Civic Association Newsletter

December 1996 - Volume 20, No. 3


On December 7, 1996, the Arlington County Board voted 5-0 to approve the SP #284 Site Plan Amendment Request for a special exception to modify Condition #43 regarding the architectural drawings' date and the facade treatment of the building, #72 to permit a 30 year capital lease with the Industrial Development Authority to meet the requirements for ownership of the building and to permit a one-story conference facility facing the park; on premises known as part of 4200 and 4300 blocks of North Fairfax Drive (odd side) between North Taylor and North Stuart Street.

Also, the County Board approved the site plan applicant's revised Condition 71 to commit to actual hours that shared parking will be available. Under this revision, during weekday evenings, shared parking will be available from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. On week-ends, shared parking will be from noon to 11:00 p.m.

Additionally, the County Board also agreed to accept withdrawal of the site plan applicant's request to amend Condition #51 to include a library among the permitted uses in the retail space.

For background purposes, the BVSCA Executive Committee and interested BVSCA members from the Jefferson, Windsor Plaza, and Ballston Park, met with representatives of the site plan applicant to discuss the above site plan amendments that were later approved by the Board on December 7, 1996. At the December 4, 1996 Executive Committee meeting, questions were raised about the availability of shared parking, and more specifically, the actual times for shared parking under approved Condition #71. Prior to the Board meeting of December 7, 1996, this condition stated that the developer agrees that nothing in the construction of the two (2) levels of underground parking under the office building shall preclude good access to any future parking under the public plaza. The developer agrees to make available 95 parking spaces for shared parking in the underground office parking garage for use by the general public during evening and weekend hours. With the revised #71, the shared parking with the general public is now time specific, as discussed above.

A letter was drafted by President Ragland, summarizing the results of this BVSCA Executive Committee meeting. The letter was coordinated by BVSCA Secretary David Ryan with the Arlington County Board on December 7, 1996. BVSCA Secretary Ryan testified on behalf of the Association at this Board meeting. Secretary Ryan was asked by Chairman Hunter not to comment on the retail condition, Condition #51, because it had been withdrawn by the site plan applicant and due to Board meeting time constraints. In response, Secretary Ryan agreed to Chairman Hunter's request. Members should read the Association's letter that follows after Phil Kennedy's remarks, the first public speaker on this item at the hearing, and specifically, read our comments on the withdraw Condition #51 revision, because the Executive Committee is concerned about the possible consolidation of the new conference facility (approximately 3,000 square feet) with the 5,800 square foot retail requirement of existing Condition #51.

Phil Kennedy: "Good afternoon, my name is Phil Kennedy. I'm the Vice-President of the Board of Directors of Ballston Park. Mr. Spence won't be able to join us, he waited a few hours this morning. Unfortunately wasn't able to stay over. I will be very brief and my support and the support of our building for this project. We have 250 residents or roughly 250 residents with over 130 apartments, and I think we have almost near unanimous consent this is a very substantial and good project.

We have been very impressed with the willingness of the Nature Conservancy to incorporate our ideas and thoughts in their plans and in particular for the landscape architecture. The issue of drainage outside, the lighting, the issues of integrating the two properties because their landscape plans obviously affect ours. We do feel, however, that we need to address the parking issue. We need time, times designated when the building is finally completed for when the parking garage is open, and secondly, and very importantly, what you're doing is eliminating the parking that's currently there in the construction phase almost cold turkey. You're just shutting it down. We need to really keep that parking on the street continuing during the construction phase. I think that needs to be addressed and obviously the taxi stand is very important, as well. There are a number of other considerations but basically we're very supportive. We're very impressed with the reassurances we've had from the Nature Conservancy. In particular, their architects and Brian Folger, in particular, has been very helpful, very constructive to us in incorporating our ideas. Thank you."

Chairman Hunter: "Thank you very much Mr. Kennedy and we will ask the applicant after we hear the other speakers to address the parking during construction issue. Next speaker."

