Resolution of Arlington County Civic Federation:|
Restore the Board of Zoning Appeals Ability
to Grant Zoning Ordinance Exceptions
Adopted by the Federation on March 7, 2006
Followed by September 16 Testimony by CivFed President Larry Mayer
WHEREAS some Arlington homes were built before the establishment of the Zoning Ordinance and many other Arlington homes and lots conformed to the Zoning Ordinance requirements at the time they were built/subdivided, but do not conform to the requirements of the current Zoning Ordinance;
WHEREAS for many years the BZA had selectively granted variances with respect to physical requirements of improvements on a lot or parcel of land, based on past practice for similarly situated properties, and the desires of surrounding property owners;
WHEREAS in 2004 the Virginia Supreme Court affirmed that the Boards of Zoning Appeals (BZA) should issue variances only for cases of extreme hardship, which was not the standard used by Arlington's BZA for 50 years;
WHEREAS the County Board has advertised an amendment to Section 36 of the Zoning Ordinance that would give the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) the authority to grant use permits in lieu of variances;
WHEREAS the Zoning Administrator has indicated that the BZA use permit application process will follow the current variance process for notifying adjacent property owners, the civic associations/homeowners organizations in which the property is located, and the public at large; and
WHEREAS it is desirable that the public be able to determine (easily) what use permit applications are being considered by the BZA and their eventual outcome.
BE IT RESOLVED THAT THE ARLINGTON COUNTY CIVIC FEDERATION:
1) Supports a Zoning Ordinance amendment that will restore BZA's ability to selectively grant exceptions to the current requirements of the Zoning Ordinance through a use permit process.
2) Recommends that County staff develop and maintain a list of variance applications and outcomes that can be easily accessed by the public via the County Web site that specifies the nature and location of a) the proposed and granted variances for the past three years, and b) any use permits granted after the Ordinance has been adopted.
3) Recommends that the County Board Office take additional steps to ensure that the civic association/homeowner organization email list used to provide notices is up-to-date and that the list include more than one contact per association, whenever possible.
This resolution was transmitted to the Arlington County Board when passed. When the item came up for Board consideration in September, ACCF President Larry Mayer testified
September 13, 2006
Arlington County Board
Honorable Chris Zimmerman, Chairman
Subject: Agenda item #75, BZA, special use permits, Board meeting of Sept. 16
As the staff report notes, the Civic Federation passed a three-part resolution on this item at its meeting on March 6, 2006. The resolution expressed support for a zoning ordinance amendment that would restore BZA�s ability to selectively grant exceptions to the zoning ordinance through a use permit process. The resolution also recommended that staff develop and maintain a list of applications and outcomes easily accessible to the public, and that the County Board take certain additional steps with respect to homeowner and civic association notification.
We support the Manager�s request to defer to allow for further consideration. This would allow staff time to address the second and third of the three points of the Federation�s resolution � maintenance of a list of outcomes and applications, and notification. Neither issue was addressed in the staff report. We note that Planning Commission members expressed similar concerns at their September 5 meeting.
Furthermore, the Federation believes that the process being contemplated is of great importance to Arlington homeowners. Any limitations to the BZA ability to grant exceptions, such as for coverage, should not be excluded from exceptions. This position is consistent with our March resolution and, is contrary to the position taken by both NCAC and the County Manager�s language. We standby our original position in the first part of our March resolution.
For example, from analysis performed during the original lot coverage discussions, it was determined that 19% of the single-family detached homes in Arlington (R-20, R-10, R-8, R-6, and R-5) have less than the square footage required for the zoning district. Thus, there are roughly 5,000 undersized lots. The lot coverage change allowed undersized lots to assume that they had the minimum required for the zoning district to calculate their maximum main building footprint. (Whether people could use the maximum main building footprint would be subject to setbacks of course). However, they could not apply the same figure to calculate overall coverage. Restrictions applied in these situations could have an adverse effect. The result of coverage restrictions in such situations could have undesirable effects such as garages in the front of properties and more teardowns to accommodate lifestyle needs of homeowners.
The resolution states that the Federation:
- Supports a Zoning Ordinance amendment that will restore BZA's ability to selectively grant exceptions to the current requirements of the Zoning Ordinance through a use permit process.
- Recommends that County staff develops and maintain a list of variance applications and outcomes that can be easily accessed by the public via the County Web site that specifies the nature and location of a) the proposed and granted variances for the past three years, and b) any use permits granted after the Ordinance has been adopted.
Recommends that the County Board Office take additional steps to ensure that the civic association/homeowner organization email list used to provide notices is up-to-date and that the list includes more than one contact per association, whenever possible.
As always, we appreciate your consideration of our views. Please feel free to contact me.
President, Arlington County Civic Federation
This page was last revised on: September 20, 2006.