A development proposed for Crystal City is entering the home stretch.
Tonight (Thursday), the Arlington Planning Commission is slated to review and vote on plans from Dweck Properties to add a residential building and a retail building to the existing the Crystal Towers Apartment complex at 1600 S. Eads Street.
The 132-foot, 11-story residential building would have up to 209 units and a penthouse with an amenity space and ground-floor retail, per a Planning Commission report. Dweck proposes 54 studios, 120 1-bedroom and 35 2-bedroom units and is aiming for LEED Gold certification in exchange for extra density.
A single-story, 27,901-square-foot retail building would have building heights ranging from 16 to 22 feet.
If approved, the apartment building would replace an existing surface parking lot between the Crystal Flats building and the existing Crystal Towers buildings fronting S. Eads Street, according to application materials. The new retail building to the north, also fronting South Eads Street, would replace another existing surface parking lot to the north.
As part of the project, dubbed Crystal Towers 3, S. Eads Street will get a median buffer connecting to a buffer built as part of the first phase of Amazon’s second headquarters, north of the site. Dweck proposes adding new sidewalks, street trees and street lights along S. Eads Street as well.
The project would also realize some improvements to an existing open space at the corner of 15th Street S. and S. Eads Street, according to a recent county staff report. Dweck proposes expanding the space by some 700 square feet and adding a boardwalk area with public tables and chairs, bench seating and new pathways, without disturbing a mature oak tree.
Plans call for two green roofs, one over a portion of an existing building and a second over the new retail development fronting S. Eads Street.
Prospective tenants in the new residential building would have access to an existing garage that already serves Crystal Towers residents and the Lofts building nearby. Despite the increased occupancy, the total number of spots is set to drop from 1,152 to 1,061 spots, plus 11 visitor bicycle spots.
The developer intends to make an affordable housing contribution to the Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF) of $1,421,380.
This “could provide gap financing for approximately 18 (committed affordable units) at the nearby Crystal Houses infill development project, a project which is anticipated to request a significant amount of AHIF financing to achieve the County’s stated objective of partnering with the property owner to significantly increase the supply of low and moderate income housing options in Crystal City,” the report says.
The Arlington County Board is slated to review and vote on the project during its meeting on Saturday, June 10.
While road repaving season has kicked off in Arlington, crews are working on local roads for another reason.
They are installing traffic sensors in and marking some 4,500 parking spots in the Rosslyn-Ballston and Pentagon City-Crystal City corridors.
The spots and hardware are the foundation for a three-year, $5.4 million state-funded pilot project testing out a new way to manage parking availability and pricing, dubbed “performance parking,” which kicked off earlier this year.
Currently, parking is at a fixed rate and people have to find spots once they arrive at their destination, which can lead to double-parking or going somewhere else to, for instance, grab a meal.
Using existing meters and keeping the Parkmobile payment platform, the pilot intends to smooth out competition for convenient spots by directing people to cheaper options farther away. Prices would also vary based on time of day.
Arlington County will have a phone-friendly website with real-time availability and pricing data, which may also be accessible from some third-party apps. This information could help people plan where to park ahead of time, decreasing cruising time.
The pilot “is data-driven, using technology to better understand existing park utilization,” Melissa McMahon, the parking and curb space manager for Arlington County, told the Planning Commission this week. “We are actively managing parking supply to make parking more convenient and to reduce the negative impacts of hard-to-find parking.”
To get started, the county has to understand how people use on-street parking right now. Crews are delineating discrete spaces where, currently, it is a free-for-all between two signs, and installing one sensor per space.
Later this year, these wireless, battery-operated, in-ground sensors will start sensing when and for how long a car occupies a space. They will communicate that to “wireless gateways” located on traffic signal poles, which will relay that data to a central network server. That data is converted into a dashboard that county staff will use to make parking decisions.
Once it has enough “existing conditions” data this fall, the Dept. of Environmental Services will pick a range of prices, which it aims to bring to the Arlington County Board for approval this December. After that, for the next two years of the pilot, DES will request permission to change prices once per quarter to see the impact on driver behavior.
