Happy New Year to all and I hope everyone had a nice holiday season. Seminary Hill Association (SHA) will have its next monthly board meeting on Thursday, January 9th at 7:30 p.m. at Immanuel Church on the Hill Parish Hall at 3606 Seminary Road. We will have a brief presentation on the River Renew project that addresses our combined sewer remediation and will catch up on some ongoing issues and highlight some new issues coming before City Council in the coming months. Here are a few issues of immediate importance.

If you are interested in the MacArthur School Rebuild Project, I urge you to visit the website for the project at: www.acps.K12.va.us/domain/1379 to review the concepts that have been presented. Bill Pfister is the SHA representative on the ACPS committee and has provided us with some general information that gives us an overview of the project:

General Information

  • The capacity of the current facility is 554 students. Student enrollment is currently around 660 students, although enrollment has been as high as 720 students in recent years.
  • The new school is being designed to accommodate 840 students (38 classrooms), which includes a newly added Pre-K of 72 students (4 classrooms).
  • The new school is being also designed to accommodate special education for 30 students (3 classrooms).
  • K-8 or PreK-8 will NOT be considered for the new school due to land and budget constraints.
  • With the recent acquisition of a neighboring property, the total area for site is not approximately 5 acres, which is one of the smallest of all ACPS properties.
  • All five concepts currently incorporate below-grade (underground) parking, although it hasn’t been determined if this is feasible.
  • Four of the concepts are three stories while the fifth is two stories.
  • The design team will refine the process to 2-3 design concepts based on feedback from the community in early January.
  • School Board will select a final concept in late January

If you have comments on the project, please submit your comments to Bill Pfister at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. this week.  You can also submit comments directly to ACPS at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Bill asks that you copy him on emails sent to ACPS so he can be aware of community concerns during the committee meetings. Finally, there will be another community meeting about the design options on Wednesday, January 15th from 6-8 p.m. at the MacArthur School Library. All are welcome to attend.

As we are all aware, the issue of the Seminary Road diet has occupied much of our time and energy over the last 18 months. SHA was opposed to the road diet and offered an Alternative with numerous safety enhancements, but this Alternative was ignored by the City, and staff’s favored Alternative 3 was adopted by City Council on a vote of 4-3.  Council members Jackson, Seifeldein, and Chapman supported the Traffic and Parking Board and SHA’s and 12 other Civic Associations and the Federation of Civic Associations positions to maintain the road with 4 car travel lanes. Mayor Wilson and Council members Aguirre, Pepper, and Bennett-Parker voted to overturn the recommendation of the Traffic and Parking Board and reduce the car travel lanes to one in each direction. The Virginia Theological Seminary had voted with the SHA Board to maintain the 4 car travel lanes, but without any communication with SHA, switched their position and spoke up vigorously in support of the road diet. This has caused a great deal of tension in the relationship that SHA has always enjoyed with VTS. On January 3rd, VTS Dean and President, Ian Markham, issued the following public statement regarding the position that VTS has taken on this matter:

 Statement by the Dean and President of Virginia Theological Seminary

 The “Seminary Road Diet”

The Seminary’s position on the “Seminary Road Diet” has created considerable anger and disquiet amongst the Seminary Hill Community and in social media.    Our intention in supporting the road improvements was a way to advance our vision of creating a safer and more walkable neighborhood, where the Seminary’s pub, coffee bar, and chapel were all available just a walk away.  It is now apparent that the City’s newly installed road improvements are not supported by all the residents of Seminary Hill as a way to implementation of this vision for a safe, walkable and connected Seminary Hill Community.  The Seminary has a strong desire to work with the Seminary Hill Community and the City to achieve this vision. 

In furtherance of this vision, the Seminary is supportive of an accessible sidewalk on the north side of Seminary Road on Seminary property. This has been discussed for many years, but the physical constraints imposed by the existing retaining wall have proven problematic in the past.  Perhaps, the discussions should start anew.   A north side pedestrian path should now happen.

