Friday, December 30, 2011

Illegal Signs in Arlington: Remove 'Em or Report 'Em

We have discussed temporary sidewalk signs, real estate signs, and signs on utility poles.  Illegal signs are a problem.  They are ugly.  The people who place them dont remove them, adding to litter and garbage.  They pose visibility risks on roads and dangers to utility workers.  They are unfair to businesses that abide by the rules.  And aesthetically they are ugly (much like graffiti in a community).
So what should you do about illegal signs?  Here is what Arlington has to say:
Some citizens are aware of our sign regulations and already take it upon themselves to pick up illegal signs . . . What can residents do?  Either remove it or report it. To remove it, be sure that you are safe at all times from traffic and not on private property.  If it is safe to remove a sign, consider removing it and throwing it away.
Of course, that was Arlington, TX, not Arlington, VA.  

In Arlington, VA, if you remove signs you can get charged with a felony. Arlington County Board Chairman Christopher Zimmerman likewise has reportedly advised against citizens taking down illegal signs.  On the other hand, Civic Associations have considered a motion to make it legal for citizens to remove trash, er, I mean illegal signs.

This leaves a couple of questions.  

If these signs are illegal, are they not either litter or abandoned property?

If these signs are illegal, how can you be charged with a felony for removing them (particularly when the placers of the signs are not charged)?

One of my favorite responses to illegal signs, is to place another sign directly in front of the illegal sign, stating that the sign has been reported to Arlington County as illegal.

Perhaps Arlington County could make public data about its illegal sign enforcement efforts (how many signs have been removed, what enforcement actions have been taken, and what fines have been imposed).

In the mean time, that leaves reporting illegal signs to Arlington County Zoning Enforcement (but dont bother to send pictures of the illegal signs, because that crashes ArlCo's staff's computers and they dont like that very much ---> File Under: Really?). 

Arlington Rules for Signs on Utility Poles

Okay, we covered temporary sidewalk signs and real estate signs.  What about signs on utility poles?

Arlington County told me that signs on utility poles are always illegal - but they didnt provide the rule that says this.  

Utility poles tend to be owned by the power companies (and they lease access to the poles to everyone else, like telephone and cable companies).  Arlington's power company is Dominion Power. Giving Dominion's website a good going over, I could not find a clear statement by the power company that they disfavor signs on their utility poles.  Many other utilities clarify that signs on poles are justification for being placed on the naughty list. NOVEC states signs on utility poles are illegal, but then cites to Virginia Ordinance 33.1-373 which deals with signs on state highways, not utility poles.  NOVEC goes on to explain why signs on utility poles, which are usually secured with staples or nails, are a problem:
The nails and screws used to post signs create direct and indirect hazards for NOVEC crews. The primary danger is that these sharp objects can tear the rubber gloves and sleeves our employees wear to protect them from getting electrocuted. A secondary danger is the damage that’s done to the pole. Over time, water seeps into holes surrounding nails, damaging the pole. Eventually the pole deteriorates and has to be replaced, creating another expense for NOVEC.
But is it illegal?

The two times that Arlington Zoning Ordinance Section 34 mentions signs and utility poles, it states that the particular placement in question is illegal:
  • No real estate signs on utility poles. Sec. 34.E.9
  • No political signs on utility poles. Sec. 34.E.15.b
Also remember that unpermitted temporary sidewalk signs are only allowed immediately in front of the commercial establishment.  If the sign is not in front of the store, and is not permitted (and if its attached to a utility pole, its a good bet they dont have a permit), then the placement of the commercial sign is not allowed under the Arlington code.

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Well as always you can contact the Arlington Zoning Enforcement office.  But these poles belong to Dominion Power.  So it seems like it would make sense to contact Dominion Power

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Arlington Rules for Real Estate Signs

In the continuing coverage of the Trouble With Signage, we look at the rules for real estate signs.  These rules are perhaps a little more straight forward.  Zoning Ordinance Sec. 34.E.9 states
Unlighted directional real estate "for rent" or "sale" signs,
  • not exceeding one and one-half (1 1/2) square feet in area, 
  • are permitted on public property 
  • Can be displayed only from sundown on Friday to sundown on Sundays and on legal holidays. 
  • Not more than one (1) sign for each real estate agency shall be displayed in any one (1) street intersection 
  • Not on utility poles, trees, or landscape beautification areas, traffic circles, schools, parks, or recreational areas.
  • Each such directional "for rent" or "sale" sign posted on public right-of-way shall contain the name of the real estate company or agency which caused the sign to be posted. 
  • Such signs shall not be placed in such a fashion as to constitute a "vision obstruction" at street intersections as specified in Section 32 of this ordinance.
Note that nothing in this provision gives Real Estate agents permission to stick their signs on your property. 

