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County Names New Planning Director

County Manager Mark Schwartz announced Thursday (September 14) the appointment of Claude Williamson as director of the Arlington County Department of Community, Housing, Planning and Development.

Williamson, who served as interim director since March following the departure of Steven Cover, has been with the department for 20 years. He served as Comprehensive Planning Supervisor for more than 11 years, and has experience in planning, management and civic engagement.

Becoming CPHD director is “a unique opportunity to lead a very talented and creative group of professionals to deliver the highest quality products and services,” Williamson said in a statement.  “These efforts are necessary to achieve our community-based vision for an Arlington that is inclusive, diverse, safe, and urban, with economically strong commercial centers and stable residential neighborhoods.”

The department has come in for some criticism in recent times, with some in the community blaming it for delays in new businesses opening in the county.

More from a county press release:

Claude Williamson has been named Arlington County’s Director for Community Planning, Housing and Development (CPHD) after serving as acting director since March.

In appointing Williamson this week, County Manager Mark Schwartz said the 20-year County staffer “brings vast experience plus great talent in understanding the needs of residents, businesses and long-term community objectives. That’s the kind of essential leadership that we want to encourage and keep in Arlington County.”

CPHD is responsible for planning in County neighborhoods and along the densely developed, transit-oriented Metro corridors. CPHD is the lead agency in implementing the County’s Smart Growth planning vision.

Becoming CPHD Director is “a unique opportunity to lead a very talented and creative group of professionals to deliver the highest quality products and services,” Williamson said.  “These efforts are necessary to achieve our community-based vision for an Arlington that is inclusive, diverse, safe, and urban, with economically strong commercial centers and stable residential neighborhoods.”

Williamson joined the County and CPHD in 1997 and served as the Comprehensive Planning Supervisor for more than 11 years. His broad background in planning, management and civic engagement has influenced a multitude of major planning initiatives and projects.

He has been instrumental in the development and implementation of both sector and area plans across Arlington, and has provided significant leadership during zoning ordinance reviews and updates, inter-jurisdictional planning efforts and other key planning activities.

In the director’s role, Williams oversees all CPHD activities including the development review process; housing and comprehensive planning; neighborhood services; zoning administration; inspections, code enforcement and data analysis.

Before joining Arlington County, Williamson worked for the New Orleans City Planning Commission on a variety of projects and initiatives. He holds a Master of Community Planning degree from the University of Maryland School of Architecture and both a Master of Public Administration and Bachelor of Science from Suffolk University in Boston.

Williamson is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He lives in the Palisades neighborhood of Washington D.C. with his husband Michael and son Evan.

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County Names Acting Planning Director

Claude Williamson (photo courtesy Arlington County)Following the departure of Steven Cover, Arlington County has named an Acting Director for Community Housing, Planning and Development.

Claude Williamson, who has been with the department for 20 years, will lead it on an interim basis as the acting planning director. Last week County Manager Mark Schwartz said that a search would be starting soon for a permanent replacement for Cover.

Williamson’s long tenure at CPHD contrasts with Cover’s attempts to shake up the department and streamline its processes, which have been the subject of grumbles from the business community. Cover was named CPHD director in 2015.

More on the appointment from a county press release:

Claude Williamson has been named Arlington County’s Acting Director for Community Housing, Planning and Development (CPHD).

Williamson joined CPHD in 1997 and has served as the Comprehensive Planning Supervisor for more than 11 years. His broad experience in planning, management and civic engagement has influenced a multitude of major planning initiatives and projects. He has been instrumental in the development and implementation of both sector and area plans across Arlington, and has provided significant leadership during zoning ordinance reviews and updates, inter-jurisdictional planning efforts and other key planning activities.

“Claude brings a wealth of experience and tremendous professionalism to the Acting Directorship of this critical County department,” said Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz. “He has a deep understanding of our community and of the planning principles that have successfully guided Arlington for decades.”

In his new role, Williamson will lead all the department’s efforts, including the development review process; comprehensive planning; neighborhood services; zoning administration; inspections and code enforcement and data analysis. The department is responsible for planning both in Arlington’s neighborhoods and in the densely developed, transit oriented Metro corridors. CPHD is the lead department in implementing the County’s Smart Growth planning vision.

