Heading into the new year, with Amazon’s HQ2 taking shape, two local advocacy groups plan on continuing to push officials on the issue. But one believes more density is the solution, while the other claims increasing the housing supply would wreck community character and the environment.
Peter Rousselot, Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future (ASF)
In April, Peter Rousselot — a board member of the Together Virginia PAC and ARLnow columnist — founded Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future, a group working to advocate against zoning changes and accelerated density in Arlington. Rousselot previously formed a similar group, Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit, to oppose plans for a streetcar along Columbia Pike.
In recent months, flyers spotted across Arlington from ASF argue that “Arlington County has plans to eliminate single-family home zoning and change other regulations” — changes that “would cause a county-wide population surge, escalating taxes, destructive flooding and environmental degradation.”
“Don’t let Arlington become the next Houston,” the flyer says.
“We believe there shouldn’t be any significant further changes in zoning until we have the right planning tools,” Rousselot told ARLnow.
While ASF does not have a website, a copy of its platform provided to ARLnow argues that the county needs the following before implementing zoning changes:
- A flooding and land use plan utilizing an accepted floodplain management tool
- A ten-year projected county operating budget for different population and revenue scenarios
- Community planning tools to assess costs and benefits of different development scenarios
Per the ASF platform, eliminating single-family zoning and adding more density would “transform Arlington from an urban village to a paved metropolis — [affecting] our schools, environment, trees, infrastructure, flooding, taxes, housing affordability, and county budget.”
“Our approach to housing affordability is that we don’t want to see this approach [where the county] accelerates the development of hundreds of new market-rate units in order to create a small number of affordable units,” said Rousselot.
“What we would like to do is redirect county taxpayer money to enable people to afford to live here,” said Rousselot. “That we decide as a community to help them to get the money directly in their hands though things like rental vouchers and housing grants.”
According to Rousselot, there are now more than 100 members in ASF.
Michelle Winters, Arlington for Everyone/Alliance for Housing Solutions
The mission of the group is to “make Arlington a place where people from all walks of life are welcome and can afford to live,” per the organization’s website.
“And in order to add supply, you’re going to have to increase density in some places,” said AHS director Michelle Winters.
While Arlington for Everyone serves as an education tool, all advocacy is done through AHS, Winters said.
AHS is currently pushing the Arlington County Board to upzone the land used exclusively for single-family homes, which a recent study found is as high as 86.7% of the county.
Instead, the group argues, the county needs more “missing middle housing,” or small, multi-unit homes that take up the same space as single family homes.
“Instead of one single family home, you could have a duplex, or all the way up to four units,” Winters said. A similar plan is taking effect in Minneapolis, which voted to end single-family zoning in favor of allowing duplexes and triplexes homes, by right, in all residential areas.
In addition to diversifying housing, AHS is advocating for what the group is calling a “quick-strike land acquisition fund.” The funding, which would range between $10-14 million, could be used by the county, affordable housing developers, or other nonprofits to quickly secure a piece of land suitable for an affordable housing development if it becomes available.
And as for whether the county’s environment is ready for additional density?
“Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future is a startup that I believe is trying to leverage the fear from the flooding to try to stop some really important potential zoning reforms,” Winters said.
“They are trying to make the case that flooding is related to density and the fact is that the two things are not connected,” Winters continued. “I think this group is not explicitly against affordable housing, they appear to just be against any of the additional density that we will need in order to create the housing supply that we need.”
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The Arlington-Aachen High School exchange is returning this summer and currently accepting applicants.
The sister-city partnership started in 1993 by the Arlington Sister Cities Association, which seeks to promote Arlington’s international profile through a variety of exchanges in education, commerce, culture and the arts. The exchange, scheduled June 17th to July 4th, includes a two-week homestay in Aachen plus three days in Berlin. Knowledge of the German language is not required for the trip.
Former participants have this to say:
_”The Aachen exchange was an eye-opening experience where I was fully immersed in the life of a German student. I loved biking through the countryside to Belgium, having gelato and picnics in the town square, and hanging out with my German host student’s friends. My first time out of the country, the Aachen exchange taught me to keep an open mind, because you never know what could be a life changing experience.” – Kelly M._
Learn about the new assessment of Arlington’s urban tree canopy and the many ecological and social benefits trees provide. Staff from the Green Infrastructure Center (GIC) will share study results and compare canopy cover for different areas of Arlington.The webinar will include assessments of ecosystem services such as stormwater mitigation, air quality, carbon uptake, and urban heat islands. For background on Arlington trees see the “Tree Benefits: Growing Arlington’s Urban Forest” presentation at http://www.gicinc.org/PDFs/Presentation_TreeBenefits_Arlington.pdf.
Please register in advance to assure your place at the webinar, https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/29543206508863839.
About the Arlington County Civic Federation: The Arlington County Civic Federation (“ACCF”) is a not-for-profit corporation which provides a forum for civic groups to discuss, debate, inform, advocate and provide oversight on important community issues, on a non-partisan basis. Its members include over ninety civic groups representing a broad cross-section of the community. Communications, resolutions and feedback are regularly provided to the Arlington County Government.
The next meeting is on Tuesday, February 21,2023 at 7 pm. This meeting is open to the public and will be hybrid, in-person and virtually through Zoom. Part of the agenda will be a discussion and vote on a resolution “To Restore Public Confidence in Arlington County’s Governance”. For more information on ACCF and this meeting, go to https://www.civfed.org/.
Valentine gifts for someone special or for yourself are here at George Mason University from noon -4pm on February 14, 2023. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Kingsbury Chocolates, find a handmade bag from Karina Gaull, pick up treats from Village