Arlington To Consider Housing Conservation District

Published on November 28, 2017

The Arlington County Board on November 27 set public hearings in December on Phase I of a proposed Housing Conservation District Policy Framework. If adopted, the district would apply to neighborhoods generally made-up of garden-style apartment complexes with market rate affordable rents.

The proposed district would seek to ensure that townhouse development does not unduly interfere with the character and form of development in those neighborhoods where it would be applied. It would reclassify by-right townhouse development to special exception use within the Housing Conservation District, meaning such development would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

"The Board is considering this action to encourage the preservation of affordable housing," Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said.

The Board also said that if it decides in December to adopt the framework and include a special exception requirement for townhouse development, it would review the special exception requirement in 2018, when it considers Phase II of implementation. In the interim, the County would further engage stakeholders, including property owners, and the public on the proposed special exception use requirement for townhouse development, and potential incentives for preserving market-rate affordable housing.

The Board voted 4 to 1 to set public hearings in December on the proposed framework before the Planning Commission and the County Board. Board Member John Vihstadt voted no.

Among the actions the Board will consider in December are the adoption of the policy framework and related amendments to the General Land Use Plan, the Affordable Housing Master Plan and the Zoning Ordinance.

To read the staff report and the Proposed Housing Conservation District Framework,. scroll down to Item No. 50 on the agenda for the Monday, November 27, 2017 Recessed County Board Meeting.

Proposed reclassification of townhouse development


By-right townhouse development impacts Arlington's neighborhoods of market-rate affordable rental housing, which include many garden-style apartment buildings, and are planned to support multiple-family housing. Townhouse development may result in the loss of apartments by providing single-family-style arrangements that are generally inconsistent with the density expectations planned by the General Land Use Plan or local zoning district.

Under the proposed framework, townhouse development would still be allowed, but would be reclassified in the Zoning Ordinance as a special exception use within those RA14-26, RA8-18 and RA6-15 zoning districts that are within the proposed boundaries of the Housing Conservation District.

The proposed changes would allow potential impacts from townhouse development to be assessed on a case-by-case basis and conditioned, as appropriate, to minimize the negative impacts on existing nearby properties.

The Housing Conservation District will be a single district, implemented in 12 locations where market-rate affordable garden-style apartment buildings are concentrated:

  • Westover

  • Penrose

  • Lyon Park North

  • Lyon Park South

  • Arlington Ridge-Long Branch Creek

  • Shirlington

  • Leeway Overlee

  • John M. Langston-Glebewood

  • Waverly Hills

  • Spout Run-Lyon Village

  • North Highlands West

  • North Highlands East


Phased implementation


The Housing Conservation District Framework, if adopted by the Board in December, would be implemented in two phases. Phase I would establish the district on the General Land Use Plan with a set of goals, objectives and defined boundaries. Phase II would explore zoning- and tax-based incentives designed to encourage retention of affordability within the conservation district, and would also include the Board reviewing the townhouse special exception provision.