“This project does not create dynamically or fast-changing metered pricing,” McMahon said. “It won’t be uncertain on a day to day basis. If you’re going into a neighborhood routinely you’ll have a sense of where the lower price spots are and where the higher priced spots are.”
She said the goal is not to increase overall meter revenue, and blocks with lower rates may cancel out those with higher rates.
Plans to redevelop the Americana Hotel in Crystal City cleared their penultimate hurdle despite criticism that the project does not provide on-site affordable housing.
The Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve plans from JBG Smith to redevelop the former motel at 1460 Richmond Hwy.
To get here, the developer has overcome sloping terrain and maneuvered future development plans for neighboring sites and Route 1, which the Virginia Department of Transportation plans to lower. The company also attended to lingering transportation and sustainability concerns.
JBG Smith proposes a 19-story apartment building with about 3,885 square feet of ground-floor retail. Of the 639 units, 33 will have three bedrooms. It’s across the street from Amazon’s under-construction HQ2, the first phase of which is expected to open this summer.
There will be two levels of underground parking, with 188 residential and visitor parking spaces, and 206 off-site parking at the Bartlett Apartments. JBG Smith proposes a 2,800 square-foot green space area with a small, private outdoor amenity area and a small dog run.
As for affordable housing, JBG Smith is making a baseline contribution to the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF) of $2.1 million and making an additional $7.53 million contribution to leverage about 80 committed affordable units (CAFs) at the Crystal House Apartments at 1900 S. Eads Street, about one-third of a mile away.
There, two developers will oversee the construction of 655 CAFs and 189 market-rate units. Amazon helped a nonprofit purchase the 16-acre site and stabilize rent for the 828 existing units and build new units, later donating the land and development rights to Arlington County.
Some Planning Commission members, however, were emphatic that all future projects need some on-site affordable units.
“Every project needs to have on-site affordable housing. Period. Every single project,” Chair Devanshi Patel said.
Currently, developers seeking a large-scale redevelopment can offset that with an AHIF contribution or the provision of on-site or off-site units. In exchange, they can build taller buildings and, in the case of apartments, add more units. Most developers will make a cash contribution and it is rarer to see on-site units, though some recent projects have included setting aside existing units off-site for affordable housing.
“If we hold ourselves out to be a ‘welcoming, thriving, inclusive community,'” — and here she changed voices, suggesting air quotes or skepticism — “then we need to stand by that and that means we need to have affordable housing at every project,” Patel said.
(Updated 11:45 a.m.) Arlington’s Planning Commission voted 8-0 to recommend the Arlington County Board adopt the most flexible option of the proposed zoning changes, known as “Missing Middle.”
Commissioners Denyse “Nia” Bagley and Leonardo Sarli abstained during last night’s vote. Next, the ordinance to allow the by-right development of 2-6-unit buildings on lots currently zoned for single-family homes is slated to go before the Arlington County Board on Saturday, March 18.
“This has been a multiyear process,” said Planning Commission Chair Devanshi Patel. “It hasn’t been just December to March. Staff has labored on this for many, many, many years, and many, many, many hundreds of hours have been put into this process — including lots of hours by this commission itself.”
The county says this will help counteract the last century’s exclusionary housing policies while increasing the supply of options for people looking to buy a smaller, more moderately priced home than what is commonly built today. Large single-family homes have been replacing smaller, older single-family homes throughout the county for years.
Opponents say it is unclear whether the changes will meet those goals. The group Arlingtonians for Upzoning Transparency, formed to oppose the proposal, blasted the Planning Commission for “recommending [the] most extreme Missing Middle options.”
Arlington County staff presented a number of options to commissioners, with their preferred recommendations. Mostly, the commission supported the recommendations of county staff.
In a deviation from staff, the commission recommended removing parking mandates for lots near transit. Staff had recommended 0.5 spaces per unit for these lots.
The Planning Commission also supported 5- and 6- unit buildings on the widest number of lots, which YIMBYs of Northern Virginia Director of Communications Adam Theo, and former County Board candidate, heralded as “the best option for providing homeowners flexibility” during public comment.
