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ARCA President’s Testimony on Met Park HQ2 Dec. 14, 2019

[ 1 ] January 4, 2020 |

Amazon HQ2 Testimony before Arl County Board December 14, 2019
by Arthur Fox, ARCA President

On behalf of the Arlington Ridge Civic Association, I would like to elaborate on just two of the observations we previously forwarded to you in writing. Both concern features of the County planning and development “process” which we submit needs your attention.

FIRST….. CommunityBenefits, Mitigation and Bonus Density: a largely secret process involving negotiation between County staff and developers, unguided, for the most part, by any objective or quantitative criteria.

Can we all agree that those who are adversely impacted by development should be the beneficiaries of mitigation efforts rather than the new building’s owners? However, much of the bonus density awarded to Amazon will benefit Amazon far more than the surrounding community.

For example, building to LEED standards, albeit laudable, will actually allow Amazon to recover the costs its LEED investment, and then some, via utility savings over the years.

(Incidentally, Arlington is unique in the Wash Metro Area in that it grants bonus density to developers who build to LEED standards while no other government entities will even award a building permit to developers unless they are building to LEED standards.)

That Amazon will be improving roadways, bike lanes and traffic signals in close proximity to its new campus will primarily benefit Amazon by facilitating its employees getting to and from their jobs,… not relieving the surrounding community of congestion.

So too, will improving and maintaining the adjoining open space on its MetPark campus primarily benefit Amazon and its employees far, far more than the greater 22202 residential community.

Granting the company bonus density for these improvements is, we submit, grossly inappropriate.

Speaking of “mitigation,” I ask, “what is it that the developer needs to mitigate in exchange for bonus density.” I submit that it is the negative impacts that

Amazon’s new development will eventually have on the livability of the surrounding 22202 community. The problem is that no one possesses a crystal ball that can reliably predict at this early point in the process the impact 25,000 Amazon workers coming and going to work five or more days a week will eventually have on our community many years from now. Yet that’s what this process is supposed to be capable of doing, basically determining and then calculating and collecting from the developer the costs of future mitigations in exchange for bonus density today. At this early point in the development process, the County should be securing from Amazon a bunch of IOUs to put in a Community Benefit Trust Fund for use in future years to guarantee our communities’ Livability needs….. as they eventually become evident.

Actually, there is one need that is already very evident, but that has been overlooked by the County. And it is the need to obtain a feasibility study for adding a second Metro entrance on 15th Street, at the far end of the Pentagon City station platform, which would service Amazon’s MetPark workforce. There simply is no way many thousands of Amazon HQ2 employees are all going to be able to file onto the one 12th Street escalator at the end of their workday. And it is Amazon which should be paying for this study in exchange for bonus density.

Finally . . .We only recently learned that the County will be, or perhaps already has contracted studies to determine the capacity of 22202’s multi-modal transportation infrastructure to accommodate the area’s envisioned growth, along with a followup study to determine how much more growth, if any, Pentagon City might be able to accommodate. However, the County not only excluded community representatives from any role in the design of these studies, it has also failed to provide them with relevant information concerning their timing, scope and parameters. Whether intentional or oversight, we ask your assistance in restoring transparency and meaningful communication between staff and those representatives who were instrumental in persuading the County to undertake these hopefully independent studies in the first place.


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  1. Fred Zimmerman says:

    Good comments. Thank you