City Council approves loan for Seminary Road affordable housing project

City Council approves loan for Seminary Road affordable housing project
The parcel of land to be redeveloped. Some residents near the proposed site for the Seminary Road affordable housing development expressed concerns around flooding and the slope that ends on the property. (Photo/Frank Putzu)

By Cody Mello-Klein |

Several affordable housing development projects received preliminary approval from City Council at Tuesday’s legislative meeting. The most controversial site received a $250,000 predevelopment loan despite strong opposition from residents.

The proposed development being pursued by the Alexandria Housing Development Corporation is located on three parcels of land, at 4547, 4555 and 4575 Seminary Road and would create about 60 affordable rental and homeownership units on site. Council’s consideration on Tuesday was whether or not to grant AHDC a $250,000 predevelopment
loan that would allow it to assess whether the site is viable for the project.

The site is currently occupied by a privately-owned single-family home, a city-owned parcel of land and Sheltered Homes of Alexandria, a group home. As part of the project, the group home units would be replaced with accessible units in the redevelopment designed for people with disabilities to live an independent lifestyle, according to the staff presentation.

Several residents attended council’s virtual legislative meeting to oppose the predevelopment loan, expressing concerns about the impacts such a project could have on parking, density and flooding in the surrounding neighborhood.

Carter Flemming, president of the Seminary Hill Association, said that the area is prone to intense flooding and that additional development could overwhelm the already heavily taxed stormwater system.

“While we’re all aware that new developments must provide their own stormwater infrastructure, at some point that new infrastructure connects to the existing infrastructure and we know that infrastructure here is already inadequate for the existing homes,” Flemming said.

There are two 24-inch storm lines on the site that run into a 48-inch storm pipe, according to Director of the Department of Transportation and Environmental Services Yon Lambert. But, according to staff’s preliminary analysis, there is currently nothing troubling in terms of stormwater management on the site.

“There’s nothing that we have seen in our current review of the process in its current proposed form that was a showstopper for us for stormwater capacity,” Lambert said.

“Any future proposed development will need to show through its design plans, surveys, field investigations that there is adequate outfall for all the stormwater runoff and that analysis will include an analysis of pipe capacity,” Lambert continued.

Flemming proposed the city defer the predevelopment loan and perform its own preliminary survey of the site.

Resident Maureen Muncy expressed concern that the lack of street parking on Seminary Road could result in overflow parking on surrounding streets if adequate parking is not provided.

Other residents, including Ellen Briscoe, argued that only part of the site is able to be developed due to a slope behind the site and alleged wetlands on the property.

There are currently no known resource protection areas, streams or flood plains on the site, according to a preliminary survey, Lambert said.

Councilor Amy Jackson supported Flemming’s advice that staff perform its own assessment. However, Lambert said staff has already performed as much analysis as it can at the pre- development, conceptual stage of the project.

Given the concerns from residents, Councilor Mo Seifeldein, seconded by Councilor John Chapman, made a motion to approve the loan with the contingency that the city and AHDC talk with residents to address their questions prior to the money being dispersed to AHDC. The motion passed unanimously, 7-0.