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.

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

 

 

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

UPDATE ON SEMINARY ROAD - September 14, 2019

On Saturday, September 14th, the protracted debate about the future configuration of Seminary Road will come to an end at the City Council Public Hearing. City Council will decide whether to put a portion of Seminary Road on what is called a "road diet”. In this case, that means removing 50% of the car travel lanes by reducing the number of lanes from 4 lanes to 2, with a center lane for left turns only. Bike lanes would be added under this proposal.

Seminary Hill Association (SHA) has advocated for retaining 4 lanes on Seminary since the City first proposed a road diet for Seminary. SHA responded to resident concerns about safety by advocating for 2 additional pedestrian-activated crosswalks and increased speed enforcement. SHA wants speed reduction, but not lane reduction. In June, the Alexandria Traffic and Parking Board (TPB) rejected the city alternative and voted 3-2 to recommend to City Council that Seminary Road remain a 4-lane road, with the addition of 2 new HAWK pedestrian-activated crosswalks, as SHA had supported.

SHA began this effort because many of our residents were opposed to the city's plans for Seminary Road and asked us to take a stand. Over the course of the summer, SHA has been joined by an unprecedented 12 additional civic associations whose members also questioned the process that has brought this matter before City Council. It has been so encouraging to see such a grassroots alliance of concerned citizens come together to express our views to our elected officials. Just last week, the Alexandria Federation of Civic Associations also endorsed the recommendation of TPB to maintain 4 lanes on Seminary. We appreciate all the input and hard work by residents who have been concerned with the effort to place road diet on a major arterial east-west route.

Yet, proponents of the lane reductions accuse those wanting to retain the 4 lanes of car travel of not caring about safety. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the safety of all our residents has been, and will continue to be, our priority. Staff and bike lobby groups have dismissed studies that refute claims that road diet is a successful tool in dealing with safety issues on high volume roads, and refuse to study or acknowledge safety impacts on our neighborhood streets due to increased cut-through traffic from peak hour congestion on Seminary Road.

According to the city’s own data, this stretch of Seminary Road is ranked as one of the safest streets in our city. Since the adoption of the Vision Zero Plan, this roadway has consistently achieved Vision Zero, a goal that SHA fully supports. What higher standard of safety can a road achieve than that? And yet characterizations of this roadway, both in city presentations and by those desiring bike lanes, have manipulated data encompassing the entire length of Seminary Road to portray this stretch as a high KSI (killed or serious injury) corridor. The unsafe portion of Seminary Road that demands attention is the western area of Seminary, yet this plan does not address the very real safety issues there. Instead, the focus is only on this small stretch of safe roadway.

Proponents of the road diet are supported by well-funded regional bike lobby and smart growth advocates who have relentlessly emailed and tweeted their followers across the entire DMV region, most of whom don’t even know where Seminary Road is, to sign petitions asking our City Council to support the road diet which creates their desired bike lanes. Their petitions make it clear that signers do not have to give their addresses, so that allows people from all over our region to attempt to influence this decision. City staff has stated that non-resident views are as important to them as the views of those living in the area most affected by this plan. If you would like to express your support as an Alexandria resident for the recommendation of the TPB to maintain Seminary Road with 4 travel lanes and 2 pedestrian-activated crosswalks, please click on this link and add your name to the petition that supports Seminary Road as a 4-lane arterial:   https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/central-alexandria-citizens-petition. In addition, you may use the city's Call, Click, Connect system to send a message to all of City Council expressing your views.

SHA leadership and members, along with representatives from the 12 other civic associations, will be present at City Hall on Saturday the 14th to testify before Council as they make their decision on Seminary Road. Anyone is welcome to speak before Council by signing up ahead of time online or filling out a speaker's form at City Hall when you arrive at the meeting. We are hopeful that a majority of our City Council will side with the majority of Alexandria residents who want Seminary Road to remain a vital traffic artery for those who, due to the lack of frequent and reliable transit options, must use cars on this roadway to reach their homes, work, schools, and hospital.

The next meeting of the Seminary Hill Association will be Thursday, September 12th at 7:30 p.m. at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill at 3606 Seminary Road. All are welcome to attend. I encourage you to consider joining SHA and signing up to receive our emails. The agenda for the meeting will be posted on this website. I hope you had an enjoyable summer and I look forward to seeing you at one of our meetings in the coming months.

Sincerely,

Carter Flemming, President
Seminary Hill Association, Inc.

 

 

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