BVSCA Secretary Ryan testified on behalf of the Civic Association, and after reading the third paragraph of the BVSCA letter to the Board was stopped by Chairman Hunter. In response to Chairman Hunter's request that follows, Secretary Ryan skipped over the remaining part of Condition #51 in the letter to the section on Condition #71.

Chairman Hunter: "Mr. Ryan, since the applicant has withdrawn the retail question, you may want to skip through that part since I don't know if Mr. Ragland knew that when he drafted this letter."

BVSCA Letter Dated December 6, 1996, to the Board: Dear Chairman Hunter:

For your information, representatives of the site plan applicant made a presentation at our December 4, 1996, BVSCA Executive Committee Meeting, on the Nature Conservancy's proposed SP #284 site plan amendment request, as described in the County Manager's November 22, 1996 staff report. This meeting was attended by our Executive Committee and interested BVSCA members from the Jefferson, Windsor Plaza, and Ballston Park.

Generally speaking, we are very receptive to having the Nature Conservancy, one of the largest non-profit environmental groups in America, join our community. We are very receptive also to the proposed changes to the facade treatment of the building, under Condition #43, and Condition #72 to permit a 30 year capital lease with the Industrial Development Authority to meet the requirements for ownership of the building, and to permit a one-story conference facility approximately 3,000 square feet) facing the park.

With respect to the applicant's presentation to us on the amendment to approved Condition 51 of the site plan, we found it rather curious that they were not specific at all on the nature of the use to be made of the space that they called a "library." And more significantly, neither did they specify how large that area would be.

What seems to be being done here is that the applicant is attempting to eliminate, or significantly reduce the 5,800 square foot retail requirement of Condition 51, and then have that 5,000 square feet of floor space be located contiguous to the presented 3,000 square feet of conference facility space (e.g., derived from the consolidation of the conference room space on each floor). Thereby, they achieve a conference and display facility that is larger in size than the 7,500 square foot conference facility at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association building-- without adding any additional parking that would be required under the zoning ordinance for a facility that should correctly be defined as an auditorium or a theater use.

The Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association asks the Board to either severely limit the amount of retail gross floor area that is converted to such library or display space that is ancillary to the conference center use, or alternatively require the applicant to provide the on-site parking that would be required for an auditorium or theater use of the combined 8,000+ square foot gross floor area that they will achieve. (It should be noted here that while the staff is suggesting additional work on this Condition 51, as discussed in the County Manager's supplemental report for this item dated December 4, 1996, and provided to BVSCA late Friday, December 6, 1996, no provision is provided for our Civic Association's input.)

Further, the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association would like to again express our appreciation to the Nature Conservancy for their support of Condition 71, that was approved by the County Board on June 4, 1996, to make available 95 parking spaces for shared parking in the underground office parking garage for use by the general public during evening and weekend hours. This condition is especially important to our members and citizens, who live nearby in Windsor Plaza, Ballston Park, and Summerwalk I and II. Concern was raised, however, at our Executive Committee meeting of December 4, 1996, about the defined hours for shared parking during evening and weekend hours. In response, the representatives from the site plan applicant indicated that they had not considered defined hours at this point in time.

The Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association recommends to the Nature Conservancy and the County Board that the starting and ending hours of shared parking on week-ends be consistent with the Metro hours on week-ends--from 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. We recommend that shared parking evening hours begin at 6:00 p.m., at the time public parking meters stop, and shared parking end at 12:00 a.m., at the time the Metro closes.

Additionally, concern was raised at our Executive Committee meeting about the dual construction of the new LCI building (e.g., the Stuart Park site plan office component) that is underway and the Nature Conservancy building that is to begin construction in January or February 1997. The Ballston- Virginia Square Civic Association would like the County Board to tell us what plans have made. At a minimum, the Association believes that Arlington Public Works should develop a construction plan to keep existing on-street parking on North Taylor and Stuart Streets. Finally, the Association believes that it is critical that the existing Cab Stand on North Fairfax Drive in that area be maintained. We thank you for your consideration of our proposed recommendations.

