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Arlington County Civic Federation

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Resolution of the Arlington County Civic Federation:
on Lot Coverage Amendment

The following resolution was passed by the Arlington County Civic Federation by a margin of 17 to 6 at the April 23rd Special Meeting.


Whereas the Arlington County Board in 2001 directed the Zoning Ordinance Review Committee (ZORC) of the Planning Commission, as part of a review of the various elements in the zoning code that affect new residential development, to "´┐Żanalyze options to control the impacts of new residential development on one-family residential neighborhoods, in response to the many concerns raised about recent infill residential development";

Whereas a modified September 2004 ZORC proposal, which would apply to all new construction and improvements to residential lots in the County, including all additions to existing houses, was before the County Board for advertising at the Board's December 11, 2004, meeting;

Whereas the County Manager, at the County Board meeting of December 11, 2004, in response to concerns expressed by potentially affected residents, recommended that the County Board advertise an amendment of more limited scope, which would apply the ZORC lot coverage limitations only to new houses and to expansions of existing houses that, inter alia, exceed 100% of the footprint of an existing house; and whereas the County Board deferred the matter to its February 12, 2005, meeting;

Whereas the Arlington County Civic Federation (ACCF) has followed this matter closely over the years, and held a special forum on an earlier version of the ZORC lot coverage proposal 3 years ago, at which time ACCF delegates expressed concern about the impact of that proposal;

Whereas the ACCF at its meeting February 8, 2005, in view of concerns about the impact that a broadly applicable amendment might have, passed a resolution urging the County Board, if it advertised an amendment, to advertise an amendment that would be no broader than the amendment proposed for advertising by the County Manager;

Whereas the County Board at its February 12, 2005, meeting voted to advertise an amendment similar in scope to the ZORC proposal;

Whereas the rules that currently apply to lot coverage in the County are already complex, and include setback requirements, an overall coverage limitation, and special rules for additions to houses on undersize lots that are based on livable house size (density) in 1950 or the year in which the house was built, if after 1950;

Whereas about 60 percent of all lots in the County are either undersize or oversize, with a significant percentage of those lots being so far under or over the lot size threshold for their zoning district as to be more appropriately subject to rules that would apply to a different zoning district;

Whereas substantial new information has come to light in recent months about the number of lots that would be made nonconforming or ineligible for even modest additions and improvements if the new ZORC rules were adopted, and new information has also come to light concerning the locations of those lots and the zoning districts in which those lots are located;

Whereas the ZORC rules, if adopted, would automatically render about 11 percent of all lots in the County non-conforming in that existing coverage would exceed the new limits, and would render an additional estimated 14 percent of all lots ineligible for even a modest addition or other improvement (defined as an improvement of 300 square feet);

Whereas the ZORC rules, if adopted, would have a disproportionate impact on both smaller and larger lots within a zoning district, including larger lots on which larger houses have been traditionally built; would have a disproportionate impact on certain neighborhoods, rendering up to 23 percent of lots in some neighborhoods non-conforming; and would impact lots in some zoning districts more than others;

Whereas the ZORC rules were drafted without the benefit of the impact information referred to above, and without consideration for changing market needs, economic impact on property owners, or the housing needs of families with children or aging family members (need for family rooms, first floor bedrooms and baths, etc);

Whereas the ZORC rules, if adopted, may have the unintended effect of encouraging tear-downs and taller replacement houses, which may have a greater impact on neighboring houses and neighborhood character than a modest addition or improvement to an existing house;

Whereas the ZORC rules, if adopted, will likely increase survey and other documentation costs for new construction on lots with buildable space, and may impose certain new disclosure requirements on homeowners at the time of sale of the property;

Whereas the ZORC rules, if adopted, will likely adversely affect the resale value of improved and unimproved lots in the County, particularly those that are made non-conforming or that lose significant building rights, and whereas such effects will adversely affect County real estate tax revenues;

Whereas the Manager's proposal, if adopted, would also impact disproportionately larger lots in individual zoning districts and also encourage taller houses that may be out of character in a given neighborhood; and

Whereas the Manager's proposal, if adopted, would discriminate against additions to smaller houses, because its application would be based on the size of the existing house;

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Arlington County Civic Federation recommend:

    (1) that the Arlington County Board not adopt either the ZORC proposal or the Manager's proposed amendment; and

    (2) that the Arlington County Board determine that no change is warranted to the lot coverage rules in the absence of consideration of other factors and refer the matter back to staff and a community committee to examine how the zoning rules might be changed with more equitable effect, including to take into account the special circumstances of individual neighborhoods.





Related Documents

An earlier resolution on this subject.





This page was last revised on: April 30, 2005.
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