The question of where to put a temporary fire station in densely packed Rosslyn is setting off a two-alarm controversy among residents who do not want firetrucks and portable housing to take over a small green space bordered by townhouses, condos and apartments.

Residents who learned two weeks ago of the possibility that Arlington County’s Fire Station 10 might end up at Rhodeside Green Park for the next two to five years have mobilized with letters and calls to the County Board and a petition with more than 400 signatures.

“They’re taking down the only green space left in our neighborhood,” said John Edelmann, who lives across the street from Rhodeside and has bombarded the county with emails in protest.

It is the second controversy over the location of Arlington fire stations this month and is yet another indicator of the challenge of siting new amenities and needed infrastructure in the suburbs of Northern Virginia, where the population continues to grow.

Rosslyn residents register to vote inside Fire Station 10 in 2010. The station has become too old and small to handle the number and size of emergency trucks and crews needed to staff it. (Gerald Martineau for The Washington Post)

Like Fire Station 8 on Lee Highway, Fire Station 10 was built in the early 1960s. It is both aged and too small to handle the number and size of emergency trucks and crews that are needed to staff the station.

The single-story, two-bay station is the first line of defense for fires and medical emergencies affecting the 10,813 residents who live in the area’s many high-rise towers, thousands in Rosslyn and many more who work in adjoining office and retail complexes.

Like the controversy over Fire Station 8, the decision regarding Rosslyn’s Fire Station 10 was delayed because residents did not have a chance to hear about the proposal and make suggestions in advance. Both times, the proposals to move the stations came about during the county administration’s negotiations to solve other problems. The County Board decided July 19 to rebuild Fire Station 8 at its current location.

The current controversy was triggered after Penzance, a developer constructing a mixed-use project at 1555-1600 Wilson Blvd., agreed to build a new fire station on its ground floor in exchange for the right to lease the land under the existing station at 1559 Wilson.

The company, which had planned to do its construction in stages, told the county earlier this year that it needed to accelerate the development. If the county would agree to relocate the fire station temporarily, Penzance would pay for it and provide 100 free parking spaces for the new H-B Woodlawn school, which is being built simultaneously on the site of the old Wilson School at 1601 Wilson Blvd.

That offer would save the school district about $5 million because it would not have to build a parking garage. The developer would also bear the cost of the temporary and the new fire station, about $20 million, and another $1 million to build a new segment of North Pierce Street.

County and school officials, working with Penzance, originally proposed putting the fire station on land that was planned for Woodlawn’s athletic field, at 18th Street North and North Quinn Street. That idea sparked some objections from parents and students because it would mean the only space for outdoor activities at the county’s first urban-style school would be its roof. Putting the fire station there also would complicate the drop-off and pickup of students.

The night before the July 16 County Board meeting, the idea of using the county-owned Rhodeside Green Park for the temporary fire station was proposed. Penzance agreed to rebuild the park once the temporary fire station was removed, at a cost of about $4 million.

Board members were somewhat skeptical, especially after 16 residents lined up to speak against the plan. The board ordered the county staff to set up public hearings and to consider other locations, such as a small slice of county-owned land at the Holiday Inn Rosslyn, as well as the school and park sites.

Edelmann, who persuaded his homeowners’ association to buy some of the decorative grasses at Rhodeside Green and who personally watered the park’s young trees after the county planted them, said he and his neighbors would not be satisfied with a decision that paves over their park to create portable housing for firefighters and a canvas-covered structure for their vehicles.

“None of us trust or believe [the county] would ever return Rhodeside back to a park after the fire station was removed,” Edelmann wrote to County Board Chair Libby Garvey (D). “The county’s record is dismal in this regard. Just the idea that you could consider paving over parkland is beyond any semblance of reason.”

The public meetings will be at Key School on the evenings of Aug. 25 and Sept. 7. The county’s website about the project can be found at

The County Board is scheduled to make a decision on where to locate the fire station at its Sept. 24 meeting.