- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 19, 2004

Metro Transit Police Chief Polly Hanson loves her “cute and quaint” two-story 1925 bungalow in Arlington.

“I probably would have stayed in this house until I was an old lady and needed to go to a home, or retired and relocated,” Chief Hanson said.

But Arlington has other plans. The county board voted last week to buy Chief Hanson’s house, another vacant home and part of a Toyota dealership to make way for a new firehouse.

What makes this all ironic is that the county appointed Chief Hanson to a task force that came up with potential sites for the firehouse. Her home was not on their list.

“It is just bizarre,” Chief Hanson said.

Battles have been waged for more than a decade over the relocation of historic Fire Station 3. In 1989, the county decided the Cherrydale neighborhood had outgrown its firehouse, located in a small, 85-year-old building.

The plan in 1994 was to buy the property next to the station. But the board backed away after questions were raised about environmental hazards. Now, a developer is building town houses there.

Last year, the 21-member task force, of which Chief Hanson was a member, recommended three sites: one located a block from the existing station, another that is home to a Honda dealership, and a third that would have used a different part of the Toyota dealership than the county is pursing.

Arlington County Board Chairman Barbara A. Favola said two of the locations would have cost between $18 million and $50 million, while the altered Toyota dealership site is estimated to cost $4.5 million. She said the panel’s recommendation also would have put the dealership out of business.

Chief Hanson said fire department workers warned her before the summer that there was a good chance they needed her home. Chief Hanson said the county appraised the property at about $500,000 and sent her a contract last month, but it didn’t include relocation benefits.

“The issue I had made was I wasn’t selling my home,” Chief Hanson said.

It wasn’t until more than a week ago when she saw plans for the site that Chief Hanson had a clear picture of what county officials had in mind for her three-bedroom home with a den.

“I said, ‘The firehouse is my house.’ ”

Chief Hanson wonders whether she can afford to buy another house in her neighborhood. Four-bedroom houses are advertised at $750,000 to $899,500. A Metro spokeswoman said the chief — whose salary is a matter of public record — earns $138,948 a year.

County officials said they are negotiating with the property owners. They wouldn’t discuss details, but said they weren’t meeting resistance.

Chief Hanson has lived in the home for about 10 years and raised her son there. She said she doesn’t know whether she would want to move even if they offered her the right price. The county could condemn the property and go to court, but Miss Favola said she doesn’t want to go that far.

“We’re going to make this work,” Miss Favola said. “We are more than happy to offer a reasonable market rate price and relocation benefits and we can work out the timing for her.”

The county hopes to start construction in the spring.

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