June 12, 2017
While most area residents are focused on political developments in Washington over which they have little influence, there are developments in Arlington that voters can do something about–site plan developments that is.
Since the beginning of 2016, County Board together with the Planning Commission chaired by my Democratic opponent have approved a dozen major site plan development projects grossing almost 6 million square feet of new floor space. This amounts to 3,400 new apartments and almost 5,600 additional parking spaces.
All this new construction will obviously have major impacts on traffic, school enrollment, and contention for parks, transit and other public amenities. But don’t tell that to that to the County Board and Planning Commission, which rubber stamped each of these deals on the recommendation of County staff.
To hear County staff tell it, the impact of massive new apartment complexes on schools will be minimal, because most enrollment comes from single family homes not apartment buildings. That’s funny. Last Friday afternoon dozens of kids from Kenmore MS piled onto the ART bus I took from Ballston to Columbia Pike, and virtually all of them got off the bus at the apartment complexes on South 7th Road.
A more telling number is the County’s estimate that students at the redeveloped Berkeley Apartments on South Glebe Road will increase by only 18 from 79 to 97 even though the number of units will increase by 120 from 137 to 257. The only way doubling the number of units would not double the number of students is if the developer constructed a cloister rather than a complex.
But the enrollment crisis pales by comparison with the traffic nightmare likely to descend on Arlington streets as a result of development “on steroids”. Consider that at 2.5 million square feet, the new Rosslyn Plaza Phased Development project near Lee Highway and Lynn Street will house 550 residential units, 200 hotel rooms and 2,168 parking spaces in an area that is arguably the most congested neighborhood in the county. Arlington itself is one of the most densely populated counties in the U.S.
The congestion in Rosslyn is already so severe that traffic routinely slows to a crawl over Key Bridge during rush hour. But that doesn’t phase County planners who counter that congestion will clog major intersections with or without development.
That’s right. The 750 Glebe project with 491 luxury apartments, a 733 space parking garage, and supermarket will not make the intersection of Wilson Blvd. and North Glebe Road any more congested than it is now.
Nor will the 365 unit apartment building, 604 space parking garage and supermarket at the site of the recently displaced Food Star make the intersection of George Mason Drive and Columbia Pike any more congested than now.
The County evidently is so confident that the new Penzance development in West Rosslyn with 891 housing units and 1,050 parking spaces next door to a new 750 seat high school, will not add more congestion to Wilson Blvd, that it didn’t even submit a traffic impact analysis report with its request for a use permit for the project in February, 2017.
If you agree with my opponent that new developments approved during his tenure at the Planning Commission will not have major traffic impacts, then I recommend you take a spin down Washington Blvd. between Ballston and East Falls Church during rush hour. But please do it before tolling goes in effect on a parallel stretch of I-66 or you may not make it home in time for dinner.
Unlike the Planning Commission chaired by my Democratic opponent that never saw a developer it didn’t like, I will, if elected, demand a fiscal impact analysis for every major site plan development project to determine objectively whether the project actually benefits County taxpayers.
If elected, I also pledge to:
- seek ongoing tax relief for residents and businesses and stop the exodus of federal agencies from Arlington.
- Preserve green space and emphasize basic services like: streets, schools, libraries and public safety.
- Promote transparency by requiring publication of official documents at least 72 hours before board and commission meetings.
- Provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers.
As a 13-year Westover resident and long-time civic activist–with a Ph.D. in political science and service as a Congressional Fellow–I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.
To find out more about my campaign, visit
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Together we can make the “Arlington Way” more than an empty phrase.