I hope this finds everyone enjoying the last days of summer. As a reminder, Alexandria Public Schools are now in session, so let’s all be careful when we are driving to make sure our students stay safe on their way to and from school.
This article will be lengthy, especially as it relates to Duke Street. I think it is important for all of us in this area of the city to fully understand the multiple projects that are in process right now which will change the streetscape of Duke Street. As you may have seen on the new flashing directional signs, Phase II of the Duke Street traffic mitigation project will begin on September 12th. This is the second part of the pilot program that ran earlier this year. Phase II will incorporate the same traffic light timing sequence that Phase I initiated. The results of Phase I were very positive in terms of reducing regional cut-through traffic in our neighborhoods by making light timing changes that encourage drivers and driving apps to direct commuters to stay on the major arterial roads like Quaker and Duke, rather than taking shortcuts through smaller residential streets.
Phase II of the pilot will now cut off access from West Taylor Run Parkway onto the west-facing ramp to Telegraph Road that is directly across Duke Street from Taylor Run. Instead, drivers on West Taylor Run who want to access Telegraph Road to the Beltway will be allowed to turn left only onto Duke Street. Barriers will prevent drivers from getting on the ramp to Telegraph at this location. Drivers will proceed east to the “jug handle loop” traffic signal at Dove Street. From there, they will take a left back onto Duke Street and enter the westbound ramp to Telegraph Road. The timing of the light at Dove Street will be adjusted during the pilot based upon the level of use.
The rationale for this change is that it will allow the gridlocked traffic that we see every afternoon on eastbound Duke Street to flow directly onto the Telegraph Ramp without having to stop at the traffic light at West Taylor Run Parkway. Other traffic lights on Duke Street will give preference to Duke Street traffic and require slightly longer wait times at cross streets such as Cambridge Road, as was the case with Phase I. Phase II will run until March 31, 2023, pending approval by the Traffic and Parking Board in late September. That approval is required to have Phase II run for 6 months. The long-term plan for this corridor is to create a left turn lane from Duke onto the west-facing Telegraph ramp, so drivers can avoid the Dove Street U-turn in the future. If you wish to learn more about this project, please go to the city website at: https://www.alexandriava.gov/sites/default/files/2022-08/Duke%20Street%20Traffic%20Mitigation%20-%208.11.22_0.pdf.
The project to create another access point to Telegraph Road will be part of the West Taylor Run Interchange Project that will involve the redesign of the entire Taylor Run-Duke Street intersection. The community outreach for that Interchange project will begin sometime this fall, and the results of this Phase II Duke Street project will help inform decisions and solutions. The city has received a $5.7 million grant from the Virginia Smart Scale Program to redesign the Taylor Run intersection in conjunction with additional access to Telegraph Road. It is important to remember that VDOT has informed the city that no additional lanes can be added to the existing east-facing Telegraph ramp, due to the proximity of the exits for Mill Road/Eisenhower Avenue and the Beltway, so adding lanes there is not a possible solution to ease the gridlock.
Before we move away from Duke Street issues, I want to remind you that the Duke Street Transitway, a.k.a. Duke Street in Motion, is well underway with the planning process. The city appointed a Duke Street Transitway Advisory Committee, which has had several meetings. I attended the most recent meeting where the paid consultants began to present their scenarios for changes on Duke Street from Landmark Mall to the King Street Metro. In my opinion, despite the fact that city staff had said at the outset of this process that nothing was set in stone and everything would be up for discussion during this process, the 2012 plan that called for a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lane was rapidly adopted by the committee with almost no public outreach, other than to announce the dates of the committee meetings. It was clear to me that the consultants have been instructed to come up with designs that incorporate a dedicated Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lane, similar to what you see on Route 1 near Potomac Yard, as well as dedicated bike lanes. Bike lanes were not endorsed in the 2012 Duke Street Plan and elected officials had previously indicated that Eisenhower Avenue would be a much safer route for bike lanes. That has now changed, and the Duke Street designs project the inclusion of protected bike lanes.
