Arlington residents sue over ‘missing middle’ zoning
Ten Arlington County residents filed a lawsuit against the county in April that claims Arlington’s new “missing middle” zoning ordinance was passed in March without proper notice and violates Virginia law.
“Missing middle” refers to the range of options that fall between affordable housing and single-family homes, including duplexes and other higher-density residences. On March 22, with an aim of providing more housing options, the Arlington County Board unanimously approved the plan, ending single-family-only zoning and allowing up to a sixplex in some areas. The vote drew close to 200 residents speaking for and against it.
“We are part of a dynamic, vibrant community in Arlington. … That is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a damn good thing,” Arlington Board Chairman Christian Dorsey said after the vote, which followed three years of work. “Certainly, it’s our responsibility to think about how we accommodate [growth].”
In April, the average Arlington home price was $837,632, according to the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors.
The 10 plaintiffs suing the board and planning commission say the vote came without enough explanation, was “unlawful and rushed,” and would create “drastically” higher density in lower-density neighborhoods. Moreover, the lawsuit claims, the missing middle zoning amendment “increases density without promoting goals … such as affordability or homeownership by diverse families and incomes.”
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Gifford R. Hampshire, a partner with Fairfax-based Blankingship & Keith PC, declined to comment on behalf of the plaintiffs. The county also declined comment.
However, the plaintiffs’ views don’t represent those of all Arlington stakeholders. Ashley Goff, who lives in the county’s Green Valley neighborhood and is a leader with Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE), advocated for the zoning change and defends the decision as transparent.
She says residents now have expanded housing choices, adding that some homeowners started calling the county before the plan took effect July 1, expressing interest in demolishing their single-family homes to build duplexes or triplexes. The county’s housing department would not confirm details, saying only that it has “received inquiries” from interested property owners.
Eric Berkey, a member of Arlington’s Citizens Advisory Commission on Housing, which backed the amendment, says high housing costs have far-reaching consequences for residents and is a systemic problem. “The fundamental question is who gets to live in a neighborhood. … What makes a community?”