Prior to joining Arlington County in 1997, Williamson worked for the New Orleans City Planning Commission on a variety of planning projects and initiatives. He holds a Master of Community Planning from the University of Maryland School of Architecture.  He also holds a Master of Public Administration and Bachelor of Science from Suffolk University in Boston.  Williamson is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners.  He lives in the Palisades neighborhood of Washington D.C. with his husband Michael and 11-year old son Evan.

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Arlington’s Planning Director Departs for New Job in Florida

Director of Community Housing, Planning and Development Steven CoverArlington’s planning director has accepted a job with the city of Sarasota, Florida, a move seen by some as a blow to the local business community.

Steven Cover joined Arlington County as director of Community Planning, Housing and Development in March 2015. He won the respect of many in Arlington’s business community by trying to streamline processes in CPHD, which has gained a reputation for a heavy-handed, intransigent approach to enforcing county regulations, sources tell ARLnow.com.

The City of Sarasota announced Cover’s hiring yesterday.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Steven Cover to Sarasota,” said City Manager Tom Barwin. “Steve has extensive and highly successful experience in two of America’s great communities: Arlington, Virginia and Madison, Wisconsin. Steve’s experience and passion for walkable communities, cutting edge bicycle and transportation planning, appreciation for great architecture, innovative zoning codes, and commitment to affordable housing collaborations will serve our community well.”

In a statement released to ARLnow.com, Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz said the search for Cover’s replacement will be starting soon.

After more than two years of service as our Director of Community Planning, Housing and Development, Steve Cover is leaving to take another job. We wish him well. With the guidance of the County Board, Steve, together with our excellent staff of CPHD professionals, and in coordination with Arlington Economic Development, helped make improvements in service during his tenure. We will begin a search soon for a new director to lead this vital department.

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County Fills Vacant Planning Director Position

Arlington County has hired Robert J. Duffy as its new planning director, to fill a position that’s been vacant for months.

“Bob Duffy has a long and varied career in local government planning and leadership positions,” said Robert E. Brosnan, director of Arlington’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development. “He is exactly what the Planning Department needs right now as we move into implementation for some of our major planning projects to create more affordable housing and continue our smart growth, transit-oriented development.”

Duffy was most recently a planning supervisor with the Prince George’s County Planning Department. Previously, he was Director of Planning and Community Development for the Town of Brookline, Massachusetts; Assistant Director of the Louisville Development Authority and Downtown Development Corporation; Town Planning and Development Administrator for the Town of Southampton, New York; and the Director of Planning for the City of Sanibel, Florida.

“I am excited and honored to have the opportunity to serve the citizens of Arlington County,” said Duffy. “I look forward to leading our planning staff and working with Arlington residents and businesses, Planning Commission members, the County Manager and County Board Members to further advance Arlington’s nationally recognized commitment to community-based planning, smart growth and active civic engagement.”

Duffy fills a position that had been open since Peter Katz resigned in March, after less than five months on the job. Duffy will start in September.

In a press release, the county gave the following details about Duffy’s experience:

Duffy has managed and facilitated a number of award-winning planning projects such as the Central Annapolis Road Sector Plan, which transformed an auto-oriented corridor into a “complete street” with a transit village as part of the planned Purple Line light rail transit project. The project has been recognized by the American Architectural Foundation External link and featured in the recently published “Living Streets: Strategies for Crafting Public Space”.

Duffy provided leadership on the planning study of Brookline, Massachusetts. The Comprehensive Plan 2005 – 2015 External link focused on future growth within Brookline’s transit corridors and establishes neighborhood conservation, affordable housing, and business district improvement strategies. The plan won 2006 Outstanding Planning Award from the American Planning Association, Massachusetts Chapter.

He also led planning and improvement efforts that contributed to the transformation of the historic, but deteriorated West Main Street in downtown Louisville, Kentucky External link into a “vibrant commercial, residential, retail, cultural, and entertainment district. The West Main Street Cultural Arts District was recognized by the American Planning Association in 2008 as one of America’s “Great Streets”.