You might ask yourselves, as I did, how is all this going to fit onto Duke Street and still allow car traffic, which is obviously the huge majority of movement on Duke Street, to travel the corridor without increasing delays for vehicles? The answer appears to be the removal of the access roads along Duke Street in order to create the BRT and the protected dual “cycle tracks” as they are now called. Some advisory committee members have stated that the access roads are not needed and their removal will help create the vibrant urban corridor that the city envisions for Duke Street. There was very little consideration at the meeting I attended for the role these access roads play for residents and businesses, as the focus was on BRT and bikes. When it was pointed out that parts of the access roads are at a much higher elevation, which would make it extremely difficult to incorporate them onto a level with Duke Street, the Planning Commission representative on the committee stated that would not present a problem and “that is what earth moving equipment is for”, therefore, such concerns were not relevant.
The overwhelming majority of the dozen or so public speakers at the meeting I attended were bike and transit advocates who had received emails from their various lobbying groups to sign up to speak in favor of any and all transit options, other than cars. While some residents have testified at previous meetings about the need to preserve car travel, this is not something that most residents have focused on at this point in time. Thus, the majority of the voices the city hears are activist voices who believe that “if you build it, they will come” to ride buses and bikes, and abandon their cars. When the city staff member in charge of the project was asked by one committee member about the projections for vehicle traffic on Duke Street if lanes are taken away, the response was, “It is very hard to talk about future traffic on Duke Street now.”
After listening to the meeting, it became even more clear to me that this is much more than a transit project – it is a redevelopment project for Duke Street. That is why one of the members of the Advisory Committee was appointed to represent the development community, and he and his law firm represent the owners of the property where the Land Rover dealership used to be on Duke Street that will now be redeveloped into a large affordable housing project, as well as representing Inova Alexandria Hospital at the Landmark site. This is not viewed as any conflict of interest in serving on the Advisory Committee, which will recommend the ultimate design of the roadway to City Council.
The city has made it very clear that this project is a transit project and the $87 million the city has received for it will be spent on mass transit upgrades. Unfortunately, it appears that none of those upgrades consider any impact on existing homes and businesses or vehicular traffic. Nor is there any data to show that current or future residents want to travel from Landmark to King Street Metro in order to, as some officials have stated is a reason for the Transitway, get on the Metro to travel to the Pentagon, and then transfer to other Metrorail lines to reach the final location of their jobs. No one has yet explained why commuters would want to take the time to travel all the way east along Duke Street to King Street, instead of boarding an Express Bus at Landmark to travel north on 395, which is immediately adjacent to Landmark, in order to get to the Pentagon. It is also relevant to note that the BRT buses will not be DASH buses, and will, at this point, not be free. If you wish to learn more about Duke Street in Motion, the website is: https://www.alexandriava.gov/DukeInMotion.
We are still awaiting the results of the city’s data on crash information on Seminary Road since the road diet was implemented. As many of you observed, another accident demolishing one of the center medians happened a few weeks ago. Residents indicate this is the 5th time one of the center medians has been damaged or destroyed in car accidents.
Moving away from transportation issues, I received a troubling report from the President of the nearby Battery Heights Homeowners Association. He would like all of us to be aware of an experience that happened to him. In July, he placed some bill payments in the outside blue mail boxes at the Seminary Post Office on Seminary Road. Weeks later, he received notices from the companies he had paid saying his bills were overdue. While dealing with these companies, he received a call from his bank informing him that the bank had stopped a fraudulent check from withdrawing money from his account. Apparently, the perpetrator who broke into the blue boxes at the Seminary created fake checks using the original checks they found in his correspondence and then used the checks to make mobile transfers from his account into a fraudulent account created by the thieves. Fortunately, the bank caught this suspicious activity and has restored all funds to his bank account.
The recent rash of thefts from postal carriers is related to this new form of crime when thieves gain access to the master keys used to lock outside post boxes. To be on the safe side, it is suggested that we use mail slots inside post offices, rather than the outside drop boxes. We appreciate being notified about this crime happening with boxes that I am sure many Seminary Hill residents use to drop off their mail.
On August 8th, SHA sent a letter to the Alexandria School Board and the City Manager asking a number of questions regarding cost estimates, infrastructure, ownership, maintenance, and supervision of the Hammond Middle School field, as the city seeks to add lights to this field. We are awaiting responses to those questions as the city moves forward for approval from the Planning Commission on October 6th.
