April 2023 Newsletter

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

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.

February 2023 Newsletter

Newsletter

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

Juggling Priorities as Trends Come Together
by Scott Sklar, President, AHCA

All of us have been bombarded on the listserv about the Missing Middle proposals by the Arlington County Board. We had an AHCA monthly meeting program in October 2022 and again in January 2023 to cover the issue and answer questions. AHCA also polled our membership and shared those results with our members and the Arlington County Board.

Many of you testified before the Arlington County Board on January 21st, and these testimonies were exceptional. With any hard issue, there are many sides to consider and the quality of information that we all were able to bring forth was excellent. This issue is ongoing, and we are prepared and working with our 15 other sister civic associations on this issue together.

But MMH is not our only issue by far.

We are still spending a large amount of time on the Clarendon redevelopment proposal. Led by the AHCA Development Committee, with input from the AHCA Transportation and Tree Canopy Committees, our signature issue is directed on a park on the 10th Street North fire station-Verizon block. We’re also raising issues of density, parking, setbacks, native plants and trees The issue of breaking up the cement caverns of development and having places residents can congregate, have programs and events – is an essential quality of life ingredient. Get ready for action on this important issue for our community.

Looming is the Arlington Board’s movement to change the status quo on neighborhood parking — and AHCA needs to be prepared with our position this year. Now is the time for some consensus building. This is a call for us to begin our internal dialogue so we are prepared for changes expected later this year.

Noise from our food establishments catapulted as an issue this year – primarily, but not limited from Don Tito’s on Wilson Blvd and in some instances Darna and others. This issue is going to get worse as we have six other structures soon to be built with food establishments a stones-throw away. We need to be prepared to address these issues within the early-permitting stage, than be reactive as we now are.

All this means as Arlington changes, densifies, and becomes less responsive to its residents – we, as the Ashton Heights Citizens Association needs to stay organized, focused, collaborative with each other and with the other civic associations. Our comfort and quality of life demand it.

As always, I look forward to your input directly. Please email me at solarsklar@aol.com. As important is your input to our chairs and co-chairs of our AHCA Committees, listed on page two of this newsletter. Your ideas, thoughts, and concerns are welcome. We are on this boat together, so get ready for the ride.

Have a fine last month of winter, and I look forward to seeing you at our February AHCA monthly meeting in the Clarendon United Methodist Church social hall – this time on all aspects of our Arlington recycling program. 

Happy Winter!

January 2023 Newsletter

Newsletter

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

2023 Opportunities and Obstacles
by Scott Sklar, President, AHCA

Year end 2022, was a rush of issues and challenges. I don’t expect any change for 2023. And in fact, I expect that the issues confronting Arlington’s growth, government’s directional changes, increases in certain crimes, and increasing traffic congestion will be providing some new challenges.

For 2023, the top ten topics AHCA is following proactively, not in any order of priority are as follows:

