Next Step: Consider Schools in Development Planning


What’s Next with Nicole is a bi-weekly opinion column. The opinions expressed are those of the author alone.

This Sunday is the last day to provide feedback on the “Lee Highway Plan,” a multi-year planning process for the corridor that has now produced specific proposals for levels of development, street improvements, stormwater impact. and other important changes.

My biggest comment on the Lee Highway Plan and on every sector and sector plan going on is the lack of consideration for our schools. We should include school generation factors in our regional and sector planning process.

Plan Lee Highway is one of three planning processes underway for entire regions of our county, in addition to the Pentagon City Planning and the Clarendon Area Plan. Basically, I am currently in the service of Pentagone City Planning, which allowed me to explore the “why” of this situation.

Context of student generation factors

An average generation factor is available in Arlington’s annual profile, and school facilities staff can further refine this generation factor based on neighborhood. For example, an apartment building in Crystal City will typically produce slightly more children than an apartment building in Rosslyn.

On average, a market-priced apartment with an elevator produces 0.066 students per unit, while a detached single-family home produces 0.489 students. This means that single-family homes typically produce 7.5 times more than an apartment building unit.

Regarding the Lee Highway Plan, I will use two examples of the impact of these factors on the planning process:

While each example increases or decreases the expected generation of school places, this is at least a known amount. We have the data to produce a seat generation factor and the planning department should be able to estimate how many units we can expect in these study areas over the next several decades.

Consider schools in sector / sector plans rather than a building by building in the Site map review process

We are looking at the impact of school too late in the planning process.

Currently, we are determining the impact on school seats each time a new construction project is submitted to the Site Plan Review Board. This means that these new anticipated seats will be created in a year or two. As a result, we have a seemingly biannual fire drill on how to move kids to accommodate changing enrollment projections.

If we consider changes to school seats in the area / sector plan process, we can anticipate the number of seats added decades in advance instead of our usual fire drill situation.

This is also important for booking limited public facilities and open spaces. In a 2019 memo, County Director Schwartz identified a number of potential new school sites, which is a useful tool to use in these area / area planning processes.

In the event that we will not have land available in the future for new schools, we also need to know that. Will we need to develop a land acquisition fund? When? These are the types of responses that we would only experience with this long-term perspective found in regional and sectoral planning.

A precedent for an imperfect estimate of the impact on infrastructure

We have already estimated the infrastructure impact equations in the overall planning process for transport. As a member of the Pentagon City Planning Group, we had 2-3 meetings on calculating “level of service” for roads / transit and almost a whole meeting for level of service for public transport. cycling infrastructure. All of these projections are important infrastructure considerations, but also produce an imperfect result that we can generally accept.

With schools accounting for almost half of our operating budget and a significant portion of our capital improvement plan, it seems remiss not to include these calculations the same way we calculate other infrastructure impacts in our overall plan. .


My opinion is not against increasing density around major transportation corridors such as the subway and national highways such as Lee Highway. Encouraging growth along corridors with accessible public transport and shorter journey times is better for the environment and a diversity in the housing supply will help create variable housing costs (see page 5 of the profile Arlington 2021 for different types of housing costs).

I would, however, find it hypocritical to argue for this extra density without also arguing for a sufficiently planned infrastructure to support this extra density, and to encourage us to integrate schools into our overall planning.

Nicole Merlene grew up in Arlington County and has been a civic leader in politics and politics. She was commissioner for economic development and tenant-owners; Citizen’s Advisory Committee on Community Development, Pentagon City Planning Study, Rosslyn Transportation Study, and member of Vision Zero; Member of the Board of Directors of the Arlington County Civic Federation and the Rosslyn Civic Association. In 2019, she sought the Democratic nomination for the 31st District of the Virginia State Senate. Professionally, Nicole is an economic development specialist where she works to attract businesses to the region. She lives in an apartment with her dog Riley and enjoys running and painting.


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