Happy Super Bowl weekend to all! I want to provide a couple of updates and reminders of upcoming meetings of interest to Seminary Hill residents.
Our monthly SHA meeting will be Thursday, February 11th at 7:00 on Zoom. Here is the link to sign on to the meeting:
Topic: Seminary Hill Zoom Meeting
Time: Feb 11, 2021 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
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Meeting ID: 821 4915 8217
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+13017158592,82149158217#, *293031# US (Washington DC)
The agenda for the meeting will be posted on this website. We will have a city staff presentation on the proposal to lower the speed limit on the western portion of Seminary Road to 25 MPH. In addition, Councilmember Amy Jackson will be speaking to us as she begins her campaign for re-election. We will also provide updates on the rezoning plans for the Inova Seminary Road campus, the AHDC plans for affordable housing next to Fire Station 206 on Seminary Road, the Alexandria Mobility Plan, and the Taylor Run Stream “restoration” project. We hope you will join us for this meeting.
I want to highlight a Zoom community meeting that Inova will host on Wednesday, February 17th from 7:00 – 8:00 p.m. They will discuss their plans for rezoning the site for residential use and answer questions. As you may remember, Inova’s initial proposal is to change the current single-family zoning to the RA zone. This zone allows single-family homes, townhomes, and multi-family buildings. SHA has asked that Inova instead select the RB zone, which does not permit the multi-family buildings that the RA zone allows. We look forward to an update on their decision. Here is the Zoom link for that meeting:
* Zoom Webinar Link: https://thelandlawyers.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_bcx3YfkTSGyZSe0HAZ49SQ
* Dial-in option: 312.626.6799
* Webinar ID: 975 8004 5285
* Passcode: 676138
As a brief update on Council’s approval on January 23rd of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), SHA spoke against the adoption of the amendment to allow ADUs as it was written. SHA, and other residents and civic associations, had concerns about the very small setbacks allowed for such structures and the fact that they could be used as short-term rental units, rather than providing the long-term affordable housing options that were the basis for allowing ADUs. Councilman Mo Seifeldein proposed some changes to the amendment regarding the “exclusive” use of ADUs as short-term rentals (such as Airbnb). Staff also agreed to modify the setbacks of the ADUs depending upon their height. Council adopted the ADU amendment, but it is our understanding that staff will come back next month with the exact language of the ordinance, so until then we don’t know the parameters of what “exclusive” use actually means. Councilwoman Amy Jackson voted against the adoption of the amendment.
It is now budget season in our city. At the upcoming City Council meeting on Tuesday the 9th, Council will receive a report on our real estate assessments for 2021. While the tax rate has not been set, the numbers regarding appreciation from January 2020 to January 2021 are now public. Some highlights are that our combined local real property assessments increased 2.7% to $1.14 billion. The residential tax base increased 6.02% overall, while the commercial tax base decreased 1.96%. The average condominium assessed value is $375,070, which represents a 3.98% increase. The average single-family home assessed value is $839,961, which represents a 4.54% increase.
For years, the City has had a stated goal of achieving a better balance between the percentage of distribution between commercial and residential properties. The City includes multi-family rental properties in the commercial category, despite the fact they are residential. In this calculation, commercial properties account for 40% of our tax base, while residential properties account for 59%. If, however, you include multi-family residential properties in the residential category, the balance shifts dramatically. In this case, commercial properties account for only 21% of the tax base, while residential properties account for 78%. This continues to be of concern to residential property owners, as they must shoulder an increasing percentage of the tax distribution, while the demand for commercial properties continues to decline, especially in light of the changes brought about by Covid.
Also on the agenda for the Council meeting on February 9th is the introduction and first reading of a change in the RT/Townhouse zone. Under this proposal, the setback for the end lot, which is considered as a side yard, in a group of townhomes is changed from a minimum of 20 feet to 12 feet. The setback for the rear yard of townhomes is changed from a minimum of 35 feet to 12 feet. These changes will allow for more density in townhome communities, resulting in less public open space and more units in a development.
Finally, the City Manager will present his proposed FY 2022 budget at 7:00 p.m. at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, February 16th. Two nights later, there will be a Public Hearing on this proposed FY 2022 budget on Thursday, February 18th at 7:00 p.m.
I hope this provides you with some dates to keep in mind, and information on some of the issues that the SHA board has been working on in the last month or so. I hope to “see” many of you at our board meeting on Thursday the 11th. Please do not hesitate to contact me or the SHA board with any issues of concern to you. Thank you for your interest in our community and our city.
Carter Flemming, President, Seminary Hill Association