The Arlington County Board has scrapped the affordable housing-oriented “Public Land for Public Good” initiative, voting unanimously last night to wait for the findings of its new Facilities Study Committee.
The county’s new, 24-member Facilities Study Committee will broadly look at all county- and school-owned land and evaluate what facilities are possible on different sites in the county.
The Arlington Planning Commission recommended the County Board set aside the initiative — which was intended to identify county-owned property that can be used for affordable housing or new schools — last month. County Manager Barbara Donnellan agreed with the commission yesterday in her recommendation to the Board.
The action was taken “because the planning commission urged us to do so and told us they thought a better approach to this was to do the study committee, which we have launched,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said at the meeting. “I think that makes sense.”
Along with scrapping the initiative, the County Board voted to move forward with studies for the renovation of the Lubber Run Community Center, renovation of Jennie Dean Park in Shirlington and the future of the Salt Dome facility and Fire Station 8.
“The Lubber Run Center needs to be redone,” Donnellan said. “The opportunity is to look at what we’re currently providing there and how it can be updated.”
While those studies continue, the Board unanimously decided that no standalone affordable housing may be built on current parkland or open space.
“As we launch into the facilities study committee, we do not have the luxury to rule anything out based on the buildout of our 26 square miles of space as far as our facilities are concerned,” Board member Walter Tejada said. “This is going to challenge everyone again and it’s going to make us uncomfortable in our seats at times. But the time has come.”
Donnellan’s response to the criticism the Public Land for Public Good initiative received from the public, the planning commission and the Long Range Planning Committee was to defer to the Facilities Study Committee and simply say “criteria for locating new uses on county lands will be reconsidered,” and public facilities policies will be “revisited and built upon.”
An aging county-owned building near Shirlington is being torn down as part of the expansion of Jennie Dean Park.
The LaPorte Building at 3600 S. Four Mile Run Drive was purchased by Arlington County for $3.6 million in 2002, as part of a long-range expansion plan for the 22.4 acre park. It was most recently used as a temporary construction office during the expansion of Arlington’s Water Pollution Control Plant. The building was vacated by the plant contractor in late 2010.
Now, the county is preparing to finally tear down the run-down structure. The demolition will be conducted in an environmentally-responsible manner, officials say.
“Rather than using traditional means and methods, the County’s contractor will deconstruct the building,” said Dept. of Parks and Recreation Construction Management Specialist Brenda Parker. “This entails taking apart the building in order to reclaim, reuse and/or recycle as much of the materials as possible.”
After the structure is town down, the lot will be turned in to open space.
“Once the building is removed, the area will be graded and seeded, a portion of the fence will be removed, temporary landscaping will be installed around the site perimeter and benches may be added at the corner of S. Four Mile Run Drive and S. Nelson Street,” Parker said. “That work should be completed by early 2013.”
An adjacent, existing parking area will be maintained, however, in order to temporarily store equipment and Arlington Transit buses while a new ART facility is constructed. Use of the temporary storage area is expected to last through the end of 2013, at which time the parking lot will be demolished and converted to open space.