(Updated at 11:10 a.m. on 5/17/23) Two years after indicating interest in redeveloping its property in the Glebewood neighborhood, Sunrise Senior Living is almost done with early-stage procedural hurdles.
Meanwhile, the way the process has unfolded so far has confused and alarmed some neighbors.
Arlington County is mulling changes to the land-use plan governing the site to allow for greater density and to allow for elder care uses through a site plan process at 2000 N. Glebe Road. The Arlington County Board authorized public hearings on these changes on Saturday.
The designation changes, if approved by the Board, would tee up a rezoning request by Sunrise to facilitate the actual redevelopment down the road. Documents filed with the county indicate Sunrise is considering a rezoning request that could also allow “one-family detached, duplexes, semidetached, multiple-family, and
townhouses” to be built by-right.
County staff studied adding elder care as well as apartments to the site over the last year, which perturbed some neighbors who say there should be language ensuring any future development is geared toward elder care only.
Last week, during a Planning Commission meeting, county planner Margaret Rhodes said residents should not worry.
The result of the study, which the Arlington County Board is poised to adopt on Saturday, includes “a guiding principle stating the preference strongly for elder care use.”
“In terms of the conversation about the confusion over… a potential multi-family development, because this is a General Land Use Plan high level study, we need to evaluate all different land uses,” she said.
Beyond this confusion, however, neighbors had other concerns about the impact on quality of life. They predicted the building would dwarf nearby homes, contribute to tree canopy loss, flooding and traffic.
Catherine Ginther, who lives across the street, said in the meeting that she chose her home in part for the quiet street and is “frankly a little concerned about how the plans could change all that.”
“Since moving here, I have noticed there are some issues with Sunrise that will likely worsen if this plan would move forward,” she said. “Children and adults walk down [20th Street N.] throughout the day and the walkability of this neighborhood is at risk if Sunrise is allowed to grow in size and create a garage entrance on 20th Street N.”
Some Planning Commissioners acknowledged these concerns but said they are being raised at the wrong stage in the process.
“It’s very much inside baseball. It’s very frustrating to the neighborhoods,” Commissioner Jim Lantelme said. “I’ve walked that neighborhood — it’s a great neighborhood — but you’re right about the topography, the trees, where the loading needs to be, the sidewalks. All those things absolutely have to be addressed.”
Commissioner Nia Bagley said she has been through lots of planning processes as a former civic association leader.
“I recognize that this is not your expertise and many of you have busy lives and this becomes like a full time job on the side,” she said. “Don’t be discouraged tonight but please hang in there.”
Some speakers, however, supported the redevelopment project.
“This facility is toward the end of its operational life and needs additional renovation for its continued operation and this project would allow for a significant increase in the number of units available to seniors,” said Arlington Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Manager John Musso.
Cynthia Schneider, with the Commission on Aging, said this project addresses a shortage of elder care rooms in Arlington. The county and the region are predicted to see an increase in the number of seniors living in the area over the next two decades.
She advocated for more dedicated affordable beds on-site, which a representative of Sunrise said would not be possible.
The company has also put forward a redevelopment project in the Alcova Heights neighborhood, at 716 S. Glebe Road, which Arlington County is reviewing. The representative said affordable beds could be added there to meet requirements for both facilities.
A new program seeks to increase equity in Arlington by planting more trees in certain neighborhoods.
The local non-profit EcoAction Arlington announced that it’s starting the “Tree Canopy Equity Program” with the goal of raising $1.5 million to fund planting at least 2,500 trees over the next five years in local neighborhoods that have too few.
Insufficient tree canopy is closely tied to heat and temperature increases. The reason certain areas of Arlington are hotter than others, like the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, is due in part to lack of trees, recent data shows.
“The neighborhoods most impacted by insufficient tree cover are communities with higher-than-average minority populations and communities with people living in poverty,” EcoAction Arlington said a press release. “The lack of trees has a real-world impact that can lead to poor physical and mental health outcomes, higher utility costs, and a lower quality of life.”