Annual caps on the number of permits for “Expanded Housing Option” projects proved an impasse for the commission. Staff had no recommendation here, and the only consensus the commission could reach was that any cap should have a three-year sunset clause.
Missing Middle proponents had advocated fiercely for no caps. A limit of 58 permits per year was proposed, but opponents did not seem to champion this as a concession.
“We have a responsibility to consider what the impacts will be and how it works with competing policies,” said Commissioner Elizabeth Gearin. We don’t know if this will have the outcome that we want, or if it’ll have negative impacts — if we’ll be displacing potentially low-income minority home owners in favor of moderate-income renters.”
“For this reason,” she continued, “I am definitely supporting caps, either that or some sort of pilot study, until we know more than we originally new and that we examine these impacts as we go forward.”
Member Daniel Weir said there is “no rationale in Arlington County’s Comprehensive Plan, or other planning documents, upon which to recommend annual limitations to EHO permits.”
Vice-Chair Sara Steinberger said she appreciates the sentiment behind this, but caps are “an appropriate way to push us into EHO and see what impact that has on the county.”
When the final vote came, Sarli confessed he “was struggling,” before ultimately abstaining.
“I think it’s really great our community is embracing this — a little trepidatiously — but it is,” he said.
Sarli did make two recommendations that received full approval from the commission. One was the creation of a design guidebook with conceptual designs for EHO conversions and new constructions.
The other was a future study of ways to tackle policy concerns like the proliferation of oversized dwellings, including single-family homes derided by critics as “McMansions.” Commissioners wondered whether it might remain more profitable for developers to simply continue building large single-family homes, undermining the advancement of EHOs.
Sarli had a message for the Arlington County Board, expressing dismay with the unfolding of the multi-year process, which was rife with contention.
A residential redevelopment planned for a four-story office building, bank drive-thru and parking lot on Columbia Pike is now heading to the Arlington County Board.
On Monday night, the Planning Commission unanimously voted its approval for a project that would tear down the Bank of America building at 3401 Columbia Pike, at the northwest corner of S. Glebe Road and the Pike, next to the Wendy’s. It will now head to the Arlington County Board, which is slated to consider the project at its meeting next Saturday, Feb. 18.
The property falls within the Pike’s Commercial Form-Based Code, which provides a streamlined process for developers provided they meet certain guidelines. The project needs Planning Commission and County Board approval because of its size, according to Commissioner Stephen Hughes.
“Otherwise, the goal is for it to be a by-right development subject to the Zoning Administrator, if every checkbox is met,” he said.
The developer, Marcus Partners, proposes a 250-unit, six-story apartment building with 4,500 square feet of ground floor retail and 287 parking spaces across a 2.5-level underground garage. It will have 172 one-bedroom, 39 two-bedroom and 38 studio units.
“I for one am excited to see this building get built because it’s different,” Hughes said. “The materiality and the architecture of it are something we’ve yet to see on the Pike, and so I think we’re a little excited to see that.”
As part of the project, Marcus Partners will make streetscape improvements, revamp an existing alley for parking and loading and build a 7,800 square-foot private open space. It will landscape a small triangular lot to create more of a buffer between the building and a single-family home to the north.
Throughout the review process, people have been sensitive to how close the proposed building will be to this home and have recommended ways to minimize impacts on residents, said county planner Matt Mattauszek.
“This is not the first, nor will it be the last time, that a form-based code has an adjacency to a low residential development zone and it is always shocking to me… the embracing of the density that goes on with my neighbors on the Pike,” Hughes said.
The proposed building will round out development of this prominent intersection, says Lauren Riley, a land use lawyer with Walsh Colucci. It is flanked by three form-based code projects: Pike 3400 to the south, Gilliam Place to the west and the under-construction Westmont project to the east.
Riley assured anyone who banks with Bank of America that the branch — which was set to close late last year — will move across the street to the former Capital One building.
“No need to worry, you’ll still have your bank services across the street,” she said.
The form-based code comes with height restrictions: three to six stories for what it designates as main streets, two to five stories for avenues and two to three stories for local streets. Developers are able to extend or retract these designations up to 50 feet to make their project work.
