Watch: Special LVCA Meeting on Lee Highway Plan

Watch: Special LVCA Meeting on Lee Highway Plan
County representatives encountered over 100 angry residents at LVCA’s recent virtual meeting on the Lee Hwy Study. The study proposed rezoning all of LV north of 18th St for commercial and high-rise development. Despite it all, we want to thank Paul Holland, Chairman of the Plan Lee Highway Community Forum and Leon Vignes of Arlington County Planning Staff for patiently facing our 2-1/2 hour pummeling.

Intro & Slide Presentation by Paul Holland (20:00)

Initial Questions by LVCA President, John Carten (14:40)

1) Surprised to see the study veering off from the Lee Hwy, digging deep into the neighborhood.
2) You accuse us of not being active, we were active. We feel blowed off.
3) What do you see as the benefits of the plan? We see no benefits.
4) Do you know that the area you want to up-zone is part of a historic district?
5) LV is getting development pressure on all four sides.
6) This plan provides incetive to demolish homes north of 18th St.
7) This plan is inconsistent with current county policy.
8) Why not stick to properties along Lee Hwy that are already zoned for more intensive use.

Your webmaster thinks the answers to John’s questions were evasive and misleading. Some answers were later challenged during the resident’s Q&A. Judge for yourself.

This is an audio file because the video just shows the title slide.

Resident’s Questions
The discussion was excellent and many important points were raised by your neighbors. To make it easier to take it all in the recording is divided into 3 chunks about 30 minutes each so you can listen a little at a time. The start time for each resident’s comments is indicated and some key points paraphrased. Any errors in this transcription are entirely the fault of your webmaster. You are welcome to cuss me out.

Resident’s Questions Part 1 (34:16)

0:24 Christine (18th St)
● Would “devalue” our property values.
● Population estimates are often overestimates.
● Will vote out board members who support this.
● Post COVID, people are moving out of near suburbs.
● Why not focus on Lee Hwy?

3:16 John (18th St)
● What is the driving motivation for this initiative?
● Where is the development pressure coming from? Developers?

6:12 Eric (Calvert St)
Eric has worked on development projects worldwide.
● Increasing density will slow travel on Lee Hwy (already a problem).
● Will traffic studies consider post-COVID reality, not pre-COVID?
● Asked for a Scenario C that focuses on Lee Hwy.
● Asked Paul if he has a conflict of interest, a financial interest.

9:99 Ned (Barton St)
● Appalled at “steamrolling” tactics
● Keep Lee Hwy on Lee Hwy, not intrude into LV

11:45 Beth (Danville near 18th)
● Do you see LV continuing to exist?
● You are pretending like this is an open process, every time you speak it is sounding less and less like it is an open process. It sounds like you have already made up your mind and are just defending it. “You are not listening to us!”
● PH tries to blame LV’s representative for lack of input. Starts to argue with LVCA president, John.

19:53 Jen (18th & Barton)
● Shortsighted to give up small lots already suitable for “missing middle” single-family houses.
● Overreach. No need shown for digging into neighborhoods.
● You ask for feedback and then lecture us why our feedback is wrong.
● Your feedback form is not a good platform for feedback.

24:06 Tom (Highland & 18th)
● Lee Hwy has many small businesses providing essential services.
● Has significant affordable housing.
● Proposal will turn Lee Hwy into a high-rent district.
● County will need to subsidize housing to make it affordable.
● We have something that naturally works, why knock it down?

28:28 Julie (Franklin & Filmore)
● Any consideration that middle of pandemic not a good time for long range plans.
● What is name of the consultant that is working on this? (AECOM in Clarendon)
● In the recent RPP revision it was clear (similar to this process) the deck was stacked. There is a lack of trust in this process.
● Need more than even the third scenario that we’ve just asked for.

Resident’s Questions Part 2 (29:40)

0:00 Melissa (18th & Brian)
● Seems that developers/corporations have had an outsized voice in this.
● How can residents get more of a voice in this process?

01:43 Unidentified male
● Is there anybody in the government looking out for the interests of the residents?
● You are coming in with a plan representing someone else’s interests.

4:06 John (Danville & 21st)
John is the former tech director of a metropolitan planning organization.
● Many of these recommendations are common in the planning profession. Called “New Urbanism.” Tends to not be a balanced approach.
● What kind of conversation have you had with VDOT about narrowing Lee Hwy?
● Using WashCOG figures this would be a substantial change in the transportation plan which may change the air quality plan as well. This would require an environmental assessment.
● There is no analysis of the implications of the proposed zoning changes.
John makes a detailed critique of the way the County is conducting the analysis.
● A proper micro-analysis impact study that this plan requires is a $500,000, 3-year project. Going with a “back of the envelope calculation” is unconscionable.

13:05 Paul (Danville & 18th)
● This plan does not consider the needs of older residents.
● Many residents want to stay in place.
● We made a big investment in modifying our house for our old age.

16:01 Bill Gherhart (LVCA Board Member)
● Is such great change to single-family housing being proposed in any other part of the Lee Hwy corridor?
● Challenges PH: If you say you are not changing the zoning then what is the purpose of changing the GLUP? If you change the GLUP (General Land Use Plan) then rezoning is a matter of right and will be upheld in court. PH admits that he previously mis-spoke.
● Is there a precedent of the county supporting designation of a historic district and then later supporting demolishing the district?

23:19 Laurel (Adams between Lee & 18th)
● Just renovated my house, now your plan will demolish it. Many neighbors in similar situation.
● Does not see any rational for this plan.
● AECOM (planning contractor) obviously does not know Arlington well.
● Lee Hwy can be cleaned up without these drastic measures.

Resident’s Questions Part 3 (28:21)

0:00 David (18th & Danville)
● Has the study considered any option that does not increase density?
● Increasing density seems to be baked into the study.
● Moved here so his child will have good quality of life, this proposal will cause years of construction around us.
● Plan will result in increased taxes, eventually forcing me out of the neighborhood.
● Why does the study go so far beyond Lee Hwy?
This plan looks like it is being pushed by the needs of out-of-town private equity, not the social goals the study claims to be about.

4:50 Miles (Adams & Key)
● The County has been locating affordable housing in certain areas.
● This has a terrible negative impact on schools: not enough seats in the east and over capacity in the west.
● Also has a negative impact of diversity in the schools.
Sees no consideration of schools, equity & diversity in the plan.

9:06 Daniel (18th St)
● Sees basic unfairness of the plan and the process.
● Why the rush? Why conclude 1Q2022?
A plan that impacts 100s of homes, $100,000,000s needs more care.
● Plan is based on a series of assertions that are not clearly defined.

13:25 Mat (Brian between Lee & 18th)
● What is really the goal of this plan?
● The goal of the plan seems to be to hand over as much land as possible to developers.

● Without an environmental assessment we have no idea of what the consequences of the plan will be.

17:17 Paul’s Recap.

19:40 Some short comments from several residents.

24:50 Mike (18th & Bryan)
● Insufficient contact with the community.

27:10 John Carten says goodnight.