Civic Association Newsletter

April/May 1997 - Volume 20, No. 6


At the County Board Meeting of May 17, 1997, Agenda Item 11A,B, the County Board voted unanimously to defer, until the County Board meeting of June 21, 1997, the site plan applicant's, Madison Homes, Inc., request to rezone "R-5" properties to "R-10T" in order to permit construction of 13 town houses and associated parking on premises known, as 3709 North Washington Boulevard, 1204, 1208, 1212, 1216 North Nelson Street (Virginia Mews, formerly known as the Ballston Station town houses).

In deferring their decision on this project, the County Board approved a motion directing staff to provide further definition to the "R-10T" zoning category, in terms of its placement in the County, and to answer the questions of "when" and "where" this zoning category should be located. Also, the Board requested staff to consider other configurations around the zoning category of "R-10T." Board Chairman Ellen Bozman encouraged the neighborhood and the Association to meet again with the developer, prior to the next Board Meeting, to further consider the available by-right alternatives and the proposed town homes. Board Member Al Eisenberg stated that they need to make certain the right decision is made.

At this Board Meeting, eight residents of the nearby community testified in opposition to the proposed town homes, one Association member expressed strong concern, and three BVSCA members supported the proposed town homes. Also, one of the residents indicated, that they had nearly 50 petition signatures from the affected neighborhood opposing the Virginia Mews town houses.

The residents in opposition to the rezoning request from "R-5" to "R-10T" and to the proposed site plan, indicated that the proposed town homes would have adverse effects on: (1) the character of the neighborhood; (2) other single-family detached homes north of Washington Boulevard; (3) the integrity of the County's system; (4) traffic and congestion; (4) the safety of the children in the neighborhood, resulting from the increased density; (5) the life styles of the existing residents; and (6) the equity of the process. Also, it should be noted that many of these residents indicated that they would not be opposed to new single-family detached homes or duplex homes.

Summary of County Manager's Recommendation

In County Manager Anton Gardner's Memorandum to the County Board, dated May 8, 1997, the County Manager's Recommendation stated:

A. Approve Rezoning Request from "R-5" to "R-10T,"

B. The proposed plan is consistent with Section 36.H.3 of the Zoning Ordinance. Therefore, staff recommends approval of the Site Plan request for a 13-unit town house project, subject to the conditions of the staff report.

The applicant is requesting a rezoning of "R-5" properties to "R-10T" in order to accommodate a proposed 13-unit townhouse site plan on a portion of a large block located four blocks north of the Virginia Square Metro station. The site plan has been significantly revised since the application was filed. The applicant has appropriately responded to a number of issues staff, the Site Plan Review Subcommittee and neighbors have raised during the review process regarding the need for a development that provides a good transition to the existing single-family neighborhood and the potential development pattern on the large block located north of Washington Boulevard.

Staff supports rezoning the property to "R-10T," which would be consistent with the "Low" Residential (1 to 10 units per acre) General Land Use Plan designation for the block. "R-10T" town house projects have been approved throughout the County. A majority of these projects are located on or abut an arterial right-of-way. The subject site is located on a principal arterial, is proximate to more intense zoning districts, and would accommodate a town house site plan design that provides an excellent transition to the "R-5" zoned areas north of the site.

Concern has been expressed about precedence and the remaining "R-5" zoned properties on the block if the subject site is rezoned. Consistent with previous "R-10T" approvals, the "R- 10T" zoning line should not penetrate the block beyond the north property line of the subject site. This would correspond to the rear property lines of the Washington Boulevard frontage lots and to the "RA8-18" zoned property line across the street at the Wentworth Condominiums, thereby keeping the town house zoning along Washington Boulevard and providing a transition to the single-family area. Also, the site plan review process would ensure appropriate transitions are provided to surrounding properties.

The proposed site plan establishes a good benchmark for the design and the configuration of in-fill "R-10T" town house site plan development. It is therefore, recommended that the rezoning and site plan approval requests be approved subject to the conditions of the staff report.

Background on the Virginia Mews Townhouse Project

This town house proposal on the northwest corner of the North Nelson Street and Washington Boulevard intersection has been before our Association two times, on January 29, 1997, and March 12, 1997. It has also been before the Site Plan Review Subcommittee three times, on February 18, 1997, March 5, 1997, and April 15, 1997.

In our Association's January Membership Meeting, the original site plan was presented and was well received by the members present. At least 13-14 members in attendance at this meeting indicated enthusiastic support for this project. At the March Membership Meeting, the site plan applicant presented a configuration substantially similar to the latest proposed town house project design. This design proposal was also highly supported by members in attendance. One individual in attendance at the March meeting indicated stronger support for the original proposed project's design than the revised design, but did not indicate she was opposed to the project.

