Arlington, VA

County Board members enthusiastically and unanimously passed six amendments to the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance intended to open up more elder care housing in Arlington.

Developers can now build elder care facilities across 18 zoning districts, after being limited to a handful of possible location for such facilities before.

The Board also voted to update parking standards and to update definitions for terms such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities, independent living facilities, and continuing care retirement in county code, allowing more types of elder care facilities to be built.

Parking regulations for assisted living spaces and independent living facilities are now set to 0.5 spaces per bedroom, while the minimum parking requirement for nursing homes is now 0.5 spaces per bed.

“It really is good, it’s a need — there are more and more of us in this demographic every day and we need to be thinking about it,” said County Board Vice Chair Libby Garvey.

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.”

The zoning changes were bolstered by the results of year-long study by the Arlington County Zoning Committee. Hundreds of Arlington residents answered surveys and participated in public forums and meetings. During an October community forum, participants were asked to place stickers on a map indicating where they would like to see future elder care housing.

“The study provided a community-wide forum for discussing a host of issues about housing for our older residents,” said principal planner Nick Rodgers. “It’s something that touches all of us — everyone has, or will have, an older loved one who will likely need this kind of extra help at one time or another.”

The zoning changes notably allow a proposed six-story senior living center along the 4300 block of Lee Highway to move forward.  McLean-based developer Artis Senior Living filed plans with the county in March to build a 175-unit property, but per zoning laws, was not permitted to construct in the area.

“I think this is an excellent body of work,” said board chair Katie Cristol. “And it will serve one definitive plan, and I hope with many more to come.”

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.

Photo (1) via sunriseseniorliving.com

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