Catherine Lad speaking in support of Arlington’s parks with her sons Andrew (left, as Teddy Roosevelt) and Matthew (right, as Abraham Lincoln).
Photo by Vernon Miles.
The Four Mile Run of tomorrow is taking shape in Arlington. After two years of planning and discussion in commissions and subcommittees, the framework of a plan is making its way towards the County Board.
At its April 11 meeting, the Planning Commission approved the recommendation that the County Board advertise the Four Mile Run Valley policy framework for final action in its May meeting.
Within the framework there are two concept plans, one that focuses on retention and adaptive reuse, the other with moderate change. The retention and reuse plan maintains the area’s prominent industrial and service commercial uses along Four Mile Run Drive, except for a motel and vacant sites in the area to be redeveloped as mixed-use developments. The moderate change plan pushes for a greater variety of uses in the area, focusing on a greater mixture of space uses, with greater area walkability and park accessibility.
Based on community input and transportation analysis, county staff recommended the retention and reuse plan. Staff reported that the community had expressed concerns about the loss of the industrial and commercial zones along Four Mile Run Drive and urged that preserving that character be included as a priority.
“This is not a failing industrial area,” said Charles Monfort, chair of the Four Mile Run Valley working group, noting that many of these were car repair places, dog care places, and other uses that can’t be found elsewhere in Arlington. “These are successful businesses. We don’t want to get rid of those. It’s a well-liked, well-used set of businesses.”
Monfort also said there had been concerns in the community that the extremely popular Shirlington Dog Park would be changed or moved. Monfort said the current plans involve some improvements to the park, but nothing that will change its current location.
However, in the long run, Monfort said the plan will face challenges in funding. Many other development plans throughout Arlington are funded from contributions by developers in exchange for exceeding density limits. But Monfort said the plans for Four Mile Run will rely on Arlington’s budget, which given some of the tight constraints of the last few years, could be a challenge.
While most of the Planning Commission expressed satisfaction with the planning framework, with Planning Commission chair Jane Siegel calling the area Arlington’s diamond in the rough, there was some pushback. Commissioner Daniel Weir said he was concerned going into the meeting that only one of the concepts would move forward to the County Board. In May, both concept plans will be presented to the County Board for review.
“I don’t want to belittle work of two-year process, but I do not support [framework],” said Commissioner Stephen Hughes. “I do agree with the intents to retain commercial for businesses already there, and the work on Jennie Dean Park that is desperately overdue, [but] where the plan falls short is visioning for the future. [It’s] increasing the intensity of use in an area without really thinking about the concept of where and how to address park needs throughout community. As we increase population in these areas close to this site, [that’s] going to come into desperate need for rectangles and diamonds. They are going to need large acreage, and the more valuable those sites are the harder they are to come by. Not laying out a vision for a large continuous park is a disservice to the community.”
The vote was passed with eight in favor and Hughes abstaining. In May, the County Board will review the framework for approval.