Board Amends Missing Middle Draft Zoning Text Ahead of March Hearing

Published on February 01, 2023

On Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023, the Arlington County Board authorized public hearings in March on proposed Zoning Ordinance and General Land Use Plan amendments related to the Missing Middle Housing Study. The approved advertisement sets the parameters for what the Board can consider in March and reflects changes made by Board members in response to extensive public engagement.

If adopted, the amendments would expand housing options in the portions of the County that currently only allow single-detached homes.

MORE: Summary of Advertised Amendments to Expand Housing Options

The draft Zoning Ordinance text focuses on 12 policy areas with various options for consideration. During the January 25 meeting, Board members amended some of these areas, including:    

  • Uses: Limiting the maximum number of units on a parcel to six
  • Annual Development Cap:
    • Adding consideration of an annual cap of up to 58 permits for additional housing types with a distribution method to be determined by the County Board in March
    • Adding consideration of a five-year sunset of the annual cap
  • Parking: Removing the option to have no minimum parking requirement
  • Trees:
    • Removing the option to have no additional tree requirement beyond the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance
    • Adding an option for a range of additional shade trees on parcels: up to four trees for 2-4 units and up to eight trees for 5-6 units
  • Minimum Site Area and Transit Proximity: Adding an option where 5- or 6-unit buildings would only be eligible on parcels within ½ mile of Metro or ¼ mile of Premium Transit Network stops located along Columbia Pike or Richmond Highway, or on parcels 12,000 square feet or larger
  • Gross Floor Area: Removing the option to not regulate total building area

Policy options and draft text that were not amended Wednesday night will be advertised as reflected in the staff report. They include:

  • Parking:
    • Requiring fewer parking spaces for properties ¾ of a mile from Metro, ½ mile from Premium Transit Network stops located on Columbia Pike or Richmond Highway, ¼ mile from primary bus lines, or outside Metro/transit areas where on-street parking use is below a set threshold
    • Requiring 1 space per unit at all properties outside of Metro/transit areas and on cul-de-sacs in all circumstances
  • Minimum Site Area:
    • Requiring larger properties for buildings with more units
    • Varying required property size based on proximity to transit
  • Gross Floor Area: Limiting the overall size for all additional housing types (ranging from 4,800 square feet for 2-unit buildings to 8,000 square feet for 6-unit buildings) or for only townhouse and semidetached dwellings
  • Accessory Dwellings: Allowing accessory dwellings (ADs) only in two scenarios (interior units within a townhouse or semi-detached home, exceptions for pre-existing ADs)
  • Design and Site Layout Guidelines:
    • Making the maximum building height, footprint, lot coverage, and minimum setbacks for additional housing types the same as currently exist for single-detached homes.
    • Requiring additional housing types to comply with site layout and design standards for compatibility with the surrounding neighborhood.

WATCH: County Board Discusses Missing Middle Request to Advertise

The Planning Commission will also hold a public hearing on these amendments and make a recommendation in early March. The County Board will hold its public hearing and consideration during its regular March meeting.

The Board’s vote to advertise public hearings came after nearly 200 people spoke at hearings on Saturday and Tuesday evening. The Board also hosted 20 community conversations throughout the fall.

MORE: Read the advertisement

Review and consideration by the Board is Phase 3 of the Missing Middle Housing Study. The study began in 2019, and Phase 1 continued through fall 2021. In the first phase, the study team relied on community engagement to identify priorities and concerns related to expanding housing options in Arlington and prepared a Research Compendium of Arlington-specific data and existing conditions.

Phase 2 was a focused study of specific housing types that sought to balance the community’s priorities and concerns identified in Phase 1. A draft framework for expanding housing options was released in April 2022, and the County embarked on a multifaceted public engagement period that culminated with a Board work session in July 2022. During that work session, Board members provided guidance to staff that resulted in the draft zoning text and amendments presented in the fall. The Planning Commission’s subcommittees reviewed the draft text in four meetings in October and November, before the commission held a public hearing and made a recommendation on the advertisement language in December.

The County Board will continue to take community input on the advertised draft text and amendments through an online form. To learn more about the Missing Middle Housing Study, visit the County website.

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