No Cost Benefit Analysis For WRAPS Plan

Comments on the West Rosslyn Area Plan Study (WRAPS) at Arlington County Board Meeting on February 25, 2017.

The WRAPS project is promoted by County staff as a great deal for Rosslyn. With developer Penzance underwriting the cost of a new fire station, a new cross street, a new park and a ground lease on County property worth millions of dollars, what’s not to like about it?

Well, for one thing the park to be constructed occupies only a portion of the original Rosslyn-Highlands Park, and this space will be shared by at least 1,000 additional residents in two high rises to be constructed on the site. The fire station will share a building with residents of 330 apartments in one of the towers. Residents here and the 560 units in the apartment building next door will compete with 775 students of the adjacent new Wilson School for short term parking, recreational facilities, pedestrian access and public transit.

The real problem with this development is the lack of a cost benefit analysis. The staff report mentions the new cross street as though that alone will remediate the congestion incidental to 1,050 new parking spaces. It insists that 892 new units will generate only 34 students, a student generation factor that is ridiculous even by APS standards. The Fire Department is good with both the new fire and temporary stations. So public safety is not an issue. There has been no attempt to bolster this rosy scenario with hard numbers.

In July, 2016 County Board signed off on a ground lease with Penzance, evidently ignorant of its precise dollar value, because there is no mention in the lease of the rent Penzance will pay.

I did a calculation based on a formula provided in the lease, which indicates that the County will get the equivalent of $10.7 million in rent over the next fifty years. This strikes me as a paltry payment for a fifty year lease. But if this calculation is wrong, don’t look at me. Look at County Board for rubber stamping yet another done deal sight unseen.