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An Arlington Water, Sewer and Streets crew (via Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services)

The Arlington County Board could approve a new sewer plan for the first time in 22 years tomorrow (Saturday).

The proposed Sanitary Sewer Collection System Plan is designed to prepare the county for continued growth through 2045. Despite the surge in development planned for the county over the next two decades, the plan does not call for expanding Arlington’s current sewer infrastructure.

Instead, according to a county report, the most substantial change would be an increase in how often the county cleans out small-diameter sanitary sewers. Flushing pipes of 12 inches in diameter and less every five years would cost $330,000 annually, increasing the average household’s water bill by about $2.11 each year.

The Arlington County Board is scheduled to vote on the proposed plan at a meeting tomorrow morning.

The reason the county does not need more sewer lines, according to a staff presentation to the Planning Commission last week, is that plumbing fixtures and appliances have become more efficient over time. Every day, Arlington uses about 5 million gallons of water less than when the county approved the current sewer plan in 2002.

This is despite the fact that the county has about 46,000 more residents than it did 22 years ago.

“The trends are going the right way,” Planning Commissioner James Lantelme said last week. “We’re using less water.”

Population growth between now and 2045 is expected to increase Arlington’s water usage by about 27%, or 6 million gallons per day, according to the presentation. This is still less than the county used in the late 1990s.

Arlington’s water usage vs. population growth over time (courtesy Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services)

At about 20 million gallons per day, the county currently uses about as much water as it did in the 1960s, when it had 73,000 fewer people.

“Adding additional neighbors to our county is something that we can support,” Lantelme said. “Our infrastructure is robust enough that we can add all these people comfortably and safely.”

Arlington’s water-use projections contrast with allegations from some residents that the county lacks the infrastructure to keep up with projected growth. For instance, a lawsuit filed last April claims that the county violated state law in passing its Missing Middle zoning code changes without fully considering possible impacts on infrastructure, including sewer systems.

In March 2023, the Arlington County Board approved changes to the zoning code allowing up to 6-unit dwellings on lots previously zoned only for single-family homes. The Board also approved a set of limitations intended to control the pace and impact of development, including parking minimums, permit caps and tree planting requirements.

But Arlington Neighbors for Neighborhoods, a group that issued a press release on behalf of the plaintiffs, claims that was not enough.

“State law requires that zoning ordinances consider needs for transportation, schools, parks, recreation, and public spaces, as well as the conservation of natural resources,” the statement said. “The law also requires consideration of a locality’s comprehensive plan, which addresses stormwater, sanitary sewer, water distribution and more.”

While the revised sewer plan does not recommend expanding current infrastructure, it calls for continued improvement projects such as relining the county’s existing pipes, many of which are between 75 and 100 years old. The county has been working on relining projects for a number of years and so far has relined 58% of the sanitary sewer system, according to the county report.

Photo (top) via Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services/Flickr


(Updated at 12:30 p.m.) Arlington County is home to one of the busiest Goodwill donation centers in the country and this location, on S. Glebe Road, is now being teed up for redevelopment.

Last week, Planning Commission members recommended the Arlington County Board approve plans from Goodwill and affordable housing partner AHC to redevelop its storefront with a 6-story building consisting of a new retail and donation center, 128 units of affordable housing and space for a child care center.

The Board is set to review the proposal — which includes requests to rezone the property and label it a “revitalization area,” a designation intended to boost AHC’s application for low-income housing tax credits — on Saturday.

Still, some criticism over pedestrian safety for elderly residents and children tempered that enthusiasm, as did questions to affordable housing partner AHC Inc. about its ability to manage an affordable community following livability issues residents and advocates revealed at the Serrano Apartments on Columbia Pike.

“There’s just so much to love about this project,” said Planning Commissioner Leo Sarli. “We cannot have enough housing… childcare or upcycling — which is what Goodwill does — which again, keeps things out of landfill and has a massive environmental impact.”

Despite all this, he had lingering pedestrian safety concerns around the site entrance, given all the foot and vehicular traffic that apartments, retail and childcare are expected to generate. This led him to propose that the Planning Commission recommend the County Board defer its approval until Goodwill addresses them. While other commissioners likewise stressed their pedestrian safety concerns, his motion failed 9-1, with one abstention.

