Board To Vote on Controversial Church Project

Board To Vote on Controversial Church Project

The First Baptist Church of Clarendon project is coming before the Board again after it was struck down in court last year.

The Arlington County Board will hold a vote on the First Baptist Church of Clarendon (FBCC) project this week, a project that led to a lengthy court battle and has provoked intense debate among Arlington residents.

The FBCC project, which will be voted on at the County Board's monthly meeting on Feb. 24, would allow a 10-story apartment building with space allotted for affordable housing to be constructed on the church's property just a few blocks from the Clarendon Metro Station.

The County board originally approved the plan in 2004 after heated debate between affordable housing proponents and residents of the surrounding Lyon Village neighborhood who did not want to live next to a dense residential building.

Despite losing the debate, the Lyon Village residents took their case to the Virginia Supreme Court and won. In late 2006, the court ruled that the project could not proceed because of issues with the property's zoning.

Instead of abandoning the project, however, the County Board, eager to create more affordable housing opportunities in Arlington, is now considering it again with the court-mandated alterations in place.

Robert Bayer, a member of the Arlington Interfaith Council, said at January's County Board meeting that the FBCC project should move forward. He held up the project as an example of "a faith based organization leveraging their assets to better the community."

Lyon Village resident Bruce Ogden, one of the seven plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case against the Board, isn't satisfied with the modifications to the project. "The Board couldn't bend the rules so now they're trying to change them," he said. However, he admitted he is not optimistic that the project will be blocked at the upcoming County Board meeting.

The Arlington County Planning Commission held a meeting to discuss the church project last week. The commission, which is primarily an advisory organization, voted to defer the issue. Their deferral will have no binding impact on the upcoming County Board decision.

The Board will vote on the FBCC project at their Feb. 24 meeting no later than 9 a.m. People may sign up to speak at the meeting by signing a regular hearing speaker slip, which can be obtained the day of the meeting.