Even with this workaround, Marcus Partners would have had to make a small section of its building three stories shorter, which county staff agreed would be unworkable. The developer is asking the County Board for relief from the tapering requirement.
“The transition from a higher density to a single-family home had been well thought out on the form-based code and the unique instance of this site and the way the site was assembled warrants this change,” said Commissioner Leonardo Sarli. “But the transition from main street to residential is a really good approach and one that benefits the community as a whole.”
A developer is setting aside $25,000 for the installation of a historical marker to describe the importance of the Joyce Motors site in Clarendon.
The sum raised eyebrows among some Planning Commission members last night (Monday) during their discussion of a proposed redevelopment of the auto shop at the intersection of N. Irving Street and 10th Street N.
“I think people often complain about the cost of building things and doing things so for my own benefit, when people ask me about this, I want to drill down a little bit,” Commissioner Daniel Weir said. “When you buy a plaque to give to one of your coworkers who’s retiring after 30 years of service, it costs $40 from the guy you buy tchotchkes from. So distinguish these two things for me, please.”
Commissioners were told the $25,000 is budgeted for the hard costs of installing a sign or plaque or embedding the explanations in concrete under-foot.
Without much other discussion, commissioners unanimously approved the plans from Orr Partners to build a 241-unit apartment building with 3,600 square feet of ground-floor retail.
The project required the developer to work with nearby businesses to divy up the triangular lot bounded by Wilson Blvd, 10th Street N. and N. Irving Street lot into three parcels. Orr Partners will build an alley through the middle of the site from which residents can access underground parking.
Orr Partners will preserve another nearby property deemed historic — 1411 N. Garfield Street, which housed a barber shop — from future development using the county’s transfer of development rights tool.
The approval comes more than three years after the developer submitted its site plan application in 2019. Arlington County accepted the site plan in spring of 2020 but put it on hold for two years while staff completed an update to the Clarendon Sector Plan, which guides development of the neighborhood.
“We have made substantial changes over the past three-plus plus years as we’ve been at this,” said Andrew Painter, a land use lawyer with Walsh Colucci, representing the developer. “We’ve shown the ability to be creative by partnering with neighbors on the alley [and] the land swap, by partnering to preserve historic façades and construct a building that will be able to solve so many planning goals.”
Changes to the 2006 sector plan were prompted by several redevelopments, including Joyce Motors, as well as on the Silver Diner/The Lot and Wells Fargo/Verizon sites, and projects proposed by the St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, the YMCA and George Mason University.
While the $25,000 budget for a historical marker gave some commissioners sticker shock, others thanked Orr Partners for delivering a project that provided nine on-site committed affordable units, including five family-sized ones.
“I just wanted to say thank you for including larger-sized units that can fit families,” said Commissioner Tenley Peterson.
In another bid to tackle the soaring office vacancy rate, Arlington County is mulling whether to fill vacant offices with unconventional tenants such as breweries and hydroponic farms.
The county is looking at allowing urban farms, artisan workshops, and craft beverage-making and dog boarding facilities to operate by-right in commercial, mixed-use districts throughout Arlington County. Some of these uses are already allowed along Columbia Pike.
Now above 21%, the office vacancy rate in Arlington spells lower tax revenue and belt-tightening for the under-development county budget. It ticked up during the pandemic and remained high even as buildings reopened, mask mandates were lifted and people returned to the office.
As the trend persisted, Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz and his staff launched a “commercial market resilience strategy” to get new types of tenants moved in quickly. The strategy focuses on zoning changes with a limited impact on neighbors that can be approved with through a new, less involved public engagement process. The strategy was first used last fall to approve micro-fulfillment centers.
Last night (Wednesday), a majority of the Arlington County Planning Commission approved a request to authorize public hearings on this proposal.
“We do need to be thinking creatively,” said Planning Commission Vice-Chair Sara Steinberger. “I’m appreciative that the county came forward with a streamlined approach so we can start fast-tracking some things. The community feedback and involvement is essential and is a cornerstone of the Arlington Way and how we comport ourselves within this community. That said, it’s never fun to be bogged down in bureaucracy either, so when there is an opportunity to move more quickly on certain things in a limited field, I think it’s appropriate to do so.”