Duffy currently serves as a Technical Advisory Panel Committee member for the Washington District Council of the Urban Land institute (ULI), and a board member for the American Planning Association’s (APA) National Capital Area Chapter. He is also the Vice Chairman of the Parker-Gray Historic District Architectural Review Board in Alexandria.

He has a bachelor’s degree in Planning from the University of Cincinnati. His start date is Sept. 10, 2012. Duffy and his wife Adele Cramer currently reside in Alexandria. They enjoy hiking, cycling and kayaking.

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Arlington County By the Numbers

Arlington County has released the latest version of its annual Profile publication, a compendium of vital statistics about the county. The 2012 Arlington County Profile includes information about the county’s demographics, economy and cultural resources.

In terms of population, Arlington’s Community Planning, Housing and Development (CPHD) department estimates that there are 99,900 total household in the county. Arlington’s population, meanwhile, will exceed a quarter of a million by 2040, according to CPHD forecasts.

  • 2012 Population: 211,700
  • 2012 Employment: 227,500 (jobs located in Arlington)
  • 2040 Population: 252,400 (est.)
  • 2040 Employment: 308,400 (est.)

Government was the top job sector in Arlington, based on 2012 estimates.

  • Government: 26.4%
  • Professional and technical services: 20.7%
  • Hospitality and food: 7.1%
  • Transportation and warehousing: 4.5%
  • Real estate: 3.7%
  • Information: 2.9%
  • Finance and insurance: 2.4%
  • Construction: 2.1%
  • Other services: 21.4%
  • Other (including retail): 8.9%

As of 2011, the top ten private employers were:

  • Deloitte: 5,100 jobs
  • Lockheed Martin: 2,700 jobs
  • Virginia Hospital Center: 2,120 jobs
  • Marriott International: 1,940 jobs
  • Bureau of National Affairs: 1,906 jobs
  • Booz Allen Hamilton: 1,400 jobs
  • SRA International: 1,360 jobs
  • CACI: 1,217 jobs
  • SAIC: 1,200 jobs
  • Corporate Executive Board: 1,060 jobs

Arlington’s economy remains strong, with low unemployment and high household income. The 2012 median household income in Arlington is $99,600, while per capita income is $78,000. Total retail sales in Arlington came to $3.14 billion in 2011. The residential rental vacancy rate was 4.6 percent while the average rent went up by 2 percent from 2010 to 2011. Arlington’s civilian labor force of 141,073 had an unemployment rate of 3.9 percent as of March 2011.

Arlington’s 2012 tax base was divided between 49 percent commercial and 51 percent residential.

Arlington is also rich culturally. The county had 8 libraries, 149 county parks, 13 community centers, 3 nature centers, 6 senior centers, 120 athletic fields, 118 tennis and basketball courts, and 86 miles of bicycle routes and jogging trails.

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Planning Director Resigns Five Months After Hiring

Arlington County planning director Peter Katz, an author and nationally recognized proponent of the New Urbanism movement, has abruptly resigned after less than five months on the job.

Katz resigned yesterday, effective immediately, according to Arlington County Director of Communications Diana Sun. The resignation was first reported by the Arlington Mercury.

In a prepared written statement, Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development Director Robert Brosnan suggested the resignation followed a realization that Katz was not the right person for the job.

Peter Katz is a well-known proponent of the New Urbanism (smart growth) movement, and has played a key role in shaping the movement.

Peter and we have come to a mutual agreement that his passion and energies are better suited to consulting than to staff work. Though we both worked hard to make it work, it just ultimately wasn’t the right fit, which we regret.

The role of Planning Director is a key one in Arlington and we will take immediate steps to fill the position.

We wish Peter all the best in his career and future endeavors.

Robert Brosnan, Director
Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development

Update at 4:25 p.m. — Arlington County Human Resources Director Marcy Foster says the standard salary of a planning director in Arlington is $150,000. That would put Katz’s to-date compensation at about $60,000. Foster could not say whether Katz would receive a severance package, citing privacy reasons. Former county manager Michael Brown’s $110,000 severance payment was revealed, she said, because Brown was under contract, whereas Katz was a county employee.

