Draft Policy: Public Land for Public Good
I attach a policy statement, "Public Good on Public Land," drafted by the Arlington New Directions Committee (ANDC). The statement proposes guidelines for Arlington County decisions on the use of public land when it no longer is necessary for its original purpose. The ANDC is an influential association with ties to a variety of community associations including the Arlington County Civic Federation. In early versions, the policy seemed to justify intensive development of the Wilson School site. The policy now explicitly recognizes the importance of open space. For those of us concerned that open space be a priority in the long term disposition of the Wilson Site, the salient policy points are:
1. Public land should not be sold off.
2. Affected neighboring communities should be engaged early on in determining the best use of land which no longer serves its original purpose.
3. Green space is a high priority for long term disposition of public land.
4. Use of existing facilities to provide community services, like art or day care centers is to be considered.
5. Where a decision is made to develop surplus land, priority should be given to affordable housing.

The authors of the "Public Land for Public Good" policy are Todd Endo and Andi Cullins. They'll be checking this site for your feedback.

Mark Antell

Public Good on Public Land

I. Introduction

In the past ten years, the increasing value of land in Arlington has made publicly owned land a significant public asset. At the same time, escalating land costs have been a major factor in driving up the costs of new houses and condominiums and rents for apartments, retail stores and office space. Further, profits to be made from selling land encourage high-end residential and commercial redevelopment, often replacing affordable units.

As a direct result of these trends, the number of affordable housing units has decreased rapidly, especially for the poorest families and individuals, many small independent businesses have been priced out of the market, and many nonprofit agencies delivering important community services are hard pressed to find space that meets their budget constraints.

As owners of public land, Arlington County and the Arlington Public Schools can and should be partners in a broad community development enterprise that advances the County's vision of being a diverse, inclusive community. ANDC believes that the use of publicly-owned land which becomes available for redevelopment can be a major opportunity to help maintain population, housing and economic diversity in Arlington. We further believe that this land, already purchased with public dollars, should be used to provide opportunities for lower cost housing and commercial development, and that it be offered for use to reinforce Arlington's commitment to economic diversity, and the sustainability of our workforce.

ANDC values green space, and supports the notion that public fields, parks and play areas contribute to the livability and sustainability of our community. However, if and when a decision is made by the holding entity to use public land for development rather than park land, then we believe that development should address the issues of affordable housing, affordable spaces for non-profits and small business, and provide flexible spaces for community programs.

To guide the effective use of public land for the public good, ANDC urges the Arlington County Board and School Board to adopt the following statement of principles and policy.

II. Statement of principles and policy

Whereas land in Arlington is an increasingly valuable asset, and

Whereas the cost of land is a major factor in the escalating costs of housing and rising rents for small businesses and nonprofit organizations delivering important community services, and

Whereas the results of these trends are a loss of affordable housing, a loss of small independent businesses, and a reduction in the amount of money nonprofit organizations can spend on services,

Therefore the Arlington County Board and the Arlington County School Board will ensure that public lands they own that become available for development will be used to advance the County's vision of a diverse and inclusive community by adopting and adhering to the following principles and policies:

The ownership of the land will remain in the public domain.

2. Preferred uses will be for affordable housing, (40% to 80% of median income, special populations, single room occupancy), Arlington-based nonprofit organizations delivering services to County residents, and locally-owned, small businesses.

3. Mixed use will be preferred when appropriate.

4. Determination of the final use of a site will be based on the needs of the larger Arlington community and include an open process for input from the immediate neighborhood and surrounding areas.

5. The owner of the public land will give preferences to partnerships with nonprofit developers or for-profit developers with track records of building affordable housing and/or small business/retail spaces.

The developer partner will be selected through a competitive bidding process, with preference given to designs that include some amount of flexible use space, environmentally responsible construction, economical use of materials, and creative approaches that maximize the number of affordable units regardless of specific use.

We endorse the adoption of a clear, consistent and transparent process for community decision making on the use of any land in question, and for the process of selecting development partners. Specifically, we recommend the formation of a citizen's advisory commission to actively seek input from stakeholders, and to produce recommendations to the County Board for action. The commission shall include a cross section of all stakeholders, with emphasis on directly affected communities, including nearby neighborhoods and civic associations. The advisory board would also vet proposals by potential development partners to determine their suitability and conformity with the needs set forth by the Arlington community.
Posts: 319 | Registered: December 08, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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While I applaud the Coalition's emphasis on including directly-affected communities in the decision processes of the County and School Boards and appreciate the concern for affordable housing and retail space, this policy paper almost concludes that public sites will be developed. [Sad, but true.] To me, the most valuable nugget is: "The ownership of the land will remain in the public domain." Let's endorse that as vigorously as we can.

However, this policy statement does not strongly support the value of retaining green and park space.

Two recent, relevant articles (sorry, copying the URLs does not provide a link):
Court Rules Against County in Clarendon Church Case -- Plans for new church sanctuary and 10-story building, with affordable units, on hold.
By Seth Rosen
The Arlington Connection
September 29, 2006
(An article on the same subject appeared in the Washington Post a few days ago.)

Parents, Singles Tussle Over [Arlington] Places to Play
By Annie Gowen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 8, 2006; Page A01

Thanks for sharing and offering an opportunity to comment.
Posts: 29 | Registered: May 08, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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