The ten civic associations and neighborhoods that the program will work with are below.
- Arlington View
- Aurora Highlands
- Columbia Heights
- Green Valley
- John M. Langston Citizens Association (Halls Hill/High View Park)
- Long Branch Creek
- Radnor/Fort Myer Heights
The current levels of tree cover in those neighborhoods is between 17% and 33%, according to EcoAction Arlington.
“The goal is to radically increase tree planting in the neighborhoods with the lowest tree cover to align with the average for other Arlington communities of approximately 40 percent,” the press release says.
EcoAction Arlington executive director Elenor Hodges tells ARLnow that that the group has already begun to plant more trees. That includes American hornbeams, pin oaks, river birch, sugarberry, American sycamore, swamp white oak, and American linden.
The program needs about $150,000 a year to cover operations, marketing, staffing, and the actual planting of trees, Hodges says, with each tree costing about $500 to plant.
Amazon, an inaugural sponsor, has already contributed $50,000. The goal is to raise $1.5 million from other corporate and individual donors, while also obtaining funding from Arlington’s existing Tree Canopy Fund Program. This initiative allows neighborhood groups, owners of private property and developments, and places of worship to apply to have native plants or trees planted on their property.
Residents in neighborhoods lacking sufficient tree canopy note that the the problem is often tied to the construction of large, new homes and not prioritizing trees while building.
“As we lose trees due to infill development of large homes on lots in our neighborhood, they need to be replaced and even expanded,” John M. Langston Citizens Association president Wilma Jones tells ARLnow. “We all know that trees give off oxygen and they reduce stormwater runoff.
Natasha Atkins has been a resident of Aurora Highlands for nearly four decades and has “watched with alarm” the number of trees lost to homebuilding projects.
“With the County’s zoning code, requiring only very small setbacks for residential housing, it is questionable whether there will be much of a tree canopy in the future in the single-family neighborhoods that are being redeveloped,” she says. “Trees are an afterthought in planning and zoning. They should really be a driver.”
Hodges concedes that planting 2,500 more trees over the next five years will only “make a dent” and it will take tens of thousands of trees for all these neighborhoods to reach the 40% tree canopy threshold.
But the Tree Canopy Equity Program is just as much about what one can do today as what one can do tomorrow, says Hodges.
“It’s about behavioral change and teaching people about the importance of having a sufficient tree canopy in Arlington,” she said.
Sunrise Senior Living is looking to rebuild, expand and modernize a decades-old facility in Arlington that serves people with memory impairments such as Alzheimer’s.
Members of the Long Range Planning Committee (LRPC) said last Wednesday that they need to study the site more as part of their review, but neighbors are voicing concerns about expanding the facility at 2000 N. Glebe Road in the Glebewood neighborhood.
“There’s a great need for this type of housing in Arlington today, and it’s likely to only get worse in the future,” said Clyde McGraw, Sunrise’s senior director of real estate, development and investments, during the LRPC meeting.
Sunrise’s facility is in a neighborhood that’s designated as “low residential” and is currently legally nonconforming, county staff told committee members. As such, the organization needs permission for the proposed redevelopment.
An initial proposal calls for keeping the property three stories and adding an underground parking garage. If the county requires the facility to be set back farther from the road as part of the redevelopment, a fourth story may be needed to maintain or add units, according to McGraw.
The proposal looks to increase Sunrise’s residential capacity from up to 50 residents to somewhere between 85 and 90, he said. Changing the upward capacity limit, which the county set in 1986, would require a rezoning request, according to staff.
During the meeting, neighbors raised questions about Sunrise’s proposal to expand.
April Myers, who lives in a nearby townhome, said she’s okay with the current size of the facility, but is concerned with increasing it and questioned if that was the best path forward. Others expressed frustration with how the zoning code is applied in the neighborhood.