See a sign violating the rules.  Take a picture of it and reporting it to Zoning Enforcement.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Arlington Rules for Temporary Sidewalk Signs

What exactly are the rules concerning commercial signs on public land, like sidewalks, roadways, and telephone poles.  I asked Arlington County if they had a clear statement of what the rules are and where to file a complaint - after all, the rules were just amended.  I was referred to Sec. 34 of the Zoning Ordinance.  So, guessing that there is no clear statement of what the sign rules are that the average citizen can understand, I thought I would have a go at it.

Yes, I am sick of ugly signs that block sidewalks or litter our telephone poles.  No, I am not a practicing attorney in Virginia.  Yes, this is zoning ordinance - so imagine trying to translate the language of a Irken Invader - now imagine trying to translate the language of a drunk babbling Irken Invader - and that's what its like to try to read zoning ordinances (which is why it would be nice if the county would provide some plain english information).

Temporary Sidewalk Signs

A "temporary sidewalk sign" is "A temporary, self-supporting sign made of durable material 45 and located on the sidewalk in front of a use for which such a sign is allowed." Sec. 34.B as amended

A temporary sidewalk sign can be displayed without a permit if (Sec. 34.E as amended)
  • It's maximum size is 7 sq ft, maximum height of 3.5 ft
  • Only one per entrance (with entrances no closer than 200 feet. If closer than 200 feet, than only one sign is permitted)
  • It doesnt have its own lighting
  • Signs are permitted only during business hours
  • Sidewalk is located
    • On sidewalks were there is a minimum of six foot clear walkway (not clear if that is with - or without the sign)
    • Not in the clear walkway for the site
    • Within two feet of the building face, or within the landscaping or utility zone with at least one foot between the sign and the curb
    • Not in tree pits not covered with metal grates
  • Signs are self supporting
Parking garages have their own additional rules.


Arlco provides the following information about how to report a violation of a zoning code (like the sign rules)
To make a complaint please call (703) 228-3232 between the hours of 8:00am and 5:00pm, Monday through Friday or email us. All complaints will be taken and addressed by one of our administrative staff personnel. You can also file a complaint on-line by clicking our Investigation Request Form   and the request will be sent to our staff in a timely manner.
You can help in our investigation of your concern by:
  • Reporting to staff the correct address where the problem is located. Having the exact address is very critical and most helpful to inspectors when investigating the complaint.
  • Clearly state the problem as it deals with Code Enforcement. Remember, we cannot see the problem you see while on the phone. Give specific details and problems as it relates to the nature of your call.
  • Our administrative staff will initiate a case and assign it to the district inspector for that area. We will service that case in 3-5 business days.
Sometimes other agencies or departments are responsible for investigating your complaint. We will advise you of that department’s phone number and contact name if possible and you can speak directly with that agency.
My recommendation - take a picture of the problematic sign, and include it with your complaint. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

$10K Reward for info on hit-and-run on GW Parkway @BikeFairfax

From Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling:

A $10,000 reward is being offered for information on the driver of a cadillac who intentionally caused a crash with a group of cyclists. A description of the accident is provided in the  Fort Hunt Patch

Friday, November 25, 2011

Yorktown Football Regional Championship Game starting now at Yorktown

The regional football championship game between Yorktown and South County is taking place on this beautiful day, starting right now, 1.30 pm, at Yorktown High School.  You can receive updates from the game by following @YorktownHSFootb on twitter. Go Patriots!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Street Lights Out 2300 Block N Vermont St @arlingtonva

The street lights have not been working on the 2300 block of N Vermont street for well over a week.  We have contacted the county without a response.

You can report a street light outage on this Arlington County Form.  Perhaps if a few more people notify the county about the street light outage, there might be some action.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Marine Corps Marathon at Lyon Village #MCM pics MM3

Mile Marker 3 of the Marine Corp Marathon was in Lyon Village this year.  The course led west on Lee Hwy, establishing a nice hearty climb to begin the course along the Arlington Hill.  The course then B-lined north down Spout Run, with Mile Marker 3 at Lorcum Lane.  There was a very health crowd of starbucks-drinking locals and dog walkers lining the route to watch the start. 