On Saturday, September 10th, the city and the IEN mediation group hired by the city, will host an all-day meeting regarding the Stream Health Improvement Projects at Taylor and Strawberry Runs. The meeting is open to the public and will be held in the Board Room of the Alex Renew office building at 1800 Limerick Street. Speakers from the city, their consultants, and members of the public will speak on various aspects of these two natural resource areas. The meeting is the first public outreach since the mediation team was hired and introduces the Consensus Building Group (CBG), comprised of residents who have been involved in the discussions about these two projects. The meeting will run from 8:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Members of the CBG will hold subsequent meetings about these two projects. To learn more about stream restoration you can go to the city’s website at: https://www.alexandriava.gov/stormwater-management/stream-restoration. At this time, I do not see any information on that site about this upcoming meeting.
The city is now accepting applications for the various City Academies that offer residents an opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge about the operations of various departments and services in the city. Academies include the Alexandria City Academy, the Senior Academy, the Fire, Police, and Sheriff’s Academies, and others. To learn more about each academy and their meeting schedules, visit www.alexandriava.gov/Academies.
The appeal by some Brookville-Seminary Valley residents of the Traffic and Parking Board’s decision to remove 9 parking places on Polk Avenue in order to add a sidewalk in the city right of way will be heard at City Council’s Public Hearing on Saturday, September 17th. The docket for this meeting will be posted approximately 5 days before the meeting if you wish to learn where on the agenda this item will be heard. This has been a contentious issue for neighbors, who, in their deliberations and discussions, have tried to balance pedestrian safety, protection of the Polk Park open space immediately adjacent to this proposed sidewalk, and the need for resident parking. The Council hearing is the final step in the process to determine if the sidewalk will be constructed.
Coming up this fall will be several initiatives in which Seminary Hill Association will be participating. The “Zoning for Housing” initiative that has resulted in the adoption of ADUs, co-living, and other “soft density” (as Mayor Wilson calls them) zoning changes will be brought forward, as per Mayor Wilson’s instruction to staff, as a bundled group of zoning changes intended to create more affordable housing in the city. Mayor Wilson writes that this comprehensive “Zoning for Housing” proposal will be “more substantial” and “make an impact in improving affordability” in our city. It can be anticipated that some of these changes will relate to the zoning for single-family homes.
In addition, this fall the city will start community engagement for an Alexandria “Vision Plan”, which appears to be the new term for a Strategic Plan. Mayor Wilson writes that this plan “will craft an updated community vision for our city’s future.” This vision will ultimately update our Master Plan, future Small Area Plans, and our zoning ordinance. I would urge all of us to participate in this process to the fullest extent possible. As someone who participated in the previous city Strategic Plan, I can state that without the input of a group of engaged and dedicated residents, the word “neighborhood” would not have had more than a passing reference in that plan. Through their efforts, respect for various neighborhoods became a part of the plan. SHA will pay close attention to any information about this “Vision Plan” and let residents know how and when to let their voices be heard in this very important discussion.
I have been contacted by the city’s Planning and Zoning Department to alert SHA to the new Alexandria West Planning Process, which will “update the long-term vision for the 1992 Alexandria West Plan and integrate the 2012 Beauregard Plan.” Again, Seminary Hill will be an active participant in this process and we will have a representative from the Planning Department speak about this process at our October 13th meeting. More information can be found about this project at: https://www.alexandriava.gov/AlexandriaWest.
Finally, we are still awaiting the city’s decision on the relocation of the playground at Ft. Ward Park. We expect to hear next month. It is not clear whether a public meeting will be held to entertain more discussion on this matter, or to inform us of the decision that has been made by the city. Several Seminary Hill residents have been very involved and active in this matter and will continue to keep us informed as the decision is made.
I congratulate you if you have read this far in this message. Again, I apologize for the length of this message, but I think it is important for our residents to see the volume of information that is coming at us from the city, even during our summer “recess.” Our next SHA meeting will be in person on Thursday, September 8th at 7:00 p.m. at Immanuel Church on the Hill Parish Hall at 3606 Seminary Road. We are finalizing the agenda for that meeting and it is now posted on this website under the tab for Agenda on the home page. We will offer a Zoom link for those who cannot attend in person and it is found below:
Topic: Seminary Hill Association Zoom Meeting
Time: Sep 8, 2022 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Meeting ID: 892 7243 5966
Dial by your location
+1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC)
As always, thank you for your interest in Seminary Hill Association. Please do not hesitate to contact me or any board members with questions or concerns you have. Happy Labor Day to all!
