Arlington drops eminent domain efforts for family’s home – NBC4 Washington

Arlington changed its plans for improving an intersection after a challenge in an attempt to acquire a home on eminent domain.

The Newman family moved to a home in the Arlington View neighborhood, near the Pentagon, nearly a century ago, when it was an African-American enclave known as Johnson Hill. With the surviving daughter now an invalid, cousin Sandy Fortson is the conservator. When county officials told her in 2021 they wanted to buy the house on Columbia Pike as part of the project, she said no.

“My heart said you can’t sell that house,” Fortson said. “Aunt Lorene loved that house. This was their childhood home. It has historical value; it has generational value. I said, ‘I can’t do it.’

After the county council voted unanimously in March to put the house under eminent domain, Fortson launched a public campaign to alert the community and try to save the house, putting up signs and starting a petition. More recently, the NAACP Arlington Branch joined the fight, accusing county leaders of not following their own equality guidelines.

“It is time for our district leaders to live the values ​​we elected them to live,” said department President Michael Hemminger.

He sent a letter to the province, writing in part: “The province cannot claim to be fighting the monster of systemic racism while continuing to fuel it.”

Fortson appeared before the board this month and urged the board to reconsider, and the campaign appears to have worked.

In a statement, the board chairman wrote: “The County Board heard testimony from the property’s conservator and others, and therefore decided not to pursue eminent domain to acquire the home.”

Instead, the county can seek an easement to use part of the property, Fortson said.

The NAACP is happy the house can be saved, but Religious Affairs Committee Chair Rev. DeLishia Davis said, “The county government needs to be held accountable for the things that are happening, the actions that are taking place toward people of color.”

They want a public apology.

“Apologize to the family, apologize to the NAACP, apologize to the community,” former President JD Spain Sr. said. “They are wrong.”

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