The Old Town Civic Association

June 14: 6:30 to 7:30 PM

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will present a draft report of their study of coastal storm management measures for the Metro DC areas at a public meeting is scheduled for at Belle View Elementary School on Fort Hunt Road. More...

June 8th: 7PM meeting recap

There was a presentation on the topic of the latest plans for flood mitigation on the Alexandria Waterfront. This last month’s speaker was Matthew Landes, Portfolio Manager, City of Alexandria's Department of Project Implementation. He is a Licensed Landscape Architect, Certified Construction Manager, and Certified Arborist.  Landes serves as the City's Waterfront Implementation Program Manager, Waterfront Flood Mitigation Project Manager, and is the Portfolio Manager for the Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities and Office of Historic Alexandria projects.  Landes started with the City in 2015 as a Principal Planner and Landscape Architect.

DASH Alexandria Transit Company route change proposal petition.

A Petition drive has been conducted among the households living along the route change proposed by DASH for Route 34. . . . with the proposed route running along the 300-400 Block of Cameron Street and the 200-700 Blocks of North Pitt Street, re-route the busses from North Fairfax Street to North Pitt Street.


Residents there oppose the Pendleton Option. It drives by the 600 Block of North King Street. The majority of our neighbors oppose the DASH 34 bus operating on the 300-400 Blocks of Cameron and the 200 to 700 Blocks of North Pitt Street. In effect our petition results say, collectively, that our neighborhood is okay with any solution that crosses over from Madison Street or north of Madison. We simply oppose any part of the 34 Bus route in front of any single-family home on the “south” end of North Pitt Street, especially to facilitate developer-inspired growth in the "Hub." Not even at a corner to make a 90 degree turn, to wit, the corner of North Pitt Street and Wythe Street. Madison Street is one block north of Wythe. We are okay with Madison Street.

One of the long-time residents of the 600 block (the homes went on the market in 2000) recalled living across from bus barn in its final years of operations. Just two days ago, June 6, as she began to acquaint her neighbors with the brand-new Pendleton Street option, she wrote: “Apologies for all the emails, but here is some additional information concerning the proposed relocation of the DASH bus route and its impact on our residences, i.e. the potential for 70 buses per day driving by our residences in the 600 block of N. Pitt as well as the eastern residences on Wythe and Pendleton. Some of us have been around long enough to remember what it was like to have convoys of buses driving by our residences from the old Metro bus barn at 5 am and then returning to that maintenance yard around midnight every day!!”


-Ad Hoc North Pitt Street Planning Group

Bonus Height Zoning Text Amendment


The Planning and Zoning Department made a second Bonus Height Zoning Text Amendment presentation to the public this past May 19th in which they clarified and refined their proposal. In the new presentation, Planning explicitly excluded large chunks of Alexandria, including the Old and Historic District, Washington Street and Parker-Grey.

For more details on the May 17th community presentation by the Planning and Zoning Office about the proposed Amendment to Section 7-703(B) of the Zoning Ordinance (Bonus Height), you can go to: https://www.alexandriava.gov/zoning/bonus-height. In particular, on that page you will find the current proposed text amendment, a map and Planning Office contact info for the initiative described as: May 19th Meeting Presentation.

In the presentation document, the amendment’s text excludes height districts where the maximum allowable height is 50 feet or less, i.e. no height bonus in Old Town or in other historic districts. More clearly, the presentation material includes a map that shows the Old Town area marked red and the map’s legend which describes red as where Amendment “7-703(B) cannot be allowed”.

The Old Town Civic Association Board was active in the negotiations and would like to thank our City Manager and Planning and Zoning for their outreach to all involved parties and for hearing our concerns.

Even if the council accepts the 7-707(B) as currently shown on the map and the earlier draft of the amendment's potential height loophole is closed, the height issue is not going to go away. As evidenced by the Samuel Madden project, it appears that Planning and City Council city can change the zoning of an individual parcel within a historic district from having a height limit of 50 feet or less to a more commercially zoned lot. When that is done, that rezoned parcel is no longer subject to a height limit of 50 feet and so, in addition to its new height limit above 50 feet, the developer may apply for the 7-703(B)'s bonus height as well. The Samuel Madden project, currently before the BAR, is in Parker-Grey historic district but Planning is willing to rezone that parcel to high commercial use and allow the project an 85 feet high limit. This is the kind of precedent that makes us very nervous. And since no council can bind a future council, the zoning of parcels will always be up for grabs.

The mission of the Old Town Civic Association, as stated in our charter, is to maintain the historic character of the Old and Historic District. It is our job to remind the city that it is in its long term interest to retain the fabric, scale and charm of Old Town, not only for its residents, but also for the tourism income and taxes it attracts. Since OTCA's founding, our task has been to pass this message on to every City Manager, council member and relevant board member. Help us to continue with this mission, because together we can be vigilant and have a voice that has some influence.

