The October 2022 newsletter is linked below. If you have any comments or questions, email email@example.com.
Visions of Our Community
By Scott Sklar, President, AHCA
Arlington County and our communities are a great place to live due to the actions and hard work or many Ashton Heights and Lyon Park residents, who are still active members of our associations. We had visionaries in Arlington County who supported an approach called “The Arlington Way” which was an attempt to create full participatory governance process which is still represented on the many Commissions, planning committees, and processes today.
The Arlington Way has served us very well. The county lobbied for the metro and created wise zoning that allowed tall buildings along the metro lines and mid-level buildings stepping down up to our residential communities, which became a national model.
Aside from Metro, Arlington pushed multi-modal transportation including a network of bicycle paths/lanes, walkable communities with bumping in corners into intersections for pedestrian-friendly walkways, a bikeshare network, scooters, for awhile, hourly Zip cars, now Ubers, cabs and finally personal transportation with community parking zones around metro stops so neighborhoods can have access to their streets for parking.
Arlington has an extensive network of parks that are well kept, a tree canopy program that actually disperses trees to residents and a rather aggressive water management program at a time our climate is changing and our downpours are more frequent and heavier. Arlington has adopted a County Energy Plan (CEP), of whose commission energy committee I sit, which has been unanimously adopted by the County Board in two successive renditions addressing reducing greenhouse gas emissions and accelerating adoption of energy efficiency, renewable energy, electric transportation, etc.
All these goals, policies and programs, have made our county and neighborhood a most wonderful place to live.
As Arlington has become urbanized and dense, our housing and rental prices have soared, as have the region’s. These realities force middle and low income people who work in Arlington in service industries (teachers, police and fire, etc.), to move farther and farther out and away from Arlington.
There has been a push to address this issue, and our Arlington County Board has embarked on a Missing Middle Housing study and a set of proposals on zoning changes to allow duplexes, triplexes, quadraplexes, and higher on residential-zoned lots in traditional single family neighborhoods.
The study said these structures would cut Arlington tree canopy in half, and there are no zoning or code requirements to ensure Arlington’s stormwater management or building energy efficiency along with greenhouse gas reduction would be addressed.
Aside from undercutting key Arlington proposals, the push back has focused that the housing values, in fact, would not go down, but just allow developers and builders to extract much higher values out of existing residential lots. And as a by-product much higher street parking congestion, beyond the tree canopy and stormwater stresses mentioned above.
This has galvanized seven civic associations to have weekly meetings, as well as Zoom meetings with the County Board on every aspect of the proposals. Many of the civic association presidents have questioned why other initiatives are not used in Arlington, but used throughout the United States on Missing Middle Housing, such as the use of land trusts (used to preserve forests and wetlands). These can be utilized to aggregate tear-downs (older, smaller houses) to be upgraded and sold to middle income to address rising housing prices but also foster home ownership, as an example.
So far, aside from one board member, no one on the Arlington County Board seems interested in other, more proven programs.
The Wednesday, October 19th Ashton Heights Civic Association meeting will feature a structured dialogue on Missing Middle Housing (MMH). As at our joint AHCA/LPCA September Candidates night, where questions were submitted and bundled for candidates, we will solicit questions, and package them to the pro and con speakers who will present on MMH. Please submit your questions directly to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The goal here is to develop a consensus that addresses the issues, without the downsides, into a more effective approach as we continue our dialogue with the County Board.
We have had a great dialogue on the AHCA listserv, and I am hoping to have a web survey as well so we can see where our AHCA membership leans and what sub-issues are important to all Ashton Heights residents. As always, thank you for your interest and involvement in making our community an even better place to live.