Civic Association (BVSCA)

Statement on George Mason University Foundation Arlington Campus:
Proposed GLUP Amendment and Rezoning

At the Arlington County Planning Commission Meeting of July 24, 2001, BVSCA At-Large Executive Committee Member, Kate Wilson, presented the following statement on behalf of the Association:

Good evening. My name is Kate Wilson, and I speak on behalf of the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association. This civic association wholeheartedly supports the presence of GMU in the neighborhood, and welcomes a proposal that includes feedback from community residents, as has occurred through the various site plan review sessions.

There are, however, four issues significant to the BVSCA and its members and residents: (1) the pedestrian connection through the site, (2) parking, (3) traffic flow on Washington Blvd., and (4) requested zoning change to increase the F.A.R.

BVSCA, in concordance with County Staff recommendations and the Virginia Square Sector Plan Review Committee, strongly supports the developer's plan for an enhanced passageway for pedestrian use between Fairfax Drive and Washington Blvd. Although there is currently a small pathway, an enhanced and well-lit passage is vital to insure the safety of students, residents, building tenants, and retail customers. Furthermore, BVSCA agrees with County Staff in advocating a pedestrian-friendly and handicapped-accessible walkway no narrower than 8 feet.

Parking: this issue is on everyone's agenda. BVSCA requests that a written parking management plan be required, and this plan shall include a permanent public use arrangement. This civic association, and the VSSPRC, have repeatedly voiced concerns over the dearth of shared parking in Virginia Square. While GMU and the Foundation support opening their parking area for community use on weekends and holidays, as Mr. Taylor elaborated, regrettably this will do little to alleviate current parking shortages, much less when there are additional students on site. A long term parking plan that includes shared parking options post-Phase II expansion, as highlighted by Mr. Taylor this evening, sounds ideal. Denial of open public use for the parking garage directly breaches the Virginia Square community policy advocating meaningful shared parking. We understand that spaces should be prioritized for student, site tenant, and retail customer use, but I suggest that in all those 6 levels of parking and 671 spaces there will be room for shared public daytime parking. PAY PARKING IS AN IMPROVEMENT OVER NO PARKING.

On related note, we are extremely concerned with future traffic flow on Washington Blvd. as a result of the proposed building. First, we request that County DPW be actively involved with the parking and traffic plans to insure adequate and informed coverage of the situation. Second, we VERY STRONGLY support a shared parking entry with FDIC, as noted by the Site Plan Review Committee's report, with a traffic signal added on Washington Blvd, documented as an outstanding issues currently under review by GMUF. If this cannot be accommodated, which could create terrible traffic flow, especially at peak times, then consider restructuring Condition #11, part 4 to prohibit left-turns and one-way operations immediately upon site completion. Finally, with or without a new traffic signal, an enhanced pedestrian crosswalk must be added. This will continue the proposed pedestrian connection starting at Fairfax Drive, to the north side of Washington Blvd.

Fourth, the requested change in zoning designation. BVSCA supports County Staff in their recommendation to moderately lower the F.A.R., and glad to learn of the developer's & Foundation's acceptance of the C-O-2.5 zoning. The community is rightly concerned about appropriate transitions from service-commercial to mixed used and residential, and the slippery slope such a dramatic change could usher in. To that end, BVSCA requests a stated contribution to the community in exchange for zoning change, such as a substantial contribution to the affordable housing fund.

Finally, BVSCA, in agreement with the VSSPRC, happily supports this site plan's inclusion of ground floor retail, particularly a non-destination type restaurant and bookstore. We wholeheartedly stand by County Staff's Condition #50, to develop a retail action and marketing plan, and Condition #51, to integrate art within the site. The latter condition supports a stated goal of the revised Virginia Square Sector Plan: for Virginia Square to serve as an arts and cultural destination in the R-B corridor.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

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