The first group to start were the Wheelchair and Hand Cycle group.

This was approximately 8 am.  The sun had not risen over the Arlington Hill yet.  The intersection of Lee Hwy and Spout Run was still in the shade, still cool, and still a good bit slick on this post-snow-storm October morning.  A group of visually impaired runners also came through.
Next was the big Marathon.  A river of runners flowed over the Arlington and down into Lyon Village sporting all manor of dayglo garb.
It was mile three, the sun was just pouring over the hill, and the runners by this time were running hot.  This means that the side of the road looked like a Goodwill Collection bin as runners were shedding layer after layer.  At this point it was only 36 degrees out.

It was at times hard to tell whether this was a marathon or a Halloween party.  There were many costumes in the race: Penguins, Bananas, Witches.... but the Award for Best Costume goes to the guy who was dressed up as a Wheaties Box, with himself at the featured athlete on the cover of the box (We Tip Our Hat to you Mr. Wheaties Guy!).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Nov 9. Next DRCA Meeting - Nov. 5 Invasive Plant Pull

Next meeting of the Donaldson Run Community Association is Wed Nov 9 at Taylor Elementary School.  The guest speaker is County Manager, Barbara Donnellan

On Saturday, November 5, there will be a Donaldson Run Stream Invasive Plant Pull, starting at 10:30 am, meeting at N. Upton Street trail access (adjacent to 2507 N. Upton St.).  But remember.... the ground has to have some ground cover, or it is subject to erosion.  Some neighbors have done a stellar job of removing weeds and scrub, but have left hillsides exposed to the elements.  At the rain fall rates we currently get, erosion will be steady and swift.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"Not Yet," a Film by Arlington Student Team The PUNishers, Nominated for Best Student Film at the 72 Hour Film Fest

A team of high school students from the Arlington Career Center and Yorktown High School recently participated in the 72 Hour Film Festival in Frederick, Maryland.  The Arlington team, known as The PUNishers, was one of 47 teams which participated in this years competition, 12 of which were student teams.  As the title suggests, each team had only 72 hours in which to write, record, and edit an original film creation. Each year the festival comes up with a new theme for the competition which is announced during the Thursdays evening launch festivities of the competition.  In this years competition, the festival gave the participating teams two pictures; the first picture had to be the teams first frame and the second had to be the last frame of their film.  The rest was up to each teams ingenuity and creativity.  Each film in the student competition could be no longer than 5 minutes and 30 seconds long.

The PUNishers, led by Jeremy Cannon and Charlotte Pence, submitted their film "Not Yet."  The film reflects a subject matter near to the hearts of many a high school senior; the decision of whether to apply for college.  In the film, Abby, played by Maddie Richhart, must decide whether she will leave her older brother, who took a job straight out of high school, and her younger brother.  The siblings' mother, in order to make ends meet, is working long hours, leaving to Abby to care for the family.

The PUNishers film was one of three films nominated for Best Student Film. All nominated films were premiered Saturday evening Oct. 8 at the film festival in the Weinberg Center in Frederick, Maryland.  The Student category included films by both high school and college students.  The category was won by a college team. 

"Not Yet"

Directed by:
Jeremy Cannon
Charlotte Pence

Maddie Richhart
Steven Duffy
Nick McNulty
Ariel Cadby-Spicer

Written by:
Charlotte Pence
Steven Duffy
Jeremy Cannon
Ryan Williams
Tom McNulty
Tim Russell

Ryan Williams
Jeremy Cannon
Charlotte Pence
Tom McNulty
Steven Duffy

Sound Mixing:
Tim Russell

Edward Meese
Ryan Williams
Tim Russell
Steven Duffy
Nick McNulty
Robi Rahman

Shot in Arlington, Virginia

Friday, October 7, 2011

Career Center Student Team Voted Finalist in 72 Hour Film Festival

A team of students from the Arlington Career Center were voted as finalists tonight in the 72 Hour Film Festival taking place in Frederick this weekend.  Their film submission will be shown Saturday Night during the festival at the Weinberg Center.

