The Arlington County Board gave preliminary approval recently to applications for $2.5 million in federal housing and community development grants to be used for neighborhood revitalization, housing improvements and emergency housing as well as several other projects in the county.
The funds, if the county's grant applications are approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, will be released for Fiscal Year 1979.
Community development grants are provided by HUD to local governments for housing and neighborhood improvements that principally benefit low and moderate-income residents. The grants may not be used to replace or supplement regular county expenditures.
The board closely followed suggestions from the county staff despite recent community pressure.
The Colonial Village Tenants Association had objected to the county staff's failure to recommend approval of a $25,000community development grant, which the tenants wanted to fund a study of the possibility of converting the apartment complex to a coop housing development.
The board approved grants totaling more than $1 million for public works improvements, upgrading recreational facilities and parking in the neighborhoods of Nauck, Colonial Terrace and Ballston. The board also gave preliminary approval to a $750,000 grant for use by the Arlington Housing Corporation to help repair houses that do not meet current county standards.
But the board asked the county staff to consider allocating more grant money for land acquisition to accommodate future low and moderate-income housing developments. The board also asked the staff to consider the possibility of earmaking some of the $219,000 in local option grant money included in the $2.5 million package for use in building an emergency housing facility, renovating a home for the physically handicapped and removing architectural barriers for the handicapped in four Arlington schools. These are all projects that would not be funded under the staff recommendations.
Approval of the grants was accepted by the board on a four to one vote, with Dorothy Grotos voting against the recommendations.
More than 15 people spoke in favor of the Colonial Village request at a recent public hearing on the grant package. John Reeder, chairman of the tenants association, said that since the apartment complex was sold several months ago to Mobil Land Development Corp., the tenants have lived in fear of an announcement that the complex will be redeveloped. Redevelopment probably would mean higher rents, out of reach for the low and moderate-income families living there, he said.
Reeder criticized the staff recommendation, saying the staff accepted too few requests that were citizen-initiated.
Although board member Joseph S. Wholey expressed considerable interest in stopping any possible development of Colonial Village, and even suggested once that Colonial Village be declared a historic district so that "not one brick can be moved," he questioned the need for a $25,000 grant. Wholey suggested that some of the money would not be needed if he tenants would volunteer to do much of the personal survey work instead of contracting with a private company.
Board Chairman John W. Purdy said the tenants association might be able to raise funds for the study by seeking contributions from the 2,000 residents in the complex. But several tenants said some residents could not afford to donate funds.
Robert Wheeler, chief of the county planning division, told the board he had met with Mobil representatives, and they had expressed no willingness to sell the apartments to the tenants.
The Colonial tenants, however, seemed determined to continue their work to ensure the future of the complex. Several tenants characterized Mobil as an industrial giant that the county would have trouble controlling if it wanted to develop the area.
"Low and moderate-(priced) garden apartments are an endangered species in this county. They are vanishing quickly," Lauren Fyfe, a Colonial tenant, told the board.
In the past, Arlington has received up to only $300,000 in community development grants, but a change in HUD population requirements for the program brought the sudden wealth this year.
Even the new money could not fund all the requests the board received, however. The privately initiated requests for grants, not including neighborhood revitalization projects, came to more than $2.4 million.
Final board approval of grant applications is scheduled for March 4. The board will then submit the applications to HUD for final approval of the projects.
In other action, the board agreed to spend $130,000 to build a supplementary sanitary sewer and metering gaugge on South Wakefield Street from Route 7 west.