Arlington’s Housing Conservation District: A Cruel Joke

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting on March 17,2018.

On December 16, 2017 Arlington County Board adopted a Housing Conservation District (HCD) zoning overlay that effectively declared a moratorium on demolition of garden apartments in Westover and elsewhere in the County until a policy could be worked out providing landlords with incentives to preserve the buildings rather than demolish them.

In February tenants of 5709 and 5715 10th Road North located in the HCD learned from County officials that the moratorium did not spare them from eviction. They all must get out as per notices received from the landlord on January 31, 2018.

On March 9, 2018 the Westover Village Civic Association newsletter quoted a Senior Housing Planner responsible for the Housing Conservation Districts [Russell Danao-Schroeder] to the effect that the developers had filed some paperwork prior to adoption of the HCD ordinance.

I have since learned from an inside source that a “civil engineering site plan” was approved on December 15, 2017. Therefore in the opinion of the County Attorney the demolition of 10th Road garden apartments is not subject to the requirements of the HCD ordinance.

This raises some questions. Which County office approved the engineering plan? How could it have been approved absent the existence of an actual site plan? And how can it supersede the demolition permit application and resubdivision plat, both of which were submitted after the HCD went into effect?

Also why has the neighborhood been kept in the dark about the engineering document for three full months? Developers’ plans should be a matter of public record not personal speculation.

It appears to me that the County has engineered a loophole that will liberate the landlord responsible for all Westover demolitions to date from the moratorium on further demolitions. Certainly HCDs, as currently implemented by the County are the cruelest kind of fraud on those most in need of housing that’s truly affordable.