As we reach the end of summer, I want to provide an update on a few things for your information. Your board has been working throughout the summer as issues have continued to be brought forward, and you will see some discussed below. In addition to the items highlighted in this email, SHA continues to engage city staff on the proposed AHDC housing project next to the Fire Station on Seminary Road. We do not have updated information to share at this time, but we continue to monitor and actively participate in discussions about this project. There is a community meeting on this project that will be held on Thursday, September 23rd. AHDC will provide details about this meeting shortly.

I know many of us have been wondering about the status of the project at Karig Estates, especially as the grounds have become increasingly overgrown and appear abandoned. I received a call from Gant Redmon, the attorney for the project, letting us know that there will be a public community meeting on Monday, September 13th at 7:30 p.m. at Temple Beth El on Seminary Road. This will be a pre-construction meeting that will inform us about the developer’s plans to begin mobilization and ground work starting on September 15th.  The developer will have the final site plan at the meeting so we can see exactly what will be built.  It is his intention to do the clearing of the land and prepare the pads for the 4 homes during the fall. The lots will then be marketed and houses will be constructed as the lots are sold.

Another informational meeting regarding a city ordinance to enact a 5-cent tax on plastic bags in grocery, convenience, and drug stores will be held on Wednesday, September 8th from 7:00-8:00 p.m. In 2020, the General Assembly gave cities and counties the authority to tax plastic bags at 5-cents per bag.  The proceeds from the tax will go to environmental clean-up. Some plastic will still be allowed, e.g. clear plastic used at dry cleaners, produce bags, etc. If approved by Council, the tax would go into effect on January 1, 2022. You can register for the webinar at this link, https://www.alexandriava.gov/tes/solidwaste/info/default.aspx?id=123190.

Thanks to the leadership of our Vice President, Tom Fulton, and other board and community members, Seminary Hill Association recently sent a letter to City Council requesting that a new Ad Hoc Committee be established to assist and monitor the recognition and memorialization of the graves of the African Americans buried at Ft. Ward Park. A recent city-led tour of the gravesite area caused concern that the city has not given the appropriate attention and resources to this project that had been promised as a result of the original Ad Hoc Committee’s recommendations in 2011. Seminary Civic Association, representing the Woods Avenue community, joined with SHA in making this request to the city. Mayor Wilson has indicated that Councilman Chapman will be bringing this forward to Council in the fall, but we have not heard from Councilman Chapman about his proposal. I will provide more information on this as it becomes available.

I think many of us were caught off-guard when we learned of a pilot program enacted by the Department of Planning and Zoning regarding street renaming without any public input that we can discern. After learning of this, I researched how this happened. The city’s Naming Committee, which consists of 2 City Council members – Del Pepper and John Chapman, as well as a representative of the City Manager – Jack Browand of the Parks and Recreation Department, held a meeting with city staff in April of 2021 to discuss “simplifying the process for renaming of streets named for Confederate leaders.”  According to a memo dated July 30, 2021 from Tony LaColla, Land Use Services Division Chief of Planning and Zoning, city staff followed recommendations from the 3 representatives of the Naming Committee and recommended a pilot program be created to rename 3 streets. Petitions for street renaming under this new pilot program were changed from the current requirement that 75% of property owners agree to the change, to only requiring agreement from 25% of property owners.  On August 10th, the 3 members of the Naming Committee approved this pilot program and it is in place.

While SHA is not taking a position on the pros and cons of such name revisions, I think it is very important to understand that this pilot was created without any citizen involvement, as no members of the public serve on the Naming Committee. I can find no record of these suggested changes in procedure being discussed in a public forum, other than the Naming Committee meeting, which was not highlighted to civic associations, who represent residents throughout the city that can be affected by such changes.  City Planning staff did not mention this matter at the monthly meeting of the Federation of Civic Associations. This is a very troubling example of the recent trend in the city to diminish the role and validity of resident and civic association input into decisions that staff makes.

