I hope this message finds all of you safe and relatively cool during this hot and stormy July.  Despite the fact that SHA, like all other organizations, has not been able to meet in person for several months, I want to assure you that your Seminary Hill Association board has been working hard on several issues of concern to our board and membership. SHA held its first virtual board meeting last month. I think it went well, and it seems likely that will be our platform for upcoming meetings once we resume our monthly meetings in September. We will keep you informed as we get closer to our meeting date of September 10th.

Our guest speaker for our June meeting was Rod Simmons, the Natural Resources Manager for the City of Alexandria. As you might remember, we had a presentation from Jesse Maines of the Stormwater Division at our February meeting, and board members wanted to learn more about the Taylor Run stream restoration project from Mr. Simmons. Mr. Simmons gave a much different evaluation of this project and focused on the damage to the environment, especially around the Chinquapin Park area, where a very rare acidic seepage swamp exists. He informed us that both the Taylor Run and Strawberry Run stream projects will require the removal of large numbers of trees from our tree canopy and will forever change the ecology of these forested wetlands. In response to this presentation, SHA voted to send a letter to City Council asking that these projects be placed on hold until further environmental studies could be done and Mr. Simmons’ city department could be consulted, which has not been the case. That letter was sent on Friday the 17th of July. Mayor Wilson replied that other inquiries have been made and provided us with a memo the city had prepared last week on this project. You can read the city’s justification for the Taylor Run project at this link - https://www.alexandriava.gov/budget/info/default.aspx?id=114448. We will study this document and offer further comments as necessary and are hopeful that the City Council will take another look at the way this project is being engineered.

On another matter, earlier in July SHA sent a letter to City Council regarding the lack of transparency for applications to city boards and commissions. When the Council docket is posted regarding the board vacancies to be voted upon by Council, the public can only see the names of the applicants, not the application form that is filled out indicating your experience and interest in serving on a public body. This form clearly states that it is public information, but it has not been part of the public docket, so residents cannot weigh in with Council members about the candidates. Ten other civic associations joined SHA in asking Council to change this process and allow the public to see the applications when they are provided to Council.  This conforms to the Virginia State Code requirement for such disclosure.  We have received favorable responses from several members of Council. We are hopeful that a change will be made in the coming months so the public can learn and evaluate applications to important city boards and commissions that recommend policies that affect all of us. 

In case you did not see the city press release about the Duke Street Transitway Project, I wanted to bring it to your attention. Last week, the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority awarded the city $75 million for construction of the first phase of the Duke Street Project. The goal of this project is to increase mass transit along the Duke Street corridor between Landmark and the King Street Metro Station. The first phase of this project will be funding for additional buses, bus shelters and some “roadway design improvements.” Other separate grant funding was awarded to improve safety and traffic congestion at the intersection of Duke Street and West Taylor Run Parkway.

Seminary Hill Association will continue to study this project and work with other civic associations whose neighborhoods will be directly impacted by changes in the roadway. This plan was part of the city’s 2008 Transportation Master Plan, and at that time, it was envisioned that Landmark Mall would be completely redeveloped into a mixed-use community. While that may still happen, with the recent decision by the Howard Hughes Corporation to step away from projects like Landmark and likely place the property up for sale, we are a long way from having commuters seeking mass transit along Duke Street to and from Landmark. In addition, questions have asked about why commuters would traverse Duke Street to arrive at the King Street Metro, when the Van Dorn Metro station is closer to Landmark. Finally, most of us realize that the real gridlock on Duke Street occurs at the ramp at Telegraph Road to access the Beltway. Nothing in this Transitway Project addresses that bottleneck in order to relieve the horrendous congestion all of us experience when traveling that corridor at rush hour. For more information, you can go to the Duke Street Transitway’s webpage at: https://www.alexandriava.gov/tes/info/default.aspx?id=116707.

SHA continues to follow the plans for the rebuild of MacArthur School. The project is on a very tight timeline and the School Board will choose a final design for the school later this summer. The community committee working on this matter with the school system has voiced concerns about the design of the school, as its modernistic design doesn't seem to meet the community's goal of having the school fit into the existing neighborhood.

Residents have an opportunity to provide feedback on the city's plan to "develop an ADU policy to help expand housing options, affordability and accessibility in neighborhoods throughout Alexandria" by going to the project webpage at https://www.alexandriava.gov/planning/info/default.aspx?id=113872. You can read the initial community feedback and find answers to some questions about ADUs. There is a link on that page to the recorded presentation and the online feedback form on which you can offer your comments.  The online feedback form is open until August 10th.

