Influential land use lawyer Martin ‘Art’ Walsh dies at 78

Placeholder while loading article actions

Martin D. “Art” Walsh, who helped reshape the Arlington skyline as co-founder of one of Northern Virginia’s premier land use law firms, is died June 6 at a hospital in Fairfax County, Virginia. He was 78 years old and resided in McLean, Virginia.

The cause was heart disease, said her twin brother, Patrick J. Walsh.

As a zoning attorney in the area for nearly 50 years, Mr. Walsh has been a driving force behind many projects that have transformed the Virginia suburb of Washington from a sleepy crossroads into a sprawling shopping mall. There’s “not a shovelful of dirt dug for a major development in Arlington that doesn’t have Art Walsh’s stamp on it,” wrote the Washington Post in 1982.

As a land-use planning and zoning specialist, he handled cases in Crystal City and the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor, all hallmarks of Northern Virginia’s searing and sometimes criticized emphasis on urban growth.

Amid rapid change, Mr. Walsh was known for his ability to broker deals between Arlington residents and his clients, which included large corporations such as Marriott, Mobil Oil Corp., Gannett Newspapers and developers Charles E Smith Co. and Oliver T. Carr Co.

“These guys don’t play dirty and they know the facts,” former Arlington County planning commissioner Kathy Freshly told The Post in 1982 of Mr. Walsh and his mentor Barnes Lawson. . “I would hate to be on the opposite side of them on an issue that is really important to me.”

“They have a way of working the audience,” Freshly continued. “And Art has a terrific sense of humor, one of those disarming ‘I’m just a plain country lawyer’ things like [folksy senator from North Carolina] said Sam Ervin. But throughout the interrogation, he always got it right.

In 1983, Mr. Walsh, Thomas Colucci, Nicholas Malinchak and Jerry Emrich founded the company now known as Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley and Walshwhich employs nearly 40 attorneys in offices in Northern Virginia.

In his final years with the company, Mr. Walsh worked on conviction cases for the ever-expanding Silver Line subway system and was instrumental in shaping the global development plan 2010 for Tysons Corner.

Mr. Walsh (who used the middle name Denis after confirmation) was born in Alexandria, Virginia on April 27, 1944, and grew up in Arlington. Her father was a paper seller and her mother was a teacher before raising six children.

He graduated in 1962 from Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington and in 1966 from the College of William & Mary. He then served in the army for two years, stationed in West Germany, and was awarded the Army Medal of Honor. He retired from the reserves in 1976 at the rank of first lieutenant.

For more than 20 years, he hosted an annual golf outing to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in honor of his younger brother John, a type 1 diabetic who died of related complications in 2000. The event raised over $1.5 million for the Foundation.

His marriage to Leslie Ada Hoffmann ended in divorce. In 2006, he married Nan Giancola, a partner at Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley and Walsh. In addition to his wife, McLean, and his twin brother, survivors include two children from his marriage to Hoffmann, Ada-Marie Aman of Richmond and Sarah-Nell Walsh of Atlanta; two stepchildren; three sisters; and four grandchildren.

Mr. Walsh declined to talk about his work in terms of net gains and losses.

“We lost cases, like everyone else,” he told the Post. “I think nothing is ever an absolute and total victory because there is also a dialogue involving citizens, a process where you constantly compromise, negotiate and try to find something that perhaps does not accomplish not everything you want to accomplish, but accomplishes your main goals and gives some consideration to people who have raised objections.”

About the author