The proposal also would let colleges and universities, which can currently operate in offices only after obtaining a more burdensome site plan amendment, move in by right.
“They tend to be our strongest source of demand in office buildings at a time when we aren’t seeing much demand,” Marc McCauley, the director of real estate for Arlington Economic Development, told the Planning Commission.
Commissioners Stephen Hughes and James Schroll abstained from the final vote, reprising concerns they raised last year about the impact of these new uses on neighbors. While voting for the proposal, Commissioner Tenley Peterson questioned county staff about potential noise, smell and parking nuisances.
“I can see the good reasons for doing this,” Schroll said. “My reticicene is not necessarily what you’re doing on the zoning side, it’s more the outreach. There are some things that I feel like aren’t fully thought through… We’re pursuing these without fully understanding what use standards we need to put in place.”
Citing “incessant barking” from nearby dog-boarding facilities that can be heard from Jennie Dean Park, Hughes said he wants the community to understand that these changes would leave nuisance mitigation up to the condition of the building and county noise ordinances.
“There is no place in the entire county where your actions do not impact another person,” Hughes said, pushing staff to instead draft a document listing “externalities we can all agree to as a community that we will not do.”
A proposal to allow by-right development of “Missing Middle” housing in single-family-home neighborhoods will now head to the Arlington County Board for a first look.
A little after midnight yesterday (Thursday), the Planning Commission voted 7-2 to recommend the County Board advertise hearings on a series of proposed changes to the county’s zoning code, which would allow 2-8-unit buildings in Arlington’s lowest-density neighborhoods.
This is the next step in a years-long process to draft and potentially approve the fiercely debated plan. The County Board is expected to deliberate the request to advertise hearings as early as its meeting on Jan. 21, meaning the proposal could return to the Planning Commission and the County Board for a final vote in March.
Some who voted “nay” last night said they support this effort while others who voted “aye” indicated they may not be voting the same way in March.
“I strongly support what staff are doing and what the County Board is doing,” said Commissioner Leonardo Sarli, who voted against the advertising request. “We just need a little more time to understand what we’re signing up for and what the outcomes are going to be… I find that there’s quite a bit that’s still lacking and missing. There’s a lot left up to chance in the hope of good luck.”
Commissioner Sara Steinberger, who voted for the advertising request, said what happened last night does not necessarily reflect how she might vote in March. Commissioner Denyse “Nia” Bagley, who voted to advertise, said “I personally still am not sure that what we have in front of us now… that we’re there yet.”
Outgoing Chair Daniel Weir, who voted for the request, said he is “so thrilled to give the community the opportunity to continue this conversation.”
“I am mindful of the number of people who spoke to us on Monday, pleading with us to give them hope that they have a future in our community,” he said.
During the five-hour meeting, members of the planning body bounced around a number of recommended changes to the draft. One failed suggestion was a 4-unit cap on Missing Middle-type buildings, which the draft zoning text now calls Expanded Housing Option (EHO) dwellings.
“Notwithstanding the enormous housing crisis we face locally, regionally and nationally, I’m still uncomfortable going all the way up to six or eight units,” said Commissioner Elizabeth Gearin, who voted against the advertising request. “That’s such a dramatic change to a single-family neighborhood. Two seems very reasonable, but even our peer jurisdictions don’t know what that’s going to look like in the long term. Six to eight almost seems like a bridge too far.”
Many of these recommended changes that passed dovetailed from concerns raised by the public during Monday’s Planning Commission meeting. They are intended to promote homeowner-led development and prevent gentrification, locate 5-8-unit buildings closer to Metro, eliminate parking minimums and encourage more tree preservation.
“The many motions we’ve gone through as a group this evening are a reflection of what we heard from the community, in thinking in terms of the appropriate number of EHO dwellings could be, what we can do to protect tree canopy and other resource allocation concerns we heard from the community,” said Steinberger.
In the eight years local architect Brian Harner sat on the Arlington Planning Commission, he says he never saw more than 15 people show up for a meeting.
Last night (Monday), some 90 people registered to speak on the county’s proposal to allow by-right development of buildings with two to six — or even up to eight — units in districts that are now zoned exclusively for single-family homes.