Nancy Iacomini: "Good afternoon, my name is Nancy Iacomini and I'm a Member of the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association's Executive Committee and I would like to echo the sentiments of the gentleman from Ballston Park who said that the applicant has been wonderful to work with and I think everyone agrees this garden and landscaping is going to be a very good addition to our neighborhood. And it is certainly something that is far better than any of us could have imagined and some of the earlier Birch's Crossing site plans. So I think that's really great.

In light of the technical questions of the ownership changing on this so that it's not the Conservancy because of the IDA Bonds and that makes perfect sense, I'm wondering what that does if anything to some of the wording of some of the ideas in here about Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Programs. It talks a lot about Nature Conservancy employees and I assume then that's okay even with the change in the ownership that's being talked about and also acknowledging that there will be tenants in the building other than the Conservancy. I think about three floors of the eight story building will be tenants and I'm hopeful that the TDM requirements that we see in here will also be able to apply to them. We want to encourage public transportation and the use of van pools and things like that to the greatest extent possible. We know that the Conservancy employees are very green as it were and very conscious of using public transportation and bicycling. We hope that the other tenants will be also and will be able to be covered by this.

I also share the concerns about the situation in the area during construction. There will be two big construction projects going on and that is something we need to think about. It is a very popular area and we hope it becomes more so in the evening and street parking. The maintenance of it during construction to the greatest extent possible is something that would only be a benefit to our neighborhood. Thank you."

Chairman Hunter: "Thank you very much Ms. Iacomini." Board Member Zimmerman: "You mentioned a number of items that was raised by the previous speaker. There's one that was in the letter. There's a question of Condition #51 which has been withdrawn and what I'm wondering is--are there any issues do you know and I received a phone call on this from somebody and that's why I'm asking you. And I thought you might know either in your role in the Civic Association, or as people here will know you also as the Chairman of the Transportation Commission. So, perhaps you could shed some light on this. Are any of the conditions that are related to parking effected now in terms of the calculation, given what has been done with Condition #51 and what is being done with the conference center?"

Nancy Iacomoni: "That's actually one of the questions, as I was raising in relationship to parking with the TDM that is I believe Condition #29. Where it talks about studies will be done periodically to make sure Nature Conservancy employees if there more than 50 percent are utilizing single occupancy vehicles, the TDM is racheted up a bit. Yes, that was one of the things I was wondering if it would be effected that would also include other tenants of the building and if the ownership would have any change. Another one of the parking issues of course is the shared parking, in which we've heard discussed there are pledged to be 95 spaces available in the evenings and weekends and I don't believe that the applicant has assured us that doesn't change with the ownership question and that they will be in some fashion. My understanding is, no one will be turned away and as you've heard in the condition, it's evenings and weekends and we were hopeful and have been working with the applicant about what the hours specifically might be for that."

Board Member Zimmerman: "Beyond the TDM though and that was a good point to reiterate but I was just wondering whether there was any question with the ratios given that the change in the floor area and the conditions that were originally imposed that provided for the possibility of this coming back at a later date and I wondered whether any of that was impacted by this and I guess you now have identified that as a problem."

Nancy Iacomini: "It has always been clear from the beginning that this building is not parked at the one parking space per 580 square foot, g.f.a ratio that is standard in the County or standard particularly in the Rossyln-Ballston corridor. This is the acknowledgement that Nature Conservancy who would own it will now be the chief tenant has such a good public transit and other transit uses other than automobiles history. The Transportation Demand Management Program was also put in place to help mitigate that. It is a question whether the addition of this 3,000 square foot meeting space is going to put a strain on the ratio or not. It is quite possible, however, other than authorizing or requesting another level of parking to be dug under the building, I am not sure that there's anything that the Board can do except make sure that or help with the Transportation Demand Management. I hate to keep repeating that, but frankly this past summer Public Works did a very, very good study in a survey of buildings that used Transportation Demand Management and found that the one to 580 parking ratio works if you have TDM. It is something that is very vital and while it might not be a cure-all, it is certainly working and something we need to support. And in this particular situation, I think that's where we are."

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