with family and friends.

We have a series of ongoing issues that have not slowed down over the summer. 

One issue — speeding traffic and trucks going through our traffic circles and zooming through our neighborhoods. Good news! The county has installed sensors and counters on N. Jackson St. and N. Kenmore St. per our request. Once the data is collected, we can consider solutions to slow traffic and redirect trucks.

Small picture

Signs have begun to be installed on traffic circles, such as the one recently on N. Jackson St.

Big picture

A community letter, backed by an AHCA letter, went to County Manager Mark Schwartz on the super high parking-lot lights at the new CVS at N. Kenmore St. and Wilson Blvd. The lights shine endlessly at night onto the abutting houses around CVS. County Manager Mark Schwartz walked the site on April 24th. Hopefully, this will lead to lowering the lights, installing larger light shields and maybe, some taller bushes around the parking lot perimeter.

Neighbors near Dunkin Donuts and WBM Motors have been complaining about large rats in the area. The County has sent inspectors and they agree. WMB has fixed their bins and AHCA sent a listserv request that neighbors stop passers-by from throwing food and trash in them. Dunkin Donuts leaves their trash bin tops up, so if you see that, please go in and ask them to close them (or contact the County).

AHCA is working with the county to install “No Truck Parking” signs at the corner of Irving and 10th Streets to guarantee better sight lines for both pedestrians and turning vehicles. 

Our Development Committee (Co-chairs: Jack Spilsbury, Alexander Tuneski) is tracking the buildings being built on our borders with Clarendon, and follow-up to the Missing Middle Housing vote. Our Transportation Committee, (Chair: Patrick Lueb), is following up on traffic circle and traffic calming efforts mentioned earlier.

Our Tree Canopy and Native Plants Committee Chair Brooke Alexander, is following-up on tree planting and preservation. And our Stormwater lead, Chris Lewicki, is coordinating information on the new county efforts to add fees to our water-sewer bill on impermeable areas. 

Many issues were juggled this summer and I am sure these and other issues will grow — so check the AHCA Committee list in this newsletter and e-mail the chairs and co-chairs with questions or to join in the fun.

The way we increase livability and protect our quality of life – is to be engaged, and AHCA is set up for you to do just that …so stay involved and in-touch.

I hope to see you at our first AHCA fall meeting the third Wednesday of the month, September 20th at 7:30 p.m. at the Clarendon United Methodist Church social hall. Please bring in a new neighbor during our social networking time at 7 p.m., so we can introduce and get to know them.

I want to thank everyone for their dialogue on the listserv, your time on our committees, and for being such great neighbors. See you in September.

May 2023 Newsletter


The May 2023 newsletter is linked below. If you have any comments or questions, email editor@ashtonheights.org.

Good Neighbors — May Be Getting Harder to Find
By Scott Sklar, President, AHCA 

What makes a good neighbor ?

Our civic association has welcomed businesses and promotes them in our community. In fact, we want local vendors and restaurants, because they make our neighborhoods walkable. These businesses advertise in our AHCA newsletter, and during COVID we promoted them to keep them “in business”. We did lose a few businesses during that hard time (I personally miss the leather/shoe repair next to the Clarendon Post Office) but overall, most businesses survived in an extremely hard time.

Now some of you may remember Darna, next to Jiffy Lube, whose night time noise was generating calls and complaints. They did invest in insulation, and four years ago, the co-owners came to our AHCA meeting to make a presentation, brought some food and gave me their e-mails. We still get some complaints, but they are open to hear from us and take actions.

The exact opposite is Don Tito’s, which has generated most of the noise calls, and seems oblivious to their obligation to the surrounding neighborhoods.

In contrast, were the developers of The Lot, the outdoor food and beer place at the corner of Wilson Blvd and 10th Street North. Before they opened, they walked our AHCA Development Committee co-chairs around The Lot. We made some recommendations: fence and shrubs around The Lot so the kids do not wander into the street, lights & speakers facing downward, and a contact phone of someone on the Lot that can be called for noise or other issues. The co-owners have done exactly what we asked, to the letter and noise complaints have been minimal.

That brings us to the new CVS on Wilson Blvd across from Hurt Cleaners, a by-right development under law. Here, the national chain had no discussions with the community, built a solid brick wall facing Wilson Blvd, installed very high lights without shields, and provided no bush/tree barriers closest to the residential neighbors. 

AHCA asked if we could have W&L students paint a mural on the Wilson-facing wall. AHCA has asked them to lower the lights and put-up glare shields to keep light out of the residential neighborhoods – so far nothing, even with County intervention. AHCA asked for barrier plants to shield the development from the residents closest to CVS – nothing. So far, not a responsive or good neighbor.

Ashton Heights has been lucky that in most cases, our neighbors have tried to be good neighbors, but with increasing density, changes in County attitudes to intervene to behalf of residential neighborhoods – it’s getting tougher.

So the point of this article, as the primary allows voting to start in early May – please begin asking questions and demanding answers. We must have Board members who are not arms-length on day-to-day issues in our neighborhoods. If we don’t expect greater awareness and involvement to solve day-to-day problems – our quality of life as individuals, as families and as a community will be significantly downgraded.

