Thursday, March 01, 2007

Second Chance Granted to First Baptist Church

The Arlington County Board first approved the “Views at Clarendon” on October 23, 2004. Two years, a project-halting technicality, and a $200,000 lawsuit later, the County board again approved the mixed-use church and multi-family residential building in a 4-1 vote. The meeting was just one more chapter of the ongoing saga over the First Baptist Church of Clarendon.

As DCMud reported at the beginning of this month, residents of the surrounding Lyon Village neighborhood filed a lawsuit in November to reverse the zoning approval of the project, objecting to the 10-story, 116 rental-unit structure that will keep the current church’s 107-foot steeple in tact and include daycare and moderately priced housing. The County Circuit Court judge ruled in 2005 against the neighbors, but the decision was reversed in 2006 when the Virginia Supreme Court determined that the board acted against their own Zoning Ordinance 27A and thus, invalidated the earlier zoning approval. After changing this technicality, the plan was resubmitted for approval.

Over 200 neighbors, community figures, and board members attended the February 24th meeting, 126 of whom signed up to speak. According to Mary Curtius, the Arlington County Media Relations Manager, the attendance was evenly divided between supporters and opponents. Curtius added that the county’s main interest in the project is the affordable housing and day care, “what is so unusual about it (the project) is that there are so few opportunities in Arlington for affordable housing and daycare within walking distance of the metro. The two together is almost impossible to find.” At the meeting, board member Jay Fisette shared the same sentiments, “If not here, where?” he asked.

Those opposed to the project threatened a second lawsuit, the first of which was paid for by the neighbors. Barring any further legal action, the Views at Clarendon Corporation, Inc., the non-profit that was formed for the project, will begin developing the county’s largest childcare facility and new affordable housing units. While the site plan has been approved, permits for the 1201 N. Highland Street development have yet to be obtained. The church began the process back in 2003 when it hired the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) to guide it on affordable housing.



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