Commentary, Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

Opponents of the newly enacted rezoning to encourage “Missing Middle” housing may have removed their angry yard signs. But many remain active as critics, legal strategists and trackers of the county’s posted building permits.

As of Aug. 25, 22 projects have been submitted, with four approved and 18 under review (some in re-review) — roughly equal between south and north Arlington. They include proposals for two duplexes, three semi-detached units, six townhouse projects (three units each), and the rest multifamily (up to six units).

Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future urges followers to ask the county board “for neighborhood involvement in the reporting; push for analysis on the demographic, fiscal and environmental impacts; and tell the board that sunsets must be made conditional on key benchmarks.”

Harsher rhetoric comes from unsuccessful county board candidate Natalie Roy, who regularly updates her “EHO Watch” newsletter, recycling arguments that Missing Middle is a “gift to developers” and a “rebranding” as Expanded Housing Options. Her takeaways: that owners are selling for less than their homes appear to be worth; developers are not building affordable “missing middle” but are making a lot of money; that parking will be a problem; and teardowns will be accelerated.

In the legal arena, the lawsuit filed in April by ten homeowners claiming damages from the policy will be heard in Arlington Circuit Court Sept. 19. Neighbors in the Donaldson Run neighborhood surrounding the now-demolished Broyhill mansion have been mulling a lawsuit to prevent subdividing that lot for multi-family units by invoking a 1940s neighborhood covenant.

(County spokeswoman Bryna Hefner told me the county was aware of the existence of covenants. But since it “has no legal role in the regulation or enforcement of private covenants, we cannot comment further on how private individuals might” use them.)

Lawyers have gotten their feet wet in a dispute over redividing residential property in the Alcova Heights neighborhood at the 4000 block of S. 7th St.

Classic Cottages has applied, in two stages, to subdivide two lots for planned multi-family structures that neighbors worry, as Kelly Reed told me, might not be “compatible with surrounding properties, particularly given that the two lots are currently part of a forested corridor abutting Alcova Heights Park and Doctor’s Run.”

Classic Cottages did not respond to inquiries, but the builder did submit a revised proposal Aug. 17 after a group of 11 neighbors, using the Freedom of Information Act, obtained the planning plats. They sent a technical letter to county manager Mark Schwartz and board members seeking rejection of the permit. After some confusion on whether the plan was for single-family or multi-family, the group criticized the builder for applying for “two abutting EHO permits and a lot line adjustment to reconfigure the two properties that do not comply with the minimum requirements of an EHO development.”

One disgruntled neighbor is retired architect Jamshid Kooros. He says the problem in the shift to multifamily “is not in the ideal” of creating attainable mid-range housing, to which he is sympathetic, “but in the implementation.” According to the early site plan, the structure could “look like an Army barracks,” he said. The county’s policy was passed “with no subtlety, with no consideration of the proximity to other homes and the fabric of the neighborhood. If it were attractive, that would go a long way toward assuaging the neighbors.”


Food lovers mourn the passing of restaurateur Vincenzo Farruggio, longtime proprietor of Joe’s Place Pizza and Pasta (now recast as A Modo Mio on the old Gifford’s Ice Cream site near the Lee-Harrison Shopping Center).

The 72-year-old, who succumbed to cancer on Aug. 19, came to the United States from his native Castrofilippo in Sicily, where he sold fruit as a 12-year old. The family settled in Brooklyn. In 1978 he and brothers Giuseppe and Calogero moved to Virginia to start a Joe’s pizza in Woodbridge. They expanded to five locations, Arlington’s being the second. A steady sponsor of youth sports teams, Farruggio retired in 2007.