Two of the County’s highest priorities are meeting the community’s needs for affordable housing and public schools. As part of the proposed FY2015-2024 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), the County Manager has identified eight publicly-owned sites with the greatest potential for future affordable housing development and three sites that could be redeveloped to meet school needs.
The Public Land for Public Good: Affordable Housing Report and the Public Land for Public Good: Schools Memo document the charge, methodology, analysis and recommendations.
Why Utilize Public Land for Public Good?
In a recent petition submitted by Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE) more than 10,000 people who either live or work in Arlington, called for action to support the community’s affordable housing needs. In response, the County Board directed the County Manger to identify three to five publicly-owned sites with the greatest potential for affordable housing development in the next 10 years. Read the December 2013 Charge from the County Board.
To address both of these challenges, County staff began an evaluation process to identify potential public land sites that could accommodate these priorities. A thorough and objective methodology was used to identify, analyze and recommend sites.
Will Recommended Sites Be Developed?
Recommended sites are not guaranteed to be developed or redeveloped. Before development can begin, each site will require significant analysis and community engagement. This may include:
- Community-based planning and zoning process
- Assessment of potential County needs for public facilities
- Evaluation of easements, covenants or other legal constraints
Staff used Geographic Information System (GIS) analysis to identify 678 publicly-owned parcels. Adjacent parcels under common ownership were grouped, resulting in 391 considered sites. Staff analyzed the parcels using criteria such as land area, environmental constraints, transit access and zoning to prioritize sites appropriate for affordable housing or schools.
Recommended Sites for Affordable Housing
An interdepartmental staff team with expertise in planning, urban design, affordable housing, real estate, parks and facilities reviewed an initial list of 24 housing sites. With their input, eight sites were determined to have the best potential for affordable housing development within a ten-year time frame.
Characteristics that best qualified sites for affordable housing development include:
- Transit access
- County Board ownership
- Land area sufficient for multi-family or townhouse development
- Located in GLUP Special Planning Areas
- Located in upcoming planning study areas (e.g. Courthouse Square, Shirlington/Four Mile Run)
- Included in the adopted FY 2013- FY 2022 Capital Improvement Program
- Identified for redevelopment as part of existing or proposed site plan projects
Characteristics that disqualified sites for affordable housing development:
- Site is smaller than ¼ acre
- All or most of the site is street right-of-way
- Site is oddly shaped with one or more dimensions that are too narrow to accommodate housing development
- Site has known environmental constraints that would be difficult to remediate
- Buildable portion of site is too small or oddly shaped after accounting for environmental features, such as streams and Resource Protection Areas, where development potential is limited
A Management Team consisting of senior staff and the County Manager prioritized the sites into 2 tiers. All Tier 1 sites are currently in the planning process. Tier 2 sites are identified in the CIP for future studies; the planning processes for these sites are not underway.
- Tier 1: Rosslyn Highlands Park/Fire Station #10; Courthouse Square and Plaza; Lee Gardens (North Woodbury Park); and Gables North Rolfe Street
- Tier 2: Fire Station #8; Edison complex; Lubber Run Park; and land adjacent to Jennie Dean Park.
Recommended Sites for Schools
Three potential sites were identified as most suitable for public schools.
Characteristics that best qualified sites:
- Transit access
- Land area greater than 3.5 acres
- An existing school site of at least 1 acre adjacent to County Board-owned property
- Located centrally within the County
For the potential affordable housing sites, current planning processes underway will consider the Tier 1 sites. For the Tier 2 and other sites, County staff will develop a timeline for a special planning study, which will include community discussion. The study will be developed as part of the annual review of the County’s Planning work program.
For the potential schools sites, a detailed timeline for a special planning study and/or a special exception process involving the community will be developed for each priority site.
The County is currently developing Public Land Site Evaluation Guidelines, which will set goals, evaluation criteria and a process for determining how to balance public priorities on County-held land. Community members can provide their feedback on an initial draft that will guide upcoming land use studies through October 31, 2014.