Important work ahead during ZFH pause

Important work ahead during ZFH pause

To the editor: 

The seven undersigned historic preservation organizations provided the following comments to City Council before the “Zoning for Housing” vote on November 28, because we are concerned about the impact of zoning changes on the city’s historic buildings and places. Alexandria has a sense of place that is valued and appreciated by residents and visitors alike, because Alexandrians have worked together to keep history alive and our historic resources cared for amid decades of change. 

Now that Phase II of this rezoning initiative has been paused, even though Council passed Phase I last week, the community and the city can use this time to work together to build safeguards for the city’s many unprotected historic buildings. 

“Dear Mayor Wilson and members of Council: 

The undersigned organizations that work to preserve historic architecture and/or cultural resources in Alexandria write to express our opposition to the Council’s rushed, blanket adoption of the Zoning for Housing package of proposals, because it has been drafted without first having done any underlying study of the irreversible negative impact these proposals could have on the city’s critical historic resources. 

The Council is about to make broad and momentous changes to the city’s land use policies. Just as residents have raised questions about the effects these policies will have on infrastructure, schools, parking, etc., there should be some evidence-based analysis of the impact they will have on historic buildings and historic districts. Alexandria’s historic and cultural resources are critical to residents’ sense of place and they generate a significant heritage tourism component of the city’s economy. Consequently, historic preservation deserves to be an express part of the calculus in weighing the proposals. 

This cannot happen, however, without first conducting an independent, objective assessment of the effects each of the proposals is likely to have on historic assets. We thus urge you to postpone adoption of Zoning for Housing until a historic preservation study is completed and shared with the community. At a minimum, Council should require such an analysis as an added part of any decision on Phase I, and the scope of that analysis should encompass the proposals contained in both Phase I and Phase II of the Initiative. Please slow down and make sure that zoning and policy changes are informed by evidence and examination of their likely impact on the city’s historic architectural and cultural resources.” 

-The Alexandria Association; Historic Alexandria Foundation; Historic Alexandria Resources Commission; The Old Town Civic Association; Town of Potomac Historical Association; Save Del Ray; Art Deco Society of Washington