Arlington County government promotes itself as a leader in protecting the environment, but its commitment been compromised by the adoption of “Smart Growth” as its principal planning paradigm.
Smart Growth signifies high density development along transit corridors as an alternative to suburban sprawl. While Smart Growth has encouraged the development of walkable, bikeable communities, there have been major impacts, including:
- overcrowded schools, and
- loss of green space throughout the County.
County Board routinely papers over these impacts, preferring doublespeak and credit claiming to meaningful action.
For example, long time Arlington civic activist Suzanne Sundburg recently reported the loss of over 900 mature trees at 9 development sites on County owned land between 2014 and 2018, as well as the loss of many more trees on maintenance project sites, for which the County has provided no data.
But the impacts are not limited to County owned property. In August, 2018 the County permitted the demolition of a 75 year old state champion Dawn redwood in North Arlington to appease a developer intent on tearing it down to make way for new home construction. Because the development was “by right” the County insisted that it had to permit the demolition, despite the fact that the tree was located in a resource protection area governed by the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, which proscribes redevelopments of this type in Chesapeake Bay watersheds.
In effect the County was insisting on its right to sacrifice green space in the name of “Smart Growth”.
Smart Growth as presently understood will replace residential neighborhoods with upper middle class slums. Most of us know we can’t afford the rent in the R-B corridor high rises already. What we don’t appreciate is that we can’t afford the impacts of Smart Growth either. Enter the Campaign for a Greener Arlington.