A lot has been discussed recently in the blogosphere regarding the Reston Association Board’s unanimous decision to send to member referendum the question of borrowing up to $2.65 million for the purchase and renovation of the old Reston Visitors Center and the associated open space on which it sits.
This 3.47 acre parcel is located at the southeast end of Lake Newport and sits between the Association’s Lake Newport tennis court complex on one side, and the cherished park area known as Brown’s Chapel Park on the other.
Here’s why we’re trying to save this building and the open land it sits on:
Ownership of this property would create a contiguous band of 98 acres of Common Area property, parkland and recreational amenities so desperately needed by our growing community.
Development All Around Us
During the past 50 years, Reston has seen substantial growth and expansion and there’s no denying more development is on the way.
We’re all seeing it happen right in front of us. Tower cranes, chopped-up roads, detour signs, and those yellow county sandwich-boards are everywhere, announcing public hearings regarding new development/redevelopment projects.
Just look at the recent efforts already underway: Reston Station, Lake Anne Redevelopment (just across the street from the former Visitors Center), The Harrison Apartments, Reston Heights, Fairway Apartments, Reston Town Center North, the proposed redevelopment of Tall Oaks, and now St. Johns Woods.
In each instance, the owners/developers are doing everything they can to maximize their property rights — pushing the limits on size and density. This will have an impact on our existing facilities and natural resources.
We have taken steps to ensure our founding principles are upheld, while also striving to maintain a balance of sustainability and progress. We recently passed two Land Use Resolutions in coordination with the County, the Reston Planning & Zoning Committee as well as developers to be involved early in the process — and they’re working.
We are being proactive, having real conversations about impacts to the RA and its member’s properties.
Yet, sometimes we have to take even more proactive steps, championing with fervor, the protection of our open spaces. A good example is the Reston National Golf Course. We are working closely with the dedicated and powerful grass roots efforts of Rescue Reston, providing legal and staff resources to make sure this threat to our community never happens – to the point of purchasing the golf course if necessary, an action fully embraced by Rescue Reston, Reston2020, Reston Citizens Association and members like you and me.
The Old Reston Visitors Center
This brings me to the old Reston Visitors Center. Currently, the Fairfax land designation for this parcel is “convenience center.” This designation envisions that the property will be developed to a mix of convenience, retail, office and personal service uses. The property is zoned to allow office space, with the option to add to the space a two-story building, with an approximately 6,930-square-foot restaurant, having a footprint that could extend 50 feet into Lake Newport.
The latest Reston Comprehensive Plan Phase II identifies the following Vision for the four Reston Convenience Centers:
“Vision — The Sunrise Valley, Lake Newport, Soapstone, and Fairways Convenience Centers will continue to serve as small commercial centers for their respective surrounding neighborhoods.”
Owners and developers will work with their land use attorneys to make sure their property rights can leverage and maximize these designations in this booming Reston market.
This point has already been tested with the Visitors Center. The owner is going to sell the property — and knows his property has significant value in the hands of the right developer.
We see this as the opportunity to step in and do something that is rare these days — add open, green space to our natural resources portfolio.
By purchasing the property, Reston Association members would take total control and ownership of this parcel, protecting it for future generations to come. We would repurpose the property for community and recreation purposes only, providing continuity of ownership and use with the surrounding RA recreational and green space parcels.
By removing the commercial office/restaurant development potential on the site, we will be able to preserve and enhance the existing green space. Further, if acquired, we will plant more trees and shrubs as well as explore the feasibility of increasing green space on the parcel by reducing impervious surfaces (parking) that contribute stormwater water runoff to Lake Anne.
We believe an increase in green space common areas is critical to offset the growth within Reston.
To learn more about this referendum to save the old Visitors Center, visit RA’s information page on the project. In addition, we will be holding a Community meeting, April 21, at 6 p.m. at Brown’s Chapel.
If you want to learn more about our efforts with regard to all of redevelopment/development projects impacting us, please go to the Reston Association Web Site and look under “Development & Future of Reston.”
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