- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 27, 2003

The Arlington County Board passed major planning changes late Tuesday night designed to spur new development along one of the county's main roads.
Board members voted 4-0 in favor of adopting the "form-based code," a strict set of planning rules that will serve as a guide for developers looking to build along a 3-mile stretch of Columbia Pike in Arlington.
The code, which was developed over the last six months following community design sessions and nearly 200 public meetings, governs building size and design, as well as the look and function of streetscapes. The county plans to use the code in conjunction with tax and other incentives for developers to create a more pedestrian-friendly town center.
Resident support for the code was overwhelming Tuesday night. Twenty-six residents, many of them neighborhood association leaders, spoke before the board, and all but one expressed at least conditional support for the plan.
"Overall, I'm impressed with the form-based code," said David Diamond, head of the Penrose Neighborhood Association in Arlington. "We may never agree on what the pike should look like, but at least now we'll know what it will look like."
The one vocal opponent, James Hurysz, said redevelopment of the pike would lead to the elimination of affordable housing.
Other residents, while supportive of the code, questioned whether there was enough parking to accommodate a redevelopment. Under original drafts of the code, businesses were not required to have a minimum number of parking spaces. Instead, redevelopment advocates supported a plan that would lead to more shared parking, either in lots or garages along the pike.
County officials said they would consider parking minimums or a minimum contribution of $15,000 per parking space to a general parking fund. County Board member Jay Fissette said he favored waiving parking requirements for smaller businesses and creating a tiered-payment system in which larger businesses would pay more per space.
County Manager Ron Carlee said that parking arrangements were still being finalized, but that county staff would submit a formal proposal requiring permits for nighttime parking in residential areas within 30 days.
He said county staff would submit a more comprehensive parking plan within 90 days.
Furthermore, county officials agreed to create a task force to address street design issues, including the width of the pike and the placement of bike paths along it.
County officials worked feverishly in recent weeks to iron out details of the code and satisfy resident concerns. Many residents who were once skeptical that the code could be approved with proper resident input said they were pleased with the results.
"This process has been astounding to me," said Randy Swart, a 48-year Arlington resident. "Just a month ago, a lot of people were rolling their eyes and saying 'this is not ready for prime time.' But nobody's saying that anymore."
There were several last-minute changes to the code Tuesday night. The board voted in favor of quarterly reviews of the code, with an in-depth review every three years. It also agreed to provide incentives to developers who build using environmentally friendly materials and designs.
In addition to passing planning changes, the County Board said Capstone Properties could move ahead with plans to develop a 16-unit housing, office and retail complex. The company used the form-based code as a guide in drawing up plans for the project.

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