As we turn the calendar to August, we are surely in the dog days of a Washington, DC summer now with the recent heat and humidity! Today has brought some relief, but next week promises to bring increased temperatures and humidity back. Normally, civic matters would be taking a summer recess, but it seems there is now no real break from the need to stay on top of city issues.
I mentioned in my last email that Tuesday, August 2nd is the National Night Out event throughout Alexandria. This is an event to recognize our first responders and thank them for their service. The Clover College Park Civic Association (CCPCA) is hosting their event at Bishop Ireton High School at 201 Cambridge Road from 6:00- 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday night. They have graciously invited residents of other areas to join their celebration. There will be visits from the Alexandria Police Department Motorcycle Unit, Canine Unit, and the Mobile Crime Lab. Units from the Alexandria Fire Department and Sheriff’s Department will also be on hand. A food truck, Himalayan Soul Food, will be on hand, and the CCPCA is providing water, lemonade, and tea. No pets are permitted, other than service animals, and there is no smoking or alcohol permitted on the site. This is a great opportunity to interact with our first responders, and meet nearby neighbors. We appreciate CCPCA including us in their event.
An item of great interest to our area is the status of the two Duke Street Traffic Pilots. As you remember, Phase 1 of the pilot involved redoing the timing of the traffic lights along Duke Street and the side streets in order to reduce cut-through traffic. I have received a report from Hillary Orr of T&ES regarding the results of Phase 1. Here are some highlights from her report:
At the August 10th meeting, Ms. Orr will not only give the results of Phase 1, but will discuss the implementation of Phase 2 of the Duke Street pilot. This phase will involve closing off access to the Telegraph Road ramp at West Taylor Run by placing barriers along the ramp. This will allow Duke Street traffic to move more quickly through that area to get to the Beltway because there will no longer be a traffic signal stopping Duke Street traffic at West Taylor Run. Cars wishing to go south on Telegraph Road from West Taylor Run will proceed east on Duke Street to Dove Street, where they will exit and circle back to the existing ramp for westbound Duke Street traffic. The long-range plan is to create a designated left turn lane from eastbound Duke Street onto the west-facing Telegraph Road ramp. While some residents on East Taylor Run Parkway have heard a rumor that there will be an additional traffic signal placed on their street, this is not part of the plan. What is part of the plan is that the traffic timing signals from Phase 1 will be put back into place when Phase 2 begins, so the city can get a complete picture of how the 2 pilots will work in tandem. As with the Phase 1 pilot, this pilot will run for a designated period of time and then be re-evaluated with the community. The start date and timing of Phase 2 will be discussed at the August 10th Zoom meeting. I will keep you informed as we learn more.
I have followed up with Nancy Williams of the Planning Department to learn more about the status of the text amendment to increase the height limit in certain areas to allow for the creation of affordable housing. As I reported in my last email, the Planning Commission deferred approval of this proposal and asked staff to come back with further analysis. Mayor Wilson then instructed staff to come back with a more comprehensive proposal including other future zoning changes envisioned in the Housing for All plan. Ms. Williams indicated in her reply to me that they are following that directive and reviewing the Housing for All plan before bringing the matter back to the Planning Commission. She assured me that any proposals will include a “strong community engagement process.” We will continue to stay on top of this issue in the coming months.
On the matter of the playground relocation in Ft. Ward Park, we are awaiting a decision by Parks and Rec on their choice of location. The sites that were preferred by the community in meetings were Site B and Site D, so these are being studied in more detail now. Site B is immediately above the current location of the playground, and Site D is on the other side of the park adjacent to St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes Middle School campus. City staff expects to hold another community meeting on this matter in September or October. We are relieved that Site E appears not be under consideration any longer due to the possibility of gravesites on that land where African American homes were located.
Another informational item to bring to your attention was the decision by the Traffic and Parking Board on June 25th to remove 9 parking places along Polk Avenue near Polk School so a sidewalk can be constructed as a result of a survey done for Safe Routes to School. This was also noted as one of the “missing link” sidewalks that was referenced in the Seminary Road diet debate. Several Polk Avenue neighbors argued that this sidewalk is not necessary, as there is a sidewalk on the other side of Polk Avenue. The proposed sidewalk abuts a public open space area called Polk Park, so to avoid encroaching on the parkland, the sidewalk will be built in the public right of way, which means that the 9 parking spaces in this stretch of the street will be eliminated. Residents have stated their intention to appeal the decision. The Brookville Seminary Valley Civic Association and the Seminary Hill Association did not take formal positions on this matter. I did go to the site several times when meetings with city officials were held, including with City Manager Jim Parajon. The option of a crosswalk was proposed by some residents, but city staff indicated that was not a safe alternative. During the discussion by the Traffic Board, one board member cited the sidewalk put in on Seminary Road (the portion along the VTS grounds that is out in the street) and stated that it was amazing how many people are using that sidewalk that never did before. Based upon personal observation and numerous reports from other residents, I am not convinced that his comment is a very accurate assessment about the use of that sidewalk, which did not receive the state funding the city asserted would be forthcoming to create a more permanent sidewalk.