By way of background, you may remember that in 2015 there was an Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Confederate Memorials and Street Names. In their report in 2016, they made several recommendations, including the re-naming of Jefferson Davis Highway. In their recommendation regarding other street names, they wrote that, “Rather than a wholesale renaming of streets in the City named after Confederate figures, individual requests for new names should be considered by City Council if brought under existing processes.” That existing process required that 75% of property owners on a street request a name change, and is still in effect today. This August, however, the 3-member Naming Committee chose to disregard the recommendations of the citizen Ad Hoc Advisory Group and reduced the requirement to allow a petition for name change be signed by only 25% of property owners with addresses along the roadway.

As you may have seen in press reports, efforts are already underway to change the name of Lee Street under this new pilot project. Those applicants requesting a change must hold and document at least one citizen led community meeting to inform impacted property owners and other residents of the proposed name change. Once the application package is complete, the applicants will present their petition, as well as the background and history of their proposed new street name, to the Planning and Zoning Department. Once approved by Planning and Zoning, it will be recommended to the Planning Commission, which will then make a recommendation to City Council for approval or denial.

Upon completion of the renaming of 3 streets under the pilot program, the Naming Committee will reevaluate the procedures or discontinue the program. In the list attached to the notice about the pilot program, there are 68 city streets throughout all areas of the city that could be considered for renaming. We all may have differing views on the wisdom of street renaming, but for SHA, the issue is the way this pilot was conceived and approved by 3 people with assistance from city staff without public scrutiny or input. Upon completion of the pilot, it will be evaluated and become city policy in the same way by the same tiny group of elected officials and city staff. Given that the policy has the potential to affect thousands of residents in every corner of the city, as residents on streets with name changes will have to change all important documents in their lives, including driver’s licenses, banking and direct deposit documents, passports, bills, etc., this would seem to be a case where residents should have a voice in determining such a drastic policy change.

I attended a meeting on August 31st sponsored by an organization called BisNow. The program was entitled “The Future of Alexandria.” Developers, bankers, and land use attorneys participated in discussions regarding development in Alexandria. The first panel was a case study on the Landmark development. Panelists were Stephen Jones, the CEO of Inova Hospital, and Cameron Pratt, of the Foulger Pratt company that is the major developer of Landmark.  The next panel was “The Future of Alexandria: Analyzing the Neighborhood’s Residential Boom and Beyond.” This panel included Stephanie Landrum, CEO of the Alexandria Economic and Development Partnership, Bailey Edelson, Senior Vice President for Development of the JBG Smith Company, James Simmons, the CEO of Ashland Capital Partners (the firm building the Heritage project in Old Town), and Mark Rivers, Managing Director of Lowe Enterprises, a real estate investment and development firm. The panel was moderated by an attorney from the land use law firm of Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley and Walsh. Following that panel, Mayor Justin Wilson was interviewed by a representative of Stonebridge, a real estate development and investment firm.

Promotional materials for the event stated that, “As more residents leave dense urban centers, Alexandria’s residential scene has been booming. From major repositioning to the growing need for affordable housing, learn how you can make the best investment in one of NoVa’s hottest neighborhoods.” The conclusion from all the panelists was that city incentives, such as the $130 million in bonds the city issued for the Landmark deal, or the increased density for the Heritage development, or the incentives, including some exclusion from city taxes for VA Tech in Potomac Yard, are essential to making such deals happen.  Mayor Wilson stated that a key to future development is that our zoning code must be flexible to adapt to the changes needed for projects to be approved and succeed.

Finally, SHA will resume our monthly board meetings on Thursday, September 9th at 7:00 p.m. The meeting will be virtual.  The information to sign onto the meeting is below. We will have a speaker from the Department of Community and Human Services to talk about the Guaranteed Income Program that will use American Rescue Funds to pay 150 low-income Alexandria residents $500 a month for 2 years. There are no restrictions on the use of this money, and researchers will track how the money impacts the lives of those receiving it. The cost of the program is $3 million.  $1.8 million will go to the recipients, and the remaining $1.2 million will go to staff, equipment, data collection and research, and incentives to participants and a control group. Based upon the results, the City could then decide to fund such a program from our city budget after the federal funds run out. In addition, City Council candidate Darryl Nirenberg will speak to us.

