Arlington, VA

Arlington County is searching for ways to make building new senior care facilities easier.

The Arlington County Board approved a request for public hearings on the topic, and specifically on whether Arlington should change zoning regulations to allow developers to build senior centers in more parts of the county.

Right now, developers can only build assisted living facilities in “special development districts” usually meant for hospitals, according to a county staff report to the Board. Nursing homes can be built in the same areas, as well as some commercially-zoned areas.

The Board and the Planning Commission will invite the public to discuss the possibility of opening up some areas zoned for multi-family buildings to senior centers, as well as commercially-zoned areas. Meeting dates and locations have not yet been announced as of today (Friday.)

Planning staff are also currently considering public land, too, as part of a broader zoning study they intend to complete by the end of 2019.

Currently there are six assisted living facilities for senior citizens in Arlington with a total of 2,658 beds, per the staff report to the Board. An additional 2,408 beds are spread across the county’s four nursing homes.

No new facilities have been built in the last 20 years — a big problem considering the county’s growing elderly population.

“Arlington County is home to more than 35,000 residents above the age of 60,” County staff noted in the report. “This represents 14% of the County’s population, and this percentage is expected to grow in the coming decades. Across the nation, one in five Americans will be age 65 or older by 2030.”

Despite this growing need, staff acknowledged that current options are “limited.”

The County Board unanimously approved the request to advertise the hearings during its meeting last weekend.

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