On January 10th, the parties appeared before Arlington Circuit Court Judge Paul Sheridan to present argument on motions filed by the County and Vanguard to dismiss various counts of the Complaint. Judge Sheridan ruled in Plaintiffs' favor, but indicated the defendants would be permitted to reargue their motions before the trial judge, who will likely be a retired judge from another jurisdiction specially appointed to hear the case. Judge Sheridan did allow the contract seller of the property to be dismissed from the case. The County had also filed a motion seeking to dismiss the entire complaint pursuant to the federal Fair Housing Act, but indicated that it would reserve argument on that motion until a later date.
The Plaintiffs have filed answers to the County's discovery requests detailing complaints by residents of the New Arlington- Douglas Park neighborhood about noise and other disturbances caused by the current Demeter House facilities. The Plaintiffs also outlined the bases for their claim that the proposed site for the new Demeter House is inappropriate and that the permitted use will diminish their property values. Plaintiffs point out that the number of residents in the new Demeter House will exceed by far the number of residents one would typically find in any other dwelling in the neighborhood, and argue that the use will lead to a substantial increase in pedestrian activity, traffic, and noise. They also contend that various modifications planned for the new site--including the construction of a paved parking area in the front of the residence for up to six cars, construction of a second-story deck/fire egress looking down into the rear of adjoining residences, and the possible use of a commercial dumpster--are not in harmony with the existing character of the surrounding neighborhood. Finally, Plaintiffs argue it is in inappropriate to place a facility of this sort within 250 feet of Barcroft Elementary School.
In their responses to Plaintiffs' discovery requests, Vanguard and the County deny that the new Demeter House would be out of character with the surrounding neighborhood, would have any adverse effect on the health and safety of Barcroft residents, or be injurious to property values. Also, the defendants have objected to various of the Plaintiffs' discovery requests.
According to Plaintiffs, the new Demeter House would accommodate more residents than have ever been approved for other "dormitory" uses in single-family dwellings elsewhere in Arlington, which, as in the case of the current Demeter House facilities, typically are not located in the core of residential neighborhoods zoned for One-Family Dwellings. If Vanguard and the County prevail in this litigation, Vanguard will proceed to settlement on the property, with 100% financing from the Virginia Housing and Development Authority. Trial is scheduled for February 24-26.
The Association has received a number of inquiries, comments, and expressed concerns about the County Board's approval of a special use permit to allow the Demeter House to relocate to 4317 South 6th Street in the Barcroft residential R-6 district. It should be noted that former Chairman Jim Hunter, former Vice-chair and current Chair Ellen Bozman, and Board Member Al Eisenberg voted to support the Demeter House proposal, and Board Members Paul Ferguson and current Vice-chair Chris Zimmerman voted in opposition.
Also, the Association has received a number of inquiries from members about the Barcroft residents' lawsuit and concerns that if the County's position is upheld, that accommodating 18 residents plus six staff in a single-family residence in any R-6 neighborhood will become the standard governing the County's consideration of similar use permits in the future.
The Civic Association has invited Rocco Saracina to make a brief presentation at our next Membership Meeting about the Barcroft residents' concerns about the Demeter House relocation and to provide a brief update on the status of the Demeter House litigation efforts. Our next Membership Meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, January 29, 1997, at the Hilton Hotel, 2nd Floor Conference Rooms, above the Ballston Metro Station. If you have any questions or comments about the Demeter House relocation issue, we invite you to bring them to our Membership Meeting. This item is scheduled for presentation from 8:15 to 8:30 p.m. The public is welcome to attend.
If you are unable to attend this meeting and would like additional information, or you would like to help support the Barcroft residents' efforts, call Jane White at (703) 521-0823, or write Jane White, 4216 South 4th Street, Arlington, VA 22204.
Also, one should refer to the December 1996 Newsletter for additional details about this major County controversy (see article titled LAWSUIT CLAIMS BOARD IS WRONG). This Newsletter is also available on the Association's homepage at "http://www.bvsca.org."