Finally, the plan to add lights at Hammond Middle School continues to move forward. The city did hold another public meeting on July 21st and reiterated their plan to go before Planning and Council this fall to get a Special Use Permit to begin this work. Seminary Hill Association is very aware of the concerns of residents who are neighbors to Hammond, who continue to deal with the non-permitted uses of the Hammond field now, and know that adding lights will only increase the noise and nuisances that are prevalent today. SHA was very involved in the previous attempt in 2012 to light the Hammond field, which resulted in lawsuits from the neighbors, the discovery of flooding issues that residents had warned ACPS about to no avail, and enormous cost overruns with the new turf field, and ACPS’ withdrawal of the plan to light the field at that time.
One of the main issues regarding the lighting of Hammond and the other fields that are part of this plan is the lack of any oversight and enforcement of conditions that are placed on the use of the field. Residents have observed this at Hammond and at Parker Gray Stadium. When violations occur, residents attempt to reach out to ACPS who states that they have no staff to monitor the use and to call the Alexandria Police Department. If residents contact Parks and Rec, they are told it is an ACPS problem and to call the Alexandria Police. When the police are called, they now tell residents this is not part of their responsibility and they do not respond to such calls. The bottom line is that no one takes responsibility or responds to residents’ complaints. The same lack of response is now given for noise complaints in general throughout the city. It seems unfair to consider adding more opportunities for conflicts with nearby neighbors regarding noise and nuisances until a reliable system is put in place with additional staff assigned to monitor and respond to the issues that are happening right now without placing lights on additional fields. While all of us want our Alexandria youth to have sufficient opportunities for outdoor activities, there are many questions remaining about who will actually use these fields at night. SHA will consider this issue and take a position after our board votes on the matter. Please do not hesitate to contact me or any board member about any thoughts you have on this, or any other matter.
Please enjoy the rest of your summer. SHA will resume its monthly board meetings on September 8th at 7:00 p.m. Further information about that meeting will be provided next month. Thank you again for being a part of the Seminary Hill Association and I hope to see some of you at National Night Out this Tuesday.
President, Seminary Hill Association
We will have our regular SHA board meeting on Thursday, June 9th at 7:00 p.m. As we did last month, it will be a hybrid meeting - both in person at Immanuel Church on the Hill Parish Hall and via Zoom for those who cannot attend. Our first guest speaker will be Jack Browand, the Deputy Director of Parks and Rec. His department is putting forward a proposal to light 5 athletic fields in the city. Funding has been provided for 2 fields, but the Department seeks to light 5 with additional funding. One of these 5 fields is Hammond Middle School. As many may remember, lighting this field was proposed some years ago, but was withdrawn when studies showed glare into the nearby yards, in addition to sewer line issues under the field. I can only surmise that with the new lighting technology, the city has figured they can avoid the glare issue as they bring back this proposal again. In addition to our SHA meeting, Mr. Browand will hold two community meetings on this proposal. The first is Wednesday, June 8th at 7:00 p.m. It is a webinar and you must register in advance for this community meeting. The link is: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_UvUcHSBfRMCvuGF6E-MjkA. The second meeting will be Tuesday, June 21st at 7:00 p.m. The link for this webinar is: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_75TTvoNKS9annrnMVLkEew. If you wish to attend a community meeting, I would suggest that you attend the webinar on the 8th, due to the following additional meeting SHA will have on June 21st. The field lighting proposal will go before Planning Commission and City Council in September and October, so with summer arriving now, there will be little time to get organized.
In addition, Police Chief Don Hayes has asked to join our meeting on Thursday night to discuss recent changes to police responses to calls. Chief Hayes will be joining us at 7:45 via the Zoom link you will find below. If you have questions or concerns about the new policy, this will be an opportunity to hear the Chief and ask him questions you may have.
