In a week where April showers have been the norm, we are fortunate to have thus far been spared the terrible weather that has done a great deal of damage to areas south of us. Spring finally appears to be taking a more permanent position now, and it is fun to see the daffodils and early flowering trees in bloom all over Seminary Hill. This is in sad contrast to the sight we see on the Karig Estates property where clear cutting has left the landscape shockingly barren. It seems incredible to me that none of the large trees whose trunks we see piled in huge heaps was deemed worthy of protection by the city.
As always, there are meetings ahead that I want to bring to your attention. The first meeting is a virtual Community Meeting on April 12th regarding a proposed text amendment that would lower the height threshold to be granted 25' of bonus height under Section 7-700 from zones having a 50' heigh limit to zones having a 45' height limit. This height bonus would be in exchange for providing some affordable housing. The Planning Commission had a discussion about this item on Thursday, April 7th and I would encourage you to listen to the recording of that meeting if you want to learn more about the potential impact of this change. Here is the link to register for the April 12th meeting:
Registration Link: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_j5_uYHTKTm20LEWfLILQlg
Zoom Audio Conference:
Dial in: 301-715-8592
Webinar ID: 931 2631 4644
While lowering the height by 5’ down to 45’ in order to be allowed to take advantage of the 25’ height bonus in Section 7-700 may seem like a minor modification, it is important to note that 45’ is the allowable height limit for townhomes, while 50’ is a totally different zone for larger structures, such as apartments and multi-family buildings. By lowering the height bonus into the 45’ height zone, this will open opportunities for far more density, and thus more housing production, by allowing developers to increase the height of structures in a residential townhome zone from 45’ to 70’ if they are providing some affordable housing. While this is unlikely to be used to retrofit existing townhomes (though that could be possible), the change is targeted for all residential developments in the city that are currently zoned RA, RB, and RM. It is important to note that the Inova Hospital site on Seminary Road is currently zoned RB and would be subject to this change to allow townhomes to go from 45' tall to 70' tall if affordable housing is provided, which the city will most certainly require on this site when it is developed in 2028.
Further explanation of the evolution of this zoning change and the other recent zoning changes we have seen can be found in my April 6th SHA email to our listserv. If you have not signed up to receive our monthly emails, please go to the Home Page of this website and sign up in the lower right hand corner.
Clearly, this text amendment has enormous potential impact to Inova's large tract of land, and we must fully understand its consequences for the Seminary Hill area, and other areas of the city where it will be applied. As usual, we are playing catch-up with city plans that were agreed upon with little public input. On February 8th, the Federation of Civic Associations sent a letter to the City Council and the City Manager raising concerns about the level of proposed density in our city, and suggested that it is time to hold a series of community-wide discussions about the impacts of density on our quality of life. We await a response to this letter.
Another important issue for our area is proposed physical improvements at Fort Ward Park. This Saturday, April 9th, at 10 am, there will be an on-site meeting at Fort Ward at the current picnic shelter parking area (Picnic Area 2) to discuss the upcoming accessibility improvements to the Picnic Shelter area that are slated to begin the week of April 26th. Construction will close this area to the public from April to September.
As you may be aware, the city is planning to move the current playground area to a site near the front of the park to comply with ADA regulations, as the current site is not accessible. Concerns have been raised by the descendants of those who lived on the site of Fort Ward after the Civil War (known as the Fort community) until the city seized the property for a park. Descendants fear that adequate study has not been done regarding possible gravesites on the proposed location, and have asked the city for more detailed studies. City staff is planning to host a site walk with the community to review possible locations for the playground on May 21st at 10 am. The city is also planning a virtual community meeting after the site walk on June 9th. More details about these two events will be provided in the coming weeks. I think this outreach to the community is a positive step in resolving the questions that exist about the city’s commitment to preserve the history of those who lived in the Fort community for generations.
Another event at Fort Ward will be on Saturday, May 7th, from 11 am to 4 pm. Descendant members of the Fort community will participate in a living history event. Civil War re-enactors will present a U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) encampment and educational program. Information about the history of the community will be presented, and several USCT soldiers who were ancestors of the Fort residents will be highlighted. This is another positive step by the Fort Ward Museum and the city to tell the full story of the Fort community that lived on this land.
I am saddened to note the death of our Seminary Hill board member, Loren Needles. Loren had been in declining health, but remained optimistic about his ability to recover. No formal announcement of his death or any services has yet been made public, so I have no details to provide at this time. He will certainly be missed by both the Seminary Hill and Seminary Ridge communities. He had been very active in environmental issues, especially in trying to protect the Karig Estates.
Our monthly Seminary Hill meeting will be held on Thursday, April 14th, at 7 pm. This will be a hybrid meeting. Those who wish to attend in person will meet at our usual location at the Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill Parish Hall at 3606 Seminary Road. Our program will be a presentation by staff from AlexRenew to bring us up-to-date on the massive RiverRenew infrastructure project, which is now beginning actual construction for the next several years. The agenda will be posted on our Seminary Hill website: www.seminaryhillassn.org. Our meeting will also be available via Zoom (assuming our technology at the church will work!).
The information for the link to the meeting is:
Meeting ID: 842 4691 4662
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+13017158592,,84246914662#,,,,*860583# US (Washington DC)
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+1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC)
Just to note a change in our normal meeting schedule, SHA will have its monthly May meeting on the first Thursday of May, May 5th, rather than our normal meeting date of May 12th, due to schedule conflicts. Information about that May meeting will be provided later.
Again, I thank you for your interest in Seminary Hill and the issues that have potential impacts on our community. I wish you a joyful Easter or Passover if you celebrate those holidays.
President, Seminary Hill Association