The Seminary and I want to continue to foster the good relationships with our neighbors and the Seminary Hill Association. Going forward, I will abstain on all votes relating to the road “Seminary Road Diet. Although students, staff, and faculty may take positions as residents of the City of Alexandria, they do so as individuals and not as representatives of the Seminary. As dean and president, I will not advocate further for any particular position; I will not address council or write any letters or emails on this issue. Instead we will trust the process within the City and step aside from any advocacy.

The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.

Dean and President

SHA welcomes the opportunity to restore the open communication and friendship that we have enjoyed with VTS for many decades. We look forward to discussions regarding the sidewalk on the north side of Seminary Road that has consistently been Mayor Wilson’s justification for the road diet. If this sidewalk is constructed on VTS property, rather than in the former westbound car travel lane of Seminary Road, it would seem that the City could save a great deal of money, reallocate funds to other sidewalk projects that are much more necessary, and consider restoring the 4-lane configuration of Seminary Road, as the Mayor's rationale for spearheading the road diet would no longer be valid. SHA will continue to be an active participant in all discussions regarding Seminary Road, and other quality of life issues affecting our neighborhoods.

Finally, I want to bring to your attention the Alexandria Housing Affordability Summit that will take place this coming Saturday, January 11th at the Lee Center at 1108 Jefferson Street. The sessions will begin at 11:00 a.m. with panel discussions occurring throughout the afternoon until 4:15 p.m. The discussions will focus on the City’s Housing Master Plan and “explore bold new ideas to address the city’s affordable housing challenges.” One of those new ideas being discussed is to end single-family zoning restrictions. This is being done in other cities, such as Minneapolis, and the Housing Director of Minneapolis will be one of the panelists speaking at 11:00. Such a zoning change would obviously have a great impact on Seminary Hill neighborhoods, and other neighborhoods across the city. Attendees are asked to register at the following website: www.alexandriava.gov/housing/info/default.aspx?id=110986.

Thank you for your interest in these issues and others that will be part of SHA’s meetings and discussions in the coming year. As always, all are welcome to attend our monthly board meetings and address issues of concern to you.

Carter Flemming

President, Seminary Hill Association

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We encourage all Seminary Hill residents to attend the Annual Meeting of the Seminary Hill Association on Thursday, November 14th at 7:00 p.m. at the Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill Parish Hall at 3606 Seminary Road. We will have time to socialize until 7:45 when we will have a presentation on the proposed changes to the city bus routes, which will greatly affect the Seminary Hill area. Following that presentation, we will have our business meeting which will include the ratification of our bylaws and the election of the officers and area representatives for 2019-2020. After our meeting, we hope you will stay to enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and some refreshments with your neighbors.

 

You can find our bylaws under the “Who We Are” tab on this website. These bylaws were adopted by the SHA board in September after several months of discussion and revisions. The major change to the bylaws is reflected in Article III. This Article was previously entitled “Membership”, but is now entitled “Residency Requirements.” This Article makes it clear that all persons living within the boundaries of the Seminary Hill Association, as defined in the bylaws, is considered a member of the Seminary Hill Association and is represented by SHA. The board made this change to be more inclusive and ensure that all residents within our borders have representation in matters of civic interest. In addition, annual contributions to SHA are voluntary and not a prerequisite for membership.

 

Other changes to the bylaws were more administrative in nature in terms of aligning the duties of the officers with our established practices, the creation of an Executive Committee, recognizing the use of email, our website, and the internet as communication tools, clarifying that board committees may contain both board members and non-board members, clarifying that board members are expected to attend board meetings, providing a process for the removal of a board member in the unlikely event that ever becomes necessary, and the removal of non-relevant language regarding “members in good standing” and “special assessments”.

 

The membership will also vote on the slate of officers and area representatives for 2019-2020. These nominated board members are: President: Carter Flemming, Vice President: Tom Fulton, Treasurer: Nan Jennings, Secretary: Dick Hayes, Area 1: Frances Terrell, Area 2: Bill Goff, Area 3: Bill Rossello, Area 4: Richard Hunt, Area 5: Jack Sullivan, Area 6: Babette Smith, Area 7: Jim Rowley, Area 8: Frank Putzu, and Area 9: Paul Judge. In addition, the appointed representatives that are not subject to membership vote are Episcopal High School: Christina Holt, and Virginia Theological Seminary: Dean Ian Markham. At our December board meeting, the new board will elect At Large members to the board.

