Marymount Changes Building Plans

Marymount Changes Building Plans

New facility to be 10 percent smaller.

Marymount University has shrunk plans for a pair of buildings and a parking garage in northern Arlington by about 10 percent.

"THE PLAN is emerging, it's evolving," said Shelley Dutton, vice president for communication for Marymount University. The university plans to construct the buildings on a lot bounded by Old Dominion Drive, Yorktown Boulevard and North 26th Street. The university currently has an asphalt parking lot at the site.

The university applied to Arlington for a use permit in December 2005. Earlier this month Marymount amended this permit.

It had discovered that the setback of its buildings from the street was insufficient according Arlington's zoning laws, Dutton said.

In response, its architectural firm Davis Carter redesigned the buildings. In the old plan the student dormitory had 300 beds. It now has 274 beds, Dutton said. There are generally two beds per bedroom.

In the old plan the garage would have had 437 parking spaces. In the new plan it will have 378 spaces, Dutton said. The current parking lot at the site, which would be replaced, has 170 parking spaces.

In the old plan the academic building would have about 50,000 square feet. In the new plan it will have about 45,000 square feet, Dutton said.

While the new plans respond to Arlington law, "I think these changes also respond to community concerns," Dutton said.

OVER THE last few months, residents in the quiet neighborhood around the proposed building site have been organizing against the buildings. They have expressed concerns about the amount of traffic the buildings would generate, about the buildings' aesthetics and about the buildings' students reducing neighborhood safety, among other things.

The university officials are "making it look like they're heroes, when they were just building what was illegal," said Vaugn Collins, a member of Neighbors of Marymount, a group working to halt or reform the university's plans.

"It's very, very frustrating for us to believe we were mislead," Collins said. "And it's hard for me to believe it was accidental."

The university's law firm, Walsh Colucci Stackhouse Emrich & Lubeley PC, is experienced in Arlington land-planning cases, Collins said. The attorney handling this case for Walsh Colucci did not return a phone call for this story.

It is "absolutely untrue" that the university deliberately submitted a plan inconsistent with the county's zoning, Dutton said.

Concerning the county employees who reviewed the plans and did not find any problems in them until this month, "I don't know if they were complicit or just lazy," Collins said.

An Arlington County task force on the proposed buildings will complete its work in the near future, said Jill Griffin, use permit coordinator for the Arlington County Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development. After this, the Arlington County Transportation Commission will consider the plans. Next, the Arlington County Planning Commission will review them. Both these commissions will make recommendations to the Arlington County Board, Griffin said.

The board will consider the permit this fall, Griffin said.

THE BOARD will approve the use permit provided it will not: "(1) affect adversely the health or safety of persons residing or working in the neighborhood of the proposed use; (2) be detrimental to the public welfare or injurious to property or improvements in the neighborhood; (3) be in conflict with the purposes of the master plans of the county," according to the county's zoning ordinance. The board can place conditions on its approval of the use permit, the ordinance states.