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Arlington County Civic Federation

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Letter to the Arlington County Board

July 6, 2006

Arlington County Board
#1 Courthouse Plaza, Suite 300
2100 Clarendon Boulevard
Arlington, Virginia 22201

Honorable Chris Zimmerman, Chairman

Subject: Requested Deferral of Lot Definitions (Board July 8, 2006 Item 23)

The Civic Federation respectfully requests that Item #23 be withdrawn from the consent agenda and that you vote to defer it. In our communications with staff, we have learned that there are approximately 350 lots on streets that do not have 30 feet of right-of-way. We do not know how many of these lots already have a structure on them or where they are located. We know of some, for example, on Wayne Street in Lyon Village (between 18th Street and Lee Highway) which has about 10 single-family homes that do not have 30 feet of right-of-way. Using those as a sample, we asked staff what the building/rebuilding rights were for properties on streets with less than 30 feet of right-of-way. We were informed that:

1) "If there is no structure on the property, nothing can be built on it." This answer surprised us. We see street right-of-way as similar to other requirements that can make a lot non conforming, such as minimum frontage, width, and lot area required for the zoning district. In past discussions with staff, we thought we learned that if a lot was properly subdivided at some time in the past, the County could not deem the lot unbuildable � however new subdivisions would need to comply with current lot requirements.

2) "If there is a structure on the property, it cannot be voluntarily torn down and replaced." This answer also surprised us. We know that homeowners whose lots do not have the minimum area for the zoning district (undersized lots) can voluntarily tear down and replace their homes, provided they meet the current requirements for structures, such as setbacks, height, and lot coverage. 3) "If there is a structure on the property and it is destroyed by an act of God, then it can be replaced." We note that the revisions to the zoning ordinance enacted in November 2005 provide relief for lot coverage but are unsure that this relief automatically applies to homes that are on streets that have less than 30 feet of right-of way. The above answers raise questions about restrictions to building/rebuilding on lots that are non-conforming in other ways, for example lots that do not have the required minimum width or frontage. We believe it is important for the Board and the public to have clarity about building/rebuilding rights under various scenarios before the zoning ordinance is amended to codify another requirement that will impact those rights. We also ask the Board to consider whether restrictions should be more consistent. It will take some additional time to identify and digest this information and to inform the public.

Consistent with our past resolutions, we have two additional suggestions.

  • We believe that it would be prudent to notify all 350 property owners that have lots on streets that have less than 30 feet right-of-way and to inform them of their options. This is particularly important since recent history, as described in the staff report, could leave them to believe that they have a remedy through the BZA, that staff is trying to eliminate through this zoning ordinance amendment.

  • Staff should determine how the above properties have been assessed for Real Estate tax purposes.

Therefore, we ask the Board to defer consideration of this item until the above-mentioned factors and consistency questions can be analyzed and any resolution determined. Please feel free to contact me via telephone at: 703-525-8921, or via email at larrymayer@civfed.org.


Lawrence R. Mayer
President, Arlington County Civic Federation
3108 4th Street North
Arlington, VA 22201-1614

This page was last revised on: July 6, 2006.
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