Leaders of two Arlington churches are opposing a plan to build 28 town houses on three acres between the churches, saying the development would create too much noise and traffic in the largely residential neighborhood of Arlington Forest.
The Arlington Forest United Methodist Church, which has 700 members, and the Arlington Assembly of God Church, which has 500 members, are seeking to block the rezoning of the triangular-shaped property, which is bounded by Arlington Boulevard, North Pershing Drive and North Henderson Road.
The lot, owned by Land Co. Limited, currently is zoned for up to 19 single-family detached homes or town houses. Land Co., a subsidiary of the Klingbeil Co., best known for its involvement with the nearby Buckingham Apartments, is seeking rezoning that would permit 28 town houses to be built on the land. The town houses are expected to sell for $125,000 to $150,000 each, according to Martin D. Walsh, an attorney for Land Co.
Walsh said the company had wanted to build 60 parking spaces at the unpaved, empty lot, although the county planning staff recommended 70. Walsh and the planning staff predict a compromise of about 66 spaces.
Under an informal agreement with the owners, parishioners from the Assembly of God Church have voluntarily maintained the property, which the church has used for parking in past years.
The Rev. J. Wade Munford, pastor of the Arlington Forest United Methodist Church, said the property "gives us a natural barrier between some things and gives the two churches more space. . . . We wouldn't oppose it if single-family homes were being built, but we are concerned about the county's reducing standards in terms of living space and parking standards."
Walsh, however, contends that a town house project on the land would provide a "good transitional use and the impact on the churches is going to be absolutely minimal." His contention is backed up by county planner Robert Brosnan, who said in a report to the Arlington Planning Commission that the project would provide a natural transition between the single-family houses on one side of the churches and the Chatham condominiums and Culpeper Garden nursing home on the other side.
Church members and some nearby residents do not agree, however, and 46 residents have signed a petition against the planned complex, which would be known as Green Oaks. They plan to take their fight to the County Board at a hearing Saturday.
At a county Planning Commission meeting last week, only five of 13 commission members attended--two members short of a quorum. As a result, planner William Thomas said, the commission is making no recommendation on the issue.
Dick Nichols, a member of the Assembly of God Church, said he tried last summer to persuade the developer to donate the land to the churches and, failing that, asked about a possible purchase. Nichols said he was told the property was not for sale.
Nichols said the pastor of the Assembly of God Church, the Rev. Rich Neubauer, "has a vision for that land. He said he wants to do something with it to further God's kingdom." Neubauer could not be reached for comment.
"Both churches would have liked to have bought the land, but it wasn't for sale," added Archie Griest, chairman of the Methodist Church board of directors. "And I don't know if we could buy it now because of the price of land in Arlington County."