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Neighborhood response to the Kirkwood-Washington GLUP special study

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We, the undersigned, support the following neighborhood response to the Kirkwood-Washington GLUP Special Study.


The community surrounding the Washington-Kirkwood GLUP Special Study area has developed some perspectives and recommendations on how that area could most appropriately be used, based on the principles and guidance outlined in Arlington planning documents and the desire of the community to preserve the character of a long-term, well-established residential neighborhood. We would like to thank Staff and the Commission for their hard work and their openness to hearing community views.

Requesting revised modeling

We would like to see modeling that more fully reflects the community’s needs and wishes, even if it requires a relaxation of the timeframe originally proposed for the special study. Specifically we request that modeling be developed that:

  • Fully utilizes the topography of the YMCA site to situate the taller, more massive buildings on Kirkwood. Consistent with the principal of transition, any higher density allowed should be concentrated along Kirkwood and Washington. The areas abutting the existing single family homes and low-rise townhouses should be kept as low density and low mass. Building height in the study area should also taper in such a way that it does not encroach on the current residents on 13th St N, N. Kansas St and 12th Rd N.
  • Keeps a limited buffer zone along 13th St. N and N Kansas St. that would be Low Residential in the GLUP and conforms to the current zoning (R5). Specifically, the buffer zone would start at the stand of trees in front of the current YMCA and extend to N. Kansas, and would protect the existing single family homes at 3426 and 3427 12th Road N.
  • Does not allow greater density or height on the North side of Washington Boulevard than is currently permitted on the South side. As the South side of Washington Boulevard is zoned C-0-1.5, it would be inconsistent with the concept of transition for all of the North side to be zoned C-0-2.5. The South side currently has a density of 1.7-2.7 FAR, so proposals that would increase density on the North side to 2.5-2.7 FAR and above would also be inconsistent.
  • Returns to Transportation Framework Concept #3 from the 12/20/2016 LRPC meeting which directs traffic from the new projects onto Kirkwood and Washington, maintains the cul-de-sac at N. Kansas St. and 12th Road N., and does not provide any incentives for other traffic on Kirkwood or Washington to cut through the residential streets and add to the already high traffic load.
  • Contains a bike/pedestrian pathway along the west side of the Study area to assist with the buffer concept outlined above as well as to provide N-S connectivity from the neighborhood to the Virginia Square Metro.

Limiting negative impacts

The GLUP Study Area borders the Rosslyn-Ballston Metro Corridor but is not part of it. Historically the territory north of Washington Blvd has consisted of single family houses and low-rise townhouses, with the exception of the low-rise commercial area between Kirkwood and N. Lincoln St. [1] The Lynnbrook townhouses north of 13th St. N. were the first to be built in Arlington and their height was restricted to 27’ in height to more closely conform to the characteristics of the neighborhood.

We are deeply concerned that Applicants’ combined proposals could add around 700 new units of multi-unit residential housing. We feel that such density north of Washington Blvd, over 1200 feet from the Metro, would be unprecedented in the Ballston corridor. In particular, we are worried about the effect that excessive density and mass on the South side of 13th St. and the East side of N. Kansas St. would have on the residences on the North side of 13th St. N and along N. Kansas and 12th Road N. [2]

We also feel that the transportation modeling needs significant rethinking. The neighborhood is served by neighborhood streets that connect major arterials. We seek transportation solutions that do not significantly increase auto traffic through the neighborhood and make it more difficult for bicycles, joggers, pedestrians and homeowners. Community observations indicate that the traffic volume along 13th Street N is already over 1750 trips per day, not the 1250 shown in the study.[3] The Arlington Master Transportation Plan identifies 1500 as the threshold for “low traffic volume” which it associates with single family development.[4] In this regard, we regret that all of the scenarios modeled on February 21st propose new roads connecting either Washington Boulevard with 12th Road N and 13th St. N (GLUP Scenario 3) or between Kirkwood and 12th Road N (GLUP Scenario 5). We strongly feel that the kind of bicycle and pedestrian connectivity that we favor is more consistent with the draft guiding principle articulated at the same meeting.[5]

Enhancing community services

Both the American Legion and the YMCA provide services to the entire Arlington community from their properties in the study area. The YMCA, in particular, received permission to build its facility on existing R5 land partly in consideration of the services it undertook to provide, which reduce the pressure on the County to provide a number of these services itself. [6] In light of this, the County should ensure that the proposals and applications remain consistent with the original understandings with the YMCA and that further development of that site be scaled to the actual financial needs of the proposed YMCA renovation and significantly enhance the range, quality, and quantity of the services provided. Among the mechanisms at the County’s disposal would be retaining the “Semi-Public” zoning on a portion of the property, making a specific note on the land use plan that would require any development on this site be contingent on significantly enhancing the delivery of such services, and reviewing site plans closely. Especially if concessions (including density and height bonuses) are made in recognition of the services that the YMCA and the American Legion provide, commitments should be obtained that this site will continue to be used to provide the services.

Finally, the community is aware of other projects outside the scope of the GLUP study that will have additional impacts on quality of life for residents, including the proposed purchase of the Buck property, the development of the Red Top Cab facility, and the possible placement of a new 1300 seat High School adjacent to the Washington-Lee campus.[7] Some recognition of these impacts should be incorporated into the decision-making process for the GLUP.

[1] Land Use Principle #1: The County should maintain the residential zoning between I-66 and Washington Boulevard between Glebe Road and Kirkwood. Changes in the existing R-5 and R-6 zones should be considered only for sites of exceptional quality and originality in transition areas (1984, p. 7)

[2] See the Draft Guiding Principle presented in the 02/17/17 LRPC meeting: Reinforce effective and harmonious transitions between the edge of the Virginia Square Metro Station and adjoining single family residential neighborhoods, and preserve the primarily residential character of neighborhood streets west and north of the site.

[3] 13th S. North is less than 30 feet wide at its narrowest point, which should qualify it as a “neighborhood minor” street, like N. Kansas and 12th Road North.

[4] Master Transportation Plan, Goals and Policies, (Feb 25, 2017), p.7. We could not find other County guidance on appropriate traffic volumes for residential neighborhoods, but publically available sources and other jurisdictions (Rockville, MD, Modesto, CA) posit 1000-2000 trips per day. See Annex 1 for sources.

[5] Encourage redevelopment that helps evolve this area from an automobile oriented development pattern to a pedestrian oriented mixed use place with exceptional quality projects appropriate for this transitional area.

[6] The recent Community Facility Study found that most of these services are in extremely short supply within Arlington and none of the other “Semi-Public” zoned areas along the Orange Line corridor could provide this array of services. This shortage will be exacerbated as the County grows.

[7] Recent news about the sale of the Casual Adventure property to a development consortium is also relevant.

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