In the coming years, Arlington National Cemetery will expand and the eastern end of Columbia Pike will be realigned, according to an agreement between the Arlington County and the U.S. Army.
The Arlington County Board today approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that sets the basic framework for a land swap between the county and the Army, which oversees the cemetery. As outlined in the MOU, the Army will acquire the Southgate Road right-of-way behind the Navy Annex, which is currently being demolished to make way for more cemetery burial space. In exchange, the county will be given land south of Columbia Pike, which is to be straightened and rerouted down the former Navy Annex parking lot to form a right-angle intersection with S. Joyce Street.
The actual land exchange is not likely to take place any time soon, but Board members are looking forward to some of the opportunities it promises to bring, including land for a future Arlington Heritage Center and Freedman’s Village Museum.
The Board voted 3-0 Thursday afternoon to approve the Memorandum of Understanding. Board members Mary Hynes and Libby Garvey were not present for the vote.
From a county press release:
The Arlington County Board today unanimously approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the United States Department of the Army that establishes a framework for a future land exchange agreement between the two parties at the Navy Annex site.
“While there undoubtedly will be some time before property is actually exchanged, today’s action is an important first step in this process,” Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan said. “We look forward to continuing to work closely with our partners at Arlington National Cemetery, the Army and other stakeholders to realize the vision set forth in this MOU by executing a new land exchange agreement. There is no doubt that this will be a huge win for the cemetery and for our community.”
Key objectives outlined
The MOU outlines the key objectives for both parties and the framework for a future land exchange. Under the future land exchange agreement, the Army would be provided with all property north of a realigned Columbia Pike in exchange for providing the County with land south of a realigned Columbia Pike.
The existing Southgate Road would be realigned to the western edge of the Navy Annex site to maintain appropriate access to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, while directly linking the Navy Annex site to the existing Arlington National Cemetery grounds. Engineering and design work must be completed to determine the exact location for a realigned Columbia Pike and the parties must work out the exact acreage and parcels to be exchanged.
“Arlington National Cemetery is sacred ground for our community, our region and certainly, our nation,” Board Chairman Walter Tejada said. “This MOU paves the way for an agreement that will allow us to support their expansion goals. At the same time, it enables us to meet our goals: preserving and displaying Arlington County’s history and heritage by establishing an Arlington Heritage Center and Freedman’s Village Museum, and fulfilling our transportation and economic development vision for Columbia Pike.”
Today’s County Board action was necessitated by the decision of the Department of Defense last year to terminate the previous land exchange agreement executed in 2008. That agreement would have provided the County with 4.23 acres of land on the Navy Annex Property north of Columbia Pike in exchange for providing DOD with an equivalent acreage of the Southgate Road right-of-way. Since the previous agreement was terminated, Arlington County has been working with the Department of the Army and Arlington National Cemetery to formulate this MOU and ultimately work toward a new land exchange agreement.
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