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Master Plan Village Center Standards Vague, Critics Say

by Karen Goff February 5, 2015 at 11:00 am 0

Empty Tall OaksLast call for changes to Reston Master Plan’s Phase 2.

The Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning asks that any citizens/citizen groups with suggestions for Phase 2 email them to the county at RestonMasterPlanSpecialStudy@fairfaxcounty.gov by Feb. 12.

DPZ reps say changes to the second version of the working draft that will look at the future of Reston’s neighborhoods and village centers will be incorporated into the Final Draft of the Reston Plan text. This Final Draft will be part of the Staff Report which is submitted to the Planning Commission in April.

DPZ hopes the staff report will be published in order to go before the county planning commission April 22, with a tentative date for the Board of Supervisors hearing in June.

The process for Phase 2, using the new Fairfax Forward method, is moving at a much faster pace than Phase 1, which planned for future development around Reston’s transit centers. That process took four years before it was adopted by the supervisors in early 2014.

The Phase 2 process began last June. The reason for Phase 2 of changes to the master plan: the current comprehensive plan was last updated in 1989; Reston no longer has a master developer to update the plan for Reston; the plan for Reston has outdated elements; and with population expected to grow with the arrival of Metro, Reston is evolving as a community.

Phase 2 will not look at Reston Town Center, which has a different classification, or at Lake Anne Plaza, which is undergoing its own county revitalization project.

The county has held several community meetings on the topic, including one last Thursday.

Key points of the latest draft:

Reston’s two golf courses are to remain as golf courses. This is good news for proponents of open space as the owners of Reston National Golf Course, the 166-acre public course in South Reston, held a six-hour Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals hearing on Jan. 21.

Course owners RN Golf have inquired as to whether their zoning can be considered residential rather than recreational open space. Reston’s other course is the private Hidden Creek Country Club near Lake Anne. A ruling is expected from the BZA on April 15.

The updated land use map includes areas clearly marked as open space and recreational space.

Residential land use categories have been expanded from their current three broad categories (low, medium, and high density) to five categories to more closely reflect what has been built in the community, with the desired result of maintaining established neighborhoods.

The Reston neighborhoods section provides guidance to maintain the established residential neighborhoods. In the event of residential neighborhood redevelopment requests, more stringent redevelopment criteria have been established that go beyond the County criteria.

The village centers shall remain village centers. However, should a village center want to rezone and rebuild as something else, there is also specific criteria for that. That is good news for the ailing Tall Oaks Village Center, which was purchased by an apartment developer last month.

Environmental stewardship shall remain a key focus in Reston planning.

To see the entire latest revised draft, visit the Fairfax County website.

Terry Maynard, a leader of citizen advocacy group Reston 2020, said at last week’s meeting he had several concerns with the most recent updates. Most importantly, not enough attention is being paid to wording that restricts development around Reston’s village centers.

“Our committee and many residents are concerned that the revised, second draft of the Phase 2 Reston Master Plan provides no meaningful constraints on redevelopment in and around our village centers,” he said in prepared remarks for the meeting. “The failure to provide meaningful guidance and restraint risks over-development of these centers and threatens surrounding neighborhoods.”

“The first draft provided that all Phase 2 areas essentially would be maintained ‘as built,’ he said. “The second draft generally retains this ‘as built’ approach, even with respect to rental apartment sites which would be reduced from ‘high’ to ‘medium’ density.  But there is one glaring and inappropriate change. The second draft totally abandons this “as built” approach with respect to the four village centers, placing no objective limits on future density in the event of redevelopment.”

Maynard also questions draft language that says redevelopment within the village center footprints should be “neighborhood scale” and that are vague when it comes to development standards.

“Village centers have never been meant to serve the community, only their nearby neighborhoods,” he said.

Poor planning is not hypothetical, he added, citing the battle for Reston National and less-than ideal planning that has been approved in recent years. He calls the approval of a 23-story office building to be replace a four-story one on Reston Parkway “a developer’s massive middle finger” directed at the county’s transit station policy objective.

“As Reston has recently experienced, our questions and concerns are not hypothetical,” said. “Right now, the community faces a massive attack on the preservation of 166 acres of open space at Reston National Golf Course in part because of loose language in a County plan written 45 years ago. The approved redevelopment of the Town Center Office Building, an opportunity spawned by sloppy planning and zoning language decades ago, promises a massive high-rise office building twice as tall as adjoining buildings and more than half-mile from the future Silver Line rail station.”

Photo: Tall Oaks Village Center/file photo

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