 

Topic: Seminary Hill Zoom Meeting

Time: Sep 9, 2021 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

 

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I wish all of you a Happy Labor Day. Please do not hesitate to contact me, or any SHA board member, if you have any questions or suggestions for topics you would like discussed at future SHA meetings. The board welcomes your input on all matters. I encourage you to continue checking our website, www.seminaryhillassn.org, where next week you will see the agenda for our meeting and can make a donation to the Association to cover the costs of our meetings and communications. SHA represents all the residents within our boundaries and contributions are voluntary, but always appreciated. Information on how to give is found on the website. And please encourage others to sign up on the website to receive our monthly emails.

Thank you very much for your interest and attention.

Carter Flemming, President, Seminary Hill Association

 

Welcome to June with the buzzing cicadas and what looks like some summer weather for us.  I have several items to bring to your attention today.

Last Wednesday afternoon I attended the funeral of long-time SHA board member, Richard Hobson. It would be hard to put into words all that Dick meant to Seminary Hill over decades.  I don’t think there was any major decision our Association made without Dick’s legal advice and guidance. He was fiercely proud and protective of our neighborhood.  He will be missed, but his contributions will live on in the foundation he created for us. SHA is so fortunate to have residents, like Dick, who are willing to give their time and their talents to our Association.

I want to give you an update on the Planning Commission’s meeting last Tuesday night regarding the Inova Hospital Master Plan Amendment and Re-Zoning application for their Seminary Road site. I apologize if this report is rather complicated, because it is indeed a complex proposal. The hospital will not move until their new facility is built at Landmark Mall, and that is estimated to be in 2028. As you may remember, SHA challenged the rationale for Inova’s original request for RA zoning, which would have permitted multi-family buildings. At SHA’s request, Inova agreed to change their application to RB zoning, which permits only single- family homes and townhomes.

At the meeting, Planning Commissioner Dave Brown raised questions about the simultaneous application for a Master Plan Amendment and a zoning change, as this is not the normal application procedure. A developer usually comes forward with a firm Developmental Special Use Permit (DSUP) that shows exactly what a developer wants to build. Since Inova will not be the developer, and will be selling the property to a developer who will then create a plan for how many homes will go on the site, there is no DSUP with a site plan, so we do not know what will be proposed in the years ahead. The estimates range from about 312 homes to 380 homes, depending upon the mix of single family and townhomes.

The Environmental Council of Alexandria submitted a letter to the Planning Commission asking that they require that the extensive forest in the rear of the property be protected. It is currently under a protective easement, but that easement will be removed when the hospital leaves. There was discussion of this at the Planning Commission meeting, but no requirement was placed to ensure this forest will not be developed. For those of you have never walked the entire property (and I was one of those people until a couple of months ago), it is an amazing stretch of undisturbed woodland that runs behind the hospital property down to the Foxchase community.  Once again, we run into the issue that while Inova states that they would not intend to build on most of this forest, that decision will be made in a few years by whomever purchases the property, and they will not be bound by any of Inova’s intentions.

If granted now, the rezoning would not trigger the legal requirement for a DSUP from the developer. In response to concerns from Planning Commission members, Inova’s attorney, Cathy Puskar, offered a proffer to the proposed amendment to state that they would agree to requiring the developer to submit a DSUP that would indicate their preference for cluster zoning in order to preserve as much of the forest as possible, and allow the community more input into the process.  Commissioner Brown stated, this moved the Inova proposal in his mind “from an F to a C.”  A number of commissioners stated that they hoped the city would now find time to revise the 1992 Small Area Plan for Strawberry Hill/Seminary Hill, since it needs updating. Commissioner Brown continued to assert that if the city is not doing planning now before the re-zoning on such a large site that is not under time constraints because the property will not be sold and begin the planning process for at least 5 years, when would the city ever decide to do it? The comment was made that the only reason to rush into this process is that the applicant, Inova, wants to lock down the value of this property before going ahead with the Landmark planning process, and that should not be a driving force that sacrifices good planning on this site.  In the end, the Planning Commission voted 5-1 to approve the Master Plan Amendment and the re-zoning application.

