Newsletter
Development Special Use Permit (DSUP), via City of Alexandria

One of the most brought up terms in Alexandria development discussions is Development Special Use Permit — or DSUP — but despite being one of the building blocks for city planning is also one of the more confusing aspects of development.

Karl Moritz, Director of Planning and Zoning for the City of Alexandria, said a DSUP is a type of permit that comes up whenever a development could be seen as having a substantial impact on the neighborhood around it.

“When we have any kind of development proposal that has a potential impact on the neighborhood or city that is in any way complicated, we require a special use permit,” Moritz said. “That allows staff to do a more in-depth review for the potential for impacts, and come up with a customized approach for how to solve them.”

According to city documents, a DSUP is required for any project requesting:

  • A modification of the parking ratios • A modification to the yard, landscape or open space requirements
  • Increased building height or floor area ratio (FAR)
  • Affordable housing bonus density
  • Special requirements listed in the applicable zone in the Zoning Ordinance

Moritz said these are the cases that go to public hearings, and why they tend to draw discussion.

The alternative to a DSUP is a development site plan — DSP — which Moritz said is fairly rare. DSPs only need approval from the Planning Commission. One of the few notable examples of a DSP was the Alexandria Lighting Store move to the West End, where the project fit within all of the existing zoning limits of the site.

Rob Kerns, development division chief, said if a DSP meets all the city criteria for a site it is considered a by-right development. The Planning Commission would be required to show a deficiency — a requirement not met by the developer — to reject the project.

“That’s a project so simple that they have little potential for impact and we’ve already established a formula for how to handle that impact,” Moritz said. “That’s something like three single family homes, each on their own lot. But an apartment building that’s going to put traffic on the road? Those require special use permits and that kicks them into the special use category.”

Moritz said in the zoning ordinance, there are certain levels of density developers can get away with based on various zoning requirements, but exceeding that threshold requires a DSUP.

Another DSUP trigger is mixed-use development — developments where you’ll typically see residential or office space on higher floors and retail or restaurant uses on the ground floor.

“Some of the more commercial uses, if they want to incorporate them into a project, require a DSUP,” Kerns said. “Valet parking as well. Those are things where we have to analyze that. Mixed use is often one of the triggers for a DSUP.”

Moritz said parking is another DSUP trigger, with projects either supplying more or less parking than the ordinance requires.

Developments can get some allowances on things like density or parking — a longstanding process the city recently codified — but Moritz said there are some limits to that type of trade and the affordable housing swap is already at the fringes of what is allowed.

“But many in the public don’t understand the limitations of things we can ask for,” Moritz said. “There’s a certain legal framework that the state sets out that we need to abide by in processing development in terms of things we can ask from developers. The policies do achieve a lot — but sometimes community members think we can ask more.”

As an example, Moritz said the city is not allowed to ask for a development to contribute to building a sidewalk on the other side of the city. It’s a limit established by the Supreme Court in Nollan v. California Coastal Commission. Read More

2 Comment

After an extensive period of community discussion and development, the new townhouse portion of the Oakville Triangle development (2610 Richmond Highway) is headed to city review later this year.

“The applicant is seeking approval of a development special use permit with site plan to construct 84 fee simple townhomes with the accompanying subdivision,” developer Tri Pointe Homes DC Metro Inc. wrote in the permit application.

The DSUP is required for adding more than eight dwelling units to a single townhouse structure. The project’s transportation management plan special use permit is scheduled for Planning Commission review at the Thursday, Nov. 4, meeting.

The 84-townhouses are one part of broader plans to turn Oakville Triangle into new development. Plans for Oakville Triangle center around the new construction of an Inova HealthPlex as an anchor to the site, much like plans for a new Inova hospital to anchor redevelopment at Landmark Mall.

In addition to townhomes, the site is planned to have multi-family buildings and mixed-use development, along with an overhaul of Mount Jefferson Park. Overall plans for the site were approved in 2020, and now the Oakville Triangle developers are working through the specifics of the individual pieces of the development.

“Tri-Pointe has worked in conjunction with the overall guidelines of the Oakville Triangle Route One Corridor Plan and is meeting most of the overall goals of the plan with this proposal,” the developer wrote in the application. “Because of staff’s desire for a north/south vehicular street, the applicant adjusted their initial proposal and now requests the layout as depicted on the attached plans. The layout includes a request for several modifications of the Design Guidelines found in the Oakville Triangle Route One Corridor in an effort to best utilize the site.”

