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This blog focuses on real estate, land use and construction-related topics affecting Virginia and the Washington, D.C. metro area. With topics ranging from contract drafting and negotiation to local and regional land use project updates, the attorneys at Bean, Kinney & Korman provide timely insight and commentary on the issues affecting owners, builders, developers, contractors, subcontractors and other players in the industry. If you are interested in having us cover a specific topic, please let us know.

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Posts in Urban Planning.

The Residential Parking Working Group was tasked by Arlington’s County Manager with recommending updates to the current parking policy for Site Plan and Mixed Use Development use permit projects in Arlington’s Rosslyn-Ballston and Jefferson Davis Metro corridors (the “Study Area”). As many members of our community can agree, providing the appropriate amount of parking for a new residential building can be a delicate balance. 

Currently, when a project is under review by the Board for site plan or use permit approval, the Board can agree to depart from the parking requirements within the zoning ordinance.  The goal of this working group, which is expected to wrap up its efforts in the coming month, is to deliver a recommended methodology and implementation plan to guide County Development Review staff in evaluating and approving multifamily residential site plan developments within the Study Area – the idea being that developers and community members alike could benefit from more certainty in the approval process.

The Arlington County Board held a work session this week with representatives from the Planning Division and Planning Commission to discuss projects and priorities for the coming year. This work session provided an opportunity for County Board members to interact with the planning department and ask questions about future planning projects and initiatives.

In the upcoming year, the County plans to complete four General Land Use Plan (“GLUP”) studies and a five-year review of the Comprehensive Plan. The County also plans to complete the Four Mile Run Valley Planning Program and the Courthouse Square Plan Addendum Implementation. The Planning Division will also be supporting the Housing Division with completing reports and recommendations for Market-Rate Affordable Units (“MARKs”) and Affordable Dwelling Units (“ADUs.”) It was also discussed that the Lee Highway Planning Initiative will be a major focus for the Planning Division in the coming years. Finally, it is expected that changes will be made to the County’s sign regulations to comply with recent case law decisions.

On October 20, 2015, the County Board of Arlington County unanimously approved The Shooshan Company’s 4.1 Site Plan Special Exception application for Clarendon West, a mixed-use residential and retail project. Represented by Jonathan C. Kinney and Matthew G. Roberts, the project introduces over 580,000 square feet of new development at the current site of the Red Top Cab company in Arlington County’s Clarendon neighborhood. With this approval, The Shooshan Company will build up to 580 multi-family residential units and approximately 3,500 square feet of retail space in three separate buildings. The multi-phase project includes substantial public benefits, including multiple transportation and traffic improvements along 13th Street North and Washington Boulevard, the delivery of land for a public park envisioned by the Clarendon Sector Plan and on-site affordable housing, among others.

Further details about the approval can be found on Arlington County’s website.

Much has been written about “pop-ups” in the District of Columbia, including a summary of the pop-up dispute and proposed changes to the D.C. zoning regulations on this blog last fall. The lengthy and contentious public debate culminated in new zoning regulations, effective on June 26, 2015, that ostensibly limit pop-up development in some areas of the city. However, despite the new regulations, the rise of pop-ups will continue to be seen given the appetite for new housing stock in D.C. The fight now appears to be shifting to design review and local neighborhoods’ use of the city’s historic designation laws to slow down or stop pop-up development.

On May 12, 2015, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to endorse a phased, multimodal approach to the future expansion and development of the Route 1 Corridor between Huntington and Fort Belvoir. This will take place in the context of eventual expansions and improvement extending further to Woodbridge.

On March 14, 2015, the County Board of Arlington County unanimously approved a 4.1 Site Plan Special Exception, Rezoning and General Land Use Plan Amendment to allow Carr Properties to build over 195,000 square feet of office and ground floor retail space in Arlington’s Courthouse neighborhood. To accomplish the project, the application also included a successful Transfer of Development Rights from the nearby Wakefield and Courthouse Manor sites to preserve those historic properties. Carr Properties’ project, represented by Jonathan C. Kinney and Matthew G. Roberts, was also unanimously approved by the Planning Commission and Transportation Commission.

With these approvals, Carr will redevelop the existing Wendy’s restaurant and Wells Fargo bank sites, enlivening Wilson and Clarendon Boulevards with ground floor retail options and a generous public plaza area along North Courthouse Road. The building’s iconic architecture and glass fin will stand out in Courthouse and were designed to meet planning goals in Arlington’s “Rosslyn to Courthouse Urban Design Study.” And while office vacancies in Arlington remain high, the building’s floor plates effectively use the site’s challenging shape to meet market trends for smaller, more personal floor plates desired by tenants like the area’s burgeoning technology industry.

BlueprintRecently, the Arlington County subcommittee for NAIOP met with Bob Duffy and members of the County staff to discuss the County’s February 9, 2015 Memo regarding policies related to GFA calculation for site plan projects in Arlington County.

The Arlington Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development recently issued a memo outlining how GFA is to be calculated in development site plan projects and what exclusions may apply. Mr. Duffy, Director of Planning, explained the purpose of the Memo was to offer the development community greater certainty and clarity regarding the County policies with respect to calculation of GFA.

BlueprintA new memorandum issued by Arlington County’s Director of the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development, Bob Brosnan, is proposing to change which areas in a building developers can expect to exclude from density calculations in a 4.1 Site Plan application.

Pop-up condo in the U Street Neighborhood

Sustained population growth in the District of Columbia in recent years has spurred a   rapid wave of construction throughout the city as upscale condominium projects   appear to spring up almost overnight to meet growing demand for housing. But while residential development has been a welcome sign of revitalization in areas from U Street to NoMa, a particular type of residential project, the “pop-up,” has been the subject of intense debate in some of Washington, D.C.’s established row house neighborhoods. In mid-July, D.C.’s Office of Planning seemed to take the side of the anti-pop-up camp when it proposed a zoning text amendment that would limit the development of pop-ups in the city. However, alternative ideas discussed at the Zoning Commission’s initial hearing on the proposal may lead to a middle-ground approach that would slow down, but not ban the rise of pop-ups in D.C.

According to a good source, GSA and WMATA are working on a new policy to allow GSA to modify its rent caps for sites that meet certain transit oriented development criteria (i.e. sites within a certain proximity to Metro stations, etc.).  As many of our readers know, GSA caps its rents as a result of negotiations with OMB per rules created to implement the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990. OMB (through Circular A-11) created a set of rules which are used to determine whether a federal lease is an "Operating" or "Capital" Lease. To make a long story short, GSA and OMB have agreed to rent caps to make it easy to stay within "Operating Lease" guidelines. The current Operating Lease rent caps are $34/SF in Maryland, $38/SF in Virginia, and $49/SF in the District of Columbia.  With vacancies finally falling and rental rates starting to rise, the natural effect of these caps will be to push federal office space development away from mass transit locations, which yield the highest rental rates.  Currently, big chunks of space for federal agencies just aren't normally available below these price caps where there are mass transit services available.