Students from the Career Center Television 1 & 2 class formed a team known as the PUNishers  and entered the 72 Hour Festival in which they had, you guessed it, 72 hours to compose, record, and edit a new film creation.  On September 29,  they attended the launch at the newly opened Artomatic in Frederick.  In this years contest, each team was given two photographs: the starting and ending frame for their film.  Everything else would be of their own creation - but they had to start with that one frame as their starting scene and the other as their end.  Adding to the challenge, it would not not be the most photogenic of weekends as it rained the entire time.

Friday October 7 was the viewing of all of the film submissions, including 12 films in the student category.  The PUNishers submission was one of three student films selected as a finalist that will move on to Saturday.

The PUNishers film will soon be available online for viewing.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Learn How to Geocache at the NOVAGO Fall Event: Sunday Oct. 23 in Glen Carlyn Park

What in the world is geocaching. Um, okay. You see, its like this. You use billion dollar GPS satellites in order to search for tupperware hidden in the woods. It's really cool!  Seriously.

Geocaching is the outdoor adventure where you use GPS devices in order to find hidden treasure.  At the website is a database with a treasure-trove of information about hidden caches.  The database will give you the latitude and longitude of the geocache, a description of the hiding place, and perhaps a hint or two - along with the logs of all those who found it before you.  Armed with your GPS receiver, you are set to wander.  Generally the GPS receiver may get you within about 6 feet of the hidden container - and now you must sleuth.  What size is the container? How difficult is the hide?  Does the title of the cache or the hint give you a clue?  Did the previous geocachers in their logs slip up some useful information?
Geocaching is a great opportunity to be outdoors.  It can be what you want it to be when you want it to be.  It can be a bike ride or a hike.  It can be on top of a mountain, under the sea, or even in the space station (yip, there is cache up in the space station).  It can be in the city or it can be in the country.  For me, it was a great excuse to go hiking with the dogs.

Best yet - the cache owner tells you why the place where the cache is hidden is important.  One cache in Arlington tells the history of Stafford Junior High.  Another cache tells about Donaldson Run.  Another shows you an old air field located at Baily's Crossroads.

What better time to learn about Geocaching than the Northern Virginia Geocacher's (NOVAGO)  Fall Event.  Heck, just showing up to the event counts as finding one cache!  Sunday October 23rd.  It starts with a bike tour of Arlington (along with finding all the associated caches along the trail) and then a picnic at Glencaryln Park. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Oct. 5 Meeting on Custis Trail Improvements

One of the truly great things about North Arlington is the ability to easily bike to work.  The Custis Trail along Rt 66 has become a major thoroughfare of bike commuter traffic all year long.  This is complemented by excellent bike lanes, bike rack on buses, ride on programs on metro, and the up and coming bike share program.  The ability to bike commute to work is one of the big reasons we chose to buy our house where it is.

Nevertheless, not all is perfect.  There is a place in the time space continuum where all traffic forces come together in a tumultuous splat.  That is N Lynn St.  To the car drive, that would be the intersection of Lee Hwy and Key Bridge.  To the bike commuter, that would be the intersection of the Custis Trail and "Please Dont Kill Me!" It is a horrifying crossing for a bicyclist, and bicyclists have been raising the issue with the county for decades.  Problem is, this point in the time space continuum is partly controlled by the County, partly controlled by the State, and partly controlled by the National Park Service.  Which of course means that there has been no control whatsoever.

This is a problem in need of a solution.  This is a time when we need to move beyond excuses.  The governments know that this is an insanely dangerous crossing.  Before another biker gets crushed by a car or truck, something needs to be done.

Title: Public Mtg: Lynn Street Esplanade & Lee Hwy./Custis Trail Improvements
Date/Time: October 5, 2011, 7:00 PM
Event Website:
Description: Arlington County has developed a proposal to rebuild the roadways, trail and sidewalks in the Rosslyn Circle area to improve public safety and to enhance access between Rosslyn and the Key Bridge. The proposed Lee Highway and Custis Trail improvements include trail upgrades along westbound Lee Highway (Route 29) between N. Oak Street and N. Lynn Street. Intersection improvements, lane reconfiguration, trail widening, curb extensions, wider curb ramps, signal modifications, and increased trail separation are proposed. Agenda will include a staff presentation of the project’s draft engineering plan and attendees are invited to comment on the design plan and potential alternatives.
Location: Arlington Temple Methodist Church, 1835 N. Nash St.
Location Website:
Transportation: Street parking is available nearby and the Rosslyn Metrorail Station is within one block.
Sponsor Name: Environmental Services
Contact Name: Tom Hutchings
Contact Phone: 703-228-3809

