Arlington Co. residents speak out on controversial increased housing plans

Creating more affordable and moderately priced housing in the region: That is a topic that has led to heated debate at county and city meetings across the D.C. area, and Arlington County, Virginia, is no exception.

Dozens of residents took to the podium at Tuesday’s Arlington County Board meeting to express their feelings about its so-called “missing-middle” plan. The proposal would pave the way for the building of townhomes, duplexes all the way up to six-unit buildings on properties currently zoned only for single family detached homes.

The speakers were among the almost 250 residents who at first showed up at Saturday’s board meeting to speak. Due to the time lost from the meeting, dozens were asked to come back on Tuesday to get their comments in.

Those who support the controversial proposal hope the move will create more moderately priced homes and equitable housing options in the county where the average single family detached home costs well over $1 million. According to the county, 75% of land zone residential is exclusively for single family detached homes.

Resident Grace White supported the plan, saying their neighborhood of Westover has buildings that contain 12 units, which offer no off-street parking, and said there are no complaints about the facilities.

“In fact, my neighborhood of Westover is a diverse, vibrant and desirable community because that housing is there,” White said.

The proposal comes after the county commissioned a study into how more duplexes, townhouses and small multi-family buildings could be added to the county. Supporters also said the move gets the county closer to racial equity in terms of housing.

“It is long past time to end an exclusionary zoning policy that for almost a century has locked many families of color out of three quarters of our residential neighborhoods, led to many leaving the county and created a legacy of segregation that persists today,” said resident Marjorie Green.

Opponents, on the other hand, claim the county is not listening to residents about this plan, and while some flat out disagree with the proposal, others took issue with some aspects of the project.

“If you pass this, it will stick for a bit but you will bear full responsibility for the waste of tax dollars on the numerous lawsuits to follow, the families forced out of their homes due to rising taxes and predatory developers,” said resident Jim Derrig.

Others raised concern about strains that would be put on current infrastructure and schools with more density in neighborhoods.

“Please put this genie back in the bottle,” said resident Brett Yould.

“It [the proposal] will create consequences for the county that outweigh the social benefits of increasing modestly priced housing units,” Downey said.

Resident Tierney Farrell said the county should not be representing people who don’t live in the county but want to. Something she feels local leaders are doing.

“I voted for each and everyone of you, that’s a mistake that I won’t make again,” said Tierney Farrell.

The county is expected to bring the plan up for a vote during a meeting on Wednesday which begins at 4 p.m.

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Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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