Arlington’s planning department is stretched too thin and cannot take on a bigger workload, its director told the County Board this week.
At full strength, the 30-person staff of the Department of Community, Planning and Housing Development shepherds a myriad development projects and permit applications through county processes, from cafés seeking to renew their outdoor dining permits to developers planning large-scale projects. It also helps to produce the lengthy planning documents that guide the future development of neighborhoods.
Right now, with a flurry of activity underway in the wake of the arrival of Amazon’s HQ2, seven major long-range planning studies are in process. The department anticipates overseeing 10 major development applications while working through more than 400 minor development and administrative approvals, CPHD Director Anthony Fusarelli, Jr. told the Planning Commission and the County Board during a joint meeting.
“To have this number of ongoing planning efforts and engagements at one time… truly represents a substantial volume of ongoing work being managed by the division, also requiring time energy and resources by other county staff and the community,” Fusarelli said during his presentation. “Collectively, these ongoing efforts command a significant amount of staff resources, leaving little if any capacity to add new work and initiate additional projects at this time.”
Once major projects are done or big milestones reached, he said staff will be freed up to start new initiatives or address new county priorities.
While deferential to the hard work of CPHD, Planning Commission and County Board members had a few ideas for work CPHD should undertake in the near future, from changing how the county evaluates the environmental impact of developments to not losing sight of deferred projects such as implementing the plan to enliven Four Mile Run Valley.
One potential change could save CPHD time and resources, argued Planning Commission Chair James Lantelme. Currently, renovations to “non-conforming” duplexes, townhouses and low-rise multifamily buildings go through the same lengthy approval process used for major developments, known as Site Plan Review. He suggested instead that these folks, who want relief from zoning regulations, go through the Board of Zoning Appeals, which hears similar requests from those on single-family residential lots.
“I’m assuming we’re going to be seeing more of these small things coming before us, and we think we really need to deal with this,” Lantelme said. “It’s a waste of the Planning Commission’s time, it’s a waste of staff time. We have a huge amount of consequential work, and to have a Site Plan for one duplex… there’s no value added by doing that. It’s not appropriate, and in fact, it’s contrary to what our comprehensive plan is advocating for, for affordable housing — for housing period — and for equity.”
It’s likely on his mind because the commission oversaw one such project, a request to build out the deck of a townhouse, which recently received County Board approval, and members are now reviewing another, a duplex renovation proposed by the owner. The approvals feature televised, public meetings and detailed presentations created by planning staffers.
You're forgiven if, looking at this discussion list, you thought this was a 100-unit brand new residential building.
— Stephen Repetski (@srepetsk) September 17, 2021
The townhome was in a “legacy district” used for a few developments in the 1970s, while duplex sits on a smaller-than-standard lot that had been grandfathered into a zoning district. Both owners proposed increasing the footprint of their home, tipping them into the Site Plan Review path, which requires lawyers, experts, and Planning Commission and County Board approvals.
“If it was a McMansion, it would go through BZA,” Lantelme said. “You have to go through more time, expense and uncertainty in order to have a duplex, which is what we want in these areas… It would really save us time money and staff resources if we could get this addressed.”
County Board Vice-Chair Katie Cristol and Chair Matt de Ferranti appeared to agree.
“I fully support a streamlined way to move forward,” he said.
Fusarelli seemed open to weaving these ideas into the Missing Middle Housing study, which is examining whether districts zoned for single-family homes ought to accommodate other housing types, such as plexes and townhouses.
“So perhaps, for the purposes of today, allow staff to take that back as we get ready to engage in next phase of Missing Middle. [Let us] pull this into part of our thinking about efficiencies gained in how we’re thinking about the one initiative, compared with the challenge that, we would agree with,” the planning director said. “It’s not just a big drain and draw on Planning Commission and the community’s time. We have to allocate staff to lead review of duplex site plans projects.”
The good news, Fusarelli said, is that CPHD expects to complete four planning studies in the next six months, which could free up staff time.
Studies set for completion include one that will guide future development for Pentagon City, another regarding updates to the Clarendon Sector Plan, last updated in 2006, and reviews of building heights in Crystal City and ground floor uses on Columbia Pike.
Tour the secluded and quiet Bellevue Forest with its local parks, trails, forested areas and more in Neighborhood Spotlight.
In loving memory of William Dinwiddie Tucker, who passed away in 2023 at the age of 95.
Good Friday evening, Arlington. Today we published articles that were read a total of 6626 times… so far. 📈 Top stories The following are the most-read articles for today —…
Meeting for lunch? Starting Monday, January 30 and running until Friday, February 3, Copperwood Tavern, The Pinemoor, and Brass Rabbit Pub will be offering buy one, get one free soups, salads, sandwiches, and…
St. Charles offers a play-based curriculum in a welcoming, Christ-centered environment.
Our program focuses on socio-emotional development and kindergarten readiness through hands-on and engaging activities. Our programs offer different schedules ranging from 7:30 am-5:30 pm for students, ages 2-5. We feature a full-day Jr. kindergarten class for older 4’s/5’s. Our facility includes a full-sized gymnasium, school chapel, and library. All of our students enjoy music and physical education weekly. Children have an opportunity to participate in enrichment classes such as soccer, basketball, ballet, and science.
We offer Summer Camp with weekly themes and twice a week water play, including Fun Friday moon bounce. Please join us for our Open House Feb. 3 at 9:30 am and 11:00 am. Click here to sign-up.
For more information or to schedule a tour, visit us at www.stcharlesarlington.org or call (703) 527-0608.
If you are a lifelong learner over 50+ who wants to make new friends, power up your brain, and enjoy a wide-variety college-level courses, Encore Learning is for you. An Arlington based nonprofit, Encore Learning offers courses in the arts, theater, literature, history, technology and more. This semester we offer our most popular course, Global Hot Spots as well as 25 new courses. Courses are presented either online or in-person at George Mason University at Virginia Square and other Arlington locations.
Join the free presentation to learn about courses and meet the instructors. This is Encore Learning’s signature event to highlight the upcoming semester with brief presentations by each instructor.
The Spring Course Preview event is Thursday, February 2nd at 9:30 AM via Zoom:
The truth, your first pregnancy and new mom months are full of twists and turns, ups and downs, and lots of questions! None of us really know the best way to do it – we just figure it out, together…