The Arlington County Board spent almost no time discussing whether to approve the redevelopment plan for the Rosenthal Jeep site on the southwest corner of S. Glebe and Columbia Pike. From their point of view, approval was pro forma, a direct contradiction of the Planning Commission's vote to defer the project on May 7.
The board's reasoning was simple: the plan--now called “Pike 3400”--fit the Columbia Pike “form-based code” and the few areas where the developer requested modifications to the code were reasonable. The board saw no reason to stop the process, or even to discuss it at any length.
They spent no time discussing whether or not the use of certain materials was proper for the construction of the planned 245-unit apartment building that fronts Columbia Pike. They spent no time on the 44 townhouses planned behind the apartment building.
And they saw the issue of whether the site has the proper transportation and traffic access as a much larger concern for the county itself instead of the developer. This is where they spent the most time talking.
So on Tuesday night May 22, they voted the plan through unanimously.
This was much different from May 7, when the Planning Commission voted to have the project deferred because of the materials and poor vehicular access to the site.
Board Chairman Mary Hynes addressed the Planning Commission directly.
“If you all have concerns about that list of materials...then the appropriate thing is to write us a letter...as opposed to asking us to defer a project that is compliant with the code,” she said. “The action doesn't match in my mind."
Although the project was a win for the developer Penrose Property Company, it was a win, mainly, for the form-based code, and is most likely good news for developers along the Pike.
The code is a list of general size, shape, and uses of buildings that can be built. If developers stay within those guidelines, their buildings should progress through to construction without too much bureaucratic obstruction.
Rather than changing an individual building, the board may change the code itself if it sees development it does not like. Obviously, that would affect future development, not current sites.
For instance, they said they would look at any number of concerns if individuals or a group were to write a letter, they said.
Board member Jay Fisette was especially concerned with LEED certification. The rules that dictate how a company will apply for that measure of a building’s environmental friendliness are largely toothless.