It is important to point out that while the RB zone will increase the density of this site, there are some in the city who do not support limiting the development to only townhomes and single-family homes. A couple of these voices spoke at the Planning Commission hearing stating that a different zone needs to be approved that would allow much more density with multifamily apartment buildings to provide needed affordable housing. At the Alexandria Housing Affordability Advisory Committee meeting last week, this issue was again raised with the statement that this zoning is not done, and conversations need to happen so housing advocates can understand what different zoning might be possible to allow for more density and housing types on the 33-acre site.

This application will be heard by City Council at their Saturday Public Hearing meeting on June 19th. SHA will continue to follow this and our board will be discussing this matter at our upcoming board meeting on June 10th. We welcome any thoughts you might wish to share about this matter.

The proposed AHDC affordable housing development on Seminary Road is moving forward.  They have submitted their Concept 2 plan to the city and are awaiting comments on it.  They have made modifications of the apartment building to lower a section of it by a floor to lessen the bulk of the structure to nearby neighbors. AHDC anticipates going before the Planning Commission and City Council in November or December of this year.  If approved, demolition of the existing 2 homes and construction of the new homes would begin in the Spring of 2022. There are still questions about the zoning change they will request due to a prohibition against congregate housing in residential zones, though the current Sheltered Homes of Alexandria home on this site is operating under an exemption, as are other such homes located throughout the city.  SHA will be closely monitoring this project as it moves forward in the coming months.

I attended a Zoom meeting last week with Episcopal High School regarding their project to build a Wellness Center and a dormitory in the center of their campus where the soccer field used to be and has been moved to the Braddock Road side of their campus. Their team went over the planned construction, which is scheduled to begin about the 3rd week of this month and will take until July of 2022 to be completed. They will use the campus entrance by the football stadium for construction vehicles. Signs will be posted on N. Early Street reminding truck drivers that no construction traffic can use N. Early Street for a haul route. Since the building site is basically flat, there is not much earth to be moved from the site so that will lessen the impact to neighbors. The construction will occur during normal permitted hours in the city (7 a.m. – 6 p.m.). Monday – Friday.  The construction team does not anticipate working on Saturdays unless the project falls behind schedule due to weather.

A neighbor asked when the Episcopal campus might be open for the public to walk, as was the case before the pandemic. School officials said they expect the Braddock Road gate to open very shortly, but walkers will be directed to turn right and go toward the new track, rather than going to the center of the campus where the construction activities will be taking place.

Our final SHA board meeting before our summer recess will be Thursday, June 10th at 7:00 p.m. Hopefully, this will be our last totally virtual meeting, though we hope to offer this option when we meet in person in the fall. Our speaker will be Mark Schnaufer, who is the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Program Manager for the city’s Duke Street Transitway. The city has procured and signed the contract for their “Civic Engagement” team to handle the community outreach, which will begin this summer. The firm they have hired is Rhodeside Harwell. They will be launching a kick-off week on June 21st, which will include pop-up events along the corridor, an interactive webinar (both live and available on-line for later viewing), and focus group meetings.  They are still planning the details of the kick-off week, but we should see more on their project webpage by June 11th.  The rest of the year will include outreach to different organizations, including civic associations, to get input on what the future of the corridor should look like. 

I contacted Mr. Schnaufer and explained to him that most civic associations do not meet in the summer, so it was not a good time to launch community outreach and SHA would like him to come present to us this month. He quickly agreed, and so we will hear from him on the 10th.  The Zoom link to our meeting is at the end of this message.