It is anticipated that there will be a large number of development projects coming before City Council in September since staff has been working with applicants all summer to advance their plans. SHA will monitor these projects along with other matters of interest and concern to our community.

Please enjoy the remainder of your summer and stay safe and healthy.

 

 

 

There are several important issues coming up in the coming weeks and months, and I want to give you a few key meeting dates in case you want to attend. Our next monthly meeting of the SHA board will be Thursday, March 12 th at 7:30 p.m. at Immanuel on the Hill Church at 3606 Seminary Road. Our guest speaker will be Rod Simmons, Natural Resources Manager for the Department of Recreation and Parks. He will speak on the natural resources in the Seminary Hill area and how best to protect them, including our tree canopy.

As you may be aware, the city is embarking upon a process to look at the predicted shortage of housing units in our region. According to the Council of Governments (COG), there will be a shortfall of 75,000 housing units across our region over the next 10 years. To help meet that shortage, COG has assigned each jurisdiction a suggested increase in housing production. For Alexandria, they have recommended that we increase yearly production of housing from our current 840 units to 1,150 units per year for the next 10 years. Of those additional 310 units per year, we are asked to commit that 75% of them be affordable to households of low to moderate incomes. It is important to remember that COG is a voluntary organization and their recommendations do not have the power of law, unless our elected officials chose to formally adopt them as city policy.

The first meeting to introduce the city staff’s plan to support the production of this increased housing will be TONIGHT at the Planning Commission meeting at 7:00 in Council chambers at City Hall. This item is number 8 on their agenda and it will be an overview of the anticipated 3-year timeline for this plan. As part of this plan, there will be consideration of increasing height limits, increasing density, and altering single family zoning. Public testimony will be permitted tonight and you can sign up to speak when you attend the meeting. You can go to the city’s website and download the full staff report on this issue. The Planning Commission meetings are televised on local cable tv if you cannot attend in person.

The first component of this plan will be the consideration of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). These are additional living facilities that are built on the site of existing homes and are often called “granny flats”. There will be two community meetings held to discuss this specific proposal. The first will be held on Thursday, March 12 th at 6:30 p.m. at the Mt. Vernon Rec Center at 2701 Commonwealth Avenue. This unfortunately conflicts with our SHA board meeting. The second meeting will be at Beatley Library on Monday, March 30 th at 6:30 p.m.

There has been a great deal of interest in the issue of co-location and shared use on school and city sites. These shared uses would include recreation, health, childcare, and affordable housing. City Manager Mark Jinks has proposed a draft guiding Resolution for City Council and School Board to consider adopting. There is a Budget Work Session tomorrow night, Wednesday, March 4 th, between the School Board and City Council from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at ACPS Headquarters at 1340 Braddock Place. This Resolution is expected to be discussed at that meeting. As you may remember, housing was brought up as part of the MacArthur rebuild, but due to the accelerated timeline for the MacArthur project, it was withdrawn. It will, however, be a consideration for all future school rebuilding projects. Since this meeting is a work session, no public speaking will be allowed. I believe this meeting will also be televised on local cable tv.

There will be a community meeting for the MacArthur rebuild project on Monday, March 16 th from 6:00-7:00 p.m. in the school library. Residents can see the proposed design for the school that was recently approved by the School Board. The next public meeting will not be until sometime in May.

Finally, as you may have seen, City Manager Mark Jinks has now put $6 million into the Capital Improvements Budget to make repairs to the Holmes Run Trail. Based upon questions and research by Seminary Hill residents, Seminary Hill Association sent a letter to City Council questioning why grant funding was not being sought for this heavily used pedestrian and bike trail in favor of the Seminary Road sidewalk project. This resulted in
questions from Council members to the City Manager, and funding was secured for the project. The repairs are extensive and will take several years to design and complete, but at least the project is now in the city’s budget. We can be proud of this outcome, especially since SHA has recently been falsely accused of being “anti-bike and pedestrians”. This effort demonstrates that SHA does advocate for biking and walking in appropriate locations, and validates the important role that civic associations can play in our city. Thank you for your interest in the Seminary Hill Association and I hope to see you at one of our monthly meetings soon. Please let us know if there are issues that you would like SHA to consider at future meetings.

Carter Flemming
President, Seminary Hill Association

 

 

 

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.

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.

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