Again, our SHA regular board meeting will be held on Thursday, June 9th at 7:00 p.m. As indicated above, the meeting will be in person and via Zoom. The Zoom link for our SHA board meeting is:
Seminary Hill Association Zoom Meeting
Time: Jun 9, 2022 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Meeting ID: 851 3554 5415 Passcode: 831725
Dial by your location 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC)
Mayor Justin Wilson has accepted our invitation to attend a special SHA meeting on Tuesday, June 21st at 7:00 p.m to discuss the proposed zoning text amendment which would change the minimum height standard for developers to receive a height bonus for providing some affordable housing. Many civic associations, including SHA, have pushed back on this proposal and the city now states it will not apply to single family home and townhome zones. We need to better understand the strength of this commitment, as this language could be changed with a separate zoning text amendment at a later date once this initial change takes place. It is also unclear at this point how much of Old Town would be eligible for this 25-foot height bonus. The Mayor will appear in person at the Immanuel Church Parish Hall. The Zoom link for this meeting with the Mayor is:
Topic: Seminary Hill Association Special Meeting
Time: Jun 21, 2022 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 812 7903 4613
Dial by your location
301 715 8592 US (Washington DC)
Several SHA members attended the informational walk at Ft. Ward Park on May 21st. There are several sites under consideration for the relocation of the playground. For those who could not attend the walk, there is supposed to be a Zoom meeting on June 23rd to review these options. There is no information yet about this meeting on the city website for this project, so we will have to check back to see if they schedule it. The location of the playground is complicated by the need to respect the sites of the African American community that made their homes in the park for many years, and the need to protect the existing tree canopy from injury or destruction during the construction process.
Thank you for your interest in Seminary Hill. There are numerous Zoom links contained in this message, so please be sure you use the correct link for each meeting. Please do not hesitate to let me, or any board member, know your questions or concerns on any matters of interest to our community.
I apologize for being late with my message this month. I have been out of town and just returned home today. Our May meeting will be this Thursday, May 5th. We moved the date from our usual 2nd Thursday of the month due to schedule conflicts. We will once again do a hybrid meeting. We will meet at 7:00 in person at the Immanuel Church Parish Hall and will do a Zoom meeting from that location as well. Our speaker will be our own SHA Board member, Bill Rossello. He will speak about the research he has been doing about our tax rate, fees, and the City budget. Here is the Zoom link for the meeting:
Topic: Seminary Hill Zoom Meeting
Time: May 5, 2022 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 816 5803 0724
Dial by your location
+1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC)
Our agenda is posted here on our website. We will have an update on the city’s proposal to reduce the height threshold for bonus density from the current 50’ to 45’. This has far-ranging implications across the city and it is important to understand the reason behind this zoning text amendment. We will also receive an update regarding the Duke Street In Motion Advisory Committee, which held its first meeting last week. I hope you can join us for these discussions. I will post a more robust summary of these issues after our meeting on Thursday night.
Enjoy the arrival of Spring finally. Thanks for your interest in Seminary Hill.
President, Seminary Hill Association, Inc.
In a week where April showers have been the norm, we are fortunate to have thus far been spared the terrible weather that has done a great deal of damage to areas south of us. Spring finally appears to be taking a more permanent position now, and it is fun to see the daffodils and early flowering trees in bloom all over Seminary Hill. This is in sad contrast to the sight we see on the Karig Estates property where clear cutting has left the landscape shockingly barren. It seems incredible to me that none of the large trees whose trunks we see piled in huge heaps was deemed worthy of protection by the city.
