Crystal City Dominion Energy Substation Improvement and Expansion
On Aug. 13, 2020, Dominion Energy presented a project update, including design schemes and landscape options.
Through Sept. 1, 2020, residents were able to submit online feedback about design elements in advance of Dominion Energy's use permit filing.
On Oct. 28, 2020, Dominion Energy presented another project update, indicating how staff and community feedback were incorporated into their updated design.
About the Project
In summer 2019, Dominion Energy approached Arlington County with a desire to acquire an approximately 12,000 sq. ft. portion of a County-owned parcel adjacent to its substation in the Pentagon City/Crystal City area. Dominion Energy’s site feasibility analysis concluded that the subject parcel, located near the intersection of South Fern Street and 18th Street South, was the only logical location for their planned expansion. The substation expansion is needed to replace older equipment and accommodate increased electrical demand from planned future development in Pentagon City, Crystal City and surrounding neighborhoods.
In exchange, Dominion Energy offered to convey a 10,000 sq. ft. parcel, previously used as a substation, at the intersection of South Ives Street and 18th Street South.
Additionally, Dominion Energy’s existing substation site is currently subject to a public street and utilities easement for South Hayes Street. Currently, they own this portion of the roadway in fee. Dominion Energy will dedicate the underlying fee interest in this right-of-way, which would allow the County to have complete control of this right of way.
To help facilitate this land exchange, several real estate and land use actions will be presented to pertinent County advisory commissions and the County Board for public consideration and deliberation later in 2020.
For additional information, visit Dominion Energy’s project page.
Land Exchange Timeline
- Summer 2019: Dominion Energy approached County staff to acquire the adjacent County-owned parcel
- July 2020: Dominion Energy submitted a rezoning application
- September 2020: Dominion Energy submitted two Special Exception Use Permit Applications – one for the existing substation expansion, and another for off-site construction staging to occur on the 18th Street South and South Ives Street site once the land exchange is complete
- Nov. 4, 2020: The Planning Commission will consider Dominion Energy’s rezoning application and associated GLUP amendment to the Public Facilities Map
- Nov. 14, 2020: The County Board will consider a series of real estate and land use actions, including:
- Re-subdivision of the County Parcel
- Land Exchange Agreement
- License Agreement and Use Permit for Construction Staging
- Fee simple right-of-way to be dedicated by Dominion Energy
- Vacation of Sanitary Sewer Line
- Use Permit for the Substation
- General Land Use Plan Amendment to Public Facilities Map/table
- Late Q1 2021: Anticipated construction start date
Frequently Asked Questions
These Q&As build off information provided by Dominion Energy.
Why is the Dominion Energy substation expanding to a new site?
Dominion Energy completed a comprehensive study of its Crystal City substation in 2019 and determined that new switchgear dimensions are larger than the existing equipment and will not fit at its current location and meet fire safety codes. Constructing a taller building in place of the existing one is not feasible without causing a significant number of electrical outages in the area, given the electric work immediately below the foundation.
Installing new switchgear to the north of the site, as well as to the east of the site facing South Fern Street, presents several other construction challenges, including underground utility lines, an underground oil containment vault near the northern driveway of the substation, and a sanitary sewer line that would need to be relocated. All of these obstacles present difficulty in safely working on the existing site.
Developing the new switchgear on the adjacent Arlington County property west of the substation has the least pre-construction challenges and risk during construction. This scenario would not interfere with underground work, gives greater clearance to meet fire code requirements, and will allow the timely construction of the new switchgear in a way that allows Dominion Energy to meet demand and make needed connections.
What will the County receive as compensation for Dominion Energy using the County site for the expansion?
Dominion Energy is offering to swap a nearby site in exchange for the County’s site adjacent to the existing substation. The proposed land exchange does not involve monetary compensation, though staff has calculated the value of the Dominion Energy exchange parcel to be higher than the County exchange parcel. In addition, Dominion Energy will dedicate in fee simple a portion of South Hayes Street right-of-way that currently exists as an easement.
Though the Dominion Energy exchange parcel is smaller in size, it presents a wider range of improvement options given site constraints that limit development potential of the County exchange parcel. Additionally, the Dominion Energy exchange parcel was flagged as an acquisition opportunity in the Public Spaces Master Plan in order to expand Virginia Highlands Park.
How might the County use the Dominion Energy exchange parcel?
Given its proximity to Virginia Highlands Park, the Dominion Energy exchange parcel (at 18th Street South and South Ives Street) would likely be used to expand park amenities onto this site. If acquired by the County, the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) would lead a community planning process to generate specific ideas for its future use. Once funding is secured and the County acquires the property, DPR will provide more information on the time frame for the planning process.
Prior to the County undertaking a process to determine the public use of the Dominion Energy exchange parcel, Dominion Energy has requested to use it for its off-site construction staging associated with the substation expansion on the County exchange parcel. The County will license back the site to Dominion Energy.
Depending on the outcome of the process to determine the public use of the Dominion Energy exchange parcel, the County will need to undergo some environmental remediation to address some minor contaminants found on the site. The County obtained an environmental site assessment conducted by its environmental contractor. The study found that the site has minor, non-hazardous contamination in some spots, similar to other parcels that the County has acquired in the Crystal City area given the history of land use in Crystal City. Necessary remediation is dependent upon the County’s future use of the site. Additional revenue from the construction staging license could be used to offset anticipated remediation costs once the substation expansion construction concludes.
Why does Dominion Energy need to file a rezoning?
Dominion Energy’s current substation is split-zoned C-O-2.5 and RA7-16. The adjacent County exchange parcel, which is also zoned C-O-2.5, would not meet the minimum lot requirements within that zoning district once it is subdivided from the larger County parcel, which spans further west of South Hayes Street.
Staff is exploring the possibility of joining the two lots through a resubdivision to permit the proposed expansion and associated substation use, and recommending rezoning the RA7-16 portion of Dominion Energy’s existing substation to C-O-2.5 to harmonize the land uses in the area.
Does the General Land Use Plan (GLUP) need to be amended for this project?
Staff is exploring potential amendments to the recently adopted GLUP Public Facility Map to generally identify this and other substation facilities within Arlington. This approach would require action by the County Board, beginning with an October 2020 advertisement and later adopting the GLUP amendment.
The community will have several opportunities to provide feedback about the project and design elements, including virtual engagement sessions hosted by Dominion Energy, written feedback, and during the County’s public meetings.
- July 8, 2020: Dominion Energy presented an introduction to the project at a virtual meeting with the Aurora Highlands Civic Association.
- Aug. 13, 2020: Dominion Energy presented a project update, including design schemes and landscape options, at a virtual meeting.
- August 13-September 1: Residents were able to submit online feedback about design elements in advance of Dominion Energy's use permit filing.
- September - October 2020: Dominion Energy will continue to accept written feedback from the community, including specific feedback about design elements.
- October 28, 2020: Dominion Energy incorporated community and staff feedback and posted a narrated video presentation to share design updates online.
- November 2020: Opportunities for public testimony will be available at the Planning Commission (Nov. 4) and County Board (Nov. 14) public hearings.
- 2021: The Department of Parks and Recreation will host a public planning process for the 18th Street South and South Ives Street site once a funding mechanism is secured.
Near the intersection of South Fern Street and 18th Street South, in the Pentagon City/Crystal City area, Arlington, VA 22202 View Map