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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.

  • Lucinda Shannon

    I would like to see an alternative chosen. Can’t we put the parking under a building or something? I thought that RA natural areas were protected and that the tress are protected. If the RA does this than what else will they do next? Cut down and build on the land behind my house? This deal is against what I understood the RA’s values to be.

    • Diane Blust

      Lucinda, I would hope that all redevelopment in Reston will leave natural areas untouched. As RA members, we should demand that developers always look to already disturbed or built areas for redevelopment, not our natural areas. I fear in this case, that little parcel was just looked at as the easiest place to put the parking. There are alternatives that would use our built environment for parking rather than taking a natural area. LARCA (Lake Anne Condo Association) is pushing hard for the swap, rather than offering use of property it already owns which is already used for parking. Too complicated to go into all the details here, but the options need to be explored.

      • Restonlover

        I believe the condo association would have great difficulties giving away or even leasing land for a parking facility. First is the liability consideration to the association and its members w.outsiders (other than condo owners and their guests)using a parking lot on their premises. Second, because many of the units have mortgages, the lien holders would need to give approval to the deal as it would affect their what they are holding the mortgage for. The way banks work today, that could add significant time to the process.

        • Diane Blust

          Interesting points, RL. The main underground garage is going to built on LARCA land, i.e., the main parking lot for Lake Anne where the farmers market is held. So, that parcel is either going to be leased or sold to LADP, unless LADP is just going to build an underground garage for LARCA. Also, there is already an easement on the upper lot behind Heron House for use by Lake Anne Office Building visitors – so clearly the liability issue has been handled somehow up to this point. We wouldn’t be in the position of needing extra time if this had been handled with full transparency by RA from the beginning. But it wasn’t and here we are.

    • kevin munroe

      You make an excellent point Lucinda, one that quite a few other Reston residents have raised as this issue unfolds. How can a designated RA Natural Area be cleared for a parking lot? It goes against the core idea of Reston as a planned community, with forested parkland parcels preserved for the community’s future. PLEASE come to the RA board meeting this Thursday (11/21) at 6:30pm and bring your friends and neighbors – voice your concerns to the board and hopefully influence the vote they will make that night. It appears at present that the YES votes may have it, and the RA parkland will be cleared and replaced with a parking lot, unless Reston residents can change the board’s mind. If you can’t make it to the 11/21 meeting, you can leave an email comment, http://www.reston.org (go to Inside RA, Contact Us, Board).
      I’ve lived in Reston for 33 years, and worked in the fields of Urban Forestry, Parks and Rec, and Ecological Restoration for over 20 years. In my opinion this is a dangerous precedent, and one of the most important, trend-setting votes to come before the RA board in Reston’s history.

  • NotaGG3

    “When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.” I weep for the next generations whose ancestors care so little for them.

  • Lucinda Shannon

    I just saw a quote that I thought was relevant to this issue.

    “If we think we don’t have the time and money to do it right, what makes you think we have the time and money to do it over?” – Dr. Mark Nicholson

  • Sue Beffel

    We can increase available parking in one or more of the lots already planned or by building a low parking structure in the LARCA lot.
    We cannot replace the trees on the wooded lot, once torn down. Arborists have commented on the size and quality of the trees on the lot, which are too large to move, as a few have suggested.
    We cannot replace them by planting on the “swap lot” — a low area next to a big street.
    We can make the wooded area more welcoming by adding interpretive and play/recreation elements. Given how intensely the “wading fountain” and “climbing sculpture” are used now, we will need more recreational space as visitors to Lake Anne increase.
    I hope we will be remembered as the ones who found both parking and natural recreational space for the next generations at Lake Anne.

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