As always, there are meetings ahead that I want to bring to your attention. The first meeting is a virtual Community Meeting on April 12th regarding a proposed text amendment that would lower the height threshold to be granted 25' of bonus height under Section 7-700 from zones having a 50' heigh limit to zones having a 45' height limit. This height bonus would be in exchange for providing some affordable housing. The Planning Commission had a discussion about this item on Thursday, April 7th and I would encourage you to listen to the recording of that meeting if you want to learn more about the potential impact of this change. Here is the link to register for the April 12th meeting:
Registration Link: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_j5_uYHTKTm20LEWfLILQlg
Zoom Audio Conference:
Dial in: 301-715-8592
Webinar ID: 931 2631 4644
While lowering the height by 5’ down to 45’ in order to be allowed to take advantage of the 25’ height bonus in Section 7-700 may seem like a minor modification, it is important to note that 45’ is the allowable height limit for townhomes, while 50’ is a totally different zone for larger structures, such as apartments and multi-family buildings. By lowering the height bonus into the 45’ height zone, this will open opportunities for far more density, and thus more housing production, by allowing developers to increase the height of structures in a residential townhome zone from 45’ to 70’ if they are providing some affordable housing. While this is unlikely to be used to retrofit existing townhomes (though that could be possible), the change is targeted for all residential developments in the city that are currently zoned RA, RB, and RM. It is important to note that the Inova Hospital site on Seminary Road is currently zoned RB and would be subject to this change to allow townhomes to go from 45' tall to 70' tall if affordable housing is provided, which the city will most certainly require on this site when it is developed in 2028.
Further explanation of the evolution of this zoning change and the other recent zoning changes we have seen can be found in my April 6th SHA email to our listserv. If you have not signed up to receive our monthly emails, please go to the Home Page of this website and sign up in the lower right hand corner.
Clearly, this text amendment has enormous potential impact to Inova's large tract of land, and we must fully understand its consequences for the Seminary Hill area, and other areas of the city where it will be applied. As usual, we are playing catch-up with city plans that were agreed upon with little public input. On February 8th, the Federation of Civic Associations sent a letter to the City Council and the City Manager raising concerns about the level of proposed density in our city, and suggested that it is time to hold a series of community-wide discussions about the impacts of density on our quality of life. We await a response to this letter.
Another important issue for our area is proposed physical improvements at Fort Ward Park. This Saturday, April 9th, at 10 am, there will be an on-site meeting at Fort Ward at the current picnic shelter parking area (Picnic Area 2) to discuss the upcoming accessibility improvements to the Picnic Shelter area that are slated to begin the week of April 26th. Construction will close this area to the public from April to September.
As you may be aware, the city is planning to move the current playground area to a site near the front of the park to comply with ADA regulations, as the current site is not accessible. Concerns have been raised by the descendants of those who lived on the site of Fort Ward after the Civil War (known as the Fort community) until the city seized the property for a park. Descendants fear that adequate study has not been done regarding possible gravesites on the proposed location, and have asked the city for more detailed studies. City staff is planning to host a site walk with the community to review possible locations for the playground on May 21st at 10 am. The city is also planning a virtual community meeting after the site walk on June 9th. More details about these two events will be provided in the coming weeks. I think this outreach to the community is a positive step in resolving the questions that exist about the city’s commitment to preserve the history of those who lived in the Fort community for generations.
Another event at Fort Ward will be on Saturday, May 7th, from 11 am to 4 pm. Descendant members of the Fort community will participate in a living history event. Civil War re-enactors will present a U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) encampment and educational program. Information about the history of the community will be presented, and several USCT soldiers who were ancestors of the Fort residents will be highlighted. This is another positive step by the Fort Ward Museum and the city to tell the full story of the Fort community that lived on this land.
I am saddened to note the death of our Seminary Hill board member, Loren Needles. Loren had been in declining health, but remained optimistic about his ability to recover. No formal announcement of his death or any services has yet been made public, so I have no details to provide at this time. He will certainly be missed by both the Seminary Hill and Seminary Ridge communities. He had been very active in environmental issues, especially in trying to protect the Karig Estates.
Our monthly Seminary Hill meeting will be held on Thursday, April 14th, at 7 pm. This will be a hybrid meeting. Those who wish to attend in person will meet at our usual location at the Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill Parish Hall at 3606 Seminary Road. Our program will be a presentation by staff from AlexRenew to bring us up-to-date on the massive RiverRenew infrastructure project, which is now beginning actual construction for the next several years. The agenda will be posted on our Seminary Hill website: www.seminaryhillassn.org. Our meeting will also be available via Zoom (assuming our technology at the church will work!).
The information for the link to the meeting is:
Meeting ID: 842 4691 4662
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Just to note a change in our normal meeting schedule, SHA will have its monthly May meeting on the first Thursday of May, May 5th, rather than our normal meeting date of May 12th, due to schedule conflicts. Information about that May meeting will be provided later.
Again, I thank you for your interest in Seminary Hill and the issues that have potential impacts on our community. I wish you a joyful Easter or Passover if you celebrate those holidays.
President, Seminary Hill Association