“This is a divisive issue and there’s a lot of intensity around this,” Harner said of the proposal to allow what is dubbed “Missing Middle” housing.
The meeting marked a step forward for the proposal but a final vote on whether to adopt any zoning changes is still at least three months away. Monday’s meeting was devoted to public speakers and the Planning Commission will reconvene Thursday to decide whether to approve the county’s request to advertise public hearings on the draft plan as it is currently written.
“The Commission is hearing this item tonight for the specific purpose of giving feedback to the County Board about what is and what is not within realm of consideration at hearings that would be conducted in the spring,” Planning Commission Chair Daniel Weir said. “We aren’t here tonight to solve the problem — that is the County Board’s job. We are here tonight to give the board advice and guidance on how to tee up the issues and their conversation.”
The challenge for Arlington County is to draft a policy that encourages by-right development of homes that households making less than $200,000 annually can afford and helps to undo the lasting impacts of racially restrictive zoning policies, all while managing community concerns such as parking, school and infrastructure capacity, loss of neighborhood character and tree canopy.
County planner Matt Ladd says compared to the status quo, the proposed policies may spur the construction of homes affordable to more households earning upwards of $100,000, which would “benefit greater percentages of all racial groups.” That differs from Arlington County’s current affordable housing efforts, which are targeted at those earning 60-80% or less of the area median income.
Single-family homes are currently, on average, only attainable for households earning $200,000 or more, he said. On racial equity, the county determined the Missing Middle proposal would allow more households of color to buy in or remain in four census tracts — areas that already have percentages of people of color higher than the county average of 39%.
This draft puts some decisions to the Arlington County Board, including whether to establish a cap of no more than 42 Missing Middle-type developments per year, whether to allow up to six or eight units in a building and whether the number of units should be dictated by lot size.
“We are at a crisis and we must take bold action to build a county that is affordable, sustainable and welcoming to all,” said resident Noah Higgins, advocating for no development caps or density restrictions.
Some real estate agents in attendance disputed the notion Arlington has a housing crisis.
Retired agent Diane Dunston said on Monday, 290 homes were for sale, of which 45 had three bedrooms or more and were less than $1 million.
“Are there buyers who say they can’t find a home in Arlington? Of course there are, but what they’re really saying is, ‘I can’t find a home I like,” she said.
Arlington Planning Commission is set to discuss Missing Middle housing in a blockbuster pair of meetings this week.
The first is happening tonight at 7 p.m., in the County Board room at Arlington County government headquarters (2100 Clarendon Blvd). County staff are set to give a presentation before the floor is opened to public comment from dozens of speakers.
Then, on Thursday, a second meeting is planned for members of the Planning Commission to discuss the current Missing Middle housing proposal, which has sparked a fierce community debate.
Planning Commission members are set to provide guidance, including on the scope of the Missing Middle proposal, to the County Board for its vote on advertising public hearings on the topic. That will precede additional Planning Commision and County Board votes on the final Missing Middle proposal, which are currently likely to happen at some point in early 2023.
Ahead of the meetings tonight and Thursday, of which we will have coverage the next day, we asked the GPT-3 artificial intelligence writing model to weigh in on the pros and cons of the Missing Middle issue, below, in what might be somewhat of a preview of the public comment.
Admittedly, the AI did not discuss trees, which have been a hot topic among many Missing Middle opponents.
Write an essay describing the pros and cons of re-zoning residential neighborhoods of Arlington, Virginia to permit lower density multifamily housing, such as townhouses and duplexes, also known as Missing Middle housing.
The debate over re-zoning residential neighborhoods of Arlington, Virginia to permit lower density multifamily housing, also known as Missing Middle housing, is a controversial one that has been debated for many years. On one side, there are those who argue that re-zoning residential neighborhoods to allow for the construction of Missing Middle housing represents a positive step in creating a more diverse and affordable housing market. On the other hand, there are those who oppose the idea, arguing that it will bring about changes to their neighborhood that they do not want or need. To understand the potential pros and cons of re-zoning residential neighborhoods of Arlington, Virginia to permit lower density multifamily housing, it is important to look at both sides of the argument.
