September was a long agenda with a number of interesting items.
After about 3 years of study and work by citizens and staff, the Board adopted the Affordable Housing Master Plan. We had delayed adoption from our July meeting to give everyone a little more time, and I think it paid off.
The plan sets an overall percentage goal of 17.7% of the housing in Arlington to be affordable for people making 80% of the average median income or less. We included percentage goals for affordable housing by area of the County. We set out a number of issues needing future study, including an analysis of the costs and benefits of the various tools we have to encourage affordable housing, and possible zoning amendments to give people more flexibility in their living arrangements.
Current code limits occupancy to no more than 4 unrelated people in a house in a single family neighborhood which, for example, means the code does not supprt a family of 4 to have an au pair living with them in a single family neighborhood.
This was an important milestone, but overall costs for the effort will be a concern and should get scrutiny every budget cycle.
Abingdon Use Permit
Abingdon Elementary School needs renewal and expansion. Neighbors down the hill from Abingdon have long had problems with water run off and some cracking in their foundations. It turns out much of that area has marine clay under it, which can make homes unstable. The project will make large improvements to the storm water control on the site, and engineers are confident the construction will not affect the integrity of homes nearby.
It was clarified at the Monday meeting that very little of the vegetation that minimizes water runoff will be cleared on the hillside. Arlington Public Schools also agreed to record and monitor the current conditions of the homes so that should anything happen during construction, there will be a clear record for homeowners to seek redress. APS also purchased additional liability insurance for the construction in case there should be any problems.
I felt there was a better understanding of, and support for, these issues by the end of our meeting. Public conversation helps.
The Dentist — a very different issue
There has been a dentist at Courthouse Plaza for about 20 years, although the site plan originally called for retail to be in that space. Repeated attempts by retail stores to locate there had resulted in several store closures, so a waiver was granted to allow a dental office. The waiver was up for renewal.
The dental office has thrived, the dentist does pro bono work for the Free Clinic and takes hotel guests when they need a dentist. A few people insisted that this location was not compliant with the site plan and the dentist had to go. The building owner said he could find no one else to fill that space and asked us to please allow the dentist to stay. Hundreds of patients and supporters signed a petition asking for the dentist to stay. Still…..this was the third time in a year he had to come before the Board pleading for us to allow his successful business to stay.
He can stay, but the vote was far too close: 3-2. I thanked the dentist for all he does for our community. I told him and his many supporters who stayed until 11:55pm I was embarrassed the Board made this so hard for a successful business that serves Arlington well. It really was one of the more bizarre issues I’ve dealt with as a Board member. You can view the meeting here.
I hope this brief report has been of interest to you. As always, feel free to share any thoughts or comments you have. I’m always happy to have feedback.