April 2023 Newsletter


The April 2023 newsletter is linked below. If you have any comments or questions, email editor@ashtonheights.org.

Spring is Coming – Walk Around Your Community
by Scott Sklar, President, AHCA

What struck me during COVID, when many of us were stuck working from our homes, is that I saw families, couples and children walking around the streets of our neighborhoods. I met many in my community who I saw over the years in passing, but now exchanged words, updates, and quips.

I see many people walking their dogs or even walking with their children, and are busied on their cell phones.

As the flowers are sprouting and birds are raising their young families, the life and beauty of spring is all around us. What makes this community so wonderful, especially in spring are the trees, beautiful gardens, wildlife-friendly laws and landscapes, and more and more native plants, bushes and trees.

I wanted to use this column to bring to light, how lucky we are – and how unique our communities in this section of Arlington are – it is a gift.

I remember how clearly I cherished what we had when my daughter Stella was so young (now 30), having a number of neighborhood playgrounds, several parks within minutes of my house, and this panoply of trees, flowers, birds, wildlife, butterflies, fireflies, etc. I am the son of a professional photographer, and spent many hours taking pictures of all of this. 

Ashton Heights resident Julia Tanner, shares beautiful pictures of hawks and other birds right in our own backyard (see page 3). Just stunning.

AHCA has had a long-time hand in all of this. We have pushed for green corridors, ramping down building heights away from metro sites and major roadways, tree canopy and open spaces and parks. Chris Horvath chairs our AHCA Open Spaces Committee, Brooke Alexander chairs the Tree Canopy and Native Plants Committee, and Jack Spilsbury and Alexander Tuneski co-chair the AHCA Development Committee. All of these committees are centrally involved in these issues. I urge you to contact them and work on preserving and expanding these wonderful natural assets and benefits we have.

I visit my friends in Springfield, Woodbridge and my daughter in Sterling (Loudoun County) and none of them have the natural assets within their communities as we have here. 

So as we waken up with spring and see nature at its utmost beauty, please take a deep breath, turn off the cell phones, walk around with your friends and family, share your flowers and vegetables with your neighbors and friends – and most simply, enjoy and be thankful for what we have. 

This did not happen by chance. So the old cliché is apropos here, “Wake up, and smell the roses”.

March 2023 Newsletter


The March 2023 newsletter is linked below. If you have any comments or questions, email editor@ashtonheights.org.

Process is Everything
by Scott Sklar, President, AHCA

We will have two jointly-sponsored candidates’ nights with the Lyon Park Citizens Association (LPCA), to cover the entire spectrum of state and local Virginia candidates. I am using this column in a more philosophical bent, to address some underlying issues.

The County’s Missing Middle process winded me, but the precursors were in the planning processes – the planning commissions, the GLUPS — I was beginning to see a more controlled county-sponsored planning effort which focused less on process and less on genuine community input. Many of us involved in these processes have been grousing about it.

The county’s earlier signature issue was “the street car, on Columbia Pike” and what surprised me was how poor the public outreach was. As a result, the first time in a long time – the party-designated candidate did not win, nor was it unanimously supported on the Board, and the issue failed.

Now in the midst of Missing Middle Housing, 13 civic associations have formally polled their members and over 70% opposed the county plan in each and every poll. The county has issued its own poll, worded in ways that many of us do not believe captured the issues of concern. The county has also staged impromptu street events to take input, where they did not take down attendees information or make sure they were residents of Arlington.

To me it doesn’t matter where any of us stand on the above issues or other issues. I actually embrace the fact that people have different views, concerns, and philosophies. That’s all good.

And from that, it seems to me the role of civic associations and local governments, and their committees, commissions, councils, and bodies is to help upload these many viewpoints — the pros, the cons, the risks, and the benefits and create a stew that comes out that tastes reasonably good to most members and residents. This was called “The Arlington Way” and became a point that we as a county crowed about.

When I became your AHCA President 13 years ago, I established a formal committee structure so that our AHCA members could work together more formally on issues. What started as a few committees, is now over seven formal and subject committees: Development, Housing, Noise, Open Spaces, Safety & Security, Schools, Tree Canopy & Native Plants, Transportation, and some AHCA leads on COVID and Stormwater Management.

In 2023 I am concerned about our county. As we urbanize and densify — the tendency is to become more hierarchical and more contorted, and in many cases less representative. The pressure on issues, and growth mandates response, many times without thorough input.

So if what I laid out is a trend, how do we as caring residents in a great county and even a better community help re-orient where the county is going? Since Ashton Heights and Lyon Park are jointly sponsoring two candidate forums, I am hoping that many of us focus on process, on better planning, better risk & costs analysis. Request better surveys and input tools, where results are published and subsets are re-polled as a way to build consensus.

Frankly, it is up to us to help re-orient and improve governance. And build it up in a more positive way. We have raised our families, and built our careers, and participated in many events and organizations in our communities. I hope we pool our talents, ask questions to elected or aspiring elected officials, and writing to these officials as much we can. We need to energize ourselves and our inputs to let our County and State government know we are watching, what our expectations are and that we have on-going concerns.

Democracy and participatory government actually is hard work. But it is worth it. And I hope we can activate to re-energize the various government processes, established theoretically to assist us.