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Poll: Should the ‘Missing Middle’ comment period be extended?

Slide from Missing Middle Housing Study draft framework (via Arlington County)

A few weeks is not enough time for Arlington residents to provide informed commentary on a major local issue, according to the Arlington County Civic Federation.

The group is calling for the county to extend the public comment window for the Missing Middle Housing Study’s draft framework until Sept. 30, from the current deadline of Friday, May 27.

The framework calls for properties only zoned for single-family homes to also allow small-scale multifamily housing — from townhomes to 8-plexes, depending on lot size — provided the building is no larger than zoning currently allows for single-family homes.

That could allow more housing types and price points in Arlington, which will otherwise continue to see small homes torn down in favor of large single-family homes, the framework suggests. The study only expects a modest amount of new “missing middle” housing through the change — about 20 properties per year.

The Civic Federation, however, says that this is a major change no matter how many new duplexes, triplexes, etc. are expected to be built in what are now exclusively single-family home neighborhoods.

The federation passed the following resolution on Tuesday by a vote of 90% to 10%.

WHEREAS Arlington County has an established General Land Use Plan (GLUP) that allows for existing single-family residences and high-density, mixed-use development along the high-density, mixed-use corridors;

WHEREAS Arlington County’s Planning web page states, “Planning decisions are informed by extensive research, professional expertise and community input” and “relies on extensive community input. Individual residents can have a say on the decisions that affect their neighborhoods and the County as a whole”;

WHEREAS on April 28, Arlington County released its proposed Phase 2 Missing Middle Housing Framework document, which is the guiding framework that will facilitate the upzoning of these residential zoning districts — R-5, R-6, R-8, R-10, and R-20 — thus authorizing greater housing density in what are currently referred to as “single-family” neighborhoods countywide;

WHEREAS the impact of the Missing Middle Housing framework and its subsequent upzoning will impact not only housing density but also parking, public school enrollment, stormwater management and tree canopy preservation in residential neighborhoods countywide;

WHEREAS the deadline for public comment and feedback for the Missing Middle Housing framework is May 27, 2022, four (4) weeks from the framework’s release to the public;

WHEREAS this is a complex initiative, civic associations and other county organizations will require additional time to notify their own members, study the likely consequences of the upzoning, and develop a membership response in order to provide meaningful feedback to the county; and

WHEREAS four (4) civic associations — Arlington Forest, Boulevard Manor, Bluemont, and Glencarlyn, which represent more than 4,000 households in central Arlington — have already shared their concerns about the inadequacy of the four-week public feedback period for the proposed Phase 2 Missing Middle Housing Framework document;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, the Arlington County Civic Federation (ACCF) asks the Arlington County Board to immediately request that the County Manager extend the public review period for the Missing Middle Phase 2 concept plan to September 30, 2022 — to make it possible for civic associations and other community organizations to have sufficient time to assist in disseminating Missing Middle Housing Framework materials to their own members, to meet with and pose questions to staff, to analyze and understand the potential impacts on their neighborhoods, and to provide meaningful feedback before the framework is finalized.

The four civic associations referenced in the resolution noted in an April 25 letter to county officials that “our community associations, like so many others, are inactive during June, July and August,” thus making it difficult to study the issue and engage residents before September.

On the other hand, Arlington has something of a reputation for dragging out its public input and analysis processes, leading 55% of respondents to a 2018 ARLnow poll to say that “elected officials should make quicker decisions based on a streamlined community input process.”

Do you agree with the Civic Federation that residents should be given a few more months to provide their feedback on the draft plan, prior to it being compiled and analyzed by county officials ahead of potential zoning ordinance amendments?

Or should the county just get on with it?

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