The primary argument in favor of re-zoning residential neighborhoods of Arlington to allow for the construction of Missing Middle housing is that it could provide much-needed affordable housing in an area that is increasingly becoming unaffordable. In addition, it could create more diverse neighborhoods by allowing for a greater variety of housing types and styles. Furthermore, it could increase the local tax base and provide economic benefits to the area by creating more jobs and businesses. Finally, it could also help reduce traffic congestion by providing people with more options for living closer to where they work and play.
On the other hand, there are valid arguments against re-zoning residential neighborhoods of Arlington to permit Missing Middle housing. One of the primary concerns is that it could lead to an increase in traffic and congestion in the area, as well as an increase in noise and other nuisances. Additionally, some fear that it could lead to an increase in crime or an influx of renters who have little or no interest in being good neighbors. In addition, it could lead to an increase in property values, which could make it difficult for those who already own homes in the area to afford to remain there. Finally, there is also concern that it would lead to a decrease in the quality of life of existing residents, who may feel that their neighborhood is being changed in ways they do not want or need.
Ultimately, whether or not re-zoning residential neighborhoods of Arlington to permit Missing Middle housing is a good idea depends on the individual situation and the desires of residents. While there are potential pros and cons associated with this type of zoning change, it is important for local authorities to carefully consider all perspectives before making any decision.
In another preview of tonight’s rhetorical battle, the Washington Post weighed in on Missing Middle over the weekend, examining how the terminology used helps to shape the debate.
A proposed left-turn lane off of N. Glebe Road in Ballston could be the smallest, yet most scrutinized traffic change in 10 years.
As part of the planned redevelopment of the Ballston Macy’s, Insight Property Group proposes to add a left-turn option at the intersection of 7th Street N. and N. Glebe Road. It will be for drivers going southbound on Glebe who want to turn onto a proposed private drive abutting the planned grocery store, which will be located at the base of Insight’s proposed 16-story, 555-unit apartment building.
“It was the most thoroughly vetted transportation scenario in the time that I’ve been with Arlington County,” transportation planner Dennis Sellin, who has worked with the county for 10 years, told the Planning Commission last night (Monday).
During the meeting, the Planning Commission gave a green light to the redevelopment, which will go before the Arlington County Board for approval later this month.
After the Transportation Commission voted to defer the project solely on the basis of the left turn, Planning Commission members supported a condition for the project that county staff work with Insight and the Virginia Department of Transportation to come up with more pedestrian-oriented options for the intersection.
“I do not think it’s reasonable to hold up the project for this, given that there’s apparently continued good faith work on the intersection to improve its pedestrian-friendliness,” Commissioner Jim Lantelme said. “I want to make clear that the Planning Commission… expects that any option possible to make this intersection more pedestrian-friendly will be pursued.”
Sellin said a half-dozen staffers, including two top transportation officials, have thoroughly vetted the left-turn lane. They published a 64-page memo justifying the turn lane and will study how the grocery store changes traffic before adding any pedestrian mitigation measures.
“There’s a recommendation to not allow any right turns on red at any of the lights in the intersection,” he said. “That’s a movement we’ll take under further consideration. Our primary concern is safety, our secondary concern is operations.”
The left-turn lane is a non-negotiable for the grocer, who has otherwise been “insanely flexible” as the project has changed throughout the public process, according to Insight’s Managing Principal Trent Smith.
“We’ve shrunk their store, changed their ramps, taken away their parking… we changed their loading, we’ve done eight or nine things that took all sorts of reworking and they’ve stuck with us and have been great, reasonable partners throughout,” Smith said.
Insight’s attorney, Andrew Painter, says the unnamed grocer required the left turn based on “decades of experience in urban configurations.” He added that for a decade, the grocer has desired to be in Ballston, which already has a Harris Teeter nearby on N. Glebe Road, a quarter-mile away.
Some Planning Commissioners noted their regret that the project does not do more to provide on-site affordable housing.
“This space here, in the heart of Arlington, in Ballston, where there’s access to transit, and now a grocery store, we have nothing,” Commissioner Devanshi Patel said.