January 17, 2012 Meeting Minutes

Post date: Jan 18, 2012 8:00:16 PM

Columbia Heights West Civic Association (CHWCA) Meeting

Minutes – January 17, 2012

I. AHC Inc. attended the CHWCA meeting to present their proposed affordable housing project to redevelop the Shell gas station site (at the corner of Columbia Pike and South Greenbrier), combined with an adjacent piece of property which AHC owns, into a 6-story apartment building with ground floor retail on Columbia Pike. The proposed project is located in front of Harvey Hall, another affordable housing project which AHC owns and operates. A copy of their presentation and additional project details are available at the links below. Arlington County housing and planning staff were also present to respond to questions from the community.

II. Briefly, the proposed project will include 83 units (15 one-bedrooms at 600-700 sq. ft.) and 68 two-bedrooms at 900-1,000 sq. ft.); 19 units will be affordable at 50% Area Median Income (AMI) and 64 at 60% AMI; retail space is estimated at 6,700 sq. ft.; be energy efficient; include an exercise room; have underground parking (93-94 spaces) accessible via a back alley; include an interior courtyard; include street front landscaping; and conform to the Columbia Pike Form Based Code.

III. After the presentation the floor was opened to Q&As and addressed the following:

a. AHC Management will likely utilize the retail space. However, AHC is open to other uses of the space such as a mini-mart to provide services to the nearby residents. AHC did note that it may be difficult to attract businesses due to the economy and limited retail space.

b. It will be the seller’s (of Shell site) responsibility to clean and remove the current building, equipment, etc. and complete an environmental clean up of the site before AHC takes over. Per AHC, the State of Virginia oversees the environmental clean-up and certifies that it is done correctly. It was not clear whether Arlington County receives a copy of this certification.

c. The piece that AHC currently owns is a steep grade, part of which will be dug out for the new building. The remaining hill will be shored up to prevent erosion. The cleared area around the ground floor units will be sufficient to ensure light into those units.

d. Concerns were voiced about the timing of the traffic light at the corner of S. Greenbrier and Columbia Pike noting that “Typically it takes two light cycles to get past..”

i. CHWCA will follow up with Arlington County’s Transportation Traffic Signals division on the timing of the traffic light.

2/20 - UPDATE:

Columbia Pike corridor's signals are being optimized next month, so the timing will be changing a bit at that point. That may resolve the issue at S. Greenbrier and CP.

Feed back from County's Site Plan Engineer :

...the proposed apartment development will have 83 units and will probably generate far lower traffic volumes that the current gas station it is replacing. According to ITE, mid-rise apartment buildings generate less than 45 peak hour trips on a weekday while a six fueling position gas station has around 95 vehicle trips during the peak hour on a week day. Also, the proposed small retail establishment, about 6700 square feet, and the apartments combined should still generate lower volumes that the current gas station driveway generates.

e. Concerns were expressed on the likelihood of parking spilling over into the neighborhood. This project is adding new units to the neighborhood, where parking is already an issue. AHC noted that several new public parking spaces on Columbia Pike will be added in front of the new building and may be metered.

i. CHWCA to follow up with Transportation’s Parking division to inquire about possible solutions to neighborhood parking issues.

ii. AHC Inc. noted that it is common for their properties to have their parking spaces underutilized. AHC noted that County parking space requirements are 1 1/8 space per apartment unit and 1 space per 1,000 sq. ft. of retail space.

f. Concerns were raised about the loss of the current park at Harvey Hall. AHC indicated they planned to relocate the park to another part of the Harvey Hall site. The park will be comparable to what exists today.

i. A resident of Harvey Hall said that residents do not use the park. Another attendee noted that people who do not reside at Harvey Hall use the park and this has created some security issues. AHC was apparently unaware of this and will look into it.

g. County staff stated that this project qualifies for Form Based Code (FBC) administrative approval as a by-right project as the site area of the project does not exceed 40,000 sq. ft. and meets the specifications. The project still must go through the appropriate commissions and other review requirements as part of the project approval process prior to County Board vote. County staff noted that community concerns can be raised at these various meetings.

h. AHC is requesting $6 million from the County’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF) which will need to go before the Housing Commission and the County Board for approval. The financing (tax credits and AHIF) for six stories require committed affordable units at 50% to 60% AMI (area medium income).

i. There was discussion around the neighborhood's preference for a mixed-income project (a mix of affordable and some market rate (80% +)). AHC explored the possibility of a 9 story unit apartment with mixed income. The FBC limits building heights to 6 stories. There was an exception made for the ten story 5500 Columbia Pike directly across the street from AHC’s proposed project because it was built next to the 10 story Carlyle condominium. A 9 story building would equate visually from the Pike to the height of Harvey Hall, which is located on an incline above and behind the proposed project. Another consideration was that the current economic situation would not make market rate units feasible at this time.

j. There was some discussion as to whether approving the AHC project would set a precedent to include affordable housing under the FBC, which is currently not required. CPRO stated that not including affordable housing was done to jump start redevelopment on the Pike but it is possible that affordable housing projects could be done in the future under the FBC. County staff said that approving the AHC affordable housing project on the Pike will not set a precedent for including such in future FBC projects.

k. After the presentation, AHC and County staff left the room while attendees discussed whether to vote on the project. The consensus was that (1) a vote yea or nay would have no effect on a by-right project, (2) while the attendees do not oppose the concept of affordable housing there already exists 645 Committed Affordable Units (CAFs) in CHW with another 122 in the upcoming Arlington Mill Residences (total 767) and AHC’s 83 units (850 total), and (3) the CHW neighborhood recommends that Arlington County spread affordable housing elsewhere in the county and not concentrate it in one neighborhood or only along the Columbia Pike corridor. This is becoming an increasing concern of Pike residents and has been discussed at the Pike Land Use and Housing meetings.

l. The CHWCA will send a letter to the County Board regarding community concerns raised regarding this project. All CHW residents are invited to attend the various scheduled meetings to present their views on this project.

AHC Presentation Link

January/February 2012 Public Meetings

Housing Commission Subcommittee Bricks and Mortar (no public comment)


Community Development Citizen Advisory Committee (no public comment)

o February 1, 6:30pm, 311, Courthouse Plaza

Housing Commission

o March 1, 7pm, Cherry and Dogwood Room, Courthouse Plaza

Form Based Code Advisory Working Group (AWG

o February 7, 7pm, Walter Reed Community Center

County Board

o March 10, 8:30am, County Board Room, Courthouse Plaza