Reston Association Mulling Impact of Land Swap At Lake Anne

by Karen Goff November 7, 2013 at 9:00 am 8 Comments

The trees behind Lake Anne Plaza could be a parking garage soon.The Reston Association Board of Directors will vote later this month on whether to trade a one-acre plot of land at Lake Anne Plaza for a similar-sized piece of land off Baron Cameron Avenue.

If the board accepts the swap, offered to them by Republic Land Development, Republic will also offer nearly $500,000 in needed improvements to various RA facilities around Reston.

Sounds like a good deal, right? Not so fast, some Restonians say.

The swap came about at the request of Republic, which was chosen over the summer to redevelop Crescent Apartments and the area around Lake Anne Plaza into a vibrant, mixed-use area with more than 1,000 new residences and a revitalized retail area.

The developers need the land — which has mature trees but is also an area for unsavory activities such as drinking — to build a parking garage as part of the redevelopment.

“It’s a tough one,” says RA president Ken Knueven, a Lake Anne resident. He said the board has heard from dozens of residents on both sides of the issue.

“All the comments will have a huge impact with the board’s decision,” he said. “We are seeing what kind of other possibilities are out there that may be a way to mitigate impact.”

Republic president David Peter said at an RA meeting last month that more bike and pedestrian access is being planned for Lake Anne, but to succeed as a revitalized community, there must be additional parking to attract regional visitors who do not live in walking distance.

Republic says some of the mature trees would remain in place around the 120-space parking garage and some of the smaller holly trees would be relocated. But some in Reston say leave the trees alone and try and build parking elsewhere.

“This sets a dangerous precedent for RA,” said Diane Blust of Sustainable Reston. “Can RA staff really tell people in Reston to maintain their property when they can come in and rip out trees? RA needs to lead by example and engage the community in natural preservation.”

Longtime Lake Anne resident John Lovaas says the trees provide a wreathe around the historic plaza.

“Rather than having it cut down and paved over, RA could enhance it to serve as a park, with educational interpretive material use by children of residents in the bordering new development,” he said in an email. “Wouldn’t this be a better community contribution?  Also, the swap runs directly counter to RA policy to protect and expand our tree canopy, and counter to the new comprehensive plan policy for this very land unit.”

John McBride, lawyer with Odin Feldman Pittleman and RA’s Land Use Consultant, says the land swap is being considered using three criteria – does it support the Lake Anne revitalization? Does it ensure no net loss of community space? and Does it leverage the value of RA assets to community members?

An appraisal shows that the RA parcel is worth $2.126 million and the replacement land  is worth $2.372 million.

Opponents of the deal say that in reality, it is not an even swap because the Baron Cameron land is worth less because of unusable grading, debris and invasive plants. The developers letter of intent states it will clean up the Baron Cameron land as part of the deal.

Dozens of RA members spoke at a public hearing on the issue on Oct. 24. Among those in favor: Reston founder Robert E. Simon and Lake Anne of Reston Condo Association President Rick Thompson.

“I appreciate that this will affect the treed areas,” said Thompson, whose association oversees both residential and commercial tenants. “Nonetheless, we feel the benefits of improved economic health and enjoyment of the place are important.”

Among the proffers Republic says it will contribute:

1. Landscaped areas around the proposed parking facility at Lake Anne Plaza.

2. Various connecting pathways through the Crescent Property to connect the expanded Village Center to the existing Green & Blue Trail systems

3. Water features, public art, pocket parks

4. Install light fixtures on the new pathways within the Crescent Property and up to 10 in adjoining areas

5. Cost share (50 percent ) of scheduled Reston Association Capital/Repair  Replacement Projects (Republic’s share shown in 2014 dollars)

* Lake Anne Park Tennis Color Coat (2016) – $5,258
*Lake Anne Park Parking Lot (2018) – $5,372
* Brown’s Chapel Multi-Purpose Lot (2021) $25,872
* Lake Anne Park Tot Lot (2023) $9,986
* Lake Anne Dredging (up to $200K) (2025)  $200,000

Other cost estimates for projects above: Clean-up and improvements to remove invasive species ($15,000); Replanting/reforestation ($10,000); Channel Stabilization ($150,000); Relocate certain Holly trees (10) ($12,500); 10 light fixtures – Brown’s Chapel or Lake Anne Elementary area ($52,920).

To see legal documents pertaining to the deal, visit Reston Association’s website. The board will vote on the issue at its Nov. 21 meeting. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. and public comments are welcome.

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