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Neighbors Peeved at Church Plan to Expand Parking, Remove Trees

by Karen Goff March 4, 2014 at 1:00 pm 1,542 14 Comments

Proposed site plan for church at 1515 Poplar Grove

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has dropped its inquiry to buy Reston Association land on Fox Mill Road, RA CEO Cate Fulkerson said.

The church is, however, looking to expand the 121-space parking lot at its current location at 1515 Poplar Grove Dr. in North Reston, and some neighbors at Birchfield Woods Cluster are not pleased with the environmental impact.

At a Feb. 18 meeting, Reston Association’s Design Review Board (DRB) — the committee that establishes and reviews Reston’s design standards — voted to allow allow the church to expand the lot.

Birchfield Woods residents are appealing the decision, saying it will result “in a net loss of over 80 trees which serve as a buffer between the church and the Birchfield Woods Cluster.”

The DRB voted down the church’s initial proposal in November, with specifics on how the church could revise their plan: reduce the number of proposed parking spaces, reduce the number of impacted trees, and produce a traffic study.

The original proposal offered adding 51 spaces new light poles and removing 117 tree .

“Birchfield Woods and affected parties are appealing the Feb. 18 decision as the approval directly contradicts the Design Review Boards requests in November,” says A.J. Bass, a Birchfield Woods resident. “The revised plan actually increased the number of trees being removed from a proposed 120 to over 140, and reduced the number of trees the church would replant from a proposed 80 down to only 60.  The church also did not submit a traffic study as requested by the DRB.  Several of the DRB members scoffed at the Affected Parties’ comments regarding the wildlife or number of trees that would be taken down and not replaced.  This clearly goes against the their initial decision.”

“It’s disappointing as a resident of Reston to see the Association at odds with itself in action and word,” Bass said.

The new plan calls for planting of replacement trees and shrubs to provide a 25-foot buffer, as well as a relocated storage shed. The church also reduced the number of additional parking spots to 39, for a total of 160 spaces in the new lot.

Last year, the church approached Reston Association about purchasing three parcels of land on which to build a new church. The land — at 2639, 2641 and 2643 Fox Mill Rd. — is undeveloped , wooded common area owned by RA since the late 1960s and mid 1970s.

  • Matt Redican

    They can park across the street at the elementary school and walk.

  • Rena RF

    Yes – what Matt said. Your article neglects to mention that they can park right across Lake Newport Road at Armstrong Elementary school. Your article also neglects to metnion that no one has required the church to conduct a requisite environmental study to go along with their proposal (what will happen to storm runoff with so many mature trees removed? Will the houses in the section directly affected flood or…?), nor has anyone required a traffic study about how adding the capacity for 39 additional cars will impact the safety of Birchfield Woods Cluster residents. It is already treacherous to get into and out of the neighborhood when their church is in service, and I have personally almost been hit on numerous occasions by people entering and exiting. We oppose the expansion for so many different reasons and are quite flabbergasted that the Reston Association is getting so sloppy in their job.

    • Karen Goff

      It is not up to me to mention solutions to the problem, such as parking at a nearby school (which technically, is school property and not for general public usage). The story is – the church wants more parking. They asked for one plan. RA DRB said no. Then they altered it and DRB said yes. Now it has to go through the RA board. I will be following up when the Board discusses it.

      • Rena RF

        Thank you for even writing about it. 🙂

      • Rational Reston

        Might be something to look into though, as Armstrong Elementary will tell people to park at the Church for big events. One would think there’s some sort of reciprocal agreement between the two, though I’m unsure of the Armstrong Sunday usage, and crossing Lake Newport Drive can get difficult thanks to speeders.

        • Rena RF

          Personally, I would like to see them build a pedestrian bridge. We have a lot of children in our neighborhood who attend Armstrong, and both the school and the church host a lot of events, and they DO swap parking as you suggest. A pedestrian bridge would connect the children to the school, walkers/bikers to the leisure paths, and generally benefit a variety of different constituencies. I would imagine it would be much less expensive, and surely less damaging to the neighborhood when compared to the massive tree removal that has been proposed. I would imagine the cost could be split as well with the church since the pedestrian bridge would be a general public use.
          Failing that, however, hiring a crossing guard as they do for the church over on Wiehle and several others would also address the Sunday-only problem. Because frankly, that’s the only congested time. It’s not fair to expose residents to environmental degredation, property devaluation, and traffic hazards for the sake of one day a week. 🙁

  • RobinTrish

    Thanks for keep us updated on their plans.

  • Mary Bell

    They speed in and out of the development into the church lot. Block the entrance to the development (one lane in or out) and park in the community visitor spaces when they can’t find spaces. I have personally checked the elementary school lot on Sunday when all the above are going on…empty lot. Very frustrating.

  • Reston Resident

    Thank you Karen for adding how the Residents were “scoffed”at by the DRB members. It was so shocking and humiliating to see several of those DRB members look at us, laugh out loud, and tell us “the deer will eventually return.” They obviously weren’t listening to us nor the other concerns we had. Their minds were already made up and they were just sitting there going through the actions. I NEVER expected that childish behavior from people with so much power and influence over the values of our properties and the quality of our lives. It was horrible and several of those members should be considered for removal from the DRB. They no longer stand up for Reston’s values and policies.

    As previously mentioned, the removal of the mature trees and existing root system (just to throw in some shrubs), will have major impact on our properties because of the sloped land. We already have flooding in the backyards and this will make it more severe. The DRB members are more than welcome to take a field trip to the cluster to see the issues for themselves!

    I moved to Reston because of its beauty and for the environment. And I’m not the only one. I was reading an article written about Rachel Muir. She mentions the same reasons for moving to this beautiful town. Who is standing up for the residents of Reston? Who do we turn to? This will become a major concern once the metro line is complete. The “deep pockets” will show up and the residents will slowly disappear. Truly sad and disheartening.

    • Dexter Scott

      Well, they are right. The filthy varmints will return. Not sure why you want that, though.

      • Reston Resident

        Ha! You must me a member of the DRB (or bored because you’re jobless and eat bonbons at home). That wasn’t even the primary issue!! Try to stay focused Dexter!

        • Dexter Scott

          Why did you write a long blathering paragraph about it then?

  • Diane Blust

    At some point, there will be no trees left in Reston because it’s just so much easier to pave over that “empty” strip of land. Well, it’s not empty. It captures stormwater. It provides wildlife habitat. Not just for deer – which are a man-made environmental disaster on their own…. But for birds and other small animals that bring enormous benefits to the ecosystem which WE ALL inhabit. Think deer ticks are a problem now? Think how much more of a problem they will be without birds to eat them. Think those mosquitoes that carry West Nile are a problem? No birds, no predators for the mosquitoes – except for bug zappers, of course, and tons of chemicals. Shame on the DRB for approving this. I hope the residents will carry the day….

  • Seneca Crane

    Deranged ideologue Arie Perlinger is one of the most aggressive enemies of the 1st Amendment within these united states.

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