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ArlingtonSierra Club backs 'Missing Middle' housing effort

Sierra Club backs ‘Missing Middle’ housing effort

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The Potomac River Group of the Sierra Club has weighed in to support having the Arlington government move forward with its proposed “Missing Middle” zoning changes.

“The environmental destruction caused by suburban sprawl . . . is well-documented,” the organization said in a letter to County Board Chairman Katie Cristol. “The environmental destruction caused by adding Missing Middle housing, in contrast, is minimal, as each multi-unit building will be no larger than the size already allowed for a single-family home.”

The letter was signed by John Bloom, the organization’s chair, and Dean Amel, chair of its land-use-issues committee.

The Missing Middle proposal would replace single-family zoning that has been in place in some Arlington neighborhoods for a century with a wider array of development options, in some cases up to eight units on a previous one-property lot. The proposal has generated more of a heated civic split in the community since any issue dating back to the Columbia Pike streetcar battle of a decade ago.

Supporting the effort to allow for upzoning in current single-family neighborhoods fits in with national Sierra Club goals, the letter-writers said.

“The best way to minimize negative environmental effects from the projected increase of 75 million in the U.S. population by 2060 is to build more densely in already developed areas, rather than encourage sprawling, low-density development,” Bloom and Amel wrote.

“Planning for this inevitable growth in population, as Arlington is doing, is the best and most responsible way to protect the climate and promote environmental sustainability,” they added.

County Board members in July are likely to take a key procedural step moving the current phase of the Missing Middle study forward. At least one County Board member has said his goal is to have the changes wrapped up and in place by the end of the year.

Critics, however, have mobilized, and it appears residents and leaders in the single-family neighborhoods that would be affected are starting to awaken to the degree of change that is being proposed. Whether they have the ability to stop the plan, as critics of the Columbia Pike streetcar managed to do in 2014, remains to be seen.

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