 

We hope to see many of you at the Annual Meeting. It has been a busy year for the Seminary Hill Association and we welcome your interest and active participation as we continue to provide informational programs and advocate on behalf of our residents.

Seminary Road Repaving, Douglas MacArthur Committee Nominations, Annual Meeting

The milling and repaving of Seminary Road have now begun. The first segment being repaved is from Library Lane to North Howard Street and will be a night paving operation this week between the hours of 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. The contractors are obviously working under a noise ordinance variance from the city in order to complete the work more quickly. Once weather conditions allow this segment to be completed, the City will begin resurfacing the 2nd segment of Seminary Road, from North Howard to North Quaker Lane. This work is expected to take place from October 21-October 28 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. We are advised there will be "short term" lane closures and some parking restrictions on side streets. After the repaving is complete, work will continue to ensure that the final roadway will reflect what the City Council voted for. The changes will take the road from 4 travel lanes to 2 travel lanes, with a center turn lane, including concrete pedestrian refuge islands at the new pedestrian crosswalks, and buffered bike lanes. The crosswalks will use the yellow flashing beacons, not the red light HAWK signals, as would have been the case if the roadway had retained 4 travel lanes. In addition, the lanes and lights at the Quaker Lane and Seminary Road intersection will be changed to prohibit all right turns on red at all times, and the left lane will be for left turns and through traffic. The City states that these turning restrictions and changes at the intersection will make the intersection more effective once they are "optimized" and will help reduce traffic backups. I have not been able to obtain information about where or how these lanes will begin as drivers come down going eastbound on Seminary Road. The City advises us to expect delays during the road resurfacing and says T&ES staff will be on-site during the duration of the project. The City "appreciates our patience and support as we work to improve the City's infrastructure."

Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) is forming an Advisory Committee to "guide and provide feedback to the design team that is made up of ACPS staff members and architects." They have asked Seminary Hill Association to recommend 3 residents to serve on the committee and they will choose one member from our list to serve on the committee. The Committee expects to meet once a month and the SHA representative will be a conduit between the schools and our community.  The school has indicated they prefer we recommend a parent or someone connected to the school to serve. So if you are interested in serving, please contact me immediately at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. this week. We have to submit our names by October 21st. I apologize for the short notice, but I needed to clarify what this committee's role is and why the school has decided they should choose who will represent us, which is not standard practice in such committees. Finally, if you are interested in learning more about the MacArthur project, there will be a meeting on Tuesday, October 29th from 6-8 p.m. at MacArthur School where you can meet the design team and the newly-formed Advisory Committee, and participate in a listening session focused on "community values for the new school.

Finally, I would like to remind everyone that Thursday, November 14th at 7:30 p.m. will be the Seminary Hill Association Annual Meeting at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill. All SHA residents are welcome to come and meet your neighbors, enjoy some refreshments, ratify our revised bylaws, and elect your board representatives for the coming year. The slate is being prepared now and will be posted here before the Annual Meeting. Dues are not required for SHA, but we will appreciate the suggested $20 a year donation to keep the organization running!

Thank you for your interest in the Seminary Hill Association.

Carter Flemming, President, Seminary Hill Association

We encourage all Seminary Hill residents to attend the Annual Meeting of the Seminary Hill Association on Thursday, November 14th at 7:00 p.m. at the Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill Parish Hall at 3606 Seminary Road. We will have a time to socialize until 7:45 when we will have a presentation on the proposed changes to the city bus routes, which will great affect the Seminary Hill area. Following that presentation, we will have our business meeting which will include the ratification of our bylaws and the election of the officers and area representatives for 2019-2020. After our meeting, we hope you will stay to enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and some refreshments with your neighbors.