They later supported a resolution from Vice-Chair (and Arlington County Board candidate) Tenley Peterson to recommend county staff continue to work with the applicant to design streets around the building that use “pedestrian-forward design practices.”

“We don’t want to let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” she said. “This project offers so much value to the community.”

Land use attorney Andrew Painter said the proposal actually improves pedestrian safety by separating donor, resident and retail traffic, reducing surface parking from 54 spaces to four accessible ones and closing one of two existing site entrances.

Goodwill site circulation (via Arlington County)

County staffer Kevin Lam, meanwhile, assured Planning Commissioner members that transportation staff thoroughly reviewed the proposal and do not believe the site poses a significant safety issue, though it is a “conflict point between pedestrians and vehicles.”

Like Peterson, the Transportation Commission approved the project, though several had pedestrian safety concerns. Chair Chris Slatt said commissioners hope these are addressed post-approval and commended Goodwill for transportation upgrades it has committed to, including one-way parking access, fewer surface parking spaces and a wider, raised sidewalk across the driveway.

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(Updated at 12:35 p.m.) Even in the era of Missing Middle, some duplex projects in Arlington have to go to the Arlington County Board for approval.

A proposal to build two side-by-side homes for sale at 1129 N. Utah Street, a few blocks from the Ballston Metro station and Washington-Liberty High School, is one such project.

Although the 2-story, single-family home set for demolition is in a “townhouse district,” only a single-family home can be built by right. McLean-based developer BeaconCrest Homes must go through the county’s longer, more intensive review process — typically reserved for larger-scale projects — to obtain approval for its proposed semi-detached home. It will have two 4-bedroom, 4.5-bath homes, each 2,600 square feet, with private outdoor spaces and 2-car garages.

“Given the property’s location and immediate surrounding uses, we felt it deserved to be more than a single dwelling and chose to pursue the 2-unit, semi-detached route,” said BeaconCrest representative Derek Huetinck. “Wrapping up, we continue to believe that the project before the Planning Commission is a better fit for the neighborhood, and more closely aligned with the county’s housing needs than the by-right option.”

It is a quirk that may come down to how the neighborhood and county zoning codes developed.

The brick home at 1129 N. Utah Street was built in 1948. While the first mention of “townhouse dwelling districts” appears to be Arlington’s 1969 Zoning Ordinance, it was not until the 2002 ordinance that the designation “R15-30T” — the type of townhouse dwelling district this home finds itself in — entered the code.

The 2002 code says this new district responds to the need for more transit-oriented development. Still, the code requires site plan approval by the County Board for 2-unit semi-detached homes and 3-unit townhouses, meaning these was never a by-right option, though the district’s name suggests a preference for this housing.

Today, several townhouses, along with some 3-story apartment buildings, line N. Utah Street, except for the “hold out” property in question, as Planning Commissioner Daniel Weir described it last week.

Townhouses on N. Utah Street (via Google Maps)

Now that property owners can build 2-6 unit homes by right in what were once single-family-home-only districts, the added hoops in a townhouse district — unchanged by the Missing Middle ordinance — prompted staff and the Planning Commission to give the N. Utah Street project an abridged process, with targeted outreach to immediate neighbors and more informal meetings.

The developer worked with neighbors who had critiques regarding the façade, which BeaconCrest worked to address, per a county report. Only one person, the president of the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association, expressed concerns about the shortened process.

Last week, Planning Commissioner Jim Lantelme lobbied for zoning code revisions to streamline this process even more.

“The process really is not the way to go for small projects. It just unnecessarily adds a lot of expense for both delay and money,” he said, asking county staff what the commission and county can do to make this process more efficient.

He recommended that the Planning Commission Chair and Vice-Chair voice support for tasking staff with streamlining the process for these districts. That discussion should take place, he said, during an upcoming work session when the Board, Planning Commissioners and the county’s planning division meet to discuss priorities for this year.

“It’s time,” he said. “I mean, we need housing.”

County planner Matt Pfeiffer said it is possible that denser residential districts as a whole will be revisited at as part of a planned Multifamily Reinvestment Study, “when and if that comes forward.”