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Arlington County Names New Planning Director

Arlington County announced today that Peter Katz, an author and nationally recognized proponent of the New Urbanism movement, will be taking over as the county’s new planning director.

Katz hails from southwest Florida, where he served as director of Smart Growth/Urban Planning for Sarasota County. He’s taking over the position after former planning director Bob Brosnan succeeded the retiring Susan Bell as director of the county’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development.

“Peter brings to this critical position a deep knowledge of the planning principles that Arlington is all about,” Brosnan said in a press release. “He understands and appreciates the robust community engagement that is a hallmark of planning in Arlington. We expect Peter to provide strong leadership and vision as we continue the work of building a sustainable community.”

As planning director, Katz will oversee the department that guides and regulates Arlington’s short and long-range development. That includes zoning and code enforcement, plus reviewing and issuing permits for residential and commercial development.

His first day on the job will be Tuesday, Oct. 11.

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New Office Complex Under Consideration for Pentagon City

(Updated at 6:20 p.m.) Arlington’s Long Range Planning Committee (LRPC) is considering a plan to build a collection of tall office buildings and hotels on a large, vacant parcel of land in Pentagon City.

The “PenPlace” site, as it’s called, is a 12-acre parcel owned by Vornado/Charles E. Smith. Its only inhabitants over the past decade have been a Marriott Residence Inn, Nell’s Carryout and the occasional traveling circus. Once considered as a possible location for the new Nationals stadium or an “Arlington County Conference Center,” the site has laid fallow for years.

Last month the LRPC considered a number of possible uses for the site (all of which preserve the existing Marriott hotel and add new streets to break up the large “superblock”):

  • A “baseline” project featuring a collection of low-to-mid rise hotels
  • A “low density” project featuring a collection of 5- to 12-story apartment buildings and an office building
  • A “medium density” plan featuring five 8- to 12-story residential buildings and two 15- to 16-story office buildings
  • A “high density” scenario featuring four 15- to 22-story office buildings and a 7- to 12-story hotel.

In the end, the committee at least one member of the committee concluded that the “high density” plan — which includes nearly 1.9 million square feet of office space and a centrally-located open space — “seem[ed] to be most appropriate.”

Only the baseline project, however, would be acceptable under the current Pentagon City Phased Development Site Plan (PDSP), which was first approved in 1976. The others would require the County Board to revise the PDSP before it could approve a site plan for the overall complex.

The nearby Aurora Highlands and Arlington Ridge civic associations, however, are both on record supporting the existing PDSP, which “does not allow for any more additional office development,” according to the latest Aurora Highlands Civic Association newsletter.

“Approving additional office buildings would severely change the planned vision for the Pentagon City Metro Station Concept Plan,” civic association officials wrote. “Because office buildings generate the most traffic and air pollution, impacts that would affect the health, safety, and general welfare of the public, this Metro station was planned for a Pentagon City with an emphasis on residential development and specifically limited office development as compared to the intense office development in Crystal City and Rosslyn.”

“Interestingly, the Virginia Department of Transportation has a nearly $3 million dollar ‘spot improvement’ project to widen the I-395 exit ramp onto Eads Street which will allow an easy flow to the [PenPlace] site,” the newsletter noted.

Tom Miller, Arlington County’s Acting Planning Director, declined to weigh in on the specifics of the PenPlace proposals, but did offer that Pentagon City has changed considerably since the PDSP was first approved.

“Good plans evolve and are reflective of changes in the community and the market,” he said.

The LRPC will discuss the PenPlace site again from 7:00 to 9:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 1, in room 311 of the county government building (2100 Clarendon Blvd). The committee’s findings will help guide Vornado as it decides on a final plan to submit for County Board approval.

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EXCLUSIVE: Board Acts as Walmart Eyes Shirlington Site

Arlington is taking action to fend off potential by-right development by big box retailers, like Walmart, in the county’s industrial areas.

Just before adjourning for the summer, the County Board quickly and unanimously passed an item that did not appear on the board agenda. The item, a request to advertise public hearings, is the first step to passing a zoning amendment that would effectively prevent Walmart, Target and other large-format retailers (including certain supermarkets) from building stores without the Board’s prior approval.

