Washington Business Journal Trumpets Sale of Rouse Estate

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, December 11, 2021.

You may have heard the news that the site of the demolished Rouse estate has been sold to an out of state REIT for $26.7 million. The current plan is to construct 9 McMansions on the 9.5 acre grounds where an architecturally significant farm house and historic Civil War encampment once stood.

Depressing as this sounds to civilized people everywhere, it’s even more unsettling to read Washington Business Journal’s narrative of County Board’s role in facilitating the destruction of the Rouse estate.

According to Alex Koma “county leaders gave serious thought to enacting zoning restrictions to prevent private development there. But the county couldn’t act quickly enough to prevent the demolition of the historic buildings on the property.”

Actually the County sat for twelve years on the recommendation of its own consultant to declare the estate historic. It agreed to conduct a hearing on the matter only after local preservationist, Tom Dickinson, submitted a citizen’s petition for local historic designation. When the April, 2021 hearing date arrived, the mansion had already been demolished and Dickinson himself had been denied the right to express his outrage at a previous meeting. At the hearing County Board added insult to injury by voting against historic designation for the site.

Koma excused the County for “reasoning there wasn’t much left to preserve now that the structures were gone.”

This isn’t right. Recently the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust celebrated the success of its Save the River Farm Campaign through a donation of $1 million by Marcia Zech and her husband to preserve the historic River Farm. Arlingtonians could have enjoyed the same success had they elected leaders committed to historic preservation.