What is the process timeline?
A process timeline and schedule of upcoming County meetings are available at the Virginia Hospital Center Expansion homepage.
What is a site plan?
Within certain zoning districts, Arlington County’s Zoning Ordinance permits an option for site plan development. This form of “special exception” allows for site-specific flexibility in development form, use, and density, beyond what is otherwise permitted “by-right.” The County Board approves modifications of zoning regulations based on the individual characteristics of each site. The County’s site plan review process ensures proper reviews, public hearings, compliance with applicable policies and ordinances and ultimately action by the County Board. Most significant private and public-private projects in Arlington are developed through this process.
What is the Site Plan Review Committee?
After a site plan is filed with the County, it is reviewed by the Site Plan Review Committee (SPRC). The SPRC is a Planning Commission committee, composed of members of the Planning Commission, County Advisory Groups and Commission representatives, and Civic Association and neighborhood representatives. SPRC meetings are informal and provide an opportunity for the developer to present their plans and for the community to provide comments and direction on the plans. Following review and feedback from SPRC meetings, a revised site plan is submitted to the County. The SPRC does not vote on projects, but the SPRC chair does provide a report at the Planning Comission’s public hearing on the project.
What happens after the SPRC process?
Site plan review requires public hearings before the Planning Commission and the County Board, so there are still opportunities for public comment even after the SPRC meetings have concluded. The Planning Commission reviews new site plans and makes a recommendation to the County Board. The Planning Commission will receive a written County Manager’s report (staff report) and a report from the SPRC chair. The County Board then takes final action on the site plan. If a project is approved, the applicant may proceed with the development process and obtaining permits.
How do I get involved in the process if I’m not a part of the review committee?
There are multiple ways to submit comments and have your voice heard. Note: all comments submitted in writing (email included) become part of the public record.
- Attend an SPRC meeting: all SPRC meetings are public, and may include a small portion of the discussion for public comment. While SPRC meetings are public meetings open to all, they are not official public hearings.
- Contact your civic association representative on the SPRC, or the SPRC chair: provide your feedback that they can bring up at an SPRC meeting. Contact information for these members is included in the staff report for each SPRC meeting.
- Speak at a public hearing: the Planning Commission and County Board will each hold a public hearing where community feedback will be heard.
- Email the County Board: via firstname.lastname@example.org Your comments will be distributed to all County Board members.
- Email County planning staff: contact information is available on the right sidebar of project webpages.
- Subscribe to email updates about the project: email sign-ups are available on the right sidebar of project webpages.
What policies/principles are staff using in their review of this project?
The following regulations, plans, and guiding documents are applicable to development on this site:
- The General Land Use Plan (GLUP) is an element of the County’s Comprehensive Plan. The GLUP designation for both the Edison Site and the Hospital Site is “Government and Community Facilities.” Typical uses for this designation include County, state, and federal administration and service facilities, as well as hospitals, nursing homes, and institutional housing.
- The Master Transportation Plan (MTP), another element of the Comprehensive Plan, provides general guidance for Arlington’s transportation system through 2030. The overall goals, policies and map elements of the plan are supported by six modal element documents — bicycle, transportation demand and system management, parking and curb space management, pedestrian, streets, and transit — which provide more detailed guidance.
- The County Zoning Ordinance contains land use regulations for Arlington County. The proposed “S-D” zoning district for the site allows hospital and medical office uses by use permit and site plan approval. With site plan approval, the maximum allowable floor area ratio (FAR) for hospitals is 1.0. The maximum height for sites of 3 acres or more is 10 stories or 95 feet, and the maximum lot coverage is 75 percent. The “S-D” district also provides guidelines for hospitals and healthcare facilities regarding the placement of buildings and parking, traffic mitigation, master planning, and the proportion of medical office space. Other sections of the Zoning Ordinance are also applicable to the site plan, including site development standards and site plan administration and procedures.
I am concerned about the amount of traffic the project will generate, especially with the potential effects from other construction projects. How can we be sure that the traffic study is accurate?
