Arlington, VA – An Arlington Circuit Court judge today dismissed a lawsuit challenging the Arlington County Board’s approval of the Views at Clarendon. The proposed mixed-use development, on a site within walking distance of the Clarendon metro stop, would preserve an existing church and daycare center and add 116 apartments, including 70 affordable units.
Judge Benjamin N.A. Kendrick dismissed all eight counts of a lawsuit that three Clarendon-area residents brought in response to the board’s February approval of the project. Kendrick decided each of the eight counts on individual grounds, holding on some that the nature of the complaint was not allowed under established legal precedent, and on others that the arguments in the complaint did not state facts to show that the county board had acted improperly.
The ruling dismissed the entire action, and should significantly shorten the time it takes to finally resolve the issues raised by the residents. The case may still be appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court after a final order is entered.
“The First Baptist Church and the Views at Clarendon are extremely pleased with the Court’s decision,” said Raighne Delaney of Bean, Kinney & Korman, counsel for the church and developer. “Bringing affordable housing so close to the Clarendon Metro is a valuable community goal; the congregation and the Views’ board are committed to this opportunity to serve the citizens of Arlington County.”
The Clarendon Baptist Church owns the site at 1210 N. Highland Street, which has served the community as a church and a day care center for decades. The Views at Clarendon Corporation and the First Baptist Church of Clarendon propose a mixed-use project that would rebuild the church, add 116 rental units in eight floors built atop the church, and preserve Arlington’s largest child care center, now serving 185 children.
The Arlington County Board has called the project a rare opportunity to both preserve childcare and increase the county’s supply of affordable housing within walking distance of Metro. The county board approved the Views at Clarendon project on Feb. 24, 2007 after a lengthy public hearing. Shortly after the board’s action, three Clarendon residents filed a lawsuit challenging the board’s decision.
Views at Clarendon
The proposed Views at Clarendon that had been thoroughly examined during more than 16 citizen, commission and public meetings prior to the board’s initial approval of the project on Oct. 23, 2004. The board also approved at that time a General Land Use Amendment , a rezoning and a site plan application for a mixed-use church and multi-family residential building on the First Baptist Church site.
Shortly after the board acted in 2004, a group of Clarendon residents filed a lawsuit against the county. After the county prevailed in the Arlington Circuit Court, the residents appealed and, in Sept. 2006, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the board violated its own zoning ordinance by rezoning the Views at Clarendon property in one step instead of two. The court’s ruling was based on a technicality and did not address the substance of the board’s approval of the rezoning or the site plan for the project. The church and the corporation re-filed their applications, which the board approved in Feb. 2007.
The board reaffirmed its earlier 2004 decision approving the development, and also approved a technical change to the zoning ordinance to clarify the board’s authority to modify height, density and tapering requirements in the zoning ordinance as applied to specific site plans, when such modifications serve the public good. It was these actions that were challenged in the suit that was dismissed July 11, 2007.
Arlington, Va., is a world-class urban community that was originally part of the “10-mile square” parcel of land surveyed in 1791 to be the Nation’s Capital. It is the geographically smallest self-governing county in the United States, occupying slightly less than 26 square miles. Known for its urban villages and transit-oriented development, Arlington maintains a rich variety of stable neighborhoods, quality schools and enlightened land use. In 2002, the county was the first recipient of the Environmental Protection Agency’s highest award for “Smart Growth.”
Home to some of the most influential organizations in the world – including the Pentagon – Arlington stands out as one of America’s preeminent places to live, visit and do business.