Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

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Who’s up for a tailgate party at the next youth swim meet?

That’s the alcohol policy issue making waves this winter in some of Arlington’s swimming pool communities, particularly at the Dominion Hills Area Recreation Association.

It’s a tale with passion and intrigue.

Last summer, I’m told by several members of the club on Wilson Blvd., some parents among the 130 families participating in swim and dive competitions began toting alcoholic beverages to rallies, which they considered adult social events.

Other Dominion Hills members grew concerned about the example being set for the children. So once the season ended, they began intense legal research on the association’s bylaws, rules of the Northern Virginia Swim League and Virginia’s alcoholic beverage control laws.

“For an association, it’s not good to be supplying liquor to parents who put kids in cars right away and drive them home,” said Wayne Vincent, a board member who got wind of parents imbibing poolside margaritas while their kids’ teams were practiced laps. “There are very few opportunities left in life that are totally devoted to kids, and this is one of them.”

Vincent recalled little alcohol at pool events in the 1990s and early 2000s. Then it was like the “bathing suit rule,” he told the board. Dominion Hills does not have a policy requiring bathing suits “because everyone shares a common understanding.”

Coaches and teachers are under contract to provide kids with an environment “free of alcohol and drugs, so this seems highly inappropriate,” he added.

Other clubs are concerned. Overlee Community Association president Jamey McNamara told me his board is examining the issue. Others cite the clear policy at Donaldson Run, which bans alcohol except at pre-approved functions limited to adults.

The Dominions Hills board consulted with attorneys, who were clear that the association, with its unusual registration as a social welfare organization, lacks alcohol abuse protection without a license. “It’s the state code, not arcane but plain language,” said Vincent. Board discussion distinguished between drinking at meets (a no-no), practices and rallies.

The club’s watersports committee, however, “was pretty dismissive,” Vincent said. Soon he was the target of a “backlash and real vituperation and invective.”

Then an odd thing happened. Association members, having rounded up the requisite 25 signatures, staged a special meeting to amend bylaws. On Dec. 7, member households voted 157-49 to impose term limits on longtime members of the 15-slot board, limiting all to three four-year terms. Vincent and four others must rotate off.

Dominion Hills president Scott Tate (among those leaving) told me there wasn’t a connection to the alcohol debate. The majority “looked at term limits as a way to generate new vitality to the board,” he said. Alcohol policy has always been “laissez faire,” and the board “wants people to enjoy themselves,” though it would not openly sanction alcohol at kids’ events, he said.

“There is opposition by members who want a glass of wine by the pool.” But having been advised by counsel of potential legal violations, “we don’t feel it’s quite kosher to turn a blind eye.” So the policy is “in a holding pattern.”

Vincent said the new term limits are “absolutely related” to his complaints about tailgaters. They’re “trying to get older members off the board,” he said. They called us “empty-nesters who’re out of touch.”

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Drive by the historic George Crossman farmhouse on N. Underwood St. and note the new paint job.

Owner-renovators Buzz McClain and Leslie Aun applied the fresh coat after finding clues to the original 19th-century colors—green and maroon. “It was never white” back in the years just after the home was built in 1892, said my friend Buzz.

The redone exterior features a color scheme similar to another Victorian gingerbread home nearby, the Fellows-McGrath house, built in 1889 on Washington Blvd. near Sycamore St.