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Arlington neighborhood finds bocce court out of bounds

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Photo - Bocce balls (ThinkStock photo)
Bocce balls (ThinkStock photo)
Local,Virginia,Taylor Holland

A once peaceful Arlington neighborhood is now torn asunder. Residents bicker with one another, accusations are flying, resignations are being tendered.

What's at the center of the imbroglio is not controversial development plans or politics. It's a bocce court.

Former Bluemont Civic Association President Judah dal Cais proposed the roughly 12-by-60-foot court to neighbors in an April meeting, and although his idea was approved, its location had not yet been decided.

But when talks to build the court on a tract of land near a neighborhood bike path began, neighbors revolted against the plan, fearing it would take away from the neighborhood's amount of green space and promote noise and drinking among residents.

Dal Cais forged ahead with the plan and applied for funds to build the court in its proposed location, between North Emerson and Illinois streets, through an Arlington County Parks Enhancement Grant.

Neighbors opposed to the court were infuriated, so they took their complaints to the Bluemont Civic Association's September meeting. While there, they made an unadvertised motion to send a letter to the county telling them the neighborhood did not, in fact, want funding for the court. Their motion passed.

On Oct. 10, dal Cais, who did not return calls from The Washington Examiner, and other bocce enthusiasts called an emergency meeting "to address the wrongful unadvertised motion" from the previous meeting and once again request a county grant, said a letter from dal Cais to the neighborhood.

Their logic, said Larry Smith, a neighborhood official, was based on the Bluemont Civic Association's long-standing tradition to not vote on controversial issues unless advertised beforehand, so officials believed they could call the meeting to draft a third letter asking for funding.

Another vote was held, and again, those opposed to the court won.

Two days later, dal Cais resigned from his post. In a neighborhood-wide letter, he said he was stepping down because he had constantly been "personally attacked, accused and yelled at."

The neighborhood had already been divided over the possible redevelopment of a local Safeway. Many felt neighborhood officials were "forcing redevelopment" of the decades-old store by creating a plan for the site, should a developer decide to buy it, Smith said.

Neighbors aren't sure of what will become of either the bocce court or the Safeway site now that dal Cais and some of his supporters have resigned. But John Herickhoff, the Bluemont Civic Association's second vice president, said he's "hopeful" everyone can get along.

"It's just a civic association," Smith added. "They're talking like it's Watergate."

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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