Not hearing any opposition to the proposed Virginia Mews town houses, and noting the positive results of the Site Plan Subcommittee Meeting of April 15, 1997, the Association did not schedule the site plan applicant, Madison Homes, Inc., to return to the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association for the April 30th Membership Meeting.

At the Site Plan Subcommittee Meeting of April 15, 1997, Subcommittee members and staff expressed support for the revised town house project's design. Also, appreciation was expressed by many members of the Subcommittee for the site plan applicant's revised town house design. Several members commented that the project design was much improved. Some members stated that the new proposal had resolved many of their prior concerns about the units relationship/placement with respect to the street. Others believed the revised design better fit with the remaining single-family properties on the block.

Current BVSCA President Ragland and former BVSCA President Larry Blackwood participated in each of the three Subcommittee meetings. At the last Subcommittee Meeting, they both expressed strong support for the project and appreciation to the site plan applicant for the revised town house design proposal. Other BVSCA members and residents from the nearby (1) Wentworth Condominium and (2) residential single-family homes participated in these Subcommittee meetings, and expressed support for the town house proposal.

However, prior to the Arlington County Planning Commission meeting on this matter, on May 4, 1997, BVSCA President Ragland received a telephone call from one of the residents located near the proposed project. This individual indicated that he had recently moved into the neighborhood, into a single- family detached home, and was strongly opposed to the proposed town house project and the "R-10T" rezoning. BVSCA President Ragland encouraged him to attend the upcoming Planning Commission Meeting scheduled for May 5, 1997, and the May 17, 1997, County Board Meeting, and to express his views at these meetings.

At its recessed meeting of May 7th, the Planning Commission rejected the motion to accept the staff recommendation on the rezoning and site plan approval requests by a 5 to 3 vote. The Commission, while generally supportive of the applicant's site plan, did not believe that the property should be rezoned to "R- 10T." At the Planning Commission meeting, approximately nine residents testified in opposition to the proposed Virginia Mews town homes, for most of the reasons cited above. Also, at this meeting, four Association members spoke in support of the project, and Helen Horton, a former Chairman of the Arlington County Planning Commission, submitted a letter in support of the project.

In her letter to the Planning Commission, Ms. Horton, who also lives nearby the Virginia Mews proposed project, states that she supports the "proposed site plan presented at the April 15th meeting of the Site Plan Review Subcommittee (SPRS) of the Planning Commission and the re-zoning required for it to be built. Also, she states that the Ballston-Virginia Square Conservation Plan addresses our neighborhood's concept of what should happen in this small residential area north of Washington Blvd. On page 7, "Land Use Principles," our Plan reads, #1. The County should maintain the residential zoning between I-66 and Washington Boulevard between Glebe Rd. & Kirkwood. Changes in the existing R-5 and R-6 zones should be considered only for site plans of exceptional quality and originality in transition areas." This proposed site plan will meet this criterion of the drawings are made part of the Site Plan, and if the developer is required to provide the dormers pictured in the plan and to build and stagger the garages. R-10T has the added advantage of being within the current General Land Use Plan designation for the parcel."

Further, in her letter, Ms. Horton states that "SPRS member Hank Street continued to express reservations about the rezoning as a possible precedent for rezoning R-5 and R-6 residential neighborhoods all over Arlington County to R-10T in the future. I believe his concerns are well founded, and I would recommend that staff limit its recommendations for approval to include the facts that this R-5 parcel is across the street from an RA-18 parcel, and is bounded on one side by a major arterial. I believe these facts will limit the precedential value of this potential rezoning."

As stated above, Board Chairman Ellen Bozman encouraged the neighborhood and the Association to meet again with the developer, prior to the next Board Meeting, to further consider the available by-right alternatives and the proposed town homes. Also, Board Member Al Eisenberg stated that the need to make certain the right decision is made.

Following the Board's discussion of this Agenda Item at the County Board Meeting of May 17, 1997, BVSCA President Ragland invited the representatives of the site plan applicant to make a presentation on the available by-right alternatives, and the latest proposed site plan, at our Annual Membership Meeting. This meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, May 28, 1997, at the Holiday Inn Arlington at Ballston, 4610 North Fairfax Drive, Arlington, Virginia 22203, in the Fairfax/Wilson/Glebe Room. This item is scheduled for presentation from approximately 8:45 to 9:45 p.m. The Association invites interested members and residents of the affected area by this site plan, bound by Washington Boulevard on the south, Quincy Street on the west, Kirkwood on the east, and the I-66 right-of-way on the north, to bring your questions, express your views, and help our community make the right decision on this project, all factors considered. Also, the public is welcome to attend.

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