For major development projects, the developer (in this case, Virginia Hospital Center) is required to perform a traffic impact assessment to determine how much traffic will be generated by the project, and how that additional traffic will be mitigated. This is a formal process, which is conducted by a professional traffic consulting firm, in consultation with transportation staff from Arlington County. Prior to the initiation of the study, a meeting is held in which the scope of the project is determined, as well as the methodology that is to be used in the conduct of the study. The technical professionals—Arlington County and the traffic consultant—are signatories to the “scoping agreement” that directs the performance of the study.
The study is conducted using professional standards and methods, following regulations or guidance that have been issued by the Federal Highway Administration, the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Institute of Transportation Engineers, the American Association of State Highway Officials, or the National Association of City Transportation Officials.
The traffic assessment examines the “baseline” conditions, which are the traffic and roadway conditions as they exist today, and then projects into the future how much traffic will be generated by the project, once the project is complete. The traffic model predicts how many vehicles will be using all of the various streets surrounding the site, especially at peak travel times of the day. It will show the streets and intersections in which there are expected to be longer queues and more turning conflicts than exist today, and assess how these future conditions will impact the overall traffic, as well as impacts at specific locations.
In some cases, the proposed development project will generate sufficient additional traffic that may require specific mitigation measures. These could include increased roadway capacity, additional access points into and out of the site, roadway lane reconfiguration, additional traffic controls, such as signs or signals, or changes to the timing of the existing traffic signals. They may also include non-traffic-related methods, such as increasing the number of trips to the site that are made using alternative modes of transportation.
Following the performance of the traffic analysis, it is reviewed by County staff, and comments are provided. County staff have the opportunity to accept or reject the findings and conclusions of the traffic analysis, and to ask for additional analysis, if warranted.
A traffic impact analysis was conducted for the hospital in June 2017, and was revised in December 2017. Arlington County staff have been in frequent communication with the traffic consultant about the study, and continue to work with them on refinements and revisions.
Shouldn’t there be a traffic signal at the intersection of N. George Mason and 19th St.?
In order for any type of traffic control device to be placed at an intersection, whether a stop sign or a traffic signal, a “warrant analysis” must be performed, in accordance with Federal Highway Administration standards.
County staff have requested that the traffic consultant perform a full “signal warrant analysis” for the proposed new hospital entry on George Mason Drive, as well as for the intersection of George Mason Drive at 19th Street North. Once these analyses have been completed, the County will review the traffic consultant’s studies, and make the final determination on whether a signal is appropriate at either location.
Would the County be willing to restrict parking on the south side of 19th St. next to Tara Townes to allow townhouse residents with permits to park there? Would the County consider lifting the County-wide moratorium on expanding residential permit parking restrictions for the neighborhoods around VHC?
Today, parking is unrestricted on the south side of 19th St N, west of George Mason Drive.
The County has a residential permit parking program (RPP) which restricts parking on certain streets to residents holding permits for parking within the prescribed zone. However, County staff is undertaking a study to re-evaluate the purpose and function of this program. As the first major review in over 10 years, this study is an opportunity to consider changes that improve the program’s efficiency, user experience, and fairness.
In August 2017, the County Board endorsed a moratorium on establishing, removing, or modifying existing zoned permit parking for the duration of the review period. This moratorium is expected to remain in place until at least the summer of 2019.
Is there a study that can be done to see how much traffic a road like N. George Mason Dr. is supposed to handle?
Traffic engineers generally use the Highway Capacity Manual to assess the volume of traffic that a roadway can carry. The manual is published by the Transportation Research Board, a quasi-public body that is funded by a variety of state and federal organizations, and is considered to be an objective research body. The manual, now in its sixth edition, states that a four-lane roadway with left-turn pockets, which is the type of roadway closest in comparison to George Mason Drive, can carry up to 36,800 vehicles per day.
This segment of George Mason Drive carried about 16,000 vehicles in 2016, the last year for which data was collected.
The data is collected by VDOT each year and published here. (see page 32)
The County’s Water, Sewer, and Streets Bureau evaluates pavement conditions on County roads annually, determines when repaving is necessary, and publishes a schedule of upcoming paving projects.
With all this added traffic, what will be the effect on bikers that commute to work?
Bicyclists should see a few notable improvements, including a new shared use path alongside the hospital on George Mason Drive, more and improved bicycle storage space at the hospital campus, and a new Capital bikeshare station on the hospital grounds.