The Board took the action as Walmart eyes an industrial site near Shirlington, adjacent to I-395 and the former Washington Golf store, for potential development. A source tells ARLnow.com that the retail giant is in the very early stages of a plan to build one of its new, multi-story urban-style stores, like those proposed for the District and Tysons Corner, at the site, which is currently occupied by a large car storage lot. The store, according to the source, would be two to three stories high with a smaller footprint than the typical, suburban Walmart store.

The proposed zoning amendment advertised Tuesday night specifies that any building in a “C-1” or “C-2” commercial zone, with a “gross floor area of 50,000 square feet or more on any level” would be subject to prior approval by the County Board under a Special Exception Use Permit. The exception would also apply to buildings with 200 or more parking spaces. Under the current zoning ordinance, Walmart would be able to build a store on the Shirlington site “by right” — without Board approval — a source with knowledge of zoning issues tells us.

Arlington County Planning Director Bob Brosnan says that the expanse of industrial space along Four Mile Run, near Shirlington, makes Arlington “potentially vulnerable” to the new retail trend of urban big box development.

“Nationally, these large-format operators are looking to go more urban,” Brosnan said. “So it’s really that growing fear that has led us to advertise this.”

The goal, Brosnan said, is not to block Walmart from coming to the county. Rather, the goal is to enable the County Board to set conditions that could mitigate some of the traffic and other adverse impacts of large-format retail development. For instance, the Board may require a store on the car lot site to work with the state to obtain direct access from I-395, instead of allowing customers to clog up the low-capacity I-395 exit onto Shirlington Road, which is adjacent to a heavily-used bicycle and pedestrian crossing.

“Ultimately, if you don’t have good road access, it’s going to be difficult,” Brosnan said.

Hearings will now be held on the proposed zoning ordinance amendment. The Board is expected to consider the amendment in September, when it comes back from its summer break. In its report to the board, county staff noted that Loudoun, Fairfax and Prince William counties have all recently passed similar zoning amendments aimed at large-scale developments.

County spokesman Mary Curtius said the Request to Advertise was not on the Board’s official agenda because it was still being prepared as the agenda was published, and staff wanted to get the request approved before the Board’s summer break. The item’s last-minute passage was “fairly typical,” she said.

So far, Walmart has not responded to a request for comment.

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County Issues 2010 Development Stats

Despite continued economic weakness across the country, development and construction in Arlington continued at a relatively strong pace last year, a newly-released report reveals.

In 2010, developers began construction on more than 600,000 square feet of retail and office space, while construction wrapped up construction on another 600,000 square feet of space. Construction started on 477 multifamily (apartment and condo) units, while 1,438 units were completed.

A majority – 68 percent – of on-going commercial construction last year took place in Ballston. A similar majority of the multifamily construction – 67 percent – took place on Columbia Pike.

For more information, see the 2010 Development Trends report from Arlington County’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development.

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Trader Joe’s Will Likely Get Its Regulatory Wishlist

Arlington’s long-standing policy of encouraging grocery store development in the county is helping to pave the way for Trader Joe’s to open in Clarendon.

ARLnow.com first reported last month that Trader Joe’s was prepared to sign a lease in the Clarendon Center project if it could get some regulatory issues ironed out. Among them: the retailer wanted permission to have dedicated parking, wanted to display its products outside the store, and wanted a loading dock provision modified.

“I think we managed to work through all three issues,” Arlington County Planning Division Chief Robert Brosnan told us last night. “We do have a policy for shared parking, but we also have a policy for grocery stores, and it really is in the name of encouraging a grocery store that we will modify those requirements in this case.”

Brosnan said he expects county staff to recommend the changes, and for the board to take up the issue at its November board meeting (on either Nov. 13 or Nov. 16). After that point, Trader Joe’s will likely make the final decision on whether to sign a lease.

The site plan amendment process for Trader Joe’s was “not abnormally fast,” Brosnan noted. He added that some additional steps may be required for the store to get permission to display products outside.

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