The on-again, off-again development of property behind the historic Glebe House in Arlington is on again.
Early last month, local developer Preston C. Caruthers sold an acre of land behind the house to Jon Luria, president of Luria Construction Co. Luria said he plans to build 10 town houses on the land and hopes to begin construction in December and have the houses built and sold within a year.
Town house construction behind Glebe House, located in a quiet residential neighborhood in North Arlington near Wakefield and N. 17th streets, has been an emotional issue for hundreds of Arlington residents, particularly for those who live nearby.
A portion of the Glebe House dates to 1775 when it was built as a minister's rectory for the Fairfax Parish during the time that George Washington was a parish vestryman.
Caruthers said he bought the house and two-acre grounds in an effort to guarantee preservation of the dwelling. "I only went into it to help resolve the situation of keeping that historical unique home," he said.
In June 1983, Caruthers won approval from the Arlington County Board to construct 10 town houses on the acre behind the house. At the same time, he promised to renovate the house and lease it to the National Genealogical Society, which he has done.
But last summer, Caruthers announced that he might not proceed with the town house project after all and some opponents to the plan felt optimistic that the land might be preserved.
That feeling of optimism died last week when the sale was revealed.
"I'm so tremendously disappointed," said David Martin, president of the Waverly Hills Civic Association, who helped resurrect the defunct group to fight the development. "The last I heard . . . . I was led to believe that Caruthers thought the best thing to do was a park. I'm absolutely flabbergasted."
Luria said he plans to build the same 10 town houses that Caruthers won County Board approval for last year. He said the houses, which will be built in five groups of two, will be all brick with slate roofs. "It's only going to enhance the neighborhood," he said.
But that's not the way the neighbors see it.
"I think the houses will destroy the neighborhood," said Adrienne Chute, who has opposed the development from the beginning. "They're going to look much too crowded," she added.
County Board member John Milliken, who was the only board member to vote against the town house proposal last year, said he thinks the houses will be "inappropriate to the neighborhood."
He said he thinks 10 houses are too many for one acre and objects to the fact that the houses will have their backs to the existing homes in the area. "It's sort of like wagons circled at the top of Glebe Hill," he said.