April 21, 2022: Alexandria Times, Letter to the Editor, by Steve Milone, Yvonne Callahan & Robert Ray

April 12, the City Planning and Zoning Department held a “community meeting” to inform the public that current height limits in the Old & Historic District were likely to be abolished.

The staff report is titled “A Draft Text Amendment to the Bonus Height provision of Section 7-700 of the Zoning Ordinance to allow bonus height to be utilized in zones with height limits of 45 feet or more.” In other words, it is proposed that City Code Section 7-700 be extended to other neighborhoods within and around Old Town, thus allowing a vast increase in density and height if affordable housing is provided within the development.


In 2020, the City Council endorsed the recommendations of the Council of Governments (COG) for each jurisdiction to provide a fixed level of affordable housing. Staff has informed us that its commitment to COG will be meet with the creation of 222 new additional units of affordable housing, in addition to what is now available or under construction.

This isn’t an impossible goal. However, at this juncture, in order to provide an additional “tool in the toolbox”, as staff terms it, the current height limits in the Old & Historic District are essentially being abandoned.

It is critical to look carefully at the maps set forth on Pages 11 and 12 of the report, which can be found here: https://dbeta.alexandriava.gov/sites/default/files/2022-04/CM%20PPT%20-%204.12.2022%20(4.13.2022).pdf

Page 11, titled “Map of Relevant Zones”, shows areas of the city where there are zones with have 45’-50’ height maximums. The accompanying legend shows eleven such zones depicted in and around the city.

At the outset, it is obvious that it is impossible to ascertain with any reasonable clarity which zone is where and how the neighborhood would be affected-- particularly in the downtown area of the City. For example, in the brown area that mostly delineates the Southeast quadrant of the Old & Historic District, there is a small and indistinct rectangle, shown on a larger city zoning map to be CL—with a maximum height limit of 35 feet.

That rectangle is where the Safeway and the Departmental Progressive Club are located, as show on the larger maps on the City website. Under the proposed zoning changes, these two properties, literally in the heart of historic Old Town, 60-foot-tall buildings could be constructed on those two sites. Nothing was explained about the possible future of building on those sites at the community meeting.

The zones with 45’-50’ feet height limits along both King and Washington Street are also shown on page 12, titled “Likelihood of Use”, showing areas of “Potential Application of Updated Bonus Height Provision”. In other words, the city is proposing that height limits along virtually all of King Street may now become 70 feet in height, from Metro to the Waterfront.

So, all of King Street is now in jeopardy of having no reasonable height restrictions because we need to find space for 222 affordable housing units? Isn’t there a better way to go about this?

To date, the city has failed to provide adequate information to its citizens concerning this far-reaching proposal, one that could absolutely upend the entire configuration and architecture of the Old & Historic District, not to mention its beauty and historic uniqueness.

If these zoning changes are enacted, it will be the end of Old Town and the Old & Historic District as we know it. The jewel that has made Alexandria what it is today, and what we should be fighting to maintain, will shine no more.

theoldtowncivicassociation.org

Together we can have a voice that matters

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Join the Old Town Civic Association

Whether you are new to Alexandria, Virginia or have been in the community for years, we invite you to join us. OTCA has a special status in a city without ward politics; we are a collective voice for residents of Old Town on important local issues, and one respected by city government. The OTCA’s mission since our founding in 1951 has been to preserve the historic and residential character of Old Town, something we can only accomplish with the informed and active participation and support of resident members. OTCA is governed by Officers and a Board of Directors elected by the membership. The board and committees stay abreast of City issues that directly and indirectly affect Old Town and its neighbors, and communicate through our website, monthly newsletter, and emails to keep members informed of up-coming events. Board members represent Old Town residents' interests before City Council, the Planning Commission, the Board of Architectural Review, the Board of Zoning Appeals, and other policy-making bodies. OTCA representatives also sit on City commissions, committees, and boards. To contact us, see: Officers & Board

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Our meetings:

OTCA membership traditionally meets on the second Wednesday of each month in October and November, and January through June at the Lyceum, 201 South Washington Street. A half hour of socializing with neighbors starts at 7:00 pm followed by the evening program and discussion at 7:30 pm. Programs cover a wide variety topics including presentations by City officials and other professionals on development and land use issues in Old Town, historic preservation, infrastructure, traffic and parking, trees, open space, environment, City policies, as well as hosting City Council members, the Mayor, and our congressional representatives.

Our volunteer organization needs your help with all of its efforts. If you have the time, energy and interest to help OTCA's work to preserve and advance our quality of life in Old Town, please contact us - To contact us, see: Officers & Board.