Photos via Tri Pointe Homes DC Metro Inc.

9 Comments

Charlottesville-based Mudhouse Coffee Roasters has bought 1119 King Street in Old Town, and hopes to open as soon as possible.

The current tenant, J. Brown and Co., still has two years left on their lease and have indicated to the new building owners that they’re interested in getting bought out. If that happens, it will take about two months after the tenant moves out to gut the building and make it ready to open for business, according to Mudhouse partner Matthew Dragas.

“I hope we can open that that location as soon as possible,” Dragas told ALXnow. “The tenant made some comments about how he might want to get out early. But, you know, we haven’t yet approached him about buying up the lease. At the worst, it’ll be two years before we’re able open in Alexandria.”

In the meantime, the company is expanding to Richmond and Charleston, South Carolina. Dragas, whose family owns dozens of Taco Bell and Buffalo Wild Wings locations, merged with Mudhouse founders John and Lynelle Lawrence nearly two years ago. The company boasts excellent coffee from around the world, curated by roaster Eric Stone, who was ranked the third best roaster in the country in 2019.

Mudhouse has filed a special use permit to operate a coffee restaurant at the 1,500-square-foot space. It would be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day of the week and offer “open mic night, poetry readings, coffee tastings, and assorted other live entertainment,” according to the SUP.

“We’re very excited about the Old Town market,” Dragas said. “Walking up and down King Street is a blast.”

Via Mudhouse Coffee/Facebook

0 Comments
Hotel Indigo garage, via Google Maps

Hotel Indigo (220 S Union Street) is hoping to turn its 69 parking spaces into a mutually beneficial arrangement for Old Town visitors.

Developer Carr Properties said it gave the required total of 69 parking spaces, but hasn’t gotten the expected usage since the hotel opened.  The developer said it’s hoping to change its permit to allow some of those spaces currently usable only by hotel visitors to be used by tourists and other Old Town visitors.

“Since the hotel became operational several years ago, the parking garage of 69 spaces has not been utilized as envisioned during the original DSUP process,” the applicant said in a Development Special Use Permit (DSUP) request to the city. “Additionally, since the original DSUP approval, the parking ordinance was amended to allow a minimum of .2 spaces per hotel room for areas within an enhanced transit area (applies to the Property).”

Carr Properties is hoping to bring Hotel Indigo in line with the current requirement for hotels.

“Because the existing garage is underutilized and less hotel parking is now required, the Applicant seeks to amend the DSUP approval (which included a parking reduction SUP) to allow for .2 spaces per hotel room instead of .58 spaces per room as originally approved,” the developer said. “For 120 hotel rooms, this rate would allow for 24 spaces for hotel and restaurant patrons (and employees); with 3 handicapped spaces to remain; and 42 spaces for third-party use.”

The garage would maintain its current valet service, but would add optional self-parking for non-hotel visitors. The public access could also be closed off if the hotel reaches higher levels of occupancy.

The change is docketed to go to the Planning Commission on Sept. 9. The applicant said the change to the 69 spaces could be to the shared satisfaction of the hotel and waterfront visitors.

“This tailored management will allow for the best utilization of the parking spaces by both hotel patrons and waterfront visitors,” the applicant said. “Ultimately, the Applicant anticipates that managing the parking this manner will fill an unmet parking demand that will be growing during the warm weather months, as the Alexandria waterfront continues to attract residents and tourists.”

Via Google Maps

2 Comment

The Basilica of Saint Mary in Old Town is looking for city permission to make some expansions to the church grounds and make parts of the property more accessible.

The designs for a new bridge are headed to review at the Board of Architectural Review on Wednesday, July 21, as part of a broader process of adding to the Basilica School of Saint Mary. The church is hoping to add a new new library and media center to the campus, and install a connecting bridge that will help make the different parts of the facility more connected.

“The proposed addition consists of a two-story bridge connection between the main building and Stephen’s Hall,” the Catholic Diocese of Arlington said in its application. “The addition was initially presented to the BAR for concept review on April 3, 2019, while review of the associated development special use permit and preliminary site plan was underway.”