The new shared use path would be a 10-foot wide sidewalk on the east (hospital) side of George Mason Drive, between 16th Street North and 19th Street North, shared among pedestrians and bicyclists. This would allow bicyclists to access bike parking on the hospital campus and in the hospital garage, as well as the Capital Bikeshare station proposed to be located near George Mason Drive and 16th Street North.
What traffic control devices will be used/are planned for egress into and out of the outpatient center and the planned parking garage?
A new traffic signal is proposed for the outpatient facility’s principal patient and visitor entrance, on George Mason Drive. The other entries to the parking garage, on 19th Street North and on North Edison Street, may have stop or yield signs located at the garage exits.
Will U-turns be allowed around the opening in front of 17th St. S.? Will there be an extra traffic lane to allow for that?
For those who live on the west side of George Mason Drive across from the Virginia Hospital Center campus, entering or exiting their driveway often involves making a U-turn along George Mason Drive.
While the roadway design for George Mason Drive has not yet been finalized, it is the goal and intent of the project to preserve access to those living on the west side of George Mason Drive, with no degradation in the ability to access their driveways.
Will all the traffic signals in the vicinity be electronically equipped to turn green for ambulances?
New traffic signals are equipped with emergency vehicle pre-emption, which will help prioritize emergency vehicle traffic by changing the operation of the signals as they approach.
Will VHC be undertaking any transportation demand management techniques – such as a transit subsidy for employees – to encourage less driving to and from the site?
Yes. The final transportation demand management package for the project has not yet been determined, but it will be robust, it will have elements which serve workers and visitors to the hospital campus, and it will offer more incentives to use alternative modes than currently exist at the hospital today.
Land Use Questions
Why is the parking garage excluded from the density calculations?
The Zoning Ordinance does not count parking areas as gross floor area for the purpose of calculating density. This provision applies to all zoning districts. Parking areas are subject to other zoning requirements such as height, setbacks, and lot coverage.
Landscaping/Open Space Questions
What kind of policies and rules does Arlington County have with respect to landscaping around commercial activities in single family neighborhoods? Who at the County is responsible for reviewing, guiding and approving VHC’s approach to landscaping for the proposed expansion?
All applications for new site plans and major site plan amendments, including the proposed VHC expansion project, are required to include a conceptual landscape plan. This plan is required to show street tree species and spacing, designs for plazas and landscaped areas, proposed locations and types of all plantings, and other landscape elements (e.g. fences, street furniture, large planters). County staff reviews the conceptual landscape plan and works with applicants to ensure that landscape treatments are consistent with County policies. The proposed landscaping is also discussed at Site Plan Review Committee meetings.
After the County Board approves a site plan, the developer is required to file and receive the county Manager’s approval of a Final Landscape Plan. This plan is reviewed by the Department of Community Planning, Housing, and Development (CPHD), the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), and the Department of Environmental Services (DES) for compliance with the site plan conditions approved with the project. Staff also reviews Final Landscape Plans with the Arlington County Landscape Standards.
Community Benefits Questions
What amenities are being proposed that provide community benefit to offset the proposed building height?
The SPRC will discuss the proposed site plan amenities and features at the meeting on May 14.
Land Purchase Agreement Questions
What are the deed restrictions on the Edison Site?
There is a restrictive covenant placed on a portion of the Edison Site, approximately in the location of the 1800 N. Edison Building and the Laboratory. This covenant restricts the use of the property to use as a health center, including use and open space, for park purposes, and for parking association with a health center.
As part of the land purchase agreement between the County and VHC, if VHC acquires the Edison site, this covenant would be replaced with a new covenant requiring that the land be used only for hospital uses and uses accessory to hospital purposes.
Why isn’t the hospital considering building the outpatient center at the Carlin Springs site?
The land purchase agreement included the possibility of a land swap between the County and VHC as part of the purchase price. An extensive review process evaluated potential sites and resulted in the County Board voting to acquire a parcel of hospital property on S. Carlin Springs Road. The County’s and Arlington Public Schools’ Joint Facilities Advisory Committee will be advising the County Board on potential public uses for the Carlin Springs site.
The agreement between the County and VHC further requires VHC to identify a new location in south Arlington for the programs currently at the Carlin Springs site.