 

You can find our bylaws under the “Who We Are” tab on this website. These bylaws were adopted by the SHA board in September after several months of discussion and revisions. The major change to the bylaws is reflected in Article III. This Article was previously entitled “Membership”, but is now entitled “Residency Requirements.” This Article makes it clear that all persons living within the boundaries of the Seminary Hill Association, as defined in the bylaws, is considered a member of the Seminary Hill Association and is represented by SHA. The board made this change to be more inclusive and ensure that all residents within our borders have representation in matters of civic interest. In addition, annual contributions to SHA are voluntary and not a prerequisite for membership.

 

Other changes to the bylaws were more administrative in nature in terms of aligning the duties of the officers with our established practices, the creation of an Executive Committee, recognizing the use of email, our website, and the internet as communication tools, clarifying that board committees may contain both board members and non-board members, clarifying that board members are expected to attend board meetings, providing a process for the removal of a board member in the unlikely event that ever becomes necessary, and the removal of non-relevant language regarding “members in good standing” and “special assessments”.

 

The membership will also vote on the slate of officers and area representatives for 2019-2020. These nominated board members are: President: Carter Flemming, Vice President: Tom Fulton, Treasurer: Nan Jennings, Secretary: Dick Hayes, Area 1: Frances Terrell, Area 2: Bill Goff, Area 3: Bill Rossello, Area 4: Richard Hunt, Area 5: Jack Sullivan, Area 6: Babette Smith, Area 7: Jim Rowley, Area 8: Frank Putzu, and Area 9: Paul Judge. In addition, the appointed representatives that are not subject to membership vote are: Episcopal High School: Christina Holt, and Virginia Theological Seminary: Dean Ian Markham. At our December board meeting, the new board will elect At Large members to the board.

 

We hope to see many of you at the Annual Meeting. It has been a busy year for the Seminary Hill Association and we welcome your interest and active participation as we continue to provide informational programs and advocate on behalf of our residents.

On Saturday, September 14th, City Council held its Public Hearing on the road configuration for Seminary Road. The hearing lasted about 8 hours with over 100 speakers on both sides of the issue. In the end, City Council voted 4-3 to reject the recommendation of the Traffic and Parking Board (TPB), which would have retained the existing 4 lanes on Seminary Road with the addition of 2 pedestrian-activated crosswalks. Instead, 4 Council members voted for what is known as Alternative #3, which will reduce the travel lanes by 50% and add bike lanes to replace car lanes. This has always been the option that T&ES staff has strongly advocated, with the support of bike and smart growth lobby groups. As we had understood the process, the Director of T&ES, Yon Lambert, was to present the recommendation of the Traffic and Parking Board to Council as the staff's preferred option, and, as a result of his decision to bring an automatic appeal to Council, would then present the other Alternatives that staff had presented to the community many months ago. But on Saturday, what we heard in the staff's presentation was a cursory description of the TPB's recommendation with what could, at best, be called a lukewarm endorsement, followed by an expansive description of Alternative #3, which the staff had self-rated as the best choice from the time they first presented their Alternatives.

Following the staff's presentation and the 100 public speakers, Councilwoman Amy Jackson put forward a motion to adopt the TPB's recommendation. That motion was seconded by Councilman Mo Seifeldein. Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker very quickly introduced a substitute motion to adopt Alternative #3 instead. That motion was seconded by Councilman Canek Aguirre The vote was then taken on the substitute motion. Voting FOR Alternative #3 (the road diet) were: Mayor Justin Wilson, Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, Councilman Canek Aguirre, and Councilwoman Del Pepper.  Voting AGAINST Alternative #3 were: Councilman John Taylor Chapman, Councilwoman Amy Jackson, and Councilman Mo Seifeldein. So Alternative #3 was adopted as the plan for Seminary Road.

