Peach Ohlerich bought her home years ago near Marymount University in North Arlington because it was a quiet area and the school was a "little girls school." Now Marymount is planning to build a major multi-use facility in her neighborhood. "To me this just isn’t a place to expand a university into."
MANY NEIGHBORHOOD residents who feel the same way gathered on May 2 to learn about and organize against the university’s plans.
At issue is Marymount’s intention to develop a 1.8-acre lot bounded by Old Dominion Drive, Yorktown Boulevard and North 26th Street. The university currently has an asphalt parking lot at the site.
In December 2005 the university applied for a use permit to replace it with a building that would include a parking garage, student dormitories, classrooms and a 325-seat auditorium. In these plans the building would be three floors tall.
At last week’s residents’ meeting some of the roughly 70 neighborhood residents in attendance voiced their concerns. "A lot of us are concerned about traffic there, because it’s a disaster already," said Jim Framen.
Will Anthony, a leader of Neighbors of Marymount University — a group organizing to improve the proposed building, summarized the residents’ concerns. If the university went ahead with its proposed plans these were
* there would be too many people on the site and the building would be too big for the neighborhood;
* the building would also diminish open space in the neighborhood;
* its style does not fit in with the area;
* it would increase traffic in the area;
* finally, the building would decrease safety and would lead to student parties and littering.
ABOUT 60 people signed a petition opposing the university’s current proposal, Collins said after the meeting.
Noting that the university is changing its plans for the site, some in attendance thought it might be premature to work against the university’s previously announced plans.
"I rather like the idea of waiting to see what they come up with," said neighborhood resident Rhoda Nary after the meeting. "I ... value the university. I think it’s a very valuable, life-giving institution. But because of its location it has to give priority to the residential character of the neighborhood."
Reached after the meeting, a university spokeswoman confirmed that the university was changing its plans for the site. The university was not prepared to talk about the specifics of the changes, said Vice President for Communications Shelley Dutton. "It’s important for Marymount to be a good neighbor."
In 2005 Marymount President James Bundschuh met with the local civic associations to discuss the university’s recently approved facilities plan, Dutton said. The university primarily needed additional parking, more classrooms and more student dorms, she said.
After Bundschuh’s meeting with the civic groups, the university’s architect suggested building a multipurpose facility, Dutton said.
At last week’s resident meeting, the organizers took a poll of those present to determine what the residents were most opposed to in the plans already presented. Of those who voted, 10 said they most wanted the dorm space reduced, nine said they most wanted less classroom space, 11 said they most wanted a smaller auditorium or none at all, and 21 said they wanted less parking.
The Arlington County Board has set up a task force to consider the university’s application for a use permit. It has representatives from the area’s civic associations, the university and other bodies.
However, the university does have the correct zoning for their proposal, said Peter Fallon, a member of the Arlington County Planning Commission.
It is obvious that the university is going to do something with the site, said Vaugn Collins, a member of Neighbors of Marymount.