High-Rises To Be Built Near Metros A Problem For Reagan
From the outside looking
in, at least, it's a tale of two agencies trying to do the right
For the city of Arlington, VA, building high-rise buildings near
metro stations not only broadens the county's tax base, but is seen
as a significant component of its nationally-recognized
smart-growth, transit-friendly strategy. It's the future of their
economy, reports the Washington Post. A good thing.
For the FAA, however, some of that planned construction could
threaten air safety for aircraft flying into and out of Reagan
National Airport (DCA). As everyone recalls, following the 9/11
terrorist attacks, the FAA boosted its protection of the airspace
And although the FAA has no authority to stop those planned
Arlington high-rises, Arlington Economic Development Director Terry
Holzheimer said the county will not allow buildings that do not
meet FAA scrutiny to move forward and will not do anything "that
causes a problem."
However, he added, with "some time and some attorneys' fees," he
believes the FAA's concerns will be resolved and the buildings will
"I think ultimately all these buildings will be approved,"
Holzheimer said. "I don't think we have proposed anything
Including last week's decision, the FAA has three times ruled
that planned high-rises in Crystal City, Rosslyn, and on Columbia
Pike would pose a "presumed hazard" to aircraft using DCA.
Claiming that the county's plan to build high-rises near the
airport "defies common sense," Leo J. Schefer, president of the
Washington Airports Task Force, a nonprofit group that promotes the
development of the region's airports, said he supports Arlington's
efforts to "move into a more vibrant future."
"It's just plain dumb to put tall trees, large buildings or cell
towers in the flight path of airports," he added. "It's like
telling your kids to go play on the freeway."
The most recent project to meet FAA disapproval is a six-story
retail and residential complex planned for Columbia Pike, which the
FAA said last week should not be taller than nine feet, or about
one story. The Siena Park project located about 2 1/2 miles from
Reagan National, is one of the foundations of an effort to
restructure Arlington's Columbia Pike area into a more traditional
Said the FAA's Jim Peters, property owners and government
officials who do not like the FAA rulings can seek a further, more
detailed review from the agency, present opinions from experts, and
possibly win a reversal.
"If we issue a determination and they don't like it, they can
appeal it to headquarters," he said.
Holzheimer and FAA officials also noted that it is possible to
reduce dangers by installing flashing lights atop buildings,
painting them a vivid orange and white, changing airline flight
paths and giving pilots different information to use in charting
For Leo Schefer, president of the Washington Airports Task
Force, those measures don't go far enough.
"If a highly unlikely series of events coincide - a power
failure, bad weather, a jet on the wrong course - all of a sudden
you have a disaster. If that happens, the people who allowed the
building to be put up should be held responsible."
Confidence is key for the developers of the three projects,
however. They are convinced they will be able to persuade FAA
officials to reverse their rulings during the appeal process.
"We think they'll approve it as it is," said Kathleen Webb,
principal of JBG, which is proposing the 31-story tower, which
would be part of a pair with a 30-story residential tower in
Rosslyn. "It's an issue to be resolved, but I think it will be
resolved in a fashion that will let us proceed."
Webb noted that the FAA has approved other tall buildings that
are closer to the airport.
The proposed Columbia Pike building that was criticized by the
FAA is also near buildings taller than what the builder, Woodfield
Investments, is planning.
The FAA's ruling on that case is "a little silly," Holzheimer
said. "It's not a tall building close to the airport, but somehow
it triggered a review."