Planning Commissioners admitted Monday night that plans for the Rosenthal Jeep site on Columbia Pike comply with zoning codes, but they voted nonetheless not to send the plans to the county board later this month.
The commission made the odd move to defer a decision on the Penrose development project -- now called “Pike 3400” -- after hours of discussion.
The reason for the nearly-unanimous decision: commissioners did not like the skin of the main building.
"This is at Glebe Road and Columbia Pike … and extremely important to setting the tone” for other development projects throughout the corridor, said Commissioner Brian Harner.
Some wondered aloud if the HardiePlank siding planned for the building was the best the county could hope for. HardiPlank is a composite of concrete and wood pulp that looks much like wood but is more durable. The architects put too much of it on the Columbia Pike side of the planned building, and the material is overused in Arlington, some commissioners said.
The decision sent the applicant, Penrose Property Company, into the third-floor lobby outside the board room to confer. Their attorney, Cathy Puskar of Walsh Colucci, who represented the applicant to the commission, was angry.
Did she object to planners admitting compliance and voting no?
“Exactly. It’s form-based-code compliant,” Puskar said.
Had the commissioners approved the plan, it would have proceeded to the county board meeting in two weeks. The planning process started about a year ago.
Commissioner Charles Monfort said projects this size should “clearly meet,” not minimally meet, code requirements. Commissioner Terry Savela said she believes the code allows the county to require better materials. However, Commissioner Inta Malis said parts of the code do allow the county to make changes, but not for materials. Commissioners saw this as a conflict in the code that they hope staff can clarify.
She moved that the site plan be approved with some modifications; after discussion, the commission voted it down. Malis was the lone vote for the project. Although they voted to defer, many commissioners said they like the plan overall and wish to see it move forward. The developer had delayed the hearing in April to this month.
The site is being developed in two parcels, a six-story, 245-unit, apartment building along Columbia Pike and an enclave of 44 townhouses behind the main building between S. Glebe Road and S. Monroe Street. A new section of 11th Street will cut between the two parcels. Eventually, the project will connect to S. 12th Street once the county and the U.S. Postal Service create a right-of-way between the two properties. Staff did not know exactly when that would be, but they are working on it, they said.