Peter’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.
On November 28, 2016, the county received a proposal from a private developer, Arcland Property Company. Under the proposal, Arcland would exchange land it owns on Shirlington Road for part of the N. Quincy Street site (known as the Buck property) located across the street from Washington-Lee High School.
The county has an option to purchase the Buck property. That option must be exercised by November 20. If the County Board approved the Arcland land swap, that swap necessarily would take place after November 20. As a condition of Arcland’s proposal, Arcland wants the right to use a portion of the Buck property to build and operate a private self-storage facility.
Arcland’s proposal should be promptly rejected so that the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission and the county can focus on identifying a more appropriate solution for locating ART buses.
In the six months since the Arcland proposal was first unveiled, JFAC has been holding more and more community meetings in different parts of the county, and has been alerting wider segments of the community to the details of the Arcland proposal.
Arcland has been advocating, and the county’s interest in the Arcland proposal reflects, the county’s need to find a long-term solution to ART bus storage.
Although space to store ART buses is a high public priority for the county, adopting the Arcland proposal is the wrong solution because it will have too high a negative impact on the value of the current configuration of the Buck property.
For example, adopting the Arcland proposal would:
- mean the permanent loss of 38 percent of the property’s acreage
- severely limit short and long-term flexibility in county use of the property, e.g. for school athletic fields
- limit the potential to expand adjacent park space
- preclude the long-term potential to deck over I-66
The location, size and flexibility of the Buck property is too unique and too valuable in a fully developed county like Arlington to pay the price of the Arcland proposal.
Moreover, whereas space for storing ART buses does not necessarily need to be located within Arlington County (e.g., it could be in Fairfax County), the types of urgent county uses that can be located on the Buck site, like school swing space, parks and recreation space, office space for critical county or Arlington Public Schools services, should be located within the county’s geographic borders.
The county should promptly reject the Arcland proposal.
The JFAC and the county should immediately conduct cost-benefit analyses of alternative scenarios for acquiring land for ART bus storage without the significant negative impacts of the Arcland proposal.
Such scenarios might include, for example:
- acquiring all or portions of the Arcland property through negotiations or exercising the power of eminent domain
- acquiring property outside of Arlington, e.g., land along Route 50 and/or Columbia Pike for a joint Arlington/Fairfax below ground bus facility/above ground playing fields or other sports facility
- locating ART bus parking below one or more of the Long Bridge Park soccer fields
Rejecting the Arcland proposal is the appropriate thing to do even if it were to turn out that the out of pocket cost for obtaining access to alternative, incremental land for ART bus storage were to exceed the out of pocket cost of accepting the Arcland proposal.