  1. Planning and Zoning – Clarendon: several planning and zoning processes have been on our plate. AHCA Development Committee co-chairs Jack Spilsbury and Alexander Tuneski, as well as a very active AHCA Development Committee have been working very hard to stay on top of the issues and participate in the processes and input to meetings. Of these, Clarendon re-development has been our focus – addressing building sizes, parking, tapering and setbacks, tree canopy & native plants – and our signature issue working with our surrounding civic association partners – a large park on the county-owned block where the 10th St N. firestation sits. We are fighting hard for this, because we believe it is a signature issue in the midst of several large cement buildings all going up in the area.
  2. Missing Middle Housing (MMH) and Housing: the County has proposed an approach that has caused quite an uproar on increasing housing density in principally single-family communities. AHCA hosted a meeting on this issue, addressing it from multiple viewpoints, and we took a survey of AHCA residents (see results on page 7).While many AHCA residents support the original intended purpose – to make housing ownership affordable to mid-salary county workers such as teachers, police and fire – an overwhelming majority (over 75%) see the proposed approach as not meeting that goal and creating tensions on other issues including county infrastructure, traffic and parking, schools, tree canopy loss, etc. AHCA has banded together with area civic associations to coordinate and continually meet with the County Board. The AHCA Development Committee has led the response with active involvement by the AHCA Tree Canopy and AHCA Transportation Committees. The County Board vote will be in January 2023.
  3. Crime and Safety: crime issues have remained steady here in the Ashton Heights area, but some crimes such as car break-ins, catalytic converter thefts and car heists have been increasing. Christina Shultz coordinates our Arlington County Police briefings at our AHCA monthly meetings, but if there are other ideas or concerns on how we tamp this down, please do not be shy.
  4. Traffic and Parking: county changes in the number of on-street parking permits, increasing apartments/condos being built on our boundaries, changes in zoning relating to MMH, and just more people in Arlington as we rebound from COVID, are increasing pressures on our roadways, and on pedestrians, bicyclists, etc. that are causing greater concerns. Patrick Lueb chairs our AHCA Transportation Committee and is who you should contact with questions or concerns.
  5. Tree Canopy & Native Plants: AHCA is a leader on tree canopy and native plans, due in large part to our dedicated chair Brooke Alexander who tirelessly testifies at county meetings and educates on the issue. Our tree canopy is one of the signature attributes living here and is continually under threat as a barrier to noise, light, and air pollution, and a sanctuary for wildlife.
  6. Schools: this tends to be a cyclical issue, and our committee chaired by Caroline Rogus and Greg Morse is always ready. Greg is looking for a replacement, so now is the time to recruit a new co-chair. Please contact Greg or me if interested in this position.
  7. Stormwater Management: Christine Lewicki has been AHCA’s designated contact on this issue and served on a multi-association county effort on the Spout Run watershed area, and with MMH there will be other pressures our community needs to keep track of, so please feel free to contact Christine with your thoughts and concerns.
  8. Open Spaces and Playgrounds: this has been AHCA’s other signature issue and Chris Horvath is our lead, tracking park issues as well as the Arlington County Neighborhood Conservation Program. Please contact Chris with any concerns or questions.
  9. Noise & Light: Martha Casey has taken the lead on the issue and an AHCA committee on night-time noise from area bar establishments including Don Titos, Darna, and others has been active. The committee was able to drive better county coordination on this problem to ensure noise enforcement. And we owe thanks to our Arlington County Manager, Mark Schwartz, who stepped up and took the reins to help resolve the issues.
  10. Informing: Dave Shutz is our VP for Programs and plans our monthly AHCA meetings. Amy Miller is our AHCA newsletter editor and Betsey Lyon is our listserv moderator. This team makes sure we get information to you. It is a two-way street, meaning they need your feedback on information needs, the best format, and vehicle to get what AHCA members want. Please feel free to email them or me, as your AHCA President.

    Our AHCA Committee chairs, co-chairs, sub-committee chairs are listed on page 2 of the AHCA Newsletter. Feel free to send an email with ideas, suggestions, concerns, and yes, joining a committee or initiating an effort.

We win by working together, discussing issues respectfully with each other – because we are ALL on this ship together. Thank you for being an AHCA member, coming to AHCA monthly meetings at the Clarendon United Methodist Church social hall, reading this newsletter, being active on the listserv, and participating in AHCA Committees, and events.

Have a wonderful winter season.

Tree Canopy Decline Since 1973

Featured

Our Shrinking Tree Canopy – What is to be Done?

Ashton Heights has been a green oasis in the center of Arlington for decades.
Unfortunately, our oasis is disappearing!


Look at the tree canopy maps thru time:


At Ashton Heights Civic Association’s (AHCA) September meeting, we examined
the available tree canopy studies of Arlington, including Ashton Heights. Tree
Canopy studies were done in 1973, 1985, 1997, 2008, 2011, and 2016. The
County expects to do another survey in 2023.
These historical maps are below.

More maps coming soon.

What is to be done??


At the Sept AHCA meeting we started to discuss strategies to restore our oasis.
Join David Summers and me this winter. We will convene a committee to flush
out ideas. Let us know if you are interested in helping by emailing me at
brooke.alexander52@gmail.com .


Brooke Alexander


Ashton Heights Civic Association Tree Canopy and Native Plant Coordinator
Arlington Regional Master Naturalist

November 2022 Newsletter

Newsletter

The November 2022 newsletter is linked below. If you have any comments or questions, email editor@ashtonheights.org.

President’s Column
By Scott Sklar, President, AHCA 

At our October AHCA monthly meeting we had a dialogue on the Arlington County Board’s proposal on Missing Middle with two speakers (long-time Arlington residents) supporting and questioning the Missing Middle Housing (MMH) proposal. I was happy to see a turn out of over 60 AHCA residents at our AHCA October membership meeting on MMH.

This was a discussion and not a debate, which I moderated and this is not a Jerry Springer show – so everyone was asked to offer up a question and all dialogue polite. 

