Dear County Board:
I am a Lyon Village resident, dismayed about the so-called Missing Middle housing proposal and the County’s apparent decision to limit citizen input and feedback. Public comment on important issues should not be restricted to electronic means; county officials should hold in-person public hearings on issues with wide-ranging effects.
As I understand it, the proposal would eliminate current zoning in many residential zoning districts to enable multifamily dwellings on virtually all lots in existing single-family residential zoning districts. The current mix of single-family homes, garden style and midrise multifamily buildings plus some middle units resulted in Arlington's growth and prosperity over decades, yet this proposal would create sweeping changes in mere months, with limited input from Arlingtonians. (This is not equitable as not everyone has electronic access and others cannot use it easily or conveniently, nor is electronic communication the preferred or optimal communication method for many elderly and disabled persons.)
Few doubt the necessity of increased housing, and more affordable housing, particularly in close-in suburbs like Arlington. However, I do not agree that the solution is to wedge multifamily homes into small lots, which will create more congestion, parking problems, noise, environmental damage, while endangering pedestrians (including children) and trees. Moreover, zoning existing single family lots for multifamily development will incentivize homeowners to sell, benefitting real estate developers whose business it is to maximize financial returns, not provide solutions to housing shortages. In the worst case scenario, the proposed zoning changes will provide little or no significant increase in middle-or-affordable housing, create a financial windfall for property developers, and diminish quality of life factors for Arlingtonians. Our neighborhoods will not have the high quality of life that we enjoy today, instead they will be caracterized by helter- skelter development.
I strongly urge the County Board to do several things before proceeding: (1) prepare a brief (1-2 page), accurate, plain language summary of what is proposed, including its benefits, its intended beneficiaries and its foreseeable drawbacks (and make it available in English and Spanish); (2) develop a timetable for evaluation and adoption; (3) publicize a reasonable period for public comment including in-person hearings, electronic communications, and other feedback methods; and (4) solicit the input of all community associations and commit to review everything received, with public responses.
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