“Most of my neighbors cannot rebuild a porch because it’s nonconforming,” resident Cynthia Hoftiezer said.
A community meeting is being held tomorrow night to discuss a proposed development that would bring The Children’s School to the former Alpine Restaurant site on Lee Highway.
The Children’s School, a subsidized daycare center for Arlington County teachers, is planning to relocate as its long-time home — the Reed School building in Westover — is renovated and turned into a new elementary school.
A flyer for the meeting — to be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Lee Highway Alliance (4620 Lee Highway) — says a three-story building has been proposed for the Alpine site, which has sat largely unused for the past eight years.
“Two-hundred thirty-five children, aged 0-5, would be housed in a three story building that tapers at the rear towards the Glebewood townhouses, with rooftop play areas,” says the flyer. “Integration Station, which is a pre-school for kids with special needs, would also be part of the application (about 30% of 235 children).”
“Daycare would open at 6:45 a.m. and close by 5 p.m — not open on weekends,” the flyer continues. “The site is approximately 19,400 square feet. This is a by-right application under a use permit. The preliminary drawings illustrate an attractive, glass-paneled contemporary and playful design for the school.”
The site is owned by Arlington businessman Brian Normile, of BCN Homes and Liberty Tavern, and would be leased to The Children’s School, according to the flyer. The Children’s School would temporarily move to Ballston during the approval and construction process, it says.
The flyer lists “impacts to Glebewood Historic District,” green space and tree coverage, and parking — the plan calls for 40 mostly underground parking spaces plus drop-off spaces — as some of the issues for further community discussion.
Photo via Google Maps
Residents Urged to Report Water Main Breaks — “With colder weather in the offing, Arlington government officials are asking the public to serve as a first line of defense against catastrophic water-main breaks… County residents who see a problem are asked to immediately call the 24-hour emergency hotline at (703) 228-6555.” [InsideNova]
Airbags, Doors Stolen from Car — Thieves broke a window of a car in a Crystal City apartment building parking lot overnight this past Friday and proceeded to steal two of its doors and the airbag. Police said it was “clearly the work of professionals.” [Fox 5]
Preserving the Arlington Woods — Ecologist Joan Maloof is working to preserve the remaining 12 acres of the once 600 acre Arlington Woods on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery, along with other old-growth forests. [Washington Post]
Programs at Arlington County Jail — Inmates have access to a number of programs during their typically short stays at the Arlington County Detention Facility in Courthouse, including English language training, special education, chaplain and library services. For some of the instructors, running their programs is just as rewarding for them as it is for the inmates. [Falls Church News-Press]
Glebewood Neighborhood Profiled — “When house hunters encounter the Glebewood neighborhood in Arlington County, they tend to express admiration for its location, schools, amenities and transportation. That the townhouses, duplexes, apartments and some single-family homes are reasonably priced for North Arlington only adds to the appeal.” [Washington Post]
Police say the juvenile suspects were stealing bike from a bike rack in the area of Barcroft Park.
From an Arlington County Police Department crime report:
At approximately 2:37 p.m. on July 17, officers responded to the report of a larceny in progress. Three juvenile suspects were arrested for allegedly stealing bikes from a bike rack. All three suspects were arrested and charged with grand larceny and released to their parents.
Also Sunday afternoon, police say a couple caught two people burglarizing their home in the Glebewood neighborhood.
BURGLARY, 160717025, 2100 block of N. Brandywine Street. At approximately 1:30 p.m. on July 17, two homeowners returned from a vacation to find a known individual and an accomplice in their residence. After the individuals left, the female victim discovered several items of value to be stolen. Officers located and apprehended the suspects a short time later. Margarita Denison, 34, of Alexandria VA, was arrested and charged with burglary, breaking and entering, and grand larceny. Matthew Pair, 30, of Waldorf MD, was arrested and charged with burglary, grand larceny(x2), and possession of methamphetamine.