Letter: Arlington Must Adopt Resident-Tory Program | Letters to the Editor
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Publisher: The owner of the unique and historic 1889 Fellows-McGrath home at 6404 Washington Blvd. received approval from the County of Arlington government to demolish this magnificent Victorian home and subdivide the lot into two mega-mansions.
Shortly after the tragic loss of the pre-war Febrey-Lothrop Rouse estate last March, it once again became evident that the county council’s dismal failure to create and implement a conservative agenda- resident (RCP) has led to this current deplorable situation of another incredible, unique and historically significant property threatened with imminent demolition and permanent loss.
Five or six years ago I learned about the Fairfax County Resident Conservative Program and have followed its many notable successes since then. The Fairfax program has been very successful in preserving historic properties throughout the county. (Maryland has a statewide RCP under which approximately 80 older and historically valuable homes have been leased and preserved.)
The provisions of the Virginia Law of 2011 give local government entities full authority to create a resident-curator program, under which a valuable historic property is leased for 20 to 25 years at no cost to the tenant, who in turn agrees to be responsible for all maintenance, upkeep and repair costs during the term of the lease. It’s a perfect win-win for all parties involved.
Over the years, properties such as Reevesland Farm, Olmstead Estate, 501 North Lombardy, Febrey-Lothrop-Rouse Estate, Certigrade House, Febrey-Kinchloe Mansion, many Sears Kit Houses, several Lustron Houses , the John Glenn House (and many others as superbly documented in Charlie Clark’s recently published book “Lost Arlington”) were all ideal candidates for preservation under an RCP. All are now gone, forever.
But again, the County Council has / has collectively and individually buried its head in the sand, sweeping and failing to exploit an opportunity presented on a silver platter, to create and implement the perfect solution to the problems of lack of “missing link”. ”Affordable housing and the lack of historic preservation – two problems with a mutually beneficial solution. An obvious win-win.
The impending fate of the House of Fellows-McGrath is a perfect example of what such a willful and deplorable lack of vision does. The County Board and Director consistently lament the lack of affordable housing in Arlington, but consistently and completely fail to take advantage of an existing, proven and state-licensed program to preserve many applicable residential properties in the count.
I have implored all members of the county council on numerous occasions to create a curator-resident program. Instead of jumping on this obvious mutually beneficial and creative solution, they hide behind the most dismal and weakest excuses: no staff, no time, no money, too difficult, outside of the status quo. I even volunteered to start and run it, but that offer was also blithely dismissed.
If this has been done and is working successfully in our neighboring jurisdictions, this apology rings particularly hollow.
Where will the madness end? The county is in dire need of a new broom to clean up, bring vision and common sense to both of these issues, with one obvious and clear solution: to create and implement a curator-resident program in Arlington. Now.
Tom Dickinson, Arlington
Dickinson is the past president of the Arlington Historical Society and a member of the board of directors of the Arlington Heritage Alliance. He made the formal request to designate 6404 Washington Blvd. a local historic district.