Finally, in regard to the Duke Street Transitway, Transportation and Environmental Services Director, Yon Lambert, spoke to the Federation of Civic Associations last week. Questions were asked about the Duke Street BRT and the need to address the nightmare choke point at the ramp to Telegraph Road. Mr. Lambert stated that the City has “no plans to address road capacity at Telegraph Road”, and went on to say that cities have to make a fundamental choice between road capacity and transit, and “Alexandria has made the choice for transit”. I think this statement might come as quite a shock to many residents who were not aware that our city has no plans to invest in road capacity in the future according to our Transportation Director.

Here is the link to our board meeting on Thursday night the 10th.  I hope many of you will join us for that meeting.  As always, we welcome your input on any issues of concern to you.

Carter Flemming, President, Seminary Hill Association

Topic: Seminary Hill Zoom Meeting

Time: Jun 10, 2021 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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I want to remind everyone that our SHA Monthly Board Meeting is Thursday, May 13th at 7:00 p.m. on Zoom.  The Zoom link for the meeting is:

Topic: Seminary Hill Zoom Meeting

Time: May 13, 2021 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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Please find below the Agenda for our meeting.  I want to draw your attention to the Upcoming Meetings listed below that are of interest to SHA. AHDC will hold a virtual community meeting on May 25th regarding their proposed housing project next to the Fire Station on Seminary Road.  You must register for this webinar, so if you are interested in this project, please sign up.

I look forward to seeing you on our Zoom meeting.  We will have one more virtual meeting on June hope to resume in-person meetings in September, assuming guidance from the Commonwealth allows us to gather.

Thank you so much for your interest in the Seminary Hill Association.

 

Seminary Hill Association, Inc.

Monthly Board of Directors Meeting

Thursday, May 13, 2021, 7:00 p.m.

Virtual Meeting held electronically

 

                                                                            Agenda

Police Report

Sheriff’s Report – Captain Oliver on leave

Program: “For Better Alexandria Government” presentation by Mr. Stafford Ward and Ms. Rachel Sheedy. This group developed the Alexandria Constituents’ Bill of Rights that all Council and Mayoral candidates have been asked to sign.

Program: Allison Silberberg Candidate for Mayor

Minutes from April 2021

Treasurer’s Report

Area Reports

Old Business

AHDC Affordable Housing Proposal on Seminary Road

Inova Hospital Site Rezoning

Taylor Run Stream Restoration

MacArthur School Rebuild

Alexandria Mobility Plan

The High School Project

Upper King Street Multimodal Project

Noise Ordinance

New Business

Co-Living Ordinance.   https://www.alexandriava.gov/planning/info/default.aspx?id=120969

ParcView  II Apartment Proposal

Upcoming Meetings

May 10, 2021: Virtual public meeting on priorities for use of American Rescue Act funding at 7:00 PM. For more information, go to:< https://apps.alexandriava.gov/Calendar/Detail.aspx?si=35150>.

May 13, 2021Deadline for completing survey on priorities for use of American Rescue Act funding. To take the survey, go to:< https://survey.alexandriava.gov/s3/ARPA-Spending-Plan

May 25, 2021: AHDC virtual public meeting regarding their proposed housing development project on Seminary Road next to the fire station at 7:00 p.m. Registration is required.  To register:  https://zoom.us/webinar/register/9316208516834/WN_8Ht56BnhT46BOKvcY6qAWg, and they can take pre-submitted questions at or questions from those who cannot attend atThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

June 1, 2021Planning Commission meeting at 7:00 PM. On the docket is an amendment to the Seminary Hill/Strawberry Hill Small Area Plan relating to redevelopment of the land where Inova Alexandria is currently located. For more information, go to: http://apps.alexandriava.gov/Calendar/Detail.aspx?si=33564)

June 12, 2021City Council public hearing at 9:30 AM. On the docket will be an amendment to the Seminary Hill/Strawberry Hill Small Area Plan relating to redevelopment of the land where Inova Alexandria is currently located. For more information, go to:<http://apps.alexandriava.gov/Calendar/Detail.aspx?si=32188>.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Spring, even if it certainly doesn’t feel like Spring has arrived to stay quite yet.

