A heated neighborhood dispute about whether a developer should be allowed to build a house on a “pipestem” lot in the middle of an Arlington County block, surrounded on all sides by other houses, came to a quiet end Saturday.
Arlington Designer Homes Inc. and the Leeway Overlee Civic Association ended months of disagreements Saturday by compromising, after the County Board warned in December that the neighbors could not completely stop construction.
“Once it became clear ... that something would be built on the site and that compromises had to be made by both sides, my clients resigned themselves to continuing to work with county staff and the developer to attempt to mitigate the potential impacts of a new house,” attorney Aristotelis Chronis said.
Builder Andrew Moore agreed. “It’s going to be a great project for me. It’s a different architectural style than we had, but it’s going to be a great home for someone,” he said.
A pipestem lot is a parcel, usually behind an existing home, that has a long, narrow access from the street that then opens into a square in the back yard of the street-fronting home. It sits amidst other back yards. There are about 20 others in the area, which were allowed by a zoning law from the 1950s but are no longer being allowed.
However, the property at 2615 N. Nottingham St. had been zoned in 1969, when such developments still were allowed. About a year ago the owners of the street-fronting house sold the lot, and by the fall the neighborhood was in an uproar. Angry residents filled the County Board’s public hearing on the matter in November and returned in December. The board members pointed out that the law was clear and urged both sides to meet with the county’s planning staff to seek a compromise.
Both parties agreed to the construction of a smaller home and separate garage, which further reduced the height and width of the home. The side yard was set at 12 feet wide, and the developer promised to screen the property with trees and fences, and improve the stormwater drainage as well installing a green roof.
County Board members declared the agreement proof that their process works.
“This isn’t exactly what anybody wanted, but it’s something everybody can live with,” said board member Chris Zimmerman.
“Third time’s the charm,” added board member Walter Tejada.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am today that this isn’t going on four hours, or days, more,” said board member Jay Fisette. “This sets a good tone and standard for how this can be worked on for those 20 remaining pipestem parcels.”