There are a few things to point out. You can watch any and all of the hearing by going to the city's site, www.alexandriava.gov to see the video of the proceedings. You may want to watch the discussion after the last speaker to see how the Council responded at that point. I think it was notable that the hearing demonstrated tremendous passion on both sides as well as robust civic engagement. To me, that says a great deal about our community as a whole. In addition, the discourse was civil. That was all very positive. Unfortunately, as the Council was finishing the docket item, Mayor Wilson proclaimed that we would never do this again. Those were his words and were the same words he had used when he met with leaders of the 13 civic associations. But in the Council Chambers when he said that, there was an audible groan. He said that far too much Council and staff time had been spent on this one stretch of road. He also expressed his deep frustration and said that we needed to change the process for the future in order to avoid this level of discussion and public input again. In that moment, he had a chance to try to bring the divided community back together, but instead he chose to announce his plan to change the process going forward, despite having just achieved the outcome he and staff had long favored.

It was also disconcerting that the Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) spoke out so adamantly in favor of Alternative #3 and against the SHA Alternative. Obviously, it is absolutely their right to do so, but it was nonetheless disappointing after all these years of collaborative work and cooperation. The SHA Alternative that we put forward to the city, which was ignored, contained the recommendation for the two pedestrian-activated crosswalks and speed enforcement that VTS had specifically expressed were their concerns with the roadway. SHA felt that our Alternative was quite responsive to the VTS' genuine concerns for the safety of their community. It is also very important to note that, in fact, at our April 2019 meeting where the SHA Board voted in favor of the Resolution supporting maintaining 4 lanes of roadway, the VTS representative was present and voted on behalf of VTS to support Alternative 4 with the 4 lanes of roadway. For some reason between the time of that vote and the Public Hearing on September 14th, the VTS community decided to change their position, but chose not to discuss it with the SHA Board, since their representative did not attend our June meeting, nor our recent September meeting that took place after our summer recess for July and August. Since the establishment of SHA,VTS has always had a Board seat on our Board, and any resident of the Seminary may be a member of the Seminary Hill Association. All of our meetings are open and residents are encouraged to come and speak out on issues of concern to them. We have never had anyone from VTS come to any of our meetings to say they have felt excluded from our decisions, so it was very disappointing to hear Seminary officials and residents criticize the Association they have been an active part of for decades.

And finally but certainly of great importance, some of the speakers and some on the dais were dismissive of the 13 civic associations from across our city and the Federation of Civic Associations, who came together in support of maintaining 4 lanes on Seminary Road. All of these organizations have served our city well for decades and operate totally on an all-volunteer basis. This coalition and joint effort of these residents and associations have been unprecedented. While we all fully understand that any decision made by a civic association does not mean that 100% of our residents agree with that decision and we have never stated that, it is important to note that this is the way our democracy works. When the SHA Board voted for our Resolution supporting 4 lanes, we did so at a public meeting where all were welcome to attend and speak, as many did. In the end, the Board voted based upon our survey of residents, our observations by attending all community meetings on this project, and statements made to the Board that evening. This is the same process that City Council follows when making their decisions. Council does not poll all 150,000+ residents before each vote they take. They do research, listen to those members of the public who choose to engage in an issue, and then vote on the issue. This is exactly what each of the 13 civic associations and the Federation did when taking a position on Seminary Road. Residents are obviously free to disagree with the position taken by their civic associations as some speakers did on Saturday, but it is also perfectly correct for a civic association to publicly take a position on behalf of their residents on important issues in our community after listening to those who choose to engage with their civic association.

As the President of the Seminary Hill Association, I am proud of the team effort by our Board and the dedication shown during this difficult time. There were many people who worked very hard and under stress by giving up countless hours to attend meetings, researching city documents, emailing staff and Council members, and on and on. It was a big lift, and we should be grateful for their commitment to SHA. Please know that I am deeply appreciative and proud of our Association and the role we played in this historic coalition of civic associations and the Federation. It has been a pleasure to work with the other civic association presidents who joined our effort after responding to the grassroots concerns of their residents. They are an amazing group of civic leaders, and we have all worked well together and are committed to staying in touch on a regular basis. When future issues arise we can get organized and take action. The bonds of friendship with the other leaders across the city have been forged, and I believe that will serve our association and our city well in the future.

 

Carter Flemming, President, Seminary Hill Association

 

 

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