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Oct. 5 is International Walk and Bike to School Day

I am always excited to participate in Bike to Work day.  And was excited when my son was old enough to start biking with me.  Of course, the most dangerous traffic situation probably happens to be within 2 blocks of any school.  During the beginning and end of the school day, parents seem to check common sense under their seats - and illegal traffic maneuvers are astoundingly abundant: illegal u-turns; illegal parking; failing to yield; failing to stop; illegal right turns.  Perhaps as a part of Walk or Bike to School day Arlington will station additional officers near schools in order to promote the safety of the pedestrians.

For Immediate Release:
Thursday, September 29, 2011
For more information, contact the Dept. of School and Community Relations at 703-228-6004
 APS Encourages Families to Walk and Bike to School
October is “International Walk or Bike to School Month,” and on Wed, Oct. 5 (rain date: Oct. 12), Arlington Public Schools will participate by encouraging parents to walk and bike to school with their children.

“Walk and Bike to School Day” is part of a month-long celebration that encourages students around the world to walk and bike to school, while teaching them about the health and environmental benefits of walking and biking.

Some of the benefits of walking and biking to school include keeping children healthy and strong as well as teaching them how to safely navigate streets in their neighborhood. Walking also helps students stay alert in class and provides quality time with parents and friends.

APS hopes to raise community awareness about the importance of pedestrian safety, safe routes to schools, well-maintained walkways, and traffic calming in our neighborhoods and around schools.

For 13 years, APS and Arlington County have collaborated on this initiative, which includes creating walk-friendly neighborhoods throughout the community.

Most APS elementary and middle school parents received a letter from the Superintendent detailing Walk and Bike to School Month, along with a map that shows includes crosswalks and stop lights near the school their children attend. The map gives parents an opportunity to show their children which routes to take to and from school.

All maps are available on the APS website at Other community resources are available at and

An excellent opportunity to hear from our political canditates, at Yorktown Oct 11

An excellent opportunity to hear from the political candidates. I read Caren Merrick's literature in the mail today. One of the first items on it was to "increase the capacity of our current transportation infrastructure." Is it just me, or does that sound like a political platform of paving Arlington - widening Rt 66? Maybe one of the young arlington republicans or democrats can ask her that question at the debate.
The Washington-Lee Young Democrats will be assisting the Yorktown Teenage Republicans and the Yorktown Young Democrats in hosting a student-run Candidate's forum on October 11th at 7pm in the Yorktown auditorium.

This event is open to the public; parents and community members are encouraged to attend.  However, the debate will be moderated by students, and the questions asked will all be student questions.  If any student would like to submit a question, please have them e-mail   Questions will need to be submitted by Friday, 10/7 in order to be eligible to be included in the forum on 10/11.

In addition, there will be a non-partisan voter registration drive for students outside the auditorium.  Students wishing to register to vote must be 18 by November 8, 2011 and must have a current driver's license or photo ID with them.

The candidates attending the forum will be:

Senate of Virginia 31st District
Caren Merrick (R)
Barbara Favola (D)

Senate of Virginia 32nd District
Patrick Forrest (R)
Janet Howell (D)

House of Delegates 48th District
Janet Murphy (IG)
Kathy D. Gillette-Mallard (I)
Bob Brink (D) possibly attending

Please e-mail with any questions, comments, or concerns.

a community blog for North Arlington

Donaldson Run is a community blog from North Arlington.

Arlington has an old tradition known as the Arlington Way.  It is the tradition that Arlington is governed with tremendous input from the local communities, the neighborhoods, and the civil associations.  With time, the Arlington Way is evolving.  New media (blogs, twitter, social networks) is permitting the Arlington Way to become more interactive and become available to us all the time, everywhere.

Donalson Run is an experiment, attempting to bring an interactive Arlington Way to North Arlington.
Donaldson Run is your community blog.  My name is Robert Cannon.  I have lived in Arlington for over 20 years and in Washington DC all my life.  I hope to be the mere facilitator of this blog – hoping that it will become participatory with the community contributing and sharing information.