With seven weeks down and two to go in Arlington’s election season, the positions of the County Board candidates haven’t moved much on the most contentious local political hot-potato in a decade.

Judging from comments at a recent debate, Audrey Clement remains adamantly opposed to Missing Middle zoning changes (with perhaps one new nuance added to the mix); Adam Theo thinks it needs to be implemented aggressively; and incumbent Matt de Ferranti attempts to continue to straddle somewhere between those two positions.

De Ferranti, who is seeking a second four-year term and as the Democratic nominee remains the odds-on favorite, used an Oct. 17 Arlington NAACP candidate forum to affirm his opposition to eight units being allowed on current single-family lots, but also continued to squirm on the issue of whether more than four, if less than eight, should be allowable.

“It’s important for me to have thought it all the way through before arriving at a conclusion,” the incumbent said when asked whether he would support five or six units on current single-family lots.

De Ferranti opposes eightplexes – “the costs [to the community] . . . are greater than the benefits,” he said – but has refused to say whether he’d vote against any final measure on Missing Middle if it included them. Theo, who is making his second bid for County Board, has no such reservations.

“It has to be done countywide and has to be done up to eightplexes on lots that can handle it,” he said. “Those are the ones that are most affordable. To cut out, to rule out, eightplexes . . . is undercutting the main purpose of Missing Middle.”

At this point, after months of back and forth, voters may well be confused exactly what the main purpose of Missing Middle actually is. It started as promoting housing affordability, but critics countered that the resulting properties are unlikely to be affordable to large segments of the Arlington population. Some supporters argue it’s to broaden diversity in some way, or to atone for racial practices a century ago. Critics contend it’s a sellout to developers and will have major negative ramifications on the community’s infrastructure.

Clement, who has been running nonstop for elected office for a decade, noted at the NAACP forum that households would need incomes well into the six-figure range to afford even the most inexpensive properties likely to come about through the initiative.

“Black and Latino household income is just a fraction of that,” she said, pointing to county-government data. “These folks will not be able to benefit from housing derived from Missing Middle upzoning . . . that housing will be unaffordable.”

Clement did seem to wiggle a bit from what some may have seen as her absolutist view on the situation.

“I definitely would consider incremental rezoning,” she said in response to a query at the forum, while reiterating a red line in the sand against “wholesale rezoning of the entire county.”

The issue has dominated the campaign season, but whether the staked-out positions of Clement and Theo will woo the county’s electorate away from its normal fealty to the Democratic sample ballot remains to be seen.

The last time voters rebelled against Arlington’s governing Democratic oligarchy was in 2014, when concerns over big-ticket spending and a county government that wasn’t listening to residents, exemplified by the Columbia Pike streetcar proposal, led to Republican-leaning independent John Vihstadt winning a County Board seat.

Just days after he won the 2014 general election (having earlier that year won a special election for the seat), Democratic County Board members Jay Fisette and Mary Hynes switched from supporters to opponents of the streetcar project, effectively killing it off.

In the ensuing two years, a number of other initiatives derided by critics as pricey vanity projects were either eliminated (the calamitous Artisphere arts center) or scaled back (the Long Bridge Park aquatics center and “million-dollar bus stops” on Columbia Pike).

But a new generation of County Board members that has arrived since those days seems eager to put its own stamp on the community, and Missing Middle appears to be one of its chosen vessels.

[https://sungazette.news provides content to, but otherwise is unaffiliated with, InsideNoVa or Rappahannock Media LLC.]

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