- The Washington Times - Friday, December 13, 2002

Arlington County, Va., officials had hoped to have big portions of the plans for Columbia Pike's revitalization approved by year's end, but that is unlikely to happen now.
For the second time, the Arlington County Planning Commission Monday put off issuing a recommendation on zoning and transportation changes around one of the county's main thoroughfares. The commission will address the issue again at its meeting Jan. 27 and, if necessary, as part of the County Board meeting Feb. 8.
Planners already had pushed back discussion from Nov. 26 because a full agenda did not allow time for it. The commission spent four hours Monday night discussing Columbia Pike before voting to ask county staff for more information on the proposed changes.
"I know this is not what you wanted to hear from us," commission Chairman Pamela Gillen said to the many revitalization supporters in attendance. "But we needed to tie up these loose ends. The most important goal is making sure we get it right."
The county is looking to spruce up the area on and around Columbia Pike with more office and retail space and an improved streetscape and transportation system. To achieve that goal, the commission considered three amendments outlining changes to the county's general land-use plan, and zoning and transportation ordinances. Numerous sticking points on each amendment prevented the commissioners from granting approval.
Commission members said they needed more information about how much new parking would be required and took issue with portions of the wording of an amendment to build six new streets or walkways near Columbia Pike.
The effect on affordable housing was also an issue. Several residents argued that the plan would cause housing values to rise, thus forcing out people with lower incomes, including senior citizens.
Others, including Marguerite Coffey of south Arlington, said the plan would create too much congestion. "There's too many people, there's too much traffic," she said.
Ms. Gillen said she had hoped to get the amendments passed before the end of the year, when newly elected commissioners and county board members take office.
"I've put a lot of time and energy into this chair," she said. "Certain members of the county board are anxious to get something done."
The three amendments must be approved before the commission can take at look at the "form-based code," a stricter set of guidelines for the project created largely from resident feedback.
In other news
The developers of Plaza America in Reston today will present a check for $1.85 million to Fairfax County. It is the last payment Intertech Corp. and Atlantic Realty Cos. will make to the county for upgrades to roads and public transportation systems in the area. The county had required the developers to pay $4 million for the upgrades to allow for construction of Plaza America, a group of four high-rise office buildings.
The National Capital Planning Commission said a fence that National Institutes of Health officials wanted to place around the agency's Bethesda campus would cause "degradation of life" for its neighbors. Commissioners ordered that NIH return to them with more details on the agency's security needs.
Spaulding & Slye Colliers' Construction Group finished the concrete framework of Federal Gateway, a 10-story, 297,000-square-foot building at M Street and New Jersey Avenue SE. The building should be completed next fall.

Property Lines runs Fridays. Tim Lemke can be reached at [email protected] or 202/636-4836.

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