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Arlington County: Deny Zoning Exception Allowing High Rise on 11th St N & N Vermont Street

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We request that you DENY the proposal for special use exception to change the zoning on 11th Street North and North Vermont Street from Low-Medium Residential to High-Medium Residential Mixed-Use to prevent several negative consequences to the immediately surrounding Ballston area and the broader Arlington communities.

Specifically, we ask that the zoning committee and county board not approve a deviation from the current zoning designations to a much higher density of development and instead maintain the current, well thought-out zoning plan to avoid:

  •  increasing the traffic problems in the already highly congested Ballston area (Glebe & Fairfax and proximate streets and main thorough fares),
  • exacerbating the overcrowding in the Arlington Public Schools (Washington-Lee HS, etc.),
  • clearly deviating from and frustrating the existing plan and layout of a graduated reduction in heights and density in transitioning from the metro rail stations, a detrimental precedent to establish for existing neighborhoods and residents, and
  • introducing significant more disruption, potential physical damage, and nuisance to the closely surrounding residents that comes from heavy machinery, pile driving and heavy construction compared with the lighter construction associated with the current zoning.

 

Exacerbation of the Already Highly Congested Traffic Patterns:  The proposed location sits in an already highly congested traffic area and intersection, particularly during rush hour periods when condo or apartment dwellers in the proposed high-rise would also be traveling.  Placing a high–rise building with significantly increased density and its many more people on this corner adds exponentially to this congestion.  Metro trains are already so overfull on the orange line that riders in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor frequently must let numerous trains packed to capacity pass before they can even board during peak travel times. And, the intersections of Glebe and Fairfax and Glebe and Wilson are among the busiest and most congested in Arlington. 

 The re-design of the Ballston mall, and the already existing approval for a new 409 unit high-rise residential tower only a few blocks from the location of this request for an exception to build yet another high-rise, but this one outside the zoning plan will undoubtedly tax the streets and metro ridership beyond their already busting seams. Over the last 10 years, Arlingtonians have watched the streets become filled with cars. The major thorough fares of Route 50, I-66, and 395 are at a standstill for several hours each morning with the same thing happening each evening, if not continuously throughout the day. More traffic jams, more cars on the road, more pollution from traffic congestion and a less desirable community for Arlingtonians to work and play in exchange for one developer’s profits is not sound city planning.  It’s not consistent with the “Arlington Way”.

https://www.washingtonpost com/news/dr-gridlock/wp/2016/ 01/21/traffic-study-shows-why- i-66-is-a-mess/?utm_term=. 1747328849ae

 http://wtop.com/sprawl-crawl/ 2015/11/study-three-nations- worst-bottlenecks-northern- virginia/

Further Overcrowding of Beyond Capacity Arlington Public Schools: Approving this special exception to significantly up the density of the site will exacerbate the already emergency-state of overcrowding in the Arlington Public Schools including Washington-Lee High School. On December 1, 2016, the APS Board, in what was commonly referred to as an emergency measure, redefined Arlington’s high school boundaries to address overcrowding at Washington-Lee High School, shifting an estimated 342 students from Washington-Lee to Yorktown and Wakefield. The Washington-Lee facility can no longer accommodate the growing student population as it exceeds 110% of its capacity. 

Even after the boundary shift, Washington-Lee remains over its 100% capacity. According to APS estimates, from 2017-2026, Washington-Lee alone is projected to grow from 2,391 to 3,127 students which is a 30% increase over 10 years on top of an already maxed out system.  In that time period, all 3 high schools will be well over 110% capacity and will require relocatable classrooms, a detrimental development for the education of students across the county.  The situation is the same or worse at the elementary and middle school levels.  That dire and resource- stressed situation already exists under the current zoning, without pumping new students beyond the zoning plan into the system – something inevitable from the proposed request for a much higher density high-rise. 

 http://www.apsva.us/wp content/uploads/2016/12/ FallProjections17-26_Final_ Web.pdf

 An Unnecessary Deviation From the Existing Plan and Layout for Arlington and This Neighborhood:  The original design plan for Arlington included high-density buildings to be on Fairfax while inside the block, including the 11th Street North and North Vermont Street address location, to be low density residential.  This was the plan for the area for decades and residents relied on that plan when making purchases. Importantly, this graduated plan of decreasing density and height ensures Arlington continues its growth with a strategic plan that has accounted for the interests of the community, and not just developer profits.

Additionally, 11th Street North is currently lined with townhomes.  The placement of a high-medium residential condo building simply does not fit with the rest of the block.  When driving around this specific area, the planned and fully-executed tapering down of the buildings as they move closer to the street is apparent.  WestView, the building adjacent to and directly south of the parcel in question as seen in the picture above, and other neighboring blocks are perfect examples of this.  The varied and deescalating heights for different parts of the building as you move to the north (toward 11th street) and away from the core of Ballston. 

The approval of an increase in density – to high-medium residential condo - would frustrate and disrupt this plan, providing for a skyline with choppy appearance inconsistent with the rest of the buildings in that area and the smooth transition plan. 

Construction Hazards and Issues if Special Exception Approved:  If approved, the construction project for a high-rise versus townhomes would likely create additional challenges with the massive equipment needed down the already congested street. 

THEREFORE, in light of the above and other concerns, we ask the decision-makers to please deny the request for an increase in density at the proposed site and instead maintain the current zoning plan, one which was well thought-out to balance the long term interests of Arlingtonians and the Ballston community over developer profits.

 



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