The BAR at the time endorsed the change and the DSUP for the site was approved by the City Council in April this year. The Catholic Diocese said in the application the goal of the addition is to

“The connection will provide a secure, interior path for students and faculty to walk between the buildings,” the applicant said. The proposed addition will provide the school with additional space to accommodate and enhance the experience of its students.”

2 Comment

School Board chair Meagan Alderton is pushing for the last-minute addition of an aquatics facility to the planned Alexandria City High School expansion, noting that the addition would help toward rectifying a longstanding racial disparity.

Alderton said Alexandria is guilty of the same nationwide disparity in swimming proficiency, with lack of access to pools for Black Americans creating disproportionately white aquatics sports teams. It’s a disparity Alderton said the city can start to push back against with a new pool at the Minnie Howard expansion planned as part of the high school overhaul.

“You only need to look at the swim team or crew team to know something isn’t right,” said Alderton. “These teams aren’t diverse and don’t represent he populations we serve. We need to be teaching Black and brown students how to swim. We need to be teaching elementary students how to swim. We need to be encouraging these students to participate in aquatics.”

Part of the challenge, though, is that the school request will be coming in late in the budget process, nearly a month after Alexandria’s City Council approved this year’s budget.

The pool had been included in earlier concept review, but hadn’t made the final cut for the budget process after analysis showed the pool would cost $1.2 million to offset the energy requirements of the pool keep the school at its Net Zero goals.

“Funding for pool is not in the School CIP,” said City Manager Mark Jinks. “That funding is not currently available. To change that, it would need to come forward as request from School Board to Council to change that number. That assumes that pool cannot be built for dollar amount set aside for Minnie Howard.”

Superintendent Gregory Hutchings said the schools would be moving forward with that request as soon as possible, saying a final decision would need to be made by the School Board sometime in the first week of June.

“Our design team asked for [a decision] by the beginning of June,” said Erika Gulick, director of capital programs. “We are already in the DSUP process. [The current] iteration currently includes a pool. Where Pre-K ends up going depends on the pool.”

ACPS staff said a they were aiming for a final decision at the June 9 School Board meeting, but Jinks said that’s too late. A submission from the School Board should come in no later than June 1.

While acknowledging the challenge of the late change, Alderton said if the city is committed to its goals of racial equity, it will find a way to make it happen.

“We are, indeed, asking the city to provide additional dollars to provide this facility for the Minnie Howard site,” Alderton said. “I find it hard to think there will be racial equity without investing dollars in communities that have historically been denied access… Consider it reparations for People of Color, because it’s long overdue. It has been so hurtful to watch and this school board is ready.”

Photo via T.C. Williams High School/Facebook

3 Comments

The GenOn Plant on the Potomac is getting redeveloped, but don’t expect to see mixed-use development on the site anytime soon.

The first public meeting for the planned development was held last night (Thursday) and mainly served as a meet-and-greet for the community and the developers.

Mary Catherine Gibbs, an attorney representing the developers, said early on that designs for the mixed-use development to replace the power plant wouldn’t be coming until significantly further down the line. Gibbs repeatedly referred to the meeting and upcoming public engagement as “the beginning of the beginning,” a notion repeated by others throughout the meeting as they laid out the timeline.

“Deconstruction starting in 2023, we would also be submitting a DSUP plan for infrastructure as well [around the same time] to be done with those approvals and ready to start first phase of development when we’re done with remediation in early 2023,” said Melissa Schrock, senior vice president of mixed-use development at developer Hilco. “[Construction] would be sometime between 18-31 months after.”

Schrock and others said the plan is to develop the parcel as an urban, mixed-use development with housing. Representatives of the development weren’t shy about saying that the upcoming plans for Potomac Yard and Amazon’s HQ2 also play a role in how the site will ultimately shape up.

While much of the development remains to be decided, one of the more intriguing proposals brought up during the meeting was the suggestion that the GenOn replacement could implement some sort of water-based transit — ala the Waterfront Taxi.

To get to all of that, though, the project is going to have to go through significant environmental rehabilitation to bring the former power plant site up to code.

“We’re starting with enviromental and sustainability,” said George Needs, the other Hilco vice president of mixed-use development. “Remediation is expensive, but we have expertise to do it with in-house environmental expects and bring these projects to regulation closure.”

Needs said plans for both the demolition and the redevelopment of the site will likely span several years.

“This is a very visible project, it’s a prominent waterfront site, so we know how important this is and as we think about conceptualizing a plan we know the key to success is a plan that engages with the public, is transparent, and builds trust,” Needs said. “It’s a generational project, a 10-plus year commitment.”