 As usual, we have several items of interest to highlight.  First, our Seminary Hill Association Board meeting will be Thursday, April 8th at 7:00 pm. We will have a presentation by the city on the proposed cohousing initiative which seems to have come out of nowhere and is on a fast track for Council approval. Cohousing allows unrelated individuals to live together in a home, in what we might refer to as a boarding house. The City believes this is another way to increase the stock of affordable housing. The city recommends that we all go to the project website at: https://www.alexandriava.gov/planning/info/default.aspx?id=120969 and watch the 15-minute video about what cohousing means, and then take the survey asking what we think of the concept. The City’s presentation to SHA will be the first item on our agenda on the 8th.

Various city departments are joining together to offer an onsite “walkthrough” of the area where the Taylor Run stream “restoration” will take place in Chinquapin Park. The walk will be between 5-7 pm on Monday, April 12th. I would recommend that you read The Alexandria Times’ extensive article on this project that is in this week’s edition (April 1) of the paper at alextimes.com. It gives a good summary of the opposition to this project as expressed in the City’s Environmental Policy Commission’s strong letter to City Council. You can also visit the city’s website page at: https://www.alexandriava.gov/tes/stormwater/info/default.aspx?id=117629  for the project to learn why city staff believes this is a viable project.

The Environmental Council of Alexandria just released the report from an outside river science expert, Dr. John Field, who states that, “The City’s plan to re-engineer Taylor Run will fail to achieve the project’s stated environmental and infrastructure goals. Instead, it will produce an impoverished ecosystem and, ultimately cause more harm to the Chesapeake Bay than the status quo, all at a tremendous cost to local residents and taxpayers statewide.” He goes on to state that the city’s plan to remove 260 mature trees will “further unravel the riparian ecosystem and eliminate the powerful CO2 absorption that only mature trees provide.” In response to the city’s plan to replace the mature trees by planting thousands of trees and shrubs, Dr. Field states that, “Canopy recovery would take two to five generations, at least, and is not guaranteed.” His report closes with the statement that, “As an expert with nearly 40 years of experience in river science, I unequivocally conclude that the current plan will not reduce sediment reaching the Chesapeake Bay nor protect the sanitary sewer infrastructure over the long run; and will decimate stream and forest habitat for no practical benefit.”

At tomorrow night's City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 6th, item 24 will be a work session on proposed changes to the city’s Noise Ordinance.  As you may remember, changes to the Noise Ordinance which include raising the noise level allowed throughout the city, were proposed a year ago.  The proposal was withdrawn for further study after opposition from citizens. At a recent Council meeting, Mayor Wilson expressed displeasure that the changes had not been brought forward to Council. In response to that direction, city staff is bringing the changes forward on the 6th. As is often the case, this item, which is of interest to many residents since it can affect quality of life, has been placed at the end of the docket when most of us will have turned off the meeting and turned in for the night.

Finally, the attorney for Inova Hospital has reached out and indicates they are in the process of scheduling a final community meeting before their rezoning application goes before the Planning Commission and the City Council. They are looking at the last week of April or the first week of May. I will let you know when they announce the date.

Here is the information for the Zoom link to our SHA meeting on Thursday, the 8th at 7:00.  I hope you will join us to hear about cohousing and also hear from City Council candidates Alyia Gaskins and James Lewis. The agenda for the meeting will be posted on our website today.

Topic: Seminary Hill Zoom Meeting

Time: Apr 8, 2021 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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Thank you again for your interest in Seminary Hill Association. Please do not hesitate to contact SHA with any issues of concern to you.

Carter Flemming, President, Seminary Hill Association

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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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
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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 Tuesday 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 this Thursday night. 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