“That’s something that we can take back and think about some more,” he said.

Addressing BeaconCrest, Lantelme said: “I’m glad you’re doing this but you shouldn’t have had to go through this. The expense just is not worth what you could if if you built the same thing in a [low-density] district… by right. And that just doesn’t make any sense to me.”


Plan Langston Blvd — a sweeping document outlining the future development of the corridor — is teed up for a vote by the Arlington County Board on Saturday.

The vote would culminate years of grassroots activity, followed by a county planning process that included about a year of public engagement. Despite the long lead time, the plan was recently criticized during County Board campaigns and commission meetings for introducing too many last-minute changes, which the county maintains were largely technical.

Although these tweaks have had time to settle, longstanding concerns continue to arise, pertaining to affordable housing, retail, building heights and park space. The Planning Commission addressed some of these earlier this month when, after voting to recommend the Board adopt the plan, members added in a few recommended changes.

On affordable housing, the Planning Commission, residents and community groups asked the County Board and staff to push for more committed affordable units.

“We don’t ask enough of our developers,” Commissioner Elizabeth Gearin said, per meeting minutes. “I hope we’re looking at how to get more on-site units. We should identify tools to where the County doesn’t need to outlay money. We haven’t fully exhausted this issue.”

Plan Langston Blvd projects to create 2,500 committed affordable units along the corridor by 2075, while the county’s 2015 Affordable Housing Master Plan previously called for the creation of those units by 2040. A sticking point for affordable housing advocates, the breakdown is because the Affordable Housing Master Plan, or AHMP, “was a projection, not necessarily a goal,” county planner Natasha Alfonso-Ahmed said, per meeting minutes.

“We’ve done extensive analysis of development capacity, and at the end of the day, the building envelope is set,” she said. “The result based on the recommended building envelopes is somewhat less than the AHMP projection.”

Planning commissioners approved a motion articulating their support for a countywide effort to “identify new tools and strategies to preserve and achieve more affordable housing related to a review of the Affordable Housing Master Plan,” according to the minutes.

Rev. Ashley Goff and Pat Findikoglu, representing VOICE — Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement — wrote that the Board has a vested interest in doing this.

“You have consistently shown your support for housing affordability for Arlingtonians across the income spectrum in many other areas of the County,” they said in a letter to the Board. “Now you have a chance to make clear that the North Arlington Langston Boulevard corridor, like all the other areas, also has a significant role to play in ensuring future housing opportunities for a broad range of residents.”

Attachment to the Lee Heights Shops — a one-story retail strip that includes an independent wine store, a salon, restaurants and a toy store with distinct colored awnings — also generated buzz.

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A proposed senior living facility on S. Glebe Road is teed up for Arlington County Board approval this Saturday.

Sunrise Senior Living proposes redeveloping a church in the Alcova Heights neighborhood with a 4-story, 99-unit building with 120 bedrooms and 53 parking spaces.

The public and county review of its plans kicked off this February. During a meeting last Wednesday, the Planning Commission unanimously recommended the Board adopt the proposal from Sunrise.

If the project is approved and construction begins on schedule, the project at 716 S. Glebe Road would be the first new senior housing project since the 1980s, per Arlington’s Commission on Aging. In 2020, the County Board approved an assisted living facility along Langston Blvd, but it languished and was recently sold to another developer.

While pleased that Sunrise is picking up the senior housing baton, some planning commissioners were dismayed Sunrise may only end up committing one unit for affordable housing or making a roughly $226,000 cash contribution to affordable housing. They were also disappointed Sunrise is aiming for LEED Silver certification rather than LEED Gold.

The commission approved motions urging the County Board to ask staff and the applicant to keep exploring ways to add more on-site affordable units and make the building more energy efficient.

“This is a really great opportunity to do something different,” said Planning Commission Vice-Chair Sara Steinberger. “I don’t want to lose the opportunity here because we can’t move fast enough.”

Representing Sunrise, land use attorney Kedrick Whitmore said the developer has take significant steps on sustainability and has long wrestled with its affordability commitments.

