S3-A Zoning Districts: An example of County Board Overreach

Comments at December 10, 2016 Arlington County Board Meeting on lifting restrictions on S-3A zoning districts, which County Board voted unanimously to adopt.

I want to associate myself with a recommendation sent to County Board on November 1 by longtime CivFed leader Suzanne Sundburg. In asking County Board to defer action on County staff’s request to rezone S-3A zoning districts, i.e. schools and parks, Sundburg said:

“It is inadvisable to weaken zoning regulations for S‐3A districts (which includes both public parkland and Arlington Public School properties) based on the mistaken belief that other breaks/controls in the regulatory system and use permit process actually work as expected. They do not. In practice, staff members find ways to circumvent restrictions they view as impediments to their plans. The many competing policies and toothless regulations in place easily enable staff to justify doing almost anything within S-3A zoning districts, no matter how counterproductive or unwise. And County Board members typically rely on and approve whatever staff recommends.
“Height is closely related to density with respect to development. In essence, the removal of the building height restrictions from S‐3A zoning would allow buildings of unlimited density (and height) to be built on S-3A sites. Likewise, the removal of setback requirements from S‐3A zoning would allow unlimited site coverage.”

A likely environmental impact is flooding of flood prone areas in South Arlington, as Sundburg pointed out. Another impact is degradation of our quality of life.

Consider, for example, the garish, oversized, barn-like McMansions that recently replaced one of the County’s few remaining wooded areas at the intersection of Washington Blvd. and George Mason Drive. These by right monstrosities built cheek by jowl on what was once a rustic wooded lot have destroyed shade and a carbon sink, induced runoff, deprived others of quiet enjoyment, and diminished Arlington’s suburban character.

Incidentally this eye sore development on Washington Blvd. was constructed by Evergreene Homes, the same outfit that tore down the first set of garden apartment buildings in Westover Village in 2014 and replaced them with luxury town homes.

If developers can so quickly lay waste to Arlington’s private greenspace, consider what will happen to Arlington’s remaining public greenspace if S-3A restrictions are eliminated?

2 comments on “S3-A Zoning Districts: An example of County Board Overreach

  1. December 18, 2016 Bruce Harmon

    What are s-3A restrictions? How can you possibly expect any normal citizen to have the remotest idea of what you’re talking about, of whether S-3A restrictions are a good or bad thing? No wonder people don’t participate in government, when it’s conducted in the arcane lingo of bureaucrats.

    • January 8, 2017 Audrey

      Thanks for your feedback. As pointed out in the second sentence of the blog, S-3A zoning districts include schools and parks.

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