No to Church Rezoning
The Arlington County Board will soon be hearing a redevelopment and zoning change request from the First Baptist Church of Clarendon on North Highland Street.
Due to financial and maintenance issues, the church's members want to tear down almost all of the 50-year-old brick building. It would be replaced with a 10-story modern glass apartment building, with the church occupying the first two floors. The church proposes that its steeple be retained, but the newer building would loom behind it.
This is an odd, unattractive mix of architecture that would dominate and shadow its single-family neighbors. The design sets a new low for our Lyon Village/Clarendon community and for Arlington County as a whole. If this project is approved, the church's beautiful steeple would stand as a lonely monument to what used to be. It would stand as a reminder that our Clarendon community has lost another aspect of its charm and character.
This project sets a dangerous rezoning precedent for all Arlington neighborhoods. In order to proceed, the County Board would have to rezone the church's land from its present standing as a low-story buffer for its single-family neighbors. It would be rezoned to that of a higher-density commercial development. Are the rights of single-family homes in Arlington (a major tax base) going to be ignored in favor of intrusive development?
Who would ever have imagined that a church that has graced our neighborhood for so many years, a recognized landmark in the community, could be rezoned, razed and redeveloped into a tall apartment building? We understand that times and circumstances change, that sites get redeveloped, but to go from a church to a tall apartment building is quite a leap. All Arlington neighborhoods should be alarmed that the board would even consider rezoning the church and that this project was not rejected outright. Is your neighborhood next?
The project would also set a rezoning precedent affecting all the unique small shops and restaurants along Wilson Boulevard. These buildings are also zoned as low-rise buffers to the single-family homes they neighbor and are the soul of Clarendon's urban village feel. Eventually, these properties could face high-density redevelopment if a rezoning precedent is set.
This is a countywide issue, not just another overdevelopment problem for Clarendon to face alone. We should all oppose the high-density redevelopment proposed for the First Baptist Church of Clarendon site.
The Myth of Metro
Arlington County has made the availability of low-cost Metro transportation a centerpiece of its Rosslyn-Ballston Metro corridor development policy. The problem is that this policy may be based upon a misconception. At present, it may take 20 to 30 minutes to get on the Orange Line at the Clarendon and Courthouse stations during rush hour.
Forecasts reveal that the problem will only worsen until six-car trains become a reality (the six-car alternative is not funded and no implementation timetable has been set). Even if Metro starts using six-car trains, forecasts show that similar congestion will occur again in 2008 at both Clarendon and Courthouse and by 2009 at the Rosslyn station. It is also important to note that these forecasts do not include the possibility that the Orange Line will be taking on additional passengers from Tysons Corner and the Dulles Airport area.
The ill-conceived Rosslyn Ridge II project at North Pierce and North 16th streets (across from Hillside Park) is an example of Arlington County's policy to promote Metro-corridor building on the myth of unlimited Metro capacity. Rosslyn Ridge II doubles the density now allowed on its site (which is only seven-10ths of an acre) and the developer is asking that the number of required on-site parking spaces be reduced because it is close (about a half-mile) to the Metro.
It is time for the Arlington County Board to look at and acknowledge reality instead of using the "easy distance to Metro" as an excuse to create a human warehouse district.
Board members should focus on how to take the pressure off Metro by following the zoning requirements and should stop trying to aid developers by taking density from a park to create an oversize apartment building.
Roxanne W. Cheney