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Arlington County Board Approves ADU’s 4-1

After a couple years or so of moving below the radar, and then being “floated” by the County Board’s Housing Commission in January, the County Board voted today to sanction so-called accessory dwelling units (Board agenda item #47). In an online news report posted this evening, Scott McCaffrey of the Arlington Sun-Gazette wrote:

“County Board members on July 19 voted 4-1 to support a scaled-back proposal that will legalize accessory-dwelling apartment units in single-family neighborhoods, but caps the number of units that can be approved each year.

“The vote wrapped up an often cantankerous, six-month community debate, and came at the tail end of a seven-hour hearing in which critics of the accessory-dwelling proposal significantly outnumbered proponents.

“That lopsided ratio of opponents to supporters may have been the key factor why board members agreed to limit the number of accessory units approved each year to just 28. The number was chosen because it has long been the government's rather loose estimate of how many homeowners will come forward each year to seek to create accessory units.”

We growled about this on July 7, 2008, as well as pointing taxpayers to an online petition concerning  the “legalization of Accessory Dwellings” that they could sign if they thought the Board's action “would negatively affect the residents of Arlington.” The  petition garnered 584 signatures. As McCaffrey noted in his report, even the Board’s various commissions had trouble reaching agreement.

One Arlington sage noted this comment by Board member Chris Zimmerman, “I know a lot of folks are against it, but let's just at least go ahead and give the AD proposal a try." A second sage observed that the Board attempted to please most parties with the ADU package by including all sorts of bureaucratic requirements and limitations that would limit the number of units directly and raise the cost and hassle of creating one.

So goes the Arlington County “sausage factory” in Room 307 at Courthouse Plaza. Will Arlington taxpayers eventually pay the price for the Board's actions today?

For further information, visit the Civic Federation’s webpage on accessory dwelling units. The Arlington County Republican Committee developed a short Issue Brief to bring together a lot of information into just two or three pages. Finally, there is the county’s official press release.

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