The Arlington County Board will vote in December on allowing the creation of “Housing Conservation Districts” to protect affordable housing and make it harder to demolish and build townhomes in some areas.
A proposal by staff would help create the districts within the county’s General Land Use Plan, the primary policy guide for new development that also establishes the character and extent of land uses. It would also add the districts to the county’s Affordable Housing Master Plan and the Zoning Ordinance.
Earlier this year, county staff found in a report that affordable apartment buildings and complexes tend to be located in the following nine general areas:
- Along the edges of the Rosslyn Metro station area
- Along the edges of the Ballston Metro station area
- Central Lee Highway
- East Lee Highway
- Lyon Park
- Nauck/Long Branch Creek/Aurora Highlands
If approved, HCDs would be allowed in areas of the county planned for low-medium and medium residential use, and zoned for multi-family homes like apartments. Any proposed district must also contain two or more apartment buildings or complexes, or one large one.
The HCDs would allow for what staff described in a presentation to the Board as “context-appropriate renovation, addition, infill and redevelopment projects in exchange for affordable housing.”
Development of townhouses would be reclassified as a special exception use within HCDs, meaning it would require site plan approval by the County Board on a case-by-case basis. That change comes after a spate of by-right townhouse development to replace affordable apartment buildings, including in Westover.
“The Board is considering this action to encourage the preservation of affordable housing,” County Board chair Jay Fisette said in a statement.
This plan is the first phase of adding HCDs. Subsequent phases could include giving tax- and zoning-based incentives to developers.
The Board will hold a public hearing on the plan at its December 16 meeting, with the Planning Commission also holding a hearing on December 4. In a letter, Joan Lawrence, chair of the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board, said the group supports the planned HCDs.
Image via county presentation