Happy New Year from the Seminary Hill Association, Inc. I hope you had a safe and happy holiday season despite the challenges that the pandemic is creating for all of us. While we might assume that things would slow down a bit over the holidays in our city, that is certainly not the case. I want to alert you to several important meetings that are coming up in the immediate future.
As I wrote in my December article, just 3 days before Christmas, the City and Inova Alexandria Hospital announced a deal in partnership with development partners Foulger-Pratt and Seritage, to move the hospital campus to Landmark as part of the revitalization of that abandoned site. While the actual move is a number of years off, the first step in the process will be to rezone the existing Seminary Road site in order to maximize the value of the land to Inova, who will use the proceeds to help fund their move to Landmark. Inova, therefore, is seeking a rezoning to allow for more dense development to increase the value of the property. Inova has indicated that they intend for the site to be residential with a mix of single-family and townhomes. It is important to understand that Inova will not be the developer of this land, and so the zoning change will dictate what is able to be built there, and Inova's wishes will not have any legal standing with the future developer. Since this 30-acre site is a major property within the boundaries of SHA, we will be closely involved in this process in order to protect residents whose properties adjoin the site, as well as ensure that future uses will be compatible with the character of this neighborhood.
The City and Inova are wasting no time in jump-starting the rezoning process. There are 3 upcoming meetings that will be relevant to this process. The first meeting will be Monday, January 4th from 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. This meeting will be to discuss the Landmark site only. The format for this information-only meeting is not the standard webinar format. The information from the City regarding this meeting is pasted below:
- Read the News Release (12/22/20)
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- Preliminary Applicant Submission Materials
Landmark Redevelopment - Monday, January 4, 2021, 7-8:30 p.m.
Hosted by Foulger-Pratt, Inova Health System, City of Alexandria
- View and ask questions via Facebook Live(requires a Facebook account)
- View via YouTube
- Listen only via phone:
Webinar ID: 997 8753 4944
The second meeting will be held on Wednesday, January 6th from 6:00-7:00 p.m. This meeting will discuss the Seminary Road site. Here is the information for this important meeting:
- Wednesday, January 6, 6-7 p.m.
- To participate by computer, tablet, or smartphone:
- To listen by phone audio only:
- Dial in: 1-312-626-6799
- Webinar ID: 959 3739 4316
- Passcode: 851975
The final meeting will be the SHA Board meeting on Thursday, January 14th at 7:00 p.m. It will be a Zoom meeting. Cathy Puskar, the land use attorney for Inova Alexandria Hospital, will give a presentation on the Seminary Road site and answer questions. I am sure that the presentation will be very similar to the January 6th meeting, but we want everyone to have an opportunity to understand what rezoning the hospital is requesting and what impacts it will have on our community. It is important to note that approximately 16 acres of the 30-acre hospital site are currently protected by a scenic easement. That easement will end when the property is sold. Ms. Puskar will be the first presentation on our agenda following the Police and Sheriff reports, which usually take just a few moments. Here is the information for the SHA Board meeting:
Meeting ID: 812 6466 8058
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There is one final topic that I want to bring to your attention. As you know, the City has been holding meetings regarding the Zoning Amendment to allow Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) throughout the city. SHA has had concerns about some of the aspects of this proposal, including the one-foot setback from neighboring property lines. We felt, however, that the requirement that either the main residence or the ADU had to be occupied by the owner of the property would ensure that renters, whether long-term or short-term Airbnb, would be held accountable for maintaining the property in good condition with respect for neighbors' quality of life. Within the last 10 days, over the holiday season, the staff reversed their position on this very important safeguard and removed the owner occupancy requirement. Residents and civic associations raised questions in the last week after learning of this change, but no satisfactory answers have been provided, other than a vague reference to potential legal issues if the requirement was maintained. Other jurisdictions like Arlington, Washington, D.C., Charlottesville, and Norfolk have this restriction in their ordinances and we are not aware of any legal challenge that has happened. SHA will, therefore, speak in opposition to the Zoning Amendment allowing ADUs, at the Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday, January 5th. City Council will vote on this matter on Saturday, January 23rd. SHA believes that this last minute change to eliminate one of the major protections for neighbors without any public notice or opportunity for input is a serious violation of the public trust and the City's stated commitment to transparency. There needs to be a full public discussion of this issue before this amendment is adopted.
As you may remember, at our December meeting, SHA had a presentation on the High School Project at Minnie Howard. One of controversial issues is the consideration of the colocation of other city services on school sites, including adult housing. SHA recently learned that the School Board will be giving direction to the architects for the Minnie Howard project in mid-January and this will include a decision about the addition of housing to that campus. SHA will continue to follow this issue and speak out against the concept of allowing adult housing on our school sites.
As you can see, the City took no holiday break and continues to bring issue after issue to a vote during this pandemic, and we are committed to staying on top of all of them and keeping our residents informed so that you have the opportunity to contact the SHA board and your elected officials to express your views. I hope to "see" many of you at the upcoming virtual meetings. Let's hope that 2021 will allow us to meet again in person at some point. Thank you very much for your interest in civic affairs and the Seminary Hill Association.