The speakers were:

  • Alice Hogan who grew up in Ashton Heights and Lyon Village before that. Her mother still lives on the same street as I do, beyond the church. Alice has 50 years’ experience in Arlington.
  • Julie Lee has served as president of the Glencarlyn Civic Association for 6 years. She was born and raised in Arlington, in a house her parents built in Glencarlyn in the early 50’s.

Following are links for more information on recent MMH programs in October 2022. Please feel free to review them.

AHCA has sent out a MMH survey to AHCA residents who are on our listserv and our AHCA Secretary Chris Armstrong will be sending out an e-survey after our AHCA meeting above. The survey was created by the AHCA Development Committee CoChairs Alexander Tuneski and Jack Spilsbury, ExCom member Ken Matzkin and myself. The survey has been reviewed and approved by the AHCA ExCom.

We will also have the survey available for those not on the AHCA listserv on our website (ashtonheights.org). You will have to put in some extra info, so we can make sure we are not double counting.

I want to thank everyone in AHCA on the dialogue on MMH on our listserv. There are many views expressed, and for the most part respectful. I don’t see these issues as black-and-white, so good dialogue, programming, and give-and-take discussion is most worthwhile.

Thank all of you within our community for being active on a host of issues, as AHCA tries to inform, host dialogue, and build community consensus.

Ashton Heights 100th Anniversary Presentations

Uncategorized

 As the Ashton Heights Civic Association celebrated its 100 years anniversary, a variety of presentations were made at public meetings and are a good source of learning more about the various parts of our history.  This includes the following slide presentations:

  1. A History of the Clarendon Alliance
  2. The 2011 Historical House Tour
  3. Three Historical Presentation to the Civic Association
  4. “History of the women’s club of Ashton Heights 1924-1970”

Interested parties with questions can contact AHCA Historian James Terpstra at 703 908 9231 or terpstrajames2@gmail.com 

September 2022 Meeting Minutes

Uncategorized

Scott Sklar, AHCA President, called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM. 

Scott thanked Dave Schultz, VP for Programs, for organizing the meeting and praised him for the conception and logistics for the successful joint meeting with the Lyon Park Civic Association for Candidates night on September 14th at the Lyon Park Community Center. Scott also introduced Alexander Tuneski as new CoChair with Jack Spilsbury of the AHCA Development Committee.

Kids, INC. – Ann Felker presented on Kids, INC., an Ashton Heights News listing of local youths who are ready to earn money by helping residents with tasks such as dog walking, plant watering, babysitting, leaf raking, and other activities. The September 22 newsletter lists available youths, contact information, and tasks for which they are available. Six neighborhood youths presented on the work they enjoy and experience with the program (and more came to present later in the meeting!) If you have updates for the listing, contact Ann at gr8est9@gmail.com

Arlington Police Department – Officer Carly Mullinax presented on the latest incidents around Ashton Heights. He reported 368 cases year-to-date, including 150 in the summer months between May 1 and September 15. Most incidents have been concentrated near the Ballston quarter metro. Case volumes are in line with seasonal averages, and more recent cases include 6 larceny via automobile (reminder to lock your car!), as well as fraud and drunk in public incidents. He reported a number of recent attempted burglary incidents in the area, most all in vacant or under construction homes. He advised residents to choose lighted streets in the evening, walking with groups, and being aware of surroundings. 

Zoning – AHCA Development/Zoning Chair Jack Spilsbury spoke on development updates and introduced hhe new AHCA Development Committee CoChair Alexander Tuneski. He noted that the Joyce Motors lot will be redeveloped into an 11-story residential high-rise building, while the Silver Diner lot will be redeveloped into a hotel and another residential high rise. The lot behind Whole Foods may be developed into a 14-story building, as well as civic association desire to limit building heights. He also noted that AHCA is working with 12 other civic associations on the Missing Middle initiative. 

Tree Canopy – AHCA Native Plants & Tree Canopy Chair Brooke Alexander and David Summers. 

David spoke about his work at the State Department, where he had the opportunity to work in numerous countries and see firsthand those that prioritized trees and those that did not, as well as the difference that prioritization made on quality of life. David also presented his personal scientific observations on one of the hottest days this summer in Ashton Heights: the sidewalk under the shade of his tree was 83 degrees; and the sidewalk across the street in the sun was 119 degrees.