10 Comments

After the planned rebuilding of St. Andrews United Methodist Church, St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School (1000 St. Stephens Road) has submitted plans to expand the private school with new buildings and parking.

According to the Development Special Use Permit (DSUP), the plan is to increase enrollment capacity at the school from 480 students to 520 students, as well as modernizing some of the school’s dated facilities.

The new plan will also add a total of 20 parking spaces to the school to accommodate the student body increase. The new development will include temporary trailers for students while construction is underway.

The plans are scheduled for review at the Tuesday, Feb. 2 Planning Commission meeting.

Image via City of Alexandria

2 Comment

Shortly after the City Council approved overall plans for the new Oakville Triangle, developers are coming back to the city next Tuesday (Dec. 5) with specific development applications for various pieces of the development.

Developers have submitted three applications for sites in the development area, including the creation of development blocks and the medical facility. The first application would lay out a street grid and infrastructure for the new development. In total, four development blocks would be created.

In a report, staff recommended approval of the creation of four development blocks and easements to start laying out the road network.

“Staff recommends approval of the requested Development Site Plan (Infrastructure Plan) with a subdivision to create the development parcels, open spaces and the required streets and a vacation of portions of right-of-way on Oakville Street, subject to compliance with City codes, ordinances and staff recommendations,” city staff said.

The second application is for the Inova Healthplex — specifically to allow construction with a parking reduction and an illuminated sign higher than 35 feet above ground, modifications to the tree-canopy requirement, and an exception to height-to-setback requirements. Staff recommended approval of the development special use permit (DSUP).

The third permit request being heard at the Planning Commission meeting is for the creation of two multifamily units being built on the development parcels in the first application.

“The applicant requests approval of two Development Special Use Permits with site plans and modifications, and associated Special Use Permits,” staff said in a report, “including encroachments into the public right-of-way for building canopies, in order to construct two multifamily buildings at approximately 715,000 sf (square feet) with 577 units and 55,000 sf of ground floor retail, site-wide landscaping, streetscape and infrastructure improvements, as part of the Oakville Triangle Phase 1 redevelopment.”

If approved at the Planning Commission, the applications would move forward to the City Council at its Jan. 23 meeting and the applicant would have until Jan. 24, 2024 to start construction.

Image via City of Alexandria

2 Comment

Two years after the city council approved the addition to stadium lights as part of the renovation of Parker-Gray Stadium at T.C. Williams High School, lawsuits have been settled with 15 Alexandria homeowners to allow the installation to happen.

“This is a historic settlement that ends decades of dispute relating to our City’s only high school,” Mayor Justin Wilson wrote on social media. “I am pleased that we will be able to move forward together as a community to support our students and our residents.”

Circuit Court Judge Thomas Horne approved the agreement between the homeowners, the Alexandria School Board and the city. It resolves four outstanding lawsuits against the city after ACPS allegedly made a verbal contract with homeowners that it would never light the field, after the land on which T.C. Williams High School was taken by eminent domain in the 1960s.

“I am delighted that our students will now have access to the modern facilities that will promote school spirit and enhance their social and athletic experience,”said ACPS Superintendent Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. “This is a momentous day and I now look forward to moving on and focusing our attention on supporting our students in achieving the successes they have come to expect both on and off the field.”

According to ACPS:

  • The lights can be used for 50 game nights (which may include one or two games per night) per academic year, plus any postseason games. That limit does not apply to situations where lights are turned on during the day or afternoon for rain, overcast or fog
  • Lighted games can go as late as 9:45 p.m. on weekdays (Monday through Thursday) and 10:15 p.m. on weekends (Friday and Saturday). There are to be no lights on Sundays. Lights must be turned off within 15 minutes of the end of the game
  • Lights can be used for ACPS in-season athletic team practices to 7:45 p.m. every day except Sunday. Teams have previously scrambled for lighted practice space elsewhere in the city during the fall and early spring
  • Amplified sound is permitted only for varsity games, and limited to the current residential maximum under the Alexandria City code
  • Only ACPS athletic teams will have access to use the lights
  • A multi-step administrative dispute resolution process has been set up for any disagreements which occur with respect to compliance with the legal agreement or certain DSUP conditions
  • The term of the agreement is 40 years
2 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list