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Committee Endorses Zoning Expansion for More Elder Care Housing in Arlington

The Arlington County Zoning Committee (ZOCO) is recommending the county open up more areas for potential use as elder care facilities.

During a meeting last night (Tuesday), ZOCO urged the county permit elder care facilities across 18 zoning districts, citing a growing elderly population and prohibitive restrictions on where such facilities can currently be built. The loosened regulations would let developers build nursing homes, assisted living facilities, independent living facilities, and continuing care retirement communities.

“This limitation on potential sites and development standards has become a barrier to licensed residential care facilities seeking to locate in Arlington,” said Nick Rogers, zoning amendment coordinator with the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development.

Last night, Rogers presented interim results of the county’s study of ways to build more senior housing, particularly in places like Rosslyn, Crystal City, and along Columbia Pike.

“Elder care facilities are an appropriate use for zoning districts which already permit multifamily development,” he said.

There are more than 35,000 Arlington residents above the age of 60, according to a county staff report.

“This represents 14% of the County’s population, and this percentage is expected to grow in the coming decades,” the report notes. “Across the nation, one in five Americans will be age 65 or older by 2030.”

That growing older population will need places to live that support their needs.

“Arlington is really behind in housing for older people and more assisted living facilities are definitely needed,” said Joan McDermott, a former member of the Arlington Commission on Aging, during an October 7 community forum.

There are currently 12 elderly residential care facilities in Arlington, all built before 2013 — when the county tightened zoning regulations, effectively limiting elder care facilities to a handful of smaller spaces meant for hospitals. The most recent facility is Mary Marshall Assisted Living, which opened in the Penrose neighborhood in 2011 and is funded by the county.

Developer Artis Senior Living submitted a site plan earlier this year to build a six-story, senior living facility along the 4300 block of Lee Highway. The plans stalled after the site turned out to be outside the county’s few areas designated in 2013 for elder care facilities, leading the developer request an exemption to move forward with the project.

A representative from the McLean-based company was present during the October community meeting on the issue but declined to comment.

During the community forum, residents were asked to place stickers on a map indicating where they would like to see future elder care housing. The blue dots were dispersed across the the county, with the biggest clusters of dots stuck to the Courthouse and Bluemont areas.

The zoning expansion is scheduled for review with the county’s Planning Commission in December, before reaching the dais of the Arlington County Board later that month.

Photo (1) via sunriseseniorliving.com

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