The Arlington County Board approved a development plan for the East Falls Church area at Saturday’s meeting despite objections from residents.
The East Falls Church Area Plan, which is a guide for future developers, includes plans to redevelop 10 sites near the East Falls Church Metro station into a mix of residential, retail and public spaces. Under the plan, pedestrian walkways and biking paths connecting to the Metro will be added, and building heights will be limited at nine stories. A building up to nine stories tall is recommended as a Metro park-and-ride transit hub.
Proponents argue that the plan is needed to set limits before the Metro Silver Line cuts through the community and drives development. Opponents fear their suburban lifestyle will turn into an urban mess.
“This nine-story building is going to be an eyesore for the project and fundamentally changes the character of the neighborhood,” said Peter Mucchetti, a resident living near the site.
Mucchetti and others argued that during the four-year planning process, county staff and those planning the site did not listen to community concerns.
Critics said that the Virginia Department of Transportation, which owns significant portions of the land and is not in favor of the project, and a local veterinary hospital have no intention to move from their properties at any time soon.
The rising costs of fuel and the increasing value of land near transit could influence the state to sell the property, although there is “no assurance” of that in the future, said Chris Zimmerman (D), chairman of the Arlington County Board.
“I think we are all better off if we think we have a plan that is compatible” with the community’s needs, he said.
A neighborhood task force developed a plan over three years and presented it to the county last summer. The county then held several public work sessions over eight months, said Richard Tucker, a county planner.
As a result of those efforts, the plan now includes 100 parking spaces more than the task force’s plan, flexibility for retail space locations, a target of up to 250 affordable housing units and the goal of getting a historic designation for a building associated with the Washington & Old Dominion Trail, he said.
A “number of edits” were made to the adopted plan out of community concern, he said, but not every comment led to a change.
“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” said board member Barbara A. Favola (D). “I think we are much better off having a plan than not. It is up to us to . . . set a framework . . . and manage a change.”