He told commissioners to temper their expectations for these areas, arguing they are skewed by developers who deliver LEED Gold certification and on-site affordable units in exchange for bonus density. Sunrise does not want more density because it has to do more for fewer residents, he said.

While excited at the prospect of new senior housing, the Commission on Aging is “very disappointed that the developer has not committed to setting aside some units as affordable units,” says member Cynthia Schneider.

“Both Alexandria and Fairfax County have policies where assisted living facilities set aside a certain number of units as affordable,” she said. “We would like to see this project have a similar commitment.”

Arlington County currently has no formula for calculating senior housing contributions, Whitmore said. It considers rent when calculating how many committed affordable units a developer should provide, whereas senior housing has more comprehensive housing costs to consider, Whitmore said.

“We’re staring into a black box and have trouble committing, at this point, to doing an on-site unit,” he said.

There is ample time for the issue to get sorted out, Commissioner Tenley Peterson said.

“We’re a couple of years out from when this building is going to get built,” she said. “We don’t need to figure it out until we get to the certificate of occupancy.”

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Plan Langston Blvd — a sweeping document envisioning a tree-lined, walkable Route 29 with apartments over retail — is gearing up for final discussions and eventual approval.

The newest draft landed last Thursday: two business days before a Planning Commission meeting on whether to advertise hearings on the plan. It contained a slew of changes county staff explain are policy clarifications, responding to recent feedback from citizen commissions, the Arlington County Board and residents.

In a 3-hour meeting Monday, some Planning Commissioners objected to the timing and moved to delay hearings one month, though this failed. They instead unanimously recommended hearings by the commission and the Arlington County Board in November. The deliberations echoed this stage of the Missing Middle hearings, last Thanksgiving, with commissioners noting this step simply sets what can be considered next month.

“I do think that it is an unfortunate timeline,” Planning Commission Vice-Chair Sara Steinberger said. “[This] document would be a struggle for most people to get through in that period of time. And I think that we should aim to do better because I think that’s important for the community to trust the process.”

Steinberger, who made the failed motion to delay hearings on Plan Langston Blvd, or PLB, had backing from Commissioner Nia Bagley.

“[Steinberger] was a little bit more polite than I probably would be,” Bagley said. “I hope we never do this again. I hope we give this more time in the future.”

Commission Chair Devanshi Patel said she understands the concerns of her colleagues but, sometimes, making real-time changes cannot be reconciled with giving ample time for people to review them.

“I think that staff did the best job that they could do by getting a comprehensive plan together with up-to-date information, reconciling the comments that they’ve been hearing from every single meeting of this body and other bodies, and being able to provide it in advance of this meeting as possible,” she said.

Agreeing with Patel, Commissioner Daniel Weir did say he and others have been “harping” on staff to return to the pre-pandemic days when meeting materials were published seven to 10 days before meetings.

But, he continued, “just because this form of the document wasn’t published before a certain day out, I don’t think it follows from that that there hasn’t been a full and robust public process… at least for the purposes of moving forward on the [request to advertise hearings].”

Recalling yet another controversial plan, the Pentagon City Sector Plan, Commissioner Jim Lantelme said changes were made “literally up to the final Board meeting.”

“If we’re not thrilled with something, it’s okay, because the idea is to get everything out there,” he said. “We can cut it back later. We can’t add to it, but we can cut it back later.”

County planner Natasha Alfonso-Ahmed assured commissioners that Monday’s decision still leaves time for them and other residents to review the changes.

That the draft came out on Thursday “doesn’t mean that there isn’t any time to process and to continue to review this draft that’s out before you,” she said. “We have another four weeks or five weeks before this goes to the again to you all for review.”

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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.

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Installing sensors and marking bumper-to-bumper boundaries for the County’s upcoming Performance Parking pilot (via Dept. of Environmental Services/Twitter)

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.

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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.

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The Arlington Planning Commission during its meeting on Wednesday, March 8, 2023 (via Arlington County)

(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.

A large single-family home being built on N. McKinley Road (courtesy anonymous)

Sarli had a message for the Arlington County Board, expressing dismay with the unfolding of the multi-year process, which was rife with contention.

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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.”


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