Board Defers Decision on Former Post Office Property

The Arlington County Board decided not to make a decision yet on approving a new high-rise apartment building at 1720 S. Eads Street. The developer, Kettler, has asked for more time to work around issues surrounding a part of the building plan.

The site currently houses a post office that was built in 1969 and closed last year when a new post office opened nearby. The Crystal City Sector Plan allows for the site to be rezoned for development into a medium or high density residential building. County staff recommended approving the rezoning, which Board members also favored.

However, county staff was not on board with two other aspects of the redevelopment plan — specialized pavers on the sidewalk near the building entrances and a pool deck on the roof.

The Board would need to approve a special exception for the building height if a rooftop pool were to be added. The plan includes a raised pool deck, a lifeguard room and restrooms. Under the current plan, buildings are allowed a maximum height of 110 feet; the rooftop pool would put the proposed building over the limit by four feet.

“Some say the applicant had a choice to take this into account earlier and they didn’t. They’re getting an awful lot as it is. The flip side is, so who’s bothered by it in the long run?” said Board member Jay Fisette. “It’s a nice amenity on the roof, and all the rest. But the rules are the rules.”

The developer pointed out that the roof area is not rentable space, but merely an amenity. Board member Chris Zimmerman disagreed, saying that technically the developer is asking for an extra floor in the building. He believes that making an exception to the rule would set a precedent, especially considering this would be the first development under the new Crystal City Sector Plan.

“The trouble is that we went through a whole process to develop the plan to establish what the heights would be. And if we make this exception, which it’s clear the ordinance was designed to not allow us to do, then we’d be changing the definition of height throughout the Crystal City plan,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman further stated that limiting the amount of space for each building directly controls density, and making changes would have a larger impact on developments and density throughout the county.

As far as the pavers, most of the Board members didn’t oppose the idea. Hynes was the only member not in favor of approving the specialized pavers.

“I walk a lot and these clear paths are very important to me,” said Hynes. “I certainly can support the alternative treatments around the clear zone, which is what the sector plan calls for, but I must say I’m not intrigued by doing it sort of randomly at entrances of buildings.”

As a whole, the Board agreed that the only remaining issue is the rooftop pool.

“I just want to say, apart from this basically one in particular issue that we focused on, I think this is a really nice project,” said Zimmerman.

The Board ultimately granted the developer’s request for the matter to be deferred until the January meeting to allow for more time to examine the concerns surrounding the rooftop pool deck.


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