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Arlington County Board moves ahead with $80 million pool plan

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Local,Virginia,Matt Connolly,Arlington

The Arlington County Board moved forward with the county's planned $80 million riverfront aquatics center by approving its master plan.

The facility -- which includes a 50-meter pool, a water park with a lazy river, a teaching pool and a hot water therapy pool along with several fitness rooms and an indoor track -- would be part of Long Bridge Park in Crystal City. The park is home to multiple lighted outdoor fields and event spaces along the Potomac River.

"Our actions today move us closer to realizing the dream of transforming a former brown field into one of the region's most dynamic parks, recreation and athletic facilities in one of its most beautiful natural settings," Arlington County Board Chairman J. Walter Tejada said in a statement. "Long Bridge Park's fields, views and esplanade already serve thousands of Arlingtonians. Soon, many more also will be able to swim, play indoor sports or exercise year-round in this unique park."

The pool complex has been met with some pushback over the past few months, mainly from critics questioning the facility's price tag. The Arlington Republican Committee joined forces with the county Green Party last year to speak out against the project before Election Day, calling on the county to scrap the plan or find a cheaper alternative.

Arlington officials countered that the county only has three swimming pools -- all at local high schools -- and that more and more residents were participating in aquatics programs. That November's ballot initiative for a $50 million bond to pay for the complex's construction was approved by 63 percent of voters.

The board also approved a special use permit to open a homeless shelter in a county-owned building on 14th Street. The shelter, which is expected to open in 2014, would house 50 permanent beds, five medical respite beds and 25 extra beds during the winter. The planned shelter also includes support services, a dining area and office space.

"Arlington has long needed a permanent, year-round, comprehensive Homeless Services Center," Tejada said. "The county has been working with neighboring residents and the broader community, and will continue to work with them to address concerns about security and other areas as this project moves forward."

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

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