JBG Smith is asking Arlington County to relieve it of restrictions that it says present serious obstacles to putting up new rooftop signs.
The real estate company is specifically asking the county to remove language restricting the number and size of signs allowed on two office buildings in the Crystal Park development it owns in Crystal City. The proposal is set to go before the County Board this Saturday.
Not everyone is comfortable with the language change, however. Two area civic associations told the county that the restrictions should stay, fearing this would pave the way for more signs going forward.
Currently, Crystal Park offices are governed by a document that “ties certain approved signs to specific tenants, some of which no longer occupy the premises, limits installation of rooftop signs to a single, prescribed rooftop sign and contains outdated requirements for approved signs,” land-use attorney Kedrick Whitmore wrote in an application to the county.
This hamstrings JBG Smith, he continues.
“Collectively, these restrictions complicate the ability to re-design existing signage for new tenants and present obstacles to achieving new rooftop signage,” Whitmore wrote.
JBG Smith is requesting the county remove restrictions for Crystal Park 1 and 3 office buildings, located at 2011 Crystal Drive and 2231 Crystal Drive. Instead, it asks the county evaluate new signage only in accordance to the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance.
In 2012, the zoning code was updated, providing new clarifying parameters for signs and only requiring staff review. This change did not apply to a smattering of older developments throughout Arlington governed by more restrictive agreements.
County staff say this change would make it easier for JBG Smith to compete for tenants.
“As commercial buildings mature and market themselves for new tenants, it is imperative that building owners be able to avail themselves of sign permissions available to other similar buildings so as to not place themselves at a competitive disadvantage,” the report said.
The county notes that other building owners have made similar requests and had the support of staff, as this “allow[s] for fair administration of building signage.”
The report says Crystal City and Aurora Highlands civic associations told the county they do not support JBG Smith’s request because it could allow for more signs.
The other reason, leaders told the county, is that the current provisions were decided through negotiated community benefits during the site plan review process.
“The community accepted less in the way of other benefits to limit the number and size of signs, so they believe that changes to allow more signs would not be fair,” the report says.
The county says it found no evidence that the more restrictive language was related to community benefit packages.
“Rather these were common site plan conditions approved in the absence of comprehensive sign provisions of the [zoning ordinance], which are now in place,” the report said.
Eric Cassel, the president of the Crystal City Civic Association, told ARLnow this morning that, as of now, the issue is “relatively minor.”
“JBGS downgraded the proposal significantly and we are not spending resources to oppose it,” he said.
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