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County Board Approves Contested Ballston Development

A proposal to build a 72-unit multifamily building in Ballston that met resistance from neighbors is moving forward.

In a 4-1 vote, the Arlington County Board approved a land use variance that will allow the Ballston condo and townhouse development to move forward. The development includes a total of 84 residential units, including 12 townhouses.

Many residents who spoke during the public comments section took issue with the height of the future residential buildings, as well as the the loss of property value and quality of life from the new building blocking sunlight.

“We will have nine floors of units that currently enjoy will now be limited to fully dark most of the year — a maximum of one and a half hours during the summer solstice,” said Dana Hofferber, a resident of the nearby Westview condominium tower, citing a shadow study produced by the developer, NVR. Inc.

Another resident, Justin Heminger, noted that the community isn’t against all development, just this particular plan.

“The community is not against the development of this project, the community is against what has been proposed,” said Heminger. “And I think it boils down to: it’s too big, it’s too tall, and it’s too close.”

Many of the 26 public comments were from immediate Ballston neighbors, who wore matching t-shirts and held signs. A number of speakers noted in remarks that they purchased condominiums based on the current General Land Use Plan (GLUP), which the Board was voting to modify. Others said they were concerned about traffic, school overcrowding and the impact of the development on mass transit.

A motion by County Board member John Vihstadt to delay the amendment to the GLUP failed. Vihstadt voted against the proposal.

“We’ve talked a lot about process and substance today, but in my view we fall too short of where we need to be and too short of where we could be with more discussion,” said Vihstadt, noting “hand-wringing” among the Board members.

It took about four hours for the development to be discussed and for the Board to vote.

Other Board members cited their concern with various aspects of the plan. Board members who voted for the development said those issues could be addressed at another point in the planning process.

Katie Cristol, the County Board chair, said that this was not a matter of developers versus residents, but of balancing “resident’s interests with resident’s interests” and not pulling “the ladder up from behind us.”

“There are things that [are] reasonable to expect,” added Cristol. “We will strive to seek to balance the interests of residents, of homeowners to homeowners or renters to renters… this project, which adds new ownership housing steps from a Metro center, is an example of that.”

“The redevelopment of this site will provide much-needed ownership housing in the heart of Ballston, including affordable units, within walking distance of Metro,” Cristol said in a press release. “We heard from some in the neighborhood who have had strong differences of opinion about the development’s appropriateness, but the Board, in partnership with staff and the Planning and Transportation Commissions, believes that it is consistent with the long-held goals of the Ballston Sector Plan.”

At least one resident during the public comment period questioned whether elected officials had received any campaign contributions from developers, which several County Board members denied, including board member Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol.

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