Brooke spoke about the relationship between trees and high temperatures, noting that one benefit of trees is the reduction of heat island effects and lower average temperatures. Showing slides from 1973, she noted that Ashton Heights surveys show fewer trees over time due to increased development. She also noted that between 2008 and 2016, Ashton Heights’ tree coverage changed from 48 percent to 41 percent (the neighborhood has the capacity for 58%, while Lyon Park as capacity for 59%). Trees also soak up rainwater, preventing flooding, as well as add to our neighborhood’s biodiversity. 

Brooke also outlined county requirements for tree coverage. Arlington tree replacement requirements apply if more than 2500 square feet of land is disturbed, and currently require 20% canopy cover. She noted that under the Missing Middle initiative, that requirement would generally be 10%. For more information, she recommended contacting the Arlington Tree Action Group.

The meeting adjourned promptly at 9:02 PM.

Respectfully submitted, 

Chris Armstrong

Secretary 

October 2022 newsletter

Newsletter

The October 2022 newsletter is linked below. If you have any comments or questions, email editor@ashtonheights.org.

Visions of Our Community
By Scott Sklar, President, AHCA 

Arlington County and our communities are a great place to live due to the actions and hard work or many Ashton Heights and Lyon Park residents, who are still active members of our associations. We had visionaries in Arlington County who supported an approach called “The Arlington Way” which was an attempt to create full participatory governance process which is still represented on the many Commissions, planning committees, and processes today.

The Arlington Way has served us very well. The county lobbied for the metro and created wise zoning that allowed tall buildings along the metro lines and mid-level buildings stepping down up to our residential communities, which became a national model.

Aside from Metro, Arlington pushed multi-modal transportation including a network of bicycle paths/lanes, walkable communities with bumping in corners into intersections for pedestrian-friendly walkways, a bikeshare network, scooters, for awhile, hourly Zip cars, now Ubers, cabs and finally personal transportation with community parking zones around metro stops so neighborhoods can have access to their streets for parking.

Arlington has an extensive network of parks that are well kept, a tree canopy program that actually disperses trees to residents and a rather aggressive water management program at a time our climate is changing and our downpours are more frequent and heavier. Arlington has adopted a County Energy Plan (CEP), of whose commission energy committee I sit, which has been unanimously adopted by the County Board in two successive renditions addressing reducing greenhouse gas emissions and accelerating adoption of energy efficiency, renewable energy, electric transportation, etc.

All these goals, policies and programs, have made our county and neighborhood a most wonderful place to live.

As Arlington has become urbanized and dense, our housing and rental prices have soared, as have the region’s. These realities force middle and low income people who work in Arlington in service industries (teachers, police and fire, etc.), to move farther and farther out and away from Arlington.

There has been a push to address this issue, and our Arlington County Board has embarked on a Missing Middle Housing study and a set of proposals on zoning changes to allow duplexes, triplexes, quadraplexes, and higher on residential-zoned lots in traditional single family neighborhoods. 

The study said these structures would cut Arlington tree canopy in half, and there are no zoning or code requirements to ensure Arlington’s stormwater management or building energy efficiency along with greenhouse gas reduction would be addressed.

Aside from undercutting key Arlington proposals, the push back has focused that the housing values, in fact, would not go down, but just allow developers and builders to extract much higher values out of existing residential lots. And as a by-product much higher street parking congestion, beyond the tree canopy and stormwater stresses mentioned above.

This has galvanized seven civic associations to have weekly meetings, as well as Zoom meetings with the County Board on every aspect of the proposals. Many of the civic association presidents have questioned why other initiatives are not used in Arlington, but used throughout the United States on Missing Middle Housing, such as the use of land trusts (used to preserve forests and wetlands). These can be utilized to aggregate tear-downs (older, smaller houses) to be upgraded and sold to middle income to address rising housing prices but also foster home ownership, as an example.

So far, aside from one board member, no one on the Arlington County Board seems interested in other, more proven programs. 

The Wednesday, October 19th Ashton Heights Civic Association meeting will feature a structured dialogue on Missing Middle Housing (MMH). As at our joint AHCA/LPCA September Candidates night, where questions were submitted and bundled for candidates, we will solicit questions, and package them to the pro and con speakers who will present on MMH. Please submit your questions directly to me at: solarsklar@aol.com.

The goal here is to develop a consensus that addresses the issues, without the downsides, into a more effective approach as we continue our dialogue with the County Board.

We have had a great dialogue on the AHCA listserv, and I am hoping to have a web survey as well so we can see where our AHCA membership leans and what sub-issues are important to all Ashton Heights residents. As always, thank you for your interest and involvement in making our community an even better place to live.