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Peter’s Take: Un-WRAPping Western Rosslyn

peter_rousselot_2014-12-27_for_facebookPeter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

The Arlington County Board designed a fundamentally flawed process in its Western Rosslyn Area Planning Study (WRAPS) charge. The principal flaw was to require the WRAPS group to proceed without first disclosing a Letter of Intent between the County and a private developer (Penzance) that was a precondition for the site’s redevelopment.

By later issuing the more holistic (and County-wide) Community Facilities Study group charge, the County Board implicitly acknowledged imposing unreasonable constraints on the WRAPS process by trying to accomplish too many objectives on this one small site.

The Board set July public hearings to review the County’s proposed plan for this portion of Rosslyn. Seeking to defend that plan, Board Chair Mary Hynes argued:

The proposed plan seeks to balance the need for open space in Western Rosslyn with the need for a new school with associated gym and playing field accessible to residents, a new fire station and more affordable housing in collaboration with commercial redevelopment.

Measured by this standard, the proposed plan fails miserably.

The plan makes a small park much smaller and disproportionately favors commercial redevelopment over scarce green space in a rapidly urbanizing area. It also conflicts with several existing plans–The Rosslyn to Courthouse Urban Design Study (2003), the Natural Resources Management Plan (2010), and the Draft Rosslyn Sector Plan (2015) –all calling for increased open space and/or no loss of open space.

The Board’s final, approved plan for this site must assure that the entire current, contiguous acreage of Rosslyn Highlands Park remains dedicated to park use in perpetuity.

To that end, the final site plan should adhere to these principles:

  • Each current land owner should retain ownership of its land;
  • Rosslyn Highlands Park should be preserved in its entirety as public parkland;
    APS should proceed with building a new structure to house the HB Woodlawn program on the land it currently owns;
  • Penzance may develop the land it currently owns and should be relieved of any obligation to pay for a new fire station on the site;
  • The County should follow existing procedures by conditioning the award of any bonus density on contributions to affordable housing and other community benefits, if Penzance seeks bonus density on this site, and
  • If the County determines that the current site of Fire Station #10 is the only appropriate County site for a new fire station serving Rosslyn, then it should finance that new fire station’s construction with general obligation bonds.

CONCLUSION:

Preserving existing parkland is more important than giving one of Rosslyn’s largest private developers a new development opportunity that current market conditions would not otherwise support.

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